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Old 09-21-2007, 08:29 PM   #1
Muse
Inspiration Incarnate
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 40
Hostage Situation

Two rangers wake up in a troobian dungeon. The only chance for their survival is if SPD agrees to surrender within the month. That is, if they don't kill one another before then...

Hostage Situation

One Wrong Move

Sky groaned. His eyes were open now, but the world around him was a blur of washed-out colors. His head felt like it was about to explode. Far away, he thought he heard a voice. “Sky? Sky can you hear me?”

He groaned again in response, and noticed a moving figure in his view. Slowly, as his vision cleared, Sky saw that it was a worried looking Z. “Z?”

“Hey, welcome back to the land of the living,” she smiled, offering a hand to help him sit up.

He took it, but once he was upright the room spun. If it could be called a room; they seemed to be trapped in a damp, poorly lit cell. “Where are we? What happened?”

Z smirked, “I have a bad feeling about where we are, but I was hoping you cold tell me what happened.”

Images flashed across Sky’s memory. Metallic soldiers, a wart-covered orange monster, flashing lights, colored warriors; he and Z had been fighting the krybots who attacked the south side of New Tech City while the others were busy with a monster destroying the north. A purple witch, flying arrows, a falling yellow figure; they had walked right into a trap. Morgana had appeared out of nowhere, right behind Z. Before Sky could warn her, Z slumped at Morgana’s feet, a dart in her neck. A lump on the back of Sky’s head throbbed painfully and his memory came up with a black screen; something had hit Sky over the back of the head, leaving him unconscious.

He shook his head, “I’m beginning to get that bad feeling too. Are the others here?”

“Not that I know of,” Z replied. “They took our morphers, so there’s no way we can call them to find out.”

Sky nodded, “I just hope everyone else is ok.” Metal bars screeched on rusty hinges. Both turned to see Morgana and Broodwing entering the cell.

“That bad feeling just got a whole lot worse,” Z muttered.

“Don’t worry about your friends, blue ranger. You should worry more about yourself,” sneered Broodwing.

The rangers looked at one another before turning their attention back to their captors. “What do you want with us?” asked Sky.

“Ransom,” explained Broodwing. “SPD should pay a pretty penny for the ‘safe’ return of their rangers.”

“Still,” Morgana sneered, “we only need one of you in good health to prove that we have been taking care of you precious little darlings. In fact, we only need one of you alive at all.” She focused on Z and drew a ragdoll from behind her back. “Don’t you think so, Cindy Sunshine?” She pulled a rag doll out from behind her back.

Z groaned, “Oh great. She brought the stupid doll.”

“Stupid? Cindy, don’t you listen to her. We’ll make her pay for that,” hissed Morgana.

“You have serious issues,” Z replied. “It is a doll, not a human being!”

“Z, I think it would be a very bad idea to make the woman with a gun and an apparent grudge against you unhappy,” mumbled Sky.

Morgana stepped forward, allowing the two orange-head krybots behind her to enter. “Oh, it is far too late for that. Come along, yellow ranger! It’s time to play!”

Every time he made an attempt to stand and protect Z, the dizziness forced him back toward the ground – or was it the ceiling? Z put a hand on his shoulder to keep him safely on the ground. “I’ll be alright,” she whispered. “Just think of a way to get us out of here. Oh, and get better…we can only afford to have one of us unconscious at a time.” She walked out with the krybots. The bars slammed shut again.

Sky sighed, and muttered, “C’mon, guys; you’ve got to find us…before it’s too late."

XXX

Jack, Sydney, and Bridge stood at attention in front of the commander, each wearing a grin. They had defeated the monster in record time, even though two of their teammates had not been present. They were sure of their victory and eager to greet Z and Sky, who were taking longer to accomplish an easier assignment.

“A fine job, rangers,” Cruger announced. “I hope the same can be said for your teammates. Kat, have you contacted cadets Tate and Delgado yet? The video feeds from the south side of New Tech City have been disabled and I want an update on their status.”

Kat’s long fingers flew across the keyboard for the computer terminal she was working at, but she did not look away from the screen. “Commander, they aren’t responding. The signals from the blue and yellow morphers have not moved for the past ten minutes. Both signals are low frequency – Sky and Z de-morphed.”

“They might be in trouble!” exclaimed Sydney.

Jack agreed, his hand already resting on the top of his morpher. “Sir, we’ve got to help them! Something must have gone wrong.”

Cruger nodded, “Very well, but proceed with extreme caution.”

The rangers barely acknowledged their commander’s final order, already on their way out the door. The scene was strewn with broken bits of troobian foot soldiers. Jack pulled out his scanner and programmed it to find the blue and yellow morphers. It did not take him long to find the morphers among the debris, but the respective rangers were unattached. “This is a problem,” he announced. “Bridge, see what you can find.”

The green ranger removed his glove and waved a hand through the air. He concentrated on the images seen by his eyes alone. “They were doing a good job with these krybots…uh-oh, looks like Morgana caught them off-guard. Whoa! She has fantastic aim – erm, for a criminal. She shot Z with a dart and managed to hit her neck, the weakest part of our armor. Whatever was in that dart acted quickly; Z fell to the ground and de-morphed. A blue-head knocked Sky unconscious while he was ; distracted. Morgana kicked away their morphers; I wonder why she didn’t steal them? Anyway, two krybots picked up Sky and Z, and they all disappeared.” Bridge blinked and put his glove back on, effectively erasing the after-images from his vision.

“You mean Sky and Z have been ranger-napped?” Sydney gasped.

“Cruger is not going to be happy about this,” Jack groaned. “We have to get them back!”

“If they aren’t dead already,” Bridge finished.
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Old 09-24-2007, 07:20 PM   #2
Muse
Inspiration Incarnate
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 40
Two Missing Rangers

A terrible nightmare surrounded Sky’s sleeping mind. Grumm had won, and it was his fault…he had revealed SPD’s secrets to the troobians. They had killed every member of B-squad right before his eyes. He could hear his father’s voice, telling him he had failed… “Sky…Sky get up! Wake up Sky!”

Someone was shaking him, and Sky sat up with a yelp. “Whoa, calm down; you had a nightmare. Although, I have to say, this isn’t much better.”

Sky breathed in and out, trying to fully wake himself up. He blink up at Z, relieved to find she had returned. Then he noticed that her eye was turning black and her lip was bloody. His mind jump-started awake. He sat up, ignoring the slight twinge of dizziness that remained. “What happened to you?”

“Relax,” Z replied as she wiped the blood from her mouth on her sleeve, “just a few cuts and bruises. I’m fine.”

“Z, you look terrible! How can you say you’re alright?” Sky argued. He gently turned her cheek so that he could get a better view of her injured eye.

“Gee, thanks Sky. You know how to flatter a girl,” she hissed. “Ouch! Hey, that hurts!”

“Sorry.” He pulled his fingers away from the eye, satisfied that the injury was not serious. “Why do you always have to pick a fight?”

Z snorted, “I didn’t. The stupid doll did.”

“You got beat up by a doll?” Sky could not help a slight chuckle.

Z rolled her eyes, “No, the doll ‘decided’ that Morgana should use me as a test against her new armor. Let’s just say it is a lot harder to take a punch when there’s no helmet between you and the fist.”

“You just figured this out?”

“Ugh! Of all the people to be stuck with in a tiny cell, I manage to get myself captured with the arrogant, straight-laced, tirón of a blue ranger!” she shouted.

“It isn’t like I wanted to get stuck with a piece of street-trash!” Sky retorted.

“Shut up, Sky!” yelled Z. “You stay over there, and I’ll stay over here, then we’ll both be happy!”

“FINE!” Sky bellowed, turning his back to her. He crossed his arms and mumbed about low-life thieves and stupid women.

XXX

Jack, Sydney, and Bridge did not bother to line up; the emergency lights were not blinking although they had been summoned to the command center, and they knew that it meant Cruger had something to tell them. They willed themselves not to hope that they would be inform them of their teammates’ safe return, but at the same time they tried to stop their imaginations from forming the vicious words they did not want to hear.

In the deadly silence that greeted the rangers’ entrance, Jack could not help asking, “Where are they?”

Kat bit her lip and looked to the commander. Cruger sighed, “We have just received a message from Grumm. He has demanded that SPD Earth surrender within the month or…or he will execute Sky and Z.”

“No!” Sydney gasped.

“Sir, we can’t let that happen!” exclaimed Bridge.

Cruger held up a paw. “I know, but we cannot surrender all of Earth to the troobians, either. We are looking for any other options possible, but I must remind you that, should all fail, we must put the fate of the many over the life of a few.”

“You can’t be serious!” Jack shouted. “I am not going to abandon Z to torture and death!”

“We are not abandoning them, Cadet Landors! We will put all possible effort into your teammates’ rescue,” Cruger growled.

“The good news is that Grumm’s message declares that Sky and Z are prisoners of war,” Kat added.

“And how is that good news?” asked Jack.

“Oh, that’s right!” Sydney exclaimed. “The GPS!”

“The what?” said Jack.

“The Galactic Prisoner Standard,” Sydney replied. “You really should read the handbook, Jack. It outlines the GPS in that.”

“The GPS is exactly what it sounds like; a document that defines a set of standards for the treatment of prisoners of war,” Kat explained. “Believe it or not, the troobians signed it a long, long time ago. Long before Earth was even aware of life on other planets. Earth has only just been added to the list of planets and species affected by the GPS.”

“What are the standards?” Jack asked.

“Suspended animation,” Sydney answered, “so they can’t be tortured.”

“An approved form of suspended animation,” added Kat. “It makes it easier for both sides. SPD uses the containment cards, the troobians use liquid amoragan.”

Bridge took over, noting Jack’s confused look. “Amoragan doesn’t really exist on earth, unless it’s brought here from a different planet. In any form, amoragan can be used as a sleep aid, often used in hospitals on other planets, or a powerful poison… which is the main problem. The liquid amoragan used for suspended animation is a mixture of several chemicals, to make it both safer and useful as a guard on prisoners, but it’s mostly amoragan. Any serious cuts on a prisoner will be easily infected, which is why the troobians must treat any health issues with their prisoners before putting them to sleep.”

“Something tells me that Grumm will accidentally conveniently forget all those rules,” Jack mumbled.

“That’s the bad news,” said Kat.

“Grumm is allowed a week to heal any injuries and put them in suspended animation, but troobians rarely keep their word. I will contact him at that time to make sure he follows the GPS. If we catch him cheating, we will have legal grounds to invade his ship if he refuses to relinquish them to us.”

“Like he needed legal grounds to invade earth?!” shouted Jack.

Sydney sighed, “Two wrongs don’t make a right, Jack. It won’t help us if we do something illegal and end up in trouble with Galaxy Command – or worse, the Galactic Association. The GA might be run democratically, but they have the power to order the termination of the human race. Of course, it takes them years to hold one trial, which is why the troobians are still at large.”

“That’s stupid!” Jack shouted.

Cruger shook his head, “The Galactic Association represents several billion planets, Jack, and every one of those planets gets a vote and a voice. They are trying to reform it, but it will take a long time.”

Jack sighed, “How do we know if Grumm even has them? He could have killed them both already!”

Kat pulled up a file on the central viewing screen. “This is how we know. It was attached to Grumm’s message.” The rangers gasped. The screen displayed a picture of Sky and Z, both unconscious on a stone floor. Neither looked seriously injured, but the idea itself was horrifying. Their friends were out there, somewhere, trapped with a creature bent on their destruction.

“Hold on guys,” Sydney whispered. “We’ll get you out of there somehow.”
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Old 09-25-2007, 02:27 PM   #3
Hibernian Ranger
Divine Intervention
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 56
Well personally I like it. Well done Muse, I think your doing a good job. Keep it up.
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Old 10-09-2007, 11:12 AM   #4
Muse
Inspiration Incarnate
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 40
Thanks! This chapter is a lot of set-up, but I promise more action in the next one!

Three Things We’ll Never Say


For the past week, every day had been the same for Sky. He would wake up to the same small cell, the same eerie silence. Z would either still be sleeping or sulking on the opposite side of the cell, her back always to him. Sometimes they would attempt to work together, but it never lasted for very long.

Almost every day, Morgana would come in and drag Z away for a few hours. Every other day, someone would toss them food. They had to share the meager meal, so they split it as evenly as possible without speaking. They saw very little of Grumm, and Sky hoped it would remain that way. Then again, he really would have loved to see less of Morgana, too.

Now Sky sat deep in thought. Z had been gone for longer than usual, but Sky would never admit to worrying about her. Instead, he tried to keep his mind occupied with escape plans. His thoughts were interrupted by the cell door opening, but he refused to look up. If he acknowledged her, she would only glare daggers. But this time was different; rather than hearing Z cursing the krybots, Morgana, and all dolls, he heard the thump of a body hitting the ground. The doors banged closed, and Sky could not help a glance behind him when he heard no movement from his companion.

“Oh God…” he whispered. Z had been thrown on her stomach, unconscious. Sky ignored his pride, knelt next to her body, and turned it over carefully. “Z?” he called. “Z can you hear me?” He leaned over her and checked for any major injuries. There was a nasty cut on Z’s forehead that Sky assumed came from whatever had knocked her unconscious. Deciding it was better than doing nothing, Sky ripped off a piece of the small, dirty blanket they had been given and dipped the corner into a bowl of equally dirty water. Carefully, he dabbed it across her cut, trying to wash away the blood and keep it from getting worse.

Z’s hand wrapped tightly around his wrist and her eyes flew wide open. She blinked a few times at Sky’s blurry figure before releasing his arm. “Oh, it’s you! Sorry…well, sort of. What are you doing, anyway?”

Sky rubbed his wrist, trying to ease the pain. “I was trying to help you; you’re bleeding. Ow…I think you broke my wrist!”

Z sat up slowly, a palm against the cut on her head. “Oh, quit being such a baby. As for the blood, you probably just infected me with whatever was in that water – can you call what we have water?”

“Thanks Sky, it was nice of you to care if I was unconscious and possibly injured,” he mocked. “It was the only thing at hand; what did you want me to use?”

