The winds of the worlds had changed. The four Hamato brothers and their father rat could join society as legislation and laws were passed for the Non-Humans to merge with the majority. Blood and tears had been shed for a few signatures and votes, and the end result called for celebration that reflected through the stars. The Non-Humans felt proud, confident in their sacrifices and triumphs, and the ambition of a radiant future was as close as the hearts beating in their chests. There were still many roads to travel and laws to sharpen, but the minority held fast and clung to their solid expectations.
It was a slow progression and not all of the"Nons" had decided to join society. Some felt the comfort of their familiar surroundings was good enough and there wasn't a need to bleed into society, or just yet.
Nons came from around the globe, greeting countries' landmarks that had welcomed new settlers in past generations. This was a glorious age for the minority but not all of society opened their minds and hearts to such a physically, abnormally challenged race.
This is a story of that Age, one of the countless sagas of how families are intertwined and will find similarities in other groups. Battle changes feelings; war changes everything.
"Flight 3219 seems to be late," Leonardo Hamato mumbled, staring up at the screen and sipping on his fourth cup of water. "I hope it arrives soon."
"Airports make me nervous," a tense voice belonging to Donatello seeped from an opposite seat. "Just the whole idea of walking around in public hasn't sunk in for me yet." He wiped his wet palms on his trousers. "And clothes. They're itchy."
An announcement blared over the airport but nobody could understand it. Raphael rammed a toothpick between his back teeth and slurred, "Donny, we've been out in public for years now. You're actin' like we crawled out of the sewers yesterday. Go get you some water and stop wiggling."
Donatello left his seat without a retort, and Leo glanced over at the last brother, Michelangelo, who had remained quiet the entire time. He looked up once he felt Leo's eyes on him and smiled in response; Leo nodded and hoped Michelangelo would join in the conversation, like old times. When nothing was exchanged, Leo turned back to the flight screen.
"It's Splinter's guests arrivin'. Why can't he come in here?" Raph asked, tossing the toothpick into a nearby bin. "I don't know nothin' about Germans. Just that they talk funny and wear funny clothes."
Leo sighed, wanting to ignore Raph's constant protests. "Splinter doesn't like to walk around in public, dummy. This is the least you could do for him. Now YOU go get some water and be quiet."
As Raph rose from his seat he spewed, "And just because they're turtles like us doesn't mean I'm going to drop what I'm doing. It's no big deal anymore."
Another announcement bellowed around the airport's bustle. Raphael bumped into a fidgety Don, causing Don to spill a little water on himself.
"Good. Thirty more minutes," Leo breathed out, joining the silent Michelangelo on the seats.
The four brothers stood at the gate, peering back and forth for the new guests. They had a couple of pictures to go by and an idea of who they were looking for in the crowd. Don and Raph continued their bickering.
"Thanks for spilling water on me, Raph. This shirt cost me a good penny."
"You just complained that clothes make you itchy. Shop at the Goodwill, like me. Or get 'im out of the dumpster. You've done it before."
"My dumpster diving days are over. I have an income and I'm going to use it. I'm tired of smelling like a landfill."
Raph huffed, "I don't think I smell that bad, Donny. You just ain't no fun anymore. There's an art to dumpster diving."
Leo shushed them, and at the right moment Michelangelo pointed out their two guests.
"Look at that," Raph mumbled, elbowing Don, "The older one's got a wet spot on her shirt. Like you, Donny."
"Hallo!" rung a baritone, vivid voice from the crowd and a cream-colored hand signaled their arrival. An average height, stocky female turtle appeared in front of the Hamatos, bowing and grinning a mile wide. "I am Emyrs Becker from Bergedorf, Germany, and this is -" She stopped once she realized her traveling partner wasn't beside her. "Abigail? Where's my daughter?"
"Pretty accent," Don whispered; he had to throw in: "Think you can understand it, Raph?"
There was a groan rumbling deep in Raph's throat.
"ABIGAIL!" Emyrs screamed above the crowd, peering down in time to find her unamused daughter standing beside her. "Oh, didn't mean to scream in your ear. Sorry!"
Leo bowed and put on his best face. "It is nice to meet the both of you. I know that our father has been corresponding with you for a majority of the year. We hope that your flight over here was comfortable."
