Author's Notes: Thank you for your patience. I had a difficult time trying to figure out what needed to go into this chapter. Hopefully, the rest will go more smoothly. Also, just reminding you again that while this fic takes place in the 2003 universe, I had to take some creative liberties with the storyline to make everything fit. So it doesn't fit exactly with the storyline of the show, but I did my best.

In the Genes

Chapter Four: Shadows of Doubt

"There's not much we can do right now," Donatello decided as they all eyed the unconscious female mutant. "We can bandage her wounds, but we can't exactly take her back to the lair with us."

"Agreed," Leonardo said. "She's dangerous. We don't know where she comes from or who she's working with. We can't just show her where we live."

"So you're just going to leave her here?" Irma protested. "How can you do that? She's hurt, she's all alone, and a monster was trying to kill her." She pulled a few tissues out of the front of her dress and dabbed at the horrible wound on the girl's leg. It looked pretty bad. "How can you not help? She's a mutant like you. I mean- not exactly like you guys. Obviously she's a mutated human, but you know what I mean. But-"

She paused when she noticed Michelangelo peering down her cleavage. "What are you doing?"

"Just wondering what else you've got in there," he said as he tried to get a better peek.

Irma slapped him away and stood, turning to Splinter. "Won't you reconsider to take her in, Sensei? It's not safe for her out here and she saved my life."

"No, I am sorry, Irma. We'll help her how we can, but I cannot put my family in danger for a-" He paused, staring into the distance.

There was a person standing by the head of the mutated girl. There really wasn't any room for someone to be there, but he was there nonetheless, as if he existed on a different plane. A man with jet black hair, kind eyes and a face forever burned into the old rat's memory. His own master, his sensei.

Master Yoshi's phantasm smiled. Splinter felt the warm summer air tease his fur and the smell of flowers tingle his nose. For a mere glance he was no longer in a rundown warehouse, but out in the sunshine, green grass all around. There was a house and a vague mirage of his family. He heard their voices; pleasant talk and laughter. Splinter felt his heart swell with a joy he could not describe.

As quick as it came, the vision vanished. The house, the grass, the summer sun, all gone. Yoshi was the last to dissipate, a very pleased smile still on his face as he disappeared.

"Uh, oh," Michelangelo said. "Sensei's making that weird vision face again."

Splinter snapped out of his trance and glanced at his sons, looking a bit bewildered.

"Master?" Leonardo asked.

"We will take the girl home," Splinter announced.

"What?!" All four brothers barked at once.

"Yes!" Irma pumped her fist.

Leonardo insisted on carrying the unconscious mutant to their lair. The look on his face said he didn't quite agree to Splinter's decision. When he knelt to pick her up, he hesitated before making contact with her skin. It was cold and clammy, but the texture was similar to his own. She was heavier than she looked when he held her in his arms. This girl was solid muscle.

Donatello hovered around on their way back home, making sure the girl's leg didn't bump into anything in the darkness- and that Michelangelo stopped trying to poke her with his finger. Donatello had hastily bandaged her wounds to staunch the bleeding, but was secretly glad they were going back to the lair. There he could conduct a proper X-ray and find out just how bad the damage was.

Once in the lair, the female mutant was ushered directly into the first-aid room. While not a common place in most American households, it saw plenty of activity from the lifestyle of this particular family. Donatello and April always made sure the place was well stocked with anything they might need. Leonardo set the mutant girl on the examining table. She was still out cold.

Donatello pulled the X-Ray machine over while Splinter and Michelangelo gathered tools and saline solutions in preparation to clean the wound and remove any slivers of wood that still remained in the flesh.

Once satisfied everything was taken care of there, Leonardo stepped out to process what had just transpired in the past few hours. He saw Raphael lurking near the door. His red-clad brother was no doubt still a bit primed from the night's adventure. He would wander around restlessly for a few minutes more before retiring to the practice room to blow off the remaining energy.

Irma emerged from the bathroom, finally deciding to change out of her dress into a t-shirt and baggy shorts. Hair now pulled into a ponytail, she returned to the couch where she had left her laptop running. Irma had spent the evening searching online for wedding dresses. Now she scowled at the search engine's collection of images. All her dreams were still just that and she slapped the computer closed with a sigh.

"Irma, are you okay?" Leonardo asked.

She sighed again. "I'll be fine. It's not the first time life did not meet my expectations."

"That's not what I meant." He pointed to her bare knees which were decorated with dried blood.

Irma stared down at her own injuries, hiking her shorts up a bit. "Gah! How did I not notice that? Must have happened when I tripped on the sidewalk." It was a bit embarrassing to realize she had been so consumed with her daydreams of romance she hadn't felt a thing.

"Sit down, I'll take care of it."

