Author's Notes: Sorry for the long delay between chapters, but I've re-written this chapter twice before I was pleased with it. My plan is to have a 22-chapter story, in the veins of a television season, with overlapping arcs, and plot and character development going on simultaneously. In other words, I am very excited to write it (even if my speed is proving otherwise!) That said, I'd really love to hear feedback from you! I'm trying my best to mesh old school with new technology, old villains and new threats, old powers and new upgrades... You get the idea. :D That said, though, my very original plan was for each new Time Force team to have members from different eras, but after mulling over it for a very long time, I decided against it. The reason is simple: I thought of what I'd want to see, as a reader, and as much as I love some of the later Rangers, the original ones are really the best characters in the PR universe. It took a bit of creativity to make it not cliched or trite (I hope!) but hopefully, when you read on, you'll see what I mean.
Disclaimer: I own nothing except for the plot! Everything belongs to their rightful owners, yadda yadda.
First day on the job. Everything's peachy keen, isn't it? Former Rangers are going to find out how far from the truth that can be...
ONCE A RANGER
Chapter One: Dawns
Kimberly stared at the holographic image floating on top of her Chrono Morpher. 'A2-C6-B5' was written in it, but she had absolutely no idea what it meant, and she was fifteen minutes from being late for the first day of work. That was the last thing she wanted to be but frustratingly, the Chrono Morpher offered her no further help.
As if it wasn't hard enough to find the headquarters, Kimberly thought and followed it with a groan, as she hit yet another dead-end in this maze structure of the building. She got the general gist of it – Time Force was a top-secret division; it needed to operate out of the most secure base anyone could think of, security measures have to be taken, but dammit, if its officers couldn't even maneuver their way around, then it was bordering on ridiculous! Maybe spending that extra ten minutes in the shower wasn't the best plan ever, she thought grumpily. Checking the morpher again, she shook her head in frustration and continued walking around in what seemed like circles.
Wait. She stopped short. That wasn't the same code she remembered when she was standing at that other spot, she thought, and after deciding to give her new theory a try, she stepped forward. The second number flashed, and switched. Yes! She wanted to do a victory dance, but managed to contain herself, if only because she knew that the whole place must be rigged with cameras.
Quickly corresponding the letters to each direction, Kimberly finally reached the designated spot, although the lack of a door made her brows crease together again. Looking around and scrutinizing the area, she realized there was a faint, white circle on the floor, and given the exhaustion of other options, she stepped into it.
The red light that flashed nearly blinded her. Thankfully, along with the red light, a door also materialized. With a little unsure bounce to her steps, she moved right in front of something she vaguely recognized as an identification device. Immediately it began a scan through her body and her retina, and after a surely frightening and befuddling ten seconds, the door slid open as a mechanical voice that Kimberly could swear sounded just like Alpha announced that the DNA was a match.
To think that it was just the previous night that Taylor had dropped by so unexpectedly with such an offer was surreal. And to be honest, Kimberly thought, it was pretty low-key as well. She'd managed to say goodbye to her colleagues who were still around at eight in the evening, and left a note for those who weren't, but that was her extent of her farewell.
Within the next few hours, and even minutes before her birthday rolled by, she found herself on the road to Silver Hills. I'm certifiable, that string of thought ran through her mind as she looked out the window and the cars zooming by, I'm packing up my life to do a crazy thing like this. All that she'd packed was a backpack filled with the most important things; passports and security items and a few items of clothes. To anyone who knew her when she was young and knew of her rather enormous wardrobe and accessories, that would come as a complete shock. But Kimberly figured that clothes could be bought again (a reason for shopping was as good as any – as much as she'd changed, a hobby was a hobby). Transplanting her life to yet another city should feel familiar to her, but it didn't feel that way at all.
The draft from the air-conditioning prickled at her hands, and she clenched them subconsciously against her thighs.
"Glad you could join us today."
Kimberly nodded her head in return. As she surveyed the room, the other woman reached over the table and walked around it, so that she was standing right in front of Kim. Ever-so-slightly raising her eyebrow, Kim wondered if there was something in the standard operating procedures she'd forgotten to do or say, until the brown-haired woman spoke up again, this time with a hint of cadence in her tone.
"I'm Jen Scotts, and I'm the captain of Time Force," she said, and Kimberly nodded slowly, taking in the information and racking her brain for something, since the name was so familiar to her. After a few seconds, she remembered that her name had came up whenever the Wild Force Rangers talked about the Mut-Orgs and how they had needed to enlist the Time Force Rangers' help, which pushed Taylor and Eric's relationship in the right direction. Kimberly also realized that she was filling in for the Pink Ranger directly in place of Jen, at least for this time period. For any other person, that would have been too much pressure, too much stress on trying to get the job done, but Kim knew she'd be able to do the job, and do it well, and while this knowledge registered in her mind, it served more as a motivation than a threat.
