Chapter 6: Calm Before the Storm
Hank Cranston was a quietly proud man.
He'd experienced success throughout his life; praise for his intelligence and admiration for his 'brilliance'. Most things came easy, and most things he'd wanted, he'd managed to get somewhere along the line.
He was lucky.
Throwing away his life for science, however, and there wasn't much underneath. Without it, the only things he had were his two sons. They were something that he was equally proud of, and the only good thing that happened to him outside his world of gadgetry and formulas.
With every year that they got older, he'd found himself closer to them both. With the death of his wife, the only woman he'd ever truly felt love for, it was only natural that they would all come together. Although not always outwardly expressive in their feelings toward one and other, Hank loved his children and they all cared for each other in their own private way.
That's why he never wanted them mixed up in any of this. God, how was he supposed to know? Had he known, he never would have gotten involved, but now it was too late.
He always promised he'd protect his youngest son.
As Hank walked though the tunnels of his work, their eyes all looked at him with a strange sense of smugness. Their gazes unnerved Hank. He was angered by the whispered voices that promised secrets he was now excluded from hearing. He was an outcast now, just like the nine teenagers were.
That was the horror of being a parent of a power ranger.
A figured walked into the small office, a confidence clear in his stride that never used to be there.
"Hank, it looks as though Mr. Scott and Miss. Hart are deteriorating rapidly and I do not know how long I can fend off their persistent questioning."
Hank glanced at Agent Robert Johns. He'd worked with the Canadian for nearly half a decade, and had always been drawn to his desire for science and passion for extraterrestrial exploration.
But Hank didn't believe his words anymore. He had to stand up against them.
Hank cleared his voice. "Robert, maybe you'll get more cooperation from them, if you enlighten them on what you know. They are smart kids, all of them- I'm sure they'll be keen to assist us if we tell them the truth."
Hank heard him almost snigger. "They're practically aliens, Hank- we don't negotiate with aliens, remember?"
"My son is not an alien!" Hank's words sputtered. "They are human beings. I want them treated no differently than anyone else. Don't you forget the sacrifice those kids made to save this planet."
Robert sat down in the chair opposite him, almost quiet for a moment. "I just think that there is more to what they know…I doubt very much if we ask them to tell us about their ranger days that they'll share and tell."
"That investigation has been closed for years- surely the only thing that should matter now is their well-beings?" Hank argued.
There was a sigh. Here came the blow.
"There's been a change of plans-."
"Don't do this to me, Robert," Hank cut him off bluntly, as he swiftly leant over the table between them. "That's my kid in there."
"I'm sorry Hank, but I'm going to have to ask you to stand down from this case…it's become too personal-."
Hank stood up, angrily adjusting his glasses, before he pointed a rigid hand at him. "You will not keep my from my son, you hear me? I've been part of this since the start-."
"And, you don't know shit about it!" Robert lashed out, tossing a file toward him.
The folder sprawled open, and pages leapt into the air, falling messily around the tiny room as the two men stared each other down.
Hank tried to calm his breath. His azure gaze trickled over the mess, until something caught his eye, and he leaned down to scoop up a lone page beside his feet.
The words didn't make sense. It was a report, like the many Hank had written in his time as an agent for the IBI, yet it didn't mean anything to him. The words, they were brutal- they were shocking.
He read them again.
His pulse was quickening, the world around him falling away as he realized for the first time that he had been used and deceived through the one passion he'd lived for.
Everything was so much worse than he'd predicted. He'd been fooled and played.
He tried to swallow the saliva in his mouth. "What is this?"
No reply. Hank glanced up, frowning as he noticed Robert was no longer there. He turned his head quickly to the side, just in time as he felt the cold metal pressed against the side of his temple.
The room was strangely quiet. A reunion between friends, who were closer than any other, should have been filled with gossip and friendly boasting, but the situation in the waiting room couldn't have been any different.
It was almost icy cold.
Hours had ticked by, and not much was said, except for the occasional whispering between certain pairs, and a frequent exchange in empty glances. Aisha and Katherine were talking in the corner; Jason and Tommy sat beside each other in silence. Adam would occasionally talk to whoever caught his glance, while Kimberly and Trini both sat on their own, choked in their own grieving for the lost black ranger.
Billy…didn't really seem like Billy, not at least the one Rocky had seen for his 21st birthday. The brilliant young man was lacking everything he'd once been.
He was pretty much a zombie.
Of course, Rocky hadn't been there when he'd apparently had a run in with Tommy over the death of Zack. Adam had mentioned it to him briefly, but even with a lack of detailed description, the former red ranger could see something had definitely happened.
How quickly a group of friends could be changed.
No one wanted to talk, which Rocky was inwardly pissed off about, but he bit his tongue. Now that it was more than clear they'd all fell into a massive trap, it was almost as though thought processes just weren't happening. How a group of intelligent, bright people could succumb to such hopelessness was enough to make Rocky angry.
