Paved With Good Intentions
The trouble with having a good plan vs having a great plan, was that a great plan was made in like, the best of conditions where you had options and choices and you could start from the very beginning. Fresh, clean slate, with all the resources you needed. Like, if you were painting a house you could think of every approach possible and then pick the best of them to go through with because that was undeniably a great plan.
Now a good plan didn’t sound bad, and it really wasn’t, but it didn’t have the pizzazz and like, overall goodness that a great plan had. See, a good plan for painting your house resulted from a leak in the roof that ruined most of your walls. Your walls were ruined so you might as well repaint them, but now you were limited with what you could do because you had to take a certain approach or else nothing would gel right.
Good plans happened when your back was against the wall. Good plans were undeniably better than bad plans, because at least they had the possibility of a happy ending right?
Yeah, Dustin wasn’t really buying it either.
Because good plans didn’t have anything on Cam or Shane’s or even Tori’s great plans. Great plans were awesome. Great plans left you with a feeling of confidence and winning and good plans, especially good plans made by Dustin, well...they just didn’t.
It wasn’t his fault, he didn’t think (he was kinda biased), but desperate times called for desperate measures and Dustin had to work with what he had. Yeah, it sucked that all he had was him, but that was something more than the nothing he could have that would lead to a bad plan.
This was a good plan; there was no need to mope about it.
So scratch the moping, but being worried, that was totally legit. He could worry about the others until the cows came home.
The latest monster attack had sucked them into some kind of limbo/alternate-dimension/plane-of-existence thing and the only information Cam had managed to get was that it was completely immune to all elemental attacks. In fact, it was pretty much invulnerable to any of their morphers attacks, including Cam (or especially Cam, because he just wielded the morphing power exclusively with his samurai skills, not like the rest of them who tempered it with their elements), which he managed to discover just before he got sucked in too, with everyone else. Dustin had, for lack of better word, freaked the holy smackeroos out. They were all gone, and the monster wasn’t doing any damage, he just wanted them all trapped in his Indestructibly-Evil Pot of Doom and Dustin really, really didn’t want to be. Let it be noted that he also didn’t want his friends to be either, but he and Evil-McJerkface-pants were probably way past negotiating their release. “Pretty pleases’ ” would not cut it.
As much as he hated it, Dustin had turned tail and ran, streaking back to Ninja Ops to consult with Sensei and Cyber Cam and hoping that someone (who wasn’t him) would have some brilliant last-minute, just-in-case scheme or technique or something that could get the others back.
But that’s just it; there wasn’t anything they could do. There was nothing Cyber Cam could build or Sensei could teach him that didn’t involved the Ninja Storm powers. There was nothing, nada, zilch; a complete absence and painful void of nonexistence where things should very rightly be existing. And to add insult to the most grievous of injuries (of losing your friends, because that hurt) they even knew how to beat Evil-McJerkface-pants. They knew, were a hundred percent certain that all they had to do, the one thing they had to do was break the stupid Indestructibly-Evil Pot of Doom and all would be well. The others would be set free, the monster would get mad, then he’d get big, and then they’d get big, and everything would be well and good and winning could be enjoyed by all because they were awesome and not stuck in an Indestructibly-Evil Pot of Doom.
It was when the few minutes of brainstorming/waiting turned into a few hours that Dustin realized how serious things were, that the monster wasn’t going to just spit his friends back out, and he wasn’t going to terrorize the city, he was just going to wait. Eventually Shane and Tori’s parents were going to call, and Dustin didn’t know what to tell them, and he really didn’t want them to be marked as missing people, they would hate that, but he just didn’t know what to do.
With Sensei’s gentle prodding and Cyber Cam’s cyber awesomeness they managed to come up with a cover story for Shane and Tori, forcing Dustin to lie outright to their parents about a last-minute, week-long camping trip. They were lucky it was summer time and they could manage things like that.
(They were unlucky because they were trapped somewhere with no way out, but Dustin didn’t have the strength to mention that.)
His mom was out of town on a business trip, so Dustin didn’t have to worry about her interfering, which left him plenty of time to mope and hate himself for not being able to think of a plan that would fix this mess.
“I bet the other rangers,” he had said, when it had gotten late into the night and they still had nothing. “I bet they could have handled this crap way better than us. I mean, they got out and beat the bad guys right? They all won. Why can’t we?”
