The sun beamed down on her black leather jacket, her exposed T-shirt, her blue jean-clad legs, and the cast on her right arm. Warmer out here than she had been inside the spaceship, but it didn't seem to touch the inner chill. Trash sighed and shifted her heavy arm on her stomach. Nothing got rid of that chill. Face it, Trash-girl. You're stuck with it. Stuck like the itch under the cast. She gritted her teeth and tried to ignore that sensation.
A shadow fell over her face. She cracked open her good eye. A boy with sun-bleached blond hair stared down at her. "This is what happens when you don't wear a helmet, kiddo."
The boy's eyes opened wide and he retreated, scampering his bathing-suited butt back to mommy. Trash closed her eye again. "My public safety message for the day."
The gentle lapping sound had just lulled her to nearly dozing when a shadow fell over her face again. Trash frowned. "Beat it, kid. I'm not a scenic attraction."
"But such a sight to see," an unmistakable voice answered.
Trash's heart pounded as she jerked open her eye. Ryan knelt on the pavement next to her. She licked her suddenly dry lips. "The talkin' ship ratted on me, huh?"
"You should be in bed."
"Goddamnit, Ryan! You're not my mother either."
"No, I'm not." He reached out and brushed a lock of hair off her face. "But I don't like to see you hurt either."
Her mouth went dry. "Okay, who are you and what have you done with Ryan?"
He looked sheepish. "I haven't done a real good job of showing that I care, have I?"
"Well, if it were your job, I would've done fired you." Trash looked away. It was just the same old thing, forgive me and come back and be a good girl. She swallowed hard.
"Yeah, you and everybody else. I was scared and I shouldn't've took it out on you. I'm sorry."
"Everyone makes mistakes. Whatever."
"Will you take the walls down, please? I'm trying to tell you how important you are and you're not making it very easy."
"Why should I? Sheesh, I know how important I am to the team, to the cause. I know how much you'd hate to see anything happen on your watch. You know I'm gonna come back; where else do I have to go? So let's just skip everything that makes us uncomfortable."
"So we can keep sniping at each other? That's just stupid."
The tears under her swollen eyelid stung. "Course it's stupid; it's my idea. But at least it's not as stupid as moonin' over a girl who doesn't love you back!"
"Stop it, Trash! I'm trying to tell you how important you are to me and you keep changin' the subject! I don't love Allie and I hate to see anything bad happen to you!"
She tried to sit up, but the pain from the sudden movement caught her breath and made her vision swim. Ryan grabbed her and eased her back down. Her vision cleared and he was still leaning over her. "You don't love Allie?"
"It was easier to say I loved her than admit the truth." He leaned closer and brushed his lips against hers. She surprised him by rapidly capturing his mouth and deepening the kiss. When they pulled back, he said, "I love you."
She sniffled. "You have lousy timing. Now you make a move and I'm in pieces and we can't do anything!"
"Trash, you nut. Don't you love me too?" He laughed.
She touched his cheek with her good hand. "Call me Victoria, please, Ryan."
"As long as you're the queen of my heart." He held her hand and kissed her again.
Manuelo surveyed the ruined apartment complex from behind the yellow caution tape. He kept a firm hold on Felipe's hand, but the boy didn't want to wander. The doors, along with a lot of the surrounding wall, had been wrenched out of place. A fissure spread from that hole all the way up to the roof. He could barely make out any interior details, but it looked like some of the upper floors were buckled.
Felipe tugged on his hand. "Where are we gonna have my birthday party now, Daddy?"
"We will find a place, Felipe. Mama and Papa have not forgotten." Manuelo watched the police and firemen come out of the building.
He wasn't the only one watching them. A crowd had gathered around the activity on this Sunday afternoon. The plump, African-American woman dressed in an immaculate skirt suit led a camera crew out of the crowd to the police officer who moved closest to the yellow tape. "Tara Diddle," she said quickly to introduce herself. "Can you tell us what happened here this past Thursday night?"
