Family, Friends, and Foes

Chapter Six
Welcome to Chi-town

Donatello stared at the computer screen and tried to come up with something to say. Raph drove the Turtle Van through the streets of the ruined buildings. And people thought New York was rundown. Mike watched from the shotgun position. Leo sat in the back of the van, in the seat across from Donnie, meditating. Zack had wrapped himself in a blanket, found a spot on the floor using his book sack as a pillow, and drifted off to sleep hours ago. Di was curled up in the third seat--the one closest to the front seat bench--still wide-awake.

They had talked about Mutates, Val Tech, and genetics. The Mutates had a very organized sub-culture that no one was aware of, all set up by a Leader in a secret cell named Forsaken. From Forsaken, cell groups branched out to different cities, stretching from coast to coast. If the city didn't have a Mutate cell group, it had someone friendly to their cause. Fighting teams like the Black Bones traveled from one cell to another, relaying information, people, and supplies, and helping fight Val Tech. Di was actually from Forsaken, out gathering information on the process that had created the Mutates by studying them. She was also trying to figure out how the children of Mutates were going to turn out--if they could have any at all. Important stuff, which is why Snake-eyes hadn't wanted her risking her neck by helping them.

Donnie had told her a little about himself and his brothers, with Raph digging his elbow into his side the entire time. His paranoia really got irritating at times. Now that he was safely out of Raph's reach, he couldn't think of anything to talk about, and it seemed too forward to ask her personal questions.

Mike swiveled around to face Di. "This place is the pits."

She smiled, "Actually, the Pits are on the other side of town."

"So why come here?"

"Some strange things have been happening in Chicago during the last three years. Someone bringing law and order to the Pits, the local developer has practically stopped strong-arming people into selling their property, and there have been lots of explosions."

"Sounds like stuff the humans should worry about," Raph interjected. "Why does it matter to you?"

Di smiled at his belligerent tone. "Miracles have agents. Someone is responsible for these changes and I have to find out who."

"So you'll know how they'll feel about Mutates?" Mike asked.

"That's right. I have to find out if it's still safe for Mutates families to live here."

"Thought you said you couldn't have babies." Raph's scowl was visible in the rearview mirror.

"There haven't been any births reported in which the infant lived longer than a month, no. But the easiest way for Val Tech to gain new victims is to buy them as infants or young children. When they are rescued, other Mutates raise them. Chicago attracted a lot of those families." Di glanced away for a moment and seemed to be deep in thought. She rallied quickly. "So my reason for coming is to check things out for my people. And I figured the locals probably wouldn't get that upset over one more fight in the neighborhood."

Donnie frowned. "But you do genetic work?"

"Right, but the Leader also uses me as a scout. This might be a good place to make some allies, if the locals need our help badly enough." Di smiled disarmingly. "I'd be worried if we ever become a large enough group that everyone got pigeon-holed into one role."

"Huh?" Mike's brown eyes turned bewilderedly to Donnie.

"She likes being a scientist and a spy and a lot of Mutates have to have two jobs."

"Oh, and a new secret identity, too. You guys should have your own comic book," the orange-masked Turtle gushed.

"He's impressed," Donnie translated for her and felt stupid. She would know that.

"So what else did Mona do besides spy?" Raph asked bitingly.

Di glanced to Donnie and Mike, distress visible in her expression. "I honestly don't know. The last time I saw her was four years ago, the last time I was in New York. She struck me as a caring, empathic person underneath her sarcasm."

"I guess a lot can change in four years." Raph's voice was really bitter, even for him.

Mike sighed. "Raph, I think you're being too tough on her. At least wait till you have a chance to talk to her before you break up with her."

"Mind your own business, Michaelangelo! And worry about your girlfriend killing her when she finds out she was spying on her."

"I think you're underestimating Allie's capacity for forgiveness. And her smarts. She probably knew after that first night."

"I think you're delusional about your girlfriend."

A sudden explosion in front of the van broke off Mike's reply. Raph jerked the wheel, but the forward momentum shoved the van into the new hole in the middle of the street. Donnie and Di tumbled out of their seats, landing roughly against the front bench. Zack cried out as he woke up, sliding along the tilting floor. Leo grabbed Donnie's seat and avoided tumbling into the back of the front bench.

