This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things
The Samurai Star Megazord’s approach to the indicated satellite went smoothly, which was cause for more concern than Cam would have liked. He preferred obvious hurdles to the ones that hid, the traps that could be in waiting; yet as he maneuvered his zord alongside what appeared to be the satellite’s docking connection Cam had been met with no opposition. Perhaps they were waiting for him to get inside then, or maybe this really was what Cyber Cam claimed it to be. Which would be incredibly useful; so much that Cam’s mind blazed with the possibilities of having access to a real ranger network. There could be other technological minds out there he could bounce ideas off of, share knowledge, get advice. Cam would never be as arrogant to assume he could not benefit from the knowledge of others, and the idea they could finally reach their peers…
Useful. Very useful. And also very tempting.
That made it a perfect trap.
Cam was about to instruct his program to call up a connection with Sheila, allowing the tech to talk to “her” for the first time, when a proximity alert went off, a dull light flashing at the top left of his viewscreen.
“Dude,” Cyber Cam said, automatically amplifying the image so that the green ranger could get a better look at it. “Hate to be a buzzkill, but it looks like we’ve got company.”
“It’s a zord,” Cam muttered, frowning at the unfamiliar image. It wasn’t a zord he recognized, nor did it look like any Lothor employed. “New muscle, do you think?”
When Cyber Cam didn’t immediately respond Cam cursed, realizing the possibility of the program being disabled was coming to horrible fruition.
“Switching to manual,” he muttered, more for the benefit of the cockpit footage than for anything else; he wanted the others to know what was happening if…things went badly. “Disengaging from-”
“Woah, slow down there Lonestar, I was just chatting with my new lady friend. Turns out, she knows the guys.”
“Of course,” Cam replied calmly, continuing to unlatch from the docking connection. “I’m sure they’re very well acquainted.”
He would have to trigger Cyber Cam’s emergency shutdown. If he was lucky that would minimize the damage to the Ops’ network. Cam had a basic program waiting as a backup; nothing as fancy as Cyber Cam but well enough and safe enough to get the job done. It could carry out whatever functions Cam required of it while he tried to sort out the mess of the mystery hackers.
“No joke creator dude,” Cyber Cam continued. “Those are Power Rangers. You know, other good guys. Like I said. Sheila said they’ve been trying to contact us for a while, something about-”
“Disconnection complete,” Cam murmured. “Preparing to-”
“Seriously?” Cyber Cam asked, exasperation ringing in his tone like the green ranger was some socially-inept person he had to constantly put up with. “You are the worst. Worst. Just, lay off the paranoia for half a second-”
“If this is going to be a fight I would like the ability to maneuver freely,” Cam muttered, eyeing the oncoming zord. “That’s not paranoia, that’s practicality.”
He really should shut down Cyber Cam-
“Whatever dude,” the program huffed. “And just so you know, you’ve got an incoming call.”
“Incoming-?” Cam began to ask, but it was a meaningless effort as a second later the upper left monitor that had showed the magnified image switched. Now Cam got a look at the inside of the zord where, sure enough, two rangers sat side-by-side. One was the Silver Space Ranger, the other a blue unknown.
“Hi,” the Silver Ranger chirped, waving a hand in greeting. “So…my name’s Zhane, this is Kai-”
The blue ranger slowly turned his helmet to face Zhane, somehow managing a certain kind of menace with very little effort. Most likely peeved that the other ranger had divulged his name.
His annoyance was completely disregarded as Zhane continued happily, “-and we were just wondering what was going down on earth with, you know, the signal blocking and stuff.”
“Signal blockers…” Cam was slowly beginning to realize how the pieces fit together, maybe; assuming his basic guess for how Sheila’s functions actually worked was, in fact, correct.
“See, I told you,” Cyber Cam broke in, sounding gleeful and smug. “Ye of little faith. I’m totally un-hackable; you should know that by now bro. The only thing that’s been compromised about me is my heart.”
“Quiet you,” Cam muttered, having no patience for Cyber Cam’s new found penchant of sappy over- romanticizations. It was not the first time he had pondered how he could have created something so hell-bent on annoying him. “Take your celebrations-”
Cam snapped his head back towards the screen to find Zhane waving a hand back and forth, trying to get his attention.