"Kimberly Hart," she offered, although it was obvious Jen knew who she was.
"You come very highly recommended," Jen told her, and there was that phrase again and that left Kim feeling a little unsettled again, not knowing who it was that had been talking about her to all these people in the organization. Before she could ponder any further, Jen held out to her a book, and a weapon that her Chrono Morpher registered as a Chrono Blaster.
Taking the items, Kimberly pursed her lips together. The weight of the weapon wasn't unlike her own firearm, but it felt so different and foreign. "Um, thanks," she finally said.
"There's a schedule uploaded into the main database and your Chrono Morpher should be able to download it as soon as you need it," Jen started, and Kim shook off her feelings and went right into work mode. "But off the top of my head, training starts in about three hours. You should rendezvous with your team mates in your team's meeting room before that, and I suggest you get yourself acquainted with this as fast as possible," she gestured at the Chrono Blaster. "There's a firing range in the east wing, and a gym next to it too."
"Okay..." That uncertain tone crept up her voice again and Kim cleared her throat quickly to get rid of it. She wasn't going to let first-day jitters get to her, not when there was training and meeting up with strangers involved. Jen struck her as a woman who was all business and no play when work was in focus. It was a quality that Kim respected, although she didn't quite follow that creed personally. But as long as she was working under her as an officer, she wouldn't jeopardize this working relationship. Knowing that it would be good if she read the manual she'd just been handed, as well as get a few quick rounds of the firing range before training, she continued speaking. "If that's all, I'll just go get ready, Captain."
"Have a great first day, Kimberly. Good luck." Jen's big smile took Kimberly by surprise, but after just a nano-second of hesitation, she nodded happily.
"You know, somehow I don't think luck will have much to do for this," she replied with a small grin, and closed the door behind her.
Finding the meeting room wasn't as hard as she anticipated it to be. This time, her morpher was a little more helpful in locating the room, although the big sign outside the (real) door certainly pointed her in the right direction too. Kimberly was pretty curious to know the people she'd be working with in close proximity in Team One, and since everyone were Rangers before, she knew she could count on it being an enriching experience at the very least.
She tugged at her uniform. In her quick glance through the manual, she noted that it was more or less just like any law enforcement unit with the usual rules, although with its own differences and twists. The identities of all personnel involved in Time Force were to be kept strictly confidential from the public, but one other rule in particular stood out.
Never escalate a fight. Misty eyes and a lump in the throat aside, the rules that Zordon had asked them to pledge by served as a reminder of a time more innocent and young. She missed the wise mentor, much more than she could put in words.
Sensing a slight hum coming from the room, she smoothened down the creases of her uniform and placed her palm on the scanning device, pushing the door opened when the door unlocked.
And then she saw him.
Years and distance may have put the strain on them, but it was indubitably him. His back was facing away from the door, but there was no doubt in Kim's mind; the way he moved along the length of the table to reach for his manual, the strength of his footsteps when he stepped back into his initial spot and tapped his feet. Even in the uniform, his body still filled it out perfectly, and she just stood at the door, half-smirking to herself and admiring the view, if only for a little while. Moving with the grace of all those years as a gymnast, she stopped somewhere in the middle of the room as quietly as she could.
Startled, he jumped at her voice before whirling around, shock clearly written in his eyes before he realized who it was. Kim laughed to herself, but even then she had to give him some credit for recovering nicely and only wasting a beat on his answer without even squirming.
"No. Blue. I'll introduce you to Wes when he gets in later," he offered casually, as if his color change was the most normal thing in the world. She didn't miss that bit of trivia at all, and with her mind zooming past his colors, she tried hard not to burst out laughing and can only manage with a dry chuckle.
"Blue? Seriously? You're going to be a walking advert for a coloring competition soon," she teased him lightly. She was a little surprised too – Reds were the leaders, and Blues were the backbone and support of the team, but still the second in command after Reds. Of course, there were clear exceptions at times, but Tommy not being the leader was just odd to her in a way that square pegs don't fit round holes.
He looked a little amused at her reaction. "It was that or pink, and I didn't want to incur your wrath," he joked.
A small part of the reason why he was lured into being an integral part of Time Force was the very fact that he wasn't going to lead the team as the Red Ranger, for reasons he hadn't told anybody before. When the Silver Guardians approached him with the blueprints of the entire operation, he'd practically salivated at its potential. And not just for Earth in general, but also for himself. Being a high school teacher was nice and stable, but he was also constantly bored out of his mind, and always looking for excitement elsewhere. The Dino Gems were drained out of their powers and were nothing more than pretty rocks and memories now, but the power of invisibility that'd bonded to his DNA would always be a part of him.
