I do not own the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or any of their companions. That honor belongs to Mirage.
This one-shot was written for a challenge competition on the Terrapin Tarts forum some time ago, and I recently re-discovered it and decided to post it here for kicks. In this story, the turtles are around 12 years old.
"Leonardo, you are first," directed Splinter. "Remember to drop it from chest height."
Donatello looked at his brother's project and smothered a grin. Pathetic. Oh, it was pretty, all right…neat corners, straight edges, very symmetrical in shape, obviously carefully crafted—his brother had even painted things like "honor" and "courage" in kanji on the sides. But this was science, not a beauty contest, and Don gloated inwardly as he picked out several obvious design flaws.
Clearly Leo's strategy was focused on merely providing lots of padding. The egg was surrounded by several layers of shredded newspaper, and the entire mass was tucked into a paper structure that resembled an origami balloon. Leonardo stepped forward, held his delicate creation out at chest height, and let go. The newspaper container with its fragile contents dropped two stories from the pipe opening they stood in to the sewer floor below, and Don smiled in satisfaction when he heard the unmistakably staccato sound of the impact.
Master Splinter, who was waiting below, advanced to see how the egg had fared. "I am afraid this egg is broken—but it is a good try, Leonardo. Raphael, you are next," he said with a nod.
Don couldn't help sniggering over Leonardo's "good try", which earned him a cutting glare from his brother as he swapped places with Raph.
Donatello shifted his gaze to Raph's project then, and rolled his eyes. What a joke. This one wasn't even going to be interesting. They had each been allowed exactly two full sheets of newspaper and three feet of scotch tape with which to construct something that would prevent their eggs from breaking, and it looked as though Raphael had simply wadded up both sheets of newspaper and wrapped them around the egg, securing the entire mass haphazardly with the scotch tape.
"Hey Raph, you sure your egg's in there, or did you just pick up some trash out of the sewers on the way here?" Don taunted, and he grinned when he heard Mikey laugh in response.
Raph shrugged, looking bored and disappointingly unaffected by the jab. "Might as well have, fer what a complete waste a' time this is." He held his wad of newspaper unceremoniously over the edge, and when it hit the ground, the wet cracking sound left no doubt as to the condition of the contents.
"Ah, Raphael," commented Splinter from below. He looked up and raised an eyebrow knowingly. "Perhaps if you had not waited until five minutes before we left to begin your project, you would have had better success," he said as he cleared away the failed experiment. "Donatello? Whenever you are ready, my son."
Donatello stepped forward with a smug grin and held out his masterpiece, imagining his brothers' envious looks as they gazed upon it. Before even beginning its construction, he'd spent days gathering formulas from the physics book; then he'd used the principles the formulas were based on to come up with as many effective designs as he could think of. Finally, after days of perfecting the plans, he'd built prototypes of his three best designs before deciding which one to go with.
And viola! Here it was at last! A marvel of physics and innovation!
The outside was a simple paper cylinder, but it was the inside of the cylinder that made it so effective; it was actually a modified air piston (also built out of newspaper) designed to created a layer of condensed air which, combined with the accordion-folded newspaper strips at the base, would cushion the egg's landing. Don knew it wasn't the fall that caused the egg to break—it was the sudden impact. So the real goal was to slow the impact. In addition, he attached multiple "wings" to the outside of the cylinder. The wings would cause the cylinder to twirl as it fell, reducing the vertical velocity of the object and further slowing the final impact. Donatello had even fixed it with a special base to minimize the risk of the cylinder landing the wrong way and negating all of his hard work.
Of course, ordinarily he would have tested the final model at least once before the actual drop in order to fine-tune everything, but Master Splinter had insisted that it wouldn't be fair to his brothers—which was just stupid, in his opinion, because it wasn't like they couldn't do the same thing if they wanted, but since Master Splinter seemed resigned to his brothers' mediocrity, Don was unable to sway him. But even untested, he had the utmost confidence in his project.
Still smiling eagerly, Don held out his masterpiece and let go, watching in pride as it rotated perfectly on its way down and hit the ground exactly as it was supposed to.
Master Splinter went to over to pick up the cylinder and withdrew the obviously intact egg for inspection. Donatello's chest swelled with accomplishment.
Smiling up at him, Splinter said, "Well done, Donatello. There is a slight crack, but nothing more."
