Disclaimer: The Power Rangers belong to Renaissance Atlantic, MMPR productions, and BVE. Any Mecha depicted belongs to Toei Company (except for the names). Sunnydale, U.C. Sunnydale, and all its non-Ranger denizens (except Lisa and Kevin) belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Kazui, Sandollar, and 20th Century Fox. Do I have to thank UPN for the last two seasons? Ick.
Author's Notes: This story contains material that may be inappropriate for young childrent, namely foul language and some suggestive dialog. The violence is PR show level. Very few Buffy characters are depicted here, so I'd classify this as a semi-crossover. This is fifth season Buffy, probably around Real Me. It is concurrent with the Lightspeed Rescue season of Power Rangers, but most of the Rangers are from Turbo season or earlier. But Andros and Zhane get cameos.
I started this before the airing of Forever Red, but couldn't resist tying it to that episode.
I like the term Astro Rangers, so I insist on using it.
Thanks to Meg and WhiteZeo for the betas.
"Hey, Justin, how's that paper coming?"
At the sound of his name, Justin Stewart dropped his hand of cards and sprang from his sprawling position on the floor to a defensive stance. Except he discovered that the speaker was Dan, the Resident Assistant, who was just trying to be friendly. "Jeez, scare me to death, why don't you? And it's coming quite well, thanks."
Justin returned to the card game, ignoring the startled look on Dan's face. He didn't need mother henning--he got quite enough of it from his roommate, Adam. Just because he was 15 didn't mean he needed nagging--he was, after all, a college student. He was taking a break to play cards with two of his neighbors--Lisa and Kevin, who were seated on what U.C. Sunnydale claimed was dorm lounge furniture.
"Why are you so jumpy tonight, Justin?" Lisa asked. "Three sevens."
"Bull shit," Justin nearly giggled as he called her bluff. His hand made it perfectly clear she didn't have that many.
She took the discard pile. "No ducking my question."
Justin shrugged. "It's nothing. Probably somebody just walked..."
* * *
"...over my grave," Adam sighed. He stood and relaxed his arms. 'Good grief, Park, it's not like there are Pirahnatrons or any of their ilk in Sunnydale."
"I- I'm sorry. I- I didn't mean to startle you," Tara McClay, a friend from his dorm floor, said.
"Tara, really, don't worry about it. It's not like you snuck up behind me and yelled 'boo' or anything," Adam said. He made a mental note to discreetly ask Tara's girlfriend what made her so nervous around people.
The experience had proven one thing--he really was out of sorts. You'd have to be pretty jumpy to be scared by Tara coming up and greeting you. "Did you see Justin in the theater?"
He hadn't noticed Tara because he'd been anxiously looking for his roommate amongst the movie goers in the campus theater.
"No, sorry. Was he supposed to be there?" Tara asked.
"He said he was going to try to make it. Maybe he's still working on his paper. I'm going to head back to the dorm, do you want me to walk with you?"
* * *
"Bull shit," Kevin said.
Justin turned over his four kings.
Kevin muttered incomprehensibly in Spanish.
"What does that mean?" Justin asked.
"I could tell you, but then Adam would kill me."
"You're as bad as Carlos," Justin sighed. 'Why isn't Carlos on ICQ?'
And for that matter, why did he feel like he needed to check up on the rest of the gang? Not that the hour was conducive to making any of the calls he wanted to. T.J., Ashley, Carlos, and Cassie were all likely to be up, but they were still living at home to finish an extra year of high school due to excessive absences while they were chasing after Zordon. None of their parents would appreciate a late night phone call. Justin wasn't supposed to call Andros and Zhane--it might blow his cover.
He was still amazed that only his father had been able to figure out who the Blue Turbo Ranger was once Teej and the others were forced to reveal their identities. He'd also realized who Justin's original teammates had been. Which was why he'd been allowed to go to college away from home under Adam's care. Compared to Pirahnatrons and Divatox's monsters, keeping Justin safe from the dangers of college life paled in comparison. Of course, it helped that Justin was a good kid.
It also helped that Adam had made it a point to keep in touch with Justin even after he'd left the Rangers. Even after Justin had left town. Two things probably stood out most in his father's mind: Justin went through a period of depression after he left the Rangers. Dean Stewart thought it was his friends' sudden disappearance, of course, but that wasn't the real reason. Adam had shown up and taken him out for ice cream. The long talk was just what Justin needed.
The second major thing was that after the attack on Southern California during the fall of Dark Specter and the United Alliance of Evil, Dean Stewart had come home, after a panicked drive when he'd finally been able to leave work, to find Justin alive and well, with Adam helping him nurse a black eye. These incidents, coupled with minor things like having to run Justin off of ICQ past his bedtime talking with Adam and Adam's inviting Justin up to visit U.C. Sunnydale while Justin was still a Junior in high school. All of these things led to the two growing even closer than they had been as Rangers.