“Can you hear us?” the silver ranger continued. “Or are you just the strong silent type?”
“We aren’t here to hurt you,” the other ranger added, though his message was slightly counteracted by the coolness of his tone, something Zhane critiqued with an attempted elbow to his side. It was blocked though, negating the effort.
“I know that,” Cam replied. “Now, about this satellite-”
“We can see the helmet moving but we’re not getting any sound,” Zhane interrupted, trying to be helpful. “Is something wrong with your zord?”
“Nothing’s wrong with-” Cam began to say, but was interrupted by the blue ranger.
“Sheila, try accessing his radio channel.”
“You won’t be able to do that,” Cam started. “I have a…”
Oh, yes, that was right. The blocker. It prevented him from being tracked, but it also kept him from being able to access their inner helmet speakers, or they his.
“Wait just, give me a second.” Cam held up his index finger in a ‘just one moment’ signal and switched off the video feed. In order to turn off his blocker he would have to power down, and despite the confirmed fact he was dealing with rangers he would rather not divulge his appearance just yet.
“They’re getting kind of antsy,” Cyber Cam warned, but Cam ignored him in favor of adjusting his morpher, trying to undo his effects from earlier. Whatever difficulties Dustin and the others had encountered, Cam faced no such problems. He was able to turn off the blocker with no issues. He quickly morphed afterwards, feeling exposed without the protection of his suit.
Perhaps it was a difference in the morphers then, that he had a necklace whereas theirs were attached to their wrists; he would have to look into that, but-
“Okay,” he said, turning the video feed back on, the other cockpit coming into view. “I think I fixed the problem. Can you hear me?”
“Loud and clear,” Zhane said, good humor in his tone while he offered up two thumbs up.
“That must have something to do with your blocker,” the blue ranger, Kai, intoned quietly. “Sheila says your signal’s back up.”
“Yes,” Cam admitted with a slow nod, refusing to be shaken by the other ranger’s quick deduction. Her programmer, perhaps. Or maybe he was just a quick thinker. It could go either way. “Now, what interest do you have-?”
And that was as far as they got with the pleasantries whenever both zords were blindsided by a barrage of missiles, proximity alarms going off too late as their zords jolted from the sudden attacks. Once Cam got a handle on his controls he maneuvered his zord to the area most likely out of range of the attacks, getting away from the satellite and turning so he could see the one that initiated the fight.
“Zurgane,” he growled, frowning as the general’s zord came into view. The next second he was dancing away, weaving through attacks, mind racing as to what the henchman’s goal was.
“So, not good news?” Zhane asked, already realizing the answer. Cam didn’t dignify it with a response, so the silver ranger continued, letting loose a few attacks of his own to properly thank the general for his advances. “I suppose we’ll save the small talk for later then.”
“Sounds like a plan to me,” Cam muttered, keeping his focus on the battle. “CC, update the others.”
He barely acknowledged the “Will do” he received in return, too busy trying to coordinate with rangers he had never met and keep his mind from wandering onto what was happening to the others.
Because there was no way this could be the entire offensive. This felt like more of a distraction, something to keep Cam away.
So if he was stuck here, he couldn’t help but wonder what was happening there.
“What Dustin?” the younger Bradley replied, choosing to keep his tone in the realm of resigned exasperation so he could cover up the feeling of worry insistently jabbing at his brain.
Of course Hunter would have them watch the unconscious guy in the car. Why should they be keeping an eye on Bio Labs for suspicious behavior, or even be nearby in case things went bad for Hunter? Why, that would be smart. That would indicate a degree of Hunter giving a damn about his own safety. That would be the logical thing to do, whereas the illogical thing to do in this never-ending shit storm of nonsense would be to watch some unconscious guy continue to be unconscious. Because that was riveting. And useful.
And Blake knew - don’t think he didn’t - that Hunter was still wounded from their first skirmish with the tree-hurling monster. He had eyes; he knew what an attempting-to-cover-up-wounds Hunter acted like, and this was it. One of the many reasons Blake had been against the plan to sneak into Bio Labs.
