A/N: Ah, once again, life seems to have gotten in the way of writing, and it took me several months to get this out. Sorry for the delays, and I hope this will make up for it! This chapter is the climactic final battle, with plenty of action and drama. There's even a few surprises in store! But don't worry, it's not the end yet! As an added bonus, the next chapter will be told by- Donnie! That's right, next installment will once again be from Donatello's point of view, so stay tuned!


If You Want Blood (You've Got It)

He led me back the way we had come, into the room where his "throne" and the giant portal were. By now, Krang had set up a series of laser-turrets in the outer hub, with another of the huge mechanical spiders waiting to drop down onto the intruders when they entered, and he had even activated the portal itself, and now a squad of those strange alien rock-men stood lining either side of the entrance to the portal room, awaiting orders. Their leader, the one Shredder had called Tragg, stood at attention just beside Krang. The biggest surprise, however, was the stranger with them, a shiny black six-foot creature with large reptilian eyes, a long thick tail fitted with some sort of double-bladed tail-ring, and red markings that vaguely resembled a skull down his front, sporting an arm-blade, a jet-pack harness with controls on the belt, and several weapons of obvious high-tech alien origin.

Shredder glanced at the rock-men, and the pair standing with Krang, and nodded appreciatively. "You've been busy, I see. And who is this?"

"This is only one of the best bounty-hunters and mercenaries in all of Dimension X! He is called The Newtralizer, and with good reason. I contacted him on Thalos 3, and he has agreed to deal with those turtles, in exchange for keeping their weapons as trophies. It seemed such a small price, and his reputation is first-rate! Those turtles won't know what HIT them!" He burbled with that peculiar laughter again, and the strange alien- who looked suspiciously like a giant salamander on two legs- made an odd croaking sound that might have been laughter as well, but it was hard to tell.

"Do not worry, Krang. I have never failed a mission. Consider these turtles of yours as good as dead." The stranger said, in a deep, rough voice. I was surprised to hear him speaking English, but then perhaps he had some sort of translator, which seemed likely given the amount of advanced gear he was using. Apparently it was standard issue for inter-dimensional aliens, since the stone soldiers seemed to have them too.

"I certainly hope so, for YOUR sake," Krang replied menacingly. "Fail ME, and you will suffer the same fate as those bothersome pests!" The mercenary salamander- at least that's what I thought he was- made some kind of angry rumble, and stalked out into the outer hub to wait for his prey. Tragg and the other stone warriors followed him out, leaving me alone with the warlord and his partner.

Fortunately, it didn't take long before the cavalry made it to the bridge level of the giant underground fortress. I watched the huge wall-screen- Krang had switched it from portal mode to monitor their movements- and was somewhat relieved when I saw the lift doors open and all four stepped out into the short corridor to the small security room Mikey and I had entered the hub from on our previous visit. However, my optimism soon fell at the sight of the multitude of four-foot saw-blades that began to slide out of grooves in the walls and floor.

"Aw, man! You gotta' be kiddin' me!" Raph exclaimed indignantly. "Those clowns really oughtta' get a hobby- 'dis shit's just plain SICK." He stared in dismay at the gauntlet of blades whipping in and out of the corridor seemingly randomly. "How're we supposed to get past THAT?!"

Donatello watched the blades intently, his beak moving slightly as he muttered something under his breath. I wondered what was going through his head, for it was clear he had some sort of plan in mind. Leo turned to him, and raised one brow-ridge. "You have any ideas, Donnie?" he asked uncertainly. Donatello ignored him for the moment, moving slowly until he was just inches from the path of the first blade. He tapped his watch just as it buzzed past, then stepped just beyond the groove, ducking almost immediately to avoid the next pair that slid sideways out of either wall. He rolled to miss the third, which whizzed out of a groove from the left side of the ceiling before disappearing into the other side. He stopped just beyond it, as a pair slipped past him in either direction from the floor.

"Don't move, guys- there's a control panel in that monitor station. If I can get to it, I can shut these things down. Just wait for me there!" His brothers traded nervous glances, but knew better than to argue with Donnie when he was in full techno-wiz mode. They had already realized he was timing his every move to pass through unharmed.

"Come on, Leo," Raph said, ready to follow his sibling. "If Donnie can do it, we can, too. I say we move." He took another step, but was pulled back by his bandana tails unexpectedly.

"No, Raph. WE could, but what about Leatherhead? He's too big to get through that. Just wait for Don to shut it down." He watched as Donnie flattened against the left wall to pass the next one, inching further before whirling to the other side to miss one from the left.

"This is NUTS!" Don exclaimed as three more came out of grooves in the floor only inches apart, and he was forced to leap up, flipping over them before ducking down again as two more whizzed by just where his chest would have been. He continued his bizarre gymnastics, timing every flip, roll, and spin to narrowly miss the blades buzzing inches away. "Now I know how a tree in a lumber mill feels," he grumbled, as another blade slid by right in front of his beak. I glanced over at Krang, who was gleefully rubbing his tentacles together in hopes of seeing one of his enemies sliced in half or decapitated by the deadly whirling blades. When he realized that his trap wasn't having the desired effect, he pushed a button on his control panel, apparently having decided to up the ante.

I turned my attention back to the screen, where Donnie spun to his right, then leapt over two blades that whizzed up into his path, before ducking and rolling left to avoid two more. He had nearly made it to the end, when two panels in the far wall opened up to reveal a pair of laser guns that opened fire almost instantly. I heard a curse from Raph at the far end, and Donatello turned distinctly pale as he realized his predicament has suddenly become much worse.

"What the-?!" Don began, before he was nearly hit square between the eyes by a shot from one of the lasers. Only tucking his head into his shell saved him from a quick demise. He ducked and rolled again, using the blades as cover against the lasers. Smart turtle, I thought, grinning. Fortunately, he made it to the other end with only one minor graze across his right thigh, and quickly connected his signal router to open the door panel to get inside the security station. I was elated when the corridor death-trap suddenly went silent and the lasers shorted out and went dead a few seconds later. Good for you, Don, I thought smugly, noting the look of fury on the faces of Shredder and Krang.

"Well, there's ANOTHER of your traps proven useless, Krang," Shredder sneered, sounding disgusted. "Why didn't you use the lasers from the beginning? For that matter, why didn't you use the gas grenades?"

"That would have been TOO easy!" Krang retorted with a croak. "I want them to suffer! If they perish before they reach the bridge hub, my stone warriors and that mercenary I hired would have nothing to do! I can't have THAT, now, can I?" He chortled, that shark-like grin making him look every bit the evil monster he was. The more I saw of this little alien gumball, the more dangerous and cruel he seemed.

"Tragg and those rock-headed soldiers of his had BETTER finish them off, Krang, or I'll personally make diced Utrom out of you!" Shredder said threateningly, holding his gauntlet blades up for his partner to see. I wondered what an Utrom was, but then it dawned on me that I'd never heard the name for Krang's race; perhaps that was what they called themselves.

Ha! I'd like to see you TRY!" Krang challenged, eying him wish a smirk of superiority. "If it wasn't for MY resources, you would not be 'shredding' ANYTHING!" They were vying for dominance again, a sure sign that their alliance was on shaky ground. Good. I started trying to think of a way to get them riled at each other; if they were busy fighting each other, it would make it that much easier to defeat them.

I looked back up at the screen; Donatello had finally managed to open the door to the security station, and was now inside, while his brothers and Leatherhead warily watched the killing field of blades and beams that stood between them and their goal. After a few moments, the blades all retracted at once, and the two mini-turrets slid back behind the panels. Leo and Raph nodded to each other and bolted through the corridor, their oversized mutant companion right behind them.

I tossed a sideways glance at my new "master", and casually smirked at him. "Those boys are going to make mincemeat of you when they get in here," I crooned, "and I'm going to enjoy seeing you get what's coming to you."

"Oh, I DOUBT that," he replied coolly. "One way or another, I'm going to be rid of them today. Even if it means I have to blow this place to kingdom come to do it!" The thought that he was willing to destroy his own base to take them down was disturbing, but not exactly a surprise. He was obsessive in his hatred, after all, and arrogantly believed himself to be untouchable. Definitely a nutcase, if ever there was one.

Krang whirled on him at his statement, and it was clear he had no intention of allowing his partner to go to such extremes. "Saki! You will do nothing of the sort! Don't forget, this is MY battle-fortress, and YOU serve ME! You are right about ONE thing, however- we WILL see those mutant pests destroyed, but we will do it MY way!" I made a mental note of the lack of trust or cooperation between the pair. It shouldn't be hard to find a way to turn them against each other….

By that time, the turtles- or more specifically, Donnie- had breached the central hub. The large round shutter-door opened, and they were almost immediately shot at by Krang's rock-men. Leo deflected one shot with a katana blade, which hit the ledge above one of the other shutter doors. Donatello tossed a pair of smoke bombs into the room between them and the rock-men, and the four split into pairs to flank the enemy. Leo and Raph took the left, while Donnie and Leatherhead moved right, using the smoke as cover.

Unfortunately, they hadn't counted on the second "Knucklehead" that dropped down from the ceiling, and began targeting them with its scanners. Though they were cold-blooded, they still gave off enough heat for it to see them, while the stone soldiers gave off none at all. As soon as it landed, the mechanical spider leapt forward, tackling Leatherhead and pinning him down while it fired two lasers at his companions. It began to pound on him with the fist-shaped ends of its legs, while it held him down with the first pair. As the toughest of the party, he had suffered the least so far, but now he was taking a beating.

