Part II: Touching the Sun

"Hey, Sleepin' Beauty, you gonna show your face today or what?"

"Wha… huh?" Okay, so I have no idea what he was saying. But whatever it is, it has nothing to do with letting sleep. I've got plans of my own, thank you very much. Me and my pillow are in need of some serious face time, and it looks like she's not gonna let up any time soon. So instead of responding to the World's Crankiest Alarm Clock of Doom, I just pull my blanket over my head.

"No no no. See, you're doin' it wrong. When I come over here to wake you up, it's 'sposed to go something like this…"

I make a noise that sounds a lot like a squeak when I feel his hand—his very cold, unwelcome hand—grab my ankle and yank me out of bed. I don't let go of my pillow on the way down and everything goes spilling on the floor. So now I'm on my butt, looking up at him with my mouth hanging open, still grabbing onto my pillow like that was the Titanic and this's my only life preserver. Raph makes one fugly Leonardo DeCaprio, if you ask me.

Great, now he's laughing. My butt is sore and he's laughing. "Raph, it's not funny!"

Man, can I whine like a baby or what?

I chuck my pillow at his head, but he catches it before it can give him the smack he deserves. "Is to me, nimrod," he chuckles. "You gonna get off the floor or what?"

"Huh… oh yeah." I guess I'm still on the floor. It takes me a couple tries to untangle myself, but glaring at him from this angle works way better.

"You look like shit," he says matter-of-factly, still not giving me even a bit of my dignity back. That is… if I ever had dignity. I can't remember.

"Gee, thanks. Same to you, Cyclops."

Oh, that pissed him off, but at least we're even for the whole dragging me out of bed thing. And it only earned me a smack on the arm.

"Come on, dipstick, Donny's waiting for us," he glares. Now there's that look I love. Seriously, where's a camera when you need one?

Too bad it's like a bomb went off in my skull or I'd make fun of him for it. "Ugh, bad headache, dude. Gimme a sec," I groan, pressing a hand to the side of my head. I have to sit back down on my cot and close my eyes for a second before it goes away a little.

"Hey man, don't go pullin' a Leo on me. Not today," he says. "We got enough with one pansy bringin' down the group."

"He's not a pansy," I almost whisper, my eyes still closed and my hand pressed to my forehead. I don't usually stick up for anybody Raph picks on because he usually doesn't mean it. But this time I think he does, and after last night, I can't let him talk like that.

"Gimme some proof then maybe I'll believe ya."

"Whatever, Raph," I breathe, then change the subject before he can really pound me. "What time is it anyways?" The barracks are mostly empty and Don's solar lights are on, so it has to be morning at least.

"Three. You been sleepin' all day."

My eyes fly open at that one, and I drop my hands from my face. "You let me sleep all day?!"

He only shrugs. "You were tired. You really have been lookin' like shit lately."

"Totally lovin' the gesture, dude, but today is so not the day."

"Yeah, what else is there to do, more planning?" He sits down next to me on the cot, reaching into his belt for a match and cigarette. He puts it between his lips and asks "You mind?"

"Nah, I don't care, but you know what Sensei'll say if he sees you." Not to mention Leo. But I like my shell where it is, thanks.

"I'm an adult, Mike. I can do what I want," he grumbles, lighting the match. Lighters never worked with our hands. Too bad I know that one from experience. I watch him take another draw and let it out in a puff of smoke. "But like I was sayin', we been planning this for weeks. We get in, get the people out, and blow the place to shit. What else's there to do?"

My eyes are glued to my hands fidgeting in my lap. When he puts it that way it sounds so simple and I feel dumb for freaking out."I dunno. Just nervous, I guess."

"It'll…work," he says, taking another drag. I don't like the hesitation in his voice one bit. Another puff of smoke and he says "Trust me. We got this one in the bag."

Yeah, right. Good pep talk, Raph.

A second of silence tics by before I get the guts to ask him for a cigarette. I just hope to god it helps with the headache, and the jitters, too. They seem to be helping Raph calm down pretty good these days, unless the thing that's got him ticked has something to do with Leo.

He hands me one without a second look, and I grab it, striking the match and taking a draw before anybody can get us in trouble. So far the coast's clear.

"Angel was up looking for you this morning," he says without turning. He's got his eyes glued to something on the floor. "She was worried about ya. Sounded like she didn't expect you to even be here."

"Yeah," I say flatly, trying not to give him a reason why. "What'd you tell her?"

"Just said you were around, sleepin'."

I don't answer, just nod and concentrate on my cigarette.

