Cruger announces the resurgance of the Troobian army and assigns his rangers--Sky will stay home and interrogate Morgana, while Bridge leads the others as field commanders on the front lines. But B...
"I'd say you're a better orange ranger than you are a lightball player, Boom."
"Yeah, well, forgive me for trying!"
"Thanks for filling in on such short notice," Syd soothed, hugging the gadget tester. "You're my hero."
"I'm wondering why Bridge isn't here though. Usually by this time he's having breakfast."
Z wiggled her fingers in front of her face and muttered "Buttery toast."
"Bridge isn't doing too well right now," Sky informed, looking out the window. "He had some kind of nightmare and a fever."
Boom cocked his head to the side. "What kind of nightmare?"
"Something about yellow water and swimming."
"Oh. I was gonna say, if it was something serious, you might want to look into it." Boom cleared his throat. "Right before A-squad went AWOL, he fell asleep while we were upgrading the toaster... Woke up screaming, with a fever, muttering about a yellow light. But then he went back to sleep and returned to normal."
"You think this is something then?" Sky asked.
"Bridge is pretty in tune with that sort of thing," Z considered. "He's probably onto something. Things are going to happen."
"Do you think Jack's going to come back?" Syd pondered, her blue eyes lighting up.
"If he does, he'd better not take my commission," Sky muttered.
"I don't think Jack is ever coming back unless there's no other choice." Z offered, picking a piece of lint off Sky's shoulder. "But if he did, I have a feeling he'd take the Green spot. You earned what you have."
The door swung open, and Bridge wandered in. His attire was oddly informal-a simple pair of blue breakaway pants and an SPD t-shirt. He looked tired and pale... but oddly aware.
"Hey Bridge," they greeted. He nodded in response and made his way to the toaster.
"How're you feeling, buddy?"
"Tired. I dreamed we were on a boat and I had a bird around my neck." Bridge put in a slice of toast.
"Bird on your neck? What the hell is that?" Sky asked.
"Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner," Syd informed.
"Whoah, you read?" the red ranger quipped.
"Very funny. My parents made me read it. It's about these guys who are lost out at sea, and one of them shoots a bird called an albatross. Then they get even more lost and they make the guy wear the bird around his neck. And everyone dies but the guy, and he has to like, pray to get home."
"Trippy." Bridge muttered, grabbing the butter.
"It's funny that'd you'd dream of a book you've never read."
"Lots of funny things have happened latel-"
The door slid open again, and Commander Cruger stepped in. The blue dog looked over the assembled rangers. "Rangers, Boom... Sit down."
Bridge grabbed his toast from the toaster and took a seat; Syd, Boom, and Sky immediately sat. Z, however, remained standing, "Sir, what's going on?"
"I have some very, very bad news."
The yellow ranger sat next to Sky.
"Kat is off-duty, and I'm going to brief her on this soon... but I have very, bad news." Cruger looked down. "We failed."
"What?" Bridge asked, leaning forward.
"What appears to be the Troobian army has been spotted in sector nine. They destroyed the planet of Aquitar."
"WHAT?" the rangers demanded.
"Aquitar? That's where Billy Cranston, the original Blue ranger, lives!" Bridge exclaimed, his eyes tearing up.
"He's believed to be among the casualties. The only Aquitian survivors are five students at various SPD academies."
"That's terrible!" Bridge cried, his eyes tearing up. "Billy... he was my hero... And all those people... Is that why I dreamed I was drowning?"
"Could be. Kat has already informed me of your situation. But there's more to this than meets the eye." Cruger sat down.
"I thought we destroyed the Troobian Army," Sky mused.
"And we locked Emperor Grumm away." Syd noted.
Cruger put his head in his hands. "I was going to send a team to interrogate him at Newtech Prison, but when they went to summon him from his containment card, they found him dead inside it."
"Beheaded. A very clean slice across the neck. Morgana heard the whole thing from her cell, although no one believed her until it was far too late."