The three turtles scattered, Raph shouting a curse as he jumped up onto the ledge; Leo deflected laser blasts as well as he could with his katanas, while Donnie rushed toward the spider from its rear, vaulting up on top of it using his bo as a pole. He quickly dropped to a crouch and began prying at the metal hull, hoping to disable it from the inside. Preoccupied with pummeling Leatherhead with its eight legs, the robotic arachnid was unable to deal with the mutant on its back.

Meanwhile, a new threat had appeared from behind one of the junctions of the power conduit on the ledge, directly opposite the side Raphael was using as cover from the stone warriors' blaster-fire. He cried out in pain as he was hit in the shoulder from a completely new direction, looking across to see what looked like a six-foot salamander aiming at him with a blaster rifle. Raph dove aside, wincing from his injuries, only to hear the stranger make some kind of peculiar noise. He glared at the black-skinned creature, apparently realizing that it was laughing at him; he pulled out his grapple and whipped it around to toss out at the giant spherical device in the center of the ceiling, the hooks catching on the base easily. Raph let out a fierce battle-cry, and swung across with his feet aimed squarely at the new enemy.

Leo was having problems of his own, dodging fire from the stone soldiers, who could see again now that the smoke had dissipated. He deflected them when he could, but they were keeping him too busy avoiding being hit to fight back. He kept their attention away from the others, taunting them mercilessly, but it was costing him. Even from the view screen, I could see he was being slowly worn down, straining to stay one jump ahead of searing death.

By that time, Donatello had managed to pry up one of the metal plates on the giant robot's back, and was busily reprogramming it manually from a small access panel inside. He managed to gain control over the machine after several seconds, using his skills to override its commands. At last, it ceased pummeling their companion, who was quite badly bruised and battered, missing scales from his hide in several places. Donatello breathed a sigh of relief, and then quickly gave it a new set of commands- to turn against the stone warriors and destroy them.

"Curse those damned mutants!" Shredder fumed when he saw the giant spider-bot begin firing at their own troops, leaping forward to tackle Tragg and pummel him into rubble while it blasted the others. Leo moved in close while they were distracted by the new threat, and kicked them into the path of the lasers or sliced the blasters in their hands into useless pieces of junk.

"They just keep taking away your toys!" I taunted, giving the pair a smug grin. "You've thrown everything at them but the kitchen sink- I guess those soldiers of yours have rocks in their HEADS, too!" I said, as I watched the last of them fall. Raph had knocked the black-skinned creature against the wall with his Tarzan act; the alien had dropped his blaster, and now the two were engaged in an all-out brawl. The alien salamander was bigger, but my money was on Raph. He was angry, which didn't bode well for his opponent.

"Newtralizer" swiped at him with his tail-blades, and slashed at him with some sort of arm-blade that made a strange humming sound. Raph countered by parrying the weapons on his tail with a sai and twisting it; there was an audible snap, and then the alien's tail went limp and he roared in pain. Raph blocked the arm-blade with his other sai, kicking out at the creature's knee simultaneously. The alien fell, but got back up almost immediately, in spite of noticeable difficulty from having his kneecap busted. Newtralizer pulled out a strange-looking weapon with a long shaft and a glowing crescent-shaped blade that went from the tip to a point mid-way down the shaft, and chopped down at Raph's arm with an angry snarl.

Raphael jumped back, wincing from the pain in his own leg, and then countered with a jab of his sais at his opponent's shoulders. The salamander pressed a button on his belt and his jet-pack fired up, lifting him out of Raph's reach. He drew a second laser weapon from a holster at his side, and began shooting at the turtle once again.

Raph ducked behind one of the conduits, growling. "Okay, time for a lesson on proper flight landings, chum!" he growled, and then threw a sai at the jet-pack, snapping part of the harness strap. The alien mercenary went spinning out of control as his suddenly unbalanced weight threw off his trajectory, and slammed into the giant sphere on the ceiling. He fell on top of the remains of one of the rock soldiers at an angle that almost ensured a nasty spinal injury.

"How's THAT for a flyin' lesson, CREEP?!" Raph shouted down at the groaning creature, whose jet-pack was now thoroughly busted. His broken back, tail, and kneecap had effectively taken him out of the fight. Raph vaulted back down to the floor, grunting as his injured leg was jarred by the impact, and strode back over to the others. Leatherhead was busily tearing the Knucklehead apart now that they no longer needed it to combat the fallen stone warriors. I giggled at his excessive display of destruction, but given that it had battered him rather badly, I could hardly blame the big mutant for wanting to take out his anger on it. Donatello looked on with an amused expression, shaking his head at the wanton abuse of technology by their irate companion.

"Uh, LH? I think it's dead now," He ventured after the gator-man had torn off five of its legs and used two of them to bash it into junkyard fodder.

"Hmm, that was most satisfying," mused the huge mutant after a few moments. "I believe I am developing a distinct hatred for these things."

"Obviously," Don agreed, grinning.

"Okay, guys, let's finish this." Leo said once they had regrouped.

"Yeah, pretty sure we already took out just about everythin' they can throw at us," Raph agreed, picking up the sai he had thrown. "Only roaches left in this motel are the head honchos. So let's go squash 'em!" The others rumbled assent, and the group headed our way once more.

I smirked at the would-be world-conquerors, as they cursed once again at the utter failure of their last-ditch attempt to stop the mutant wrecking crew that had invaded their base. "Well, that was entertaining," I said casually. Loved that mercenary getting his butt handed to him! So that was the best Dimension X had to offer? Pretty pathetic, if you ask me!" I taunted the pair, thoroughly enjoying their frustration.

"Your friends haven't won, YET, girl- I still have a few more tricks up my sleeve!" Shredder snarled, whirling to swing out with a back-handed slap. He glared at me coldly, and I remembered his earlier warning. "You might not want to celebrate just yet, because YOU are next. I brought you in here to stand as my bodyguard, little kunoichi. And you will OBEY me, if you ever want to see your friend alive again. You will fight, or I will order Rocksteady and Bebop to execute that mutant you are so fond of."

"You sick bastard!" I exclaimed angrily, my earlier suspicion confirmed. His satisfied smile behind the face-plate of his helmet told me he had planned this all along. Creep. "Only YOU would sink that low." He merely chuckled evilly.

"You have no choice; either you will fight for ME, or your dearly beloved will become the dearly departed!" Even Krang laughed at that, apparently liking the sound of his scheme.

"Ooh, Shredder, you ARE a man after my own heart! Turning the girl against her own friends?! Truly a tactic worthy of ME!" Krang made that odd burbling sound again, grinning like a shark.

The rescue party entered at that moment, Leo taking point, as always. They were battered and bloodied, but still in fighting shape- and they were royally pissed. Even Leatherhead looked ready to tear someone apart, most likely Shredder and his partner. I sincerely hoped he would.
"Ah, WELCOME, turtles! So good of you to join us at last. Did you enjoy our little welcoming committee?" Trust Shredder to play the gracious host to the same individuals he had just tried so hard to kill. It was a bit disturbing to see him cover his seething hatred and viciousness with a veneer of civility. Like watching a wolf inviting a lamb to its den.

"It's over, Shredder," Leo said sternly. "You're out of tricks and we're not playing your games anymore. Give us back Orlene and our brother and we MIGHT let you live." I saw the look in his eyes, and knew that, for probably the first time in his life, Leonardo was lying. He had no intention of letting their nemesis walk away this time. He was out for blood, and he would have it.

"Over? No, it is FAR from over. I issue a challenge- ninja to ninja. An honorable duel, one on one. To the death. Do you accept?" Behind him, I shook my head emphatically at Leo, to let him know it was a trick.

Leonardo saw my gesture and scoffed at the offer. "Why should I? I can't trust you to fight honorably. A duel with you would be meaningless, because you always cheat."

Shredder merely laughed. "Ah, but you misunderstand- I never said you would fight ME. No, you will battle against an opponent of my choosing, and I choose HER." He moved aside, shoving me toward Leonardo roughly, amid shocked protests from the three turtles.

"WHAT?!" Donatello shouted angrily. "Is this some sort of sick joke? This is a new low even for YOU!"

"What kinda' game are ya' playin' here, Tin-grin?" Raph asked darkly, cracking his knuckles in a clearly threatening manner.

"THIS is your idea of honorable?" Leo asked, aghast. "Forcing us to fight each other?" As loathe as I was to admit it, I understood our enemy's logic. No matter what decision Leonardo made, someone in our clan would die. Which meant that Shredder would win. He was holding all the cards, and all we could do was play out our hands and hope that somehow, we'd luck out with a royal flush.

"Oh, it is no joke or game, I assure you," Shredder said in a deadly calm tone. "You will fight my new servant and bodyguard; if you win, I will have your brother brought here to you. If she wins, your life is forfeit, but the others may go free. If you refuse, both of them die. Now, choose, or I will order my mutants to execute your idiot brother. Which will it be? Your former kunoichi, or your brother?"

I wanted to turn on him then, but that gauntlet was too close to my back; I knew that the moment I tried to attack, he would slice through my spine like an apple. I glanced at Krang, who was watching the entire exchange in icy silence, perhaps weighing the odds. He wasn't about to interfere- that much I understood. More likely, he agreed with his partner's tactic, and wanted to watch it play out before making his own move. I decided he really WAS the smarter of the pair.

"Well, what is your answer?" Shredder asked impatiently. "Speak now, or you will lose them BOTH!"

Leo stepped forward almost frantically. "Alright! I- I accept your terms." He looked pissed, and I didn't blame him. I was pretty steamed about the whole situation myself, but what could I do?

"Leo, no! You can't be serious!" Raph shouted, "You really gonna' let that wacko push ya' inta' this?! I say we just take him out now and be done wit' it!"

"Because he has Mikey, and we can't afford to take the chance they will just kill him if we attack. Haven't you noticed who's missing?" He shot Raph a meaningful glance, and the red-banded turtle looked puzzled for a moment, until he realized what the leader meant. Raph cursed angrily, and I wondered if Splinter knew he talked like that.

