Viand
part 5 Final

Quickly grabbing a katana from the sheath on Leo's back, Don turned to where he thought the wall was, swimming with the point of the blade pointed outwards. He soon felt something rubbery touch the tip of the sword and thrust the sharp metal into it as hard as he could.

Slicing at the walls as fast as possible, Don ripped apart the slime tube they were in. The fluid began spilling out and soon he found himself standing on the tunnel floor with pieces of the tube draped over him.

"What the shell happened?" Raph yelled from nearby, coughing and shoving aside sections of the tube.

"Leo!" Mikey yelled as he crawled towards them on his hands and knees.

Don yanked the rest of the tube out of the way as he rushed back to his injured brother. Mikey reached him first and turned Leo onto his side, then proceeded to lightly pound on his carapace.

"He got knocked out," Don said, falling to his knees in front of Leo. "That last hard bounce must have thrown him against something."

"Is he all right?" Raph asked, kneeling next to Mikey.

Leo started coughing violently just then, his body jerking with spasms as he ejected the fluids from his lungs. Don placed a hand beneath Leo's head so he wouldn't hit it against the floor and then they waited as their older brother spit out the last of the liquid and took a deep breath.

"Are we out?" Leo asked even before opening his eyes.

"Yeah, we are," Raph answered. "Ya' tried giving us one last scare, but we ain't in that damn worm anymore."

Leo blinked up at Don and then rolled into a sitting position. Glancing at the katana in Don's hand, Leo grinned and said, "Aren't you glad I made you work on your grip?"

"Yeah bro'," Don said, chuckling as he reached down to help Leo stand and then returned the blade to him.

Sliding his weapon into place, Leo looked around them. The eggs that had been inside the tube with them were scattered around, but there were also what appeared to be hundreds more inside a large U-shaped cavern.

"Where the shell are we?" Mikey asked in a hushed tone.

Don picked his way gingerly amongst the eggs, studying them as he walked. "This is why the worm started moving when we climbed into the ovaries; it was trying to get to this birthing tunnel."

"I take it that normal earthworms don't do that," Leo said.

Shaking his head, Don said, "No, they don't. This is bizarre; none of these eggs has hatched."

"Is that somehow more bizarre than a giant earthworm tunneling underneath New York City?" Raph asked.

"It could certainly mean that's the only earthworm tunneling underneath New York City," Don said. "There must be just that one because the eggs haven't been fertilized."

"But didn't you say they're hermaphrodites?" Leo asked.

Don glanced at him. "Sure, but that only means that they produce both eggs and sperm. They have to have the sperm from another earthworm to fertilize their eggs. I wish I knew why it feels the need to come back here each time it needs to lay."

"Hey, maybe we'll find some answers in here," Mikey called to them.

Looking around, they saw the youngest standing in front of a steel door that had been built into the dirt wall. Stepping over and around eggs, the other three brothers quickly joined him.

"This has got to be Shredder's handiwork," Raph snarled.

Leo tried the door handle but found that it was locked. "Do you have your lock picking kit on you?" he asked Don.

"I've got mine," Raph said, extracting a sai from his belt and jamming it into the lock before anyone could say anything.

With a deft twist of his wrist, Raph succeeded in unlocking the door. Flinging it open, they found themselves staring into a small room, one wall covered in wire racks that were holding worm eggs. On the other wall was a large dumb-waiter lift, the door open and insides empty.

Directly in front of them was a set of stairs and wordlessly, they started up.

The stairs took them into a large laboratory; an almost exact duplicate of the one they had found when they first met Quarry. This one also showed signs of having been destroyed during some catastrophic event.

"Suspicions verified," Mikey said in a hushed tone.

"Do you think you can pull up a video log like the one we found at the last lab?" Leo asked Don.

"I'll try," Don said, walking over to a computer console. "This stuff is pretty smashed up."

The cracked monitor blinked to life, a low hiss coming from speakers attached to it but the only thing that showed up was gray fuzz. Manipulating the keyboard, Don scrolled quickly through the recordings until something flashed on the screen.

