The first thing Casey remembered was being surrounded in metal. Grimy, dark, icky metal. Only a sliver of light shone through it.
The year was 2028. Casey didn’t know how long he was in there. But he remembered how large the metallic container was. Or maybe he was just really small. Some days, he would hear blasts and screaming. Shadows would pass by the small gap in the metal. A red light would scan around for any remaining victims. Other days, it was quiet. Deathly quiet and still. Only the wind would be his lullaby.
Casey also remembered being in pain during it all. His stomach hurt. It would rumble and growl louder than any beast he had heard before (which wasn’t much, given he was so young). And so, the baby would cry. Wail louder and louder to silence out the grumbling. His throat hurt from it. Scratchy and sore. His piercing screams had strained into roars.
One day, his cries were answered. A figure was seen moving about through the tiny metal gap. There was a wavering light, but it was not a threatening red. Until finally, the figure approached the dumpster. And opened it.
A green eyed mask fell upon the child. Shaped like a skull. The eyes glowing brightly in the sockets. The figure’s breathing was heavy and muffled through the mask. Suddenly, the mask lifted on its own to reveal a woman. Who looked just as scared as the baby. Her hair was short and buzzed but growing out slightly. Her eyes were fierce and shiny copper brown. Small scars stretched across her face, especially a big one across her left side of her lips. Her greek snub nose had a septum piercing, matching the piercings on her ears. The woman wore a black tank shirt and black pants with dark red bandages on her neck, arms, and muddy brown combat boots.
The woman stretched her arms out to the small child, cooing and cradling him in her embrace. The baby’s wailings quieted down a bit, taking recognition of the woman as she wrapped her dark red scarf around him. The woman smiled, bouncing the baby boy side to side.
“Hello, tiny human. What were you doing in the trash?”, the woman cooed. “Did someone leave you? No…that would be awful…maybe they were trying to hide you from the Kraang? Or maybe…” The woman frowned. “Maybe they couldn’t handle the responsibility of raising a child in the middle of the apocalypse.”
The woman glanced around, still bouncing the baby. There was someone calling to her in the distance. She sighed.
“No matter. There’s no challenge that the great Casey Jones can’t handle!”, the woman flashed a determined grit. She turned back to the baby. “And you shall be Casey Jones Junior. My partner in crime. I will raise you to be the most extraordinary, most bravest, most heroic warrior that the world has ever seen!”
The baby had absolutely no idea what she was saying. But then the woman tickled him, getting out Casey Jr’s first ever giggle. And just as quickly, the tummy ache came back. Casey began to cry again. The woman’s face dropped, hushing the child.
“Oh you poor thing! Don’t worry, hush now. Mama is here.”, his mother soothed. “Come on, you must be starving. We shall have a great feast for our new little warrior!”
Casey Sr cheered victoriously, marching off with her son in her arms. Soon, four more figures entered his vision. Three were varying shades of green and the other was a dark brown. They all cooed and gawked over the child.
The brightest green, who had a blue mask over his face, looked worried. He had red stripes on his face and wore a dark blue scarf, dark blue pants, and a bright blue belt. Two katanas poked out of his scabbard on the back of his shell, one had a red bandana tied on it. Both of his arms were wrapped in black bandages and his shoulders had yellow stripes on them.
The blue one argued with Casey Sr that they couldn’t take a child with them when their parents may be looking for him. His mother snapped back, displaying the child’s poor state as a reason that Casey Jr's parents were long gone at this point. The shouting was loud, starling the baby as he cried.
The smallest green, with an orange mask, hovered over him. He had a head full of dark curly brown hair tied into a messy bun with very few sage green streaks in his hair. He wore a big orange cloak with white bandages on his arms. His body was speckled with orange spots, mainly on his limbs. His plastron was covered in a bunch of stickers.
The orange one beamed a bright smile. He hushed Casey Jr, stroking the baby’s matted hair. The crying soothed as the orange one gave Junior a small piece of a sugarcane to use as a pacifier. It tasted pretty sweet.
