In Over Their Heads: “The Shredder Strikes” Part Two

“None of you will leave here alive” — The Shredder

Written by: Michael Ryan
Original Air Date: April 19, 2003
Recap Narrator: Leonardo

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Five concepts I would have loved to see in TMNT 2k3

Why I’m generally very satisfied with all the characters and stuff that TMNT managed to adapt from the Mirage comic book, there are a few concepts which I really wish had made the leap from their original continuities into the cartoon.  These are the five that top the list:

Note: So as not to fill the list with the usual suspects, all of the old toon characters appearing in Turtles Forever are discualified from consideration.

5. Professor Obligado


Even though this is probably the one concept in the list most likely to have made it into the cartoon, as it’s an original Mirage concept, he’s also the hardest to incorporate, as he originally starred in a series of solo back-up strips that never even involved the turtles.

Basically, Professor Obligado was an Utrom professor who’d have high-concept adventures in the name of SCIENCE!  He was first introduced in a story called “The Grape”, which involved his death from a drug overdose, and it snowballed from there.  Unfortunately, his story never really got a proper conclusion (aside from well, dying).

4. Roadkill Rodneys


A.K.A. “those guys who would take half your health in Turtles in Time if you weren’t careful”.  I absolutely love these guys, partly because they have a rather awesome design, but mostly because of their name.  Roadkill Rodneys.  Roadkill.  Rodney.  It’s brilliant.  Whatever chemical processes led someone to name these that, I want in.  Plus, they could have been made to fit rather easy.

3. Cudley the Cowlick


One of the more awesome concepts from the Archie TMNT series (based on the first cartoon, at least in theory), Cudley is a giant floating cows head, that also functions as a spaceship.   He can also traverse through the dimensions, and was prior to Turtles Forever, the one character in the franchise aware of the different turtle-verses.

2. Oyuki Mashimi


One of the things I deal with in my April Forever fic is the idea that aside from the two family members we meet—the missing uncle August O’Neil and her sister Robyn, who gets about two minutes of screen-time—she has no relationships outside the turtles or people she meets through them.  While they wouldn’t need to take too much screen-time, it would have been nice to know that they were there.

Created for the Archie comic books, Oyuki was a Japanese homeless girl who had been kidnapped by baddie Chien Khan as part of a ritual sacrifice.  Eventually rescued by the turtles, she decided to stick around, and eventually became April’s roommate and assistant.  In the story “The Angel of Times Square”, set in the “future” of 1999 (the series took place in 1994 by then), it’s revealed that she has become a reporter in her own right.

Note: an updated version of Irma would work just as well, but given that we got a cameo of her in Turtles Forever, she’s not eligible.

1. Shadow Jones

While the animated series was generally quite good when it came to translating the various Mirage characters to the screen, there are some notable omissions; this is the biggest.

Shadow Jones was, in the original comic books, Casey Jones’ step-daughter, and the daughter of his first wife, Gabrielle.  While we first see her as a baby in 1992’s “City at War” arc, we eventually see her as a teen when the comic book series returned for its fourth incarnation in 2001, and at several stages of her development during the non-linear “Tales of the TMNT” book.

Given the logistics involved, the chances that we were ever going to see Shadow were always slim.  A teenage Shadow wasn’t happening without time travel, and we’d already seen one of Casey and April’s descendants in Cody Jones.  Having her as a baby, on the other hand, would have required either shoehorning in Gabrielle into a situation in which she didn’t really fit (the events that brought about her appearance in the books couldn’t really be duplicated in the ‘toon) or having her be Casey and April’s birth daughter.  However, that in itself isn’t without its complications, as it would have required either writing in a pregnancy (which, while not unheard of, is still a subject most children’s cartoons don’t really deal with), and depending on the timing, having them have a child out of wedlock, which wasn’t going to happen*.   The best bet for having her appear would have been to write her in as something that occurred during the one-year gap between the events of seasons 5 and 7, but given that the writers were intent in having Casey and April marry, there was no way to write it in without establishing, again, that they’d had her out of wedlock.

In the end, even if they’d been able to write baby Shadow in, what would she add?  She obviously can’t be a character in herself, and while there are stories that can be told about how she changes Casey and April, such stories are usually beyond the scope of Saturday morning cartoons.  Not only that, her presence would have likely ended up limiting Casey and April—after all, they can’t risking their lives when they have a baby to raise.

So why I want her included at all?  First, because like I said before, she’s the biggest of the Mirage characters that wasn’t adapted to the cartoon, and I would have liked to see her included just for that.  Not only that, it would have been the natural next step for Casey and April, and given how much I enjoyed the progression of their relationship and their adult lives, it’s one I would have liked to see taken—even if we never got to see kick-ass adult Shadow.

—-

* Note that while the episode “The Return of the Justice Force” did have an out-of-wedlock pregnancy as a major plot point, the pregnancy itself was kept offscreen, and involved characters exponentially less prominent than April and Casey.

The Archmage, the Witch, and the Gargoyles: “Long Way to Morning”

“This game is futile.  You were too old to play it a thousand years ago.” — Demona

Original Air Date: January 20, 1995
Introduces: The Archmage; Prince Malcolm
Timeline placement: Flashbacks: 984 A.D.;  Present Day: Jan. 20 – Jan. 21, 1995

Synopsis:

Castle Wyvern, 984 A.D.  Prince Malcolm is tucking in a young Katharine to bed, using unconsciously racist (you know…metaphorically speaking) stories of gargoyles to frighten her into staying put, when Hudson-who-was-not-yet-“Hudson” (who notably does not have his scar or miscolored eye) enters the princess’ bedchambers with tidings for the father.  The gargoyle leads the prince outside, and after asking his liege not to use gargoyles as boogeymen (a request the prince dismisses as over-sensitive), gets down to business: an old enemy of theirs, the Archmage, whom Malcolm had banished after he tried to usurp his throne, may still pose  a threat.  NotYetHudson is immediately proven right when the Archmage appears, shoots a dart at Prince Malcolm from a blowgun, and escapes.

Roused by the commotion, young Katharine arrives at the scene, and sees NotYetHudson kneeling before an unconscious Malcolm.  After pushing the Gargoyle away with her power-puff fists, she then kneels before her fallen father, crying, as the gargoyle looks on, guiltily.

Fade into present day, where the clan is just waking up.  As the trio make plans for the day, Hudson stares wistfully at castle Wyvern “dreaming old dreams”.

Elisa’s apartment.  As the policewoman prepares for work, she is attacked by Demona, who shoots a dart (could it be? symmetry?) at Elisa, hitting her in her left breast.  The gargoyle gloats that the dart contains poison, which will kill her in 24 hours unless an antidote is administered; unless Goliath shows up at the Old York Opera house, Elisa will die.  As the gargoyle leaves Elisa to her fate, the policewoman feels relief at the fact that the dart was stopped by her police badge, which she’d put on not a minute ago.