None of these factors, however, was enough to get Tommy to approve of the situation--the former team leader called Justin to check up every chance he got. Which balanced the fact that he was nearly impossible to get a hold of--his car racing tours took him to such odd places that he couldn't rely on cellular phone service even from the national companies. If Tommy even remembered to pack his charger.
Kat and Tanya were both miles away. Kat at the Royal Dance Academy in London, and Tanya at NYU--when she wasn't interning at various radio stations. For Tanya, it was probably a bit late to call, for Kat a couple hours early, at least for a Saturday morning. Justin just had to hope they were all right.
He could probably call Rocky. Rocky lived alone in a small apartment near the dojo that he had founded with Jason. They liked to train before their Saturday morning classes, so Rocky wouldn't be very appreciative of a phone call at this hour. Not to mention that he'd be highly likely to mention the incident to Tommy, who would then worry.
Mostly, he wished that Adam would come home. Once he saw Adam was fine, Justin was sure he'd be able to relax a bit. Maybe he should check to see if Carlos had deigned to grace ICQ with his presence.
"Hello, Justin, your turn!" Lisa said.
"We're on five's," Kevin replied helpfully.
Justin didn't have any fives. He did have a nine he wouldn't need soon. "One five."
"Bullshit," Kevin hadn't even allowed Justin to put the card on the pile.
"What do you think you're teaching him?" Adam asked from the doorway.
Justin leapt into a defensive stance.
"At ease, soldier," Adam teased lightly. "I'm not going to wash your mouth out with soap. But I might just let Tommy do it if I hear you *using* that word."
Justin rolled his eyes. "I learned that word well before we met. I just didn't know it was associated with this game."
"He's been pretty jumpy, Adam," Lisa volunteered.
"Thanks, Lisa, what are you, my mother now?" Justin sighed. "If you'll excuse me, I have something I need to do."
Justin brushed past his roommate, headed back to their room, and settled in front of his computer.
"Blast it," he said.
"Carlos not on ICQ?" Adam asked from the doorway.
"How'd you know?"
"I didn't. I was just hoping it wasn't just me," Adam said as he came into the room. He glanced at their answering machine. "Did you notice we had messages?"
There were seven messages--from Aisha, Jason, Kat, Rocky, Tanya, Kim, and Carlos on behalf of the second generation of Turbo Rangers gathered at Ashley's house. All of them sounding nervous and wanting return phone calls.
Justin and Adam looked at each other.
"It's not just us," Justin said.
The phone rang, causing both of them to jump.
Adam held his finger over the speaker phone button and counted to three. He hit the button.
"Hi, Tommy," Justin and Adam chorused.
"Justin, Adam! Man, am I glad to hear from you two. How'd you know it was me?"
"You're the only one who hadn't called yet. Are you jumping at shadows too?" Adam said.
"Hold on a second, I've got everyone on a conference call." There was an audible click. "I got them this time, guys."
"Whew," Rocky said.
"Thank goodness," Kim added.
"Justin, what were you doing out of the room at 11 on a Friday night?" Kat asked.
"Playing cards in the lounge." Justin grinned. "Did you know, Kat, that B.S. doesn't stand for Bad Shark?"
Tanya chuckled in the background.
"Well, uh..." Kat stammered.
"Justin, meet Aisha, Zack, and Trini," Tommy rescued his former girlfriend.
"Hi, Justin," three voices chorused.
"Nice to 'meet' you," Justin replied.
"Look, I hate to break up the party here," Jason interrupted, "but this call's probably costing Tommy a fortune so let's cut to the chase: are you two extremely nervous as well?"
"Yes," Adam answered. "And worrying about all of you."
"Justin too?" Jason pressed.
"Yes," he replied.
Adam put an arm around his neck in a gesture somewhere between a hug and a headlock. Justin moved closer so Adam would have a harder time choking him. Or at least that's what he told himself.
"So what's the connection?" Zack asked. "Zo--I mean the Z-man?"
Justin concluded everyone must be out of sorts. Surely one of the original Rangers would know better than to mention Zordon over an open phone line. "Maybe not--Carlos and the others called looking for me too. I'd better call them back on T.J.'s cell phone before they pile into Carlos's car and break down in Silver Hills looking for me."
"Give me the number," Tommy instructed. "My bet is they're experiencing this too. We should get them in on this."
* * *
T.J.'s cell phone started playing Fur Elise.
"It's about time!" Ashley exclaimed.
Zhane dragged Andros off to the side in an attempt to give their friends some privacy. Andros was a bit jumpy, but it was mild compared to the Terrans on the team.
Carlos hit the talk button, hoping the jury rigged speaker phone would work. "Justin are you OK?"
"This is Tommy, Justin's fine. We seem to have a situation here, I have everyone on a conference call, hold on."
"Ashley? Cassie? Carlos? T.J.?" Justin asked, without waiting for Tommy to prompt him or even take a breath.