Why, why couldn’t they just walk in there, offer up their morphers and talk to the rangers like normal people. Or…normal ranger people. Blake understood the whole ‘ninja lifestyle’ thing but at this point he was beginning to think that Hunter was feeling that foreign and frightening sensation called “embarrassment” and any other situation for making first impressions would be preferable to this one.
It was an option.
“I think…” Dustin trailed off, in that particular tone of voice that was partly-confused and partly-occupied. It was the same tone he got whenever he was doing recon work but couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing. It was also, in Blake’s experience, indicative that the shit was hitting the fan in t-minus three seconds, so the navy ranger really wasn’t surprised, when he turned to see what Dustin was looking at, to behold the horribly dooming sight of Kelzaks swarms flooding the streets below them.
“Shit,” Blake cursed. Dustin nodded distractedly, eyes darting around in search of their leader, because if there were this many there had to be a monster, maybe two, but there were definitely more than a standard Marah and Kapri attack.
“Yeah,” Dustin muttered. “We are not alone.”
“Call the others,” Blake ordered, noting that the other ranger had already moved to do so before he had started talking.
Good, that left Blake to scan the rooftops. If there was anything the goons Lothor hired loved to do, it was make a grand entrance. And for some reason or other that required a certain degree of height.
“Blake, dude, they say Cam’s being attacked too,” Dustin said, cell phone pressed against his ear with one hand while the other gripped his t-shirt, worried.
Blake’s eyebrows furrowed, thrown by this information. Why Cam and not the others? Why would it be just him? “What do you mean-?”
“He went to go to some satellite,” Dustin interrupted, seeing where his question was headed. “Something about making contact with rangers? Anyway, he’s held up in a zord battle now.”
“Decoy?” Blake asked.
Dustin nodded. “That’s what Shane thinks.”
The explosion went off only a few feet behind the two teenagers; Blake realizing that their attacker had a clear view of them before he was tumbling forward, caught in the force of it all and knocked clean off his feet, skidding to a halt half a rooftop later. Dustin rolled to a stop beside him, hand stubbornly latched onto his phone. Blake immediately shoved himself to his feet, racing to stand in front of the yellow ranger until he could get up.
It wasn’t until he managed to steady himself that he realized the monster before them, the one that had caught them unawares, happened to be a monster that had plagued him and his brother with a stubborn shadow of guilt that refused to leave. But it- Dustin had already taken care of it; Blake had seen that much for himself and it wasn’t like Lothor to do repeats. Upgrades, maybe, like with Toxipod and Super Toxipod on that godforsaken island, but this…
“Tell them to get over here,” Blake ordered, unable to keep his voice from rising as he attempted to stare down the Doompot monster in front of him.
“Done,” Dustin replied, slight waver in his voice the only confirmation that he realized who their aggressor was.
Blake saw him get to his feet shakily, shoving his phone into his pocket and readjusting his grip on the backpack’s strap, waiting for Blake to make a call.
“Suit up,” Blake murmured. The next second was spent with them leaping apart in a blaze of color, morphing and dodging attacks thrown out by ole’ Doompot.
The monster would start off with energy attacks first, then later, when they were worn down he would start trapping them, snatching them up to a place where they could be no help. There was familiarity in repeat performances, though there were some monsters Blake knew, they all knew, they would rather erase from memory.
Doompot was one of them.
“D!” Blake yelled, consciously using the nickname to avoid using Dustin’s actual name, forced to having to rely on his helmet’s external speakers in order to communicate. “Fall back and regroup!”
Which was really just a fancy way of saying duck and weave like your life depended on it until Blake could come up with a better plan. Dustin’s helmet bobbed and they took off, speeding over rooftops while Doompot gave chase, cackling after them.
“D,” Blake continued, sparing a glance in Dustin’s direction when they landed on a far rooftop. “The gun?”
If this guy was like the last Doompot monster they had faced their attacks would do nothing to stop him, but if they still had the gun…
“It’s not-” Dustin began, and it was then Blake realized the backpack was no longer on the yellow ranger’s back. “It went to that place our clothes go to when we fight! I think.”
