Author's Notes: I have had people asking me to write a TMNT fanfic for years. Previously, I have not had the time. My schedule has changed and I'm attempting to fit it in. As of right now, this story has the lowest priority of all my fanfic projects. However, I am a review whore. If people start getting excited about the story and leaving me quality reviews, I shall also get more excited and give it higher priority.

This story takes place in the 2003 series universe. I've had a hard time pinpointing a specific moment in the series where this story could happen. The Shredder is defeated, Karai has moved back to Japan to do most of her business. The lair was not destroyed and the guys still live in their sewer den. The guys are around 18-19 years old. There will be discrepancies with the show storyline. I am aware of them, but I had to do what I could to make this story fit.

Additional characters added will be mostly from the 80's TV show refitted to fit into this series. Enjoy.

In the Genes

By: Ghost of the Dawn

Chapter One: Monsters and Nightmares

Splinter basked in the peace of the lair. His meditation time had been so lovely, so serene. He had gone so deep he had not heard a single sound. And even now, his surroundings were warm, still and silent. Blissfully silent. So wonderfully, peacefully silent.

Splinter cracked an eye open.

Suspiciously silent.

His whiskers twitched.

"Michelangelo!" His youngest better not be setting up some elaborate prank on his brothers. The ink stains on the wall would never come out.

The master received no response.

"Donatello?" Splinter would have to have a stern talk to his science-loving son if his chemistry experiments blew another hole in the ceiling.

Still nothing. Splinter hefted himself to his feet.

"Raphael!" He prayed the most intense of his boys was working on his motorcycle and not stabbing holes in the upholstery.

Silence. Splinter poked his head out of his room.

"Leonardo?" His eldest was quiet anyway, but he, too, had a tendency to make a mess when he got the itch to put together another massive gauntlet of traps and weapons to practice with.

No sign of anyone and the liar looked in the same shape it had been when he retired to his thoughts.

"Boys!" the old rat bellowed and then listened.

An ear flicked. Not a sound. Where were they?

Mumbling to himself, Splinter turned back into his room to root around for his shell cell. A stupid name for a stupid contraption if Splinter had an opinion to offer. But it did have its uses. His device was simpler than the ones his sons carried. Modified by Donatello, it had four color coded buttons. All he had to do was press the designated color for the turtle he wished to reach.

Splinter was a bit irritated his sons had left without informing him. They were eighteen years old now and no longer felt the need to ask for permission to leave the lair. But one rule still stood, and would always stand, as long as Splinter was alive to enforce it. When one left the lair, someone else needed to be told. Their lives were far too dangerous to ignore this tiny little safety net.

So Splinter was a bit aggravated as he located his device and pushed the blue button.

"Yes, Sensei?" Leonardo's voice answered on the second ring.

"Leonardo, where are the four of you? You did not say you were leaving the lair or where you would be going."

"I did- Mikey did!" Leonardo insisted. "He told me he told you."

"I did!" came Michelangelo's voice in the background. "I said it right to his face! But he was in one of those trance thingies he does. I thought he heard me! He nodded... I think."

Leonardo sighed on the line. "Something set off one of the outer alarms. We were just going to check it out."

"Very well. Be careful. Watch out for each other."

Leonardo's sigh was audible. "Yes, Sensei. We-"

He suddenly let out a very startled cry.

"Leonardo?" Splinter worried. "Leonardo! What is happening?"

His son's voice was hasty now. "Everything is fine. But uh... I gotta call you back."

Splinter stared at the communicator in confusion as Leonardo hung up on him.

The brothers stared together in utter perplexity over what stood before them. Leonardo had been speaking on the phone when a cheerful, feminine "Hi!" had taken them all by surprise, and caused him to let out a rather unheroic yelp. The four turtles jumped at the voice, crouched and weapons at ready. Donatello's flashlight landed on the source.

A human girl squinted in the light, unafraid. "Hey guys," she greeted again as if they were friends. "I finally found you. I've been searching forever."

The turtles looked at each other. Maybe this girl couldn't really see who and what they were with the flashlight shining in her face. Donatello kept it there to blind her.

"Uh, who is it you're looking for?" Leonardo asked carefully.

"You guys," the girl insisted. "Don't you remember me? It's Irma."

They squinted at her in confusion. They did know a few humans, but none that looked like her. The girl named Irma was average height, petite build with brunette hair pulled into a pony tail. Thick, square glasses framed her face. Her backpack and ripped jeans were dirty as if she had been traipsing around in the sewer all day. With rubber boots covered in filth, maybe she had.