"A wise choice, turtle," Shredder said, looking smug. "Now, FIGHT!"

"Not so fast, Shredder." Leo stepped forward, holding one hand up. "How do I know there won't be any tricks or interference? I don't trust you not to break the rules, even when you're the one who makes them!"

"Very well, Krang will act as arbitrator to ensure that there will be no treachery. Is this acceptable?"

Leo looked uncertain, eyeing Krang suspiciously. At last he breathed a frustrated sigh and nodded. "Alright, fair enough. But first I want some assurance that Mikey is alright."

Krang made that burbling chuckle again, then moved over to one of the small monitors and pushed a button on the control panel. "Hmm, our other guest is on his way here with those bumbling morons. I must say, Saki, I like the new make-over! Very impressive!" I leaned over to peek at the monitor, but that giant android body was in the way. I couldn't see past it to what Krang was looking at. He switched it off, and turned his attention back to the situation at hand.

"I didn't see anything, how do I know that was even him?" Leonardo protested, glaring at the slimy alien gumball. Raph and Donnie both started to protest, but Leo cut them off with a single gesture, shaking his head to signify for them to stand down. They did so reluctantly, with Raph shooting him an angry look, which he pointedly ignored.

"Very well, you shall have your proof. Krang- have him speak to them."

His partner pressed another button on the panel, and spoke to the trio of mutants making their way to the command level. "Bebop, Rocksteady, how is our green friend? I trust everything is well?"

"We're on our way up now- geez, don't get your gears in a twist," came a familiar voice. I breathed a sigh of relief at hearing Mikey sounding unharmed. Something in his voice sounded off, but I couldn't quite place it. Still, at least he was safe for the moment.

"You see? Your fellow mutant is unharmed. Now, I believe there was the matter of a duel?" Krang said, turning to Leo with that by-now familiar shark-like smile.

Leonardo scowled, but nodded. "Very well. I'm a mutant of my word. Let's get this over with."

Shredder pushed me toward him, and I grudgingly drew both fans and flicked them open, stepping into a fighting stance. "For what it's worth, Leo, I don't want to do this any more than you do." I made a hesitant swipe at him, but he simply moved back, barely even needing to evade the slow and obvious attack. He swept out with one blade to counter, but it was as halfhearted as my own attack.

"Then why ARE you doing this? How can you betray your own clan after what he's done?" Leonardo asked, the hurt and anger evident in his tone. I used a simple katta that consisted of a series of alternating high and low strikes that he parried effortlessly. I began to feel as if we were merely engaged in a training exercise in the dojo rather than a life-and-death battle. But I could see that his injuries were tiring him, and I was almost afraid of killing him by accident just because he was winded and weakened.

"Leo, I'm sorry. I don't have a choice! I offered my service in exchange for your brother's life. It was the only way to save him!" I made an upward swipe at him with both fans, which he turned aside easily. I tried again, slashing high and low simultaneously. He blocked them both, and then countered with a move that caught one fan between both katanas and twisted to yank it from my grip. It went skittering to the floor several feet away.

"So to save Mikey, you'd try to kill us? Can't you see what he's doing?!" Leo asked, agitated at being forced to fight one of his own.

I shook my head at his suggestion. Kill him? Yeah, as IF. Then again, he was looking a bit pale…. "Leo, we both know that isn't going to happen. I can't beat you, but I have to try; Michelangelo's life depends on it. That maniac gave me an order, and he won't be satisfied until one of us is dead. If that's the way it has to be, so be it. Michelangelo's life is all that matters right now. Just promise me you'll make that bastard pay for what he's done." I spun left and ducked under the cut he aimed at my neck. He paused at my words, uncertainty creeping in.

"You- you want me to kill you?" Leonardo asked apprehensively. "Why?" He backed off for a moment, clearly confused. He had been playing it mostly defensively so far, probably afraid to actually hurt me, in spite of the stakes involved.

"It's the only way. I'm not good enough to kill you- we both know that. But I'm not going to make it easy for you, either. Now FIGHT me, DAMN it!" I slashed out again, almost catching him off-guard. I made a dive for the other fan, then crouched low and spun my leg out to sweep his feet. He countered with a snap kick at my head, and knocked me backward against the command chair in the middle of the room. Both swords sliced down, and it was all I could do to parry them. He pressed the attack, forcing my weapons down until his blades were inches from my neck.

"Don't make me do this," he said softly, as he twisted away from the kick I aimed at his chest.

"Leo, the only way that madman will be satisfied is if he sees one of us die," I replied, huffing with the effort of holding him off. Then it hit me; that was the answer! He wanted to see us kill each other! An idea struck, and it was so simple, and yet so deviously fitting of a kunoichi. Splinter had explained that my role was to be one of deception and subterfuge. How better to defeat an enemy than to give him what he wanted? I glanced over to see Shredder watching our battle with keen anticipation. I looked back at Leonardo, and winked at him, just before I wrapped both legs around his, pinning them together in a vise-hold. He relinquished his advantage, his blades pulling away from my throat in his surprise.

"What the?!" He exclaimed in disbelief, staggering backward in a vain attempt to pull away. I took advantage of his distraction and savagely thrust both fans up at his face. His eyes bulged as he frantically parried, but he was off-balance, unable to move his legs, and tumbled backward onto the hard floor. The bottom of his shell hit with a loud metallic thud, and he let out a surprised yelp.

I leaned in close, grinning wickedly as I whispered close to his ear. "You're going to kill me, Leo- because that's what he wants. He wants to break you. To force you to kill one of your own clan. So that's exactly what we're going to give him. I trust you, but you have to make this look good. Do you understand?"

He stared at me in confusion for a moment, until I raised one brow and smirked at him. Then a light went on in his eyes, and I knew he had caught on. He blinked slowly, indicating that he understood.

"I can't kill you," he said, loud enough for Shredder to hear. "I won't take the life of a clan-mate."

"If you won't, then I WILL!" I shouted, slashing savagely. He blocked, and finally managed to wriggle out of the leg-lock I had him in. I flipped backward, as his foot swept out at my head. His kick brushed by my ear, so close it knocked the long hairpins out of my hair, letting it fall free. He used the momentum to spin back up to a defensive stance, waiting for my next attack. I feinted low; he blocked and counter-thrust, but was parried by the fan spines. He made a series of fast slashes, and I was forced back, unable to retaliate. He was forcing me to fight defensively, pressing every attack to push me to the limit. He knew I would tire before he did, in spite of his injuries. He was simply stronger and more experienced.

At last I tried to push back, holding him off for a moment and shoving against his blades. He skipped backward a few steps, then began a series of quick cuts. I spun aside, ducking and dodging, until I saw Leo's eyes narrow in an intent stare and he nodded slightly.

"You're getting better- this is the longest you've ever lasted against me. But not good enough. Let's end this game." I almost missed his signal, until I realized he had meant it as my cue to set up the ruse. I bowed slightly and made an aggressive assault, war fans swishing through the air with all the ferocity I could muster. He blocked every one, and then retaliated with an attack sequence of his own. I recognized it instantly as one he had taught me a couple of weeks earlier; he had used it intentionally, as his way of telling me he was about to make his move.

I remembered when he had taught me the katta, and I had lost the sparring match when he had feinted high and gone across the middle instead. I'd been having problems defending that particular part of the katta, missing the parry every time- and he knew it. In practice, he had always used the bokken, to avoid accidentally cutting me. Not this time. This time, when I attempted to block high, he stepped in and swiped his blade across so fast I barely had time to move back, and never even felt it's passing.

He stepped back away, lowering his sword a few inches. "It's over," he said, shaking his head. You've lost."

"Sorry, Leo, but you missed. Come on, you can do better than that!" I chided, bringing one fan down in an arc aimed at his throat, the other ready to block. He easily parried the attack, but sighed sadly as he did.

"You sure about that?" He held up his other blade, which had a thin line of red on it. I glanced down, and suddenly saw what he meant. My shirt was sliced open right across the middle, the edges already turning red, and I felt a sting that hadn't been there a moment ago. It was a clean cut- so clean I hadn't even noticed it at first.

I was stunned. I held my hand against the long slash in my shirt-front, while the light blue blouse slowly turned an ominous dark red around the torn fabric. I dropped one fan, stumbling back in surprise. Had he actually….? I didn't FEEL much pain- just a sting like a deep paper-cut- but it went completely across, and was clearly deep enough to draw blood. But was it fatal? I looked up at Leo, and he shook his head slowly, before lowering his katanas. I almost grinned and gave away the trick, but turned it into a pained grimace instead.

"Leo, how COULD you?" I pleaded, trying hard to sound betrayed. "Is this your idea of honor?" He stiffened for a moment, before remembering we were supposed to be playing out a ruse, and sighed again.

"I'm sorry. But like you said- there was no choice. Besides, when it comes down to it, I would choose my brothers over anyone else, every time. Splinter might have adopted you into the clan, but that doesn't make you family- not like we are." Ouch. That stung, even though I knew he didn't mean it. I fell to my knees, as if he had just struck an even crueler blow than the physical one that even now covered my blouse in a spreading stain. I looked up at him, and decided to end the charade quickly before our "host" grew suspicious.

"I understand, Leo- believe me. I don't blame you. Just promise that you'll get Mikey out of here in one piece. He's more important than I am. And tell him I did all this because I love him. Tell him he's the best thing that ever happened to me, and that I'm thankful for the time we had together." I started to sink lower, and paused several times as if struggling to get the words out. Leo's face turned from icy calm to something like pained remorse, and he dropped his swords and rushed over to my side. He knelt down on his knees, holding me as I coughed and pretended to wince in pain, holding my hand against my red-stained shirt to disguise the severity of the wound.

