Family, Friends, and Foes

Chapter Twenty-eight

Di staggered into the hall as she supported Donnie's weight. "Sorry," he said, "shell weighs a lot."

"It's alright, I got you."

"But who's got you?"

The small, grey mouse headed out of the bedroom next to the medbay, but was jerked to a halt. Modo stepped forward with Sparks's tail in his flesh hand. "Ssh, you'll wake the baby."

"What happened?" the kid demanded.

"He lived through it," Di said.

Modo halted Sparks's forward momentum again. "He needs rest and so do you."

"But Dad!"

He picked up his son. "No more but Dad's. Yer tail is gettin' in bed and that's final."

Throttle chuckled while the door shut. "I wonder if Bola ever had to do that with Modo." He eased Donnie's arm off Di's shoulders and around his back as he grabbed the Turtle's belt. "You two are 'bout to drop."

"We still need to tell Allie and Mike and Leo." Di swayed and something looped around her waist that kept her from falling. She looked down and saw it was Throttle's tail. "Oh, I bet that comes in handy."

"Yeah, it does. Don't worry 'bout tellin' the others, we'll do it. Then everybody can have some nap time."

"He made it through the procedure. Don't know how well yet," Donnie said.

"Right, right." one of the bedroom doors closest to the cockpit slid open in front of them.

Allie bolted out of Mike's embrace and jumped to her feet. The Turtle stretched with a yawn as he sat up on the bed.

Throttle chuckled. "You two wanna take their places?" He jerked his head at Donnie and Di.

"Zack survived the procedure," Di began.

Allie pushed them out of her way and ran down the hall.

"Guess that's a yes." Mike yawned again. "You two can have the bed."

"Get some rest, you deserve it." Throttle followed Mike out.

"You can have the bed," Donnie said.

"We'll both take the bed. And if anyone wants to get snide about it, they'll have to answer to me."

"Yes, ma'am."

His eyelids felt like lead, but they wanted to open. He managed a tiny crack. Oh good, someone put the lights on dim. He could manage a bigger crack. His sister was over him. She brushed his hair off his face. "It's okay, Zack. Everything went fine."

Could he speak? He opened his mouth. "Feel funny."

"Probably all the stuff that's been running through your bod." Mike's head leaned over Allie's shoulder. "But you're lookin' heaps better."

"Tired." He took a deep breath.

Allie fiddled with his hair some more. "Go ahead and sleep. You're safe now."

Zack let his eyelids fall shut.

Smarts sighed. There was usually more for them to do after a raid: people to train, cell stuff to help with, supplies to run after. But this had hardly been a typical raid. "Well, I delivered breakfast to Ryan and Trash. They promised to insure that Allie-Cat and Michaelangelo ate also."

Eight sat on the floor of the hanger bay, using one of the ship's supports as a backrest. That also put him right in front of the Vex's cage. Smarts really didn't want to know why Tala had a metal cage so readily available. Eight lifted his hand and quickly signed over his shoulder. *Think you could build one of these babies?* He pointed up at the ship.

Smarts adjusted his glasses, giving the bottom of the ship a hard look over as he walked underneath it. "Sure, after I learned the technology, studied a couple of manuals; I'd have a prototype ready in fifty years by rough estimation."

*Damn, I always wanted to be an astronaut.*

"I didn't know that."

*What's the point on dwelling on dead dreams?*

"Maybe it's not dead." Smarts sat down at the top of the ramp. "If Val Tech keeps working with the Plutarkians, there might be a need for Mutates in outer space."

*Mentioned that to Ryan?*

"No, he's still hovering over Trash."

Eight chuckled, *You expected something different now that Allie-Cat's been booted out of his head?*

"Guess not."

"Would you give the damn one-sided conversation a rest already!" BatWing flopped her still-tied body inside the cage. "You goody-goodies aren't supposed to torture prisoners."

*We could still gag her.*

Mike appeared in the opening at the top of the ramp. "Hey! Zack woke up for a little bit and talked. He's gonna be okay. Spread the word, will ya?" He disappeared back inside the ship.

*That's great!* Eight stretched after signing.

"That's impossible. There is no cure," BatWing said.