"The investigation isn't finished yet. But we think it's the same phenomena that keeps hitting the Limburger Tower."
"But what about the reports that there was an attack and people were kidnapped?" She thrust the microphone closer.
"No one was kidnapped. We found all the present inhabitants in a downtown hotel. Excuse me." He turned back to the group of safety officials.
Manuelo sighed to release the growing frustration. Damned gringos! Of course, what happens to us never matters. If it were not for the Biker Mice, this city would have done fell apart.
Tara Diddle had found her next interview victim. "Mayor Weakley!"
The mayor smoothed his grey hair and tugged his waistcoat into place before addressing the camera. "This is a terrible tragedy, just terrible. We must all count our blessings that no one died in this calamity. My administration will be expediting every course of action available to get these people housed again."
"But what caused the structural damage?"
"I haven't been appraised of that. The city building inspectors need... yes, can I help you?"
The athletic, young man in a three-piece-suit walked up to the news group. "Hello, Mr. Mayor. I'm a representative of Val Tech, incorporated. Our company heard of what happened and wish to make a donation to aid the unfortunate victims."
The mayor hesitantly took the check. His jaw dropped as he scanned the slip of paper. "On behalf of the victims, I would like to say thank you!"
Manuelo turned away. "Come on, Felipe. Let's go back to the hotel."
Leo dozed to the sound of a keyboard clacking. Occasionally, he woke up to find Donnie still staring at the laptop screen. Di was still curled up next to him on the bed. Leo closed his eyes and readjusted how he sat. He just hoped he wouldn't have to use the acupressure point to knock Donnie out too.
He didn't need to worry. The next time he woke up, Donnie was leaning back on the pillows. Leo didn't make any extra noise dozing off again.
Di woke him up next. She made a light growling noise as she arched her back on her hands and knees. She stopped stretching and looked at both Turtles with a suspicious face. "Which one of you gave me a tranq?"
"It was acupressure and you needed the sleep," Leo answered. Donnie apparently had swallowed his tongue while staring at her.
"I don't like those decisions taken out of my hands."
"We asked you when you had last slept. You didn't remember."
"But Zack and the baby?"
"You have a responsibility to keep yourself healthy." Donnie's face reddened, and he turned back to the screen. "Your back feeling better?"
"Doesn't hurt at all. I'll have to find out what that stuff is." She blushed and scrambled to a sitting position. "Um, have you figured anything out?"
"Look at this." They bent their heads over the laptop. Leo shook his head and ignored their scientific babble. He closed his eyes.
"I've crossed the modeled mutations against what they mapped of the baby's DNA. This chain of nucleotides is key to both."
"I don't have access to my notes on other Mutates."
"Well, I can pull up what the ship's onboard computer has been trying to tabulate on Zack. Here it is." Donnie clicked on the keyboard.
"The chain's unhooked, but so are a lot of the chains."
"Yeah, look at the time lapse. The nucleotides in it aren't shifting at all."
"What happens when the mutation period ends?" Di asked.
"MC, that's the computer, has been running on those formulas."
Leo dozed off and jerked awake with Di's loud exclamation. "Fetus DNA manipulation on the children of people who have had their own genes manipulated!"
"That might be too late. You're probably gonna have to do in vitro treatments. But this doesn't help Zack."
"We need to guide the mutation. I guess we should break apart the mutation formula and see what chemical is responsible for what."
Leo's head dropped again. Donnie woke him up. "We need to run blood tests. How many sources do we have?"
"Allie, Ryan, Charley, and Tala. That's four, should give us a good sampling," Di answered.
"Then let's get started." Donnie closed the laptop and swung his legs off the bed.
"Careful," Leo sat up.
"I'm not gonna expire just by moving," his brother answered, annoyed.
"You were bad sick."
Donnie shook his head and headed out the door. Di slid off the bed. "Don't worry. I'll keep an eye on him."
