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Old November 9th, 2018, 02:03 PM #21
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I like the mixed reactions to Hal's actions,. It makes it feel more genuine. I'm interested in seeing if there is another incident in the future that might throw this over the edge, either good or bad.

I would be a little wary over how Hal is presented. He seems a bit too perfect, if you get what I'm saying. Flaws and conflict are what make characters relateable and sympathetic. I would keep that in mind for future chapters.
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Old November 9th, 2018, 11:21 PM #22
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Chapter Ten

Hal was sitting at the bar, trying to figure out what he’d eat. He was a little early for Kat’s presentation of Smokey to Lieutenant Stone, and he was also hungry. He also had a planned date with Kat. Pizza sounded good.

“Ernie, could I get a supreme pizza with triple pepperoni?” he asked.

“Sure thing,” Ernie said.

“How much is it?” Hal asked.

“Ah… on the house,” Ernie said.

Hal gave Ernie a look, then pulled out ten dollars.

“Keep the change,” he said, setting it on the counter.

Ernie took the money, shaking his head. “I’ll add a drink to the order,” he replied. “Your usual Diet Mountain Dew?”

“Sounds good,” Hal said.

Were Kat and Hal on the outs? That question had come in to play. The Pink Ranger – Ernie had long ago deduced the identities of the superheroes who protected Angel Grove – had to have been shaken up by Hal trying to fight those Tengas. It had been brutal, too.

Not that Hal was a bad guy. Far from it. There was a difference. Ernie had volunteered to serve in the Marine Corps and had seen combat in Grenada. He had also figured out that Hal was involved with the Air Force unit that was engaging those alien robots. Maybe they were both keeping their secrets from each other… that had to be the issue.

He put the pizza in the over, chuckling a little. If anything, Hal was… an interesting mix. The two of them both shared an enjoyment of the same radio talk show host and had laughed uproariously at a song that was a send-up of a certain United States senator.

Hal sat back to wait, nursing his soda. He soon saw Kat arrive with Smokey. She greeted him with a warm smile. Ernie noticed, too, and figured they must have patched it up. She went over some of the training. Lieutenant Stone and the duo of Bulk and Skull arrived as well.

The presentation went well, then Smokey was barking and headed towards the kitchen.

“The pizza!” Ernie said, heading to the kitchen. He came back through the cloud of smoke – holding the pizza Hal had ordered was a nice, black frisbee. One that probably could take one of those robots out, Hal thought.

“Sorry, Hal,” Ernie said. “I’ll get a replacement going. This one is on the house.”

“Well, I’ll take the other one,” Hal offered with a smile.

“In case a hostile giant bird shows up?” Ernie asked.

“Waste not, want not,” Hal said.

There was a slight clearing of a throat, and Hal turned to see Trini giving him a dirty look.

“You shouldn’t make light out of what you had to do,” she said.

“Sometimes, if you ain’t laughin’, you’re cryin’,” Hal said. “Not really in the mood for a debate Trini. My pizza just got burned to a crisp.”

“Yeah, Ernie’s forgotten more than one meal in the oven,” Trini said, but then she went bacll to the original lecture. “Hal, you really need to re-think how you view things sometimes. Especially given what happened.”

“Trini, those Tengas – well, that’s what the Angel Grove PD said they were called – were the ones who started that fight, not me. They had a very serious failure in their victim-selection process,” Hal said. “For one of them, it turned out to be a terminal failure. If I hadn’t fought, I’m very sure Kat would have been hurt. Sucks for the Tengas, but Kat, Adam, and Tanya were safe. It’s one of the least tragic outcomes.”

Trini thought it over and sighed. There wasn’t going to be much chance of changing Hal’s mind, and it had reminded her of the clashes they’d had. One had re-ignited recently.

Hal had favored the barbeque pit that the City Council had wanted to install to replace the Forest Spirit Statue. His project had been to find a way to raise more funds for the maintenance of Angel Grove Park, and he’d decided to kill two birds with one stone by suggesting the resurrection of that pit and relocating the statue to another part of Angel Grove Park – to be determined. The presentation had gone quite well, and the City Council’s vote had been 8-3 in favor of the proposal.

“Hey, Hal, nice presentation,” Bulk said. “And thanks for getting the barbeque pit re-started.”

“No problem,” Hal said.

“Don’t get your hopes up,” Trini said. “I saved it before, I’ll save it again.” She then left, deciding not to continue the fight.

“Save what again?” Kat asked, shifting her glance between departing the former Yellow Ranger and her boyfriend.

“Some statue,” Hal said. “Apparently, it was supposed to become a barbeque pit a few years back, but she had a petition drive to save it. Only, if they keep the statue, the pit doesn’t happen, and the Angel Grove Little League won’t be able to afford to have enough teams – so they’ll have to have cuts. And it’s not being destroyed – it’s going to be kept in storage to be placed in front of a nature center.”

“A nature center,” Kat said.

“Yeah, to be built after the baseball fields are done, not to mention three new hiking trails, a rainy day fund for the Youth Center, and upgrades for the lakefront park,” Hal said.

Kat gave Hal a skeptical look.

“When did you get an appreciation for nature?” Kat asked.

“Well, Kat, I always did appreciate it. Sometimes, I’ll admit, I prefer that to be from a distance, but there is beauty in nature,” Hal said.

“Oh, and what do you find beautiful about trees?” Kat asked.

“What is done with them after they’ve been cut down,” Hal responded.

Kat’s jaw dropped.

“What is done after they have been cut down?” she asked.

“Yeah. Books, pencils, houses – like the one you helped build last year, paper, rulers, baseball bats…” Hal’s voice trailed off as he noticed the dirty look Kat was giving him.