"Orlene, I really am sorry. But you were right, this was the only way this could end. And we both knew it. I'm not sure I can forgive myself for slaying someone in my own clan, but I WILL make Shredder pay for this. I promise." I nodded, and smiled up at him, knowing that he would indeed- especially now that the man had made him into a "killer", even if it was all an act. He was going to see things through to the end, no matter how bitter that might be- for Mikey's sake, and because Splinter had declared all-out war, and for all that this monster had put Leonardo and his family through.

I went limp in Leo's arms, closing my eyes, and letting out a soft sigh before going as still as possible. He slid me onto the floor, kneeling silently for several long seconds before he picked up his blades and rose to his feet. I stayed as still as possible, lying half on my side, the wound partially hidden against the cold metal floor, with one hand draped over the cut, and the other still loosely gripping my remaining fan as if defiant to the end. At last, I heard the sound of applause and a cold laugh behind him.

"A pity she proved unequal to the mission I gave her- but it was well worth it to see you so utterly dishonored! Perhaps we are more alike than you think." He chuckled wickedly, and I chanced a look through barely open eyes to see him standing by the portal gloating.
"Cut the crap, Shredder- we're NOTHING alike. I'm not a cold-blooded killer like you; I only did it because you didn't leave me any choice. And you're going to pay for this, even if I go down with you." Leonardo would, too. I knew from the sound of his voice that he wouldn't stop until he had put an end to our enemy for good. I just hoped it wouldn't come to sacrificing himself to do it.

Shredder just waved off his threat as though it meant nothing. "I wish to congratulate on your victory- most impressive! Sadly, I assure you that it will be very short-lived. I was a bit surprised that you brought a friend. That was most wise of you. However, I fear it will do you no good. You see, I have a new friend, as well. Would you like to meet him? I'm sure it will be an encounter that you won't soon forget!" Again came that cold laugh of his, and if I hadn't already known the man was a sadistic lunatic, it would have been obvious now. He held up a strange-looking communicator, and spoke into it. "Rocksteady, Bebop- bring in our new recruit, won't you?" I cracked open one eye, covered by hair that had fallen over my face, to see what he was so smugly going on about. It didn't sound good, whatever it was.

A moment later, one of the round doors opened, the panels of it separating like the jaws of a monster parting, and into the large empty room stepped three figures. The first was Michelangelo, striding confidently in as if he owned the place. He was flanked by Rocksteady and Bebop, who kept a noticeable distance between them and the turtle. He wasn't restrained in any way, but what was most surprising was how he was outfitted. He was clad in a black headband and sash, with a wide black belt and bladed armor much like that of their hated enemy. A pair of sharp kamas were tucked into his belt, and a leather bandoleer holding a half-dozen kunai ran across his chest from his left shoulder to the opposite side of his belt. The turtles stared in shock, taking in his appearance, and the fact that he almost seemed to be LEADING the other two, rather than being coerced or prodded by them. I made a soft gasp, before catching myself and remembering to play possum. Fortunately, all attention was on Mikey and the thugs at the moment.

"I'd like you to meet my new Chunin- I call him Ripper. He's obedient, loyal, and far more competent than those two bungling fools. Ah, this is turning out to be a most enjoyable day! I should have done this LONG ago!" Shredder laughed once again, as the turtle took up a position at his right side, as if he'd always done so. I couldn't help noticing the two mutant thugs give each other an uncertain look, perhaps wondering if they'd just been replaced. They took up positions behind the turtles and Leatherhead, hemming them in while remaining a respectful distance back.

"What kind of game are you playing now, Shredder?" Leonardo asked darkly, glancing from our enemy to his brother and back. "Hand over our brother, and maybe we'll let you live." I recognized that tone, and knew what it meant. He wasn't messing around. One way or another, he was going to end things once and for all. I wanted to rush over to Mikey, but knew it wasn't time to reveal the deception yet. I had to wait for the right moment to make my move, then strike without warning, as a true kunoichi would.

"And give up my most gifted student? Perish the thought! Perhaps you'd like a demonstration of his skills. Ripper- would you like to show them how you got your name?" I decided he REALLY liked hearing himself talk. Sheesh, what a narcissist!

"Yes, Master. Does this mean I can kill them now?" Mikey gave his new "master" a questioning look. I felt a chill at his words, so utterly devoid of feeling for his brothers. Shredder nodded, and waved a hand toward the other three turtles.

"Of COURSE! That IS what you were trained for. They are all yours, my student. Make me proud." Shredder responded; the expression of pleasure on Mikey's face at those words was unnerving. Leo and his brothers traded worried glances, and Donnie shifted uneasily on his feet, shaking his head and muttering softly to himself. Even Leatherhead seemed hesitant, unwilling to harm his friend.

"Thank you, Master. I will bring honor to my Sensei and my clan." He bowed, then grinned wickedly at his brothers. "I'm gonna' enjoy this…." He said, pulling the kamas from his belt.

They stared at the figure before them, uncertain how to react. Michelangelo stared back coldly, as if he barely recognized them. I was reminded of how he had looked during our previous escape from the Technodrome, only this time he seemed much more dangerous. Perhaps it was the way he stood just behind Shredder's right arm, waiting for the order to attack.

"I got 'dis." Raphael said confidently, stepping toward the black-clad figure. "Mikey, cut 'da crap. I'm gonna' pound some sense into ya' head, bro."

Leo held Raph back, shaking his head uncertainly. "I don't know who that is, but that's NOT Mikey. Mikey would never be insane enough to join Shredder. He wouldn't turn against us like this."

Raphael growled softly, his eyes narrowed. "Looks like 'im." He sniffed the air. "Smells like 'im, too."

Donnie stared at the fourth turtle thoughtfully. It was strange to see his brother standing beside their enemy, and even more so to see him dressed as an elite Foot ninja. "It's not Mikey- at least, not the one WE know. They've done something to his mind."

"Don't know who you jerks THINK you're talkin' to, but the NAME is RIPPER. Remember it, 'cause it's gonna be the LAST thing ya' ever hear. Besides your own screams for mercy, that is." Michelangelo said at last, stepping between his brothers and his new "master". He smirked, staring at the three brothers as if they meant nothing, as unconcerned as though they were no more threat than flies buzzing around him.

"Little overconfident, ain't ya'?" Raph asked cynically, pushing aside Leo to close the space between them. "Why don't ya' put your money where your mouth is, l'il bro?" He limped slightly, but was able to ignore his injured leg for the moment.

"I'm NOT your 'bro', chump," Mikey growled darkly in reply. "I don't HAVE any brothers," He went on, his tone cold and emotionless. Raph let out an angry snarl, and launched into a short charge at the youngest, sais out and ready to strike.

"Predictable," spat Michelangelo, sliding easily into a defensive posture. He waited until Raphael had closed the distance and thrust one sai at his shoulder, and merely twisted back out of the way, leaning aside and grabbing at Raph's arm as he did. He planted one foot on the ground, and brought the other up into his brother's plastron in a hard kick, while pulling savagely at the arm in his grip. Using his own weight as leverage, he threw the bigger turtle over his head, sending Raph flying several feet before he hit the metal floor with a heavy thunk. Raph let out a groan, lying stunned for a moment before he got up again, shaking his head in confusion. Then he spun, and looked back at his sibling with an angry glare.

"Ooh, ya' gonna' pay for 'dat, Mikey," he said, cracking his neck as he stalked cautiously back toward the still-smirking Michelangelo.

"Big words, from a mouthy amateur," The younger mutant taunted darkly, his cocky demeanor eliciting a soft growl from the red-banded brother. He hadn't missed the bloody gauze wrapped around Raph's thigh, and made a fast kick that landed square on the wound. Raph hissed and staggered back.

"Lucky shot," Raph countered. "Don't think ya' can do that to me again, runt." His gaze narrowed as he moved closer, and he slipped into an attack stance, assaulting his black-clad sibling in a series of fast strikes aimed at his pressure points. The kamas flashed out just as fast, blocking every move and countering with deadly swipes at Raph's head and torso. Twin kamas slashed at him again and again, leaving him little chance to counter. Raphael was hard-pressed to avoid the vicious blows, his anger building with every screech of metal on metal. He was losing his cool, never a good sign.

"This is almost too easy," Michelangelo said in a bored tone, after Raph had missed him by a mile with a particularly sloppy jab. "So when are ya' gonna' start fightin'? This is BORING!" He feigned a yawn, and tucked down into a low crouch, sweeping a foot out to take Raphael's feet from under him. He sneered as his hotheaded opponent hit the floor with a loud thud, sprawled on his back cursing angrily; then he kicked Raph across the floor, sending him skidding toward his brothers on his shell. "Okay, so who's next?" He challenged, staring at the others with an expression of contempt.

"Cocky l'il shit, ain't he," Raph muttered, as Donatello helped him up. Donnie started to move forward to fight his brother, but Raphael pushed past him to take on the rogue turtle again. Leonardo held him back this time, shaking his head.

"No. Leave this to me, Raph. He may be acting differently, but I KNOW Mikey, and he won't be able to pull that crap on me. He may be good, but I'M better." He said, a calm, dangerous tone in his voice, as he slowly drew his katanas once more.

Michelangelo grinned as he faced his eldest brother, casually flipping one kama in his hand. "That's right- always thinkin' you're all that, that NO ONE can compare to the 'Great Nero'. Or whatever it is you call yourself now. Time to put your money where your mouth is, ass-kisser." He sneered, launching at his brother with a ferocity I'd never seen before. His attack came so fast that Leo almost didn't have time to block. They met in a flurry of strikes from every angle possible, but it was clear that Michelangelo had the advantage. He was fresh and rested, and Leo was injured, tired, and hesitant to hurt his sibling, while Mikey clearly had no such reservations.

