Author's note: This chapter references episodes in the 2003 series: "Bishop's Gambit", and the "Outbreak" story line. You may want to check out these episodes (I'm sure they're on youtube) if you haven't seen them before.
Sweat gleamed on green skin, muscles taunt and hot as they were worked. The hilt of a sharp sword held tight in each three fingered hand. The blades whistled through the air with practiced precision. Each line, each thrust, each turn known by heart and carried out with deadly force.
The thick, heavy shell on the warrior's back did little impair movement as strong legs propelled the body through the air. The turtle spun, landed in a deep crouch, then kicked high and thrust the blades forward. Over and over, blades in a blur, each move repeated to perfection.
The door opened and the turtle paused, balanced on one leg. Eyes masked in red glanced over to see thick, brown hair, light green skin and a lizard-like tail.
"So, you are alive," the turtle spoke, the voice stern, feminine.
Mona Lisa's eyes remained on the door as she gently shut it behind her. She gave no response.
"The Master will not be pleased with you. He was furious when you disappeared. Maybe you should not have come back at all."
Mona Lisa finally gazed over to the female turtle addressing her. Her eyes immediately went to those deadly blades in the turtle's hand. Blades that had seen blood on more than one occasion. Mona Lisa swallowed, but did not allow herself any other sign of intimidation. She did not owe any explanation to the likes of this creation. Only The Master deserved of her time.
Mona Lisa turned and walked farther into the complex.
In The Genes
Chapter 6: The Master
Victor Falco looked up from his files as a feminine figure walked into his office. Most regular people would be in bed by now, but he always worked late into the night's fading. "And where have you been, Number Seven?"
Mona Lisa tried not to wince at the name. He only used her number when he was upset with her.
He took in her mutated form, and the bandages on her leg and her filthy feet. "It looks as though you've had a difficult time."
She remained quiet.
"Speak!" Dr. Falco barked impatiently, causing her to flinch. "You tell me what happened. Why did you not come back sooner? What have you been doing?"
"It was Number Five," she said quietly. "I tried to detain him but he... my leg was broken and he smashed all the vials of mutagen. When I turned, I had no way of getting back here without being spotted so I had to wait until my leg was healed."
"Number Five," Falco growled. He had hoped his failure ended with his fourth experiment, but perhaps he had been mistaken. This particular subject was proving to be more trouble than he was worth. "Where is he now?"
Mona Lisa sighed. "He was taken."
Dr. Falco stiffened. "Taken? By whom?"
"Federal agents. They captured him and took him away."
The geneticist was looking more displeased by the second. "Did you find out where?"
"No. But the commanding officer of the team was an Agent Bishop."
Falco stood from his desk, body tight and eyes wide. His nostrils flared as pupils dilated. That name scared him. Falco knew this man and Mona Lisa's whole being burned with curiosity. This Agent Bishop haunted her dreams. She was dying to know who he was and why his memory would not leave her alone.
It only took a moment before the scientist regained his composure."This is not a favorable development, but I would be a fool to think our paths would never cross eventually. At least now I know enough to remain one step ahead of him. So this is good."
Mona Lisa's shoulders relaxed slightly.
"I do have more questions for you," Falco then said and she stiffened again. "Did you happen to see anything else... unusual while you were out there?"
She had, something that would be very interesting indeed. Lying to The Master was impossible. She would have to tell him.
"Yes. That night when it all happened, I saw other mutated turtles."
Falco seemed more satisfied than surprised with that answer. "And how many exactly did you see?"
Impossible to lie. "Four."
That did make Falco raise an eyebrow.
"Four? You're certain?"
"That is how many I saw."
"And these four turtles, they were with Agent Bishop's men?"
"I did not see much. I passed out from my injuries before I saw them leave." It was truthful enough. She could manipulate words without outright lying. Subject Five had taught her that.
Falco stared her in the eyes. "So these four turtles, you don't know anything else about them? You did not talk to them? Find out where they live?"