As Leonardo left, Irma sat herself down on the couch to inspect the damage. It wasn't too bad. Mostly the skin was red and raw, only a little blood on the surface. Though she was possibly going to have bruises on both knees by tomorrow. Her palms were a bit roughed up, too, now that she looked at them. Of course, only now that she was aware of the damage did everything start to hurt.

She was about to get up to clean herself in the bathroom when Leonardo returned with a tiny kit and a bowl of warm water.

"Here, let me," Leonardo said as he sat down and draped her legs over his lap.

Irma hissed softly as he dabbed at her scraped knees with a warm cloth. She didn't flinch. The warm water caused a good kind of hurt; the wounds felt cleaner. Irma watched as Leonardo dutifully carried out the task he had given himself, resting a cheek on her fist. Leonardo was sweet. How romantic this would be if they were a couple and he was taking care of her? Maybe he would kiss her wounds before bandaging it.

As Leonardo put ointment on the scrapes and then reached for band-aids, Irma touched the edge of his shell. She let out a heavy sigh. If only he wasn't a different species.

"There's a small crack in her fibula," Donatello said as he held the X-ray up to the light. "Unfortunately, with all the other damage, we can't just mold a cast. Her bandages will need to be changed daily."

"We will just have to keep it wrapped well. She will need to be on crutches for the next several weeks," Splinter said.

"I'll put together a removable brace for her." Several weeks Splinter had said. Donatello wondered if they were really going to keep this gun-toting mutation with them that long.

"Sensei," he added in a softer tone, "there's still time. She doesn't have to stay here. We can bandage her and leave her somewhere safe with the supplies she'll need before she even wakes up. I'm afraid I'm siding with Leo on this. Keeping her here is putting us all in danger."

Splinter placed a hand on his shoulder. "Yes, I know my son. You and Leonardo are very correct in your caution. But I-"

Something caught the old rat's attention; the whites of a pair of eyes staring right at him. The mutated girl was awake! He shoved Donatello aside as a heavy tail whipped toward them. Splinter managed to dodge it while Donatello stumbled backward. It was obvious this wasn't the girl's first time being mutated. She knew how to use her extra limb very well.

The overhanging light jerked from the attack, momentarily leaving the bed in shadow. As it swung back to illuminate the patient, the bed was empty. Donatello glanced around the poorly lit room as a glint of metal surged toward him. He jerked back as the mutant girl stabbed, fresh scalpel glittering in her hand.

A wet slice hit Donatello's arm as he tried to miss the blade. The girl came back for a second cut, absolutely silent. It was difficult to keep away from her. The make-shift hospital was too cluttered for a large turtle with a bulky shell to maneuver properly.

He stumbled back, blocking the second attack as Splinter moved in. The girl must have caught a glimpse of motion. Another savage whip of her tail sent the rat hopping back to a safe distance. That tail was strong, heavy and dangerous.

The female mutant turned once more to attack Donatello, who really hadn't been trying to fight back, afraid he would exacerbate her wounds further. But as she turned, a new turtle was in her face; clad in red and furious.

Raphael moved in front of his more cautious brother, charging like a bull. The scalpel was slapped from the girl's hand, embedding itself in the wall. The bed tipped over as the unnamed mutant was slammed into a shelf. Her broken leg made it impossible to fight back against the turtle-turned-freight train.

Her head hit wood with a heavy thud as medical supplies clattered to the floor. A glass jar shattered around their feet. The girl's eyes were wide as Raphael's forearm pressed against her throat, holding her to the wall and cutting off her air.

"You like pain, do you?" the red turtle growled dangerously. "If you start a fight in my home, you start it with me. Don't ever touch my family."

Fear and anger fought for dominance on the girl's face. Her tail thrashed, but she was in no position to use it properly.

Donatello entered their space and the mutant girl soon fell limp. Raphael let her unconscious body drop to the floor while Donatello stood next to him, empty syringe in hand.

"You okay, bro?" Raphael asked, not caring about the unconscious body.

Donatello glanced at the shallow cut on his arm. It was barely deep enough to draw blood. Klunk had scratched him worse than this. "She barely got me."

"It could have been worse," Raphael barked back. "Why did we bring this crazy... whatever she is here? She'd kill us all if she had the opportunity."

"Actually, I think she was attacking me because I was standing in front of the door," Donatello said matter-of-factly as he bent down to pick up the body. "Just like before, she's just trying to get out. She's scared, Raph. She doesn't know we're not trying to hurt her."

"Yeah, because she don't wait long enough for an explanation before attacking us," he shot back as Donatello carefully set her back down on the table. Raphael then turned to Splinter. "We shouldn't be keeping her here. What if she gets away and tells whomever did this to her where we are? Do we want some psycho scientists nosing around down here looking for new guinea pigs?"

Splinter opened his mouth to reply, but Donatello beat him to it.