"What's the matter, Mr. Big-Shot?! Thought you were BETTER than me!" Mikey taunted, dancing back as Leo finally attempted to take the offensive with a series of fast, slicing arcs with both blades. Michelangelo ducked and wove just beyond the other turtle's reach, moving in and out in quick, almost playful attacks that were aimed more at frustrating and annoying his opponent than actually doing damage. He was trying to keep Leo off-balance, to get him flustered enough to make a fatal mistake.

"You know what your problem is, Mikey?" Leo answered calmly, despite the fact that he was beginning to tire. "You talk too much. That's always been your weakness- you don't focus, and you never take anything seriously. That's why you can't beat me- you don't know when to shut up and FIGHT!" He redoubled his efforts, stepping up the speed and complexity of his attacks in hopes of overpowering him through sheer martial skill. But he had underestimated his brother's own abilities- and it was about to cost him dearly.

Michelangelo snarled at his sibling, his eyes taking on that odd white look I'd seen once or twice before. But there was something different about it this time; this time, it was empty, like there was no emotion or humanity in those eyes at all. They were cold, flat, and unfeeling. The eyes of a ruthless killer.

He backed off for a moment, breaking off his attack, forcing Leo to advance to keep his momentum. And then, like a snake, Michelangelo struck. He dropped into a roll that carried him under Leo's defenses, then kicked out sideways with both feet at his opponent's knees, spinning on his shell as he did, twisting his legs to topple the other turtle onto his shell. He then corkscrewed his feet as he pushed up from the floor, regaining his feet in an instant. He kicked out at Leo's head savagely, while his brother was still stunned from his sudden landing. Leo managed to get an arm up to protect his head, but there was a loud crack as Mikey's foot connected with his elbow, and Leo hissed in pain and dropped the blade from that hand.

Mikey grinned, seizing the advantage. He slammed his foot down onto Leo's chest, before slashing down with both kamas. Leo blocked with his other blade, but only barely. His eyes went wide, realizing he had lost the battle. His youngest brother had a crazed, inhuman expression, apparently enjoying the look of fear and pain on his former leader's face.

"Ooh, that had to hurt. You were saying something about not knowin' when to shut up? Guess you're not as good as you thought, huh, loser?" Mikey pulled away for an instant, dropping one kama, only to pick up Leo's other katana with a wicked grin. He glanced at it appreciatively, and chuckled.

"Gonna' kill you with your own precious sword. Kinda' fitting, don't ya' think?" He asked, stepping down on both of Leo's arms to pin him to the floor as he readied the blade to stab down at his chest. Leonardo hissed in pain as Mikey pressed down on his broken arm. I heard three voices shout out in denial, but Michelangelo wasn't listening. Shredder stood two feet from me, his back turned as he watched Mikey prepare to murder his own brother, eyes riveted to them in rapt anticipation. I realized it was now or never- if ever there was a time to strike, this was it. One chance, that's all I had. It was all I needed.

I clutched my remaining fan and slashed upward at the back of his legs, yelling out as I did. "NOO! Mikey, STOP!" I felt the satisfying resistance of my tessen blades meeting flesh and bone, and heard the cry of surprise and pain from our nemesis. Mikey turned at the sudden distraction, his eyes going wide as he saw Shredder suddenly crumple to his knees.

"Master!" Michelangelo shouted, forgetting his victim for a moment, and rushing over to aid his supposed mentor. Leo sprang back up behind him, slamming down his remaining sword pommel onto Mikey's head, knocking him out instantly. He fell in a heap at Leo's feet, out cold.

Leatherhead took advantage of the distraction to sweep his tail out at Rocksteady and Bebop, taking them off their feet, before bounding over toward Krang. Donatello and Raphael both pounced in an instant, disarming the mutant thugs while they were confused by the sudden turn of events. Leatherhead picked up Krang's android body with a roar, and threw it against the machinery along the side wall, smashing it and causing an electrical short, which made the entire bank of controls explode with a plume of smoke. There was a brief flicker of the lights, and then I heard a high-pitched alarm go off. Apparently, Krang had been slammed against something important.

Saki tried to rise, but his legs were useless. I'd severed the hamstrings of both legs, and now he was down on his hands and knees, turning to glare at the unexpected threat at his feet with hatred and fury burning in his eyes. I looked up at him, and smiled.

"YOU?! Impossible! I watched you DIE!" He snarled, clearly stunned.

"No," I said, finally sitting up slowly, gritting my teeth as I tried not to reopen the shallow cut across my belly. "You saw what you WANTED to see. I'm a kunoichi, remember? Trained in deception and diversion. Surprise! I set you up. How does it feel?"

"Well, now- what have we here?! Outwitted by a mere female?! Ha! Saki, I always KNEW you'd meet your end by treachery! Well done, little girl! I'd clap- if I had hands!" Krang croaked, getting up from the wreckage of the machinery with a burst of that peculiar burbling laughter. The creepy android body made what passed for a smile as it bobbled slightly. One arm was bent backward, and part of the body had crumpled; it imitated its occupant with eerie, silent laughter, in spite of being damaged. "No matter, I was getting tired of his obsessive ranting and scheming anyway. Besides, I no longer have need of a partner. Saki, you're on your own." There was a note of cold finality in his voice.

Shredder shot him a look of pure malice, and shook his fist at the spiteful little demon. "Krang, you OWE me! After everything I've done for you, you would betray me?! I built that body, you ungrateful, spineless blob! Now stop gloating and DESTROY them!" He roared, drawing the tanto from his obi. He didn't even wait to see if Krang complied, but instead attempted to seek revenge himself. He twisted, leaning over awkwardly to slash out at me as I lay on the floor, still dripping blood from the cut across my middle. His blade was barred by eighteen inches of polished, razor-sharp steel. He looked up to see Leonardo standing a foot away, a stern expression on his face.

"Not this time, Oroku Saki. It's over." Leo glanced over at Krang, who was edging toward the controls on the giant screen. "Not so fast, Krang! I'm only going to say this once; if you so much as touch that panel, I'll have Leatherhead tear that body of yours to pieces- with you IN it! Now step back."

Krang glared at him, his purple eyes shifting between the panel and the mutant alligator, perhaps trying to determine how serious the threat was. Leatherhead growled softly at him, and the alien apparently thought better of whatever he had been planning. Donatello and Raphael moved toward him, weapons ready, and prodded him away from the portal controls. I looked around for Rocksteady and Bebop, and noticed them quietly backing toward the doors, hoping to make their escape. I rose carefully, but stumbled, light-headed from loss of blood. Donnie was quick to rush over with a roll of gauze to wrap around my waist. I held my arms up to allow him to pull up the torn blouse and dress the wound his brother had made.

"You guys leaving so soon?" I asked, loudly enough for them to hear across the room. Leatherhead whirled- faster than I would have thought for someone so big- and growled warningly at the pair. They stopped dead in their tracks.

"You would be wise to stay where you are," he said gruffly, taking a step toward the duo with a menacing glare. They glanced at each other uneasily, frozen in fear. They had seen what he could do. Raph picked up their blasters, strapping one over his shoulder and holding the other on them as a warning. Donatello finished wrapping the gauze around my injury, and went over to the portal controls, gazing up at the portal screen thoughtfully. He glanced across the room at Rocksteady and Bebop, then over to Krang, no doubt forming a plan. If I knew Donnie, they weren't going to like what he had in mind.

Shredder pushed himself upright, leaning with one hand on the floor as he tried to rise- unsuccessfully. I'd done my job well; his legs were all but useless, and the realization that he was now at the mercy of his most hated enemies had finally dawned, as I saw something in his eyes that had never been there before. It was fear. For the first time, he knew what it meant to be afraid. Good.

"Stop- have mercy! I yield! You claim to value honor. Surely you would not strike a foe who is helpless at your feet?" He was attempting to appeal to Leonardo's sense of honor and nobility, holding the tanto out as a sign of surrender. He laid it at Leonardo's feet, bowing low in submission. I moved to Leo's side, and glared down at our beaten foe.

"Like you showed mercy to my parents?" I asked coldly. On his knees, he didn't seem so threatening anymore. In fact, he almost seemed kind of pathetic begging for his life. Leo stared down at him in stony silence, before he finally spoke.

"Lay down your gauntlet and helm. You are a thief and murderer, and a disgrace to the Foot. You will pay for your crimes, Oroku Saki, I promise you that. We're taking you in." Leonardo pointed his blade at his enemy's throat, the unspoken threat clear. He was giving Shredder a choice- prison, or death.

"Leo, ya' can't just drop 'im off at da' police station and hope they lock 'im up for good!" Raphael protested suddenly, shoving past Krang angrily. I was inclined to agree. "B'sides, 'dat fuckin' bastard just mind-fucked Mikey an' turned him inta' his little slave! He needs ta' be put down like da' rabid dog he is!"

"And what would you have me do, Raph? Sink to his level and strike an enemy who is already down and has surrendered? We fight with honor, remember?"

"I accept your terms, mutant. Very well, take them. The Kuro Kabuto and the Gauntlet of Oroku Sanjo are yours." Shredder removed his helmet and gauntlet, laying them on the floor next to his tanto. Yet something didn't seem right. He was being far too accommodating and subdued for a man so arrogant and ruthless. I bent to pick up the gauntlet, and caught the glint of metal peeking from his boot, half-hidden by his cape. He had a weapon tucked away, and his hand was moving slowly toward it.

