"I can't take it any more!"
Sammie watched the Turtle throw himself into a chair and dejectedly sink his head into his hands. "You knew what you were getting into when you first met her."
"Did I? Or did I think that I might be all the incentive to change that Allie needed?" Mike looked up. "You're the psychology major, tell me."
"I haven't studied your case long enough."
"This isn't a joke." He jumped out of the chair and paced the room. "She has to make a choice."
"Because it's driving me crazy! I can't stand knowing that she's going out night after night placing herself in situations she might not come out of."
"Isn't that what you do? How can you ask Allie to give up her right to beat up guys night after night when you do the same thing without being a hypocrite?"
"Yeah, it's what I do. And it doesn't make me a hypocrite."
Because Allie knew about it since the beginning and I didn't try to hide it from her."
"So, Allie endangering her life isn't what's upsetting you. It's the fact that she never confided the decision in you that hurts."
"I thought we had a more trusting relationship." Mike gazed out the window. "I love her more than everything. I would do anything for her. But she has to tell me what she wants from me. She has to understand I would follow her anywhere; it doesn't matter. She has never left me out of anything before. Leaving me out of this only proves she doesn't love me anymore." He opened the window, grabbed hold of the rope, and slid out of sight.
"Don't you understand, Mike." Sammie closed the window. "She never willingly
takes anyone she loves into danger if she can help it. By not dragging you with
her, Allie proved her love for you."
Mona surveyed the crowd from the freight elevator. The dance floor inside the Snake Pit was packed as usual. The crowd didn't seem to mind her replacement. She spotted Allie between the elevator and the stage, near the wall. It hadn't taken her long to show back up here.
The blonde norm spotted Mona and met her halfway. "You're not performing?" She yelled over the amplified music.
"Nah, Snake-eyes has me on special assignment. Let's go upstairs."
Allie followed her meekly to the elevator. That alone was enough to make Mona's skin prickle. The club din disappeared as they got out on the third floor dining room. Mona steered them to a booth in the back corner. "How's Splinter?"
"Better. He's staying awake for longer times. Donnie says we're lucky it wasn't a stroke."
"So what was it?"
Allie glanced at her before shying her eyes away. "Donnie says it was a chemical imbalance, but the real reason is he's old. He was my grandfather's pet rat before he was mutated. They don't like to think about the possibility of him dying. I'm not real crazy about it either."
Sage stepped up to their table. "Hi girls. Allie, college keeping you to busy to come visit?" The older woman put her hands on her hips.
Allie smiled up at her. "Sorry, it's been hectic."
"Don't look like you've been eating right either. Two dinners and I don't want to hear no back talk."
"Yes, ma'am." Mona saluted. Sage shook her head and left. The salamander-girl turned back to Allie. She twirled a paper-wrapped straw on the table with her peach-colored fingers. Mona could still see her pensive expression. "Your grandfather's pet? No wonder you got involved with the Mutates."
"Actually, I worked with the Mutates first." Allie looked up. "How much has Raph told you?"
"Try next to nothing. Both our dates have gotten interrupted by emergencies."
"They aren't Mutates."
Sage set their drinks down and bustled off again. Mona sipped before saying, "I gathered that with the way them and the guys in the black pajamas throw down, the Foot Clan from the evening news right?" Allie nodded and Mona continued. "But how much do they know about us?"
"Nothing. I haven't told them." She lost control of her modulated voice. "You don't know how they are! They're the only ones who can do anything about the evils on the world so just stay out of their way. If they knew about Val Tech, they'd take that battle over too. They can't split their concentration on two foes. Besides we can't have the Shredder targeting Mutates to get to them. And Val Tech would hunt them to learn how they were mutated."
Mona blinked as Allie lost her fire and looked miserable. "Okay, if you say so. I'll keep my mouth shut to Snake-eyes too, but he already knows I ran into them."
"You have to keep your mouth shut; they'll swear you to secrecy."
Mona shrugged. "I still don't know where they came from, so I'm not hiding anything from anybody yet." She took a bite of the chicken-fried steak. "Yummy. And if you don't think Snake-eyes's opinion that they're lone wolf Mutates needs to change, I trust you. But somebody needs to level with me."
Allie sighed and bought herself time by chewing slowly. "Promise you'll act surprised when Raph tells you?"
"He'll never know you told me anything."
Between bites of dinner, Allie told her the story of ninjas and elopements, murder and mutations, a hidden baby and unprepared grandchildren and inheritance, and the cycle of vengeance.
Mona finished her drink. "It sounds like a bad Japanese anime."
"Welcome to my life. Stick around and enjoy the ride."
"I finally found a guy who thinks I'm gorgeous now. You think I'm givin' that up?" Mona giggled.
"Good luck trying to civilize him. Keep mum about my involvement in the Mutates when you do have to tell him."
"If they start hanging here, they're going to find out."
Allie pushed her plate away. "I know. I've been trying to find a way to tell them for three years that won't betray either side. Just give me a little more time to think about it."
"That I can do, girlfriend."