Z stood up, using the wall to stumble back to ‘her’ side of the cell. “Whatever.”

Sky groaned in frustration, throwing the ripped piece of blanket on the moldy stone floor. There were several moments of tense silence before Sky spoke, “So, what exactly happened?”

“Huh?” Z looked up. “Oh…well, apparently Morgana was not too happy when I kicked her ass, so she had about five blue-heads come in and try to kill me,” she explained.

Sky smirked, “Looks like they did a pretty good job of that.”

“I’m still here, aren’t I?” she grinned. “They’ll never get rid of me.”

“Yeah, until they are allowed to use guns.”

Z grew quiet again, looking down at her feet. Sky almost missed her muttered words, “Thanks, by the way…I guess.”

“Your welcome…I guess.”

She looked up again. For the first time since they were introduced on the streets of New Tech City, the two shared a real, friendly smile.

XXX

Z was worried. Sky was sleeping, but he kept calling out and rolling over. Not that she’d ever tell him she was worried, but she did care. Heck, the guy was her teammate, and he had tried help her.

She smiled a little, going over to him with the blanket in hand; the cell was freezing, and he was shivering. She put it over him and brushed some of the blue ranger’s normally perfect hair out of his face. Now she reconsidered the blanket, because he was sweating. His face was contorted in a grimace, so Z decided it was time to wake him up. “YO SKY! NAP TIME’S OVER! WE’RE UNDER ATTACK! SAVE THE WORLD!” She never was one for the fuzzy, comforting, wakey-wakey-eggs-and-bakey junk.

Sky shot up, prepared for battle, and then noticed Z standing over him. He groaned in acknowledgment of his surroundings. “Hey, I don’t look that hideous, do I?” Z joked. When she received no curt response, Z sat down next to him and put a hand on his shoulder. “Alright, blue boy, what’s going on?”

“Huh?” Sky opened one eye.

“I just gave you the chance to insult me and you didn’t take it. What’s with you? I mean other then the whole being captured by Grumm thing.”

“Nothing; just a nightm…why do I have a blanket?”

“Because you were shivering. So you had a nightmare? About what?”

Sky pushed the blanket aside and sat up. “Nothing, Z, don’t worry about it. I’m fine. How’s your head doing?”

“Don’t change the subject,” Z replied. “And do not lie to me. That was some nightmare – you were screaming.”

“I was screaming?”

“Don’t sound so upset about it; Jack used to get nightmares, too, before we came to SPD. Everybody’s afraid of something, or more then one something,” Z explained.

Sky raised an eyebrow. “Oh really? What are you afraid of then? Anything warm and fuzzy?”

Z smiled, “You would be surprised to see how dangerous fuzz is. Honestly, though? A lot of things. When I was little my abuela always told me that only a fool fears nothing. True courage is to face your fears; to voice them and accept them.”

Sky shared her smile, “My mother said that, too. Abuela is grandmother, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Did your family always speak Spanish?”

“Well, we sort of spoke spanglish.” Sky laughed. “No, I mean, we knew both languages, but we used a lot of English because we had to speak it everyday. How about you?”

“Well, I took French one year at the academy so I could be in the same class as Sydney. I had this huge crush on her,” admitted Sky.

“Oh?”

“Yeah, we even dated for a little while,” Sky made a face. “That did not work out, so don’t ask me about it and never tell her that I told you.”

“If we ever get out of here, my lips are sealed.”

“So…what about you and Jack?”

Z stared at him, “Me and Jack? Um, eww! Just the thought is kind of sickening. He’s my brother, Sky; it would be only a little less frightening then you dating Cruger.”

Sky cringed. “Never say that again. That is so wrong in so many ways…” he shivered.

Z laughed again, “Alright, well maybe it was like you dating Sydney.”

“Syd and I – we were just too different,” Sky explained.

“Like you and me?”

Sky’s laugh was a little nervous, but Z didn’t seem to notice. “Yeah, I guess so.”

But Z had noticed, with a small bit of satisfaction, the hint of disappointment in his voice. “Or maybe we are more alike than we would like to think.”

“How do you figure?” asked Sky.

“We’re stuck in the same cage because we were arguing when we should have been fighting. We both lost people dear to us when we were young. We’re both stubborn, hard-working, and, somehow, beneath that tough-guy shell of yours, I can tell you care as much as I do.”

Sky fiddled with his hands, “My dad did a lot of charity work, so I always ended up going with him. I guess when he died, I didn’t see the point anymore.”

“You know, when I first met Jack he said the same thing; it took me a good month to convince him to start our little charity operation – however illegal it was. See, you and Jack are not so different after all.”

Sky let out an exaggerated groan, “Great; shall I go become Robin Hood, then?”

“Hmm…I think you’d look pretty good in tights,” Z smirked.

“Please tell me that wasn’t a part of the job…”

Z chuckled, “Nah, Jack’s bad enough in the red spandex. I do not even want to think about tights!”

“Well the yellow looks pretty damn good on you,” as soon as the words were out of his mouth, Sky put a hand over his lips. ‘I did not just say that out loud!’

But Z was grinning, “Really? Then I guess I’ll have to admit that blue looks good on you. Blue is my favorite color.”

“You’re kidding?” Sky dropped his hand in shock. “Then why do you always wear yellow?”

She shrugged, “Why do you wear blue if your favorite color is red? Why does Jack wear red when his favorite color is pink?”

“His favorite color is what?!”

“I’m joking, Sky! Jack prefers black.”

Sky let out a sigh of relief, “Phew. I was gonna say, Jack in red spandex is bad enough, you’re right. Jack in pink spandex…” Both shivered, laughing.

“Man, if he could hear us now…”

“I know, he’d kill us!”

Z smirked, “You know what Tate? You’re not half bad. It’s a pleasure to be stuck with you.”

Sky returned her grin, “You’re not so terrible either, Delgado. Want some blanket?”

“You know that means we’ll have to sit closer together, don’t you?”

“I’ll live…I think. But the first thing I’m doing when I get back to SPD is taking a shower.”

“Good; you reek!”
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Old 10-11-2007, 03:02 PM   #5
sbb1513
pink ranger
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 94
nice...this is a good story...
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Old 10-15-2007, 07:39 PM   #6
Angelfox
Fox is BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 1,398
not bad, not bad at all
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Old 10-29-2007, 04:15 PM   #7
Muse
Inspiration Incarnate
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 40
This story is on a short (hopefully) hiatus until Muse recovers from bronchitis. With luck, there will be another chapter up within two weeks. Sorry for the delay!
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Old 11-13-2007, 01:47 AM   #8
Muse
Inspiration Incarnate
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 40
At last, I can breathe again! Which means...a new chapter!

Four Ways to Die

Sky woke up, yet again, from his recurring nightmare, only to find that it was half-real. There was a little tray with stale bread and stagnant water on it in front of the door to their cell. He was starving, but Sky figured he would see how much Z wanted first. The idea prompted him to wonder why there was no warm body next to him under the little blanket. He cursed and raced to the bars. He looked down the long hallway as far as he could, trying to find out if she was anywhere nearby. Nothing moved except the usual rats.

Sky sighed, hating himself for falling asleep. Every time they took Z, she came back worse. He was afraid that eventually, she would not come back at all. That was what happened in his dreams, anyway: He would find their cell door open and hear Z screaming, “Sky! Help me! Somebody please help me…” while Morgana laughed. He ran toward the noise, but every time he would arrive seconds too late. He’d run into the room and find Z lying dead on the ground. Morgana would mock him, “Sky! Sky help me! You’re too late, ranger; you’ve failed again!” She would raise her gun, but Sky never bothered to move. He just sat there holding onto the dead girl, waiting to join her. Sky was never able to; he always woke up as soon as she pulled the trigger.

Sky blinked; something was moving at the end of the hall. As they got closer, he recognized Broodwing and three krybots – one carrying an unconscious Z. “Not again,” he whispered.

Broodwing stopped in front of the bars. “Back up, ranger, or I’ll have to leave your girlfriend to the krybots. Sky backed up, gathering strength to attack. The gate opened and he attempted to lunge at Broodwing, but the krybots threw Z into his arms. “How sweet of you,” sneered Broodwing as he locked the bars.

“She’s not my girlfriend,” Sky hissed. “And just you wait; as soon as I get out of here…”

Broodwing cut him off, “Oh, then I don’t need to worry at all.” Laughing maniacally, he disappeared down the hall followed by the krybots.

Sky bit back a retort; even if he had managed to get out of the cell, he would have been forced to leave Z behind if she could not walk on her own. Carefully, he lowered his teammate to the floor.

“Please wake up soon, Z,” he whispered. “I don’t want to be alone, even if it means being with you.”

One brown eye half-opened. “That’s comforting.”

“You’re awake! And alive!” he exclaimed, trying to pull her up.

Z yelped when he moved her too quickly, grabbing her side. “Not so fast, Sky; I was only out for a minute, but I had no intention of letting the krybots know I was alive; I would not have been able to fight Morgana anymore. My side hurts…I think something’s bruised.”

“Or broken,” Sky added, “or ruptured, or cut. Let me see.”

Z smirked, “I’d rather leave my shirt on. What could you do, anyway?”

Sky turned bright red. “That’s not what I meant, Z. I might be able to help you, but I won’t know unless I see where you’re hurt. Please, leave your shirt on as much as possible.”

Z rolled her eyes. “Whatever you say, Doc.” She pulled her shirt up just past her lower ribs.

Sky put his hand lightly against the giant bruise that plagued a good portion of her skin, carefully inspecting it. He pressed a little harder, trying to feel what was out of place. He heard her inhale sharply. “Does that hurt?”

“What do you think, genius?” she snapped. “There’s a reason it’s black and blue.”

“Sorry,” Sky replied. “I think you’ve got two, possibly three, broken ribs…which is bad.” He grabbed the blanket and ripped off a long piece. “I better wrap your ribs. It won’t work as well without the appropriate material, but it will be better than nothing.”

“Eh,” Z shrugged. “I’ll be fine. Do your worst, Doctor Tate.”

XXX


Cruger, Kat, and the remaining rangers stood in the command center, waiting for their transmission to go through. It had been a week since Sky and Z were kidnapped – they planned to find out if Sky and Z were alive, healthy, and being held according to the Galactic Prisoner Standard. Most of these were highly doubted.

Grumm appeared on the screen, “Ah, Commander Cruger; to what do I owe the displeasure? Are you ready to accept my demands in exchange for your rangers?”

“Skip the pleasantries, Grumm. I want to see my rangers,” Cruger demanded.

The alien’s face darkened. “See them?”

“Yes, I want you to prove to me that you’re following all the galactic standards. One of those would be allowing the opposing commander to see…”

“I know the laws, Cruger!” shouted Grumm. “You will need to allow me a bit of time to retrieve the cells; they are being held on the opposite side of the ship.”

“You’ve got ten minutes, Grumm!” barked Cruger.

Grumm scowled, but nodded. The screen changed to black with a rotating SPD symbol. Without realizing it, Cruger had given his own rangers the death sentence.

XXX


“What are you doing?! You are going to kill her!” Sky bellowed. This time both of them had been removed from their cage and taken to a separate room. Sky immediately recognized the tube-shaped chambers filled with green liquid. It was where they should have been placed at first, unaware of their predicament until their return to SPD or their deaths. He also knew, having read the entire galactic handbook several times over, that the liquid amoragan filling each chamber was very unstable. With all of the beatings she had received since their arrival on Grumm’s ship, the amoragan was sure to poison Z.

“Let her go!” Sky struggled against the troobians and krybots who held him back and attempted to prepare him for the same suspended animation. “Z, don’t let them get near you! The tanks are filled with poison!”

Z’s eye glowed yellow. With the help of her doubles to keep the soldiers busy and Sky’s shields blocking them from harm, the two rangers managed to fight off their attackers. Unfortunately, with an army prepared to sedate two starved and weakened rangers, it was not long before Z’s doubles disappeared and Sky was too tired to concentrate on his shields. Both rangers were captured and drugged. Medical tubes were connected to their bodies so that they could breathe and ‘eat’…or at least so machines could do it for them.

The soldiers ignored several very important standards and all guidelines that made sure the rangers would be as comfortable as possible, enabling them to complete the process within five minutes. Sky and Z were easily transferred to Grumm’s throne room.

XXX

“Where are they, Grumm?” growled Cruger as soon as the screen came back up.

“Patience, Commander, patience,” smirked Grumm.

“I’ve been very patient; now show me my rangers!”

Grumm cackled, “Very well, Commander. They are here…” Grumm motioned with his hand. Two krybots pushed two large, greenish tanks into the room. Each tank held one ranger, floating eerily in the green liquid with tubes running from their bodies to the outside of the tanks.

“Z!” Jack whispered, knowing the image was sure to haunt him for the rest of his life. His sister, his best friend, looking dead in a tube of green chemicals.

Cruger raised a hand to silence him, and leaned in closer to the screen, gesturing for Kat to do the same. She did, doing her best to scrutinize the sleeping rangers through a holographic screen. “Tell me what their health readings say,” commanded the doctor.

“Ah, I thought you would be there, Ms. Manx. They’re fine, as you can see; we’ve obeyed every one of the…”

“Read the statistics!” Kat hollered, making everyone in the room and on Grumm’s ship wince.

“Yes, of course,” Grumm replied. “Morgana!”

Morgana stood in front of the tubes and read from the small screens attached to each, “Both read: heart rate - 90, nutrition - 66%, respiration – normal, blood content – slightly under normal, and amoragan reading – um…uh-oh…”

Grumm slapped his forehead, groaning, “Morgana, please tell Dr. Manx and myself why that last one was an ‘uh-oh’?”

“Er…the reader is…um, broken, yeah, it’s broken! I remember one of the krybots elbowed it, so the reader is messed up,” Morgana explained quickly.

“See now?” Grumm said. “Everything’s perfectly fine. That is, except for the fact you’re your rangers are out here with me, rather then at home with all of you.”

“Liar,” Kat muttered.

