Ray, Gaby, Gunn, Alcott, Lorent, and TransGenics are mine.
This is part of a trilogy, which is a sequel to A Year of Time, based on the Time Force series, and takes place a year later.
It should be considered AU, some details are different from the series. (The future Rangers are from two hundred years in the future, Trip and Katie are mutants, etc.)
The trilogy consists of The Other Side, this story, and Time Over. Yes, Jen's in this one, especially in later chapters.
Some readers may be upset by a certain turn of the plot (or two) - all I can say is, never give up!
These stories are meant for non-fans as well as fans and also intended to be able to stand alone, therefore there is an annoying amount of recapping and description in early chapters -- sorry.
Rated PG-13 : Mild sexuality; harsh language, strong violence.
Please review, authors live for feedback. Constructive criticism is welcome.
Wes Collins crouched behind a crate, trying to get a look at the enemy while not being seen. Three other Silver Guardians were beside him, blasters in hand. They were in a Bio-Lab drug warehouse, a vast building, packed with storage cartons and shipping crates like the one providing them shelter. It was night, and there was only the dim interior lighting to see by. Maybe a good thing, since the thieves couldn't see well either.
He peered around the side of the crate, watching dark forms swarming over the supplies. They were going after the narcotics, of course, the most valuable drugs. They didn't seem to know they were being watched. The silent alarms had summoned Wes and the other Guardians, and they were still in the process of moving in.
He looked to the side, where he could see other small groups of navy blue uniformed Guardians quietly moving from one hiding spot to another. After a few moments he spotted another red beret, like his own, on a dark head several yards away. He waited until Eric Myers, his partner and co-commander, looked his way, and exchanged a nod with him.
They eased upward, along with the others, resting their arms on top of the crates, steadying their aim. Wes looked at his partner again. Eric jerked his head in the direction of the thieves and looked expectant.
Wes sighed and took a deep breath. Then he shouted as loudly as he could. "Silver Guardians! Drop your weapons or we will be forced to shoot!"
The thieves jumped and stared for an instant. Then they were scrambling for cover, and using their weapons. The Guardians ducked as bullets flew, and responded with a blaze of blaster fire.
Wes looked in Eric's direction again. The situation was dangerous and neither wanted to allow their troops to be injured, not when they had a way to prevent it. He saw Eric raise his left arm, which had a device like a large watch strapped to the wrist, and nod. He raised his own arm, which bore a similar device -- a morpher -- and tapped a button on it.
A moment of brilliant light enveloped him, sending a familiar surge of excitement through his mind and body, heightening his senses and leaving him strengthened and energized. In a moment he stood, no longer dressed in the navy blue uniform, red beret, and equipment of a Silver Guardians commander. Now he was wearing the form-fitting red and white helmeted suit of a Red Time Force Power Ranger. He swung up his arm again and pressed another button on the device. A blaster -- more powerful than the Guardians' blasters -- materialized in his hand. He knew the extra-dimensional machinery of the morpher had converted it from its hiding place in subspace into the normal, three-dimensional universe.
Behind his cover, Eric had undergone a similar transformation, becoming the Quantum Power Ranger. His suit was a darker version of Wes's, red and black, with jagged edges between the colors instead of straight. His blaster, the Quantum Defender, was larger and more powerful than Wes's, and holstered on his hip. He drew it now and stood up.
Both men leaped onto the crates they had been crouching behind. Wes felt bullets impact him, but they were no more than an annoyance while he was protected by the Ranger suit. Together they jumped to the floor and charged forward, targeting the thieves and picking off several as they ran forward. Wes had his blaster set on non-lethal power and knew Eric had done the same.
In a moment they were in the midst of their enemies, quickly stunning as many as they could. The thieves erupted in a confusion of shouting and running, breaking from cover, which allowed the Guardians to hit more of them. The others fell back. As Wes and Eric pursued, two men suddenly popped up from cover, between them supporting a formidable-looking weapon, almost like a small blaster cannon. As the two Rangers paused momentarily, they opened fire.