"I'll go tell the others." Smarts headed to the stairwell. "And I will endeavor to find a gag."

"Alright!" Sparks started to run for a door, but Modo's tail wrapped around his waist brought him to a stop.

"He ain't up to full-speed yet. Ya gotta be patient."

"You just want me to stay and play with the baby."

"Charley, watch the baby." Modo grasped Sparks's hand. "Come on, we need to have a talk." Sparks swallowed hard as they left the group in Tala's loft. Modo sat down on the stairs. "Now, do ya wanna tell me why yer actin' so crazy?"

"I'm not actin' crazy." He unfolded his arms and shuffled his feet under his father's gaze. "He's my friend."

"Yeah, but yer a smart kid, you know you gotta give him time to get well."

He looked at the toes of his shoes. "They said Mom was comin' home. They never let me see her. And then Roddie told me I didn't have a mom and dad anymore and I was gonna live with her."

"Oh Sparks," Modo wrapped his arms around him. Sparks buried his face against his father's neck. "That's not gonna happen now. Okay? So just relax. Yer gonna be the next one sick at this rate. But you ain't losin' yer friend."

Charley took hold of the baby crawling to the edge of the blanket. "Where do you think you're going?"

The baby blew a raspberry right in her face.

"Taking talking lessons from Vinnie, I see." Charley wiped off her face as the baby started wrestling with her leg. She looked up at Smarts. "Do they know if everything got fixed on him?"

"I don't know," Smarts said. "Michaelangelo just told us that he had woke up and he's going to be okay."

"I guess it's still too soon to tell. They just got finished early this morning."

"You were still awake?" Mona asked.

"No, but Throttle was."

Modo and a much-subdued Sparks opened the stairwell door. Mona cocked her head as she peered up from her seat on the couch. "Better now?"

"Yeah," Sparks dropped on the blanket opposite from Charley.

The baby made a delighted noise and crawled to his tail. Sparks saw him and moved it. The baby giggled and chased after it.

Throttle said good-byes and hung up the phone. "That was Manuelo checking in. Nobody was hurt or experimented on. The officials are putting the apartment demolishing in the same category as what happens to Limburger's Towers. And Val Tech has made a huge donation to aid the victims of the tragedy."

Mona stood up with an angry stride that took her nowhere. "They always do that! When they think they're about to get caught, out comes the checkbook."

Smarts shook his head. "Money lets them escape culpability."

"Culpa-what?" Modo asked.

"Maybe we should just steal their money." Mona's face brightened.

"The Leader would never approve that course of actions," Smarts said. Mona threw herself back on the couch.

"The cops aren't working on a kidnapping charge?" Charley asked.

"Manuelo said they weren't."

Before Charley could comment, the elevator gate was opened and Vinnie vaulted over the catwalk railing. "Toy express comin' through!"

His landing startled the baby into wailing. "Way to go, Vinnie," Sparks muttered as he picked up the human infant.

"What? This haul is for him." Vinnie dumped the shopping bag's contents on the blanket.

"You didn't buy the entire store? How restrained of you." Charley examined the purchases.

"Tala kept telling me to put stuff back."

"Good thing too, otherwise we wouldn't have been able to haul it back." Tala stepped off the metal stairs. "And thanks for testing the structural integrity of my building."

"You're welcome."

Modo got down on his knees and took the still crying baby from Sparks. "Ssh, li'l fella. It's alright. What took you guys so long?"

"Yeah, you left last night." Throttle plopped down on the floor next to Charley, but kept an expectant expression.

Tala sat in the recliner and pulled her feet into the seat. "He got enmeshed in a video game display. Had to beat the stupid thing. I finally paid the manager to lock up, and the manager and me slept in his office. The morning shift got him off the game, we bought the stuff, and finally got to come home."

"That isn't all we did," Vinnie said. "We had to swing by the scoreboard and get my money."

"You took her to the scoreboard?" Throttle stiffened and Charley could feel it, sitting beside him.

"Yes, he did," Tala answered. "The place is filthy. And Bola would pitch a fit over you raising her grandson there."

Modo's head jerked up from the baby. "Don't you dare tell my momma!"

