AN: Funny story, got to feeling creative about two weeks ago. Thought I might end up working on this chapter more and finishing it early for the first time since I got my current job. Nope, ended up painting a bunch of my Warhammer miniatures that I've left unfinished for nearly a year. On the bright side though, my first squad of Dire Avengers is looking quite nice by my more-or-less amateur standards and the second is about halfway done. : )
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or Power Rangers.
Chapter 49, or The Trials and Tribulations of a Dancer in Love… Who is Also a Power Ranger…
Two days after the anticlimactic defeat of the Stone Canyon Beetles in the (not really) noble sport of broom ball, Harry found himself once more behind the snack bar counter in the Youth Center. It had been a fairly standard Friday, all things considered. School had let out about thirty minutes ago and the after-school crowed was starting to trickle in. As it was a Friday, the crowd would end up a bit bigger than otherwise as students celebrated the coming weekend, but Harry doubted it would be too much trouble.
Most of this was because Richie hadn't been scheduled to work that day, and so wouldn't be around to cause problems. This tactic had started the day before after Ernie left Harry to coach Richie on how to improve his methods when dealing with a large crowd. By the time Ernie had come down from his excitement over preserving the honor of his Youth Center, Richie had been practically buried under orders with no end in sight. The good natured man had signaled Harry and the two dove in to help the new guy, managing to get things back under control and keep the customers from getting angry.
This apparently annoyed Richie something awful as when Harry had tried to teach him more efficient ways and little tips and tricks for managing the snack bar solo, the teen had snapped at him and told him off. He had then proceeded to do various small things to try and get Harry into trouble. It started with him adjusting the heat on the flat top when Harry wasn't looking, causing the food atop it to be over or undercooked. Then he made similar changes to other devices behind the counter Harry worked with. Unplugging mixers or turning their dials up so they jumped into high gear when first turned on. Changing the temperature settings on the small popcorn machine Ernie had so that the corn wouldn't pop fast enough for customer demand. He even went so far as to poke holes in the bottoms of a few cups and loosen the lids on the salt and pepper shaker that Harry kept by the grill.
It was these last two that really tipped Ernie off that something was going wrong. Harry, of course, knew it was Richie from the start, if only because it was only the three of them behind the counter and Ernie wouldn't do that kind of thing. In any case, Ernie was more watchful by the time Richie had resorted to the prank that caused an entire batch of hamburgers to be ruined by an excessive amount of salt spilled onto them, meaning that Richie had to lay off.
After the disrupting teen had left, Harry explained to Ernie what had happened and the man confided in him that Richie had tried to blame each mistake/prank on Harry himself and promised to be on the lookout. If Richie was going to sabotage his coworkers like that, then there was no place for him on Ernie's payroll! Trick was, they had to catch him in the act or else he couldn't really fire him in good conscience. Internally cursing Ernie's overly trusting nature, Harry still nodded in agreement and tried to think of a way to help catch Richie in the act and finally get rid of the thorn in his side that he had become.
If Harry was lucky, then Ernie might even ban him from the Youth Center for a while. At least then he wouldn't be able to bug Trini whenever she was waiting for Harry's shift to end.
In any case, the day had been fairly standard so far. The sole real difference was that Bulk and Skull weren't currently causing any trouble. In fact, it seemed like they were being even more cautious than normal. The only interaction that Harry had had with them thus far that day was when they first came into the Youth Center and asked Ernie if he had seen their scent analyzing device that they had left behind the day of the broom ball game. When the man had told them no, they had slouched a bit and made their way to a table where they began speaking in whispers.
With Bulk and Skull apparently off their troublemaking game, the day was looking to be a rather fine one indeed. It wouldn't be too much longer until the other Rangers and Tommy arrived to begin their after school activities and classes for the Youth Center patrons. A few hours after that and Harry would be off work at which point he would probably spend his time hanging with the others while carefully avoiding Jason as much as possible to avoid setting off the Red Ranger and creating an awkward atmosphere for their mutual friends.
If he was really lucky, he and Trini might spend some time together, probably in the park as there wasn't much else to do in Angel Grove either teen was aware of and interested in, which would be a nice ending to an otherwise pleasantly uneventful day.
When fighting an unpredictable master of evil, one found it was the simple things that sometimes brought the most joy.
It was while sporting a detached sort of smile as he pondered this potential end to the day that Harry noticed Zack come in to the Youth Center. The teen looked rather less happy than usual, not having his usual bounce in his step and sporting a rather grim look on his face. This oddity snapped Harry out his fantasy of a peaceful end to a normal day as Zack caught sight of him, seemed to hesitate a moment, then firmed up his resolve as he stood straighter and walked up to the snack bar counter.
"Harry," Zack said with a nod while the Magi Ranger delivered a tray of food to the only other person currently standing at the counter. Convenient timing since it appeared that Zack had something on his mind if his still grim countenance was anything to go by.
"Zack," Harry returned the nod as he made quick work of cleaning off the flat top grill before turning to face his fellow Ranger. "What's up?"
Zack hesitated only a moment more before speaking. "Harry, I… I think I owe you an apology…"
Harry's mind began racing even as he spoke. "What did you do?" Despite the deadpan, if slightly teasing, tone he used, Harry couldn't really recall anything that Zack had recently done to raise his ire. Which led to the conclusion that something had happened during the school day that the Black Ranger felt needed to be apologized for before explaining what happened.