"I don't know any Irma," Raphael announced. "How about you guys?"

Donatello and Michelangelo shook their heads.

Leonardo was getting suspicious. What if this was some sort of trap to get them to drop their guard? He took his own flashlight, scraping it along the walls to see if there was any place where enemies could hide. At the same time, he moved protectively between his brothers and the human, backing them away from her. It was time to get his family out of there.

"Stay right there," he ordered the human. "Don't move from that spot. We are leaving."

The girl finally looked worried. "What? But I just found you. Don't go yet. Please, Leo?"

The fact that she knew his name caused the leader to pause. How did she know them? Who was she? He squinted at her face, wracking his brain for answers. Where had he met her before?

"You guys don't remember me at all, do you?" Irma said in disappointment.

"Look, we don't know you, okay?" Raphael pressed, also eager to get his brothers out. "Go home and don't follow us."

"But I know you," she insisted. "We met when we were kids. We played together. Don't you remember?"

She was answered with four blank faces.

"Here, look," Irma said as she frantically dug in her backpack. "I still have it from when we were little." She dug out an old notebook with faded yellow paper, rainbows and a unicorn on the cover. "See? I make lists of everything. I wrote this down when I met you so I could tell you apart."

She showed them words scrawled by an adolescent hand with thick lead. A very simple list:
Mike – Orange
Don – Purple
Leo – Blue
Raph – Red

Donatello was rubbing his chin, trying to think up possibilities. Leonardo's jaw was hanging open. Raphael was getting angry at the confusing situation.

Michelangelo pushed through all of them to the front, staring at the girl with wide eyes as a light bulb suddenly flashed in his brain.


Minutes later, Leonardo found himself kneeling before his sensei. To his left were Donatello and Raphael. To his right was the human girl, in their lair, all their secrets bare before her. The blue clad turtle was still trying to make sense of what had just happened. Why had he let Michelangelo just grab her and take her home with them?

"So you found this girl when you were children, my sons?" Splinter repeated, not sure if he heard right. He kept eying Irma as if the girl were going to suddenly mutate into a flesh-eating monster. But she smiled brightly at him, happy and excited to be in their company.

"Yeah, I mean, we heard her first," Raphael cut in. "She was lost and we heard her bawling up a storm near a drain outlet, so we went to see what it was. What were we, like six or so?"

The old rat narrowed his eyes. "You were up playing around the surface that young? Talking to a human?"

"Er..." Raphael stammered, not sure what was a safe answer.

Splinter shook his head. "Some days I wonder just how many times you broke those rules without my knowledge."

Donatello and Leonardo shared glances with each other. They would take that knowledge with them to their graves if they could.

"In our defense, Sensei," Donatello tried, "we weren't aware we were breaking the 'don't show yourself to humans' rule. We didn't know she was human at the time."

"Right!" Raphael jumped in, eager to get Splinter to stop glaring at him. "Remember the Ooma Monster? That's her! That's the Ooma Monster!"

Splinter furrowed his bushy brows, mouth slightly opened as if he were going to speak. Now that it was mentioned, he remembered back when his sons were very young, how they talked nonstop about a "monster" they had played with. It had been one of the many times the turtles had wandered off. Splinter had spent the whole day searching for them while they claimed they spent the day befriending a strange creature they found. They referred to it as the Ooma Monster and the story was so strange, Splinter had assumed their new friend was completely fabricated by their active minds.

He recalled, however, that their stories of the activities had all been strangely cohesive. If it was an imaginary friend, why did his sons never play with this so called monster again? After a while, the Ooma was mentioned less and less until it had escaped everyone's recollection.

"Here guys, I found them," Michelangelo called from his room where he had been rifling through papers. "I still kept them all this time." He ran to join his bothers at their master's feet, sliding to his knees in his eagerness. "Here's the pictures we drew you, Splinter, so you could see what it looked like. Remember?"

He splayed the old papers out on the floor, corners yellowed with age, drawings created by young turtles with broken crayons. Michelangelo recalled fondly that night when they all sat together at the table, trying their best to draw their new friend to absolute accuracy for their father.

Michelangelo's picture did have the tufts of brown hair, but giant black, soulless eyes and a mouth full of jagged teeth. A young Leonard's drawing also included the brown hair and glasses, but the body was hugely deformed with a thick hump on the back, almost as if he were trying to give her a shell, too. Raphael's wasn't even close with a duck-like body and purple tentacles.

Splinter gave the red clad turtle a doubtful glance.