Vinnie snickered at his panicked expression. "Is me and Throttle gonna have to tell her that her baby boy was havin' sex? Like we had to tell her about Stella?"

"Huh?" Sparks looked from his father to Vinnie.

Vinnie chuckled harder. "He couldn't tell his dear grey-furred mum that he had a girlfriend."

"I haven't had a chance to call her! I'm gonna!"

"Gettin' back to the other topic of discussion." Throttle dropped his field specs sown his snout. "What part of secret bachelor pad don't you understand, Vincent?"

"I'm hurt." Tala sounded like she had a good pout going. "You know my house, my ship, use my medical supplies, eat my food, make me go shoot bad guys with you; and you don't trust me enough to show me a bedroom I really didn't want to see? That hurts."

Throttle squirmed. "It's not that. We just want to keep quiet 'bout it. To Earth authorities."

"And you think I'm gonna give you away?"

"Don't either of you care that Zack's gonna be okay?" Sparks grabbed the big, plastic keys on a key ring from the pile of toys and dangled them in front of the baby. That finally distracted him from wailing.

"That's good news." Tala peered over the recliner back. "Did somebody cook breakfast?"

"That's great news!" Vinnie jumped up. "Now we can get started on the party!"

"Party?" Mona blinked.

"We saved the day, Zack is gonna be okay, we owe Felipe a birthday party, and bad guys are out this round," Throttle explained. "Time to party."

"I can live with that," Mona said.

"Here?" Tala demanded.

"The Turtles are hung up on pizza. You guys get weak-kneed without hot dogs and root beer," Charley said.

"It's just not a party without 'em," Vinnie said.

Charley continued by turning to Smarts. "Does your group have any favorites that you get hung up on?"

His magnified eyes blinked. "Eight is partial to barbecue, but I don't think he'll die without any."

"Actually barbecue sounds really good."

"You want a party here?" Tala demanded.

"Where else can we have it?" Modo said.

"No, no, no. I've seen him drunk!" Tala pointed at Vinnie.

"Only because you got me drunk."

"Did not. You were the one who kept buying the drinks."

"Which I wouldn't have if I knew you had an immunity to alcohol."

"Well, whose fault is it for not asking, Mouse Scout?"

"Let's get Pete to host it," Charley suggested. "We owe him an explanation anyway."

"Of which part?" Mona asked.

"Everything," Charley moved to the phone.

"Well, it's not like we meant to leave him out of the loop."

Pete answered the phone, and Charley ignored the lizard-girl. "Hi Pete."

"Do I need to get the photo albums out, Lene?"

"No. Actually, I was calling to see if you minded hosting a combination victory and birthday party for a five-year-old. Then we can tell you everything."

"Blackmail the old man, heh? How many five-year-olds?"

"One chronologically, his two cousins are a few years older."

Pete chuckled. "This could be interestin'. You handle the food angle, I got the drinks. Tomorrow afternoon?"

"Sounds perfect." After she said good-bye, Charley turned back to the room. "We got a place for tomorrow night."

"Aw, we gotta wait?"

Modo's tail whacked the back of Vinnie's head. "Zack'll be in better shape then."

"I'm not babysitting during a party," Sparks declared.

Di eased out of the bed and looked back down. Donatello still slept hard. And there was nothing she wanted more than to curl up again next to him. She squared her shoulders. There is never enough time for what I want. Just enough for what I have to do.

Ryan and Trash were in the room across the hall from their bedroom. He looked up at the door curiously. Trash sighed, "If you're here to play doc on me, go practice somewhere else."

"Sorry, Trash. I need to steal Ryan for a while. I'll bring him back in one piece."

"You better, or I'll yank your blonde tail out."

Ryan moved to the door. "Is it a girl thing to talk about a guy like he isn't even present?"

Di allowed herself a slight smile. "You better get used to it."

"Thanks for the advice." The bedroom door slid shut. "Now what's going on?"

"Something I'd rather not let the Martians or Turtles know about." He followed her out of the ship and to where Eight and Smarts sat eating sandwiches.

Smarts swallowed quickly and gestured with his. "Yours' are inside the galley. We thought it best to allow you to sleep."

