This fic is set in the 1980's cartooniverse, and assumes that the cartoon physics are just as screwed up as when the 'toon originally aired. Inspired by a crazy daydream and watching too much TMNT, it's a little lark and a funny little short fic to give the Old Toon a bit of love!
As always, I make no claim to the TMNT. This was a joy to write, and if you have any feedback I would love to hear it!
On The Wire
How Michelangelo fulfilled a childhood daydream of being a tightrope walker, earning free pizza for a month and saving the world all at the same time.
Thirteen stories up.
One hundred and fifty six feet, Fifty-two yards, a little less than three percent of a mile. When you put it that way it didn't seem so far, but looking down, Michelangelo realized there was a very long fall before he would reach the ground and he didn't like the odds of keeping his shell intact with that much of a drop.
Zen. Zen and the art of balance. He took in a breath and tried to picture the yoga videos they played after all the monster movies had gone off the air in the middle of the night, hoping that he could prove that watching all that TV was useful. Then again Leonardo would just argue he had in fact learned this from Master Splinter's training. Either way, slowly his wobbling stopped and he was able to take stock of his situation.
Two buildings, and a crazy wire festooned with ribbons strung across the divide. Rocksteady and Bebop at one landing, Foot soldiers at the other. Neither group would be too much of a difficulty if Michelangelo could gain some even footing, but balanced on a tightrope wire wasn't exactly what he would call ideal. And with those goons already on the scene he was sure that Shred-head was somewhere close by, itching to put his can opener sleeves to the wire. He closed his eyes and had momentary visions on himself turned into a turtle-tastic wrecking ball. Yeah, dude. Bad idea.
For a moment he thought maybe he could get down the way he got up, and on second thought he realized that wasn't such a hot idea. Not that any of this had been a hot idea to start with.
Raphael had started it. Raphael was the one who noticed that Michelangelo always liked to walk on the highest ledges and skateboard on the thinnest railways. That he picked the highest bridges and longest pipes to crawl across as they were racing through the sewers. And Raphael was the one who stayed up with him late at night watching all those Ripley's Believe it or Not shows that were on air when most everything else was off. And one night, after half a case of Mountain Dew had been demolished, the two teenaged turtles sat, one idily tearing the pop-tabs off the cans, the other leaning forward engrossed in the story of the longest tightrope walk without a net.
Poink! "Sweet! Came off in one piece!" Raphael crowed holding his prize in the air, and then added in a sardonic mutter, "You know you're bored when you get excited about something like this…"
"Shh, dude! I'm watching this!" his brother returned, waving a hand in front of his red-clad companion.
Tossing the can aside and pocketing the top, Raphael leaned forward a little. "What is so interesting about a guy on a rope?"
"That's not any guy!" Michelangelo protested, stabbing a finger at the television. "That's Mondo the Magnificent! He's one of the greatest stuntmen in the history of, uh… stuntmen!"
"I see…" He clearly didn't. Michelangelo forged on.
"Mondo holds the world record for all of the most dangerous stunts. He climbed the Empire State building and flew a plane through sixteen burning hoops!" The orange clad turtle bobbed his head with vehemence. Raphael was unconvinced.
"You do realize that this show is called "Ripley's Believe It… or Not," don't you? Well, guess what? I'm 'Or Not-ing.'" He punctuated this with a tiny smirk.
Michelangelo folded his arms across his plastron. "I think Mondo the Magnificent is awesome."
"And next you're going to tell me you always wanted to be a tightrope walker." Raphael returned, his smirk growing wider as he watched his brothers blue eyes go wide.
"I did always want to be a tightrope walker…"
Raphael leaned over the arm of the couch and facepalmed. "Michelangelo. You're a ninja. Why would you want to be a tightrope walker?"
"Why would you want to be a stand-up comic?" His brother retorted quickly. When he saw his point had hit home he added, "fame and glory, of course."
"Fame and glory? Fame and glory. I see. Honestly Fame and glory ain't all it's cracked up to be – unless you're the one doing the cracking." Catching his brother's growing frown he quickly added, "but if you're deadset on it, I think we should sleep on it. Maybe in the morning you can start your training." Raphael stood and stretched.
"But in the morning Donatello wants us to help him fix the Turtle Van!"
"Exactly." The red clad turtle grinned and gave his brother a wave. "Night, man. Catch you in the morning!"
