Series Title: Never Saw Me There
Chapter Title: The Lone Ranger
A/N: This chapter deals with the story lines in the episodes "Bodyguard in Blue" and "Trip Takes a Stand". Because these are not Wes based episodes, they do not appear in the story Identity by Rach, although I have tried to write this chapter to fit within her world. I have borrowed and stolen ideas and/or parts of her story Scars for this chapter though. Any deviation from Time Force is to remain consistent with the world created by Rach or to bring some consistency to holes in plot lines and logic.
Thank you: once again to Rach - words cannot express how much I owe you for all this.
A commanding officer should hang out and get to know his squad - find out what makes them tick; how they think; what they dream of; who and what kind of people they are. A good squad is more than a group of co-workers - it's a family.
However, ever since I was given command of the Silver Guardians, I had been unable to bond with my men. A CO they could handle. But I wasn't just their CO - I was the Quantum Ranger. And apparently I had risen too high on the food chain to go grab a beer with.
Well, who needed them anyway? I'd just sit in my closet…er…office and work on duty assignments and incident reports. I tried focusing on the spreadsheet in front of me, but my mind just refused to pay attention. Instead it kept wandering back to the press conference Mr. Collins had held earlier in the day. Press conference… yah right. More like a multi-media publicity stunt. I was beginning to think that perhaps Wes was right…the Silver Guardians, at least to Mr. Collins, were not a way to help and protect the city. Instead they were just a means to an end - a very profitable end.
And then there was they way he was using me. I became the Quantum Ranger to help this city. OK, I had also done it for the attention, but deep down, at the heart of it all, I wanted to help people. Becoming the Quantum Ranger seemed like the best way to do it. It also gave me command of the best, privately funded security force I had ever seen. Albeit a security force that desperately needed direction and leadership. Both skills I happened to possess.
What I didn't become the Quantum Ranger for was to become a human guinea pig. Being told to morph so that they could perform experiments on my gear and me - hours spent trapped within the small confines of a CAT scanner; being poked and prodded. It was enough to make any normal man scream. For me, it was all I could do not to lose myself in the throes of panic attacks and the memories of a time when I had been used and abused so that others could gain information they thought only I had.
I leaned my head back against the back of my chair, rubbed my eyes and sighed. I'll just close my eyes for a moment and forget about the world and my life.
My arms hurt from being forced over my head. My legs were numb from kneeling for so long.
CRACK! I couldn't help but scream. Thirty-nine…that's how many times that bastard had hit me with the cane this time. I could feel the blood pouring down my back and any slight movement on my part sent ribbons of fire throughout my torso.
"How many Strykers and LAVs are currently stationed in the area?"
"Myers, Eric. Master Sergeant. 569-34-9032."
CRACK. Forty. I was having trouble remaining conscious.
"What are the current positions of the Avengers?"
"Myers, Eric. Master Sergeant. 569-34-9032."
CRACK! Forty-one. I was shocked out of my near unconscious state by a blast of very cold water.
"Myers!" the voice called out. A hand was shaking me. "Commander Myers!"
"Myers!" the voice called out. I was being shaken. "Commander Myers!"
Suddenly I was very much awake. I blinked several times, trying to get my bearings. Standing in front of me was a man in a blue uniform. It took a moment for my sleep-fogged brain to recognize the uniform as belonging to the Silver Guardians. I sighed in relief when I realized that I was in my office and it was Ben Johnson standing in front of me.
He looked concerned. "You OK Commander? You were crying out."
I suppressed a yawn. "I'm fine. What was I saying?"
"I couldn't quite make it out. You were spouting off a list of numbers." He looked at me long and hard. "Were you here all night?"
All night? I glanced behind him at the clock on the wall. 8:04. Jesus, I had fallen asleep at my desk again. I shrugged. "Had a bunch of reports that I had to get done," I said as I started shuffling the papers on my desk. "Was there something you wanted?"
"Oh, yeah. Andrea Zaskin just called in a panic. Someone or something kidnapped her husband as he was leaving for work and their little girl is missing."
"She didn't say what this someone or thing looked like?"
He reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a note pad. "Woman, late twenties, white vinyl outfit, pink hair. Lots of funny looking robots."
"Nadira," I snarled. I looked up at him. "Boss know?"
He shook his head. "Figured you should be the one to tell him."
I chuckled. "Chicken."