"We're here, buddy," T.J. replied.
"We're all fine," Cassie added.
"It's good to hear your voice," Ashley chimed in.
"Are you OK, Justin?" Carlos asked.
"I'm fine," Justin replied, a little too quickly.
"Look, I hate to break this up, but we really need to discuss..." Jason started.
Then the line filled with static.
A chorus of confused "hello?"'s from various former Rangers followed.
"Oops, sorry, I hope my forcibly connecting the subspace transponder stream to the Earth's fiber optic telecommunications system did not disrupt the multithreaded connection," came a voice none of the Astro Rangers had heard before.
"Billy!" cried many of the Rangers that T.J. and friends had only met a very few times.
* * *
A flood of relief washed over Adam and the tension drained from his body. Before he could say anything about his relief at hearing Billy's voice, some of the original team became quite vocal.
"Billy, you've been on Aq--in the French Aquitaine too long," Zack caught himself just in time. "Speak English, man!"
"He said he hoped that his hacking into our phone call didn't cause anyone to get disconnected," Trini translated.
"The Billy, huh?" Justin muttered as Tommy took a quick roll call.
"He doesn't always talk like that," Adam whispered in return.
"Is anyone else suddenly feeling a lot better?" Kim asked.
A chorus of me's emitted from all the Rangers who knew Billy, Adam included.
Tommy decided to save Jason from cutting to the chase for once. "Ok, so is everyone who hasn't been asked before experiencing a lot of skittishness and an urge to contact former um..."
"Teammates? It's OK, Tommy, I introduced a sonic encryption to the connection when I um... 'hacked' in," Billy said. "No one should be eavesdropping. And those symptoms are the precise reason I endeavored to get in touch with you."
"I think I understood that. Does he mean a sort of telephone version of SSL?" Kim asked.
"Exactly, Amazon.com girl," Adam teased.
"Andros just got back from taking his galaxy glider to Mirinoi after checking up on his baby sister--but he couldn't wait to get back to his girl..."
"Zhane!" Andros scolded. "For whatever it's worth, the Galaxy Rangers aren't experiencing this."
"But that is a yes for the Astro Rangers," T.J. added.
"Except me! I'm just along for the ride," Zhane insisted.
Billy said, "I did some long range scans of Earth from here--there is some sort of weird energy concentration in Southern California, but I'm not sure where."
"He could be picking up the demons that the Mariner Bay team fight," Justin said.
"Wish we still had the Megaship," Andros muttered. "We could pinpoint it from here."
"Demons could explain the readings," Billy said, "but not the psychological effect that they seem to be having. Unless someone is in Mariner Bay."
"No," Adam supplied.
"So what's the connection?" Jason asked.
"I've really only met Adam and Justin at any length," Andros supplied after a moment.
Justin tensed. Adam tried to pull him into a hug, but Justin pulled away.
"But some of us have never even met Justin," Zack pointed out.
"You've met Adam," Jason said. "And you probably know him better than Andros does. What if whatever's going on is centered in Sunnydale?"
"Justin, please tell me that the charge Storm Blaster gave your Turbo morpher is still good."
"Sorry, Ashley. It pretty much discharged during Dark Specter's attack on Earth. Right before the Golden Wave hit," Justin replied. "It also disappeared into the Vortex that is this room a couple of weeks ago. It's got to be here somewhere, but I don't know where."
"You'd find it if you'd clean out your drawers," Adam teased.
Justin smacked Adam in retaliation. "Where's your Mastodon morpher?" he whispered conspiratorially.
"Stick to Adam like glue," T.J. advised.
Justin stiffened, the hair on his neck standing on end. "I'm not a little kid."
Adam tried to put a hand on Justin's shoulder to settle him down; Adam wasn't sure what had gotten Justin so angry, but Justin pulled away from him again.
"I don't think either of you should let the other out of his sight until we figure out what's going on," Tommy said. "When in doubt, seek out strength in numbers."
"Ranger Rule Four, I know, I know," Justin sighed.
"Maybe we should head out there," Carlos mused.
"Oh, there's a good idea," Justin retorted. "'Ooh, look there's the Astro Rangers hanging out in front of Adam and Justin's room. What are they doing there? Did you ever notice how many of Adam's clothes are either black or green..."
Adam gently whacked Justin upside the head.
"We get it, Justin," Carlos replied testily.
"I think Jason and I should close down the dojo and head down there," Rocky suggested quietly. "We'd be less conspicuous."
"I can cover some classes if you like," T.J. offered.
"Great, thanks, T.J.," Rocky said.
"I'm booking the next flight out," Tommy added.
"Uh, Tommy, aren't you also conspicuous?"
"Not as a Ranger, T.J.," Adam said. "Besides, it's hard to miss the old photos and autographed poster in our dorm room. Everyone all ready knows we know Tommy."
"I should join you as well," Billy said. "I think some local scans might help pick up the source of the disturbance."
