A.N.: Oops! I seem to have written the wrong thing. I was supposed to be finishing Chapter 10 of Once a Ranger and I wrote this instead. You'll just have to readit while I get back to work. Enjoy!
Food for Thought
"My Jello tastes moldy."
Carlos looked at Cassie in exasperation."Jello can't go moldy. There isn't anything remotely organic in Jello that mold would be interested in. Besides, that Jello just came out of the synthetron. It hasn't had time to go moldy," he concluded gesturing enthusiastically with his knife and fork.
"I didn't say it was moldy. I just said it tasted moldy. Here, try some." She shoved a spoonful in Carlos' unsuspecting mouth.
The black ranger made a face as he tried not to choke. "You're right. It does taste moldy."
"My pudding tastes like octopus dung. Want to try it too?"
"No, thanks," replied Carlos putting a hand up to ward off the offering Ashley was waving in his face. "And how do you know it tastes like octopus dung? Have you ever tried octopus dung? Have you ever even seen an octopus?"
"No, but it makes a good metaphor. What's with the food today?"
"That's what you girls get for eating dessert instead of dinner."
Ashley lifted another forkful to her mouth but let it fall back down as the smell once again hit her nose. "We didn't feel like dinner. Besides what does yours taste like?"
Frowning, Carlos poked at the red and brown mush covering his plate. "Well, it doesn't taste like octopus dung. It fact it doesn't taste like much of anything at all."
"What is it anyway?" asked Cassie.
"Um… some sort of stew. I think."
The yellow ranger giggled. "Don't you remember what you ordered?
He shrugged. Reaching across the table, Carlos grabbed the ketchup bottle out of his friend's hand. "Quit hogging the ketchup, Teej," he chastised as he proceeded to cover his meal in the red sauce.
"What was that?" sniggered Cassie.
"I think TJ's food is a bit chewy," commented Ashley.
"Hmgrmph." Pointing at Ashley with his fork, the former red ranger nodded.
"Now, Now, TJ. Don't be rude."
He rolled his eyes at the pink ranger.
"Alright." Having found he didn't like ketchup enough to eat something that tasted solely of it, Carlos pushed his plate away. "Whose turn is it to tune the synthetron?"
The girls glanced at each other.
"Hmm?" The silver ranger looked up, his fork frozen half way off his plate having been interrupted during his usual speedy method of shoving his face.
Ashley put on her best pair of puppy dog eyes. "Could you take a look at the synthetron?"
"Please," Cassie joined in.
The girls nodded.
"But I'm eating," he replied shoving more food into his mouth as if to prove the point.
"Wait a minute." Carlos glanced at both the devouring Zhane and the quietly eating Andros. "Are you guys saying your food is actually edible?"
"I knew it!" shouted Cassie. "It's a conspiracy."
"Mhmgr," agreed TJ.
Ashley reached over and stole a meatball off Andros' plate.
"Hey!" protested the red ranger who had been happily staying out of the argument.
The yellow ranger's nose wrinkled as she swallowed. "Nope. This is just as bad."
Leaning in, Cassie got a quick whiff of Zhane's meal. "Same here. How can you guys eat this stuff?"
"It's really not that bad," insisted Andros taking another bite.
"Come on, guys. What could be worse than this?" questioned Ashley.
Across the table, Andros and Zhane locked gazes as memories stirred.
Crooked fingers of smoke rose from the broken city into the darkened sky, blocking out the stars. Shattered buildings with shattered windows that once lined the horizon now littered the empty streets. During night, the town would normally be sparkling with electricity as its people refused to sleep. Now, the only glow came from a few dying fires as they guttered out, having consumed all they could.
But one faint, orange light still shone. In one of the few structures to remain standing, a little lamp dimly illuminated a tiny room. The place must have once been an office, but now papers and books lay everywhere as if an earthquake had struck. A heavy set of shelves had been shoved against the only door and the desk had been pushed up against the bare window. On the desk sat a young man gazing outside. On the floor, another young man lay trying to sleep.
"Mmm?" Busy keeping watch, the red ranger scanned the strangely unreal portrait of his fallen home painted in dark shades of grey. He didn't break his gaze for even the moment needed to acknowledge his friend.
"Do you see anything?"
Letting out a deep breath, the silver ranger shifted restlessly on the hard ground.
"You're supposed to be asleep," remarked Andros.
The red ranger couldn't blame Zhane. He himself had taken first watch knowing he wouldn't be able to find any sleep. Not even the many long hours awake could combat all the adrenaline and anxiety.
"I'm sure the others are alright," Zhane consoled, able to sense his worries.
Andros nodded, absently. Outside, he thought he caught a glimpse of movement. It could have been a friend or an enemy, or maybe a trick of his eyes, fatigue finally catching up with him. There was little he could do for any of those options.
