Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or situations presented here and am not making any profit off of them whatsoever.
Story Title: Sneeze Guard
Rated: PG-13
Word Count: 7,205
Romance: Cassie x T.J.
Notes: This takes place before Phantom Ranger arrives. Comments and criticism gratefully accepted.
Summary: Cassie has a cold, which prompts Divatox to spreading the joy and a germ of her own devising to the other Rangers.

Cassie stared into the glass of orange juice she'd asked for and tried not to think about it not being the smoothie she was used to getting. She sniffed a little, a light tickle brushing against her nose, and started to scramble for her handkerchief. She just managed to get it out and before her face when the sneeze caught her. She groaned a little and sank down further in her chair. She hated being sick, even when it was something as mild as a cold.

"Whoa, Cassie!" It was T.J. She caught the concern in his eyes and offered up a slightly feeble smile, hoping that would reassure him. "Are you all right?"

"Just a little cold. I'll shake it in a couple of days." Cassie shrugged as she tucked the handkerchief back in her pocket and sipped at the orange juice. It did taste good, and she could almost imagine it fighting off the cold as strongly as she fought off Divatox's monsters.

T.J. chewed his lower lip a little. "You know, my mom taught me this recipe for chicken soup, if you want some. It's supposed to knock a cold right out of you in nothing flat."

Cassie sniffled a little and hoped she wouldn't sneeze again. If she did, she hoped she could turn away so it wouldn't get on T.J. She didn't really want to sneeze on anyone, but him least of all. She had found him starring in more than a few casual thoughts of hers over the last few weeks as they gotten to know one another once becoming Power Rangers. She'd made a first impression already; she didn't need any good he thought of her linked with the image of sneezing all over him.

"That sounds pretty good," she replied, once she was certain the urge to sneeze had passed. She'd never had homemade chicken soup before. Her mom had always been the kind who got things out of cans, boxes, and the frozen food section. Cooking just wasn't a big thing in the Chan household.

"Okay. I'll bring some over to you in a little while, okay?" T.J. grinned as he got to his feet, reaching for his books.

"Sure, no problem." She sniffled again, waving to him as he headed out the door of the Youth Center, and drank a little more orange juice. Her own books were right beside her, but she made no move to get them just yet. She didn't really feel like trying any of her homework right away. Maybe I'll stay home from school tomorrow. It wouldn't hurt her to get some rest, after all. Divatox had been running them ragged for the last few days.

A few feet behind her, at one of the tables where someone had left a half-full glass of water, a small periscope lifted itself up and turned towards her. Deep under Angel Grove Lake, Divatox herself watched the listless Pink Ranger and cackled evilly.

"Oh, this is perfect! One of those little Power pukes isn't feeling good! I can use this!" A hundred potential plans ran through her head. Finding and exploiting a new weakness in her enemies was always a way to kill a few hours. It didn't matter that most of this group had had nothing whatsoever to do with destroying Maligore. With what she'd learned from the Blue Senturion's message, these were the really dangerous people anyway.

Elgar looked over at her from where he was playing with his sword. "Whatcha gonna do, Auntie D?"

She thought about not answering him, then decided against it. How could she pass up the chance to explain her own magnificent ideas? Once she'd picked one, anyway...

Which didn't turn out to be as hard as she'd thought it would be. The perfect scheme filled her mind within two seconds of Elgar's question. If one of the Rangers was sick, why not have them all be sick?

"Porto!" She snapped the word as loudly as she could, waiting for her servant to get in there. He'd better having been doing something worthwhile if he wasn't in there catering to her ego. Not that she could imagine something that was more important than doing just that, of course.

The tubby scientist lumbered his way in, almost tripping over one of Elgar's spare hands he'd left laying around. She was going to have to talk to him about that. And by talking she meant beat him over the head with whatever was convenient, large, and heavy. "Yes, my queen?" Porto asked, bowing low before her. She enjoyed the moment before going on to her command.

"I want something that can make all of the Rangers sick. Sick to the point they can't fight anymore! How long will it take you to do it?"

Porto tilted his head and most of his body to the side as he thought it over. "My queen, I can do it, but the Rangers have had to deal with this before. I mean, not most of these since they're new, but it's been done to attack Power Rangers with an illness."

