A/N: Finally, after months of writing and re-writing... the energizer fic, the Fic That Ate Mary's Life, is finished. It was a heckofa ride.
A quick THANK YOU has to go out to my amazing beta-reading crew, Melody Winters, Diva Danielle, and Polaris'05. You gals rock. And when I need my next fic beta'd, and you all run away screaming, I will totally understand. LOL
Enough of my chatter... On with the show! Oh, and in advance... Sorry, Leo. :( Might as well say now, Sorry Splinter, Don, Raph and Mikey, too.
Chapter 1 ~The Intruder~
Karen Vincent moved carefully in the dim light. She'd heard something out here in the ancient barn that housed her chickens. The horses had been moved just a week ago, to a smaller, newer shelter on the other side of the field, closer to the house. The old barn wasn't as sturdy and secure as the newer quarters. She and her son, Luke, were building a new coop on behind the horse's shelter, but digging the wire down eighteen inches to thwart marauding predators took time in the rocky upstate New York soil.
She was certain now that whatever she'd heard in the barn wasn't just a raccoon or skunk. She hoped a coyote hadn't managed to sneak into the building, but somehow she doubted it. Coyotes were incredibly shy and avoided human habitations at all costs.
Could a cougar have found its way in? I know the DEC keeps saying there aren't any in New York State, but Tom Morton swears he saw tracks on his property last month.
Something was moving in the rafters. She heard a distinct sound that wasn't the hen's soft clucking and rustling as they settled on their perches. It could've been a bat's wings fluttering, but Karen frowned. The sound wasn't right, didn't fit in with the normal night sounds. She peered into the darkness, at a larger shadow, a deeper darkness among the beams that made up the barn's roof, crossed over the slightly lighter patch that was a hole in the old roof, straining to listen, every sense on high alert. When the shadow moved, the gun came up automatically, but she didn't fire. Not yet.
Her only answer was a faint rustle. It could've been a mouse… a big mouse. It could've been almost anything. Yanking the heavy mag-light from her belt, she shone it into the rafters, and froze, a startled scream catching in her throat. Whatever was there was gone an instant later, but she'd seen a flash of green.
She backed up, coming against the barn door, intending to make a dash for the house, when a cry and an almighty crash rang out. She cringed, cowering in the darkness against the rough wood, and swung the flashlight around. Boards rattled and a choking cloud of dust rose up from one of the old horse stalls. There was a flurry of movement, scuffling and low sounds that might've been a muttered curse.
Karen flashed the light around the barn again. Movement in the stall caused her to pause. The gun came up again, steady in her grip this time. Whatever it was, it had fallen. It might be injured. She couldn't just leave without checking. She approached the stall slowly, fear keeping her every muscle on edge. Her father's gun didn't even waver. She'd been shooting since she could hold the rifle.
A startled gasp and more scuffling sounds came from the stall. Karen was certain now that whatever had fallen was trapped inside. The barn was old, but the stall walls were solid oak. If it'd fallen from the rafters, it wouldn't be able to get out of the locked stall. Not unless it could climb the smooth walls. Fortunately the stall had been empty. There was no horse inside to be spooked or injured by the intruder. The hens shuffled on their perches, hardly noticing the commotion.
Karen approached slowly, playing her light over the interior of the stall. At first, she almost didn't see the creature huddled in the shadows. It blended with the darkness in the corner. But the flashlight's probing beam cut through its meager hiding place. It flinched, moving out of the light almost as if it hurt.
She swore softly, but her hand was remarkably steady as the beam played over the creature. Her eyes hadn't deceived her. Its skin was indeed green, and its back was covered by what looked like a huge turtle-shell. It was wearing a blindfold? No… it had eyeholes. It was a mask, over its eyes, and leather pads at its knees and elbows. One arm was bent at a rather odd angle and the creature clutched it to its plastron, hunching as if to protect it. Its other hand held a long, thin sword up defensively, the blade shining wickedly in the flashlight's beam.
Karen swore again. Of all the things she'd found prowling around in the barn, this had to be the strangest, and probably the most dangerous. Its dark eyes stared into hers, furious and afraid. She saw its throat move as it swallowed. Its dark eyes flicked from the gun to her face. Its skin gleamed in the flashlight's beam, glistening with what might have been sweat. Slowly the sword point came down. It was watching her with a curious mixture of caution and determination. She watched it move with a sick sense of fascinated unreality, but she was totally unprepared for what it did next.