Don's smile vanished. "What?! Master Splinter, are you sure? Maybe you should check again."
"That will not be necessary—you may examine it after Michelangelo has taken his turn," Splinter said, effectively cutting off any further questions from Donatello.
Mouth pursed in a tight line, Don stepped back away from the edge as his mind ran through possible explanations. Maybe there had been a weak spot on the shell of his egg! Or perhaps he had overlooked something in the design. He decided to test it some more when this was all over to find out. As Mike moved forward, though, Donatello consoled himself with the knowledge that he would win anyway. It wasn't ideal, but at least his egg hadn't broken, and the only one left to beat was Mikey.
Splinter might as well hand him the prize now.
Michelangelo carefully withdrew his project from a plastic bag, and it became instantly clear that he hadn't settled for plain black and white newspaper. For that matter, neither had he been content with a plain white egg. No. Every surface of his project was painstakingly colored, predominantly in blue and yellow, and although on the egg it was quite effective, paint on top of grayish newspaper made all of the hues seem somewhat muddy. But based on the Michelangelo's grin, he was obviously pleased with the effect.
"Guys, I want you to meet Eggtastic Man—Daredevil Extraordinaire!" he said in a booming voice, and Don's jaw dropped in disbelief when he saw what his brother had made.
The youngest turtle was holding his project delicately by the top, and strips of paper twined into strings connected the voluminous top portion to a little basket holding the egg. Displayed this way it was obvious what he'd constructed.
Michelangelo had built a parachute.
Mike turned to face his brothers, smiling broadly. "Behold! Eggtastic Man will now attempt a drop of TWO STORIES attached to this specially designed parachute! Few are brave enough to attempt this stunt, and even fewer survive!" Then Mike winked and added in an aside, "I designed his costume myself."
At that point Don tore his eyes away from the parachute portion, and studied the egg itself. Mike had drawn a grinning face on it, and what looked like an ovoid version of a superhero costume. He'd even attacked a little cape made out of newspaper.
Raph and Leo laughed good-naturedly at their little brother, obviously appreciating the entertainment value regardless of the quality of the project. Don chuckled with them, but really it was to try and cover up his growing apprehension. Because ridiculous as the theatrics and the paint were, not to mention the personification of an egg, Mike's design had him worried. A parachute, if properly made, would slow the egg's descent, and Mike had added padding to the basket in just the right areas. Donatello's stomach squirmed a little, but then he reminded himself that this was Mikey—if the success of the design was dependant upon the parachute being properly made, he didn't have to worry too much. No doubt his brother had been more concerned with designing the color scheme than making the 'chute functional.
Mike turned away from them again and held the parachute in front of him at chest height, but before he could drop it Don interjected. "Master Splinter, he can't do that! The egg has to be at his chest height, like ours were!"
Splinter nodded up at them and said, "He is right, Michelangelo. You must hold the egg up higher."
Unfazed, Mikey lifted the parachute until the basket was level with his chest, and when Master Splinter nodded he let it drop.
The paratrooper egg didn't drift down slowly like a real parachute—the paper was probably too thin, which was at least a small comfort to Don. The newspaper DID balloon outward, though; Donatello just wasn't sure how much it actually slowed the fall. The basket hit the ground solidly, but it didn't topple, and Splinter once again moved forward to check it.
When their sensei looked up with a broad smile on his face, Don's stomach went all cold and oily.
"This egg is unharmed. Well done, Michelangelo! All of you may come down now, and Michelangelo, you will get a small prize. Excellent work, my students."
They all made their way down swiftly, but Donatello got to Splinter first, and he immediately compared his egg to Mikey's. Sure enough, Don's egg had a crack, and although he studied his brother's egg with extra care, hoping Splinter hadn't seen any cracks because of the paint, there wasn't so much as a dent.
Michelangelo held out his hands for his egg, his eyes bright. "Eggtastic Man, you made it!"
Don had a sudden desire to accidentally lose his grip on the egg while handing it to his brother, but he felt his father's eyes on him, and he scowled and passed it to Mike carefully. Michelangelo continued to crow about the exploits of his stuntman egg, but Splinter interrupted after a moment.
"Michelangelo, please tell us what made you decide on this design."