"Rough night? Saw you sneakin' out. Saw Leo head out little while after you, too. Could barely believe it," he says, so graciously putting the rest of his cigarette out in the crack on my wall. "He didn't find ya, did he?"

"Hey! That's my wall!" I whine. "It's precious space, dude. I had it all Feng Shui and everything. "

He only shrugs, leaving it jammed in there. "Didn't have an ash tray. But if it bothers you so much, maybe I'll put it out on your face next time."

"Mmm, no thanks. You know my face is too pretty for that. But you could always use yours." I throw him an innocent smile, but he only glares and puffs on his cig. "And yeah, he did find me last night. That answers both your questions."

"Pretty much," he grumbles, giving the floor a look. While he and the concrete are busy having their little staring contest, I take the chance to jam the rest of my cig next to his in the crack. When he looks up, he notices, but doesn't say anything, just gives me one of those looks. "Not meaning to give you a lecture here or nothin'," he says, "but you know that girl's trouble, right?"

"Yeah. I don't want to talk about it."

"Seriously. Man, just be careful. I don't think cigarettes is the only thing she's sellin'. And that Enrique guy she hangs out with- I've seen what he can do. Kid's rolled with the Turks, and he's way too quick with that knife to be trusted."

"You just don't think I can take care of myself," I snap. I was doing pretty good after last night until Raph felt like bringing this up. Way to kill the mood, bro. "Baby brother. That's what I always am, just little brother who needs to be protected. Well guess what, I'm an adult too, Raph."

He throws me a glare that makes me want to melt into the wall. "I seen more crap on those streets than you ever will. I got every right to tell you what I think. I ain't protectin' nobody."

I throw my hands up before he thinks I want to keep this going. I really don't wanna fight. My head hurts too much right now anyways. "All right, all right. Sorry. I guess this headache's just messing with my brain and I'm sick of talking about it." I pause for a breath before remembering what he told me earlier. "You said Donny wanted us?"

"Yeah, come on," he says, getting to his feet and waiting for me to stand before we start walking toward the warehouse. "Genius says he's got our bomb ready, and a bunch of other gizmos he feels the need to explain a million times."

"Ugh, not the Fed. blasters again," I groan. "How many times does he have to explain the safeties on those things? You flip a switch so you don't accidentally melt your own face off. Not that hard."

"Says you," he says with a smirk. I just make a face and let him have his little joke. I'll get back at him later, I promise.

The maze of dug-out tunnels leads to Donny's huge, dark, grimy version of the Fortress of Solitude. If there was one good thing that came out of the Shredder's armies bombing the shell out of the city, it'd be that Donny has pretty much unlimited stuff to mess around with- old cars, refrigerators, even a few rusted out tanks from when the military got involved. The whole place is a frigging junkyard. While Shredder's busy forcing prisoners to build his crappy Zords, Donny's building stuff that could make even the Utroms look like Kindergartners.

"There you two are," he says, wiping his hands on his jacket. You can usually tell how much work Donny's put in based on the amount of grime he's covered in. Right now, we've got ourselves a head-to-toe coverage situation. Looks like overtime. "I've been waiting for you for almost an hour."

"Not like you don't got enough toys here to keep you busy," Raph says. Donny only smiles through the dirt smudges on his face. Or is that oil? Hard to tell. "So what're you gonna show us anyways?"

"Oh! The explosive device- specializing in wreaking havoc, demolition, and pretty much just blowing the hell out of everything within a quarter mile radius."

"Sweet," I grin. Just thinking about that light show is like, ten times better than any action movie I've ever seen. "Do you think we could sell tickets?"

"To what?" Donny asks oh so foolishly. That dude is always himself set up for these.

Instead of sticking with my joke, I change it up so I can make even more of an ass out of myself. So now I'm flexing and giving him this dorky smile. "The gun show."

I swear can feel it coming before it even starts. It's like my Mikey-sense is tingling the second before Raph tries to smack me upside the head. This time I duck and he misses, a very rare occurrence indeed. I bounce a few steps backwards and stick my tongue out. "Missed me, Raphie-boy! You're getting slow in your old age."

Reeling backwards, I bump into Donny, whose busy pinching that place between his eyes like he always does when he's annoyed. He puts both hands on my shoulders to keep me from bowling us both over. "Mikey, please," he begs, tightening his grip, "this is a very delicate piece of equipment, and I would rather not be blown to smithereens by my own tech, if we can avoid it."