Some time later, after Elisa finishes recounting these events to the rest of the clan, Goliath decides that, even with Elisa safe, it’s best to go after Demona, to “try to reach her”.  He orders Brooklyn (who wants badly to score some payback on Demona, making him inappropriate for the task at hand in the gargoyle leader’s eyes) to remain in the tower, while Lexington and Broadway will guard Elisa at her home.  Hudson will go with Goliath.

As the two gargoyles arrive at the meeting place, Hudson uses his tracking skillz to deduce Demona’s location.  It’s for naught, however, as Demona gets the drop on both heroes and scores a direct hit on Goliath with her laser rifle.  Hudson moves in to protect his leader, and manages to use his sword to deflect another shot from Demona, which hits the rifle and causes her to fall from the roof.

Granted a few seconds respite, Hudsonpicks up Goliath positions his arm on his shoulder to support him.  Demona catches up however, and begins taunting Hudson, calling him “old soldier” and saying that he’ll never defeat her; Hudson responds that he doesn’t have to: he just has to wait until sunrise and its healing properties.   Spotting a skylight, he decides to break through to escape, with Goliath still hanging by his shoulder.  After falling through to area beneath the opera stage, the old gargoyle leaves Goliath to rest for a moment, unmindful of his leader’s wish that he be left behind.  He takes out his sword to face Demona, who has followed .

We flash back to 984 A.D., where Hudson, the Magus, Katherine, and the Captain of the Guard, all stand around the bedridden (but conscious) Prince Malcolm.  Magus diagnoses the prince, saying that the dart contained poison with magical properties, and that only with the Grimorum Arcanorum (currently possessed by the Archmage)would he have a chance to cure him.  Katharine blames NotYet Hudson for her father’s fate, and although the prince sends her away and apologizes for her, the old gargoyle can’t help but agree with the girl: it was his duty to protect the prince, and he failed.

Castle Wyvern battlements, not long after.  Hudson is joined by Goliath (although it’s unclear if he’s been named that yet) and NotYetDemona, and he explains their mission: to find the Archmage and retrieve the Grimorum.  NotYetDemona, in a conversation with Goliath that is less private than she thinks, tells her lover that she thinks not NotYetHudson should step down from leadership, as age has taken its toll.  Goliath disagrees, saying that his age has also brought him wisdom, which is why he leads.

Back in the present, Demona has caught up with Hudson and Goliath, and tries to psyche him out.  As she shoots to and fro, Hudson carries Goliath outside the opera house via a small window.  As he ignores Goliaths pleas that he leave him behind and save himself (he’s very whiny this episode), he makes his way to a sewer.  As he carries Goliath through the underground tunnels, he reminisces on the Archmage adventure, which brings us back to 984, where NotYetHudson is using his tracking skills to follow the Archmage and draw conclusions on what his possible course of action will be.  Hudson hears as NotYetDemona tries to convince Goliath, that he, not NotYetHudson, is the natural leader of the clan,  although Goliath doesn’t agree.

The three ‘goyles arrive at a cave and enter.  NotYetDemona complains that doing so is tactically unsound–they can’t glide, for one–but remains with them nevertheless.  As they continue, they begin to see a series of etchings carved into the wall, including one that NotYetDemona notices looks a lot like her getting attacked by the Archmage.

The three trek on.  Eventually, they arrive at the foot of a deep, but not terribly wide, chasm; at the other side, at the threshold of a structure with  intentionally skull-like architecture, is the Archmage, who attacks the gargoyles with a Grimorum-channeled lightning bolt, which causes them to (apparently–the animation isn’t terribly clear here) fall into the chasm.

Back in the present, the game of cat and mouse continues.  You know the drill: Goliath asks to be left behind; Hudson ignores the plea and continues carrying Goliath; Demona follows, trying to demoralize her prey. She eventually manages to corner Hudson, pressing him against the tunnel’s mouth, which forms a small waterfall some fifteen feet above the river.  Instead of allowing himself to be shot, however, Hudson lets himself and Goliath drop into the water below.

After he takes Goliath to the shore (a fortuitous lightning bolt has temporarily prevented Demona from pursuing–did I tell you both chases take place during a thunderstorm?), we flash back to the fight with the Archmage, where the mages’ thunderbolts have downed NotYetHudson (leaving him with his trademark scar) and NotYetDemona.  Goliath, on the other hand, manages to dodge the attacks and retrieve the Grimorum.  However, the Archmage, although now powerless, isn’t done: picking up a stalactite (which may actually be a stalagmite), the tries to attack the Gargoyle.  Goliath dodges, and the Archmage falls into the chasm.

Meanwhile Back in the present, Hudson and Goliath have arrived at a graveyard.  After confirming that yes, he is still being followed, the old gargoyle hides Goliath inside a mausoleum, and, fully cognizant that he can’t beat her, heads outside to face Demona.

To be fair, Hudson does a more than respectable job against the demon-gal, even busting out some nice acrobatic flips.  It is only when Goliath, who had been listening to the battle, attempts to help that Demona gains the upper hand.  “I’m smarter, stronger, and younger than you!  Your pride will cost you your life!” she declares, as she disarms Hudson.

“But I know something you don’t,” a downed Hudson says.  “Something that only comes with age.  I know how to wait.”  Cue the sun.

984 A.D., Prince Malcolm’s bedchambers.  The Magus’ antidote worked, and the prince is on the mend.  Malcolm thanks NotYetHudson, but the gargoyle tells him that he doesn’t deserve the credit.

Outside, NotDemona again tries to convince Goliath that the clan needs a new leader.  Goliath tries to argue his point, but is stopped by NotYetHudson, who tells Goliath that it is indeed time for him to step down and for the younger gargoyle to take charge.  Goliath protests, saying that it was the elder’s tracking skills that led them to the Archmage, but eventually acquiesces, on the condition that NotYetHudson continues to provide his guidance.  The older gargoyle agrees.

Graveyard, present day.  As the sun once against sets, the Gargoyles wake.  With Goliath now healed, however the tide has been irrevocably turned.  Demona retreats, gloating that she’s still succeeded in killing the (she believes) poisoned Elisa.

As they watch Demona leave, Goliath thanks Hudson for his invaluable assistance.  Hudson, with none of the heaviness from the beginning of the episode remarks that he’d believed he had no more uses as a fighter, but is glad to be proven wrong–even managing to joke about it.  With nothing else to do in the graveyard, the two gargoyles glide home.


—-

This episode always kind of gets lost in the season 1 shuffle; I’ve only seen it twice , and one of those were for this review.  Aside from the flashback scenes, there’s just not much here–Hudson feels old until  he realizes that he’s can still be a badass, the end.  It doesn’t help that this is the second-worst-looking episode in the season (just try to count the coloring errors) which, in an episode that is mostly action scenes, helps bring it down even more–Goliath, for example,  just stands there as Demona shoots him, which is just poor storyboarding.  This isn’t to say, however, that there isn’t anything that can be said about it.