It cleared its throat, and spoke.
"Please, don't shoot."
Its voice was steady, clear and calm though she saw a tremor run along the blade from the hand that held it.
"I'm not an alien or monster or anything. I'm… not going to hurt you."
Karen almost snorted then. How could it hurt her from where it sat, cowering in a locked stall? The thought loaned her courage. It was contained for the moment. But what should she do? She wasn't going to shoot the thing, not in cold blood. Especially not now, that she could clearly see it was intelligent. But that weapon… the sword in its hand looked sharp and deadly. Still… there was something vulnerable about the way the creature was watching her. It was clearly frightened.
I suppose I would be too, if I were cornered and injured and some stranger pointed a gun at me.
Carefully, watching the creature, she lowered the muzzle and pointed it to one side, away from him. She saw something relax in his face, and some of the terrible, trembling tension went out of him.
"Wha… who… are you?" she asked.
"My name is Leonardo," he said softly. He lifted the sword. The gun swung back automatically and he froze. "I'm just putting it away," he explained.
Her eyes narrowed, but she nodded. "All right."
Moving very slowly, he slid the sword into a holder on his back. He held out his hand as if to show her it was empty.
"Would you mind pointing that thing somewhere else?" he asked, swallowing hard. She noticed his skin looked a bit grayish and realized he'd gone pale.
He's trapped, she reminded herself, deliberately pointing the gun away from him again. They stared at one another for a few more seconds before Leonardo moved again. This time he moved cautiously, his eyes never leaving her face, as if he were watching for her reaction. He rocked forward, tucking his feet underneath himself, and lifted his body slowly up until he was standing. He took a step forward, holding out his uninjured hand.
"Can you let me out of here? I promise, I'm not going to harm you," he said softly.
The woman took an involuntary step back, the gun wavering, but she kept the muzzle pointed away from him. There was no sense in frightening the poor creature any more than he already was. Besides, her father had taught her never to point a gun at anything she didn't intend to shoot.
"I… don't think I feel safe doing that," she said slowly. "But I can see you're injured. I'll help you if I can." She stood, watching him for a long moment. He didn't speak again, just returned her gaze steadily. "If I let you out of there, how do I know you won't attack me?"
"I give you my word of honor," he intoned solemnly.
She almost laughed. He sounded so serious and yet so young.
"How old are you?" she asked.
The terrapin creature looked at her, startled. "Sixteen," he answered after a moment.
"Oh my!" Karen's breath caught in her throat. He was no older than Luke, her own son. He was just a frightened teenager. And she'd pointed a gun at him! The rifle barrel came down to point at the floor and she approached the stall, reaching for the latch.
"I hope this isn't a mistake," she muttered, grabbing the bolt. She glanced up and froze. In the moment it'd taken her to reach for the latch, he'd crouched slightly, his impressive muscles bunching to launch forward, a fierce, determined expression taking over his features. Her hand fell away from the latch and she took an instinctive step back.
What was I thinking?
She backed away from the stall, her hands shaking.
"No, wait! Let me out." The creature's voice wavered slightly for the first time.
Karen shook her head. "I don't trust you," she said.
"I don't want to hurt you. I just want to get out. I'll go away. You'll never see me again." His dark eyes met hers again, pleading. "I don't mean you any harm. Please. Just let me go."
"What were you doing here?"
"I was… looking for something."
"What, like you dropped the key to your spaceship?" she asked, suspicious. Fear made her voice sharp.
He shook his head, but didn't elaborate. She paced away a few steps.
"Mom? Mom are you out here?" Luke's voice rang out.
The woman swore again. "I'm in the barn, Luke," she answered.
The door creaked open, and the dim light bulb flickered on overhead. "I turned the power on inside," he explained unnecessarily. "What was it, Mom? Was something after the chickens again?"
Her laugh was short and dry. "If you can see him too, I'll know I'm not completely insane. He says his name is…"
She never finished the sentence. There was a blur of dull green and purple, and suddenly a second Turtle was standing behind Luke, its arm around his throat.