Lying to The Master should have been impossible. It was programmed into her very DNA the inability to refuse anything he asked for. But Mona Lisa saw the brothers' faces, banded in their colors and her mouth moved.
"No," she said to her own horror. "I was not able to find out anything more about them. When I awoke, Subject Five was gone. The agents were gone and so were the turtles. I was in the first stages of my mutation, my leg was broken and I was bleeding. All I could do was drag myself somewhere safe and try to remain alive until I had healed enough to get back here."
Mona Lisa's heart dropped into her stomach, terrified. Not only had she merely omitted facts, but there she stood, an entire false story pouring from her mouth and it was so easy. Shouldn't it have been impossible to lie to him? She had been told that all her life: no one lied to The Master, no one ever disobeyed. But then again, she had never tried to lie to him before.
Falco placed a hand on her shoulder, ignorant of her personal emotional crisis.
"You did what you could, my child. Clearly, you showed great resourcefulness in your predicament. Let's go to the exam room so I can see if everything is healing properly."
"And Subject Five?" Mona Lisa asked in a trembling voice. "Should I go out to retrieve him again?"
"No, Mona Lisa, you have done your best. Perhaps this whole incident is a blessing in disguise. I will retrieve Subject Five myself. You will rest and recover until I have need of you again."
She said nothing else as he led her away, but inside, she knew something inside her had changed and she would never be the same again.
"Whaaaaat?!" Irma squawked, causing both Raphael and Leonardo to wince on either side of her. She slapped her palms on the breakfast table, causing her spoon to rattle in its empty bowl. "She ran off? Just like that? How could she do that to us?"
"Cripes, Irma, turn the volume down a few notches," Raphael grouched. "It's too early for this noise level."
It wasn't really that early, but no one slept all that well after Mona Lisa had fled out of their lives. Now she was gone, as if she had never been and it was a very odd feeling for each of the family members. There was no sense of loss with her departure, as she had never bonded with any one of them to begin with. There was only the mystery of her existence left behind and it haunted each one of them.
"But why did you let her leave? You should have made her stay?" Irma insisted. "I hardly got to know her. I thought we were becoming friends."
"That's not a reason to make someone a prisoner in our home," Leonardo said gently. "She knows where to find us if she ever wants to come back."
"That's what worries me," Raphael said. "What if she does come back and she brings trouble with her? What if she tells people where we live?"
"I think our secret's safe with her," Michelangelo chimed in lightly. He was always a bit of a morning turtle, no matter how little sleep he got the night before. After putting a spoonful of cereal in his mouth, he continued. "I've got a good feeling about her. We just need to wait. She'll be back."
Leonardo looked annoyed at his brother talking with his mouth full, but didn't say anything.
Raphael was about to grumble something negative when Donatello entered the kitchen. Unlike the others, the purple-clad turtle didn't even try to go back to sleep after their guest ran off. Instead, he retired to his lab to fiddle with his chemicals. He now sported that wide, dark-eyed look from too much caffeine and too little sleep.
"So I have a bit of news about our mystery guest," he announced. "I finally figured out what she kept in those syringes."
No one said anything. Donatello waited for the baited question.
"And?" Leonardo said tiredly.
At first, Donatello was going to let lose an array of complicated terms, defining in depth as to what he had discovered in the strange concoction. But then he noticed how tired and cranky his brothers were and decided to go the simple route.
"To put it plainly, the syringes Mona Lisa carried were full of mutagen."
"Big woop," Raphael said as he watched the soggy cereal slide off his spoon and back into the bowl. "She's a big, mutated lizard girl. Tell us something we don't already know."
"She's not human," Donatello said, to the raised brows of his brothers. "At least, her original form isn't human. It was the mutagen in those syringes that were keeping her appearing as human. And when she ran out, she mutated back to her true form."
"Woah, hold on," Michelangelo cut in with wide eyes. "Are you saying if we took that stuff, we'd turn human, too?"