He hadn't chosen this life for himself. As a teenager, he'd sulked and pouted and refused to talk to his parents when they uprooted his life into Angel Grove. He was just starting to make some great friends back home despite having little to no common interests in between, and was even getting some decent grades at school. Asking him to leave that all behind for some silly town where stupid building-sized monsters tore entire structures down on a regular basis, no less, was just unfathomable, and Tommy could honestly not figure out why his parents even wanted to move there in the first place.
As it turned out, it was all just destiny toying with them. When Rita Repulsa abducted him in that alleyway after school that day, it marked just the beginning. He still marveled the fact that Jason and the team embraced him with welcoming arms instead of blaming him for the hurt he'd caused. It was just a whirlwind, with everything that happened one after another. Before he knew it, time had flown by. High school years were over and suddenly the one thing he'd been working so hard for were taken away from him. He wasn't bitter more than he was feeling underwhelmed by the power withdrawal. For something that had been an integral part of his life for almost four years, it was almost cruel to take it away just like that. Filling the void had been hard – racing cars for his uncle just wasn't cutting it with college classes getting in the way, and to add insult to injury, Katherine broke up with him without so much as a reason why than a tearful goodbye at the airport.
He buried himself with school after that. A work-study opportunity with Anton Mercer Industries sounded too good to be true; the possibility of being on the fast track to obtain a doctorate in Paleontology in five years and the chance of a lifetime to develop and fuse dinosaur DNA with technology was a dream for him. It came as a surprise to his parents when he told them of his decision and his subsequent success in getting the scholarship, but Tommy knew better. He'd always been fond of dinosaurs – they were a big part of his life, more than racecars ever were.
"Personally, I'd love to see some pink on you," Kimberly was saying and that shook him out of the little trip down memory lane. He snorted, and placed his left hand on his hip in an almost defiant manner.
"You couldn't get me to do that in high school, and you can't get me to do that now," he said, although he was careful not to directly allude to when they were dating. They were friends now and even though he thought he'd forgiven her for how she handled the breakup all the years back, he didn't want to tread these dangerous grounds when he had no idea what she thought.
She gave him a lingering gaze with a hint of a smirk, which made his throat constrict without him even meaning to.
"Oh yeah? We'll see about that."
He panicked, but tried not to let it show. There was no sharp retort at the tip of his tongue, no witty one-liner off the top of his head but thankfully he was saved by the doorbell – or at least, by the door flinging open. The two of them turned their heads around, only to see a familiar face emerging from the doorframe and who looked just about as shocked as Kimberly was when their faces registered in his mind.
"Someone should've given me a warning that I'd find the two of you here!" Jason Lee Scott exclaimed, a big grin growing on his face as he stepped forward to give her a nice, hearty hug, which she returned in earnest. She hadn't seen Jason as much as she liked in the past months, but the bond between near-siblings would always be there, and she missed him. Jabbing her thumb towards Tommy's general direction, she looked pointedly at the other man in the room.
"Guess his color."
Tommy groaned internally. Jason was the biggest instigator in all of the teasing about him being the most colorful Ranger of all time. The combined teasing capabilities that came from the tag team comprising of Kimberly and Jason was a formidable force, and something Tommy desperately wanted to not be at the brunt of.
Jason, on the other hand, crossed his arms in front of him as he contemplated Kimberly's question, eyeballing Tommy with a raised eyebrow. "I'm going to have to go with Red because we all know how much Tommy likes stealing my color," he finally said with a devilish grin, and Tommy rolled his eyes.
"No, it's not red, it's – " she stopped short and frowned. "Wait, what are you?"
Glancing in what he hoped was a casual manner at Tommy as he answered, Jason held up his left hand where his morpher was strapped on. "Green."
Nothing could stop that largely mischievous grin from growing on Tommy's face. "What's that I hear?" He brought his hand behind his ear, intending to enjoy this to the fullest while it lasted. "Stealing colors? What's that?"
"More importantly," Jason continued as if Tommy weren't there, "Since it's not red or green or pink, I'm really hoping it's yellow."
Kim chewed on her lip faux-thoughtfully and tapped her index finger on her chin. "You know, that's one color he hasn't worn yet."
"I think we should all place emphasis on 'yet'."
"You think Trini and Aisha would launch a two-pronged attack if he does?"
"I know one of those ladies would bare her Saber-Toothed fangs if he does."
"You know, guys. I'm still here."
As much as it felt right to be annoyed by the teasing, Tommy wasn't. Jason knew the line between light-hearted teasing, and shoving it where it really hurt, and although he hovered over that line quite precariously in the past, no real damage was done. There was something to say about work productivity when the environment is great, and Tommy thought that as long as they got the job done well, having a little bit of fun at his expense wasn't such a big deal in the long run.
"We could make you a plaque, you know, or submit you into the Guinness World Records," Jason was still going on, and Tommy stopped himself from rolling his eyes, however good-naturedly, at him.
