Their plan was twofold with only one drawback. They were about to leave a still unconscious Z defenseless. It was risky, but necessary. Syd, being the swiftest of the three, was going to lure as many of the Purpleheads away as she could. Jack and Sky would take care of the rest. After only a brief argument it had been decided that Sky would go down into the hole and hopefully ambush the Greenhead.
At Jack's sigal Syd rushed out of hiding, firing her enforcer at the Krybots. Immediately two of the Purpleheads took off after her with their cannons blazing. As soon as they were out of sight Sky and Jack charged the other two. The Krybots never even got shots off in return as hits to their power sources caused them to explode in an impressive show.
Sky wasted no time. With a quick wave Sky dropped into the hole. Instantly he turned on his night vision and was able to see the ground rushing up below him. The highly trained Ranger landed smoothly in a crouch. He swung his enforcer around the area making sure the Greenhead wasn't nearby. The immediate area was clear and he was able to see there was only one tunnel leading away. Instinctively he checked the tracks on the ground and was able to confirm only two sets of footprints, but scarily enough he was also able to see Bridge was bleeding and from the amount of blood it was at least one fairly serious wound. With his enforcer ready for trouble Sky set off at a quick pace hoping to catch up with the Greenhead before it caught up with his wayward teammate.
Bridge stumbled and fell against the cold rock wall. He was losing too much blood and his strength was fading. He could sense that he was being followed and knew with growing dread that it wasn't one of his teammates. There was no fight left in him only the impulse to soldier on and hope that the tunnel led back to the surface. He pushed away from the wall and staggered on, painfully aware that his pursuer was close enough for him to hear.
"There's nowhere for you to run little Ranger."
Bridge groaned. Did all bad guys have to be so cliché? He was really getting tired of the taunts. In another place and time where he wasn't seriously injured and on the run he would have set his own trap for the Krybot just to get it to shut up. As it was all he could do was grumble under his breath and stumble on.
And then the tunnel suddenly gave way and the wall he had been using to lean on was gone. He gave a small yelp as he fell on his side, his injuries screaming at the harsh jolt. His resolve to keep going was gone. He was beyond cold and just plain exhausted. There was not strength in him to get back up again, not this time.
"Now that's disappointing," a mechanical voice sneered from somewhere close by. Bridge had no way of seeing through the darkness all around him. "I had hoped for a real hunt."
"Sorry...to disappoint," Bridge muttered weakly.
"Oh well, now that I've caught you it's time to have a little fun before I kill you."
"I think not!"
The Greenhead Krybot spun to face the new threat. There standing with a big gun pointed directly at it was the Blue Ranger. The Greenhead snarled at having its fun interrupted. Sky pointed his enforcer at the Krybot, but didn't fire. He knew that in Bridge's unmorphed state an explosion could seriously injure him further than he already was. The amount of blood Bridge was losing made Sky's heart pound harder. If he didn't get his friend back to base and more importantly to the infirmary Bridge was going to bleed to death.
"Step away from him!" Sky ordered fiercely.
The Greenhead growled. "No."
Sky hesitated, unsure of how exactly to take down the Krybot. Bridge, filled with new energy at the sound of Sky's voice, decided to help. Everything happened so fast that the Krybot never saw it coming. Bridge reached out and snagged the Greenhead's foot and pulled. He didn't have the strength to actually move it, but it caught the Greenhead's attention. It looked down at him for only a second but that was all the time Sky needed. The Blue Ranger lunged forward and slammed the Krybot away from Bridge. There was a brief struggle and the Greehead got in one good slash across Sky's chest, before Sky blasted its head off and watched it explode.
Sky hurried to his friend's side. "You're going to be okay now, Bridge."
Syd could feel the purple energy blazing past her as she led the Purplehead Krybots on a merry chase. They seemed determined to catch her. That was okay because she was just as determined not to let them catch her...not until she was ready anyway.
"...repeat, this is SPD shuttle A166 to B-Squad do you copy?"
Syd nearly jumped as her comlink suddenly came to life. It didn't even cross her mind to wonder how communications were suddenly working. She listened as Jack automatically responded to the call.
"This is B-Squad. Please tell me you're here to pick us up?"
"My ETA is three minutes," the shuttle pilot replied. "What's your status?"
"We've had some complications down here. Z is injured and unconscious and Sky is looking for Bridge," Jack reported.
"I've found Bridge. He's in desperate need of medical attention and we're going to need a lift out of here," Sky spoke up.
"Roger that. Medics are aboard and will be ready."
"They'll have to come to us," Sky commented. Everyone knew that couldn't mean anything good.
