A/N: As promised, here is the third book in the series. If you've just discovered this and want to read the pre-quels, the series is as follows: Mikey in Love, Raph & Ann, Donatello Lost and Leonardo's Angel.
The usual disclaimer applies, I own no turtles, mutated, ninja, bipedal, adolescent, heroic or otherwise, but once again, my thanks to the actual owners and creators, not only for sharing their creations with the rest of us, but for allowing us to play with their toys in the world of fan-fiction.
Thanks for reading! Happy writing, all. :)
Chapter 1 -Donatello's Journey-
Donatello twitched, coming awake with a painful gasp. The first thing he was aware of was an inability to move his limbs.
Mikey, if this is one of your pranks…
But his fingers were tingling and when he moved, something cut into his wrists. His brother's pranks were… usually… harmless. He heard a dark, low chuckle. His eyes snapped open and his confusion grew. Leaves and grass were all he could see. He sorted various smells out in his mind. Pine needles, the musty smell of earth… and a sharp, minty scent. Slowly his confused thoughts coalesced.
I was walking… in the woods. I stopped to pick some wild spearmint. I heard a noise… That guy! He jumped me! Donatello squirmed, instinctively fighting what he could now feel were ropes binding his wrists, knees and ankles.
"You won't get loose," said a voice.
Don froze, a shiver running through him.
"You came offa that base, didn't ya? They're doin' some kind of weird experiments down there. Well, I'm on to them."
"What? What are you talking about?" Donatello flinched as the man's heavy hand came down on his arm. The guy yanked him upright, leaning forward to stare into his eyes. He had dark brown hair, clipped short and close to his head. A small scar dipped down from his forehead partly across one eyebrow. He wore a dirty green army jacket and torn blue jeans. His eyes were steel-blue and cold as Leonardo's katanas. Don could smell whiskey on his hot breath.
"You ain't foolin' nobody," he hissed. "You'll talk. You'll tell me where you came from and what you want, or I'll make you regret the day you crawled outta that test-tube."
"I'm not telling you anything. All I want is to go back to minding my own business," snapped Donatello, his temper rising. The man's hand flashed out, and Don's head snapped back, his cheek and jaw stinging from the open-handed slap.
"What's wrong with you?" shouted Don.
"Try again," said the man. "Where did you come from? Who sent you? Who are you working for?"
"You're crazy." Blood trickled down Don's face from a deep scratch on his brow. This time he saw the slap coming and was able to roll his head away, so that the blow was deflected.
"I can keep this up for a long time, turtle," growled the man.
So can I, Buddy, thought Don grimly. So can I.
An hour later, Don's fury was smoldering with a searing heat. He'd discovered a lot about the man in that amount of time. First, he was single-minded and relentless. Don had long since lost count of the slaps and blows, always followed by the questions:
Who sent you? Who are you working for?
Second, he could tie knots not even an angry turtle trained in ninjitsu could break out of. And third, he was completely, certifiably insane.
Slap, followed by a punch to Don's lower plastron, driving out his breath and sending cramps writhing through his gut.
It's a wonder he hasn't broken his hand. He's bleeding from hitting me there, thought Donatello through the haze that clouded his vision.
"Who sent you?" the man snarled. Slap. "Who're you working for?"
Don't you know any other questions?
"No… one," Don panted. "Was… just… walking…"
Slap. "Wrong answer."
I figured it would be. But it's the truth! What do you want me to say?
"Where did you come from?"
Oh boy, new questions. Lucky me.
"No…" Don's voice cracked with despair just before the man's hand met his face again with a crack. His head snapped back and he glared at him, furious.
"I'm… telling… the truth," he managed. His mouth felt as if he'd been eating cotton mixed with glass. The metallic taste of blood was making him nauseous and the blows to his stomach weren't helping, even with the protective plastron plates cushioning the man's fists.
"I'm gonna find out where you came from, Turtle," growled the man, glaring at him with insanity glittering in his blue eyes. "You shouldn't of come nosin' around here. You shouldn't of thought you could mess with Jack Koban."
"I'll… keep that… in mind," Don choked out. "Let me go."
"What, so you can go back and tell your boss what you found, scoutin' around out here? Not gonna happen." The man smirked and Don was uncomfortably reminded of Raphael.
Oh, Raph I wish you were here, bro. Is this how the PD's feel when you give them that look? This isn't good. What have I gotten myself into?
Jack stood up. He leaned down, grabbing Donatello's upper arms, and hauled him up. He bent down, putting his shoulder against Don's plastron. Donatello squirmed and struggled, but with his hands bound uncomfortably behind his shell, and his knees and ankles tied, he couldn't do much. The man stood up, slinging Don over his shoulder in a fireman's carry.
"Put me down!" Donatello shouted, humiliated and furious. He bucked and writhed, but the man's hands clamped over his thighs, crushing his legs against his shoulder. He reached back with his other hand, grabbing the edge of Don's shell to keep him pinned down and started walking, moving through the woods with long strides as if he weren't packing a nearly two-hundred pound turtle on his back.
"Shut up, critter," he growled. "No one will here you yelling out here, anyway."
He's right of course, thought Don, half-despairing. I deliberately walked toward the thickest woods I could find. I'm five days away from the farmhouse, too far for Mike to hear me yelling. Shell, I hope he gets bored and comes looking for me soon. I can't even leave a trail… or can I?
Don writhed again, struggling against the man's grip, determined to make him drop him, so he could leave a mark for his brothers to find. The man growled low in his throat, and shrugged his shoulder, adjusting his hold. Don twisted, managing to just scrape his shell against a sapling, marring the bark.