"And? So? You think I care? You think I'm the first person to even try taking over this backwoods little planet? It's not like sending giant monsters against them is something I thought of!" Divatox glared at her scientist. How in the galaxy had he lasted this long being this dumb? She knew it had been done before! The point was, she was going to do it better! Couldn't he see that?

Porto shifted a little, then bowed again. "As you wish, my queen. I think I have some lovely viruses in my lab that I can have ready very soon. When do you want it done?"

"As fast as possible! Yesterday if you can pull it off!" Divatox declared, leaning back and laughing as hard as she possibly could. "Those Rangers are going to be sick alright...sick of me!"

"Uh, Auntie Di, aren't they already--?" Elgar's question was cut off abruptly as Divatox pointed one finger at him imperiously. Even he wasn't dumb enough to mistake what she meant by that.

She turned back to her periscope and peered in to watch the Pink Ranger again as the young woman was caught by a sudden sneeze. "Better get your bed rest, Pink Ranger," she purred. "Because you're sure going to need it when Diva's Fever hits!"

By the time Cassie felt like getting off of the stool she'd been on almost since school had let out the afternoon, Ashley had shown up, finished with cheer leading practice for the day, and was ready to walk home with her. "You rally don't look all that good," the Yellow Ranger commented as they started for the door. "Maybe you should take tomorrow off?"

"Yeah, I was thinking that. T.J. said he was going to be bringing me some chicken soup later." Cassie couldn't help the faintly pink tinge that touched her cheeks at that. Ashley blinked a little, then grinned.

"Oh, really?" There were extra overtones of amusement in the two words that deepened Cassie's flush even more, and she ducked her head in embarrassment. "That's pretty nice of him."

Cassie thanked her lucky stars that Ashley didn't go any further with that. She had her own suspicions concerning her friend and Carlos, but she didn't think it would be a good idea to say anything right now. After all, she could be wrong, and they were just good friends. They had known each other for a while before becoming Rangers, a distinction that she and T.J. didn't exactly have.

"Yeah. He's a nice guy." That was all she really wanted to say about the matter herself. 'Nice' was a complete understatement where T.J. was concerned, though. She couldn't think of enough good adjectives to describe him. None of them even seemed to fit him all the way, either. Maybe 'nice' was just going to have to do it, for now at least.

They made it another block from the Youth Center, and were in general out of sight when a familiar burbling sound echoed, and in a splash and a flash, they were surrounded by Piranhatrons. Cassie groaned.

"Doesn't Divatox understand that I'm sick?" She tossed her books and jacket to the side even as she asked the question, flipping her wrist to summon her Turbo Morpher.

"She probably does. She just doesn't care." Ashley reminded her, whacking one Piranhatron in the face with her literature book before kicking it in the leg. Piranhatrons were too tough to usually be fought unmorphed but she took any chance she could get to do any damage that was possible.

Cassie growled, then sneezed even as she started to bring her Turbo Key around to fit into the morpher. Hopefully once she was in uniform, the sneezing would stop and she could actually get some damage done. As it was, she had no idea if she'd be able to do anything beyond possibly spread some germs around.

Pink light covered her briefly, and when it faded, the Pink Turbo Ranger stood there. The Yellow Turbo Ranger joined her a moment or two later, and the two of them plunged into the Piranhatrons as quickly and as hard as they could. Cassie struggled with two of them and managed to slam them into each other hard enough to send them packing, while Ashley dealt with another pair that were taking her attack on their companion a little personally.

No matter how many of them as they knocked down, more splashed their way onto the scene, giving the two girls even more trouble. Cassie faltered a little, not quite on the verge of a sneeze, but on the verge of the verge. Her vision clouded over for a few seconds, barely more than the space of a breath, but as she tried to get herself steadied, she could see and hear more Piranhatrons ganging up on her.

"Hey! It's rude to do that to a lady!" She breathed a quick sigh of relief at Carlos' voice, and spied the other three Rangers, already morphed, running up to join in the fight. With all five of them there, the fish heads left the scene in record time, and Cassie demorphed as soon as they were gone, sagging down to the ground as a wave of exhaustion passed over her.

"Cassie?" Justin stepped closer, worry in his eyes. "Are you all right?"

