There are deals Leonardo just won't agree to... even if saying no should mean his death. (Rated for implied torture.)
I look more closely at him, frowning and pretending that his answer surprises me greatly. In truth, it doesn't -- he's not by any means the first to refuse one of my offers the first time I make them.
He won't be the first to swallow his pride and accept them when some time has passed either.
"Excuse me," I say politely, "I think I didn't hear you correctly. You are refusing my offer?"
"You heard correctly," the turtle says, calm as you please, and obviously perfectly aware that I'm not actually surprised. "I'm refusing your offer. To me, it's not an offer at all."
"I wonder if you have quite considered what you are refusing. You see -- I own you and your brothers now. I can do anything I want with you. I can have you killed, if I wish... or I could keep you alive, and in pain, for years. I have some quite skilled torturists in my employ, you know."
"I have no doubt."
"But you can save yourself and two of your brothers. Any time you want to, you can walk out and be free, and you'll have my personal guarantee that nobody in my employ will ever so much as come near you again. All you have to do -- all you have to do -- is pick one of your brothers who stays behind."
"I heard you the first time," the turtle sighs. "No deal. Sorry."
"You're turning down a chance for freedom?"
He looks me straight in the eyes. "Freedom, while one of us is still a prisoner? That's not freedom at all. The three who were set free would always remain prisoners, no matter if they could go where they wanted and do what they wanted." His gaze is solid as steel behind his mask, and I'm already looking forward to the day when he'll look at me with a broken and sorrowful, or dull and empty, eyes. "There are many types of cages, and not all exist in the physical world. You're not stupid, you realize this. Which is why, I suspect, you're making the offer in the first place."
Clever, turtle. Very clever. But not clever enough. I raise myself, making sure to smile politely to him. "If you truly feel this way, I won't bother to try and convince you any more. For now. We'll see if you might change your mind after some time."
As the guards take him away and back to his cell, I congratulate myself on a successful first conversation. Sure, the turtle turned me down, as I knew he would, but it's no fun if there's no challenge.
It had really been a coincidence that they had been discovered. The Turtles never found out the entire story, but bits and pieces of information from many, direct or overheard, conversations, could be put together, like a jigsaw puzzle, to form a reasonably coherent story.
A surveillance camera had caught one of them in a moment's carelessness. (The Turtles would spend a lot of time, later on, arguing which one of them it had been, but they never found out anything for certain.) The Turtle in question had only been on-screen for a second or so, but that second had, unfortunately, been seen by the wrong person.
A person with the time, the money, and the drive to find out more.
From that one image, extensive searches were made. Witnesses were found, half-forgotten and uncertain descriptions let the pursuers ever closer, until they were so lucky that they found some of the Turtles' enemies. Said enemies had, after having been subject to various methods of persuasion, revealed what they knew -- which had proved to be enough that the pursuers could lay a trap.
"No," says the blue-masked turtle. He's sitting in the same chair, a little straighter than the first time around. There are no drugs in his system now, of course -- that would just have made the torture less effective. I marvel at how the torturers have been able to keep him mostly intact, though; apart from a few scratches you wouldn't have known that he'd gone through anything at all.
"You're still stubborn?" I say, raising an eyebrow and pretending to be astonished. He's not the first to have lasted a full week without much weakening of the resolve. "Don't tell me you like the torture?"
"Not particularly, no." He absentmindedly rubs his temple, as if he's feeling a headache coming on. It probably is.
"They tell me you screamed quite loudly a few times."
"I probably did, yeah."
"You can end it any time you want, you know. The torturers are all instructed to stop whenever you utter the right words. I accept the deal, that's all you have to say. I accept the deal, you bastards, is quite acceptable too. Quite a few of my guests have used that. Or, of course, the old classic, Please, no more, I'll do anything you want, just stop. Tried and true, that one."
"Sorry." He shakes his head. "I told you no a week ago. My answer hasn't changed since then."
"Your brothers are going through the exact same," I remind him.
He looks at me, his gaze just as solid as it was a week ago. "And you will pay for that," he says. I'm actually impressed at his tone of voice; he's not saying it in anger or despair -- he's just saying it like he's stating something he knows in his heart to be a fact. "Every minute, every second -- hell, every nanosecond of torture they have to endure because of you will cost you dearly."
"An impressive speech," I admit. "Just too bad that it won't help you any. There's only one thing that will help you. You know what it is."