"And what about what the 'psycho scientists' did to her? What else are they doing to people? If someone's out there mutating humans, shouldn't we look into it?"

"Is it really our problem?" Raphael challenged back, arms crossed over his chest.

Donatello calmly met Raphael's stare, never flinching from his stormy gaze. Finally, he turned toward the door.

"Where you going?" the red clad turtle demanded.

"To the kitchen. If her mutation was anything like mine, she's going to be starving when she wakes up."

The mutant girl reached for another bowl of soup, not even bothering to use a spoon as she slurped the whole thing down. Donatello was right, the mutation had sucked everything out of her. She had been a bottomless pit for the past ten minutes, ravenously devouring every bit of food placed before her.

When she had woken from the tranquilizer, she found her wrists shackled with a heavy chain attached to the brick wall. She was not happy at all about her new prisoner status, but as soon as food was produced, the urge to regain her body's lost energy won out over concern for her current situation.

Donatello observed with sympathy as she bit into an apple, juice dribbling unnoticed down her chin. He had been there. Infected with Bishop's alien mutant strain, his own mutation had gone out of control, turning him into nothing but a ravening animal. A mere few days later, by no small miracle, his family had managed to finagle a reverse mutation from Bishop's base. Donatello recalled eating nearly nonstop for two days when he returned home. His body had been drained completely from the mutation and badly needed new reserves to sustain himself.

Michelangelo sat the closest to the female mutant, happy with the task of keeping food within her reach. This earned him irritated glares from the lizard girl as she ate, but regaining her strength was still priority one.

The orange clad turtle found himself intrigued with her tail. He had a tail, too, but it wasn't nearly as long or impressive. Certainly not something that could be used as a weapon like hers. The girl sat cross-legged, careful of her broken leg and eying him warily as the tip of her tail rolled and twitched just like Klunk's when he was irritated. Only hers made a heavy slap on the cement floor. Michelangelo could not stop watching it.

"You know, if you want anything specific, I can see what I can do," Michelangelo said hopefully. "Don't mean to brag, but I'm pretty good in the kitchen."

The girl just narrowed her eyes at him before tearing into a slice of leftover pizza.

Irma was also in the room. Having gone home to sleep, she ran back to the lair immediately the next morning, ignoring her classes. At first, the brothers protested her being anywhere near the mutant, but the lizard girl seemed somewhat calmer in her presence and only had wary looks for the turtles. Still, she wasn't allowed to get as close as Michelangelo was.

Raphael hovered around, eagle eyes accusatory and suspicious as he supervised. He received the most glares from their current prisoner. But really, he was on her side. She wanted out and he was happy to bind and blindfold her, and toss her out the furthest manhole cover.

None of the guys were really comfortable with keeping her in their home. Even those most curious about her story were also well aware that they were putting the lair and their lives in danger by inviting her in. Raphael just hoped Leonardo's meeting with Splinter would convince their sensei it was time to give this mutant girl the heave ho.

Leonardo's plan was just that; figure out how to get Splinter to agree to let this mutant go. They had fulfilled their obligation to her. She was given medical attention and practically everything in their kitchen. The girl seemed very capable and Leonardo was convinced she would get along just fine if returned to the surface.

Splinter, however, never gave him a chance to present his argument. He requested that his son sit across from him lotus style.

"I believe you are ready for the last step of our meditation training, my son," Splinter said calmly.

Leonardo stared at him, his eyes owlish. "What? Now, Sensei?"

"Yes, now. You have come to me wanting to understand my decision about our guest. I know not a better way to explain my reasoning."

The turtle breathed out noisily and calmed himself. "Yes, Sensei. I'll try."

"Good." Splinter placed one burning candle between them, a meager source of light in the dark room. "Think of this flame as a soul, for we will be inviting another to join us this evening."

Leonardo stared at his master. What was that supposed to mean?

"Close your eyes and let yourself go, my son. Drift deeper and open yourself to the one who wishes to communicate with us. Do you feel his presence?"

Leonardo stayed quiet. While he was leaps and bounds ahead of his brothers in the spirituality department, it still took him a while to reach the level needed for this.

"I feel it," he said, voice slightly anxious. "There's someone here."

"Be not afraid, my son," Splinter's voice was calming. "You are safe. He is a friend. Someone familiar to us. Concentrate. Go deeper."

Leonardo shut his eyes tighter and Splinter joined him in meditation. The added power of the master helped the student plunge deeper into the spiritual plain than he ever had before.

Suddenly, Leonardo felt someone standing before him, someone very real, and his eyes popped open. But the shadowed lair was gone, he was no longer at home. This new place was full of light and energy. It seemed to stretch indefinitely in all directions, cradling him and his master in a small pocket of warmth meant only for them.

In between them stood a figure, human, whose vestige was very familiar indeed. Leonardo merely gaped in disbelief.