". . . embedded in the reproductive organs . . . can control its movements . . . once we find use for the eggs . . . others are becoming a problem . . . ."

The recording blanked out again. "What others?" Raph asked. "More worms?"

"I don't know," Don said, frowning as he worked the controls. Another log entry flared to life.

"They've broken into the lab! There's no time to take anything, we have to get out!"

The recording showed a hulking form in the background and scientists in lab coats running towards an open elevator. When the form came closer, the scientist who was making the recording screamed and ran just as a giant fist slammed down on a nearby table. Then the recording went blank again.

"That looked like Stonebiter," Mikey said.

"I think it probably was," Don said, giving up on trying to get anything else from the video logs. "I think that those were the 'others' the scientist mentioned in the earlier log entry. Shredder must have found this experiment to be less troublesome and more fruitful than the one using mutated humans. The only problem was that Quarry and the rest of the group didn't want any of Shredders minions messing around down here."

"What did he mean by 'use for the eggs'?" Leo asked.

Don shrugged, looking around the room. His eyes landed on an overturned filing cabinet and he darted over to it, pushing it upright and rummaging around in the drawers.

While the genius was looking through the papers he'd found, Mikey was searching for the elevator he'd seen the scientists getting into. Shoving aside a couple of tables, Mikey uncovered the doors.

"Found the elevator!" Mikey sang out. "Now maybe we can get out of here."

Raph and Leo ran over to join him as Mikey stabbed at the control button, but nothing happened.

"Oh shell, no power," Mikey moaned.

"I can probably rig something up to give it enough juice to lift us out of here," Don said absentmindedly as he scanned some notes. "Either that or we can climb up the shaft."

"Let's get these doors open," Raph said, jamming the tip of his sai between the two doors.

Leo stepped up next to him and pushed his katana in also. Pulling back, they made a large enough gap to get their fingers into and then Mikey joined them in shoving the doors apart.

As Mikey was wedging a piece of metal under one of the panels to keep it from sliding shut again, Don came running up to them, waving a piece of paper in the air.

"This is why the worm came back here," he said excitedly. "They implanted a receiver inside its ovaries along with a sensing device. Whenever there were eggs being produced, the sensor sent a message to a transmitter here at the lab, which then automatically sent a homing signal to the worm. It has to come here to lay eggs."

"Why the fuck would they do that?" Raph asked.

"My guess is so that they could play with the eggs," Don said. "Maybe try and inseminate them and create better worms. You saw the eggs they collected downstairs. I think they got interrupted before they could finish the next phase of their operation."

"So what's to prevent somebody in Shredder's organization from coming back here?" Mikey asked. "Karai is crazy enough to do it; only she'd try to get the things to hunt for us."

"We have to destroy the eggs, the lab, and the transmitter," Don said.

"If there are any records in Shredder's files, they can always build another transmitter," Leo pointed out.

Don scratched his chin as he thought. "We could kill the worm, although I'm loath to do that."

"I'm not," Raph said flatly. "It's an abomination."

"Some people would say that about us too dude," Mikey said softly.

"It's a damn bug, Mikey," Raph argued hotly. "It shouldn't even exist."

"If it wasn't for some alien scientists, we wouldn't exist either," Mikey countered.

"The worm is just trying to survive," Don said. "It has no ill intent. Eating us was an accident."

"It's dangerous," Raph snapped. "What if it goes higher and sucks down a couple of sewer workers? I'll feel like shit if someone dies cause we were too soft hearted ta kill it."

"If we were to decide to kill it, how would we do it?" Leo asked, looking directly at Don.

The pained expression on Don's face was obvious, but he answered his brother. "We could try to blow it up from the inside, but that would require finding something explosive down here and getting the worm to swallow it. A better option would be to fire up the generators and electrocute it."

"How do we do that?" Raph asked. "Ya' gonna walk up to it and hope it stays still while ya' jam a couple of wires in its mouth?"

"No, I'd use the wire racks downstairs to line the tunnel floor and walls and hook electricity up to them. Then when the worm slid onto the racks, I'd turn up the juice," Don said.

"If we chose to do that, would you use the transmitter to call it back here?" Leo asked.