"A stupid looking human with a big shell stuck to his body," Raphael retorted.
"What?" Donatello protested, not expecting his conversation to become derailed that way. "No, no, no. That mutagen was made specifically for her unique DNA. Which means she was designed purposefully with the ability to mutate to a human form."
Raphael pushed his bowl away. "That means I'm out. I was on board because I thought there was some sicko out there kidnapping people for experiments. If nobody's getting' hurt then I don't see why we should bother."
"Nobody's getting hurt?" Donatello countered. "What we have here is a fellow mutant, someone just like us. Only, it's possible she's lived her entire life in a lab, Raph. Being poked and prodded, living life under a microscope or in a cage. That could have very easily been our fates instead. Why does she not deserve better merely because she isn't human?"
"Well, do you see her in here asking for our help?" Raphael countered, voice rising. "No, Donnie, because SHE left US the second she could. She put herself in the wind and I don't have to feel responsible for what happens to her anymore, so don't guilt trip me about it!"
"Well, I think this is super cool," Irma cut in. "A healthy mutant in a constantly unstable state is super interesting. Show me what you found, Donnie!"
Eager to have at least one person excited with the science of it all, Donatello eagerly led the way back to his lab.
The others quietly watched them go.
"Um... but we are going to help her if she comes back, right?" Michelangelo asked.
Leonardo nodded. "Sure, Mikey. If she ever comes back."
Raphael rested his face in his palms, a headache coming on from lack of sleep and all the weirdness of the morning. "It is too early for this crap."
Falco looked up to see Mona Lisa standing in his doorway. She was now cleaned up, no longer needing her bandages. Only faint scars now held testament of her wounds. She was dressed in a gray jacket, similar to what she was wearing when she had been sent on her mission.
"There, Mona Lisa, don't you look so much better than you did in that ridiculous outfit you were wearing?"
She nodded, though silently wondered whatever would become of the clothes she had been given.
"I had to take what clothing and food I was able to find while in hiding," she spoke. Still lying. How was she able to do this?
The files on his desk then caught her attention. Each was marked with a name, a corresponding picture clipped to the outside. On the top of the stack was Irma's picture and Mona Lisa instantly recognized the photograph.
"May I ask what those are?"
He dismissed her with a wave. "Possible employees for future projects. Nothing of your concern. Did you have something you wanted?"
"Yes. I respectfully request an upgrade, Sir. I believe it's time."
Falco leaned back in his chair, appraising her appearance. "Upgrade? You seem to be functioning fine as it is. What makes you think you need one?"
"When I was out there among people, I could tell I was different. I look like them, but I do not act like them. The way they think, the way they speak, it's so natural. When they get close to me, they can tell there's something wrong. People get uncomfortable around me."
"So what? I don't see that as a large problem."
Mona Lisa shifted. "If people are uncomfortable in my presence they get suspicious. You created me to blend in and I'm not blending. I only wish to be the best I can be for you, Sir. So I can fulfill your missions." She lowered her head. "But if you wish me to stay as I am, I will accept that."
Falco's jaw tightened. The upgrade she was asking for was the same upgrade level he had bestowed on Subject Five. Granted, his fifth creation started at a lower level intelligence to begin with. But with intelligence, it seemed, came insubordination.
Still, as Falco looked at Mona Lisa's sincere brown eyes, he had to admit she was nothing like Five. Number Six was a vast improvement over Five and Mona Lisa, being Number Seven, was better still. Unlike Six's begrudging acceptance of his master, Mona Lisa always worked hard to please Falco in everything she did.
"I'll tell you what, my dear, I do have more pressing concerns right now, but I will consider it for the future. How's that?"
She gave a tight smile and nodded. "Thank you. If I can be of assistance in any way, please let me know."
He nodded in return and she turned smartly, leaving the room, her thick green tail following behind her.
After she had left, a silent shadow dropped from the ceiling, landing behind Falco's chair. The form was short and slim, but still had a bulk to it due to the turtle shell.
