``Mikey! Mikey! Damn it, where the hell are ya?''
Raphael jogged across train tracks, periodically pausing to look beneath the train cars that were parked in long lines at the Oak Point Yard in South Bronx. He and his brother had managed to elude a couple of railroad police, but had gotten separated.
Keeping his voice low, Raph continued to call out to his brother in a loud whisper. Michelangelo hadn't told him why he wanted to go to the freight railroad yard, but he'd definitely had a reason. When Raph had tried to insist on knowing that reason, Mikey had simply awarded him with his most winning smile and announced that it was a secret.
Not for the first time in his life, Raph asked himself why he went along on these mystery adventures with his younger brother. They invariably got into weird or dangerous situations that could easily have been avoided. Raph would be the first to say he liked a good fight, but that was when he was going up against bad guys, not police who were just trying to do their jobs.
He was ducking down to look under another car when he heard a hissing sound. A second later Raph spotted his brother's legs.
Rather than going around to the end of the boxcar, Raph took a shortcut up to the top and then over to the other side to join Mikey. As he landed, Raph saw that his brother was tagging the side of the car.
With an incredulous look, Raph asked, ``Is this why ya' dragged me out to the Bronx, so ya' could spray paint the trains? Ya' do know that's illegal, right?''
``It's art, bro','' Mikey said. With a flourish, he swept the spray paint up and across as he finished off a letter. ``Art knows no laws.''
Raph crossed his arms. ``It's defacing private property. Even the original Michelangelo would have gotten into trouble for it.''
``Only if he got caught,'' Mikey said, digging into his bag for a different color of paint.
Inwardly Raph chided himself. He should have realized when Mikey slung that bag over his shoulder before leaving the lair that mischief was brewing.
Without warning, Mikey chucked a can at his brother's face. Quick reflexes made Raph catch it before it could hit him. ``What's this?'' Raph demanded.
``It's called paint,'' Mikey said, speaking slowly as if to a child. ``They put it in a can in order to aerosolize it. You know, so it can be sprayed.''
Raph took a swipe at the back of Mikey's head, but his brother dodged the blow. ``Okay ya' nut ball, just why are ya' throwing cans of paint at me?''
``One can,'' Mikey clarified. ``One. It's red. Your namesake liked using red in his paintings.''
``Are ya' suggesting that I join ya' in this felonious behavior?'' Raph asked.
Mikey grinned. ``At worst it's a misdemeanor. Try it, you'll like it.'' He pointed at an outlined area. ``Paint inside those lines.''
Figuring it was faster to humor him than to argue, Raph shook the can and began spraying red paint on the area Mikey had pointed out. It was a large area and it took him a few minutes to complete. Stepping back to admire his work, Raph realized that he'd colored a giant letter `N'.
Walking backwards a little farther, Raph saw that Mikey had written the letters `T-M-N-T' onto the side of the boxcar.
``Is there a point to this?'' Raph asked as Mikey finished painting the final `T'.
Mikey looked back at his brother and shrugged. ``Even if people don't know we exist, they should know that we're here.''
``What does that even mean?'' Raph stared at his brother in confusion.
``Look at all these cars.'' Mikey waved towards the row of cars to his right and then left. ``They're all tagged with gang signs. That dumb looking purple dragon is all over the place. If Hun's gonna have a presence here, then so should we.''
``Hun already knows we exist.'' Raph tossed his paint can into Mikey's bag. ``I'm all for shoving it in his face, but your explanation doesn't fit.''
``Shoving it in Hun's face is just a bonus,'' Mikey said. ``Mostly I just want people to see these letters and wonder what they stand for. I want people to think about us. I want to leave a mark.''
Raph chuckled. ``Well, ya' sure did leave a big one here.''
``This is just a start.'' Mikey gathered up his bag and slung it across one shoulder. ``I'm gonna paint these letters over every gang sign I come across. I'm gonna paint them on the gang members we leave tied up for the police. It's better than a calling card.''
``So what you're saying is ya' want us to start signing our work,'' Raph said. ``Not sure Leo's gonna go for it, but it'll be fun watching ya' try to talk him into it.''
``Piece of cake,'' Mikey said with confidence. They started walking away from the tracks. ``He won't be able to resist my charms.''
``You're gonna do it behind his back, aren't ya'?'' Raph asked.
Mikey nodded. ``Yeah, pretty much.''
The television with its built-in DVD player had been quite a find, especially since young Donatello was savvy enough to make the repairs necessary to get the machine running. When Master Splinter had found it in a dumpster behind an electronics store, he'd also found a box of children's DVD's.