He wheels me around by my shoulders and points to the huge hunk of metal and wires on a platform nearby. "See this, Mikey?" He's teasing me now, I know it. Sometimes I wouldn't even be able to tell if he didn't use that voice every time. It's like how any normal person would talk to a three-year-old. He's pointing at the hunk of metal with this big dumpy grin on his face. "This makes things go boom, and if you set it off in my workshop, that would be bad. Do you understand? Bad."

Now Raph's laughing at me again. Looks like it's National Pick on Mikey Day. But I don't mind. It's not like I don't totally deserve it. Plus, I'm keeping a mental tally for later. When this's over, I'll get them all back twice as bad. I've already got some awesome ideas involving duct tape, a few pages of newspaper, and some permanent markers.

"So if that thing's so dangerous, how're we gonna get it in without blowin' ourselves to pieces?"

"I was over exaggerating. There's a safety and timer, remote ignition and encryptions. This baby's not doing anything until I tell it to." His face darkens for a second and that's enough to make Raph shut his big, ugly trap. "But seriously, don't mess with it."

"Okay, okay, I get it. It's dangerous. Can you let go of me now? You're a great guy and all, but this's getting kind of awkward."

He gives me a look that I can't read before letting me go, and I give him a look of my own. Come to think of it, maybe all the stupid faces I make at people is one of the reasons everyone still treats me like a kid. But I think it's worth it. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one who has any fun around here.

"So just tell me if I've got this correctly," Don asks, mostly to Raph. "As soon as I create my distraction and tear you guys and entrance, you two and Casey are bringing in the device, right?"

"Right. And then us three'll set up the bomb and get outta there once April gives the signal. Then we blow the place to hell."

"Sounds relatively simple," he says with a frown I really don't like. "But there's a lot of room for complication. There's so many variables at play that-"

Raph cuts him off. "Donny, we got less than an hour till show time. We ain't gonna think about that," he says roughly. "We just got to get those people outta there, send a message to the Shred Head that he ain't gonna be king of this joint for long."

Don only swallows hard and nods. I know what he's thinking. It's the same stuff that's been going through my head for days. Something's gonna go wrong if we don't do this just right, I know it.

Still I gotta stay positive. If I don't, no one will.

"I have some pretty interesting plans for my distraction," Don says quickly, tearing his eyes away and changing the subject before anything else can come up. Raph and I've spent enough time sticking up for this plan already. All of us are sick of fighting over it. "These salvaged Legion bots," he says, pointing to the three huge zords standing up against the wall. He's got that look in his eyes that says he's switched to geek mode. Brace yourselves. "Are situated with a wireless remote connection, much like what I had installed in the last Battle Shell. I think they're our best bet for getting in and keeping their attention away from you guys while still keeping casualties to a minimum."

"Then what can I do?"

For a second we all look at each other all confused- Leo's standing in the doorway. He's leaning up against the door frame with his arms crossed over his chest. But I still can't believe he said what I think he said. He wants to help us? Whoa.

"So look who finally decided to step up to the plate," Raph growls, finally breaking the silence. His eyes are narrowed into this really mean glare. "That rock you've been living under get boring for even you, Fearless?"

Leo only frowns, turns to talk to me instead. Leo asking me for directions…now that is freaking weird. "Uh…Master Splinter could use some help at the gates, making sure the people get through."

He nods, pushing himself away from the door. "Then that's what I'll do. Thank you."

In a second he's gone. That dude thinks he's freakin' Batman sometimes. Geez. Still I feel like I should say something. I dunno. "You're welcome?"

"So Leo's joinin' in. Thought I'd never see the day."

I turn to Raph and give him a grin. "See, I told you he wasn't a pansy."

"Yeah, whatever," he grumbles like a true sour puss. "So we gonna do this or what? April's probably gathered up the troops by now."

That makes my heart jump up in my chest, and I've got this real fluttery nervous feeling in my stomach. Is this really gonna happen? We're gonna do this now? Man, I'm in way over my head.

"I'm ready when you are," Donny adds, pressing a few buttons on a remote-thing that makes one of the bots come to life.

"Yeah!" I croak, trying not to sound nervous. But that attempt was made of fail. I sound like I'm thirteen again. But I'm Mikey the Fearless! I'm Mikey the Brave! Protector of the innocent, spreader of justice, avenger of…

I shrink at the looks they're giving me, throw them a little smile. "I just…said all of that out loud, didn't I?"

Raph only laughs and Donny can't help joining in. He grabs my by the shoulder and we leave Donny to his Zords and crazy plans. Walking down the hallway, it's just Raph and me in the dark, but he's got his arm around my shoulder and a smile on his face. "Mikey, you've got about two thousand screws loose in that head of yours, but that's why we love ya. Never lose it."