"Splinter, it is good to see you again," the human smiled, bowing slightly to him.

"Master." The rat bowed humbly to the proud figure of Hamato Yoshi.

Yoshi turned to address his student. "I see you have brought one of your sons with you." He gave Leonardo a kind smile. "I enjoy watching them learn and grow. It makes me feel very honored to see my legacy carried on by such fine warriors."

Leonardo was still shock over it all and only managed a quick, self conscious nod.

"Sensei," Splinter said, sensing his master's time was short. "I come to you about the vision you sent me; about the girl. Explain to me, to my son, what you would have us do."

"I sent her to you," Yoshi said simply. "I put her in the path of your sons so that you may find one another." He glanced at Leonardo. "Do not be too quick to abandon her, she has not been as fortunate as you to have a family to teach her honor and love."

Leonardo bowed his head, chastised and humble.

"Splinter, let your sons teach her their way; let her know about kindness and friendship. They will understand her better than anyone else. Your family can do this, no one else. I sent her to you for this reason. For saving this girl will save you and all of existence."

The turtle's head suddenly popped back up. "What?" he squawked as Master Yoshi's form began to glow brighter. "What does that-"

The light was blinding and he was suddenly back in the lair where he had left his body.


Leonardo turned to Splinter. "Sensei? What did he mean by that? Was he serious about saving all of existence? What's going to happen?"

Splinter appeared equally full of questions. "I know not, my son. I was only given the same words you have heard."

"Well can't you go back and ask him?"

The rat shook his head patiently. "I cannot. Even if I tried, he would not be there. His presence came to us because he had a message. Now that message is delivered and I no longer sense my master has anything more to tell us. We must now lead with our own senses and with our hearts and do the right thing."

Leonardo sat up on his knees and bowed humbly. "Hai, Sensei." He stood and walked quietly out of the room.

The girl's frantic binge eating was beginning to slow down, though she still had food in her mouth as Donatello approached her with a syringe. He had a feeling he was going to get a fight on his hands if he tried to get a blood sample, but it was important.

First of all, her blood and gotten all over him while he treated her in the van. He needed to know if there was anything in her body he should be concerned about. Second, he was eager to study the nature of her mutation. Perhaps he would be able to figure out where she came from and who had done this to her.

Donatello tensed as he neared her, prepared for a struggle, but the lizard girl just eyed him and the needle, huffed out some air, and moodily offered her arm. He quickly moved in, not to waste an opportunity.

"You're quite used to this, aren't you?" he asked as he quickly withdrew blood.

The girl offered no response.

Once acquiring his sample, Donatello applied a band-aid and moved a safe distance away as the mutant girl began eating again. A theory was already forming in the turtle's head. Clearly the girl was no stranger to being poked and prodded. She was probably a runaway living on the streets. The type of person no one would miss if she suddenly disappeared. Perfect for experimenting on.

Leonardo stepped into the room, past the lurking Raphael who seemed to want to say something to him, but he was ignored. The blue clad turtle gestured Michelangelo and Irma away before squatting down to the lizard girl's level.

She watched him with suspicion; even pausing from her food, sensing he had something to say to her.

"Hello," he said simply. "My name is Leonardo. These are my brothers: Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael. This is Irma, she's a friend of ours. You saved her life so we came to help you. We do not mean you any harm. We brought you here to treat your injuries, but you need to understand why we thought these were necessary." He motioned to her chains.

"We brought you to our home, this is where my family lives. While we are trying to do what's right by you, I also have a responsibility to keep my family safe. Can you understand the position that I'm in?"

The girl's hard brow lifted for a mere moment as comprehension flickered briefly over her face before suspicion settled back in. It was enough.

"It would really help if we knew more about you," Leonardo pressed. "Your name? Where you're from? Is there anyone after you?"

"Yeah, like Turtlezilla! Where did that come from? And why was he trying to have you for lunch?"

"Mikey!" Leonardo snapped and the orange-clad turtle fell quiet.

At the mention of the other mutation, the girl's face returned to a stubborn cloud.

"How about just a name?" Leonardo asked in a kinder voice. "Something we can call you?"

The girl's gaze wandered over them, most of the faces staring back were hopeful.

"Mona," she relented. "Mona Lisa."

Leonardo's brows shot up in surprise while Raphael's offended "WHAT?" sounded behind him.

"Think you're clever, do you princess?" the red clad turtle demanded as he stormed up to her. "All we do for you and you just wanna make fun 'o us?"

The lizard girl looked genuinely confused at the accusation, which in turn confused Raphael.

Lenoardo was already in his brother's face, gently leading him back out the door. "Family meeting time, guys."

Michelangelo and Donatello got up to follow, the latter remaining in the doorway to keep an eye on the girl and Irma.