"You're not getting off planet until we all get to see you, Cranston," Kim replied good naturedly.
"Better get a warm coat, Billy, she's in Minnesota," Zack admonished.
"An excellent idea, Zack, Kim," Billy replied.
"Call the Times! Billy's homesick!" Zack joked.
T.J. tried to get the conversation back on topic. "You'll let us know if you need any help?"
"We'll keep in contact," Jason promised.
"You'd better, or we're coming down there whether you like it or not," Ashley said.
"You'd better send updates to those of us without powers too," Aisha said. "Oh, and there are certain Red and Black Rangers who owe me e-mails."
"But Aisha, I don't have your e-mail address," Zack complained.
"Uh, I was talking about the Red and Black Ninja Rangers," Aisha replied.
"I'm working on a long one," Adam tried to diffuse the situation.
"Keep all of us posted," Kat said. "Billy, you'll come visit me in London too right?"
"I'll make sure I see everyone; I promise," Billy said.
Adam's eyebrows raise automatically. It was the most plainspoken thing Billy had said all evening.
The former Rangers started making their goodbyes--with T.J. asking Justin to call the Astro Rangers back.
As the others finished saying their goodbyes, Tommy asked to speak to Adam privately for a moment. Adam agreed and picked up the receiver, turning off the speaker phone.
Justin opened the door to their room.
"Oh, no you don't," Adam warned the smaller boy. "Sorry, Tommy. What did you want to say?"
Justin sighed and shut himself in the big cupboard that UCS claimed was a closet.
"Be careful, and don't let Justin out of your sight," Tommy told Adam.
Adam rolled his eyes, and said quietly, "Do us all a favor and don't take that attitude with him tomorrow. He's not reacting well to protectiveness tonight."
"OK, I'll see you tomorrow late morning. In the meantime, please stick together so I don't worry, OK?"
"We can still take care of ourselves, you know," Adam said.
"Just take care of each other, OK?"
* * *
Justin still couldn't believe he could get mobile phone service in the closet, but he could, so he could call T.J. and the others back with some amount of privacy.
"Ok, Justin, we kicked Zhane and Andros out of the room," Carlos said. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," Justin said.
"We know you better than that, Justin," Cassie said. "Please tell us, it'll only make us worry more."
"Don't make us come up there," Ashley added.
"It's nothing really," Justin said.
He could hear whispering on the other end of the line.
"Justin, this isn't about that Tara person you have a crush on, is it?" Carlos asked.
"You do know you have to use condoms, right?" T.J. added.
Justin was glad Adam couldn't see him blushing. "That's not it at all! Everyone here is treating me like I'm 12. And then I realized even when I was 12, even though I had certain responsibilities, everyone was trying to shelter me from them."
"Well... uh," T.J. said.
Justin knew he and the others were going to have to have a long talk in person one of these days--but it wasn't the kind of conversation they could have over the phone.
Adam opened the door. "Say goodnight, Justin."
"Very funny," Adam said.
"We were protective because we cared, Justin," T.J. said. "If anything had happened to you, none of us would have ever forgiven ourselves."
"I gotta go, guys. I'll hop a bus to Angel Grove and we can discuss this in person over winter break or something," Justin said. "Bye."
* * *
Justin woke to his world shaking.
"I'm right here," Justin grumbled. Adam didn't need to shake the bunk beds. Sheesh.
"No, Zedd, leave him alone, he hasn't done anything to you," Adam murmured.
Justin slid off his top bunk, jumping to the floor. If he were awake, Adam would have killed him for such a stunt. Adam wasn't awake, of course, but that would have to be fixed.
"Justin, you can fight him. No!"
"Adam! Adam wake up," Justin said, shaking his roommate.
"Justin?" Adam asked, reaching out.
"I'm here, you were dreaming."
Adam pulled Justin into a hug. "Thank goodness! You're OK."
Justin tried to relax as Adam fussed over him. Adam was clearly very upset by the dream, and needed to reassure himself that Justin was OK.
'It's not really about me,' Justin reminded himself.
"I'm OK, Adam. You were dreaming," Justin said gently.
Adam released him. "Sorry, that was quite a vivid..."
The phone rang, interrupting Adam's train of thought.
"Drunk frat boy again," Justin said, heading for their phone.
Their next door neighbor's boyfriend had trouble dialing his girlfriend's phone number when he was smashed. Which was nearly every weekend. So they frequently got calls when he flubbed the last digit.
"Sober up, pal, you keep hitting the wrong number," Justin said.
"Justin? Are you all right?"
"Tommy? Aren't you taking this overprotective thing a bit too far?" Justin asked. "I'm fine."
"I'm sorry to wake you, Justin, but I had this awful nightmare and..."
"You too?" Justin interrupted.
"Put him on," Tommy ordered.
Justin handed Adam the phone and perched on Adam's bunk while Adam talked to Tommy.