I just laugh with him when we go to find April. I'm not exactly sure why he said that to me. Either he knows we're gonna die tonight, or he really meant it. I can only hope it's option number two.


Everything looks so different in the light. I always knew the city we live in now is definitely not the New York I grew up in. But with what little light the setting sun's still giving off, I can see how bad it really is.

There's nothing much left—an old bakery that I remember walking by a few times on a night run or something…I don't know. But its windows are broken, and the place is covered in this nasty layer of dust. Actually, the whole city looks like it's buried in it. Probably the stuff that got kicked up from when the ships landed. It turns everything ten ugly shades of brown.

There really isn't much sun left, and as soon as darkness hits, everything's going to Hell. I watch the sky get darker from the glimpses the broken street lets in above. We're taking the sewer tunnels for now. Or, what's left of the sewer tunnels. I've taken this way a million times trying to find the best road into that labor camp. The ceiling's caved in here and there… actually a good chunk of the sewer got a new skylight during whatever the heck happened to make this part of town look like an old battlefield.

Everything goes dark when the pavement swallows up the sky.

So far it's just me, Raph, Casey, and Don making our way down the old sewer lines. We're following Don's bots blazing the way on the street over our heads. Those things seriously freak me out though, like if there's nobody actually behind the wheel, they could just randomly decide that they liked being evil and change their minds. Now that would be freaky…and bad. Very bad.

I can hear the footsteps far behind me, a hundred people breathing in the dark. Angel's in there somewhere, and Enrique too. I just wonder if he's still mad at me after last night. I couldn't blame him if he was. I know I have to concentrate on leading the way through this mess, but I can't help looking back at those faces a long ways behind us. I keep thinking about all the things I should have said before all of this. Like maybe I should have told my brothers I loved them again, even though I say it all the time. Maybe I should have tried to get to know Casey better, because when it comes down to it, I don't even think he would really call me a friend. I should have told Raph how cool he is for never letting that eye get in his way. I should've told Leo it's okay to be afraid one more time, because I know he still thinks it's not. I should've told Sensei what a great father he was to all of us, or told Donny he's not as misunderstood as we pretend he is. Most of it's just teasing, but sometimes I don't think he gets that.

I used to have this picture under my mattress, this sketch I've had for years. I drew it so long ago, I can't even remember when, but sometimes I think about it. It's a picture of my family, my brothers, dressed up like superheroes in the way I always dreamed about, the Turtle Titan leading the way. I kept it hidden forever 'cause they hated that, when I'd dress them up in capes and things. Raph always said it's 'cause we're nothing like that. But to me, they're about as close as you can get. I wonder if they know that.

Donny's bringing up the rear now, not even paying attention to where he's walking. He's got this huge remote in his hands, the blue light of the screen lighting up his face. We don't have flashlights, so we're just walking in the dark hoping nobody smacks into a wall or something.

Then we hit dead end. There's an old access ladder going up to a rusted manhole against the wall. It'll spit us out by an alleyway not too far from the fence line of the compound. The troops'll stay underground while we wait for Don's distraction.

I shift the pack on my back a few times before climbing up the ladder. I pretty much want to pee my shell thinking there's enough explosives to blow away a whole city block just strapped to my back. I still can't believe they gave it to me out of the three of us. Raph coulda done it way better than me. But then again- Raph always did say he wanted to go down fighting, and everyone knows how Don feels about Casey around his doohickies. Guess that leaves the bomb to me.

Oh man, we're so screwed.

Feeling the air again is totally different the second time around. I can't take time to feel it, which makes me that much happier that I did last night. That might've been the last time, who knows. Right now, I'm pretty much kissing my butt goodbye.

But it's the same thing that's been going through my head for days now. It'll be worth it. It'll be so worth it. Even if we die tonight, at least we died trying. At least we can show people there's still something left worth fighting for.

We run like crazy towards the alleyway across the few feet of cracked road, and make it just fine. I can see the spotlights tracing the ground a few feet away, but we're far enough to be safe. So we watch and wait between the sides of two crumbling skyscrapers. I remember what those buildings used to look like. They were so huge, like mountains. Now it's like they're gonna fall any second.

The spotlights sweep up close nearby, and I hold my breath, grabbing hard onto the straps of the pack. But it wasn't us they're looking at—it's Donny's Zords. To these guard dudes, they probably just look like any other of the Shred Head's Legion bots. Nobody asks a second question opening the doors and letting them in.

My heart's pounding in my brain when it's time to make a break for it. The doors are almost closed, but at least the shadows are dark enough to hide us, and everybody's busy trying to figure out the random bots that just showed up. You can tell they're real confused, but at least that spotlight's turned away.