"I was six!" he insisted as if recalling how inaccurate his picture was. "I ain't no artist, Sensei!"

Donatello's was the most accurate one. The picture somewhat resembled a humanoid with brown pigtails, but there was a mesh of wire over the face.

"Oh yeah, I had braces when I was little," Irma explained as she stood next to Splinter, looking at the pictures. "I had to wear this metal headset all the time. It probably looked pretty weird to someone who had no idea what it was. Maybe I was a bit monstrous to them. And I couldn't say my name well. With all that wire, it probably did sound like Ooma."

Splinter gave her a look that clearly spelled out she wasn't welcome in his personal space. Irma quickly slunk back to her spot next to Leonardo. The giant rat had been something unexpected for Irma. She remembered the four boys from their single encounter, and she recalled them mentioning they had a father, but she had pictured just a bigger version of them. Not a giant rat. And they called him Sensei. This was so intriguing, so exciting!

Splinter lowered his calculating gaze onto her. "While I understand the five of you shared a childhood memory, Miss Irma, I can't help but wonder why you have sought out my sons now?"

Irma gave a helpless shrug. "I thought I was going to help you guys. I remember the four of you differently as well. You're not human, you're turtles." She gave a gentle tug on Leonardo's shell. "I thought you were humans with horrible birth defects."

"Hey!" Raphael barked in offense.

"I've been going to school, studying human genetics all this time in hopes of being of assistance to you. Now I don't know what I was studying for."

Donatello perked up at that statement, but Leonardo spoke first.

"How did you ever find us after all these years? We don't even live in the same lair we did back then."

"Oh! I'm glad you asked," Irma said brightly as she pulled out her bag. The thing was dirty and worn as if it had been scraped against many a sewer wall for years. She dug around and pulled out several maps littered in red marks, spreading them on the floor.

"It was just a process of elimination and working through the city in grids, really. To be honest, it wasn't exactly an easy job. I've been trying to locate you guys since I was fourteen. So it's been about three and a half years now.

"The biggest break I had was the sociology paper I wrote on the culture of homeless communities living in the underground tunnels of New York. Did you know there is over 2,000 miles of uncharted tunnels below the city?"

"Yeah, we know," Donatello said.

"When I asked some of the people I interviewed if they knew of four deformed people running around in the tunnels, some of them knew what I was talking about."

"Can we stop with the deformed talk?" Raphael griped.

Irma ignored him. "They refer to you as the 'Water People'. You are always seen in tunnels with running water. The same tunnels most people avoid because, well, they're full of water."

Leonardo knew what she meant. The family was well aware they shared the city's underground with the rather large homeless communities of New York City. The reptiles chose to live in the catacombs that contained the city's constant runoff. The humans avoided the flooded areas while the turtles thrived. It was the perfect fit. And little did the humans know, that after a long trek through the water, it led to a very spacious lair that was warm and dry.

"So I stuck with the water tunnels and then just slowly worked my way through the city. Hence why I wear those." Irma pointed to the muddy rubber boots plopped near the entrance of the lair. "The random sitings of you guys that pop up on the internet really helped me narrow down the most likely locations."

Splinter frowned. Did he even want to know how many blurry pictures of his sons turned up on conspiracy theory websites? The past few years had been tough on their never ending quest to remain the shadows. There was always another calamity, another battle that forced them out of hiding and to the surface. The fact that this human had found his family by herself worried him. Even if it had taken her almost four years to do so. Who else would be able to find them if they really wanted to?

"I still can't believe I found you guys!" Irma was still talking. "Of all the things I imagined when I found you, I never expected any of this!" She motioned grandly to the lair around her. "Look at this place! Fully refitted with modern conveniences and technology. And you guys, not humans, but mutated animals. All with levels of intelligence. This is probably the most important scientific discovery of my generation! Maybe of all history!"

"Except you can't tell anyone about it," Leonardo said sternly, breaking her bubble.

"Yeah," Raphael cut in. "We ain't going to be no lab experiments, locked up in glass cages to be poked and prodded at, you got me?"

Irma's eyes went wide. "Oh no! Of course not! Guys, you can trust me. We're friends. I wouldn't sell you out." She put a reassuring hand on Leonardo's arm and suddenly his muscles had all her attention. "Wow!" She gaped, a little flushed groping his bicep. "You're really strong, like... like..."

"Can you please stop doing that?" Leonardo said with fading patience.

"Sorry," Irma quickly removed her hand, smiling sheepishly. But she kept eying his muscles and soon she was feeling up his arm again.

