Substitute Learner

Ch. 1 – Twin Tensions

Disclaimer: I'm still flat broke, so I obviously still don't own Power Rangers.

Rating: M overall, though this chapter would've fit under T.

Note: This type of story has already been done plenty of times before, but I figured I'd try it anew because the conflict between Jack and Sky might very well make it work. Judging by how much better the Rangers put up with each other now, this story probably would fit best somewhere between Walls and Idol, preferably pre-Sam. Please forgive me if this story seems in any way raw or has mistakes; I tried to go over it and edit it where I could, but I don't have a beta reader yet, so it's a one man show for the time being. I was going to hold off uploading this until I could get someone to do the job, but I already have an overall plotline down for chapters 2 and 3, so I can't wait any longer. :P

Sky couldn't stop a cry of pain from escaping his lips as he slammed into the cement building with an audible crack.

"Sky!" yelled Syd in fear as she parried a sword slice from the Orangehead, and then backflipped away from a second slash.

"I'm fine! The wall cracked, not my spine!" he replied as he slowly got to his feet and took stock of the situation. Syd and Jack were attempting to distract the Orangehead while a rush of terrified civilians tried to get out of the chaotic Parkington Market. Z was helping them escape. Besides Jack, she knew the area the best of the Rangers from her days of having to keep out of the way of overzealous cops while stealing for the homeless. She was temporarily unmorphed so she could make use of her clone abilities to direct the mass of people to the fastest escape routes. Bridge, on the other hand, was currently embroiled in a fight with a dozen Krybots. From the ridiculous amount of water splashing out of the nearby fountain and into the air, Sky didn't think it was going very well.

Sky winced as the monster kneed Jack in the gut and roundhouse kicked him away. Jack flew backwards with even more force than Sky had, punching a hole straight through a building and flying inside along with a cloud of dust and debris. He followed that up by ferociously slashing Syd with enough power to send her crumpling to the ground.

"Delta Max Striker!" Sky yelled as he connected the two parts of his weapon together and shot the monster in the stomach. The Orangehead went flipping sideways through the air and crashed into a nearby hotdog stand, sending gobbets of meat flying in all directions. Even after the acrobatics, Sky could vaguely see him through the mess, attempting to stand up to continue the fight. Sky took the few extra seconds the reprieve had given them to run over and haul Syd to her feet.

"Are you alright?" he asked, his mind half on her injuries and half on wondering what was taking so long for the other three members of the team to show up. Jack had taken harder hits than that before. Usually from Sky himself during holo-training.

"Give me some aspirin, a glass of water, Peanuts, my bed, and ten hours of sleep and I'll be fine," she grumbled as she formed her own Striker combo. Sky snorted. The two slipped into their usual fighting stances as the Orangehead, who was now covered in mustard, charged them. Before he could get to them, however, a deactivated Krybot flew through the air from their left and sent him sprawling. Sky and Syd turned to see Z waving as she ran up to them, finally morphed, with Bridge right behind her.

"It's about time!" Sky complained. Z shook her head.

"Next time, you can deal with stampeding crowds. Where's Jack?"

The focus of her conversation finally managed to pull himself from the wall's wreckage just then and stumble over to them.

"Bad day?" Bridge asked, sounding far too cheerful for the situation. Jack just grumbled. They all watched as the Orangehead picked up the Krybot body and threw it behind him.

"Bridge, those Krybots are robots, right?" Jack asked.

"That's pretty good Jack. And you didn't even have to stand on your head."

"Do they have some sort of power source inside them?" Jack barreled on, ignoring Bridge's probably unintentional taunt. "We never really aim for any specific spot when we usually blow them up."

"Maybe," Bridge replied slowly. "We don't have any blueprints on them or anything, and they tend to blow up without us doing much of anything, but I'd guess they'd run on small reactors or something. I don't remember seeing it in their chests when we'd break them open, so it's probably near their stomachs. Either that or in their butts."

Syd glanced at Bridge in such a way that the other Rangers knew she was gawking, even with her helmet hiding her face. "I am SO not gonna ask."

"We'll distract him then. Sky, hang back and get ready to hit that Krybot when I give the signal." Jack took off running with the other three on his trail while Sky ducked behind the nearest building, dropping to one knee and propping his Delta Max Striker against his shoulder. Sky frowned at being left behind again, but this time he had an idea of what Jack was going for, and didn't argue.

Sky was able to watch Rangers in action many times in the past, seeing as how his Dad was always running missions as one of the best. He was also used to his teammates by now, and the amount of times they constantly annoyed him with their little quirks had yet to wear off, which made it hard to appreciate anything Ranger-related that involved any of them. But at times like this, he couldn't keep himself from being awed at the abilities that the dedicated Ranger had at his or her disposal. With the four of them taking on the Orangehead at once instead of three of them fighting him one at a time, the odds were a lot better. Even so, the creature was putting up an intense fight, throwing attacks that kept the Rangers on their toes while trying to hit him. Despite that, he was fast enough to dodge all of their own attacks, and watching the whole thing in motion was like looking at an elaborate dance. Jack had just managed to throw himself to the ground to dodge a vicious horizontal swipe. He jumped back up and threw himself into a spinning kick, which the Orangehead flipped away to dodge. The villain landed neatly in between Bridge and Syd, who started tag-teaming him while Z was taking random shots at him from where she had been standing before. Jack pulled out his Delta Blasters and followed her lead. The Orangehead, figuring that he was taking too many close calls from the blasters, jumped even farther backwards, toward the fountain Bridge had been fighting in earlier.