"Thank you, but I'm not hungry just yet." Di walked up to the cage.

BatWing's large eyes glared back at her. "Hello kitty. You the one in charge? I'd love to complain about the service."

"You have committed crimes against innocents and Mutates. Do you have anything to say in your defense?"

"This isn't exactly an orthodox trial," BatWing sneered. "What gives you the authority to decide anything?"

The growl rose in the back of her throat, but Di talked through it as she leaned closer to the cage. "You have no right to question my authority!"

BatWing leaned away from her. "Well, you're not a quiet little tabby, are you?"

Di retracted her claws. "You have no idea."

"Have you ever considered the idea of a mole? As close as I am to Tabitha Val--"

"You're still an expendable tool. Otherwise, they'd be rescuing you."

"Everything is expendable to her. But she'd take me back--"

"Bearing our secrets," Di interrupted. "If you had any interest in actually helping us, you would have suggested the mole idea to the team that broke into the lab you were created in, instead of slaughtering nearly all of them."

"Someone did their homework."

"And that's only the first of your crimes."

BatWing laughed. "Crimes? That's something petty humans have. We're beyond that."

"Which is why we have our own justice." Di opened the cage and stepped out of the way. Eight hauled out the trussed-up prisoner. "May God have mercy on your soul."

Ryan rested a hand on her shoulder. "We'll handle this. The Bones owe her."

"It's not about vengeance, Ryan."

"I know."

She closed her eyes. BatWing started to shriek, but it was cut off. The elevator gate opened, shut and the elevator descended. She trudged back into the ship. Instead of going back to Donnie, she sat down at the long table in the galley section of the lounge. She stared at the cup of black coffee set in front of her.

Donnie yawned as he stumbled out of the bedroom. Where did they keep the food around here? And where had Di gone? He found both inside the room across from the medbay. It had a living room set up at one end and a kitchen at the other. Di sat at the table bolted to the floor. "I still feel like I could sleep for a week, but my stomach had other plans." He unwrapped a sandwich off the tray.

"Mike came and got some sandwiches for him and Allie. Zack woke up and talked a little."

Donnie swallowed. "Great, did you go look at him?"

"No. I'm not feeling much like a doctor right now."

"What's wrong?"

Her bangs and long hair hid most of her face. "Something that had to be done."

Ryan ducked his head inside the doorway. "Di? It's finished. Are you okay?"

"I will be."

"Well, I'm goin' back to Trash."

Donnie set down the sandwich. "What's goin' on?"

Her head bowed again. "You're going to hate me."

"How could I possible hate you?"

Sparks skidded to a stop in the hallway, and bounded inside. "Wow! you managed to piss everybody off all at once." He grabbed a sandwich. "Dad's mad 'cause he didn't get to pound her. Throttle's convinced you broke some laws, and Vinnie's mad 'cause he got left out."

"Over what?"

"They made BatWing disappear, permanently."

"We executed her!" Di's hand slammed on the table hard enough to jostle the coffee cup in front of her. "We're not human anymore! Their laws can't apply to us because they would just toss a murderer like her into a lab to study. She'd escape and kill again! I can't let that happen to the norms or my people!" She covered her face with her hands.

Sparks turned to Donnie. "I didn't mean...." The Turtle jerked his head toward the door. The boy took the hint, but still threw back one parting shot. "Cheese, she shot me. I'm not sorry she's gone."

Donnie moved around the table and straddled the bench Di sat on. "It's alright."

"I hate it. I hate having to judge."

"Because you're a doctor."

"I don't have a degree."

He grimaced, not that she looked up to see. "Healer, if you prefer. I hate having to go out and fight, but I do it 'cause my brothers count on me. And you do what you hate for your people."

Her green-gold eyes looked up at him. "You understand."

"The others will understand too. You just surprised them with it probably."

"She was too dangerous to put off dealing with her. And our laws are very clear on what to do with a Vex like her. Lucky and Tracker insisted on a death penalty. They understood better than I did what we would face."

Donnie hugged her. "Sometimes killing is the only choice. It should always be the last choice, but I'm realistic enough to know some people don't deserve a second chance."