A blast of energy struck them, much more powerful than the Guardians' blasters or their own. They both had leaped aside at the last moment and avoided the full impact, but Wes could feel it, a painful shock through his body that threw him to the floor. With a quick glance he saw that Eric was already rolling back to his feet, and quickly pushed himself up. They both ducked behind the nearest objects and began to exchange energy bolts with the enemy as they tried to target them again.
Taking a moment to look around, Wes saw that the blasts from the cannon were inflicting heavy damage on the warehouse, and endangering his men. Even as he took a breath to order them back, he heard Eric shout, "Fall back! Take cover!" A moment later his morpher beeped, the sound almost inaudible through the noise, but his helmet tuned it in. Through the Ranger communicator, he heard Eric's voice.
"Wes. Try to circle around them. Hit them from behind. I'll cover you."
"Got it." He eased back, and dashed for the next crate that offered concealment while Eric intensified his fire. In less than a minute he had worked his way to a spot where he could see the men using the blaster cannon, still facing toward Eric. He aimed carefully and with two quick shots dropped both of them.
"Lay down your weapons!" he shouted. The rain of bullets faltered, and stopped. He saw hands start to go up, and a few of the thieves stood cautiously. He got up and walked into the open, heading for them.
"Wes!" he heard Eric's shout, just as he saw one of the surrendering men drop his hands and grab a weapon from the back of his belt. He had time to see that it was a blaster, not a gun, before it fired at him. The energy struck him, a powerful blast, hard enough to knock him down and leave him breathless. It was too much for his suit, coming so soon after the assault from the blast cannon it drained the power from his morpher. He felt a painful electric shock sensation and saw warping light as his suit disappeared, leaving him again in uniform.
Weakened by the forcible demorph and unable to move for the moment, he looked up, seeing that Eric had blasted the man who had attacked him. But the remaining thieves were running, some of them using their guns again. Slowly he raised himself to his knees, determined to help, and drew his Guardian blaster. But his reflexes were still slow, he couldn't aim fast enough. And he couldn't move to safety.
He felt something hit the right side of his chest like a hard punch. As he tried again to get up, a dizzying, sickening sensation ran through him and he fell to a sitting position, supporting himself on his hands as burning pain blossomed. In shock, he looked down to see blood rapidly soaking the cloth of his uniform. The light around him suddenly started to seem too bright and thin, the sounds receded and became tinny. His head whirled nauseatingly.
Forcing himself to focus, he saw the Guardians break from cover and pursue the thieves. Eric was running ahead and had already accounted for most of them, and it only took a few more moments before they were on their knees, hands in the air, with the Guardians handcuffing them, Eric covering them with his blaster.
"Sir, you're hurt." Wes felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up to see Steven Miller, their second-in-command, next to him, his face concerned. Two more Guardians came and bent over him.
A moment later Eric was there, pushing them aside to kneel in front of Wes. He raised his morpher and spoke the command to demorph, changing back to his uniformed self with a shimmer of light. His face was anxious, maybe even fearful. He ripped Wes's uniform over the wound, quickly assessing it, then gripped his arms.
"You should have stayed under cover."
"Yeah. Too late now." Wes tried to smile. He coughed, painfully, and saw blood appear on his hand. Fear abruptly ran through him.
"Just take it easy. The paramedics will be here in a minute." Eric looked up at Miller. "Steve, take charge. Make sure the ambulance crew gets in here fast. Was anyone else hurt?"
"I'll check." Miller moved off at a run.
Eric shifted to Wes's side and put an arm around his back, supporting him. Wes leaned on him, closed his eyes and clenched his jaw, biting back a groan. The pain was intensifying, each breath sending a sharp stab into his chest. The rational part of his mind knew he had at least one broken rib, probably a punctured lung.
"Sir." Miller's voice, sounding distant. "Two more men were hit by gunshots. Both minor."
Eric's voice, tight with anger and concern. "Take care of them. I can't leave Wes."
Wes drifted, his consciousness shrinking to pain and voices that seemed to come from an increasing distance. It was becoming hard to breathe. He felt Eric's arm tighten around him and heard him again.
"Wes. Hang on. You'll be all right." He tried to nod.