Emyrs' hazel eyes widened. "For the most part; I spilled some drink on me. Actually, Abby did when she didn't put her drink away before the plane descended."
"These are my brothers. On the far end is Donatello, this is Raphael, I'm Leonardo, and he's Michelangelo." Don and Mike nodded; Raph did a small salute.
"This is my twelve-year-old daughter, Abigail Becker." Abby greeted the brothers with a bow, her frizzy red hair bouncing with the rhythm. Emyrs clapped her hands together. "It's nice to meet you all as well. I am eager to meet with Splinter Hamato, but first let me wipe my shirt dry and use the ladies' room. My eyeballs are floating."
Leonardo and Michelangelo waited patiently for the Beckers to do their bathroom business; a hasty Raphael and Donatello had already left the building, trolling back to the van still nagging at one another.
Emyrs emerged from the restroom first, straightening her outfit and thanking Michelangelo for guarding her luggage. Leo studied the elder Becker: she was slightly shorter than the Hamato brothers, had cream-colored skin, and her shell was much smaller than theirs. She had some years on her face but her eyes and smile were very youthful.
"Do I have something on my face?" she blinked. He caught hold of himself staring at her before he chuckled in response.
"ABBY!" Emyrs roared into the bathroom. "Did you fall in?"
The tween breezed around the corner and shook her head. "I held it in, too, Mother."
Leo thought he heard a giggle coming from Michelangelo, but he didn't want to bank on it. The Beckers carried their luggage through the airport, insisting that they were not helpless and didn't want to intrude. It was part of Leo's nature to study his surroundings, and he made sure not to stare into Abigail's face. Abby's appearance was very different from her mother's: light green skin, reminiscent of the Hamatos', frizzy red hair, and a tail that met midway down her legs. Her hazel eyes weren't as youthful as Emyrs; they held an almost mature look to them. However, their facial structures were similar: well-rounded beaks with Emyrs' slightly bonier due to her age.
"We're back, Sensei. Sorry for making you wait so long," Leo apologized as he stuffed the luggage into the van.
"I already told him, Leo. He was asleep when I got here anyways," Raph grumbled and made space for the Beckers. He was quickly getting uncomfortable once they shuffled inside. "Don, let me ride up front. You ain't got as much meat on your bones."
"Ouch!" Emyrs cried. "What's that jabbing me?"
"Oh, my bad." Raph unhooked his weapon and threw it on the floor. "Don! Did you hear me, deaf boy?"
Don had on his headphones and his music increased in volume.
"Hi, Splinter!" Emyrs reached over and tugged Splinter in the front seat. "It's nice to see you, 'MasterRobotRat'."
"Who?" Raph cawed and threw his seat mate a suspicious look.
"His internet handle, Raph," Leo grunted as he shuffled in the driver's seat and buckled his belt. "That's how they met. And stop kicking my seat."
Raphael turned to look out the window. "I don't study no internet."
"And it is a pleasure to meet you face to face, Porcupine-Cupcake," the elder rat's voice cracked from his grogginess and realization of their internet aliases.
Emyrs richly laughed and patted Splinter's shoulder, "You didn't send me an updated photo of your sons! I was expecting them to be naked, wearing bandannas, and surrounding you like bodyguards."
"Yes, sorry. I am not terribly wise with the computer and the internet." Splinter elbowed Donatello beside him. "My son here is the smart one with the computer."
"Thank you, Sensei."
Raph reached over and smacked Don on the back of the head. "I knew you could hear me! Ya damn static head!"
"Raphael! We have guests!" Leo chastised but kept his eyes on the road. "Act like your age and not your shoe size!"
The grumpy one snickered. "Hey, my shoe's almost old enough to vote! Besides, Donny needs a good slap on the back of the head sometimes. I'm going to sleep. Mike, hand me a pillow or somethin' from back there."
"My sons are never boring," Splinter warmly chuckled. "Your daughter's name is Abigail, and she is a half breed?"
Emyrs dodged the pillow being transferred between the brothers. "Yes, she is. Half turtle, half dragonoid. At the moment, she retains more of her turtle blood and features. She's not such a problem YET."
While her mother rubbed the top of Abby's fluffy head, Abby responded by looking out her window.
"She's a good kid. Strong and spirited. She's never traveled abroad before and I thought it would be a dynamic experience for her."