Zack's next words put paid to that theory, however. "It's not so much what I did as what I haven't been doing. I didn't believe you when you were talking about something going on between Kimberly and Tommy and how forgetful she was being and how strange it was… But you were right, man… you were so right…"
Harry internally groaned and made a quick scan across the Youth Center crowd, not spotting any of the other Rangers or Tommy just yet. "So what happened? I'm guessing it was something at school, yeah?"
Zack nodded. "Yeah, something happened alright, but not to Kimberly and Tommy. As far as I can tell, her ideas for getting around this forgetfulness are working out for her. No, man, what happened was that Angela cornered me today."
Harry's eyes went wide when he realized what Zack was talking about. In all of his scouting and, let's just face it, spying on his friends, he had mainly been focused on Kimberly and Tommy, because Tommy was really the main reason he was aware of the whole situation, and Billy and Marge, because they were together during Billy's Science Club turned study group.
But, aside from himself and Trini, those weren't the only relationships to exist amongst the Power Ranger teens. Zack and Angela had been an item for three months at this point and, according to those who had known him longer, Zack had rarely been happier than he was when in the presence of his long time crush. But with the whole strange phenomenon causing the Rangers to seemingly abandon/ignore most of the people they knew, including those they were dating, that relationship would have been in jeopardy too.
Harry really did feel like the lowest kind of person for overlooking his energetic friend's potential troubles simply because he hadn't thought of them at the time. Too distracted with the more obvious problems to devote any thought to much of anything else.
Zack saw his look of guilt and must have mistaken it for sympathetic shock as he nodded. "Yeah, she called me out on doing basically the exact same thing you were saying that Kimberly was doing to Tommy. I thought I was done for right there, man, I tell you. But then she says how sweet she thought it was that I was trying to help out my longtime friends with their issues so they could stay together."
Harry blinked a few times, one eyebrow quirked. "She basically accused you and gave you an out at the same time?"
Zack nodded, a trace of his typical happiness flashing in his eyes coupled with a kind of lovesick stare that he usually got when waxing eloquent on the subject of Angela.
Seriously, how had he forgotten about Zack's girlfriend?
Zack snapped out of his daze and continued his story. "Anyway, then she told me that, while it was a noble gesture and she could appreciate what I was doing, it was clear to everyone that whatever problems Kim and Tommy had been having was sorted now and she was tired of being ignored."
"Sounds like you dodged the bullet then," Harry said with another nod, idly grabbing a damp cloth and wiping down the counter as he spoke. He figured Ernie wouldn't mind if he stopped for a bit to speak to a friend, but he didn't want to give the man any reason to take Richie's accusations seriously.
Zack winced slightly, glancing over his shoulder before responding. "More or less, Harry. Problem is that now I'm taking her on a date tomorrow afternoon after the Field Day the school is having."
Harry just blinked. "And that's a problem because…?"
Zack shook his head. "Harry, what if I forget about it again? It took so long for me to convince Angela to just give me a chance, and she's been great! I've been living the dream, and whatever is going on could take it all away from me without me even noticing. Angela is not the kind of girl to give a guy another chance if I blow it like that, so this is it. If I forget again tomorrow, I'm toast."
Harry nodded, tossing the cleaning rag over his shoulder and into the sink. "So what are you doing to make sure you remember?" He paused for a moment before continuing. "Also, what Field Day?"
Zack winced again before answering. "That's… kinda why I'm here. I was hoping you would be able to help me keep the date…"
Harry just stared for a moment. "Alright…" he said slowly. "Can I ask why me?"
Zack shrugged. "Well, you know I'd normally go to Jason, but if this strange effect is messing with him too, then he's probably not the best bet. Same goes with Billy. I could ask Tommy, but he's been keeping himself kinda isolated except from you and Kim lately. Other than this last get together we had and the whole broom ball thing, I've barely seen him. Plus the whole guilt for not noticing or believing that there was a problem thing still applies."
Harry snorted, giving a teasing smile to the Ranger. "Good to know I was your last choice through process of elimination." When Zack only barely smiled, Harry decided to cut him some slack. "Alright, Zack, I'll see what I can do. If nothing else, I'll have Hedwig annoy you until you remember. Old bird is a romantic at heart, I think. But I don't think that it will be necessary in the end. Kimberly proved that the effect can be overcome with enough dedication, and where Angela is involved, you have nothing if not dedication."
Zack's face finally lit up in a true smile. "Thanks man…"
The two stood there smiling lightly for several moments before the atmosphere got a bit awkward. Before Zack could wander off, Harry reiterated his second question. "So, the Field Day?"
Equally happy for the change in subject, Zack started speaking again. "Oh yeah. It's an annual thing that the school does every year on the first weekend of Spring Break. A bunch of outdoor games and such. We usually do it in the park and the weather is supposed to be really nice tomorrow."
Harry was momentarily taken aback at the mention of Spring Break, but then mentally equivocated it to Easter Break and rolled with it. Then he thought again and swept his eyes over the crowd. "Wait, so today was the last day before Spring Break starts, a whole week off of school for all the students of Angel Grove, and the Youth Center isn't any busier than on any other Friday?"
Zack chuckled, his good nature returning in full with his earlier worries soothed by his friend's assurances. "That's how seriously some people take the annual Field Day, man. I bet most of them are resting up for the games."