Then, the sky lights up and the bots show off their heavy artillery. Hell yeah. There's flashes of fire burning up the dark while we cut across the courtyard and into the main building. I catch Raph's face while we're running, Casey's too. We all have the same goofy smiles. Maybe this really could work after all.

Inside, there's chaos. The whole place's gone crazy. There's guards running everywhere like little ants, bumping into each other, yelling stuff. Tisk tisk, so disorganized. They never stood a chance against our genius! They're even stupid enough to start pouring out the main door to start shooting at the stupid bots. But Donny just keeps blowing the hell out of the place and we squeak in through the side door no problem. Now all we have to do is sneak into the center of the building and have Casey find a good lookout spot until April gets all the people out. Sounds easy enough.

Yeah, easy until we turn down the next hall and wind up face-to-face with three really nasty looking guard dogs. It's like all the air just got sucked out of my lungs. They see us in a second and start showing their teeth and growling and I'm freaking out really bad. I squeak a little bit- can't scream. Don't scream. No screaming, Mikey! – but those dogs look really hungry and those fangs look really sharp. So instead I have to laugh and say "My, grandma, what big teeth you have."

But these dogs totally don't have any sense of humor. They just keep growling at us with their humongous teeth and globs of drool making puddles on the floor. They start coming towards us like we'd make one tasty meal. So we all start backing away real slowly. When me and Casey bump into each other, I can hear him whispering "Shit."

Yup, 'shit.' That pretty much sums it up.

"We can't turn around," Raph growls, grabbing his sai. Oh man, is he serious? "There's too many people."

"Raph…" I don't like this. I really, really don't like this ride anymore. Mikey wants off now please.

But there he is, sai drawn and charging into the pack of vicious dogs. They jump up on his plastron and snap their jaws at his neck like they're gonna tear is throat out. Oh god, they're gonna tear is throat out! And I really can't fight with this huge ass bomb on my back. So I'm pressed up against the wall practically peeing myself watching Raph and Casey kick and punch and pound these dogs. There's a lot of blood on the floor, but I can't tell whose. Raph smacks one of them down with the pommel of his sai and I'm almost starting to feel bad for the little guys. Yeah, they're trying to kill us, but they don't really want to. That's just all they know.

But my mind changes pretty freakin' quick when one of them breaks free and starts going after me. I scream like a loser and kick the thing in the face. Then all I feel is pain. Lots and lots and lots of pain. The thing's got its teeth sunk into my legs like a big, tasty T-bone steak and that only makes me scream louder. Casey kicks the thing in the side and it lets go, skidding across the floor and smacking into the wall where Raph finishes it off with a yelp. I can't help wincing, even if he did just try to kill me.

"Shit, Mikey, you're bleedin' bad."

"Oh great, thanks Captain Obvious," I groan, trying to limp forward, but it really hurts to walk now. Raph's got his hands covered in my blood and that's just fabulous. He orders Casey down the hall for a lookout and all I can see is his shadow down by the emergency lights. At least it's dark in here, which makes it that much scarier when I spot a bunch of flashlights coming right toward us. Now I can't help thinking about what a jerk Murphy was to make up a law like that.

Casey gives the signal and tries to sort of melt against the wall, but we all know I can't run and I can't hide. Not with this giant bomb strapped to my back and my leg cut open. Now everywhere I go I'm gonna leave a trail of blood behind, and by the sound of those footsteps, I'm not gonna have any time to bandage it. Instead of hiding, Raph slides into a stance and whispers to me "Get outta here. The bomb's all that matters. We'll hold them off."

I feel awful leaving them behind, but I know that's what I have to do. So I shift the weight of the bomb on my shoulders and start limping as fast as I can down the narrow hall.

"Mike, wait!"

I turn to see Raph watching me, tossing me something from a few feet away. I catch it quick—our only communicator—and something sinks in my stomach. The flashlight beams are getting brighter, and I can see the first of the shadows turning down the mouth of the hall. There's a lot of them, and Casey's there, fighting like hell, cracking some guy over the head with a lead pipe while the others are screaming "Intruders!"

I swallow hard, meet my brother's eye like it might be the last time I'll ever see him again.

"Just go! We'll be fine."

I nod and start to turn away before something hits me from before, back at the base, what he said…

"I love you too, bro," I croak, feeling the knot in my throat trying to strangle me before I can get the words out.

"Raph! Could use some help down here!"