"Okay with me." Leo shut his eyes as she left.
Vinnie set down the box in the corner of the hanger bay and made a face at the dust marking his white fur. "Babe, come on. There's so much more fun stuff we can do."
Tala shoved a crate next to his. "Sorry, this has to be done. You don't hear Sparks complaining."
The younger mouse set a smaller crate on top of Vinnie's. "I figured you're gonna shoot him eventually, and I better stick around and watch." He gingerly rubbed his upper right arm.
"Very funny, you little shrimp."
"I don't think she'd shoot to kill ya."
Tala wiped her forehead with her arm. "Less yappin', more movin', and we're done sooner."
Vinnie heaved a sigh and headed for the elevator. "If you wanna see me flex, you don't need all this pretense."
Mike grabbed hold under the ship and swung his body off the ramp. "Moving day?"
"Cleaning," Tala answered. "This is stuff I'm not using. Next trip out, I'll deliver to someone who can."
"Need help?" He dropped to the floor.
"Where's your better half?" Vinnie asked with a smirk.
"Donating blood made her sleepy, so I tucked her in." Mike slammed the elevator gate closed. "And she won't sleep if I stay with her."
"Are they gonna be able to fix Zack?" Sparks asked.
"They don't know yet. Ryan ain't got back, and I think only havin' two sources of human blood is botherin' the eggheads."
"I'm so sorry I got my DNA altered years before meeting you people." Tala jerked open the gate once they reached the floor under her loft. "My dreams didn't tell me not to do it."
"Huh?" Vinnie trotted after her. "What do you mean 'your dreams didn't tell you not to do it'?"
She mimed banging her head against the doorjamb of one of the rooms, but made sure it didn't actually hit. "How do you manage to do this?"
"Get me to blurt out something I had no intentions of telling you."
"I'm just good that way." Vinnie answered while hoping he was hiding his trepidation over her newest confession.
"Apparently, it's something that runs in my clan, my family. They say my father dreamed true dreams."
Precog visions, don't sweat it." Mike moved around Tala and Vinnie, and went into the room. "These the boxes to go up?"
"Yes, but what do you mean 'precog'?" Tala hurried after him.
"Precognition, that's Donnie's big word for it. Master Splinter calls 'em visions and that's just easier to say."
"You Turtles have it too?"
"I have it. Leo, if he gets anything, it's focused on the present. Raph's never said but I don't think he does. Donnie can't explain how it happens so he can't experience it. Master Splinter says you either have the gift or a very open mind. Heck, I can qualify for the most open mind on the planet."
"So you have true dreams?" Tala's voice held a degree of desperation. Vinnie stared at her.
"Yeah. I dreamed 'bout Allie helpin' us attack the Tower. Knew he was an alien too. Didn't think that one had been a vision before seeing the building. Now that was a creep-out factor I didn't need."
"But how do you deal with it?"
He looked up at her quizzically. "You're not dreaming' 'bout the end of the world, are ya?"
"No. Just some of them," her face reddened, "bother me."
Mike shrugged. "Don't sweat it. The future is always fluid. Visions just give you an extra-edge if you can recognize it in time."
"I feel like a freak," Tala said.
"Humans have them too. Well, none I know personally, but they have lots of psychic stuff that gets wrote about. What 'bout Martians?"
Vinnie blinked as the conversation was suddenly thrust back at him. "There's legends of people who saw the future. I think the monks had something they did to get visions. Must be something that's long gone. Sure didn't get help from those during the war."
"But you do have records of it happen' before, so you're not a freak." Mike grabbed a large box and carried it out.
Tala glanced at Vinnie and looked away. Vinnie frowned at her hesitant expression. "Babe? It doesn't bother me. Sounds better than some of my nightmares. Course, I'd rather you dreamed 'bout me."
Her cheeks flushed even brighter than they had before. "The nightmares have less backlash." She grabbed a crate and hurried from the room.
