The Appearance of April O'Neil
April O'Neil sighed. News was a little slow this week after she had busted the story of the child exploiting drug ring. She knew that it wasn't really quiet as it seemed. There was always crime. The criminals were finally getting better at hiding their secrets from her.
Some of the people at the office said she should have been a detective since she was so good at tracking crime. She disagreed. As a detective she was bound by so many rules and regulations that she didn't have to follow as a news reporter. She wouldn't have it any other way.
"April!" came the scream. Except Boss Brown, she would change Boss Brown out in a heartbeat. "Get in here!"
Despite the fact she was his best investigative reporter Boss Brown was always yelling at her. Maybe it was because he was always expecting so much more from her than the others. She didn't really care.
She sighed and got up from her desk where she was investigating a new internet scam. She had better go see what Boss Brown wanted. April slid her chair into her desk and stomped off to her boss' office.
"He's in a real foul one today," Irma the secretary informed her.
"Great," April frowned.
"Good luck," Irma smiled encouragingly. "You'll need it." The woman had said the latter under her breath thinking that April couldn't hear her. April winced, she had heard just fine.
April walked into the office of her boss with a determined look on her face. Brown's face was already red and she could see a vein pulsating on his forehead. The determined look on her face melted away. Whatever was going on here had him angrier than ever.
"What is it Mr. Brown?" for once she didn't sound sarcastic when she said mister before his name.
"Last week's special on Falcone and his drug exploitation ring had the lowest viewing average ever!"
"Yeah," April already knew this, and nothing frustrated her more. "But we helped bring down one of the worst drug trafficking networks in the city's history."
"Well," Brown growled at her. "That doesn't matter. We are in showbiz and our viewers don't care who we bring down. They want to see emotion! We need ratings! You should do a molestation piece! They really bring in the viewers! I don't care if it's an eighteen year old having sex with his sixteen year old girlfriend, just so long as it counts as statutory rape!"
"But that would ruin their lives!" April replied.
"You ruined Falcone's life and that of his men," Brown shouted at her angrily. He didn't see her point.
"Yeah, but he was giving drugs to children!" April shouted back. "That's completely different than teenagers having sex!"
"Yes," Brown stood up, looking down on her menacingly. "The sex story would bring in viewers!"
"I can't do that!"
"You had better come up with something that brings in those viewers or you are out of a job, April!"
"I can't believe you would do that," April said with little confidence.
"You had better believe it O'Neil or the only news you'll be looking at is the wanted ads!"
* * *
April walked down the street, for once she wasn't glancing interestedly about, seeing news everywhere she glanced. All the news she could think about was the news her boss had given her today.
She was his best reporter. How could he dare threaten to fire her? Did the world care so little for the real issues that affected them day to day? Could she bring herself to do a piece on some poor young teenager that had had sex with his girlfriend just younger than him and paint him a villain? She didn't know what to do. She was at her wits' end. If she didn't come up with something fast then she would have to begin looking for work, and in today's economy that was a situation she didn't want to be in. But what could she do?
Suddenly as April was deep in thought a rough hand slammed over her mouth and another wrapped around her waist. She instinctively tried to scream, but it did little good. She began to kick and thrash her arms as best she could as the strong person behind her pulled her backward into a nearby alley.
"Let her go Big Louie!" a voice commanded. It carried a distinctive tone to it. She knew the voice immediately. It belonged to Little Bambini, the mob member, one of Falcone's men.
The hands that held her captive suddenly were gone, but she found herself thrust forward suddenly. She fell forward. The pavement was hard, but she managed not to hit her head.
"Falcone said he wanted her to know why she died," Little Bambini smiled wickedly down at her.
"He didn't take kindly to you getting in the middle of his little moneymaking scheme," Big Louie growled with his bass voice.
"You should have kept your nose to the weather and pedophiles where it belongs, bitch!" Bambini spat. He raised a pistol. April recognized a nine millimeter when she saw one.
April closed her eyes, she couldn't even think of anything to say. Suddenly instead of the blast of a gun there was a clang of metal striking metal. April opened her eyes. Bambini stared down at his open hand that had been holding the pistol. A sai was sticking through the back of his hand, piercing his palm. He gasped and choked. The pistol lay at the side of the alley amongst some windblown refuse.
"Ah!" Bambini screamed. "Sonuva!"
Seizing her opportunity April leaped for the pistol. Suddenly the light that lit the alley burst into shards and the alley became dark as the night sky. There was a great grating sound and suddenly someone brushed against her roughly. She stumbled and fell to her knees slightly disoriented. She could no longer see the gun. She should just run away while she had the chance.