Then there were more people, more voices, hands touching him and moving him. Fresh pain, this time making him cry out aloud as someone did something to the side of his chest. But afterwards he could breathe a little more easily. A blur of light, noise, and motion as he was lifted onto something he knew must be a stretcher and carried out into the night. A moment later he was inside an ambulance, more people working over him, exchanging rapid comments, most of which he didn't understand. Within what seemed like seconds, the rear doors slammed and they started to move.
Eric's face bent over him. "Wes?" He tried unsuccessfully to smile. "Don't crap out on me now. Your father would kill me."
"You'll have to tell him yourself. You're not going anywhere, I won't let you." Eric's dark eyes narrowed, and his hard face was harsh with determination. In that moment Wes could believe that if Death dared to show his face, Eric would kick him in the balls and send him running.
He smiled hazily. "Tough guy," he mumbled. He felt his eyes closing. Everything was getting dark. That's such a cliché, but it's true, he thought vaguely, as he finally passed out.
Eric watched Wes's eyes close with a feeling close to panic. "What's wrong?" he shouted at the paramedics. They bent over their patient, ignoring him until one of them glanced up.
"He's stable for now," the man said. "We'll be at the hospital in a few minutes."
Eric stared at Wes's face, normally handsome and smiling, now pale and drawn with pain, his dark blond hair streaked with blood where he had brushed a hand over it. Eric swallowed. Absently he wondered how it had happened that he cared about this man, someone he had actively disliked up until less than two years ago. Yet he and Wes had learned to trust and depend on each other, and had slowly become friends, closer friends than Eric was really comfortable with. He didn't like the feeling of caring for someone else. It made him vulnerable.
The ambulance slowed and stopped, the rear doors opening to reveal the hospital emergency room entrance. Eric scrambled out and helped to lift the stretcher, then followed as they went inside at a run, blinking in the lights, so bright after the darkness outside. The other wounded Guardians were being brought in too, and he stopped briefly to reassure himself that their injuries weren't serious. Then he hurried after Wes, following until the doctors took over and ordered him out of the trauma room. He stood outside the observation window, trying to follow what was going on, Miller and several other Guardians joining him there.
Turning away from the window, Eric pulled out his cell phone. Someone had to tell Wes's father, and it was his responsibility. He dialed Alan Collins' private home number from memory.
"Hello." The voice was curt, with an undertone of irritation. Collins was usually busy, even at home, and disliked interruptions.
"Mr. Collins. Sir." Eric paused.
"Eric. What is it?" A touch of concern now.
"Alan." Eric never used Collins' first name in the context of their working relationship, only at the Collins home on social occasions. But it seemed right now.
"What's wrong?" There was sharp alarm in his voice.
"It's Wes. There was a robbery at the main drug warehouse. There was a fight. He's been hurt."
Silence for a second. "How bad?"
"I don't know. He was shot. He's unconscious. There's a punctured lung. They're working on him now. We're at Silver Hills Hospital."
More silence. Then quietly, "I'll be there as fast as I can. Don't let... anything happen."
Eric closed his eyes, and heard the phone disconnect. He went back to the window. They were still swarming over Wes, which at least meant he was alive. Then they were disconnecting instruments, and quickly wheeling the stretcher out. He moved to intercept them, and one of the doctors cut him off, pulling him aside. He resisted the impulse to yank his arm away.
"What are you doing?" he demanded. "Where are you taking him?"
"We're taking him upstairs to surgery, to repair that lung and remove the bullet. No guarantees, but it looks like he'll make it." The doctor smiled briefly before running toward the elevators. Eric watched him go, feeling himself sag with relief.
The next hours seemed to crawl, as Eric waited, reassured Collins when he arrived and found a doctor for him to talk to, took time out to check on the two other wounded Guardians, then waited some more. Finally they looked up to see the same doctor approaching, a smile on his face. They stood to meet him.
"Surgery went well," the doctor told them. "He's going to be fine. We expect a full recovery. He'll be back on his feet in a couple of weeks, but he'll have to take it easy for a while."
"Don't worry about that," Collins said. "I'll take care of him." He looked at Eric with a smile. "Whether he likes it or not."
Eric smiled too and patted Collins' arm. "The other Guardians will want to know. Excuse me." He walked a few steps away and called Miller on his cell phone, quickly telling him the news. Then he walked back and sat next to Collins, noticing for the first time how uncomfortable the seats in the small waiting area were.