He grinned at me. "Mutants, robots, maniacs, bring them on. Boss man…no thank you."
I glanced down at the duty roster I had worked on before my siesta. "I'll go tell Mr. Collins. You go assemble Delta and Yankee teams. I'll meet you in the staging area in twenty."
He snapped me a quick, not to mention rather sloppy, salute and left my office.
As soon as the door was shut behind him, I released the yawn that had wanted to escape. Great. This was not how I planned to start my Wednesday.
The day pretty much followed standard operations - arrive in time to see help the Rangers defeat Nadira and rescue Zaskin; help the Rangers stop the mutant du jour; get snubbed by the Rangers. Did they even bother to thank me for bringing the Q-Rex to help them stop Klawlox? Nope. No "Thanks." No "Thank you." No, "Hey Eric, wanna grab a beer and celebrate." Nothing.
Instead I dutifully trudged back to the office to give my report to Mr. Collins. I shouldn't have been surprised by his lack of enthusiasm at the news one of his employees was safe. But I was actually shocked that he hadn't even asked if Dr. Zaskin had been hurt. Nor did he really seem to care when I told him that he wasn't. Wes was definitely right… his dad was an ass. But you know… at least he had a dad.
A full week went by before there was another mutant attack. Some crazed blue fish-octopus-like thing had gone rampaging through the shopping district; people were panicking, chaos was ensuing. Luckily some Good Samaritan citizen kept a calm head and called us.
We followed the carnage until it led us to the warehouse district. What was it with these mutants and the warehouse district? I asked myself as we pulled up.
But it wasn't the fact that we were in the warehouse district that really surprised me. What shocked the hell out of me was what I saw. Nadira and her metal monster Frax were there.. again no biggie. The Green Ranger was fighting them. Ditto the no biggie thing. What got me was that the Green Ranger was preventing them from getting to… a mutant. What the hell was Trip thinking?
The other SGs had already lined up by the time I managed to shake off my surprise and climb out of the vehicle. I walked up behind them and continued to watch. Nadira, mutants, Frax…oh my. And one Ranger to take them all on; time to join the party. I raised my morpher and shouted into it "Quantum Power!" Within the blink of an eye I was the Quantum Ranger and I was ready to take on all comers.
A few blasts from the Quantum Defender and it was adios to a couple of cyclobots. Which had caused the desired effect…drawing attention away from Trip and onto us.
"You'll pay for this!" Frax warned.
"I'm just shaking in my boots," I shot back, keeping the Quantum Defender trained on his overgrown robotic chest.
"Cyclobots…FIRE!" Instantly I and the Silver Guardians were under a barrage of blasterfire. We ducked out of the way and for the relative safety that the SUV could provide, all the while returning the gesture.
"Delta team… keep Nadira and Frax engaged. Bravo Company get me that mutant!" I ordered. Immediately Bravo company set up a rocket launcher and had started firing at the mutant.
Trip's smart enough to get out of the way…I hope. Sure enough, I soon saw him scrambling for cover, unfortunately he took the mutant with him. But I had other things to worry about than Trip. He was the Green Ranger. He could take care of himself. I had to stop Nadira.
I opened fire again on the two threats and was greeted with a very surprised exclamation from them both.
"These guys are so annoying," Frax whined just as he and Nadira vanished.
"Damn, they got away," I heard Johnson mutter.
"They'll be back," I said clasping my hand on his shoulder, as I scanned the area for signs of Trip or the mutant. "Where the hell did Trip go?" I looked but I saw no signs of him. Damn. "OK teams. Good job," I called out. "Let's load up and get back to base."
I demorphed and climbed into the car. I sat there fuming. A Time Force Ranger helping a mutant. Now I had seen everything.
I remained at HQ long enough to drop off the members of my teams before I headed back out. The Guardians had failed to bring in the mutant, but I was going to be damned if I let the Rangers hog all the glory.
Using the locating options on my morpher I was able to locate the Rangers. I pulled the SUV to a halt as four of the five were regrouping. I got out of the vehicle and walked over to Wes.
"Going somewhere?" I demanded.
"What's it to you?" he sneered.
I leaned in to stand face to faceplate with him. "Your friend is hiding a mutant and I want to know where he is."
He shoved a finger into my chest and poked me. "That's none of your business," he informed me.
I shoved his hand away from me. "Yes it is. I was hired to protect this city. Which means apprehending rogue mutants. Where is it?"
