Bridge had to admit he was surprised. There hadn't been a fight this bad since they went through SWAT training with Sergeant Silverback. The day had started out bad and just gotten worse as they kept getting called out for battle after battle. Despite soundly defeating each attack, the B-Squad was in a bad mood. It hadn't taken much, a badly timed meaningless question from Bridge had set off a chain of barbed insults that just kept getting nastier and nastier until the final nail was driven in.
"You should really learn when to shut up Bridge."
Bridge knew it was true, but hearing it from his best friend hurt pretty deeply. He had shot Sky a wounded look before quickly retreating from the Common Room. He knew that his rambling could be annoying, but there were also times when it helped to break the tension and lighten the mood. Not this time. He had only made the situation worse and their overwhelming negative emotions were really starting to get to him.
But it wasn't just the Rangers in a bad mood. The whole base was thrumming with tension. The D-Squad had been sent to the nearby mountains for their survival training, but something had gone wrong. The instructors there had failed to make contact on the last three check in times. Everyone was worried and anxious and all the high emotions were giving Bridge a headache.
"Rangers to the Command Room."
Bridge groaned. The last thing they needed was another attack. Nonetheless he obediently made his way to the Command Room, silently meeting up with the rest of the team halfway there. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Sky looking at him, but he ignored the Blue Ranger. He put a little space between himself and the rest of the team as they entered the Command Room and stood in a line before Commander Cruger.
"Rangers, I fear something as happened to D-Squad. I'm sending you to investigate." Cruger said, cutting right to the chase. "Dismissed."
The shuttle touched down with a gentle thump and Bridge quickly exited. In the confines of the shuttle the negative emotions had almost made him physically sick. The fresh air helped to clear his head a little, but Bridge knew it would take more than that for him to feel completely better. On instinct he opened his mouth to make some kind of off the wall comment about the mountains and the cold weather, but remembered Sky's words and shut his mouth. If Sky wanted him to learn when to shut up, then he was going to do exactly that.
"This is where they were supposed to have camped." Jack said as they spread out.
The camp was deserted. A quick glance around revealed there had been a struggle. The tents were trashed and equipment was strewn everywhere. Bridge knelt down and examined the ground where the snow had been melted and the dirt below it scorched. There were lots of other marks like that and some on trees as well. He didn't need to do a scan to know what had caused it.
"Krybots." He announced without thinking.
"Lots of them if all these footprints are any indication." Sky added. Bridge glanced at the Blue Ranger to find him examining the ground the same way he was. "There's some blood too, but not a lot."
"Guys, over here!" Syd called.
The team flocked to her side behind a fallen tree. There they found a young man motionless and oozing from a shot to the back. Instantly the three original members of B-Squad began working together to patch the boy up. Together Sky and Bridge maneuvered him onto a backboard, which Syd had retrieved, before they took him back to the shuttle. Sky stayed behind to finish up while Bridge went back outside to look for more wounded cadets. Seeing how serious one cadet was wounded he decided to use a foolproof method of finding out exactly what happened. He stripped off the glove on one hand and waved it in the air.
Fear and panic almost overwhelmed him and made him gasp aloud. He fell to his knees as he struggled to push the lingering emotions aside and actually "see" what happened. He ignored his teammates as he viewed the blurry, but accurate residual energy that showed the fate that had befallen the D-Squad and the two survival-training instructors. Only the last few minutes of the fight were left, but what he saw made his stomach turn. He saw the regular Krybot foot soldiers leading the captured cadets and instructors away with two Orangeheads leading the way just outside of the vision. He saw one of the cadets make a break for it and watched as one of the Krybots shot the fleeing boy.
Bridge hurriedly pulled his glove back on and gathered his senses around him once more. The vision had been powerful despite having happened hours ago. The emotions had been intense and would be the last thing to dissipate. He still couldn't quite think straight and he realized with a start that Z was knelt at his side with Jack standing in front of him, Syd bent over at his other side, and Sky standing behind him.
"They were captured. The Krybots led them that way." Bridge pointed without looking. "They were all alive then, but it's been hours and who knows what's happened since then." He cut himself off before he started rambling. His head hurt too much for that.
Jack let all the information they had gathered so far sink in. They were dealing with a hostage situation, probably extremely volatile. There was something not quite right about it though, he couldn't put his finger on it. All he knew was that there were people depending on B-Squad for a rescue and he was going to see to it that they got it.
"Syd, stay here and guard the shuttle until the medvac gets here." Jack ordered. "Bridge, I want you to lead us to them."
Bridge wanted to say no, tell them that his head hurt too much, but working through pain was part of being a Ranger. Instead he silently did as he was ordered, leading his three teammates into the forest.