He lunged at my legs, apparently intending to repay my earlier act of treachery. He had forgotten the gauntlet in my hands. I stumbled back to avoid the slash at my Achilles' tendons, and fell to the floor on my back, kicking up at his face. He snarled, pinning me down as he tried to stab down with the kunai he had pulled. I blocked it with the gauntlet spikes, shoving my hand inside it and punching upward as he drew the kunai back again. There was a satisfying crunch as the gauntlet- with my fist in it- connected with his jaw, the claws raking down the side of his face to leave deep cuts. He caught my wrist, slamming the gauntleted hand against the floor to hold it down as he brought the kunai up again for another strike. The next instant, his body arched back, eyes wide in shock as a long blade erupted from the middle of his gut, accompanied by a spray of blood.

He stared down in disbelief at the end of Leo's katana protruding from his middle, dropping the kunai from his hand. The blade withdrew, sending another spray of red to rain down as I slithered backward away from the man now clutching at the wound in his gut, just below the ribs. He glared at me, picking up the kunai again in what was clearly a last act of defiant rage, stabbing savagely at me again. I caught his arm with my free hand, then sent a right hook up at his throat with the gauntlet. Spikes thrust deep into his neck, piercing arteries and leaving him gurgling as he struggled to breathe. I pulled the gauntlet back, and watched his hands reach up to his neck, vainly trying to stop the red fountain spurting from the holes in his throat. He sank to the floor and collapsed onto his back, shuddering violently, covering the wounds in a futile attempt to stop the flow.

I scuttled further back, a strong hand on my upper arm tugging me up to my feet. I looked up to see Leonardo standing there gazing down impassively at their adversary's life gushing out of the mortal wounds in his neck and torso. Crimson droplets ran down his katana's blade, but he ignored it for the moment, watching as his mortal enemy made gasping, rattling noises, as he choked on his own blood.

"Boss!" A shout from Bebop drew everyone's attention to the mutant duo; his partner in crime roared his outrage and charged at us in a blind rage, heedless of the larger mutant gator-man who had just been threatening him. Leonardo saw Rocksteady rushing at him, and yanked the blade from the body of his fallen foe, kicking out at the oncoming mutant's chest. His kick sent Rocksteady flying backward several feet, slamming onto his back on the floor. Leo stalked toward him, stopping next to him with his katana pointed at the other mutant.

"Try anything like that again, and you'll be joining your 'boss'." Leonardo said sternly, poking Rocksteady's middle with the end of his blade. The mutant rhino blinked up at him, his mouth open and ears drooping as he gulped, nodding slowly. Maybe he wasn't as dumb as he appeared, after all.

"What happened ta' not hittin' 'im while he's down?" Raph asked after a moment, moving to stand over the fallen ninja. "Thought we were too 'good' fer 'dat?"

"He lost his chance when he tried to attack after I offered mercy. NO ONE strikes a member of this family and gets away with it. I gave him a choice- he made the wrong one." He looked up at his brother, meeting Raph's eyes squarely. The other turtle held his gaze for a few seconds, then nodded.

"'Kay. Suits me just fine; was just curious, is all." He turned and stalked back over to resume his place guarding the now very nervous Krang, who had watched the entire incident with growing unease.

"So what do we do with these three?" I asked, finally recovering from the shock of what had just transpired. It had all happened so fast it still hadn't quite sunk in that the battle was over, and we had won. I glanced over to where Mikey had fallen; he was still unconscious, and probably would be for the time being. Which was just as well, as we had no idea how deep the brainwashing he had received went. I knelt next to him, feeling of his pulse to be sure Leo hadn't accidentally killed him. It was strong and steady. I breathed a sigh of relief, and carefully lifted his head into my lap.

Donatello made a sideways glance at the alien and the two mutant lackeys- who were now suitably cowed, given that they had just seen their "master" slain- and grinned. Krang, ever the pragmatist, seemed to have accepted that he was defeated, which I found odd. Maybe he was just biding his time to retaliate and catch us off-guard.

"Oh, don't worry, guys! I have something SPECIAL in mind for these three! I say let the punishment fit the crime!" Donnie said cheerfully, his fingers moving across the control panel with ease. Krang looked worried, and the mutants…. Well, they traded glances and gulped. They must have been familiar with Donnie's sense of justice, which was far more coldly logical than Leo's.

"W-what are yous gonna' do wit' us?" Bebop ventured uncertainly, eying the blaster Raph held on them warily.

"Yes, turtle, what ARE you going to do with us?" Krang asked, perhaps thinking he could negotiate his way out of whatever Donnie had in mind.

"It's simple, really," Donatello said matter-of-factly. "We're going to banish you to a place where you can't hurt anyone ever again. In fact, you'll be lucky if you manage to survive. Keep that in mind, because where you're going, there won't be anyone to help you. Except these two- IF they don't just decide to ditch you at the first opportunity. So you might want to consider a change of attitude."

He tapped out a series of commands on the portal controls; the screen flashed to life, into a wavery image of a lush green field at the edge of a forest. I could see what looked like several small farms in the distance, with crude-looking huts surrounded by plots of what appeared to be rice paddies. Donatello turned to Krang, and waved his arm toward the screen. "Krang, welcome to your new home- I trust you recognize it? Get used to it, because you're going to spend the rest of your life there! And WITHOUT your body, I might add."

The little alien stepped toward the screen, scrutinizing it for a moment. Then his eyes went wide, and his normally predatory expression turned to horror. "Oh, no. No, not THAT! You can't DO this!" He backed away, his android body holding its hands up and shaking its head fearfully. I wondered what was so bad about the place the portal led to that he could be so terrified.

"I don't get it- what's he afraid of?" I asked Leo, who had suddenly broken out laughing.

"Donnie, you got a twisted sense o' humor, ya' know 'dat?" Raph said, snorting in amusement. Donatello just grinned wickedly.

Leo finally answered, still chuckling at whatever they thought was so funny. "He's sending Krang to our friend Usagi's home dimension. It's inhabited entirely by humanoid animal races- sort of like us mutants, but they evolved that way- and it has NO technology. They are still in a feudal level of civilization; the most advanced skills they have are sword-making and single-mast ships. Without his body, Krang will be helpless!"

I looked back up at the giant portal, the significance of what he had said suddenly clear. "So- he's getting the boot back to medieval times, without his hands and feet? Ouch!"

"Yup! It's my idea of poetic justice," Donnie piped up, sniggering. Krang just gave him withering glare. I glanced at the two thugs, to see that they looked completely disheartened.

"Well, let's get this over with," Leo said at last. "Leatherhead, would you do the honors?" He waved at the ugly android, while Raph held his purloined blaster pointed at it.

"Mmm, with pleasure, my friend," answered the mutant gator with a toothy smile. I suddenly remembered he was a dangerous predator at his core, and it sent chills through my spine. He advanced on the would-be alien warlord, and pulled him forcefully from the stomach compartment, ignoring the slimy pink gumball's protests. He tucked Krang under one massive arm, heedless of his vain attempts to squirm out of the giant mutant's grip. I watched as Raph and Leo strode purposely over to Rocksteady and Bebop, and quickly began to pat them down for weapons. They came away with three knives, two pairs of brass knuckles, a chain, a spiked club, and a small sledgehammer. I wondered why the pair hadn't used any of them, but then remembered that they both seemed unusually trigger-happy, and decided they just REALLY liked guns.

"Okay, fellas- IN ya' go!" Raph said jovially. I decided he was enjoying this way too much.

"But- but…. How're we supposed to get food, or find a place to stay?" Rocksteady complained. Apparently he had at least enough brains to realize they were being put out literally on their butts.

"Guess you'll have to- uh, ya' know- get a job," Raph said, smirking back at him. "Sucks to be you, pal," I sighed; Raph was being a dick now that the shoe was on the other foot. Typical.

He shoved Bebop toward the portal, while Leo nudged the other goon in the same direction. I noticed neither of my companions was being especially gentle with their prisoners. The pair reluctantly complied; Leatherhead padded over to them, and held out his captive at the duo with a final warning. "Take your slippery friend here and depart- before I forget myself and EAT him. I am rather hungry at the moment."

They briefly glanced at each other as if unsure if he was serious, then back at the larger mutant. Bebop quickly snatched the slimy alien from the claws of the gator-man, and not knowing what else to do with him, plopped Krang down on top of his partner's head. Rocksteady protested half-heartedly, as the helpless Krang wrapped his two longest tentacles underneath the mutant's chin to hold on. It made the rhino-man look as though he was wearing a rather ridiculous hat, an image that struck me as oddly funny. Then both mutants and their tiny pink companion marched through the portal at blaster-point, appearing on the screen once they had gone through. They all looked rather uneasy, especially Krang, who was now utterly dependent on his mutant minions for protection.

"Well, that takes care of them!" Donatello said, pretending to wipe his hands as he shut down the portal. The screen went blank, leaving the room strangely quiet and empty-seeming.

"How do you know they won't come back?" I asked, wondering just how permanent their punishment was. I looked down at Mikey, who was still out like a light, and snoring softly. At least he seemed okay.

"From Usagi's world?! You're kidding, right?" Donnie replied, looking at me incredulously. "There's NO way they can come back- the materials or technology needed to build a dimensional portal don't even exist yet in that dimension, let alone anyone with the knowledge or skills to build one. They are STUCK in that world with no way out unless someone opens a portal from outside. And not even Krang's stone warriors know where he is now, so that leaves us. And I'm going to destroy this portal, so it can never be used again- after I download all the schematics for anything even remotely useful from the Technodrome, of course."

"And steal anythin' that ain't nailed down, ya' mean," Raph added snidely. Donnie shot him an irritated glare, but didn't deny the accusation.

"Wonderful. Meanwhile, what are we going to do about Mikey? Those creeps really messed with his head. How do we get him back to his old self?" I asked, hoping Donnie had an answer.