Leonardo sighed.

"Irma, let me show you around the place," Michelangelo jumped in, clearly the most excited of the brothers to have a new friend. "I can show you my room. It's so awesome. Do you like comic books? You know Donnie is into science and stuff, too?"

Irma smiled at Donatello. "Is he?" she asked with that tone reserved for children who say they want to be astronauts when they grow up. Boy, was she in for a surprise.

"Oh yeah, he has a lab and everything," Michelangelo continued. "I'm sure he'll show you all his toys. He's quiet now, but once you get him talking about science you can't shut him up."

Donatello was rolling his eyes at the ceiling.

"I would love to see everything," Irma agreed as she pulled out her phone to check the time. No bars down there. "But it's almost midnight and I need to get back home." She turned to look at Splinter. "Would it be alright if I came back tomorrow? I promise I'll be careful. It will just be me."

Splinter hesitated. This girl had no idea how dangerous it was to know them. But neither did April when she stumbled into their lives. And through all the things his family had experienced over the last few years, Splinter had come to accept that some lives were meant to be intertwined for a reason. Fate had caused this girl to find them now, just as it had meant for his sons to find her all those years ago.

Irma mistook his silence for possible rejection and pressed harder. "Please?" She folded her hands under her chin and gave the old rat her best cutesy face. "I'll bring doughnuts."

The dubious faces of some of his sons suddenly brightened a little at the mention of being fed.

"Yes, that will be fine," the master conceded. "My sons will show you how to properly find the lair without tripping the alarm or having to use those." Splinter nodded to her muddy boots.

"Thank you!" Irma gushed as she stood. She looked like she wanted to hug him. "This really means a lot to me. And it was a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Splinter."

The old rat placed a hand at her elbow and leaned in. "And if you could, I would love a bear claw."

Irma grinned. "You got it."

"Yo guys," a masculine New York accent called. "Am I interrupting a family meetin'?"

Casey Jones paraded confidently into the room, as he did when entering all rooms. He paused when he noticed that there was one extra body in the lair that night, a human he had never seen before.

She was staring stupidly right at him as if everything else around them had disappeared.

"Uh, hey there... person I don't know," Casey said, suddenly feeling weird about being ogled.

"Hi..." she managed to get out with a besot expression. "I'm Irma."

"Uh... Casey."

"You're cute, Casey," Irma grinned as she moved closer. "You have a girlfriend?"

"Woah, woah!" Casey barked, jumping back several feet from the girl. "Are you even legal? How old are you?"

"Seventeen," she said quietly, knowing full well her skinny body and youthful features made her appear about two years younger.

"Not even touching that. 'Sides, I gotta girlfriend already." He held up his hands in surrender and then looked over at the turtles. "What are you up to tonight Raph? Couldn't sleep. I though you could help me work on my motorcycle."

Everyone knew working on the motorcycle was code for going out into the city looking for some hoodlum heads to bust. Even Splinter knew. But it had become such a habit for the two, no one could bring themselves to care about what Raphael and Casey did any more. Which had been almost every night lately since April was out of town visiting her sister.

"Yeah," Raphael agreed as he shouldered past his brothers. "I probably wasn't going to get much sleep either. I'll help you out."

"Take Irma with you," Splinter suggested. "Make sure she gets home safely. It is very late."

Both looked at him with a pained "Do I have to?" type expression.

"I'll take her home," Michelangelo piped up. "I don't mind."

"Such a gentlemen," Irma said as she put on her boots, hardly offended by previous attitudes.

"Owe you one, Mikey," Raphael said lowly as he slapped his brother's shell.

"Yup," he agreed, watching Casey and the red clad turtle escape while they could. Then Michelangelo turned back to Irma. "Stick with me. I'll show you the best way to get here without getting your feet wet."

She grinned back. "Can't wait.

Irma said she lived with her grandma in a tiny apartment tucked away between two much taller buildings. Michelangelo politely said good night and made sure no one had seen him. But once done with his task, he did not head back home. Irma wasn't the reason he had volunteered to leave the lair.

Moving by rooftops, the turtle hoofed it to another neighborhood, one he was more familiar with. He hoped a certain apartment window still had its lights on. Not that he doubted the inhabitant was still awake, he just hoped she was home.

Sliding silently down the fire escape, Michelangelo was pleased to see there was a light on in the kitchen. Balancing on the rail, he knocked at the window. A few moments later, it opened and a blonde head poked out.

"Hey, you're just in time to help me," was the only greeting he got before she disappeared back inside.

