Just when Michelangelo thinks this alternate world has no more surprises for him... Leonardo delivers the biggest ones yet.
The Sensei and his Student
"I'm getting used to this part n-" Mike as the world came to a halt around him again, but cut himself off as he found himself staring directly into the face of Leonardo, which was just two inches in front of his eyes.
With a startled yelp, he jumped back.
And to his surprise, he suddenly found himself trapped within a semi-transparent, faintly glowing, greenish force bubble (not unlike the ones he'd seen in that movie, The Incredibles, the thought struck him, showing that even in completely unexpected situations like this, he could still find pop culture references in anything).
He spun around, looking for a way out, but the bubble had sealed him in completely, and before he could try anything else, he noticed that Splinter and Shredder were no longer there. He was completely alone.
Well, almost alone. Outside the force bubble, Leonardo was watching him. And Mike suddenly realized that his older brother was looking directly at him, being able to see him clearly.
"Very good, April," the blue-clad Turtle said. "You've got him. Hold him for a while; I'll call for backup."
"What the shell --?!" Mike yelped. Now he could see that they were in the old lair, the one that had been destroyed by Mousers long ago, where he had first met Leatherhead. But it was completely renovated, equipped with more high-tech stuff than your average science lab -- computers, flashing screens and lights, wires and devices that Mike could only begin to guess what were for -- and there on the floor, with her eyes closed and an intense look of concentration, sat April.
It actually took Mike a second or two before he recognized her; her hair was cut short and seemed darker than before, and she was wearing a skintight, dark gray bodysuit. But there was no mistaking that face, even if it was currently wearing a strange expression he hadn't seen before.
Mike didn't have time to ponder this, because Leo had taken out a Shell Cell and was currently talking into it. "This is Leonardo," he said. "We've got some trouble here in the old lair. No, we've got it under control for the moment. Can you bring the guys here, though?"
In Mike's head, Splinter's voice suddenly rang out. I did not prepare for this, it said. The Leonardo of this world has sensed your prescence and prepared a trap. We will try helping you out of this, but it will take some time. Talk to him in the meantime.
"Huh?" was all Mike could think of saying to that, but Splinter's voice had vanished and didn't elaborate further.
"Yeah, bring him too," said Leo to the Shell Cell. "Thank you. See you soon." He hung up and looked at April. "They'll be here as soon as they can. Can you hold him until they do?"
"Yes, sensei," said April, her voice sligtly distant, as if she was in some kind of trance -- which, Mike guessed, was probably not far from the truth. It seemed like she was the one projecting the force bubble around him, through some kind of meditation... but how? The April he knew couldn't have done anything like that! Shell, nobody he hung around with on a daily basis could do anything like that!
He tried reaching out and touching the force bubble surrounding him, but found that some invisible barriere stopped him from doing so.
"Don't bother, spirit," said Leo coldly. "You're trapped. Now, who are you? You've been nosing around my brothers all day! Maybe they didn't sense you, but I have!" His eyes narrowed behind his mask. "And if you think you're going to seem more trustworthy by taking on the appearance of a Turtle, you're mistaken."
"Ummm, hi?" said Mike sheepishly. "You can see me, huh?"
"And hear you too," said Leo. "As long as you're inside that force bubble, you're perfectly visible and audible to everyone, so there's no point in trying to avoid answering my questions. Who are you? Why are you spying on my brothers and me?"
Mike gulped. "Well, you're probably not gonna believe this..."
"I'll be the judge of that."
"Heh... well, I'm. uh, your third brother. Michelangelo. Or rather, I'm sorta the spirit of your third brother Michelangelo. I'm not in my body at the moment."
Leo shook his head in disdain. "Not good enough. I only have two brothers, and the three of us are the only ones of our species in existence. Try doing some better research next time."
"But it's true! I come from a different reality where Master Splinter found four Turtles, not three! I grew up with you guys and... I'm just visiting this world in spirit form to see how things'd be if I was never born! I mean, yes, I know it's a cliche, but in my defense, it wasn't my idea, and I never even said 'I wish I'd never been born' or anything like that, and --"
There came a snort from April, the unmistakable sound of a repressed giggle, but she quickly composed herself and slipped back into her trance. The bubble glowed a little brighter as she did so.
Leo shot the woman a glance, then turned back to Mike. "You're not actually expecting anyone to believe that, are you? That's the most absurd thing I've ever heard!"
"Hence my earlier comment that you were probably not gonna believe it," Mike sighed. "Look, Leo, I --"
" Leonardo to you!" Leo snapped. "I'm only 'Leo' to my friends!"
"Right, right, Leonardo." Mike decided that this was not a time to follow the big cliche and insist that they did know each other and try to treat Leo like the big brother he knew. "Look, I know it's difficult to swallow, but there is another world out there where you have three brothers."
