A Little too Much Doom and Gloom and Things Going Boom
“Does anyone have any idea of what the hell is going on?!” Eric hollered somewhere from Leo’s left, hidden behind a mass of the crouched, moving henchmen.
Leo hoped it was a rhetorical question to demonstrate how preposterously fast things had escalated – one second they had a little battle in a parking garage; the next, full on minion invasion – and not a legitimate query, as it was pretty obvious the rest of them were just as confused as the Quantum Ranger. The brunette almost asked Eric to clarify anyway, just in case (and not because that would be annoying or whatever-) but Adam must have sensed his plan and picked up the conversation, Power Axe flashing above the crowd in the distance, only to come down again in a shocking blow.
“I tried calling the others,” the Black ranger said, sending a wave of minions flying in unrefined disarray. “Angela says there’re monsters popping up all over the city. Multiple copies of the same guy, by description. Immune to all of our attacks.”
“Well, doesn’t that just sound peachy,” Leo chirped, aiming a swift kick against a minion that was creeping up behind him. He took great satisfaction in how easily the blow connected; the minion going down without a fight, but the feeling was short lived as two others happily took its place.
So that was how it was going to be then, huh?
Well, it wasn’t like Leo hadn’t been waiting for all hell to break loose.
“This is no time for joking Sparky,” Eric snapped, hand fumbling at that empty spot on his belt for what had to be the fifteenth time that day, reflex not recognizing the lack of Quantum Defender.
Not that Leo could fault him for it; it was hard to fight something that was a habit ingrained in your skull, the instinct and power of knowing something should be there, just as it always had, mere second nature. Difficult to fight on a good day, let alone when you were in the middle of a minion fest, with the most adorably creepy little ninja henchmen trying to rip out your throat. It was a bit of a distraction.
Still, it was one thing to acknowledge a fact and another one to accept it and move on, and it looked like Eric was about to start wallowing in frustration again, so Leo cut back in, providing an ample diversion for the other ranger’s attention.
“I’m just saying,” Leo continued, keeping his tone light and jovial. “I think we’re good enough to rank a monster of our own. Why are we stuck with just henchmen?”
“Maybe they knew you were here and thought better of it,” Lucas offered dryly, in a way that suggested this had less to do with Leo’s fighting prowess and more to do with his personality.
“If that were the case, then we could just use Leo to clear out the city,” Adam added, an amused undertone in his words (because if anyone could multitask, it was that guy).
“No first names,” Eric chided, not caring his lecture was aimed a more experienced ranger. “Watch what you say Black.”
“Understood,” Adam replied, tone still light.
Leo had to give the Quantum ranger this; despite the fact the streets had been deserted by civilians awhile ago, it was nice that he still put up the effort to keep secret identities secret. Not allowing them to fall into bad habits was a good thing.
Maybe a little too paranoid, given the circumstances, but a good thing.
“I’m gonna call in the Guardians!” Eric shouted, deftly hopping over the roof of a car before dropping out of sight. “The patrols are used to fighting off these low-powered guys!”
“And then we can go after the bigger fish,” Lucas finished coolly, sounding remarkably composed considering the fact he had just gotten bowled onto the street by a trio of minions.
Looked like they were organizing.
Well, that’s not good.
“Do it,” Adam ordered, redundant perhaps because Eric was already on top of things, but it wasn’t his fault. They had decided the moment they had left the parking garage that the Ninjetti ranger was the unofficial leader of their little squad; his duties including looking after their psychological welfare and doing things like reassuring them with definite orders. Mostly because it would be much easier on the rest of them. Eric refused to lead and really, it was better for all of them if Leo didn’t take command, not if they desired harmonious rulings, so Adam had been bumped to the top of the list due to seniority.
Lucas himself had been entirely unhelpful during the affair, only standing back with what was probably a stupid smirk underneath that helmet of his.
“So what’s the next step?” Leo asked, taking a quick breather as he moved to stand back-to-back with Lucas, letting the blue ranger take care of the minions with his over-compensating gun. “Once these guys are occupied, do we go looking for monsters?”
“We need a plan,” Lucas said, voice steady despite the massive pulses from his cannon thing, rocking back against his torso. “We need to get organized.”
“What we need is to figure out what these damn things want,” Eric groused – and yes, he must have reached for the missing Quantum Defender again because he sounded just especially pissed.
“What I want is simple, Ranger,” an ominous voice drawled from behind them, weighed down with doom and gloom and no- there could not have been a better cue for Mr. Big-and-Bad to enter. Leo was willing to bet this guy was feeling remarkably proud of himself for managing to work that out so nicely.