I sigh. "Very well. We'll talk again later."
I wait until the guards have taken him away before I phone up the torturers and tell them to change their tactics a little. We'll find out what breaks you yet, turtle. It'll take a little more time than I had thought, but we will find out.
They'd fought, of course. Many an armed and trained minion were defeated with ease by the Turtles, but even the Turtles, formidable as they were, couldn't avoid the tranquilizer darts forever. Leonardo had lasted the longest, fighting on even after his brothers had lapsed into unconsciousness, but ultimately, he too had fallen.
They'd been taken to what Donatello had surmised had to be some kind of underground, high-security facility -- privately owned, as they had found out; there was no way any government-owned facility would have treated them the way this one did.
A government-owned facility wouldn't have been paradise either, but it would probably have had as its primary goal to research, experiment, learn. And then, of course, try to find out how they could best use what they had learned.
They probably wouldn't have had as its primary goal to torture, to break, to hurt. Or at least, they wouldn't have taken this much obvious pleasure in it.
"No," says the blue-masked turtle. He's slumped in the chair, looking tired and ragged. There are no more scars on him than last time; the torturers have followed my orders and gone over to different methods, all of which they claim to have been effective. The turtle -- all the turtles -- have screamed and cried and sobbed and begged for mercy.
Yet here the blue-masked one sits in my chair, tired and weary and still in obvious pain, with the same defiant look in his eyes. "No."
I sigh, exaggeratedly. "Honestly, your stubbornness is just making things worse, not only for yourself but for your brothers as well. Tell me, how did you find the new 'phantom pain' method? I'm quite proud of it -- a mix of hypnotic suggestion, highly illegal substances and... well, for want of a better word, let's call it magic."
"I got that lecture from... your people as well." He grimaces, it apparently hurts him to talk. "They like telling us what they're... about to do... before they do it."
"Ah yes, they do that. Call it a personal quirk. So, how was it?"
"I could have sworn that... my eyes were actually being pulled out of their sockets... with red-hot irons... Not that I've actually had that happen to me physically before, mind you... but that sensation must be... awfully close to what the real thing feels like." It's a long tirade to come with for someone who's obviously in pain, but he manages somehow.
I sigh again. "So, aren't you being a little stubborn here? One of your brothers. That's all I ask. The rest of you will be free to go the very moment you pick one to stay behind."
"No." He looks at me -- dammit, that gaze is still strong and resolved! -- and says, quite coldly: "My brothers and I... are a team. We do not leave one of our own behind. Ever."
He's starting to annoy me, just a little. We have had people here who were harder to break, true, but this one is clearly aiming to be among the Top Ten, and is actually pretty likely to succeed if this keeps up.
There's a fine line between an interesting, fun challenge and an annoyance, and I don't particularly want to show the turtle how close he is to crossing that line. Not yet. It's better if he still thinks he amuses me.
I force another smile. "You're condemning all of your brothers, and yourself to a life of torture, you know," I say as cheerfully as I can. "Every moment you resist is another moment in hell for you all. So why not just --"
"Oh, come on, now, be a little reasonable. You haven't even asked me what will happen to the brother who stays behind."
"I don't need to ask," he says, once again with that tone of voice that sounds like he's stating a simple fact. "I know what you would do to him.... As long as I still draw breath, I won't... leave any of my brothers in the hands... of the likes of... you."
"And so you leave all three of them, plus yourself, in my hands instead?" I say, a little more exasperated than I'd intended, perhaps, but it works fairly good as a dramatic effect. "Tell me, where is the sense in that?! Surely it must be better that just one of you is left behind to possibly suffer than that all four of you stay here and definitely suffer."
He just shakes his head. "I have nothing more to say. Aren't you going to... have the guards come and take me back to my cell soon...?"
I have the guards come and take him back to his cell. Afterwards I pour myself a very large drink and down it, probably a little faster than what's healthy.
Dammit, turtle, this isn't over yet. I will see you broken, pointing out one of your brothers. I will see you as a traitor.
Their captor was either sadistic, or insane, or (most likely) both. He wasn't interested in what he could gain from them. The fact that the Turtles would have been the scientific discovery of the century and brought him fame and fortune if he went public with them didn't concern him in the least. He was just interested in one thing, and one thing alone: to break them. To cause as much hurt as possible.
