TITLE: Alphabet Soup: T is for Thanatos
AUTHOR: Marisa 'Mayonnaise' Jane G.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own the Power Rangers franchise, nor the characters of RPM, I'm just borrowing them for a little while, and I promise I'll give them back in… well… as good condition as they were in to begin with.
SPOILERS: Up to and Including: "In or Out"
ARCHIVE: Contact me please.
Author's Note: This thing is starting to get long, so for those of you just joining us... here's what to expect. Canon compatible story, steeped in the psyche of our good doctor, which uses the series from "In and Out" onward as a framing device for frequent "Doctor K" style side trips to the department of backstory, mapping the vast unknown tracts of her past (and the Ranger's) that the series never addressed on on screen. What was life like in Alphabet Soup? Who were her handlers? If K always wanted to go outside, why doesn't she now? Why are Gem and Gemma not letters? What happened to K after the release of Venjix and before her escape? How did the first three Rangers come to join the team? These are just the questions we've answered so far...
T is for Thanatos: People who hide themselves from others seldom turn on a dime to wear their heart on their sleeve, but if pressed, they may fake it. Doctor K is nearly clever enough to pull it off.
For a place without the sun, there was never any shortage of light in the Soup.
As far as K knew, they never turned out the fluorescent lighting, at least they never had in any of the parts of it she'd visited, which admittedly were few: her cylinder, later Gem and Gemma's cylinder, directly adjacent, the washroom, and the store room where they kept everything she 'owned' but wasn't currently using, including the cot they brought to her cylinder when they decided it was time for her to sleep.
Even then they never turned out the lights.
At first she had attributed her difficulty in falling asleep in the post Soup world, to the lack of light at night, but when sleeping with the lights on did little to help, she realized that the problem was not the light, but the clock. Alphabet Soup, it seemed in their desire to create the optimum environment for scientific output, had its subjects on a 25 hour clock, 18 waking hours to 7 hours sleep. Her body was trying to tell her it was too early for bed, but she couldn't afford to listen, lest she be slowly left behind one hour at a time.
So despite her personal conviction that the work came before any superfluous creature comforts, she had made allowances for herself in the department of sleep, deeming it to be necessary for the higher functioning required to lead the Rangers against her own creation. Though she still slept upon a folding cot, which she kept in her private room off the ranger room, she no longer attempted to sleep in her clothing using her lab coat for a blanket. Instead she had placed atop it a thick warm sleeping bag and a down pillow, and procured a set of cozy flannel pajamas.
Pajamas she was now wearing in the daytime, whilst staring at the clothes dryer tumbling away with her skirt and sweater, the only ones she had, which she'd worn out of the Soup all the way to Corinth. She continued wearing them, less out of habit, and more for the sense of personal self discipline and dedication to the work which they represented. She washed them once a week, on Sunday, and it suited her fine, as the sweater was worn every day over one of her many clean crisp chambray work shirts, and the skirt over a clean polyester slip, for which she was no more lacking than she was for socks or undergarments.
None the less, on laundry day, stuck wearing her pajamas and slippers around the base as the washing machine and drier churned away at her daily wear, she often wished she had something else presentable to wear in the mean time. Though she need only requisition it to have it, but she never did. Anything else would only be superfluous. They served their purpose, just as she served hers. Equipment is only as good or bad as its output.
"What are you doing still in-"
"-your pajamas Doctor K?" Gem and Gemma bounced into the utility room from… wherever they'd been.
"Laundry," she replied succinctly.
"Yeaaaaaahhhh…" they fixated for a moment on the contents of the tumble drier behind K, as they tossed end over end against the window, around and back.
"Was there... something you needed?" she asked, drawing their attention away from the washing.
"We wanted to talk to you about how-"
"You've been treating Ziggy." They replied.
"How I've been treating him?" She knew precisely what they were talking about, but was playing dumb, hoping they would believe she hadn't really been aware of how her exclusion of Ranger Operator Series Green from her new effort to form attachments with the Rangers was hurting him. She truly hadn't been conscious of her decision to force a separation between herself and the Rangers until they had brought it to her attention, but once she'd put her keen mind to the task of self analysis she'd easily discovered the root of the issue, and just as easily, devised the plausible alternative explanation of shielding herself from future loss.