The other green, decked in a purple mask, examined the child. His left eye was a red robotic eye with a black vertical rectangle for a pupil. A large robotic leg replaced his right leg, it was way too big and bulky to fit and green with spikes with the top metallic piece being red. He wore a black combat platform boot on his other leg to match the height of the prosthetic. He wore a black coat underneath his black battle shell with a vibrant purple holographic visor across his face that was connected to circular earphones. The visor even had holographic eyebrows on it. His body was striped in purple glitchy blocks, with three on his chin resembling some kind of goatee.
The purple one reported that the baby looked alright, minus the hunger and thirst. He precariously booped the baby’s nose and pinched his cheek. It tickled, causing Casey Jr to laugh behind the sugarcane. The turtle’s expression softened for a moment before quickly shaking it off and putting on a grumpier tone.
The other person with dark skin, squealed about how adorable the baby is. She had a large afro being held back by strawberry red goggles. She wore a yellow jumpsuit, decked out from head to toe along with a yellow cape. Her eyes squinted slightly, inching closer to the child. It looked like her sight was off as she had to pull down the goggles to get a better look, which magnetized her eyes.
The lady ushered a hand to the group to get going so that Casey Jr could be fed right away. The team took off onto a large flashy red battle aircraft. Casey’s new life had been turned around.
Casey remembered other things from when he was a kid. Like how the turtles talked about a fourth brother who was apparently no longer with them. And how their father was gone as well. He also remembered a white rabbit yokai who disappeared one day.
But one thing Casey would never forget…was a promise. These people made him a promise. To build a better world. To see this war until the end so Casey could see the sun rise on a clear day.
But these were just the early days.
The year was 2033. Casey was five. There was an ambush.
The ruined city territory that the newly formed Resistance was scouting had been compromised, overrun by Kraang zombies and hounds. The walls were closing in, debris collapsing around the survivors. Everyone was running amidst the panic. Casey had to dodge in order not to get toppled over. He started crying, hoping someone would notice him.
Before he could scream again, Auntie April scooped him up in her arms. They began running. A wide blue portal welcomed the group of people swarming to safety. April and Casey made it through to the other side, a wide open cave deep underground that the Resistance called home. The people of humans and yokai alike all surrounded the portal, looking for their loved ones.
“Casey baby!”, his mom called for him.
“Mama!”, Casey called back.
Amongst the crowd, Casey Sr shoved her way through the swarm of civilians. Casey Jr squirmed his way out of Auntie’s hold and ran over to hug his mom. Casey Sr took a good look at her son for any injuries.
“Oh, Casey baby, I was so worried! This was all my fault, I shouldn’t have taken you scouting with us. We just didn’t have someone to look after you and we thought it’d be safe enough and…I’m just glad you’re alright!”, Senior exclaimed as she wiped the pearls of tears from Junior’s eyes.
Soon enough, the final stragglers hurried through the portal followed by Tío Leo. The coolest guy Casey Jr had ever met. The portal began to close quickly as the survivors slipped through.
“Is everyone here?! Did anybody get—”, Leo shouted as the portal closed.
Right through his arm.
Leo gasped, falling onto his knees. Everyone shared a hushed gasp of shock, panic murmuring in the crowd. Casey looked at Tío’s face. It was a look of absolute horror. He looked to be in too much pain to scream. Casey looked down at his arm, or lack thereof spare for half of his upper arm, and saw a rush of gushing blood.
“Don’t look, Casey baby.”, Senior hushed as she held the back of Casey Jr’s head and held him close to her chest. “Don’t look. It’s alright.” The kid shut his eyes, hearing the commotion behind him.
“Leo! Leo, talk to me! Stay with me, Nardo!”, Uncle Tello shouted.
“...don, i can’t…i can’t feel my arm—”, Leo wheezed.
“Yeah you don’t have one anymore, dumbass!”
“...i can’t…i can’t …”
“J-just…just stay awake, okay? We’re gonna get you patched up.”
Leo spent a whole week in the med-bay. He tried his best to stay awake, insisting he could still lead and work. Donnie threatened to strap him down with bolts if Leo dared to move. Casey would visit him a lot, especially when the others went out on missions. Casey would keep asking the same questions each time and Leo grew tired of answering them.
“Does it hurt?”
“No, not anymore. I’m okay, Case.”
“Can you feel your arm?”
