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"Evil into the mind of god or man may come and go,
so unapproved, and leave no spot or blame behind."

- Milton


TH, 2059

The elderly man braced his frail body against the rusty scythe he clutched, taking a moment to rest. Sweat rolled down his face, soaking his shirt and dripping onto the cracked soil. He rubbed the back of his hand across his wrinkled brow, then adjusted his straw hat.

He looked down at his salt-encrusted watch. It was only eight in the morning but the temperature was already up over 45 degrees centigrade. He suspected that it would top 50 before noon. That conclusion took very little deductive reasoning, as he knew from the decades of the yesteryear. The fields of western Kyoto, barren land beneath the ozone-depleted sky of the mid twenty-first century, topped 50 degrees everyday.

The blazing heat drew the man’s attention back to the task at hand. It was a labor he had spent decades on, one that could just as easily be completed by the machines of the bold new era. Yet the man lifted his scythe again, going back to his work in the rice fields. Bringing his arm around again and again, his daily task proceeded on schedule.

A sound startled him. It was not the birds that would visit him in the summertime, nor the animals that often paid him a welcome visit in his modest dwelling over the valley.

It was a visitor.

"Greetings, sir."

The voice hit him with the force of the fiercest punch. He could not remember the last time he had spoken to another human being.

But then, as the elderly man realized at once by the look of him, his visitor was anything but another human being. Under his traveler’s clothes was green skin and a broad back with patterned ridges that could only be a shell. "Who are you?" he asked him.

"My name is Leonardo," replied his reptilian visitor. His voice sounded human enough, even if it bore more than a hint of the raspiness that came with old age. "We knew each other a long time ago, you and I."

The old man rubbed his nose dismissively with a hand. "I do not know you, Turtle-man."

"Forgive me, sir, but you did," the visitor insisted. "Once."

He rested for a moment. "I beg your pardon?"

"We have grown old, you and I. I grant you that your memory may not be what it used to be. Regardless, you know who I am. You have to."

The elderly man narrowed his eyes. "And just who is it you think I am?"

"Oroku Saki." The voice was adamant. "Or should I say… the Shredder."

"Oroku Saki… Shredder…" he wrinkled his nose as he spoke, almost snarling, "these names mean nothing to me."

The visitor advanced. "You lie."

"I am not lying. The names you throw at me…they mean nothing to me. Less than nothing." But then he added in a different tone, now almost solemnly, "Not anymore."

"Then you are Saki," Leonardo said, nodding his head. Nevertheless, the elderly man’s confirmation did not satisfy him. "But how…? The first time we metthe first time we foughtyou were destroyed by your own explosives. The second time I chopped off your head and burned you. The third time… you killed yourself in front of me. My brothers and I scattered your ashes over Fuji-san forty years ago."

The old man’s gaze suddenly became distant, as if he could see something in the sky that no one but him could see. "I… I need to return to my home. I grow weary."

"Answer me, Oroku Sakihow are you alive? What was it, another clone? More magic worms?"

He shook his head, the first sign of real acknowledgment he had given the Turtle. "But it was all a lifetime ago… forgive me if I cannot remember it all…"

"Cannot… or will not?"

The elderly man drew himself back at the question. Perhaps an increment of the fire that had burned in his youth rekindled, if only for a moment. "You came from America to ask me these trivial questions of yours? What is your intent, to confront me? To challenge me to another duel?"

"I bear you no ill will. The past is the past." Leonardo softened his composure. "When Donatello found out about you… your name on the lease of this land and estate… I had to come here myself. I had to know." He sighed. "The last time we met… when you committed seppuku before my eyes… you were different. I finally saw a different side to you. But you were dead, and the questions I could ask you could never be asked. I would like to ask you them now, if you would do me the honor. I wish to understand you, the man our sensei raised us to kill, the man who was our sworn enemy for so many years."

The man met his gaze, his old, weary eyes locking with Leonardo’s. "You want to understand me? Do you truly? Then I will tell you about Oroku Saki. I will tell you of the decadence that killed Saki. And then, wayfarer, if you still wish... I will tell you of the Shredder."


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