Sparks looked up at Vinnie. "Why'd she react like that?"
He grabbed a crate of his own and chased after her. "You do dream 'bout me! Dirty dreams?"
"I never said that!"
"Dirty dreams?" Sparks carried a box into the elevator. "What do ya mean?"
Mike cleared his throat. "I think your dad would pitch a fit if we told you 'bout that."
"He would," Tala said.
"But there's something to it," Vinnie insisted. "She's redder than a stop light."
"Does delinquency of a minor mean anything to you?"
Vinnie set his crate on the floor and covered Sparks's ears. "Now Modo won't pound the living daylights out of us, what didja dream 'bout?"
Her face got redder. "This is why I hate telling him anything," she confided to Mike.
Sparks jerked his head free. "I hope you're still around when I'm as big as Dad!"
"Like you'd be able to whip this mammajammer's tail then." He turned back to Tala. "Come on, Doll-face. Don'tcha wanna compare fantasy with reality?"
"Why, when fantasy is always better?" Mike opened the elevator gate.
"Whose side are you on?" Vinnie spluttered as he picked up his crate.
He grinned, "This time? Her's." He dropped his crate in place with the others on the hanger bay floor.
"Don't know why you're so upset, babe. I think it's flattering."
"You would," Tala muttered as she dropped her crate onto the pile.
Vinnie had to hurry to keep up. "I dream 'bout you."
She snorted as she leaned against the elevator wall. "Every female you have ever met has paraded through your head at some point."
Vinnie opened his mouth and shut it before managing a weak, "How didja know that?"
Mike sent the elevator back down once everyone was inside. "It's a female thing. Allie always knows what I'm thinkin'."
"Harrumph. Doesn't get me any closer to knowing what she dreams about."
"And nobody will tell me what you're talking 'bout," Sparks pouted.
"Ask your father," Tala said. "And be sure to point out that Vinnie was the one who wouldn't drop it."
"You could whisper it into my ear."
"Or I could pin your ear to the wall."
Mike snickered. "Come on, micro-mouse-dude. This is funny," he said to Sparks' dark expression.
Vinnie glared at them before turning back to Tala. He flashed a winning smile. "I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours."
"Would you drop it, mouse scout!"
Frustrated, Vinnie slumped against the wall and crossed his arms. Even talking about it bothered her? But if she didn't want to get teased about it, she shouldn't blush like crazy. Though now her expression was a mix of blush and fury. The elevator stopped and Tala shoved past him to get off first. "Tala."
"Please don't make me hurt you."
"Cheese, I just wanted to say don't be mad. We tease Charley all the time, just to see her face get all red." He brushed past her and grabbed one of the last crates.
"I'm not Charley. And you need to learn when to stop." She picked up the last crate.
"Righteous!" Mike pounced on an electric guitar that had been sitting in the corner behind the crates. "Does it work?"
"Did when I put it down here."
"Can I play it? Please?" The Turtle clasped his hands together.
Tala blinked her grey-blue eyes. "Sure, if it means that much to you. Knock yourself out."
"Thanks! Grab the amp, Sparks."
"Leo." The hand grabbed his shoulder.
"What is it? Something wrong with Zack?" He lurched more upright in the chair.
Di stepped back. "No, we think we may have figured it out. But we need a source of DNA."
Leo blinked a couple of times. "And you want mine?"
"Zack's original DNA. Donnie was under the impression he packed a hairbrush or a toothbrush."
"Yeah, I think he did. That stuff must be with the van. You want me to go get it."
"That was the general idea. Did you need a cup of coffee or something?"
"Nah, I'll be alright. The exercise will finish waking me up."
"Then we'll go ahead and set up the extraction process."
"Are you sure this is going to work?"
Di hesitated. "The odds look favorable on the computer. But computers can't predict everything."
"How's Donnie doing? Besides saying 'the probability is favorable.'"