Allie smiled at Mona for the first time all night. "So what special assignment are you on? Or is it top secret?"
"Not top secret. I'm trying to find the Ronin and see if she poses a threat to us."
"Good luck." Allie stood up. "I've got to get back to the dorm, studying and all that. See you later."
"Don't be a stranger around here." Mona thoughtfully watched Allie leave. Sage came back to the table. "Well?"
"Kept her under a light scan like you asked me to. She was telling the truth."
"I figured she would but best to have empathic lie detector confirmation."
Sage frowned. "On more thing, her adrenaline levels started spiking at the end of the conversation right before she left."
"Thanks, Sage." Mona sighed. "Damn, just when I thought I had a handle on everything."
April gazed into the camera. "On a more disturbing note, there appears to be an increase in gang-related violence. Over the past two weeks, five near riots have broken out. The police have narrowed the list of gangs involved in these outbreaks to six. Unfortunately, these six are the city's six largest: the Purple Dragon Gang, the Bloody Marys, the Brothers of Death, the Ghouls, the Red Angels, and the Head Hunters. When asked if this could be the beginning of an all-out gang war, Chief Sterns had this to say."
The clip shot earlier played. "A gang war? I really don't see the need to alarm your viewers. There are no indications that this will escalate any further."
"What steps are being taken to protect the citizens of these riot areas?" April's arm shoved the microphone closer to Sterns.
"Patrols have been increased, and we are trying to discourage rival gangs from invading each others territory."
"What about the reports that the only invading gang is the Purple Dragon Gang?"
"We have no confirmation of that."
"What about the reports that the Purple Dragon Gang is a spearhead for the Shredder's Foot Clan?"
"I really wish you would stop bringing up your pet theory every time we meet, Miss O'Neil. As I have told you before, bring this department some solid evidence and we'll look into it."
April and the newsroom returned, "So far there have been no civilian
injuries. But the police are advising people to exercise caution, especially if
you live in gang-held territory. This is April O'Neil, Channel Three, Eyewitness
"My practice hasn't started yet," Sammie pulled out a chair and sat down at the table in the cafeteria. "This could be illegal."
Dan grinned, "It's illegal to talk to your friends over lunch? Laws are changing rapidly around here."
"It's illegal for me to offer professional opinion in a court of inquiry when I am not a licensed practitioner."
"It's not a court of inquiry until I get here." Keno dropped into a chair. "Okay, what are we going to do?"
"About what?" Sammie gazed at her plate as she shoved the food with her fork.
"You know what. You've been a part of this since the beginning," Dan frowned.
"I didn't do it, nobody saw me do it, and you can't prove anything."
"Sam, don't make this difficult. We want to help."
Sammie sighed, "The best way you can help is by not helping and by not saying anything. The situation is under control."
"That's not a fair question, Dan."
"I think it is pretty fair. Come clean."
"About what, Keno?"
"About the situation. There's going to be trouble."
"Not if everything goes as planned."
"If everything goes as planned, she's going to get herself killed," Dan declared.
Sammie stood up. "The whole reason she never told you is because she knew you
didn't trust or believe in her. And I'm sorry to say, she was right." She turned
and marched off.
Mary entered the room flanked by her two bodyguards. The room was brightly lit, having only a long conference table with five chairs on each long side and one at the head. "Well, well, well. If it isn't Bloody Mary herself? I didn't know you were invited to the party."
The girls whirled around and backed away from the door. Tony of the Red Angels entered with two of his entourage. "What's going on?" Mary demanded.
"Is this some freak's idea of a joke?" Marcus and two Brothers of Death entered the room, pulling the black hoods of their jackets around their faces.
"I'm laughin'," Sights entered next with one Head Hunter.
Mary noticed their baggy jackets. "What's wrong, Sights? Someone took all your toys?"
He turned his goggled-gaze on her. "That's right. Looks like yours are gone too."
"If the Dragons show up, I'm out of here," Scar announced as he entered. Two Ghouls followed him silently. He marched up to the table. "Man, this is a real party. Assigned seats." He picked up his place card, flashed it to everyone in the room, and sat in the indicated seat.
Mary glanced at the table. Each of the leaders had a chair with an empty chair between them and in front of them. Only the chair at the head missed any indication of who was to sit there.
"The Purple Dragons were not invited." All heads swiveled to the door and watched the two ninjas standing there. The female entered, trailed by the male. "It didn't seem correct to invite them to a discussion about themselves." She sat in the head chair. "Please sit down. And have your guards stand against the walls. I'm afraid I didn't provide enough chairs."
Mary dropped into her seat suspiciously. "You're the Ronin, the one who's staging a war with the Shredder."
"Hardly staging a war. I prefer to think of it as making him pay for back crimes."
"What does that have to do with us?" Marcus demanded.
"Plenty. The Dragons are invading your territories, every one of them. You don't like it and I don't like it. Let's face it, you've done a poor job of stopping them. But I have a plan that will."
"Why do we have to listen to you?" Tony asked warily.
"Do you want to lose your territory to the Dragons? It's in your best interest. Surely, you can understand that."