The most interesting detail in this episode is the relationship between prince Malcolm and NotYetHudson.  While its clear that Malcolm treats the gargoyle with some respect, and maybe even friendship, it’s also clear from his persception of  NotYetHudson’s so-called oversensitivity that he isn’t terribly sensitive towards gargoyles as a whole.  It’s a slightly more benign, and unconsious, version of  what Rush Limbaugh does when he rallies against gay rights while inviting Elton John to sing at his wedding (assuming that the radio pundit actually believes what he says, which is in no way a given).   He’s definitively a racist (or more accurately, speceist, although that word lacks the undertones of the former so I won’t use it here), but not a conscious one (one can just imagine him saying “some of my best friends are Gargoyles” if asked) which is is some ways worse than the worn-on-their-sleeve racism of Demona (if she wore sleeves), Castaway, or early princess Katharine, because it can be just as ingrained, and yet is much harder to fight.  It’s also a good bit subtler than the usual treatment than intolerance gets in cartoons–even in this one–and the sort of thing I wish I’d seen more.  It also makes Prince Malcolm more than just a background character–the writers make very good use of his very limited screen time.

This is the first non-pilot episode in the series  to really feature an extended flashback to medieval Scotland, setting an important precedent for the series; such flashbacks will eventually become a hallmark of some of the series’ most important episodes. Plus, it introduces The Archmage (love!),  in his generic we-didn’t-expect-we-would-be-using-this-guy-for-more-than-an-episode character design (boo!  hiss!).  Plus, designs for the younger Katharine, Magus, and Captain add some spice to the episode.

This episode’s strenghts (such as they are) lie in its small moments, and the weirdest of these is the brief appearance of carvings and sculptures in what initially appeared to be a natural cave.  Like everything else in the series, the cave is eventually revisited, yet not really explained, and it remains one of the more intriguing (if oft-overlooked) plot bunnies in the series.

Random thoughts:

  • While dramatic symmetry can be an effective storytelling technique, it’s a bit too blatant here, what with Hudson’s state of mind, the tracking, the storm, the poison darts, and the (sort of) chase for the antidotes. Although Gargoyles usually loves its symmetry (see “Hunter’s Moon”), this is a bit too anvilicious.
  • Given that Demona obviously knows where Elisa lives, one wonders why she doesn’t try to kill her more often once she discovers her failure (which occurs two episodes from now) especially after she gained the ability to function during daytime.  At the very least, I would have appreciated  a funny (if ill-fitting) montage of all her Coyote-style attempts on Elisa’s life.  My current theory for why it didn’t happen is that there’s no logical reason why she wouldn’t eventually succeed, which can’t happen for obvious reasons.
  • Elisa’s destroyed handgun count: 2.  Again, this is something that begins bugging once you realize how the police bureocracy works in real life; there’s no way that something like this would go unnoticed.  Granted, police organizations in the superhero genre are nothing like the ones in the real world by necessity, but it feels particularly out of place here, perhaps due to the focus that Elisa’s various guns get throughout.
  • On that note, Elisa’s handling of her gun in this episode seems somewhat off to me.  Given that we eventually see her
  • On the other hand, Demona’s laser rifle is surprisingly resilient, taking a lightning bolt, a laser blast, and several blows from Hudson’s sword.  Even when Demona begins using it as a club it’s not clear if the reason is because it stopped working.
  • Goliath is uncommonly whiny here; one shot, and he’s almost immediately “Imma gonna die”.  Abject hopelessness is not a terribly attractive look on him, I’m afraid.
  • More than any other episode thus far, this episode highlights that when all is said and done, Demona is a relatively poor fighter–there are tons of small tactical errors made here, and she relies more on ferocity and surprise than actual skill–which will become plainly evident when she faces Elisa in season 2.  Fortunately, she makes up for it in other ways.

ETA: More random thoughts:

April Forever Chapter 3: A Qualitative Comparison

The clock read 8:00, which to Casey Jones seemed blasphemous: no way was he up that early.  Not after Shadow’s 3:00 a.m. crying bout, which took half an hour to stop.  And her other one, at five.  And yet there he was—life was full of small miracles.

After checking on Shadow—sound asleep, the lucky little father-waker—Casey made his way to the kitchen, but not before running into the April who wasn’t his wife.  She was watching the morning news—something about a claim by Tea Party Party economists that invading the Triceraton Republic would eliminate the need for taxes and solve the deficit—and looked like she’d been up for a while.  “Geez Louise—how is it you’re up this early?”

“Oh—hey Casey,” said April who wasn’t his wife and had world-class breasts under that shirt of hers. “I’m just catching up on some news—the early bird gets the Peabody and all that.  I don’t understand half the stories, but still, it’s a hard habit to break.”

“Gotcha,” said Casey, who didn’t get it at all.  News to him were something that mattered to smarter, more employed people than him.  If something truly important occurred in the world, he’d eventually hear about it from his friends or from April. The one exception to this (aside from anything having to do with the Purple Dragons) occurred on 9/11, whose events led him to spend the entire day at Angel’s grandmother’s watching the coverage with the rest of the people at their apartment complex, until a lack of food and sleep caused him to pass out from exhaustion.

“I’m going to make myself some breakfast,” Casey told April who was not his wife, had world-class breasts under that shirt of hers and looked all kinds of cute with her hair all messy like that.  “You want any?  I can make a mean pancake.”

“As long as it doesn’t include pizza or raw fish.”

He didn’t get the reference, but didn’t ask for elaboration.  He left their visitor behind and arrived at the kitchen, where he set about the task of preparing breakfast.

For most of his adult life, Casey Jones had one simple philosophy when it came to food: if it had instructions more complicated than “add milk to bowl” or “insert in microwave and press buttons”, it was not worth preparing.  After he and April became a couple, this slowly began changing, particularly after he discovered that his future wife (herself no big fan of cooking) found men who cooked to be quite sexy.  Over time, he had acquired a modest repertoire of foods he liked to prepare, and pancakes topped the list (and no, the fact that several of its toppings could be applied onto the human body for impromptu fun had nothing to do with it, thank you very much).  As he prepared to add the blueberries to the batter, he noticed that April who was not his wife, who looked all kind of cute with her hair tussled up like that and whom he now saw had awesome legs had joined him in the kitchen.  “You want anything special in your pancakes?” He asked.

“Blueberries are fine.”

Casey watched the pancake mix for the telltale bubbles; once these popped, it was time to turn the semi-solid product around to let the other half harden.  He’d finished his first batch of pancakes when he asked his visitor: “So, is there a Casey Jones where you’re from?”

“No,” said his guest.  Upon seeing his disappointment, she quickly added “…t that I know of.  There very well could be. In fact, it’s almost probable.”