"New York ain't nothin'," grumbled Raph from the corner, trying to tuck himself in a comfortable position. "It's got a few cool little spots but it's mostly loud and smelly."
"Just like Raphael in the corner there," Don spoke and turned up his music.
"He doesn't smell too bad. You should smell some of the drunks in my bar," the elder turtle laughed. Her chuckles trailed off once she felt the fire from Raphael's eyes. "Well, when we reach our destination, I would like to discuss some business with you.. Do you all like sausages?"
The introductions happened two weeks ago. Since then, the two guests arranged to rent the basement of April O'Neil, a human companion to Splinter and his sons; Miss O'Neil was more than happy to take care of friends of the family and the extra payment helped too, giving the current shaky economy.
Emyrs arranged to have Abigail continue her martial arts training under Splinter's team while Emyrs enjoyed the scenery and the new-found people and land.
Other than a few hiccups in the daily activities, life was quiet for all, but the placid surface masked cracks of struggle slowly growing deep and wide, not affected by time or environment.
"We've never had German guests before!" April cheeped. She leaned against the entrance to the basement with an inquisitive expression on her face, "I've been teaching myself the German language. It's a fascinating language."
"Yep, and I don't mind quizzing you sometime!" joked Emyrs as she folded clothes and placed them on the dresser.
April took a quick minute to get a good look at the turtle, a female, although other than a smaller frame and a slightly bigger eyes, one couldn't tell she was actually female. Emyrs was very light-skinned, a cream tone and had the biggest hazel eyes April had ever seen on... well, anything. For Emyrs' age (apparently "ancient" as April remembered Emyrs saying), she was a rather attractive lady; she held a straight posture, walking with confidence but shifted her eyes around a lot like she was taking in everything she could for a later time.
"Would you like for me to cook dinner tonight?" Emyrs' kind, alto voice chimed in April's thoughts, bringing the brunette back to the conversation. April enjoyed listening to Emyrs' crisp, warm German accent; Abigail had a softer, spongy tone. The Beckers' mentioned they speak English in their household often so most of their words weren't incredibly difficult for the Jones and Hamatos to understand.
April snapped her fingers. "Oh! Uhm, if you'd like. What did you have in mind? We might have to go to the store to pick up some things since it's been over a week now."
Emyrs scratched her head and stared off in the distance. "Some sort of meat, maybe a pot roast? With veggies on the side? You like that?"
April's curls bounced as she chuckled. "Yeah, that's acceptable. We enjoy potatoes on the side, too!"
"Are potatoes considered part of your vegetable side? We normally don't use them as such but I will oblige for the sake of my hostess!" Emyrs joined in the laughter and headed upstairs.
With April following behind her, Emyrs continued, "As soon as we leave, you all will think we're the nuttiest creatures you've ever seen! It's so fascinating to meet different cultures. I quite like visiting here so far."
Dishes clattering and spoons tinkering, the kitchen saw its quiet state disturbed for the sake of dinner. April merely reminded Emyrs where the cutlery and pots were located and they even found some misplaced dishware with Emyrs apologizing for her daughter who was probably in a hurry and placed them in the wrong area.
"No big deal, girl. I've found dishes everywhere in this apartment. Remember that I live with a man, and a man named Casey Jones at that."
"Men can be a hassle but they're good for something every once in a while, right?"
The two ladies exchanged sneering glances and knew what the other was thinking:
"I don't do plumbing!" April declared and moving out of the kitchen so Emyrs could begin dinner.
"Lawn mowing is a losing battle for me. I fight with the lawnmower like I'm married to it. Hell, I've already divorced it several times!" Emyrs joked. "May I look in your fridge for the materials I need?"
"Oh, sure!" April waved. "Casey enjoys the plumbing and besides his good looks, that's the only reason I'm with him!"
The ladies shared another round of laughter and continued chattering on about life, love, and the pursuit of Takeout after the hours waned on and Emyrs still had nothing to show for it.
"I really did want to cook dinner!" Emyrs looked at the counter full of pots, pans, and dishes.
"There's always tomorrow! You can cook breakfast? I suck at it," said April, grabbing up dishes and putting them away. "Casey goes to work real early, though, so what time did you want to start?"
Emyrs didn't respond for a good minute, prompting April to turn around. "You okay?"