"And what do you want?" Falco asked without turning around.
The slim turtle circled him, standing before his desk. Her sharp, black eyes were framed by natural red markings of the turtle species where she drew her DNA. Her hands were clenched into fists.
"She's lying to you," the turtle said.
"Nonsense. Why would you even think that?"
"Her story does not seem right. I do not trust her."
Falco stood up and walked around his desk to stand before her toe to toe. "Are you saying she is capable of lying to me?"
"She must be," the turtle insisted. "She is not telling you the truth."
"Then that would mean I made a mistake when creating her," Falco said, venom in his tone rising. "Do I make mistakes, Number Six? I made you."
She heard the danger in her master's voice. She had overstepped, she could be punished for what she had said.
"N-no, Master," the female turtle replied, glancing down under the heat of his anger.
"Good," Falco said, moving past her. "I don't want to hear about it again."
Number Six said nothing, but her jaw was set tight, hands still clenched into fists.
It took days of backtracking from the technical department to find any leads. Any station, any IP address that ever accessed Bishop's records was investigated. Any website ever used, any e-mail that was ever sent or received was looked into. Whomever had access to his files, they had to have left a trace somewhere. One did not build a massive man-eating monster without leaving a few breadcrumbs between the concept and final product.
As requested, Dr. Chaplin returned to Bishop's office with a stack of files, each containing a report on certain individuals that raised red flags in the eyes of the research team. Bishop flipped through each one with a schooled expression. He refused to get emotionally charged at this stage, it would only cause him to jump to hasty conclusions. He needed to stay calm and make sure he found the correct perpetrator. Once the correct person was found, then it would be time to unleash hell.
So far, every file he perused seemed a dead end. Half of them were already on Bishop's team and he kept his guys very, very busy. They didn't have the time for alternate endeavors beneath his nose. Others were office suits, high brass in Washington that had the power to pull the plug on his funding, but weren't exactly interested in dabbling in his brand of weird, alien science.
Then, one face, one name, jumped out at him and Bishop lurched to his feet, spilling all the other files off the side of his desk. He didn't have to look any further, he knew exactly who had stolen his research as he looked at the picture paper-clipped to the file. That know-it-all smirk that made his blood boil, the thorn in his side that would never go away.
"Falco," Bishop growled.
Any further curses he planned to utter were cut short as an alarm klaxon sounded. They had intruders on the compound. As red alert lights flashed through the building, Bishop grabbed his radio, walking swiftly from his office.
"This is Bishop, what's going on?"
"A group of armed men are at our front door," responded one of the guards. "They overran the guards stationed at the gate. They have not opened fire, but they are insisting on being allowed to speak with you. Their leader says he knows you, Sir."
"Tell them to stay where they are," Bishop responded. "I'm coming down."
As was reported, there was a small cadre of armed men right outside the doors, guns raised and pointed at Bishop's own men. The two groups sat at a standstill, weapons trained on the other, waiting for orders.
"I'm here," Bishop announced, boldly stepping in front of his own guns. "Who are you and what do you want?"
From the other side, a familiar face stepped out from behind his own men with a grin so obnoxious it caused Bishop to bristle.
"I believe you have something of mine, John," he said calmly.
"Victor Falco," Bishop spat it out as if the name were poison. While he knew the mutation belonged to Falco the second he saw the geneticist's file, Bishop was not expecting the scientist to come traipsing right to his front door. "I do. What of it?"
"It's my property, I want it back," Falco responded pragmatically.
"What makes you think I would be so inclined to hand it over after you break into my compound, kill my guards-"
"Oh, relax, John," Falco said. It really peeved Bishop that the man kept using his first name. "Your men will wake up in a few hours with a headache, nothing more." He lowered his head, grinning through his thick brows. "Believe me, if I had wanted you or anyone else here dead, you would never see it coming."
Bishop visibly growled at the threat. When he noticed Falco's apparent glee at having ruffled his feathers, the agent fought to regain composure. He wasn't about to give in to Falco's prodding. That was exactly what the scientist wanted.