Michelangelo never forgot that conversation. Over a year had passed and still Michelangelo dreamed of all the amazing stunts he might be able to pull off if he was as great as Mondo the Magnificent. Funny enough, Raphael never forgot it either. One fine spring morning, in the middle of a blissful breakfast of macaroni, cheese and peanut butter pizza, Raphael walked in wearing a grin that was eight miles wide.
"Guess what's going on today?" he asked, sliding up to the table.
"April's doing a news story on the botanical gardens?" Donatello replied, having already checked the morning news.
"We need to clean the back training room." Leonardo asserted.
"Uh, Pizza Parlor is having their buy one get one free special again?" Michelangelo queried.
Raphael pointed around, "Yes, I suppose we do, and no, not until Thursday." He took in a breath, "and… you're all wrong." He took out a small flier from behind his back and snapped it in the air to straighten it out. "The Guinness Book of World Records is in town today!"
"Ooh, what are they testing?" The purple clad brother's head snapped up in interest.
"They are confirming…" He raised the paper and read from it, "the longest urban tightrope walk without a safety net, to be completed between the Hotel Paradiso and the Lamont buildings by one Mondo the Magnificent."
"Hm. Sounds dangerous." Leonardo returned, with a mixture of curiosity and feigned disinterest.
"Sounds interesting," Donatello countered, stroking his chin. "I wonder what kind of wire he's using?"
Michelangelo reached a hand out to snatch the paper away from Raphael. "Sounds awesome! Oh yeah! It's really him! Do you dudes know what this means?" He was grinning from ear to ear.
"You mean beyond the fact that he will be tightrope walking in the city, with a lot of cameras and reporters around?" His blue clad brother answered, ever practical.
"Or beyond the fact that April might be reporting?" Donatello ventured
"Or the fact that Pizza Parlor is offering free pizza for a month for the person who guesses the closest time for how long it will take Mondo to cross the tightrope?" Raphael added.
Michelangelo stared at his brothers, momentarily deflated. "I was thinking, you know, we could all meet Mondo…" He paused, Raphael's words sinking in, "did you say free pizza?"
"I did." Raphael affirmed, flipping the flying in Mike's hand over to the back side and pointing. "Free pizza. For a month."
"We are so there, dudes…"
April O'Neill was fit to be tied. "What do you mean Vernon gets to cover Mondo the Magnificent and I'm stuck covering the opening of the violet wing at the Botanical Gardens?" She placed her hands on her hips and bit her lower lip to keep from saying anything more.
"But April, flowers are for girls!" Vernon said in a smarmy voice. "A World Record requires a far more manly approach."
"If Vernon's manly, I fear for mankind." Irma whispered behind her hand.
April shook her head, trying not to stoop to Vernon's level. "Thank you for being so painfully sexist, Vernon."
"For shame, April." Mr. Thompson wagged a finger in the air. "Vernon's ratings are great, that's why he's on Mondo."
"But Mr. Thompson, Vernon gets the interesting stories. I'm sure April's ratings would be great if she was allowed to cover Mondo, too!" Irma protested.
Vernon shook his head. "Just face it, April. I'm a better reporter than you."
"Better?" April's eyes went wide. "Alright, Vernon, you wanna bet?"
"Bet?" He perked his head to one side.
"Bet. I bet you that I can pull in better ratings with my story than you can with yours." She smiled lightly. "And if I win, I get the next top story all by myself."
Vernon returned the expression with a self-indulgent smirk. "Please, April. You can't win that bet."
"Are you chicken, Vernon?" Irma goaded.
"Why certainly not! Fine, if you want to be immature enough to make a bet about that, I accept." He folded his arms across his chest and stuck his chin into the air.
The girls smirked and all three looked over to Mr. Thompson As he slowly nodded his approval, Irma and April winked to one another behind Vernon's back. "Then it's official." April finished.
"Alright, April, prepare to be scooped!" Vernon replied, turning to leave in a huff, as the girls giggled behind him.
"How are you gonna beat Vernon's ratings with a story about flowers, April?" Irma asked when they were out of earshot of everyone else.
"Because we're going to finish the flower story and then head on over to Pizza Parlor and get our own take on Mondo the Magnificent and the World Record." She replied sotto voce.
"Ooooh, sneaky! Then we had better get over to the botanical gardens!" Irma gathered up her camera and the two ladies headed out.