“You’re a great guy, Hal,” Kat said. “But in some areas, I think you’re also definitely a work in progress.”

She got up and went to another table.

“Guess the pizza date is off,” Hal told himself, sighing as Ernie delivered the freshly-baked pizza.
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Old November 10th, 2018, 11:48 AM #23
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Lol. Nice turn in the end. Interested in seeing where this leads. He's starting to come across as somebody that sees things as a means to an end. Very black and white. Interesting dynamic.

Remind me though, was Kat an environmentalist? I don't strongly recall that trait as hers more than it was Trini's.
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Old November 10th, 2018, 04:29 PM #24
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BrownRangerKev wrote: View Post

Lol. Nice turn in the end. Interested in seeing where this leads. He's starting to come across as somebody that sees things as a means to an end. Very black and white. Interesting dynamic.

Remind me though, was Kat an environmentalist? I don't strongly recall that trait as hers more than it was Trini's.
During the episode "Oily to Bed, Oily to Rise," she was not upset about losing that surfing competition because they had to destroy a monster that was polluting the water.

So, she is not as extreme as Trini in that regard, but she might take exception to what she perceives as a complete lack of concern when it comes to taking care of the planet.

At the same time... Hal is trying to do good in other areas. She's more upset at the insensitivity.
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Old November 11th, 2018, 08:22 PM #25
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Chapter Eleven

“I messed up, didn’t I?” Hal asked Ernie.

“You could have been less flippant about the environment. Look, I know what happened with your uncle’s sister-in-law, but Kat doesn’t,” Ernie said. “She’s a little irritated with you, but I’m sure she’d understand.”

Hal nodded, just as he heard Bulk and Skull telling Lieutenant Stone about Smokey running off.

“You mean you let our brand-new search-and-rescue dog run away?” Stone shouted. He began to march the two off.

Hal got up as well.

“Ernie, save the pizza. I’ll come back for it,” he said.

Kat was also getting up, having overheard the conversation.

“Hey, Kat.”

She turned around to see Hal.

“Yes?” she asked.

“I know you’re mad about how insensitive I was, but could I help look for Smokey?” Hal asked.

Kat smiled. Yeah, Hal had bad moments and could be insensitive to some important things, but deep down, he was a good person. Even that flap over the statue had come from a desire to do good.

“Sure,” she said.

“We’ll take my car,” Hal said.

Kat and Hal left, but not before Hal left Ernie a note to give to Kat’s friends, in case they were wondering.

_ * _ * _

Hal had also taken the time to buy some sodas. The two had talked a bit on the drive, with Hal explaining the backstory to his skepticism about environmentalism. That had patched up the fight, with Hal again promising to try to keep an open mind about things.

They pulled into a parking area near a hiking trail Kat had used to train Smokey. Hal popped the trunk of his Honda Passport, and pulled out a small GPS as well as two pairs of binoculars. He also pulled out some beef jerky.

“Perhaps this might help attract him,” Hal said.

“He’d probably go to one of these areas, we trained him in the forest some,” Kat said.

Hal took a look around. Then he paused.

“You said you trained him to locate dangers?” Hal asked.

“Yes, why?” Kat replied.

Hal pointed to a glint, then raised his binoculars.

“Let’s check that out,” he said.

It turned out Smokey wasn’t there, but they had found some wrecked vehicles of the California National Guard.

“I heard about this,” Hal said. “They were doing a road march to the NTC in 1992 when they came across a roadblock caused by the Landes quake. They got out to take a breather while they looked over maps, when an aftershock hit. The troops were okay, but the M113 and a couple of trucks went off the road.”

“I don’t recall that quake getting a lot of coverage,” Kat said.

“It was pretty big – more powerful than Northridge in `94 or the World Series quake of `89,” Hal said. “But it was in a less populated area. Mostly shook up desert. But it did its share of damage.”

They looked, and Hal could tell there were some weapons – and they were unsecured. Hal marked the position on the GPS.

“Some of this stuff…” Kat said.

“Let’s leave that for the pros,” Hal said. “That said, grabbing a couple of radios might not be a bad idea.”

Hal went to look for the radios and came up with a pair of handheld radios. They continued to walk, calling for the dog, when Hal saw the bad news first.

“Those robots,” Hal said.

“Not good,” Kat agreed.

“Do we follow them, or do we get help?” Hal asked.

“We have the radios, we could do both,” Kat said. Please, Hal, just give me enough room to morph, she didn’t say.

“Splitting up would be a bad idea,” Hal said. “But we can use the radios to contact help after we follow these guys. They have a frequency called GUARD.”

“121.5 megahertz – my uncle is a fighter pilot with the RAAF,” Kat said.

“There’s also 243, we can use that one. Each day, I get a verification code. Today’s is Echo Charlie Bravo, and we should hear Tango Whiskey Golf in response,” Hal said. “Just in case.”

Kat nodded.

“One other thing, Kat: Say it’s an Alpha Five situation. For some reason, that phrase got the attention of the Power Rangers,” Hal said.

“Good thinking,” Kat said. Damn it, Hal, why do you have to be so… this would be wonderful, but I don’t have Zordon’s permission to let you know I’m a Ranger.

“Okay, then, let’s see just what they are up to,” Hal said. The two of them went. Unknown to Hal, Kat had hit the transmit button on her communicator. Every word of what they had spoken had just been received by Alpha and Billy.
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Old November 15th, 2018, 07:36 PM #26
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Chapter Twelve

Kat’s frustration with Hal coming along ended within ten minutes. Upon coming across the monster, Digster, they had heard the plan, and then tried to make a getaway, only to be pursued by Cogs.

