*The following is the beginning of a plot bunny that bit me a couple of days ago, and I don't think it's going to let go. Call it a teaser, if you will. I don't know how large said "bunny" is going to grow yet, but this is a look at where my next undertaking will lead. I do not own the TMNT.
The faint light of the computer monitor barely penetrated the shadows that cloaked the hooded figure. Only one of his seven new subjects remained from the original group; the one who intrigued him the most. There was little reason for him to stand by on the observation deck. The equipment was automated, and it had already performed its function.
Yet he lingered.
The creature had been overwhelmed at last, and he should have been free to move on to something else. Fascination was holding him like a magnet however, so that he alternated between staring at the terrapin and the monitor that was currently displaying his subject's vital statistics.
He heard the door hiss open, but he didn't bother acknowledging the individual who ventured to interrupt him. No one was worth heeding when he was busy with a project unless it was the Supreme Commander himself, and he would have received word if their leader had arrived.
"What is taking so long with the last, Doctor?" the intruder asked pitifully, as one begging for a crumb of food.
Yasir sighed inwardly. "He fought reorientation harder than the others, Mukhtar. His mind is extremely unusual."
"You sound as though you are impressed by this terrapin."
Yasir turned around to glare at him. "It is a rare creature indeed who has fought the reorientation this long."
"Did you push the device to its fullest potential?"
Yasir's scowl deepened. "Idiot! You know that a complete brain wipe usually kills the subject."
"You like this one. Why?"
"I did not say that I liked him. What does that have to do with killing him? He possesses extraordinarily valuable DNA, and offers untold opportunities for testing. That is nothing to overlook."
"We have the other three," Mukhtar pointed out.
"They are each amazing in their own way, but this one…" Yasir hesitated from saying too much. His associate was known for speaking out of turn. "He has beautiful brain activity. Even under reorientation, it remains strong. Much more pronounced than I expected."
"You admit that he impresses you then."
"Far more than one such as you," Yasir returned snidely. "Now unless you have some pressing reason for being here, I am still trying to work."
"I do not mean to intrude, Doctor. The terrapins' coming has created a stir, and others are talking."
Yasir pushed away from the desk with resignation. "Have you come only to satisfy your own curiosity, or do you mean to boast of the information I could give you?"
"What makes them different?" Mukhtar persisted without answering the question.
"Their DNA is unique, Mukhtar." Yasir refused to elaborate. "Beyond anything I thought we would find in that region."
"What is to become of the terrapins? Surely you do not intend to release them."
"We are doing nothing of the kind, but they still must be separated. Their very uniqueness makes the mind reorientation …complicated. Their memories are more likely to stay suppressed if they have no knowledge of one another."
"Are you keeping this one for observation purposes?"
Yasir shook his head. "No. I have already chosen one of the others for that. Another will go to the front line against the rebellion, and the third will be taking a few steps backwards."
"Then what do you intend to do with him?"
"I am recommending that he go to the Matches."
Mukhtar blinked in disbelief. "And I thought you liked him!"
"It will prove an effective test. He is clearly strong in body, but whether or not his physical skill can measure up to his mental capacity is yet to be seen."
"What of their human counterparts?"
"I only care about the woman who was already removed to the Clinic. When I saw her first, I thought she could make a good addition to an Overlord's home, until I discovered her condition. She is far too valuable in herself to allow out of my sight.
"As for the other man and woman, I do not care what they do with them. They could probably fulfill some menial position, I am sure. They are not any of my concern." Yasir sighed loudly as Mukhtar's breath fogged up the glass of the enclosed booth. "Do you have nothing useful that you could be doing?"
The figure snapped to attention from staring at the terrapin in the next room, and bowed his head sheepishly. "I will leave you in peace, Doctor."
"I am most appreciative," he replied coolly.
Not until after the unwanted visitor was gone did Yasir rise from his chair, and reach for the touch screen on the wall to turn up the lights in the adjoining room. He entered the lab with a small spring in his step and a grim smile over what he considered to be the find of a century.
Make that three centuries. We could not have asked for better specimen. Not only do we have several to choose from, but we have the woman as well. A hybrid of DNA is something we have been trying to achieve on our own for so long, without true success. To find them on that mountain of all places, after combing the Earth for years…It hardly feels real to me.
Yasir descended a set of stairs and advanced toward the table, completely unafraid. Waking up from reorientation could be a violent act, but the terrapin was restrained. He could put up quite a fight, I wager, and I do not need anything broken in here.
He rested a hand on the creature's bicep. Muscular definition is exceptional. I am sure he would be able to hold his own against many of the opponents he could meet in the Matches, and if not…There are three more to choose from. If I was convinced I could sufficiently control him, I would rather keep him close to my side. The risks far outweigh the possible rewards, and I do not need to give Altus Abeiron any more reasons to doubt me.
Yasir smiled broader as the terrapin's arm twitched underneath his grasp. Good. Waking up at last. It is time for him to come to grips with his new existence. "Come," he encouraged the creature. "Open your eyes, 626."
The creature's head jerked in the direction of his voice.
Excellent. His reflexes are quick to recover.
"626?" Yasir called calmly.
The terrapin's chocolate brown eyes were blood-shot and wild, as if an animal was fighting to come out of him.
"Relax," he said soothingly. "No one has hurt you, and I am not going to either."
The ferocity in the creature's stare melted into the blank void of someone who'd just discovered that he had no memory of the place he resided or the rest of his life in general. Yasir had seen the look many times.
"You are going to be all right, terrapin," he assured almost kindly. "You will go to your new home shortly."
