The Foot Clan ninjas rushed forward, fresh for the battle. The Turtles and Mona tried to resist, but were fatigued from fighting off the Purple Dragons. And a lone figure on the rooftop observed this angrily.
A ninja slammed Mike against the bricks of a building. "Prepare to die, freak!"
A black-clad arm slid around the ninja's throat and pulled him back with surprising strength. Mike found himself facing the Ronin. "You!"
"Are you all right?" She asked, the voice synthesizer not able to disguise the concern.
"Yeah, I m fine."
"Then fight these miserable, dishonorable cowards!"
From anyone else, Mike would have felt it was a goad at his incompetence. But from the Ronin, it seemed more like a challenging reminder. He rushed at the ninjas with renewed strength.
These guys outclassed Mona and she knew it. Beating up street punks was one thing, but these guys were trained ninjas. One threw her to the ground. He pinned her there, holding a dagger over his head. The ninja readied himself to plunge it into her chest. Suddenly, a black-booted foot kicked the dagger out of the ninja's hand. It then kicked the ninja off Mona--using the ninja's head as a football. Mona gazed up at her savior in surprise. It was a girl, dressed-up like a hip-hop ninja. "Who are you?"
She extended a black-gloved hand and helped Mona to her feet. "A friend," her synthesized voice stated. "But they'll never believe that."
Mona backed out of the way as she observed the fight. With the addition of the girl ninja, the Foot Clan ninjas were slowly beaten off. She looked for Raph and found him, holding his own. Mona turned back to watch the girl ninja. She seemed to be fighting like one possessed. What could have happened to her that would drive her to such as extreme?
Soon, they had beaten the ninjas back to wherever the Purple Dragons had retreated. The Ronin surveyed the scene and bolted. Leo noticed, "After her!"
Raph grabbed Mona's hand as they ran down the streets after the female ninja. "Who is she?"
"That's the Ronin. We don't know who's side she's on and she's a little unwilling to tell us."
Mona gasped, "The Ronin! Gees, you guys don't know what you're getting into!"
"What do you know about the Ronin?"
"I've heard enough about her to know she isn't someone you mess with!"
Raph ignored this observation as they ran down the streets.
The Ronin was running scared. Mona had seen enough people that were running scared to recognize the signs: the glances over the shoulder; the headlong, mad dash; not even trying to lose the pursuers. The Ronin was headed for a place she knew she would be safe and didn't care how many people followed her. But why was she running from the Turtles? What about them had scared her so badly? Or was she running from the Turtles? Great, Mona, you started this looking for a little non-deadly excitement and now you're wondering about the thought process of a wanna-be ninja.
The Ronin darted into an alley. "It's a dead-end!" Leo crowed as they rounded the corner. "There's no way she can . . . ."
"Escape?" Raph asked as they surveyed the empty alley.
Donnie ran his fingers over the wall in front of them. "I think there's a secret passage, but I don t know how to open it."
"Where would it lead?" Mona asked.
"This is the side of," Mike paused, "Nickey's Blues Bar."
"Well, let's go in," Raph suggested.
The patrons of Nickey's Blues Bar looked up and their eyes stayed on the Turtles as they made their way through the bar. "You guys don't come here often, do you?" Mona whispered.
"Guessed wrong. We do, but never out of disguise," Raph whispered back.
The bartender looked up slowly as the Turtles stopped before him. "What can I do for you? The Shredder ain't here." The patrons laughed gruffly.
Leo didn't know if the joke was on them or the Shredder and decided it would hurt matters to ask. "We're looking for a female ninja. We think she's hiding out here."
"You're the only ninjas I see out here," the bartender said gruffly.
"Maybe she's in the back," Raph suggested.
"No one goes in the back."
"We're not going to hurt anything," Donnie replied.
"No one goes in the back!"
"Listen pal," Mona leaned against the bar. "You and I both know that you're hiding out desperate criminals wanted by the cops."
"I am not!" the bartender thundered.
Mona gazed down at her fingernails. "I know that. You know that. But the cops won't know that when they receive an anonymous tip about this establishment."
The bartender growled, "That's the door."
Mona smiled as they walked to it. "Smooth," Raph told her as they entered the cramped hall.
"Crude but effective."
They searched through the storerooms and empty apartment. "Nickey sleeps here?" Mike asked. "He needs to hire a maid."
"He probably uses this as a hideout for friends in trouble," Mona replied. "This place is known for being a neutral zone."
"What makes Nickey's so special?" Leo frowned.
"No one wanted to argue when Nickey decided not to choose sides."
"I think I found the secret door," Donnie called out. They followed him into the next horizontal hall. Donnie traced it out against the bricks. "The only question is where she went from here."
"Probably further back," Leo answered. "There's no way she would risk going through all those cutthroats without changing clothes. And that apartment hasn't been touched in months."
"That's what I love about you," Raph dropped an arm around Leo's shoulders, "the way you jump to those brilliant conclusions."
Leo glared and continued marching down the vertical hall. Mike sighed and followed. Mona leaned over Raph's shoulder. "You get on their nerves a lot, don't you?"
"Deal with it."
"Quiet!" Leo whispered furiously. "I think we found something."
The hall ended in a closed door. A strange symphony of various sounds issued from it. And the most prominent was human voices. "What's going on in there?"
"I don't know," Mona answered when they turned to her. "I never heard about this on the street."
