"Say it, Leo. I wanna hear it. You can stay with us for the entire patrol."
Leo sighed as he turned the steering wheel of the Turtle Van. What had convinced him to bring Zack along in the first place? "Yes, you can stay with us the entire patrol. Providing that if anything happens you get out of the way."
"You'll never know I was there," Zack vowed. He knew the Turtles didn't feel ready for the responsibility of teaching, especially Leo. He wasn't going to push what progress he had made.
The Turtle Van pulled into a parking space next to the sidewalk. Zack tried to look calm as he hit the cement but he couldn't hide the brightness in his dark eyes. Mike tried to remember his excitement over their first patrol, the one where they had rescued April. To actually be excited over this drudgery seemed alien. He would fight with gusto, never looking forward to a challenge like Leo, never starting a fight like Raph, never dreading a fight like Donnie. But in fighting he found a place to live almost to the fullest and that was his main goal in life. But Zack was young, he didn't know what he wanted from a fight. Or life.
"You know what directions to take," Leo reminded as he turned. "Zack?"
"We already had this conversation. Twice. I don't want regular procedure changed because of me and I'm not stupid enough to want to tackle something all by myself. I have my Turtle Comm." He patted his pocket.
Leo nodded and left, and Zack felt the stirring of pride. He could handle this; he would show them he could handle this. Deftly, he moved down the street,
being sure to stay in the shadows.
Zack peered into the window. It was a jewelry store and five Purple Dragons were robbing it. He reached for his Turtle Comm and a thick arm slipped around his neck. "I wouldn't do that."
"I don't suppose you would believe I was shopping for a present for my mother?" The man grabbed Zack's wrists and twisted them behind the boy's back. If he tried to throw the Dragon, he would pull his arms out of their sockets. Great, just great. "It's for Mother's Day!"
"You're a few months late, kid," the Dragon growled.
"I was trying to find a sale."
"What did you find?" The rest of the Dragons crowded around Zack and his captor.
"A nosy kid."
"Take care of him. You know how the Boss feels about witnesses." The captor
gave a curt nod and dragged Zack down the street.
Mike shook his head. Allie would kill him. Allie would kill all of them. Their only chance was if Allie never found out. He pulled out his Turtle Comm. "Leo, we got trouble."
"You said you would watch Zack. What happened?"
"Dragons grabbed him. I'm following from the roofs. But Zack saw them at work."
"Great. Oh great. I knew Zack wasn't ready."
"Don't be too hard on the micro-dude. He was reaching for his Turtle Comm when they nabbed him, and we weren't too hot our first times. Besides, Splinter said he was ready."
"I'll get Raph and Donnie. You follow them."
"What do you think I'm doing," Mike muttered as he closed the Turtle Comm and
leaped to the next building.
Zack winced as the Dragon jerked open the warehouse door. If only the guy's grip would loosen, then he could get away.
If by some miracle, the goon actually decided to listen. His hand eased the pressure of Zack's wrists and he tore loose. He sprinted across the warehouse, heading for the collapsible ladder to the catwalk.
The Dragon swore under his breath as he pulled out his gun. A sai spun and knocked the gun out of his hand. "I wouldn't try that, pal," Raph growled.
The Dragon's face contorted as he lunged for the gun. Zack heard the scuffle but didn't bother looking back as he leaped up and grabbed a rung of the ladder. The Dragon grabbed his gun and shot.
Zack gulped but continued to climb. Raph and Leo rushed to the Dragon, who scrambled to his feet and rushed for the ladder.
"Zack, look out!" Donnie yelled. Zack glanced down as the Dragon grabbed the ladder and tossed it. All Donnie could do was watch in fear as Zack's hands slipped from the rung.
"No!" rang out in the warehouse and echoed in Zack's ears. Then he realized it was coming from his mouth. Suddenly he felt his body land against something soft yet resilient. He felt his body movement shift and he was jolted back to awareness by landing roughly on his shoulder.
He blinked and looked up. The black hood of the Ronin stared back at him. She released him and dropped over the side of the catwalk.
Leo and Raph had the Dragon cornered when the Ronin landed on him feet first. She hauled him up by grabbing some of his jacket in both fists. Then she drifted up out of their reach. "A simple cable and winch." Donnie answered the questioning stares on Leo and Raph's faces. "Probably hooked to her belt."
The Dragon thought he had been rescued. The Boss must have sent one of his ninjas after him. True, the ninja had landed on him and true, he had never heard of the Shredder sending a ninja out to rescue anybody. But he didn't remember that until he saw the cold fury in her blue eyes. "If you ever, ever pull a gun on anyone again, I will know." She shook his body which she was holding by his jacket. "And I will make you pay for it." One hand let go of his jacket and touched her belt. The she attached something to his belt behind his back, wrapped her free hand around the wire supporting them, and let go of him.
The Dragon screamed as the grey concrete floor of the warehouse rushed toward him. But a foot away from the floor, the cable grew taunt, and his fall stopped. It had achieved the impossible, Leo noticed as he grabbed hold of the swinging, sobbing Dragon. "I don't think he's cried since the doctor slapped him," Raph commented.
"He probably slapped him back instead of crying."
Mike had hooked his rope to the catwalk and had now reached Zack. "Are you okay?"