Those shows were providing much entertainment to the four young male turtles in his care. It made the mutated rat feel a bit better about the life of isolation that they were all forced to live.
Of course, that didn't mean that there were no problems associated with the new entertainment center. The boys frequently squabbled over what they would watch, and even got into arguments about the content of some of the videos.
Master Splinter had also learned early on to always provide something for Donatello to tinker with whenever he was watching a show with his siblings. From experience he knew that if there was the slightest glitch with playback, the young genius would immediately pounce on the device and attempt to `fix it', much to the aggravation of his brothers.
When he heard the raised voices coming from the small living area of their home, Master Splinter expected to find that Donatello was once more pulling the television apart. When he went to investigate, he was pleasantly surprised to discover that was not the case.
Curious, Master Splinter remained just out of sight so that he could observe his sons. They were indeed bickering, but it seemed to center around Raphael and Michelangelo, as was often the case.
Raphael had removed his mask and was staring at it. ``It is not pink!''
``Is so,'' Michelangelo insisted. ``It means you're a girl.''
``My mask ain't pink! It's red!'' Raphael shouted, shaking a fist at his brother.
``Nuh uh.'' Michelangelo pointed at a character on the television screen. ``Your mask is the same color as the pink Power Ranger and she's a girl. Girls wear pink.''
Leonardo waved a hand between the pair. ``Cut it out, I'm trying to watch the show.''
``I will when Raph admits he's a girl,'' Michelangelo said before sticking his tongue out at the brother in question.
``You're the one who screams all the time,'' Raphael countered, ``that means you're the girl.''
``Guys scream but they don't wear pink,'' Michelangelo said, sticking his finger in Raphael's face. ``Only girls wear pink.''
Raphael grabbed Michelangelo's finger and twisted it, provoking one of the aforementioned screams. In retaliation, Michelangelo snatched the mask from Raphael's hand and began running around the room yelling, ``Pink, pink, pink!''
Unfortunately, the mask in question, after repeated washings, had indeed begun to look more pink than red. Brightly colored fabric was not easy to come by and Master Splinter had deemed the search for food to be more important than fresh mask material.
Watching Michelangelo tease his already short-tempered brother was a good reason for their father to make a mental note to locate red material sooner than later. Raphael and Michelangelo were quite close, but for some reason they both seemed to delight in annoying each other. Giving them one less reason to do so was a prudent step for both peace and sanity.
After a single failed attempt to separate his brothers, Leonardo got up and moved closer to the television. Master Splinter knew that the oldest of his sons would not interfere in the altercation unless it seemed that one of his brothers might get hurt. There were two reasons for his moving closer to the television; to continue watching the show and to protect the set itself. Leonardo was quite practical.
It was Donatello who Master Splinter observed with the most interest. Though easily a genius with a sharp, quizzical mind, the young turtle was also kind, compassionate, and gentle.
Donatello loved his brothers dearly and had the most empathy among the four. That showed most clearly when it came to Raphael. While Michelangelo and Leonardo could be pushed to distraction by the most aggressive of the turtles, Donatello was patient and sympathetic.
He was also a peacekeeper.
As Michelangelo flew past him, Donatello reached up and grabbed the stolen mask from his hands. He returned it to its owner without fanfare, watching quietly as Raphael tied the fabric back into place across his eyes.
Michelangelo wasn't ready to leave the subject alone though. ``That's right, put on your pretty pink mask.''
A low growl issued from deep in Raphael's throat, but before he attacked again, Donatello addressed Michelangelo directly. ``You're wrong, Mikey. Raph's mask isn't pink, it's a color called `faded red'. Fact. You should pay more attention when we're learning about colors.''
Michelangelo opened his mouth to say something and then snapped it shut again without a word. When Donatello claimed something as fact, everyone knew better than to argue with him.
Raphael beamed at the genius and Michelangelo plunked himself down on the floor, his attention already redirected to the television show.
Only then did Master Splinter step out of hiding. The movement caught Raphael's eyes and he ran over to his father.
Grabbing onto his father's robe, Raphael told him, ``Donny loves me.''
Setting a hand on his son's bald dome, Master Splinter said, ``All of your brothers love you.''
Raphael frowned and shook his head. ``But Donny loves me most.''
Master Splinter gave him a quick hug before the turtle tot slipped out of his arms and ran back to his brothers. As he sat down close to Donatello, Master Splinter smiled.
If any of them needed to feel special, it was Raphael. Donatello gave him that. It was all a father could ask. He had an idea that Donatello would always find a way to keep the hot-headed turtle grounded.