“I need to discuss things with my assistant, if you will allow us a moment,” Cruger growled.

“I shall give you the same time you allotted us; ten minutes!” Grumm replied. Cruger hit a button and the screen changed back to the image of a spinning SPD badge.

“Well?” Cruger turned to Kat, who looked furious.

“Those…those…oh, I can’t even think of something bad enough!” Kat yelled. “They were obviously lying, commander. For one thing, the heart rate was normal for a troobian! My bet is they made up everything on that chart! Sky and Z have not been in suspended animation for more than ten minutes and they were extremely underweight. The rangers should not have had the same readings, since there is no possible way two people would have the exact same reaction. That ‘uh-oh’ sounded like a one-of-the-prisoners-is-sick uh-oh. Amoragan poisoning is deadly, commander. If either of them has it, we need to get them back here within the next 72 hours, or they will be dead before anyone can help them.”

Cruger pounded his fist against the console, bringing the screen back. “GRUMM! You cheat!”

“A great insult, commander!” shouted Grumm. “I am being more then fair to you and your rangers.”

“LIAR!” Kat shouted. “They are in very poor condition! You must return them immediately, or you are going to kill them!”

“Yes, that was the intention, Ms. Manx, but only if you do not…”

“I don’t give a damn about your intentions! You are the worst kind of creature Grumm; a selfish, vile, treacherous…” The rangers and Cruger gawked at Kat; she never cursed.

When she was done, there was a moment of stunned silence before Grumm laughed, “Well thank you for the compliment, Ms. Manx.”

“Well now I know where the ranger learned her manners,” Morgana said.

Grumm growled, “Morgana!” She slapped a hand over her mouth.

Kat hissed; if Morgana had been able to hear the rangers speak, they must have been awake. “Grumm, you are in direct violation of…” Cruger began.

Grumm interrupted, “…many things, Cruger, and I plan to make it many more. So we haven’t been keeping exactly to the code, we never do. This changes little, except that you may want to hurry up your surrender so that your rangers don’t die accidentally. Oh, isn’t amoragan poison contagious? Pity…would you like us to shoot one ahead of time so that you will still have one for us to return?”

Grumm laughed, and turned off the screen before Kat could shout any more curses.
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Old 12-06-2007, 03:25 PM   #9
Muse
Inspiration Incarnate
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 40
New chapter. You know you're excited...

Five New Heroes

Once again, Sky woke up to find Z standing over him. “Dar gracias Dios!” she exclaimed, pulling him into a hug.

“Um…same to you, I think…” Sky groaned. “I don’t remember what…wait, yes, yes I do! They put us in suspended animation. Are we about to die?”

“No,” Z smiled, “they’ve only released us. Well, released us back into prison. They want us to suffer as much as possible, and I doubt we were very entertaining while unconscious.”

Sky smiled back at her, “At least we’re alive. At least you’re safe.”

“What about you?” Z replied. “Aren’t you as safe as I am?” She looked worried suddenly. “Did they hurt you? Let me help, I’ll…”

Sky laughed, reaching over to move some hair out of her face. “I’m fine, Z. I just meant that I’m more worried about you. I think…Z, are you alright?”

“What? Why?” she asked.

“Your forehead…it’s so hot. You must have a fever,” he answered.

“Oh. Well, I feel fine. Maybe it’s just your hands,” shrugged Z. She smiled again, making his heart melt. “Honestly, you worry too much. Every time we’re both conscious you take care of me, but you never worry about yourself. I’m going to have to start shoving food down your throat.”

Sky laughed, “I don’t need to worry about myself, Z, as long as I’ve got you. Despite all our arguing, we’ve managed to take pretty good care of each other.”

“Oh no!”

“What?”

“You’ve just found another way we’re alike!” she exclaimed in mock horror.

Sky laughed, “That’s terrible! We’ll just have to stop caring about one another.”

“But I don’t want to stop caring for you,” Z replied honestly. “I kinda like what we’ve got going here. I mean, through all of this, everything they’ve put us through, we’ve grown so much closer. I’ve learned so much about you, and so much from you. I don’t want this feeling to go away.”

“You’re right,” Sky agreed. “We’ve been able to teach each other; we’ve really been able to connect. How come this never happened back on earth, when our lives weren’t at stake?”

“Maybe there isn’t enough oxygen up here, and we’ve gone momentarily insane,” suggested Z.

“Well if that’s true, then we should conserve our air supply.”

“And how do you propose we do that?”

“Why don’t we take advantage of our momentary lack of sanity? We could share the air…” Sky turned red and regretted the suggestion. “Never mind. I shouldn’t have said that; I really must be losing my mind.”

“Then you should lose it more often,” Z commented with a grin. She scooted closer to him. “I liked your idea, if you’re still willing to try it?”

“More then willing,” he replied, taking her face in his hands. Carefully, slowly, the two came closer until their lips gently touched. It was enough to spark their interest in ‘conserving the air supply’ for quite some time.

XXX

“So…what does this mean?” Bridge asked.

“Kat, how is amoragan contagious?” questioned Cruger.

Kat sighed, “Well, there are several possible ways to catch it, and a few sure-fire ways to get it. It isn’t carried through the air, which is a good thing, however it can be passed through touch, but only if there’s an open wound. They could be sharing food, which would be another way to pass it, and the other ways are so unlikely for those two I wouldn’t even…”

“Kat, tell me everything,” requested Cruger.

“Oh, alright,” Kat finally agreed. “It would be contagious if they kissed, or, you know, something along those lines. But…”

Jack, Sydney, and Bridge started to laugh. “Kat, this is Sky and Z; there’s no way in hell they’d get that close to one another if they could avoid it,” Jack said.

“Well, he asked,” Kat shrugged.

“I don’t want you to rule out anything, Kat, not in a matter of life and death. Besides, strange things happen when you’re confined with the same person for a long period of time,” ordered the commander.

“But what do we do now?” asked Bridge.
“We, if that includes the three of you, do nothing,” Cruger held up a paw to stop their protests. “No buts, I need you three to stay here and protect the city. Don’t worry, I have been training C-squad in the event something like this happened, and I am going to send them after your teammates. I had been hoping to send them on A-squad’s trail, but this seems a necessary precursor.”

“But commander…!” Sydney exclaimed.

“I have made my decision. You three may return to your normal duties,” Cruger demanded, pointing them out of the command center.

“You can’t be serious commander!” Kat cried as soon as the rangers left.

“Kat, C-squad has been very well trained for this sort of mission. Besides,” he looked around to make sure that they were alone, and then whispered, “we don’t know what their condition will be. You said yourself that they didn’t look good, and that’s when they were encased in green ooze. As I remember, amoragan poisoning is not a pretty thing. It attacks the brain, causing delusions, paranoia, fever, and eventually it spreads to the rest of the body, killing it. It turns blood green, disintegrates internal organs – am I correct?”

“Yes, but what does that have to do with…”

“Think about it, Kat. To see ones teammates, in such horrific conditions…it could easily ruin them.”

Kat nodded, “I suppose you’re right. Yes; it is for the best.”

“Call in C-squad; I need to brief them on the mission, and it will take a while for them to prepare. Are those new stealth morphers ready? If this disease is as contagious as you say, then I want the squad morphed at all times.”

XXX


“Z, are you alright? C’mon, you’ve got to eat something,” Sky pleaded, offering her some stale bread.

She shook her head, turning away from the food. “Really, Sky, I don’t feel well. Just eat it yourself.”

“What’s wrong?” he asked, moving so that he could look into her eyes.

“My stomach hurts,” she replied. “It’ll go away, I’m sure.” She closed her eyes for a moment, putting a hand up to massage her temples. “Alright, I have a massive headache too.”

Concerned, Sky put the back of his hand against her forehead. He sighed, “See, Z? I told you that you were sick; your fever is worse. Please, try eating something. At least take some water!”

She still declined. “I just want to…to…to lie…down…” as she finished the sentence, Z passed out, falling into Sky’s arms.

“Uh, I guess that’ll work, too…” he muttered. Gently, Sky laid her on the ground, putting the blanket under her head. “Get better soon, ok Z?” he whispered, kissing her forehead.

“Oh, how cute!” cackled Morgana. “At least it will be easier to take her when she’s sleeping.”

Sky stood up quickly, getting into a fighting stance. “No, you can’t make her fight! She’s sick, and it’s your fault!”

“Aw, that’s too bad, isn’t it?” she sneered, entering the cell.

“Hey, are you deaf? I said you weren’t taking her anywhere!” Sky yelled, catching Morgana’s arm when she reached out to grab Z.

“You think so do you?” hissed Morgana. “Why? Are you offering yourself as a replacement?”

Sky glared at her. “Yes; if it will make you leave her alone, then I’ll fight you. In fact, I’d love to kick your…” Sky didn’t get the chance to finish his sentence as a fist collided with his jaw. Sky retaliated by throwing Morgana back against the wall. He grabbed her wrist and twisted it as hard as he could. The witch shrieked in pain and anger.

“Krybots, take the girl! You can give her to the troobian soldiers, and we’ll tell Grumm she was dead when we got here,” Morgana hissed, more to Sky than to the krybots.

Sky released his grip immediately and backed down. “No!”

“That’s better, good boy,” Morgana crooned. “Now beg.”

“What? I don’t beg for anyone, especially not troobian bi…”

“Beg for her life, boy!” she hollered, forcing Sky to his knees.

Sky murmured, “I beg you, let her go.”

“I can’t hear you!” shouted Morgana.

Sky yelled, “I beg you, let her go!”

Morgana smirked, “Why should I?”

“Because I love her! Leave her alone!” bellowed Sky.

Morgana sneered and pushed him to the floor. His head smacked against the ground, making spots dance in front of his eyes for a moment. “Only because you asked so nicely, sugar. You’re wasting your time on that one. Let me fill you in on a little secret: I always get what I want, and I want that girl dead; I want to watch her suffer. Even if that dog who runs your precious SPD agrees to Grumm’s demands, they’ll only ever get you back. Oh, and now that I know how much you love her, I’ll let you be the one to kill her in the end!” She cackled. Sky drew back his fist and hit her as hard as he could.

“You little…” she suddenly paused, staring at the spot on Sky’s forehead that had scraped against the floor. She looked absolutely terrified, and put a shaking hand against her cheek. She looked at the red blood on her fingers, then back at Sky’s forehead. “You…you’ve got it, too…” she stammered. “You l-love her? She was…and you…so now…” Morgana backed away. “You’re poison!” she screamed, standing and running out of the cell. She slammed the door and locked it behind her. “I’ll be doomed!” She ran down the hall, the krybots flying after her.

Sky stared after her for a moment, taking his time to grasp exactly what Morgana had meant. He put a hand against his forehead and looked at his fingers. The blood was muddy, too dark; closer to green than red. ‘The poison!’ thought Sky. ‘I kissed Z…she was sick, and it’s contagious. So now…I’ve got it, too! We’re both dead!’

Sky crawled next to Z, pulling her head into his lap and brushing his hand across her forehead. “I’m sorry, Z, but I don’t know how long I’ll be able to take care of you. I hope they just kill us soon…it’d be kinder.”

She shivered, despite her high fever. Sky knew it wasn’t from cold, so he lay next to her, holding her in his arms and whispering words of false comfort into deaf ears.

XXX

C-squad consisted of three girls and two boys, all human. The red ranger was Trinity Scott, the blue Melanie McKnight, the green Thomas Oliver II, the yellow Mathew Lee, and the pink Heather Johnson. All five stood in front of their commander, ready to take off after the missing B-squad rangers.

Tom couldn’t help but grin as he stared at the green morpher in his hand. No, he hadn’t been chosen as the leader, but Trinity deserved it. His father would be proud of him; the first Thomas Oliver was a ranger legend, and he had started out as the green ranger, too. Tom’s mother would be happy, too, even though he knew he would never wear her colors. Pink looked much better on Tom’s girlfriend, Heather, anyway.

Cruger was finishing up his final speech before they left, “Above all, I must impress that you do not de-morph, even when you think that you are safe from the troobians. We are sure that at least one of the rangers is carrying an extremely deadly and contagious poison, and you must not expose yourselves to it. Be very careful and good luck, C-squad rangers!”

“Yes sir!” they saluted as one. Led by Trinity, they clambered onto the small ship that would take them to Grumm’s vessel. It was a bit cramped, but the size made it harder to detect and easier to be equipped with the cloaking device.

“Alright team, let’s do this!” Trinity announced, standing at the controls. “We’re ready, Commander!”

“All clear, Scott. Again, good luck! Please…bring them home,” Cruger said over the intercom.

“Don’t worry, Commander, we’ll find them,” Tom promised. “We’ll bring them home in time.”

“You had better,” Cruger warned as they took off.

Kat put a hand on Cruger’s shoulder. “Commander, are you…?”

“I’m fine, Kat. Just…worried, I suppose,” he replied.

“Oh, well…Mrs. Tate is here,” Kat said hesitantly. “She would, erm, like to speak with you. She’s understandably stressed. The last time we called her was when…”

“Yes, I know,” sighed Cruger. “At least we have proof that Sky was living…”
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Old 12-18-2007, 11:18 PM   #10
Muse
Inspiration Incarnate
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 40
Another chapter! *holds up applause sign*

...silence...

oh, right. *hits play button on tape-recorder*

Raffi begins to play

damn it! who took my recorded applause? ah, well. A box of chocolate to anyone who can tell me who Raffi is! Now on with the show!

Six Scenes from a Nightmare

Sky awoke to screaming and, despite the protest of his stomach, leapt up to find the source of the problem. It was Z and she was, to Sky’s horror, ripping the skin of her arms open with her nails. Sky grabbed her wrists, desperate to make her stop. “What the hell are you doing?!” he yelled.

“Get them off!” she shrieked. “They’re everywhere! Get them off of me!”

“What is? Z, there’s nothing there, I swear! Calm down, Z, you’re going to kill yourself! Stop it!” Sky pleaded desperately, still trying to hold her back.

