To be on Time, is to be Fashionably Late
“How far away are we?”
“Not too far out. You should see Silver Hills on the Horizon in about five minutes dude.”
“And the others?” Shane asked, grip tight against his controls as a fresh wave of anxiety tensed in his stomach, stiffening his movements as he dwelled on the uncertainty that was to come.
Knowing you were approaching an active battle zone usually gifted you with a certain kind of alertness, but the prolonged hours between now and his last update from Hunter were doing a number on his restraint as far as traveling went. Shane’s patience was…dwindling, to say the least.
“No direct contact since Dustin’s phone call,” Cyber Cam replied, fielding Shane’s questions with as much ease as he had thirty minutes ago. “But word from the veterans is that Blake and Hunter have been helping in battles around Silver Hills.”
“Not that they’ve seen.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it Shane.” The words come from Tori, her voice resolute and steady over the zords’ radio connection. “He was the one who escaped last time.”
“Which just means he’s the one who slighted Lothor the most,” Shane countered, trying to copy her more composed state of mind. He wasn’t very successful. “That makes him the biggest target and you know it.”
“I also know there isn’t anything we can do about it until we get there, so take a breath and cool off-”
“We need to focus,” Tori continued, talking over the red ranger’s protest.
Focus, right. That had been the main goal to aspire for the past two days. Focus. Eyes on the prize. Under normal conditions this didn’t seem like this wouldn’t be such a difficult thing to achieve; hell, even when they were split apart six ways to Sunday there was still a way of knowing, albeit without absolute confirmation, that together they would come through okay.
It must be something about the horrible addition of extra monsters, rangers, and an absolute lack of internal radio communications that was taking Shane to his breaking point, worrying about Cam above them, fighting in space, and the others somewhere off in Silver Hills, in who knew what kind of condition.
The only thing Shane could hope for was that they were still breathing and not complete and total wrecks, and knowing Dustin and Hunter’s natural inherence towards attracting trouble, it was probably the most reasonable wish he could manage. Mildly optimistic, at best.
Damn, he was never letting Hunter go on road trips again. Not without him. Shane’s limit for stress tolerance could only be pushed so far.
“Everything’s going to be okay Shane,” Tori pressed, her voice soothing and strong, cutting through the anxiety and bringing him to the present. “You just need to have faith.”
“I have faith in them Tori.” Shane had for a long time now, for longer than he hadn’t and he was so inconceivably glad for that fact he almost couldn’t function at the thought of losing it. “It’s everything else that’s got me worried.”
“I know Shane.” Her reply was quiet, steady save for a slight tinge of stress and fear that couldn’t help but shine through. “I know how you feel.”
Because Blake was out there too. Her teammates, her family, were out there too.
And they had no way of reaching them.
Old news. It was old news so it was stupid to dwell on it, stupid to worry about it, stupid to focus and bemoan something which he had absolutely no control over.
Tori was right; their destination was looming a mere five minutes away in the distance, their arrival drawing closer with every passing second, and by the time they got there, zords ready, en masse, Shane needed to have his head on straight. To show the other rangers, the veterans, that he deserved his spot on his team, that they were just as competent, just as good, and just as cool under pressure as was to be expected from their occupation.
And after that, when the dust had settled, when Shane finally had Hunter in his sight again…
They would have words.
Many, many words.
“Oh goody, another one.”
Leo didn’t mean to sound remarkably unenthusiastic; keeping a high energy during battles was sort of one of his schticks and he hated the thought of disappointing (annoying) his teammates (Eric), but at the moment things had become sort of…involved, for him, and small details like emphasis and emoting had to take a back seat in the list of priorities when one was trying to execute a deceivingly not-so-elaborate plan.
He was pretty sure at this point his running narration was carried on purely out of habit and for his own personal entertainment purposes; his volume, once great enough to carry over the crowd, had been lowered dramatically due to the impressive amount of dodging that had to be done. Air, a gift previously taken for granted, now had to be rationed accordingly.
On the bright side, everyone who wasn’t the navy guy could still hear him over their internal radios.