They turned as one, as much as they could while still occupied with foot soldiers, and there, having just landed not-so-far down the street, was a monster of their very own.
Aside from the voice, Leo would say he wasn’t very intimidating to look at. Honestly, when your fashion statement of choice was to strap a gigantic jar onto your back, you were just asking for people not to take you seriously. He looked like a freakin’ turtle.
A cute, maniacal, seeker-of-evil-and-destruction kind of turtle.
But that was just Leo’s opinion.
“What I want,” the monster continued. “Is your power.”
“Boo,” Lucas chided underneath his breath. “He loses ten points for unoriginality.”
“What the hell else is new?” Eric grumbled, not even paying the minion attacking him any attention, merely delivering a swift punch to its face while he kept his helmet turned towards the monster, sizing it up.
Because baby, it was fighting time. Or, you know, fight the villain time.
There was a distinct difference.
“Alright,” Leo felt a grin spreading across his face as he took in the monster swaggering towards them. “Who’s ready for a fight?”
“I’m taking ten points from you for rhyming,” Lucas murmured, preparing for the assault beside him. An SUV pulled out from one of the side streets – to prove that good guys had perfect timing too – and the Silver Guardians decided to join in the brawl, taking care of the minions so the rangers could focus on the big guy.
Awfully nice of them.
“But it was unintentional,” Leo whined, bumping his shoulder against Lucas’.
“How will you learn, if I do not punish?”
Leo turned to grin at him, not caring that the other ranger couldn’t see his expression, and prepared a sufficient counter-snark.
One that was immediately cut off by Eric. “The funny thing is you think he’ll learn.”
Lucas shrugged. “It’s worth a shot.”
“I learn things,” Leo replied, taking some mild offense to this. “Maybe you’re just not offering the right compensation.”
He finished this off with a suggestive head tilt towards Eric, making a show of checking the other ranger out, and despite the distance, he could hear the aggravated grumble this incited.
“I think I can live with that,” Eric muttered, and if Leo didn’t know better, he would say the Quantum Ranger sounded a little embarrassed.
But…nope. Nope. He was just grumpy. Leo’s mind dared not think beyond those safely established parameters.
“Focus people,” Adam ordered, voice quiet but demanding. He was the last to make it to their lineup, Power Axe resting against his shoulder, helmet focused down the street, on the monster that was still somehow advancing.
“Man this street is long,” Leo muttered, nodding as Adam’s helmet tilted his way, showing he understood that was the last joke he was going to get out for now.
A monster that was immune to their attacks huh? Well, they would just have to figure something out then.
“Ready?” Adam called, pulling his axe up into a fighting position, preparing for a charge.
Leo readjusted his grip on his Quasar Saber and nodded, falling into the familiar routine of echoing back, bracing himself for the attack.
“Ready,” he echoed; Lucas’ and Eric’s voice joining his easily.
And after that, it was pretty much like any other fight.
“So…” Dustin eventually started, breaking the strained silence that had fallen over them as he and Blake observed the proceedings on the street below them. “Do you think he’ll be more angry after getting sucked into an alternate dimension, or do you think his anger like, maxed out after the stolen weapon and house-damage thing? Because there has to be a maximum amount of anger right? He’s probably hit it by now.”
When Blake didn’t answer they fell back into silence. The Navy Ranger hoped, because why not, that the veteran rangers in the distance would be smart enough not to use any energy attacks.
It would only be insult to injury for them to get drained of power because Blake had accidentally led a Doompot right towards them.
It had not been one of his finer strategies for evasive maneuvers. But in his defense, he didn’t think there would be anything else that would capture the Doompot’s attention, seeing as he and Dustin had made such a tantalizing offering.
Clearly he had overestimated how important they were. That was embarrassing.
And also, really?
“It’s not your fault,” Dustin continued, because he had
dealt with both Bradley brothers enough to be able to guess the kind of
disparaging thoughts Blake was unloading onto himself. “We were just trying to get out of sight for
a few minutes.”
“We’re supposed to be aware of our surroundings,” Blake muttered, sounding petulant even to his own ears.
If the yellow ranger caught it, he didn’t say anything, instead giving a half-hearted shrug. “Nothing we can do about it now.”
No, Blake thought. I suppose there isn’t.
Despite wanting to waste a few seconds pondering just how stupidly worse this day could get, how much further things could devolve, Blake took a deep breath and tried to center himself.
In through the nose…out through the mouth…
It was show time.
“Alright,” he began, deciding to take charge of the situation. “It’s time for damage control.”
“Should we go down and help them?” Dustin offered, Lion Hammer up and at the ready, prepared for an assault.