“Seriously?” Blake asked, more to himself than anything, but Dustin frantically nodded in reply anyway.
“Think so,” Dustin replied, sounding abashed. “I mean, I could try calling for it like we do our own weapons, see how that works…”
“Don’t worry,” Blake cut in. “We’ll think of something.”
He’d just have to distract it for awhile and give Dustin time to power down. Then the brunette could get the weapon and go to town and everything could be fine, and they could go back to only having a stupid amount of things going wrong, as opposed to an infinitely stupid amount.
“And B,” Dustin said, barreling into Blake’s shoulder and moving him behind some old smokestacks (smokestacks, seriously) and allowing Doompot to blaze right past them, still barreling forward.
“I uh…well,” he motioned off behind them, in the distance where…
Blake swore his vow of vengeance against Silver Hills anew.
“There’re more of them,” Dustin murmured.
Sure enough, in the distance the rooftops were littered with other variations of Doompot, all cackling, all crazy, all…
In a city densely populated with Power Rangers.
“You know after this,” Blake muttered, pushing Dustin back into motion as their Doompot came charging back towards them, finally becoming aware of their hiding place. “We might just have to hide away forever. I’m serious D, no veteran ranger meet-and-greets for us.”
“Which is just sad in my opinion,” Dustin replied, tone genuinely conveying a moderate depression. “Because I was going to make us all waffles.”
“Chocolate chip?” Blake asked, signaling Dustin to wait for his mark before they moved back on the offensive.
Dustin’s helmet bobbed up and down; were Blake able to see through the other teen’s visor he was sure Dustin’s look would be remarkably wide-eyed and earnest. “With syrup.”
“Well,” Blake began, turning his attention back towards the charging monster. “That is sad.”
“A true tragedy for all,” Dustin agreed, and then after that they were jumping apart again, ending their banter-filled reprieve and back to focusing on the very real, very serious circumstances they had landed in.
Suffice it to say, there were much worse happenings than a waffle-less future.
“So, there were rangers-”
“Are you seriously talking now?” Jones seemed to have defaulted to this constant look of incredulity where everything Hunter said was met with raised eyebrows and disbelief. “You’re injured, save your words for later.”
“Sure, I could do that,” Hunter admitted begrudgingly, attempting to shrug with the arm slung around the British Guardian and not reaching any kind of success with it. “But then I wouldn’t be using my time efficiently.”
“We’re under attack,” Jones muttered, eyes ahead and focused on the oncoming traffic, the hallways filling with employees, Guardians, and who-knew-else running around frantically. “What could you possibly need to chat about now?”
“The other rangers.” Which were, honestly, all Hunter’s brain decided it was going to focus on for the time being, instead of on important things like the state of his ribs or the possible battles his brother and Dustin could be engaging in at this exact second, without him, but there wasn’t much he could do until the squad dumped him off in the Infirmary. Or medical, whatever. Hunter would focus on his next move when he got there. Until then…
“You guys were, you know,” Hunter shrugged again, causing Jones to give an irritated grunt at his insistence on needless movement. In front of them Burke glanced over his shoulder to give the blond a reprimanding eye, one that said he cared but seriously, cut the shit. Or something like that. Hunter, being…Hunter, ignored it. “Awfully calm for being in the presence of…”
“World savers?” Henderson supplied from his other side, when Hunter was forced to stop and remind his pain who was boss.
“Yeah,” Hunter said when he caught his breath again. “How’d you...?”
“Be so calm?” Dellario’s voice carried from behind them, sounding surprisingly cheerful for a tense battle situation. “It’s easy. After all, they’re people too.”
“It’s intimidating at first,” Henderson admitted, smiling when Hunter raised his eyebrows. “But after you work with Commander Myers and Commander Collins for long enough, you realize they don’t want special treatment. They’re just people. People who risk their lives with super suits and giant robots, but people nonetheless.”
“I know that,” Hunter muttered, trying not to show his surprise at how accurate the other man was. “I just…wish I could have thanked them.”