“Kinda?? Dee says it’s just in my head.”
“When will it grow back?”
Leo chuckled. “I’m a turtle, not a lizard.”
“What’s a lizard?”
“A lizard…”, Leo paused. He stroked his chin with his remaining hand as he thought for a moment. “They’re like these little scaly creatures with bitty feet and a long tail. Beady eyes that blink horizontally—”
“Hor…zon?”, Casey asked, tilting his head.
“Hor-i-zon-ta-lly.”, Leo enunciated. “Like sideways. Left and right.” He motioned his hand, flat. Waving it horizontally. “We blink vertically. Up and down.” He turned his palm to the side. Moving it vertically.
Casey waved his hand around too. First horizontally, then vertically. Leo nodded and smiled.
“Lizards can grow their tails back if they lose them.”, he continued to explain.
“What if their tail grows a new lizard?”, Casey asked, furrowing his brows.
Leo laughed. “That’s not how it works, Junior. The tail can’t survive on its own—”
Casey let out a long gasp, ignoring Leo. His eyes lit up with curiosity and a twinge of fear. “What if your arm grows a new Leo???”, he asked, bewildered.
Leo snorted another laugh. “If that ever happened, it would drive Donnie crazy.”
The two continued talking and talking. Casey learned a lot of new words during that week. Towards the end of it, Uncle Tello walked in with a robotic arm. It looked like it didn’t fit, the arm was way too big and bulky. It was green with spikes and the elbow piece of the arm was red. “Now we match.”, Donnie had said with a warm smile.
It didn’t take Leo long to get the hang of it. Casey was amazed by Donnie’s handiwork. Even though the slider was left-handed, Donnie insisted Leo tried learning to write and draw with his right robotic arm to practice and understand the tech better. It looked sooooooo cool! Leo would let Casey climb on it and swing him around. Though Leo had a hard time adjusting to the disproportionate size, Donnie ensured that Leo would grow into it.
Ever since the first sugarcane, Casey was hitched.
He would often sneak into the greenhouse of the lair to snag a piece or two. And more often than not, he would get caught by Uncle Tello, the leading botanist of the garden.
“And just what do you think you’re doing, Jones?”, Donnie sneered as Casey’s hand hovered dangerously over the stock of sugarcane.
“Um…nothing…”, the small child sheepishly grinned as he hid the piece behind his back.
“ Sigh …Hand it over, Case. You know the rules.”, Donnie droned. Casey begrudgingly placed the sugarcane in the softshell’s palm. “As much as it's a privilege to have sugarcane in the middle of the apocalypse, you know just well by now that we have to ration it. And it’s hard to do that when a little gremlin is sneaking around, stealing the supply.”
“Aww pleeeeaasssseeeee??? Just this one time?”, Casey begged, clasping his hands together and putting on his best puppy dog eyes.
“Nope, absolutely not. Those puppy dog eyes will not work on me.”, Donnie snarked as he turned on his heel and crossed his arms.
Casey let out a whine, adding a lip quiver to his looks. Brutal. Donnie peeked over his shoulder and Casey could see the stone cold expression drop for a moment. Uncle Tello scoffed and turned back around, handing Casey the piece.
“Just this once, you little shi—...brat. It’s coming out of your next ration.”, Donnie grumbled behind a forced grin.
Casey beamed, teething on the sugarcane. “Thanks Uncle Tello!!”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m the best. I know. Now scram.”, Donnie smirked.
And so Casey took off with his sugarcane piece in hand. Uncle Tello laughed to himself, shaking his head. Donnie grew the best sugarcane…that Casey knew off. He honestly hadn’t tasted anything else. But no matter. Casey’s charm would always win over anyone anytime.
A few months later, Hueso stuck a candle in a small mantecada (or at least that was what it was supposed to be). He handed it to Casey and a bunch of people surrounded him, singing Happy Birthday as Casey had just turned six years old.
“Make a wish!”, his mom whisper shouted. “Don’t say it out loud or else it won’t come true.”
Casey closed his eyes and thought really hard about what he wanted his wish to be. Then it came to him. I wish…I wish to see the sun one day. Someday soon.
Contented with his wish, Casey blew out the candle.