“Pardon me, but how did you even find this frequency?” Don asked, his face a picture of startled amazement.
Sitting in his lab while he worked on his laptop, Don hadn’t even looked at the shell cell when it rang. He reached over to answer without removing his eyes from his screen, thinking the caller was one of his brothers phoning from April’s, where they had gone for part of the evening.
“I do work for the government, Donatello,” Agent Bishop reminded him. “Some of my people are almost as smart as you.”
“Then I’m sure they told you that attempting to trace this call to my location is a pointless endeavor,” Don said, as his nimble fingers flew over his keyboard, re-routing the shell cell’s frequency through a series of programs he’d already written for just such a circumstance as this.
Bishop laughed. “I know you won’t believe me, but I am not even attempting to do that.”
“You’re right, I don’t believe you. Hanging up now,” Don said shortly.
“Wait!” Bishop’s voice was sharp and urgent.
Normally, Don would have ignored him, but something in the tone stilled his hand just on the brink of cutting off the communication.
“Why?” he asked, against his better judgment.
“I find myself in an awkward situation,” Bishop told him. “I require your assistance.”
“Mine?” Don asked, slightly stunned. “What the shell could you possibly need from me, and why would I consider helping you anyway?”
“Because there has been another outbreak from the alien ooze,” Bishop said.
Don sat in stunned surprise for a moment. As though understanding what his reaction might be, Bishop waited.
“Your people delivered the antidote all over the city, Bishop. How is that possible?” Don asked finally.
“Apparently, some of the mutated bugs crawled into the open hatch of a cargo ship that put out to sea before we began spraying the vaccine. Fortunately, it appears to have occurred with just a single vessel,” Bishop explained.
“Then spray the antidote on that ship. You don’t need me to tell you that,” Don said.
“No I don’t,” Bishop replied in a clipped tone, and then realizing that was not the best way to engender Don’s assistance, his voice smoothed out. “I have already attempted to cure the crew by means of aerial vaccine misting. The mutation appears to have changed. The antidote isn’t working.”
If Don were given to cursing, he would have used a few choice words right then. Instead, he said, “Interesting. Any idea what might have occurred?”
“None at the moment. My people are reviewing the ship’s cargo logs to find out exactly what they are carrying. We are holding the vessel out in the ocean under a quarantine flag, but I am not sure how long that excuse will hold,” Bishop said.
“It’s not an American vessel I take it?” Don asked.
“You are quick,” Bishop acknowledged. “The ship is Omani.”
“So I’m guessing that’s why you haven’t simply blown it out of the water,” Don said sarcastically.
“Contrary to your beliefs, force isn’t always my first choice as a solution,” Bishop informed him. “I would much rather learn what has happened and why.”
“So you can use the knowledge to further your personal goals?” Don was thoroughly suspicious, but also becoming slightly intrigued.
Bishop seemed to sense that. “I won’t say that under normal circumstances I wouldn’t be looking for some way to turn this to my advantage, however, an international incident with my Earth Protection Force at the forefront is not something I need. In fact, I would like to resolve this issue while I am still flying under the President's radar. You see, I am being completely candid with you.”
Don’s brow furrowed. “Granted that is the truth, I’d still like to know why you called me. You have the original antidote and plenty of your own scientists, including Baxter Stockman. Surely one of them can come up with a derivative that will work.”
“Time is of the essence and Stockman may be brilliant in his own mind, but I have found his abilities to be . . . limited at best. My scientists have all been trained to think in a certain way, they don’t have the ability to creatively process new situations and adapt to them as you do,” Bishop explained.
“Leatherhead created that antidote, Bishop,” Don reminded him.
“Yes, by using your protocol. Your friend is a brilliant scientist, but also a volatile one whom I have no way of contacting even if I wanted to. I need the brightest possible mind on this situation, and that is yours Donatello,” Bishop explained.
Don sat silently, contemplating what Bishop had told him. If he was speaking the truth, innocent lives were at stake, and so was his government’s relationship with a friendly foreign country.
Those thoughts were balanced by his past history with Bishop. Don had absolutely no reason to trust anything Bishop might say, although the man had upheld his end of the bargain when Donatello himself had been infected by the ooze.
“Are you willing to give me your word that everything you’ve told me is the truth, Bishop?” Don asked, almost mentally kicking himself for even considering assisting the man.
“I am,” Bishop said. “I can give you my word; and we’ve had enough dealings for you to know I do not resort to chicanery when it comes to that. Furthermore, you may find that joining my team has certain rewards.”
“You cannot hope to persuade me on any intellectual level that a partnership with you would be beneficial,” Don said. “If I do this, it will not be because you need me.”