She stood up as the sounds of some sort of fight rang out around her. A few shots rang out, she heard them hit the brick walls of the alley and bounce off. She was afraid to move, she might just get in the way of danger.
As her eyes became accustomed to the light she saw four bulky forms barely visible in the non-light surrounding Falcone's men. The mob members were all sitting on the alley floor with their heads bowed to their chest. The four figures raced to the middle of the alleyway and then somehow disappeared into the pavement.
April raced over to the mobsters. They were tied together with some sort of rope. Gathering her courage she pressed her hand to one of their necks she felt a slow but steady pulse, they were just knocked out. She turned to where her rescuers had disappeared. That far into the alley the light failed almost completely. She reached into her purse and pulled out a small flashlight that fit into the palm of her hand. Years of investigating had taught her to be prepared.
She shone the flashlight over the pavement, trying to spot some sort of track or something. At first she saw nothing that caught her attention. She pointed the light up, but there wasn't even a fire escape nearby. Swearing she glanced back down at the pavement. The only thing there was a covered manhole.
They had gone down into the sewers. What kind of superheroes or midnight rescuers ran through the sewers? Then, the thought occurred to April. This could be the story she was looking for. Silent Superheroes Seen in the Sewers, or something of the like. It was certainly better than trudging through the sewers that her conscience would become if she did what her boss wanted.
April grabbed the holes in the manhole and tried to move it aside. She strained, her back felt like it was being stretched, but to no avail. The manhole wouldn't move for her. She glanced around in the partial light. She could barely make out details before she shone her flashlight on them. She spotted a broken broom handle and went over and picked it up. Using the wooden broom handle as a lever she slowly moved the manhole cover off the hole.
Quickly she dropped the broom handle and made her way to the manhole with the flashlight in her mouth. There were no steps, but she could she the sewer floor just eight feet down. She closed her eyes and jumped straight down. When she landed she was careful to crouch instead of keeping her legs straight. Growing up as a tomboy had taught her lots of useful tricks.
She took the flashlight from her mouth as she stood up and shone it about the sewer. She could hear a few far off voices, probably of the men who had rescued her. The sewers echoed with their voices and she glanced about trying to determine which way they had gone.
The walls in front of her had splash marks on them where the "water" had been knocked up higher than the current level. Just to make sure she shone her flashlight on the wall behind her and saw that there were no splashes. She began to breathe out of her mouth. The overwhelming stench down here was atrocious and it was distracting her from her objective.
She kept the flashlight pointed down at the sewer waters, trying hard not to think about what she was probably wading through. She didn't want to get caught by her benefactors. Considering their secrecy they might not take to kindly to her following them though the sewers.
She tried to keep as quiet as possible as she splashed after them. She went down the passage, elated. Now maybe she wouldn't have to do a report on some pedophile. This was something that would sell to the public. People always wanted to believe in superheroes.
Of course it would be a lot better if somehow she could convince them to let her interview them or even record them with the voice changer. She would have to wait and get a good look at them. If they split up she would follow the one that looked the friendliest and confront them alone.
People usually didn't feel so strong when they were alone. She looked up at the grate as she passed below it. Someone was walking over it as she passed under and they had no idea she was there. Their chosen path of transport was smelly but ingenious, who would think of looking in the sewers for a hero?
The tunnel sloped downward and she could hear their voices echoing against the cement walls. The voices were all male and sounded young. She caught snatches of their conversation. For superheroes they spoke a lot of slang.
"Awesome!" she heard one of them say. "They didn't see that coming. Stupid criminals!"
April couldn't help but giggle at their observation, as she did so she slipped on something that she probably rather not think about. She splashed loudly as she regained her footing and their voices suddenly went deadly quiet. April froze in her tracks. She couldn't afford to scare them off now.
Soon their voices picked up again and she let out her breath. She hadn't realized she had been holding it. She cautiously picked her way along again. She was even quieter than before. As she walked along there grew in her ears an unfamiliar rushing sound. Their voices faded into the rushing sound and eventually faded all together. Worried, April rushed forward, all pretense of keeping quiet gone with the thought of losing her quarry.
She suddenly stopped in her tracks. She stood at the end of her tunnel. In front of her was a large hole where all of the sewer tunnels met and dumped their putrid contents into the dark hole.
Without warning something rough grabbed her from behind and held her arms tight to her body. For the second time she struggled with an unseen assailant. She dropped her flashlight and it tumbled end over end into the hole until it was lost in the inky darkness.
"What have we here?" a voice said just below her ear. The voice was heavy with a strong Brooklyn accent.
