Disclaimer: I don't own these characters, just the right to put them through hell for my own amusement. Saban owns everything Power Rangers related. Anything you don't recognize is mine.
Plot Summary: When a nameless evil invades Earth, killing everything in its path, the first eleven Power Rangers must face an enemy beyond anything they've ever encountered; and this time, they'll be pushed farther than some of them are willing to go.
Timeline: Very AU from the moment Zeo started; slightly AU from the moment Jason, Zack and Trini left. Takes place midway through Zeo, only Zeo didn't happen. Jason, Trini and Zack are still attending the Peace Conference in Geneva, Kim is still in Florida training for the Pan Globals, and Aisha is still in Africa. When they left, however, their powers weren't transferred – they still have them, and five new powers were created for their replacements. Also, that whole letter thing didn't happen, either. The current team, led by Tommy, is Billy, Rocky, Adam, Kat and Tanya.
Pairings: Jason/Trini, Tommy/Kim, Rocky/Aisha; others may come later.
A/N: This story assumes that the Rangers were juniors in high school when they got their original powers, meaning they are currently in their second year of college, putting their ages at approximately 20-21.
Warning: Rated M for graphic violence, language, crude humor and disturbing content, including major character death. (Nothing too explicit as far as sexual content, I'll keep that PG-13.) Essentially, this is what I imagine an R-rated Power Rangers movie would've looked like. If only, right?
Chapter 1: "Collapse (Post-Amerika)"
"In peace, sons bury their fathers. In war, fathers bury their sons."
World Youth Peace Summit: Main Campus
Jonas Salk Memorial Dormitory
August 28, 2012
7:15 PM Geneva time
"Mom, how many times do I have to tell you – nothing is going to happen!" Jason Scott shifted his cell phone from one ear to the other and squeezed it between his shoulder and his head. Shifting the small pile of books he held from one arm to the other, he shoved his now free hand into his pocket and pulled out a ring of keys. "They're sending us with six interpreters and an entire squad of trained security guards; besides, we'll only be in Cairo for a week and then Zack, Trini and I are taking the cheapest flight home." He fumbled with the keys for a moment as he rounded the corner of the bright hallway, his black dress shoes clicking softly on the tile floor as he approached a door near the end of the hall.
"Yes, Mom, like I told you three days ago, home as in Angel Grove, not home as in here, I don't consider this place home anyway… How am I supposed to know what time we'll get there? I don't make the plane schedules." As he unlocked the door and swung it open, he heard a soft beep on the other line; frowning, he dropped his books on the desk just inside the door and took his phone away from his ear, staring at it in bewilderment.
"Bitch hung up on me," he grumbled, tossing the phone onto the top bunk of one of the two sets of bunk beds that occupied either side of the cozy room he now found himself in.
"That bitch is your mother," said the slender Asian girl who sat cross-legged on the futon in the middle of the room, beneath the large window that looked out on the main campus. Trini Kwan held a plate of food on her lap; a book lay open on the empty seat beside her, a yellow highlighter holding the pages open. She leveled her gaze at Jason over her fork.
"That bitch stole my act," Jason replied, undoing his tie and starting to unbutton his dark red dress shirt. "I'm the one who always hangs up on people. The hell does she think she is?" He shot a wry smile at Trini as he pulled his arms out of his sleeves and started undoing his belt. She scoffed at him and shook her head. Jason let out a small laugh and said, "Whatever. She was just getting all worked up about that trip we're taking next week. Again. You know how she gets."
Trini smiled at him. "At least your parents care about the trip. All mine do is give me constant crap about how long it's been since we've been home."
Jason grinned again, tugging on a pair of khaki cargo shorts and a red tank top before slumping against the bed frame and sighing. "Yeah, what I wouldn't give to get out of here for a few days."
Jason rolled his eyes and strode across the room to the mini refrigerator that sat against the back wall, between his desk and the TV stand. He swung it open and leaned inside for a moment. "You have no idea. I just spent the last three hours debating the future economic viability of the European Union. Swear to god if I don't get something to drink pretty soon I'm gonna start pissing sawdust."
"And there goes my appetite," Trini said. He heard the clank of her fork against the plate as he stood and turned around, a pair of beers in his hand.
"Don't mention it," he responded cheerfully, crossing the room and plopping down on the couch beside her. He pulled a Swiss Army knife out of his pocket, flipped out the bottle opener and cracked one of the bottles open. "You probably shouldn't be eating anyway. You look a little…pudgy. I don't mind, though, I mean, you know, more of you to love."
Trini gasped and glared at Jason as he took a long swig of the beer and raised his eyebrows at her. After a moment, she set her jaw, snatched up the fork, and jabbed it angrily into the salad on her plate before thrusting it into her open mouth. She was in the midst of chewing when she noticed Jason's smirk. Groaning, Trini let her head fall back against the couch; she closed her eyes and swallowed hard. "I cannot believe I just fucking fell for that."