"I had the same dream!" Adam exclaimed after listing to Tommy's description. "No, I don't think that's a good idea. The last thing we need is Jason or Rocky falling asleep at the wheel on the way down here... What am I, chopped liver?... You'd better be, Oliver. Look, I should let you go--this call is probably costing you three arms and two legs--or it should be--you are on an air phone and not your cell phone, right?... Two words, Oliver: pay back. See you in the morning."
Adam hung up the phone. "Hopefully we won't be getting any more phone calls."
"The dream... what happened?" Justin asked.
"You don't want to know," Adam said, climbing back into bed.
"I'm not some scared little kid," Justin fumed. "You don't have to protect me."
"I don't want to talk about it," Adam snapped.
"You're allowed to worry about me but I'm not allowed to worry about you, is that it? Fine," Justin snapped in return.
"What's gotten into you?" Adam asked. "Do I need to take your temperature?"
Justin started climbing up to his bunk. "If you don't want to talk about it, I see no reason why I should have to."
Adam grabbed Justin's ankle. "Zedd captured you."
Justin reversed his climb.
"He kept calling me 'Green Ranger' which is odd, 'cause when we were fighting him, I was the Black Ranger."
Justin sat next to Adam on his bed.
"He... did this spell... tore the skin right off of you-- it was kind of like a visible man model except real and bloodier."
"Ew," Justin said, putting a hand on Adam's shoulder.
Adam put an arm around Justin, drawing him in close. "I couldn't stop it, I couldn't help you... it was like I'd failed you."
"I can take care of myself," Justin said stubbornly.
Adam sighed. "OK, I spilled. And you're right, I do feel a bit better. Now it's your turn."
Justin leaned back against the strut of the lower bunk, freeing himself from Adam's grasp. "Well, let's see, first when I went to go see EdTV, the jerk working the box office wouldn't let me in because he said I was too young to see it."
"Geez, somebody's on a power trip; it's PG-13," Adam exclaimed.
Justin rolled his eyes. "Then Lisa and Kevin offered to teach me a certain card game I'm not allowed to say the name of, only I'd learned it from you guys as Bad Shark. And then I suddenly realized that whenever there was danger, Tommy nearly always found an excuse to send me back to the Power Chamber for equipment or away from the monster to deal with a detonator. And T.J. had a tendency to get between me and the monster... Anyway, between that realization, the movie, and the way everyone was reacting on the phone tonight... I'm feeling a little smothered."
"And me fussing over you certainly didn't help any," Adam finished.
Justin shrugged. "I've never seen you that freaked out. It's hard to be offended when two of the bravest people you know are scared um... spitless. In general, however, it seems like everyone forgets that I'm now the same age as most of you were when you started as Rangers--but with actual Rangering experience. And I wasn't exactly bad at taking care of myself at age 12 either."
"Back then you were going through a pretty rough time. We all knew that. Yeah, you were a black belt even then and highly proficient at kicking Pirahnatron butt. However, emotionally... you needed a family; Ranger teams generally end up being a family but with you.. it was kind of like you hit all our parental buttons, I guess. We all care about you, and we need to know you're all right."
"But you don't trust me to ask for help when I do need it," Justin complained.
"You mean like you did tonight?"
"What, I'm not allowed to be cranky?"
"I mean why didn't you call me when you had problems with Power Trip Boy?"
"I didn't want to disturb you--it's a movie, not a life or death situation. And you're allowed to have your own life. I figured I'd drag you at least as far as the box office tomorrow night," Justin said.
Adam snorted. "We could always take Billy and the triple Red threat along."
"I'm not sitting next to Tommy, he covered my eyes during parts of Phantom Menace."
"Get some sleep, you little blue bug," Adam teased.
Justin rolled his eyes and climbed up to his bunk. "G'night, Frog Boy."
Adam hit the top bunk in retaliation.
* * *
The next morning, Adam dragged Justin out of bed bright and early to get to breakfast in the dining hall. This was because he had a soccer game at 10 AM. Justin didn't mind this--after all, his paper wasn't going to write itself--but he drew the line at leaving his computer for the duration of Adam's soccer game.
"We'll put your paper on my laptop," Adam offered.
"The Word formats are compatible," Adam reminded him.
"Bad enough I have to write this thing, you're telling me I have to do it at a noisy soccer game in *Windows*?" Justin sighed, wishing not for the first time that he'd talked his Dad into the iBook.
"Bring your headphones," Adam suggested. "I'll turn you loose on my MP3 collection." Seeing Justin's resolve hadn't altered he changed tactics. "I'll leave the parental advisory ones unlocked."
"What all three of them?"
The phone rang before Adam could retort, announcing the arrival of Rocky and Jason. This made things easier, as Rocky could go with Adam to his game, while Jason could nap on Adam's bed while Justin worked on his paper.