"I think so...just really tired." She shook her head and pushed her hair out of her eyes, noticing vaguely that she was also covered in sweat. That wasn't a typical reaction coming out of a morph, nor was how weak she felt. She just had a cold, this wasn't supposed to be happening!

T.J. frowned as he came a little closer himself. "Come on, let's get you to the Power Chamber. Maybe Dimitria and Alpha can figure out what's going on."

She nodded, lifting her head to smile at him some. "So, how's that chicken soup coming?"

The dark-skinned Ranger fidgeted some, looking as nervous as a ten year old for a moment. "I had to leave it when we got the call about you guys being in trouble. I don't think it's going to really be worth eating once we're done at the Power Chamber. Sorry about that."

"Hey, no sweat." She grinned reassuringly at him, liking the way his eyes lit back up at her words. "You can make it the next time I get sick."

"Well, let's hope that's not too soon. Come on, let's go." He didn't exactly hover near her, but he did keep an eye on her to be certain she didn't need any help standing as she got herself to her feet. All of them were doing the exact same thing, but only T.J.'s expression made her quiver a little inside.

In five streaks of light, they zipped over the town and landed in their headquarters. Dimitria looked down at them from her tube, the eternal look of calm regard on her face. "You are troubled, Rangers."

"I think something's wrong with Cassie," T.J. said as he stepped forward, one hand resting lightly on her shoulder. "She's already got a cold, but she almost passed out when she demorphed, and she's all sweaty, like she has a fever."

Alpha came over, one of the diagnostic devices in his hands. "Well, let's just see what we can find out with this thing, huh?" He passed it over her from head to waist a few times and watched the display carefully.

Cassie fidgeted a little, fumbling briefly for her handkerchief as she felt another sneeze coming on. "What's it say, Alpha?"

"Says you've got a cold," the little robot told her unnecessarily before he moved on to the real meat of the reply. "And it looks like your powers are screwing around with the cold. They're making it worse. Best thing for you to do is not morph until you're over it."

Cassie sighed some. "Easier said than done when Divatox is around. I wonder what she's got planned next."

"Whatever it is, we'll do our best to take care of it while you get some rest," T.J. told her. "You really need to save your energy now."

She wanted to tell him she was fine, but another wave of weakness put all of her concentration more on actually being able to stand than anything else. Looks like I'm taking tomorrow off whether I want to or not.

"I'm going to try and make another batch of the soup right now, if the other one is really screwed up," T.J. said, concern again flickering across his face. "Maybe that'll help you."

She didn't really feel like arguing. Anything that could help her feel better would be welcome right now.

"I'm going on back home," she said, straightening up the best she could. All she wanted to do right now was go to sleep, preferably for a week if possible. "If Divatox tries anything..."

T.J. shook his head before she could finish the sentence. "I said, we'll handle it if she does. We can manage. We can call the Blue Senturion if we need to."

"All right." There was very little else for her to say, nor did she have the strength to say it if there was. She touched her communicator and teleported back to her room in Ashley's home. The Hammonds themselves wouldn't be back for another couple of hours, which was just fine as far as Cassie was concerned at the moment. She groaned briefly as she realized she'd left her books at the ambush site, and almost started out the door when a yawn caught her.

I'll get them later. Or ask one of the others to, if Ashley doesn't remember it. Ashley might; her friend was the type who would. But for now, the bed called to her much more enticingly than the books did. Within ten minutes of having laid down, just managing to kick her shoes off and nothing more, she was sound asleep.

"Porto!" Divatox's yell echoed all over the Subcraft. "Do you have Diva's Fever ready yet? You better have!"

"It's ready, my queen, but it's not really that much of a fever, it really leads more to exhaustion, spots, and --" He stopped dead at the look on her face as he entered the bridge of the Subcraft. "Yes, my queen, your fever is ready. It's very fast-acting, too, they should feeling the effects within minutes of it being administered." That wasn't how he would have preferred to say it, but there were days when it didn't pay to be too scientifically accurate. Most of them had been every day since he'd joined her.

"Excellent! Now, tell me how you're going to get it to those idiot Rangers?" Divatox leaned forward as if she were a child anticipating a bedtime story. Porto mentally sighed. He should've listened to his mother and become a plastic surgeon instead of an evil scientist. The pay would have been less, but he would have had a little more job satisfaction.

