Disclaimer/: Seriously. If I owned it, this would have happened in cannon. Because Time Force is evil, the Newtech Rangers are awesome, and I want to see them face off, because it would be cool. And because the Newtech Rangers have somehow unintentionally become my Power Rangers Dream Team. -Pauses- I blame the muses, for making them so awesome.
Warnings/: Use of explosives on a public building, character with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Author's Notes/: This takes place between Chapter 36 of A Darker Shade of Red and Chapter 97 of Bright Skies, but can conceivably be read as a one-shot with only slight confusion. I lovingly blame this entire idea on starandrea and Marci, and as well as the support of fans of the Newtech Rangers and the Bright Skies universe. You guys wanted to see it, and darn it, it was fun. -Grins maniacally-
For aliseforemosex, because she needs cheering, and her comments always make me feel so good, and for silverkat1620, who pretty much pounced on the very idea of this and demanded it. I hope this makes you both smile. Thank you for making my day.
Step 1: Find Your Location
Less than six hours since Wes had disappeared, and Eric was about ready to pull his hair out.
At 5:36 am that morning, S.P.D.'s security satellite showed Wes assaulted by five men in white uniforms while taking Jen for their usual morning walk. Wes had fought well, but they'd ganged up on him, one of them pulling a blaster. It might have been a clean get away if not for Jen: the dog had fought viciously for Wes, biting one of their attackers, and had planted herself firmly in front of her owner, snarling, until they'd been forced to let Wes take her with him before they caused much more of a scene.
Eric had never been more proud of the stupid mutt.
That wasn't to say that he wasn't worried. Or absolutely furious. The security camera had caught the badge on one of the uniform's shoulders, and it was like stepping back into a nightmare from twenty-one years ago.
Time Force. Always messing things up. Always stealing what was his. Always coming after Wes, hurting him in one way or another.
Dang it, Wes. How do you keep getting yourself into these things? he growled to himself.
"Exactly how long is it supposed to take to track one stupid morpher?" he demanded aloud.
Justin looked up long enough to give him a dark glare. "When that one stupid morpher isn't in this time period anymore, a lot longer than you'd think," he snapped. "And you're not helping!"
"You're not the only one who's worried about him, Quantum," Zhane said quietly. "Let Turbo and Bo do their jobs."
Eric paced, running a hand over his hair in frustration. "And just what am I supposed to do in the meantime?" he shot back.
"Stop annoying people for one, but that's impossible for you, isn't it?" Taylor retorted from where she leaned against the wall.
He shot her a black look.
R.J. breezed into the room with a mildly curious expression on his face. "What'd I miss?" he asked pleasantly.
"Not much," Chip informed him. He'd barely been there an hour, heading straight for S.P.D. Newtech as soon as he'd gotten the news. "They're still looking, and everyone's about to strangle Eric if he doesn't stop driving us crazy."
"Ah." R.J. looked thoughtful for a moment, then turned to Eric with a curious expression. "Have you thought about redirecting your energy into a more productive manner?"
Eric eyed him suspiciously. "I don't meditate," he said flatly.
"Shame," R.J. remarked. "But actually I was suggesting something a bit more ... physical. Sparring," he added as everyone stared at him. "Expelling physical energy as a way of venting emotional stress."
Eric closed his eyes for a moment, at last letting out a long sigh. "Yeah," he muttered. "That's probably a good idea." Wasn't like he was doing anything useful where he was.
R.J. brightened. "Well, then ... lead on, my man!"
Eric glanced at him, shaking his head with another sigh as headed into the hall. No matter how long he'd known him, he would never, ever, understand R.J.
"So the security satellite feeds didn't show anything ... unusual?" R.J. asked, grunting as Eric' fist caught him in the stomach.
"You mean - " Eric ducked a kick. "Besides five guys in Time Force uniforms - " He jumped back to avoid another punch, blocking the follow up with an arm. "Grabbing Wes and Jen off the street?"
R.J. caught his arm, twisting it around and aiming for his ribs. "Time Force uniforms?" he repeated, frowning.
"Yeah," Eric grunted, rolling his arm back and out of R.J.'s grasp and adding a hard kick. "Got a clear - " He spun away, striking up a defensive stance. "Shot of a badge. Apparently they're not too careful about that."
R.J. remained where he was as he tilted his head thoughtfully. The gesture was eerily familiar, and Eric clenched his fists as he tried not to picture Wes doing the same thing. "That's ... awfully confident of them," he commented, frowning deeper. "Wouldn't that suggest that they wanted us to know they have Wes? Which would ... also suggest a trap?"