"What the hell, Leo?" Raphael demanded loudly, then instantly lowered his voice to an angry whisper when Leonardo raised a finger to his lips. "I thought you were supposed ta talk to Splinter about this! You on his side now? You wanna keep a potential threat here?"

Leonardo knew better than to try to explain his whole encounter with Master Yoshi at this time. It would only create a bigger argument. He had to appeal to Raphael's sensibilities for now.

"I understand where you're coming from, Raph, I do. Yes, she is a potential danger to us, but there's something bigger going on right now. Clearly there is someone out there creating mutants: monsters like that thing we saw last night, and also mutating people like her. What if she was just someone kidnapped off the street? What if people experimented on her? Did things to her without her permission? Wouldn't you want to help her, Raph?"

The red-clad turtle worked his mouth, but no sound came out. The indignation of his argument deflated. More than his mere enjoyment of a good fight, Leonardo knew his brother was passionate about fighting for those too weak to fight for themselves. Raphael would never pass up the opportunity to wield his sai for the sake of the little guy.

"What if she's not the only one, Raph? What if other people are out there, forced to be guinea pigs like her? We need to find out who these people are and what they're doing. And we need to shut them down. So far, this 'Mona Lisa' is our only lead. So we keep her for now."

Leonardo paused and put a hand on his brother's shoulder. This was another thing he had learned over the years. A good leader wasn't just about giving orders, but listening to those of his team.

"Do you agree with me, Raph? Do you want to find these guys, or do you want to let them continue to hurt innocent people?"

Raphael glanced at his other two brothers. Donatello nodded and Michelangelo looked eager for the task. Behind them, he glanced at the mutated girl through the doorway, now sitting still, staring at the empty food dishes she had decimated. The girl looked lost and Raphael saw her not as a nuisance, but as a victim for the first time. He returned his gaze back to Leonardo with conviction in his dark eyes.

"Yeah bro, I'm with you on this."

The compound was abuzz with activity since the capture of the mutant turtle creature. Bishop strolled the catwalk above his personnel. People scurried around below him, some in lab coats, others armed and wary. The energy level was high with excitement at their new specimen and all the different possibilities it contained.

Bishop, however, shared not in the excitement. He watched the turtle creature with agitation. There were too many variables for him to be comfortable. He needed to know what this creature was and where it came from. It was dangerous and Bishop needed to know if there was anything else out there that posed a danger to the public.

Below, the massive animal shifted in its transparent cage. This was so his team could monitor and study the creature from all angles. Currently, the turtle watched the different people as they moved about. Then he looked up, right at Bishop, and gave the agent a malevolent grin.

There was something so sinister and soulless about that look. Ice raced up Bishop's spine and he moved away from the edge despite himself. This thing was evil, that he knew. He wished to destroy it right then and there, but the answers they could glean from the creature were still more important.


Bishop spun around, unaware another person had approached him up there. The surprised, red-headed form of Dr. Chaplin greeted him.

The young man had originally worked for Oroku Saki as head of the Foot Clan's science division. But sometime after the defeat of Utrom Shredder and Karai's final battle with Leonardo, the heiress had taken her Foot Clan and returned to Japan. She did not take Dr. Chaplin with her.

While the poor young man's heart was broken from the experience of being abandoned by the woman he crushed over, Bishop didn't let him stay unemployed for long and was quick to sweep him up into his own science team. Dr. Chaplin took to his new position with gusto, plunging his attention into his work to escape his heartache. The man was also brilliant, passionate, and not a sneaky, conniving egomaniac like the late Baxter Stockman. Bishop was happy to have him in his employ as long as the young man wished to be.

"Sorry sir, didn't mean to sneak up on you," Chaplin said with a tick of the mouth. "I thought you heard me coming."

Bishop disliked admitting when one of his underlings got the drop on him. "Yes well, I found myself a bit ... disquieted at the moment."

Chaplin glanced down at the turtle creature. "Oh yeah, he's creeping everyone out, sir."

"Do you have something for me?" Bishop pressed, eager to get off the subject.

"Just a quick, cursory summary of our findings so far. We'll have further details as we run more tests, but you said you wanted a report ASAP."


"So far, we know for sure this isn't a further mutated version of one of The Turtles," Chaplin said with emphasis for what they called the original four mutant brothers they both knew. "As you, of course, already said, sir, but we made double sure. Also, in matching the creature's DNA against samples of the original four I can tell you he's neither the same species of turtle they are, nor was he mutated by the same process or components. In fact, Slash is-"

"Slash?" Bishop interrupted.

"That's what the guys are calling him; since he was the New York Slasher?"


"Look, it wasn't my idea. Your guys with the guns were calling him that long before I-"

"Just back to the report, Chaplin?"

"Sorry, sir. As I was saying, Sla- er, the specimen's mutation does not match that of the other turtles. He appears to have been engineered completely from scratch with turtle DNA and a mixture of other components, instead of mutating a host turtle body.

