Disclaimer: Most characters and situations are the property of BVE and Village Roadshow Pictures. I mention some that belong to J.K. Rowling (but this isn't a crossover, they're talking about the books). No copyright infringement intended.
Author's note: SPOILERS for The Samurai's Journey 1-3 (just in case you're behind on your tapes). Also please note there's some rampant speculation on Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix (random) and the Harry Potter series as a whole (an educated guess of mine). If you don't want to know, please feel free to ignore this story. :) And thanks to Megan for the beta!
The Ninja Rangers piled out of Tori's van and headed for the entrance to the Cameron Brothers bookstore.
"Hey, wait a minute, that's not..." Blake said, pointing Tori in the direction he was looking.
"Cam?" Tori asked.
"Hey, Cam, what are you doing here?" Dustin asked.
"Well, gee, it's 11:30, there's a Midnight Madness party here for some Harry Potter thing, but I'm really after the latest Wheel of Time book," Cam said.
"Dude, why are you staying awake for the latest Wheel of Time book?" Dustin asked. "There hasn't been more than one real plot development in the last three..."
Hunter put a hand on Dustin's shoulder. "You're doing it again, bro. Both misunderstanding sarcasm *and* latching onto the completely wrong topic."
Dustin blushed, looking abashed.
Hunter switched to the "right" topic. "He means, you knew we were coming here, why didn't you come with us?"
"I think we're going to have to make team bonding activities compulsory," Shane added.
"We might want to discuss this in line," Tori suggested. "If we don't go now, it might get too long."
"Let me guess, Dustin forgot to reserve a copy and he's worried about them running out," Cam said as the six moved to get in line.
"Dude, I was the one who found the best price in town!" Dustin said indignantly. "I don't know how they undercut Borders."
"You missed the 'price subject to change' on the pre-order form?" Cam said. "Judging from this crowd, though, I don't think the minimum order for the price break is going to be a problem."
"I'm just anxious because we have early training tomorrow and I'd actually like to read some of it before I go to sleep!" Tori exclaimed.
"So no wandering off after strange seeds tonight?" Cam teased, holding the door open for the rest of the team.
Tori rolled her eyes as they entered the line. It snaked its way back and forth through rows of book cases. The decour was distinctly beige, but the children's book area was full of colorful cut outs of recognizable characters, book covers, and general dragons and unicorns. There was also a giant fairy tale castle play area, with lots of nooks and crannies for reading.
"Growing up here and getting to hang out in that castle must've been cool," Blake said.
"Yeah, this place rocks, they saved it from the dump when the children's library decided to put in those stupid orange couches instead," Dustin sighed.
"I still want to know how much Nickelodeon paid for those," Tori joked.
The others laughed.
This earned them a strange look from a mother well ahead of them in line, just across the red ropes. Directly ahead of them were three kids, around six years old; a girl and two little boys. They were clearly friends, with only one parent in tow. They had come dressed up as characters from the book. One boy had red hair, and was wearing a maroon sweater with a construction paper "R" pinned to it--dressed as Ron Weasley. The girl, who had stick straight blonde hair similar to Tori's, was carrying a wooden stick. Most likely a half hearted Hermione Granger costume, as the third boy had a lightening bolt scar painted onto his forehead with makeup. He was clearly dressed as Harry himself.
Oddly, the kids weren't discussing Harry Potter.
"The Blue Ranger's the best," the girl was insisting.
"Nuh-uh," "Ron" said. "The Red Ranger's the coolest."
"But the Thunder Rangers and the Green Samurai Ranger are more powerful," "Harry" claimed.
"The Blue Ranger could kick all their butts," "Hermione" said stubbornly.
The group burst into giggles.
"Dude, she deserves to be dressed as Hermione, if she knows that," Dustin laughed.
"Hey, 'Harry' has a point," Hunter said.
"You wish," Tori laughed.
"I'm with Hunter here," Cam said. "Don't you agree, Blake?"
Blake made a "zipping my lips" motion. Tori smiled at him sweetly.