That was all the invitation needed and Michelangelo climbed inside.

"Got anything to eat, Kala?" he asked once he was in the living room.

"I dunno, you can check," called the voice from the bedroom. "Feel free to help yourself."
Kala was one of those weird girls who actually enjoyed eating healthy. Sometimes there was pizza or soda in her fridge from the weekend, but it was rare. Michelangelo already knew that about her and settled for a banana he found on the kitchen counter. As he took a bite, he wandered toward the bedroom and poked his head in.

"So what's up for tonight?"

Kala stepped out, dressed in a gray zip up hoodie and a red pleated skirt. She pulled out a heavy draw string bag that was stuffed to capacity.

"Tonight's laundry night," she sang as she dropped the bag at Michelangelo's feet.

"Tonight? Isn't it a little late to go out by yourself for that?"

"No choice," Kala insisted as she moved to the closet. "I procrastinated too long and now I'm out of clean undies." She pulled out a brown trench coat, much too large for herself. "Besides, I'll be safe," she added as she helped Michelangelo put it on. "I'll be with you."

"So it's a good thing I showed up, huh?" He grabbed a worn fedora from the closet's top shelf.
"My hero. Always sensing when I'm in need of help."

She went to get her laundry detergent while Michelangelo took it upon himself to sling the heavy bag of clothes over his shoulder. After shuffling her feet into a pair of neon green flip-flops, Kala led the way out the door and locked it behind them. Michelangelo let her continue in front down the very narrow hall, happy to watch her pert little behind beneath that bouncy skirt.

The apartment she lived in was kind of a dive. Cracks in the walls and no laundry facilities on site. There was a 24 hour joint only two blocks down, but the neighborhood wasn't the best. That's why Michelangelo liked checking up on her. A pretty girl like Kala, living all alone, needed someone to make sure she was alright now and then; despite the fact that she insisted she was a tough city girl who could take care of herself.

Michelangelo wished he could say they met after he had saved her from a mugger or something equally adventurous and romantic. But it was not so serendipitous as that. Kala had happened upon him two years ago when they were both sixteen. She was working at a comic book store and had busted the turtle when he was fishing through the trash for discarded back issues.

It was an almost comical meeting. Kala proved in their first encounter that she was no normal girl when she banged on the side of the massive garbage bin to get his attention. While Michelangelo looked at her like a rabbit in front of a semi she had calmly asked, "Yo, turtle-man, what are you looking for? We've got better issues inside."

From then on, Kala was Michelangelo's number one comic book hook up. Sometimes he would send her with cash for his issues to use the employee discount. Other times she surprised him with some freebies. Michelangelo was never sure if she actually paid for those particular comics and he never asked.

She worked at some 24 hour call center now, which was why she kept odd hours. Sometimes she still surprised him with comic books. But that wasn't the only reason the turtle still dropped in on her now and then. He liked her company. She was fun to be with and not exactly hard to look at. Her eyes were big and blue, appearing even bigger with all the eye makeup she liked to wear. Her fine, platinum hair was usually in a short pixie cut; sometimes with stray colors. Lately, she had discovered a love for tanning booths, resulting in her skin being a more caramel color these days.

It was mid September. The chilly air of fall had yet to sweep in. Not exactly trench coat season. But the midnight New York pedestrians never cared what you wore. The cute young girl clopping companionably next to the suspicious character with the shadowed face didn't seem to mind his presence, and no one really noticed him as they reached their destination.

Inside the laundromat, it was almost too warm for comfort from the dryers of previous clients. But no one was in their now. Perfect.

Kala got to work loading her clothes into various washers while Michelangelo plopped himself in a chair and grabbed a nearby magazine. He glanced back at her and his eyes nearly bugged out of his mask when he saw her nonchalantly shimmy out of the panties she was wearing and toss them in as well. He quickly returned his gaze back to the magazine and pretended not to have seen anything.

Once the washers were dutifully swishing, Kala pulled up an extra chair where they could both prop up their feet and the plopped herself next to her friend, resting her head on his shoulder with a big sigh. Michelangelo looked away from his magazine to watch their feet, propped up side by side. The big, great two toed digits and then the dainty little human toes with pink glittery polish on the nails. Kala had asked him once if she could paint his toenails. While he had no idea why should would want to do such a thing, he had to refuse. It wasn't because his masculinity couldn't handle painted toenails, it was because of the questions he would get from his brothers.