"I love you too." Jason laughed heartily and sipped his beer again. "Ah. The benefits of having German roommates. Beer?" He cracked the other bottle open and offered it to her; she eyed him up and down for a moment suspiciously.
"Do your roommates know you and Zack have been raiding their alcohol supply?" Trini inquired, taking the proffered beverage and taking a quick swallow. "Delicious as it is."
"Hell if I know," Jason answered, moving Trini's book out of the way and leaning closer, draping an arm around her. "Though we've been doing it for so long that if they don't know by now they probably don't deserve to be here in the first place. Hans and Franz are great and all, but I was kind of relieved when they went home for the month. They're a dragon short of a Thunder MegaZord, if you know what I mean."
"You know they hate it when you call them by those nicknames, right?" Trini asked as she leaned her head into Jason's shoulder. "They told me once when you were in the bathroom or something."
"Which is why I've put some of that politics we've been learning here to use and only said it behind their backs like a civilized human being."
"You're kind of an asshole today, you know that?"
"You would be too if you just spent three hours straight essentially talking to a wall."
Trini giggled and tilted her head back to plant a gentle kiss on Jason's lips. "You're too good for them," she muttered sarcastically. She felt his smile widen against her forehead.
"Tell me about it."
"I had something else in mind."
The two of them absently lowered their drinks to the floor as Trini turned around and nearly sat in Jason's lap. Both her arms looped around his neck as she pressed her lips against his, passionately probing his tongue with her own. Jason cupped a hand around the back of her head, taking in her warmth, her taste, gripping her tightly against him as they kissed deeply, intensely.
They stayed locked together that way for a long moment before Jason heard the soft creaking of the door swinging slowly inward; Zack Taylor poked his head into the room and opened his mouth to speak, but stopped and simply watched the two of them silently. Soon, Jason held up a finger without even opening his eyes. Zack grinned and leaned in the doorway.
Jason pulled back gently, letting Trini's lower lip catch between his teeth for a second as he went. He pressed his forehead against hers, his eyes still closed. "Babe," he whispered tenderly. "People are staring."
Trini groaned and glanced over her shoulder at Zack, who beamed at her and waved. "Oh, don't mind me," he said, placing a hand over his stomach. "Please, continue."
"Pervert," Trini said with a laugh; she reached behind her, grabbed the pillow she'd been leaning on and chucked it at him. He ducked as it sailed over his head and bounced harmlessly to the floor.
"Hey, man," Zack said, raising both hands in a gesture of surrender. "Ever since the Summit started blocking all my favorite channels I've had to take what I can get. Besides," he quickly added with a laugh in response to Trini's disgusted glare. "You want perverted, ask Jason about the dream he had about you last week."
Before Trini had even turned back to confront him about this, Jason was pointing a finger at Zack, drilling twin holes through him with a look of playful rage. "Traitor. You are so fucking dead, you have no idea…"
"Watch it, Jase, or I'll tell Trini about those fruit-flavored condoms you've been keeping in your wallet for the last month. Oh, wait. Oops."
Jason leapt to his feet, his face turning as red as his shirt. "OK, that's it buddy, next time you want someone to cover for your ass while you 'get lost' in an erotic toy store for half an hour consider yourself shit out of luck." He turned back to Trini. "Tri, it's not what you think, I…"
"What flavor are they?" Trini asked casually, picking up her beer and taking another sip. "I like watermelon."
Jason gaped at her. His mouth worked soundlessly for a moment before he took a staggering step back and leaned toward Zack, who looked just as stunned as he was. "Uh, Zack? What exactly is in those beers?"
"Don't ask me, bro, I don't read German."
Trini giggled and rose to her feet, stretching. "I win again. Damn, you two are so easy it's barely even fun anymore."
Jason visibly sagged with relief, his face slowly returning to its normal color. "We need to stop playing this game before one of us has a coronary."
"Or a certain Red Ranger gets fatally blueballed," Zack chimed in, followed by a cough that sounded suspiciously like Jason's name. This earned him a reproachful look from Trini and an amused nod from the dark-haired young man beside him. Just then, they heard pounding footsteps in the corridor followed by banging on the heavy wooden door. Jason exchanged bewildered glances with his two friends and crossed the room to open it.
"The hell is going on out there?" The boy who stood outside was familiar to him; it was a Brazilian boy named Marco that Jason had been partners with for a debate once. He was breathing hard, a layer of perspiration shining on his face. Jason saw other doors closing down the hallway and realized this kid had been knocking on every door. "Marco, what is it? Que pasa?" Jason asked, his voice taking on a more concerned tone.
Marco babbled in rapid fire Portuguese, his words flying straight over Jason's head. "Marco, Marco, hey, slow down," Jason said, gripping the boy's shoulder. "En ingles, por favor. What happened?"