An hour later and one grueling trek up the side of a mountain the four Rangers found themselves staked outside of an encampment of some kind. They could see the cadets and instructors being kept inside a compartment that looked suspiciously like the one Thresher and Stench had kept Cruger and Omega trapped in. Krybots were patrolling the area while two Orangehead Krybots stood guard in front of the compartment.
"They've got the place secured pretty well." Z murmured, taking in the scene.
"I don't like it." Sky said. "This is too easy. Why would they keep them right out in the open like this?"
Jack scanned the area once more and could only come up with one conclusion. "They're expecting us. This is a trap."
"Yeah, but where's the trap? All I see are the basic grunts that we could beat with out hands tied behind our backs." Sky muttered.
Bridge didn't like it. There was no cover for them to sneak under. It was all out in the open and once they made themselves known there would be no place to hide if things went down hill. A psychic scan of the area didn't show anything helpful. If this was a trap it was either a really, really good one or the worst he had ever seen.
"So, what's the plan?" Z asked, glancing at Jack.
"There's no way for us to sneak in." Jack surmised, wishing the encampment was closer to the cliff wall so they could repel in behind. As it was there were patrols all around and any movement toward the encampment was sure to be spotted. "We've got to hit 'em fast and hard. If we take too long they might execute the hostages."
"I can see the forcefield panel from here." Sky said, glancing over the rock outcropping they were hiding behind. "One clear shot and they'd be free."
"Free to get caught between the crossfire." Jack retorted. "They're safer there while we take care of the Krybots." He was silent as he lifted his head enough to look at the encampment once more. It was a trap, he knew that much, but he couldn't see where the trap was going to come from. They couldn't just blunder into it, but they couldn't let their fellow cadets and the two instructors stay prisoners. A plan began to form in his head, but it would be risky and require the use of some civilian powers. "I have a plan, but it's going to be risky."
"Risks are a part of the job." Sky replied.
"Okay, here's what we're going to do..."
It took a few minutes of arguing and revising the plan until they had something that all four of them agreed on. They wasted no time in putting the plan into action. Z's eyes flashed as she created two replicants and then sent them over the outcropping and straight toward the encampment. The four listened as the battle began and Z's replicants drew all the attention to themselves. Jack put the next part of his plan in action as he put one hand on Z's shoulder and the other on Sky's while Sky put his hand on Bridge's shoulder connecting them all. Summoning his power Jack pushed it through the connections making all of them phase right through the rock. As soon as they passed through Sky threw up a shield and all four of them rushed forward. Z's replicants had successfully separated the Krybots into two groups with a large gap in between. The team rushed right through the gap and toward the remaining two Orangehead Krybots. Sky continued to hold up the shield as the other three morphed.
"SPD Emergency!" There was only a breath's pause before they called out again. "SWAT mode!"
By the time they reached the two Orangehead Krybots Sky let down his shield and side stepped so that his morphed teammates blasted the two Orangeheads. A blast from behind reminded them of the other Krybots. As they turned to face them they were faced with ten times as many Krybots as there had been before, including a dozen Blueheads as well as several more Orangeheads. Sky quickly morphed and joined his teammates as they stood defiantly before the overwhelming odds.
"Z, make sure none of them get to the prisoners." Jack ordered. He pointed his delta enforcer toward the army of Krybots and Bridge and Sky followed suit. "Charge!"
The three male Rangers ran forward with their delta enforcers firing away. The Krybots charged as well and the real battle began. The Rangers managed to diminish the number of enemy troops a little by the time the fight turned physical, but there were still a great many Krybots. Instantly the three were separated from one another as they fought valiantly against the hordes. Z fired continuously from her post before she too began to fight against the wave of foot soldiers that threatened to overwhelm her.
Syd was just going into the shuttle to check on the injured cadet when she heard him moan. Upon entering the cramped medbay of the shuttle she found him awake and surprisingly lucid. He gave her a small smile which she returned as she moved to stand beside his bed.
"How do you feel Cadet?" Syd asked.
"Surprisingly not bad." He said. "Must be the morphine."
"Do you remember what happened?" Syd asked.
The cadet's eyes darkened. "They struck out of nowhere. Instructor Reece and Instructor Nelson-Reece were able to hold off the Krybots for a while until something new entered the fight. Some kind of invisible enemy beat them both. The Krybots were leading us away when I tried to make a break for the communication equipment and the last thing I remember is a searing pain and flying through the air."
"Something invisible?" Syd repeated.
"Yeah, whatever it was Instructor Reece and Instructor Nelson-Reece couldn't fight it."
Sydney's heart leapt into her throat. Whatever had defeated two of the toughest instructors was still out there. Out there without her teammates knowing a thing. She had to warn them. She pulled her morpher and flipped it open.
"Guys! There's some kind of invisible enemy running around!"