No one in his family knew about Kala and Michelangelo wanted to keep it that way. He knew it was selfish, but he just wanted one thing that he didn't have to share- one friend that was his alone. As such, he never told Kala about his world either. Luckily, she wasn't too nosy. Most of the time she was happy to accept that a large mutant turtle existed in the world, and he was her friend and leave it at that.

At first, she had greatly worried he had no where to live and was all by himself so Michelangelo was forced to tell her that yes, he did have a place to live and he had a family. But she didn't know that family consisted of three turtle brothers and a rat father.

Kala, on the other hand, told Michelangelo everything. Any and every thought that met her mind she shared with him. He figured it was her way of trying to get him to open up more and talk about his personal life. It never worked. He, however, knew she was "raised" by a single mother, in the loosest sense of the word. The woman was never sober, abused prescriptions and any illegal drugs she could get a hold of. Kala had more memories of her mother passed out on the couch or on the bathroom floor with a needle in her arm than she had of her and her mother having enjoyable interaction with each other.

Any attempt Kala made to help her mother get back on her feet was met with shouting, rejection and sometimes violence. Kala left when she was fifteen in order to save herself. Her mother had OD'd a little over a year later.

But Kala never let her past get her down. She enjoyed being a responsible adult, taking care of herself, working hard and paying the bills. She was silly. She liked telling bad jokes and wearing bright colors. She liked saying weird things just to see people's reactions. And she liked that she had a very unusual friend that would only visit her under the cover of darkness.

"You know what, Mikey?" she said out of the blue, above the rumble of the washing machines. "When I was a little girl, I had a monster that lived under my bed."

"You did, huh?" the turtle said casually.

"Yes, and it was very difficult to live with my monster for, as you know, my mom was often too inebriated to check for them. Which, as you know, is the absolute defense against monsters- mothers looking under the bed.

"So since I couldn't dispel it that way, I had to live with my monster. Sometimes he would be nice and sleep through the night. Other times he would bump and grumble and growl, and keep me awake. It stayed that way for years until I was too old to have a monster any more. But I still remember what he looked like."

"And what did he look like?" Michelangelo grinned. He was always a fan of random conversations.

Kala leaned back so she could sweep her gaze over his face. "He had green skin, a little tough. Spots here and there. Dark eyes. Most kid's monsters have tons of jagged teeth, but not mine. Mine had a big 'ol beak, razor sharp."

Michelangelo blinked blankly.

"Maybe that's why we grow up," Kala continued. "Monsters and children may assume we are automatically enemies. But when we grow up, we learn we can be friends." She rested her head back onto his shoulder.

Michelangelo thought about it for a moment. Without further information, it was probably the best idea Kala could come up with as to how the turtle even existed. Maybe she was right. Maybe he was a monster who had climbed out from under a little girl's bed years ago, looking for a friend. As such, he should be grateful he had been discovered three years ago by someone who was willing to befriend monsters.

Kala really was kind of weird.

Central Park was a really great place to go to do some head busting. While not so much for building tops to spy on the city below, there were still plenty of places for a ninja turtle and even his slightly more awkward masked sidekick to skulk in the shadows. Unfortunately, that same type of cover provided great hiding places for local degenerates. It was the reason the Central Park area had become so infamous for being dangerous after dark.

Raphael would have loved to stake out the place for a good couple of weeks until word got around the city's underbelly that Central Park was no longer a welcome place for criminals. But his better sense told him that just wouldn't work. After a while, it would get back to the authorities there was some weird looking vigilante punching thugs in Central Park after dark. The boys in blue would start staking at the area for him. No, it wasn't smart to hit the same place twice in a row.

Still, Raphael and Casey hadn't rousted the scum from Central Park for a while. It was overdue for a little turtle wax. So far that night, they had interrupted two muggings and scared the heck out of a group of boys who were experimenting with a few substances their mamas probably didn't know they had. All in all, not a bad night.

It wasn't the same adrenaline rush that came during the heydays of the Foot. After the banishment of the Shredder, Karai had taken herself and her adopted father's empire back to Japan. Hun's Purple Dragons still lurked the streets, but they had gotten sneakier, more streamlined. It was hard to just catch a Dragon wandering the street looking for trouble anymore. Crime was petty and disorganized on most nights.

"So what is up with this chick I met today?" Casey asked after they decided to call it a night and head for home. His place was clear on the other side of town so he figured he would just follow Raphael back to the lair and crash on the couch. "She seemed a little coo-coo if you ask me."

"Yeah she does," Raphael agreed without hesitation.

