Coherency is Overrated
Curbing his immediate impulse to check on Dustin was unpleasant to say the very least, but Cam managed to persevere, choking down the emotional response with logic as the tendrils of exhaustion started threading their way through his body, insistent in their presence. The Quantum ranger had a hand on Dustin now, guaranteeing his safety.
Hunter – the dismissive ingrate – was not so fortunate.
Cam made his way across the rooftops as soon as he had confirmed the PotStopper’s destruction, legs threatening rebellion with every leap. Like all non-necessities, he ignored them, sending a quick signal to Tori as she confirmed everyone’s status. Most likely she would have caught onto his destination without the silent communication, but in this instance, Cam preferred absolute confirmation.
The blonde made it to Hunter about the same time as Cam, which was, appropriately, about the same time as the thunder ranger’s legs gave out.
He lost his morph with an inarticulate garble; a language of pure pain. They caught him – Cam on his right, Tori to the left – and looped his arms over their shoulders. His head hung low, from exhaustion surely, but the blond would more than likely attempt to play it off as hiding Marah and Karpri’s damages to save what little pride he had left.
“Do you have enough energy to clean him off?” Cam inspected the defacement and it was, truly, as perfectly tasteless as it had been in his original survey. “And the water?”
“Yeah, sure I-” Tori furrowed her brow, not entirely aware to what Cam was referring. “Here, give me a sec – holy crap.”
The laugh that followed was a trill of a sound, dancing on the border of amused and hysterical.
“Wow Hunter.” Despite the strain of pulling the water out of her own soaked hair, there was a smile plastered across the blonde’s face. “I can’t wait to hear this story later.”
“Whatever,” Hunter grumbled, his head firmly sagged against his chest.
The minimalism of his response indicated a variety of facts Cam would much remain ignorant to, and Tori’s smile transformed into a grimace, sharing a quick look with the Samurai to confirm she knew this too. The crimson ranger was spent, yes, but he tended to babble when wounded in an effort to distract or minimize the appearance of injuries. The fact that he wasn’t now meant he had surrendered to the severity of his condition, which confirmed things had gone, as the thunder ninja so preferred to phrase it, ‘Totally to shit’.
Cam distracted himself from the concerns this immediately instigated and focused on the other teen’s outfit, not recognizing it as something Hunter usually wore.
Which – he realized after a brief pause – was a completely logical deduction, as Hunter was not a member of the Silver Guardians.
Tori realized this at about the same time. “Is he wearing-?”
“Just get the makeup off,” Cam ordered, perhaps a bit more terse than necessary. He made no apologies though, and instead got about the business of making the older Bradley look like he had made less of a total nuisance of himself than he theoretically (and actually) had.
“But why is he wearing-?”
“Makeup, Tori,” Cam reminded her, exponentially patient as he tore away frivolous safety gear, elbow and knee pads falling to the ground in vicious precision. “We’ll get the full story later.”
Gloves, armguards, a chest harness, and safety belt were quick to follow. Cam was in the process of ripping off the uniform shirt when Tori completed her task with a weary sigh, the last traces of Marah and Kapri’s misdeeds scrubbed from Hunter’s face.
“But why did he-?”
“Pull the pants out of his boots,” Cam ordered, focusing on what needed to be done to quell the frustration of allowing this expedition to happen in the first place. “If you have time, chuck the shoes in general. We need him to look less like-”
“He stole a Silver Guardian’s uniform?” Tori interrupted with a wry smile, unperturbed by Cam’s concise wording. “Because that’s what it looks like.”
“Pants, Tori,” Cam murmured. “One thing at a time.”
He didn’t yank off the lanyard that circled Hunter’s neck, though it was a near thing. This restraint did not extend to discarding it thoughtlessly into the jumbled pile at their feet, though Cam honestly could not spare it any consideration if he wanted to keep his frustration in check.
Chaperones. For now on there would be chaperones and contingency plans.
Cam had the thunder ninja down to his undershirt when Tori quickly ordered, “Hold him,” and then he had an armful of Hunter Bradley while Tori all but ripped the combat boot from his feet, leaving him his socks.