For doing what he did way before him. For saving them before Hunter ever had an idea of understanding their sacrifices.
It was a quiet concession from Henderson, but somehow among the noise of movement and bodies it still managed to carry. In front of them Miller nodded, gaze resolutely forward but acknowledging this truth in silence, and out of the corner of his eye Hunter could see Jones doing the same. It was probably the only thing the two men would ever agree on, but despite the adversity between them they wouldn’t shy away from this fact. A part of Hunter, one of the many he consciously chose to ignore, felt stupidly grateful for the gesture, like their thanks somehow applied to him too and, as much as he tried to tell himself otherwise (as much as he could while still obviously ignoring that small voice), the feeling stubbornly remained.
He supposed he could let this one slide, just this once. It would be a nice highlight to the trip.
“Cut the chit chat ladies,” Miller ordered quietly, breaking the moment of appreciative silence that had settled over them. “It’s time to focus on the new plan of attack; any second now the alarm’s-”
Like clockwork, red strobe lights seemed to drop from the ceiling, spaced every ten feet or so down the hallways just as a slow wail started over the building’s speakers. Hunter could see Miller’s jaw tighten in that familiar scowl, cursing his timeliness, and then the older Guardian was shaking his head, disgusted by the growing stream of coincidences piling upon this particular team of Guardians.
“I think you should look into possible genetic mutation sir,” Dellario joked, still cheerful over the blaring siren. “Your timing’s beginning to be uncanny.”
“Now?” Jones asked, sarcasm and disbelief reaching levels achieved only by super humans. And Hunter would because well, super human. “Because earlier we were still in doubt, it wasn’t until this particular moment-”
“Can it Jones,” Miller ordered, ignoring the indignant sputter from the blond Guardian. “And you too Dellario; it’s game time.”
They rounded a corner and found themselves swimming upstream against a swarm of Guardians, all of them armed and ready, some of them carrying tripods and canons, others in helmets with some mean-looking laser rifles, and all of them aiming for the exits. Beside him, Jones’ jaw clenched, buffering away the other Guardians that got too close with his shoulder to make sure Hunter kept his breathing room. Before the crimson ranger could thank him Miller had them turning into another hallway, this one thankfully empty, and the jog continued; alarms and strobe lights blazing.
“There’s going to be a change of plans,” Miller continued, once they were far away enough from the busy hallway to be heard. “If this is an all out attack we’re going to be needed out there. That means no time for medical check-ins.”
“But sir,” Henderson started, already putting up a fight for Hunter even though he hadn’t asked him to. “Struthers needs-”
“We’re getting the kid to Medical, don’t worry about that.” Miller eyed Henderson quickly over his shoulder, gruff and demanding, but clearly indicating he was aware of what needed to be done. “But as soon as that’s finished we’re heading to the armory, get ourselves properly equipped before we go back to dealing with those things.”
“How far away is it?” Hunter asked, mind calculating the distance to the nearest exit, seeing his opportunity. “Medical, I mean.”
Miller gave Hunter a calculating look, considering the teen as he slowed the pack down to a jog, eventually halting. “Not far,” he answered, turning to face him as the other Guardians circled in. “Just another hallway and then we’re there.”
“That one?” Hunter asked, pointing to a hall branching off to the right, a sign hanging down with a first aid cross and an arrow pointing in that direction.
“That’s it.” Miller nodded.
“Then go,” Hunter said, motioning behind him in the direction of the busy hallways. “I can make it from here.”
“Kid-” the Squad Leader began to protest, a warning in his tone Hunter would never begin to heed.
“It’s just one hallway right?” Hunter said. “I can make it that far.”
When the only response was a tightened grip from Jones and a slow headshake from Burke, Hunter frowned, pulling his arms away from Jones’ and Henderson’s grasp and steadying himself on his own two feet. Albeit somewhat shakily, but still, his own goddamn feet.
“Go,” he said, giving Jones a warning look when he began to reach back towards him. “I can handle a two minute walk. Besides, where else can I go?”
Aside from stupid places he had no right to be going. Like a battlefield.