"Again," Bishop said, more calm this time, "that 'property' of yours has killed several people. What makes you think I'm just going to hand it over to you? I should arrest you and all your men right now for creating such crimes against nature."
"MY crimes?" Falco flat out laughed in his face, causing Bishop to clench his jaw to hold back his temper. "Now isn't that the pot calling the kettle black? I have merely been working with animal DNA. Which is, the last time I checked, perfectly legal. You, on the other hand, were up to something quite different. In a certain lab that was mysteriously flooded a few years back?"
Bishop's eyes widened, though he tried to school the rest of his reaction. How did Falco know about his Slayer project? How did he find out Bishop had been using human DNA for his experiments?
After exposing his leverage, Falco changed his tactics. "Now, John, we're both adults here. How about you and me come to some sort of arrangement over this? I'm sure the two of us can come to a compromise if we talk about it?"
"You want to have a talk with me, then leave your goons outside and we'll talk. Privately."
A few of Falco's men looked uneasy with the idea, but this was what he had been fishing for. As long as he knew certain things about Bishop, things that would ruin his career for all time, he would not be harmed. Plus, the agent would be dying to know how much Falco knew and the scientist had been burning to brag to someone for a long, long time.
"Fine," Falco agreed. "All our 'goons' can stay out here and we'll have a civilized conversation like professionals." He straightened his coat as he walked past Bishop and into the compound like he owned the place. "I'll take cream and sugar with my coffee, thanks."
"I didn't offer you any," Bishop growled back.
Falco just smirked. "I'm sure you have some somewhere."
After he had been given his coffee, the two went to Bishop's office to negotiate privately over the matter at hand.
Bishop was the first to begin, never being one to beat around the bush. "You stole my research. I never gave you authorization to access it."
"You forget, I don't need your authorization," Falco said coolly as he made himself comfortable in a chair. He sipped noisily at his steaming plastic cup. "You are employed by the federal government- as am I. Which means everything you find, everything you develop, belongs to the government. As such, since I am also employed by that same government, own it as well. Therefore, I don't need your permission to access your files- I don't even need to make you aware I'm doing it. I just need permission from your boss- which is what I had."
Now it was Bishop's turn to chuckle. "You expect me to believe that the Secretary of Defense knows that the cause of all those brutal murders was your creation? Please, Falco, they'd nail you to the wall. You're just as guilty as I am and you have just as much to lose if any of this gets up to Washington." He leaned against his desk, bending forward to loom over the other man. "So what is it you want from me?"
"I'm here to propose a sort of partnership, if you will," Falco said, hardly intimidated by the threat of exposure. "You return my creation to me and we part our separate ways. You continue to do what you do and I do what I do. However, from now on, we will pool our findings. The research from both ends will be available to benefit each of us. How does that sound?"
Bishop frowned, but Falco could tell he was seriously considering the offer. "The only difference is that my experiment didn't leave a trail of blood all around New York City," he then said.
Falco raised a curious brow. "Oh really? So that whole alien blood mutating the population thing, that wasn't you, John?"
"The difference is my superiors know about that. And, may I remind you, Victor, we did not have any casualties. I cleaned up my mess and all mutated civilians were returned to normal. I made restitution for my mistake. What do you plan to do," he jerked his head toward the large office window on one side, "about him?"
Falco stood, his expression now serious as he walked toward the window. Gazing down, he saw a large, glass-like containment cube holding the massive turtle creature. His creation. His failure. "I need to keep him alive until I figure out what went wrong. Then, I give you my word, I will dispose of it." He turned his gaze back toward Bishop. "Do we have a deal?"
The beast had stood there calmly, dormant, for hours. He enjoyed the heat from the lights above him, as was typical of most reptiles. He did not raise his head until he felt new figures approaching. As he looked up, his yellow eyes fell on a familiar face and he instantly stiffened as The Master came toward him.