"I've created a monster that will shoot the Rangers with special needles which are filled with the toxin that will cause the disease," Porto said. He motioned behind himself and a tall, gangly sort of creature strolled out, looking like nothing more nor less than an armored syringe with arms and legs, with a tissue box for a head and a red cross on it's chest, a large sword in one hand and a shield in the other. "This is Sneeze Guard, your greatness, and he is going to deliver your ...fever to the Rangers!"

Divatox eyed the monster carefully, then nodded and flapped her arms imperiously. "Get moving, then! They're not going to get sick with you standing here admiring my good looks!"

Porto motioned to Sneeze Guard, who at once vanished in a puff of sickly looking green light. Divatox leaned back in her chair and smiled smugly to herself. She just loved being Queen.

T.J. teleported back into the Power Chamber barely twenty minutes after he'd left it. "What's going on?" He'd just managed to get things going again for Cassie's soup. It wasn't completely ready, but it wasn't going to be at it's best if he had to keep turning it on and off. His uncle had promised to watch it when T.J. had told him he had to run out again quickly, but still...his uncle didn't know the recipe like he knew the recipe.

"Yo, yo, yo, Divatox's sent down a monster! And it's a pretty nasty looking one, too!" Alpha declared, motioning them towards the view screens. Justin snorted a little.

"All of her monsters are nasty looking. It's what she does." He shook his head at the sight of the new creature, though. "What's this one do?"

"You gaze upon Sneeze Guard, who shoots sharp-pointed needles and can wrap up an opponent in his tissues, rendering them incapable of fighting," Dimitria told them in her ethereal voice. All four of the Rangers there shuddered visibly.

"Just great," Carlos muttered. The others looked at him curiously until he elaborated with three simple words. "I hate needles."

T.J., for all that he had sounded confident to Cassie about their ability to handle anything Divatox threw at them while she was sick, tried his best not to show how nervous he was. Not just for her sake, which was bad enough, but this was his first time leading the Rangers into a battle when there wasn't a full team. If something went wrong, it was going to be his fault.

You can do this, he told himself in an attempt to bolster his courage. They're all counting on you. Cassie is counting on you. That last, more than anything else, got him to square his shoulders and get moving. "We'll give this monster a shot of our own! Shift into Turbo!"

Four colorful figures appeared in downtown Angel Grove, where Sneeze Guard was busy shooting people with miniature needles one moment and wrapping them in his tissues the next.

"Hey! Practicing medicine without a license is against the law in Angel Grove!" T.J. declared as soon as they got there. He tried not to listen to the cheering of the civilians as they realized their heroes were there. That was something he was still trying to get used to, and he had to keep his focus here.

"Well, well, if it isn't the Power Rangers," Sneeze Guard declared as he turned towards them. "One, two, three, four...is one of you missing?" The laugh he laughed showed plainly that he knew all about Cassie being sick. "Think you can beat me with just four of you?"

"I could beat you by myself!" T.J. snapped, adrenalin surging through his veins as he charged forward, the others behind him.

Sneeze Guard parried him with his blade as T.J. tried a high kick, then whirled to push Justin back as the Blue Ranger punched him with a quick one-two combo. Ashley and Carlos didn't fare that much better as they too were knocked away.

"He's strong," Ashley muttered, trying to catch her breath. Sneeze Guard had punched her four times in quick succession in her stomach, and even through her armor that had hurt. She was glad Cassie wasn't out there; who knew what that thing might do to her.

"This isn't any fun, Rangers!" Sneeze Guard declared. "So I'm going to do something that will make it fun! For me and Queen Divatox, anyway!"

T.J. didn't like the sound of that. He started towards the monster, and then stumbled as something small flew from the creature and pierced through the softer part of his armor at the base of his throat. Pain shot all through him, and he clutched at it, trying to figure out what it was.

A needle, not much longer than his finger, came away as he did, and there was some kind of residue on his fingertips. "What in the..."

Soft cries from the other Rangers told him that they too had been hit, and he turned towards them in concern. No one had fallen yet, but his head spun and his vision blurred. "What did you do to us?" He shouted, or thought he did, at the monster, who only laughed.

"You're about to get some sick leave, Rangers! Only while you're out of it, Queen Divatox is going to be taking over the world!" There was another laugh, and the creature vanished, presumably going back in triumph to Divatox.