Casey responded to this courtesy with a lopsided grin.  “Thanks.  By the way, once April wakes up, she’ll take you out to shop for anything you might need.  That okay?”

“That’s fine.  By the way, I never asked: what do you work at?”

Casey looked at the otherworldly journalist uncertainly.  April—the one who was his wife, whom he loved unconditionally and who would always be a total babe—had told him about the importance her counterpart placed on career,  and he’d hoped that she wouldn’t ask about his.  “I…um…I do lots of stuff.  I keep the building running, help out at the store…Oh, and I’m a mechanic—sort of.  I mean, I help my buds out whenever their cars or bikes break down.”  Smooth, Jones.

Casey tried to gauge April-who-was-not-his wife’s reaction, but found it impossible; her many notable physical attributes apparently also included a poker face. He hoped the lack of obvious disappointment meant that she did not in fact think of him as a general failure—he just didn’t agree, and he didn’t want to get into

As he finished the last of the pancakes, April—the one who was his wife, would always be a total babe, had awesome legs, breasts, and looked all kinds of cute with her hair all messy like that—joined the pair in the kitchen, and the three—plus Shadow, now brought into the dining room—had breakfast.

*          *          *

“Hey, April…do you ever wonder what your life would have been like if you hadn’t met the turtles?”

The two Aprils had been strolling through Prospect Park after a morning of shopping.  After three hours of strolling through Brooklyn, April had everything she needed for her stay in alternate New York: underwear, a notepad, a packet of pens, a tape recorder (she’d have preferred a camera, but in the end they decided it would have been too expensive, particularly since her host was footing the bill), a disposable cell phone (other April’s idea) and a canister of pepper spray (ditto).  Afterwards they’d gone to lunch at Martin’s, a hamburger place she loved in her universe, and which was fortunately intact in this one. With nothing else that needed doing, they’d decided to stop at the park to unwind.

Her companion did not take long in answering.  “Assuming I were even alive and not in jail for colluding with Baxter Stockman?  Probably working at a tech job somewhere and growing unhappy.” The shop-keeper’s eyes looked troubled as she said this; this was something’ she’d obviously thought about before.  “Why do you ask?”

“Well, it’s just that, well, how can you not think about it? One day I’m hotshot reporter April O’Neil, the next I can’t take a step without having to play babysitter to four manic-depressive turtles, getting kidnapped, or discovering a new mutant monstrosity—it’s the sort of thing where you end up dividing your life between ‘before’ and ‘after’, and I wonder what could have been—you know?”

The reporter felt her counterpart’s eyes upon hers, all sympathy and understanding.  “Hell yes.  God knows I’ve had times when I wished I’d never met them.    And I won’t deny that they’ve caused me a lot of grief over the years.  It doesn’t matter.  They’re family.”

“But they can be so annoying!  Can you believe that Leonardo once threw open tubes of lipstick at my paintings?  He called it ‘target practice’—and he’s supposed to be the responsible one!”

To her surprise, her counterpart was actually taken aback by that. “Sounds like your turtles are more of a handful than mine are,” the shop-keeper opined.  “But yeah, that will happen too—I know I’ve wanted to kill my turtles once or twice when we lived together (and I’ll tell you about that later): but let me tell you something: a few years back, the turtles disappeared—poof!—into thin air.  We heard nothing about them for a fucking year.  And you know what?  That was by far the hardest year of my life.”

Now it was the reporter’s turn to look concerned.  “What happened?”

“Lots of things.  Little things that combined with big things.  My father had a stroke, and after spending about a month in the hospital, he had to stay with my sister until he died a few months later.  Then there were the money problems caused by the hospital bill and the economy… Also, I discovered that nobody will hire me because apparently I am no longer considered qualified enough to do tech work I could do in my sleep.

“Granted, the bad stuff didn’t happen because the turtles weren’t there, and having them here wouldn’t have prevented any of it from happening.  Still, it’d have been easier if they’d been there.  Mikey’s jokes, Splinter’s advice…I could have really used them. It would have made all the crap I went through a bit more bearable.”

April remained silent as she heard her counterpart, partly because there was nothing she could say, and partly because her account seemed so foreign. Granted, she knew what a stroke was, and had a theoretical understanding on how the economy worked, but these things had always been just that—theoretical.  In her world, nobody ever got strokes or got cancer or ever went to the hospital for anything not related to the effects of some weird ray or potion.  Death was something you heard happened in some places but never affected anyone you actually knew.  To have someone actually have to deal with these things and the Shredders and aliens and Technodromes…how did the people in this universe do it?  It gave her a new level of respect for the people in this skewed mirror universe.

“But I’m just rambling,” said the other April.  “The guys eventually returned, and things eventually got better.  Crap won’t stop happening with them here, but I’d rather face it with them than without them—even if it means losing more breakables than the proverbial china shop.”

“I see,” said April.  She did, in fact, feel that way towards the turtles—sometimes.  Half the time, they were the funniest, most heroic, best people one could hope to know.  The other half?  Well, the kindest way to put it would be “children”.  Specifically, two-year-olds.  Raised by wolves—which when you considered the reality, wasn’t that far from the truth.  Given Splinter’s ability to remain calm in the middle of a tornado, he wasn’t sure how his students turned out the way they did.

And if they were gone for a year?  Assuming the Shredder and his goons didn’t end up conquering the world, she didn’t know how she’d feel.  She’d have to find something else to cover, that’s for sure.  And her relationship with her boss would probably improve.  And she’d probably get kidnapped a lot less.  Aside from that, she had no idea.

The two Aprils continued their stroll, stopping occasionally to appreciate some interesting sight or another.   As they stopped to pet two adorable dogs and chat with their owner (who didn’t seem to mind at all having two attractive women just walk up and start talking to him), they heard a sudden “boom” in the distance.

As both women scanned the area for the source of the sound, they spotted a plume of dark smoke rising about three blocks away.  As they watched the spectacle, April spotted a black and white streak speeding through the New York sky.  Not a bird.  Not a plane.

“Probably Silver Sentry,” the older April explained, with the indifferent attitude of someone for whom flying men were as common as jaywalkers.  She, on the other hand, was entranced, not just be the idea of real-life superheroes, but by a familiar feeling in her gut: a story.  Taking out her new notepad, a pen and the tape recorder from her shopping bags, she left the other items with her counterpart, and with a hasty excuse, set towards the scene of the event.

*          *          *

When April the shop-keeper finally reached the scene of the explosion—an apartment complex across the street from the Methodist Hospital—the site had already been cordoned off to keep inevitable onlookers at bay, and the fire was mostly under control.  Her reporter counterpart, immediately visible in her jumpsuit (now liberally mottled with black stains from the smoke—according to one of the onlookers, she’d entered the burning building and had rescued a teenaged boy) within the gaggle, was interviewing one of the firemen not working with the blaze.  Silver Sentry, she heard, had come and gone, staying only long enough to get the tenants out from the burning edifice and to make sure the N.Y.F.D. would have no problems with the fire itself.  Fortunately, the incident’s location meant there was no shortage of medical personnel treating the affected tenants.