Kat had twisted her ankle while fleeing, but Hal went back for her and helped her back towards the wrecked Army vehicles. She wasn’t surprised to find that the radios hadn’t been the only thing Hal had salvaged from the wrecked vehicles – he had also retrieved a pistol and had sent several rounds at the Cogs, causing them to back off.

He had done so twice more before the gun locked back, empty. Then she heard barking. Smokey arrived and chased the Cogs up a tree. Hal quickly was able to come up with a rope for Smokey’s collar, and the two of them made their way to a hiding place.

Hal reloaded the M9, then pulled out the radio.

“Any US Air Force on this frequency, this is Dragon. I’m calling to report an Alpha Five situation, repeat, an Alpha Five situation. Authentication Echo Charlie Bravo,” he said.

_ *_ * _

In the Power Chamber, the Rangers heard that call. Alpha had started monitoring the GUARD frequency.

“Dragon, this is Sentry Robin. Repeat authentication,” a voice said over the radio.

“I repeat, Echo Charlie Bravo. I am confirming an Alpha Five situation,” Hal’s voice came in clear.

“Confirming Echo Charlie Bravo with Tango Whiskey Golf. Add the number of games a NFL team plays in its regular season to this frequency,” the controller said.

Hal did that.

“Sentry Robin, this is Dragon transmitting.”

“Dragon, state the situation,” Sentry Robin ordered.

Hal described the plot he and Kat had overheard.

“We need F-16s to blast that cave – suggest Golf Bravo Uniform Two Four bombs with Bravo Lima Uniform One Zero Niner cores,” he said. “Also confirm a wounded civilian and a SAR dog that need evacuation.”

“Roger,” the Sentry controller said.

Billy went to run a simulation on the Power Chamber’s computers. He had a bad feeling that the plan might not be completely thought through.

_ * _ * _

“What did you suggest?” Kat asked.

“Using conventional hard-target penetrators to seal the cave,” Hal said. “Should keep the lava from doing anything, and if we’re lucky, bury the Cogs and the other robots.”

“Okay, now what?” she asked.

Two beams of light arrived and were revealed to be the Yellow and Green Rangers.

“Now the Power Rangers get you and Smokey out of here,” Hal said. “Rangers, I noticed a small robot operating levers on the head of the monster. Take it out if you can.”

“The Yellow Ranger will get her to the Power Chamber to be checked out,” the Green Ranger said. “I’ll teleport you over to the base – they’re prepping your fighters.”

Before Hal could protest, the Green Ranger grabbed him and teleported him out of the way.

“Coast’s clear, Kat,” the Yellow Ranger said.

“Zeo Ranger I, Pink!” Kat called out, morphing.

_ * _ * _

Hal arrived at the base in time to get airborne. He scored two Quadrafighter kills, then was one of four F-16s to drop their bombs on the cave, sealing it off.

On the ground, the Power Rangers used the Zeo Blaster to take out Digster after the Red Zeo Ranger sliced the mini-robot on Digster’s head in two.

Hal finished the debriefings to head to the Youth Center. Kat wasn’t there yet, and he ended up waiting an hour and a half before she arrived. She was still limping. Hal helped her to a chair, and they split a pizza and some drinks. Smokey had been returned to Lieutenant Stone by the Power Rangers, and all was well.

Ernie watched, with a little smile. Hal had always been a good kid, but underneath, he could tell there was fury stirring underneath an effort to stay pleasant. Kat had been hurt – he’d heard that they’d had a close call with some Cogs, but that Hal had found a way to warn the Air Force and the Power Rangers. He’d had no clue he’d been going out with one, Ernie realized.

That wasn’t unexpected. It hadn’t taken long for him to figure out who they were – and then there had been that talk after the Halloween party three years ago when Alpha Five had crashed the costume party. At the time Ernie had thought that he’d awarded first place to a little boy. But that some of the kids he knew were Power Rangers – no shock.

He’d heard the occasional beeps on their watches. He’d even seen some teleport at times. Even though he’d been an infantryman, he soon had a rough idea of who they were. That had changed when Alpha had come back after the party. He’d found himself teleported to their Command Center, and he was asked to keep their identities secret. He’d had no problems with doing that, and he’d become some of the few in Angel Grove who were aware of the Rangers’ secret.

Since then, he’d kept an eye on things, he’d put their orders on the house (albeit they sometimes still paid), and he had a means to contact Alpha and Zordon. As he closed up the Youth Center for the night, he went to a phone.

“Yeah, hey Alpha, we gotta talk.”

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Old December 7th, 2018, 03:35 PM #27
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Lol nice twist in the end with Ernie. Can't wait to see where this goes.
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Old December 9th, 2018, 11:36 PM #28
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Chapter Thirteen

Ernie had been teleported to the Power Chamber.

“Nice digs,” he said.

“You said we needed to talk,” Zordon said.

“Yeah, we do. Does Hal know Kat’s a Power Ranger?” Ernie asked.

“No,” Zordon said. “Katherine has been debating when to make that revelation.”

“Well, if I were to give her advice, I’d suggest she tell him soon,” Ernie said. “Hal’s furious about this last monster. Kat got hurt.”

“We are aware of her injury,” Alpha said. “She should be okay soon.”

“That’s not the point,” Ernie said. “You probably know that Hal’s with the Air Force…”

“We do, and we are aware of some of the ramifications, as is Kat. She already spent some time with us discussing the possibility of making that revelation,” Zordon said. “We are going to be doing a check into Hal’s background to determine if we should allow her to make that revelation.”

“That’s pretty smart of her,” Ernie said. “I think she really likes him, but she’s struggling with the fact that he is quite protective.”

“That is a very accurate observation,” Zordon said.

“Look, one of the things I can do is keep an eye on them – and let you know if things are getting to them. Now, let's get to that other item Alpha mentioned. What would you like to know about Hal?” Ernie said.

