This story is inspired by Frank Stockton's "The Lady or the Tiger". I own neither that nor anything related to the TMNT.

The Lab or the Darkness

"Do not follow me, Turtles," Karai says. (Very chivalrously, Mike thinks.) "As soon as I am through, the receiving station will be covered by an organic-disintegrator field. You would perish instantly."

(Transmats? Disintegrator fields? The Shredder sure left Karai some nice parting gifts when he ditched her, and the whole planet, to go wreak havoc among the stars.)

Karai leaps onto the platform, followed by the last of the covering Foot ninja, and then the glowing dais is empty.

As soon as he's no longer pinned down by the threat of laser fire, Donatello is on his feet and moving towards the controls.

Mike's first reaction is simply to breathe. Leo picks up the swords he was ordered to drop. Raph goes over to the little television and turns up the volume.

"- another flash of blue light! Last time we saw this, folks, the building imploded, so police are asking everyone to -"

"Dammit!" Raphael shouts. "Why are we always the last out?"

Why are we always IN? Mike thinks to himself. How many times has invading Foot HQ ended WELL for us?

Leo goes to look over Don's shoulder. "Can you recalibrate it?" he asks.

"I don't think so," Don says, though he doesn't stop messing around with the buttons and dials. "It's not like the one Mr. Mortu had. I think..." He crouches and pries open the panel. "I think it's a dummy console..."

"They're not the real controls?" Mike ventures.

"It looks like a fake," Don says, pulling out wires. "Just a power supply. Remote-operated."

"Then forget it," Leo says. "We'll have to go a different way."

"Like where?" Raph demands. He jabs a finger at the TV screen. "Do you see how many freakin' cops are out there?"

"We'll have to avoid them," Leo says, slipping into his Leader Voice.

(No one argues with the Leader Voice. It's like being hypnotized.)

"Not likely," Don says. "Broad daylight, no disguises, building surrounded by virtually the entire New York City police force, and news reporters with cameras." He gestures, over his shoulder, to the television. "Live feed."

"And I don't think we can fight them all," Raph adds, though he's clearly disgusted with the admission.

"Sewer access?" Mike suggests desperately. "Buildings always have a convenient sewer access, right?"

"Of course, Mike," Don says, without looking up from the guts of the machinery. "Because, knowing that we live in the sewers, the Foot would certainly have built us a handy service entrance."

"The roof," Leo says.

"Helicopters," Raph counters.

Leo's face hardens into his Thinking Expression, but Mike already knows.

They're out of options.

"- are cautiously approaching the building. In a moment, if they get the word from the Explosives Division, they will enter the premises and search for -"

"What did Karai say would kill us?" Mike asks nervously.

"Organic-disintegrator field," Don replies. "I assume it would loosen our atomic bonds and -"

"English, Donnie," Raph growls.

"We'd be vaporized," Don says candidly. "There'd be nothing left."

"Nothing for anyone to find," Leo says. He's tense, and Mike knows what he's thinking.

Karai could have obliterated us with the laser guns. Instead, she left us to do it ourselves.

Or not.

"No, it's useless," Don says, dropping the wires and standing up. "I can't do anything with this."

"Could the real controls be elsewhere in the building?" Leo asks.

"Maybe," Don says. "But -" He looks at the TV. The SWAT team had just gotten the go-ahead, and was forming into ranks. "I don't think that we could find them, and reset them, before those guys find us."

"- are just about to enter the building. Any remaining occupants are being offered one last chance to give themselves up. After that -"

So those are the choices.

Walk out the front door, and surrender ourselves to a lifetime of imprisonment and experimentation.

Or use the transmat, and be torn molecule from molecule.

The lab, or the darkness.

Don seems to read Mike's thoughts. "We can destroy ourselves, or we can take our chances with the authorities," he says flatly. "Make up your minds."

"I don't wanna die," Mike blurts, though he didn't mean to say anything.

"I ain't gonna be somebody's project," Raph says, gripping the handles of his sais.

"We're staying together," Leo says, and this time no one disagrees with him.

Don glances again at the screen. "Decide quickly," he says. "Or the decision is going to be made for us."

Leo clutches at his head. "I don't know!" He looks around at all of them, his eyes coming to rest on Don. "What do you want?"

"I don't..." Don looks at the TV, then at the transmat. "We'd probably be dead before we felt anything..."

"Then you want to...?"

"No! I mean -" Don paces across the room, picks up the bo he hadn't bothered to retrieve earlier, grips it uselessly. "I can't, Leo. Choose. Whatever you think..."

Mike looks at Leo pleadingly, but he doesn't know what he's pleading for. For the slim hope that the police, the media, the world, will take them in with a minimum of cruelty? For the swift release of death?

To be absolved of the terrible decision...

They all look at each other.

"Okay," Leo says. "Okay."

As one, they come together.

And they choose.