"Hey, Kim," Tommy opted for pointedly ignoring his best friend too, his voice an octave higher than usual. "Happy birthday, by the way."
That grin that lit up her face was priceless. Honestly, Kim hadn't seen Tommy in person for just a little over eight years, and the last time they met was downright hostile on both ends. While it wasn't something Kim was proud of, it was also far too long for him to hold a grudge. Remembering her birthday was monumental (even when used as a diversion tactic); and as a subtle feeling of glee ran through her veins she smiled appreciatively at him.
"I didn't think you'd remember."
"Kim, as a general rule, Valentine's Day is hard to forget," Jason butted in.
"Actually," Tommy responded casually, "I did forget once, two years ago. My girlfriend at that time wasn't too pleased."
Kim scrunched up her nose, as if being reminded that her birthday falling on the same day as Valentine's Day was a bad thing. Her last few significant relationships lasted no longer than a few months, and none of them spanned the month of February. She couldn't say for certain if she'd be upset if a boyfriend had forgotten both her birthday and Valentine's Day at the same time, but it didn't look like she was going to find out any time soon anyway.
"Okay, so, I have a question that's completely unrelated to the discussion right now," she started, eager to swing the attention on her birthday away after the initial wave of giddy delight passed. "What kind of training are we going to have later?"
Tommy looked at her in surprise. "Jen didn't say anything about that?"
"She handed me the Blaster and the manual, that's all," Kim told him, and Jason nodded, agreeing with what she said.
"I can answer that," a new voice rang out from the door, and as the three turned their eyes towards that direction, both Taylor Earhardt and Wesley Collins walked in. Quickly surmising that they were the missing Yellow and Red Rangers the team lacked, Kim locked her eyes at Wes in earnest for an elaboration to her question.
"The Silver Guardians, together with the officers that came back came up a training schedule for the next two weeks, by the end of which we hope to create a sense of cohesiveness and the ideal team work for the teams for Time Force. Anyway," he extended his right hand out and smiled at her warmly, "You must be Kimberly. I'm Wes."
She returned with a bright smile and a quick handshake. The team was going to be charmingly perfect, she thought, and she didn't even need her enhanced abilities to figure that out. It was rapidly shaping up to be one of the best birthdays ever.
On the distant planet of Vica, a young woman was urging her older companion to walk a little faster.
"We're burning daylight here, old fogey!" She shouted, tapping her feet impatiently against the gravel and sand that the now-deserted planet was filled to the brim with. He shook his head irritably, the blue splotch on his face growing darker as he felt the anger build inside him. He was old now, not matching up to his prime, but he was still at least one of the more powerful ones left from the big disaster. This little girl was insufferable, but he was going to have to deal with it if she was to be the vessel of even greater power.
"Precision is key, young Thlex," he told her as soon as he caught up, but she wasn't listening, already bounding off the length of the field, eager to find the object they're looking for.
Lokar heaved a heavy sigh. He hadn't been out and about in a long time. It seemed like a long time ago that he'd witnessed the destruction of Cyclopsis at the hands of the Mighty Morphin Rangers, and an even longer time since Rita Repulsa summoned him. After that failed attempt at subduing the Rangers, he'd retreated back into his cave – he was an element and had no physical body to speak of, having it taken away during a battle many decades ago. It left him with just the ability to project himself, although he managed to retain his other powers too.
And then the weirdest, most miraculous thing happened. A few years later of solitude, after a wave of golden light washed across everything in the universe, he found himself writhing in pain. Pain wasn't uncommon; feeling the jolt through his joints, through his chest was. A warm liquid gushed out of an open wound, and with a start he realized something. He finally had a body again and had no idea how or why. It took him years to get to a planet on another galaxy that had cloaked itself for unknown reasons during the transformation, and it was there he got the answers to his burning questions. The intergalactic being known as Zordon sacrificed his life energy so that he could rid the universe of the United Alliance of Evil, but he hadn't taken into account the ones without physical manifestations. It was a simple law of morphanological physics, and now Lokar was restored. Perhaps not to his former glory, but it was better than nothing.
To his disgust, he also found out what happened to his former empress. As if it wasn't insulting enough to the side of evil that Rita Repulsa was human after the Z-Wave, she had someone take her back years in the past and stationed herself as a force of good for the Mystic realm. He spent months trying to figure out the reason why but to no avail. No one had the answers, no matter where he looked. So, he simply stopped pursuing a lost cause. There were much better things to occupy his time with, like traveling across galaxies and claiming back his tyranny of a time long gone. Finding the girl, completely by accident, was a crowning glory he hadn't expected.
"I found it! I found it! Oh, my brother will be so proud of me!" The girl shrieked, and he looked up in surprise. He hadn't expected her to have such luck to find it, but luck be a lady and there she was, holding up the wand like a prized possession. Not just any wand, he corrected himself. Rita Repulsa's wand. As he made his way slowly towards the girl, his mind filled up with pleasant thoughts of conquering the planets, and then eventually, all the galaxies in the universe.