“Point taken. If you were to proceed on that basis, how would you begin and what would you need from me?” Bishop asked.
“’If’ being the operative word, Bishop, I would require the ship's manifest and ideally a sample of blood from someone who has been infected,” Don replied. “I would also need access to a fully equipped lab.”
“Done and done,” Bishop told him. “We managed to retrieve a crew member who jumped overboard just as he was bitten by one of his infected shipmates. We are holding him in a containment tube.”
“Whoa, hold on,” Don said, “not so fast. I said ‘if’ because I still don’t know how I feel about this whole thing. Trusting you is not something I’m necessarily ready to do, in spite of your word.”
“Donatello,” Bishop’s voice was strained momentarily, “this is not a ploy to trick you into turning yourself over to me. If I truly wanted you that badly, I could find opportunities to acquire you easily enough. I already have a sample of your DNA and it has been useless to me. My attentions are focused elsewhere and have been for some time.”
Don recognized the reasonableness of that statement. Bishop had seemed to be ignoring them, and Don knew first hand of the man’s failures in trying to create the perfect soldier using DNA collected from both the Turtles and their sensei.
“What do you propose?” Don asked despite his misgivings.
Bishop seemed to sigh audibly. “If you would meet me somewhere, I can transport you to my laboratory facilities.”
Alarm bells were starting to sound in Don’s head. “I don’t know, Bishop. I’m certainly not going anywhere with you alone.”
“I wouldn’t have expected that from someone as cautious as you are,” Bishop said. “Tell me how you want to do this so we are within your comfort zone.”
Don thought for a moment. It was highly probable that once he had explained the situation to his family, he would be forbidden by Leo to take the chance that Bishop was being truthful.
Once Leo said no, that would be the end of it. Don would not go against his leader; he never had and he probably never would.
On the other hand, he was beginning to feel the excitement from the thought of working on such a complex problem as Bishop was offering him, and being able to do so in a lab equipped with the very latest in scientific equipment. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and the intellectual in him was loathe to let it pass him by.
The humanitarian aspect of the situation was calling to Don as well. He was not a Turtle who could abide the thought of anyone suffering needlessly.
“All right, Bishop, then let’s proceed this way,” Don said, “first I want to confirm some of your story independently. If there truly is a ship quarantined then the story will presumably be on some wire service or news coverage. I want to see if for myself.”
“Understood,” Bishop said.
“Secondly, I’ll meet you in a location of my choosing and you have to come alone. If I see any indication whatsoever that you’ve brought any of your people with you, the deal is off and I disappear.”
“Agreed,” Bishop responded.
“Thirdly, I’ll bring one of my brothers with me, and you’ll be under his control from the very second we meet. If you so much as blink wrong, he’ll take your head off.”
“Unnecessary, but I will abide by those rules. When do you want to do this?” Bishop asked.
Don glanced at the clock. It was a few minutes after ten.
“Is this a mobile number you are calling from?” he asked Bishop.
“Yes it is,” Bishop answered.
“Then I’ll call you back on this number at eleven thirty with further details,” Don told him. “Bishop, if this is a trick, I’ll make sure you regret it.”
Bishop chuckled with dry humor. “I have no doubt of that, Donatello. One thing I have learned from my interactions with you Turtles is to never, under any circumstances, underestimate you.”
Don disconnected from the call without saying anything further. Setting the phone on the desk and leaning back in his chair, he realized he hadn’t taken a deep breath since he first began talking to Bishop.
Sucking in a large lungful of air, Don squeezed his eyes shut and concentrated on settling his shaking hands. Making a deal with the devil would probably have been less stressful.
Staring at the shell cell, he realized he could still call the whole thing off. He was by no means committed to the endeavor even after all that had been discussed.
Tapping his fingertips on the arm of his chair, he leaned his chin into the palm of his other hand and contemplated his conversation with Bishop. After several minutes of this, Don suddenly reached for the phone and made a call.
“Yo!” Raph answered, his already deep voice made deeper by the vagaries of telephone modulations.
“Raph, can you do me a favor and meet me on top of the old Bakersfield building at eleven-twenty?” Don asked.
“What the shell for?” Raph wanted to know.
“I have something I need to do, but I’d really like to have someone watching my back. I’ll explain more when you get there,” Don said. “And Raph, don’t tell the others, okay? I don’t want Master Splinter or Leo fretting over me.”
“Shit, Donny, what have ya’ gotten into?” Raph asked suspiciously.
“I’m honestly not sure, Raph. Hopefully I’ll have an answer to that when we meet,” Don said.
“Okay, bro, whatever ya’ need,” Raph replied.
Don hung up and swiveled back to his laptop, muttering under his breath as he did so.
“I think what I need is to have my head examined.”