"And I fully expect you to be there tomorrow, Harry." Ernie said, catching both Rangers by surprise as he stepped up next to the Magi Ranger. "When the weather is bad, we usually hold the games here, but since we're looking at clear skies and sunshine all day tomorrow the Youth Center will be closed until the games are over. I'm gonna be running a food table, but I should hope that you're gonna be with your friends."
Seeing Zack's agreement in his expression and knowing better than to argue with Ernie when he was this passionate about something, Harry nodded. He was sure Trini would be happy to know he was gonna be there at least. And if nothing else, it would certainly make it easier for him to remind Zack about his date with Angela.
"So, Zack." Harry said suddenly. "What are you planning on doing on this mandatory date of yours?"
Zack's expression went from zero to panic so fast that Harry couldn't help but laugh.
The next day, Harry did indeed meet up with the other Rangers and Tommy at Angel Grove Park for the aforementioned Field Day competition. The day was largely taken up with smaller games, including various track and field competitions like footraces and long and high jumps, as well as things like swimming competitions in the lake, martial arts tournaments, and even an archery contest for no adequately explained reasion. In addition to all this, there were also other sports competitions, with basketball, soccer, tennis, and even volleyball teams competing throughout the day.
Rather more varied than Harry had expected, but at least there was something for everyone.
As was to be expected, Jason and Tommy had signed up for the martial arts tournament. More surprising was Kimberly signing up for archery (though perhaps not as surprising to Harry and the Rangers as it would be to anyone else who knew her), while Billy, Zack, and Trini preferred to wait for the main event, not that any of them would tell Harry what that was.
No, those three preferred to watch the others, Trini and Harry spending most of the first few hours watching their fellow Rangers in their competitions and generally spending time together. Zack did something similar as he spent the entire day with Angela, though Harry was sure that a fair bit of their conversation was Zack trying to figure out what to do on their date. Billy stuck with Harry and Trini for a while before eventually wandering off on his own. Whether that had been because of a hint from Trini or Billy's own observations, or even just boredom, Harry didn't particularly know.
After several hours of various contests of skills (Jason and Tommy meeting in the timed final round of the tournament which resulted in a tie and Kimberly placing third in the archery contest), the main event of the Angel Grove High Field Day was finally upon them: The Oddball Games.
And no, the reason for this name was never explained.
When the finale of the day's festivities were announced, all interested parties gathered up and were placed on teams, each team having a sponsor. Surprisingly enough (or again, probably not too surprising all things considered) the five participating Rangers and Tommy all ended up on the Red Team that was sponsored/coached by Ernie. Unfortunately for Zack, Angela ended up on the Blue Team, sponsored/coached by the owner of a local pizzeria. Unfortunately for Angela, Bulk and Skull were also on that team.
In any case, the number of people looking to participate necessitated seven teams in total: black, pink, blue, yellow, red, green, and purple. The teams would then run through a sort of relay race/obstacle course. Each team got a certain number of points for being the first to complete each particular section of the course and the top two scoring teams would face off in a tug of war to decide who won.
For his part, Harry couldn't help but root for the purple team just a bit.
The course started off by deciding which team member would run which parts of the course. Once that was decided, the race began. It started off fairly straightforward with a straight up 100 yard dash. This part was taken by Billy on the Red Team who showed a surprising amount of agility and stamina, or at least more than was expected of him from those who didn't know of his alter ego, putting his team in first when he tagged off to Tommy.
The former Ranger's portion of the course was a series of hurdles culminating in a six foot high wall to scramble over, which he managed easily. By this point, the race had extended out some distance away from where Harry was watching, but the next leg brought the racers around a curve and back towards them as Kimberly ran said curve and then walked across a long wooden beam extended over a mud pit. Falling off would have not only given her team a penalty, but it would have completely ruined her outfit, so Harry had no doubt that Kimberly would be avoiding that at all costs.
The next leg was a sack race and it was here that the Rangers lost a bit of ground. This was entirely because Zack was the one chosen to run, or hop, for the Red Team, and in a surprisingly brilliant strategic move that was most likely complete luck, Bulk and Skull had sent in Angela for the Blue Team. At the distance he was at, Harry couldn't hear what they were saying, but with how Zack was hopping right by her side and spinning in place to hop backwards, Harry was sure Zack was trying to show off for his neglected feeling girlfriend. It was a strategy that ultimately backfired when Angela said something to him and casually bumped him with her hip, knocking the Black Ranger over in the middle of another curve and taking the lead from the Red Team in the process.
Far from looking upset, Zack quickly struggled back to his feet and hopped as fast as he could to make up for lost time, smiling the whole way.
When Zack finally reached the end of his leg, he tagged off to Jason who immediately took off on his part. Zack had managed to recover fast enough that the Red Team was only slightly behind the blue, but the end was all but a foregone conclusion at this point. This was entirely because the blue participant for this part of the race was Bulk and the obstacle required them to high-step through two sets of tires, one heading away from the crowd, and the next heading back after the final turn of the course. The difficulty in this came when Bulk, after a surprisingly successful run, managed to mistime his final step out of the final tire in the second set and fell flat on his face, letting Jason round the final corner of the course and catch up.
The final leg of the course was a human wheelbarrow, Trini taking the place of the wheelbarrow as Jason picked up her feet and she walked on her hands toward the finish line. Bulk stumbled up to Skull and all but upended him when he jerked the skinnier teen's feet into the air in his haste. By the time the rest of the teams reached the start of the last leg, Jason and Trini were over halfway to the finish line with Bulk and Skull just behind them, mostly because Bulk had forced Skull to scramble to keep himself from faceplanting as he moved as fast as he could to catch up with Jason and Trini.