The game was shorter than anyone was expecting, as Tommy and Billy had not yet arrived when Adam and Rocky dropped by long enough for Adam to grab a change of clothes and his shower gear. Rocky grumbled under his breath about Adam needing a bodyguard even in the bathroom, prompting Adam to threaten to make Rocky do more than stand outside the changing room if he didn't knock it off.
Justin kept plunking away at his paper. He was nearly done, but he'd feel a lot better about quasi-Ranger adventures if he at least had a first draft so, if nothing else, he had something to hand in on Monday. He was down to trying to figure out the concluding paragraph when the phone rang, startling the still napping Jason awake.
Justin hung up the phone. "Well, come on, it's Tommy and Billy."
Jason practically bolted from the room. Justin followed, struggling to keep up as Jason bounded down the stairs.
When he reached the lobby, Jason flung the door open, sped by Tommy and caught Billy in a bear hug. "Nice to see you, Billy."
Tommy rolled his eyes tolerantly. "Hi to you too, bro." Then he caught sight of Justin. "Oh, my goodness, what is Adam feeding you these days, Sea Monkey Growth Food? I think you've grown three inches since school started."
"Hi, Tommy," Justin said in reply.
"Hey, bro," Jason said, suddenly giving Billy a reprieve from having to tell him *all* about Cestria (something that was turning poor Billy a rather interesting shade of pink).
There was an awkward pause.
Tommy broke the silence. "Billy Cranston, meet Justin Stewart. Too bad the science face off we've all been joking about will have to wait. Where are Adam and Rocky?"
"Upstairs," Justin answered.
"Ok, let's go upstairs and figure out the plan," Tommy said.
"What, you don't have one yet?" Jason asked, surprised.
"I do," Billy said.
* * *
"What is that?" Justin asked as Billy pulled a small blue box out of his pocket once the group of former Rangers, including Rocky and Adam, was safely behind a closed door.
"It's a PKE scanner," Billy explained.
"Like in Ghostbusters?" Jason asked.
"Sort of," Billy replied. "Even Mondo's machines gave off psychokinetic energy. Which means that comparing to the baseline for Earth probably won't tell us too much. What I want to do is get some baseline readings for California and Sunnydale, then see if we can figure out where the anomalous readings are coming from."
Billy turned on the scanner, sweeping the room. The only concentration seemed to be coming from the line of Rangers in front of the windows. "Please spread out, guys."
The moved so they were apart, with Tommy on one end and Justin on the other. Billy started scanning with Tommy. The beeps were slow and spread out, but increased as he scanned Rocky and Jason. It jumped a little higher as he scanned Adam. When he scanned Justin, the device started beeping in rapid succession, so that individual beeps couldn't be distinguished.
Justin leapt out of the way in surprise, but the beeping continued.
"It's broken," he said in relief.
Billy turned around, scanning the interior again. The beeping returned to a low level. "No, the spike is coming from out there somewhere."
* * *
The former Rangers soon found themselves tromping through Sunnydale forest.
Justin and Billy were up ahead with the scanner--Billy trying to explain as much of its inner workings to Justin as possible without actually interfering with its function.
Adam, Rocky, Jason, and Tommy followed a few paces behind them.
"So, Tommy, how's Beverly?" Jason asked, trying to make conversation.
"About the same as Emily," Tommy shot back.
Jason held his hands up in apology. "Sorry, bro, I didn't realize it was a sore subject."
"We just broke up two nights ago and I forgot I hadn't told you yet," Tommy said quietly.
"Well, if you'd actually remember to leave your cell phone on once in awhile," Jason teased.
"We could always grill Adam about this girl Justin has a crush on," Rocky joked.
"Just don't mention it to him!" Adam exclaimed.
"Adam, seriously, how much older than Justin is this girl," Tommy started.
"Doesn't really matter, she's gay. Not to mention harmless. There's nothing to worry about."
Tommy chuckled. "Poor Justin."
Adam took a deep breath. "He knows. He's dealing. But Tara's girlfriend's best friend has a little sister about Justin's age." Adam winked.
Jason shook his head. "Matchmaker."
"Yeah, your point being?" Adam shot back.
"Justin! Don't get too far ahead," Billy called, jogging to catch up to the younger boy.
The others exchanged worried glances and broke into an all out run, until they reached the clearing where Justin stood facing them, his arms crossed.
They came to a screeching halt.
"Will you guys chill out?" Justin asked testily. "I can take..." but he didn't get a chance to finish his sentence.
He was suddenly surrounded by little men who were decidedly more pink than they should have been. Their ears came to large points, their skin had lots of wrinkles, and they all had black hair. Jason mentally dubbed them goblins. One of them had slapped a hand over Justin's mouth and was trying to drag him away.
"Trying to" being the operative word as Justin was putting up a pretty good fight.
"Let him go," Rocky tried.
"Never," said the creature holding Justin.
Justin decided he'd had it with fighting fair and kicked the monster between the legs. It howled in pain, and Justin cartwheeled back into the middle of his friends. Tommy pulled him close.