As she neared her “sister” in order to inform her that her continued stay at her apartment was contingent on her never pulling that stunt again, April noticed that her counterpart was practically beaming.  This was it: her element.  This is what she was meant to do.  For the second time in as many days, April found herself growing jealous of her other-dimensional counterpart.

“Hey, April!”  The reporter said, turning to her as she saw her approaching.  “Give me just a couple more minutes, and I’ll be done, okay?” She returned to her fireman interviewee, whom April noticed was paying an inordinate amount of attention to the reporter, and was actually trying his hand at flirting with her.  Unfortunately for him, his advances seemed to be going over their target’s head, although this did not deter him from writing down his phone number on the reporter’s notepad.

True to her word, April was soon done with the interviews and reunited with her counterpart.  As they walked to the nearest subway station in the first part of their trek back home, the two Aprils talked about the events that had just transpired.

“So, are you going to call that fireman?” April the Shop-Owner asked, vicariously happy at the attention her counterpart had received.

“Who, Paul?  What do you mean?  You mean, to confirm his statement?” her double said blankly.

“You didn’t notice?  He was into you!  You should ask him out—he was hot.” Figures—her one chance to the “Sex and the City” gal-pal thing, and it turned out to be with the one for whom men where apparently not a factor.  “Anyway, change of subject.  Did you really enter the building as it was burning?”

“Yeah, I did,” the reporter said, with a smile that plainly expressed how much she’d loved it.  “I wanted to see how the Silver Sentry worked, and then I saw a kid that needed help.  So I helped—how could I not?”

Again with that certainty.  April didn’t know whether to admire her counterpart or to shake her until she regained a measure of sense.   Had she herself ever been that stupid?  While, assaulting a U.S. Government base or taking on the Technodrome hadn’t been highlights of rational though, she could at least justify them.  This…?  No wonder the reporter’s turtles had to rescue her as often as they did.

And yet there she was, none the worse for wear, and with the sort of afterglow she herself only rarely managed to emit.  Even the fire seemed to have left her untouched, outside of token damage to her clothing.  Clearly someone—God, the universe, some cosmic writer—was keeping her under its aegis.  And if one was indeed blessed, why wouldn’t one take those risks?

Finally, the two Aprils arrived at Hell’s Kitchen, and after a few minutes’ walk towards one of the old Irish-American streets still (relatively) untouched by the neighborhood’s encroaching gentrification, they arrived at the 2nd Time Around antique store—home.

*          *          *

He truly was blessed, the man formerly in the baseball cap thought, as he observed the two women entering the antique store.  After getting a glimpse of the woman in yellow the day before, he had expected never to meet her again, leaving his memories of her exquisite form to haunt him for the rest of time.  But God, as always, was with him; as he took the subway to nowhere in particular, she saw her again, a demon in bright (if slightly smudged), form-fitting yellow—and with that glance all his uncertainties evaporated.  “Thy will be done”, he said to his invisible conversation partner.

Thus, he had followed, and had ascertained the woman’s living place.  Now it was just a matter of time.

—-

Notes: As fans of the old cartoon already know, there is indeed a Casey Jones in the old cartoon universe; April as I’m writing her has yet to meet him.  For the record, this all takes place between seasons two and three of the old toon—Turtles Forever, on the other hand, takes place sometime in the middle of season 2.

Although I don’t recall if Reporter April’s age was ever set in stone, I consider her to be twenty-six for the purposes of this story.  Shop-Keeper April, on the other hand, is thirty-one.  Casey is either thirty-three or thirty-four, depending on what month I decide he was born in, and Shadow is between three and six months old.

As for what reporter April plans to do with all her notes on the fire, read on.

Good, Evil, Secrets and Lies: “The Shredder Strikes” Part 1 (Cont.)

Previously on Monsters of New York: Ian posted an unreadably long synopsis of TMNT episode 1.10: “The Shredder Strikes” Part 1.  Now, my thoughts.

—-

Busy episode: the turtles meet the Shredder, the viewers meet Hamato Yoshi, and we get another Hun fight. Unfortunately, although there are a handful of good things, they’re sandwhiched by a bunch of not-really-good ones, mostly involving this episode’s whole “Leonardo learns not to place his whole faith in weapons” subplot, which feels like something best reserved for another, worse, cartoon. While it makes a certain amount of sense as a character arc, it feels mis-timed: surely this was something Leo would have learned beforehand. It also feels manufactured, since Leo hadn’t shown any particular reverence for his swords before–nor any of the other turtles for theirs. Still, it could have worked somewhat, if the turtles hadn’t called back to it while fighting the Foot. The point had been made; the sledgehammer was not required.

If this subplot does anything right, is that it nicely sets up a moment in the “The Shredder Strikes Back”. But that’s not for a while yet.

This is another one of those episodes that really makes plain how constrained the writers initially were by the standards and practices imposed at the time. Hamato Yoshi’s death is included, but only because it can’t not be–it’s vital to the story.   However, it’s been made as bloodless as possible, by hiding the actual torture behind a conveniently obfuscating curtain and by keeping the actual murder (which I’ve always felt involved decapitation, although there’s obviously no evidence to confirm or disprove that) offscreen.   Still, the scene works rather well by keeping the focus on Splinter and his emotions, although one wonders how it’d had been handled had the writers been allowed the creative freedome they enjoyed during seasons 3 to 5.

I also really like the scene because it works on different levels. Had we never obtained any more context for the Yoshi murder, this scene would have still worked logically–The Shredder wanted some information, and he mistakenly though Yoshi had it; he didn’t talk, and now he’s dead. It makes sense, and it effectively encapsulates how bloodthirsty The Shredder can be. What’s more, it gives a more tragic air to Splinter story: he not just lost his owner/father figure, he lost him for no reason other than tragic bad luck. Of course, we eventually learn that there is a reason why the Shredder attacked Yoshi–one that brings the several ongoing subplots weaves so far together in a neat package–and works on that level as well, as a small part of a larger (much larger, as we eventually learn) tapestry.

This episode introduces the biggest difference yet between the cartoon and its source material: here, Splinter only tells the turtles about Hamato Yoshi because circumstances made it necessary for his sons to know the whole story, while in the original, Splinter specifically tells his sons about the Shredder so they’d kill him as Bushido demanded–it’s what he’d trained them for.  This will eventually come into play in the comic book version of the “City at War” arc, where the turtles have to decide between continuing Splinter’s feud with the Foot or allying themselves with them to stop the gang war ravaging New York.  Given that his original motives can make Splinter seem like a heartless bastard, I’m not saddened that his motivations were altered here.

And finally…the Shredder.  After a bunch of episodes featuring him as the nameless and cruel leader of the Foot Clan, we finally get to see him outside his office.  And he’s awesome.