Marco finally seemed to catch his breath and looked up at Jason with panic in his eyes. In heavily accented English, he said, "Turn on the TV. Turn on the news. Right now! They're coming!" Then he wrenched himself out of Jason's grip and sprinted to the next door, where he repeated his frantic knocking. Jason stepped back into his room and let the door swing shut.
"Is anyone else severely unnerved right now?" Trini asked quietly. Jason picked up the remote control from beside the TV and flipped on the news channel.
"What the hell is he on? They're just replaying that interview with that guy from the Olympics," Zack said, folding his arms over his chest.
"Try the global news channel," Trini suggested. "Channel 7."
Jason pushed a button on the remote and the image changed. Trini gasped, her hand flying up to her mouth, and flung herself at Jason, falling into his chest as he wrapped one arm around her. All three former Rangers' mouths fell open at what they saw; the remote slid free from Jason's hand and clattered to the floor. Finally, the boy in red found a voice to articulate the thought that was racing through all three of their heads.
"What. The. Fuck."
Somewhere in the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter
Three hours earlier
NASA satellite Explorer floated lazily through the immense blackness of space, whizzing along through untold miles of emptiness as it navigated the asteroid field. Its onboard navigational systems kept it steadily pointed toward its target in the Kuiper Belt, on the very edge of deep space; a small light on one side blinked steadily, sending constant readings back to Mission Control. If there had been air to vibrate, the tiny machine would've beeped and whirred softly as though someone had launched a household appliance into space.
As the probe made its way through the asteroid field – which was far more sparsely populated with its namesake space rocks than many were aware – a massive magnetic disturbance was picked up by one of the array of sensors it carried. The tiny satellite rotated its camera to send a picture of the source of this disturbance back to Earth.
Before the camera could even be brought into position, the probe detonated in a cloud of floating fire that quickly dissipated in the surrounding vacuum. Beyond the silent explosion, the source of the destruction approached, moving rapidly through space and puncturing the asteroid field.
Just then, in a cramped, harshly lit control room three stories underground somewhere in the United States, a Mission Control technician would notice a random spike in the readings, followed quickly by a loss of all contact. He would reach immediately for the nearest phone, frantically informing his superiors of the anomaly they'd just experienced. A few minutes later, he would examine the last readings and crease his brows in confusion. The only conclusion he could reach scared the ever loving shit out of him – Explorer hadn't just blacked out, it had been destroyed by…something. The tech would drop the readout to the surface of his desk, leaning back in a cold sweat and running a shaking hand through his hair. This was insane.
Things would only get worse from there.
The interstellar armada was massive, tens of thousands of enormous, shapeless vessels looming over the assorted orbiting space debris in its wake. The fleet pushed steadily onward, its destination clear.
As the incoming flotilla continued toward its target, a fantastic array of lights flashed from the head ship; half an hour later, a few million miles away, a series of small explosions shattered the omnipresent stillness surrounding the unassuming blue and green planet. The onslaught wasn't far behind. As the ships closed the distance, the first few ripples of unease began to blossom – first communication, then Internet connection capabilities, and finally all but a scant few television stations went dark, leaving the most connected generation in history more isolated than at any time in the last century and a half. A phone call between a mother in California and her son in Switzerland was unceremoniously cut off, as were thousands of others. The world that had shrunk so quickly over the past two decades underwent a devastating growth spurt in the span of a mere few minutes. Soon, any sort of international travel would be rendered impossible; shortly after, any kind of global shipping of food, supplies, or any sort of goods would cease. Eventually, the situation would deteriorate to the point that the entire world would begin to go dark as the last of the fuel was used up or fought over. The entire human race would devolve into deeply fragmented populations of wandering savages, barbarous warriors, and marauding groups of civilians forced to remain on constant alert simply to stay alive.
And that was only if the invaders didn't interfere. Unfortunately for everyone, these creatures' plan extended far beyond that first strike.
Right then, as the fleet broke apart and dozens of individual ships split off for separate destinations, encircling the planet as lions do a downed gazelle while the main group slowed to a stop near the Moon, any objective observer would've concluded that humans, generally speaking, didn't stand a chance in hell.
World Youth Peace Summit: Main Campus
Jonas Salk Dormitory
August 28, 2012
7:45 PM, Geneva time
"Where is this coming from?" Zack demanded, pointing a shaky finger at the TV. "It looks like a big city but I don't recognize anything."
"I think they've been switching from one place to another," Jason answered, squinting at the TV. "They've been to like twelve different places now. Let me see if I can find anything online." Jason gave Trini a quick squeeze before letting go of her and moving to his desk, flipping open the laptop that lay there. After a minute he stood up and turned to his friends, his brows furrowed in concern.
"I can't get a connection. There's no WiFi signal at all, I can't even get the Ethernet line to work. Damn it, where's Billy when you need him?"