"I've already begun trying to match the molecular thumbprint with the existing mutation research of scientists and facilities worldwide to see if I can find the work of anyone attempting something similar. So far, the person who's work matches the closest is, well ... yours, sir."

"Mine?" Bishop barked in surprise.

"Of course, this is still all guesswork," Chaplin added quickly with a nervous tone. "As I said before, we're still waiting for several test results to fill in the gaps."

Bishop raised a hand to halt the young man's panicking. He wasn't like Chaplin's former employer who would yell, threaten and punish merely for presenting the facts. Bishop was, however, feeling a headache coming on and he rubbed the bridge of his nose. This better not be more backlash from the alien DNA fiasco. That mistake would not stop haunting him.

"Anything else for me, Chaplin?"

"Not much, sir. The mutation can speak, but he's not being very forthcoming to any questions we ask. Though I can also tell you his shell is man-made and comprised of metal. We also found a number five etched into the shell."

Bishop furrowed his brows. What did that mean? This monster was one of five creatures running around the city? Or were the numbers even greater than that?

"Thank you Dr. Chaplin, you are excused. Please send me further information as you receive it."

Dr. Chaplin saluted smartly, even though he was not required to. "Sir, yes sir!" He eagerly hurried off to get back to work. He loved solving puzzles and this one was a doozy. Whatever was at the end of this tunnel, it would surely be interesting.

Bishop went back to staring at the creature. Knowing this mutation, this Slash, could talk just made it more infuriating. This monstrosity held all the answers and he knew it. That smug look told the agent so. But there was no way his men could safely interrogate something that size and Slash obviously wasn't going to give up his secrets willingly. All Bishop could do was wait for the rest of the reports and plot a course of action from there.

She remembered his smile; so slight, it was hardly a smile at all. He smiled for no one. She could tell his life had been difficult. Something had happened to him to put that hardness in him. But that very small lift of his mouth and the softer look in his eyes was reserved only for her.

If he asked her to be his, she already knew her answer. She would go with this man wherever he asked. His life was so secretive; she wanted to know everything about him, learn all his secrets. He would disappear for days at a time. She would find herself sitting on the whitewashed porch in the evenings, watching for his horse on the horizon. Wherever he went, he always returned to her and she continued to wait for the day he would take her with him.

One evening as she waited, listening to the crickets and the creak of the rocking chair, something came. Something dark blotted out the sky and they came for her. She was so frightened as they took her from her home. Their hands, their eyes were of which she had never seen before. As they dragged her away, she screamed and kept her face toward the horizon, praying to God he would come for her. He would always come back, he would save her.

She pictured his face in her head, willing him to her. She recalled that same face, now shaved with dark glasses, as the one she met on the docks. Wait, who was she? That man with the glasses and the black coat, she fought with him, they pulled a gun on each other. Why did he look so familiar?

And why didn't he save her when those monsters-

Mona Lisa sat up with a quiet gasp, eyes wide. A sheen of sweat covered her, caking a nest of hair to her face.

"Hi!" Michelangelo greeted close to her face. "After you were done eating, you just conked right out again. I guess the mutation takes a lot out of you. I don't remember my mutation. It was a long time ago, when I was just an itty bitty little turtle." He offered an open palm as if a baby turtle were cupped inside.

Mona Lisa blinked at him and then glanced about the room. The dream felt so real. It took a moment for her to remember where she was and how she had gotten there. She was still chained to the wall by her wrists, but all the empty food dishes had been cleared away while she slumbered.

Michelangelo mistook the meaning of her confusion and assumed she couldn't remember which brother he was. That was typical for anyone meeting them the first time. "I'm Michelangelo. Orange mask, remember? Everyone just calls me Mikey."

The lizard girl glanced around the room once more before her eyes settled back on him. She blinked several times, her expression lost and vulnerable. Michelangelo couldn't help the urge to hug her. He hated to see girls scared like that. But she jerked away when he leaned toward her and he remembered it would be polite to keep his distance.

"Um so, we thought maybe you'd like to clean up. We've got a bathtub. And our friend April is here. She said she would help you if you need it. Do you … want to?"

She seemed hesitant at first, and then realized how dirty she was and wrinkled her nose in a way Michelangelo found very cute.

"Yes, I'd like to clean up."

The orange-clad turtle brightened. "Great! Hold on, I'll get her."

Two turtles returned soon after, their bandanas purple and blue. A human woman with red hair lurked behind them, glancing curiously at the other mutant inside. Leonardo unlocked the chains while Donatello offered the girl his hand.

"Do you need some help?"

Stubbornly, Mona Lisa refused the offer as she tried to stand by herself. But the broken leg coupled with the angry bite wound on her shoulder made it difficult and painful to get to her feet. Reluctantly, she took the proffered hand.