The Yellow Ranger butted into our conversation. "But you don't understand. This mutant isn't violent."
I stormed over to her and looked her square in the visor. "Not violent? Don't make me laugh. Did you see the damage it caused to the shopping district? How could you stand there and tell me that it's not violent. It's a mutant. They are all violent." I turned to look at the rest of the Rangers. "Make no mistake. I will find it. And when I do, I'll destroy it."
I stiffly walked back to my car. I wasn't sure, but I thought I heard Wes mutter something like "We'll see."
Yes, Wes. We'll see. We'll see who apprehends that mutant first.I drove off in search of Trip and my quarry.
It wasn't long before I had found where Trip and the mutant had taken to ground. Unfortunately the Rangers had found him as well. I heard the unmistakable sound of fighting when arrived. Pausing only long enough to morph, I ran to the source of all the noise.
Sure enough, all five Rangers were battling it out with a horde of cyclobots. They were so busy fighting off the 'bots that they had left the mutant alone. Cautiously I made my way towards it. I had a mission to do and I would be damned if I didn't see it through to the end.
I leveled the Quantum Defender at the mutant, identified by my on-board computer system as Notacon. "Any last words, mutant?" I asked coldly.
Suddenly Trip was standing between the mutant and me. "What are you doing?" he demanded.
I kept my Defender trained on the mutant. "Don't interfere, Trip. Step aside." He merely shook his head. To show Trip I was serious I powered up the Defender to maximum. Still he didn't budge. I aimed so that I was sighted about an inch to his right, but so that I could still hit the mutant and fired.
Trip closed his eyes as the blaster fired, but held firm. I waited for the mutant to scream in pain, but it never happened. Instead, the Red Ranger stepped in and deflected the blast with his Crono-Saber. How dare he interfere in my job? That mutant was mine!
"What the hell are you doing, Wes?" I demanded.
He lowered his saber and looked at me. "I'm not going to let you destroy him."
I looked over his shoulder to see Trip and the mutant taking off at a dead run. I started to pursue but the other Rangers got in my way. "Get out of my way." I snarled. The Pink Ranger shook her head.
"You almost hit Trip," Wes protested. Almost hit Trip? I would never have hit him. I'm too good of a shot. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Wes. I realized then that they honestly thought I would harm an innocent. And for all his work as a Ranger, Trip was still an innocent. The mutant on the other hand, wasn't. I saw the damage it caused to the city. I saw the injured people and the chaos that was left in its wake. It needed to be stopped.
So they had made me into the bad guy. So be it. As long as it kept them out of my way, fine. I can play the role they had cast me in. "Then you should have kept him out of my way. Nothing is going to stop me from fulfilling my mission. Not you or your misguided scene of right and wrong."
Wes took a step closer. "We are not going to let you get your hands on Notacon."
I chuckled. "You actually think you can stop me?"
The Blue Ranger finally decided to speak. "Do the math, Eric. There are four of us and only one of you." Butt out, Lucas, I thought as I looked from him to the others.
I laughed. I had faced worse odds before and had come out on top. "Do I look scared? I told you, I have a mission to complete. Anyone who gets in my way is going to be sorry...even if it's you." As I spoke I moved so that I was visor to visor with Wes. We stood there for several tense moments.
As I stood there, all my frustration boiled forth and I found myself striking out and I sucker punched him. It was a cheep shot and I knew it, but I was just so pissed off at him and his friends that I acted before thinking.
Wes doubled over and the other three rushed to his aid. I took advantage of their lack of attention to me and took off after Trip. "I warned him," I said as I ran past them.
I found them huddling behind a maze of pipes and conduits. "Hold it right there," I warned as I stepped into view. "There's nowhere left to run." Notacon just sat there whimpering.
Trip, on the other hand, stood up to me. I had to give him credit. He may be a little blind to the nature of people, but he had guts. "Leave him alone!" He moved so that he was blocking my aim on the mutant, forcing me to redirect the Defender.
"Trip, get out of the way."
Trip's eyes flicked to something behind me. The other Rangers no doubt. "Trip!" I heard Katie call out. I spun around and, aiming the Defender towards the ground, fired a warning shot.
"STAY BACK!" I called out
As they took a step back, Wes called out. "Eric you are making a big mistake here."