Donnie shook his head. The van was teetering, and he had landed on top of Di. My heavy shell on top of Di, he thought. He struggled up and braced himself on his hands and knees to examine her. She was knocked out, and a trickle of blood oozed through the fur on her forehead. But she was still breathing.

"Oy!" Zack's feet started to kick off the blanket. "Who fell asleep at the wheel?"

One of the double back doors wrenched open and a smoking canister was flung inside. "Gas!" Leo shouted.

Don't breathe, was what Donnie knew to do in this situation. But even as his brain recognized the danger, his body sluggishly inhaled the syrupy sweet gas. And everything went black.

Ryan sighed. This had been an easy escort duty, maybe a little too easy. Not a peep out of Val Tech. How would Skulls or Cat handle this? Probably get the passengers to their destination as fast as possible.

The Turtles' yellow van was in the lead. The Black Bones' three bikes had fallen behind it on the city streets. I better tell whoever's driving that I'll take the lead. They don't know the way to Pete's. He revved his bike and started to circle around the van when a deafening explosion ripped open the street.

He swerved his bike onto the sidewalk, coming to a skidding, 180-degree stop. He twisted his head and watched the van's front-end fall into the hole. He winced as he thought of all the repair work it would take to get it road-ready again.

A man dressed in a muscle shirt, black vest, and jeans ran out of the alley and jumped on the back of the van. He wrenched the back door open and tossed in a smoking canister.

Eight howled a warning and aimed his trike for the back of the van. Laser fire began to rain down on them. "Scatter!" Ryan shouted as his acceleration made him pop a wheelie.

The Bones obeyed, suddenly becoming elusive targets to the snipers on the rooftops above. Dune buggies with weapons across their kickbars squealed from around corners, out of ruined buildings, from the alleys, and from behind them. No wonder we didn't hear a peep out of Val Tech, they were setting up an ambush! But how did they know we were coming to Chicago?

The blue-masked Turtle came flying out of the back doors of the van. Leonardo punched the guy who had thrown the gas canister. Then he leaped onto a passing dune buggy and punched the driver.

Ryan skidded around another laser bolt that almost hit his front tire. "Trash, take out the snipers!" he yelled into the helmet mike.

"Bout time you gave the order." Trash leaped off the back of Smarts's bike and tumbled to the sidewalk. She stood up and her right fist into the masonry of the building. Her left fist followed, and she began to climb up the building.

Leo flipped off the dune buggy before it crashed into a wall, then he continued to somersault out of the paths of the ones that aimed to run him over.

More men dressed in the black vest, muscle-shirt, and jeans swarmed the back of the van. A dune buggy hauling a trailer pulled up behind it. A couple of men dropped down into the van. A few moments passed and Zack was handed up and put in the trailer.

"No!" Ryan gunned his bike but two dune buggies blocked his path. Their laser fire forced him back. Three more dune buggies completed the blockade. Who are these guys? They're not dressed like Guards and this equipment is nothing like Val Tech's. Are they starting to hire outside help?

It didn't matter. What mattered is that when the Bones take a job they see it through. The sniper fire eased considerably and he glanced up. Now it seemed directed across the rooftops above their heads and Trash was nowhere in sight. Get 'em. "Crash and burn chicken!"

"Affirmative." Smarts encouraged one of the dune buggies not forming the blockade to chase after him and Ryan did the same. It was one of Skulls' maneuvers and Allie had named it.

Smarts headed straight for Ryan. Ryan grinned and accelerated. At the last possible second, Smarts turned sharply to his right and Ryan paralleled him by turning to the left. The dune buggies following them crashed into each other.

"Successful every time," Smarts chuckled.

Leo drew his swords and stepped out into the middle of the street. The swords sliced the tires of a dune buggy that passed too close. The dune buggy careened out of control and crashed into another one.

The numbers were starting to favor the good guys again. Through the barricade of dune buggies, Ryan could see Michaelangelo climb over the top of the van and kick one of the guys grabbing prisoners off. The dune buggy with the trailer accelerated away, around the van and hole and down the street. "Shit. Smarts, follow 'em!"