"What the fuck is this 'if' shit?" Raph barked. "The damn thing needs ta die."

"You're starting to sound like Bishop bro'," Mikey said.

Raph spun on him, snarling. "What did ya' say?"

"Enough!" Leo snapped. "This isn't getting us anywhere. I said 'if' because I want an option that doesn't involve arbitrarily killing something. I don't want us to turn reactionary, Raph. Whenever we have the time to think things through we should do just that."

"Ya' do remember what just happened ta us, don't ya'?" Raph asked, calming somewhat as he turned back to Leo.

"Yes I do," Leo told him. "We were lucky and I fully realize that if the worm swallows someone else, they probably won't be. I'm just thinking that thing can't possibly have a very long life expectancy and it would be better to let it die a natural death."

"Ya' don't know what Shredder did ta it. It could live forever as far as ya' know," Raph argued.

"Not from anything I see in these notes," Don said quietly. "They only used some kind of a growth serum to mutate it to its large size, nothing was done about longevity. It will probably only live six years total and from the dates on these notes, it's already halfway there."

"Three years is still a long damn time for that monster ta be roaming around down here," Raph said darkly.

"Then why don't we make it roam around somewhere else?" Mikey suggested.

His brothers looked at him and Don asked, "What did you have in mind?"

"Couldn't we make it go deeper? If it met up with something it didn't like and couldn't go up or to the sides, it would naturally go down to get away," Mikey said.

"You know, he has a point," Don said thoughtfully. "We could still use the wire to shock it, but at a lower setting so it tunnels down to get away from the pain."

"And what's ta keep it from coming back up in a couple of days?" Raph asked. "It came up above its comfort zone long enough ta set off our sensors."

"Could you rig the transmitter to send a signal that's painful?" Leo asked. "Then whenever it tried to rise to this level the pain would drive it back underground."

"Sure, I could do that. But we'd have to find a place to put the transmitter so that the Foot couldn't get to it. And the power is only going to last for just so long," Don answered.

"Collapse this place," Raph suggested, going with the flow of the idea finally. "Put the transmitter inside one of the tunnels and then destroy the rest of this operation, eggs and all."

"We can burn the eggs and all of these notes," Don said, "and finish smashing everything in here. Once we get back to the lair, I can rig up some explosives and we could return here long enough to lower them down the elevator shaft. That should do the trick."

"As far as the worm coming back, everything with a brain eventually remembers where pain comes from," Mikey said. "Avoiding this level will become instinct after a while."

Raph rubbed his forehead; still not convinced by the idea of leaving the worm alive, but realizing his brothers had a different mindset than his own.

"I guess if Master Splinter were with us he'd say something like 'everything should have a chance ta live'," Raph said slowly.

"You have to feel a little sorry for it," Mikey said. "After all, you're leaving the poor thing at the altar."

Growling, Raph said, "Shut up before I give it another chance ta eat ya'."

"Help me gather up wire and wrap it around the tunnel," Don said. "I'm sure none of us wants to stay here any longer than necessary."

"I want to go home and take a long, hot shower," Mikey said. "And then a bath, and then another shower, and . . . ."

"Come on shell for brains," Raph interrupted, grabbing Mikey's mask tails and pulling him along to follow Don.

For the next two hours the Turtles ran back and forth between the birthing tunnel and the lab. They had no way of knowing from which direction the worm would approach as the U shaped curve provided it with two entry points, so the brothers had to wire both sections.

Most of the wire was placed on the walls and ceiling of the tunnel; but in each of the sections they set out a wire grid on the ground, placing it some fifty feet further back in each of the two approaches.

The plan was simple; they would lure the worm back to the birthing tunnel and once it was inside the electrical field, Don would turn the power up high enough to encourage the worm to dig down.

The floor space containing the eggs was free of wire, leaving the worm with a good sized escape route. If it tried to move forward out of that area, it would hit another electrical field.

When everything was set up, Leo, Raph, and Mikey walked back into the lab where Don was just finishing hooking the electrical leads to the generator. He had spent a half hour getting it working again and would have crossed his fingers that it would continue to run if he didn't need all six of his digits.