“Shoes, we can play off losing,” she said to the unspoken question. “But socks?”
“Understood,” Cam said, nodding. Quick thinking, and there would be more praise were they allowed such a luxury, but on the streets below the veterans were reuniting with their trapped teammates, and that would only distract them for so long.
Eventually, damage control had to be done.
“Just-” Hunter grunted, surprising both of the other rangers – Cam had thought he was unconscious. “Just put me back in-” He inhaled a quick, pained breath. “The zord.”
“You need a hospital,” Cam said, illustrating for Tori Hunter’s asperities. “Further movement will only aggravate your injuries.”
“Then take me to the hospital in Blue Bay Harbor,” Hunter grumbled, insistent. “I can…” Another shuddered breath. “…hurt just as much there as-”
He cut off with a few rough hacks, his body shuddering forward. The crimson ranger remained standing through Cam and Tori’s efforts, though even that was barely manageable, given their current energy levels.
When the fit ended the thunder ninja kept his head bowed, stubbornly out of sight. Cam ducked down despite his efforts for concealment, brushing away wild strands of hair to get a proper look at Hunter’s face.
The blood drabbling down the blond’s chin made the decision for him.
Cam cursed, low and violent and possibly not in English, and sent Tori a critical, but determined, look.
“Keep ahold of him,” the green ranger ordered. He crouched as soon as he was sure the water ninja had a proper hold of the older Bradley and started gathering the abandoned uniform pieces.
“Hunter,” was all Tori could manage, and it came out more wounded than chastising as the blonde got a good look at the reason for Cam’s renewed intensity. “Hunter.”
“We need to get him to a hospital,” Cam said, mind racing through possibilities as he maneuvered the mishmash of gear into a rough bundle. “You know the routine. We’ll put him in as a-”
“Bio Labs has a private medical center.”
None of them gave any obvious indications of shock at the new voice. For Hunter, this was a result of definite unconsciousness (this time); for Cam and Tori their focus had been diverted, complete attention on the matter at hand. The tech berated himself briefly for losing awareness of his surroundings.
“He can take my Jet Jammer,” the new ranger – Kai – continued. He had been one of the late entrants into the battle, swooping down a few rooftops away from Cam just as they initiated their final assault.
The blue ranger had been fighting Zurgane with Cyber Cam not but ten minutes ago, and must have spent the moments following the success of their attack making his way to this rooftop.
“That’s great,” Tori said, and Cam took the diversion of the other ranger’s attention to shift his bundle behind him, out of sight. “But we can’t-”
“Dana Mitchell, the pink Lightspeed ranger, is a doctor,” Kai interrupted with a sharp shake of his head. “All medical personnel have been divided so that only select groups will have access to certain rangers.” He turned his attention to Cam. “To minimize exposure.”
“Is this our best option?” Cam asked, genuinely curious. Based on his interactions with the blue ranger, he trusted the other man’s opinion.
One creator, one strategist, to another.
The man nodded. “I believe so. We can…modify the paperwork as necessary.”
“Of course,” Cam replied dryly, understanding the less subtle implications of that statement. Were there any who understood the delicacy of their situation, it would be the veteran rangers. It stood to reason that they would be willing to fabricate the necessary documents required for seeing to Hunter’s injuries.
It was only logical.
Despite the weariness weighing on his shoulders, imploring him to take this sensible, easy solution, Cam could not help but consider how it would leave his team off. Dustin, even unconscious, they could take back to Blue Bay harbor for medical attention, but Hunter’s wound required immediate appraisal and this was, probably, their best option.
The fact that it left them entirely at the mercy of the veterans’ fancy was not something Cam was comfortable with, but it would have to do.
Hunter jerked, hacking pitifully against Tori’s shoulder, and Cam made his decision.
“Your Jet Jammer?” he said, wrapping an arm around the comatose blond’s waist and carefully reclaiming his weight from Tori. Behind Hunter’s gaggly legs, Cam nudged the clothing bundle towards the aqua ranger.
