Cats and Dogs – Cranky
There's one week in every year when everyone at SPD command knows NOT TO IRRITATE KAT MANX. It happens once a year, around the same time, usually in early November. During this one week, Commander Doggie Cruger is sent up to Supreme Command to convene with Birdy and the other "overstuffed animals", as Doggie likes to call them. While he's up there, Kat is down on earth, making sure things run as smoothly as possible.
Let's not be mistaken: things are immaculate under Kat's command. Things work efficiently and with the utmost practicality. It might work better than when Commander Cruger is there (no one says this for the same reason being he is a scary man–dog) but that's not important. Despite the fact that most sensible cadets are scared of Commander Cruger, they're usually the most terrified of Kat Manx.
Kat rolls through the halls like a small hurricane during this week. She doesn't smile, doesn't laugh, doesn't stop working, and doesn't take crap. Her sole goal in this week is to have things in tip–top shape when Cruger comes back. The cadets' goal in this week is to keep Dr. Manx pleased so they won't get eaten (by either her, or the Commander).
Boom quadruple checks his work in this week, never doing anything without Kat's supervision, unless she seems tired, in which case he eats a cheese sandwich in the lounge. He stays out of her way, makes sure the consoles and beakers are clean and touches as little as possible!
Even Kat's beloved B–Squad knows better than to rub her fur the wrong way this week. They greet her with bright smiles, and they come the closest to getting smiles in return. They don't actually get one, but they do get a promising twitch of her lips in the right direction. For the most part, they really try to make her job easier, keep the newbs out of her hair, and some other things. Bridge and Jack usually bring her food; as they've been told by Boom, if they didn't bring her food, she wouldn't eat. Sky writes his best reports, organizing them beyond necessity and submits them for her. Z makes an extra effort to make sure the path between Kat's lab and the supervisors' lounge (really, the only other place she goes in the week) is clear. Syd brings Kat little things, like her favorite soda, or makes her coffee, or sometimes offers to lend her hand to experiments. She thought of offering a massage one time but Boom assured her that the Commander is the only one to ever massage Kat and live through it.
"Yes, Kat!" Boom snaps to attention, on edge. Kat's voice is edgy, even for the week she's having. This can't be good.
"Go get B–Squad," the brunette's tone leaves no room for arguments, not that Boom would dare.
Kat takes a sip of what she thinks is coffee and keeps working. This is what gets her through this week: her work. If she didn't make sure she had plenty to work on in this week she might go crazy. As much as she loves SPD, and as easy as it is to reign in the cadets even on Cruger's away week, she goes a little crazy. Something about Cruger's absence sets her off horribly, and she ends up hyper–vigilant and testy all week. Her patience just dissipates and any and all attempts to quell her temper usually end in massacre. Just the other day, one poor cadet whispered to his friends that "Dr. Manx needs to chill" while she was still within 25 feet of him. He is still on dumpster duty, helping Piggy sort through possible intel. ie. garbage, downtown.
Her eyes go over the same sentence again and again; she's exhausted. There's no other word for it, and she can't resist it anymore. The odd hour or two of sleep she snags while Boom is out of the lab isn't enough for even her advanced system, and it's wearing her down. Her eyes are heavy, her body is tired, and worst of all her mind is suffering. She has lost her perfect cognitive function and now sees muddled words where there were once clear cut sentences. She can't sleep, though; she has the worst time trying to sleep in this week because she keeps waking from awful nightmares, expecting to be in a cell on Grumm's ship.
B–Squad files in sharply, standing crisply at attention. "B–Squad reporting, ma'am!"
"At ease, cadets," Kat sighs.
B–Squad looks up at Kat, worried to hear the exhaustion in her voice. It's unusual to hear such tiredness in her voice normally, but during this week, it's unheard of. They look closely, finding the Felina massaging her pinched forehead. The purple at the corners of her eyes is almost imperceptible, but it's there. Sky clears his throat first. "Dr. Manx, is everything running smoothly for you?"
"Yes, everything's fine, Sky," again, Kat's tone dances directly on the line of authoritative and annoyed. "What time is it?"
"Seventeen hundred hours, ma'am," answers Sky.
This question startles the group, as it demonstrates just how far Kat has slipped into her protective cocoon of workaholism. When no one answers after a second she asks again, this time teetering closer to the annoyed spectrum of tones. Syd speaks up this time: "It's Thursday, ma'am."
Kat soaks in the words and breathes deliberately. She can smell the rangers, her lab, and the lingering scent of motor oil and...Boom. When she opens her eyes the lights are on but they create a cold effect in her current state. Her bones ache from the inside out with chills. The door is closed and there are only the power rangers there, with worried expressions. She smiles – actually full on smiles – at them in apology. "I'm sorry, rangers, for my temper. You—"
"We know this is a tough week for you, Kat." Z approaches in an easily disarming way.
At this simple olive branch extension Kat throws herself onto her chair with a loud sigh. "I don't know why, but this week always takes its toll on me."
"We know, and we wish we could help you more," Syd goes to Kat naturally and gives her shoulders a light hug.
"This only started about 25 years ago, but it's such an ordeal," Kat pinches the bridge of her nose. "It shouldn't affect me this much."
"Kat, you don't have to be large and in charge all the time," when Jack receives a withering glare he rephrases, "that is to say it's all right to admit you're tired, and stressed. Everyone has something that helps them cope with stuff, and do you know what Cruger has that you don't?"