That seemed to win them over, or at least Miller, with a begrudging look. Henderson looked like he was going to object but Miller cut him off, indicating his decision was final. “Okay then,” Miller said. “We’ll leave you to it, Mr. Struthers. But I swear if I come back here and find you passed out in the damn hallway you and Jones are going to be running so many laps your two-minute walk will be but an inspirational dream of the future. Got it?”
“Got it,” Hunter replied with a nod, smiling when Jones rolled his eyes beside him, not even attempting to protest his inclusion in the other blond’s potential punishment.
“Good,” Miller said. There was one last size-up, one last inspection of Hunter’s worth, just a few seconds of time and then Miller was striding past Hunter, Burke on his heels and Jones following with an exasperated sigh. Henderson gave his shoulder one last squeeze, maybe camaraderie, maybe comfort, before leaving, and Dellario sent him a thumbs up and a bright smile.
Jones was the only one that looked back before they disappeared out of view, still concerned to see that Hunter – Struthers - remained standing. Hunter responded with a small wave and a smile, whatever meager efforts he could make to show his support, and then the Silver Guardians were out of sight.
It would probably be the last time Hunter ever saw them.
The fact that the crimson ranger already missed them was something he had come to accept long before they parted. Despite that sadness, however small it was, he still felt that he was better off because of it.
…that had to be Shane’s fault. All that being-in-touch with himself crap the red ranger made him do, clearly that was to blame. The skater would be so proud.
Later, of course.
He could only be proud if Hunter made it through this in marginally one piece.
Easier said than done.
Between Justin and Trip all keyboards, monitors, and other various equipment were saved from the building’s sudden rumble, the familiar foreshadowing of a full-scale attack looming in the not so distant future.
Wes didn’t think, didn’t bother checking on the techs in the corner as he strode to the window, Andros and Carter following right behind him. “Justin, can that thing monitor all of our radio channels?” the blond asked, nodding to the computer but keeping eyes focused on the hordes of crouching black minions pouring through the streets of Silver Hills. The sight bore an uncomfortably close resemblance to Ransik’s last attack, the big one, the one that almost cost him his life.
“Easily,” Justin replied, no question in his tone, simply informative.
Then again, Justin was a ranger long before Wes was, so that thought was remarkably unnecessary. It was not a surprise; it was to be expected.
“Good,” Wes replied. He gave the oncoming attack a final look before turning back towards the other rangers, most of them already watching him expectantly.
That was right; this was his rodeo. His town, his call for backup, his show to run.
“Angela,” he said, not entirely sure where he was going but having a good enough idea of where to start. “You’re on coordination duty. Monitor the incoming reports from the Silver Guardians; once you find out where their heavy hitters are, contact the closest ranger team.”
“So what are we doing?” Rocky asked.
“The plan’s simple,” Wes replied. “We already split Silver Hills into quadrants before, just go towards the areas you were searching earlier and take care of the battle that finds you first.”
“Divide and conquer?” Andros clarified, allowing a small nod to show his support of this plan.
“Basically,” Wes said. “Trip and Justin, you’re with me.”
Strangely enough, no one stopped to argue with Wes’ strategy, which had to indicate some form of insanity on their part because Wes wasn’t a General. Heck, Jen had been the one to lead Time Force, not him, and usually Wes had Eric to work with when it came to formulating methods of attack for attempted invasions. Why should they trust Wes? Rocky had been a ranger longer. And so had Carter, and so had Andros (who actually had a full-on war under his belt).
And yet, no one disagreed, no one questioned him; they simply got down to business, leaving to collect their teammates and head out, or in Angela’s case hooking up a Silver Guardian’s radio into her impromptu command center, Justin and Trip helping her out with last minute adjustments before they had to move out.
Wes hoped it was because deep down they knew this was the best option; that they had to go out and fight and hope that the current team, that Ninja Storm, would be able to fix the real cause behind this. Until then, all the veterans could do was buy them time.
It was the only logical reason.
At least, it was the only logical reason that wouldn’t make Wes want to hyperventilate in his own little corner.
So clearly, it was the only reason.