Donatello frowned, coming over to kneel beside me. He checked his unconscious brother for signs of injury, and then took his pulse.

"Physically, he seems fine. I'm not sure what they did to his mind, but we should probably restrain him before he wakes up. He was pretty hostile earlier, and until we can find a way to undo whatever Shredder did to him, we can't take the chance of letting him loose. Raph, grab my duffle bag- there should be some rope in there."

"Right bro. Ya' really think we can fix 'im?" Raph asked hopefully, though he sounded uncertain. He ran over to grab the bag, and brought it back to Don and knelt down on the other side of his insensible sibling. Leonardo sheathed his blades, and joined the three of us, his face pained as he studied his insensate brother.

"I can't help thinking this was partly my fault. I drove him to this, and now we may have lost him." He said softly, taking Michelangelo's hand and squeezing it gently. "I just don't understand WHY he did it!" He shook his head, his expression a mix of warring emotions- anger, confusion, fear, sorrow, and frustration. I understood how he felt, maybe better than he knew, but I also knew something he didn't- the real reason behind Mikey's rash decision.

"Leo, have you ever wanted something so badly that you would trade ANYTHING to have it, even for a little while?" I asked, moving one hand to rest on his arm.

"I- Yes, maybe. Once. But my duty and family were too important to me, so I- I let it go. I didn't want to, but I HAD to. And I regret what might have been, but it's in the past now. Why couldn't HE do that?" Leo shook his head, unable to accept the simple truth.

"He's not devoted to duty like you are, Leo. He doesn't care about discipline- that's not who he is. He thinks with his heart. His hopes and dreams are the only things that keep him going. He wants so much to be loved and accepted by others, and to be free of what he believes is a prison for his soul, that he was almost willing to walk away from everything to have that. But he didn't. He had it, and gave it up- because he felt it was unfair not to share it with all of you. You don't get it, DO you? He sacrificed everything he could have had for you guys. For the love he has for you all. And it cost him more than you realize. He may have damned himself to a slow death of everything that makes him who he is, just to keep from tearing this family apart. Because he loves you all too much to leave you behind. He was lost the moment he chose to change back, and he knew it. But that was his own choice. You two are more alike than you know. I just hope we can get him back- and that he doesn't end up resenting all of you if we do."

Leo looked up at me, perhaps for the first time realizing just how much Mikey's decision had cost his light-hearted brother. "So- Krang actually agreed to make him human? And he chose to change back?" He seemed stunned by the news, as though he had never expected his brother to choose family over his dreams.

"Yes. You should have seen him, Leo- he was so happy, until he remembered that you three were still trapped in the dark, with no hope for anything else. He said that it wasn't fair to leave you there alone. He told me about the first time Splinter took you all to see the surface, and how he asked why you were all so different from the people above. He told me about the stories Splinter read when you were all little, and how he always imagined that you were all under a spell. He hates living in the dark and cold, away from the sun and the open sky. He just wanted to be free." I squeezed his arm, and felt a hand on my other shoulder. I looked over to see Raph gazing at me in understanding. Of them all, he was probably the one who knew best what Mikey felt. He nodded, and I saw that he felt it too.

Donnie paused in tying Michelangelo's wrists and ankles, and sighed. "I- never realized just how deep it went. I always thought he was just day-dreaming, that he was content with things the way they were, but…. Does he really see our life as a prison? I've never thought of it that way, but I never really cared that much about the outside world. It was just something that didn't apply to us."

Raph spoke at last, surprising them both. "He ain't 'da only one, ya' know. Why do ya' think I spend so much time topside wit' Casey? It's 'da only time I ever feel like I can BREATHE!" He looked straight at Leo, who grimaced.

"Raph, you KNOW what Mikey did isn't the answer. It was reckless, and irresponsible, and-"

Raphael cut him off. "Yeah, yeah. We've heard it before, Fearless. When are ya' gonna' wake up and see 'da writin' on 'da wall? Me an' Mikey- we ain't YOU! We ain't content to spend our whole lives tryin' to live up to some ghost's memory!"

Don sensed the growing tension, and leaned in to stop a fight before it started. "Guys, we still have to figure out how to get Mikey back to normal. If it's even possible. He's secure, so I think it's time to wake up Sleeping Beauty here, and see just how much damage Shredder did."

"Don, what if he never gets his real memory back?" Leo asked. I was worried too, but just held his brother, stroking the top of his head lightly.

"I don't know. I'll do the best I can." Donatello replied uncertainly, then gently shook Mikey. He groaned, but didn't wake up. Donnie pulled a small vial out of his bag, and held it under his brother's nose. I caught a whiff of something pungent and unpleasant. Smelling salts. The smell must have pulled Mikey out of his stupor, because he suddenly opened his eyes, thrashing as he tried to pull away from the odor.

"Gah! What's that stench?!" He exclaimed, before realizing where he was. He struggled unsuccessfully to sit up, and then looked down and saw that he was tied. "Hey! Let me go, you losers! Where's Sensei?" He looked around, and saw Shredder's body lying some feet away. "NO! Master!" He shouted, rolling over onto his plastron in his wild struggle to escape his bonds. He thrashed and slid around, while his brothers tried to hold him down and calm him. "You killed Sensei! Traitors! I'll kill you ALL!" He snarled, and began trying to bite any body part that came in reach in his wild struggles.

"Mikey, calm DOWN! That's not your sensei. He never WAS!" Leo entreated him, hoping to reach his brother through reason. It wasn't working.

"LIAR!" Mikey shouted, still struggling against his siblings. "And stop callin' me by that stupid name- the NAME is RIPPER!" Raph held him down, while Donatello pulled out a syringe and a small bottle.

"Okay, I really don't want to have to use this on you, but I will if you keep thrashing around like that," Donnie said calmly, holding the items up for Mikey to see. "Now, are you going to behave, or do I need to sedate you?"

Michelangelo's struggles ceased and he froze while he glared darkly at Donnie, his voice cold with anger. "If you jerks don't let me go, you're gonna' regret it, BIG time!"

"Mikey, listen to me. Shredder has been filling your head with lies. You don't belong here. This isn't who you are. Your home is with us, and with Splinter. Please, try to remember!" Leo tried again, but had no more success than before, to judge by the dirty look he got.

"Fuck you, assholes!" He spat. "We had a good thing goin' here and YOU threw it away to go live in a shit-hole with that pathetic old rodent so you could play hero! Why should I listen to you?!"

"Don't think he's listenin', Fearless," Raphael supplied, shaking his head. "Ol' Shred must'a really done a number on our little bro. He's actin' like he hardly knows us!"

Leatherhead thumped over, and bent down to study the bound turtle. "Perhaps a different approach would be of more help," he mused, tapping his jaw with a clawed finger. "Michelangelo, do you remember the first time we met? You were curious enough to seek me out even after I had attacked you for following me, and you kept your brothers from hurting me when they thought I was a monster. You are my friend, and I am very grateful to have found one who is so willing to reach out to others, even a monster like me."

Michelangelo frowned for a moment, as if something flickered in his memory, or perhaps I had just imagined it. But at least he remained silent, and seemed to relax a little. Raph nodded, encouraging their companion to continue. "Yeah, 'dat's our little bro. All heart, and way more forgivin' than the rest of us."

"That's right, he's always been the most compassionate of us," Don agreed. "Like when he rescued Klunk AND saved a delivery of toys for a children's home on Christmas Eve. We were all grumbling that he was keeping us waiting for dinner, while he was out rescuing hungry kittens and chasing after Purple Dragons to help a bunch of little kids!"

"Klunk? Who's that?" Mikey asked, curiosity getting the best of him for a moment.

"Your cat, numbskull," Raph replied. "Ya' spoil 'dat li'l turd rotten!"

"I- I don't have a cat. Master Shredder never let me keep any pets." Mikey protested, though he sounded a little uncertain, as though something had sparked a hint of recognition.

I decided it was time to take my own turn at trying to jog his memory. "Do you remember what you did last night?" I asked, hoping he would recall something that would crack the false memories Shredder had walled around his psyche.

"Ugh, do we really need to know 'bout what you two was doin'?" Raphael griped, sounding perturbed.

"Shut up, Raph," I said, waving him off. "I wasn't talking about THAT. Although, if he DOES remember that, then it might be enough to bring him around."

Michelangelo looked confused for a moment, then shook his head. "I was in my quarters asleep, same as every night. So what?" He shrugged and rolled his eyes, looking almost bored by the conversation.

"You don't remember the carriage ride in Central Park? We found that spot you dreamed about- the one you drew the picture of. What about dancing while we listened to that street musician? Or strolling down Centre Street in Chinatown yesterday afternoon? You saw those butchered turtles at the meat stand and flipped out on the guy running it. Remember? He called you a kappa."

"Yeah, like I can just walk down a busy street lookin' like THIS," he replied sarcastically, sneering. "What kind of idiot do you think I am, lady? You're nothin' but Master Shredder's little geisha, anyway."

"You were human yesterday," I countered calmly, ignoring the verbal jab at my implied "relationship" with his supposed master. "You came here to see Krang, and made a deal with him to turn you human for a day. We spent most of the day sight-seeing. We bought matching kimonos, and had lunch in an Italian restaurant. Any of this sound familiar?" I asked. I was beginning to wonder if he would remember ANYTHING.

"Human?" He scoffed, snorting. "Then why am I still a mutant? Nice try, but I can tell a load of crap when I hear it."

"Because you came back this afternoon to have him turn you back," I replied. "You said it wasn't fair to your brothers, because you wanted a normal life for them too, and not just yourself. You said that it would be like abandoning them to stay that way. Shredder double-crossed you when you came back here to change back and complete the deal. He tried to de-mutate you!"