Eric sighed, folding his arms. "It would, if we knew which Time Force we're dealing with. Their entire operation is run through time travel. They could have taken Wes anywhere, for all we know."
"So why don't we start with the Time Force we know?"
They both turned to look at the door. Sky was frowning at the ground, his arms folded as he thought. "Instead of scanning generally, why don't we start by eliminating Alex's Time Force?"
Eric glanced down at the way he was standing and dropped his arms, shifting uncomfortably as he cleared his throat. "Meaning what?"
Sky looked up. "If Dad's with the Time Force Rangers, there'd be two Red Chrono Morphers, right? According to Alex, they started up around the year 2985. So why don't we scan for two morphers in that year, and then move forward from there. If we don't find anything, then we can start looking somewhere else. But if that's the Time Force that keeps messing with us, it'd make the most sense if it was them, right?"
My son is a genius, Eric thought numbly, staring blankly at R.J. Then he paused. Wait, 2985? Jen and the rest were from 3000, right?
R.J. blinked back at him. "Huh. Why didn't we think of that?"
His words didn't make Sky smile or make a smart remark the way they normally would have, and Eric's eyes narrowed slightly. His gaze met R.J.'s, and the other man nodded subtly. "I do believe I have a date with a certain Minx, to convincing her to change her search pattern for our missing canines," R.J. said with deliberate casualty. "If I never see either of you again, give my regards to everyone, and I hope to meet you all in our next incarnations."
Sky barely managed an eye roll as R.J. wandered past him, but his head tilted slightly to look at his step-father when R.J. gripped his shoulder briefly. He didn't shrug it away either, which was odd for Sky. Eric knew he loved R.J. - was probably even more aware of it than Sky and R.J. actually were themselves - but Sky didn't appreciate gestures of physical affection from any of his parents when they were at S.P.D. Wes was the only one who get away with it; most likely because of the fact that he never took advantage of the opportunity.
He waited until R.J. was gone, not-so-subtly closing the door behind him, and looked at his son. "Sky?" he asked quietly.
Sky closed his eyes, and shuddered very, very slightly.
That was all it took for Eric to move swiftly across the room and pull him into a hug. Sky's arms immediately came around him, clinging almost desperately. He buried his face against Eric's shoulder, his entire body trembling.
Eric squeezed him tighter, running a hand over Sky's back and wishing painfully that he was Wes right now. Wes was so much better at comforting Sky than he was, always had been. Whether it came from knowing him longer, being his biological father, or just being Wes, he didn't know. Wes just ... Wes was a lot of things. And when Sky needed a hug or reassurance, it had always been Wes he'd gone to.
"We'll find him, Sky," he murmured, swallowing hard as his voice came out hoarse. "We will."
"I can't go through this again," Sky whispered, voice cracking. "I ... I can't."
He closed his eyes. Time Force is going to burn for this. I don't know how or when, but somehow they are going to pay. "You won't."
"You don't know that."
He pulled away just enough to lift Sky's chin, forcing the teen to meet his eyes. "We're going to get him back," he said firmly. "I will not lose anyone else to Time Force. Never again, do you hear me?"
Sky stared at him, and the hopeless look in his eyes made it feel like someone was squeezing Eric's chest in a vice. "What if he never comes back, like Alex and Ben? What if ... " His voice cracked again, falling so soft Eric almost couldn't hear him. "What if you do find him, but it's like Bethie and Jack? What if it's been so long since he last saw us he doesn't even know who we are anymore?"
Fire. Lots, and lots of fire. Everyone who so much as wears their uniform is about to be ashes.
... I wonder if Vanessa and Justin could figure out a way to get Q-Rex through a timeportal.
"Sky," he said again, narrowing his eyes. "I will never, ever leave your dad behind again, and I'm not letting him leave me behind." He lifted his wedding ring for Sky to see, making sure the light caught the silver and red enough to shine. "I told him that we were partners, in everything. And I don't abandon my teammates."
Sky looked up slowly at him, and his eyes were slightly red and watery. "What if you don't come back?"
He swore he could feel his heart breaking.
He brought his hands up from Sky's shoulders to cup either side of the teen's face. "Sky ... " He stopped, trying to find words for what he wanted. Wes was the one with the words. The one who always knew what to say. Even when he didn't speak out loud, Wes could make everything better with a smile or a look.
But he wasn't Wes.
I need you, Wes, he thought desperately. I barely kept this kid together for you once. I don't think I could do it again.
At last he closed his eyes with a sigh, letting his forehead fall against Sky's. I need you, Wes. I ... I need you to tell me what to say.