"Oh, um..." the elder turtle began, "Yeah! Um, what time does he have to be at work then?"
April stared at her, wondering what had just happened but answered quickly as soon as she realized Emyrs looked back at her, "Six! Six am, he stumbles around."
"I'll get started twenty til then," Emyrs finished her sentence slowly, trailing off her train of thought. "Sorry for the awkwardness just now. I, um... had a brain freeze as you could probably tell." She tried to laugh it off and helped with clearing away the kitchen.
"Oh, I did it all the time. Just go rest up. I'll keep some dishes out for you so you can get started when you come up in the morning."
"Thanks. Guten nacht!" Emyrs pointed a finger up to quiz April.
Emyrs slowly walked to the basement door and disappeared with a concerned look gazing from her landlord.
Everyone was adjusting, April conceived, in their own subtle ways. Three families who had a spectrum of hopes and complications and who were crossing into each others' territories.
Synopsis: We have been introduced to a new world for the Hamatos and the Beckers, one that will allow them to mingle with the humans. Emyrs and Abigail Becker are a mother and daughter duo that came from Germany to visit Splinter. So far, things have been mundane, and everyone tends to their daily business and routines.
He watched the young female half-breed struggle to keep up with an even-tempered Raphael. Raphael, steady and confident, was always at his best, Leonardo reflected, and not when his brother was temperamental and on fire. Raphael was, he thought, the best teacher for an eager student; he was always good with children, anyhow.
As Raphael dodged all of her moves, Leonardo stood firm, arms crossed, eying every motion and ready to compliment or criticize. Soon he fell deep into thought, casting memories of his family in a blaze of the evening's routine. They were all getting older, his brothers and he, reaching a critical age of independence and adventure, for some.
Raphael, the one that kept the family concerned over his erratic behavior and thirst for acceptance, was slowly becoming the warrior that Leonardo and Splinter always wanted him to be. He smiled more often now, engaged in more family activities, disappeared less often, and pondered the idea of traveling with Leonardo to the far reaches of Asia. Leonardo couldn't put his finger on exactly what changed his brother but he wasn't going to question it and hoped it would always stay that way.
"Pick up the pace on her, Raph," Leonardo quipped. "More speed, less strength right now. She can handle it."
"Hey!" Raphael's quick breaths interrupted, "We're getting there, Leo! How about -" He dodged Abby's skinny leg aiming for his head. "-how about asking Mikey or Don to pitch in a bit? We do all the work!"
"I'm here, I'm here, O Great One," trotted in Donatello, wearing practice gear. "I had a few more things to finish up. Hand the girl over." He smiled down at the sweaty teen who wiped her brow a few times and bent over to catch her breath.
Donatello had also progressed, too; he was still a whiz at mechanics, electronics, and general study and not quite as reclusive anymore. For the past two years, he had his heart set on joining a team of co-species scientists that were traveling the world in their on-going research. It was his dream but the odds were against him. As smart as he was, he never had a formal college education and the credentials needed. His family encouraged him to keep trying and networking as much as possible. Some days, Don was a dormant landmine ready for the right opportunity to set him free.
"You guys are unreal," she gasped. "I thought I knew everything at twelve years old!"
"Not quite, Abby! We were the same way," Don chuckled and tossed a staff at Abigail, who almost didn't catch it. "It's a continuing education."
"Like figuring out my mother?" She joked.
Leo stepped in. "I bet she thinks the same way about you. All parents and children do."
"Hey, before we get started, do you mind if I ask you three something?"
"As long as it's not about the bees and birds. That's better suited for your mama," Raphael sallied, his words muffling in and out as he rubbed a towel on his face.
"Mother's advice for that is," she stiffened up, holding a finger in the air and mockingly quoted, "'Birds bite and bees sting; boys make babies so stay away from them!"
Leo and Raphael coolly chuckled with Don agreed, "Smart lady. Keep listening to her."
"What's your question, kid? I gotta meet up with Case here in a minute," stated Raphael, pitching the towel in a corner.
"Is your brother Michelangelo usually so moody and distant? Did I do anything to him? He seems to talk to everyone but me."