Why he'd gone after them when there would have been so many other, easier victims, was anyone's guess. The rarity of mutant turtles, perhaps, was one of the reasons... Some stray comments from the employees; the guards and torturers, though, hinted that the Turtles weren't the first captives here, not by a long shot, and that the captor seemed particularly fond of families. (He probably had some major family issues, as Raphael said.)
He'd correctly identified Leonardo as the leader, the one who looked after the others, and seemed to take a particular interest in him. Every so often, he would call Leo in and make him the offer: Three Turtles go free, one stays behind. You get to pick which it'll be, and you can't pick yourself.
Just a twisted mind game, of course. Make Leo suffer by forcing him to choose which brother he'd rather betray. Make the betrayed brother suffer, knowing that he was betrayed, left to his own means to be tortured and probably die. Make the two others suffer, and possibly turn against Leo, knowing that their freedom meant captivity and torture for their brother.
But Leo refused to play the game. And kept on refusing.
"..." says the no longer blue-masked turtle, eventually managing to emit a few hoarse noises. He's sitting in the same chair, looking thinner, more ragged and more beat-up than ever. I'm not the only one who's starting to lose patience with him -- the torturers are getting less careful about not leaving too many marks.
"Would you like some water?" I say, pouring a glass for him without waiting for an answer.
He nods and grips the glass with shaking hands, taking first a couple of large sips and then several smaller ones. He coughs and clears his throat a few times before putting the still half-full glass down.
"Ready to pick which of your brothers who gets to stay?" I say as casually as I can.
"No," he says. His voice is still hoarse, but he gets the word out without a problem now.
I take a deep breath and then let it out again. "I could kill you, you know," I say in what I hope is a calm, rational voice. "I could kill your brothers, one by one, and then you. Do you want that?"
"Of course not," he answers. "But I'm not giving any of them up to you anyway."
I clench my fists. How is it possible to be that stubborn... that stupid?! "You realize that all your brothers are suffering," I say, "and that it's your fault?"
" My fault?" He actually seems to think about this. "Am I the one who gave the order to have them tortured? Am I the one who straps them down to tables and does... horrible things to them? No... it's all your doing. And why? Just to get me to make a completely meaningless deal with you."
"Meaningless, is it?" I say through clenched teeth. "You have seen what they do to your brothers, right? I know they've made you watch. With the full knowledge that you could, any time you wanted, end the suffering for two of them, and you say it would be meaningless to do so? What sort of leader are you?"
He laughs. It's a hoarse, rough laughter without much joy in it, but it's laughter nonetheless. "End the suffering? With one of us condemned to a fate worse than death? You don't honestly think that would end the suffering for any of us, do you?" He pauses and shakes his head. "No, of course you don't. That's why you're offering. You're a sick man who gets off on causing as much suffering and pain as you can. I don't understand you, and I pray that I never will." He takes another sip of the water and coughs again.
I pour a glass of water for myself and down it in one gulp. Right now, I would rather have had something stronger, but I've made it a rule for myself that I should never drink while having these conversations. I need to keep my head clear, after all.
It's time to play my trump card, I decide. If nothing else, even if it doesn't break him (and I'm starting to have some doubts that it will), it should hurt him quite a bit. And right now, I really think he deserves some extra hurt.
"All right," I say, pointing to the CD player on my desk. "Do you know what this is?"
"Looks like a CD player," he comments. "New? It wasn't here before."
"I only use it for special occasions," I say, and manage to smile, hopefully without making it look too insincere. "There's a CD I think you should listen to. It's some messages I recorded, from your brothers to you."
I press the Play button. After a few seconds, a voice fills the room; the voice of the orange-masked turtle. It's choked with tears and hopelessness: "Please... Leo... you're the only one who can end this... you have to pick one of us to stay behind... don't let them do this anymore... pick me, I don't wanna live anymore anyway... I'll die happy, just knowing that you guys don't have to suffer like this anymore... Please..."
I look at the blue-masked turtle. His face betrays no emotion, and he's still quiet apart from another, very small cough.
Another voice replaces the first one, this time it's the voice of the purple-masked turtle. It's more controlled, almost dull and emotionless: "Leo, how can you let this continue? You're not stupid, Leo, come on, you must know that it's better for one of us to stay than all four of us having to endure this... this meaningless torture. Let me stay behind, Leo, at least that way you and Raph and Mike will be free. There's nothing to gain by being this stubborn."