T.J. groaned as he made it over to the others, trying not to stumble as he did so. "Come on. Let's get back to the Power Chamber." He wondered if he'd be able to make some chicken soup for himself and all the others now.

As soon as the Rangers teleported back into the Power Chamber and demorphed, T.J. grabbed onto the nearest console to avoid falling on his face. Was this what Cassie had been feeling? No wonder she'd wanted to go to bed as quickly as she could.

"Alpha, scan the Rangers for what form of disease Divatox's monster has inflicted on them," Dimitria instructed. Almost before she finished the command, the robot was beside them with the same diagnostic tool he'd used barely half an hour before on Cassie.

One by one, each of the Rangers found someplace to lean against and waited for whatever the results were. T.J. closed his eyes in an attempt to stop them from crossing with how exhausted he suddenly was. "This does not feel good." Those words were automatically in the running for understatement of the century. He wanted to throw up. He wanted to lay down and practice his coma imitation. He wanted to take an ice-cold bath to combat the heat rising all through him. One stolen look at the others showed that they had to be feeling just about the same way.

"Yo, yo, yo, this ain't looking good, Dimitria!" Alpha reported, staring up at his mistress. "Fever, nausea, exhaustion, and that's just the first stages! It's going to get worse if we can't find a cure. And if they morph, it'll get worse faster!"

Dimitria considered thoughtfully. "Research a cure as quickly as you can, Alpha. Perhaps some blood samples will enable us to find a way to reverse this situation before it is out of hand."

Alpha nodded and waddled off to get what he needed to take the samples. T.J. took several deep breaths. "What about Cassie?" If that monster attacked her while she was at home, asleep, and vulnerable, he'd find a way to tear it apart, with his bare hands if he had to.

"I am watching her, T.J.," Dimitria reassured him. "Should any of Divatox's monsters, minions, or Piranhatrons get near her, I will teleport her here at once."

Reassured, T.J. settled back and watched as Alpha came back with several devices that looked more like they should have come out of either the latest Hollywood space age blockbuster or a mad scientist's lab. Still leaning on the console, he waited for Alpha to do what he had to do.

Divatox was thrilled to the tips of her toes as she watched her monster take the Rangers down. Getting through their armor, even at the weak spot of the neck, was a major accomplishment. She would have to reward him for that. Maybe she'd actually let him kiss her hand.

Hm. No. He hadn't actually beaten them yet, after all. But a word or two of praise wouldn't cost her anything.

Now, all that they had to do was wait for the Rangers to be too sick to even think about fighting. She could flood Angel Grove with her Piranhatrons and get a foothold to take over the rest of the world.

She peered through the periscope again and frowned. The Pink Ranger hadn't shown up with them this time. Well, that wasn't a real problem. She was already sick, after all, so she was probably resting or whatever it was humans did when they were sick.

Divatox leaned back and relaxed herself. There was nothing better than having the world at your fingertips.

Cassie groaned as she started to drag herself back to the realm of the awake. Something was making the most annoying noise near her head, and she wanted it to stop. Her fingers quested first for her alarm clock, and as they closed over it, she realized belatedly that it wasn't what was causing the trouble. It was something a little closer.

Her mind made a connection, and she realized it was her communicator's sound. She blinked a little, not quite processing at full speed, then slowly brought it up to her mouth. "Huh?" It wasn't the most eloquent of answers, but it got the point across.

"Cassie, get to the Power Chamber right away! The Rangers need your help!" Alpha's voice filtered over the device. Cassie blinked a few times, then stared at the clock again. She'd slept nearly an hour and a half, and she could hear the sounds of the Hammonds moving around outside. "Come on! This could mean life and death!"

She blinked again, then sat up. Just doing that made her feel a little more alert. Whatever was going on, she was sure she could handle it. Maybe not quickly, but she'd managed. "All right, I'm on the way." She stood up, made certain she wasn't going to fall, and hit the button on her communicator, vanishing in a shower of pink sparkles.

Seconds later, Ashley's mother opened the door and peeked in, her mouth open to ask a question before she realized there was no one there. "Those girls," she said, shaking her head and closing the door again. "Always rushing off and never telling anyone."

Miles away, Cassie appeared in the Power Chamber. The first thing she saw were the four other Rangers, laid out on four cots that she knew had never been there before. There were buckets near each of their heads, and all of them appeared as if they were in the deepest of sleeps.