Jack, noticing that they were close enough to get things going, screamed "Go! Go!" and rushed the Orangehead, dropping all pretenses and throwing an insane amount of punches and kicks. Z, Syd, and Bridge hopped right in, and the Orangehead, overwhelmed, but backed into a corner, could do nothing but fend off their attacks.

Sky, figuring that it was time for his contribution, began to line up his shot, aiming directly for the stomach of the downed Krybot. This was going to be a difficult shot. A spigot from the fountain had broken off in the melee and water was spraying all over the place. In addition, the way the Krybot had landed when thrown earlier had its limbs splayed across its body like a pretzel. And then, over in the corner...

"Now Sky! Hit it!" Jack yelled.

"Wait! There's a..."

"NO! There's no time! Do it now! Guys, get down, now!" Jack ran forward a ways and flung himself to the ground, with Z and Bridge right behind him. Syd gave the Orangehead a parting kick in his face that he predictably dodged, but it sent him backwards towards the Krybot. Sky clenched his teeth, and waited for Syd to hit the dirt.

He took the shot.

"Thankfully, the B-Squad Rangers managed to get all of the civilians off the scene before the battle finished. However, the minor blast the monster produced on his defeat acted as a catalyst, causing several Dithyrion energy accumulators to go up in flames. This, in effect, caused a quarter of the market to disappear in the resulting explosion. Space Patrol Delta is currently working with the Bureau of..." The news report vanished from the screen as Jack hit the power button on the remote and leaned back in the chair in Bridge and Sky's room and scowled.

"Well, at least we got everyone out of there before it happened," Bridge supplied.

"That doesn't make it any easier to deal with," Jack replied. "At least we're not catching the blame for all that nonsense."

"Yeah, I suppose that would be a good thing." Sky muttered, attempting to read his SPD handbook.

Jack glanced over in his direction, frowned, and raised an eyebrow. "And what is that supposed to mean?"

Sky glanced over at him and raised an eyebrow. "I mean that if you had bothered to keep all of your options open to begin with then you wouldn't have blown up half the market!"

Jack stood up and glared at Sky. He wasn't pleased. "Excuse me? I wasn't the one that took the shot in the first place, Mr. Perfect!"

"I wasn't going to take that shot." Sky countered, dropping the book onto his bed and stepping straight up to Jack. "I saw those containers, but you started screaming your head off to get me to do it anyways!"

Bridge just stared at them with a horrified look on his face. He thought they had solved the problems between each other a few missions ago, but apparently not. The tension between them was so thick that he could physically feel it with his gloves still on.

Jack's volume dropped as he looked at Sky with an expression full of contempt. "And I bet that you could've handled that situation so much better than me had you been controlling it from the start, huh?"

Sky matched his level, giving the flaming hot confrontation a sudden injection of ice. "I'm sure I could have. Easily."

"And what do you intend to do about it then?" Jack asked, with his arms crossed. Sky stared at him for a moment longer, then pulled his morpher out of his holster and held it towards Jack.

"We switch."

The scornful look on Jack's face cracked for a second as what Sky suggested sunk in. "You must be joking."

"Not at all. We switch morphers. Kat didn't say anything about them being keyed to our bodies when she gave them to us, so it shouldn't be a problem."

Bridge dropped his jaw. "Are you two insane! What's gonna happen when we get out into the battlefield and Cruger sees you with the wrong colors on? He's gonna go ballistic!"

"He'll never know," Sky answered, still not looking anywhere else but directly at Jack. "I've seen those data tapes when I ran console work for A-Squad, and they don't zoom in on the actual battles all that well too often. And Cruger's supposed to be heading off to take care of one of the SPD sub-groups off-planet, right? We'll just switch back before he returns."

There was a long moment of absolute silence as the two males stared each other down, with Bridge silently watching on. Finally, Jack pulled out his morpher, and they made the trade.

"Alright. Let's see how well you can handle the pressure." Jack taunted, slipping the #2 B-Squad morpher into his belt.

"I'll handle it just fine. Don't worry yourself over it." Sky replied, putting his new morpher away.

"And what are you three up to?" Syd asked as she and Z peeked their heads into the room. Jack and Sky turned towards the girls with identical expressions of calm. Bridge just sighed.

"Nothing." The two simultaneously answered. Z raised an eyebrow, picking up on Jack's body language from the times when the two were living together on the streets and knowing something was up, but she knew there wasn't any time to discuss it.

"Kat needs us for a second debriefing," she explained.

"A second one? What was wrong with the first?" Jack asked, sounding annoyed. The grilling he took from Kat over the entire episode was tremendous, for obvious reasons.

"Not over the battle," Syd explained. "She wants our opinions on Gruumm's attacking the market this time. It did come pretty out of the blue, and there's some unanswered questions about his tactics."

Sky and Jack got to their feet and walked past Syd and Z out the door, heading toward the command center. Syd glanced at Bridge.

"Any idea what that was about?"

"Not a clue," Bridge said as he went about straightening his bed with an odd, scrunched-up expression on his face. Syd raised an eyebrow and looked towards Z.

"Can't tell for sure myself," Z replied, answering her silent question. "I know something's up though. Jack's got this sort of posture he goes into when he's pissed, and he was completely riled up that time. Must be about the fight."

"Hmm," Syd replied, noncommittally. "Let's hope they get it ironed out before the next time we go into battle; I'm not gonna be the one that has to pull them off of each other when we're in the middle of a Krybot gang." Syd rolled her eyes as she and Z left the room, following the two men at a respectable distance. Bridge, walking a few feet behind the girls, grimaced.

"Maybe I should call in sick before we go out there again."