Smarts revved his light dirt bike and used one of the crashed dune buggies as a ramp. He sailed over the blockade. The five dune buggies broke formation and chased after him.

"Watch your back!" Trash cried over the helmet mikes.

"You got five behind you," Ryan added. "We'll immobilize the rest."

Leo was making short work of the still-moving dune buggies. Trash shot a few that veered close to Ryan with a liberated rifle. Trust her to find a weapon. Mike and Eight worked on the bad guys on foot. Soon, they were the only conscious people in the street. Leo ran up to Mike and the van. "Who was taken?"

"Donnie, Zack, and Di. Raph hit his head when we crashed, so I'm pretty sure he breathed in some of that gas." The orange-masked Turtle looked angry, the first time Ryan had seen an unpleasant expression on his face. "This was a nice set-up," he spat.

"Yeah, who told them we were coming?" Leo turned to Ryan.

The brown-haired norm sighed as he climbed off his bike. "We didn't. Smarts is going to maintain radio silence until they reach their destination. We should get your van to a repair pit before it draws attention."

Trash came running up to the group, slightly breathless, her eyes shining, and carrying a large laser rifle. "Pete probably knows a place."

"Probably, but we'll have to stop at the first repair pit we find. We can't haul this thing all over town."

"Well, duh," was her withering response. "Come on, Eight. Push or pull?"

The large black man pantomimed pulling and climbed back on his trike.

"Right." Trash walked over to the edge of the pit and jumped in. Ryan began to loop the hauling chain around the trailer hitch on the trike. Leo and Mike exchanged glances and helped him wrap the chain to the van's frame underneath the back bumper. Once the chain was secure, Ryan stepped back and motioned for the two Turtles to do the same. "Haul it out."

The trike strained. Yells from Trash were audible through the helmet mike and over the grinding metal. But soon the van was back on the pavement. It rested on all four wheels but the center of the van was crunched and buckled.

Leo and Mike opened the driver's door and eased Raph out. "It's the gas," Leo announced after examining him. "Hopefully, he'll come out of it soon."

"Right." Trash climbed out of the hole and dusted off her hands. "Should I carry him or put him on Eight's ride?"

"On Eight's ride. We'll need your hands free to help with the van." The black-haired girl nodded at Ryan's order and helped Leo get Raph secured behind the main seat of the trike. Ryan put the van in neutral, and the caravan slowly progressed down the street.

Ryan took a brief look back. "Be careful, Smarts."

Smarts was being exceedingly careful. He had no wish to splatter his brains over the pavement. The dune buggies behind him continued to fire, but his green bike was elusive enough to avoid it. I wish someone could mount guns on our bikes. He dodged another shot. Let's test this hypothesis.

He took a right at the next intersection and two dune buggies followed him. He grinned as he taunted them. His bike swerved in and out of their gun sights, right up to the wrecked bridge across the Chicago River.

Smarts performed the calculations instantly and threw on his brakes. The heavier dune buggies screeched past on either side and off the end of the bridge. Their tires left burnt rubber streaks on the asphalt. He saluted the uglies bobbing in the water and took off.

He quickly found the trailer with the prisoners, now surrounded by the three remaining dune buggies. He followed them on a parallel street. Their course appeared to be straight ahead.

Smarts reviewed his mental maps of Chicago and frowned. They were heading into the outskirts of the business district. He stopped his bike as the dune buggies rolled into a plaza and courtyard dominated by a tan and blue skyscraper. The buggies rolled into its garage.

Smarts sighed with relief. It wasn't a Val Tech building. Maybe we just wandered into an ambush set up for someone else. He turned on the mike in his helmet. "Ryan? They've gone to ground."

Raphael groaned and sat up. He was lying on a bench, inside a brightly-lit garage. The ruined Turtle Van was parked in front of the second metal garage door next to a car that blocked the first.

"This is the weirdest shit," Trash declared as she walked into the garage through a swinging door on the back wall. "Who would run out without locking up in this neighborhood?"

"It's suspicious." Leo's head appeared in the ceiling through a trapdoor. "This bedroom's window is busted from the inside. Opposite of your standard break-in."

