Our beautiful planet has turn into huge desert long time ago. The gap between rich and poor has grown too wide and slavery is blooming. Cities have been destroyed, technology long forgotten...
Small snapping turtle child stood near the corner of the house sucking his thumb while watching how his adopted grandmother and -father were pulled out of the house. Following them with tears in his eyes boy stopped at the line what separated poor city area and palace, watching helplessly how his parents were dragged inside the golden building.
Sitting down on the hot sand Raphael waited and waited, sun slowly setting more down, coloring the sky with red and orange. He was around 5 and knew that when people were dragged in that palace, they never came back – not alive at least. Still he hoped and waited – but his adopted parents never came back. Young woman, who recently had lost her own child to decease, found him and took Raphael with her, raising him as her own.
At the age of 10 this same thing happened but this time Raphael was taken in the palace with her where they were separated. Raphael didn’t resist but followed 2 guards who took him on the huge area behind the palace where was thousands of slaves working under burning sun. Not only were there adults and older people as slaves but there were kids too.
Raphael had heard enough stories to know what his life was going to be for now on…
6 long years had earned him scars, lots of sweat, blood and huge strong body. If anyone, who had seen him as a small tot would had seen him now, wouldn’t recognize him. He had matured so much. He had become support pillar for poor slaves on site as well since he, always, had been the one to stand up and protect weaker ones. And while slaves didn’t get all that much water or food Raphael always shared his with those in most need. He also had took all young kids under his wings.
There had been a time when ruthless guards had been using their whips on slaves without mercy and that had caused Raphael see red. Without thinking consequences Raphael stepped into action, giving those guards as much pain as possible. It took almost 10 guards to get Raphael on dusty sand, giving him good whipping. Other slaves, after a long day, helped to clean his bleeding wounds. Raphael didn’t mind the pain however since he only cared for other slaves and their well being. He had swore to find a way for them all to escape someday.
“Have you seen my son?”
Old rat approached his servant who shook his head. “No, I haven’t, Master.”
In frustration Splinter hit cool marble floor with his stick. “Then find that boy!” Growling after running servant Splinter sighed rubbing his closed eyes gently. “That damn boy is giving me headache again. I guess I have to discipline him more.”
Leonardo, as a wild child who refused to become tamed and dull, was sitting on top of near by building while keeping his curious eyes scanning site and all the slaves there. Especially one had caught his interest many years ago when they had met for the first time.
Watching big green turtle fighting with guards once again to protect old beaten man made Leonardo’s smile spread more wider. He already liked his fighting spirit so much. Leonardo had suggested it to his father years ago that he should be allowed to spend time with this turtle slave but his father had denied it, stating Raphael was bad influence to young prince.
Jumping off on the roof Leonardo landed smoothly on golden sand, starting his approach. It was one of the most hottest days and slaves had been working ever since sunrise so it was surprising to see Raphael on his feet all sweaty, dirty, bleeding and bruised but he gave no signs of backing away from guards.
“You guys shouldn’t be playing around here.” Leonardo said with a smirk when his presence was noticed. Guards bowed slightly to him instantly while Raphael turned to face him letting out deep loud sigh.
Eyeing older man laying on the ground his figure was soon hidden behind Raphael’s massive body. Eyes rose up to meet fierce eyes and it made Leonardo’s heart beat faster and smile spread.
“What are you staring at? Got an issue with this poor old man here who’s exhausted from all this shitty job what your father forces us to do?”
His voice was low and growling, body tensing, muscles growing and hands turning into fists. Raphael was more than ready to spill more sweat and blood – even if he would had to go against their lord’s son. There was no need for that however since Leonardo turned on his heels, snatching small water bag from guard’s belt.
Taking step closer Leonardo reached for Raphael’s hand lifting it up. Eyes locked on each other, water bag placed on huge palm.
“Take this. You have earned it.” Smiling in mysterious way Leonardo took step backward, never removing his eyes off from Raphael’s. Eyeing thin turtle Raphael opened water bag taking small sip only to moist his mouth while holding his position for few seconds until he was sure he wouldn’t be stabbed from behind or water wasn’t poisoned.
Watching how careful and gentle this big turtle could be made Leonardo smile more. Kneeling next to old man Raphael helped him sit up, allowing him to lean against his massive arm.
“Here. Drink.” Older man was truly thirsty and yet he was struggling to refuse from the liquid. Raphael wasn’t going to back away. Holding him more tight Raphael lifted bag’s opening back on man’s dry lips. “Drink all you want. This is yours. You need it.”
Older man stopped struggling, enjoying cool liquid more than ever before. It was painful to see this but Raphael would do whatever he could do to make other slaves’ lives better here. Lifting weak human in his arms Raphael carried him, under guards and Leo’s eyes, in small shade under the tree.
“Rest here. You have work enough.”
“B… But the… The Lord...”
“Is not your concern. I will handle it. I have promised to take care of all of you and I’m going to keep that promise.”
Coughing slightly older man closed his eyes, relaxing against dry trunk. “You are… too good to this place… But I thank you.”