The blue-masked turtle drinks another sip of water, his face still not showing any real emotion.
Again, a new voice fills the room, the angry voice of the red-masked turtle: "Dammit, Leo! Now you get off your ass and pick me as the one to be left behind so that you and Donny and Mikey can leave this damn place! I'm tough, I can take whatever they throw at me long as I know that you're all okay! Donny and Mikey are going through hell here, Leo, an' it's all because you're too much of a wimp to do what you have to do! Well, I'm tellin' you straight, here and now: Either you pick me to stay behind, or I'll personally kill you myself! No matter what it takes, Leo, I will do it! I swear it!"
The room is silent once again. The blue-masked turtle finishes his water and places the glass on my desk with an angry clink.
"Bastard," he sneers. But he just looks angry, not hurt. Not like the wounds have stung him to any degree. Dammit, why couldn't those brothers of his have been a little harsher?
"Whatever you call me is up to you," I say, allowing myself to be cold. "But now you hear that your brothers agree with me. It's your fault that they all suffer. Now, pick one of them to be left behind, and then go and do whatever you like with the two others! Your orange-clad brother, he won't last long anyway..."
He looks at me with those damnable steely eyes. "I," he says, stressing every syllable of the sentence as much as he can with his hoarse voice, "Will. Never. Abandon. One. Of. My. Brothers."
"In that case," I say, managing, just, to avoid slamming my fist on the desktop, "you have doomed all four of you. I will kill you all, and your deaths will not be quick or easy!"
He smirks. The damn turtle actually sits there and smirks. "A true ninja is always prepared for death," he says.
I wait until the guards have taken him away before I pound the desk with both fists. It hurts quite a bit, but it does help slightly on the frustration.
The turtle has long since taken first place in the Top Ten list over the ones who held out the longest -- and he's also singlehandedly taken up the first seven spots on my Top Ten list for people who have annoyed me.
This isn't fun anymore. But I will enjoy his death.
A true ninja is always prepared to face death.
Traditionally, ninjas are shadow warriors, assassins, silent killers. They live close to death all their lives, and when it comes to them, they face it with little fear. Sometimes, especially if you know the ninja personally -- perhaps even count him among your best friends -- it can be easy to forget this.
But a true ninja also nearly always has ways to avoid facing death unless it's necessary. For ninjas, even honorable ones, are also skilled in trickery and deceit. A really formidable ninja always, always has another plan somewhere up his sleeves.
And though this had often been up to discussion, especially amongst themselves, when it came down to it the four Turtles were formidable ninjas indeed.
"Hello," says the blue-masked turtle. He's still looking thin and ragged, but stands straight and proud as he holds a very sharp-looking sword towards my throat. "No, no, don't get up, just stay seated."
I try to get up from my chair anyway, to reach for the phone and call for help, but I quickly realize that this is a bad idea -- he is armed and I'm not (damn my not allowing weapons in my own office!), and he'll have no problems killing me long before I can even press speed dial.
Around my sudden captor, the other three turtles are standing, holding a various array of hand-held weapons and looking, just like the blue-masked one, thin and beat-up... but not the least bit broken. Even in my fear for the sword (just one slight move, and my throat is no longer whole!) I can't help but wonder what's happened. The last time I checked, they were all in their cells, waiting for their deaths, all either half-mad or catatonic or...
"You want to know the real secret of resisting torture?" the blue-masked one asks, in a tone of voice that more clearly than any words states that I'm going to be told the real secret of resisting torture whether I want to or not. "Most people think it's all about blocking out the pain. Build up a big enough resistance to it. But, you see, that's where they're all wrong."
I feel somewhat light-headed. He's standing there, sword at my throat, and chatting just as if this was a perfectly normal experience. He's mad, he has to be. There's no other explanation for it.
"The real secret is to accept the pain," he continues, calm as you please. "Pain is a part of us, just as much as any other feeling. It's not easy to accept it, I admit that -- all natural instincts tell us that pain is bad and should be avoided, resisted, blocked out. And that's as it should be, of course. Avoiding pain is a natural key to survival. But with a lot of training... you can overcome the instincts. And once you learn to accept the pain for what it is, you don't need to resist it anymore. Pain is just another interesting experience."
He's stark raving mad. I realize that he's probably been completely bonkers the entire time -- long before I caught him and his brothers. That was why he resisted the torture so well, of course. No sane person could have stood for it all, and no sane person would have delivered a speech like that.