In the last ten feet, Skull's arms finally gave out, sending his face into the grass and tripping up Bulk to fall on top of him just as Jason and Trini crossed the finish line. At this point, Bulk scrambled back to his feet and practically hauled Skull up, essentially carrying him across the line as well and taking second place for the Blue Team. This meant that it would be red vs blue in the tug of war.
"So, guys…" Harry said slowly, walking up to the preparing Red Team, all wearing their red vests over their normal clothes. "Not to be a downer or anything, but I think I need to point something out to you all…" He hated to have to bring this up, but his magical senses had been pinging the last several minutes and it needed to be addressed.
While Jason seemed ready to dismiss Harry and anything he had to say out of hand, the others at least turned to face him, it was Tommy that spoke though. "Go ahead, bro. What's up?"
Glancing around at the massive crowd that was getting more and more excited for the upcoming tug of war by the moment, Harry drew his wand with a flick of his wrist. Waving it subtly, Harry cast a pair of temporary wards around the group: a Muffliato and a weakened Notice-Me-Not.
Really more of a "Don't-pay-a-lot-of-attention-to-this-place" as opposed to a "Nothing-Here-IGNORE-ME!" It might be odd if the entire Red Team suddenly disappeared to everyone's senses. At the very least they'd probably be disqualified.
With his protections against eavesdropping in place, Harry took a deep breath before speaking. "I just wanted to remind you guys that five of you are experiencing unexpected bursts of super powers whenever you get excited. You know, the whole increased strength because of stronger Power unless you keep yourselves calm and/or don't get carried away…"
Almost at once, the five Rangers seemed to get what Harry was suggesting. While the competition thus far had been fairly tame, mostly because Bulk and Skull had been too busy failing at most everything in their parts of the obstacle course to cause problems, a tug of war was just the kind of situation where unintended desperation could lead to them drawing on their extra Power and getting inexplicably stronger. Harry really couldn't be sure if they were more worried about the fact that it would technically be cheating or revealing their secrets, but he knew they were all affected by his statement.
The reactions amongst the Rangers were rather easy to read. Billy had almost immediately got a thoughtful look on his face, no doubt crunching numbers and running through all sorts of theories and information inside his head. Kimberly began looking worried, something that Tommy immediately notices as he rested a hand on her shoulder in comfort. Zack flinched when he realized what Harry was suggesting before getting a thoughtful look on his face. Trini looked just as worried as Kimberly, but she also had a bit of a hurt look in her eyes as she stared at Harry.
It was Jason, ever stern and stoic, who spoke, showing absolutely no concern over Harry's comment. "We can handle it, Harry. We've all been practicing our control over this extra Power since Zordon explained the dangers. If we've managed to keep it under wraps so far, we can do it in one little tug of war." Though his words weren't quite inflammatory, he spoke with a tone of such complete condescension that Harry's eyes narrowed almost reflexively and he had to fight down the urge to respond with a witty retort. He doubted that telling Jason that he had already been sensing the subtle yet steady rising of their internal Power as the day progressed would help things too much.
But whatever Jason's intent, the other Rangers took their leader's words to heart and firmed up their resolve, nodding their agreement. Only Trini kept her former gaze. The hurt and worry staying strong in her expression until she spoke. "Don't you trust us, Harry?"
Harry's eyes widened again in shock as he realized what Trini was getting at. She thought that he doubted their ability, HER ability, to control themselves, and Jason's reply probably only helped solidify that view of him. He shook his head quickly, stepping up and taking one of Trini's hands as he spoke. "It's not a matter of trust at all, Trini. Look, I know as well as anyone how someone can lose track of where they are and what they're doing when they get excited. I'll have to tell you sometime of how I nearly got killed by a horde of soul sucking demons because of my single-minded focus on a Quidditch game. I just wanted to caution you guys against that same overconfidence."
Trini looked thoughtful for a moment before nodding slightly, squeezing his hand comfortingly before turning back to Jason as he spoke again. "Like I said, Harry. We've got it under control. Now come on team, let's win that trophy!"
With a firm step, Jason broke the ward line that Harry had set, stepping out of the weak wards and destabilizing them in the process. Harry just sighed as the others followed, sheathing his wand in its holster even as Trini and Tommy gave him small smiles.
He really hoped this didn't backfire on them all…
A few minutes later, Mr. Caplan called the two teams to either side of the mud pit from Kimberly's part of the obstacle course. The balance beams had been removed from over the pit, leaving only a fifteen foot wide bog of nastiness that had a rope stretched over it. On one side, was the Red Team. To those in the know, they were the Power Rangers… plus one. To those who didn't know, which was pretty much everyone that wasn't already a current or former Ranger, they were some of the youth leaders of their generation.
On the other side, was the Blue Team. Led by Bulk and Skull, if only because they talked the loudest, assisted by had Angela and another three fairly athletic students. At least they were all good enough that they had been able to cinch second place for their team despite Bulk and Skull effectively bumbling the last two parts of the course.
To the casual onlooker, the teams seemed as if they should be about even between Jason and Tommy's strength from their martial arts training and Bulk's… bulk, all averaged out by their other teammates physique.