Michelangelo. If anyone wanted to talk about change, it was him. It was like they traded an angry Raphael for a reclusive Mikey. He didn't even want to be called Mikey anymore, just "Mike" or his full name. The family really didn't understand the change, or what brought about the change in him, or how it was a long-time change coming or something that suddenly happened.
Leonardo proceeded carefully. "Mike never used to be that way. We don't know what happened to him."
"It was like he woke up one day and decided to be an ass," Raph scoffed.
"Not quite like Raphael just described," Don disagreed. "More like a subtle change. There were signs we could see now that we didn't see then. I believe he's just going through a young adult crisis. People deal with it differently. He just wants to be left alone with his Klunk version 2 and pen and paper."
Leonardo finished, "So don't think it's you. He hardly knows you so why would he not like you?"
Abigail tightened her hair band to keep her thick, red hair out of her face and shook her head. "I guess so. I just feel weird around him, that's all."
Raphael jingled his keys. "Nothing new to us, kid! Keep your chin up. I'm outta here. Night!"
"One more round, this time defending from Don's attacks and we'll take a good long run," Leo instructed. "We'll go visit Mike in the morning and see how he's doing."
Synopsis: Abigail trained with Leonardo, Donatello, and Raphael, and we learned that Michelangelo holds a more serious temperament now. He has moved into the Jones' apartment with his new cat, Rosie, writes, and has become reclusive.
Autumn in a foreign country had an almost magical impression and the amendment to a new season illuminated fresh ideas and moods. Her European home made a subtle change in season, almost too slow for her liking, but here, she could taste the approaching winter. The wind remained steady and crisp. Mornings were still her favorite time: waking up before anyone else, daydreaming, and beginning her daily chores.
For a moment, Emyrs smiled to herself but it quickly faded as she remembered the awkward moment with Miss O'Neil. It was like her mind had suddenly grown cold and empty. She felt uneasy about the events afterward and retreated to the basement. Nothing could hold her attention long enough so she stepped outside to the small alleyway, looking up at the stars and finally losing her thoughts.
An approaching vehicle roar disturbed the quiet moment and it dawned on her that she might need to duck for cover (something she wasn't used to) but instead she immobilized with her blanket wrapped around her, pajamas, and bed shoes. The headlights blinded her for half a second before a deep, New York accent tore through the alleyway.
"Nice jammies," Raphael snickered, shutting off the lights and engine. He stepped off the bike and pushed it deeper into the alleyway.
"They were on sale, couldn't complain about them," Emyrs commented but stopped short. "Okay, you got me. They were Abigail's and I stole them, but just for the night."
Raphael took off his helmet and stood beside her. "Whatcha looking at up there?" He glanced at the sky. "Saw you staring pretty hard."
"I like the stars and the night. Plus, the air helps, too."
The two watched the sky, soaking in the New York City nighttime and what seemed like for ages until Raphael spoke up, "Your daughter is with Leo and Don. She put in a good session tonight. And she's pretty cool for a twelve year old."
"Abby's a good kid. I've tried to keep her level-headed." Wrapping herself tighter with the blanket, Emyrs lowered her head back to the alleyway, peering at her friend. "Late night cruise?"
"Yeah, Casey wants to blow off some steam; the normal life is getting to him, I guess," he mocked and glanced at her. "And it gets me out of the sewer."
She nodded. "I imagine it would get pretty cramped down there but then it gets cramped in our little cottage, too. That's why some friends, Abby, and I built a smaller cottage for her because she was getting on my nerves."
They shared some chuckles.
"If I could build something here, I would!" Raphael thought, tinkering with his helmet.
"Your brothers would miss you too much and visit you all the time. And you would let them," she quipped, turning to go back into her temporary home. " Which isn't a bad thing. Family is very important, right?"
"No doubt about it."
"It's bedtime. Think I've been scared enough for one night. It was nice talking to you; seems like we haven't exchanged many words since we arrived and were all crammed in the van together."
"Been keepin' busy," he grinned, jingling his keys.
"Thanks for being Abby's teacher. She needs a few more role models in her life." Emyrs opened the door and turned back to him before she closed it, finishing, "And nice bike."
Synopsis: Autumn is sprinkling through the families' lives. People who wouldn't have met through any other means have crossed into each others' paths and creating strong bonds.