Kat shakes her head and everyone else frowns, waiting for where Jack's going with this.
"You—you're the thing that Cruger has to help him cope with this all the time. You keep him de–stressed and help his head stay on his shoulders. You're his rock, and he's yours, but when you don't have your rock, you're just...swimming, trying to keep your head above water for a week straight." Jack puts a gentle hand on Kat's shoulder and smiles gently.
Everyone is astounded at Jack's deepness. Z approaches and offers a fist bump. "That's deep, bro."
"Thank you, rangers. I honestly think you're the only reason I've been able to make it through this week all these years," Kat sighs, less discontented than a minute before.
"What did you do before us?" Bridge asks.
"Well, Bridge," Kat starts, "I basically was about 20 times worse than I am now."
While the team tries to absorb what that could possibly be like, a beeping comes in on Kat's screen. When she sees who it is she gladly engages and turns the screen towards B–Squad. The group sees the caller and smiles collectively. "Commander Cruger!"
"You all seem a little too happy to see me; what's happening there?" Cruger frowns.
"Nothing, sir, Kat's been taking exceptional care of everything," Sky reassures the Sirian with a small smile.
"Yeah, we're just glad to see you, DC," Z puts in diplomatically.
"Where is Kat?" Cruger asks with confusion as to why Kat has not answered herself.
"Here, Doggie," Kat smiles as she turns the screen to face herself, voice lovely and light again. "How's Supreme Command?"
"Ough, Kat," Cruger shakes his head with disdain. "I cannot begin to tell you how much I miss you."
Kat turns a bit pink at the intensity of the sentiment. "I–I miss you too, Doggie. So, I take it things aren't going well?"
"They've been better," he supplies sarcastically. "I have had it up to here," he indicates with a big blue paw, "with Birdy."
"I can imagine; almost makes me glad I'm here instead," Kat laughs.
"No one's giving you any trouble there, are they?" Cruger asks in a deadly serious tone.
"No, no, Doggie, nothing like that. I'm just..." Kat rubs her tense forehead for what seems like the millionth time that day; "tired."
"Believe me, I know how difficult it can be to reign in everything there." Cruger looks at Kat with a deepness to his eyes she only sees in the most dire of times. "Don't let it get to you. If it weren't for you, I would have quit long ago."
"That's such a lie," Kat shakes her head, but her smile only grows.
"Slightly, but you really are the only reason I'm able to handle that job all year 'round. What do you do when I'm not there?"
"Oh, well, I have," Kat looks over her shoulder to find the rangers have left, "I have our valiant power rangers here to help me." Cruger's silence and raises brows show that he doesn't believe her. "Plus, I'm pretty cranky the entire time you're gone," she admits.
"That's what I was looking for. You know, there's a reason I'm known as the 'Serious Sirian', Kat. This job wears on you. I don't want it tearing you up, inside or out, got it? I'm sure you've plunged yourself into a workaholic streak so bad you don't really know what day it is, but I'm ending it!"
Kat's ears fold back against her skull, showing her bashfulness at Doggie's all–too accurate description of her week. "Don't worry, Doggie, you'll be back tomorrow, and this doesn't have to happen again until next year."
"Actually, Kat, I'm coming back tonight," Doggie declares, clearly having just made the decision. "I should be there around nineteen hundred."
"Doggie, you can't just leave an SC summit meeting," Kat scolds. "I can hold down the fort for another day."
"I don't care, Katherine. No one has listened to a word I've said, anyway, and at the rate Ambassador Slothangaru speaks I'd be here until Christmas. I'm coming home tonight, but when I get there, I want to see you rested and relaxed, understood, Dr. Manx?"
Kat rolls her eyes but is smiling from ear to ear, starting to glow from within for the first time in four days. "Yes, sir, Commander Cruger. Any particular means of relaxation you want me to cover, sir?"
"Very funny, Kat," Doggie snarks warmly. "I mean it: rest up and relax, BEFORE I GET BACK."
"Okay, Doggie," Kat looks at his image seriously, with large, bright eyes. "I have missed you... "
"I have missed you too, Katherine," Doggie returns with overwhelming warmth in his voice. He is the only one to call her Katherine, and only between the two of them in the most intimate of moments. It's his best term of endearment for her, being a sign of how he adores her unconditionally. "Rest."
Kat nods and waves. He waves back and signs off. She sighs and leans back, settling into the first satisfactory nap she's had in days.
Cruger arrives about two hours later, right on time. Everyone is glad to see him back, and reports on Kat's stellar commanding ability. He gives them a solemn nod of approval and sends them on their way. He could honestly see himself handing Kat the command center permanently if he retires in the next few centuries or so, but he knows her place is in the lab.
He walks steadily to Kat's lab, knowing very well that even if she did heed his order to relax, she would do it in her lab with her feet up and reading a scientific journal. The woman works too hard... When he enters he's greeted with a pleasant surprise. Kat is sitting back in her chair, head lilting to the side. A blanket has been thrown over her, most likely by Boom. She purrs in her sleep, finally looking relaxed.
"Welcome back, sir," Boom greets in a whisper.
"Well done, Boom, thank you," they know that when Cruger says this he means the blanket on Kat and more. Boom just nods and ducks out of the lab. Cruger picks Kat's feather light body up with the blanket and carries her to her proper bed. "Sleep tight, Kitten."
On his way out he almost misses it, but he catches the faint whisper: "Glad you're back."