"My…my new…" The terrapin's voice faltered and his breath hitched before speeding up again.
"Do not panic, 626. It is not going to help you."
"Who are you? What are you doing with me?" he demanded.
"As soon as you calm down, you will go somewhere more comfortable. You would like to stretch your legs and have something to eat, I imagine. You are hungry, are you not?"
The creature stared at him accusingly with eyes that seemed to be aware of Yasir's actions, although his mind couldn't have been. "What did you do to me?"
"I did nothing 'to' you. You have been granted an opportunity to save yourself from death. Would you like to take advantage of it, or would you prefer to die upon this table?"
The terrapin's brow furrowed as he couldn't contain a shudder. "What do you want?"
"You have a second chance to do things over, 626. I suggest that you do not waste it."
Another turtle came awake with a startled jolt, breathing heavily as if he'd been running. He took in great gulps of air, but none of it satisfied his lungs. The first thing he discovered was that he was lying uncomfortably on his side, and his arms and feet were tightly bound. His eyes roved the space rapidly while he tried to make sense of where on Earth he was.
Windows on three sides, and that's gotta be a seat in front of me. Back of a car. How'd I get here? His head hurt. Oh, did it hurt! Trying to piece together the current puzzle only had the affect of increasing the pain.
The turtle closed his eyes for a long moment, fighting for a deeper breath. There's a reason, there must be. If I just relax, maybe it'll come back to me. As he quieted himself for several seconds, the only thing he became acutely aware of was that he couldn't remember. Anything.
His rational side was still trying to convince him to stay calm, even as anger over waking up in the back of a car with zero memory was beginning to win out. He thrashed violently with straps that looked weak enough to break, but they didn't give in the least.
"Stop, stop it," an accented voice addressed him from the back seat. "They'll come to deal with you if you don't settle down."
The turtle peered at the middle-aged man with longish red hair and was surprised to feel like he'd heard the accent before. Why's that familiar? Do I have some memory of this guy? Is he the one who put me here?
He scowled at the stranger whom he could neither identify as friend or foe, and willfully rammed his bound legs into the side of the vehicle.
"Stop!" the man hissed urgently, motioning with his hand this time too.
"Let me go," the turtle fumed in response.
The man's mouth dropped. "You understood me?"
"Sure, and you understand me," he replied with irritation. "Now that we're clear, let me go!"
"Keep your voice down, turtle. If they hear us—"
"Who are they? What are you talking about? Why am I here?"
The man shook his head apologetically. "I'm sorry. When they brought you here, I didn't know where you'd come from. You must have been through reorientation."
"Can you remember anything from before?"
The turtle was silent for such a long moment that the man finally went on.
"Don't feel bad - it happens to us all. Some of us more than once."
"What happens to us all?"
"Reorientation. The loss of memory. It's both the first step you take in this new life, and a means of punishment in these parts."
"Are you telling me I'm never gonna be able to remember anything?"
The red-haired man shook his head sharply. "Not here, turtle." He lowered his voice to a whisper. "Never where an Overlord could hear you."
"Who or what is an overlord?"
"They are the ones who run everything," the man replied softly. "Your first lesson is do not anger the Overlords."
"I'm about to go completely off on 'em if they don't freaking let me go."
"If you behave calmly, they'll remove the restraints. People are usually unpredictable when they come around from reorientation."
"I don't get it. What'd they do to me?"
"You have been given a fresh start, turtle. They don't want you to remember your past. The best thing for you to do is cooperate, and you won't be treated badly…for the most part."
"Lemme get this straight. These guys screwed with my head, and now I'm supposed to go along with whatever the shell they say? You're insane."
"No," the man said emphatically under his breath. "I'm not crazy. I enjoy living and keeping my mind in one piece. Not everyone survives the reorientation. I've heard they kill people on purpose sometimes. If you want to live long enough to find some hope, you'll do as you're told."
The turtle's eye-ridges rose. "Where are we going? What are they doing with us right now?"
"We're being resettled. There's new land that needs to be broken in. Since you're here, I can only assume you're joining us."
"Man, you're gonna have to catch me up somehow, 'cause I don't have a clue what you're talking about."
"Given time, you will learn. I will help you as much as the Overlords allow, but I cannot guarantee you anything, friend."
The turtle stared at him warily. The man's figure wasn't confusing to him, which leant him the belief that he was nothing unusual. At the same time, he was experiencing a strong compulsion in the back of his mind to avoid the stranger. "Who are you?"
"To the Overlords, I am a number. Among our kind, I am called Ezra."
"If you don't remember nothing, where'd you get the name?"
"Most workers have chosen their own." Ezra looked visibly troubled as he continued gazing back at him. "I don't know why they lumped you in with us."
"Why's that surprising?"
"I've never met someone like you, turtle."
"You didn't act like you were shocked by me."
Ezra took a deep breath. "When you've seen as much as I have, you learn not to be shocked by anything."
The turtle opened his mouth to respond, at the same time as the vehicle seemed to be slowing down rapidly. He expected to go flying, but the smooth ride barely lessened despite the strong deceleration.
Ezra whipped his head forward. "Don't say anything hasty, turtle. Keep your anger inside. Don't even look them in the eye."
On the floor, the turtle smoldered while he waited for his first glimpse of the so-called "Overlords". His features hardened as he tried to prepare himself, but his exterior cracked when the back door disappeared into the sidewall instead of swinging open.
What the shell…
He squinted in the sudden blast of sunlight at the two figures standing outside, who appeared to be nothing like he'd expected.