"What's going on?" Was this what happened when she didn't go into a fight with them?

"It was Divatox!" Alpha declared. Well, that was obvious. Cassie wouldn't have figured it to be the Tooth Fairy. "She sent a monster that shot them up with some kind of a weird disease. It took them down fast, and the same thing happened with them as did with you, the morphing made it worse."

"Have you been able to find a cure?" Cassie shivered as she watched them, her gaze drifting briefly to T.J. They had to find a way to fix this.

"Almost, but I can't do that and take care of them, too." Alpha's voice had always had a variety of emotions, but now it was almost on the edge of panic. She patted him on the shoulder.

"Don't worry, I can take care of it." She wished she knew more about medical procedures. Maybe then she would be able to help a little more than just being a glorified nurse.

But that was necessary, too. Carlos started to cough, one hand going to his throat, and she hurried over to see if there was something she could do for him. This was going to be a long evening, she was sure of it.

That turned out to be yet another understatement. After helping Carlos soothe his throat with some water, and holding a bucket so Justin could throw up into it, and wiping Ashley clear of sweat just long enough for a fresh coating to ooze from her pores, and getting several tissues for T.J. when a sneezing spasm hit him, she was perfectly willing to at least consider breaking the rules of the Power Rangers and taking the fight to Divatox. Or at least dragging the pirate down to the Chamber so she could deal with what she'd done on a personal basis.

"Any luck on finding the cure yet, Alpha?" She managed to get a few seconds free to ask the robot.

"I'm running the last scans now," he told her. She peered over his shoulder, not quite understanding all the data, but it gave her something to do as he processed it. "Whoa...so there is a cure!"

There was? Cassie sagged down in relief. She'd almost been afraid that Divatox had invented something that couldn't be cured. "What is it?"

"Yo, yo, yo..." Alpha shook his head. "I don't believe this! It's chicken soup!"

Cassie blinked a few times and rubbed her ear. "Did you say chicken soup?" Alpha nodded, and she was torn between sighing in relief and laughing. She decided on a little of both for the moment. "T.J. was making some, I think. I can go over there and get it." She wanted this little nightmare over with, and the sooner the better.

She glanced over at the others, who hadn't moved too much in the last few minutes. As much as she enjoyed the break, she didn't like how still they were. They weren't going to get any better if she just stayed around there. "I'll be right back, Alpha, Dimitria."

She didn't wait around for a good-bye, but simply tapped her communicator and vanished from the Chamber, heading straight for T.J.'s uncle's home. She didn't know if he would be there or not, but she kind of hoped he wouldn't be. It would make it a lot easier to get the soup and get out.

She arrived in the kitchen, and the first thing she saw was a nice big pot of soup bubbling on the stove. As the aroma hit her nostrils, she sighed in pleasure. She'd never been a big fan of chicken soup, but this just seemed to scream healthy and good for you.

"Hey. I didn't hear you come in." She whirled the second she heard the voice and saw her friend's uncle standing there. "You're Cassie, aren't you? One of T.J.'s friends?"

Cassie nodded quickly, wishing she'd come as the Pink Ranger. It would've been easier to commander the soup that way. "Yeah." A hundred and one things she could say popped into her head, and none of them fit the situation.

The older man nodded slightly, an amused smile on his lips. "I think he was making that soup for you. He said you weren't feeling that well, then he had to run out."

"I know. He asked me to come get it," she said, grasping onto the first thing she could think of. "He can't make it back right now. A lot holding him down." That wasn't a lie. It wasn't the truth, either, but she wasn't going to split hairs.

He looked at her carefully, as if searching her face for some hint of falsehood, then nodded. "All right. But he's going to be doing the dishes when he gets home, tell him that."

"You've got it, Mr. Johnson." Cassie helped him get a plastic dish out of a cupboard and watched as he carefully poured the soup into it. There was more than enough there for all five of them, and she could hardly wait to help them get it in them. They had a monster to defeat, after all. "Thank you."

"My pleasure, Cassie," he smiled at her. "I'll see you around." He waved as she started out the door and down the sidewalk, glad he hadn't asked why she hadn't knocked or something like that. Maybe her luck was holding somewhat. She couldn't, sadly, teleport out of there as long as he was watching her. But she knew a convenient spot just around the corner where no one would see her. One of the first lessons they'd learned as Rangers was to find the closest places that were out of sight for quick morphs and teleports.