"Burying himself in the problem. It's not straining him physically." She slipped out of the bedroom.
Leo shook his head. "He's gonna work himself into a coma."
Mike kept checking the strings and plugs while they put up the last of the crates and moved back down to Tala's living room. The red-masked Turtle sulking on the couch groaned when he saw the guitar. "Where'd that come from?"
"I bought it to experiment," Tala answered. "And I discovered I wasn't musically inclined."
Mike gleefully connected the wires. "Grumpy-shell wouldn't let me bring mine."
"Fourteen hours to drive is bad enough," Raph grumbled. "Fourteen hours listening to you practice is worse."
Sparks limped to the couch. "Are you any good?"
Mike grinned, switching on the amp with his foot , and let loose a wailing rift. Vinnie's mouth dropped open as he recognized "Enter the Sandman" by Metallica. It ended roughly as Mike lost the notes. "Ack, used to Jimi."
"Wow!" Sparks gushed. "Jimi?"
"My guitar. Donnie custom-built it for me." He adjusted the strings.
Vinnie sat down next to Tala. "Truce?"
"Just believe me next time when I say I don't want to talk about it."
Vinnie nodded vigorously.
"Why didja name it Jimi?" Sparks asked.
"After Hendrix, the guitar god." Mike sighed at Sparks's blank expression. "You are so young. If we've got the time, we'll work on your music education."
Sparks made a face. "Don't you dare. Charley might remember 'bout my homework."
"Where'd Charley-girl go anyway?" Vinnie glanced around the room to double-check that she wasn't there.
"Said something about getting a car back to a customer," Raph answered. "Throttle went with her."
"Howdya learn to play?" Sparks asked.
"Taught myself. Hafta have an outlet for venting. And music soothes the savage beast, accordin' to Master Splinter."
Vinnie glanced at the sour-faced Turtle in the red mask. "Doesn't look like it's working."
"Wrong savage beast." Allie's weary voice carried from the stairwell door.
Mike looked up, concern radiating from his brown eyes as he continued to adjust the guitar. "Sleep any?"
She kissed his cheek. "A little. Play something soothing." She curled up next to Sparks on the semi-circular couch.
Raph made a disgusted sound in his throat. "How 'bout 'Shot Through the Heart'?"
Mike gave him a brief scowl. "First, the title is 'You Give Love a Bad Name.' Second, I would never play that for my girl. Third, it ain't soothing. And fourth, I ain't taking requests from you."
"You never take requests from me."
"That's 'cause you think Nine Inch Nails is happy music."
Mona let the stairwell door bang shut after her. "So this is where everyone else ended up."
"Not everybody," Tala said.
"Yeah, Modo and the baby are still up in the ship. And Leo went out." Mona sat down next to Allie and rubbed her back. "Holdin' up?"
"Best as I can."
Vinnie didn't think Raph could scowl harder, but he found he was wrong. He looked at the lizard-girl and jerked his gaze away. It kept returning to her. Mona didn't look at him though.
"Got the song." Mike started playing a soft ballad.
Mona turned to look at him with a smile. She turned back and started singing.
I could start dreamin' but it'd never end
As long as you're here we may as well pretend
I've been dreamin'
Straight from the heart
Vinnie remembered a guy had sung this song before, but it didn't matter with the set of lungs Mona had. Her brown eyes shut mostly as she concentrated.
You said it's easy but who's to say
That we'd be able to keep it this way
But it's easier
Comin' straight from the heart
Give it to me straight from the heart
Tell me we can make another start
You know I'll never go--as long as I know
It's comin' straight from the heart
Vinnie glanced at Raph. His surly expression was replaced by longing as he stared at Mona. He was in love with her? Vinnie jerked his head back to Mona and back to Raph.
I'll see you on the street some other time
And all our words would just fall out of line
While we're dreamin'
Straight from the heart
Give it to me straight from the heart
Tell me we can make one more start
Mona opened her eyes and look at Raph. His expression shifted back to resentful. Her singing faltered. Raph looked away. Mona blinked rapidly and pushed off the couch.