“Let GO! There are spiders all over me! Help me! Please, get them off!” she screamed, breaking down into tears. She still struggled against Sky, but he was stronger. Sky understood that the poison was making her see things she feared, so he wrapped his arms around her tightly. He prayed that, if she felt his body, she wouldn’t feel the spiders and she would stop clawing at her own skin.

“It’s ok,” he whispered in her ear. “I’m here; you’ve got to relax, Z, there aren’t any spiders. It’s just you and me, and I’m not going to let you go.” After a minute or two, she stopped struggling, and her screams were replaced by sobs. “Shh,” Sky comforted, “it’s alright, I promise. Trust in me, it’s all going to be okay.”

“I’m so-sorry,” she sobbed, “but I h-hate spiders! They were…everywhere! Biting, crawling…I couldn’t get rid of them!”

“Z, look at me,” Sky turned her face to his. “There were never any spiders.”

Z pushed him away and yelled, “No, they were here! Just like they were when my mother got sick! Our new apartment was filled with them…we had to move, there wasn’t enough money to take care of her. My father always got rid of them because my mother and I hated them. The night she died, when my father got so angry, they all went away. For years they didn’t come back, but then…he was late, and I knew he’d never come back, because of the spiders. They were everywhere at the orphanage, little ones, and I could never get away from them! Not until Jack came…he chased away the spiders, just like my father had. But the one night, when he was in jail and I was with Sydney, my dreams….always spiders. They were always there, unless Jack was with me or…or…you. I never understood why.”

Sky stood up and walked slowly to her. “I…I’m sorry, Z. But I promise, I’ll always stick by you, and I’ll keep your spiders away,” he smiled, reaching for her hand.

Z looked at it, and looked into his eyes; she saw truth and protection that she hadn’t seen in anyone, not even Jack, since the death of her parents. She ran into his arms, and met him with a kiss. “Thank you,” she whispered.

Sky grinned, “Of course. Now let’s clean you up; I don’t want you bleeding to death on me.” Z looked at her hands and arms, covered in the muddy green blood. But before Sky could help her, he started to fall, leaving Z to hold his weight.

“Sky? Sky what’s wrong?” she asked, carefully bringing them both to the floor.

Sky looked up at her, “It’s the poison. Just keep talking, Z; it will help if I can hear you.”

Z understood, and put his head in her lap. “What shall I tell you?” she wondered, absently stroking his hair.

“Anything; sing, I’d like to hear you sing. You’ve got such a beautiful voice, but you only ever sing when you think no one’s listening.”

“You stalker,” she laughed. “Alright, I’ll sing, but only for you. This better not get back to SPD, or Syd will never let me live it down.” Sky smiled, even as he passed into darkness. But in the darkness, he heard her singing softly, some sort of lullaby. Even though he knew very well that he was about to enter a realm of nightmares, he felt stronger, just hearing her singing, knowing that in the real world, he was in her arms. Everything would be okay.

XXX

Jack couldn’t believe it. In front of his eyes, his worst nightmare was coming true. He, Bridge, and Sydney had been called out to fight an enormous horde of krybots led by Morgana and Broodwing, but the krybots hadn’t been doing anything at all. They were all just standing there, waiting for the rangers. “Grumm has a message for Commander Cruger!”

For some reason, Cruger hadn’t hesitated to come, along with Sam. “What does Grumm want, Morgana?” he asked.

The woman smirked, “You already know what he wanted, but his message is that it’s too late! Your time is up – or rather, your rangers’ time is up. Broodwing and I have been offered the grand pleasure of finishing them off.”

“We thought you might want to say good-bye to them,” Broodwing cackled. Morgana snapped her fingers and four krybots came forward, two dragging Z and two dragging Sky. Both were bound and gagged, covered in dirt and blood. The krybots pushed them down on their knees and left them there. Z looked up, her eyes locking with Jack’s. But her eyes had changed – now they were hollow, bloodshot, full of pain…she looked back at the ground.

“NO!” Jack yelled. He ran forward, along with Sydney and Bridge, but slammed into a transparent blue shield. Sky screamed, his body writhing while Morgana laughed. Jack’s eyes went wide and he backed away with the others.

“Your friends have given us so much,” Broodwing hissed. “I haven’t had to build a krybot for weeks; it’s so much easier just to copy them. It seems a shame to lose such valuable tools, but orders are orders.” He stood behind Sky, a gun against his head, while Morgana went behind Z.

Morgana grinned, “If there’s anything you’re dying to say, I suggest you say it now or it’ll be too…” A shot went off, and Z fell dead at her feet.

“Z!” Jack screeched. “NO!”

“Oops, never mind. Sorry, my finger slipped. Well there’s still time to…” another shot went off, and Sky fell. “Oh…guess not.”

Sydney screamed and fell not her knees, sobbing. Broodwing cackled, “It seems our work here is done.”

“Good-bye, rangers,” sneered Morgana. With another snap of her finger, the villains disappeared, leaving the corpses behind.

Jack ran forward, pulling Z’s body into his arms. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Bridge run to Sky, leaving Sydney sobbing in a heap on the ground. “Wake up Lizzy,” Jack cried, letting his tears wash away her blood and blatantly ignoring the whole in her head. “Please wake up…”


Someone’s hand touched his shoulder; Jack jumped awake. “Relax, honey, you were having a bad dream,” a kind voice told him. Jack was in the rec room, with Bridge and Sydney asleep on the couch across from him. None of them had gotten much sleep since their teammates’ disappearance, and the exhaustion was beginning to take its toll. The owner of the voice was a woman with brown hair and soft brown eyes.

“Who are you?” Jack asked.

“I’m Jennifer Tate, and you must be Jack Landers. My son has told me a lot about you, Jack. I was sorry to hear about your parents, they were good people, but I’m glad to know you’re still alive. Everyone thought you’d gone with them, but…oh, listen to me ramble! I’m sorry,” she smiled.

Jack sat up all the way and moved to make room for her. “No, don’t be! You just saved me from my worst nightmare. Please, um, sit down.”

She shook her head, “Actually, I’m just looking for Commander Cruger. He called me a little while ago; said there was some sort of emergency. Do you know where he is? Or Sky…I haven’t talked to him for so long, and I’m beginning to get worried. I was hoping to find him here, but apparently not.”

“You mean no one told you all this time?!” Jack exclaimed, standing up.

“Told me what?” asked Jen, a slight quiver to her voice. “What’s going on? Did something happen to my son?”

Across the room, Sydney and Bride stirred. “Wha? Who? Where?” Bridge slurred. “Oh, hey there Mrs. Tate…MRS. TATE?!”

Both shot up and ran over. “Hello Bridge, Sydney,” Jen greeted. “Do either of you know where…”

Cruger walked in. “Good afternoon, Mrs. Tate,” he said. “I thought you might come here first.”

She rounded on him. “Anubis, what is going on? Where is Schuyler?”

Cruger sighed; this was not going to be pretty. “Jennifer, I am very sorry to have to tell you this, but…”

“What happened to him?” shouted Jen. “Is he dead? Oh God, my baby! My only son…he can’t be, not after…”

“Jennifer!” Cruger bellowed, gaining her attention. “Schuyler is not dead.”

Jen looked relieved. “He isn’t? Then why am I here? Where is he?”

“He…he and Cadet Delgado were…were captured by Grumm,” Cruger slowly explained. “We’ve sent C-squad to attempt a rescue mission, but when we were communicating with the troobians Dr. Manx was given the impression they had not been properly suspended. Morgana let it slip that one…one of them was poisoned with the amoragan. If left untreated, amoragan is deadly.”

Jen fainted.

XXX

Z wanted to shut her ears, close her eyes, curl into a tiny ball and die, but she knew that, for Sky’s sake, she would have to brave his screams. The man was yelling gibberish to no one, stretching his hands through the bars of the cell as far as they would go, desperately trying to reach…something.

Z grabbed his shoulder and tried to pull him away; he was going to kill himself this way, she knew it. He’d end up having a heart attack or straining something vital, and she’d be all alone. “Sky, calm down!”

“Dad!” he hollered. “Please come back! I’m so sorry…”

‘Well, at least I understood that…’ Z thought. “Sky, no one’s there. It’s just me and you!” She moved her arms around his waist and attempted to pry him away from the bars.

“NO! He’s right there! Let me go, I’ve got to save him! He’s gonna die if I don’t reach him!” Sky said desperately.

“Don’t let the poison fool you! Nobody’s there! You’re only killing yourself, Sky!” Z cried, knowing very well he was too heavy for her to move alone. ‘Wait…alone…I don’t have to do it alone!’ Z tripled herself, not even thinking of the repercussions it could have on her health, and all three clones managed to pull Sky backwards. Unfortunately, Z wasn’t able to keep the doppelgangers up for very long, and when they disappeared both she and Sky fell back to the ground. The shock of the impact woke Sky from the nightmare.

“Where…what happened to him? Dad? Where are you?!” he yelled.

Z kept her arms firmly around his waist. “He was never here, Sky, I’m sorry. It’s only us; please, calm down, come back to me.”

Sky stopped struggling against Z. “My dad…I was never good enough for him. He was always stronger, faster; he found something wrong with everything I did, and I could never get away from it. He was my idol, and I hated him so much. All I ever wanted was to be good enough for him, to be worth something in his eyes. He was never there when I needed him, and half the time neither was my mother. But she at least accepted what I did, my dad…no, I just couldn’t ever live up to him. I was a disappointment, worthless to him. Sometimes I’d hope he would die on one of his all-important missions, missions that he thought were more important then me and my mother! Then one day, he did die. I knew it was my fault. He’s haunted me even more now. That’s why I have to be the best, I have to be perfect for him, because I killed him, I killed him Z!”

Z pulled Sky up, so that they were both on their knees. “Sky, listen to me: what happened to your dad was not your fault, and you cannot blame yourself for it. You are a wonderful person, Sky, and now I see that you’ve been letting your father get in the way of that. Don’t let him control you, because the real you is someone who’s kind, loving, sweet, handsome, and strong. And you know what else? That’s the Sky Tate I fell in love with.”

Sky dropped his eyes. “Now I feel like an idiot, crying in front of you. Th…thank you.”

Z took his face in her hands, pulling his eyes back to her and drying his tears with her thumbs. “Hey, everyone cries. I must be some sort of tear-magnet, because I’ve seen Jack, Sydney, Bridge, Boom, Kat, and even Cruger cry. Just don’t tell them I told you that.”

“You saw the commander crying?” Sky asked.

Z smiled, “Like a baby. It was right after he made the decision to send you after that meteor. I asked him what was wrong and for some odd reason, he actually told me. He said it reminded him of the time he chose to send your dad out, and…and he didn’t come back. But the other thing he said was that he knew already if anything happened, he would lose both you and Jack. You would’ve at least followed orders to stay behind, but not Jack.”

“He cried over me?”

“Hey, I sorta started to cry, too…you should have seen him! It was enough to make Grumm break down! But, of course, he threatened my life if I told anybody before we could really get going.”

“So that’s why you’re telling me now?”

“Yup. At least I finally get to say th…you alright?” Sky had winced suddenly, grabbing his shoulder.

“My shoulder,” he groaned, “I don’t know what it is, but…damn, it really hurts!”

Z rolled her eyes, “Men; ok, let me see it. You must’ve pulled something when you were trying to be Jack and go through the bars. Take off your shirt.” Sky gave her a look. “I’m serious, Sky.”

He sighed, but complied. Then he winced and grabbed his shoulder. “Ok, then,” said Z, “I’ll help you.” Carefully, she managed to get the uniform jacket off of his injured arm, only to see he was wearing a tight, long-sleeved black shirt under it. “You couldn’t wear one without sleeves? Jack does.”

“How do you know?” Sky retorted.

Z laughed, “Would you relax? I know because he’s been trying to get Sydney to notice for the past couple of months and he walks into our room, without knocking, might I add, without the jacket on in this really good-looking, tight, red…”

“Ok, ok! I really don’t need to picture it! Ouch!” Sky exclaimed as Z began to peel the second shirt off.

“Hey, I’ve seen him in less then that,” Z shrugged. “It got pretty hot in the summer, and we didn’t have air conditioning back before we were in SPD. Stop struggling! You’re only making it worse, and I’m about to rip the stupid thing off you!”

“Ow!”

“Got it,” Z smirked, handing him the shirt and jacket. “Now let me see…” She moved to take a closer look at his shoulder. She sighed, “Sky, I hate to say it, but you have definitely dislocated your shoulder. It’ll keep hurting like that unless I fix.”

“You?!”

“Yes, me. Hey, don’t look at me like that, you sorta fixed my broken ribs, and I have had a lot of experience with dislocated bones. Um, tilt you head to the other side so I can get a better look at it.”

Sky sighed but looked away from her. “How would you…OW! God…damn…you…hey, you fixed it!”

Z was smirking when he turned back to her. “You would never have let me fix it if you knew when I was going to do it. Anyway, I told you I could – I worked with Jack, remember? I think he’s dislocated or broken every bone in his body. Now hand me that black shirt, I’m not sure if I did it completely right, so I’m gonna wrap it.”

“You’re taking my shirt apart?” Sky exclaimed, handing it to her anyway.

Z rolled her eyes again, tearing it easily. “I should have done this in the first place. Anyway, yes, I am. Oh relax! You can put the stupid uniform back on when I’m done.”

Sky sighed, “Thanks.”

“You’re wel…uh-oh, they have guns…” Z trailed off, staring over Sky’s shoulder.

“Wha? Oh…” Sky turned to see Morgana, Broodwing, and several krybots, all toting guns. Morgana and Broodwing seemed to wish to stay as far away from the rangers as possible.

“We’ve been given permission to get rid of you now, so you don’t infect the ship,” Morgana explained, with none of the glee one would expect at the opportunity to destroy her enemies.

Sky pulled Z closer to him, moving in front of her. “Don’t be a hero,” hissed Broodwing, “you can’t protect her this time.”

“Sky, can’t we just die together? It’ll be an easier shot for ‘em, you know how poor their aim is…” Z suggested.