"Can you trust her? I mean, you just met her, how do you know she's not gonna immediately tell everyone she found giant turtles in the sewer?"

Raphael just shrugged, not feeling too threatened by the possibility. So many different beings knew of their existence now, some on Earth, some in other galaxies and dimensions. It wasn't the same as when they were little, when the notion of being discovered by the outside world kept them awake at night.

"Nah, I don't think she's the type. Even if she was, do you really think anyone would believe her?"

"Eh, probably not," Casey agreed, shrugging as well.

They were headed for one of the big runoff pipes near the bay, not too far from the sewer treatment plant. No lights anywhere, allowing the two to walk unnoticed in the blackness. Not that there would be anyone around to see. The smell plus the constant dirty run off wasn't too enticing for much more than mosquitoes and stray animals. But as they neared the open tunnel, Raphael's arm shot out to stop Casey in his tracks. Something wasn't right.

"There's something in there," he said, staring hard at the pipe. Inside was even blacker than the night, but Raphael was sure he saw movement in there; movement from something big.

Casey had a small flashlight on him and shined it at the mouth of the pipe. Raphael was right. There was something hunched at the mouth. It was so big, it filled up the entire tunnel, swallowing all the space around it.

"Woah," Casey blurted without thinking.

It was like a scene out of those monster gore movies he watched with the guys when April wasn't around. Even for someone who had been around mutant turtles, giant rats and all sorts of alien life forms, what was revealed in the sweep of the flashlight still looked like a monster to Casey.

It had a shell, which disturbed both of them instantly. Raphael was immediately flashing back to Donatello's episode of over-mutation caused by Bishop's alien experiments. His brother had been changed until he was unrecognizable; massive, savage, mindless. Donatello's mutated form was large, but this shelled creature was bigger.

"You got a cousin I don't know about, Raph?" Casey said, trying to hide the alarm that was climbing into his chest.

Its shell was covered in spikes that shined with a metallic sheen. The creature turned, terrapin shaped head and sharp beak exposed to the light. Blood dripped from the mouth, and there was something gruesome and half eaten in his clutches. The top half was gone, the pale stub of the spine and intestines glittered wetly in the light. The body was still wearing clothes from the waist down. Both Raphael and Casey felt sick at the sight. It had been eating a person.

The massive turtle creature slowly turned its head to look at them, as if it had all the time in the world. It glared darkly at the forms shining light in its face, growling deep in its throat. Then, it smiled at them. Smiled. A cruel, satisfied expression, as if it knew their fear and disgust, and it was pleased.

Raphael was backing them both away, knowing they were standing far too close to something so big. But when he saw that look, that there was intelligence and malice in that form, he knew they were really in danger. His other hand was slowly reached for his sai.

The creature saw the glimmer of the weapon and anger surged on its face. It threw what was left of the blood-soaked corpse aside and charged, red teeth bared in a snarl.

The vigilantes lunged to get out of the way as the monster attacked with the swiping of claws and gnashing of teeth. Casey scrambled aside, trying to grab a weapon from his pack. On his haste, he spilled everything he carried as he yanked out a hockey stick.

Raphael already had weapons in hand upon the attack. He leapt in the air as the massive turtle surged forward, rebounding off the head to try and slice at the back of the neck. The big turtle's shell protected it from the attack, but Raphael heard the sound of metal against metal when he scraped the shell. His surprise at hitting something inorganic shattered his landing and he stumbled back.

The creature rounded on him, face split wide in that maddening grin.

"Well, aren't you interesting," the larger turtle said in a low, masculine voice.

The words rumbled deep from the turtle's chest and brought goosebumps all the way up to the nape of Raphael's neck. There was something about this voice that chilled him. It sounded soulless, evil.

"I'm interesting," Raphael shot back. "You were eating somebody! No one does that in my town, ugly, not even a monster like you." He pointed the tip of his sai at the larger turtle for emphasis.

The turtle bared blood-stained teeth, his gaze sharp, voice deep and slow like an engine. "I am no monster. I am... a nightmare."

Raphael couldn't help but stare, eyes a little wider.

The song of a hockey stick whistled through the air and cracked against the skull of the giant turtle. The wood shattered upon impact. The turtle slowly turned his head, murder in his eyes as he growled.

Casey stared at the red, bared teeth, frozen. Raphael lunged forward, grabbing his arm and pulled him away as the turtle snapped at them.

"Shit! Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit!" Casey repeated like a mantra as the two sprinted across the moss and muddy gravel. "That thing's super charged!"

"Shut up and run!" Raphael shot back.