"Syd, what's your status?" Jack asked.
"Just taking care of a few loose ends and then I'll double back," Syd replied, greatly relieved with the new turn of events.
It was time to take care of those pesky Krybots. With practiced ease she came to an instant stop and swung around. The two Purpleheads skidded to halts as well, but the first one was destroyed before it could get a shot off. Then she rolled to the side as the other Purplehead blasted the space she had just been in. It swung to take aim at her again, but three quick and efficient shots from her enforcer destroyed it as well. With that done she headed back to her teammates.
"Sky, I'm really cold," Bridge murmured.
Sky was thankful that Bridge couldn't see his face. It was tearing him apart, but Sky was sure his best friend was going to bleed to death before help got to them. He had already demorphed and was using his shirt to try and slow the bleeding and had his jacket draped over his shivering teammate. The wounds were deeper than Sky had thought at first and despite his best efforts the bleeding was only slowing a little.
"I know buddy, just hang in there. The medics will be here real soon," Sky replied as calmly as he could.
Sky frowned in confusion. Where did that come from? "Sorry for what?"
"That I always annoy you so much," Bridge said as if Sky should have known that already. "Don't mean to."
Sky wanted to deny that, but at the same time he didn't want to lie. Bridge did annoy him, a lot sometimes, but that was never any excuse for him to lash out. It wasn't Bridge's fault that he dealt with the effects of his powers by babbling. As his friend, Sky should have understood that. He never should have made Bridge feel unwanted or like he was any kind of burden.
"You're not the one who should be apologizing," Sky said after a few moments of agonizing silence. "I've been a really bad friend to you."
"S'okay, been stressed," came Bridge's murmured and somewhat slurry reply.
Sky swallowed his panic at how far gone Bridge sounded. "It's not okay, Bridge. You're my best friend and I've treated you horribly the past few days."
Sky grabbed his friend's hand and squeezed. "Stay with me. Help is on the way you only have to hold on a little longer."
"Tried to be strong," Bridge mumbled. "Didn't want you to have to save me again."
"You are strong, Bridge. You might not be physically strong, but you're strong in all the ways that count," Sky told him. "I never would have made it this far."
"No, I'm serious. I can only imagine what kind of hell you've been through, but I know that if I were in your shoes I would have given up a long time ago."
Bridge snorted but remained silent, his eyes flickering shut. Sky squeezed his hand again, making sure Bridge was still conscious. His eyes opened to slits and looked at Sky.
"I'll make it up to you."
Sky laughed softly. "I promise."
Bridge's eyes slid shut as the sound of approaching feet caught Sky's attention. Immediately he morphed and brought up his deltamax striker to point at the entrance into the cavern they were in. He waited for a few tense moments before two medics appeared carrying a hover-stretcher between them. Sky stood up and moved away to give them room as a third medic entered carrying their gear.
"Sky, report," Jack ordered through the comlink.
"The medics are checking him over now," Sky reported back. "Once they get him onto the stretcher we'll be heading your way."
"We'll be ready."
Sky watched at the medics worked to quickly get his friend stabilized and ready to move. It took a few minutes, but eventually they had temporary patches on the wounds and were able to move Bridge onto stretcher. Instinctively, Sky moved to lead the way just in case any surprises popped up. When he reached the end of the tunnel he found a stasis capsule waiting and stepped aside to let the medics load Bridge into it. He was somewhat wary of it since the stasis capsules were fairly new, but he knew it was the best chance of keeping Bridge alive until they got back to base.
The shout from the surface made Sky jump in surprise and he looked up through the hole. Explosions rocked the area and he caught a flash of purple before there were more explosions. The tunnel collapsed suddenly sending waves of rock bouncing through the hole where he and three medics were trying to get Bridge to safety. Sky moved on instinct and drove the three men to the ground and protected them with his morphed body.
"Jack, what's going on?" Sky demanded.
"Purpleheads were bombing the ground and collapsed the tunnel. They were probably trying to catch you guys," Jack answered. "Is everyone okay down there?"
"We're fine. They've got Bridge in the stasis capsule and it's ready to be lifted out whenever you're clear up there," Sky said as he pushed himself back to his feet. He then helped the three medics up.
"We're clear up here," Jack replied.
"Retracting stasis capsule, now," the pilot of the shuttle announced.
With a mechanical whir the stasis capsule slowly lifted off the ground and Sky watched it go feeling like the nightmare was finally coming to an end. With the communications open again Jack was reporting back to Delta Command on the situation. They still had one more problem to deal with. Those Purpleheads were still buzzing around and trying to take potshots at the shuttle. Only Syd and Jack's constant protection with their enforcers were keeping the Krybots at bay. Once they were all inside the shuttle there would be no defense against the attackers. Kat had a simple solution for that problem.
