Set before SPD. The A-squad has just received their new morphers, and Charlie likes the look of Red Ranger, but not the sound. A frank discussion of gender and war between soldier and commander. In...
Another God-damned drone?"
-Disturbed, "Violence Fetish"
Her heart pounded in her ears as she stormed down the hallway. It was writhing within her chest like a wild animal struggling to break out of a trap, sending fire through her bloodstream. Was it the adrenaline or the rage? She could never tell. Her boots clacked against the floor loudly, echoing, although she found herself only barely aware of it. She bumped past one of the B-squad cadets harshly, sending him sprawling to the floor.
Does he know? She thought. No, of course he wouldn't.
She stopped for a moment, glancing down at herself. Her figure was the same as it always was, only thicker, stronger, and so was the black uniform she was so used to. Black. Would they get colored uniforms now that they had been promoted? Probably not.
"Ch-Charlie s-s-sir, are you okay?" the cadet asked from the ground. He was reaching for his hand.
"You take off that glove, Freak," Charlie barked, looking down the hallway, "And I'll take off your head."
"Yes, m'am." He squeaked.
Carlota "Charlie" Velazquez looked down at the cowering Cadet, and frowned briefly, shooting him a look of apology before continuing toward the command center.
It's not his fault.
She reached to her belt as she went, taking hold of her morpher, her new morpher. She had been so happy when Dr. Manx had placed it in her hand, ectastic; the power, the ability to fight, were finally hers. She had been even more excited when she powered up and found that she was suddenly wearing red. The red ranger, the leader, the glue of the team. She was chosen above all the others...
But had been horrified when she heard herself speak.
She quickened her pace, storming down the hallway again, adrenaline from the training exercise fresh in her blood. She imagined she wasn't the only one storming off either; the look on Doctor Manx's face had been furious too... but Charlie wasn't about to let the Doctor stand up for her. She didn't need to be protected.
She turned the corner tightly, her boots screeching on the tiled floor. Five faces turned up to look at her: a few random cadets, the blonde bimbo from B-squad, and the canine face of...
"CRUGER!" She roared, snarling.
"Cadet Velazquez?" he asked, taken aback.
"May I have a word with you?" Charlie growled. She added hastily, "Sir?"
"Of course," the Commander reassured, frowning. He looked at her with sad, dark eyes, and she stared into them. She could feel the blood rushing to her face, her cheeks turning the color that was given to her...
He motioned for her to follow with a claw and began walking to his office. Charlie followed him.
"I bet he gave her pink," the blonde cadet whispered to one of the others.
Charlie made a mental note to get back at her for that later.
They walked past and the office door closed behind them. "Are you unhappy with your morpher, Charlie?"
"Yes, sir." Charlie growled, looking into his eyes again. Sometimes she could read them, but they were enigmatic today. Tired? Sad? But there was something else there...
"Why? I thought you would enjoy being the red ranger, especially since you are the most qualified."
"I was overjoyed and flattered at the choice of color, sir."
"So what's the problem?" He looked at her, studying her face. She stared at a point between his eyes, trying to use that blue color to find her way back to her center.
"Sir, I'm not a man."
"No, you are not."
"So why do I sound like one when I'm morphed?"
The blue dog sighed. "Have a seat, Charlie." He motioned to the chair on the near side of his desk, and began walking toward the other side.
She remained stationary, standing at attention.
Cruger sat down. "Charlie, do you know what the Troobians do to women?"
"The same thing that they do to men, sir. Pillage and destroy."
"Not... quite. The wives, the family, of commanding officers are often kidnapped and used as distractions at the height of battle."
"Which indicates that officers are overwhelmingly male." She paused. "I'm sure if women were represented in the top ranks, there would be kidnapped husbands. Commander Cruger, why?"
"We have had female officers. They have not suffered the same fate as the males. They suffered more. Greater losses. There's another word that comes before 'pillage' in most earth texts."
"And who says they don't rape male detainees, sir? Besides, one of the greatest Troobian generals is female. I've read my history. The warrior Morgana wasn't just a woman, she was beautiful, and she was terrible before she disappeared." Charlie smiled briefly, letting it morph into a grin. She would be like that, too, only on the side of good...