_ * _ * _

Trini waved Kat over. The Australian teen smiled and sat down with Trini.

“You said you needed some advice,” Trini said.

“Yes. You know I’m dating Hal,” Kat said. Trini nodded, keeping her face neutral. “Well, he didn’t know I’m a Power Ranger when the Tengas attacked or during that recent monster attack, and he still doesn’t know. And twice, he has put himself on the line to defend me.”

“Not knowing you’re the Pink Ranger,” Trini said. “I was thinking about how to navigate that when I was interested in Richie.”

“Who?” Kat asked.

“He was a guy who moved here shortly before the World Teen Summit,” Trini said. “Civilian, not a Ranger.”

“Hal’s technically not a civilian,” Kat said.

“What do you mean?” Trini asked. Then it dawned on her. “The Air Force jets?”

“Hal’s been in one, and he’s been in dogfights,” Kat said. “I can deal with that.”

“But there is a problem,” Trini said.

“He doesn’t seem to feel guilty about killing that Tenga. Or for the fact he was willing to use lethal force on Prince Sprocket,” Kat said. “The Tenga, I can understand as heat of the moment, but Sprocket’s still a child.”

“I did ask him about it. With the Tengas, he viewed it as, and I quote, ‘one of the least tragic outcomes,’ end quote,” Trini said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he was willing to take on the Machine Empire and use that level of force if he thought you were at risk.”

“Least tragic?” Kat asked. “Makes sense, if you figure me or my friends getting hurt – or worse – was the alternative. And Sprocket was giving orders to the Cogs.”

“So Hal presumed Sprocket was in command, and therefore was a legitimate target,” Trini said, frowning.

“Or, he was standing next to legitimate combatants,” Kat said.

“Look, if I had still been a Power Ranger while going out with Richie, I would probably have told him at some point – probably if I felt the relationship was a serious one,” Trini said. “Definitely before…”

“I get the drift,” Kat said, smiling. “I’m just not sure how serious I should let the relationship become. On the one hand, I think there is very little doubt as to where I stand or how Hal feels about me.”

“That is quite true,” Trini said. “Look, Hal is not a bad guy, my philosophical and political disagreements are just that. The real question is…”

“Can I live with myself if he gets hurt trying to protect me? Can I deal with the fact he can switch from a very kind, caring person to someone who can take out a Tenga with no real regrets?” Kat asked. “Can I handle the fact that my duties as a Power Ranger may put me between him and Sprocket?”

“Those are the questions you have to come up with the answers to,” Trini admitted. “Ernie has always been a good sounding board for such things. I wonder if he also touches base with Zordon.”

Kat took a look at the proprietor of the Angel Grove Youth Center.

“I think he is as clueless as the rest of Angel Grove is about who the Power Rangers are,” Kat said.

_ * _ * _

“That is pretty far afield,” Hal said. “Putties and Tengas never really were seen outside Angel Grove.”

He handed the photo back.

“Yet we have Cogs in Vietnam,” Colonel Martin said, frowning.

“Vietnamese troops did take out about a dozen of them… the survivors fled,” General Norquist said.

“Yet there are two more reports,” Wally said. “They’re looking for something.”

“Where in Vietnam were the Cogs again?” Martin asked.

General Norquist looked over the report from the United States military attache to Vietnam. It was about five pages.

“Here it is. The Hai Dong rail yards,” he said.

“Wait… that’s familiar,” Hal said. “Just can’t place it…”

“What would they be looking for in a Vietnamese rail yard?” Colonel Martin asked.

“Not what,” Hal said. “Who.”

The confused looks of the other faces lasted for a minute, then the recognition dawn on General Norquist’s face.

“Dear God,” he said. “You don’t think they’re…”

“They're looking for the loser of the only dogfight in which the two top aces of countries at war went head-to-head,” Hal said. "They're looking for Colonel Tomb."

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Old December 16th, 2018, 12:41 PM #29
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Very nice. Can't wait to see what's next!
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Old January 14th, 2019, 09:09 AM #30
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BrownRangerKev wrote: View Post

Very nice. Can't wait to see what's next!
Thanks! Been busy lately, but hope to have another chapter up.
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Old January 30th, 2019, 12:15 PM #31
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Chapter 14

Hal, Colonel Martin, and General Norquist had no idea that their conversation was being heard in the Power Chamber. Alpha and Billy had teleported listening devices into a number of areas to get an idea what the Air Force was up to.

One had been the rooms used for debriefing. That meant Billy, Alpha, and the Rangers were hearing every word of that conversation.

“So, they’re also aware of the Cogs in Vietnam,” Billy said. “And, while we were guessing, they managed to figure out why.”

“Who’s Colonel Tomb?” Rocky asked.

“Obviously an ace pilot from the Vietnam War,” Kat said.

“A dead ace pilot, if they’re checking crash sites,” Tommy mused.

“If they get this Colonel Tomb… they could tear through the Air Force like a hot knife through butter,” Adam said.

“Or maybe not,” Billy said. “The United States military has done markedly better against the Quadrafighters than I’d expect.”

“Losses?” Kat asked.

“Some, but non-enhanced planes. The test unit – well, let’s be honest, the Air Force’s commitment to the defense of Angel Grove – has not had any. Other military units have had losses, but usually the Machine Empire is on the wrong end of a kill ratio of 17 to 1,” Billy said.

“That’s good,” Tanya said.

“It is impressive,” Tommy agreed. “Seems like they can handle themselves on that angle. But this Tomb, if the Machine Empire gets him, could change that.”

Kat nodded… not quite trusting herself just yet as she was listening to the conversation.

“So, if they do make a Colonel Tomb-esque monster, what then?” Martin asked.