"Which probably means Keno doesn't know anything about it." Leo frowned, "All right, we're going in. Be ready for anything."
He eased open the door. They slipped onto the walkway that hugged the inner wall. The people they had heard through the door were slightly louder, but they were located on the floor below them with the network of computer terminals. No one noticed them. "What's going on?" Mike whispered.
"I don't know." Leo pointed to a door across the room from them that was near a metal stairwell and was on the catwalk that wrapped around the room. "But I think we can find some answers there."
They crept along the catwalk and no one on the floor noticed. Donnie peered interestedly at the computers. "That explains a lot."
"What do you mean?" Mona whispered.
"I noticed someone had created one of the most secured network of computers I had ever seen about a year ago, but I couldn't figure out what it was for. The Ronin must be using it, and this must be where it is housed."
Leo reached the door first and eased it open. Mike shut it behind himself. "This isn't too hard."
"Don't speak so soon," Mona gulped.
Mike directed his sight around everyone in front of him and stared at the black-clad ninja blocking their progress. "Who's this guy?"
"I am Taro," he bowed stiffly, never taking his eyes off the group.
"At least this one has a name," Raph commented.
"You will leave now," Taro replied.
"Nothing doing," Leo growled. "We're searching this place top to bottom. And you're in the way."
Taro pulled out a pair of sais but Leo whipped out his katana just as fast. The sais grabbed the blade. Leo shoved the ninja against the wall. "Get past!"
The others wasted no time. Taro gave a terse laugh. "You'll never catch my mistress."
"You gonna try to stop us?"
He could almost see Taro's smile underneath the ninja hood. "I do not need to. She is more than able to protect her secrets." He slipped the sais off the blade and tucked them into his belt.
Leo watched him as he backed away and followed the others. Taro made no move to follow. The hall ended in an office. This certainly ain't the room with a view, Leo observed as he gazed at the bare and windowless wall.
"Come on, bro," Mike urged. "Someone left the trap door open."
Leo ran around the desk and followed Mike down the hole. "Where does this go?" Then he caught a whiff of a draft from below. "Never mind."
"Home sweet home," Mike laughed. "What happened to Taro?"
"He didn't want to fight. Said we were no match for his mistress."
"His mistress--the Ronin?"
"Who else? I don't think the odds are very high for two female ninjas sharing the same bar as their base."
They reached the sewers proper. Leo and Mike dropped onto a wooden bridge everyone else stood on. "Someone doesn't want to get their feet wet," Raph commented.
"Don't complain," Mona admonished. "I think it's a nice gesture."
"Which way did she go?" Leo frowned. To come this far, just to lose her?
"The bridge only goes one way," Donnie pointed out. "It might be a regular escape path."
"Then why leave the trap door open?" Raph asked.
"It's a game," Mike announced. "She wants us to chase her."
"Let's not keep her waiting," Leo trotted down the bridge.
The sewer bridge ended at a ladder. Mona grabbed a rung, "You know this has been a helluva first date, how are you going to top it?"
"Me?" Raph asked, in mock-innocence. "I thought you were planning the second date."
The manhole cover lifted up on the street and the Turtles spilled out, replacing the cover quickly and disappearing into the shadows with Mona Lisa. "Where are we?" Donnie asked.
An icy vice gripped Mike's stomach. We can't be here. She can't be here! But she led us to Nickey's, then she led us here. It's just a game. No, not a game, a challenge. And I just figured out the challenge.
"Mike, you okay?" Leo dropped a hand on his brother's shoulder. "You look sick."
I can't tell them. They wouldn't believe she would do it, that she could do it. And it wouldn't be fair; they had to solve the challenge. But they had to have this clue to even try. "It's the Greek row at Allie's college. She took me on a tour and I recognize it."
"Well, it looks like that house is having a party. And if the Ronin changed clothes . . . ." Mona turned to the Turtles.
"We'll never find her," Raph growled. "Unless, we get some help! Mike, call Allie.
"What for?" he yelped.
"To have her scout out the party for the Ronin; what do you think? Your girlfriend ought to be good for something."
Mike sighed and pulled out his Turtle Comm. "She's not answering. I don't think it's ringing."
Donnie looked at it over Mike's shoulder. "I think she turned hers off."
"We'll just have to do this the old-fashioned way. There's a pay phone," Raph pointed down the street.
Mike sighed and dialed the number. Maybe I'm wrong; Allie's safe and sound in her dorm room. "Hello?" A female voice answered, too cheerful to be Allie.
"Hi, is Allie there?"
"Sorry, but I'm available. She had to go to a party. I'm her roomie, Sammie."
"Was it the party at E, lined out zero?" Mike glanced at the letters on the house with the party.
"It's Greek letters, Mike," Donnie told him. "That's sigma theta."
"I mean sigma theta," Mike corrected into the phone.
"Let me guess, you don't read the Greek alphabet any better than I do. But that's the one." Sammie sighed, "I wish I knew a Frat boy to invite me. You sound too cute to be a Frat boy and I'm available, wanna crash the party?"
"You may be available, but I'm not." Raph snickered and Mike glared.
"All the good ones have been snatched up," Sammie pouted, and it carried well over the phone lines. "So who got a hold on you?"
She sucked in her breath. "Oh gees, it has to be a talent. Look, don't tell her I hit on you, okay? I have to live with her for the rest of the semester."
"I won't. Thanks for your help. Bye." Mike hung up the phone and turned toward the Sigma Theta house. "She's in there."