"Um…well see, I was reading this new comic I got, and the character used a parachute like this one, and he like, bailed out of a plane before it blew up and survived the fall! But see, the villain who blew up the plane didn't know that, so when the hero went looking for him he…" Mike looked up, and cut the rest of the story short when he saw Splinter's stern face. 'Well anyway, it just gave me the idea to try it."
Aaaand cue the winning smile. Ugh, it made Don want to punch him.
But obviously the explanation was good enough for Splinter, and after talking a little bit about why the parachute was effective, he gave Michelangelo a small pack of gummy worms—the outside of the package looked somewhat dirty, but the seal was intact, making this a rare find in the sewers.
"Now, let us go back to the lair—we still have some training to do this afternoon," Splinter said, and he turned to lead the way home.
Leo and Raph were right behind him, but Don and Mike remained behind a few moments longer—Don because he was staring at his failed project and brooding, and Mike because he was having some trouble getting the bag of gummy worms opened. The younger turtle finally managed it, and with an "aha!" he popped several of the squishy worms in his mouth. Then he peered over Don's shoulder.
"It'sh really nahsobad, Donny," Mike said with his mouth full, then he swallowed. "Could use s'more color and stuff, but it looked pretty cool the way it spun like that on the way down."
Don glared at him and held his project protectively, noting that Mike had his slung casually over his shoulder. "Not bad?! Not BAD? I spent WEEKS on this thing! And you…you just saw a picture in a comic book and thought it looked COOL! It's not fair! I'll bet that coating of paint somehow reinforced your egg—,"
"It was watercolor!" Mike protested.
Don chuffed, and went silent. "C'mon," he said glumly without meeting his brother's eyes. "We'd better catch up with the others."
He turned to go, but Mike's hand on his shoulder stopped him.
"Look Donny. I know you, like, worked hard on your project and everything, and I know this stuff means a lot more to you than it does to me, but this is just how things go sometimes."
"What do you mean," Don said in a monotone without turning around. If Michelangelo gave him some Leo-sounding crap about being a good sport and taking loss gracefully, he really was going to punch him.
"I mean, do you really think Einstein invented popcorn cuz he was a super genius and did all this planning and made hundreds of diagrams of corn, or do you think he maybe just accidentally dropped some kernels in the fire and figured it out?"
Don turned to face Mikey and narrowed his eyes. "Native Americans discovered popcorn."
"Oh," Mike said. Then his forehead wrinkled. "Do they know Einstein took credit for it?"
"He didn't! He—rrrr, just forget it!"
Mike shrugged. "Whatever—the point is, it was probably an accident! Just dumb luck! But people were smart enough to make the connection, see? Sometimes just by trying random stuff, you stumble on something that works. How do you think I found those warp zones in Super Mario Brothers? You just gotta be adventurous enough to try different things, and open-minded enough to accept that some stuff works even though you don't know why."
"Gummy worm?" Mike said, holding out the open bag, and still in a daze, Don slowly reached in and took one. Mike grinned and clapped him on the shoulder; then he grabbed a few more worms for himself and began walking home.
Don looked at the worm on the palm of his hand for a second, and then he slowly put it in his mouth in a mechanical fashion and began to chew. Finally he swallowed, still standing dumbly, his eyes staring off at nothing. Then he blinked, and abruptly turned and ran to catch up with Mikey.
Mike slowed when he heard Don coming up behind him.
"Hey Mikey?" Don said when he'd reached him. "Some of those Nintendo games are two-player, right?"
Mike beamed. "Yeah!" Then his grin faded a little. "Only…we still haven't been able to get that second controller working."
"If I can get it working, do you think maybe I could play with you sometimes?"
"Dude, yeah!" Then his smile turned devilish. "Long as you don't take it too hard when I kick your shell."
Don smiled, but he nodded seriously. "I'll try not to—besides… I think maybe there's a lot you can teach me." Then he reached out and tugged Mike's mask tails.
"Well that just goes without saying. I am a genius when it comes to video games," he said. "Not to mention that I'm modest, and charming, and incredibly good-looking, and—hey! Where'd your egg thingy go?"
Don followed Mikes gaze and looked down at his own hands. "Oh. I must've dropped it while I was running to catch up," he said.
"Well hey, I'll go with you if you wanna go back for it," Mike offered.
Don shook his head slowly. "No, that's okay…" Then he looked up at Mikey and grinned. "It was only a prototype anyway. Besides, I've been thinking about adding a parachute to it."