Mike walked in through the open garage door that had been raised to let the van in. "Well, there's no blood or body."

"That's a bonus. We'll just get charged with breakin' and enterin' instead of B and E and murder." Trash sat down on a stool next to a workstation covered with schoolbooks.

"We didn't break anything." Ryan sighed as he stepped away from the Turtle Van's raised hood. "And getting this thing road-ready is beyond my technical expertise. We're going to need a mechanical miracle worker."

"And no mechanic anywhere on the premises." Trash shook her head and made a tsk noise.

"What happened?" Raph finally asked.

Mike walked up to him. "How ya feelin'?"

"I'll feel a lot better when I know what's going on." Raph growled, trying to hide the fear he felt inside.

Leo lowered himself out of the trapdoor and dropped lightly to his feet on the cement below. "We were ambushed. The Van got smashed up. Donnie, Zack, and Di were captured. We got the van here--the Last Chance Garage--and have been trying to see what's wrong with it."

"Donnie and Zack?" His heart lurched. I was driving; I should've been able to keep from going into that hole. I should've seen an ambush. If anything happens to them.... "What are we sitting around here with the van for! We gotta get 'em back!"

"Chill out, shellback." Trash tossed her black hair over her shoulder. "Smarts is following them. When they go to ground, we'll get 'em out. Simple."

"Yeah, we just have to figure out how to transport you guys." Ryan kicked open the door without a window on the left wall. "Ah," he headed inside the bathroom to wash his hands.

"Man, I wish my wheels hadn't got creamed. Four passengers won't fit on two bikes." Trash jumped off the stool. "What's wrong with this?" She ran her hands along the body of the car parked next to the van.

Ryan came back wiping his hands on a paper towel. "Because we don't know if it runs and I don't think we'll get good service out of the mechanic if we steal his customer's car."

"So we should borrow the tow truck parked in the back?" She asked, cocking her hips and jerking her thumb to the rear of the garage.

He shrugged. "As long as we bring it back in one piece. Which means you and Raph can't drive it."

Leo ducked into the door with a built-in window near the bathroom door.

"Very funny." The girl crossed her arms over her chest and glared.

"Wait." Ryan pressed his hand against his dark blue helmet right over his ear. "Where are they? Limburger Enterprises? Ever heard of him? No, me neither. Doesn't matter, we're on our way." He turned to the others. "Let's mount up. Smarts found them."

Leo tossed a set of keys into the air and caught them as he walked back into the garage. "Let's go."

Trash howled as she ran through the swinging door at the rear of the garage. The Turtles followed her through the kitchen and out into the empty lot behind the building. She jumped into the back of a light blue tow truck, and Mike and Raph joined her there.

"I hope the owner won't be too sore with us," Mike commented.

"Don't sweat it. This guy named his business the Last Chance. I think that says a lot 'bout his understanding nature." Trash grinned as she hung from the pulley support. "Besides, it's not like we're going to crash it through a wall or something. Better us take it than some crooks that would chop it."

"Oh, so that's why Ryan's locking everything down?"

Raphael ignored Mike and Trash's conversation. Donnie and Zack had been captured, and it was all his fault. If he had been paying attention to the road instead of worrying about Mona....

Mona... he tried to ignore the piercing pain. Oh, but all the doubts were answered now. She never did care. That's why it was so easy for her to leave. So desperate for a girl, you were willing to ignore that she was just using you for a job. And when the job left town, so did she. You didn't matter at all.

He grimly set his face into a resolute facade. It doesn't matter. I don't need her, he stubbornly told himself, knowing it was a lie. Donnie and Zack are more important. We have to save 'em before Donnie gets put under the knife.

They joined Smarts at a T-junction. The nerdy-looking, red-haired young man gestured up at a tan and blue skyscraper. "That's where they went."

"What are we waiting for?" Raph snarled as he jumped out of the back of the tow truck.

Trash squinted her eyes. "Hey, is somebody else breakin' in?" She blinked. "Guess it was just a shadow."

"Come on, Trash, we're breaking in now." Ryan called out patiently.

"I'm coming." She swung off the pulley support and landed on the asphalt, then jogged quickly to catch up with the group.

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