A meaningful look would have been a nice confirmation, but under this newest ranger’s steady gaze Cam could not justify the risk. His lack of zord combative skills did not proclinate any other deficiencies, though it would be easy to fall into such assumptions. He was a sharp one.
“Coming shortly,” the blue ranger replied, motioning to the distance. There was a steely blur of metallics, indicating the arrival of the transport Cam had been shanghaied onto earlier. “You can both ride.”
Which was always going to be the case, given that Hunter couldn’t even remain standing by his own will, but Cam appreciated the communication nonetheless. As in his own tendencies, the blue ranger was simply seeking reaffirmation of a point to bring personal comfort. Or perhaps Cam was drawing similarities based on his own projections.
“I’ll contact one of my teammate’s to get Dr. Mitchell a Jammer too,” the other tech continued. “Get your friend immediate attention.”
“Thank you,” Cam said, hugging the injured blond gently to his side.
The other ranger turned away. “No problem.”
“I’ll go check on the others,” Tori volunteered, voice rife with mock cheerfulness. It was stiff in an effort to ignore the blood on her shoulder, the similar stain marring Hunter’s chin. She disappeared in a blur, and with her, the bundle of clothing.
If only they could erase the events of the previous days with similar ease.
“Incoming,” Kai noted.
With a start, Cam looked at the hovering vehicle; its approach a good deal more subtle than its flashy exterior. On the street he could see a matching craft waiting near a blond woman having an animated conversation with another male, this one in a red tank top and open blue button down. Kai’s teammate, then.
“We’ll see you back at the base,” the blue ranger offered, nodding.
Though he had already said it, Cam could never stress its importance enough. It was vital to the other ranger’s understanding, and to Cam’s continued perseverance.
For when he said it, he truly meant to say “I’m sorry”.
Cam marveled at this as he and Hunter flew above the battle-worn city. He closed his eyes to keep himself from forming a private tally of accumulated destruction; roads, cars, buildings, and landmarks all for the worse, courtesy of their hands.
He was truly sorry.
Wow – his head – wow, was all Shane could think, the admiration for the extent of how truly empty he felt enough to make him be in awe. He hadn’t felt this completely spent since Madtropolis, or even after the brief capture with the first Doompot. PotStopper. Whatever.
Even after those especially rough training runs from hell Sensei insisted weren’t entirely for the sake of punishment (except they were, because that was what happened when you only resorted to something when someone screwed up) Shane had never felt so done. Gone. Detached.
The fact that he had somehow remained standing after the brilliant white explosion of rawr (so named in Dustin’s honor, because he would pout up a storm if they let Hunter name something else) was another feat that, to this point, boggled his mind. Whatever, Shane wasn’t going to look any gift horses in the mouth.
In an effort to distract himself from imminent unconsciousness, Shane looked around, trying to get a view on his team.
All around him were rangers in various states of exhaustion, some suited, the others – who had been trapped – powered down, grumbling, flinching away from the bright light of the sun. Most of them already had their non-captured teammates glued to their sides, helmets whipping from person to person as they laughed and goaded and tried to get a feel for their energy levels.
From what Shane could see, everyone appeared to be conscious or, at least, very close to being there, which lifted a certain weight from his shoulders. Cam had theorized after their original battle the worst case scenario for energy depletion. Hypothetically it began with ‘coma’ and ended with ‘death’, so the fact that everyone was waking up was good. Monumentally good. Meant Shane probably wasn’t the biggest screw up of a red ranger this side of California.
His eyes found Blake first, the navy ranger landing with a slight lurch as he leapt from a broken window; another apartment’s sanctity sacrificed for their cause.
The thunder ranger sent him a lazy thumbs up, indicating he was about as worse for wear as Shane, and immediately set about examining the ground, picking out their teammates. Despite his efforts, Shane’s eyes would never be sharper than the younger Bradley’s, so he left Blake to it, knowing he would find them way before Shane would.
When there was a pause, and recognition, Shane followed the direction of Blake’s gaze.
It was Dustin, he realized. The yellow ranger was in full-on passed out mode, slumped boneless against Commander Meyers.