“Another what?” Eric snapped; somewhere off in the distance, trying to coordinate with the Guardians that were managing the pulsing herd of henchmen. “Another ranger?”
“Sure,” Leo replied breezily, rolling out of the way as a car, a car-car, came smashing down to where he had been previously fighting. “I like optimism.”
“Sparky-” Eric warned, giving Leo enough attention to sound appropriately pissed off.
“It would be unfounded,” Leo continued, eyes scanning the distance as another – okay, so that was two more to his previous one – made their appearances on rooftops. “But still nice.”
Lucas cut in before the conversation could unravel into a pointless argument, flitting past Leo’s vision as he attempted to play distraction, giving Adam time to take a breather. “We’ve got another Doompot.”
Eric cursed. “Another-?”
“And some other guy,” Leo added, just barely avoiding the wrath of another flying vehicle, eyebrows furrowing in sympathy for their owners. “Who seems very fond of projectiles.”
“What the hell is that thing?” In Leo’s opinion, Eric sounded just the right amount of wondrous and confused as he took in the might that was…whatever the hell that thing was.
Monsters, man; they were getting a little too unique.
“Looks like a cross between a gorilla and an airplane,” Lucas noted, exchanging a flurry of complicated hand signs with their new navy ranger friend. The kid - they assumed, based on the brown-haired teen that had originally broken into Eric’s house – seemed to be trying desperately hard to silently communicate while starting a game of tag with the newest Doompot addition, and didn’t to seem to be having much luck with it.
“It’s…different,” Leo settled on.
“It’s pink,” Eric groused, full grumble engaged over their radios.
“It looks like…” Adam started, thoughtful, and they all may or may not have held their figurative breaths while they awaited wisdom from the wise man. “We fought it,” he settled on. “That was with the bunch yesterday.”
“Yesterday?” Lucas asked. “What happened?”
“Minor attack,” Eric replied, moving to provide cover fire for the navy ranger, giving the kid a moment’s break. “The Q-Rex detected a disturbance.”
“And what a disturbance it was!” Leo cheered, shoving his feet hard against the asphalt to propel himself out of harms way, getting closer and closer to impact with every throw.
Well damn, it looked like somebody else must have gotten an upgrade too.
The kid- oh hey, there he was- had landed beside Leo, and in the distance the Miranoi ranger could see he’d switched out with Eric, moving instead to provide a more maneuverable target for the airplane monster.
Leo would give them this; these ninja guys had mobility in the bag. If they were cool with divulging some of their ninja-y secrets he would totally be up for a training weekend…or month. Months. Kai would probably want to stay awhile, really figure out what made them tick.
He was cool like that. Dedicated.
“You know this guy?” Leo asked when the navy ranger flipped close to him, feet finding purchase on a lamppost.
“He was throwing trees last I checked!” the kid shouted, and then was gone, running up the side of a building, flying cars leaving sizable dents in his wake.
“Looks like he adapted appropriately.” Leo figured that was worth noting, among many other things, and then there was the other Doompot, their newest addition, trying to run him through with its unpleasant Doompotted fist.
Not cool man. Not cool.
“How long until we’ve got Carter?”
There was a large part of Leo that hoped the answer was somewhere along the lines of ‘not long’, but considering the fact that for their plan to properly work they had to get a representative from every team over to this particular neck of the woods without any extra Doompots tailing them, that was unlikely. Carter and his team had been the closest to their battle, making it probable that the Lightspeed ranger would be the first to arrive, barring any complications.
It had been decided, based on pure happenstance, that Adam’s impromptu team would be the ones to start implementing Trip’s plan. As they already had the most variety when it came to ranger powers, it seemed like an obvious choice. They were waiting for a Lightspeed ranger to become free to give them the best odds for success and Carter, as one of the strongest, had quickly been nominated. Unfortunately they were having a little difficulty with the whole ‘being-in-the-same-zipcode’ thing.
Without Andros and the rest of the Space team to keep their Doompot occupied, the Lightspeed Rangers had been forced to split up to accommodate both battles, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Carter had a difficult time sneaking away. If one of these things gave four rangers a run for their money, it would be cruel and unusual punishment for Carter to leave his already shrunken team behind all on their lonesome.