When she raised the staff above her head, a rumbling clap of thunder sounded and a bolt of lightning struck down as the power cackled in the air between.
The third level of the building screamed intelligent. After all, it was where the offices of the technical minds of Time Force were situated, and that list of people working here ran on from people who created morphers to others who developed technologies and software.
Hayley Ziktor stretched out her legs from behind her desk, tearing her eyes away from the computer screens on it. Two weeks into her new job at Time Force and she was genuinely enjoying herself – the meeting of bright minds who knew and, even more excitingly, shared the secrets she harbored. The chance to put her MIT education to good use certainly helped sweeten the pot. Sure, she wasn't the first person to put together morphers out of practically nothing at all, or the only person who knew how to program Ranger suits and the zords when they hatch, but there was something to be said about all these brilliant people working alongside her to develop even newer and better gizmos for the police organization.
She owed it all to Tommy, Hayley thought ruefully. Not just the offer of a job in Earth's exciting future, but getting her started with the Rangers and their closed-off world. She was 29 and already she'd assisted a team in defending the Earth. Five years ago, when Mesogog was defeated, Hayley found that there was no way she could go back to living the boring life. Tommy had shamelessly used his links with NASADA to get her a job, and she worked from home on classified assignments involving the citizens of the universe, while still keeping up with her Cyberspace business. Reefside was peaceful now; no random monster attacks or Dino eggs to be found. Hayley was content with her job, as the taste of the Rangering world proved to be insatiable.
Then, three weeks ago, Tommy told her about Time Force, and how a team of officers was going to come back from the future to set it up. It sparked off a humorous (and slightly drunk) debate about time travel paradoxes – if Time Force sent a team back to set itself up, how did it get set up in the first place? It gave her a headache to even think about it. The offer of a job as a head analyst for the tech department was just too amazing to turn down. NASADA was great, it branched out for the most part, but Time Force was Ranger-sanctioned and that opened up a whole new world.
There were familiar faces in the department too, some of whom she didn't know personally and only through Tommy, while there were others she knew more intermediately. Billy Cranston she knew well enough, Ethan she definitely knew, but there was also Angela Fairweather-Rawlings and her brother, and Cameron Watanabe, among other unfamiliar names who worked for Lightspeed and departments of NASADA she didn't even knew existed.
When one of the smaller screens started beeping, Hayley thought nothing of it. For the past week, former Rangers were getting on base and into the facility, and with them they brought along massive amounts of energy that triggered the sensitive software. Usually these blips calmed themselves down as the DNA was recognized, but after a full half a minute of non-stop beeping, Hayley finally decided to check the printouts for the abnormality, and immediately she frowned at what she saw. Tapping a simple button on her earpiece, she linked up with another workspace.
A brief moment later, he responded. "'Sup, Hayley?"
"Are you absolutely sure your energy transponder is functioning as it's supposed to be?" she asked, shaking her head ever so slightly as she studied the readings. Spikes of energy were running off the grid and it was something she'd never seen before. Even more disturbingly, she could tell that it wasn't a pure and good energy source – it was almost the same feeling she got when the White Ranger first burst into the scene to fight the other Rangers.
She hoped her intuition was wrong.
"Definitely, I ran a safety check last night. Why?" The former Blue Dino Thunder Ranger's voice floated through the earpiece, and she didn't miss the wary concern he was exuding. She hadn't meant to doubt – Ethan James' software was impeccable, and Hayley felt very proud to be able to say that she saw the potential in him way before anybody did. Yet, occurrences of this sort didn't happen everyday in the Rangering world, as she'd learned all those years ago when Tommy enlisted her help (or more like, she pried it out of him). She'd rather it be a mechanical dysfunction and wound Ethan's pride than risk the horrible scenarios running through her head coming true.
"There is no way your software is just going a little nuts, then?" She crossed her fingers and hoped for an affirmative, but all she heard was a little indignant and protective scoff over at the other end.
"I've spent more than a year perfecting it, so no, I don't think that's it, or at least I don't hope so. What's going on?"
She felt her heart sink. "I think we've got a huge problem on our hands."
The still-constant beeping from the computer seemed almost sinister to her ears.
"You know," Jason finally voiced out after the five minutes of silence the team trekked in. "This feels more like a wilderness survival camp than actual training."
As her hand moved to swat a mosquito, Kimberly had to agree. Not that she was complaining... Oh, who was she kidding. She rolled her eyes and glared at nothing in particular, kicking a rock out of her way in an almost offended manner.
"Don't look at me, I wasn't the one who actually planned this," Wes said defensively, and even he had to wonder what his boys were thinking when they drew up this plan. It wasn't the epitome of fun, obviously; training wasn't supposed to be a cake walk but being dumped unceremoniously in the forest with only their morphers, a map which didn't make sense to any of the five in the group, water to last the day and some protein bars? That was a whole new level of absurdity.