Casey's struggling behind us, and the wave of guards is getting bigger. Gunfire starts ricocheting off the metal walls, and I've never been happier that Case traded in his baseball bat for a semi-automatic. There's blood in the air and my head's full of screaming. It's too loud to say anything else. Raph just looks at me for a few seconds before finally turning away, joining the fight, and I move down the hall. Everything get quieter as I move along, and I'm praying to whatever god out there who gives a crap that wasn't the last time I'd ever talk to him again. Somehow every scream that echoes behind me sounds just like him.

"Donny, I got the bomb, but they know we're in. I had to leave Raph and Casey behind."

Something hot is running down my leg and I don't even want to look at the bloodstains I'm leaving like a bread crumb trail.

"It's ok, Mikey. Just keep moving. April's moving in." He has to practically scream at the top of his lungs to cut through the static and sounds of explosions outside that make the floors shake and ceilings make little dust trails from inside. At least I can hear his voice.

But that changes fast. I'm almost at the center of the building when he cuts in again.

"Crap! Mikey, I don't know how much longer I can hold them off. They've taken out two already!"

I know he means the Zords. Those explosions were too big to be anything Don would cook up. "I'm going as fast as I can!" I didn't even realize I was crying until now. Sobbing, actually, holding onto that walkie-talkie for dear life. I'm alone, I'm bleeding, and I know I'm gonna die, so I'm panicking. I don't think I've ever been this scared in my entire life.

Something like an atomic bomb goes off outside, and it's enough to shake the whole building on its foundation. The place is like a boat caught in a bad storm and my stomach rolls over like I'm gonna spew. But I'm too busy grabbing onto the wall when my bad leg gives out and I fall flat on my face. The walkie-talkie gets knocked out of my hand and goes skittering across the floor.

"Mikey! Mikey? Are you okay? Come on… Mikey! That was the last Legion! We have to get out of here!"

It takes everything I've got to crawl on my hands and knees across the floor. It's getting harder and harder to ignore the pain pulsing through my leg, but I finally find the walkie and start sobbing to Don on the other end. "Donny, I'm hurt…I don't know…if I set this bomb off, I don't think…I can make it…out in time."

There's a second of nothing but static before he talks again. He's out of breath, and there's more fear in his voice then I've ever heard before. "I'm getting Leo. We'll find you!"

My leg tries giving out on me again when I stand up, but I do it, bracing up against the wall. "No-" I cut myself short with a gasp when I try to take a step, but I clench my teeth and work through it. "No, I can do this. Just…I can do this."

"Mikey, no! I can't let you…Leo and I are coming in. Leo's close. He'll be there in a second. Just stay where you are."

"But Leo doesn't know how to start the bomb. I'm gonna keep moving. I have to."

"April already has most of the prisoners out. Just wait for us! We'll find you!"

"No, Donny, please. I can do this. I have to do this."

"Mikey…"

The second I hear him choke on that sob, I lose it. Still doing my best limping down that metal hallway, crying my eyes out, saying my last goodbyes to my brother. I always said that it was my job to keep everyone's hopes up, that I could never lose it. And I'm not giving it up now. No, that's not going to happen. This is a reason to keep hoping. Doing this… making this choice… it's the best thing I could ever do. I'm not just keeping hope for myself now, I'm giving thousands of people a reason to live, a reason to fight against this.

I'd die a thousand times if I had to.

"I love you, bro," I sob, stumbling forward, my hand against the smooth metal wall. There's tears rolling down my face, streaming down my neck in little rivers until it hits that place where my skin meets my plastron. But I don't care. I lean against the wall with my shoulder so I can hold this walkie-talkie with both hands, because it's the closest thing to holding my brother that I'll ever get. "Donny, I love you. Tell Sensei that too- and Leo, tell Leo I love him."

"Mikey, no…"

I feel like somebody ripped my heart out and stomped on it. I guess I always knew it would turn out this way. I just never knew it would hurt this much. I'm almost at the basement stairs. I know I'll need both hands to drag myself down the steps, so I tuck the walkie in my belt, and try not to think about Don's pleas coming in from the other end. It hurts too bad to listen. Instead, I'm counting my breaths. I'm not so sure how many left I have, so I breathe in slowly, breathe out slowly, listen to every one and hobble down the stairs, taking one at a time into the dark.

That is, until I hear footsteps behind me. I know the trail of blood is gonna give me away, and I know I'm in no shape to hide, or even fight back, so I freeze and watch the massive shadow come closer down the hall. My heart rockets up to my throat, but I'm still counting my breaths.

"L-Leo?"

Oh please be Leo. Please be Leo…

"You!"

Nope, not Leo.