"No cell service, either," Trini mumbled to herself, staring at her cell phone. Jason spared a glance at her before turning back to the TV. The images playing out before them were astonishing. Footage from around the world showed gargantuan…things floating over skyscrapers in cities all over the world, things that might have been space ships though it was unclear due to their bizarre appearance. They were like something out of the inside of a geode – totally shapeless, a random jumble of jagged peaks, domes, sheer flat surfaces that looked as big as city blocks, and every so often something that resembled the prow of a ship. Their surface was a strange mixture of opaque black material that looked smooth enough to be glass and intensely reflective, crystalline portions that cast blinding glares into the cameras taking the film. Now Jason realized he did recognize some of the places being shown – London. Rio. Paris. Hong Kong. Two hovered over New York, one of them centered directly above the UN building. Others floated over Washington, D. C., St. Louis, Chicago.
"Any idea what the fuck those things are?" Jason asked quietly to no one in particular. "That one's only a couple hundred miles from home." Suddenly, one of the floating monoliths on the screen started to…the closest thing Jason could think of to describe it was sparkle. A dazzling array of flashing lights in a scope of colors so vast it included some he'd never seen before began playing out over the surface of the ship, growing steadily brighter and faster until they merged into a single flash; the ship seemed to shudder and dozens of brightly colored fireballs flew from it like bees from a hive.
"What the hell is it doing?" The question was barely out of Trini's mouth when the first of the glowing streaks collided with a building; the explosion that bloomed out from the impact sight was a brilliant shade of turquoise, the shockwave jostling the picture. The three friends watched in wide-eyed horror as a sphere of the same color radiated out from the initial explosion. It didn't seem to be made of anything tangible – it passed right through the destroyed walls of the building that had been hit and just kept right on going.
Until it found people. A small group of five or six was standing in a tight cluster in the background of the shot, gazing up at the sky and shielding their eyes from the sun. As the blue-green dome radiated out towards them, they turned and began to run back toward the camera, stumbling across the grass in their terror. The Rangers looked on awestruck as the wave caught up to them; the first person it touched was a young blonde woman who'd fallen behind, screaming desperately for her companions not to leave her. As the wave went through her, she had time to contort her face into a howl of pure agony before her body was completely disintegrated, a little at a time. One by one, the others met the same gruesome ends; until the wave reached the camera itself and the whole feed went to static.
"Anyone else having major Independence Day flashbacks?" Zack asked softly, falling back onto the bottom bunk.
"Among other things," Jason replied, his arm back around Trini's shoulders. As he spoke, the room seemed to dim, like something was casting a shadow over them. Turning slowly toward the window, Jason spoke again. "Is it me or did it just get darker in here?"
"Oh shit," Trini muttered as the three of them clustered around the window. There, hovering a few hundred feet in the air was a craft just like the one they'd just been watching. It was so big it blocked out the sun; Trini thought she saw a plane crash into it, the explosion only a tiny pinprick of light against the thing's haphazard black background.
"We have to get out of here," Jason said, gently pulling his roommate and girlfriend away from the window. He turned into the room long enough to grab his communicator off the desk and clamp it around his wrist; he noticed with relief that Trini and Zack were already wearing theirs. Jason gave Zack a shove toward the door, grabbing Trini's hand tightly as he moved that way himself. "Guys, come on. We have to get out of here before…"
The first shockwave was powerful enough to throw all three of them out the open door, crashing into each other as they landed in a pile in the hallway. The window in Jason and Zack's room exploded inward, glass showering onto the floor. Jason jumped to his feet, pulling his friends up behind him. Other doors were being thrown open now, the occasional crash or thump echoing down the corridor as people fell or ran into each other or something fell over and broke.
"GO!" Jason roared, hurling Zack and Trini down the hallway ahead of him.
That was when things really went to hell.
Without warning, another shockwave crashed into them, powerful enough to rock the entire building. Another boy running down the corridor careened sideways into Zack, slamming them both against the wall. Jason grabbed Zack's shirt as he went by and yanked him along, racing toward the stairway. The three friends had to weave through a rapidly thickening crowd of people as every room in the building began to empty, the entire population of the dormitory stampeding toward the exits in a state of blind panic.
Zack suddenly skidded to a stop and pulled Jason and Trini to one side. "What about the elevator?" He shouted over the clamor. "Everyone's going for the stairs; maybe it's actually faster that way."
"We're on the eighth floor, man, we can't risk it falling!" Jason shouted back. Just then, the entire hallway was illuminated by the enormous projectile – this one glowing a hellish orange – that streaked past just outside the window beyond the elevator. A second later, there was another tremor from below, even more intense than the others, and the heavy elevator doors were thrown out of the wall, flying toward the hapless students by the rising explosion behind them.