Leonardo frowned. "I know there are different worlds and alternate realities out there. I've visited a few. But none which ever contained anything like a third brother."
"But it's true! Look, you all started out as normal turtles, right? And then you were lost down the sewer and covered with this glowing green ooze from a canister with the letters TCRI on it..." Mike rambled, keeping a close eye on Leo's expression. "And you were found by this rat called Splinter, who raised you and ---"
"More or less everyone who knows of us, knows that," said Leo coldly.
"Well, uh.... Raphael used to had a teddy bear called Pookie when he was six!" Mike tried.
Leo paused, looking genuinely surprised. " That, " he said after a long while, "I didn't think anyone outside the family knew. How did you find out that?"
"Told you, dude, I'm your brother from an alternate reality. 'Cept, in my reality, Raph and Casey are best buds, and you're not training April... and April definitely can't project force fields or whatever this is." Mike tried touching the force bubble again, but once more found that his hand was held back. "How come she can do that here?"
Leo's voice was a little softer, as if his suspiciousness was easing up, as he answered: "She couldn't, originally. How to explain this... Well, some time ago, we were contacted by the Utroms... I suppose you know the Utroms as well?"
"All right. I don't know how it is in your reality, but here they're planning on establishing a new Earth base after their old one was destroyed... and since they already knew us, they asked us for assistance. Since my brothers are both busy with their personal lives, it was Master Splinter, April and I who ended up being the main contact people. It was one of the Utroms who discovered, almost by accident, that April was... a latent psionicist, I think he called it, with the potential for vast powers. The Utroms taught her how to unlock her potential, and since the mental and physical diciplines she needed were very similar to the ones my brothers and I had been trained in as ninjas, I agreed to train her."
"Huh," said Mike. "Another difference between our worlds. Wonder why the Utroms never showed interest in establising any new Earth bases in my reality?"
"I wouldn't know," said Leo. "I think they mostly did it at the prompting of a friend of theirs, but..."
At that point, a bright light emerged from one of the devices in the background, and Mike suddenly recognized Leatherhead's old teleporter, the one he had been building in Mike's reality but hadn't finished. In this reality, however, it seemed like the crocodile had managed to get it up and working, because within the bright light, three figures faded in and became solid...
Mike stifled a gasp. One of the figures was Leatherhead. The other was an Utrom, in the traditional humanoid exo-skeleton. But the third... was a tall, black man with glasses...
" Baxter Stockman?! " Mike yelped.
The man stepped up, straightening his glasses. "Anyone mention my name?"
"Dude! Don'tcha see him?!" said Mike to Leo and April. "It's Stockman! He found your place! You gotta do something!"
"I'm perfectly aware it's Stockman," said Leo. "I spesifically requested him to come along."
"What?! But he's a bad guy!" said Mike. "He's gonna experiment on you and sell you all out to Bishop or the Foot Clan and..."
"I would do no such thing!" said Stockman. "I deeply resent the implications that I would!"
"Excuse me," rumbled Leatherhead, walking up to stand protectively beside Stockman. "Leonardo, who is this... prisoner of yours? And more importantly, why is he slandering my best friend?!"
"I have no idea," said Leo, looking back at the trio. "He claims to be another Turtle from an alternate reality. I must admit, he's more clever than I thought -- almost had me convinced too." He turned back to Mike. "I'll have you know that Stockman is one of the Utroms' most trusted allies, and personal friend of me and my brothers! Sure, he used to work for the Shredder, but he's completely reformed and now works with the Utroms! If you didn't know that, then you've really messed up your research!"
But he's a bad guy! Mike wanted to scream. He worked for Shredder, and for Bishop! But then he realized something. First of all, Stockman was not in his robot body, but looked like a completely normal man. Second of all... back in his own world, it had been him who first met Leatherhead and discovered that he was working with Stockman.
Since I wasn't there to interfere, my bros probably never discovered Leatherhead and so, Leatherhead was never told that Stockman was a bad guy. And that means that with the help of Stockman, he managed to finish his teleporter and rejoin the Utroms... and Stockman musta gone with him. And somehow gotten a new body from the Utroms, and...
Mike felt as if an icy hand has clutched his heart.
...what if Stockman actually managed to change for the better? What if all he needed was for someone to trust him and treat him as a friend... and since Leatherhead and the Utroms never got those horror stories about him from me and the guys...
It's my fault that Stockman in my world is still a bad guy! And it's my fault that Leatherhead couldn't rejoin the Utroms, too!
"I notice you're not talking anymore," said Leonardo. "Finally realized that your little game isn't going to work?"
But Mike didn't answer. He couldn't speak at all.
TO BE CONTINUED...
Chapter notes: Oh, before anyone airs the possibility of Baxter Stockman being a traitor or similar in this reality, let me just shoot those down. He really did change, for more or less the exact reasons that Mike guesses at here. He's definitely a good guy in this reality.