That huge voice is almost enough to make me fall the rest of the way down the stairs. Oh crap. No way. Not him. Oh shit.

When he trudges into the hallway, he takes up the whole space between me and any chance of freedom. My stomachs still doing the Macarena inside me, and the way his voice sounds like thunder really makes me want to puke.

"I thought you freaks were dead."

I shrink back against the wall and swallow back the bile in my throat. Oh man. "Uh…nope, still alive and kicking last time I checked."

His eyes narrow and he takes a heavy step towards me, rolling up his sleeves. "You think I have patience for this? You think you can just waltz in here, punk? This's my turf." He's cracking his knuckles with this horrible grin on his face. When Hun smiles, you know you're in for it. "You're gonna wish you were dead."

In a second he's got me by the throat, slamming my back… or more like the bomb…into the concrete wall. I squeeze my eyes shut when my head snaps back, ready to get blown to itty bitty turtle bits. But the one lucky thing out of everything that's happened tonight is that the thing didn't go off—like that would make much of a difference now anyways.

"Dude, I really wouldn't do that," I croak, trying to catch my breath, but that's really, really hard with his giant hand around my neck like a freaking bear trap.

"What are you doing here, freak?"

Either it's the blood or major lack of air supply that's making me light headed, but I feel like the second he lets go of me I'm gonna collapse and fall down the stairs. I'm grabbing onto his wrist more to keep myself from falling than to pry him off. But when he asks me what I'm doing, I can't help grinning right in his stupid face.

"Oh, just thought it was a nice day for a stroll."

My laugh comes out more like a wheeze. That joked sucked ass, but watching his face change made it so worth it. I can only laugh more when he slams me into the wall again. It makes my vision go white for a second, and I really want to throw up, but I don't.

"Those are your Legions. Don't make me ask you again!"

I roll my eyes at him and let out this annoyed sigh like Raph does every time I cracked a stupid joke. "Okay, you want a hint? This thing strapped to my back isn't just a fashion statement."

His eyes are pretty blank until he figures out what I mean and he snaps his hand away like it burns. I grab onto the metal railing when I collapse back on the stairs. Even after I steady myself I'm too dizzy to let go.

He just watches me with so much hate in his eyes it's ridiculous. "You…"

"Yep, me. I have enough explosives here to blow you to the moon, sweet cheeks."

Now, without his hand around my neck, I'm really laughing at him. The look on his face is priceless. Not only did I scare him speechless, but I pissed him off more than I've ever seen, all in one shot. But hey, if I'm gonna die in a second or two, I might as well make the most of it.

We just stare at each other for a second. He's just glaring at me and I'm just waiting for my stomach to stop doing back flips. I just want to go to sleep…Yeah, that would be nice.

I don't realize how hard I'm leaning against the railing before I hear more footsteps coming down the hall. All I can do is groan and take a few backwards steps down the stairs. Hun's still glaring at me like he doesn't know what to do with himself.

"Halt! Intruders!"

Oh. Shit. I know that voice. I know that voice!

"Karai," he spits real low like a growl. Pretty much answers my question.

She shows up in the doorway with a pack of dudes dressed in black behind her—Foot ninja, the real deal—and I feel my stomach shift again. I'm losing too much blood. I can feel it still running down my leg, making the stairs slippery and my head swim.

"Stop! It has a bomb!" He growls again.

"What?!" She hisses, freezing at the mouth of the hall with her back-up stopping behind. Hun turns to face her and starts yelling.

"The freaks live! You lied to us, Karai."

"I did no such thing!" She seethes. I can hear the venom in her voice.

"He would kill you for treason, two-faced bitch!"

"And I would kill you for your insolence!"

I'm pretty much just sitting back watching the show and trying not to black out when Don's voice comes in over the walkie. "Mikey, Leo says he's almost there! Mikey? Mikey!"

Everything turns cold the second she pushes past Hun and glares at me.

Then, she draws out her tanto and I see every bit of our so-called 'genius plan' run down the drain. She's onto me. She knows I can't detonate this thing fast, or I woulda done it already. Man, Donny, you really suck right now. He's trying so hard to be so safe, but he ends up screwing me over in the end.

"Where is Leonardo?"

"I…I don't know," I choke. Really, I don't. Don said he was coming in to find me, but that's all I know.

"You even dare to show your face on the surface, never less attack this compound! You will pay for your foolishness!" Her eyes practically glow in the dark when she charges for me. But I don't flinch. All I can do is try to stay upright and be really, really scared. She presses that blade against my already sore throat, her voice only a whisper now. "I know he is here. Tell me!"