"Sensei wouldn't do that! He made me what I am; why would he want to de-mutate me when I'm his best student?" He was beginning to sound unsure, as if perhaps some inkling of memory was trying to break through. But not enough- not yet.

"Wait, just exactly what was the deal he made, anyway? I still can't figure out why Krang would have agreed to that arrangement in the first place." Leo interrupted, looking puzzled. The others turned to me expectantly, clearly wondering the same thing.

"He told Krang he would give him the location of 'the lair'," I replied with a smirk. "Pretty sneaky, actually. He left it just vague enough that Krang and Shredder simply assumed he meant yours. But he was really planning on sending them to that Rat King creep. And it almost worked, too!"

"He was setting them up for a trap?" Leo asked, eyes wide in astonishment. "I never knew he could be so- Machiavellian. Using one enemy to take out another is the kind of thing I'd expect from Shredder himself, but MIKEY?! Maybe I've misjudged his capabilities all these years."

"There's a lot you don't know about him, Leo," I said, meeting his gaze squarely. "When we were down here before, he reminded me of you, actually, because he took charge and knew exactly what he was doing. I keep telling you, you really should try talking to him more often- and I mean as an equal, not lecturing or criticizing like you usually do."

"But I don't-" Leonardo began, only to be cut off by Raphael.

"Yeah, bro, ya' DO. Ya' spend so much time talkin' AT us, ya' never HEAR what WE'RE sayin"!" He shook his head, a scowl of frustration and annoyance on his face.

"He's right, you know," Donatello added.

"Stop it! You're all just tryin' to confuse me, to get me to betray my master like you did!" Mikey shouted suddenly, halting the conversation. "Just- get out of my head!" He bent over, hands over his ears in an attempt to shut us all out.

Leo grimaced, and tugged at Michelangelo's left arm, shaking his head sadly. "No, we didn't. He's NOT our master, and he never was. Everything you think you remember is a lie. That's what he DOES."

That reminded me of something I'd almost forgotten. "Mikey, when we were in Chinatown, we met a man in a curio shop- Mr. Takeda. He knew you weren't really human, and offered to read our fortunes in tea leaves. He said that evil shows its true face if you look beneath the mask, and you have to see with your heart to find the truth, because your eyes can be blinded by illusions. He said you have to be true to your heart even when you don't know what is real. Please, try to remember!"

Then I did the only thing I could think of that might wake him from the dream-world he was living in. I leaned in close, hands stroking his face, and kissed him. Long, deep, and tenderly, tilting my head to find just the right angle that would jog him back to reality. He froze for several seconds, eyes wide in shock, before he finally seemed to give in and hesitantly return the kiss, as if discovering an emotion he hadn't known was there. When I drew back, he stared at me as if seeing me for the first time.

He frowned again, uncertainty clouding his face. "That- felt nice. And sort of familiar, which is weird, because I've never been kissed before."

"Yes you have. That's why it felt familiar. I love you, and some part of you still remembers that." I said softly, one hand drifting down to his shoulder to squeeze it gently. "You're not a killer. You cried when we watched 'The Lion King' when Mufasa died. That's not something a killer would do." I smiled at him, remembering how he had tried to pretend there was something in his eye when I'd pointed it out during the movie.

He shook his head, still in denial. "But, why would he lie to me? I've always been loyal, always done what he wanted. How do I know YOU aren't the ones lying?"

I tried one more time, hoping I could get through to him. "He was a monster. He killed innocent people and committed horrible crimes just to get what he wanted. He tried to turn you against your own family, to make you a killer. But that's not who you are. Deep down, you have to know that. If you don't believe us, listen to your heart- what does it tell you?"

"But, how could my whole life be a lie? I remember when he gave me my kamas. I remember sparrin' against Foot-bots during training growing up. I remember the day he made me Chunin!" He protested weakly, though he seemed less than certain now.

"None of it was real," Donatello replied. "Those are false memories. Do you know when our birthdays are? Do you even remember the last thing you ate? What your hobbies are? Those aren't even your weapon of choice- you use nunchaku." He was using logic to break holes in the façade, and it seemed to be working- almost. Michelangelo's confusion was growing, though he still clung stubbornly to the past he remembered, perhaps because it felt "safe".

"We never had birthdays. Master Shredder always said they were frivolous and useless. He said they were something for foolish children, not warriors. And he never let us play games or spend time on stupid stuff like music or toys or TV. And what do ya' mean I don't use kamas?"

Leo pounced on that one like a jungle cat, grasping his brother's shoulder, eyes boring into Mikey's. "Master Splinter always taught us that a warrior's weapon is a part of him. He says that it is an extension of our soul, and reflects who we are as ninja. You've always been wild and unpredictable in a fight; you're always moving and changing direction, like a whirlwind. That's not the spirit of someone who wields kamas as his chosen weapon. It's the soul of a nunchaku-master."

"Yeah, 'dat reminds me. We brought these wit' us for ya', li'l bro," Raph added, pulling Mikey's 'chucks from his belt and holding them out for the bound turtle to see. "Ya' want 'em back?"

Mikey stared down at them, silent for a long moment. Finally, he spoke again. "Those- are mine?" He asked, looking up at the others questioningly. They all nodded.

"Yeah, ya' even named 'em," Raph confirmed, chuckling. "Chuck and Bruce, if I remember it right."

Donnie slowly reached over, and placed one hand on Mikey's shoulder. "I want to try something. Close your eyes and clear your mind. I want you to meditate, and try to think of something specific that you remember about growing up. Some incident from when we were kids. Focus on whatever you remember, and try to recall details- no matter how small. I'm going to untie you, but only if you promise to behave. If you try to attack us, we're just going to put the ropes right back on. Understand?"

He nodded, and sat still while Donnie untied him. He didn't move at first, but finally looked at each of his brothers and sighed, gazing at the nunchaku Raphael held out to him. He took them slowly, and just stared down for a long time, holding them. At last he let the chains drop, one stick falling free to dangle as he took them in each hand, testing how they felt in his grip. He frowned, and set them down. "If everything you guys said is true, why don't I remember any of it?" He gazed at us expectantly, as if desperate for answers.

"What's the first thing you remember today?" Leo prompted, looking hopeful. "Before we came here. What did you do today?"

He frowned, and finally answered, his expression seeming worried. "I- I was in the Neuralization room, sittin' in one of those chairs with the machines Krang has for interrogatin' and-" He stopped, then his gaze shot over to the bloody heap lying on the floor just a few feet away. "Sensei was- I dunno, testin' me or somethin'. Like he thought I was thinkin' of turnin' on him. At least, I think that's what it was." He didn't sound sure of himself, though, and I knew hw was beginning to suspect the truth- that Shredder had somehow played with his mind to manipulate him.

"Good. Follow that," Donatello said, nodding encouragingly. "Go back to something before that. You said you remember the day you became Chunin. Think about that. What do you remember about it?" He said, watching Mikey intently.

Michelangelo closed his eyes, apparently deciding to comply with the suggestion. "Uh, it was morning, and Sensei called me to his quarters, and had me bow and kneel down. He said I had passed my training and that I was ready for a promotion to Chunin, and he presented me with my armor and a ceremonial tanto. And that was about it." He shrugged, and opened his eyes again.

"That's not very specific. What about the tanto? What did it look like? What did his quarters look like? What did you do after that?" Donnie prodded, looking for holes in the false memory.

Michelangelo scowled again, and shut his eyes once more. "It was- uh, it was black and had the Foot symbol on it. And his room is- I dunno, I was only there for a few minutes, I think. Just a bed and maybe a couple of lamps and a table? And his practice mat. I guess that was it. And I went back to my room to meditate."

"That's pretty basic stuff," Leo said, shaking his head. "There should have been more to it than that."

Donatello nodded agreement. "Yeah, that stuff is easy to implant. Let's try something else. Mikey, I want you to think of the best day of your life, the moment when you were happiest. Think about what it was and when it happened, and just- focus on it. Try to recall every detail- smells, where you were, what you did, colors, sounds- anything."

"Okay, but this is dumb," Mikey said, sighing in resignation. He kept his eyes closed, and furrowed his brow ridges in concentration, falling silent.

"How is this supposed to help?" Raph asked, scratching his head. "I thought we were tryin' to get him back to normal!"

"Because if I know Shredder, he probably only implanted a few basic memories in Mikey's mind and just blanked out everything else to hide his real memories. They're still in there, somewhere; we just have to find them." Donnie replied. Leo looked thoughtful, staring at Mikey with concern.

"Maybe we could try looking on the Astral Plane?" He suggested. "If we could reach his subconscious mind, he might snap out of it."

Donatello rubbed his chin, and nodded. "Hmm, you might have something, Leo. You two keep an eye on him, and I'll go in. I think I might know how to pull him out of this, but it's going to take some work."

"Maybe I should do it. Psychic communication and defense is more my specialty than yours," Leo pointed out.

Donnie held up one hand and shook his head, giving him a determined stare. "No, Leo. The Astral realm may be more your thing, but psychology is mine, and there are some things I need to tell him, to help him remember. Just trust me, Leo- this is MY job."

Leonardo met his gaze, and I couldn't help felling the tension in the air between the two. They seemed to stare each other down in silence for several seconds, before Leo finally sighed, relenting. "Alright. Just be careful- you're dealing with the realm of the mind. Things aren't always what they seem in there. Especially if it's Mikey's mind we're talking abut. Who knows WHAT you might find in there!" Leo cautioned him, gripping Don's arm firmly.

Donnie nodded, letting out a sigh of irritation. "I KNOW, Leo I've done this before, you know. I might not be as good at it as you are, but Splinter taught me how to do it just like he taught you. I can handle this." He pulled away, and settled down to close his eyes and slip into a deep trance, while the rest of us sat back to watch over them both- and wait….