"I calculated the worm's mass and body weight while I was working on the generator," Don said without looking up. "I have a pretty good idea of how many volts I need to send into the grid in order to hurt it without frying it."

Raph grimaced. "I hope ya' guys are sure about this. It goes against my natural instincts."

Mikey patted the back of his shell and grinned. "We know Raphie; you have a stomp first ask questions later philosophy. But earthworms are the good guys in nature so you can afford to give her a little break."

Raph scowled at him but didn't say anything as Don lifted the transmitter off a table and looked around at his brothers.

"Ready or not," Don said as he activated the device.

"How long before it gets here?" Leo asked.

"That totally depends on how far it's gone since dropping us off," Don said. "You should get downstairs so you can watch for it. Shout up to me when it's in position."

The other three Turtles headed towards the stairs but Leo stopped Mikey at the top. "Stay here and relay messages to Don. It may get loud down there and I don't want to chance him not hearing us."

"You got it boss," Mikey said with a grin as he seated himself comfortably on the top step.

It wasn't until they reached the bottom that Raph said, "I see ya' got something on your mind. Leaving Mikey up there wasn't just 'cause ya' need for him ta relay messages, was it?"

Leo stopped at the doorway that led into the birthing tunnel and glanced at Raph before turning to watch for the worm. "No," he admitted. "If this idea of driving it further underground doesn't work, we're going to have to kill it. We'll have to pull those electrical leads off the wire grid and press them directly against its skin. Are you up for that?"

"Ya' have ta ask?" Raph cocked his head as he looked at his older brother. "Always got a plan B don't ya'?"

Leo produced a rare smile as he said, "I've got a plan C and D too."

Raph didn't get a chance to question him about them because a rumbling roar assailed their hearing and dirt began to drift down from the tunnel walls.

"Tell Don ta get ready!" Raph shouted up to Mikey. "It's coming!"

The ground under their feet started to shake and from deep inside the tunnel to their right they began to see movement.

"It's moving kinda fast," Raph warned.

"We have to let it pass over the floor grid," Leo said, tensely watching the worm's approach.

A blunt brownish-gray mass came into view, moving directly towards the two brothers. Leo and Raph backed to just inside the egg storage room, both bracing themselves against the doorframe.

"Leo," Raph said in a low hiss.

"Now," Leo answered, "Hit the power."

Raph stumbled back towards the stairs, yelling as he moved, "Turn it on! The worms here; turn up the power!"

He could hear Mikey relaying the message and then a loud buzzing sound came from the tunnel. Racing back to where Leo was still standing, a high pitched and extremely loud screeching sound made him clap his hands over his ear slits.

Looking up, Raph saw that Leo was likewise protecting his hearing. Inside the tunnel, the worm was thrashing and squirming as electricity arced off of its enormous body. Dirt rained down from the ceiling and walls, along with larger segments of rock.

"It's gonna destroy the power grid!" Raph shouted at Leo, trying to be heard over the worm's deafening screech.

"More power!" Leo shouted at the top of his lungs.

A second later the buzzing sound of electricity bouncing across wire joined that of the worm's pained cries. The creature rushed forward, barreling over the previously laid eggs and curving with the tunnel as its mouth touched electrified walls.

Something came flying towards them and Raph reached out to yank Leo away from the doorway. The worm's tail slammed into the doorframe where Leo had been standing as it flicked past the pair.

"It's gonna get away!" Raph yelled at his brother.

Leo jumped back to the door with Raph on his heels. As they slid out into the tunnel, the worm suddenly changed direction and began to wiggle back towards them.

"Shit!" Raph yelped as the flailing tail nearly hit him.

Cut off from the door, the brothers danced backwards, avoiding the electrified walls. A few feet behind them, the floor grid pulsated with electrical energy.

"If we don't fry it now, it's gonna fry us!" Raph warned.

"Grab a lead and yank it loose!" Leo called. "Don't let your weapon come in contact with it!"

Just as they turned, the ground seemed to roll under their feet, throwing both of them into the dirt. Raph scrambled back on his elbows and heels, trying to get to the lead wire.