"I said I don't know!" I'm crying again, and that comes out more like a sob. I've got my shell pressed to the railing, both hands grabbing on for dear life 'cause I feel like I'm gonna pass out any second. But she's probably gonna slit my throat before I get a chance to.

That is, until my knight in shining armor shows up, and I feel like I should swoon like a damsel in distress. Yes, swoon, when I hear my big brother's voice coming from the shadows. He steps out into the open, covered head to toe in blood so thick all I can see is his eyes and his swords.

Damn.

"Karai! Your fight is with me, not him."

"You even dare show your faces!" She repeats, sword flashing in what light there's left in the pitch black hallway. She charges for Leo, leaving me alone. Predictable as always.

I stand there frozen for a second, watching my big brother dodge a swipe at his throat from her tanto before he finally brings me back to reality again. "Mikey, go!"

I almost fall down the stairs for the millionth time in five minutes when I remember exactly why I'm here in the first place. I know what I gotta do.

My head's swimming so bad I can barely see straight as I make my way down the stairs, step by step. At least my leg doesn't hurt too bad anymore, but it's getting really cold in here. I know I've lost a lot of blood.

But I don't have time to think of that. I hear Hun chasing me down the stairs like the giant boulder from Indiana Jones. My heart's in my throat and I'm running as fast as I can, slipping off the pack and grabbing my walkie at the same time.

"Donny! Donny, now! Go, start the thing!"

But all I hear is "…almost there." from the other end of the line before something ridiculously hard crushes into the side of my head. I go flying off the last of the stairs, losing the bomb as I go, and smack hard into the wall.

All I can do is blink at him from my heap on the floor. I can't get up. I know I can't. He's walking towards me with that same smile he had before, but it's quiet. I can hear the fight still going overhead, the sound of bombs and gunfire ripping the place apart, and Don's voice. The walkie landed a good ten feet away from me, but I can hear him still. What he says next makes my guts freeze over.

"Mike…the ignition's been overridden. You need to get out of there!"

"…I can't," I croak, but I know he can't hear me. I don't take my eyes away from Hun's while he looms like a raincloud, but I'm reaching out… "Donny…"

But I'm so tired…and it's so cold…

"Mikey!"

"Leo?"

"Mikey," he whispers, real close to my face. I can feel his warm breath against my cheek. "Why would you do this to yourself?"

I blink up at the voice. The cold night melts away, the trees in the wind, Leo's arms around my shoulders. Everything's running in slow motion, all the bombs, the gunshots, the screams, the sound of metal against metal. It still pierces through. But I see Hun, like a shadow, looming overhead.

It almost hurts to look at him, but I do it, just one eye peeking out from over my arm. My face is wet and the wind turns it so cold. "I guess…don't want…to be alone."

I gasp for breath like someone dumped a bucket of cold water on me. Someone's smashed Hun over the head with a lead pipe. The sound of him hitting the floor like a sack of meat is enough to drag me back. But my vision isn't clear.

"Get him out of here!"

"Donny?"

But it's Casey I see next, scraping me off the floor and slugging my arm around his neck. "Let's go."

Now I'm up, but I don't want to move. Donny's kneeling by where the bomb landed on the floor. He's panicking. I know he is. He said… the ignition. It's gonna go off.

"Donny!" I scream it with every ounce of strength and breath I got left. I know what he's doing. I know what he's…

"Mikey! Get out of here! I'll try to buy you guys some time!"

He's not thinking…He's…How can he be so selfish?! How could he do this to me?!

But Casey's practically dragging me up the stairs, leaving Donny behind with the bomb. I'm too weak to fight him. I can't…

"Don't leave me alone!" I sob. Nothing's gonna stop me! Nothing's gonna…

Halfway up the stairs he stops and everything stands still. He just…looks at me from over that ticking bomb and mouths the words "I have to."

I go silent, but the tears keep coming. Casey gets me up the stairs, but I never take my eyes off of him until the dark swallows him whole.

Upstairs the battle's still raging. Leo's taken out the last of the ninja, save for Karai. They're still going at it, swords flashing. Leo's stalling. I know he is. He watches us leave out of the corner of his eye. But there's something wrong about it.

That's when everything goes to hell.

The noise is skull-crushing, and everything goes silent. Just a ring like someone flatlining. Light. The dark turns to day. Everyone freezes. Silent like when the city's covered in new snow. I breathe once…twice…We turn and see the wall of fire rolling up the stairs. Heat. I try to scream, but nothing comes out. The whole room is collapsing around us and we're thrown back, smack my head against something hard and just watch the ceiling come apart. It falls. I close my eyes and don't open them again.