He knew they had won; he’d seen the video clips on YouTube. Clearly there were no bad guys running amuck, ruling the earth, so yeah, winning had been accomplished by all the other teams. They could use their weapons and their techniques and their zords and –
It was like they had all gotten the same idea at the exact same time because none of them even had to say anything, they just knew, knew immediately through Dustin’s complaining that hey- they finally had a good idea.
Because if their weapons wouldn’t work against the bad guy…
Somebody’s had too. Right?
There had been like, ten ranger teams before theirs; someone had to have some weapons that still worked. And they were all fighting for the same thing right? They would totally be willing to lend Dustin a hand. He would, if the tables were turned. And even if they weren’t he could bargain with them or beg them or do something to get a freaking zappy ray or sword or magical-bubble-wand that could destroy the Doom-pot.
This, this was a good plan. It was good because it had to be, because it was the only one they had.
And no, that did not create a certain feeling of doom in the bottom of his stomach.
Really, it didn’t.
The biggest problem with the good plan (which was what made it only a good plan because it was kind’ve a huge problem) was that like his team, most of the other rangers had rocked the secret identity thing. Which Dustin got, honestly, because with super herodum came super hatredum and people who would be only too happy to hurt the people you loved so yeah, obviously not-shouting to the world that you were a power ranger was a good thing. The best thing, even.
It just felt a little stupid though for the saviors of the universe (or world or planet or however you wanted to phrase it) to not be able to get in touch with other saviors of the universe. This was a flaw. They needed a ranger phone tree, or something. Maybe an email group. Keep stuff like this from happening. Dustin understood they couldn’t call for backup all the time; Sensei had explained why there were so many ranger teams, that each set of morphers was specifically designed to fight their bad guy, or something like that, but stuff like this, or asking for advice, that shouldn’t be prevented should it? They should be allowed to go to lunch and throw birthday parties and share stories with all the other crazy people that had risked their life on a daily basis.
That was it; when this nonsense was over he was starting an email list. This should not happen again.
With all the private rangers out of reach, Dustin had to resort to the ones with public identities, ones that everybody knew.
The closest were two guys in Silver Hills from…Time Force, yeah, that’s what Cyber Cam had said. Their phone numbers and addresses hadn’t been listed but Cyber Cam managed to hack into their workplace to get the info on one of the guys. Eric…something or other. Okay, Dustin had been too worried about his friends at the time to pay attention; he just gassed up his bike, loaded his backpack with the essentials and hit the road, Cyber Cam feeding him directions while he figured out the best way to approach his new best friend Eric.
By the time he reached Silver Hills he had nothing.
Yeah, that couldn’t hurt too much.
The house wasn’t anything special, just a medium-sized, modest house in suburbia surrounded by other medium-sized, modest houses. It had two stories and wasn’t badly maintained; there wasn’t anything special about it. No ranger bikes parked in the driveway or security cameras or even the wall mounted plasma ray thingies. Just a house. Cyber Cam made Dustin take scans of it with a pdf-thing Cam had made just to be sure, but the average house checked out just as averagedly-average as it looked.
Dustin doubled checked his notes.
It was the right address.
He would think there would be more security, or at least people outside trying to get pictures or something. This guy was a ranger right? Still had his morpher and everything and people weren’t trying to get a piece of him? That was what happened to famous people right? Dustin was almost sure of this.
Well, maybe people just didn’t like him. Or he had a habit of punching out paparazzi. Or both (because the latter led to the former, and all that).
Dustin didn’t think about it too hard, he just gathered his courage and rang the doorbell, figuring if he spouted out “Hey I’m also a power ranger and really need your help, see my morpher, here’s my morpher” before the guy slammed the door on his face all would be well.
Of course, to manage this part of his plan the door had to be opened first.
After a few minutes of nothing Dustin rang the doorbell again and waited.
And then rang the doorbell again, in case the guy was in the shower or something.
And then he waited again. It was only polite.
Two minutes. Five minutes.
He rang the doorbell again.
Things were not going well.
The guy’s car was outside the house. Cyber Cam had been adamant there was a heat signature inside, big enough for a person, so it wasn’t like no one was home. It was just that Dustin’s new-best-friend Eric was ignoring him. And that would not flow.