She had just turned the corner when a familiar burble sounded, and five Piranhatrons were there. "Don't you guys ever take a day off?" Cassie held the container of soup closer, knowing she had to get back to the Power Chamber with it as fast as possible. Another pair of Piranhatrons sprang into being behind her before she could squirm away from the first batch, each of them grabbing one of her arms. One of the others grabbed for the dish and snatched it away from her, throwing it down on the ground as hard as possible.

Cassie winced at the sight; not just at good food being casually wasted, but the chance to save the Rangers being destroyed. She still kept trying to get away from the Piranhatrons, but that proved to be not only useless, but unnecessary. As soon as the soup was irrevocably gone, all of them vanished, one of them with a mocking sort of salute.

"Great. Just great." She gathered up the dish and checked to be sure no one was around before teleporting away. Maybe something could be salvaged before it was too late.

Alpha prodded at the remains inside the container carefully, then set it down on the console. "I think I can use what's left to synthesize a larger batch. It's going to take some time, though."

"Time is running out." Cassie walked over to T.J., and had to stare for almost a minute to realize that he was still breathing. "But we don't have a choice."

Alpha nodded, and started to take the container to one of the back rooms, when the alarms began to blare suddenly. "Yo, yo, yo! Divatox's Sneeze Guard is back!" Alpha took one look at the alert system, and knew exactly what all the noise meant. He'd had a lot of practice, after all.

Cassie stifled a sigh. If Piranhatrons didn't get days off, then Rangers didn't get sick days. "I'll go keep it distracted while you work on that."

"Be careful, Pink Ranger," Dimitria spoke up. "Remember, you yourself are still ill, and the effects of morphing will not improve your condition."

"I know. But I've got to do it." Cassie threw one glance at her friends, a second at T.J., and then, "Shift into Turbo!"

As soon as she landed in the park, where Sneeze Guard was busy wrapping up even more citizens, Cassie wished that her cold had waited a few days before hitting her. She knew she could do this, but it wasn't going to be even remotely fun. Not that fighting monsters ever really was, but this was less amusing than usual.

"Hey, needlenose!" She shouted the insult as soon as she saw the creature. "Want to pick on someone who can fight back?" Was that Bulk and Skull that had just been wrapped up by Sneeze Guard? She thought it was. Those two had a habit of getting into things that were related to the Power Rangers. It was just a gift they had. Or a curse.

Sneeze Guard laughed and charged towards her, syringe-sword upraised. She darted to the side quickly and stuck out a leg, hoping she could trip the creature. It fell over her, but recovered almost at once, swiping at her with both fists. She grunted as one hit, but she blocked the other and shoved as hard as she could.

That was how it went, blows being either blocked or parried. Her armor absorbed a lot of the damage, but she was still feeling more than a little woozy. I need to hurt him. I don't think I can beat him by myself, but I'm going to make him wish he hadn't come down here! I just need to be able to hit him without him hitting me. She thought for a moment, keeping her eyes on him the whole time, then grinned under her helmet. She hadn't used this weapon very often, but this was the perfect time for it.

"Turbo Wind Fire!" She called for the bow of the Pink Turbo Ranger and fired one energy beam after the other at Sneeze Guard. It tried to use its shield to ward them off, and managed to succeed with one, but the next two hit elsewhere. It couldn't move the shield fast enough to keep up with her.

"Hey! That's cheating!" The monster declared. "Stop doing that!"

"What, and making all my friends sick wasn't cheating?" Cassie growled, anger rising just at the thought of that. "You're a good one to talk about that!"

Sneeze Guard shook its head quickly. "That was just my job! Really!" It started to inch away and she kept the bow trained on him, ready to attack again at any second. "Nothing personal!"

"I'm taking it personally." Cassie told him, starting to draw back her bowstring again.

Before she could shoot off the energy arrow this time, something knocked into her side, and she lost her balance, getting knocked against a tree. Her bow fell from her hands, and as she reached for it, someone kicked it away from her. She looked up to see Rygog and Elgar there, both looking especially repulsive today.