"What mistake? He's a mutant. And mutants must be destroyed. You do it yourself."
"What!" Jen exclaimed.
Wes shook his head. "Eric, listen. We don't destroy them. We put them into cryostatis so that they can be brought to justice."
"Justice?" I laughed. "You think they deserve the same kind of justice we do? They're not even human. A dog attacks a human; we put it to sleep. Same hold for mutants."
Trip stepped forward. "So that's it. It's not human so it's OK to kill it. You don't know anything about. You hate him because he looks different. What a bigoted way of thinking."
That startled me. Me, bigoted? I found myself lowering my blaster.
Despite having lowered my weapon, he continued on his tirade. "Well, if you feel the need to destroy that which is different than you, you can start with me." He pulled off his big floppy hat and I could see a strange crystal embedded in his forehead.
"What the…?" I muttered.
As I stood there dumbfounded, the other Rangers cried out their protests to Trip's actions. Even the mutant cried out. "Trip, no! You can't do this," it pleaded. Trip glared at me once before turning his attention to Notacon.
"It's OK. I'm not afraid to stand up for what's right," he reassured the creature. "Besides, if we don't do it, who will?"
I could only just stand there stunned. The Rangers were willing to stand and offer friendship to a mutant. They defended it just as fiercely as they defended each other. A mutant! A bloody, stinking mutant! Wes offers him a hand in friendship but treats me like scum. All I wanted was his acceptance. But he pushed me away. Yet he openly welcome a mutant into his heart. And the others are just as bad. This is not fair!
Anger forced me to raise my blaster again and aim it at the mutant. If I get rid of it, they can't be friends with it. Plus it would be one less mutant running around to destroy things.
Suddenly Trip's voice filled my head. "Please, Eric. Don't do it. I can't lie to you mind to mind. He isn't a threat to you or the city. Let him be."
NO!I silently cried and fired. But as I squeezed the trigger, I altered the direction of the muzzle slightly so that it harmlessly hit some nearby pipes. Everyone just stared at me. I shrugged and looked at the Defender. "You're lucky. There must be something wrong with this thing," I said. "Better go fix it." And with that I walked away from the group.
I remained calm as I felt their eyes follow me until I rounded a corner and disappeared from their view. Once I was away from their gazes, I slumped against a nearby wall and fought the urge to shake.
I had spared the life of a mutant. I had failed in my mission. I had done the right thing. But knowing that it was the right thing, didn't make the knowledge that the Rangers, and more importantly, Wes, cared more about a mutant than they did about me any less painful.
And Trip! What was up with him? When I had first met him, I had dismissed him as a young kid going through his "I wanna be a punk freak" phase. After all, nobody has green hair unless they are trying to rebel against society. But now…I wasn't sure. In his tirade he implied that he wasn't human. He sure as hell looked human. But if he wasn't human, what was he? Martian? Vulcan? He had to be human. I just misunderstood him. If he wasn't, then that meant that Wes had given his friendship to another thing rather than try to renew ours.
So Wes was attracted to freaks. I wondered if he knew what had happened to me; if he saw the damage the KLA had done, he would see me as enough of a freak to let me back into his world. But for him to know would mean that I'd have to tell him. No one who has ever found out about what had happened has ever offered friendship or support. No, I got pitied. Thank you, but no thanks.
But that left me right back where I started…friendless, worthless, hopeless. Incapable of even completing a simple retrieve and destroy mission.
Before I could travel any further down the path of self-loathing, a loud cry grabbed my attention. It had come from the area where I had left the Rangers and the mutant. Without a second thought, I ran around the corner of the building I had been leaning against and came to a dead stop and looked up.
There, grown to one hundred times his normal self was Notacon, battling it out with the Rangers' Shadow Force Megazord. So the mutant isn't dangerous, huh? He doesn't pose a threat to me or the city, huh? That's what you get for giving your trust to someone or something. I started to raise my morpher so that I could call the Q-Rex, but something caught my attention.
He was there with a controller in his hands. "You think he's nasty now? He hasn't
even gotten warmed up yet!" I heard him sneer. So it was Frax who was controlling the mutant. If he was under Frax's control, then he was a threat and needed to be stopped.
Again, I started to raise my morpher to call the Q-Rex, but like before, movement to the left of me caught my eye. Trip was kneeling near by with his Electro Booster aimed at the gigantic battle and its participants. "Come on," I heard him mutter. "I just need one clear shoot to free him from Frax's control."