The worm's tail slapped the ceiling and then came down directly at Leo, who rolled out of its way. A plume of dust filled the tunnel, tiny rocks and chunks of dirt hitting the Turtles who fought to regain their footing.

Then the screeching sound suddenly stopped. The ground quivered and shook for another minute as the brothers watched the worm's tail end slowly disappear.

Jumping up, Leo and Raph ran after it. The buzzing of the electrical current was still loud, but the roar that accompanied the worm's movements was fading.

Rounding the curve in the tunnel, the pair skid to a halt. Just in front of them an enormous hole opened into the ground, dust rising up from inside the worm's newest tunnel.

"We did it!" Raph yelled triumphantly, turning to fist bump his brother.

Grinning widely, Leo carefully approached the hole, staying away from the edges. Listening as much as looking, Leo perceived nothing to indicate that the worm was anywhere close.

"Hey!" Mikey yelled from somewhere behind them. "Are you guys alive or did you get eaten again?"

Raph and Leo walked back to where the youngest was standing. "We're alive and the worm is gone," Leo informed him.

"Woohoo!" Mikey shouted, jumping into the air before racing back to the staircase. "Turn it off, Donny! The worm is gone!"

A second later, the buzz and high whine of the electricity was cut off and in another moment, Don was standing amongst the remains of the crushed and battered eggs.

"Did it go further underground?" Don asked.

"It appears so," Leo said. "I can't hear it anymore and considering that things size, if it were anywhere near here we'd know it."

"Good. Give me about ten minutes to rewire this transmitter to make it send a signal the worm will try to avoid. I'm going to put it inside the dumbwaiter; the metal will protect the device when we burn the eggs and blow up the lab," Don said.

Mikey and Raph were already pushing the eggs into a pile in the center of the chamber and Leo joined them. By the time they completed that and transferred the eggs from the lab onto the pile, Don had finished with the transmitter and placed it into the dumb waiter.

Leo set fire to the eggs, using paper and oil from the lab as an accelerant. Once they were sure the conflagration was large enough to fully consume the eggs, the brothers went back up to the lab.

"I'm afraid we destroyed the generator using it to drive the worm underground," Don said. "That means we're going to have to climb the ladder in the elevator shaft to get back home."

"Where we'll immediately grab the explosives you'll need to destroy this lab and come right back here with them," Leo said, listening to Mikey groan. "We can't chance leaving a window of opportunity open for Karai; not even a small one."

"When we get done with that, do I get to pass out for a week?" Mikey asked as he jumped through the elevator escape hatch and began climbing the ladder, watching as his brothers followed suit.

"The first thing we'll do when we finish this is get those burns cleaned properly," Don told his youngest brother. "It shouldn't take long."

"Good, 'cause then I'm gonna sleep. And eat. And sleep while I eat," Mikey said.

"I'm gonna do both while I soak in the tub," Raph said. "How 'bout ya' Leo?"

Leo grinned. "A long hot shower sounds really, really good."

"And an entire bottle of mouthwash, right bro'?" Mikey asked impishly.

"Thanks for reminding me," Leo said as he scrunched up his face. "I can still taste that fluid."

Slowly climbing the ladder, the brothers groaned as their sore muscles protested the effort. Then Mikey said, "You know what? We should have saved one of the eggs. I'm sure Don could figure out a way to produce a worm from it and then Raph would have the namesake he's always dreamt of. It'd make up for the missus running out on him. Can't say I really blame her though; she finally got a good look at his ugly mug."

"Ya' are so dead, Mikey," Raph spat, making a grab at his youngest brother.

Mikey leaped upwards, scaling the ladder with incredible speed as he tried to stay ahead of his fury driven brother. Leo and Don followed them at a more sedate pace.

"Thanks for not frying her," Don said softly.

Leo smiled at his brother. "I guess you knew what I planned to do?"

"Yes," Don answered. "I was really hoping you wouldn't have to. We should all get a chance at life, even if we are different."

Leo's eyes turned up to where his brightly banded brothers yelled and cavorted. With a heartfelt sigh, he said, "I couldn't agree more."

THE END