Disclaimer: Power Rangers. Disney owns them…………yeah
Authors' Note: TIC: Starting with this chapter we are really jumping into the meat of the story and establishing the flow. From here on out things just continue to escalate. Thanks to everyone who has been reading this so far and I hope that you will stick around for the ride and maybe some of those that haven't read yet will jump on board now.
Chapter 5: Winds of Change
There's an old adage that debates what is worse: would you rather be to Eden and taste the sweet fruit or know of such delectable pleasure, but never experience it yourself? For most people in Reefside, California, the former seems to be the greater of the two evils. Kira Ford can fondly remember both of her parents. They divorced while she was young but neither stopped loving her. She would spend two weeks at a time with one of them before switching houses across town. She could still go to the same elementary and middle schools, she got two rooms, her mother and father had both found a loving and caring second start so she basically had two sets of parents. Two Christmases, two birthdays, everything in life that a child could cherish, she had a matching set.
In fact, the unique thing that she wished she had another one of was her best friend, Kylee Styles. Kylee met Kira at the start of the sixth grade. There were two elementary schools in town and as kids advanced, they were merged into one middle school. When everyone was asked to stand up in front of class and talk about their families, Kylee said that her father had died within the last year but she wasn't sad because her mother loved her twice as much to make up for him. As the class was seated into groups of four based upon an alphabetical, first name system, the two girls were in the same group. Soon they discovered their mutual love for music. They formed a duo to be reckoned with in the school talent show, taking second prize overall.
But the girls, like everyone else, saw the events that led to the enslavement of Earth at the hands of Emperor Zordon unfold on national television. Depending on location, different areas were hit harder. Southern California was the nexus for this activity. Throughout the years, as Kira recalled, the Power Rangers always seemed to be centered there. What possessed these evil forces to target the start remained a mystery.
The day after the formal surrender of the federal government, everyone was in a state of panic. Should they go to school? Was there even a school to go to anymore? A fast, deliberate rasping at the door shocked Kira back into the cold reality that was beginning to envelope the planet. Kylee ran inside, her knees buckled as she collapsed as soon as she had crossed the threshold. The eyeliner that she had begged her mother to let her start wearing was smeared across her face.
"She's gone," Kylee choked past the pain. Kira ran over and hugged her best friend. What else could she do? She clenched her close, refusing to let go until there was some answer that would bring some sort of clarity. Kylee gasped through her story as Kira's father handed her a glass of water. Apparently Zordon's forces had been traveling house to house, striping them bare for valuables to help feed his army. When Kylee's mother didn't have as much as they were hoping for and she began to resist, one trigger happy soldier shot her. They had quickly filed out and went on to the next residence, leaving Kylee behind to fend for herself.
Kira eyed her father. He was usually so cool and calm and while he was silent as usual, it had her on edge. He didn't have an easy answer for his daughter. Despite all the bullets the family had dodged, this was the first time that Kira couldn't look to anyone else for a solution.
As the next few years went on, both girls got disenfranchised with the new dictatorship that had swept the country. Both of Kira's parents had agreed that Kylee could go where Kira went, from house to house, two weeks at a time. Wanting two of everyone, Kira finally had a sister of sorts. But, while the parents were asleep at night, the girls would always sneak out and make their way to a secret location. Like clockwork, a black jeep would arrive and pick them up at 10:35 p.m to take them to their oasis. The resistance base that was run by one Terrance Smith and the first person to join the organization, Cassidy Cornell. It was there that the girls learned everything together. How to shoot a gun, how to defend themselves, how to finally feel like there was a place where they both belonged and had hope in a world where such a dream was impossible. One night, the girls just didn't go home. The parents searched and searched but never found them again. The girls didn't much care either. They had a higher calling. With each bombing raid on one of Zordon or Mesogog's factories, life felt just a little more livable.
To this day Kira still kicks herself for the botched operation. It was her call on how much explosives to use and she overstuffed the damned bomb. When it went off she was blown clean to the side, knocking herself out on pipe. She came to back in the rebel camp. Cassidy informed her that based on surveillance it appeared that Kylee had either been killed in the explosion or some of his soldiers had found her and finished the job themselves. Due to her location, Kira was just flat out overlooked.
She buried herself in paperwork for weeks. While others went out on jobs, Kira refused to leave the resistance base. Terrance would visit her, day after day, only to get the same response that she just didn't feel up to fieldwork. Smitty's rational had always been that after the war was over he would make sure that Kira would return to her family. Until then, he tried to act as her surrogate father. Had he failed her? No, he refused to accept that.
A few months passed by, Kira refusing to heal. Smith came to her one day, explaining how important the next assignment was and how it was going to take her special marksmanship to land a perfect shot. Reluctantly, she decided to join him along with a new recruit. Krista reminded Kira so much of Kylee sometimes that it scared her. Physically they weren't similar at all. Krista was much taller and her deep, red hair contrasted Kira's towheaded band mate. But the youthful exuberance and gung ho spirit that drove Kylee was ever present in this new girl.