"Fuck!" Jason tackled Zack and Trini to the floor as the massive slabs of metal whizzed by over their heads and a wave of intense heat washed over them. The people behind them weren't as lucky. The doors slammed into them with bone-crushing force, taking heads off and shattering limbs as they went, carving a swath of carnage down the hallway and leaving puddles of blood and broken, mangled bodies in their wake. Those closest to the elevator who'd managed to avoid the doors were cooked alive by the heat of the explosion. Zack glanced up long enough to see Ming, a girl from China, come running out of the rising smoke cloud on fire, clawing at her throat as screams of agony wracked her body. As the smoke cleared, other victims became visible, things that had once been people reduced to little more than clumps of charred flesh that filled the hallway with the sickening smell of cooked meat.
Trini screamed, the first of many hot tears beginning to stream down her face. She turned and started to look behind them but Jason thrust his head into her path. "Trini!" He shouted her name to get her attention over the rising clamor. She locked eyes with him, desperately searching his face for reassurance; all she found, though, was the cold reality of their situation. "Don't look back there," he said, gentle but firm. "Trust me, you'll wish you hadn't. Look at me. Hey, look at me." Some twisted urge made her crane her neck to try and see past him, and he cupped her cheek in his hand, forcing her eyes back to him. He held her gaze, his eyes burning with steely resolve. "I am gonna get us out of here, you got that? We're gonna get out of here, we're gonna get back home, and we're gonna show these assholes what they get for fucking with Power Rangers. All of us," he added, nodding to Zack. "But right now we need to get out of this building. Our communicators don't have teleportation capacity anymore and there's too much interference in here to call for a ride even under normal circumstances. Believe me, I've tried. But if we can get outside we can get home. I promise-"
She cut him off by thrusting her lips against his. The kiss, though short, was filled with longing and passion – both of them knew it may very well be the last. They pulled back and Jason held Trini close; she nuzzled her cheek against the stubble that grazed his chin. "Come on," he said after they'd taken all the time they could afford. He held her at arm's length and smiled. "We have a flight to catch."
"Right." Trini nodded and turned, and the three of them rejoined the throng of their fellow students that pushed toward the stairs, crushing themselves into a space that couldn't hold them all at once.
Despite its apparent herd mentality, the crowd of students moved surprisingly fast. Jason, Zack and Trini made it to the fifth floor in only a few minutes, and were just starting to believe they'd actually live through this when another projectile, this one bright, angry red, came flying straight through the wall ahead of them. An entire flight of stairs before them was suddenly just gone as the streaking ball of energy traveled straight through one wall and out the other, leaving crumbling holes in its wake. The destroyed set of stairs had been packed tightly with several dozen students, none of whom had any way of avoiding the thing that came crashing in toward them. A few of the luckier ones near the front or back managed to shove themselves to one side of the thing, but even some of them were unable to find steady ground on either side of the gaping hole in the stairway the thing left behind; the three Rangers saw a few of these people go tumbling into thin air, crashing with a stomach-churning thud into the stairs below, where most of them were trampled by the hysterical mob that sprinted away from the disaster, fleeing for their lives.
Those were the lucky ones. The wide majority of the people on the stairs between the fourth and fifth floors were caught directly in the path of the missile. Those at the epicenter were virtually obliterated by it, their bodies simply popping like balloons; Jason felt a spray of blood splash across his face, filling his nose with the horrible copper tang. Others who were more on the periphery were cast aside like human bowling pins, their crushed bodies sent hurtling through the air to slam with devastating force into the nearest wall or ceiling or go hurtling out through the hole in the wall. The screams of people plummeting fifty feet to the ground echoed in the stairway for a long moment; Zack couldn't decide which disturbed him more – the screams themselves or their abrupt, choked cessation.
"Holy god," Zack whispered. He nudged Jason, who was staring out through the hole the fireball had left behind as though he could bring it back. "Now what?"
Jason didn't budge his gaze away from the singed, collapsing hole. "We climb."
"Are you crazy?" Trini hissed at him, whirling around only to clamp a hand over her mouth at Jason's blood spattered face. Weakly, her voice muffled by her hand, she added, "We're five stories up, going out there is suicide."
"Would you rather we jump?" Jason asked, gesturing to the gaping hole in front of them. "We can go out the hole, climb down to the next floor, break in a window and take the stairs the rest of the way." Without even waiting for his friends to respond, Jason inched forward, his back pressed against the wall. Letting out a long, slow breath, he pivoted on his right foot and swung his left around, barely managing to catch the edge of the hole with his toes. Wishing he'd thought to put shoes on before this all went down, Jason leaned out as far as he dared, stretching out his arm and curling his fingers around the jagged edge of the opening. He awkwardly hopped on his other foot as close to the edge as he could get; the most he could get was a hold big enough for half his bare foot to rest on, unprotected sole grinding against splintering wood and mangled rebar.
Feeling the skin on the bottom of his foot being ripped off, Jason pushed off the edge of the destroyed hallway and half hopped, half dragged his left foot across the surface of the hole. He was just able to plant his other foot on the edge as he began to lose his balance, squeezing the side of the opening and curling his bleeding toes around the lip to steady himself. As he turned back to face Zack and Trini, he found he could just barely reach a hand up to the upper edge of the hole and press it against the broken wall to keep his balance. He glanced back at Zack and Trini and held out his right hand. "Come on."