The gun – Shane remembered belatedly as the Quantum ranger carefully removed his weapon from Dustin’s loose fingers – the explosion, Dustin had been he source of that. Cam would probably pitch a fit about the ‘unknown side effects of using foreign ranger weaponry’ or something like that (and honestly, Shane wanted to join him), but for the moment Dustin looked like he was sleeping peacefully.
It was still worrisome, to a staggering degree, but Shane couldn’t manage the energy to make his worry go beyond ‘muted’.
“He looks good,” Blake noted, ambling over to the air ninja’s side casually. “You know, all things considered.”
“Do you see the others?” Shane asked. He started scanning the rooftops, looking for Cam’s familiar silhouette and, you know, possibly the dumbass he called a boyfriend who he kept talking to on a regular basis (for reasons, at this moment, that totally escaped Shane).
Shane had no idea exactly how injured Hunter was, but Cam’s status update reaching that special level of detachment and Blake’s own unsteady frustration was enough to tell him it wasn’t exactly good. The question, in this case, was Hunter ‘mandatory bed rest’ hurt, or, ‘oh hell, so much bruising, hospital now’ hurt, which was never a pleasant experience for any of them.
Flying a few towns over just to get medical treatment as a John Doe put them at a lot more risk with the legal system than Shane ever really wanted to encounter, but Hunter’s tendency for gaining injuries bowled through that uneasiness with no signs of remorse.
Sure, one time it was Blake, but it was usually Hunter.
Before Blake could respond, a shadow fell over them. It was a brief prelude to Tori’s entrance, the water ninja having even less grace in her landing than Blake. She stumbled, but Shane already had his hands out to catch her, pulling her against his side and ignoring Blake’s grunt of protest.
Tori smiled sweetly at her boyfriend’s concern, and promptly gave up on standing altogether, her full weight slouching against Shane’s shoulders.
“Cam’s taking Hunter to Bio Labs to get checked out.”
“Damn it,” Blake hissed. He pulled away from where he had been hovering on the blonde’s other side, hands tugging at his short hair uselessly. “How bad is it?”
“We don’t know yet,” Tori sighed, her head tucked tiredly under Shane’s chin. “But it couldn’t wait.”
There was something on her shoulder, Shane realized. Something matted and ugly, blemishing the semi-slick texture of her ninja robes. It was a darker red, going on brown, and it looked a lot like-
“Please tell me that’s not his,” Blake said, glaring at the offending stain. “Tell me you cut your shoulder or something.”
Tori rolled her eyes. “Your concern for my well being-”
“Is it his?” Blake asked.
Tori closed her eyes, exhaling slowly to center herself, and that was enough of an answer for any of them.
“Damn it,” Blake repeated.
“Go get Dustin.”
The navy ranger snapped his eyes to Shane, startled that the taller teen would dare interrupted his little outrage party. Despite this, and the annoyances wavering on the horizon, Shane continued, gaze never leaving Blake’s eyes.
“We need to get to Bio Labs, and since I’ve got Tori,” he nodded towards the blond, who managed a weak smile. “You need to relieve Commander Meyers of our displaced teammate.”
“Should we take him back to Blue Bay Harbor?” Tori murmured against his chest, eyes closed. “Take him home while the rest of us debrief?”
“Do any of us have the energy to get him to a zord?” Shane asked, knowing the answer. He could barely keep Tori up as it was.
A frustrated silence fell over them.
“Gimme Tori,” Blake said after a few moments. “One of the veterans saw me unmorphed in Commander Meyers’ house.”
“Dude, there really isn’t a chance of us maintaining secret identities among them,” Shane said, laughing quietly. “If you haven’t noticed.”
Blake didn’t quite bristle, but he did the restrained Bradley equivalent, which involved a lot of narrowed eyes and fierce glaring.
“What I was going to say - before I was interrupted - was that they might have some questions I don’t particularly feel like answering right now.”
Shane shrugged. “Best to get it out of the way now.”
“Shane,” Blake murmured, jaw tight. “Either give me Tori, or I’m going to hunt down my stupid brother and yell at him until I can’t talk anymore. I’m only good for one or the other. Which one is your choice.”