Zack winced as he sat up. "I'm okay. My shoulder hurts from the landing." He pulled his fingers away and they were covered in sticky blood. "What happened?"
The Turtle twisted the boy around. "The bullet grazed your shoulder."
"I didn't feel anything."
"You were probably pumping too much adrenaline to feel anything. Donnie can patch you up in the Turtle Van." He helped Zack to his feet.
"Mike, the Ronin saved me. I would have been splat if she hadn't pulled that Tarzan move. Doesn't that prove she's on our side?"
"If that's all the proof you need. Raph needs more. Donnie and Leo are doubting their judgments because if the Ronin turns out to be bad, they'll wish they had done more to stop her."
"What about you?"
"What about me?"
"Do you think the Ronin's on our side or the Shredder's?"
"I don't need any more proof." They reached the set of stairs and walked down slowly.
Raph helped Leo pull the Dragon out of the building as they trailed behind Donnie, Zack, and Mike. "I really would like to know what she told him," Leo frowned.
"Yeah," Raph grinned, "I bet he hasn't cried this much his entire life."
Allie dropped off the ladder and into the Lair. Mike looked up, almost apprehensively. "What's wrong? You don't look that guilty unless something has happened."
"I like your skirt." Allie obligingly twirled in the multicolored broom skirt."But black's not your color."
She glanced down at the black bodysuit. "I borrowed it from Sam. Now what happened? How did patrol with Zack go?"
"Hi Allie!" Zack cheerfully met them in the foyer with steps and the ladder. "I got shot!"
"The bullet just grazed him, Allie." Mike hastened to explain.
"Maybe I shouldn't have sounded so cheerful about it," Zack murmured.
"You promised nothing would happen to him!"
"And nothing did."
"You call getting shot at nothing!"
"Maybe I should have tried breaking it to her gently," Zack murmured.
Allie's face was white with fury. She stormed into the main room and Leo, Donnie, and Raph cringed visibly. Mike trailed after her helplessly. Zack watched from the doorway. Casey perked up as he sat up on the couch. "Fireworks!"
"You . . . you . . . you . . . you promised nothing would happen to him!"
Raph sighed and turned to Mike. "You had to tell her?"
"Allie, it was just a freak accident. No one could have foreseen it," Leo said soothingly.
"Zack'll be fine," Donnie told her in that same tone. "The bullet just grazed his shoulder."
"About a foot over and it would have just hit his heart!"
"Now you're overreacting," Raph commented.
"I'll show you over reacting!" Her boots clumped against the floor. "You're supposed to keep things like this from happening. If it hadn't been for the Ronin, Zack would be dead!"
Again the Turtles made soothing noises, but Zack didn't listen. He backed away from the main room. "Zackery, what is wrong? Is that Allison shouting?" Splinter looked up from his chair as the boy stopped before the train car door.
"You never do know someone as well as you think you do, do you, Splinter?"
"What is troubling you?"
"Allie's raising hell because the Ronin saved my life."
"That is understandable. Allison cares for you deeply."
"That's not the problem. Me and Mike didn't tell her that the Ronin had saved
Her anger hadn't spent, not in the least. Her fury had driven her speechless. Leo, Donnie, and Raph realized this and kept quiet, so not to give her any words for arguments. But Mike realized it wasn't just anger that contorted her white face. There was fear there as well. Fear that she would lose Zack forever and she couldn't do anything about it.
Mike understood this as he gently touched her shoulder and turned her around. "We need to talk."
"What about?" Her blue eyes were tired, weary of the fighting.
"Not here. Up on the roof."
Donnie breathed a sigh of relief. "I hope Mike can calm her down."
"If he can't, no one can," Leo replied.
Allie leaned against the rim of the roof, letting the wind brush back her hair. "I love it up here. Remember when we would come up here and look for signs of the Technodome, despite Donnie telling us it was useless."
"I remember how everybody in the city was so mad when we finally demolished the thing." Mike leaned his back against the wind as he leaned back against the rim beside Allie. "So what if they couldn't use the interstate system for six months to get out of the city. You would almost think they liked having a weapon of mass destruction rolling beneath the streets."
"New York, gotta love this town." She turned toward him. "I'm sorry I jumped all over you about Zack."
Mike sighed, she wasn't making this easy. "Allie, I have to ask you something. Please don't get angry."
"I'll try but you know I can't promise anything."
"You're involved in something?"
Allie sighed, "Yes."
"Something sorta grey?"
"Why are you asking about this?" Allie demanded.
"Why won't you tell me anything about it?" Mike countered.
"You'll be safer if you don't know."
"I don't care about safety. I care about you."
"Why can't you accept me for what I am?"
"What? Full of mysteries? I accepted everything about you three years ago."
"People change in three years."
"And they change their relationships to accommodate those changes. But they can't do that with secrets."
"So what are you saying?" Allie cried. "That as long as I have a secret we can't have a relationship?"
"Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying!" Mike answered.
"Well, I'm saying as long as you can't accept me for what I am now, we can't have a relationship!"
"Then it's over."
"Then it's over," Allie continued to gaze over the city.
Mike paused as he walked away. "I'll tell you how Splinter's doing."
"Don't bother. I'll ask Zack." She didn't care that her tone was curt, but her soul shuddered as she heard the door shut.