"I'm sending the SWAT flyers. ETA is five minutes."
Once the stasis capsule was detached from the winch it was replaced by a harness and lowered back into the hole. The medics were then lifted out one by one and when they were all safely on the surface Sky was lifted out. Immediately he joined his teammates in their effort to keep the Purplehead Krybots away. Five minutes passed by slowly as they endured barrage after barrage. Then to make things more difficult swarms of the regular old Krybots began to swarm from every direction. It was as if Gruumm could sense his prize being stolen from him and was throwing everything he had at them. RIC joined the fight from out of nowhere and then when things looked really desperate the SWAT flyers buzzed over in autopilot mode.
More than anything Sky wanted to stay with his friend's stasis capsule, but he knew he duty was to protect the shuttle and get it back to Delta Command safely. Only he, Jack, and Syd were in any condition to pilot their flyers. Z was conscious, but the medics insisted on taking care of her leg. Sky was confident that three flyers were enough against a few Krybots. For once that day he was right. The Purpleheads were much to small to be a threat to the flyers and through sheer luck Gruumm didn't send a robot to stop them. The flight back to base was smooth and uneventful. Sky breathed a sigh of relief.
Sky didn't even realize he had closed his eyes until a touch to his shoulder startled him. He jerked in surprise and looked up into Syd's smiling face, taking the cup of coffee she offered him. He knew what was coming next. She was going to tell him to go get some rest, that waiting around wasn't going to make Kat report anything any quicker.
"Any word yet?"
Sky sighed deeply. "Nope."
"I know, I know. I should be resting not wasting my time sitting here," Sky cut her off with an annoyed edge to his voice. "I don't want to hear it."
"You said it, not me," Syd shot back, just as annoyed at his attitude. She sighed and calmed herself down. "What I was actually going to say was that none of this is your fault and you shouldn't blame yourself for it."
Sky blinked in surprise. "I don't--."
"Yes you do," Syd interrupted his denial. "You're sitting there beating yourself up for multiple reasons, all of which you had no control over."
"Not all of them," and the softness in his voice surprised Syd. "If we hadn't found him in time the last thing I said to him would have been words of anger. I actually made him feel like he was inferior to me."
"He knows you didn't really mean it," Syd replied comfortingly. "It's Bridge we're talking about. He doesn't hold grudges."
"It's not grudges I'm worried about," Sky said. "When we were talking underground he made it sound like it was no real accomplishment that he survived so long. I think I really did some damage to his self esteem."
"I'm sure it's nothing that can't be repaired, Sky," Syd told him gently. "Don't be so hard on yourself."
"I know, but a real friend never would have said those things to him."
"Well, you've got all the time in the world to make it up to him," Kat announced as she approached from the infirmary. "Dr. Felix is still doing some minor work, but he says Bridge is going to be fine. A few days of rest and recuperation and he'll be back to his usual cheerful self."
"Can we see him?" Sky asked hopefully.
Kat shook her head with an apologetic smile. "Not yet. He needs rest and so do you. Get some sleep Sky, he'll be here when you wake up."
Sky wanted to argue, but at that moment Commander Cruger approached and Kat shot him a knowing look. If Sky didn't go on his own she would have Cruger order him. Sky sighed in defeat and got up followed by Syd. As soon as he was on his feet Sky knew just how tired he was. He hadn't slept at all since arriving back at base, not even when he was confined to an infirmary bed while they took care of his stomach, which had mild one degree burns. He sleepily let Syd lead him back to the personal quarters. She wished him goodnight, which he returned, before he disappeared inside.
He went about his bedtime preparation with his mind only half on the tasks. His gaze kept sweeping over to his roommate's empty bed. He knew they were all lucky that Bridge had survived. If he had ever doubted Bridge, which on occasion he had, those doubts were long gone. He would never doubt his friend ever again. More than that he was thankful for the chance to repair the damage he had done to their friendship. He had been offered a second chance to be a real friend to Bridge and he was going to take it.
And that is The End folks. I will be completely honest and say that this was supposed to be longer, but there was no honest plot line. It was just a whole lot of putting everyone through hell. Unfortunately, my muses have dragged me to a different fandom and I was afraid if I didn't end this now I never would and I hate leaving stories unfinished. If my muses ever allow for it I may write a sequel to this to fix the emotional wounds between Sky and Bridge, but don't hold your breath. Thanks to everyone who's reviewed. It means a lot to me.