"Kinwon will have led them to safety as soon as we were separated."
"If they managed to escape from the Piranhatrons," Andros contended.
"Those fish will have gone back to their ships for the night. Not even they can see in the dark."
"Sure. Not that Dark Specter would care how many he would lose in such a pointless fight. Maybe he'll send down a monster that can see in the dark or send down some more bombs, blow up a few more buildings."
The silver ranger didn't like his friend's negative attitude but he understood the reason for it all too well. Giving up on sleep for now, he sat up.
The statement almost made the red ranger smile, almost. "You're always hungry," he countered.
"Well, yes," the silver ranger was forced to agree. "But if you hadn't noticed we haven't eaten since the attacks started."
Just as the thought passed his consciousness, Andros' stomach woke up beginning to gurgle and growl. He was less disturbed by the fact he hadn't noticed the gnawing emptiness before than the fact he couldn't remember how long the attacks had been going on for. Two days? Three? It all seemed to have blurred into one large battle.
Zhane clambered up onto the desk sitting himself down opposite Andros. "Remember that reconstituted, nutritionally processed, bland garbage they used to call food at the academy?"
"I'd really love some of that right now."
Andros managed to let out a half-hearted chuckle. "You could barely eat that stuff. You had Gran send you care packages each week because you were afraid you'd starve."
"And she always wondered why we ate so much whenever we visited. She'd usually chock it up to us being growing boys." Zhane sighed. "I hope they're okay."
"None of the attacks have hit the outlying farms," Andros insisted sympathetically, though he kept his gaze directed outside. "I'm sure your grandparents are fine."
Zhane could see Andros' own fears plainly written on his face. "I'm sure your parents are alright too. They're probably in one of the shelters."
"I hope so."
"After we meet up with Kinwon at the base tomorrow, we could go check a few of them," Zhane added hopping to break through the oppressive desolation that seemed to have consumed his friend.
"Thanks," Andros replied, but then the dark shadow passed over his face again. "If the base is still standing."
Zhane put a hand on his shoulder. "We'll get through this, Andros. We still have each other. Remember we're an unstoppable team."
A smile finally broke on Andros' face as he finally turned away from the horrors that had been his world to look at his best friend. "Forever."
"Exactly." Zhane's stomach suddenly let out a loud growl.
This time Andros grinned. "You're thinking of food again."
"I can't help it. I was remembering Gran's famous natuberry tarts."
Andros' stomach was now growling too. The rangers laughed.
"Gran's cooking spoiled us. It's always a pain going back to the Megaship after visiting her." Zhane eyes grew distant as he thought back. "Remember when we were stuck in that nebula for five days and the synthetron went on the fritz refusing to serve us anything but blackened, Tractyl egg cakes?"
The red ranger nodded, still smiling as he leaned against the window frame. "Or when the synthetron decide all our food needed to be liquefied."
"Or when it decided to serve everything raw."
"Or when it made everything taste like spinach."
"Stars, I could even eat spinach." With a sigh, Zhane ran a hand through his short hair. "I tell you, Andros. If we get through this, I'll never complain about the synthetron's food ever again."
Gazing at the expressions of digust on the faces of his fellow rangers, Zhane grinned. "Tastes great to me," he declared.
The red ranger raised his glass in salute. The silver rangerreturned it in kind.
"It's no use," spoke TJ who had finally finished chewing his food. "Their taste buds have been exposed to too many alien dishes." He automatically took another mouthful of steak cursing himself mentally when he realized what he had done.
"Either that or they've eaten from the synthetron so long they've gotten used to it," added Cassie.
"Well, on behalf of those of us who enjoy eating actual food," Carlos looked pointedly atthe pink rangeras he said this, "I think Zhane needs to fix that annoying machine."
"Grphmble," put in the blue ranger.
Cassie crossed her arms. "Stop dissing my jello."
"What? I just don't consider a mixture of gelatine and sugar as food."
"Well, if this isn't food, I'll just have to find a better use for it." And Cassie proceeded to dump her bowl of jello on Carlos' head.
The black ranger stared at her frozen in astonishment only to be brought out by Ashley's giggles.
"That's a good look for you."
It only took an instant. Then all four Earth rangers were running around the room flinging food at each other, covering the room and themselves in a colourful assortment of vitals. Avoiding the obvious carnage, the rangers from KO-35 remained seated spending a moment contemplating their fate and their meals.
Andros let out a deep breath. "I guess we made it through."
"Never a doubt." Ducking a flying glob of pudding, Zhane raised an eyebrow. "Well, I suppose when a gnome."
Andros frowned. "I think the expression is when we roam."
"It's when in Rome," Ashley called out. "When in Rome!"
She was promptly covered in Andros and Zhane's dinner.