“I’ll go down there,” Blake countered, ignoring the way Dustin puffed up, beginning to protest this decision. “You,” Blake continued, watching as the yellow ranger stilled, realizing his lack of involvement came from his own specific task. “Find a safe place to power down and get the Quantum Defender. And call Shane, if you can; give him an update.”
Dustin nodded, hammer coming to rest at his side, helmet giving a definite bob to show he understood. “You got it B.”
He disappeared in a blur of yellow, bounding down to weave in between alleys, probably off in search for an abandoned building, leaving Blake alone.
Unwillingly, he flashed back to the last moment this had been the case, to his so-well-intended gun returning of this morning, right before he had blown a hole in Eric Meyer’s house.
He really hoped that this time the results of this particular isolation would be a little more favorable.
He sincerely doubted they would, but hell, it didn’t mean he couldn’t hope for it.
After all, he was kind’ve used to being let down by simple things like wishes.
Blake was going to kill him.
Blake was going to kill him and then Shane was going to kill him and then Cam, out of spite, would find a way to bring Hunter back just so that Tori could get in on the Bradley-murdering times, and then the tech would do it again just so Hunter would have to sit under the heavy stare of Dustin’s woeful puppy eyes, bringing on the guilt since 1986.
And then Cam would promptly murder Hunter, because there was no way he would miss out on the fun.
That was just how the future was going to go. Hunter didn’t like it, but at this point, he was just going to accept the inevitable.
That being a whole lot of killings.
Of course, Hunter would only get to suffer through those murders if he managed to escape Doompot, this Doompot, entirely in one piece, as opposed to the broken wreck of a human being that was threatening to be his immediate future because holy hell, this Doompot was pissed.
He was really sensitive, now that Hunter gave it some thought. His taunts weren’t that biting and he hadn’t even begun insulting the thing’s mother. Fortunately for him, because the Doompot seemed to be fiery enough all on its own. Maybe it was a side effect of the multiple copies, like a defect. Like Lothor couldn’t keep the quality up all-around when he started mass-producing. Which was just a lovely thought. Seriously, the sales slogan for these guys had to be a villain’s dream.
Faster, stronger, and even more unstable than before; just buy one Doompot and he’ll destroy half of humanity for you.
Sure, it probably wouldn’t be an attractive option to the more hands-on kind of evil-doer, who preferred to desecrate and pillage himself, thanks, but for an instant-gratification sort of guy Hunter could understand the appeal.
As the crimson ranger darted down into an alleyway, Doompot hot on his trail, he vaguely noted that there was just a chance the pain in his chest had finally gone to his head, impairing his putting-thoughts-together business. Or focus…that was it, his focus. It could be true, but Hunter felt that it was reasonable to want to distract himself even in this supposedly “dire” situation. Just, keep his attention on the little things, and manage those. Or maybe it was to distract himself from the little things with pointless things…he wasn’t sure. He was running. He just had to remember to keep doing that. Running. He could do that.
For at least a little while longer, hopefully.
Hunter really wanted Shane to be the one to kill him. Which, as pathetic as it was, happened to be one of his more romantic thoughts. Perhaps he would share it with Shane later.
You know, after he was done murdering Hunter.
His thoughts were…fluid, flighty, Hunter decided, sort of coursing all over the place, escaping from his grasp just as he had a solid feel on them which was something - even in this state of mind – he recognized as distinctly bad. Eventually he might forget what he was running from, or he would stop running altogether to catch his breath, and then boom-
Hunter was surprised for a few stupidly long seconds, mind suspended in shock until it managed to catch up, realizing the thought in his head had somehow manifested itself physically; the boom translating into a solid hit against his chest, his body, sending him catapulting to the ground in a painful heap. How far was that? Ten, fifteen feet; something of equal force because ow, owowowowooooow-
It took a few more seconds to realize that something had crashed into him, something him sized, before he took in the solid view of yellow his visor was gifting him, unapologetically bright-
Oh hey, it was Dustin.
The body- Dustin- began shifting on top of him, moving off of the blond and yanking him to his feet before the crimson range could even manage a ‘hello’; chatter washing over him like a comforting and familiar blanket.
“-and then he ordered me away so I could get the gun and did you learn anything? From the sneaking? Did they catch you or did my plan work, because it seemed like something that should work-”
It was safe to say Hunter wasn’t entirely sure what happened in the few following moments. They were all kind’ve a blur to him. The impressive bellow must have rocketed his feet into action he deduced, once he regained awareness of his surroundings, because he had one hand holding onto Dustin’s gauntlet in a grip that was painful even for him, and they were moving across the rooftops, Doompot still shouting expletives behind them.