For a brief moment, Kimberly even entertained the thought of questioning Time Force and its legitimacy. Simple as it was, the idea was to get to the end point as a group in the fastest time compared to the others. It had been at least half an hour since they got their instructions, and all Team One had done was to seemingly walk around in circles, as lost groups were prone to do.
"We're lost," Jason said again, stating the obvious as he peered at the map in Wes' hand. Not that it was a great boost of help for him or anything, since he looked away and onto the path of trees that looked so similar, it felt like clones of the same plant, which left him feeling even more confused than before.
The sunlight filtered in through the spaces where the leaves weren't covering the sky, capturing specks of dust dancing gaily in the air between. Suddenly, without a warning, an explosion sounded just ahead of them and the ground rumbled, knocking the five of them to the ground as they scrambled to get up.
"Whoa. This can't be good," Kim said dryly.
"What are those things?" Taylor asked, as she squinted at the moving creatures: there were at least twenty of those grey, gibberish-speaking beings. As a pack, they looked menacing enough; their red eyes almost glowing as the gurgling sound got nearer and nearer.
Tommy took one look at the intruders, and groaned. "You gotta be kidding me!"
But this was no time for witty one-liners, as the horde started closing in on them and the five Rangers got into fighting stances unique to each of them, their hands clenched into fists while finding a stable footing. No one would remember who started lashing out on the offensive, but as soon as the first punch was rolled out, the others followed suit.
Instead of the distantly familiar 'Z's on these Putties-lookalikes' chests, there was a similar looking 'T', but Kimberly found out the hard way that simply hitting the T hard wasn't enough to make them disintegrate like before, as she found herself being kicked in the stomach, and she tumbled along the ground for a while before getting up again, only to have to duck her head to avoid a direct punch in the face. It seemed like these creatures weren't tiring either. The team looked worse for the wear as they flipped, kicked and tried to get out of the creatures' way, and if it weren't for them disappearing on their own, it was hard to say which way the battle could have gone.
"They're gone like that?" Jason asked incredulously as he picked himself up and dusted off his uniform. But Tommy wasn't listening to him; instead, his gaze was fixated at two figures walking towards them.
"Hello, Rangers!" the girl chirped happily, like they were prizes that she'd won at a fair. She was beautiful; by Earth standards she was a very pretty young lady of not more than 20 years of age. Yet disturbingly, silver rods ran down her elbow to her fingers, her knee to her feet; her wide dress was the color of rich mahogany, and most discernible of all, there were two pointed hair cones on her head, the length of which spanned even longer than her whole upper torso. The figure standing next to her was a whole story altogether. In all his hideous-looking glory, two of the Rangers recognized him.
"That's Thrax, he's Rita and Zedd's son," Jason told the others, a shocked tone underlying his voice. Confusion was etched on the other Rangers' faces for different reasons – Wes and Taylor weren't familiar with neither Rita nor Zedd; Kimberly had no idea they had a child (and that made her feel a little squicked out), but Tommy was the first to voice out his confusion.
"The Sentinel Knight – "
"Perhaps you should check that your enemy is really and truly dead before you celebrate," the vile-looking villain sneered as he interrupted, and slammed the heel of his staff into the ground, causing it to shake violently for a few seconds. Kimberly had to hold on to Jason; the only one still standing unwavering while the quake went on, no doubt exercising his abilities from the Pit of Eternal Fire while doing so.
"And who the hell are you?" Jason glared at the woman next to Thrax.
Twirling her hair around her finger, she let out a coy giggle and then looked to Thrax, as if asking for permission to announce who she was. He rolled his eyes and turned his attention back to the Rangers again. "May I present, my beautiful kid sister, Thlex."
Stunned silence permeated through the thick air. Rita and Zedd had a daughter, too? Kimberly couldn't really believe her ears, but the fact was standing right in front of them, and suddenly she wished it was all a really bad (and disgusting) dream and that she could wake up right there and then. Alas, this was as real as it got.
The look on Thrax's face turned hard as he eyed each of the Rangers, before he continued speaking. "And mark my words, Power Rangers," he spat out the title like it was something vile. "My sister and I will complete what our parents started. You'll perish and we will rule the known universe, and there will be nothing you puny and stupid Rangers can do about it!"
And with a flash and a rumble, as quickly as they came, the evil duo teleported out of the forest, leaving through a dimensional wall and on to the moon, where the Moon Palace resided. Thrax could feel his impatience of wanting to destroy the Rangers creep through his veins. But this time, he would be meticulous. He would be thoughtful, and he would be resourceful. He wouldn't commit the same mistake as he did the last time he tried to destroy the Operation Overdrive Rangers. This time, he had the help of his sister and the being who raised her. The same being who served his mother.