Mr. Caplan called for the teams to take their positions and both sides lined up. Bulk and Skull, predictably, took the front positions on their side of the muck with Angela in third and the other three behind her. For the Red Team, Jason took the front, with Trini behind him, then Zack, Billy, Kimberly, and finally Tommy taking the last place.
Of course, Bulk, being Bulk, couldn't help but taunt his opponents. "You geeks should just give up now. Save yourselves the trouble and the trip into the mud."
Zack fired back, though not at Bulk. "Hey, Angela! Are you sure you don't want to defect to the winning side?"
Before Angela could respond, but not before she rolled her eyes at Zack's comment, Bulk cut in. "Yeah right, Zack. Angela knows which team has the real men!" Bulk dramatically lifted one arm into the air, making a muscle for emphasis.
"Yeah! The real men!" Skull parroted, his own skinny arm mimicking Bulk's in a much, much less impressive way.
After waiting a few moments to make sure the pre-match banter was over, Mr. Caplan raised both arms. "Both teams ready?" Getting a nod from Jason and Bulk as both teams readied themselves to pull, Caplan brought a whistle to his lips. "Then, begin!" With a shrill blast from the whistle, both teams started pulling.
For the first several seconds, both teams were fairly even. From Harry's place behind and to one side of the school principal, closer to the Red Team naturally, neither team seemed to be giving an inch. He couldn't really hear too much over the cheering of the crowd, but Harry could see Jason and Trini both yelling, most likely encouraging the others and/or coordinating a team pull.
Then, slowly but surely, the Blue team started losing ground. Bulk's eyes widened in panic as he realized the biggest downside of being at the front of his team was being the closest to the mud pit. Then, Bulk slipped, his panic making him lose his footing and fall onto his backside. Harry heard another shout from the Red Team, quickly followed by all six of them pulling at once causing the Blue team to lose a full foot or more, Bulk's scrabbling feet unable to find purchase and his size preventing him from simply standing up again.
Finally, mere inches from losing the match, Bulk's feet found purchase once more, digging into the softened earth around the mud pit and finally halting his teams advance toward the mud. At this point, with another concerted effort, the Rangers would have most likely been able to pull Bulk once more, dragging him into the mud and winning the contest, but instead, they hesitated.
And Harry could tell why.
When Bulk and come to a stop, there had been a brief surge of Power coming from one of the Rangers. It most likely came as a result of frustration at Bulk stopping himself at the last moment, but whatever the cause, they didn't all respond to the rallying call Tommy made in an effort to finish things. And so the moment passed.
After that, slowly but surely, Bulk began pushing himself backwards. He didn't take the time to stand, and because of that the Rangers were unable to pull him off balance. So long as Bulk's team kept up the strain on the rope, he was basically acting as an anchor, preventing the Rangers from pulling him back toward the mud. And with the surprising amount of strength to be had in his legs, which made sense as he had to walk around carrying his own weight every day, the Blue Team were making stead progress.
From there, the contest really was a foregone conclusion.
Without being able to get the entire team onto the same page again, an effort that was stymied time and time again by another pulse of Power from one or another of the Rangers that said Rangers then spent focus trying to fight back down, the couldn't resist the Blue Team's coordinated efforts. With their attentions split, Bulk's inexorable retreat from the mud pit meant that it was Jason that was the first to lose his footing and his grip on the rope, pinwheeling his arms in a vain attempt at maintaining balance as he stumbled into the pit before his feet slid completely out from beneath him, resulting in the Red Ranger landing on his back and sinking a few inches into mud.
When Jason lost his grip, the rest of the team were unable to take up the slack and so Trini and Zack found themselves jerked off their feet and flying into the mud, only really able to direct themselves enough that they didn't land on Jason when they hit the mud face first.
Billy, Kimberly, and Tommy also stumbled forward several steps when Jason's hold on the rope disappeared. Unlike the others, they were far enough back that they were able to regain their balance before hitting the mud. It was a close thing in Billy's case, however, as he found himself leaning over the mud pit, his arms pinwheeling at his sides while his feet remained on firm ground, with Kimberly's grip on the back of his vest being the only think that kept him from falling.
The crowd's cheering was deafening.
The completely unexpected victory from Bulk and Skull's team brought out an even larger cheer than the Red Team would have gotten if they had won. Probably had something to do with the whole underdog thing, Harry mused as he jogged over to the Red Team's side. Joining him was Angela who, having been closer than Harry, was already laying her blue vest on the mud, only to step onto it herself to get a bit closer to Zack's flailing form while still keeping as much mud off of herself as she could manage.
Harry, heedless of the mud, stepped in on Jason's left where Trini had fallen and grabbed ahold of his girlfriend's blindly flailing hand, her other too busy scraping semi-solid gunk off of her face. The Yellow and Black Rangers had managed to turn themselves around into sitting positions, but both were completely covered on their fronts in the sticky muck.
Harry really had to work hard to keep a chuckle or two down.
Feeling Harry's hand, though she probably didn't know it was him since she still couldn't really see, Trini allowed herself to be pulled up and out of the pit and back onto solid ground. There, Kimberly met them with a towel and a water bottle which the two girls used to clean the majority of the mud off of Trini's face so she could see and breath properly again. At the same time, Billy passed a similar pair of items off to Angela who was helping Zack.
Harry, along with Tommy, waded back into the mud to help Jason out. The Red Ranger just lay there, staring up into the sky as if in shock at what had just happened. "Hey, Jason… you in there?" Tommy asked as he and Harry stood next to the prone Power Ranger.