"Mona?" Allie asked, glancing at Raph.
"I hafta go. I hafta go!" She fled through the stairwell door.
She turned back to the Turtle. "Raph."
"What? I didn't do anything."
"That's the problem," Mike added.
"What do you mean?"
"You're being a jerk. Go talk to her."
"Mind your own business, Mikey." Raph crossed his arms.
"I didn't think even you could stay mad at her just for being a friend," Allie said. "She knew you'd be pissed over her going with me, but...."
"It doesn't make any difference!" Raph jumped to his feet. "She was only usin' me to get close to you. She was investigating the Ronin."
"You were a bonus," Allie answered coldly. "Though what she sees in you is completely unknown."
"Maybe she likes a challenge," Vinnie suggested.
"She lied to us." Raph seethed.
"She didn't tell you about Mutates stuff 'cause she couldn't. Kinda like you don't want me or any of the other humans you know telling Chief Sterns where you live." Allie shook her head.
"Give it up, Al," Mike advised as he started playing again. "He wants to be miserable."
"I do not!"
"Then why aren't you talking to her?" Tala asked.
Raph glared at everyone in turn and then stormed out of the loft through the stairwell door. Mike chuckled. "Maybe we finally got through his thick skull."
Di scraped her bottom lip lightly against her fangs. This wasn't how she wanted this handled. She supposed it was her own fault; she was the one who insisted on explaining how things stood to Allie. Donnie hadn't understood. A real doctor explains things to the patient and family. She might not be a doctor by credentials, but she had to follow the ethics.
Of course, Allie hadn't reacted rationally at all. Maybe it wasn't fair to expect that from her upon learning her brother had a fifty-percent chance of survival. It was a good thing Mike had been present or she may have broke down completely. But they both insisted on giving the choice of treatment to Zack. What a choice: a chance at dying with an untested, guided mutation back to as close as the original state they could get or life as a Mutate. Di really didn't like handing over the choice to Zack; it reeked of her father's tactics.
Her tail swished, accidentally hitting Donnie. He looked up from the computer terminal built into the sickbay, then glanced over his shoulder at the scene she stared at. He brushed his hand against hers and grabbed it.
Allie held Zack's hand. Mike hovered behind her. Zack's breathing finally changed slightly. "Hey Sis."
"Not gonna do somethin' stupid 'gin?"
She took a shaky breath. "No, this is about you. Donnie and Di have been working on a way to fix you."
His head lifted a little at that. "Figured it out?"
"They figured out somethin'," Mike answered.
"Whatcha waitin' for?"
Di spoke up at that. "Zack, I don't think you understand. Your body has been through a lot of physical stress. There's a big chance it could kill you."
He managed to prop himself up on an elbow and turn his head to look at Di. "Never tell me d'odds. 'Sides, trust you." He lay back down on his stomach. "Allie?"
"The ring of Mom's that you said I could have. Can you give it to Karen if I can't?"
Allie's eyes opened wide. "Sure, if that's what you want."
"Wanna give it m'self, but you taught me to cover my bases."
She smoothed back Zack's hair from his face. "Rest now, 'kay?" Mike set his hands on her shoulders.
Di swallowed hard. Donnie squeezed her hand. "It'll work."
"Does anyone else think it's cool he can still quote Star Wars at a time like this?" Mike asked.
"Nobody's ever tried a guided mutation before," Di answered Donnie.
"On this planet."
She frowned, "So Raph's not the only one with problems trusting alien tech."
"It worked for me." Di couldn't think of response for that, and he continued. "It'll work for Zack. We know what to do, the tech is just the means. Besides, that Tala seems perfectly healthy, and her computer says it was done to her."
She sighed, But she hadn't gone through everything Zack has. She didn't voice the thought.