There was no response.
"Jack? Can you hear me, please respond!"
There was an earsplitting crackle of static and Syd felt her stomach plummet. Something was blocking the communication. She had no way of warning her teammates about the threat stalking them. All she could do was hope that the medvac arrived soon so that she could join her teammates in time to save them.
Bridge spun in a circle with his delta enforcer outstretched in front of him. He took down the Krybots around him and moved to help Sky when something clotheslined him to the ground. The Green Ranger quickly got to his feet, but a kick to his chest made him stumble back and something hard struck him across the faceplate, taking him to one knee. He was struck under the chin hard enough to launch him into the air before he landed hard on his back. The attack was so intense and so quick that he didn't have a chance to call for help. In the time it took him to draw a breath he was laid out and near unconsciousness, barely holding on to his morph.
Jack was putting his all into the battle as usual when he was struck from behind. He spun with his delta enforcer outstretched to strike whatever was there, but was faced with empty space. He had just enough time to wrinkle his eyebrows in confusion before his head snapped back from a forceful hit. Stars swam in his vision as a strike to his chest not only sent him flying, but knocked the breath out of him as well. He struggled to get back up, but a kick to the chest sent him tumbling to land a few feet before Z. He caught his breath as he stumbled to his feet.
"Z, get them back to the shuttle!" Jack ordered.
Sky battled fearlessly against the army of Krybots around him. He used a combination of physical fighting and well timed shots from his delta enforcer to take out a good amount of soldiers around him. Then something surprising happened. One of his shots missed the intended Krybot, but it didn't miss completely. Something shimmered in the air and then became visible. It was a sleek Greenhead Krybot that actually looked like the head had been somewhat designed to look like Bridge's ranger helmet without the red lights on the sides and the visor was red instead of black. It looked heavily armored and slow, but Sky knew that looks could be deceiving and he wasn't making any assumptions about this new threat.
"Just what we need another Krybot." Sky muttered. He pointed his delta enforcer at the new Krybot, but the Greenhead lunged forward, blades flashing out of its wrists. It swung one bladed hand and knocked the gun aside and threw Sky off balance as well. The other blade whistled around and slashed across the Blue Ranger's back and Sky fell to the ground.
Jack saw the danger his teammate was in and aimed his delta enforcer at the Greenhead's back. Z followed suit, ready to help her teammate. As they fired the Krybot swung around and used the blades to deflect the shots into the mountain side. It wasn't much, but it was enough to give Sky the opportunity to roll away. The three Rangers regrouped, but were surprised when the Krybot suddenly shimmered and disappeared again. The three braced themselves for an attack that never came.
Bridge was struggling to his feet when something hit him in the ribs. He was knocked into the air and then two powerful slashes slammed him into the ground again. With a groan he reached out for his delta enforcer and just managed to grab it before his foot was yanked. He twisted around and got off a few good shots bringing the Greenhead back into view. The Krybot made a sound that could have been a growl and used its grip on Bridge's foot to swing him around and threw him toward the outcropping of rocks. Bridge's instincts kicked in and as he tumbled he rolled to his feet. He looked around for his teammates in hopes that they could help him, but he found them battling some more Krybots and couldn't help.
"It's just you and me Green Ranger." The Greenhead said, its voice deep and menacing. "No one can help you now."
"I don't need help." Bridge snarled. He aimed his delta enforcer for a shot, but he Greenhead lunged forward and sliced the weapon in half. Bridge dropped the useless weapon and dodged away from the unrelenting assault from the Greenhead.
Sky saw the danger his friend was in, but the Krybots were keeping him at bay. He was worried about his younger teammate. Bridge and the Greenhead were now fighting only a few feet away from the edge. Bridge seemed to be doing a fairly good job of avoiding the Krybot's attacks, but nothing Bridge did in return seemed to have any kind of effect. In fact, he was furious to realize the Krybot was merely toying with the struggling Green Ranger.
Then there came a sound that made everyone stop, even the Krybots. A deep rumble filled the air and made the ground tremble. With terrible realization Sky looked up toward the rest of the mountain and felt his heart skip a beat. Bearing down on them with terrifying speed was the last thing any of them wanted to see. It was an avalanche and it was almost too close for any kind of reaction.
Jack reacted as quickly as he could. He knew there wasn't enough time to do anything for the people in the compartment behind him. The only thing he could do was save Z and Sky. Without hesitation he demorphed and grabbed his two teammates who followed his lead. The Krybots, who had some self-preservation programming, turned to try and run, but it was too late. The avalanche roared over the area with ferocious force. Jack demolecularized himself and his two teammates beside him. The thundering snow passed right through them, but not everyone was that lucky. Bridge and the Krybot were in the open with nowhere to go and nothing to save them.