Trini moved hesitantly to the ledge and regarded his position. "Are you sure you're stable?"
"Physically? Sure. Mentally?" Jason shrugged and smiled. Trini rolled her eyes and tucked the long hem of her yellow blouse into her tight jeans. She shot a glance at Zack before edging herself up to the ledge as far as she dared. She let out a long breath before leaping out over the empty space where the stairs had once been and catching Jason's hand with both of her own. Her weight swung forward like a pendulum and she planted both feet against the wall below the lip of the hole. She glanced up at Jason.
"You got me?" He nodded and she slowly begun walking up the wall until she found a tenuous foothold on the lip of the opening. Jason gave her a gentle tug and she pulled herself up to a standing position, her thin form just fitting between Jason's bulkier frame and the edge of the opening. She looked to Zack, who looked like something out of an apocalyptic movie; standing alone at the edge of the abyss, the ruined dorm crumbling to pieces behind him, his black shirt torn and dirty, his face streaked with sweat and grime and gore. Trini turned back to Jason. "What now?"
He jerked his head to his other side, where there was more than ample room for two more people to stand on the precarious ledge. Trini raised a skeptical eyebrow. "How exactly am I supposed to get over there?"
"Climb around me." At her look of incredulity, he raised a hand and gave her a very significant look. "I'm not going anywhere. Look." Jason held out his free hand and stood without moving for several seconds before he let it fall casually to his side. "Hold on to me; put your foot between my feet and lean against me for balance. Come on, it's like three feet. You'll be fine."
"I think you drastically underestimate your own size," Trini muttered, but she moved toward Jason, gripping his right hand in her left and placing her right hand on Jason's left shoulder. She slowly lifted one foot and placed it gently on the ledge between Jason's two bare feet. Her other foot soon joined it, but there was so little space that she was forced to stand with one foot on top of the other. Carefully, Trini maneuvered her right foot out from the bottom and extended it to Jason's other side. She let go of his hand and gently patted his hard, toned stomach. "Suck in that gut, soldier," she said quietly, grabbing his raised left arm with both hands and spinning herself away to find herself on the far side of the hole.
"Yes, ma'am," he muttered back, grinning. Trini moved a little further away, holding Jason's hand with one of her own and reaching out to lean against the far edge of the wall with the other. That was when she noticed the condition of his feet.
"Jesus, Jason," she gasped, staring at the trail of blood that ran down the outer brick wall of the building. "You're bleeding."
"I'm fine," he answered curtly, turning to extend an arm to Zack. "Nothing a trip to Command Center General won't fix."
"Assuming we get there," Zack piped up from the ledge.
"Would you shut the hell up and jump?" Jason shot back, drumming his fingers against the top edge of the hole. "If you're so concerned about my feet why don't you move your ass so we can go home?"
"Right. Sorry," Zack said casually as he swung his arms back and jumped, catching Jason's hand and swinging into the wall just as Trini had. "I just thought you wanted to fill your blood loss quota for today's little adventure before we left."
"Ha. Ha ha. Ha. Fuck you," Jason snapped, helping Zack walk up the wall while easing himself sideways towards Trini. By the time Zack had reached the ledge, there was sufficient room for him to stand, leaning against the side of the hole for balance.
The three of them gazed out over the campus and beheld the scene of mass carnage that lay spread out before them. Some buildings were on fire; others had begun to completely fold in on themselves. Occasional bolts of that strange alien energy came tumbling down from the sky. Jason counted five different colors, each behaving a little differently. There was the turquoise ones they'd seen on TV, which exploded upon impact and released a radiating field of deadly radiation that destroyed any living thing in its path; the orange ones which simply exploded, but seemed to create liquid fire that moved like it had a mind of its own; the red ones like the one they'd just seen, which ricocheted off the ground but plowed into buildings like a wrecking ball. Those three he'd already dealt with; the other two he saw were entirely new to him. One, which gleamed a shade of purple he would've found beautiful if it wasn't for its lethality, impacted with the ground and stuck there like a dart; after a moment, it released dozens of bolts of pure purple light that scattered in infinite directions, piercing anything they came into contact with. Finally, a single silver-colored fireball aimed itself toward a large group of survivors who had clustered outside the entrance to one of the buildings. It seemed to pop before it ever reached the ground, raining down some kind of fluid on the people beneath it; as Jason watched, the entire group went rigid, freezing in place and giving off their own dull silver glow. He frowned. What the hell is that for? What are they gonna do with those people?
He shook the thought from his mind – there was no time for that now.
"Guys," he said softly, snapping Trini and Zack out of similar reveries. Jason motioned with his head. "We need to climb down a level and around the corner to get in on the landing."
Trini turned a pale shade of green at the idea; Zack swept a hand out at the wall before them. "After you, fearless leader."