Confused, I followed Trip's line of sight and saw what he was aiming at. There was some kind of electrode fixed to Notacon's head. That must be what is allowing Frax to control him, I thought. If I can distract Frax, then the other's might have a chance of stopping Notacon.
I reached for the Quantum Defender. As I did, Frax noticed Trip and knocked him to the ground, where he proceeded to use his giant metal foot to stomp on the boy's chest. I fired the Defender and hit the robot cleanly in the midsection. He stumbled away, dazed.
Seizing the opportunity, I raised my morpher and called the Q-Rex. As I waited for my zord to join the fray, I looked up to gage the progress of the battle. The Shadow Force Megazord was not doing very good. In fact, with one well-placed blow, Notacon had managed to topple the Megazord over.
I heard the battle cry of the Q-Rex, just as the Megazord landed. I pressed the command button on my morpher. "Q-Rex, attack!" Instantly the Quantasaurus charged at the mutant. "Q-Rex, hold him but do not injure him!" I amended, knowing that if I could just hold the mutant, Trip or one of the others could destroy the control device.
Unfortunately, Notacon had other idea; or rather, Frax did. He had once again gained control over the mutant and was instructing him to put up one hell of a fight. Notacon grabbed the Q-Rex's jaw and kept it from completing the charge. He then started delivering kick after kick to the zord's torso. Q-Rex fell to the ground sparking.
"ARGH!" I cried and leveled the Quantum Defender once again at Frax and fired. The oversized tin can went flying backwards and landed in a heap; the controller skidded across the pavement in the opposite direction. Right, that being done, let's take this mutant down.
I raised the morpher again, pressed the com button and called to the Q-Rex, who had already regained its footing. "Q-Rex, hold the mutant!" The giant zord complied and stepped forward to engage with the mutant. It grabbed hold of Notacon's arm with its jaws and stepped onto his foot, preventing him from running away.
It took a few moments before the other Rangers realized what the Q-Rex was doing. Obviously they still thought I was there to destroy the mutant. Well, if they didn't hurry up and destroy the control device, I was going to take out the mutant… my way.
Suddenly a burst energy flew through the air and struck the control device, sending it into hundreds of little pieces. I raised the morpher again. "Q-Rex, release him!" The zord growled in frustration as it let go and took a step back… it obviously didn't want to let the mutant go any more than I really did. I was giving the Rangers a chance to prove that it was harmless.
The Shadow Force Megazord pulled out a large sword and moment's later, the mutant was frozen and had shrunk down to a handy-dandy action figure size. I looked up at the Q-Rex, who once again howled in frustration. "I know buddy, I know," I muttered. "Q-Rex, rest." It bobbed its head once in understanding and ambled off to its cave to rest and recover from the day's activities. I holstered the Quantum Defender and returned to my SUV. When I reached the vehicle, I demorphed and climbed in. I sat there thinking.
The Rangers had been right. Not all mutants were bad. Perhaps I had been overly hasty in my judgement.
And we did work good as a team rather than them versus me. Maybe we should work on making that more of a regular thing. If they will accept me.
I decided that there was only way to find out if they would be willing to work together with me. I had to go ask. Throwing the SUV into drive, I headed for the battle site.
I pulled up to see them all smiling and slapping each other on the backs, congratulating themselves on a job well done. All five looked up as I pulled my vehicle to a stop. Suddenly their mood changed to one of disdain. I didn't need to read minds to know that I was not welcome there. Even Wes didn't look happy to see me. Jen's reaction was the same as it always was… Ice Queen.
So much for working on this teamwork thing,I thought as I got out of the car. Trip stood there holding the cryocapsule and the others circled around him protectively. Definitely not wanted here. Fine. Screw you. Screw you all. Who needs you anyway. I was stupid for thinking that we could be friends and teammates.
I stepped forward, removed my sunglasses and glared at them. The 'I was wrong, you were right' speech I was going to give suddenly was no longer appropriate, but I had to say something. "Ya got lucky today. But the next time a mutant attacks the city, you had better stay out of the Guardian's way or we'll run right over you."
I slid my glasses on, turned and headed back to my vehicle. Friends are only a hindrance anyway. So they hated me. Big deal. So they pushed me away. Who cares. Better to be hated and alone than pitied.
TO BE CONTINUED…