Of course, we don’t really see him in action here–that won’t occur until the next part.  What we do see here is Saki in his snake in the Garden of Eden moment, and while he isn’t as smooth as, say, David Xanatos, he does a pretty good job of convincing Leo that he can be their ally–despite the fact that the turtles have been fighting his forces since episode one. While the “villain tries to bring the hero to his side” is a standard in cartoons–Gargoyles does it twice, although in a more complex manner than usual–it’s a trope that’s not really busted out once a villain has already been established.  Still, it works here because in theory, the turtles (or at least Leo and maybe Raph) could very well join the Foot, were it not for the Yoshi murder and the Shredder.  Remove those factors, and the prospect of them joining becomes considerably more palatable.  Leo in particular would certainly appreciate the Japanese trappings, and I’m sure he’d think that the group’s resources could indeed be used to do much good.  As for the Foot’s crime empire…he’d convince himself that it’s a necessary evil, particularly if he could help “improve” it from within (wether he actually could is another question).  And there is precedent–after all, Hamato Yoshi was a member of the Foot Clan in the original comics, and it’s relationship with the turtles is not quite as clear-cut as it is here.

An additional factor here is that, at this point in the series, we’ve seen no evidence that the Shredder’s enemies are not what he claims they are.  So far all we’ve seen them do is stalk the other two groups and wax enigmatically–not exactly the stuff good guys are made of.  Until their allegiances are elaborated upon in future episodes, I’d half-thought that they were being set up as another group of villains.

Anyways, the Shredder.  It’s taken a while, but it pays of wonderfully next episode, as he proves to be a formidable opponent–the toughest version of the Shredder in the franchise’s history.

Random thoughts:

  • Splinter’s comment about how “Many things are said, but few are true” strikes me as funny, given a similar comment in the Gargoyles comics, “All things are true; few things are accurate.” Comparing and dissecting them both would take another feature and a better logician than I.
  • As he tries to persuade his brothers of Saki’s potentially good intentions, Leonardo notes that Mikey always wants to do good and serve a greater purpose. This detail will be further elaborated upon in the episode after the next one, “The Unconvincing Turtle Titan”.
  • Hun reaches his season 1 pinnacle here. In “The Way of Invisibility”, we learned that he was smart. In “Fallen Angel” we learned he was tough. Here we learn that he’s also scarily fast. Unfortunately, things go downhill for him here, at least for the near future.  Still, I remember going “whoa” when I first saw him leaping and kicking and dodging–huge guys aren’t supposed to do that!
  • By “telling them the whole story”, Splinter means “the whole story as the writers have conceived it so far”.  Eventually we’ll see that there’s a lot more behind Hamato Yoshi’s murder, and that Splinter knows a lot more than he’s telling.
  • Although Hamato Yoshi’s story is simplified considerably for this episode–it originally involved a love triangle, revenge, family ties, betrayal, exile, and two other characters–all in the space of five pages–it will eventually expand to resemble the original, and Yoshi himself, although dead, will become a much more prominent character than he was in any other incarnation where he is not turned into Splinter.
  • In all the seven years and hundred plus episodes of the series, there is little evidence that the Shredder ever learned the turtles’ names aside from Leonardo’s.  Leonardo himself is the only turtle he’ll ever refer to as an individual, at least if you don’t count the alternate universe Shredder in “Same as it Never Was”.
  • I was actually half-surprised when I initially found out that this was a two-parter.  Back then, two-parters were things usually reserved for season finales, so seeing multiple ones within a season was something that made the series stand out among stuff like X-Men: Evolution.

Evil Shows Its Face: “The Shredder Strikes” Part One

Author’s note: Given that there’s a lot to say about this episode, the actual analysis part of this episode won’t be up until tomorrow.

*          *          *

“But now you need to know who Saki–The Shredder–really is. He serves no great purpose; he fights no great evil–he is great evil. Any endeavor he undertakes he does for his own selfish gain.— Splinter

He who lives without honor will end without honor. — Hamato Yoshi

“Those who are not with me are against me! And I crush anyone who stands against me!” — The Shredder

Written by:Michael Ryan
Original Air Date: April 12, 2003
Teaser Narrator: Leonardo
Introduces: Hamato Yoshi

Synopsis: As thunder falls, the turtles face the Shredder for the first time. Leo narrates that Master Splinter constantly tells them that, given a choice, they always take the harder path, and reflects how the harder path always seems to choose them.

Theme.

Inside the lair, the turtles are holding a sparring session with their weapons. As they try to get each other out, they extol the virtues of their weapons of choice. In the end, Leonardo wins, and as he speaks of the superiority of the katana, he and the others are approached by Splinter.

After congratulating Leonardo on his victory, the rat master asks him why he thinks he won. Leonardo answers that it is due to his superior weapon, and quotes Miyamoto Musashi for extra teacher’s pet points. Splinter is not impressed, saying that “Many things are said, but few are true.” He orders Leonardo to attack him with his katana, and as the turtle reluctantly does so, the rat, armed only with his walking stick, effortlessly deflects his student’s strikes, disarming the turtle. He tells Leo that a weapon is only as deadly as the hand that wields it and declares that until he has learned this, he has learned nothing.

Some time later, Leo stands at a rooftop taking out his frustrations on a stack of newspapers (which he throws in to the air, and then slices as the different sheets of paper float back down), when an unseen attacker (a Foot Ninja) throws an arrow at him. The turtle deflects the arrow, and notes that it has a sheet of paper attached to it, telling him that he has passed the first test, and asking him to show up alone at 16th South Boyle. Leo decides to obey, not knowing that he’s being watched, and followed, by his three concerned brothers.

As Donny, Mikey, and Raph arrive at the rendezvous point, they watch (and only watch–they can’t hear what’s being said) through a skylight as Leo arrives and gets attacked by thirteen Foot Ninja. After he makes short work of his foes, he is approached by another man…The Master. He compliments Leonardo on his skill and introduces himself as Oroku Saki, 8th generation Master of Ninjitsu (whatever that means–the important thing is that I can finally refer to him by name). He asks for Leonardo’s name, which the ninja turtle gives.

After heaping some more praise upon Leonardo, Saki gets down to business: despite the turtles’ recent battles with his ninja, he believes that his group and the turtles should be on the same side, fighting their true enemy. “There is a force, a corrupt and evil force that is out there, right now, working its insidious tentacles into every aspect of our world. [Cue the leitmotif for the group that had been watching the turtles and The Foot in “The Way of Invisibility“] It is an organization devoted to obtaining power through crime, political manipulation, corruption on a global level.” The only thing stopping them? Saki and his “humble” army of ninja. “It has been my destiny to fight for the side of good; I was hoping that you would find it in your heart to join me and fight against this evil.” He tells Leonardo that they have until tomorrow to choose, and presents the turtle with a gift: a centuries-old katana crafted by 16th century swordsmaster Toji Kuwahara (or however it’s spelled–Leo and Saki pronounce the name differently), a sword which Leonardo actually knows of and holds some respect for. Saki dismisses the turtle and disappears into the shadows.