“Later it is then.” Shane handed over the blonde carefully, acknowledging the end of Blake’s usually vast amounts of patience had finally been reached.
“Thank you,” the shorter teen grumbled.
With Tori at his side, the complete agitation Blake had been projecting was somewhat muted, dulled by a certain relief.
Of course, Shane should have thought- but he hadn’t. He was really tired.
“How are we getting to Bio Labs?” Tori murmured.
It surprised Shane, who had thought she was firmly in dreamland by now, but she must have bowed out to let them work out their own issues. Tori was good at seeing when things like that needed to be done.
Shane looked around, scanning the area for easy transportation. “You could always ask the jeep.”
“The jeep,” Blake repeated, deadpan.
Tori had this one. “Yeah, you know, the blue one that was fighting with us.”
“Due to the driver that was manning the wheel, you mean.”
“I’m pretty sure it can drive itself,” Tori insisted. “Its ranger is…” She squinted her eyes at the groups of people littering the street.
“You two figure it out,” Shane ordered, trying to give them some direction. “I’ll go get Dustin.”
“Aye, aye, Captain,” Tori grumbled, her eyes sliding shut.
As Shane turned towards his destination, he could hear Blake make a disapproving noise. “Hey, don’t you pass out on me yet. You’re the one who knows what this guy looks like.”
The voices faded behind him as Shane picked his way through the crowd of people, careful to keep his head down. There weren’t any obvious cameras out, yet, but that didn’t mean there wouldn’t be. Or that there weren’t any concealed ones.
This whole day was such a mess.
Just a few hours more, he thought, hoping in vain. They only had so much time left until Monday, until their parents would begin to notice their absence.
Hopefully, they could wrap things up by then.
“Ooooh, this is adorable.”
“Shut up, Leo.”
“Truly, the most picturesque moment of the aftermath.”
“Shut up Leo.”
“You made a friend.”
“Shut up Leo.”
“Make me.” The brunette’s smile was all teeth, overjoyed at Eric’s predicament. “Oh wait, you can’t, because you’re too busy being someone’s pillow.”
“I will end you,” Eric promised.
Yeah, don’t think that he had forgotten about earlier. Or his house. Leo would get his due.
“Yeah man,” Leo chirped. “Feeling really threatened over here.”
“I thought by this point you two would be feeling a little…” Adam searched for the right word. “Kinder to each other.”
“What?” Leo pressed a hand against his chest in mock outrage. “Why Adam, he only threatened to ‘end’ me. He could have said ‘maim’.”
“I was going to add that in next,” Eric grumbled, readjusting his hold on the ninja stubbornly passed out in his arms.
“Well then.” Leo clapped his hands together. “I guess we didn’t find kindness after all.”
“And the Lord wept,” Lucas muttered, mouth twitching in amusement, the traitor.
“It’s good to see you guys getting along,” Rocky murmured with a tired grin. The lack of inflection made it difficult to tell whether it was sarcasm or not, but seeing as he could only manage sitting up by being nestled in Adam’s arms, it was probably sincere. Probably.
Eric wasn’t the best with these things.
“Hey, we should start a book club!” Leo clapped again, smile brilliant as he tried to sell him his horrible (and most likely insincere) idea. “We could have margaritas!”
“You’re just in it for the junk food,” one of Leo’s teammates grumbled, a man clad in a green jumpsuit who was all but passed out against the red ranger’s legs. “Don’t enable him.”
Leo’s cheer made a quick turn into petulance, a hurt pout that no one was buying settling on his lips. “Everything is fine in moderation.”
“Ignore him,” the teammate advised, the essence of wisdom. “We’re pretty sure he’s addicted to Cheetos.”
“We staged an intervention once,” the man continued, clearly used to Leo’s dramatics. “But he managed to change it into a dance party.”
“Somehow,” Lucas said, sidling up beside Eric to get a better look at his unconscious burden. “That does not surprise me.”
Jumpsuit laughed. “It surprised us and we knew it was happening.” He paused for a moment, considering. “Except Kai, I think. But he had thought the intervention was stupid in the first place.”