“Dude, that guy is cran-ky.”
“Yeah,” was all Hunter could manage to mumble back, the rest of his air too occupied with keeping his lungs filled. He didn’t imagine the way Dustin’s helmet jerked towards him, surprised, concerned, whatever, Hunter was too tired for labels, and their positions switched.
Apparently Dustin wasn’t going to humor him when there were major injuries on the line. The yellow ranger pulled his arm out of Hunter’s grip with pathetic ease and moved in close, throwing the arm around his shoulder and grabbing onto Hunter’s waist, taking as much of the crimson ranger’s weight as he could. Only the fact they had trained together so often made the maneuver successful; both accustomed to the other’s running that they fell in sync almost instantly, Dustin adjusting his pace for the blond.
Impressive, considering how many buildings they were bouncing off of, how aware of each other they needed to be. Sensei would be proud.
But even this was a short term solution.
Eventually Hunter would make a mistake and do something Dustin couldn’t anticipate, and he would fall, or Dustin would fall and then he would fall, and it would end with an easy catch for Doompot. An easy, titillating catch.
Hunter was slowing them down again.
The second shift happened with such graceful leisure that Hunter hadn’t even noticed it, had been too busy keeping his feet in motion to figure out they had finally stopped. It wasn’t until he felt his legs wobbling beneath him, shaking on one stable surface that he realized they were standing still, tucked away in some corner while the Doompot cackled on by, off into the distance.
So…more unbalanced and less observant.
Okay, not the greatest selling points, but still workable.
Dustin waited for Hunter to catch his breath; great heaving things, gasped through an open mouth, ugly with spit and sweat, ridiculously grateful that his helmet safely hid it all from Dustin. The blond all but collapsed against his teammate, allowing the yellow ranger to get a better hold on him as they slowly lowered themselves into a sitting position.
The brunette waited until Hunter’s gasping died down into slow, deep inhales, giving the crimson ranger’s far arm a few comforting pats as time passed by. When Hunter was more composed he took in their surroundings, realizing that the solid weight against his back was a billboard, the brick wall to his left the building’s roof access, and that the rest of his view was clouded with what he guessed were industrial sized air conditioning units.
“So…I’m going to go ahead and assume you’re injured,” Dustin began, seeing that Hunter had completed his inspection.
While the rest had done him some good, Hunter decided to keep his responses as short as possible, wanting to conserve air. It would be better in the long run.
Instead of replying, he nodded, then offered a question of his own. “Where’s…Blake?”
“Damage control,” Dustin explained, arm still draped across Hunter’s shoulders, with no signs of moving. “He’s spreading the word about how to beat these things to the other rangers.”
Good…good; that was…that was good.
Hopefully that dumbass would stay safe.
…nope. Nope, Hunter was not processing the irony of that thought. He was not.
“And you?” Hunter prompted, wondering why the other two had separated.
Perhaps Dustin had been looking for more rangers to help out. If they were anything like the ones Hunter had encountered, then they were split up into smaller teams than usual.
“Trying to find a safe place to retrieve the dinosaur gun.”
His voice was innocent, but Hunter suspected the brunette used the wrong name on purpose, to keep Hunter alert.
“Why didn’t you…just pull it out…earlier?”
He shouldn’t be focusing on the past but damnit, Hunter’s brain had decided it was an important question.
If he could see Dustin’s face, he was sure it would be blinking at Hunter confusedly. “Sort’ve pressed for time, you know? Besides, now that we’ve found a safe hiding place I can just power down and get it. It’s not like I can just wave my hand and shout, ‘Quantum Defender!’, and expect it to-”
Which was exactly what it did.
Hunter turned his helmet towards the newly-appeared weapon in Dustin’s hand, still held in front of the yellow ranger uncertainly, like he wasn’t entirely positive what had just happened had just happened, before he slowly rolled his head to face the yellow ranger’s helmet, trying to convey absolute incredulity with in one movement.
Dustin had the decency to at least appear bashful. Through his helmet. Because he was skilled like that.
“You know,” Hunter began, resolutely keeping his gaze off of the legendary gun resting in his friend’s hand. “I love you. But right now…”
“I hate you too?” Dustin offered, giving an apologetic shrug.
Hunter, at a loss for what to say, returned the motion tiredly. “Thanks.”
He supposed it was only appropriate.
Wes couldn’t really pick a particular moment where things had taken a turn for the worse, but if he had to hazard a guess, it was probably around the same time some of the teams had stopped responding.