"Let go of me!" April protested. She couldn't think of anything else to say, mostly because she was helpless in the vice grip of whoever was behind her.
"I don't think so sister," the voice seemed to want to laugh. "Why were you following us?"
"I just wanted to interview you," April told the truth because she couldn't think of anything better.
"Right," the Brooklyn voice dripped with sarcasm. "What are you, some kind of reporter?"
"Of course, I am April O'Neil!" April had already started to tell the truth, she might as well continue. "Don't you recognize me?"
"What?" the voice seemed surprised. She tried to take advantage of his stunned state and flip him over her head but whoever it was weighed a ton and was as strong as an ox.
"Get off me, Tubby!" April screamed.
"Tubby?" the voice suddenly got angry. April began to think that perhaps she had made a mistake.
"You weigh a ton and you're shorter than me," April explained, trying to calm down her captor.
"Well, no joke," the voice calmed down immediately, laughing at her ignorance, though April was still trying to get the joke.
"What's so funny?"
"Come on Raph!" a voice called back from some tunnel below them. "We don't have all night."
"Alright already!" the voice called from behind April. "Sheesh! Some people have no patience!"
Suddenly April found her feet leaving the slimy sewer floor, "What are you doing with me?"
"I suggest you don't struggle too much, or you'll find yourself on a long trip down," the voice told her.
"Oh God! Oh no!" April shouted, pounding on the man's back as he hoisted her over his shoulder. He must have been wearing some sort of armor because whatever she hit was hard and made a hollow sound on impact.
"Careful, lady," the voice sounded more than slightly perturbed. "I just got the shell waxed."
Before April could figure out what the man meant she felt him crouch and then leap into the air with her in tow. Her breath caught in her throat as she felt the rancid wind rush through her hair. They were falling, she didn't dare move or even scream, afraid she would distract him.
Then suddenly with a slight jar to her stomach they landed. It was dark down here but she could still tell they were in another tunnel. The man took at off at a run down the dark tunnel.
She could hear the others as they raced ahead, laughing. One of them sounded serious though, maybe once this one put her down she could reason with that one. Despite having her slung over her shoulder the man that carried her loped along at an easy pace.
"Where are you taking me?" April asked in between steps.
"Now that you followed us we have to take you to see Splinter so he can decide what to do with you," the man answered.
"Splinter?" April didn't sound like the sound of that. Maybe instead of finding heroes she had found some rival gang that had somehow escaped her attention. She shuddered at the thought.
"You'll see," the man laughed. April stayed silent. She didn't want to incriminate herself any more than she already had.
They raced along the tunnel and took so many turns and twists that April knew there was no way she could escape and reach the surface on her own. Despite the smell this was the most ingenious hideout that she had ever heard of. She wanted to struggle but her curiosity got the better of her.
She couldn't see much except what was left behind them. The walls of the tunnel slowly became easier and easier to see, they must be nearing a light source. She was glad as her stomach ached from all the jouncing on the man's hard thick shoulders. She could hear the man's companions ahead.
"We saved her, but then she followed us down into the sewer, Master," one of them was saying. Master, was not usually a term of endearment used by people of the superhero persuasion.
"Why didn't you leave her in the sewer? It us quite unlikely that she would have been able to follow all the way here," a new raspy voice asked.
"She's some sort of reporter," the man carrying her said as he rounded the corner into a fully lit room. April struggled to turn around. "And I think she saw us when she followed us."
"Let me down!" April screeched, hoping that their master would have more mercy than they.
"Yes, Raphael," the master, she supposed it was the same man as Splinter. "Let her down."
Suddenly she found herself flung through the air and landed onto a soft surface with a slight screech. She looked up accusingly at her captors and swallowed the words that about came out of her mouth. She looked up into the face of four giant turtles, and even worse, a giant rat.
April screamed. She didn't know what else to do. She was the first woman on the planet that had ever been faced with this decision and she had no example to follow. No man would have fared any better.
"Wow, lady!" one of the turtles tried to shout above her. "You have quite a set of lungs!"
"Shut up already!" another turtle growled at her.
"Raphael! My sons," the raspy voice rat looked at the turtles. "I think it would be best if you left us alone."
April stopped screaming, but only because that had made the animals speak more. They weren't really giant animals per se. The turtles were just shorter than her and walked on two legs like a human. Each of them had a different color band that covered just above their nose and mouth. Two holes were cut out of them to reveal large brown eyes just like a human's.
The turtles walked away. She saw their muscular legs and arms. No wonder hitting the man on the back had hurt so, it was a hard shell. The rat was still with her in the room, but he had backed away.