And almost like a memory from a dream, he remembered.
-- Wes holding his hand, squeezing almost painfully tight beneath the table, and he'd never been so grateful to hear the bones in his hand actually creak. He could see his father now, just entering the restaurant. And the jerk was actually hesitating at the door. Five years since they'd so much as spoken, and he didn't even have the nerve to walk inside and just talk to his own son.
Maybe he wasn't Charlie, and maybe he wasn't his father's favorite, but he was still here wasn't he?
He wasn't aware he was snarling under his breath until Wes leaned in closer to murmur into his ear "Just give him a minute, Eric. This is hard for him, too. He'll be here. Just wait."
And then his father was moving swiftly towards them, shoulders firm and back straight as if the hesitation had never even been there and he just wanted to run. He wanted to leave, to tell him off for daring to try to make things right again, to - to -
"Wes," he hissed under his breath, feeling himself begin to panic, "What am I supposed to say?"
Wes' thumb rubbed the back of his hand, and while the sensation was still new enough to still surprise him, it managed to calm him enough to fight the urge to bolt for the exit. "Just say what you feel, Eric," Wes said softly, giving his hand a softer, gentler squeeze now. "Just say what's in your heart." --
Easy for you to say, Wes, he thought now, just as he had then. Your heart's still on your stupid sleeve.
"Do you remember," he began slowly at last, "What I used to tell you about your dad? Then?"
He heard Sky swallow. "You said that we had to have faith in him, so he could have faith in himself. Because if we believed enough that he'd wake up again, he would."
He smiled faintly, remembering the wide-eyed look of desperate hope the eight-year-old had given him then, even as he pulled back again to look the cynical eighteen-year-old version in the eye. "So I'm asking you to have faith in both of us now, Sky. Believe that we'll be okay, and we'll come back."
Sky's eyes narrowed slightly. "I'm not eight-years-old anymore, Eric."
"No kidding. You were easier to shove under an arm and carry around then," he retorted, but he still softened his a tone a little. "I'm not asking for blind faith this time, Sky. I'm asking for trust. I'm asking you to trust me, and trust your dad, and trust that we love you enough to fight to come back to you."
He knew, better than anyone, exactly what he was asking of his son. He knew how hard it was for Sky to trust after losing so many people. They had each come back, but nothing had ever been the same as it was before they'd left him, and even when he consciously understood, deep down Sky was unable to forgive them for it. It wasn't that he didn't want to, but he was too afraid of being hurt again.
But Eric held his gaze, willing Sky to believe him. In Wes, who had always kept his promises to come back to him. Maybe things had changed, but that promise had never been broken, and Eric wasn't about to let it happen now.
He knew all too well that it would absolutely destroy them both.
Sky closed his eyes, letting out a long sigh that turned into another slight shudder. "I trust you," he whispered. Then he was leaning forward, pressing his forehead against Eric's shoulder again as his arms fell to his sides. "I love you," he mumbled against Eric's shirt.
Eric wrapped one arm around him with a soft sigh, reaching up to card his fingers through Sky's hair with the other hand. "Love you too, Brat," he murmured. Please, Wes. Don't make me a liar. Please be okay.
There was a longer pause, and one of Sky's hands came up to grip his shirt. "I want to go with you."
He sighed again, because this was an argument Sky would never win with him, for many reasons. And the kid knew it. "I know."
And I'll be six feet under before I let you get within one hundred years of Time Force.
The intercom chimed. "Specialist Sergeant Captain Eric Myers, please report to Lab 6. Specialist Sergeant Captain Eric Myers, please report to Lab 6."
"We found him," Justin confirmed wearily as he passed Eric back his morpher. "November 13th, 3002 shows a sudden flux in the Morphin Grid, presumably due to the presence of two Red Chrono Morphers."
"So you found him," Taylor repeated. She glanced around the room. "Great. Now what?"
"Now I'm going after him."
"What?" Vanessa demanded as everyone turned to stare at him.
Eric finished buckling the strap on his morpher, running a hand over the face experimentally as the flash finally died down to make sure that whatever Vanessa and Justin had done while using it to scan for Wes hadn't damaged anything. At last he glanced up. "I said, I'm going after Wes," he told them pointedly.
"Eric - "
"You can't just - "
"But that's - "
R.J., he noted absently, didn't look remotely surprised. Neither did Zhane. Vanessa looked faintly annoyed.
"It's my husband," he cut in above the din, eyes narrowing. That shut them up. "It's my family they've been after, and it's the jerks who've been messing my life for years. I'm *going*." He turned for the door, muttering "Just try to stop me."