The not a hot idea trend had started the moment that Michelangelo decided that he had to meet Mondo the Magnificent. Truth be told, he knew he wanted to meet Mondo from the moment he heard about him, so this decision was pretty much a given. But also knowing that his brothers would balk at the idea of heading behind the scenes to indulge him in meeting his childhood hero, he decided on the not-so-hot idea that it was better if he just slipped off while Raphael was ordering pizza.
His entire body was shaking with excitement as he dashed past the cords that separated the crowds and employed his ninja training to slip behind the police officers enforcing crowd control. Once through the crowds he shrugged out of his trenchcoat and mask so he could quietly slip into the VIP area. To the back a multicolored circus tent was set up with a banner reading "MONDO THE MAGNIFICENT" in bold yellow letters. Michelangelo grinned like a kid in a candy store (or a turtle in a pizza store) and walked forward to slip his head inside the door-flap.
Sitting on the floor, dressed in a dashing purple and green fitted costume sat Mondo himself, gagged and trussed up like a Christmas turkey. Michelangelo's eyes widened and not-a-hot idea number two was to immediately rush inside. "Mondo, dude, what happened?" He got about halfway between the door and the tent before he heard porcine grunts and guttural snickering.
"Well lookie what we got here. Looks like it's two-for-the-price-of one!" Rocksteady squealed.
"And I thoughts beatin' up a tightrope walker was fun. Beatin' up one-a dem stupid toitles is even more fun!" Bebop added.
As Michelangelo turned to face them, both goons leveled their weapons. "Why are you dudes here and what did you do to Mondo?" The young orange-banded turtle sounded indignant.
"Well you sees, that ain't no ordinary tightrope he's got strung between those buildings dere. It's a special wire and Shredder wants to use it!" The mutant pig started until his rhino companion cut him off.
"Special wire?" Michelangelo's orange mask furrowed in a mixture of surprise and confusion. "Dude, why can't Shredder get his own special wire?"
"Because da buildings gots lotsa special metal in dem, and da wire connects dem. Tied together dey form a big, uh, conductor. Shredder's gonna use it to bring back da Technodrome!" Bebop grinned, proud of himself for remembering how it worked.
Michelangelo's jaw dropped a little. "That is totally uncool."
"Beee-bop! You're not supposed ta tell him!" Rocksteady waved his gun arm around.
As the two were arguing, Michelangelo took the opportunity to untie Mondo and skedaddle out the back of the tent. He could hear the dimwitted henchmen protest just as his shell cleared the back flap. Behind him the colorful fabric tore open and burst into flames as both goons opened fire. "They're gettin' away!" Rocksteady cried.
Behind the tent was a cordoned off parking lot with a large circus style truck to one side, and two more cars parked beside it. On the other side there was a massive cannon and to the far back was a set of dumpsters. Michelangelo ran right, Mondo the Magnificent ran left and Michelangelo turned to yell "Not that way, dude!" He skidded to a halt just as Rocksteady tore off a long strip of tent and waddled through it, guns blazing. Bebop thrust his own weapons through a rip in the back canvas. On the edges of the slits, the fabric smoldered from the weapons fire and with a soft 'whoof!' it caught fire. Michelangelo flickered a glance between the two guns aimed at him and rapidly envisioned himself getting caught in a crossfire. He gritted his teeth and decided to level the odds a little bit.
He took a running start and leapt into the air, pummeling Rocksteady back with his feet and pulling his nunchaku. As the mutant rhinoceros rolled backwards into the tent he cried out for his companion. Micchelangelo landed, kicking Rocksteady in the kidney and cracking his raised knee with a nunchuck. The shredded tatters of burning canvas flickered in the wind as Rocksteady yelped in pain, and Bebop struggled forward. Michelangelo spun around, flicking 'chuck to strike the Bebop-shaped lump trying to shoot its way through the tent canvas. Bebop backpedaled with a guttural "Ow!" as Rocksteady lashed a vicious kick out from the ground, snagging Michelangelo's legs. As the teenage turtle toppled, Rocksteady yelled out "Now! He's on da ground!"
Michelangelo struggled, as he found his body being crushed by the massive mutants. The breath driven out of his lungs, he felt momentarily dizzy, and gave a small cry of protest as he found himself wrapped up in a loose strip of canvas like a jelly-roll. Bebop was snickering and snorting gleefully. "Dere we go. Trussed up all nice and purty!"
"What're we gonna do wit him?" Rocksteady asked, dragging the bound Michelangelo into the parking lot.