“Not for what I have in mind,” Sky whispered under his breath. “Stay close.”

Z understood immediately, and squeezed his hand. She kissed his cheek, taking the opportunity to leave the message, “Go for it,” in his ear.

“Sweet, a good-bye kiss,” smirked Morgana. “Well, there’s no point in dragging this out if you’re all done and I don’t get to play. Krybots, fire!”

Sky raised his shield just before the bullets pelted them, making Morgana roar with anger. “STOP!” The shots paused. She turned her attention to Sky, who was only standing upright because Z held him straight. “Fine, you want to live this curse? Be my guest; but you won’t be getting anymore food from me. Starve, or die from the poison…whichever comes first. We’ll send krybots to burn your corpses in a month or so.”

She turned on her heel and left, with the krybots and Broodwing trailing behind her. Z let Sky collapse into her arms. “Thanks,” she said, lying next to him.

“Why? You did the same thing for me,” Sky replied, kissing her.

“You deserved it,” Z whispered.

“So did you…” Sky brushed a kiss to her burning forehead.
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Old 12-25-2007, 11:23 PM   #11
Muse
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Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 40
Merry Christmas all! Nobody answered the Raffi question, but since it's Christmas, you may all share the virtual chocolate! Happy Holidays to everyone!

Seven Minutes in Hell

C-squad had just arrived at Grumm’s ship and successfully gotten on-board without notice. Mathew Lee, the yellow ranger, and Heather Johnson, the pink ranger, had stayed behind on the ship, in case of an attack or the need for a hasty departure.

Meanwhile Trinity, Melanie, and Tom searched the ship. Matt had hacked into Grumm’s computer from their shuttle, and it was through his directions that they managed to get to the dungeons without any trouble. The first room they entered was filled with amoragan tanks, some empty, some not, but none containing the missing rangers.

In the next room, the cages were filled with prisoners, but again, none were the rangers. About to give up hope, the C-squad passed through the last set of doors into the last section. It was empty. Trinity sighed, “C’mon, guys. There’s nothing down this way. Let’s get back to the…” There was a noise at the end of the hallway, like someone crying or coughing. It was enough to send them running.

The rangers reached the very last prison cell and gaped. A thin, dirty, shadow of a man was barely standing, using the bars of the cell for support as he coughed blood onto the grimy stone in front of him. The blood was muddy, too green to be a healthy human’s. The man was looking away from them, coughing into a corner. Once he stopped choking he fell to his knees and dragged his body to a girl who was lying on the floor unconscious. Only the uneven movement of her chest indicated that she was still alive. The man brushed some hair away from her forehead, soaked in sweat, and whispered, “God help us…”

Finally, Melanie managed to free herself from the stupor of seeing any humans so poorly treated. “Hang on!” she said, loud enough for him to hear but not enough to attract any unwanted attention.

The man turned. “Rangers? But how…who…?” he whispered, going to the bars.

Trinity asked, “Are you Schuyler Tate?” He nodded while Tom and Melanie fired their lasers at the bars. “We’re the C-squad; Cruger sent us to rescue you. Don’t worry; we’ll have you free in no time. Um, is that Elizabeth Delgado?”

Sky nodded, “Her name is Z.”

Trinity helped her teammates remove the door and helped Sky to his feet. “Hurry, we need to get the two of you back to SPD.” She put Sky’s arm over her shoulder and started down the hall. Any other time, Sky would have protested the help, but he was too tired and sick to argue. “Tom, take Delgado; Mel, you check ahead in case of trouble.” The rangers followed her orders without question. Before they reached the next room, Trinity felt a dead weight on her arm. She shifted Sky’s weight to her arms. “I had a feeling you wouldn’t be walking very far,” she told the unconscious man. With a nod to her team, they took off down the halls.

“Yellow and Pink, please respond,” Mel whispered over her communicator as they made their way back to their shuttle.

“This is Yellow,” Matt responded. “What do ya’ need, Mel? Er, I mean, go ahead, Blue…”

Melanie rolled her eyes and continued, “We’ve found the two B-squad MIA, but they’re in very poor condition. Have any medical equipment on the ship ready, and notify SPD.”

“Will do, Blue. Yellow out.”

Only one krybot intercepted their progress, and Melanie destroyed it before it could sound the alarm. As they ran onto their own ship, Matt and Heather hit the thruster. The ship was immediately launched for Earth, although the C-squad rangers wondered if ‘immediately’ was still too late.

XXX

“Mrs. Tate?” a young man dressed in a nurse’s uniform asked as he entered the rec room where Jennifer sat with the B-squad.

“Yes?” Jen answered. Her voice was steady, but her hands refused to remain still.

The man gave her a smile. “My name is Marcus Grayson, I work with Dr. Felix in the infirmary, and he sent me to find you. The C-squad’s brought back your son; he’s alive!”

Jen sprang up with a youthful energy and hugged the nurse. “Thank you! Thank you, thank you, thank you…” she exclaimed over and over, tears in her eyes.

“Mrs. Tate, I can’t breathe!” he gasped. She released him, mumbling an apology. Marcus smiled, and escorted her out of the room with an apologetic look back at the rangers; he had worked with the B-Squad rangers on numerous occasions when they came back from a fight and hated that he was unable to take them to see their teammate as well. After the door had closed, he spoke quietly to Jen, relaying everything he knew as they walked. “Dr. Felix told me to let you know that you shouldn’t freak out when you see him…it looks worse than it is. He isn’t clear yet, though. Sky has been very sick, and we’re going to have to give you the antidote, too, if you want to see him.”

“Of course,” Jen eagerly agreed. “I don’t care what it takes, I just want to see him, and tell him that I love him and…oh, don’t let him know I said that in front of you.”

Marcus grinned, “No, I wouldn’t dare. Let’s see, what else can I tell you? Oh, we gave him five stitches because he had a pretty nasty cut on his forehead. He was starving a dehydrated, but we’ve got him hooked up to an IV so he should be okay in that respect. They also put him under a medically induced coma, so he will be asleep for a few days. Um, Felix plans to keep him in the infirmary for a while, to make sure everything heals properly and that all traces of the poison are gone.”

“So…so he was the one who was poisoned?” Jen gasped.

Marcus shifted uncomfortably, “Er, yes and no. They were both poisoned, and um…Felix thinks your son caught it from Z because the poison had spread further in her body. But she also said that they managed to take pretty good care of each other. There were signs that Sky’s shoulder had been dislocated, but somebody fixed it and wrapped in…well, we think it might’ve been a shirt at some point. Z had a couple broken ribs and Dr. Felix said they were wrapped, too. They never would have survived the poisoning at this level for this long if they hadn’t helped each other through, because of…”

“Paranoia,” Jen finished with a solemn nod. “I remember that; they say it’s enough to make you commit suicide. Is…is the other ranger alright?” Jen asked.

Marcus hesitated. “She’s alive, if that’s what you mean. I am afraid that I do not know much about her. I was working with your son and Dr. Felix did not want anyone to bring any extra bacteria anywhere near Z, so no one but Felix and the two nurses who were working only with her were allowed to go in Z’s room. That’s why I’m only taking you to your son; the rangers would want to see her, too, and they can’t.”

Jen dropped her head, “I’m sorry to hear that. Thank you, for being such a big help to me.”

“You’re welcome,” he replied. “Ah, here we are.” He opened the door to the hospital wing of SPD. Marcus led Sky’s mother down a corridor filled with rushing doctors and nurses, staff casually talking to patients, and cadets visiting friends. A few who recognized Mrs. Tate greeted her, but she refused to slow down for anyone. Finally, they stopped in front of a white door, 218. Marcus knocked twice; when no one answered he plugged in the access code and opened the door for Jennifer.

She walked in and gasped. Her son was lying on the white hospital bed, unconscious. He had several different tubes plugged into his arms, which were covered in bruises and cuts. His left shoulder was wrapped in a white bandage – she assumed that was the one that had been dislocated – and an ugly gash closed with stitches ran across his forehead. Jennifer ran to her son, but suddenly stopped at the edge of his bed. “You can hug him,” Marcus explained, “just don’t knock anything loose.”

Jen wrapped her arms gently around Sky and kissed the gash on her son’s head. Marcus pulled over a chair, which Jennifer gratefully accepted. Seated next to Sky, her hand hanging onto his, Jen started to cry. “Mrs. Tate?” asked Marcus. “Is there anything I can do?”

Jen looked up at him and smiled, “Do you think I could I talk to the C-squad? I want to thank them personally.”

“I don’t see why not. Let me see if I find them.”

“Tha…thank you,” Jen whispered, turning her attention back to Sky. “Please wake up soon, baby, I want to know that you’re alright, I want you to know I’m here. Oh Schuyler…” Jen was still crying several minutes later when someone knocked on the door. She wiped her eyes and called, “Come in!”

Three girls and two boys entered solemnly, lining up like they would for Cruger, only with less formality in the small space. An Asian female with long black hair dressed in a red-striped uniform saluted, “C-squad, at your service ma’am. Marcus said you wanted to see…oof!”

Jen didn’t let her finish. She enveloped as many of the team members as she could in a teary hug. “You saved my son’s life! I don’t know how I’ll ever repay you! Thank you so much, I don’t know what I would have done if…oh thank you!”

Heather smiled gently, patting Mrs. Tate’s back. “You’re quite welcome, Mrs. Tate, but it’s a part of our job.”

“Besides,” Tom put in, “it’s the least we could do; your son and his team have saved so many other people.”

Jen released them, and wiped away a few of her tears. “Thank you,” she repeated. “This means so much to me.”

“Is there anything else we can do for you?” asked Heather.

“No, no; you’ve already done so much. I just want you five to know, if you ever need any help in any way, don’t hesitate to ask Sky…when he wakes up. Tell him his mother told you to, and he’ll do whatever you ask,” said Jen.

Trinity smiled, “Of course, Mrs. Tate. Thank you. We do need to head out, though; we have a meeting with the commander and Dr. Manx in a few minutes.”

“Tell your son we’re glad he made it,” Matt added. “For a minute there…we weren’t sure either of them would.”

“That reminds me,” Jen said, “do you know anything about the girl? I…I don’t even know her name, and it seems like I owe her a lot, too.”

“Oh, um…I’m not sure what we’re allowed to say,” Trinity mumbled. “Well, her name is Elizabeth Delgado, but most people just call her Z. She’s the yellow ranger. I don’t know much more than that about her…”

Jen cocked her head, a memory resurfacing. “Delgado? As in the daughter of Daniel and Kendall Delgado? Do they know about all of this?”

The squad shifted uncomfortably. “You knew her parents?” asked Matt.

“Yes, they were good friends of mine until they resigned from their positions as researchers at SPD. We lost contact quickly, everyone was so busy. Sky was only a baby, and they…oh my, Kendall was pregnant last time I talked to her! Elizabeth must be theirs! Are they here? I would love to talk with them again!”

Again, the squad looked away from her. Melanie broke the silence, “Mrs. Tate, I’m really sorry to have to tell you this, but according to her files Cadet Delgado is an orphan. We only found out when we were trying to contact her family, since we noticed Cruger hadn’t called anyone for her. Of course, he doesn’t know we hacked into those files, but now we know why he didn’t contact anyone…”

More tears fell from Jen’s eyes. “So much death…” she whispered. “When will this cycle end?”

There was a knock on the door, and Dr. Felix entered. “We should go,” Tom muttered. “Good-bye Mrs. Tate!”

“Yes, thank you again!” Jen gave a weak smiled as C-squad filed out. “Hello, Lyon.”

“Jennifer,” Felix greeted. “I’m sorry about all of this, Jen, I know how hard it must be for you. But I promise that Sky will be fine; I’m actually here to take some of those tubes out.”

“Of course,” Jen nodded, backing up to give him some room to move. “Lyon?”

“Hmm?”

“Why didn’t anyone tell me earlier?”

Felix stopped what he was doing and looked seriously at his old friend. “It was the commander’s decision, although I did not agree. He was afraid you would get so upset you would make yourself sick, or that you would try to go after him yourself.”

Jen crossed her arms. “So why didn’t anyone tell me that the Delgados died? Why didn’t anyone tell us about Mirloc? What other secrets are they keeping from me?! I’m not a child, I can handle things like this! Lyon, you must have known some of this! You and I use to be such good friends, back when we all worked together.”

Felix sighed, “No one knew that anything had happened to the Delgado family until Z came to us. Like all new cadets, we had to give her a physical to make sure she was healthy enough to fight. When I asked about family history, she told me that her mother, Kendall, died of some sort of cancer – lung, as I found out later – when Z was about six years old, and that Danny was killed in a car accident barely a year later. As for Mirloc – I was not involved with the case, so I’m afraid you will need to take it up with Doggie. I am sorry, Jen, that so much has happened to you and your friends. But that’s about all the classified information I have access to. As far as I know, you’re up to speed now.”

“No, I’m not,” Jen said. “I want to know everything this time. I want to know where Z and my son were held, what happened to them, and I want to know why no one will talk about Z.” Felix looked away and did not speak. “She’s dead, isn’t she?” said Jen.

Lyon turned his gaze back to Jen. “No, but she may be close to it. Her condition was much worse than your son’s. I have been trying to rid her blood stream of any trace of armoragan, but it is not easy. She lost a lot of blood while she was in that – that place, and what was left of it was completely infected. Because of their…unique genetic structure, all of the B-squad rangers have problems with transfusions. They don’t accept normal blood so we have to use the blood of their teammates, which is structured similarly. But…”

“But you still have to use the correct blood type?” Jen finished.

“Precisely. Z has an O negative blood type, meaning, as I’m sure you know, she could only receive blood from another genetically altered human with O, preferably negative. There are plenty of people with O positive, which, in a normal case, would be okay, and I have plenty of O negative, too, although it is a lot harder to find in humans. Unfortunately, there are only five other people in the entire universe with the genetically altered type she needs. Of those five there is, by some miracle, one other person with type O blood. By yet another, crueler twist of fate, that person happens to be…”

“…Sky…” Jen whispered.