"Give him back," the lead goblin insisted.
"Never," Adam replied.
The goblins enclosed the group in a circle. "We'll let you go if you just give up the boy."
"I'm not a boy," Justin insisted.
Tommy quickly assessed the situation. This would be easier with some Rangers in the mix. "It's morphin' time!" Tommy called.
"Zeo Ranger III. Blue!"
"Zeo Ranger IV. Green!"
"Zeo Ranger V. Red!"
"Gold Ra-- oh, yeah," Jason sighed dejectedly. Old habits died hard.
"Now you know how I always felt!" Billy said.
"You think those spandex play suits will help you?" the lead goblin said, getting a little too close to Tommy for Jason's liking.
Tommy didn't say anything, he just laughed.
"You won't be laughing long, human," the goblin threw a sucker punch to Tommy's stomach.
The only sound was that of bones crunching. The goblin's bones.
"Now!" The goblin's command was a shrill squeal.
Each of the goblins took golden dust and blew it in the group's faces. Jason's world went black.
* * *
"Jason," a voice cut through the darkness.
"Go 'way, Mom."
He heard what amounted to a low growl. "Very funny."
"Rocky?" Jason snapped awake. "What happened?"
"You, Billy, and Justin got knocked out by some powdery stuff that thing blew at you. It couldn't get past the suits' filtration, though, so Tommy, Adam, and I weren't affected. We tried to fight them, but there were too many. They..." Rocky paused and took a breath. He'd been talking too fast. "They got Justin. Tommy and Adam went after him, I stayed here to look after you and Billy." He was trying to keep the bitterness out of his voice. Not very successfully.
"Not that it did much good," Tommy said. He and Adam stood on the other side of the clearing. Like Rocky, they were demorphed, and both wore grim expressions.
"Don't you even think about starting on a guilt trip, bro," Jason said to Tommy sternly. To the others he said, "Let's spread out and start searching."
"But stay in shouting distance," Tommy advised.
* * *
"What the hell?" Rocky asked as a blue SUV without a driver approached the former Rangers from among the trees.
"Storm Blaster? What are you doing here?" a female voice asked from behind the Rangers.
They turned, only to be confronted by Ashley and Carlos, morphed and dismounting their Galaxy Gliders.
"You guys realize you're wicked conspicuous like that?" Rocky asked.
"Power down," the Astro Rangers chorused.
The moment it saw Ashley and Carlos unmorphed, Storm Blaster began beeping urgently. Then it opened its glove compartment.
"Care to let us in on the secret?" Tommy asked.
"This is Storm Blaster. He's sentient, and helped us out after you'd passed us the Turbo Powers," Carlos explained as he obediently went to Storm Blaster's glove compartment. He pulled out three Turbo Keys and two Power Coins. "What the...?" he asked, contemplating the Power coins.
Rocky took one of them, which Carlos noticed had a Tyrannosaurus Rex on it.
"So that's where this went," Rocky said, examining the coin.
"But what is it?" Carlos asked.
"The Red Tyrannosaurus power coin," Rocky said. "The other one looks like the Blue Triceratops coin, that's Billy's. You should take the Red Power Coin, Jase, I still have my Zeo crystal."
Rocky placed the coin in Jason's hand, face scrunched up in concentration. A red beam of light shot out from his hand to Jason's.
"OK, I understand why Jason and Billy having functional morphers is a good idea, Storm Blaster, but why do Carlos and I need our Turbo Keys?"
The SUV made a mournful noise. It couldn't easily answer a question like that when Ashley didn't speak its language.
"I'm guessing it's because the Turbo Rangers are less conspicuous than the Astro Rangers--no one knows who the Turbo Rangers are outside of Angel Grove," Tommy replied.
Storm Blaster beeped affirmatively.
"Not that anyone around here would notice anyway," Adam scoffed.
Tommy raised an eyebrow at that, but said nothing.
Storm Blaster started blinking his lights excitedly.
"Um, anyone speak SUV?" Rocky joked.
Storm Blaster started rolling off in what seemed like a very purposeful manner.
"I think he wants us to follow him," Carlos said.
"He probably knows where Justin is," Ashley added. "Let's go." She took off after him.
The other Rangers shrugged and followed suit.
"You're telling me a car knows where Justin is?" Jason asked, falling into step.
"Storm Blaster found Justin in another town and gave him back his Turbo Morpher when we needed his help," Ashley explained.
"It's like he has Justin-radar," Carlos added.
* * *
Justin awoke to stiffness in his arms. He tried to move and stretch them only to discover they were tied behind his back. More to the point, they were also around a big, wooden pole. He squirmed only to discover his feet slipping. Not a good sign. Justin looked down. He was standing on a big pile of logs. There was a smaller pile several yards ahead of the one he was standing on. Beyond that, he could see nothing but oak trees.
The forest was strangely silent. As if the animals were all avoiding that area of the woods.