The assignment was actually fairly by the books. Smitty was just hoping that once Kira took that first step out the door, the others would come naturally. Mesogog had recently set up a testing facility on as isthmus in the northwest corner of Reefside. They were simply to get in and use the strategic cover of nightfall and tree canopies to sniper a few control panels hooked to some chambers of experimental devolution formula. Smitty had already painstakingly committed to memory the locations of these targets and the chance of guards expecting them was slim to none due to the relative recency of the compound's erection.
To this day Smitty regrets ever having Kira go on the assignment. As he yelled at her and the other teenagers to run while he held of Edward Payne, in his heart he believed that she knew that and he hoped that one day she would forgive him.
Kira, on the other hand was quietly musing to herself as she floated in the air. Was it air? Not really. Surely Ethan would have a fancy, five-dollar-word for what was going on. In her gut if felt like a dagger was slowly twisting her organs. It was a painful, unfamiliar feeling that oddly put her at ease. That was the real money question. Why is it that at the time when she has the least amount of control over her life that she finally feels at ease with the world around her? If, in fact, you can call the temporal stream a world in of itself.
In a rapid succession, like the thud of sand bags being dropped as a stopgap, Kira heard Conner and Ethan drop to the ground followed by their groans of complain. She braced for impact, praying for her sore back. Instead of being met with a dull pain instead she dropped gently into someone's arms. Tender arms, she mused to herself, caring arms. In a smooth, delayed gaze she beamed up at her savior, hoping to find a pair of baby blues eyes. What she saw was the bloody crimson visor that had forced her awake in a cold sweat so many nights before.
"Get away from me you son of a bitch!" Kira screamed as she punched Trent on his helmeted jaw line. She leaped out of his arms, taking a defensive stance.
"Kira, Kira, Kira! Calm down! That's Trent," Conner rest assuredly placed his hands on her shoulders. "He's helping us now, remember?"
Kira brushed the much taller boy off as if any human contact would make her skin melt. "Maybe he's helping you. I don't trust him."
"Power down," Trent whispered, hoping that his human form would ease the tension.
"So just exactly where are we?" Conner voicing the concern that everyone was feeling. Ethan vigorously tinkered with the sequencer.
"Blue Bay Harbor... 2003..." he murmured, rather dejected.
"You mean to tell me that I had to abandon my best friends to travel back in time one year and only a few hundred miles after from home?" Kira was visibly frazzled, venting her frustration on the three guys. "No dinosaurs to slay, no world conquerors to stop, to wars to prevent? We went through all of that and this stupid machine basically has the same function as a car? Hell, before you answer that, what exactly are we doing here anyway? I must not have been informed of the situation. See, I was too busy almost becoming a science project and being carved for dinner by 'Mr. Short, White, and Creepy' over here," she pointed an accusing finger at Trent.
Ethan pointed to the corresponding buttons and monitors on the sequencer as he tried to explain the situation. "The coordinates are preprogrammed. According to these devices the four of us, along with this Dr. Oliver are the DinoThunder Power Rangers. That's why we rescued you and got the gems. We found these at the dig site where you attacked Mesogog and were subsequently yourself attacked by... um..."
Kira shot a glance at Trent who in turn glared at Ethan for bringing the topic up again.
"...anyway," Ethan gulping, trying to regain his train of thought. "According to this device the Power Rangers are supposed to go back through time, year by year, to systematically find out what problem caused the much more desirable timeline that it displays into the one that we are familiar with. Basically, it's trial by error."
"What should we do with this in the mean time?" Conner pondered as he rolled the black dino gem back and forth across his knuckles.
Ethan snatched the gem off of Conner's hand, eyeballing him. "THIS could be used to find this Dr. Oliver guy. It's supposedly his so the closer we get to him, the more it should glow. In theory it will act as a tracking device."
Trent gazed out across the land. He remembered the area fairly well from a briefing he had gotten from his so-called father. Apparently Zordon's forces had effectively slashed and burned everything in an effort to wipe out groups that he deemed possible future threats. They had never actually presented any aggression against the emperor. It was a preemptive strike on his part. Total and complete brutality just because he was irrationally afraid. All of the beauty of the once lush forest, the fertile lands, and the teeming rivers was gone.
As the White Ranger peered at the landscape, another pair of eyes was examining him. The man steadied his breath and pulse rate. Just arriving to this section of his enemy's territory on his daily surveillance run, the man pondered the group. The four teenagers seemed normal enough, but why would they possibly be here? Had other ninjas survived the attacks? Was it even possible? They didn't have any uniforms or distinctive markings of Zordon or any of his underlings' troops. Either way, he pressed a small red button on the side of his morpher. No matter who they were it was always good to have some back up.
"Hello!" he cried out with little more than a thought. It was best to play it casual until he knew more. He revealed himself from his spot. The four teens took a defensive stance for a moment. The tallest of the group and the black one appeared to be happy just to see any sign of life. Meanwhile, the other boy in the long coat was far too tense. What shook the man was how this boy was shaking not of fear, but of excitement. He was clearly a fighter. Better watch him.