“Maybe we dangle a chance for revenge in front of it,” Hal said. “Paint up an F-16 in VF-96 markings…”

“That’s one hell of a bulls-eye to order someone to put on their chest,” General Norquist said.

“No orders necessary, sir,” Hal said. “My idea…”

“No,” Kat whispered to herself. She hoped none of the other Rangers heard that… but from the look that Billy gave her, it was obvious she’d reacted with shock.

“I figure I should be the guinea pig,” Hal finished.

She glanced to see the other Rangers all looking at her. Rocky was clearly unsure of how to react. Tanya and Adam were both offering sympathy. Tommy, though, was in thought. She was in a tough spot – and she knew it. So did the other rangers. She couldn’t head Hal off without revealing she was a Power Ranger.

“You sure?” Martin asked.

“I figure I’ve got the best shot – and I have the highest kill totals. I figure I know what I’m doing,” Hal said. “Besides, I can always distract the guy and someone else can shoot him in the back.”

Kat heard a chuckle, and looked at Rocky, who looked a little sheepish.

“It’s a pragmatic approach,” he said.

Kat flashed back to that fight with the Tengas. Hal had gone lethal from moment one in that fight – catching the Tengas by surprise. That first Tenga was dead on arrival, and what would he have done if the Rangers had arrived a minute or two later?

“Something on your mind?” Tanya asked.

“What Hal just said… if we’d been a minute or two later…” Kat replied, not wanting to go on.

“You think he’d have killed the Tenga he had in the chokehold?” Adam asked.

Kat nodded.

“At the same time… stopping that Tomb monster…” she said.

“Perhaps we should be a little more active in coordinating,” Tommy said. “We’ve put it off, largely due to Delphine’s concerns about the fact the military has tactical nukes cocked and locked.”

“They don’t want to use the nukes,” Kat said. “Hal told the Pink Ranger he was glad we called them off when he was making that run at the Gear Ship.”

“That would seem like a logical course of action,” Billy said. “But it’s not as if the Rangers could just walk up to the front gate.”

“Maybe it is as simple as that,” Rocky said.

“Maybe I can find out,” Kat said. After all, I am dating one of the pilots, she didn’t say. She didn’t have to.

“Might be an interesting hypothetical to pose to Hal,” Billy mused. “Unless you think it might be better for me to…”

“The problem is,” Kat said. “He hasn’t said as much to you about what he does. He’s told me more. If anything, his guard will be lower around me.”

Dear God, she thought, what am I doing to Hal? What am I doing to myself? Will he ever forgive me for spying on him for all intents and purposes?

She did have a date with Hal tomorrow at the Youth Center, and while she looked forward to seeing him, she was hating the fact that she was a Power Ranger.
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Old January 30th, 2019, 02:09 PM #32
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Nice stuff. Can't wait to see how this date goes!
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Old February 11th, 2019, 09:21 PM #33
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Chapter 15

The most advanced plane in the United States Air Force inventory had just finished a test flight, and Hal Elliot was wondering if it would ever be combat ready. The plane was truly hard to fly. Hal was doing better than the other pilots.

The modified B-1B Lancer literally had parts of the old Thunderzords grafted into it. There was a component from the Firebird Thunderzord that could send out a whirlwind of energy. Components from the Tigerzord were also in the plane, including a slot for something in the cockpit.

But ThunderLancer was likely to be a dead end.

“I don’t know if I can fight in this thing. It’s hard to keep it flying,” Hal said.

“Well, the Army’s having trouble merging the Copperhead and the W48 shells,” Martin said. “We’re doing better integrating the Genie warheads into the Maverick missile and Paveway kits onto the B61 Mod 10, and the Navy’s making a nuclear Sparrow, but the yields are too high, unless we put the W48 into those, and that’s a mess.”

“But the Rangers called us off when we prepared to use Genies, and those are only one-twelfth the yield of the Hiroshima bomb,” Hal said. “I’m glad they did. Don’t take it the wrong way, sir, just…”

“You’re not the only one who is not relishing the idea of using nukes,” Martin said. “We’ll see if we can’t revert some stuff. But if we can’t get ThunderLancer to work, then we’re left with the crappy nuclear option.”

“Yeah, and that would just make our day,” Hal said. “We have no clue how the Rangers would take that. They could be fine with it, or they could go at us.”

Frustrated with the situation, Hal made his way to his locker. He checked his watch – and was running a little late for his date with Kat.

“Gotta hurry,” he said to himself. He got everything, including the coin he’d found while on a hike the day before he’d ended up registering for classes at Angel Grove High School. It was odd… looked like it was gold, but it also had a Godzilla footprint on it. It was kind of cute, he thought. Probably some collector’s item from a sci-fi convention near a ruined cabin.

It had become a good luck charm. He’d met Kat the next day, and he had to admit, he was happier around her than he was at other times.

-

When Kat arrived at the Youth Center, Hal wasn’t there – and he usually was.

“Kat, Hal called, and said he was running a little late,” Ernie said.

“Thanks, Ernie,” Kat said.

It was decent of Hal to let her know that, and it added to her guilt. But at the same time, if the Machine Empire did get that ace pilot… Hal would be at risk. And what could that ace pilot do to a Zord?

“Five bucks for your thoughts?”

Kat turned to see Hal and smiled.

“Big spender,” she said as Hal kissed her cheek.

“Sorry I ran late – there was some problems with a prototype,” Hal said.

“Can you tell me about it?” Kat asked.

“Not really,” Hal said. “How was your day?”

I found out my boyfriend’s just volunteered to take on a Machine Empire monster, Kat didn’t say.