Felix nodded. “Yes. However, he cannot spare any blood if he is going to survive. He did not lose nearly as much as she did, and not all of it was infected. That’s what all of these tubes are for; to artificially give him the appropriate type until his body can make enough on its own.”

“Couldn’t you do that for Z?”

“Well, we are for now, but just enough to keep her alive. But no human can survive on entirely artificial blood as we have yet to perfect it for your species, and Z needs a full transfusion if she’s going to survive until next week. Because we could not take away all of the infected blood without killing her, the poison continues to spread to the artificial blood,” Felix explained. “I am afraid that the options are limited, and it is very likely that Z will die.”

For a moment, Jen could only stare at her son’s bruised face, her mind racing. This could not be possible…not again, not another dead ranger. It was too much to lose, as much as it might be nice for Z to see her parents again. Jen sighed. ‘Kat’s wrong; there used to be two others who could have saved Z, or at least one. Danny or Kendall…one of them must have had her blood type, she’s their daughter! And because they were the ones working here at SPD, their genes were changed too, they could have…’ Jen’s eyes widened. “LYON!”

Felix hissed, his ears flattened, and he jumped on top of a nearby chair. After a moment spent trying to get his ears back into their normal position, he sighed and put his feet back on the floor. “Jennifer, please refrain from such outbursts. My people react well to surprises.”

“But Lyon, I think I know a way to save Z!” Jen exclaimed. “Kendall and Daniel Delgado – at least one of them had to have the same blood type as Z does, right?”

“As long as they were her biological parents, yes…”

“Well, their blood had been changed genetically too, right?”

Felix’s whiskers twitched. “Yes…what is your point?”

“Sky inherited his blood type from his mother! Lyon, I can save her! I worked here when the accident happened, my genes were changed! I swear I’ve never been healthier!” Jen explained, practically knocking the doctor over in her excitement.

Felix grinned, “Jennifer, that is brilliant! I can’t believe I never thought of asking…but are you sure? You hate needles, and it will require several visits.”

“If I can save a life, I’ll deal with the needles. Could you replace the infected blood with some of mine, and then keep up the extra she needs with the artificial? I’ll give as much as I can!”

“I think it would work, but we have to take it slowly. If for some reason this is wrong…we might not even need to wait another week,” Felix warned.
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Old 01-12-2008, 12:51 AM   #12
Muse
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Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 40
Eight Fresh Breaths

Sky opened his eyes, and saw white. For a moment, he thought he had gone blind, but then he realized he could make out white ceiling tiles. He groaned, noting the soreness of his body, and sluggishly his memory returned. “Z!” he gasped, attempting to sit up. He found himself trapped by an IV in his arms and a hand pushing him back. Sky looked to his side. “Mom?”

Jen smiled, “Hey sweetie; how are you feeling?”

“Better then I was…how long have I been here?”

“About three days,” Jen explained. “Do you remember what happened?”

Sky’s eyes darkened. “Yes. I remember everything.”

“Well you don’t have to talk about it now, Sky. I have to tell Dr. Felix that you are awake, so I’ll be right back.” Jen wrapped her arms around him before she left. “I missed you, Schuyler.”

“I missed you too, mom,” Sky smiled. She let go, only to return a few minutes later with Felix.

He grinned, “Nice to see you awake.”

“Nice to be awake…I think…I didn’t miss anything huge, did I? I’m not going to go beyond this room and see there’s nothing left?” said Sky.

“You and Z have been the excitement around here,” laughed Felix. “Everything around the base is intact, although I seem to recall Bridge mentioning something about redecorating…”

“Really?” Sky raised an eyebrow.

“Oh yes,” his mother put in. “It’s beautiful, Bridge showed it to me: bright pink with green and blue polka dots!”

Sky smirked, “I think I’ll have to kill him as soon as you say I’m fit too, Dr. Felix.”

Felix shook his head, “I’m afraid that won’t be for a while now. You gave us quite the scare, Sky. Your friends have not had much sleep and your mother has not been home since you got back. She will be complaining about all the cleaning in a few hours, just so you know, and now you will actually have to listen to her.”

Sky chuckled, “My mother? Complain? Impossible!”

“Watch your mouth, young man,” said Jen, “or I will paint your room bright pink.”

“You know, you should be a little more grateful, Sky,” Felix suggested, moving back into his plain of vision. “She saved Z’s life.”

“You’re kidding!” Sky exclaimed, trying to sit up again. This time, two pairs of hands pushed him back.

“Well now your mother will have something interesting to tell you about. In the mean time, do not get up, do not touch anything or attempt to do anything beyond talking. I mean it this time – your team can handle an attack or two without you.” Felix ordered. “Get well soon, Sky; your team has missed you a lot.”

“Dr Felix, wait!” Sky called out before he could leave. Felix turned at the door to face Sky again. “Where is Z? Is she okay?”

Felix sighed and Jen grabbed Sky’s hand. “She is doing much better now, but she probably will not wake up for a couple more days. She was hurt badly, but you did a good job of taking care of her.”

“We took care of each other,” Sky replied, “once we stopped arguing.”

“How did she get so beat up, Sky?” asked Jen. “I only saw her once, but she looked a lot worse than you, the poor thing.”

Sky closed his eyes, wishing he could forget. “Morgana did it. From the first day we got there until she figured out we were contagious, the krybots dragged Z away just so Morgana could hurt her when she didn’t have any defense. Z did manage to break Morgana’s wrist once, but then again, I think Morgana broke a couple of Z’s ribs the same day.”

“Yes, but you did a good job of wrapping her, if that was your handiwork,” said Felix.

“She re-located my shoulder. Once we started working together, everything seemed a lot more manageable,” said Sky.

Felix chuckled, “It seems right that the two of you would finally learn to get along in the dungeon of an evil emperor who is trying to take over the world. I really should go now; I have plenty of other patients to attend to. I will send a nurse in with something light to eat in a few minutes; You must be hungry, but we can’t take things too quickly.”

“Thank you, Lyon,” Jen smiled.

Felix was true to his word. Fifteen minutes later three familiar faces appeared in the doorway, the green ranger in front with a giant plate of toast and a huge grin. “Hey Sky,” Bridge announced. “I made it extra buttery!”

Sky laughed, “I guess that’s alright, as long as you didn’t do any redecorating. I swear, if I see one balloon…”

“Oh, then your okay if I painted your room pink?” smirked Jack. Sky glared at him. “I’m just joking, Sky; it wouldn’t be any fun if I did that while you weren’t able to chase me around afterwards.”

“I guess that’s as close to ‘welcome back Sky, glad you’re okay,’ as I am going to get, so thanks,” replied Sky. Finally, Sydney entered, her eyes brimming with tears. Sky knew exactly what was coming, and desperately wanted to hide behind his mother. On the other hand, his mother looked like she might start up again too.

“SKY!” Sydney sobbed, hugging him as tightly as she could without causing problems. “We were so worried! We thought you were dead! Oh, I can’t believe you’re awake! We’ve been waiting for so long and I feel like you’ve been asleep forever and…”

“Syd!” Sky interrupted. “You have been the only girl on the team for too long; you sound like Bridge.”

Jennifer sat quietly in the corner, not sure whether to laugh or to cry as she watched her son talk with his friends. They did not stay long because Marcus came in to shoo them away so that Sky could get his rest, but it was enough to make Sky smile. After the nurse left, Jen just talked to Sky while he listened and nodded. He fell asleep as Jen told him about his cousin Gene who was going to college on the east coast in the fall, but Jen was content to know that her son was alive, alert, and well on his way to recovery.

XXX

Z’s eyes fluttered open. The ceiling was far too light-colored to be a part of the troobian’s ship and whatever she was laying felt far too comfortable. ‘Oh great, I died…I must be in purgatory or something, because my head hurts way too much for this to be heaven,’ she thought. As things around her became clearer, a voice reached her ears.

“…missing everything, Z. If you don’t get up soon, I won’t save you any cake. I am going to eat all the chocolate, and there won’t be any left for you…” Relief flooded through her, and she subconsciously closed her fist around a warm hand. At the touch, the man in the chair next to her stopped his rant. “Z?”

“Jack?”

Jack smiled widely, hugging her as tightly as he could. “I thought talking about chocolate might get you up. You have no idea how much trouble you’ve caused around here. Don’t you ever, ever scare me like that again!”

“What happened? Where’s Sky? The last thing I remember is Grumm’s ship,” Z asked.

Jack sat back and sighed, “Z, you’ve been unconscious since you returned to SPD. Cruger sent C-squad to rescue you and Sky since B-squad was ‘needed to protect Earth.’ You had me really worried there for a while, but according to Doc Felix all that beauty sleep has done you some good. As for Sky, he’s just fine. He’ll be even better when he hears that you woke up. He has been asking about you ever since he re-gained consciousness. It’s sort of annoying, actually.”

Z chuckled softly. “You would never believe it, but the man does have a heart.”

“Hey, if he took care of you than he’s got to be all right somehow,” Jack agreed. “I’ll be right back. Felix will take away my special after-hours visitation rights as your ‘brother’ if I don’t tell him that you are awake.”

Z released his hand, giving him a small smile to let him know that she was okay on her own. Once he left, she inspected her surroundings. The room was small, with nothing but the bed she was laying on, two chairs, and a small table, and a bag filled with clear liquid on a stand next to her bed. The bag had a long tube running from it to a needle in the back of her hand. “IV,” Z muttered, slightly annoyed that she did not know what they were putting into her.

The walls and furniture were a soft cream color, except for the yellow blanket over Z which she recognized as the one from the bed in her room. Two walls were filled with monitors and pieces of medical equipment she did not recognize, most of it attached to her through various tube and wires. A third wall was blank except for a vent and a tiny door in the bottom corner. Z knew that a small robot would come through the door every so often to clean the room, depending on what times the staff set for it. The final wall held a regular-sized door that sealed tightly and a large window that had a closed set of blinds in front of it. Z sniffed the air and smelled nothing. She sighed; they must have put her in a vacuum-sealed clean room.

She turned her attention to her body. While she and Sky had been trapped, Z had tried to ignore most of her injuries since there was not much she could do about them but complain. Now, she had bandages covering her arms, more wrapped around her chest, and she could feel several on her legs. She was thankful the room lacked a mirror; she did not want to see what her face looked like. Z groaned, finally allowing herself to feel all the bruises, and leaned back against her pillow.

Jack returned carrying a large bag, followed by Dr. Felix. “Good afternoon, Miss Delgado. It is very nice to see you awake.” He walked over to the wall with the monitors and checked them against the charts on his palm computer.

Jack grinned and held up the bag, “We weren’t allowed to keep these in here until the doc said your immune system could handle a few outside germs.” He began to empty the bag of cards, candy, and flowers colored, for the most part, in yellow. Jack smiled even wider as he pulled out a single blue flower attached to a blue card and set it on the table next to Z’s bed. “That is from Sky,” he explained. “He sent his mother out for the flower, and did the card himself as soon as they let him move. Syd helped him write the words; he’s devastated that his handwriting is coming out illegible.”

Z smiled, “That’s Sky for you. Hey Jack…”

“No.”

“But Sky’s mother went out for him!” Z complained.

“I am not your mother!” Jack replied. “I am not buying flowers for Sky!”

“Jerk,” Z started to cross her arms, but gasped and put them gingerly back at her sides.

Dr. Felix put a gentle hand on her shoulder, “Take your time, Z. I’m glad to see that you have not lost your sense of humor, but re-opening those cuts will not make you heal any faster.”

“Okay, but can I ask you a couple things?” asked Z.

Felix agreed, carefully looking over the yellow ranger. “You can ask me whatever you want, and I’ll answer as best I can.”

“Is Sky alright?

Felix chuckled, “He asked the same thing about you. Yes, Sky is fine; he woke up last week. As I told him, the two of you did a great job taking care of each other.”

“Well, we had no one else. What’s today’s date?”

“Monday, July 9, 2026.”

“Isn’t that Bridge’s birthday?” She turned to her pseudo-brother. “Why are you with me? Shouldn’t you be at some party?”

“Hey, the well-being of my best friend is far more important than any party,” said Jack. “Besides, I’m not missing anything. They’re throwing a party in Sky’s room and, now that Dr. Felix has ok-d it, they’re bringing it in here, since neither you nor Sky can get leave your rooms yet.”

“So that’s why you were talking about chocolate,” Z said.

“Yup,” Jack answered.

“Keep your eyes open, Z,” Dr. Felix said. He peered into them using a bright light that made Z want to blink. She distracted herself by asking another question.

“What else have I missed?”

Jack shrugged, “Not much. I mean, except for your kidnapping, but I don’t think you missed that. The odd thing is Grumm has apparently not noticed that you and Sky are gone. He’s been pretty quiet since you got back, even though the deadline for SPD’s surrender is about to hit.”

“Jack, Grumm thinks we’re dead,” Z chuckled. “He sent Morgana and Broodwing to shoot us once they figured out we had a highly contagious disease. Sky used his powers to save us, and Morgana gave up. She meant for us to starve to death or kill ourselves. I don’t remember much after that, except for nightmares and an occasional view of Sky.”

Felix frowned. “Then the commander will have to give Grumm a call.”

“Hey Z,” Jack grinned. “Think you’re up to a little acting? I have never managed to surprise Bridge, and I think this may be our one and only opportunity. He tried to read you while you were sleeping and got a lot of jumbled thoughts, so he’s been attempting to shut off his psychic senses as much as he can when he comes to visit.”

Z grinned, “Why not?”

XXX

Sydney, Bridge, Cruger, Boom, Jack, and Kat were making their way to Z’s room, cake and other party paraphernalia in hand. Jack was speaking as they walked, “Don’t be too surprised when you see her. Felix took a lot of the extra junk out of Z. He said that her body is making enough of its own blood now!”

Bridge grinned, “That’s fantastic! Does that mean she’ll wake up soon?”

Kat sighed, “It might, Bridge, but what you have to understand is that, even if her body heals completely, her mind may have been affected beyond any medical help. I hate to put a melancholy turn on things, but there is still a possibility she will never wake up. But yes, that would increase her chances.”