The Ninjetti rangers were trying to compensate for it - Rocky and Kimberly racing to make their way across the city - but until then they would all just have to play the waiting game.
One of Leo’s least-favorite pastimes, if he had to be honest. There was something about that fact that Damon found hysterical but Leo, for the life of him, could not figure out why. It wasn’t like he was incapable of patience.
For the most part.
The Doompot swiped at Leo’s head, forcing the red ranger to cannonball himself out of the way, half-stumbling, half-weaving through the husks of the airplane-monster’s abandoned projectiles. He had a moment to appreciate this new cover before he caught a glimpse of Adam barreling into the first Doompot beside him, laying in blow after blow with his Power Axe, dazing the monster, if it were possible. It wasn’t likely, but at this point, they were willing to try out whatever alternatives were possible until more rangers could show up, all the while conserving energy for the final blow.
“Ten minutes at best!” Adam shouted, finally beginning to sound just the tiniest bit haggard. “Justin’s trying to cut that time down with Storm Blaster, but until we get some people over there to replace Carter, we’re out of luck.”
“We need to get Zhane earthbound,” Eric grumbled, clearly annoyed by the abundance of real-name usage going around here, even if it was over their private channels.
Leo understood though. Some habits were hard to break.
“They’re doing their best,” Adam soothed, exhaling sharply as his Doompot deflected the Power Axe, making him scramble to keep the weapon from rebounding into his helmet. “Once they’ve neutralized the General-”
“It’ll be too damn late.” Eric finished his muttered ultimatum with an agitated volley of shots at the airplane monster, having finally borrowed a blaster off of one of his guys, body tense as it steadfastly ignored him, too intent on playing tag with the ninja ranger. “That was their plan wasn’t it?” he continued, bitter. “To keep them occupied up there? Stop communications from being reestablished?”
“Then what do you suggest?”
The fact that Adam was beginning to sound more and more winded was not something any of them wanted to comment on, that fact or how it affected them, shaking something fundamentally sound in their minds. That one of the best, one of the originals, was starting to fade…
Well, what did that say for the rest of them?
Eric, being the blunt and bullheaded person he was, answered the question with a firm statement, completely disregarding the psychological affects of a wavering leader. “That battle’s not going to end anytime soon. So if Zhane can’t end the fight himself…”
“What?” Lucas asked, usual coolness being gradually traded for breathless agitation. “We end the fight for him?”
“We end him from the fight?” Leo prompted, trying to figure out where Eric’s dramatic pause was going. “Are you suggesting a mid-battle evacuation?”
“We need him here,” Eric stubbornly repeated. “If that’s what it takes-”
“It’s dangerous.” There was something tentative about the way Adam sternly reminded the Quantum Ranger, like it was an undeniable fact but…
He could see it, Leo realized. The black ranger could see this was their best option.
He just didn’t like it.
“Most of the things we do are,” Eric conceded. “That doesn’t make them any less necessary.”
“Alright big man,” Lucas said, swiveling back and forth between a Doompot and the gorilla-plane, taking a few pot shots with his giant cannon before shifting to a new position, wary to keep from the airplane monster’s notice. “Then how exactly do we do this?”
“He could use my Jet Jammer,” Leo offered, feeling nice enough to cut in before the awkward pause of I-haven’t -thought-that-far-ahead fell over them. He liked Eric, he did, and for both time and friendship’s sake it would be best if Leo just cut to the chase now. “Kai’s got them designed so Sheila can pilot them remotely in emergency situations.”
“Pretty sure this constitutes as an emergency,” Lucas gasped, displeased when he was blind sided mid-relocation by a flying SUV, one of the Silver Guardians’ by the look of it, and only avoiding immediate splatter by some quick maneuvering by the navy ranger, being carried away to safety in a spastic blur.
“Get it done,” Eric said, voice tight and angry between clenched teeth. “We get him here, we get Carter here-”
“And then we end this thing,” Adam finished. It was a credit to them, to their experience, how in sync they all were; Adam uncaring of Eric’s temporary acquisition of leadership, Lucas and the new kid moving almost as one, distracting in their own ways, settling in for the long haul.