The kids ceased their arguments over the Rangers and started wildly speculating about Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
The Rangers started chatting amicably, Tori and Dustin stood facing the other four in wide area roped off for the line-- effectively they'd be walking backwards once the line started moving. Tori's eyes grew wide.
"Dustin, the girl in the pink sweater with the red star and her friend with the weird t-shirt... do they look familiar to you?" Tori asked.
Dustin leaped. "Um, I think that's Marah and Kapri," he said softly.
"Don't turn," Dustin and Tori chorused as the others moved to do just that.
"We probably don't want them to know we're on to them," Tori said.
"You think?" Hunter asked.
"What do we do?" Cam asked. "We can't just attack them if they're not doing anything. Never escalate a battle."
"What are they doing?" Shane asked.
"Getting in line," Dustin replied incredulously.
"And I think Marah actually has *cash* with her," Tori added in amazement.
"What are the chances that they're only here to buy books?" Blake asked dubiously.
"Not very good," Shane said. "But until they actually try something, I think we have to assume they're planning just that."
"They're behind us," Cam said. "If they're going to pull anything at the checkout, we'll be through the line and able to do something about it."
"Right," Hunter said.
"In the meantime, Dustin, Tori, just tell us if they do anything suspicious, OK?" Shane said.
"Is trying to scare a little kid with a funny face suspicious?" Dustin asked. "'Cause Marah just did that."
"Oh no," Cam said.
"It's OK, the little kid is giggling," Tori said. "I think he's dressed as Draco Malfoy too."
Hunter raised an eyebrow. "I'm not saying anything."
"OK, now that is suspicious," Tori said.
"What?" Shane asked.
"You remember that book I had to read for psychology? The Uses of Enchantment?" Tori asked.
"The scary Freudian criticism of fairy tales book?" Shane asked.
"Yup, Kapri's looking at it. Voluntarily," Tori said.
"Um, Tor, Dustin, maybe you should just tell us if they look like they're going to attack someone," Shane said.
"You don't want a running commentary while we go through the whole line?" Tori asked.
"Not especially," Shane replied.
"Spoilsport," Dustin and Tori said in unison.
* * *
After buying their books, the Rangers lingered outside the bookstore for a few minutes in order to keep an eye on the Evil Space Ninjas.
"They just paid," Hunter reported--they were standing in a loose group, trying to look inconspicuous.
It might've been easier if they'd sent Cam back to Ninja Ops--they kept getting looks at the older man standing with the group of high school kids, none of whom he was obviously related to.
"Good, we can go home in a couple of minutes," Shane said.
Marah and Kapri exited the store, and walked right past the Rangers. Marah suddenly realized they were eyeing the sisters suspiciously.
"What? We can't walk into a store and buy things all of a sudden?" she asked.
"You gotta admit, Marah, where you go, trouble follows," Hunter said. "And with several hundred little kids in that store, we weren't taking any chances."
Marah rolled her eyes, and decided verbal revenge was her best recourse. "Someone's gonna die again, you know, J.K. can't not have that."
She grabbed Kapri and sauntered off, as if she'd just gotten the last word in an argument.
Cam rolled his eyes. His pet theory might come in handy right about now. "Maybe, but I don't think it's going to be Professor Dumbledore in this book," he called after them.
Marah and Kapri ignored him and left.
"What?" the other five chorused.
"Where'd you read that?" Hunter asked.
"I didn't," Cam said. "It's an educated guess. Haven't any of you studied Joseph Campbell's hero cycle in English class?" Cam asked.
He was met with blank looks.
"If you can give me a ride back to Ops with Blake and Hunter, I'll explain on the way."
"All right," Tori said as she led the way back to her van.
"Dude, how'd you get down here in the first place?" Dustin asked.
"A samurai never reveals his secrets, Dustin," Cam replied.
"Car break down again, Cam?" Hunter teased.
"Shut up or I'll wake you up before I go to sleep," Cam threatened.
"What kind of threat is that?" Shane asked.
"He goes to sleep at 3 AM sometimes," Blake said.
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