"Eric, how did it happen?"
"It was a robbery. The silent alarms went off, and we responded. We got in, got close, behind cover, and challenged them. They fought. They seemed to only have guns. Wes and I morphed, and went after them. Then all of a sudden they pulled out this blaster cannon... I've never seen anything like it. They almost got us, but Wes took them out. They started to surrender, but one of them had another blaster, a strong one, as strong as the Quantum Defender I think. He got Wes. Didn't hurt him, but he demorphed. Then they started shooting again and he got hit by a bullet." He shook his head slightly at the memory.
"Blasters better than ours? Where did they get weaponry like that?"
"That's what I'd like to know. They were as good as anything the Time Force police had. We captured both blasters, maybe we'll know more after Mike Zaskin takes a look at them."
Collins looked thoughtful. "Remember that mind control device TransGenics used on Wes? That was advanced, too. And the sisters said they had other things like it. Raises an unpleasant possibility."
Eric sighed. The thought had already occurred to him. A few months before, a rival company called TransGenics -- or T-Gen -- had used an electronic device to drive Wes almost insane. He had been saved by five identical sisters, mutants who had escaped from a laboratory where T-Gen had created them as an experiment in developing mental powers. They had been unable to explain how T-Gen had such advanced technology, both the mind-control device and the treatment used to mutate them.
Combined with what he had seen today, it raised a very unpleasant possibility indeed. "You're thinking those things are from the future. Someone's using a timeship to bring them here."
"I'm afraid we have to consider it."
They were silent for a few minutes. Eric found his tired mind drifting to thoughts of a particular one of the sisters. They had had a brief and disastrous romance, which ended when he found out she had been using her own power on him, to attract him to her. They had wanted information from him, before they had decided to trust Bio-Lab with their secrets. He had thought he was in love with her. And he could still feel some of the overwhelming fury, pain, and humiliation he had felt when he knew the truth, and the guilt of what he had almost done to her in revenge. Now she was gone, along with her sisters, to a new home, but not before the two of them had made peace. With her power's influence over him now gone, he was starting to be able to think of her without pain. Almost.
With an effort he roused himself and turned to Collins. "You should get home. I'll stay here."
Collins smiled. "No way. You go home. You look like you could use some rest. And I'm sure you have better things to do."
Looking at the older man's worried face, Eric asked, "Is there any way you're going to leave tonight?"
A smile, tired but resolute. "He's my kid. I'm not moving until I can see him."
"Okay." Eric leaned back, trying to get comfortable.
"Eric. Go home. You'll have a lot to take care of tomorrow, and we need you rested."
"You don't mind if I leave?"
"I'll make it an order if I have to."
"I guess they wouldn't let me in to see him anyway. I'm not family."
Collins smiled again. "I'll make sure they let you in tomorrow. I'll tell them you're his brother."
Eric almost laughed. "Yeah, we look so much alike." He stood up. "Okay. Call me if anything happens. I'll be back in the morning." He laid a hand briefly on Collins' shoulder and turned away.
Jen stood at her window, looking out at her favorite view, the city stretching out beyond the slight rise her apartment building stood on. She smiled, her eyes following the graceful sweep of towering buildings, reaching for the sky. Her face became more serious as the memory came back to her of the view from the old clock tower. The view she had seen daily for a year, Silver Hills spread below her, just as beautiful.
With the skill of long practice, she pushed the memory away. But today it refused to go. Instead another memory surfaced. A face, one she had loved very much. Wes, smiling as he had usually been smiling. The same face as Alex. She smiled, slightly and ruefully. Once Wes's face had reminded her of Alex. Now it was the other way around.
She knew why the memory was so vivid today. There had been a ripple in the timestream. Just an indication, for now. But, combined with the minor disturbances they had detected a few months ago, it meant something was happening. Jen frowned at the thought. If someone was interfering with the past again... It could be any time in history that had been affected. Somehow, though, she knew. It was two hundred years ago. And it involved Wes.
Resolutely she turned away from the window and started her daily routine, finding a clean uniform and getting dressed for another day at work. He was part of the past, the past she was sworn to protect, even at the cost of never seeing him again.