Donatello took a personal moment to marvel at the smaller green hand in his. She had one finger more than he, her skin softer than his. Never had he ever expected in his life to hold a feminine reptile hand in his.

She only touched him as long as she had to and quickly pulled away after recovering her balance. But as she tried to take a step, her physical condition seemed to make it hopeless in getting anywhere on her own.

"You can hold onto my arm," Donatello said, "or I can carry you."

Mona Lisa did not look agreeable to the offer at all, and even moved away when he offered his arm.

April quickly stepped in, gently taking the girl by her elbow. "I got this. Do you mind if I help you, Mona Lisa? My name is April."

The lizard girl said nothing, but she didn't pull away.

"Here, if you can hop on one foot, we'll get you over to the tub. Donnie says he'll make you some crutches soon so you can get around on your own."

Just as before with Irma, the girl seemed immediately more comfortable with a human than the turtles. Donatello and Leonardo let the girls have their space as April helped their new guest slowly make her way to the bathroom.

April wasn't sure what to expect when the guys told her they had a mutated girl in their lair. Mona Lisa was sleeping when she arrived and April did not approve of her chains at all. After they told her the whole story she was a bit more understanding of their situation, but vowed to be a strong advocate for finding a better way of keeping everyone safe. She knew first hand what it was like to live in a lair full of boys used to doing things their own way.

Mona Lisa didn't seem to enjoy being touched so April allowed her to merely put a hand on her shoulder and hop on over to the bathroom. Once inside, April shut the door behind them. She saw several disapproving green faces as she did so, but she wasn't going to let them take away this poor girl's privacy. This mutated girl seemed so docile and quiet, April doubted anything would happen. Even if it did, she was confident in her own abilities to take care of herself should anything go awry.

The mutant painfully sat herself on the toilet seat while April wrapped her bandaged leg in plastic to keep it dry. Mona Lisa worked to remove the remainder of her bloodied shirt. April was about to suggest getting some scissors to cut it off, but the girl already had it half way off, despite her obvious pain. April tried not to wince as she watched Mona Lisa peel the bandages off the angry bite wound.

Once naked, Mona Lisa showed no modesty in attempting to cover herself. She seemed just as fine with or without clothes. While her lizard body had the right feminine curves around the breasts and hips, she was as anatomically correct as a Barbie doll. April had only just barely noticed the girl had been without pants the entire time.

Mona Lisa climbed into the hot water under her own power, hissing as she leaned back to let her shoulder soak.

April dug around for a sponge before kneeling beside the tub. "Would you like me to help you clean that? You don't want it to get infected."

The girl was silent for a few moments before emitting a quiet "Yes, please."

"Let me know if it hurts too much." April dipped the sponge in water and then began to gently dab at the wound. "You know, Mona Lisa is an interesting name. Were your parents into fine art?"

The lizard mutant hunched a little. "It's … just my name."

"Is it the same name your mother gave you? She called you Mona Lisa?"

The girl opened her mouth, confusion in her face, then closed it again and didn't respond.

"Well I think it's a very pretty name," April continued, not wanting to push the girl when she was uncomfortable. "Can I call you just Mona? Or maybe you would prefer Lisa?"

"Mona is fine."

April searched for another topic. It was like pulling teeth trying to get this girl to say more than two or three words at a time. April had assumed if she could get her to start talking about how much she missed home, all the answers would come. But the way Mona Lisa acted was all wrong. Whoever hurt her didn't just mess with her body, they had done a number on her brain and only complete trust would reap the answers they were looking for.

"I'm sorry if your first impression of the guys was a little rough and abrasive. They don't do quiet and gentle very well. As you get to know them, you'll find they are very protective of those they care about, but they are also sweet and kind. They're my family and I love them dearly."

Mona Lisa gave her a sideways glance of surprise at the statement.

"I know they haven't given you much reason to trust them yet," April continued. "I'm not too happy with the chains either, but they have people after them, too. They've had invaders in their home, people trying to kill them, and though they won't admit it out loud, it scares them to think it might happen to them again and they'll lose everything again.

"I'm not telling you to blindly trust them, but I am asking that you open up your mind and heart to the possibility that they want to help you. Give them a chance to become your friends, like they have for me. Just listen to what they have to say, what they can show you, and you can make your own decision, okay?"

"If the time comes, can I hold you to it that my decisions are my own?" the girl replied.

April was taken aback at such a long statement, but instantly gathered herself with a serious expression. "I swear it. Take a few weeks to get better and to get to know us. If you are not convinced by the time you can walk out of here under your own power, then I will escort you to the street of your choosing myself. Deal?"

Mona Lisa nodded. "I will make this deal with you, April."

Satisfied she made progress, April lightened in her task. "Mind if I move all this hair to check out the back?"