This time, failure is not an option. This time, he would make sure that the Rangers were destroyed, no matter what it took, no matter how long it took. And to do that, he was going to have to go on a mission before he launched his multi-phased attack; it was imperative that he obtained what he was looking for.
"Let's go, sister dear," he hissed at her. "Let loose some Cyclodrones while I find ourselves the technology capable of fueling our plans of destroying the Rangers and conquering the universe."
"What are you talking about?" Thlex cocked her head to the left as she frowned. A cruel smile flitted across his face.
"What do the words Serpentera and Venjix mean to you?"
"This is game-changing. This is personal," Kimberly said, as the team gathered in the meeting room with Jen and the other teams, as well as a few other officers from the future. It was a pleasant surprise to Kimberly as she spotted familiar faces in the forms of Adam and Rocky in the meeting room, but that pleasantness was soon turned into rude shock – As it turned out, Jen had apparently known of the threat beforehand, but hadn't expected them to launch an attack so soon at the Rangers. That was when they found out that those attacker units weren't the Putty Patrollers at all, but new fighting bots called Cyclodrones, and that they had to hit both ends of the shoulder blades, the equivalent of a pelvic area and then finally the T on their chests before they were deactivated.
Right now, the topic of discussion was whether a re-shuffle of the teams and members was in order. Most of the veteran Rangers were in agreement over it, but the other Rangers who weren't ever under Zordon's guidance still needed a little push in the right direction. It all boiled down to ultimately the two Rangers on the same team and whether or not they would let their spots up for their fellow officers.
"I believe," Wes spoke up, "That this is the best arrangement that we can come up with." His eyes connected with Taylor. It wasn't that he didn't want to be on the team for this, but he understood what the veteran Rangers were going on about, and he could see why it would be the best if they formed a team to fight this new evil entity. A team wasn't made up of just the sum of the parts, but the fusion and the history too, and it would take time for the newcomers to achieve the kind of camaraderie that the old friends already had. Time that, ironically, Time Force did not have. It wouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure that Time Force was still in its infancy and definitely not strong enough yet to withhold such pressure from the forces of evil. Unfortunately, evil doesn't play by a schedule.
Fortunately, this sentiment was shared with the decision-makers.
"Alright, then. Effective immediately, Officers Park and Desantos will join Team One in a lateral transfer," Jen announced, knowing that she'd convince herself a little more that this was the best arrangement for the organization sooner or later, or at least she would let Wes convince her of it. If there were one person she could entrust her blind trust in, it would be him. There was lots of work to be done though, so she sighed and pursed her lips together before continuing. "If there are no more further objections, this meeting is adjourned."
As the last of the other officers filed out of the room, both Adam and Rocky made their ways to their three friends. They were thrilled to have gotten the transfers approved – being part of Time Force was an honor, and being the first and second in-charge on Team Two was great. Even the people on that team were Rangers they'd known before; Carlos and TJ and Cassie filling in for the other colors, but both Adam and Rocky secretly thought that they could have a better time with their old friends.
As they gathered around in a circle, Tommy knew there was no better time than the present to hash out the important issues, so he looked at them in earnest.
"Adam should be our Red."
Kimberly snapped her head in his direction in surprise, an unwitting frown settling on her face. This was unprecedented, and she didn't know how to get used to Tommy taking a backseat instead of being up front and center as the team leader. Adam shook his head; started to open his mouth and vocalize his doubts, but Tommy held up his hand and continued. "You're the only one here who has taken Thrax on before, head-on. Your experience will be valuable to us as a whole."
"What about you? Or Jason?" Adam questioned, in that same soft, almost-shy manner that Kimberly remembered from before.
"We'll stick with the original plans. You were Red on Team Two, so all we have to do is calibrate your morpher to this team," Tommy answered. He knew what Adam's hesitancy was about – that Tommy and Jason were on the team, and that the both of them served as leaders before him. But they were all adults, all veteran Rangers, all professionals, and what he rationalized was true. Adam had the most experience fighting Thrax, and that would give them an edge when it came to the inevitable long battle.
"And I'm guessing I'm yellow," Rocky surmised. Yellow, huh, he mused. That'll be weird. Through his tenure as a Ranger before, yellow had been the color for the females on the team. He knew that there were other male Yellows, but it was going to take a while for him to get used to it. More pressingly, he knew it was going to take a while for Aisha to stop teasing him about it. With an eyeroll at himself, he looked expectantly at Tommy. "Where do I get to change my morpher?"
"Third floor. I'll go up with you, there's something I need to ask Hayley anyway," he offered, already heading to the door and beckoning the new Yellow Ranger to come along with, but at that very moment the door opened and he almost collided with the person walking in. The initial shock aside, he had to laugh at the coincidence.
"You know, I was just going to get to you."