When there was no immediate response the two shared a concerned glance before crouching down next to him. "Hey, Jason," Harry said, shaking his shoulder as he did. "Come on, let's get you out of this mud, yeah?"
Jason blinked a few times before his eyes seemed to focus in on Harry. Then they twitched over to Tommy and he gave a slight nod. "Yeah… yeah, that might be a good idea."
More than a bit concerned for Jason's mental health at this point, Harry and Tommy each grabbed one of Jason's mud covered arms and heaved. Before all of his martial arts training, pulling a person Jason's size out of wet, sucking mud would most likely have been beyond him, but now, and with Tommy's help, such an act only took a little extra effort to get him free from the wet earth's hold. Jason stood unsteadily for a moment before finding his balance and turning to walk back to the rest of his team without another word.
Harry and Tommy shared another glance before following after him. Harry reached the edge and stepped out just as Trini removed the towel from her face one last time, revealing her only slightly mud streaked visage. "Hey!" Harry remarked with a smile as we walked up to her. "There you are! I could hardly recognize you under all that gunk."
Trini rolled her eyes. "Very funny, Harry." Trini then got a wicked look on her face and, before he could step away again, plopped her still muddy right hand onto his left cheek and smeared it around. "But you know, you really should try it. Mud baths are supposed to be great for your skin."
Harry jerked back in surprise, completely unable to avoid the majority of the mud Trini had just smeared onto his face but found himself laughing moments later. "Alright, I probably deserved that." He said with a smile that Trini returned before embracing him in a full on hug that smeared even more mud onto him. "And somehow, someway, I could probably be convinced that I deserved that too," Harry sighed.
"You did," Jason's voice said from behind him, sounding much colder than Harry was used to hearing from the Red Ranger, a surprise all on its own. "That and quite a bit more, really."
Harry turned around quickly, almost expecting to find Jason with a handful of mud to hit him with too, but instead he was met with the Red Ranger's furious gaze while Billy stood next to him looking confused. "We should have won that, you know. We would have if you hadn't distracted us before the match."
"Hey, Jace," Tommy said from next to the Red Ranger opposite from Billy. "Calm down, man. It's just a game."
Jason shot a withering look at Tommy who recoiled in surprise before meeting it with a glare of his own. "Just leave it, man. It's not that big of a deal."
The Red Ranger kept Tommy's gaze for a few more moments before shaking his head and walking off, assumedly to find something to help him get cleaned up. Harry followed him with his eyes, completely taken aback by Jason's reaction. "Would it help if I said I was sorry?" he asked weakly, turning back to face Trini and a shocked looking Kimberly behind her.
"It might," Trini offered with a shake of her head. "But I probably wouldn't try it just now. He does have a bit of a point, Harry. You bringing that up before the match started definitely distracted us."
Harry took a breath to offer a rebuttal, but Trini held up one muddy hand to forestall him. "But, we did need to hear it." Trini sighed. "I can't speak for the others, but I did feel my Power, and my strength, shooting up a bit there. If Harry hadn't brought it up, I probably wouldn't have noticed it, and who knows what would have happened then."
Kimberly and Billy nodded in agreement. It made Harry feel a bit better about essentially causing this entire debacle.
Then the moment was destroyed by Zack and Angela joining them, the former wearing a gigantic smile on his face. "Hey guys, what did we miss?"
"Oh, nothing much," Trini said before slapping another gigantic glob of mud onto the previously clean right side of Harry's face. "But I think Harry may need to get cleaned up just as much as the rest of us."
Harry sighed again, turning to face Trini with his mud splattered glasses. "Really?"
Trini just smiled and tossed her towel over his face with a giggle. "I'll see you after the awards ceremony."
Zack snorted. "Yeah, if Bulk and Skull leave us alone long enough. I just know they're never gonna let us live this down."
Billy gave a sigh of his own. "Affirmative. I wouldn't be remotely surprised if they started bringing their trophy to school, just to brag about it."
The Rangers continued to talk as they walked toward where Mr. Caplan was speaking with Bulk, Skull, and the rest of the Blue Team sans Angela who was with the mud splattered Reds. Harry just cleaned his glasses as best he could with Trini's already quite muddy towel and moved to rejoin the crowd.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," Mr. Caplan shouted once he saw that all the participants, including Jason now sporting his own towel, had returned. "We have here, the winners of this year's annual Oddball Games: The Blue Team!" Once again, the cheering from the crowd was nearly deafening and it took several tries for Caplan to get them quiet enough for him to continue.
"And so, I present to the Blue Team," at this point, Mr. Caplan turned around picked up a trophy from a small table behind him. "The coveted Noble Lion Trophy." All said, the trophy really wasn't that big of a deal. It was they typical golden trophy cup shape on a stone-looking base with a golden lion standing atop the trophy, its fore and rear paws resting on opposite sides of the cup. If Harry was honest, it looked fairly cheap.
"And now, with this year's winners-" Caplan's speech was cut off as Bulk reached over and yanked the trophy from his hands and began shouting.
"Oh yeah, baby! We won!" Bulk cheered, doing a frankly disturbing dance in front of the crowd of onlookers.
Skull, as usual parroted him while doing his own imitation of Bulk's dance. "Yeah! We won!"
"We beat those geeks!"
"We are the champions!"
"The Noble Lion Trophy is mine!"
"Yeah, his… uh… ours!"