"Perhaps. But the Troobians are aware that Earth is a misogynist society; there's no way they could be unaware of it. Even on my planet we received radio and television broadcasts that universally portray women as wives, mothers, and victims. It made my planet look like a feminist utopia-"
"But that was years ago!" She wrinkled up her face. "Earth has come a long way, and it would be coming farther if it weren't for bullshit like-"
Cruger stood up. "Charlie, it doesn't matter how things are now. The Troobians don't see now. They see decades ago, and decades ago, women were on a pedestal. The Troobians do whatever it takes to demoralize the enemy. If they're presented with a human female Squad leader, from a planet that's known for seeing women as being weak and vulnerable... What do you think they'll do to you, to try to hurt your squad? To try to hurt your planet?"
"Any male red ranger faces the same risk, but he lacks something-the ability to demoralize them. If they think we're misogynist, and we send a girl to beat them..."
"They'll perceive it as a petty insult. Like you said, they had a powerful female warrior on their side. They don't see any problem with female warriors. But they'll interpret an apparently misogynist planet sending a woman to fight them as an attempt by Earth to say that they're inferior-and they'll laugh at it and proceed to traumatize you." "That's a risk any soldier takes." She lifted her head, sticking her nose up slightly.
"The Troobians are masters of culture. They find what you value and pounce on it. Earth, to them, is a planet where the men hold power over the women, and that the worst thing you can do is to hurt the women. They know that attitudes like that don't go away overnight, and they know the value that these things have even to the most radical-"
"But this isn't about them, Doggie!" Charlie began to pace. "It's about me."
"Yes, that's right. It is about you." He shook his head, and Charlie turned to face him sharply.
"I am a woman, Commander!"
"I'm aware of that, Charlie." Cruger narrowed his eyes.
"I may have a masculine nickname, and I may be a powerful warrior, but I am still a woman! I am not changing my name to Carlos, I'm not changing what's between my legs, and I'm not changing who I am! Why should I have to hide it?"
"Who said you were hiding it?"
"I'm not; you were, and I can't turn it off."
"It's for your safety, Charlie."
"It's not safe. My team won't recognize my voice like that!"
"They'll learn to, but this will make it a lot harder for the Troobians to-"
She stomped her foot angrily. "What are you trying to tell me? That I'm not good enough?"
"If you weren't good enough, you wouldn't have been picked as Red Ranger." Cruger leaned back in his chair. She looked at his face... The corners of his canine mouth had fallen, and his eyes were shining. Was he about to cry?
"I'm a whole package deal, sir. You can't have my drive, my body, my skills, without my gender. I want the voice changer taken off, or at least given some kind of toggle."
"I can't do that, Charlie." He looked down.
"Then you're going to have to find another red ranger." She put the morpher down on his desk.
He suddenly growled, standing up. She took a step back. "So that's it? You would turn your back on your galaxy to further your agenda?"
She leaned forward and slammed her hands down on his desk, putting herself nose to nose with him. "I won't turn my back on half of my planet! I have to be an example to all the little girls of this world, and I can't do that if I sound like a man!"
He snarled, breathing on her face. "You will be doing those little girls no favors if they are dead, Velazquez."
Charlie took a step back, picking up her morpher. "So you're just going to have me live a lie until the war is over?"
"It's not living a lie. It's just a voice changer."
"It's a voice changer and a uniform that make me look male!"
"The uniforms were designed to look just that-uniform. To give no clues about who lies under them."
"But Rachel sounds like Rachel."
"The pink ranger is always a woman."
"So is either yellow or blue! Why didn't you change Ivan's voice? Or Beevor's?"
"It didn't seem necessary. There have been both male and female blue rangers, but never a female red ranger..."
"What does sex matter anyway? We weren't just picked out of the blue to be rangers! We're meant to protect innocents from evil, and can't women do that too?"
"My decision is final, Cadet Velazquez."
She saluted, sneering. "Yes, sir."
She spun around on her heel, snarling. As she walked back through the command center, she muttered to herself, "I'll show him."