As Leonardo exits the building, we see that his brothers were not the only ones eavesdropping on his conversation with Saki: the two men in trenchcoats whom we last saw in “The Way of Invisibility” have also been monitoring the encounter, and report to the council (the three people speaking with the same voice) that while Saki has made contact with Leonardo, they do not know the conversation’s outcome. The three council members tell their subordinates to continue watching the turtles: if they indeed join Saki, they may be forced to kill them.

Leonardo has just returned to the rooftops, and is admiring his new sword when he is confronted by his brothers, who are none too satisfied with Leo’s new associates. Leo tries to get them to give Saki a chance, arguing that joining them could provide them a chance to work towards a greater good, but the others are not convinced. Raph accuses Leo of selling out, and violently takes the Kuwahara sword away from Leonardo, leading to an all-out tussle between both turtles, which ends when Leo throws Raph off the roof. Fortunately, the ninja turtle if fine–he managed to get one of his sai lodged inside the wall and stop his fall–but the result is enough to convince Leo to speak to Master Splinter.

We transition to the lair, where the turtles have told Splinter of the night’s events. The rat master is saddened by what he hears, since it forces him to tell his sons something he’d hoped to keep hidden. As he holds the piece of the Foot Ninja outfit Mikey had retrieved in “Darkness at the Edge of Town“, he tells the turtles that he’s always known who these ninja they kept facing were–he knows their name, he knows of their leader Oroku Saki, and he knows of  Saki’s other name: the Shredder. Now it is time to tell them the whole story.

Splinter tells his sons of his former owner Hamato Yoshi, a ninja master living in New York and Splinter’s accidental teacher (as Yoshi practiced the martial arts, Splinter [still not a mutant] would often imitate him, until he too knew ninjitsu). One day, Yoshi was attacked inside his home by a squadron of Foot Ninja, one that included Hun and the Shredder. Despite Yoshi’s resistance, they overpowered him and tortured him for information about their enemies, which they believed he aided. However, after they proved unable to break him, Shredder orders Hun to kill Yoshi. Hun fails, however: Splinter, which had been freed in the initial struggle, jumps towards the Foot Liutenant and slashes him in the face, leaving behind Hun’s distinctive scars. However, it’s a temporary victory, as Hun throws the tiny rat through an open window, and although Splinter manages to hold on, he can only watch as Yoshi is killed anyway by an impatient Shredder. Demoralized, homeless and masterless, Splinter walked through the streets of New York until that fateful day when a T.C.R.I. truck almost ran into a blind man.

Splinter explains that he wished not to tell them of this story because he felt that it would poison their training with thoughts of revenge and weight down their hearts with sorrow, but now that knowledge has proven necessary: they need to know that the Shredder is evil, and that no good will come from associating with him. Leo is contrite; he feels a fool for trusting Saki. His brothers console him by telling him that he was just told what he wanted to hear by an opponent who knew how his mind worked. They decide they will confront the Shredder and tell him of their decision.

At the appointed meeting place–the rooftop above the Foot base–the turtles face a squadron of Foot Ninja.  Leonardo publicly rejects Saki’s offer, throwing the Kuwahara sword into one of those spinning ventilator-thingies roofs occasionally have. Upon hearing this, the Foot Ninja strike.

As the turtles deal with their enemies, they again commiserate on the effectiveness of each of their weapons, causing Leo to repeat Master Splinter’s lesson: a weapon is only as good as whomever wields it.  Soon, all their enemies lie defeated…until Hun makes his appearance.  He makes quick work of the turtles, leaving only a weapon-less Leo standing. Hun picks up the discarded Kuwahara sword, and as he prepares to make a finishing blow, Leo uses a desperate bicycle kick that manages push Hun back, until the man-mountan falls through the building’s skylight and into the floor below.

Nearby, the two guardians have witnessed these events. They report to the council that the turtles have rejected the Shredder’s offer. The council notes that this does not yet mean that the turtles can be made their allies.

The turtles regroup, but there’s little time for rest: a new group of Foot Ninja have arrived, and with them, the Shredder and a tag that reads “To be continued”…

April Forever, Chapter 2: On A-Teams, Breasts, and Counterparts

She didn’t really look like her, the woman sitting before her: once you got past the skin tone and height, the differences outweighed the similarities.  Hair color and style, eye color, posture…even her body shape was considerably slimmer than her own hourglass figure.  But still, staring at those green eyes that were themselves staring back at hers, she could tell. Holy scoop!

“Hi…April,” she said, testing the name out.  “I’m sorry for intruding, but Casey—your husband—he told me you might be able to help.  He was kind enough to rescue me, and he told me that you might be able to help me get back to my world.”  She was babbling.  Not good.

“Welcome…April,” the other her said, equally uncomfortable with the name.  “We’re…glad to help.  Unfortunately, Don—you know Don, right?—is the one who knows how our transdimentional portal generator works, and he’s off at a retreat with Splinter and the other turtles.   It’ll be at least a couple of days before we can even contact him.”

That was not what she wanted to hear.  “So I’m stuck here?  Oh, brother!  You guys seem nice at all, but I need to get back to my world!”

It’d been the wrong thing to say, as April noticed that fact immediately.  The tension in the room had been high; now her unconscious snub had made it nigh-unbearable.   “I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean it that way.  It’s just…this world is so different.”

Casey, the sweetie, was doing all he can to ease things. After offering her a chair, he took out a wine glass from the pantry and poured her some wine, which she gladly took (even if alcohol really wasn’t her thing).  “So, babe, April here is a reporter,” he said, as he took his own chair.   “I’m not sure, but we think she’s from the same place those other guys were from—the ones we met a couple of years back.”

They’d arrived at that conclusion as they’d walked to Casey’s apartment at his insistence.  After making some small talk, he’d suddenly asked her if he’d ever met any Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a question which she answered in the affirmative.  From there, they’d deduced that she’d arrived at another dimension, and, after sharing their respective experiences with guys who weren’t quite the guys, realized that they’d each met the other’s turtles—probably.

Unfortunately, Casey couldn’t stay: a baby’s cry came from another room, causing him to excuse himself and leave her alone with her counterpart.

*          *          *

Now alone with the jumpsuit-clad her, April was still speechless—not because she had nothing to say, but the exact opposite. She wondered if her counterpart was having the same trouble.

“Casey’s a great guy, isn’t he?” Jumpsuit said, nicely sidestepping the issue.

“Yeah, he is,” she said, “He’s rough around the edges, but now…I can’t imagine living without him,” she said, with startling conviction.  While it was true, it wasn’t the sort of thing she would have admitted to a total stranger—even if the stranger was, in effect, herself.  “How about you?  Anybody special in your life?”