At this Bulk shot Skull a look out of the corner of his eye and finally stopped his dancing, much to the relief of most of those watching. Before the overweight bully could say anything further, Caplan took the opportunity to retake center stage and stepped around Bulk. Seemingly having given up on finishing his speech after Bulk's interruption, the principal addressed the crowd. "I want you all to remember to have a good time during Spring Break. We'll see you all back at school next week!"
The crowd, largely made up of students, cheered once again before it began breaking up. Some of the people reformed their teams and got back to their sports while others made a bee line for their cars eager to get back home. Harry headed over toward the other Rangers, only for Zack to rush forward to meet him. "Hey, Harry. So Angela and I got to talking, and I'm taking her to a movie later tonight."
Harry smiled at the relieved look in Zack's eyes even as a massive smile stretched across his face. It looked like spending most of the day with her was enough for Zack to remember his date all on his own. "Good for you, Zack. Though you might want to take a shower first."
Zack punched Harry's shoulder good naturedly. "That's what I'm heading to do now, Harry. I just wanted to give you a heads up. See ya!"
Harry shook his head as Zack ran off toward the parking lot. He hoped he planned to clean more of the mud off of himself before getting into his car or Zack might have another kind of problem when he went to meet Angela for their movie date. He doubted the dried mud on his clothes look would be too impressive…
When Harry finally reached the others, Jason had disappeared again, most likely still rather unhappy with the ending of the games in general, and Harry's input in that in particular, but the others were still there. "Hey Harry," Trini greeted him with another hug and a mischievous smile, the mud on her clothing having dried enough that not as much transferred between them this time. "We're gonna head home and get cleaned up and then meet back at the Youth Center for some smoothies once Ernie opens it back up. Do you want to join us?"
Harry smiled, his eyes taking in the smiling faces of the other Rangers in front of him. "Sure. I'll meet you guys there."
"Alright then, sounds like a plan." Kimberly cheered before grabbing Trini's arm and practically dragging her away. "Now come on, girl, we've gotta get that mud out of your hair pronto!" Harry shared a laugh with Tommy and Billy before they went their separate ways.
Now the Magi Ranger found himself in a conundrum. Harry was currently covered in mud, largely thanks to Trini's efforts. It would be easy enough to magically clean it off of him, but most cleaning spells were better off not used on bare flesh as they tended to leave it a bit raw afterwards, and conjuring a spray of water from his wand left much to be desired in the way of accuracy and a thorough cleaning, so that meant he needed to get cleaned up the old fashioned way.
Problem with that was, unlike the other Rangers, he didn't exactly have running water where he was staying currently. Heck, there wasn't even a bathroom in the Command Center so Harry had been having to take care of his morning ablutions in the Youth Center bathroom every day. And with the Youth Center closed until Ernie got back there in a few hours, this left Harry wondering where he would be able to get cleaned up with minimal chances of getting caught.
Harry was pondering the possibility of apparating back to the Command Center and just conjuring up a tub or shower of some kind for a quick rinse off when a flash of sunlight caught his eye after reflecting off the nearby lake. With so much activity still going on and the swimming events over, there weren't too many people over there, so he could probably get away with magicing up a pair of swim trunks for himself and taking a quick dip. Then it would only be a matter of magically drying himself and apparating back to the Command Center for a change of clothes. Wouldn't be the best clean possible, but it would be enough until he could get access to the Youth Center's showers without breaking in.
Course decided, Harry set off toward the lake. After a few minutes of walking and with the crowds left almost completely behind, Harry found himself coming upon a scene that was worrying, disturbing, and hilarious all at the same time.
About fifty feet away from him, near the shore of the lake, Bulk and Skull were once more locked into a tug of war competition. This time, instead of pulling on a rope, the two sides were pulling on the Noble Lion Trophy. And instead of the two bullies facing off against the Rangers, Skull was pulling on Bulk's leather jacket while Bulk had a firm grip on the base of the trophy while a pair of Z-putties were in a similar position, pulling on the other end.
Huh, guess the trophy wasn't as cheap as Harry had thought…
Thinking fast, Harry broke into a sprint, running directly at the putties. Once he got close enough, Harry leapt into the air. "Aiya!" His kiai drew the attention of all four beings, but his flying kick only smacked into the lead putty, knocking both it and its companion to the ground.
"You two get out of here," Harry shouted. "Get help and get yourselves to safety. There are only two of them, so I'll hold them off."
"But…" Bulk stuttered gesturing wildly. "But my trophy!"
It was only then that Harry realized that the putty he had knocked down had the Noble Lion Trophy held firmly in its grasp. Harry just rolled his eyes as he took a fighting stance. "What's more important, the trophy, or your lives?"
Bulk and Skull exchanged a glance before nodding frantically as they turned and ran, many times stumbling and falling to the ground only to immediately jump back up and resume their flight. Harry just shook his head as he refocused on the putties. "Alright, clay brains, why don't you try picking on someone who can fight back?"
The putties slowly stood back up straight, their heads and arms twitching this way and that as they made a warbling sound. Harry kept his gaze firm and his fists clenched tight as he waited for them to make a move, but when they did, it wasn't at all what he had expected.
The putty holding the Trophy set it down on the ground at its feet before both putties simply vanished into thin air.