Regrouping had been the obvious choice once the crimson ranger had taken the Doompot monster off their hands. Justin and Trip would be put to better use brainstorming a solution than out fighting in the field anyway so Wes had set out to do just that, pulling them back towards their temporary headquarters, kicking and screaming if necessary. Justin was the only one probable to resort to such options, frustration and an abundance of adrenaline a strong persuader to stay out in the fight, but thankfully it didn’t come to that. Between the two Time Force Rangers they had managed to make Justin see reason; agreeing, once his blood had settled, that his efforts were needed for a long term resolution instead of the more satisfying offensive one - the one that brought comfort in knowing you were fighting alongside others, that you had their back, and weren’t holed up somewhere out of harms way.
Wes would know just how difficult those feelings were to shake because he’d had to face them down himself, determined to escort Justin and Trip back to Bio Labs before going back out into the fray, helping where he could. It wasn’t like he was a genius and the crimson ranger - though Wes did not know him, nor was a part of his team - he still managed to feel mildly responsible for the kid. Guilt was the most probable cause - or maybe solidarity; one red ranger to another - but the feeling still remained, insistent and strong. Wes wanted to find him, almost as badly as he wanted to find Eric (which was something he could admit now without having to shove down the feelings of anxiety that came from over attentiveness; this was an emergency situation, attention was due), and above all else make sure the kid hadn’t been dumb enough to get himself murdered. Wes had enough hanging over his head as it was; it would be nice not to add to it.
Stress combined with fatigue combined with his senses geared towards battle alertness, every feeling, every perception heightened to the most specific degree, kept Wes antsy. His thoughts bounced between scattered and remarkably focused, depending on the second, depending on the mood that hit him. Anxiety was what kept him the most on edge, something about the situation feeling…off to him, as though the world was set a few inches apart from its intended path, traveling just slightly off course, unnoticeable except to those who looked. That was what it felt like.
It wasn’t like Wes had ever felt completely relaxed during a fight, but there was usually a nice sort of middle place for his mind to go, not completely zen, but like a quiet focus. He was aware of the danger but managed to be comfortable enough with both his skills and his teammates to keep a cool head, keeping the majority of his focus on the battle at hand.
He wasn’t there now. He wasn’t even freaking close to there, more like a few distant miles away; that state of mind a blurred speck through a set of borrowed binoculars, so frustratingly faraway. It mocked him.
But the result of this was a sort of hyper-awareness. Like he knew he wasn’t where he normally was so he overcompensated, taking great pain to keep up-to-date with Angela, getting status updates on the other ranger teams and the state of the deployed Guardian squads. He wouldn’t second guess himself, but he knew it wouldn’t hurt to put a little more thought into his choices, just…just in case. To be prepared.
It was with Bio Labs looming in the near distance that Wes decided to make another call, checking in on the Space team, sans Zhane, to see how they were holding up.
When Wes’ queries were met with nothing but silence, he assumed (prayed) it was for the same reason Eric’s team had yet to call in; that they were preoccupied. Based on how difficult these Doompots were, it was not terribly surprising.
But just to be safe, because Wes found that when he had peace of mind it was a lot easier to do other things like fight henchmen and not have a mental breakdown in the middle of the street, he went ahead and called in to Angela. As she had the last five or so times (eleven, they both knew it was eleven, so sue him) Wes would ask for an update and then casually slip in the team he was concerned with this time. Angela, being the wonderfully wise and gracious human being that she was, would helpfully check the morpher net, confirm that their signals were as strong and powerful as the last time Wes had asked, and all would be well. He would put his worrying to rest, Angela would get the blond out of her hair for about ten minutes, and the world would keep turning.
It was a system. It might not be a great system, but it worked for Wes, so long as Angela was willing to humor him. And based on the fact that she had married into the hectic ranger lifestyle, she understood that very little went a long way. Because Angela was a goddess, kinder beyond the likes any human being had ever known, and smart enough to figure out that a distracted ranger did not make for good world-savings. They were about as useful as paperweights.
So one could understand that, when there was a slight change in their check-in system, a prolonged pause on her end of the line after he asked about the Space team, Wes got a little worried.
Something that was more than happy to multiply the moment she confirmed the thing he had been dreading, the one thing that was frightening enough to unleash another string of expletives from Justin, that had Trip muttering frantic Xybrian under his breath, and chocked the air in Wes’ throat where he stood, heart dropping, feeling like the trap he had been concerned with, the misalignment of his world, the oddity, had finally sprung.
The Space team’s signals had vanished from the morphing grid completely.
No radio signals, no morpher signals, no visual contact.
They were gone.