Smiling slightly Raphael tapped fragile shoulder gently. “Rest now, friend.”
After long day slaves were released and taken in their small huts to rest. Raphael naturally was in the hut with all younger kids and teenagers. Youngest of them was 5 while he himself was the oldest. Laying down while kids had gathered all around to sleep near and on him Raphael sighed while watching small exhausted faces. They didn’t work all that hard, thanks to Raphael and his protection, but heat was still taking its toll on them.
His stomach growled and it was painful. He had shared most of his so called “lunch” with the children since their survival was his main priority. He would survive with more less food and drink than they. Closing his eyes with deep gentle sigh Raphael focused on the weight on him, letting it lull him to sleep. At some point he woke up on the sound of hut’s door opening. Light steps approached him, hand slowly poking him few times on the shoulder.
Opening his eyes Raphael almost jumped when young prince was the one who caught his vision. Holding his finger on his lips Leonardo smiled with a spark in his eyes, winking older turtle follow him. He was suspicious but Raphael decided to follow him – after making sure kids were sleeping and would be alright while he was gone. Closing the door behind him his eyes focused on thinner turtle who was looking at the night sky.
“What do you want?” Raphael growled quietly. He had heard things about this young prince but no one didn’t seem to be sure what ind of person he truly was. He could pretend to be kind but would be blood thirsty killer instead. Raphael decided to keep his guard on.
“I want you to follow me. Quietly.” Not waiting Raphael to answer Leonardo started to lead the way away from resting and site area. Raphael hadn’t been here before but he knew this small path was leading to palace. Why would this prince be taking him to palace? Looking down at his scarred and dry hands Raphael let out small, almost desperate, smirk. Of course. He had caused so much troubles at the site so he was going to be punished, perhaps even killed.
Lifting his eyes on smaller turtle’s shell Raphael sighed. “I’m gonna get punished, right? If I’m gonna end up dead, can I ask something as my last wish?”
Leonardo never spoke as he turned his head slightly sideways as a sign he was listening.
“Take care of those kids for me. They have no one else. They need someone strong to be there to make sure they are okay. That all is good. Giving them hope for better tomorrow...”
Leonardo said nothing as he kept leading the way through small backdoor, long hallways and finally escorting Raphael in huge kitchen. Long table was full of earlier leftovers which made Raphael’s stomach growl.
“I’ve seen how you always give your food and drink to others. How you fight for them.” Turning to look bigger turtle Leonardo allowed his eyes study all visible scars on Raphael’s scales. “All of them are results of you defending them.”
Stroking his scars Raphael’s eyes sparked. “Someone has to do the job. So many are afraid to stand up and defense each other and none of your men are helping either. I don’t give a damn if I get hurt. I can deal with it.”
Smirking sly way Leonardo eyed bigger turtle. “I admire that about you.” Pointing his offering hand towards the table Leonardo smiled. “Please, help yourself. Eat and drink all you want. And don’t be afraid to ask more. I can arrange that.”
This sounded suspicious and it made Raphael angry. Stepping in Leonardo’s personal space Raphael growled down at him. “What kind of game are you playing, prince? You are willing to help me by giving me food and water but you’re not willing to help all the other slaves out there?”
“I can’t save them all. Not at once at least.”
“But you’re willing to save me?”
“Because you’re unique. We are unique. There’s millions and millions of people but us, mutants or turtles, however you like to say it, are only few.”
Shaking his head Raphael snarled. “That’s not an excuse to save only me. They may not be like us but they are suffering. They feel like we do. Only difference is that we look different.”
“Well, duh. I know that. I’m not blind.” Tension in the room had grew more tight and stronger so Leonardo offered food and water once more and this time Raphael accepted it since he was hungry. Watching big turtle eat all he could made Leo smile. Placing 2 big baskets on the table Leonardo started to fill them with fresh food and water.
“After you’re done take these with you. Feed those who you can and see to need these the most. I will try to sneak to see you every night and help you get more for them.”
“Won’t you get in trouble then?”
Leonardo laughed for the first time. “I’m always in trouble. Fa--- Master isn’t exactly all that please with me and the way how I am. He wants to tame me, make me follow rules and all but that’s not me. I don’t like rules. They are boring.”
Munching silently last pieces of meat and honey in his mouth Raphael eyed younger turtle, now fully focusing on him. There might be a truth behind his words. Leonardo wasn’t cruel like servants, guards and Splinter himself were. But he was still mysterious in a way. He most surely had his own plan but what? Handing baskets to Raphael Leonardo smiled slightly.
“Make sure you’re not seen. Most guards are lazy asses who sleep at their turns at nights so risks for you to be caught are small but still.”
Raphael eyes baskets he was holding. This all was weird but he was so grateful of this opportunity. Ever so slightly he bowed to Leonardo with his head, leaving without a word. In the shadows of the night he easily made his way back to hut, hiding baskets under blankets and other stuffs in the corner.
Crawling on the bed he lifted youngest child to sleep on his chest, still tasting sweet honey in his mouth.