Morning sounds rarely included dishes clinking and the smell of fresh food in the household. April hated preparing breakfast, he recalled, and her breakfasts never smelled this good (no offense to her). The noise and smell prompted him to investigate. It's not like he slept at night anyways and maybe the bathroom was free. He could use that excuse if anyone asked.
Opening his bedroom door really caused the smell to become more powerful, and it had been a long time since he had some decent breakfast (because he couldn't cook breakfast worth a damn either). He groggily looked at the bathroom's direction, wanting to head that way and avoid conversation with the cook. After watching Emyrs whipping around the small kitchen like a pro, he entertained the idea of actually speaking with her. They had crossed paths a few times and he was intrigued by her family and their journey, but he could never bring himself to say very much.
"Oh, morning! I didn't see you standing there," she smiled, briskly returning to her work. "Would you like coffee? Wait, do you even drink coffee?"
He stumbled on his words slightly. "Oh. Yeah, it does help keep me up at night to work."
"By the looks of it, you could use some to wake you up," she joked, scrambling eggs at the stove.
He toddled towards the coffee machine. "Actually, I never went to sleep. Insomnia hits me every now and then. I can't even work when I have it." While his footsteps were shaky, pouring the coffee was an easy task.
"I get that less frequently now. Had it bad when I was your age."
"How did you make it happen less frequently?"
"Aged, I suppose," she lightly joked, turning to slide the finished eggs onto a plate. "Since you have coffee, it's only right if you enjoy breakfast, too, Michelangelo."
"Yeah, you have it smelling pretty good in here. I like to try it out."
He sipped on his coffee and walked to the living room to relax on the armchair. Mike spent so much time in his room that he almost forgot what the rest of the apartment looked like. It had been earlier in the year that he moved out of the sewer and was now staying at April's. The situation worked out perfectly: he could have his peace to write and April and Casey had a babysitter for baby Shadow. In the back of his mind, he knew that his family resented him moving out and then barely speaking with them, but the current year brought mixed emotions about everything. The years of repression emerged in over a week and changed everything he and his family knew. The way he saw it, the time was coming for them all to leave the nest and fly elsewhere. Mike felt like he was in limbo, waiting for the next train to come along to take him away.
The basement door cracked open and out stumbled a frizzy-haired, sleepy tween. Rubbing her eyes and resembling a zombie, Abigail (was that her name, he asked himself) didn't blurt a word as she flopped on the couch. The couch suddenly exclaimed, moaned, and finally cursed at her, and she almost zoomed out the window in the style of a 1930s cartoon character.
Wow, Mike hadn't even noticed that Raphael was snoozing on the couch.
"Watch it, toots," Raph mumbled and folded back into the couch, spewing out more incomprehensible angry words.
"Abby, go wash up." Emyrs grinned at her and pointed to the bathroom. Abigail hastily scooted away.
Mike leaned over and tickled Raph's coarse foot. Maybe a night of insomnia compelled his sense of humor to surface again.
After a few moments, Raphael still wasn't moving at all so Mike gave up, sat back on the armchair, and savored his coffee.
"You know damn well I ain't ticklish on my feet, MIKE," came the muffled voice from the couch. Slowly emerging, Raph peered at Mike with blood-shot eyes and an equally dry look.
"My memory's bad then."
"Maybe if you were around a little more, sport," jeered Raph, rubbing his face and sitting up.
"You got me there," Mike grinned. "Work on your humor and I might come around more."
Raphael's morning voice boomed. "And wouldn't that be peachy, bro? It can all go back to normal with you acting like a clown and all of us clobbering your brains out!"
"You can drop that voice, you know. There are sleeping people here," Mike hissed.
"So now you act like you have some manners," his brother scoffed.
"Mother, I don't have my toothpaste up here," Abigail's tiny voice crawled from the bathroom.
"Brush your teeth after breakfast. Just comb that rat's nest on your head!" Emyrs snapped, closing the microwave door. They exchanged a couple of words in their native tongue, which sounded like Emyrs wasn't happy with her daughter but then all of the German language sounded like that to Mike.
Mike rose from his chair and placed the half-full cup of coffee on the counter. "Emyrs, sorry to skip your wonderful breakfast but I'll catch it another time before you leave."
He hated to do it, but being around Raphael brought out the worst in him. Leo was finally right about something. As soon as Abigail left the bathroom, Mike made his way there.