“Which is why he is my favorite,” Leo declared, dopey grin replacing his momentary wound.
“I would hope so,” Jumpsuit grumbled, eyes sliding shut. “As you are dating him. Where is he anyway?”
While the smile was still in place, Leo’s eyes were focused, indicating a level of serious concentration that didn’t seem exactly appropriate for him. Yet in it, Eric could see the potential red ranger, the one used to crisis situations.
He wondered how much of Leo was a show, and how much of it was real. Or if he actually bought into his own act as a way of surviving.
Thoughts for another day, when Eric was drunker. Way drunker.
“He should be coming down soon,” Leo said, eyes fixed to the distance. “He had to help the ninjas get one of their guys to Bio Labs asap.”
Lucas cocked his head to the side. “Asap?”
“’As soon as possible’,” Eric explained, trying not to waste time. “They hurt bad?”
“Not sure.” Leo shrugged. “But I sent Dana off with him, so they’re probably not doing great.”
“What about everyone else?” Eric asked. He examined the crowd around them, inspecting small huddles of brightly clothed individuals. Most of them had powered down after the attack. Only a select few had managed to hold their morph, and Eric wasn’t one of them.
“I busted up my ankle pretty bad,” Rocky said, hissing when he gave the appendage an exploratory wiggle. Adam smacked him upside the head in retaliation. “That’s how I got picked up. I think Kim might have landed on her shoulder wrong too.”
“It looks like mostly minor injuries all around.” Carter strolled up to their small gathering with his helmet tucked beneath one arm, the rest of Lightspeed recuperating behind him. “Aside from the Ninjetti and Ninja Storm teams.”
“He in a coma or something?” Leo asked, nodding to Eric’s deadweight.
“Probably just overdid it,” Adam replied. “Combining his energy with your weapon must have taken a lot out of him.”
“Was that what happened?” Leo asked. “I just thought it was like, a laser of doom thing going on over there.”
“You didn’t combine weapons?” Lucas turned to Eric, talking over the brunette’s pointless observation. “Some of the ninjas have long distance equipment.”
“But not him,” Adam said. “Remember, he preferred the sword to the gun.”
“It doesn’t matter anyway,” Eric grumbled, adjusting his hold on the kid. He didn’t weigh enough. “We can figure it out later. Right now we need to focus on getting everyone off the streets before the press shows up.”
“I’m surprised the news copters haven’t made an appearance yet,” Adam noted, frowning curiously at the sky.
“After the first few Ransik attacks we instigated an emergency No-Fly Protocol,” Eric explained. “There was enough damage to the city as it was; there was no point in risking extra lives and damage just because some helicopter strayed too close and got clipped by a wandering giant.”
“We could have used that,” Rocky muttered. “Later on, I mean. Before hugantic monster fights became the norm.”
“It’s a common practice for the assaulted cities to adopt No-Fly legislature,” Carter said. “But to preserve Freedom of Press we’re only allotted so much time before the air is deemed safe.”
“And by then, we need to be the hell out of dodge,” Eric muttered.
“That’s a plan I can get behind.”
All of them were too tired to be surprised, or even interested, in the rookie red’s appearance, his footsteps unnaturally quiet against the concrete. He offered a shy smile, coming in peace, but Eric glared at him anyway. On principal. It wasn’t like Time Force; his team – yeah, he could call them his team, didn’t matter if he hadn’t worked with them – hadn’t caused a disaster of this proportion.
Except the last time Silver Hills was leveled, but that hardly counted.
He steadily ignored the weak punch Lucas gifted his shoulder, and Adam’s blank look of disapproval.
The new guy – and it appeared the freakin’ ninja suit was a team thing – didn’t outwardly register the offence. He maintained his composure, either too tired to defend himself, uncaring to defend himself, or perfectly aware of how messed up the situation was and decidedly past the point of defending himself or his team. Eric wasn’t sure which of the options was better, but either way he took the silent prompt and handed over the kid’s teammate, maneuvering the sleeping brunette against his leader’s shoulder. He did it carefully, with enough focus that he completely blocked out Leo’s snickers and demands for immediate photos.
