That’s the first thing I said to Leo and Mikey when they got home. I’ve never been the sentimental type, and lately I haven’t felt the need for indirectness either. Sure, I was glad to see them back from their little romp in China, but they should know that. Can’t say I was surprised that they left Venus and Splinter there… I always figured she’d go back to stay some day. Also figured Splinter would be keen on learning some new tricks. It added up.
But that’s beside the point… he was back, and he was gunning for us.
It all started in mid-February. I had whipped the ex-Foot members into a decent sized fighting force over the past few months. We’d officially adopted the Clan Sai as our name (as chessey as it was, the guys came up with it and I wanted them to be feel important within the hierarchy, so I kept it). I’d painted up several banners that we hung from the warehouse we were operating out of with the logo I’d made up. We also sewed up armbands with the insignia, a different colored band determining where each member stood within our ranks. White was novice, and of course red was expert. I was the only one wearing the red armband… but several of the guys were making progress and I was definitely thinking of handing a few expert awards out. It’s good for morale to show that progress can be made.
But before I got to doling out the cereal prizes, the trouble began. The Clan began running late night patrol in early January. We’d been doing our best to bust up any gang rings that came within our turf, and we were expanding that turf. When the Foot dissolved, many smaller factions and rival gangs sprung up over night, and my first goal with Clan Sai was to restore the order that the Foot had ironically maintained. Things went well for 4 weeks, we were coasting along with few casualtes, and both morale and ability were soaring within our house. The guys made me proud. They worked hard once you got them to see what was going down. I was determined to make Clan Sai a force of good within the City, both because I wanted the guys to redeem themselves for past ill deeds and because I wanted to prove to Leo and Splinter that I wasn’t just some foolish hot-headed moron. Icould do things right, and I could do it MY way.
And everything was going real good. I had to spend alot more time with the Clan than I’d expected, but to be honest with ya, I enjoyed being in the position of authority and respect, rather than in the position of rebelious underling. Splinter and Leo have their way of doing things and I have mine. I didn’t have a problem with that, but they still were never supportive of me on the rare occassion that I had a few moments to visit them. They were always worried that things were going to blow up in my face.
Turns out they were right, but for all the wrong reasons. I hope that point doesn’t escape them.
So anyways, we started noticing that a guy here and there would turn up missing from the Clan. After 4 guys went AWOL, I decided it was time to get to the source of the problem. It didn’t take long.
The first 3 guys to disappear had been raw recruits, so their departure wasn’t too exciting. I figured they couldn’t handle the training and discipline, so they wimped out and went back to being criminals. If that were the case, we’d catch up with them sooner or later and illustrate to them the error in their their choice. But the fourth guy to go was my top lieutenant, who called himself Akira. He had become my best friend over the past few months… an invaluable ally. We had gone on patrol together and he had covered my back as well as any of my blood brothers had ever done in the past. He was one of the higher-ups in the local Foot chapter before it collapsed. Akira was one of the actual Japanese Foot, and it showed in his awesome abilities. Despite my feelings about the Foot, I trusted him with my life, and he did the same with me. We made a great team. There was no way his disappearance was a desertion, someone had definitely taken him out. So it was war.
I geared up the troops for battle. We started training harder than ever, our fallen brothers became our motivation. Minor losses are a good thing, as it brings the whole together much stronger. I was beginning to see things as a leader now… and I wasn’t sure I liked that aspect of things. I’m not into thinking about people who work for me and trust me as merely pawns in a larger game, but sadly enough, that’s exactly the way it is. So I used the missing members as the beacon of my men’s motivation and desire. Revenge is a powerful motivator. The guys got better in a hurry. After a short while, I thought we were ready for anything. As it ended up, we were ready for just about everything… but one major snag caught us and ripped us apart. Like I said, he was back…
We fought some minor skirmishes with some street gangs, questioning prisoners and learning nothing. We’d noticed one night that we were being tailed by, of all people, Foot soldiers. They were wearing their old costumes from way back when I first ran into them. I didn’t like it. I dropped off and started following our pursuers. I’d ordered my men to give me 15 minutes, and then scatter, double back and attack. That’s just what we did, and we easily captured the dozen Foot that tailed us. Funny thing was, they didn’t even fight. They were waiting for us to make our move the whole time.
They informed us that they had our men… and proved it by removing the masks from 3 of their guys. Sure enough, it was our missing newbies. Then the one talking came up to me and removed his mask… it was my “friend” Akira.
He apologized for deserting, but he explained it in three simple words:
“He is back.” I looked hard into his eyes, and he stared unflinchingly back. I didn’t know what he meant, but I was angry beyond compare at that moment. Akira had forsaken the Clan… my most trusted lieutenant and someone who I called friend had turned his back on us to rejoin that which we saught to destroy. He could see the hatred building in my eyes.
“Raphael-san… I have not betrayed you! I have spoken on your behalf! You too may join us! He has offered truce and a pact! He says he had always hoped that you would someday join him! That you would see the weakness in the old rat and take your place beside him, so that the two of you could accomplish great things together! He is willing to let the past lie and offers his hand in not just friendship, but as an ally! This is a great honor, Raphael-san! I am most proud to deliver this grand message to you.” he said this in hurried, excited speech and then bowed before me. This enraged me all the more. I told him to get up and demanded to know… just who “he” was.
He looked a bit confused at first, as if he thought I’d known all along. Then he realized that I did not, and a broad and genuine smile crossed his face.
“I am sorry, Raphael-san! I thought you would have discovered by now!” he bowed again.
“Quit your $@#&$ bowing and tell me who the $#%&* “he” is!” I demanded. I didn’t like the way he was acting… we had become friends, and his adhering to protocol was really getting on my nerves.