"Number Five," Falco addressed him, "you have been a grave disappointment."
"I am not a number anymore," the turtle replied, baring his large, blunt teeth. "They call me Slash here."
Falco furrowed his brow in consternation and looked at Bishop. The agent kept his poker face on and did not respond.
"Your behavior has been inexcusable," the scientist continued. "I am not pleased."
Slash leaned forward, head nearly pressed against the wall of his prison, looming over the smaller human. "I could care less what pleases you, Master."
Falco frowned. "Then perhaps I should teach you to care a little more." To Bishop and the men standing around he said, "I need a knife, if you please."
Both guards and scientists looked around, searching for confirmation from their employer if they should comply with this intruder.
"Surely, someone here carries a blade," Falco insisted impatiently.
Bishop nodded and an eight inch field knife appeared from the men and was placed in Falco's hands. The scientist opened Slash's feeding tray, dropped the weapon in and slid it shut. The mutation watched his every action suspiciously.
"Pick up that knife," Falco ordered.
Slash did so with a frown.
"Now, stab yourself in the arm with it."
The mutation gritted his teeth, this breathing picked up. "No," he growled.
"Do it!" Falco barked. "I gave you an order. Do as I say!"
Slash's expression continued to be one of defiance, but he was having a hard time controlling the hand which held the knife.
"Stab yourself," Falco continued. "This is your punishment and you will accept it. Accept your punishment!"
The more Falco talked, the harder it was to ignore the order. Sweat began to sprout on the mutation's skin as he fought to contradict the order. Bishop watched with fascination. His puppet master, that's what Slash had called his creator. The strings indeed seemed to be wrapped tight around this creation. Bishop was intrigued.
"Do it, now!" Falco yelled again as Slash continued to fight.
Finally, the mutation accepted his fate. The strain escaped his muscles and he gave in. With a dead gaze, Slash looked Falco right in the eye and the knife plunged into the turtle's bicep.
"Do it again," Falco said.
The blade was pulled from flesh and brought back once more. Blood sprayed the transparent wall of his cell.
Slash did not break eye contact as he was forced to mutilate himself. Hate and murder were clear in his gaze. If this puppet's strings were ever cut, he would be the end of Falco, Bishop had no doubt.
"Now, keep that in there," Falco then said after the last stabbing. "We will remove it when you get home. Until then, you will think about what you have done and why it is important not to disobey me again." He turned to give Bishop a superior look. "I trust you'll have him delivered to me soon."
Bishop did not reveal what he thought of the display. He remained stone-faced and merely nodded.
Hours later, Bishop had indeed delivered, as per their current partnership. He oversaw the transport of the mutation personally, both to make sure the monster was delivered without incident and also to see Falco's operations for himself.
Falco was more than happy to let him in. He was on an ego trip and Bishop was content to let him show off if it meant access to all his secrets. The compound was impressive: obviously a base of operations that had been in use for several years.
Slash had been kept in his prison for transport and men on both sides were working to unload the massive containment unit off a disguised delivery truck. Bishop watched the mutation as he was unloaded. The creature still had the knife embedded in his flesh. Droplets of blood dripped from his fingers and splattered the floor of his cage. He had not given a single indication he was in pain, nor did he look to any of the men for help. This creature knew he would get no sympathy.
But as his holding unit hit the floor inside the compound, Slash looked up to the catwalk above them. Bishop followed his gaze, spying someone- or some thing- standing there. Another turtle. This one, however, was more the size he was used to when it came to dealing with mutant turtles. It appeared to be strapped in similar gear, as if always ready for a fight. Instead of a cloth colored mask over the eyes, however, this turtle had been given a mask by nature. Natural markings of red accented the eyes and gave the creature a fierce gaze.
"I see you have noticed one of my other creations," Falco said as he approached. "Number Six is a vastly improved product over my fifth experiment. Nearly perfect. She is my Venus de Milo."
"She?" Bishop asked with a raised brow. This partnership was going to prove interesting indeed.