Kat punched the access code into a keypad next to Z’s room, and the door opened. The room was quiet except for the steady beeping of the monitors that were still on. Z was sleeping, her face still scarred and bruised. The IV was still in her hand, a blinking metal strip was stuck to her forehead, and several wires ran under the collar of her shirt, but compared to the web of equipment that had surrounded her before, she looked much better. “Hey Z,” Bridge greeted. “Today’s my birthday, so we decided to bring the party to you!”

“Boom and I made cake!” Sydney happily announced.

“But, it didn’t exactly turn out,” Boom finished, “so, we went out and bought a cake instead.”

“Don’t tell Sky, we fed him the one Sydney and Boom barbecued,” Jack chuckled.

Cruger looked appalled. “You did?”

“I told you not to eat it for a reason, Doggie,” said Kat.

Bridge frowned, “I wish you were really here for my birthday, Z.”

Sydney grabbed Z’s hand. “Me too.”

“Me three,” said Boom.

“I must agree,” said Cruger. “Wake up soon cadet; and that’s an order.”

Sydney sighed and tried to put Z’s hand down. To her shock, the comatose girl would not let go. Sydney pulled on her hand to no avail. “You don’t get to leave until I get some of that chocolate, princess.”

“OH MY GOD!” Sydney screeched, throwing herself at Z. “You’re alive! It’s a miracle!” Bridge, Boom, Kat and Cruger all stared in shock. Jack burst out laughing.

“Syd, I can’t breathe!” Z gasped.

“It isn’t a miracle, Syd,” Jack laughed. “She just wanted some of that cake!”

Cruger glared, “You knew, cadet?”

“Of course,” said Jack, “but it wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun if we just told you.”

“One of these days, you pups will be the death of me,” Cruger growled, but he was smiling. “I’m glad you obey orders, Delgado. Welcome back.”

“Thank you, commander,” Z chuckled. “Oh, and happy birthday Bridge! Um, Sydney? You can let go now, I’m not going anywhere.”

“I am never, ever letting go!” Sydney shouted. “I never want to lose you again! Do you have any idea what it’s like being surrounded by morons…I mean men?”

Z rolled her eyes. “Actually, yes I do. Do you know what it’s like to spend a week trapped with Sky in a tiny cage? The troobians were nothing in comparison…”

Sydney cringed, “Alright, Z, you win. As soon as you’re better, we are taking a girls’ weekend somewhere very, very far from here.”

“Thanks but no thanks, Syd. I want to stay close to home, and quite honestly I would rather go back to visit Morgana and her doll than go shopping.”

Jack laughed, “Now that’s the Z I know.”
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Old 01-12-2008, 02:53 AM   #13
seraphimprince
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This is pretty good. I used Tommy Oliver's son as SPD Green in the Magiranger vs. Dekaranger adaptation I wrote awhile ago.
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Old 01-13-2008, 06:05 PM   #14
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wow...great chapter...
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Old 01-13-2008, 08:04 PM   #15
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d-ammmmmmmnnnn it's soo long lol
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Old 01-17-2008, 11:56 PM   #16
Muse
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I have to admit, I ampretty excited that people replied! Granted, this is the last chapter, but I'm glad you enjoyed it. Keep reading - there will be an epilogue up soon!

Nine Steps Forward

Sky was ecstatic. He had gotten Felix’s permission to walk around the base, as long as he was supervised, stayed within the hospital wing, and told one of the nurses exactly where he would be. Today Bridge was going to take him to see Z. “I still don’t get it; you finally get out of that room, and all you want to do is see Z?”

“Bridge, the last time a saw her she was dying. Besides, I know how awful it is to be stuck in the stupid little hospital room for weeks on end. I’d do the same thing for you,” Sky explained. The only downside of the arrangement was how weak and useless he felt. He seemed to trip over every crack in the tiles, and Bridge would have to set him steady again. Sky had refused a wheel chair, so he was forced to lean on his friend and a cane.

Sure you would. Exactly what were you two doing in that dungeon, anyway? They said you caught the poison from Z.”

“And Morgana caught it from me. Yes, Bridge, I was making out with both of them the entire time,” Sky drawled sarcastically…well, he hoped he sounded sarcastic. He wasn’t exactly telling the truth, and he wasn’t exactly lying. It worked out.

Bridge laughed, “You get to have all the fun. Whoa, steady. You know, the way you’re walking, you look sort of drunk.”

“Thanks, Bridge, that makes me feel so much better,” Sky glowered.

“Well maybe Z can do a better job if she kisses you,” Bridge laughed. Sky remained quiet, not wanting to mention that it was exactly what he wanted to happen, if Bridge ever left them alone long enough. “Ok, here’s her room.” Bridge knocked.

“Yeah?” Z replied.

“It’s Bridge; I’ve brought you some entertainment. Maybe he’ll strip if you give him money.”

Sky hissed, “Not funny, Bridge.”

Laughter could be heard on the other side of the door, “Then by all means, send him in!” Sydney giggled, opening the door for them. “Ooh, Z, he’s a cute one…once you get by all the scarring!”

“Sky!” exclaimed Z. “I’d hug you, but these people will not let me move a muscle.”

“I know how that feels,” Sky agreed. “I’ll come to you.” He walked, still wobbling slightly, and hugged her as tightly as he could without causing any pain. “How are you feeling?”

“Pretty good,” Z answered. While he was still close, she whispered, “Especially now that you’re here.”

Sky blushed, nearly falling over. “Whoa!” Sydney called, pushing a chair under him. “What have you been drinking? Or has Kat got you on too many drugs?”

Sky grumbled, “I haven’t walked in weeks, Syd; it takes practice.”

Z chuckled, “I can’t wait to see how bad I am. You are going to have to carry me everywhere!”

“You’ll be lighter than Sky,” said Bridge. Sky glared at him, but ended up laughing with the others.

“C’mon, Bridgey!” Sydney suddenly announced. “I need your help with that thing!”

“What thing?”

“You know…the, um…with RIC, yeah, that’s it!” she dragged him out of the room. “We’ll be back later.” As soon as they were outside Sydney hissed, “Bridge, you’re a psychic; how do you not know what’s going on? They need time to talk about whatever happened, and they won’t do that around us.”

“Ohhhh…ok.” Rolling her eyes, Sydney dragged him away.

“So…” Z began.

“So…”

Z smiled, “I got your card; it was really nice. I would have sent one to you, but I couldn’t con Jack into helping me.”

“De nada, señorita,” shrugged Sky.

Z chuckled. “You must’ve been bored if you tried learning Spanish. C’mere, and I’ll make it up to you.” Sky leaned closer to her, and she kissed him.

“You have no idea how long I have been waiting for that,” Sky breathed.

Z agreed, “I must admit, Jack has nothing on you…relax, I’m kidding! Seriously, though; what are we going to do?”

“About us?” She nodded. “I’m not really sure. I had a lot of spare time to think, but I couldn’t come up with anything. I guess I was half praying it was just being on that ship, but now I’m sure that there is something more to it.”

“I know. I’ve been thinking, too, and it might be easier just to…I don’t know, get over it?”

“No!” Sky yelled, shocking them both. “No, I don’t want that. I can’t live a lie.”

Z smiled, her eyes sad. “But it could mean the end of everything you’ve worked for. Isn’t there some rule against…”

Sky wrapped his hand around hers, intertwining their fingers. “I don’t care anymore, Z. You are the only thing I want.”

“Sky, that is probably the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me. You’re the only thing I want, too.”

“So we just act natural?” he suggested. “No qualms, no worries about what they think?”

“M-hmm,” she pushed herself up and kissed him again.

The door opened, but neither noticed. “Sky, Kat said I’d find you in…oh….oops…” Jen grinned; she had a feeling that there was something going on between her son and Z.

Sky and Z separated quickly. “Um…hi mom…” Sky blushed.

“Schuyler. Good to see you’re feeling better…both of you,” she smiled. “Relax, I’m not going to say anything if you don’t want me to. Quite frankly, I could not be happier; I’m getting old, and I can’t wait forever to start doting on my grandchildren.”

“MOM!” Sky shouted. His blush darkened.

Jen laughed, “I’m only kidding, dear.”

“Mrs. Tate?” Z said.

“Yes, dear?”

“Thank you.”

“For what?” asked Jen.

Z fiddled with the blankets on her bed. “Kat told me you saved my life, and I never had an opportunity to say thank you.”

Jen smiled, “You make him lighten up a little, and we’ll call it even.”

“Mom! You’re embarrassing me!” Sky exclaimed.

“Oh hush, Sky, I haven’t had an opportunity to ruin your life in a long time, and I plan to take full advantage of it,” Jen announced, reaching into her purse. “Would you like to see some pictures, Z? Sky was so cute when he was a baby…”

“MOTHER!”

XXX

“Well Cruger? This is your last chance, I have been more than patient with you,” Grumm glared from the screen.

Cruger growled, “We will never surrender, Grumm. My rangers are all willing to give their lives for Earth, and they will be remembered with the greatest honor years from now, long after the memory of your army has faded.”

“Ha! You will lose everything, Cruger, everything! Morgana, I want those ranger pests terminated! Make sure their deaths are long and painful, and remind them who ordered them to be killed.”

“You did, Grumm,” said Cruger. “I am responsible for the lives of everyone at SPD Earth, not just the two you plan to take today. I regret their loss, but not my choice. SPD will never surrender!” He ended the transmission.

Behind him, Kat smirked. “Doggie, I didn’t know you could act.”

Cruger chuckled, “Sirians learn to act when they are pups. Have you never heard of the term ‘puppy eyes’?” Kat laughed.

Z grinned up at Sky. The two were standing out of the screen’s view, with Z sitting in a wheel chair and Sky leaning on a black cane. It was the only way Felix allowed them to leave the hospital wing. “Remembered with honor for years to come, eh? Almost makes me wish we really had died.”

Sky shook his head, “Not me. I’m sure we can find a better way to make it into history. For instance, returning from the dead and defeating the troobians.”

“Don’t let it go to your head, Harry Potter,” said Jack. Sky still had several stitches in his forehead that were currently hidden by a bandage. Jack had been present once when Felix changed the bandage, and mentioned that Sky might end up with a lightening-shaped scar. Since then, Jack had been referring to Sky as the famous character.

In retaliation, Sky smacked Jack’s shin with his cane. Jack yelped and Sky patted the top of his cane fondly. “You know, I am starting to like this thing.”

“Too bad Dr. Felix said you should be able to go without it in another week,” Sydney mused.

“I hope Grumm will wait another week to send an attack,” said Bridge.

Z groaned, “He’s going to have to wait another month for me.”

“Hey, you’ll get to order everyone around until then,” Jack smiled. “You can be the damsel in distress, and we shall come to aid at your call.” He bowed with a flourish.

Z scowled, “I refuse to be referred to as distressed or as a damsel. I am perfectly capable of doing things without your help, thank you very much.”

Bridge sighed, “It is going to be a long month.”

XXX

One month later:

Jack, Bridge, and Sydney hit the ground hard, all three reeling from the latest monster attack. Morgana had been leading many of the recent attacks, protected by her new, powerful armor. Today, she was joined by several hundred krybots – including three orange-heads. Morgana removed her helmet and laughed, “You rangers are pathetic! What’s the matter, still missing a few of your friends?”

Jack got to his feet and glared from underneath his helmet, “You leave them out of this!”

“Ooh, it seems I’ve hit a nerve. Well I have news for you, rangers. They are never, ever going to come back, and it is entirely your fault. Do you know why they aren’t coming back?”

“Shut up!” Bridge yelled.

Morgana sneered, “It’s because they’re dead. I killed them myself, and I made sure they suffered.” A whistle broke through the exchange, and all eyes turned toward the sound. Morgana gasped, “Impossible! You’re supposed to be dead!”

An unmorphed Sky and Z stood side by side in front of the bike they had driven to the scene. Z looked over at Sky, “I don’t feel dead, do you?”

Sky shrugged, “Nope. I’m feeling pretty good. In fact, I think I could take out an army of krybots right about now.”

Z smirked, “You’re in luck – Morgana’s brought enough for the two of us to share. But first, I think I missed a tea party and I just have to make it up.” Her eyes glowed gold.

A Z-clone tapped Morgana on the shoulder. The witch jumped and turned around. “How did you…?” The copy only smiled and pointed over Morgana’s shoulder. When Morgana turned around again, both Z and Sky were standing in front of her.

“Hello Morgana,” said Sky. “Glad to see you recovered from that near-poisoning.”

“How is Cindy Sunshine? I brought a friend for her to play with.” Z held up a small yellow figurine. “This is a real collectable – one of the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers action figures. Oh, what’s that?” Z pretended to listen to the toy. “She says that we should fight. Except this time, I’ve got my own armor.” Morgana backed away. She kept opening her mouth and closing it, but shock prevented her from saying anything.

“Ready Z?” asked Sky, raising his morpher.

“Never better,” she grinned.

Together, the two shouted, “SPD, emergency!” Blue and yellow lights swallowed Sky and Z. The missing rangers had finally returned. The red, green, and pink rangers ran up behind them.

Bridge put a hand on Sky’s shoulder, “Good to have you guys back.”

“It’s good to be back,” Sky replied.

“Now if you don’t mind, my sparring partner is running away,” said Z. She ran after the retreating Morgana, pocketing the yellow action figure as she went.

Sky smirked, “I always feel like I’m missing out when those two throw a tea party. Think you three can handle the toy soldiers?”

“Piece of cake,” Sydney said.

“If you and Z can come back from the dead, I think we’re perfectly capable of taking out a few pieces of metal,” Bridge added. With a nod, Sky went after Z and Morgana.

“Hey Sky!” Jack called.

The blue ranger paused, “Yeah?”

“Try not to get yourselves kidnapped this time! I don’t think your mother could handle it!”

“Leave my mother out of this, Landors!” Sky yelled. “And look out for the ‘bot behind you!”