"Oh, sure," Jason complained, edging closer to the edge of the hole; Trini flattened herself against the side to give him as much room as possible. "Make the guy with the mutilated bare feet do the climbing first. Brilliant."
"You know, I distinctly remember this whole thing being your idea," Trini pointed out, still pressed against the side of the hole.
"Not helping." Jason turned to face the inside of the building, craning his neck to the wall below him. A ledge ran around the brick every ten feet or so; the nearest one was about four feet below him. There was also the occasional window, several feet apart, each with a steel bar running across the top and thin sills that projected from the wall. Gritting his teeth, Jason took his hand off the wall and hopped back from the ledge, catching the thin lip of the hole with both hands and planting his bare feet against the brick wall.
Trini and Zack let out twin shouts of surprise at his sudden drop; once he'd steadied himself, Zack shook his head and said, "Goddamn, Jase. No more Assassin's Creed for you from now on."
"Let me know if you see some falcons and a hay bale," Jason retorted, smiling slightly at Zack's relieved chuckle before slowly unfolding himself, letting his feet rest on the ledge below. Once he'd nearly made it around the corner, Trini, then Zack followed him, using his bloody footprints as a guide for where to go next. Eventually, as Jason found himself situated over the window that led into the landing, which was still precariously intact, Zack stopped for a moment in the process of rounding the corner.
"Hey, Jase, your blood makes a really handy little guide to follow."
"You're welcome," Jason called back, before adding under his breath, "Asshole." He readied himself, squeezing the ledge above the window in both hands and testing the glass with his feet. OK. My blood's gonna make this thing too slippery in a minute – it's now or never. Jason swung back and kicked as hard as he could with both feet.
Nothing. The sheet of glass didn't even crack.
"Shit!" Jason screamed, moving himself off the window as quickly as he could so as not to lose his grip. "It's reinforced. We're gonna have to take a window from the other side, in the hallway." As he spoke, he dared a look behind him. For a moment he felt a rush of dizziness, which he shook off rather easily; not so easy to shake off was the realization of how small everything looked from fifty feet up. Jason turned back to the building, squeezed his eyes shut, and focused on shutting everything else out for the time being. They had to get around the building and inside or they were all going to die. It was that simple.
He zoned out a little at that point, let his hands and feet act on their own as he slid inside himself, entering a state of active meditation he'd perfected during one of his many late-night sparring sessions with Tommy in the training room beneath the Command Center. When he finally came back to himself, his earlier anxiety replaced by a detached, almost amused calm, he found himself already around the corner, moving at a downward angle along the building to a window that led into the hallway, one he hoped would be easier to break. Zack and Trini were perched about six feet above his head, gingerly following his tracks along the wall. Jason looked around and spied a viable window only ten more feet to his right. He looked up and started to inform his friends of their good luck when a red fireball came bursting out of the building mere inches to Zack's right. Trini shrieked the Black Ranger's name as he lost his grip and pinwheeled through the air, plummeting toward the ground.
Jason reacted on pure instinct. Coiling his body like a rubber band, he leapt to his left and caught Zack's wrist with his hand; as they fell, he stuck a hand out desperately for a hold…
And found a window that had already been shattered by some previous incident. His arm disappeared into it up to the shoulder and was dragged out by their combined weight. As his elbow cleared the ledge, Jason's scrabbling fingers finally found purchase and caught; the combined weight of both young men was suddenly yanked tight against Jason's right shoulder. He heard a pop, and then the agonizing pain of something separating. Grunting in pain, his jaw clenching, Jason looked down at Zack, tears of pain already forming in his eyes.
"Zack…" he gasped. "I hurt…my shoulder…motherfucker…you gotta…get off…can't…hold…" Jason let out a scream of pain that echoed across the chaos of their campus.
Zack looked at the wall before him. "There's a window here but the glass isn't broken. I need some way to swing against it."
Jason bent both legs at the knee, forming a pair of makeshift monkey bars. "How's this?"
"Great. One sec." Zack swung back on Jason's arm and leaned forward to grab first one leg, then the other, until his entire weight was held on Jason's right leg. The window was right there; he just needed some way to break it.
Following Jason's example, Zack bent his own legs at the knees and swung back, gradually building momentum and forcing himself to tune out his friend's pained groans. He counted softly to himself as he swung. "One…two…THREE!" Zack swung forward as hard as he could and flew knees first into the window, which mercifully shattered on impact. He landed hard on his back, grazing the top of his head on some of the jagged shards of glass that still lay on the sill as he rolled to the floor. He quickly leaned out the window. "Hold on, Jase!"
Zack darted up a flight of stairs to find Jason still dangling from a window on the fourth floor. He reached out and grabbed Jason's uninjured left arm, leveraging his feet against the wall to pull both of them into the hallway. Panting, the two young men lay on the floor for a moment, Jason cringing as waves of pain shot through his arm. "Where's Trini?" He managed to gasp.