Okay, enough with the civilities, Dustin had friends that were in trouble and no door was going to stand in his way. He was a ninja for Pete’s sake. He would ninja his way in.
And that would be the end of that.
It wasn’t the end of that (or maybe it was; he wasn’t sure how the expression worked) because second story windows were easy to open, probably because they were not prime sneak-in territory (though clearly they were) and Dustin got his first look of the house’s insides. Like the exterior, it wasn’t anything special. It wasn’t super messy and it wasn’t the cleanest of clean. It was like, moderately clean, like Shane’s house. The room Dustin had snuck into looked like it was an office, maybe, or like the bare bones of one. Still, there weren’t any people, so everything was going pretty well.
He smoothed himself against the wall nearest to the door and held his breath, listening for other noises; footsteps, voices, maybe a tv, some form of life. He didn’t hear any kind of movement, of someone else in the house noticing his presence and –
There. Just there. A bed moving. Well, not like a bed stampeding around a house (though that would be so cool) but like, someone moving on a bed. Like the floorboards and bed frame did that creaky thing as weight was redistributed, sheets rustled, all that jazz. It wasn’t a lot but it was all Dustin had to go on.
So Eric-the-other-ranger was a late sleeper was he? Stuck in bed.
Dustin checked his watch and realized it wasn’t that late, but it was still weird. If this guy was a ranger he had to be super active. Why would he be snoozing the day away?
The yellow ranger advanced cautiously, keeping Cyber Cam in the loop via Cam’s handheld to check for any hidden security things. So far there was nothing (which was something the other guy should be more concerned over right? There were stalkers out there) and there continued to be nothing until he reached the edge of the door the bed-sounds had come out of. Which was probably a bedroom, but whatever.
“He’s in that room,” Cyber Cam told him through Dustin’s super sneaky ear bud (that he had insisted on in case of required sneakiness, and look where that had gotten him. Go him).
So…now what? Dustin was pretty sure waking someone up after sneaking into their house was not a good way to ask for backup. Or to get any kind of help that wasn’t getting arrested by the police. He was sure Eric would be more than happy to help him with that. Maybe he should just hold his morpher in front of Eric’s face so when he woke up it would just be “Hey lookie, a morpher, that means a ranger,” and then Dustin wouldn’t get arrested and then he could borrow a ray gun and get this guy’s email address and they could be best friends for life. Or maybe second-best-friends (Dustin couldn’t just replace Shane; he was sure Eric would understand).
Dustin’s planning was interrupted by some very unhappy grumbling from the bedroom, like Hunter on the worst of days.
The bed shifted again, sheets rustling, and Dustin finally figured out the reason behind his new best friend Eric’s late sleepy-time.
The guy was sick.
Dustin knew from experience how frustrating/awful/want-to-punch-someone-in-the-face-ish being sick while being an active ranger could be. The power was supposed to heal them but some things, it seemed, even the common cold, rangers were still susceptible to.
Which was a special kind of stupid, but Dustin figured if it allowed them to have shiny laser-resistant suits of armor it was a reasonable enough exchange.
“Will…kill…everything,” friend-Eric groaned, burying his head into his pillow, and Dustin decided to take action because he couldn’t just leave him there. He was all alone in a big house with no one to look out for him. How could Dustin abandon another ranger? That was the entire reason he had come here anyway, to help out his team, so it wasn’t like he could just leave. That would make him a hypocrite.
Besides, if he helped new-Eric-friend feel better it would totally add to his credibility as a not-stalker/paparazzi/totally-a-power-ranger…ness. And then Eric would lend him a weapon and they could start a tradition of Sunday brunches every other week of the month.
It was a total win-win scenario. And it ended in chocolate chip waffles. Everyone loved chocolate chip waffles. They were awesome.
Victory in sight, Dustin stopped thinking and started doing, abandoning his ninja stealth and entering the bedroom, taking in the state of Eric the new-friend.
It was a warzone, if wars were fought with wadded up tissues, cough drop wrappers, and an assortment of blankets. In the middle of the mess had to be Eric himself, curled into as small an area he could manage while he hacked out some serious coughs, finishing up with a groan as though it had done some major throat damage. It probably had. New-friend-Eric had all of Dustin’s sympathy and then some.