"I thought she was Mora?" the blue ranger asked.
"No, she reverted when she was pulled from the containment card." Cruger looked up. His eyes watered slightly as he spoke, and he let out a short growl before forming his words. "General Fowler has asked me to send my B-squad in as a task force. One of you is to interrogate Morgana for the information she has, as soon as the Prison medics clear her for visits. Z, Syd,, along with a new Green ranger, you will be sent to Sector 9 to lead SPD troops against the Troobian Army as field commanders. In turn, the three of you will answer to Bridge, who, in the absence of Sky, is your commanding officer."
"Are you sure that's a good idea, sir?" Sky demanded.
"Yeah, I'm not exactly leadership material," Bridge agreed.
"I'm certain of my decision. While I value your psychic powers, Bridge, I suspect they'll be useless against Morgana. We need someone who can be the 'bad cop,' and the only person I have who can pull that off effectively is Sky. He's our best interrogator and profiler. Your psychic powers will be of better use defending SPD directly. The rest of you have a week until you move out. That's as long as it will take for them to mobilize and army, and I... pulled some strings." Cruger smirked.
"So what shall we do, sir?" asked the red ranger.
"Sky, Morgana will be cleared sometime around six. You have the rest of the day to prepare. The rest of you, start packing. And Bridge... take it easy." Curger stood up and put a paw on the blue ranger's shoulder. "We need you."
The commander walked out, and the rangers exchanged looks.
Jack Landors laughed as the red ranger approached him, piles of blue clothing in hand. It had been a few weeks since he had seen Sky Tate, but the man had changed considerably. The uniform was the same, of course, but the face was haggard-tired, pale, weak. "You betcha."
"I hear you had a little sleepover with Bridge last night."
"No, Bridge attempted to have a little sleepover with me, and then I had a little sleepover with Z."
"She's my sister, man. You've been warned."
Sky sat down the clothing and hugged his former commanding officer. Jack couldn't help but notice a tension in his embrace, a nervousness and an anger. But he expected this. "What'd Cruger do this time?"
The red ranger sat, and his predecessor followed suit. The former sighed. "It's not Commander Cruger. The Troobians are back."
"They blew up Aquitar."
"GRUM!" Jack roared. "Let me at him, I'll put him down for good!"
"Someone got to him first. Used a sword."
"WHAT?" Landors felt his face pale. Someone killed Grumm? The Troobians were back? So someone else was in charge of them. But someone killed Grumm? With a sword?"
"I have a feeling you're going to be a suspect, Jack," Sky noted. "You're a killer swordsman, you have a grudge, and you're a 'loose canon.' Thought you could use a heads up."
"But you didn't come here to warn me about it, man. You're worried about something."
"Bridge stormed into my room with a vision and a fever."
Jack kicked his feet up. "Yeah, so? He has visions all the time."
"But not fevers. I thinks something's effecting him on a really deep level. And that kinda scares me."
"It's Bridge. You should be scared."
"He's going to be field commanding SPD's troops against the Troobians."
"WHAT?" Jack stood up. "Bridge, commanding troops?"
"He even said he wasn't a good leader, but since he's next in command after me, and I'm being held here to interrogate Morgana, he's in charge. And Commander Kruger's been unusually nice to him ever since we beat Omni. Something about this isn't right."
"You're telling me. What's Bridge think of it?"
"He's too scrambled right now to come up with much of anything." Sky put his head in his hands, sighing. "I think more is going on here than he's telling us. I mean, last night he ran to my room and buried his face in my shoulder. He doesn't... he doesn't touch people, Jack. Something's got him spooked."
"Maybe I should pay SPD a visit. The five of us together... we can figure out anything."
"I don't know if that's a good idea." Sky looked up at Jack. "Cruger's still got it in for you, I think. The other day I mentioned wondering what you would have done and he just growled."
"What's Kat think of all this?"
"She's not in the base... she's out doing personal stuff. Cruger's supposed to brief her later."
