"I can't wait for this, fellas," Casey03 beamed, watching his counterparts with glee in his eyes. "I've been itchin' to get into the ring."
"I couldn't concentrate on the first four matches. I just wanted to break something," Casey87 added as the four Casey Jones's made their way out into the arena armed with hockey sticks and baseball bats.
The crowds roared with surprise and delight as the four Caseys faced each other. It was a welcome surprise for the adoring spectators; a fight that hadn't been added to the official events.
"I'm not sure about the young one ..." Casey07 looked at the kid standing opposite. He already had most of his teeth knocked out and he was just a teenager.
"Hey, I'm a Jones with the best of them!" Casey12 crowed, lifting his hockey stick and inviting Casey07 forward with a broad smile.
"Geez, kid … what happened to them teeth?" Casey03 asked, shuddering. He still had all of his teeth and couldn't imagine losing his pearlies so young.
"Played hockey for years. Comes with the territory," Casey12 responded. "We gonna do this, boys?"
"I'm with the kid. Let's rumble," Casey87 added.
All four placed their face masks securely in place as they circled each other with raised bats. Casey12 made the first move, leaping forward in a brazen move and connecting with Casey07's bat. The older man moved backwards swiftly as the youngster continued to attack, neatly blocking each move with little effort.
"Guess that means you and I get to party!" Casey87 was itching to get into the fight and he faced Casey03 with a manic enthusiasm that bordered on insanity.
"Then let's get this on." Casey03 shifted his hockey stick from one hand to the other. Within seconds he had leapt forward with an almighty yell. "Goongala!"
"Hey, Donnie!" April12 weaved her way through the holding area, curiously watching the other ninja turtles as they were preparing to fight. "You were fantastic!
Don12 turned and faced the incoming beauty with eyes as wide as soccer balls. "You came all the way from the spectators boxes to tell me that?"
"Yeah … well, um, Casey is in the ring right now." April 12 blushed as she saw the instant change descend over her green protector.
"Yeah, dude. You think April would come down here just for you?" Raph12 grinned, nudging his younger brother playfully.
"I mean … I would have. It's just … you know," April12 stammered, looking awkwardly at the quietly seething turtle.
"April …" Don12 turned to his beloved and looked at her without breaking contact, "I need to know ... do you like Casey? More than a friend?"
April shook her head, but it was a gesture of confusion rather than a definite negative. "I like Casey. I like you, Donnie. I don't know."
Don12 rolled his eyes and looked at the floor, downcast. "You're gonna have to make that choice one day, April."
April nodded, her face flushing with embarrassment. "I know. I'm just not ready to be more with either of you. Can't friends be enough for now?"
"You may as well pack it in now, bro. April's gonna go human all the way," Mike12 murmured, his voice sounding surprisingly wise for the happy-go-lucky youngster.
"Let's see how Casey's doing." Don12 turned away and walked to the edge of the holding area. He was watching Casey12 with narrowed and hurt eyes.
Inside, he believed his dimensional brother was right. April would choose another human being over a mutant turtle any day when she was ready. He would be left behind, like a dead weight that needed to be shed. The other dimensions only confirmed the inevitable.
April was meant for Casey. Not for Donatello.
"I thought you'd be an easy take-down," Casey12 huffed as he tried to get the upper hand over his adversary. "I mean, you're so thin and bony."
"Don't let appearances deceive you kid," Casey07 smiled behind his mask. "I've been doing this a long time. Lot longer than you."
Hockey sticks collided as the fight became tiring for both combatants and the pace of the match slowed to an unsustainable crawl.
Meanwhile, the other two fighters were lost in battle. Casey87 was a powerful opponent but he seemed a little unhinged. Casey03 managed to disarm him but the madman was still charging at him like an enraged bull. Neatly using his hockey stick, he tripped the enraged version of himself and watched the muscle-bound man collapse in a grumbling heap.
"You'll pay for that, scuzzball." Casey87 rose to his feet and pulled out a baseball bat. "Taste wooden fury, Zero Jones."
"Wow, do you ever close that mouth?" Casey03 felt the anger stir him from within and he charged forward, hitting Casey87 firmly in the abdomen.
The older man sucked in a painful breath and collapsed onto the ground. As Casey03 towered above him in victory, Casey87 was instantly transported back to the holding area.
"What happened out there?" Casey87 wheezed as he drew another painful breath.
"Dude, you just got beaten," Mike03 snickered from across the room. "Big time!"
"Shut up, shell-fer-brain." Raph03 slapped his brother's head in annoyance. "Great fight out there, Jones."
Don12 was still watching the other fight with mounting interest with April12 standing right beside him. Their own dimensional Casey was holding his own and was lighter on his feet than Casey07. However, his youth and inexperience was against him – Casey07 was angering the teenager with well-placed insults and soon the tide began to turn in favour of the older Casey.