“Having some problems with the civics homework on the Bill of Rights. I just can’t figure out the presentation for what I got assigned,” she said. That was the truth, she told herself, albeit not the real reason I’m distracted.

“Which one?” Hal asked. Kat told him.

“Oh, that’s a doozy. I think I can help,” Hal said. They talked about that for about five to ten minutes. She bristled a little at some of his comments, but Hal placed some of the items in historical context. When that was done, Kat chose to switch gears.

“So, what is that big plane they have parked at Angel Grove airport?” Kat asked.

“It’s a B-1 Lancer,” Hal said. “Very powerful, but it requires a lot of maintenance.” Especially when we’ve tried to graft far more Thunderzord parts in it than we did with the F-15s and F-16s, he didn’t say.

“Because it’s so complex? Or is that only something you could tell a Power Ranger?” Kat asked, partially joking.

“Well, you got both,” Hal said with a smile.

“So, if the Power Rangers teleported to the base… you’d just give them a tour?” Kat asked, shocked. That was genuine.

“Pretty much,” Hal said. “They don’t have to sneak around. We think one of those Alien Rangers was poking around in a sensitive space. It could have gone south very quickly.”

“How?” Kat said.

“It was a special weapons…” Hal caught himself. Damn it, you probably violated security, he told himself.

“Special weapons?” Kat asked.

“Can’t really say more,” Hal said.

“Fair enough,” Kat said, in any case, she didn’t need to. The fact of the matter was, Rocky had been right about how simple the solution was. But there had been one other admission – Corcus had probably been around the nukes, and some touchy guard could have opened fire on him. That did not make Kat very happy with the Alien Rangers. She was going to have some harsh words for Delphine.

“So, any plans this weekend?”

“I was thinking about a hike,” Hal said. “Would you like to join me?”

“Sure,” Kat said with a smile.

“Then it’s a date,” Hal said.

They chatted for another twenty minutes before Kat had to get ready for the ballet class she was starting at the Youth Center. She kissed Hal as he left, with a promise to call that night.

Had it really been that simple all along? She asked herself again. She cleared her head – it wouldn’t do to take her frustrations out on her students.
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Old February 23rd, 2019, 10:16 PM #34
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Chapter 16

“It really was as simple as Rocky suggested,” Kat said, concluding her report to Zordon, Billy, and Tommy. “At least, that is my impression from what Hal said.”

“Any chance it will convince Delphine?” Tommy asked.

“At this point, I say we make contact – doing this Delphine’s way could make things worse. Hal let slip that the Air Force suspected that one of the Alien Rangers poked around their special weapons bunkers,” Kat said. “He said it could have gone very bad.”

“As in, some guard gets startled and…”

“Opens fire,” Kat said, interrupting Billy. “Zordon, we need to have the meeting sooner rather than later. And if Delphine wants to give you any crap, I’ll kick her Aquitian ass so hard the stick she has jammed up it will come flying out her mouth.”

“You seem very angry, Katherine,” Zordon said.

“I am, Zordon. Hal has been putting his life on the line – not just for Angel Grove, or the world, but for me. On two occasions, he has taken on the threats we face without powers – and the only way they’d get to me was to go through him. We’ve treated him – and others taking those risks – as an annoyance, or worse. And in order to do my duty as a Power Ranger, I’ve had to lie to him. So, yeah, I think I am entitled to feel very furious about this situation,” Kat said.

“You have reasons to feel that way, Kat,” Billy said. “I think it’s time to put our collective foot down with Delphine and the Alien Rangers.”

“Yeah, at the very least, we need to compare notes with the Air Force on those Cogs in Vietnam,” Tommy said.

“I concur with Tommy and Billy,” Zordon said. “I have observed Hal’s character. He has acted with great courage and honor. Katherine, you have carried an immense burden – keeping the secret of your identity as a Ranger from him. You need not carry that any more. When you feel the time is right, you may tell Hal.”

“I wholeheartedly concur with Zordon’s assessment,” Billy added. “Tommy and I have both spoken with Zordon on this.”

Katherine smiled. Just getting the permission was lifting a burden from her shoulders. It had told her two things: One, she had earned the trust of Zordon to make such a momentous decision. The revelation of the secret had not been something done lightly in the past. Billy had told her how Rocky, Adam, and Aisha had discovered he was a Ranger. More importantly, it told her that Zordon, Tommy, and Billy trusted Hal with that secret.

“Thank you, Zordon,” she said, wiping a tear from her eye. “Billy, Tommy, thank you both as well. It can’t have been easy.”

“Kat, you’ve earned the right to tell Hal as much as he has earned the right to know,” Billy said. “You made very hard decisions – and you made the selfless decision every time.”

“And Hal… I don’t know if I would have taken on three Tengas by myself without powers,” Tommy said. “Or face down those Cogs. He’s got a lot of courage, and he makes you happy, Kat.”

“He does,” Kat said. “So, when do we drop the hammer on Delphine?”

“Saturday,” Tommy said.

Kat sighed.

“And I have a date with Hal that day… hiking,” Kat said. “But it might be better not to. We do need to keep relations with them reasonably cordial.”

“I can see that argument,” Billy said, “But I think that Delphine does need to gain comprehension of the ramifications of the potential adverse interactions that her course of action has caused. In addition, her obstinance about dealing with American military operations caused a fair bit of emotional turmoil for you as well.”

“Yeah,” Tommy said. “I think we all ought to tell them.”

“Okay,” Kat said. “I can try to…”

“Maybe we can meet with Delphine on Friday,” Billy said.

“Hal said they had a lot of work to do this week,” Kat said. “So, I think Friday will work better. He said he had some refresher training.”

“Sounds like a plan… and working around Kat’s schedule would help send Delphine a message as well.”