“Not really.  It’s hard to find good men when you spend all your time between work, hanging out with mutant turtles, and getting threatened, kidnapped and tied up.”

“Oh,” she said, surprised at the frank admission. “Does that happen much—getting kidnapped?”

Other-Her rolled her eyes.  “More often than I’d like.  It’s gotten to the point where I can recognize a rope’s brand by feel.  Still, the turtles always rescue me, and it helps me get the story, so I guess I can’t complain too much.”

Yes you can. You can complain a lot, April said to herself.  She did not express this opinion. She didn’t usually seek trouble, but it still ended up finding her much too often for her liking.  Actually inviting it…

“I’m guessing you don’t get kidnapped a lot, though,” said the Other Her.

“Kidnapped specifically?  Only twice—once by my ex-employer Baxter Stockman and another by aliens.  Threatened?  A whole bunch.”

Now it was the other her’s turn to be surprised.  “You worked for Baxter Stockman?!”

“Um, yes,”  she said sheepishly.  “For about a month, until I realized what he was up to with those mousers of his.  He tried to kill me, I ran into the sewers, and the turtles rescued me.  And that’s how I met them.”

“Really.  I met them when saved me from the Shredder’s goons.  I was doing a story on a bunch of mysterious thefts, and I guess he didn’t like what I was saying.  Boy, were they in for a surprise.  The mousers came in later, when they destroyed my apartment.”

“Heh.  That’s funny,” other-April muttered.

“What?  Losing my apartment?”

“No!  Not that…sorry to hear about it, though.  It’s just…you were chased into the sewers by the Shredder’s goons and had your apartment destroyed by mousers.  I was chased into the sewers by mousers and had my apartment destroyed by the Foot.  It’s just weird, is all.”

“That IS freaky,” other April said, smiling.  “Sorry to hear about your apartment, though.”

The ice now broken, the two Aprils began chatting animatedly about the similarities and dissimilarities between their universes.  It was the sort of conversation April never really had anymore, and the type she hadn’t realized she’d missed.  The turtles (barring Donny, sometimes) were more fun to be around than to talk to; Casey was Casey, with a specific range of approachable topics; Robyn lived in L.A.; Karai, when she wasn’t trying to kill them, was too steeped in her weirdness to make conversation a comfortable prospect; Splinter was alright, when he was around, which wasn’t a lot, lately.  Having someone she could talk about in this manner felt like something new, and something that she would like to do regularly.

Some minutes later, Casey returned cradling a still-crying Shadow in his hands.  “Okay, babe, I’m stumped.  I changed her diaper and tried feeding her, but nothing’s working.  Any ideas?”

“Let me try,” the other her interjected.  Taking the five-month old from Casey, she began gently rocking her.  It worked: within moments, the crying stopped, and Shadow settled back into blissful sleep.  “She’s adorable,” the other April commented as she returned the baby to Casey.  “What’s her name?”

“Her name’s Shadow,” Casey said.

April bit her lip in frustration.  In the months they had had Shadow, the infant had never really taken to April, a situation which persistently frustrated her.  Trying to hold the baby in the way her counterpart had would have been a surefire way to increase her crying, and there the baby was, reacting to a complete stranger if she were her actual mother.  It felt like a personal affront, even though she knew it wasn’t and that it would be unfair to treat her as it had been. “So April, it’s getting late,” she said, trying to change the subject before her darker emotions overtook the pleasure she’d just felt at having made a new friend.   “Would you like to change into something else before going to bed?  I mean, you are staying here, right?”

“You mean I can stay?”  other-her said, brightening up.

“You mean she can stay?” Casey mimicked, mouth open.

“Of course,” April said, not entirely convinced that she believed the words coming out of her mouth.  You need help, and who are we to deny it to you?  After all, you’re almost family.”

*          *         *

April’s wardrobe was expansive but limited; aside from a few specialized looks, it consisted mostly of non-descript pants and t-shirts.   In the end, other-April picked one of those t-shirts and a pair of cotton shorts.

“Good thing we’re more or less the same size,” the other April commented offhandedly, as she observed how her new outfit fit her. “Although it look like I’ll have to buy some new bras tomorrow.” Indeed, the top she’d chosen fit her considerably snugly in the chest area, making them more prominent than the shirt’s original owner’s ever were.

“I have to ask,” said April, as she changed into a similar outfit. “Why the jumpsuit?  Is it fashionable where you’re from?”

“Not really.  I guess I don’t really have a reason—it just feels right.  I was just walking by the store, saw it, and I fell in love with it.  It also helps that it’s actually quite comfortable—oh, and I hear its quite popular with my audience.”

“Really.  Male or female?”

“Male—why do you ask?”

“No reason,” April said, coyly.  Funny story, though: one time, I had to pretend to be a reporter to get some information for the guys…guess how I dressed up.”

“Get out!,” other-her said, her face all mischievous glee.  “We really are the same person, aren’t we?”

“Guess so,” April said with a smile.

*          *         *

With Casey and Mrs. O’Neil turned in for the night, Miss O’Neil was now alone in the living room with nothing but a TV for companionship. It was late, and she would normally have been sleeping soundly right now, but the events of the day had left her with an indissoluble restlessness.  After lying on the couple’s couch for ten minutes trying to call forth the sleep, she gave up and got up.

The couple had allowed her to peruse and use their DVD collection (DVD’s were apparently what had replaced cassette tapes in this dimension) and after scanning the racks filled with movies with unfamiliar names and even more unfamiliar actors, she picked one with a familiar title—The A-Team—and, after figuring out how to work the player, she sat back on the couch and began watching.

Although it had the incorrect actors, the movie was otherwise enjoyable.  Still, it underscored the differences between this world and the one she had left behind–the acting, the way the characters spoke, the situation–it all seemed foreign to her.

Would she ever return?  Casey and April had promised her that Donatello would return her home; given the mixed successes of her own Donatello’s inventions, she wasn’t all that sure.  Still, everything would turn out all right—right?  It always did—in her universe.

April’s thoughts turned to her job at Channel Six and her boss, Burne Thompson.  If she indeed did end up spending more than a few days in this universe, she’d have to give him a suitable excuse for her absence, particularly since she wouldn’t have a story to make up for it.  Or did she?  Parallel universes were definitively a story, and an extended stay could make for a great feature, but what would her angle be?  Plus, she’d need a camera—another things for tomorrow’s to do list.  So yeah:  Item 1: Buy underwear.  Item 2: get camera.  Item 3: To be determined, which she quite liked—ever since meeting the turtles, she’d barely get time to herself, and she was glad for the opportunity, even if it required getting herself transported to another dimension.  What would tomorrow bring?  She wasn’t sure, but she was excited to find out.

—-

Author’s note: Shadow Jones, for those who don’t know, is Casey (and then April’s) stepdaughter from the original Mirage comics.  Her story will be elaborated upon in future chapters.