Don12 wasn't surprised by this. He knew the value of experience – especially in a fight – could be the difference between winning and losing. It was inevitable, and a little pleasing to the turtle, when Casey12 fell before Casey07 and was neatly transported into the holding area.
"Casey, you were awesome!" April12 threw her arms around the gangly teenager in delight.
"Not bad, Casey." Don12 held out a hand for the teenager to shake. He realised that, for the moment, rivalry needed to be cast aside.
"Didn't win, but got close at times." Casey12 sucked in a breath and looked at April with a slight smile. "Guess you backed the losing side."
"You were amazing!" April12 gushed warmly. "It doesn't matter. You still fought really well."
The two winners, Casey03 and Casey07, faced each other as they prepared for the final fight. In their peripheral vision, they could see their own dimensional turtles lining up to watch this final fight.
Gyoji signalled for the two men to begin and the action started immediately. It was a blur of baseball bats that clashed as the arena went wild with anticipation. Both Caseys were well-matched and skilled fighters.
Without quips or come-backs they fought in silence, giving the crowd exactly what it wanted. Fists flew as the baseball bats broke in the midst of their furious tournament. Casey03 managed to land a punch squarely in Casey07's midriff and he went down into a crumpled heap.
"You okay, Jones?" Casey03 asked as he leaned over his fallen opponent.
"Great moves there," Casey07 wheezed. "Give me a moment."
Casey03 stood back and waited for his rival to gain breath.
Gyoji appeared between the two men and gestured for a break. "Is the combatant able to continue with the fight?"
Casey07 had paled, clenching his fists in pain. "I ... don't know. In a lot of pain."
"Match is over. No more," Leo07 walked into the arena with Raph07 following closely behind. He walked over to their version of Casey and he knelt before him. "Casey. You okay?"
"Ribs ... argh." Casey07 saw dancing black spots as he teetered in and out of consciousness. "Think ... broken."
Leo07 nodded, pressing his hand on Casey07's shoulder in support. Raph07 lifted his friend into his arms gently. "Gyoji, would you transport us to the Healer, please?"
Gyoji nodded and immediately transported the wounded man and both turtles to the healing hall. "Winner of match is Casey03!"
Casey03 nodded and walked back to the holding area. "Where's the other Casey? He okay? I hit him pretty hard."
"He's with the Healer currently. Do not worry, Mr. Jones. He will be just fine." Splinter03 bowed before his human friend and Casey03 accepted the token of honour with a slight blush. "Congratulations on winning the match."
"It was nothin'," Casey03 shrugged, turning to give April03 a hug. "Didn't mean to hurt him though."
"Oh Casey. You big lug!" April03 smiled affectionately. "I knew you'd win!"
At the Healer's Hall, Raph07 lay Casey07 down on a bed carefully. The man had fallen into a fitful unconsciousness and was moaning a little. "There's a lot of beds here."
"I guess they have a lot of patients," Leo07 surmised as the Healer appeared before them.
Both turtles watched like hawks as the healing began and stayed with their friend until completion. As Casey07 began to feel better his mood darkened. "I can't believe I lost! Man's got a fist like a truncheon!"
"Hey, you did great. Until he hit you and broke your ribs you were a real contender," Leo07 sympathised. "The other Casey got in a lucky blow. He found an opening and caught you out."
"Yeah, I guess," Casey07 sat upright, feeling the tension in his muscles subside as his ribs were healing. "Damn, that healer's good!"
"We need one of him in our dimension," Raph07 agreed with a small smile. "It would cut down on recovery after being injured.
"I want to see April, "Casey07 mumbled as he tried to get to his feet. Raph07 pushed him back onto the bed and lay a restraining hand on his shoulder.
"Easy, pal. Just let everything heal first and then we'll head on back." Raph07 turned to his brother. "Who's next Leo?"
"I think that our Donny is up next. There's going to be four more matches before another break. Little Leo has a fight during the next round." Leo07 mused.
"How's he doing? That little Leo?" Raph07 asked. "His arm getting better?"
"He's doing well. His arm will be in a sling for his battle but the little guy didn't want to miss out on the fight," Leo07 said proudly. "Said he'd fight with one arm if he had to."
"I didn't think honour could be cute until I met those little guys." Raph07 grinned.
Leo07 smiled back. "It's true. They are very innocent in a lot of ways."
"Tell me about it." Raph07 looked slightly troubled for a moment. "Think he'll be okay in his fight, one-armed?"
Leo07 shrugged. "I don't know. I wouldn't like to say for sure. They've proved everyone wrong before now. You never know."
Raph07 nodded and remembered his talk with Raph87 on the sofa in Dimension Third Earth. The little guy had been adamant he would never kill anyone and in a naïve and innocent manner defended his postition. Raph07 hoped that little guy would never be forced into that position - to choose life or death for an opponent was a terrifying experience.
"Guys, my ribs are fixed. Can we head back now?" Casey07 sat up, swatting Raph07's hand away. "I don't want to miss the next fight."