"You said you were going to be nicer to ALL-"
"the Rangers. You promised us," they pouted.
"I'll try to work on that," she replied, faking a smile for her friends. She was fairly certain they knew she was faking it, but that they wouldn't comment. She had long ago come to realize that their borderline sociopathic cheerfulness was the result of a self re-enforcing belief each had that they needed to be cheerful for the other one's sake. They were as broken as she was, just in a different way.
"YAY!" they cheered, and clambered out the doorway to the utility room, as she returned her attention to the clothes dryer, which was rapidly approaching the end of its cycle.
The truth of the matter was that she still didn't like them. Their cheerful façade was insufferably annoying, they were nearly impossible to direct and once they had an idea in their heads, there was almost no dissuading them. While she was busy building laser cannons and propulsion systems, they'd unabashedly added code to the DNA splicing program, which resulted in cutesy animal faces on her otherwise dignified and practical Zords, complete with 'big googly anime eyes.'
But she'd come to be accustomed to them, like one is to a dog that shreds every shoe one owns, and missed them terribly when she thought they were dead. She'd even come to enjoy the faces on the zords... they weren't disturbing the functionality after all. Equipment is only as good as its output.
Also, she'd seen what they were capable of doing to people who were not their friends.
"Doctor K?" the Green Ranger poked his head around the door frame. "Gem and Gemma said you wanted to talk to me."
K cringed, with her back to the door, cursing the twins. This was certainly not what she'd had in mind when she promised to 'work on' being nicer to Ranger Green. In fact what she had in mind was to make some token gesture at some point in the near future… a properly timed 'Well done,' or some such, and leave it at that: enough to get them off her back, but not enough to bring him any closer.
"They were mistaken, Ranger Operator Series Green," she replied, without turning around to him.
"Mistaken… sure. Or you're screwing with me again," his frustration was palpable. She set her jaw, the only conscious action it took to blank her face of all emotion, and turned to him.
"I did not ask for you to be here, and I don't want you to be here. Please go."
"It's a free city! I can stand where I please. Maybe I want to stand in the utility room right now," he walked into the room, and planted himself in front of the circuit breakers. "Bet you wouldn't have a problem if Dillon wanted to stand in the utility room. Or Scott, or Summer, or Flynn."
"None the less, Ranger Green I have asked you to leave," she she turned her back to him as the dryer chirruped, opening it's door to retrieve it's contents.
"I get it. I really do," he was practically whining now, "I could understand it when you were like this with all of us. You were afraid you'd lose us like you lost Gem and Gemma, but you didn't lose Gem and Gemma, they're here now. So why on earth am I getting singled out?"
His frustration was understandable given the explanation they'd all been given. If it really was to keep herself protected from the loss she felt when Gem and Gemma were gone, then she no longer had any reason to exclude any of them, and it's not as if they had any reason to question her explanation. To make it more believable she'd made an effort to bond superficially with the other four rangers, but she still had to have a hold out to fulfill the true purpose of her self imposed social isolation.
"It's because you feel something more for me," he answered his own question. "You're afraid of what you feel… but that's ok, we can work with that... we can work around that… work within that…" his ham handed smooth talk always went in circles, but he wasn't entirely wrong. He was chosen as the hold out for a reason. It was the same reason she only had one skirt, and one sweater, and slept on an army cot in a computer closet. Equipment is only as good as its output. Her output killed nearly 6 billion people.
"Please leave, Ranger Operator Series Green," she replied, folding her sweater on top of her skirt.
"See, that right there, that's just unnecessarily hurtful. If the hugging thing is too much, that's fine. Ok? But can't you at least call me by my name? I'm sick of being the only one still called Ranger Operator whatever…"
"If you will not leave, I will, Ranger Operator Series Green," she picked up her finished laundry, and started for the doorway.
"Are you trying to hurt me?" he asked, nearly defeated.
She stepped around him, wordlessly, and walked away, clutching her uniform to her front.
'No' she thought but did not say, 'I'm trying to hurt me.'