“Okay,” Kat said, smiling. “We have a plan.”

_ * _ * _

“Okay, the powered flight suit is not working. It blows out the fuse,” Hal said. “We get a max of…”

He looked at the stopwatch.

“Seventy-nine point six three seconds before the latest fuse blew. That’s enough time to take off and maybe crash outside the limits of Angel Grove.”

He set the stopwatch down, and then looked over the other plans.

"That voice modulator making you sound like Optimus Prime... maybe we need to cut that out," Wally said.

"We may need to disguise the identity. There's a reason the Power Rangers do," Hal said. "Of course that's all academic if we can't get this working."

“The good news is at least the ThunderOntos, ThunderMLRS, ThunderAbrams, and ThunderAvenger are working,” Wally said. “That gives some ground punch.”

“How did they pick the Ontos?” Hal said, shaking his head. “Like the firepower for the first volley, but reloading under fire’s gonna be a…”

“I get it. Glad we’re in F-16s,” Wally said. “So, what will you do with the Falconzord toy you found while on the survival refresher?”

Hal walked over and picked up the small representation of the Falconzord. “Looks like some electronic toy. Maybe I’ll take it apart – use that for practice on some of those components.”

He idly pressed a button. A couple of lights flashed.

“I’ll start on that tomorrow,” he said.

_ * _ * _

In a secret hangar, the Falconzord had been at rest. Its eyes glowed briefly, and it lifted its head. Then it gave one loud screech.

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Old March 3rd, 2019, 09:21 AM #35
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Lol very good stuff. I wonder how Hal's military duties will conflict with Kat's ranger duties. Feels like it's building up to something big!
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Old March 22nd, 2019, 05:16 AM #36
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Chapter 17

It had been a tense two-hour meeting. Things had gotten very heated at times… but it had been for the better. Kat was drained, and just sat outside in a secluded area. She heard a teleport behind her and turned to see one of the last beings she wanted to see.

Kat bit back an angry comment when she saw the White Alien Ranger’s face. She then realized that Delphine was not in a good mental place.

“I’m sorry I was so harsh,” Kat said.

“I had no idea that my course of action hindered addressing some of the concerns we all share,” Delphine said. “Not to mention the toll it put on you. I am very sorry.”

“You were only advocating what you thought the right decision was,” Kat said. “Look, Hal’s in the mix on this…”

“And he could very well be facing one of Mondo’s monsters,” Delphine said.

“Yes,” Kat said. “He’s…”

“Zordon and Alpha showed us what he did when those Tengas attacked… and when you were looking for Smokey. He has incredible courage to do what he did both times,” Delphine said. “Even if it was…”

“Brutal?” Kat asked.

Delphine nodded.

“Well, I do have to temper that. I haven’t told Hal I’m a Power Ranger… nor does he know what Rita did to me. And if I do tell him…”

“You think he will seek revenge?” Delphine asked.

Kat nodded.

“He was willing to take shots at Spocket,” she said. “He’s evil, but still just a child. Rita… when he finds out…” She sighed.

“I felt a burden because I had to keep my identity as the Pink Ranger secret, and had to lie to him. Now that I can tell him the truth, something I wanted to be able to do so much… Now, I find myself wondering what will happen,” she said.

“You will, unfortunately, only find out when you tell him,” Delphine said. “But if Zordon and Alpha have given you that permission – they must know he is ultimately on the side of good.”

“True,” Kat said. “And much of the problems come from the fact he didn’t know I’m the Pink Ranger. So, I have to overcome the fact that I kept things from him. There may well be a loss of trust in me on his part, and I can’t blame him for that.”

“He kept secrets, too,” Delphine said. “I think he will understand. From what Tommy said, Hal seems quite taken with you.”

Kat blushed a little.

“I knew for sure when he put himself between those Tengas and me,” she said. “In one sense, the doubts left me. But another set emerged at the same time.”

“Very fascinating,” Delphine said. “How could your doubts go away and yet remain?”

Okay, time to explain romance on Earth to an Alien Ranger, Kat told herself.

* _ * _ *

“Okay, this is far more advanced than any toy,” Hal said. He’d been looking at the opened mini-Falconzord for six minutes. The wiring and technology was beyond anything he had seen.

“I have no clue where to even begin,” he went on.

“Where did you find it?” Wally asked.

“About here,” Hal said, pointing to the map. “About two miles from this ridge.”

“We did some checking – there were some seismic readings pointing to a big blast around the time the old team of Power Rangers vanished, and we got this new one,” Wally said. “And it was somewhere on the ridge.”

“Okay, so we have a possible piece of Power Rangers tech here,” Hal said. “First thing we do is tell Colonel Martin, who will probably tell General Norquist.”

“Could that have been the old team’s base?” Wally asked.

“Might be worth checking out,” Hal said. “We might find more stuff.”

“Then what?” Wally asked.

“We wait. One thing for sure, we tell them we have this,” Hal said. “It could get us our own Zord, it could earn good will.”

“Think it could make the ThunderLancer easier to control?” Wally asked.

“We can try,” Hal said. It wasn’t like they had much to lose. “Maybe some other stuff as well. Maybe it’s a roadmap to integrate the tech.”

“Let’s tell the colonel and general,” Wally said.

* _ * _ *

Some distance away, Dex Stewart sighed. This was not good news, he told himself. The Power Rangers had come to Edenoi and had rendered assistance. Now, he was coming to do the same, especially after he’d seen the team vanish.

Then, there had been the news reports. Somehow, technology from the old team as in the hands of the United States military. He paused… maybe he should try to contact Zordon. Maybe he would know.

But if the Power Rangers were gone… perhaps Zordon was as well? If so, then he’d have to take over. Part of that would be ensuring that the Miranoi Accords were not violated, and there were nuclear weapons on this base.