"Ooh, I know! Stick 'em in dere!" The mutant boar pointed to the over-sized cannon. A picture of flames and a man flying were painted on the side.
Michelangelo kicked aggressively at his canvas prison to no avail. "Seriously?" He asked, peering out the top of the canvas roll. "My shell is gonna hate you for this in the morning," he muttered.
The rhinoceros giggled back. "Ooh, good one!" He hoisted the bundle of Michelangelo over his shoulder and stuffed him into the mouth of the cannon while Bebop fiddled with the firing mechanism.
"You can't do that! No!" Mondo the Magnificent turned and called from the opposite side of the parking lot, but the only reply the gave him was a volley of gunfire.
"Oh, man… this is a major bummer. I think I saw this on late night cartoons" Michelangelo grumbled from inside the barrel, and shook off the thought. All the flying turtle cartoons he had seen didn't end well. "I hope this thing has a good crash mat."
"Stand back and watch dis!" He grinned a tusky grin and waved Rocksteady backwards taking aim with his laser rifle at the wick of the cannon. With a burst of laser light the end of the fuse burst into flame and started sizzling home.
"This is Vernon Fenwick of Channel 6 news, bringing you the world scoop of the famous Mondo the Magnificent and his attempt to break the current world record for a tightrope walk without a safety net. This is a very dangerous stunt that only I could bring you coverage of!" He waved at the wire strung between the two buildings. "That wire is one hundred and fifty six feet off the ground and the only thing below it is pavement. And any minute now we should start to see Mondo ascend to the platform and start his world record run!"
He turned, shading his eyes with his hand while his cameraman panned upwards. "Any minute now. The crowd is getting quite worked up…"
The crowd burst into gasps and cheers as a lithe figure in a bright purple and green costume dashed through the gates and started yelling for help and something about crazy mutant pigs with guns. Vernon chewed his bottom lip. "And here comes Mondo now, with some important words… before he… attempts…" He trailed off, squinting at the performer, unwilling to admit that there may be something wrong, which might just screw up his broadcast. "Mondo will be ascending soon, folks."
But Mondo was clearly not trying to walk a tightrope. He kept waving his arms and yelling for help as the crowd broke into confusion and panic. Three greenish figures in trenchcoats moved forward as everyone else moved back. Vernon put on his most placating smile. "Just a moment folks, Mondo is experiencing some technical difficulties and…" His speech was cut off by a thunderous boom that shook the pavement, and something was hurtled through the air. Its covering broke off in a spray of bring red and yellow strips of burning canvas that rained down upon the audience, while the thing… no… person. No… turtle hurtled towards the wire strung between the buildings.
Vernon gave a soprano screech and ducked for cover, his cameraman tripped over the camera while running and the camera crashed to the pavement, spilling its guts all over the path of the running crowd.
"Why are we up here, April?" Irma's voice was sharp and slightly whiny as she set up the camera tripod to look out of a tenth story window of an abandoned office.
"Because up here we can get the camera angles Vernon can't. And besides, we're close enough to see Mondo the Magnificent's face! We'll scoop him for sure." she explained hastily. "Now come on! We don't have much time - the show is due to begin any minute now!"
"I'm coming!" Irma replied, faintly exasperated as she dug the last few pieces for the camera out of her bag and set them up. She had just clicked the power on and started the tape rolling for a test run when a high pitched yell approached the window and flew past at a high speed. April snapped her head up.
"That sounds like Michelangelo!" She yelled heading for the window and staring upwards. Her jaw dropped. "Oh my! It is Michelangelo! What is he doing?" She gasped her voice thick with worry.
Irma rubbed her glasses clean and stared out the window around April. "Looks like he's hanging on to a tightrope…"
And so Michelangelo found himself dangling on the tightrope wire, amidst the ribbons flapping in the breeze and feeling rather like a pair of freshly washed longjohns that had been left out to long to dry. With a grunt he swung himself upward, trying to gain enough height to finally hook a leg around the wire before all circulation was cut off from his fingers. He flipped like an acrobat in a desperate move that would have made Master Splinter proud, catching his foot. He slowly pulled his body up and crouched. His footing was so wobbly it made his head swim. What did everybody say about heights? Don't look down?
Oh crap. He knew he shouldn't have done that a second after he did.
A/N One of two or three short chapters. Remember kids, if he's on a tightrope, it's not a cliffhanger; it's a rope hanger…