"Well, lucky for you, I'm here," Hayley shot back almost instantaneously as she let herself in the room. In the process, she revealed Billy walking behind her and Kimberly found herself grinning at her old friend, not surprised at his involvement as one of the brains behind Time Force at all.
"I was informed you'd find these chronomorphers useful," Billy added helpfully, holding out what used to be Wes and Taylor's morphers. "We've cleared the DNA charge, so you'll be able to lock your sequence down without a hitch. And should you choose to switch around the roster and the colors, I trust that Hayley and I can do the same for your morphers."
From the sounds of it, Tommy knew that even Billy was expecting him to take the helm and lead the team again. Shaking his head slightly, he motioned towards Adam. "Red goes to Adam. Rocky gets yellow. We're sticking to our original plan."
Billy raised his eyebrow, but didn't question further. It wasn't any of his business, and as long as it kept the team functional, he wouldn't care about the reciprocation of the decision. That didn't mean to say he wasn't curious though – and not just of the leadership of the team, but the dynamics between his old friends. Observing them would make for a keen social study, he noted. He eyed Kimberly and Tommy, knowing that he would get to learn how people grew apart just to grow up together. That much he was sure of.
When the alarms blared from the security system, Hayley cocked her head and looked at the team with a wry smile on her face.
"Gonna take the morphers out for a spin?"
It was hard to contain her excitement, as Kimberly looked at Tommy first, then Adam (and she knew it was going to take a while to get used to it). For the most part, Adam still looked as unsure as he was a few minutes ago, but Tommy thumped on his back encouragingly, deciding to help his new leader out for the first time.
"Let's do it, guys."
"Ready?" Adam asked, his left arm held up in front of him, the chronomorpher strapped tightly on his wrist. He could feel the power resonate deeply from within; a feeling he would never tire off.
In one uniform reaction, the other four got into the same stance. "Ready!"
Here goes nothing, Kimberly thought, as the chronomorpher guided them through their first morph as a team. As the visor snapped in place, it was fascinating to see through the lines and beyond; into the morphing grid, and she didn't have the time to figure if that was her innate power of being able to read situations deftly at work, or something the rest of them could do too.
When the sequence was completed, she took a swift, sideways glance at the others – different colors she would have to get used to, but the same familiar, dependable people she could always count on. The people that would always have her back, no matter what. Her friends, her team.
Kimberly was right where she belonged.
There wasn't much of anything that could take Thrax's breath away, being that he was extremely jaded with everything life had to offer, but when he saw the great, snake zord that his father had left behind on the other side of the moon, he had to marvel at the grand machinery. Briefly he wondered how his sister's situation attacking the Rangers was, but reviving the zord and the occupant it housed was foremost in his mind. It took a little digging by one of the Cyclodrones he brought along for the trip, but eventually he managed to get past the debris and into the cockpit of the zord.
Lifting the staff and aiming it at the robot slumped down against the control panel, Thrax allowed a little excitement to course through his veins. As the robot slowly creaked back into life, Thrax set his staff down and moved closer.
"What is your name?"
"Venjix Generation Two, loyal servant of the Machine Empire." The mechanic voice of the barely functioning robot made Thrax snarl.
"What is your mission?"
"To avenge for the untimely destruction of King Mondo and the Machine Empire."
It was simple enough for Thrax to tweak the mission of this robot when he got back to the base. It would be a paramount concern to not let leak that it was his parents who destroyed the Machine Empire's base in its actuality. Knowing that, he placed his hand on Venjix's shoulder and peered into his face. "What do you say to an alliance? Destroy the Rangers that caused the Machine Empire to crumble and for King Mondo's death…"
It was nearly seven in the evening when the debrief was finally over. It had taken some practice back in the field, and a little bit of luck, but this time, they were able to defeat the Cyclodrones more productively than before. The exhausted Rangers were finally given the green light to rest for the day, with each of them going back to their changing rooms. Kimberly looked at the big, sparse room that she wasn't sharing with anybody, recounting the crazy day she'd just gone through.
When she walked out of the room, she was surprised but pleased that the four men on the team were lounging about, waiting for her to walk back to their residency area.
"Happy birthday?" Tommy queried, and despite herself and what it all meant for getting their work cut out now to defeat Thrax and Thlex, Kimberly smiled at him as the team continued walking out of the building, nodding at him before sweeping her gaze at the others.
"Absolutely." She stopped and turned around, the headquarters standing grandly behind the five of them. If the first day of work was any indication of the days to come, Kimberly thought that she was settled for life. All the qualms of being unsatisfied with her old job was thrown right out of the window. Now, there were new responsibilities, an entirely new game plan, and she knew that all the what-if's and the something-more's weren't going to be a problem now. Lifting her head to look at the Blue Ranger next to her, she allowed the smile to linger on her face as she repeated. "Absolutely."