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Old 08-23-2020, 08:21 AM   #1785
Musashi
Foot Soldier
 
Join Date: Aug 2019
Location: Scotland
Posts: 138
"Something like Dracula actor Bela Lugosi...?" ventured April O'Neil helpfully, leaning forward, dark eyes wide in apparently sincere interest. Realizing she might have offended her guest, she smiled in a hopefully disarming fashion, before pushing back a stray lock of brown hair as she stole a brief glance at her notes.

The forty-something woman in the chair opposite just became more and more affronted - pinched, sharp features tightening as thinly plucked eyebrows rose higher and higher. "I hope I don't detect a tone of mockery in your voice, Miss O'Neil," she reproved sternly. "That would be most unprofessional of you."

The red neon signs displayed ON AIR, and the WRTL Channel 3 News studio was hushed and tense - From the floor to the soundproofed gallery, all attention was focused on the small set faced by three large TV cameras on wheeled pedestals.

April found her gaze shifting gradually up as Miss McWilliams spoke - She just couldn't help it. Her guest's greying hair was scraped up into a very large bun on top of her head, like a massive loaf of bread balanced there precariously, and every time she spoke the bun wobbled alarmingly side to side, forward and back. A few times, April had had to stop herself trying to catch it.

"Not at all, Miss McWilliams. I think it's true to say, a lot of people are very interested in these Turtles, ever since the pictures were first released, and those like yourself, who have actually seen them in, um, person..." Searching for the right words, April was actually rather pleased about managing to say all that with a straight face.

"In person...?"

"Well, I mean that it's one thing to see a couple of soft-focus pictures and a few seconds of grainy film"-

-"They exist, Miss O'Neil..." Miss McWilliams said in a hushed tone, eyes widening. "Never doubt it..."

"Oh, I don't..." said April, allowing herself to be just ever so slightly enigmatic. "Now, this Turtle you say you've"-

-"Stanley was kind enough to intervene and fend off some unwanted male attention following a class we both attended"-

-"An aerobics class?" April cut in, trying to establish a logical through-line for the viewers at home. Hey, it may not have been her idea to interview this strange character, but she was going to do the job to the best of her ability.

Miss McWilliams tutted. "Yes, an aerobics class. Stanley is a keen practitioner of kung fu and uses aerobics to keep his joints supple. Now, it is an unfortunate fact that although aerobics classes are mainly attended by ladies, there is an occasional, how to put it, element involved that might be there just to... Um..."

"But not Stanley?" demanded April doggedly. She leaned forward, pointing and waving her pen at Miss McWilliams in an accusing gesture, and in response her guest retreated further back into her seat. "And you're sure, totally sure, he was called Stanley...? And... And six and a half feet? Really? Oh, and kung fu? You're sure it was kung fu...?"

Miss McWilliams sounded flustered. "What curious questions, if I might say so, Miss O'Neil, even by the standards you've set yourself so far. Stanley was, and is, a perfect gentleman. Or, heh, gentleturtle perhaps..." She allowed herself a little chuckle at the joke, before realizing no one else had even recognized it as such.

On the monitor, April could see that an artist's sketch based on Miss McWilliams's description of the mysterious "Stanley" had been flashed up on the screen. With his red bandana streaming in the wind, "Stanley" cut an almost familiar figure. Almost, but not quite.

Way too tall. Not enough attitude.

"But... Miss McWilliams, didn't anyone else at the class find Stanley's appearance... um, curious? Even perhaps threatening...?"

"Well yes, that was clearly... a factor..." Clearing her throat, Miss McWilliams continued. "I for one soon found that one wasn't to be fooled by his apparently mean exterior"-

-"Mean? I think he's kinda cute..." was April's automatic response. Her glance flicked over to the camera lens for the briefest of moments. "Uh, not that I have a favorite, obviously..."

"Really, Miss O'Neil, if you will keep interrupting me"-

-"Actually, Miss McWilliams, it looks like that's all we have time for." As her guest reacted with indignation, April turned to the center of the three cameras. "Well, that is indeed all we have time for tonight, folks. I guess that even now, almost six weeks since those famous photographs first appeared, those so-called Ninja Turtles still have a lot of unanswered questions left hanging..."

"This has been a sham"- Miss McWilliams' mic was abruptly cut off and her voice faded. April glanced out of shot briefly, then had an even briefer rabbit in the headlights moment before giving the viewers at home her full attention again with an apologetic grin.

"You have been watching Channel Three's News Digest," she signed off. "Join us tomorrow night at six-thirty when your host will be Jim McNaughton, and I will be back on Monday for your regular news updates..."

***

"This is April O'Neil. Please enjoy your Thursday evening."

The glow of the TV screen was reflected in the rat's eyes. As if it had seen all it needed to, the creature turned and left the apartment the way it had come in.

It scurried down the fire escape all the way to the ground. It kept to the shadows and vanished into a storm drain.

Hurrying through the tunnels below, the rat followed a labyrinthine path that took it deep into New York's sewer system. It came to rest finally and looked up as a shadow fell over it. A callused, bandaged hand reached down and picked up the rat, bringing it close to a face also half covered by bandages.

A hoarse voice whispered, "I will have your report now, my soldier. What have you discovered?" The rat relaxed in its master's hands, nose sniffing the air. It made no sound, but he listened as if they were in some way communing. "Ah yes. The surface-dwellers and their delusions. That can only work to our advantage..."

The bandaged man produced a flute-like instrument and started to play. The tunnel was filled with a melancholy tune, and soon that tune could be heard for miles through the entire sewer system...

***

Below the streets of New York, in the repurposed subway station, a pair of unnaturally large rodent ears perked up.

Splinter frowned. That tune again. It was familiar, and yet not. It spoke to him of unbearable longing and seemed to beckon to him. Come, come with me. Come with me and all your wishes will be granted. He almost did as it asked. He almost followed it to its source. But Splinter would not be anyone's slave. Splinter was strong.

"My sons... Perhaps I was wrong to send you away..." He shivered.

Would he be strong enough?
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