First things first, clean up the mess. The waste basket had clearly been declared too far away by Eric and was ignored, mostly empty, so Dustin picked it up and scooped in the trash decorating Eric’s bed, doing his best not to disturb the sick ranger. Eric either didn’t notice or didn’t care, or he did notice but assumed Dustin was a hallucination or something. Fair enough, Dustin could work with being a figment of his imagination, so long as he still got a ray gun.
What’s next, what’s next…?
Dustin leaned against the side of the bed and felt around for Eric’s forehead, and…yes, that was definitely a fever. He wasted no time ducking into the bathroom (which had also accumulated its own trail of debris) and wetting a wash cloth, quickly returning to the bedroom and placing it on Eric’s head.
Okay, that would help, but if Eric really wanted to feel less crappy Dustin needed to get some food in him, and some fluids. Strike that, it was probably mostly fluids, and then some food. Fluid food. Soup. Soup would do.
He was about to exit the room to get started on this next task when Eric’s voice called out behind him, ragged and tired but definitely aimed at him.
Okay, so he wasn’t completely incoherent. That was good. That meant he would be okay by himself if Dustin had to leave. (And Dustin knew he was probably a loner, had probably mastered the solo-living thing, but that struck a sadness within Dustin he couldn’t really explain because no one should be used to being alone).
But back in real people world. Where the sick and the semi-home invader joined together in the purpose of saving the world, slowly.
Dustin got back on track, trying to like alleviate all negative vibes. He didn’t need to add anxiousness on top of being super sick. That wouldn’t be cool.
“Dude,” the yellow ranger said, switching course and picking up the trash on the bathroom path. “Of course I’m real. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to move stuff.”
He emphasized this by waving around an empty tissue box (there were three of them. Three. How long had Eric-friend been like this?)
Eric stared at him blankly (Dustin thought, he wasn’t actually sure because half of the other ranger’s focus looked like it was on the wall beside him) for a few seconds, processing this, and then coughed, tense hands curling around the sides of his current box of tissues.
“…get out,” he mumbled, a few seconds after Dustin had given up on there being a reply.
The yellow ranger just waved at him vaguely, already refocused on mission make-spotless-floor-spotless. He shrugged offhandedly and continued his task, replying, “You’re sick.”
Which they both knew, but sometimes being sick made processing things like, eighty times more difficult than necessary. Like, you could be so sick you barely even registered your sickness. Not that Eric didn’t have it figured out, but that should be a good enough reason for him to be here. Especially if he was cleaning. That should give him major brownie points.
It soon became apparent Eric was not familiar with the brownie point system.
Or maybe he just didn’t support it. Either way…
“Get. Out,” the sick ranger growled at him, going so far as to hurl his precious box of Kleenex to demonstrate his finality on the subject. Of course, in this instance Dustin was using the term “hurl” rather loosely as Eric didn’t so much as throw as nudge it over the edge of his bed in a very convincing manner, but Dustin always thought that the effort should totally count.
Also it felt like he was dealing with like, an older, grumpier, super-proud version of Hunter, and Eric/Hunter always appreciated it when “you acknowledged what they had aimed for with the highest regard” (Cam’s words, but Dustin totally got it).
He knew Eric would appreciate it.
Dustin nodded to show he understood and carefully replaced the tissue box within Eric’s reach, giving the room a final once-over before he decided to hit the kitchen.
He pointed towards the door. “Dude, I’m just going to go downstairs and make you some soup, okay? We can talk about the trespassing thing later.” As he left a thought struck him, so he poked his head back in the door to give some last minute instructions. “Keep the towel on, and if things get bad just like, thump the wall three times or something. I’ll come.”
And one last thing…
Dustin nicked the phone off the bedside table and left, deciding to keep it down in the kitchen with him. No need to invite unwelcomed calls to the police. And if Eric tried to call that other ranger on his morpher Cyber Cam would be able to block the call. He wasn’t sure how Cam’s program would be able to do it but-
Cam. Dustin missed him. He missed all of them. But he couldn’t-
He couldn’t stop right now. He couldn’t. He just…he couldn’t think about them. He had to stay focused on the mission.
Enter phase two. Make the best darn soup new-friend Eric had ever tasted.
Maybe then he would be so impressed he would have to give Dustin a zappy ray. And all would be well with the world.