He sighed at the thought and glanced down at his watch. Its expensive silver band was the only thing that glistened in the gloomy lighting from above. It was just after four in the afternoon, and he was getting tired and very sore from sitting in the one position.
He walked around occasionally. He'd even gone to the adjoining restroom more times than necessary, just so he had something to do. Despite the surrealness of his predicament, Rocky even found himself thinking of such things as his new ex-girlfriend and his presentation for work the following week.
God, he wasn't going to just sit around in a mess.
Rocky began to fiddle aimlessly with the buttons on his jacket, as he heard a noise come from outside the constricting room. Footsteps echoed from the hallway, each pound trickling closer in their direction.
Tommy and Jason were quickly on their feet. Rocky frowned and exchanged a glance with Adam, as they all seemed to wait.
It was probably dinner. At least he hoped so, going by the gurgling from his stomach.
The knob turned slowly; carefully. There was nothing threatening in its movement, except for when the door finally flung open in one jerking sweep. The hinges screamed for mercy, but the creaking was instantly drowned as feet trampled through the door at an incomprehensible speed.
Everything became a crazy, messed-up daze.
"Put your hands up and get down on your knees!" a voice hollered so loud, it was almost deafening.
But, no one waited for them to follow the instructions, nor did any of the former rangers have a moment to process them. Men in protective uniforms grabbed at them all, pulling them to their feet, and dragging them hopelessly out of the room. Rocky was convinced that his quick feet to their legs would stop them, but he couldn't feel his limbs, let alone move them to defend himself.
There were maybe four holding onto him. Damn, they had the grip of an iron clamp.
Noise was everywhere. Arms and legs were kicking and moving, but everything became hopeless. Tommy and Jason's insistent growling was overcome by shrieking and cries for help from some of the girls.
Rocky felt his legs give way as they dragged him into the hallway, and without the use of his arms to break his fall, he fell awkwardly to his knees. The men didn't stop, though, and continued to pull him along harshly without any care to the fact that the jagged concrete floor was ripping at the skin of his knees.
He let out a high-pitched groan, before his tired head gave way and he lowered his face to the ground. His eyes dropped aimlessly behind him, and he felt his entire expression drop further at the sight of his friends' desperation.
"Let us go!" Katherine cried out at least a dozen times, as he watched her struggle to maintain her stance.
He could see Aisha bravely attempting to fight back beside the former pink ranger, but her insubordination only forced the uniformed men to fling her harshly to the ground, before they threw themselves on top of her and dragged her along the floor.
Rocky could feel his shoulders shudder at the impact as the terrible trip down the hall continued. He tried several times to call out, to at least shout his worth, but the words never sounded. He was breathing way too hard to even consider speaking, and he began to worry that his stomach ulcer would end up bursting after such an event.
His body was not prepared when the dragging suddenly came to a grinding halt, and the four sets of arms carelessly shoveled his limp body through a tight entrance way. Rocky scrambled to his knees as he finally felt his body free, but by the time he had managed to reach his feet, it was too late.
The cell door was already shut.
"What the hell is this?" he shouted angrily, as he watched the last of his former teammates be thrown into similar cages.
Kimberly was the last one to be dragged toward the small collection of cells. It was clear the three men were struggling to pull her along as she managed to briefly free her left leg and catch one of them in the groin region. He screamed out in agony and even Rocky cringed inwardly at the sight.
The heavily dressed men flocked to the scene and the mob managed to shovel Kimberly into Rocky's cell. Rocky did his best to fight back, pushing back on Kimberly in an effort to propel them back out the door, but the pressure of six grown men was too much, and they both powerlessly fell backward.
"What is going on?" Jason's voice boomed loudly from the cell next-door, as the men all began away from their cells. "You can't just leave us here!"
Rocky lowered his head in his hand, unable to find the strength or purpose to stand up again.
23 Valley Ave, Angel Grove
Unbeknownst to the horrors his daughter was enduring beneath the green and lush hills of Angel Grove, Phillip Hart was busily spending his Saturday the way he had the previous weekend- Working on his car in the garage of his single story home, with the small television blaring from nearby.
He wasn't really watching the television; truthfully, he never really did have much of an interest for such things. Or time. A lot of people really did just sit and zone out, but Phillip was complacent enough in his life to fill it with things that he found more worthwhile.
From beneath the open bonnet, a head quickly popped out. His teenage son had grease rubbed into his flushed cheek, but didn't seem to notice.
"Try and make her purr," he commented with pride in his eyes.
Phillip turned the key in the ignition. The antique car painfully attempted to turn over, but quickly began to splutter, until it drowned into a low murmur.
The bonnet dropped closed and Phillip matched his son's exhausted expression. They had spent the past four Saturdays working on the tired machine, and Phillip was starting to think he had made a mistake when he'd decided that refurbishing the vehicle would be a relaxing and enjoyable hobby.
Phillip hopped out of the driver's seat. "Feel like some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner?"