“Call in to HQ,” Eric continued, and it was only through a brief glance that Leo could confirm this was aimed at Adam. “Let’s see about getting some relief out here.”
Whatever Eric was about to say was cut short by the entrance of an immensely ominous shadow casting across the street, throwing most of them under the veil of darkness. Normally, this would be disconcerting, but on the inside Leo rallied. He knew what caused those kinds of shadows, knew it as well as anyone else did.
Across the street, he could hear the navy ranger cheering, throwing a triumphant fist in the air as they turned as one, to gawk at the zords flying above them, casual spectators waiting for the end game.
“Finally,” Eric grumbled, and that was it, Leo lost it, falling into a fit of helpless giggles as his grin threatened permanence, spreading so wide it almost hurt.
“Sheila darling,” he said, knowing the program would connect to his line the moment he said her name. “Could you be a dear and pick up Zhane for us?”
Leo didn’t catch the answer; her perky words a muddle as he watched Eric’s helmet swivel towards the Lost Galaxy ranger, displeased, before turning his attention to the new rangers descending into battle, abandoning their machines to help buy them time.
Seriously, Leo liked these guys. So much.
Dramatic timing had always been one of the traits he appreciated most in a person.
It took about thirty seconds of mild concentration, Wes’ focus divided between coordinating rangers and restraining himself from trying to contact Eric for the fifth time that hour, but the blond had finally managed to think of an appropriate term for the pandemonium that had befallen them. Organized chaos. It was hectic, with battles breaking out everywhere and teams being lost and rangers trapped in permanent radio silence, but it was being managed, which was really all he could ask for; to keep up with the spreading calamity, rather than trailing a few steps behind. Not as appealing as keeping ahead of the damage, but he would be grateful for what he got. It could be worse.
For example, Wes could be perfectly mobile, constantly on the move, in perfect communication with everyone he needed (not wanted, needed), but still somehow be unable to find a freaking fight to join.
At first Wes had started off towards Eric’s location because he wanted to- this was a massive invasion, shut up, he didn’t have to justify himself, who else was he supposed to fight with? Eventually Angela had side-tracked him to another fight, one that was closer, except for the undeniable fact that it wasn’t because these dumb monsters liked to stay on the move themselves, forcing the rangers to follow, forcing Wes to follow, meaning he had yet to actually rejoin the action yet.
From what he’d heard, Justin was almost to Carter’s location, with Trip in tow to fill in for the Lightspeed ranger. Turned out for that particular monster you could run a few last minute-calculations to confirm a theory, rehydrate, suit up, roll out, and still get to the fray before Wes could find a single offensive being.
Part of Wes wanted to scream. The other part sort of wanted to take a nap.
It had been a long few days.
To keep occupied, Wes had started calling around to see if any of the teams had an eye on the elusive crimson ranger and his Doompot tail. From what he’d heard from Angela a new Doompot had joined the attack on Eric’s team, and a Ninja Storm ranger had been in tow; it just wasn’t the one Wes was looking for.
Which left him with the nagging dilemma of judging exactly how far the semi-wounded ranger could have gotten before a Doompot had caught him, or if he had managed to lead it to another fight, or if he was waiting it out, or what exactly happened.
Wes tried to console himself. The kid was a ranger. He was skilled, fierce, and aside from a few horrible decisions, competent.
When a few minutes had passed and the anxious feeling stubbornly remained, Wes had sighed, switched course, and steered his bike towards where he had last seen the Crimson Ranger bound off to. He would retrace the kid’s “steps” as best he could with alleyways, try and figure out where and if the Doompot had been successfully lead astray, and eventually try and find his missing ranger.
Worse comes to worse, he’ll have wasted a little time with his alternate route. In itself, not the greatest of offenses.
But if Wes’ over-active imagination was even mildly correct…
The kid was hurt somewhere, cornered and alone and possibly trapped, because Wes couldn’t keep up, because Wes hadn’t figured out what was going on, and those were not things that the Time Force ranger could ever consider acceptable.
Not in his town. Not on his turf.
They were rangers.
Regardless of age or experience, rangers stuck together.