"What's going on?" April asked the rat, since he was the only one left in the room. She could either talk or faint. In a room full of mutant animals she decided that it would be best if she remained conscious.
"I am sorry that you have to endure this shock," the rat apologized. "My name is Splinter."
"I'm April," the reporter couldn't believe she was introducing herself to a giant talking rat.
"Yes," the rat nodded sagely. "I have seen you on the local news channel. You do the crime investigations."
"Yes," April didn't know what else to say.
"We actually have television down here," Splinter explained to her.
"What is going on here? Am I dreaming?" April asked, though she knew she wasn't.
"I am afraid neither of us is," the rat sighed and sat down heavily on an old wicker chair.
"You're a rat," April observed. "You're not supposed to talk, or be as tall as me either."
The rat chuckled, "I suppose you are right."
"That is a long story to tell," the rat told her seriously.
"It's not like I am going anywhere," April told him as her fear was being out ruled by her reporter's curiosity.
"I suppose you are right," Splinter agreed. "We can't risk taking you back up to the surface yet."
April didn't like the sound of that, but she supposed there was nothing she could do about it at the moment. Give her enough time and she would figure a way out of here on her own.
"The story of our family begins a long time ago," Splinter began. "Though, for now I suppose I should just tell you of how the turtles and I became to be in such a state. Obviously this is not a natural state."
"You're telling me," April said more to herself then the mutant rat Splinter.
"I myself was a man who was hiding down in the sewers from a murderous man who had killed my beloved wife. As I lay in hiding I had become friends with the rats, they can always tell when it is going to flood," Splinter continued his story, quite unperturbed at April's interruption.
"I was just getting ready to return to the surface in hopes of leaving the city when I saw an accident in the making. A boy was crossing the road with an aquarium filled with five small turtles. A large pickup truck hauling a bunch of crates was careening along the highway."
"Oh no!" April couldn't help herself. She hated nothing more than crimes against children.
"I raced forward to save the child. Too late the truck driver saw the young boy and slammed on its brakes. The aquarium and I fell into the sewer hole I had left open, as did a canister that had been inside one of the crates that the pickup had been carrying. I was unconscious."
"When I awoke I found the turtles frolicking about in green ooze, and I was covered in the stuff. I gathered up the turtles and made my way back to where I had been staying before venturing to the surface. I tended to my wounds and kept my little turtles safe from the rats. It was about then that I noticed that one of the turtles wasn't among the ones I had rescued."
"I went back to where I had fallen into the sewer, but found no trace of the young thing. I hoped that at least he had made it home with the young boy that I had saved from the pickup. When I returned to the four turtles that I had saved I found them nearly twice the size they had been when I left."
"The ooze," April surmised.
"Exactly," Splinter nodded his head sagely. "By the time I had figured it out all of the ooze had been washed away, leaving nothing but the canister. The turtles progressed into the state that you see them now. That was many years ago. We have been living in the sewer ever since."
"You couldn't even invent this stuff," April shook her head staring at the wise old rat mutant.
"That is because I didn't," Splinter reminded her. "My sons, come into meet April O'Neil!"
The turtles were quick to comply. It seemed to April that after years of isolation the turtles were more than happy to meet someone new. "Very nice to meet you all," she nodded, trying to maintain a sense of normalcy.
"This," Splinter told her. "Is the eldest son, Leonardo." A turtle with a blue headband and a pair of swords strapped to his back clasped his hands together as if he were Japanese and bowed to her.
"Nice to meet you," Leonardo returned and stepped aside to let his brothers have their turn.
"Here is the next eldest, whom you've already met, Raphael," Splinter told her as a red banded turtle stepped forward, he didn't bow to her. A pair of sais were strapped to his waist.
"Hey," was all Raphael said and he walked off.
"This is Donatello," Splinter continued with the introductions. A purple banded turtle stepped forward.
"Hi," Donatello said in a friendly tone. "It's great to meet you. I have seen some of your reports."
"Really?" April wondered how he could have done that living down here in the sewers.
"Yes," Donatello told her. "I thought you were very thorough."
"Thank you," April didn't know what else to say, a walking turtle was complimenting her reporting skills.
"This is Michelangelo, the youngest," Splinter introduced as an orange banded turtle bumped Donatello aside.
"Hi!" he sounded almost like a California surfer April had dated a few years back. "I'm your biggest fan!"
April laughed. Her biggest fan was a giant turtle with nunchucku in his hands. Go figure. April felt almost as if she was going crazy, she was deep down in the sewers with a bunch of mutants. She had to get out.