"Mom!" Luke's squawk was cut off by a warning squeeze. The woman did the only logical thing she could do; she swung the rifle around, leveling it at the one still in the stall.
"Donny!" Leonardo cried, his voice high with anguish.
"Let my brother go," said the one in the purple mask. His voice was steady, but Karen saw the hand gripping Luke's shoulder tremble.
"Let go of my son," she growled, "Or I'll shoot him. Whatever you are, I bet that shell isn't bullet-proof."
The purple-masked Turtle's eyes narrowed. The woman returned his glare, and cocked the rifle. She was vaguely aware that the one in the stall took a step back toward the wall.
If I shoot this one, the other one will hurt Luke… I can't risk shooting the purple-masked one… he could still hurt Luke. I just hope I can bluff our way out of this.
A long moment passed. The only sounds in the barn were ragged breaths being drawn and the faint scuffle of Luke's sneakers against the floor as he squirmed against the Turtle's iron grip. Karen held its gaze, refusing to back down.
"Ok, let's all just calm down. I'm going to let the boy go," he said finally, defeat written clearly in the lines of his face. Slowly, his hand came away from Luke's throat. The boy stood still, frozen, trembling for an instant before he stumbled forward. Karen held out one arm to her son as he collapsed against her. The other hand held the rifle steadily on the prisoner in the stall. The purple-banded Turtle raised his hands in surrender.
"Sorry, Leo," he muttered, his eyes never leaving the woman.
Luke twitched and straightened, staring at his former captor as if he'd seen a ghost. He squirmed away from his mother's protective hand.
The creature stared at him, his brown eyes going wide behind the purple mask. Slowly, as if in a daze, the boy turned to the stall where the blue-banded Turtle was glaring at them.
Karen shifted uneasily, still watching the purple-banded Turtle. "How'd you know his name?" she asked sharply.
Luke shook his head. "It's… impossible," he whispered. "They can't be… real…" He started to laugh, a high, hysterical giggle. He clamped his hand over his mouth, cutting off the sound.
His mother stared at him.
Oh no… Come on, Luke, hold it together. You've always been a sensible kid. I know these Turtle-things are weird, but this is no time to go off the deep end.
"Mom, put the gun down," he said, his voice a little breathless.
"They're not going to hurt us, Mom. They're good guys. Superheroes. This is Leonardo and Donatello. Mom, they're the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."
Karen stared at her son; certain now that he'd taken a complete leave of his senses. "They're the what?"
Luke reached out, taking the gun from his mother's hands. She was so startled she let him take it, only protesting in horror when he removed the clip.
"I'm telling you, Mom, they're good guys. It's ok. Leonardo, I'm really sorry about my Mom. She doesn't know you guys. She doesn't watch a lot of TV, you know?" He chattered happily to the shocked creature in the stall.
"Donatello, dude you scared me half to death there for a second. You really need to cut back on the coffee, you know? All that caffeine is making you jumpy." He smiled broadly at the Turtle who was still standing with his hands up, staring at the boy as if he'd lost his mind. Karen was certain her expression mirrored the Turtle's.
"Mom, it's ok," said Luke. He handed the gun back to her, pocketing the bullets. Moving boldly to the stall, he threw the bolt back, swinging the door open. The creature inside the stall was out before Karen could blink.
With a mother's instincts, she grabbed the back of Luke's collar, jerking him back, out of harm's way, but the creature didn't attack. It backed away, crouching in a fighting stance, watching them with a wild look in its narrowed eyes.
"Just who are you people exactly? How do you know our names?"
"Leonardo, relax, it's ok," said Luke cheerfully. "We're friends, I promise. And we can help you. My mom's a doctor. She can fix your arm."
"Leo, let's go," hissed Donatello. He shifted nervously. Karen noticed he'd finally lowered his hands.
"No, wait!" Luke took a step forward, and the blue-banded Turtle's uninjured hand went toward the hilt of his sword. "Don't go," Luke pleaded. "Look, I know why you guys were in our barn, and we can help you. I know where Splinter is!"
The effect was immediate. Leonardo's eyes went from confusion to flint in a split second. The tip of his sword was at Luke's throat before Karen could draw a breath, his dark brown eyes burning into Luke's face.
"What have you done with Splinter? Where is our father?"