“How are we on transportation?” Carter asked, talking over Leo’s squawk as his teammate – bless him – pointedly jabbed the brunette in the side. “Do we have enough vehicles readily available to transport us back to Bio Labs?”
“Should we even all go to Bio Labs?” Lucas asked. “If the media’s going to be all over this, they’ll be on that place in a heartbeat, and they probably won’t leave if we ask nicely.”
“Or meanly,” Leo quipped, quick to recover.
Jumpsuit rolled his eyes.
“We need somewhere more secure,” Lucas continued.
“Wes’ house,” Eric decided. He ignored the way the new kid tensed up at the mention of media. It brought Eric back to a conversation he’d had with Wes once, about how the new team had been uncharacteristically adept – for rangers – at avoiding news coverage. Their speed probably kept them out of most pictures, but aside from now, they’d had absolutely no contact with the outside world.
And that was probably how they liked it.
Eric pushed the though aside, and kept talking. “It’s a gated community with restricted airspace. You guys will all be long-gone by the time the ‘copters get cleared to move in. We can take everyone who isn’t injured there; the rest can go to Bio Labs.”
“Great plan,” Leo said and, to his credit, actually sounded genuine. “One question. How are we getting there? I mean, sure, you’ve got your TF Eagle and Justin has his Turbo Jeep thing and we, of course, have our Jet Jammers-”
“Some of us,” Jumpsuit grumbled.
Eric really needed to remember his name.
“But what about everyone else?”
“We’ll take the Silver Guardian SUVs,” Eric decided, figuring what the hell. His people would be tired, but the ones on shift today had the importance of maintaining the ranger’s identities impressed upon them with a threatening glower and the wrath of God a promised guarantee if that security was violated.
He could always call in more patrols later, or even get Mr. Collins to set up a ride system between the regular office works and the Silver Guardians left on the street.
“Tinted windows, unobtrusive…” Leo considered one of the SUVS that had managed to survive the battle. “Yeah, that’ll work.”
“Great, I’ll just…” The new kid motioned towards his remaining teammates further down the street. They were gathered around Storm Blaster, Justin and a shorter male standing surprisingly resolute, expressions perfectly schooled and serious despite the fact that they were similarly burdened with teammates who didn’t look like they would be standing anytime soon.
The girl ninja held still, at least, but Trip was what Eric would best describe as ‘fussy’ in Justin’s arms, trying to review the data his morpher had collected during the battle, by the looks of it, and pouting as Justin hindered him. Tough love; his free arm looked like it had seen better days, but there were no obvious wounds here, except for pride and patience.
Which explained why Lucas had left him alone.
There was a sound of recognition from Leo, preempting what Eric assumed would be another mindless round of ‘Oh how adorable’. Except when Leo started talking, the target of his attention this time appeared to be different (out of spite, Eric would assume).
“Hey, it’s your cousin!”
“For the last time,” Eric snapped. “I don’t have a-”
Wait. This was a thread from earlier, a loose end Eric had forgotten in favor of the massive struggle of staying alive and minimizing property damage. Cousin, when had Leo mentioned a-?
“That son of a bitch.”
“Hey,” the new red ranger began, frowning. “What’s the-?”
“Why is there a hole in my ceiling?” Eric snarled, turning his full rage on the rookie. He understood now that Leo was definitely a hopeless cause when it came to answering that question (Eric’s residual frustrations with the brunette revolved more around the stupid chase through his workplace than anything else), but this guy had to know.
The newest red paused, looking oddly composed despite the teammate settled across his shoulders in a fireman’s carry or, you know, despite being eight seconds away from a strangling because Eric was not above alternative interrogation methods.
He couldn’t shrug, but the look on his face said he wanted to. “Choobo,” he said at last.
“Choobo?” Eric repeated slowly, ensuring he hadn’t messed up the pronunciation. Or that he wasn’t crazy, or that maybe someone else could confirm this was a made up word so he could get on to the throat strangling.
“The green guy?” the ninja continued. “Not very good at anything, really. But he likes explosions.”
Somehow, through his fury, Eric recalled a monster matching that description back in the parking garage before everything had gone completely to hell.