“He is… the Shredder!” with that he bowed again, and the 12 set off smoke grenades and were gone. Akira called back to me blanketed by the night, “Meet the true Master at the his old warehouse by the dock in one hour Raphael-san! It will be a grand reunion!”
So… one hour. One hour is all the time I had to plan my attack… to take out my oldest enemy and my newest as well. Akira would pay for this. While I vaguely understood why his old loyalty had returned with the sudden re-appearance of Shredder, it angered me that he placed so little value on Clan Sai. We had given him a home, and he repaid us with betrayal. He would pay for this…
I wasted the time to return home to see if Leo and my brothers would join me, but they had all left without me. So I was alone in this… and it was just as well.
I gathered my men. Our ranks had grown to 75 over time, and we were a force to be reckoned with. Many of the guys had trained long with the Foot and when I told them who had returned they seemed stricken. I gave them permission and a 30 seconds head start if they chose to desert us. Not too surprisingly, about eight guys did. I lied… I didn’t give them any head-start. As soon as they stepped forward, I gave the order to subdue them. Treachery against the treacherous is meaningless. I would not let them leave to battle us in the future nor to warn Shredder of my planned attack… at least not until I had taken my old nemesis down and removed their reason to desert in the first place.
So we moved out, and made it to Shredder’s hideout on time. I marched 1/2 of my men directly into the warehouse and ordered the others to take to the rooftops and wage the battle there against Shredder’s lookouts. I’d gone over strategies with the guys, and we were prepared. I intended on a quick strike… we would attack, and I would take out Shredder. Once that was accomplished, we would retreat, and go back to picking off the Foot at our leisure. Nice plan, right? Hah.
I thought it was going well. We marched into the warehouse, and I was surprised to note that Shredder’s men were few. Probably no more than 2 dozen. He had them stationed in postions of power above our heads, and had a small contingent of 3 around him. He was seated and dressed in his full regalia. He looked as menacing as ever. I could taste his defeat… this would be easy. He was foolish to invite me into his domain. It would be his last mistake.
So that’s what I was thinking. Too bad for me that my expectations of my men were so high. I signaled them to attack and prepared my lunge for Shredder and his minions. As luck would have it, Akira was one of the 3 surrounding him. I could take them both out if I moved swiftly and made no errors. I’d been waiting for an opportunity like this for my entire life… I would make no mistakes.
But my mistake was already made. My men did not attack… I signaled again, they did not move. Shredder began laughing, and Akira looked down, a look of disappointment on his face?
“I told him you would not see reason, student. I told him your temper would not allow you to. He did speak the truth to you. I was prepared to offer you an alliance. I had thought your time away from that family of freaks would have taught you by now that their path is one of weakness and surrender. I thought I had in you a kindred soul, Raphael. I thought that you were strong enough to join me. But I was not so foolish as to believe it. I have had men in your little Clan since you first started, telling me of your progress. When it seemed like your poor leadership would doom you before you had begun, I sent Akira to you, to help you manifest your destiny. With his help, you finally managed to reach your potential. The men did start to believe in you, despite your pointless attempts to thwart what you believe to be evil. I will honor you and tell you, this… you had actually won over some of my men. They believed in you so much that they brought this idea of truce to me. I was still not sure that you were ready, but Akira thought that you were. Obviously, he was wrong.”
With that he snapped his fingers and my men tore their Clan armbands off and threw them on the ground, making sure to grind them into the dirt with their heels. Shredder snapped again and the rest of my men came in through the rooftops, and dropped their armbands down from the rafters above. As they rained in around me, I felt crushed. I’ve never been so hurt… it won’t happen again. They then moved in and surrounded me in a circle. I tensed for battle.
Shredder snapped again and a platoon of his Elite guard walked into the warehouse from where my men had entered. There were 18 of them… I’d never seen this many at once. I was screwed. I might be able to whip enough of the regular Foot to get out alive, but I’d never get past over 2 dozen Elite. They were unnatural.
Shredder laughed again. “Do not worry, student. I still have hopes for you. You are my guest here, and I will not harm you. I have had much time to think since your “sister” played her little mind trick on me. I see clearer now, thanks to her… and I see that our destinies are entwined, Raphael. You have learned an important lesson in leadership today, student… men’s loyalty goes where it is best served. Remember that if I ever offer you an alliance again. For now you may go. Warn your family that I am back. And while you battle my Clan, remember that they are also your Clan, Raphael… always remember that. This is your destiny, Raphael. The Foot is your home. You do not have a weakling’s heart… you do not belong with them.”
With that more smoke grenades erupted and they all disappeared in seconds. All but Akira. I stood still, shaking slightly with rage… I wanted to kill him for betraying me. He merely shook his head sadly.
“I am sorry, Raphael-san. I thought that you were ready… I honestly did. I will miss you, my friend… please… come home soon…” and then he too disapperaed in a cloud of smoke.
So that’s my sad story. All of my work disappeared in one lousy night. I suppose I’ve learned some valuable lessons… but I’m just as confused by it as anything. I thought that the guys in Clan Sai had really become my family… but I was wrong. I only have one family, and I’m home with them now.
So that’s it. I’ve got some thinking to do and some plans to make with Leo and Donny. We’re at war again… and although we’re outnumbered 20 to 1, I like the odds. When I’m with my real brothers, I never lose. That’s the lesson that the Shredder has never learned, and that’s the reason that he will fall by our hands once again.
You take care of yourself. Watch your back… always watch your back. Sometimes your family won’t be around to watch it for you, and believe me, that can be painful.