He kept struggling and squirming as the man carried him, marking two more trees in the same way before the man stopped, slinging him down to the ground. Don landed squarely on his shell, his wind knocked out. He barely avoided crushing his own hands by twisting to one side as he fell, but the position put him in perfect line for the man to kick him solidly in the lower plastron.
Jack knelt, grabbing Donatello's neck in an iron grip. He lifted the choking turtle, glaring into Don's brown eyes.
"Knock it off," he growled. "Or I'll cut your throat."
Donatello's eyes widened when he saw the wicked hunting knife in the man's hand. He held it close to his face and Don couldn't control his shiver.
"Got it, turtle?"
Jack's grin was triumphant when Don nodded, swallowing. The man released his throat, throwing him back into the leaf litter. Donatello choked, gagging, as his air supply returned. The man picked him up again, slinging him over his shoulder. This time Donatello didn't struggle.
Ok, new plan.
He swung his head, making his mask tails sway. It took a few tries, but finally he was able to snag the tail on a bush. He twisted his head, allowing his mask to slip up, nearly off… The tail sprang loose from the branch. Don didn't give up. He squirmed, shaking his head, until the mask slid over his eyes, blinding him for a panicked moment, before it slid the rest of the way off.
There. That's a clue even Mike can spot, thought Don. I just hope he can track me. I wasn't leaving much of a trail. This was such a bad idea. I planned for everything… Packed food, water, matches, planned for shelter, bad weather. The one thing I didn't plan on was getting lost and then jumped by a Rambo wanna-be. Why did I think I should do this, anyway? Why did I have to try and test my strength against the woods?
I know why. Because I've been cooped up in the Lair for a month, recovering from septic pneumonia. Because I had to get out and feel the sun, the wind again. Because I had to prove to myself that I'm strong enough to be on my own. Well, I guess I proved something all right. I've proved it's not safe for us to be alone, anywhere, ever, without a way to contact the others. I can't believe I left my shell-cel. Idiot. Now they can't even track me. Guys, I'm sorry. And when I get out of this, I'm never going to leave home without a way to reach you, ever again.
Jack walked for what felt like miles, moving through the woods tirelessly. Don was sick and dizzy from having all the blood rushing to his head, when the man stopped, slinging him to the ground again none too gently.
Now what? thought Donatello. He heard the man's footsteps, and forced himself to open his eyes I suppose it's too much to hope for that he might just go away and leave me. He heard the man's voice, soft, almost soothing.
"Easy there. Easy, big guy. It ain't gonna hurt you…"
I know he's not talking to me, thought Don. He lifted his head and his eyes went wide. A horse? Oh, no.
The man was moving around the animal. The horse was watching Donatello, the one eye he could see showing a bit of white around the edge. It snorted, dancing but the reins tied to a tree stopped it from going far. The man kept speaking to it as he untied the reins. He led it a few paces toward the turtle. The horse snorted nervously. Don couldn't help squirming, trying to scramble back, away from the animal's powerful hooves. The man chuckled grimly.
"Whoa. Easy, now. Whoa," he said, patting the horse's neck. He re-tied the animal to a tree next to Donatello and leaned down, grabbing Don's shell and rolling him onto his plastron.
Don struggled. What is he doing now?
"Quit your squirmin', critter," growled the man. "Unless you want to get your head kicked in."
Donatello went still. The horse danced, just a few feet from him. The man grabbed his shell again, lifting him from behind. Before Don could react, he flung him over the horse's saddle. Don's breath hissed out as his plastron hit the cantle.
The man chuckled again as he began wrapping a rough length of rope around Donatello's thighs. Don shuddered, squirming as his calloused hands shoved the rope under him, tying it to a metal ring on the saddle. Satisfied Don was secure, he untied the horse's reins and started walking.
They walked for what seemed like forever, but Don figured couldn't have been more than an hour, before the man led the horse into a clearing. Donatello was thoroughly sick of having the hard saddle pressing into his middle and the smell, sight and sound of horse. He almost sobbed with relief when the man yanked the rope loose that bound him to the saddle. He was jerked backward, off the saddle and dropped heavily to the ground once more. Don landed with a grunt. He peered blearily around. A rustic cabin was nestled in a hollow not far from where Jack had so unceremoniously dumped his load. They'd stopped outside a pole-barn next to a small fenced-in area. The man was lifting the saddle from the horse's back, setting it over the top of the split-rail fence with more care than he'd shown handling Donatello.
He slid the bridle out of the horse's mouth, and gave the animal a slap on the rump. The horse nickered and took off across the coral, trotting with his tail up and flowing like a flag behind him. Jack turned to Donatello, who scrambled backward as best as he was able, glaring, daring him to touch him.
"You gonna tell me what I want to know, critter?" he asked softly. "Last chance."
"I told you already," answered Don. "I'm just a guy from the city, visiting the woods for a few days. Nobody sent me. I'm not from any base."
"Have it your way." Jack grabbed him by the shell, hauling him to his feet.
"Hey! Put me down," yelled Donatello, squirming. Jack ignored him. He hauled the turtle to his feet, dragging him into the barn.
The man hauled him across the cold concrete and slung him down in an empty stall. Don's eyes took a few minutes to adjust to the dim light. When he could see again, his heart sank. The barn was solid, dusty and old. The beams were solid oak and the slats of the stall looked unyielding. Jack dragged him to the front of the stall.
Good, maybe I can find something to rub these ropes against and get loose, thought Don, but the man wasn't finished with him yet. He stalked across the barn. Don's eyes widened when he saw him grab another coil of rope.
He sat down on a hay bale within Donatello's line of sight and began fashioning a noose.