The lizard girl swept it away with her good arm. The back of the bite reached down to her shoulder blades. The size of her attacker must have been massive. April shivered at the thought of meeting this monster alone in a dark alley.

As April gingerly cleaned the area, she noticed a series of thin crisscrossed marks all over the girl's back. She ventured to touch them with a finger and Mona Lisa's head turned slightly. April quickly pretended nothing happened and continued cleaning. At the same time, she also noticed a black mark inked into the skin on the back of the lizard's neck.

"You have such thick hair, Mona, I'm very jealous. Mine is so thin. I bet it's gorgeous when we wash all the grime out of it."

"I can do that myself," Mona Lisa insisted.

"Great, I'll leave you to it," April said as she stood. "I'll give you a few moments of alone time, then I'll come help you with that leg getting out of the tub."

She stepped out of the bathroom, closing the door behind her. Raphael lurked right outside and she almost ran into him. The turtle looked like he wanted to ask if it was smart to leave their guest alone in there, but April didn't give him a chance.

"Stay out of there, she's fine," April warned the red-clad turtle as she brushed past him, zeroing in on Leonardo. She took the eldest brother by the elbow, tugging him further toward the wall so they could discuss privately.

"Leo, you promise me you find the sick bastards who abused this girl, and you make them pay," she hissed.

"Why? What happened?" Leonardo asked, unprepared for such a statement.

"This poor girl, I don't know if she even remembers who she used to be any more. I think they messed with her head pretty bad. I don't think Mona Lisa is her real name, but some sort of pet name they gave her. These guys probably didn't even think of her as a real person. She's got a freaking number seven tattooed on her neck, Leo. She's just a number to these sickos."

"Wow, I didn't … I didn't even realize..."

"There's something else. She's got all these marks on her back. I want you to look at them and let me know what you think."

"Sure, but, do you think she would let me?"

April raised a challenging eyebrow. "Are you a ninja or not?"

"Hey Mona," April greeted loudly as she opened the door. "Doing okay in here?"

The lizard girl's back was to the door so she didn't notice April had not shut it behind her. Her hair was wet and newly washed.

"I brought some clothes for you," April continued, waving a few brightly colored pieces in front of her face to keep her attention. "I doubt pants are that comfortable with that tail. What would you think about a skirt? I don't have many myself, but I brought a few my sister left behind."

She let out the tub water and helped Mona stand before handing her a towel. "Here, let me help you wrap your hair."

As April pulled up the hair in a towel, Leonardo crept in, noting the condition of the girl's back and eying the black number seven imprinted on the back of her neck like an ID tag.

"Is someone else there?" Mona Lisa asked.

"Uh, what do you mean?" April stalled.

Mona Lisa glanced behind her, but the turtle was already gone. The two females were alone in the bathroom.

April helped her climb out and hobble back to the room where she had been sleeping, leaving her with a pile of clothes and her own privacy for a few minutes.

As April closed the door, Leonardo startled her by suddenly appearing at her side.

"So what do you think?" she asked in a soft voice.

Leonardo backed away from the room so there was less chance of their new guest overhearing. "Scars. Years of new scars on top of old ones. Whoever hurt her has been doing it for a while."

April felt a little sick. "She has them all down her back. There's some on her sides and front, too. So someone's just been holding this poor girl down and carving her up like a turkey for years?"

"I don't know if that's exactly the case," Leonardo said with a frown. "It doesn't look like it came from a knife or small blade. Knife wounds are usually thick and sloppy. They leave fat scars like this." He rotated the back of his shoulder to bear the scar when some lowlife had stabbed him from behind.

April silently hated seeing the boys' scars. They had far too many for their age.

"But hers are thinner," Leonardo continued, "more like this one." He showed her a thread-like scar running diagonally up the length of his forearm. "This was done by a sword, something long and thin with a fine blade."

"So there's someone with a sword carving her up?" April demanded, now even more indignant.

"Or she's sparing with someone who uses swords. Someone who is quite a deal better than her. She does clearly know how to fight. Someone must have trained her. Perhaps not the most nurturing way possible, but jumping to conclusions isn't going to help anyone."

April let out a frustrated breath. Leonardo's pragmatism was often very nice to have, but she really wished he would get as angry as she was for the sake of the girl.

"We're still going to get to the bottom of this," Leonardo added seriously, restoring her hopes. "We'll find out exactly what's been done to her and then will be the time to get angry. Whoever these people are will pay accordingly, you have my word. I just wish she would trust us more so we can help her."

"Maybe you can help her right here," April offered, warming at the sight of the turtle's noble side. "I know you guys are used to playing the heroes, running off to fight the bad guys and right all wrongs. But this girl is strong and capable on her own. Despite what's been done to her, maybe she's not looking for a hero. Maybe she just needs some friends."

The turtle looked thoughtful and then nodded with a smile. "Maybe."