“What do we do now?” Combat Chopper asked.

“I’m not sure yet,” Dex said. “I think we try to contact Zordon or the Power Rangers. Maybe they know what is going on, maybe they don’t. We may have to take this down.”

“I don’t like it,” Chopper said.

“I don’t either,” Dex replied. “But we may have no choice.”
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Old April 6th, 2019, 11:00 AM #37
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Nice stuff. I wonder what this is building towards..
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Old April 7th, 2019, 01:01 PM #38
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Chapter 18

Dex rode the Combat Chopper around Angel Grove, then pulled into a secluded spot at the Angel Grove Youth Center. He entered the center, looking around. He noted a few couples – some studying for school… some more interested in studying each other.

He then noticed a familiar face among the couples… Adam. Maybe some of the Rangers had survived. He made his way over… and Adam soon recognized him.

“Dex!” he said, inviting him to take a seat.

“Adam, it is good to see you,” he said. He didn’t recognize the two teenage girls with Adam…

“Good to see you, too, Dex. Kat and Tanya are both friends of Alpha,” Adam said. Dex caught the meaning right away.

“So, what brings you here?” Kat asked.

“When I heard about the Machine Empire, I was worried. But when I came around here, the Combat Chopper picked up readings from your technology… in the hands of the-”

“United States Air Force,” Kat said.

“So, you know?” Dex asked.

“Yeah, we’re planning to talk it over with them,” Adam said. “Had to convince the Alien Rangers to go along.”

“Maybe you could join in,” Kat suggested. “It would probably set the Air Force – and the rest of the military – at ease.”

“Provided we make sure they comply with the Miranoi Accords,” Dex said.

There were some awkward glances.

“You did tell them about the Miranoi Accords, didn’t you?”

The glances continued.

* _ * _ *

“Good news and bad news,” Hal said, setting down his helmet after the latest simulation.

“The bad news?” Wally asked.

“We still crash,” Hal said.

“The good news?”

“We got it up to seven minutes with that mini Falconzord,” Hal said.

“That is an improvement,” Wally said.

“Something’s missing,” Hal said. “It’s not something we can replicate right away… but it’s like we have a few more pieces of the map.”

Wally looked at the two F-16s on ground alert. Each had a pair of AIR-2A Genie rockets and a single B61 Mod 10 device – the latter equipped with a Paveway III kit. It seemed wrong in so many ways. Yet, neither of them could think of a better alternative that was readily available than the low-yield nukes.

“Will we get there in time to avoid a for-real scramble?” Wally asked. “One where we don’t get called off – or have to disregard one of their wave-offs?”

Hal shrugged. Then his watch beeped.

“I don’t know,” he said.

“Date with Kat?” Wally asked.

“Yeah, we were supposed to work on a civics project,” Hal said.

* _ * _ *

At the Power Chamber, Dex was filled in on the planned meeting with the Air Force and the events. That took the heir to the throne of Edenoi by surprise.

“So, you didn’t know they had acquired and integrated tech until they tried fighting the Machine Empire?” he asked.

“That is accurate,” Billy said.

“The only problem I see is that we need to make sure they stay within the boundaries of the Miranoi Accords. King Lexian sent me here from Leawood to try and find you to pass that information on,” Dex said. “If the United States military does not withdraw their nuclear-equipped forces, I will have to return to Edenoi.”

“Are you sure about that?” Tommy asked.

“Tommy, my grandfather was very clear on that point. He also directed me to take measures to ensure that your technology did not fall into unworthy hands should the United States cross the nuclear threshold,” Dex explained.

“And the unworthiness would be proven by the use of nuclear weapons,” Kat said. “No matter what provocation came from Mondo and Machina.”

“Correct,” Dex said. “My grandfather’s left no room for discussion on this. I did get named as Edenoi’s official ambassador to Earth, though, so I don’t mind the promotion.”

“What does that mean?” Tanya asked.

“It means my words will carry the full weight of Edenoi’s voice in these negotiations,” Dex said. “I do bear some good news. We were able to contact Triforia for assistance in defending Earth from the Machine Empire.”

“What does that do?” Adam asked.

“The Triforians are preparing Pyramidas to arrive, and the Gold Ranger will have the Super Zeo Crystals as well. That will greatly bolster your forces,” Dex said.

“The Super Zeo Crystals – I feared they were lost,” Zordon said.

“There is help available,” Dex said. “But we must ensure the American military adheres to the Miranoi Accords.”

“We’re supposed to get them to adhere to a treaty they never knew about, and which requires them to give up their best option to resist if we fall?” Rocky asked, incredulously. “That’s going to go well.”

“We can’t look the other way if they violate the Miranoi Accords,” Dex said.

“They don’t know about the accords,” Rocky said. “We drop that on them, they’re going to then ask if we have a viable replacement for them.”

“A technology transfer, in other words,” Adam interjected.

“I’d probably have to urge you not do so, at least on my grandfather’s behalf,” Dex admitted.

“Then they will point out they did not sign the Miranoi Accords,” Kat explained. “They won’t feel bound by them.”

She checked her watch.

“Oh, no, I’m late,” she said.

“That civics project?” Tommy asked.

Kat nodded.

“My apologies for delaying you on the homework,” Dex said.

“And date,” Rocky said.

“Really?” Dex asked.

Kat nodded. “He’s at Angel Grove part time, and he’s got a vo-tech arrangement,” she said.

“What does he do?” Dex asked.

“He’s a test pilot,” Kat said. “For the Air Force.”

She teleported away, leaving the heir to the throne of Edenoi stunned.

“How did that happen?” he asked Tommy. “How did you let that happen?” he asked Zordon.
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