"BatWing was one." Di leaned against him.

"You're just tired and stressed right now. I've had more sleep than you, and I'm still tired. Come on, back to bed. Let Ryan handle the flack."

Di let him pull her to her feet. "Unfair to poor Ryan."

"True, but I have faith in him." He put his hands on her shoulder and guided her from behind.

Allie and Mike stepped out of the medbay. "Sparks, it's okay if you want to sit with him. Now that he's okay, I need to get out for a little while. Burn off some adrenaline." She turned and frowned slightly at Di and Donnie. "What's wrong with you? It was a success you said so."

"He lost the wings and tail and is losing the purple skin," Mike said.

Di winced, "The external features have changed back. But we don't know what internal changes are going to be permanent. We might not discover them for months or years later."

Allie grinned. "Diana Zora, you hypocrite. You're always glad when a Mutate looks like a norm."

Donnie felt Di's fur bristle under his hands.

"That's not my name anymore," she snapped. "And furthermore, the underground wouldn't survive without Mutates that can pass as norms--"

Di broke off when Allie suddenly hugged her. "Zack's gonna live and the Oroku clan won't know anything's different. That's all I care about. You're on vacation; stop being such a worry wart."

"This is a vacation?" Mike's eyes opened wide. "What's your real job like then?" Allie grabbed his hand and dragged him down the ramp.

Donnie chuckled as Di's shoulders sagged. "You were afraid she was gonna be upset?"

"I've seen her reaction to bad news before."

"We're all exhausted. It's distorting our perceptions. Let's go of the weight of the world and rest."

"Not very often anyone takes care of me." She kissed his cheek. "Better take advantage while I have it."

Donnie covered the warm spot with his hand. "I wish it could last forever." He sighed as the bedroom door next to the medbay shut behind her. "But we're both too conscientious." His brothers still needed him--not as much as the Mutates needed her--but enough. He went back to the bedroom still filled with the medical equipment used to treat him. They were going to have to talk about a lot of things. He stretched out on the bed. Tomorrow, plenty of time to discuss things tomorrow.

Zack opened his eyes again. Sparks was sitting in Allie's place now. "How ya feelin'?" He leaned on the bed.

"I wanna chew on somethin'. Not that I'm hungry. Where'd Allie go?"

"Get outside for a bit and then take a nap. Do ya want her?"

"Nah, let her go. She's probably been on her self-denying kick while I was out." He rubbed a hand over his face. "It's all gone?"

Sparks nodded. "They said you were getting wings and a tail too. But they did whatever they had to to make that stuff go away and it's gone. Your skin's still kinda purplish, well more lavender now."

"That effect is only expected to last a few more hours before your skin returns to its normal shade," the synthesized voice interrupted.

"Thanks, MC." Sparks rolled his eyes. "But ya don't hafta worry 'bout yer looks."

"That's good to know. Not that I found any girls that care 'bout how I look."

"Who cares what girls think?"

Zack smirked. "Don't worry 'bout it. Wonder if I can climb walls now?"

"You didn't look like a spider."

"Oh well," Zack closed his eyes. "What happened to the bad guys?"

"Me and Mona took down BatWing. Everybody else fought at the Tower and tore it down."

Zack took a deep breath. "But nobody made them pay?"

"The main bad guys got away, but we saved Manuelo's family and the other people. And the other Turtle and the cat girl that's mad at me, they cured you. I think that counts as a victory. Charley's plannin' the party."

"They didn't make them pay!" Zack's eyelids flew open.

Sparks leaned back. "Whoa! Yer eyes just went all white."

"Turned white?"

"Yeah, they're goin' back to normal now."

Zack thought hard about the changes his body had went through. "And I was growin' wings and a tail?"

"Yeap. Nobody knew what you were turning into."

"I was turnin' into a gargoyle. Their eyes changed colors when they got mad. How am I supposed to explain my eyes goin' freaky?"

"Maybe it'll go away too," Sparks said.

"Mutate Di was concerned that there would be lingering mutations now made permanent."

Now Zack rolled his eyes at the computer's voice. "Great, now what do I do?"

"Keep yer temper?" Sparks suggested.

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