Jack ducked the blow and turned his attention back to the fight. The hostage situation was over, but the war continued. Jack only hoped that somewhere in the orbit above them, Grumm was screaming “Ghost!” and dying of a heart attack, or at least vaporizing a few troobian generals who he blamed for allowing Sky and Z to escape with their lives intact. But as the B-squad fought their way through the army of krybots, Grumm called a different set of rangers into his throne room.

“These pesky cadets are ruining all of my plans! I thought you had given me all of SPD’s secrets? Why won’t they die?!” Grumm shouted.

“Patience, my lord. It seems these cadets have learned a thing or two since we trained with them,” Charlie replied.

“Then it is time to orchestrate a resurrection of our own. Prepare to depart for Gamma Orion! I’ve had enough dealings with rangers. I want a hostage that will have some impact! Once you infiltrate SPD, bring me Doggie Cruger,” he ordered.

The A-squad bowed. “Yes, emperor.”
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Old 01-18-2008, 01:23 PM   #17
sbb1513
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wow...this is good...
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Old 01-18-2008, 03:54 PM   #18
Angelfox
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hee hee hee its heatin up now
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Old 01-19-2008, 06:26 PM   #19
Squizz
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This is fantastic and its been so fun to read. You've totally turned me into a Z and Sky shipper , I hope you've got some more stories planned
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Old 01-28-2008, 09:52 PM   #20
Muse
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Thanks, glad to hear people liked it! I must, however, apologize: at the end of the last chapter I mentioned A-squad, and while I am glad that I managed to throw people for a loop in the very last chapter, it honestly was not intentional. I simply added that to bring us back into the SPD universe seen on the show; Ch. 9 ends about the same place/time the episode Resurrection begins. Heh, sorry for making that confusing. This is chapter occurs about five years after Endings Pt 2, so the fall of A-squad and Grumm have already happened. Hope you like it!

Epilogue

When he answered the door to his apartment, Jack was shocked to see the commander of SPD Earth standing outside. “Sky?! How did you get into the building without calling up?”

Sky shrugged, “I was about to, but the guy at the front desk recognized me when I was standing outside and trying to remember which apartment you were in. He let me inside; I think he believed that I was here on official SPD business.”

“Okay…why are you here, anyway?” asked Jack.

Sky rubbed the back of his neck, “I wanted to talk to you about something.”

“Um, alright. Come on in; do you want something to drink?” Jack shut the door behind Sky and headed further into the apartment. “I was just about to make some coffee for Ally and me.”

Sky noticed the blonde woman sitting on the couch in front of Jack’s TV. “Oh, hello Ally. I didn’t expect you to be here. I guess I should not be too surprised; you do live a floor below, and you two have been dating for how long now?”

Ally stood up and gave Sky a hug. “Four years, technically; we broke up a couple times in there, once for almost an entire year. It’s good to see you again, Sky.”

Jack called from the adjacent kitchen, “That one was only because I thought you were moving to New York for good!”

Sky shook his head, “It’s nice to see you too, Ally. You look good.”

“Thank you, Commander Tate,” she grinned. Both returned to the couch. “I never did get to congratulate properly you on that promotion. I was still in New York during the ceremony, and every time I’ve seen you since I got back something else has come up.”

Sky smiled, “Thanks.”

Jack returned from the kitchen with two cups of coffee and handed one to his girlfriend as he sat next to her. “Speaking of promotions, how’s Cruger doing now that he’s Supreme Commander?”

“He seems to be doing very well. He’s busy though; he told me that he doesn’t get enough time to spend with his son. I think Sirius will be fine; Isinia is a fantastic mother, and no matter what he says Cruger always makes time for his pup.”

“Yeah, he emailed me a picture of Sirius playing under that huge desk in his office. Sirius sure is getting bigger,” Jack replied. “That reminds me, did you get the email from Sydney? I’m pretty sure she sent it to everybody.”

Sky nodded, “Of course; she’s staying with Z at SPD. She should be back in town by New Year’s Eve.”

“That will make for one heck of a party,” said Ally. “As I recall, Syd likes to bring in the New Year with a real bang. When I was in New York, she took me backstage for the party in Time Square – she had a singing gig with Kira Ford. You should have seen the crowds; I would have died performing for front of that many people, but Syd and Kira loved it.”

“I saw them on TV,” Jack agreed. “I still can’t believe Sydney left SPD to be a pop star.”

“Singing with Kira Ford was Syd’s dream for as long as I knew her,” Sky explained. “I’m not surprised, and I don’t blame her. She still trains cadets for SPD every once in a while, and all the cadets complain that her courses are too difficult. Our once pristine pink princess is now the feared queen of the obstacle course.”

Jack laughed, “I’m glad I escaped that one. How about Bridge? Does he make a good red ranger?”

“He makes a fantastic red ranger,” Sky answered. “He’s probably better at it than I was. His ideas are nuts, but they never fail. Last week he got back from a successful mission to the past; I can’t tell you much about the mission because the information is classified, but I can tell you that we made sure his new/old friends were all there to greet him when he got back. They were all kind of unhappy that he hadn’t aged in the eighteen years since they saw him, though.”

“I’m sure they all felt better after eating a bit of toast,” chuckled Ally. She had been subjected to the current red ranger’s buttered toast fetish on their second meeting.

“Actually, that made everyone from the mission sad,” Sky said. “Apparently this butler who made, and I quote, ‘the butteriest toast ever’ while Bridge was on the mission passed away a couple years ago.”

“Aw, poor Bridge; it can’t be easy to skip that many years,” said Ally.

“Trust me,” Sky replied, “it isn’t easy to skip a few days. But things usually work out in the end; the group was happy to tell Bridge what they had been doing for the years in between, and he was finally able to talk about the future – er, present – as much as he wanted.”

Jack smiled, “I bet he loved that. You know, I really have to come and visit you guys more often so I can keep up to date.”

“Well you’re welcome to come to SPD’s New Year’s Eve party – both of you are welcome,” Sky said.

“I’ll make sure he gets there on time,” Ally nudged her boyfriend’s arm. “It’s hard to believe it will be 2030 in another week.”

“It’s hard to believe it’s Christmas Eve,” Jack added. “Oh, shoot! It’s Christmas Eve! What time are we supposed to meet your parents?!”

Ally rolled her eyes. “See what I mean, Sky? The man has the memory of a goldfish.” She turned back to Jack. “We have to be at their house by 5:00 for dinner. It’s not quite noon, so you still have plenty of time to get a shower and put on something nice. However, I do need to get back to my own apartment soon so I can start getting ready.”

“I actually need to get going soon, too,” said Sky. “I meant for this to be a pretty quick visit, but it is important.”

“That’s right; you said you wanted to talk about something. You seemed kind of nervous about it, too. Is something wrong?” asked Jack.

“No, not at all…at least I hope not. But, erm, I kind of wanted to talk to you…alone?” Sky gave Ally a pointed look.

She glanced at her watch and grabbed her purse. “Look at the time! I think I will need four hours to get ready. See you tonight, Jack.” She kissed him quickly. “Don’t forget to be ready by 4:00!” Ally gave Sky another hug. “It was good to see you again, Sky. I hope everything is okay; I’ll see you on New Year’s!”

“Thanks, Merry Christmas,” Sky replied.

“You too!” she called as she walked out the door.

“A subtle exit, wouldn’t you say?” Jack grinned. “Now what did you want to talk about?”

Sky started shuffling his hands. “Well, I don’t really want to talk. I just need to ask you something…about Z…”

“Z? Is she alright?” asked Jack. “Does this have something to do with her heart? I know Dr. Felix said she would have problems with it even after she recovered, especially as a ranger. She’s been the blue ranger for more than a year now; I can’t imagine how devastated she would be if they told her she had to stop…”

“Jack!” Sky shouted. “It has nothing to do with that. Z is perfectly healthy.” Subconsciously, Sky scratched the scar on his forehead. To his great relief, it looked nothing like a lightning bolt, although Jack refused to stop calling him Harry Potter.

“Oh,” said Jack. “Well then, what were you saying?”

Sky took a deep breath, “Look, you know Z and I have been going out for around five years now, without breaking up. I mean, we’ve had our fair share of fights but…never mind, I’m sounding like Bridge. I know you and Z are like family, and since you’re the only family she really has I thought I would ask for your permission to…to ask Z to marry me.”

For a moment, Jack stared at Sky with his mouth agape. “Are you serious?” he finally managed to say.

Sky reached into his pocket and pulled out a small black box. He opened it and showed Jack the ring inside. “Completely.”

The front door opened and Ally walked in. “Hey Jack I forgot to grab my…” She paused at the sight of Sky presenting a diamond ring to Jack. “Whoa, I think I missed something here.” Sky shut the box and put it back in his pocket, both men protesting vehemently to Ally’s assumption. She backed out of the room, chuckling, “Don’t worry, boys, I’ll keep your secret. Have fun.”

“That did not go quite like I planned,” Sky muttered.

Jack laughed, “No kidding. I’ll talk to her later, but I’m pretty sure she knows what was really going on.”

Sky nodded, “I know. Still, I was hoping to keep the whole idea a secret.”

“She won’t tell anybody…yet…” said Jack.

Sky sighed, “So…”

“So what?”

“You never answered the question,” Sky explained. “Can I marry your sister?”

Jack smirked, “First you will have to answer a series of questions, followed by the completion of three very important tasks. Your overall score will decide my answer. First question: do you love her?”

“More than anything,” Sky swore.

“Do you respect her?”

“More than anyone.”

Jack pretended to write on an invisible score card. “Mm-hmm. Do you understand that if you ever break her heart I will break every bone in your body?”

Sky smiled, “I think we have been over that a few times, Jack. If that ever happens, I’ll have to kick my own ass before you get a shot at me.”

“No way; Z gets the first punch, then me. You can have whatever is left. Anyway, that’s the end of the question section. Now I will explain all three tasks, do not interrupt. First, you must ask Z to marry you and accept her answer. Second: should she agree, you must marry her and agree to whatever ridiculous ideas she has for your wedding. Finally, you must love, respect, and care for her forever – I always thought the whole ‘until death do we part’ thing was stupid. Can you complete these tasks, Schuyler Tate?”

“I promise to do my best,” he answered.

Jack nodded, “One last question then: why the hell are you asking me?! Z is perfectly capable of making the decision without my help or permission! You know what? Don’t bother answering the question, get going! I am really happy for you, Sky. No matter how poorly we tend to get along, you make her happy and I could not imagine a better person for Z to marry.”

Sky grinned, “Thanks, Jack.”

“Yeah, whatever. You’re still a jerk,” Jack joked.

“You’re still a thief,” Sky replied as he stood up.

Jack followed him. “In that case, you are about to ask a thief to marry you.”

“I believe the term is criminal mastermind, and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” said Sky. He pulled open Jack’s door.

Jack smiled and the two shook hands. “Good luck, man. You better take good care of her – I meant what I said about your bones.”

“I know; I meant it, too,” Sky answered. “Merry Christmas, Jack.”

“Merry Christmas, Sky. I’ll find Ally and swear her to secrecy. Have fun tonight.” Jack followed Sky into the hallway and locked the door behind him. The two separated on the next floor down. As he walked to his car, Sky put a hand around the box in his pocket and grinned.

XXX

Z and Sky were driving back from Christmas Eve Mass. Mrs. Tate had invited Z to stay with them for Christmas every year since Grumm’s defeat, even after Sky was promoted to commander and received a very large, private apartment within SPD. Z raised an eyebrow as Sky turned the car away from the bright lights of New Tech City. “Sky, do you realize you were supposed to turn left, not right?”

“No I wasn’t, not for tonight. I want to show you something,” he explained. They continued driving until they were far out of the city, heading into the dark woods.

“Where are we going?” Z asked.

Sky smirked, “It’s a surprise.” Another ten minutes of banter and cryptic answers brought them to a stop. Sky got out, opened Z’s door and ordered her to close her eyes. Sighing, she did as she was told and let him lead her further into the woods.

He stopped suddenly and let go of her hand. “Sky! Where are you?!”

“Right here,” he laughed, wrapping his arms around her waist and kissing the back of her neck. “Open your eyes.”

Z opened them, and gasped. They were in the middle of a clearing with a gigantic tree in the middle of it. The tree had been decorated with thousands of sparkling lights. “It’s beautiful!”

“Just like you,” Sky whispered.

Z turned in his arms. “You did this for me?”

“Merry Christmas,” he answered.

“How can I ever...this is incredible!”

Sky grinned, “Just do one thing, and we’ll be even.”

“Anything,” she promised.

“Good, that saves me a lot of embarrassing and useless attempts to say something poetic,” he grinned. He took her hand, kissed her finger, and put a ring on it. “Say yes.”

Z looked from the ring, to him, to the tree, and back at him. She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him passionately. “Do you really want to get married?” she asked.

“I even asked Jack for his permission – which was ten times more difficult than fiddling with a bunch of lights. Z, I love you.”

“I love you more,” she argued. Z laughed, kissed his lips again and whispered, “Yes.”

XXX

In the morning, Jen was not surprised to find her son and his girlfriend curled up on the couch in front of the Tates’ artificial Christmas tree. After taking a picture, she decided to let the two sleep.

Half an hour later, Sky woke up to the smell of French toast. His stomach growled. “I’m hungry too,” Z chuckled.

He looked down to see his fiancé leaning on his chest. He kissed her forehead. “Morning, beautiful.”

“Afternoon, handsome.”

“It’ll be evening if the two of you don’t get in here soon,” Jen called. “But I appreciate the compliments!” They blushed and quickly headed for the kitchen. “So what kept you so late? I went to bed at 110 and you still weren’t here.”

“We took a detour,” Sky explained, handing Z a plate.

Jen smiled, “I see. So when do I need to start losing weight?”

Sky frowned, “Mom, it’s Christmas and you certainly do not need to…”

“Now, now; I have got to fit into something nice for your wedding, don’t I?” Jen laughed. “I have been dying to see the ring on your hand closer for the past two hours!”

Z blushed, “Mrs. Tate, I…”

“Call me mom, honey, and let me see the ring! Sky, this better not be junk.”

END

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