"Personal stuff?" Jack laughed, "Not to be an ass or anything, but Kat doesn't have a life."
"Not anymore." Sky muttered, smirking.
"You noticed too?" Jack cocked his head to the side
"Truth about cats and dogs." Sky shook his head. "They must have been breaking so many regulations..."
"They didn't do it, man," Jack said. "No way he'd be that uptight if he'd been getting some pussy."
The two men began to laugh, and continued to do so for several hours.
Kat stretched out under the tree, groaning. Somehow there had been no rest since the destruction of Omni. She had had plenty of vacation time... She had done many creative projects that she wanted to do... Life should have been great... But she felt more stressed than she had before. The ranger team was incomplete, and Aisynia.... She hissed at the thought of the woman. She was happy for the Commander, she really was... but his wife was not the virtuous woman that he had tearfully described to Kat over Alandrian Mead the night that Bridge was kidnapped, not the loving teacher he had described when she had first come under his command. Aisynia was a cruel and possessive woman, unwilling to let her husband socialize, have fun... and after a week or two, he stopped resisting. Doggie himself had changed since her return, and Kat found herself resenting that.
She admitted, at least to herself, that she was in love with Anubis. She couldn't admit it to the rangers or Boom, although she was certain that most of them knew, but she knew it for herself. She was perfectly alright with never being with him, with always being a friend. The problem was Aisynia. She was a woman so undeserving of him, and so hostile toward Kat, that she couldn't take it. Kat would even submit to fate if it were Syd or Z in Doggie's bed, because they were good people, kind and brave, even if they were quite a bit young.
But what could she do? As clearly interested in having an affair as Doggie seemed to be, that would be wrong. Unprofessional. It could be managed, pulled off, if Doggie were still a widower; if all else failed, she knew he would have resigned his commission to allow her to continue to work. It would have been alright, at least in the court of public opinion, if it were only adultery, if Kat were a civilian. Kat wouldn't have accepted that, however, and the truth was that she was his subordinate and he was married. The two together did not work.
Something deep inside her wanted to go after Aisynia. The predatory instincts were still strong in Kat, left over from the ancient felines from whom her species descended... but she had never noticed them before. What was it about the literal bitch that made the hair on the back of her neck stand on end? Why did Kat hate her so, if not sheer jealousy...
Her communicator beeped, and she answered. "Manx."
"Kat!" Cruger called, "I just wanted to tell you not to be late returning to base."
"The Troobians are on the move again, and I need your help coordinating the defenses."
"Did Grumm escape?" she demanded, sitting.
There was a pause on the other end. "Someone killed him."
"Oh my God!" Kat covered her mouth with her hand. "I'll be right there!"
"No, Kat... finish what you were doing."
She cocked her head to the side. The commander not ordering her to return immediately? Why? He was a hardass, and the universe was in danger. There was only one explanation--
"You're going to be deployed to the front lines at the end of the week. Have some fun while you can. Cruger out."
With a mewl and a whimper, Katherine Manx returned to Delta Base.
Flames rain down on his shoulders, burning through his shirt. The fire rages around him; the air is thick with smoke and his eyes water. There is a screaming, dimly audible under the roar of the fire, but it is far away.
He runs to the source of the screams, hoping he can make it before the building collapses.
"No!" the voice screams, "Save yourself, Bridge!"
Don't listen, something urges, he needs you to save him.
"Don't listen to it, Carson!" the voice roars, growling. "Don't give in to the fire! You have to stay cool, collected! You need to keep your composure, and stay strong. Don't worry about me!"
"Don't worry," the blue ranger cries, ignoring the lecture, "I'm coming for you!"
That's the spirit.
"No, Bridge! Listen to me..." The voice changed in tone... It became softer, quieter. "You have to wake up!"
"Bridge, don't give in to the madness," the voice said gruffly, before switching back to an unusual softness. "Wake up, Bridge!"
"Hold on, I'm coming..."