"But of course, it's fun to let others think that the pain really gets to you," says the orange-masked one cheerfully. "Makes 'em think they have the upper hand. And besides..." he grins. "It's a perfect opportunity for practicing your acting. Please, Leo... don't let them hurt us any more.... boo hoo hoo... " he continues, his voice turning into an exaggerated mockery of the choked sobs from the CD.
"Yeah, go ahead and ham it up, Mikey," the red-masked one snorts, but with more amusement than annoyance in his voice. "I'm surprised they didn't see right through that performance of yours straight away!"
"You're just jealous because I have an emotional acting range that you can only dream of," the orange-masked one counters. "Your delivery really stretched your acting skills, I noticed. You got all the basics: Anger, anger and what was that third one again? Oh yeah -- more anger!" He laughs.
The damn turtle laughs. After weeks of torture he stands there joking and laughing. He's mad as well, I realize -- they're all completely mad. They have to be. There is no other explanation.
"It might also interest you to know," says the purple-masked one, addressing me (he's probably mad as well, why should he be the only sane one in the group?), "that as ninjas, we can do a little trick we call thought-projection. We can mentally reach out and send our spirits out via the astral plane to communicate with others. It's not easily achieved, true, but you'd be surprised at what a Turtle can achieve when he needs to. We've all been silently communicating with each other, and with the outside world, for all this time. Making plans and finding the right moment to strike."
Yes, he's definitely mad as well. Judging from his speech, he's probably twice as mad as the others. I wonder if I can strike some sort of bargain with them, but one look on the blue-masked one tells me that the answer will be the same one he's been giving me all this time: No.
As if he's read my mind, the blue-masked one presses his sword against my throat, not hard enough to draw blood but hard enough that I feel it. He's going to kill me, I know it. Briefly, I toy with not giving him the satisfaction of showing him how scared I am... but any resolve I might have arrived at shatters and vanishes at the sword's tip.
"I'm tempted to let you choose," he says, "which of your eyes you want me to poke out with my sword. Unless you choose, I'll poke out both your eyes, and then it'll be your own fault that you're blind, because you didn't make a choice."
I try to say something -- I don't know what, but something about irony, maybe -- but the sword is there and keeps me from saying anything beyond "I -- I -- I --"
He smiles. He shouldn't be smiling. "Just making a point. Relax, your eyes are safe... see, if I alone took revenge on you for your treatment of us, I would rob my brothers of the joy of taking revenge on you as well. And I never leave any of my brothers behind. For any reason."
The next thing I see are the evil smiles of the turtles, looming over me...
"So, Leo," said April as she, Casey and the Turtles watched the police car vanish in the horizon. "You guys wouldn't actually have...?"
Leo shook his head. "Nah. But he thought we would have. And that's almost as good."
"I still say death woulda been too good for that creep," Casey muttered.
"Which is why we didn't let him have it," said Leo. The other Turtles nodded their agreement. "Besides, the facility is shut down, and with the evidence you guys and master Splinter managed to pull up, everybody involved is gonna spend the rest of their lives behind bars."
"Won't he blab about you, though?" said Casey.
"Not after the little show we gave him," said Don. "Besides, there's no evidence anymore. We destroyed all the security tapes."
They were all silent for a while. The question hung, unasked, in the air until Leo spoke up again: "All right... I know you want to ask. Go on, ask."
"Are you guys really trained to accept pain as an 'interesting experience'?" April blurted out.
"Sure," said Raph. "Why'd ya think Splinter keeps whackin' us over the head with his cane when we misbehave? All part of the training."
"...there is something incredibly wrong about that," said Casey.
"Hey, don't knock it 'til you've tried it," said Mike. "By the way, Leo... if it had been another situation, you know, one you weren't sure we'd be able to get out of... would you have taken the offer? Y'know, left one of us behind?"
Leo just shook his head. "Come on... you know me better than that."
Author's Notes: Did I fool you at all? This is my answer to all those 'Turtles are captured and tortured' fics out there, and possibly the closest I'll ever get to writing an all-out angstfic. I'm not much of an angst writer, so whenever I do write angst, there's usually some sort of twist. (Which is the main reason why I posted this story as "Drama" and not "Angst.")
No, I don't know who the villain was, or why he did what he did -- I'll let you speculate on that.