"Sure dad," he squirmed his face a little. "Just make sure you lay off the jelly a bit on mine…last time I thought I was gonna choke on whole strawberries."
Phillip slapped his son on the head, ruffling his hair, before they headed into the small kitchen. The benches were covered with unnecessary clutter, and the moment Phillip started on the lazy dinner, he thought he should probably get around to putting it away.
Apparently his son thought the same thing. "You really need to get a girlfriend," he joked, before his face drew serious. "Okay, scratch that- I don't want to even think about that."
Phillip sniggered at his son's mischievous comment. "Turn that television down, please."
Ryan sighed and lazily dragged himself off the stool. It still stunned Phillip just how lazy teenage boys were. Ryan was sixteen, and yet he still did everything in his power to get out of helping out, unless of course it came with an incentive. Surely Phillip hadn't been like that at his age, right?
"Oh wait, dad, they've got that show on…" Ryan laughed a little, and then threw his head over his shoulder. "Check out this- man!" he hooted.
Phillip narrowed his gaze. "Turn that rubbish off."
"Now," Phillip ordered, as he carelessly spilled Jelly on the bench. He grabbed the cloth and quickly cleaned it up, before returning his attention back to disciplining his son. "Put the news on."
Ryan groaned exaggeratedly. "There's never anything interesting to watch…" he complained.
Phillip sighed loudly. "It's just starting…I would like to see what the courts decided on the Man Hackle trial."
The television swiftly flew through a mass of channels, before it settled on the telltale tune of the opening news report. Phillip passed Ryan a stack of sandwiches, before he flopped down on the two-seater couch and arranged himself comfortably.
The first two news stories were much the same, discussing the recent developments in town square. Phillip didn't really agree with all the money the local government wasted on such renovations, especially on a city that didn't need it. Some said they were used to spending the money following years of devastating alien attacks, but that was half a decade ago now.
Besides, there was such a thing as going overboard or becoming obsessed with perfection. Angel Grove was losing all character by transforming itself into almost a 'display' metropolis.
"I reckon they should say to all the people that left Angel Grove during the attacks, that they can't move back now…that sucks that they get the same benefits as we do now," Ryan commented.
Phillip was about to discipline him on the slang, but decided to forget it. "It's good for the economy. Insurance rates are at an all-time low, and everyone wants to be us- we should feel privileged," he shared, although privately he didn't really agree with his statement.
Ryan raised an eyebrow. "Whatever," he said with attitude.
The pretty news anchor suddenly stopped mid report, however and her eyes nervously moved around before she quickly attempted to compose herself.
"Our apologies, viewers, but we've just received a disturbing report. Details are sketchy at this time, but police have confirmed that three male citizens have been shot down in a shocking altercation on the outskirts of Angel Grove. Police have said they have the situation under control, but are currently in the process of obtaining the two individuals responsible. As soon as we have more details, we will update you on this unfortunate incident."
"Hey…maybe the news isn't so bad, after all," Ryan joked.
Phillip frowned. "You shouldn't take enjoyment from other's pain."
Ryan rolled his eyes and took a bite of his last sandwich. "You are too serious, dad."
Suddenly, a sharp knock on the door echoed into the living room. Ryan jumped up, and nearly tossed his plate onto the couch, before running toward the door.
"I bet you that's Matt," he enthused, as he swung the door open.
Phillip was waiting to hear excited greetings and swapping of teenage gossip, but looked over his shoulder as he heard a much lowered, more mature voice greet his son.
"Dad…" Ryan's voice sounded strangely nervous.
Phillip wiped his hands on his pants and headed to the door, stopping short as the police officer on the other side lowered his hat.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Hart, my name is Officer Ford and this is my partner, Officer Moore. We were wondering if we might come in?"
"What is this about?" Phillip asked cautiously. He'd never had a run in with the law, except for the odd parking ticket in town.
"We were wondering if your daughter Kimberly may be staying with you at this time?"
Phillip's face drew confused. "My daughter is vacationing up north at the moment," he admitted. "She hasn't been home for two years…can I ask you why the police are looking for my daughter? Has her safety been threatened?"
The officer had That look on his aged face. "Mr. Hart, I would prefer not to discuss this with you in your doorway. We have reasons to believe that your daughter has been directly involved in a serious shooting incident just this afternoon and it's imperative that we speak with her immediately."
"Shooting incident?" Phillip's voice shook a little.
"She has been positively identified by over ten individuals as dispensing a firearm and shooting down two government officials-."
"My daughter is on the other side of the country!" Phillip raised his voice.
"We have records of your daughter flying into Angel Grove airport this morning. Her ticket was purchased alongside a Mr. Jason Scott, who was also involved in the incident this afternoon. We have several witnesses on the plane who witnessed Miss. Hart on that flight."
Phillip was speechless. It couldn't be possible, and yet somehow, it was real.
"The three men shot today all died from their wounds…I know this is extremely difficult, but the more assistance and cooperation you can offer us, the better the outcome will be for Kimberly."