“Oh, I remember him,” Leo said, because he probably knew Eric didn’t particularly feel like listening to him now, and that was when Leo felt his call the strongest. “Mystery solved.”
“Good,” the red ranger said.
Eric thought there would be more, thought there might perhaps be an obligation for more, really, but the new kid seemed to have decided his job was done here and turned to leave, making his slow journey back towards his team.
“Are you seriously walking away?” Eric snapped, unable to properly process this.
“Think of it as trudging,” the kid called. Across his back, the first kid’s – the brunette spazz, home invader – head rolled listlessly to the side in a lazy nod. Like he had to get a last word in too.
“Stay away from my house!” Eric yelled after him, feeling that it should at least be stated on principle.
Honestly, what was it about his home that attracted unwanted invasions?
The kid didn’t bother replying after that, or if he had it was drowned out by the matching snickers of Leo, Rocky, and Jumpsuit (the betrayer). Adam and Lucas may be been involved too, but at least Carter stood strong. There was also a chance he had fallen asleep while standing, but Eric took support where he could.
“What did I miss?”
“Basic small talk,” Eric grumbled, turning an eye to Wes’ appearance. The blond had been busy wrangling the Silver Guardians into forming a perimeter, cordoning off streets that were too damaged to be traversed by any vehicles and blocking off the ones that weren’t to keep the press out. They could still do that as the area was considered too dangerous for the general public, but once they got to the more easily accessible roads they would be fair game, same as anyone else.
“We’re gossiping!” Leo chirped.
“That’s good,” Wes said. “That’s…” He trailed off, eyes going unfocused as he stared at some vague point over Leo’s shoulder, and then he was back again. “That’s great Leo.”
“What the hell is wrong with you guys?” Eric asked, bumping Carter’s shoulder to keep the guy from falling to the ground in an unconscious heap. “You haven’t been out for as long as we have, but you’re about to keel over.”
“I think Kai has some theories about that,” Leo said, and there was that smile, that perpetual smile, but his eyes were serious.
“Angela too,” Carter muttered, rubbing one of his gloved hands against his eyes. “But that’s all for later. What’s the final count of who needs to go to the hospital?”
“Rocky,” Adam said, eyes narrowing in thought. “Kim. The ninjas.”
“Joel,” Carter said. “I think he sprained his knee.”
“And Trip,” Lucas added.
“And the rest is just scrapes and bruises?” Adam asked, focusing on Carter.
“Exhaustion aside, yes,” the brunette said with a slow nod.
Eric put out a hand to steady him when it almost looked like he wouldn’t be able to recover from that small action.
“Then that’s…” Adam closed his eyes, counting. “Assuming their whole team is going.” ‘Them’ being the rookies. “That’s ten.”
“Two of them are already on their way over,” Leo said, and for once the smile seemed to slip from his features. “Justin and Trip have the others.”
“Then that means we just need to focus on getting Kim, Rocky, and Joel over there, along with some people to watch over them.”
”Uninjured personnel are retreating to your place,” Eric murmured, catching Wes up on the missed plans.
“Limiting risk for exposure.” Wes nodded. “Smart.”
“Knock it off with the flirting, lovebirds,” Leo cheered. “Some of us have lunches they want to keep down.”
“Ah, lunch,” Lucas groaned, head rolling back. “Why did you have to bring up food?”
“Because he’s an ass,” Jumpsuit drawled, looking up at his team leader with narrowed eyes. “Only you would taunt us so.”
Leo was cheerfully unrepentant. “Hey, if I have to suffer-”
“Remember you’re hungry,” Eric corrected.
“Then we all-”
“I’ll see about getting food sent to the house,” Wes decided, cutting off the bickering with a tired, but fond, grin. It looked good on him. A lot of stuff looked good on Wes, but that in itself was an especially relieving sight. “Now let’s start figuring out who’s good for driving where, and how many cars we’ll need.”
“Sir, yes sir,” Rocky grumbled, managing sarcasm even half-way to unconscious.
Wes sent him an exasperated glare, and Eric thought that looked good on him too.