"Who invited you two to this party?" She managed to get herself into a sitting position, but standing was going to take a bit more effort right now. She hoped she'd been able to delay Sneeze Guard enough for Alpha to get that soup ready, and into the Rangers.

"We got a free pass because of Auntie D!" Elgar declared. Cassie really hoped they never found out just how Divatox and Elgar had managed to spring from the same genetic stew. That was one of the mysterious of the universe that everyone agreed was better off unsolved.

"Well, we're revoking your free pass! You want to play with us, you're going to pay for it!"

Cassie almost sang for joy at the sound of T.J.'s voice and the sight of her fellow Rangers just a few feet away. She pushed herself quickly to her feet and grabbed for the bow before zipping over as fast as she could make herself move to join them. "Good to see you guys back on your feet!"

"Good to be back!" Ashley told her. "And you're up for a dash of that soup once you get back, too. With what Alpha did to it, it should knock that cold right out of you."

Cassie couldn't remember hearing news that good all day. "Then let's get rid of these jerks so we can take care of that!"

"Turbo Cannon time, guys!" T.J. ordered. In seconds, they had assembled the mighty weapon, and pointed it straight at Sneeze Guard.

"Hey, come on!" The monster backed off as quickly as it could. "You don't want to do that! I'm sick! Really!" A few fake coughs preceded the blast of the cannon, and the monster vanished in a spray of tissues and a few syringes that faded away to nothingness in a few moments. Elgar and Rygog took one look at that, and teleported away as quickly as they'd arrived, obviously not feeling up to continuing the fight on those kinds of terms.

"You're not sick," Cassie grinned, her throat feeling a touch itchy. "You're finished."

"And you're going back to the Power Chamber," T.J. told her. She smiled a bit wearily, knowing he couldn't see it. It didn't matter, though. He was as concerned about her as she'd been about him. She liked that, a lot.

Once they arrived back in the Power Chamber, T.J. pointed her directly to one of the cots they'd been laying on. She didn't even bother to demorph before she sat down on one and Alpha had shuffled over with a big steaming cup of soup. It smelled just as good as what she'd found in T.J.'s uncle's kitchen, and she was looking forward to this.

With everyone watching her like four, five, or possibly even six hawks, she demorphed, her hands clenching at the edge of the cot. She closed her eyes as the weakness washed over, but managed to cling to consciousness. It was worse than it had been the last time, too. She took several deep breaths, and when she felt she was ready, opened her eyes and reached out a hand for the cup.

"Hope this does for you what it did for them!" Alpha declared as he set it into her hand. She breathed in the steam rising from the cup for a moment or two, then began to sip at the soup. It was every bit as good as it had smelled, and she drank more and more with each moment, until she'd finally gotten it all down.

T.J. patted her shoulder once she was done and Alpha had taken the cup away. "Now, you should go home and get some sleep. You'll feel better in no time." He hesitated for a moment, glancing at Carlos, who nodded slightly, and Justin, who did the same. Then he looked back at her. "You know, that Halloween Dance at school is in a couple of weeks."

She blinked; that had come a bit out of nowhere. There had been posters up all over the Youth Center and school for over a week, but she hadn't really paid that much attention, beyond wondering if she should try to get a quick band put together to try and perform at it. But she did nod, she knew that. T.J. kept going.

"I was wondering, would you maybe want to go there with me? On a date?" She couldn't tell if he were blushing or not, but he sounded absolutely nervous. She couldn't help but smile.

"Sure. I'd love to, T.J." And with any luck, she'd be totally over this cold by then. It was probably going to be a costume party, but she knew two things she wasn't going as: a Power Ranger, or a nurse. For the moment, she'd had enough of both of them. What she wanted to be was Rip Van Winkle: and get some sleep.

"Porto!" Divatox screeched at the top of her lungs as she whirled away from the periscope, staring around for her servant. "What kind of a lousy monster was that? Was that the best disease you could come up with? Why did I even listen to you? You never know what you're talking about! Everyone's done diseases! I'm better than that! And I'm going to find a way to bring those Rangers down!"

Porto stayed where he was, out of her sight, and wished he could find a way to make her lose her voice forever. Or at least for a few days...

Then a sudden sneeze echoed from the bridge, and Divatox's voice rose in a shrill screech once more. "Porto! Get me some chicken soup! Right now!"

The End