The last one was the most out of place among the others and not just because she was the only female. He could feel an uneasy confidence radiating off her that was intoxicating. She was clearly a woman who had been through the ringer and come out stronger than ever. His desire to drink in her spirit was overwhelming.
"Hey man, good to see someone," Conner extended his hand to which the man gave it a brief, firm shake.
"My name's Blake. What are you doing out here? It's not safe," he inquired, eyeing them one by one, searching for any discernable body language that would reveal if what they said and their actual intentions rang true.
"That's a good question," Trent brushed Conner back, stepping forward to meet this unknown man head on, taking note of his black uniform. The way it reminded him of a ninja gi sent up a red flag in Trent's mind. "We don't really know where 'here' is and we're basically stranded. You wouldn't happen to be able to tell us where we are, would you?"
Blake painted the most sincere face he could for the travelers. "I can do you one better," he pointed off to the west. "My brother and a friend of ours are located in a ninja academy a few miles that way. If you'd be willing, I'd take you over there and you could spent the night."
Ethan and Kira looked at Conner for advice. He nodded towards them, ignoring Trent's apprehensive gaze. "Sure," he cautiously answered. "We'd love to."
Blake led the way, followed at his side by Conner, who had tucked the black dino gem into his breast pocket for safekeeping. Kira was close behind, holding onto the holo-dome for Ethan who was lagging behind while he studied the sequencer.
"As I told you, my name is Blake Bradley," the man began telling his story at Conner's request to pass the time. "My older brother Hunter and I were adopted when we were young and brought up in the Thunder Ninja Academy..."
"Ninja Storm," Conner muttered.
"What's that?" Blake perked up.
"Oh, nothing," he waved Blake off. "I have a twin brother who always wanted to try that ninja stuff. Too bad he's not here. He'd kill to have you show him a few moves."
Ethan momentarily stole himself away from the device. "Ninjas? Awesome. Ninjas are cool!"
"As I was saying." Hitting his pace again, the man continued. "We were trained from a young age in all forms of discipline based on the teachings of thunder. There are approximately twenty different ninja schools, each based on an element. Among them, two reign as the most powerful, thunder being number one."
What's the other one?" Kira chimed in, almost running directly into the man as he stopped cold in his tracks. She gulped. A chill fell over her, almost as if the breeze around her was picking up speed. No, wait. She wasn't just imagining it. Her hair began to violently flutter in her face, obstructing her vision. Blake gently placed his hand up, palm outstretched against her torso.
"Stay back," he whispered in precaution. "They're here."
Ethan finally looked up from his work. "Who's here?" he stuttered. He got his answer in the form of a cool blast of air, knocking him to his feet along with the others. They all struggled to regain their footing. As they stood up, before them three people, arms crossed, were looking them up and down in contempt. They wore clean, black uniforms; each accented by a primary color and matching ninja insignia medals. They were oddly similar to the old on Blake with only a few minor differing details.
"What are you doing here, Thunder?" the darker skinned man with short, black hair and a red highlighted uniform inquired of Blake.
"You're in our territory," the blonde woman accused. Her costume contrasted the blacks with a light, almost sky blue color.
Blake snarled in contempt at them. "I wasn't doing anything, Winds. I was out on a scouting mission. Nothing more."
"Who are they?" accused the yellow clad warrior, his dusty brown hair tossed in the remains of an air pocket wake. "Did you find some more stray ninjas? Are you trying to feed them your typical thunder lies?"
A sudden rumble in the sky sent the team of three into a state of apprehension, assuming defensive poses while a smile curled on Blake's lips. In blinding flashes of dark red and black light, two other forms appeared on either side of the man. On his left there was another man, slightly taller than Blake with messy, sandy blond hair. His uniform matched Blake's leading the rangers to believe that this was the same Hunter that he was talking about.
The other man, if you could call him that, was what struck them as odd. His form was rather large and hulking. His armor wheezed and clanked with every movement. The hilts of swords hung out from both of its shoulders. A red insect design covered the face of what was primarily a pitch dark outfit. He looked oddly out of place in what was already a surreal situation.
"Shane, Tori, Dustin," the recently arrived man called out. "Leave my brother alone. He has not attacked you. If you had any honor, you'd follow the ninja code and let him pass."
"Hunter," Shane interjected. "First of all, I can't believe you'd bring Zurgane with you," he looked at the odd armored man. "I'd have hoped that you'd stop hiding behind outside forces by now. As far as your brother goes, he was in Wind Academy territory spying on us. That can be perceived as an act of aggression. If we choose to attack then it is a an honorable preemptive strike."
"With that threat," Hunter assumed an offensive stance, "you have left us with no other option."
Ethan quickly tucked the sequencer into his pocket while the six fighters readied themselves. He looked down at his bracelet, wishing he had asked Trent how to make it work earlier. Trent himself was just as poised for battle as the others. As Shane and Hunter ran at each other, fist clenched, Ethan decided that it might be a good idea to reevaluate his stance. Maybe ninjas weren't that cool after all.
To be continued...