Harry blinked. "Well," he said after a moment. "That was odd…"
Before the Magi Ranger could even think of moving to pick up the discarded Noble Lion Trophy, he received the barest flicker of a warning from his magic senses, barely enough time to shield his eyes, before a bolt of Power shot down from the sky and slammed into it, the resulting blast sending Harry flying backwards several yards. With a groan, he lifted his head and his eyes widened drastically as he caught sight of the creature that now stood in the trophy's place.
"Well," he said grimly to himself. "At least Zack won't have to worry about Bulk and Skull using the trophy to taunt them at school anymore…"
The monster before him had a lion's head atop its broad shoulders that, along with its arms and hands, were covered in the golden/tan fur of a lion with claws at the ends of its fingers. Centered on its chest and sticking out of what looked like a green colored piece of armor was a goat's head. Under the goat head's chin was a wide belt and what looked like a pair of dark colored pants, its feet being nothing more than massive hooves. From between its widely space legs, Harry could see a tail of some sort hanging, though he couldn't get too good of a look at it at the moment.
Scrambling back to his feet, Harry raised his communicator and pressed the button to activate it. "Harry to the Command Center."
The communicator only let out a faulty beep.
He tried again. "Harry to the Command Center! Zordon! Alpha! Anyone!" Only another weak beep answered him and Harry took his eyes off the monster for a moment to see why. Apparently, at some point during his rescue of Trini and Jason from the mud pit, his communicator had gotten covered in mud. He didn't doubt that the gunk had somehow shorted out his communicator, which left him without backup for the time being.
"Well, well, little Power Ranger," the monster spoke through the lion's head with a deep, harsh voice. "Looks like you're all alone!"
"Yes!" the goat head spoke as well, catching Harry off guard enough to take a step back in shock before retaking his stance. "You now face Gotan, the Stormbringer! Battle us and face your doom!" In contrast to the lion's deep voice, the goat's was of a more average pitch, maybe slightly higher than most, though it's every word practically vibrated like the 'baa' of a sheep or goat.
"Well, Gotan, the Stormbringer," Harry said, summoning his wand with a flick of his wrist. "Let's see just how well you can back that up." With a quick series of movements that had become quite fluid through so much practice, Harry drew the symbol of the Deathly Hallows in the air before him.
"MAGI RANGER, POWER UP!"
AN: Hope you all enjoyed the chapter. Had this one more or less planned out, so it actually came fairly easily this time. Quite nice since I feared I had used up most of my creativity with the mini figures. Lol
The only thing that I really regret is the length. To be honest, I had intended to cover the full monster battle too, try for another 10K+ chapter, but circumstances conspired against me. Though with how long it turned out, it almost reached that length anyway lol. In any case, first off was the whole inspired to be creative, but ended up painting mini figures thing. Then I had to paint a ceiling during our ongoing renovation project and got sick because of the paint fumes as a result, which really curtailed my creative spark. Then, just when I felt medicated enough to get some real work done, our stove decided to freak out on me. I was baking a pizza when the broiler came on completely on its own and wouldn't turn off no matter what I tried. This happened rather late in the evening, so we couldn't just leave it. My brother and I ended up playing with the fuze box, trying to figure out which one would shut off the stove before giving up and just pulling it out from the wall and unplugging it. The thing is probably nearly 30 years old, so it's about time it finally had a breakdown like this, but it's still frustrating.
On the plus side, I was able to save my pizza. : )
So, I just wanted to point out that all those bits earlier in the chapter about Harry forgetting about Angela was totally a reference to me forgetting about her during Harry's spy stuff a few chapters ago. Don't know how I forgot since I planned on using this episode and this plotline pretty much since halfway through Season 1 stuff, but I did. I guess it worked out well in the end though, since Harry forgetting Angela and Zack's relationship meant that he didn't point it out to Zack, so he forgot about her like Kim was with Tommy, which was a nice setup for this entire chapter. Anyway, watching the series, I loved Gotan. Don't know why, but I just loved the monster, the design, the power. I felt it had a lot of potential. Plus, the whole changing a thing into a monster is all sorts of Zedd's thing instead of Rita's, so I poached the Season 1 episode to use as a Season 2 plotline.
But honestly here, how many of you figured out what episode I was doing before the monster appeared? I mean, I know the tug of war thing kinda made it obvious, but how many of you figured out that I was pulling a Season 1 episode in Season 2 before Gotan appeared? This is arguably the biggest continuity change I've made to canon that isn't centered around Harry, so I'm rather curious.
On an unrelated note, what is that little tire step race thing called? I looked and looked but couldn't find anything online. Probably wasn't looking in the right place, but curiosity abounds!
I decided to mix things up a bit more in this chapter too. *Le GASP* The Rangers lost at something! BWAH! I figure that with Harry reminding them of their random bursts of Power enhanced strength and such that they would be more focused on not getting too worked up so as to not do that and technically be cheating, thus they would be distracted, thus they would end up in the mud. Plus it's just something interesting since the Rangers basically never lose unless it's a "to be continued" or the Ranger(s) involved need to learn a life lesson or whatever. But yeah, the decision to do that just kinda came to me all at once and I kinda liked it.
Also, the thing Bulk did with slipping and then scooting backwards, yeah, totally happened to me in 6th grade. My team was winning until the *ahem* biggest kid in my grade at the front of the other team's line slipped and spend the rest of the match on the ground, slowly sliding himself backwards with us unable to pull him off balance again. We lost, but there was no mud involved as we were in our school gymnasium.
Also also, was it just me, or was I a bit more verbose than usual this chapter? Meh.
Thanks for reading and don't forget to review,