The beast lolloped after them, gaining ground despite the heavier form. It was all muscle and sprang forward at a frightening speed. Like a predator after his prey. Casey sensed the monstrosity close in, felt the foul breath on his back, before a heavy claw swiped him right off his feet. He heard Raphael bark out his name as he skidded over the ground. Casey rolled to a stop, trying to find his balance again.

Something glittered around the creature's ankle as he approached. Caught by a distant street light, Casey noticed a thick manacle with broken chain. Someone had shackled this monster- and they did a crappy job of it.

The turtle picked Casey off the ground with one hand, claws digging into the flesh. Casey growled against the pain and pressure.

"Human," he rumbled, gaze dead and unmerciful. "You control our kind no longer." Turning in Raphael's direction, he added. "I will rip this shackle from you."

"That's my friend!" Raphael barked back. With flash of sais, he was on top of the larger mutant, scraping the pointed edges along the impenetrable shell. "Put him down!" He managed to stab into the flesh where the neck was exposed at the base of the shoulder.

The turtle roared in pain, forgetting his human prey and flinging Casey aside. The thick neck stretched out, teeth sinking into Raphael's thigh. He jerked and grunted as he felt the flesh give way under the blunt and powerful jaws. The monster picked him up by the leg, shook him like a dog with prey, and then slammed him to the ground. Raphael was delirious from the collision when the massive head descended upon him, jaws ripping into his arm. Raphael struggled to fight back as his mind suddenly panicked.

This thing is EATING me! he thought with horror. He could take mindless monsters or battles with sentient warriors. But something intelligent trying to tear him apart chunk by chunk just about broke his brain. He knew he was done for, there was nothing he could do as he felt the flesh of his arm give way.

There was a battle cry above the wet sound of flesh and teeth, the creature was tackled from his prey as Casey rammed into him with all his strength. There was a metal baseball bat in his hands now and he went after the monster's skull again. The metal sang upon collision, the bat vibrating in Casey's hands with each strike. It was like hitting solid rock. The skull would not crack, no matter how many times he hit it. But the creature was stunned; eyes wide and white, mouth foaming. His clawed limbs moved feebly as he rolled on his shell, trying to regain his senses.

Casey ran for his bleeding friend, yanking the Raphael to his feet with a strength born from pure adrenaline. The turtle was clearly in shock, skin pale, eyes unfocused. Raphael's torn leg bled freely, but attempted to hold his weight. An equally mangled arm hung lifeless at his side. Casey knew they needed to stop the bleeding fast, but all the band-aids in the world wouldn't matter if they didn't get away from their attacker first.

"Come on, Raph, we gotta run or we're going to be torn to shreds!"

The verbal order put Raphael's body on automatic. With Casey's help, they fled the scene as fast as they could manage. There was a manhole not too far, if they could just make it to the street.

A savage roar sounded behind them as the creature righted himself and stumbled to unsteady feet, shaking his head.

Faster! Casey's mind panicked. We gotta move faster!

The streetlight was up ahead, illuminating their deliverance. An feral roar sounded at their backs, the ground shaking as the massive body thundered after them.

Almost there, almost there.

Case was practically dragging Raphael by the time they made it to the manhole cover. He felt he would jump right out of his skin as panic tried to take over. Casey ripped off the cover, unable to look at the monstrosity charging for them, afraid seeing it would freeze him in his tracks. Any second he expected teeth to clamp down on his shoulder.

The monster surged over them and Casey shoved Raphael down the hole, jumping in next himself without using the ladder. He felt the heat of fetid breath before falling into darkness and landing regrettably on a groaning Raphael.

The light from above was blocked as the creature shoved his head down the hole, neck stretching, jaws gnashing and spraying pink flecks of spittle. He let out a savage, but futile roar. The turtle's body could not fit. He shoved and scrambled to get at his pray, pounding the blacktop and causing bits of debris to rain on the two, but everything held fast.

Casey dragged Raphael's twitching body further into the darkness. The red clad turtle was in heavy shock and barely responsive. Removing his shirt, Casey ripped it to shreds and set about pinning the hanging flesh back in place, trying to staunch the bleeding. The snarling was still at his back and he forced himself to ignore it. They were safe. He just had to get Raphael put back together and then get him to the lair. Everything would be all right then.

Once having used every free scrap of cloth he had, Casey hefted his friend over his shoulder. With a parting glance toward the frustrated cries, he disappeared into the darkness. The monster screamed after them, calling for their blood in a voice halfway between cognizance and a waking nightmare.