The drive-time from New York City to Northampton usually took nearly four hours. Though the turtles normally made the trip during nighttime hours, thus avoiding both traffic and scrutiny, there were still areas they had to bypass in order not to be seen. Such detours accounted for a trip time that was longer than if they could have gone a direct route.
Four hours wasn't all that much time to spend on the road, but Raphael didn't particularly enjoy sitting still for even that long. Since he was the one who had taken the wheel when they'd left the lair, it was his foot on the gas pedal.
They had made it onto a long stretch of highway and were picking up speed. Leonardo was looking out of the passenger side window, watching as they passed other cars. When they zipped past a posted speed limit sign, he leaned over in his seat in order to see the truck's speedometer.
``What?'' Raph demanded in a cranky tone.
``Watch your speed,'' Leo said. ``We're in a sixty-five mile an hour zone and you're doing eighty.''
Raph waved towards the front windshield at a car several lengths in front of them. ``I'm following that guy. He's setting the pace.''
``The police always stop the second car, not the first,'' Leo said.
``No one's gonna stop us. Geez, ya' worry too much,'' Raph replied.
Leo continued to stare expectantly at him. ``One of us has to. Slow down.''
``For crying out loud,'' Raph complained. Rolling his eyes, he let off the gas pedal, dropping their speed to just over the limit. ``Satisfied?''
``Yes, thank you,'' Leo said, sitting back.
``Hey, mister all-about-the-rules, when ya' lean over ya' ain't sitting properly,'' Raph said. ``That seat belt won't hold ya' in a crash.''
``If you aren't speeding, we probably won't crash,'' Leo shot back.
``You'd still get in trouble if a cop looked over,'' Raph said. ``The driver's seat's only meant for one driver, not two.''
``If an officer looked inside this truck, we wouldn't be in trouble because of the way I'm seated,'' Leo countered.
Raph sneered at him. ``He wouldn't look over if ya' weren't moving around and attracting his attention.''
``It's more likely your speeding would attract attention,'' Leo said. ``The windows are tinted for a reason.''
``If I'm going slower than the rest of the traffic, that's gonna look just as suspicious as me speeding,'' Raph argued.
Donatello and Michelangelo glanced at one another. It was destined to be a long night if those two were already quarreling.
``How about a compromise?'' Mikey asked. ``Go as fast as most of the other cars, but not as fast as the speeders.''
``Butt out,'' Raph snapped. ``Ya' know why we don't let ya' drive most of the time? It's cause we'd like to stay on the road.''
Don shook his head at Mikey in order to stave off any snappy rejoinders. That would only make things worse.
``That's another good reason to stick to the speed limit,'' Leo said. ``It was calibrated with the condition of the road in mind. If you go too fast, you're taking unnecessary chances.''
``So now you're an expert on the subject of roads. Gonna get yourself a PhD in gravel?'' Raph asked, his voice heavy with derision.
``Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit,'' Leo quoted. ``You always resort to it when you're losing an argument.''
``Oh, is that what we're doing, arguing? I couldn't tell `cause you've been bitching like a teenaged girl,'' Raph barked.
``A teenaged girl has more sense than you do,'' Leo spat back. ``If she was speeding in this truck and got pulled over, she'd only get a ticket.''
``That doesn't even make sense,'' Raph argued.
Road signs began to whip past, a clear testament that Raph was getting angry and pressing down on the gas pedal again.
``Lead foot,'' Leo said. ``You just can't control yourself, can you?''
``I've got plenty of control,'' Raph said from between gritted teeth. ``I haven't reached across to pop ya' one yet, have I?''
``Mom, Dad, do you two think you could stop bickering?'' Mikey asked.
``We're not bickering, we're having a loud discussion,'' Leo asserted.
Raph snorted. ``I'm not bickering, I'm fighting. Ya' had to go out of your way to piss me off, didn't ya'?''
``The problem with you is that you're always fighting,'' Leo said. ``You like fighting so much that I sometimes wonder if you were left alone in a room for too long you'd start a fight with yourself.''
``Har-de-har-har. How long did it take ya' to dream that one up?'' Raph asked.
``Could you maybe not, uh, fight while you're driving?'' Don asked in a carefully modulated tone.
``I can put Leo in his place and handle this truck at the same time,'' Raph retorted. ``It ain't affecting my driving one bit.''
Don made a face, clearly hesitant to speak again, but he finally had to say something. ``Are you sure about that?''
Raph glanced over his shoulder and then turned his attention back to the road. ``Hell yeah, I'm sure. Why would ya' even ask?''
Clearing his throat, Don said, ``Because you just missed our exit.''