"Right here." The yellow Ranger came bounding down the stairs, her face paling at the sound of Jason's strained, shaky voice. "I climbed through the hole that thing left behind. It missed the floor by a foot." She crouched at Jason's side and looked to Zack. "What happened?"
"When he caught me he ended up catching that window and hurt something in his shoulder. It sounded pretty bad."
"How do you think it felt?" Jason asked as the three rose slowly to their feet. "Come on. If we're lucky we can take the stairs all the way down and right through the front door and catch a ride the hell outta here."
It appeared they were lucky. The stairs held all the way down to the ground floor. Zack and Trini had to half-carry Jason for support, his feet unable to take his weight much longer. As they entered the main hallway on the ground floor, Jason shook himself free of their hold and said, "I can walk the rest of the way myself. Thanks."
Zack and Trini shook their heads at each other but let Jason go, moving carefully toward the front door. Trini slid her hand into Jason's and sagged against him with relief. "Thank god," she sighed. "I think we may actually get out of here."
No sooner had the words left her mouth than a deafening explosion sounded just above them. "You had to say something," Jason moaned.
Before either of them could react, another red fireball came crashing through the ceiling; it traveled at a downward angle, its path bisecting the entire building before it crashed to the ground just outside the front door and bounced away.
There was an earsplitting creak as the dorm building's support beams began to give way, and the entire structure began to fold in on itself. Giant chunks of brick, concrete, sheetrock and wood began to rain down around them, throwing up a blinding cloud of dust. The three of them charged forward, racing desperately for the door. Trini reached it first, catching the doorframe and nearly falling into it; Jason slammed into her and carried both of them out the door and onto the grass…just as a turquoise fireball landed only a few yards away. The initial explosion flung them both back against the building like rag dolls, dragging cries of pain from both of them as they crashed into the brick façade and crumpled to the ground. Jason heaved Trini to her feet, but her legs wobbled and she fell against him; he glanced up to see the radiating dome spreading toward them, flying across the ground like a tidal wave. He threw Trini over his uninjured shoulder and staggered, exhausted, across the campus lawn as the energy wave raced toward him. The blades of grass tore into his lacerated feet; his shoulder felt like someone had punched him with a fistful of broken glass; his entire exhausted body screamed in protest, a new pain registering in his chest where he thought he may have cracked a few ribs; and yet he kept going, throwing himself and Trini away from the glowing blue-green death that chased after them like a hungry wolf.
Finally, he glanced over his shoulder and saw it dissipate. Jason dropped to his knees and let Trini roll down his arms to lie in the grass. "Trini?" He prodded her gently. There was a nasty wound above her left eyebrow from which blood had begun to pour, and several of her fingers were twisted at impossible angles, but he quickly found a pulse, and felt steady breathing from her nose. It was then that he noticed that they were alone.
"Zack!" The Red Ranger cupped his hands around his mouth and screamed his friend's name even louder this time, begging the universe to bring him back. "ZACK!" There was still nothing, no response except the continued chorus of death that filled the air around him.
He couldn't take it anymore.
Grunting in renewed agony, Jason raised his communicator to his mouth. "I swear to god if you don't work…Hello? Command Center, Zordon, do you read? This is Jason."
At first there was nothing but static, and Jason was about to try again when a booming yet gentle voice burst from the tiny device around his wrist. "We read you, Jason. It is good that you contacted us. With the attacks happening around the world and the high amount of interference from your campus, we were beginning to worry for your safety."
"Zordon," Jason panted, unable to hold back another grunt of pain. "That's just it. There was an attack here. Our dormitory building has been completely destroyed, Trini's unconscious and we were separated from Zack. We need emergency teleportation home right now. Please." He hated the way his last word sounded, as though he were begging, but seeing Trini in the state she was in and not knowing at all where Zack was, Jason felt as though he would fall apart himself pretty soon if they didn't get out of this.
"Jason," came the voice again, that voice he'd come to trust so implicitly over the last few years. It was filled with concern now, the great Eltarian mage not hiding his worry for his chosen Rangers' safety. "We've locked on to your location. It will only be a few seconds. Please be safe and try not to move."
"Thank you, Zordon." Jason tried to speak with the calm, clipped tone he usually used to talk with his mentor, addressing him like a soldier would a general, but his voice broke on the last word and he felt a terrified sob threaten to burst free from his mouth.
Just as Trini's eyes fluttered open, and she lightly squeezed his hand, three streaks of light launched into the Switzerland sunset. Two, one red and one yellow, were right next to each other, nearly joined together. Another, sparking black, was weaker, flickering, and came alone a few yards away. Their disappearance went unnoticed entirely by anyone else present; any of the few who were still alive at that point were too busy hiding or running for their lives to see them. The monolithic amalgamation in the sky was completely oblivious to them; after they'd departed, the massacre raged on as though the three had never been there at all.