Justin could see shadows moving, but their sources were behind him. "Where do you people think we are, Salem? This is Sunnydale, California!"
"Silence," said a voice from behind him.
Another shadow, one he hadn't realized was directly over him, lifted. And he was faced with... he wasn't sure what to call it. It didn't look like any of Divatox's monsters, that was for sure.
It walked on eight tentacles, leaving a trail of electric blue slime on the grass. Its body rose out of the base of the tentacles, reminiscent of a centaur, but with twice the expected number of legs. And a head that resembled a bird, but with a beak more like that of an octopus.
"OK..." Justin dragged out the word. "Maybe 'people' wasn't exactly the right word."
"I said silence!" the words floated out of his beak on a wave of acrid smelling purple smoke.
"What do you want?"
"Silence! Is that too much to ask?"
Justin debated saying, "Yes," but thought better of it. He'd never get the octopus-like-thingy to do the diabolical villain thing and tell him its entire plan if he annoyed it too much.
A goblin crept up behind the blue terror. "Master."
"What is it you incompetent buffoon?" the monster snapped.
"I brought you the Connected One, oh High One," the goblin replied. "How am I incompetent?"
"You left his friends alive! They'll be looking for him you moron! Now, tell me what you were going to tell me before I bruised your over inflated ego." The octopus whirled to face his minion.
Justin decided to forget about finding out the evil plan and started working on loosening the ropes binding his arms.
"All is in readiness, high one. We can begin the ritual at your leisure." The goblin bowed, then opened its mouth as if it were going to speak again. Then closed it.
"But?" The electric mollusk prompted his minion.
"I do not understand how enchanting this young mortal will help us find the Key."
"The spell will use him to draw the Key to us."
"You want my keys, take them," Justin quipped. "They're in my right hand pocket!"
The octopus spun to face him. Justin froze.
"Not that kind of key you pathetic mortal! Now be a good boy and stay quiet while we sacrifice you."
Justin rolled his eyes, but said nothing. The octopus turned and started giving orders, but Justin couldn't hear them. He started manipulating his hands again. In another few moments he was free. The goblin was incompetent-- he'd been tied too loosely. That was almost too easy.
'Ranger Rule One: If they need you for something, get away,' Justin thought.
Though that was Rule Two as Tommy had taught it to him-- Rule One was: always listen to the Red Ranger. Tommy had ego problems, as well as problems following his own rules.
Justin wriggled his arms some more, finally freeing his hands. He looked around, he was still outnumbered twenty to one. As such, he left his hands in roughly the same position, as uncomfortable as it was. 'Ranger Rule Four, wait to strike if possible. Move when you have the advantage.' Yet another one that Tommy made him memorize, but rarely followed.
Several goblins scurried forward, placing a cauldron on the smaller pile of wood in front of him; Justin realized it was far enough way from the one that he stood on that no sparks from the smaller fire could set Justin's off. The smaller fire was lit, and the cauldron filled with water.
'Now what?' Justin thought. "Don't you guys think it's a little hot for soup? I mean, I'm dying for some ice cream here!"
"How many times must I tell you to be quiet!" the octopus fumed.
"Justin, quiet? I think you're asking too much!" Ashley's voice came from behind the octopus.
The monster jumped to the side, startled. Briefly treating Justin to the view of Storm Blaster full of morphed Power Rangers. Storm Blaster must've supplied some charged up morphers-- Ashley and Carlos were in their Turbo uniforms and Billy and Jason were wearing what he assumed where the Red Tyrannosaurus and Blue Triceratops Ranger costumes. At least, he assumed they were Jason and Billy.
"Attack, you fools, what are you waiting for!" The octopus screamed orders at the goblins.
Billy and Jason waited patiently as Rocky jumped out of Storm Blaster's back seat. The group was flanked by Tommy and Adam, Power Sword and Power Hatchets at the ready. Quickly they were in a slightly lopsided formation (everyone was more used to working with six Rangers than seven), with the Turbo Rangers out front.
As the Goblins enclosed them, the Rangers became a flurry of arms, legs, "hyah's" and "sik-hyah's".
Justin decided this was the distraction he'd been waiting for. He leapt off of the dais, launching a flying kick at a goblin. "Hyah!"
"Turbos, go," Tommy ordered.
Ashley and Carlos leapt over the goblin army and ran to Justin.
"Didn't they tie you up?" Carlos asked.
"Not well enough," Justin smirked.
"Attaboy," Carlos muttered.
"You'll need this," Ashley pressed Justin's Turbo Key into his hands.
Justin wasted no time. "Shift into Turbo! Mountain Blaster Turbo Power!"
Now morphed, he joined the battle in earnest.
One goblin, appearing to actually attempt logic in the situation, blew more of the golden sleep dust into the melee. Of course, since all the Rangers were morphed, this only served to knock out some of the goblins. At least the ones that hadn't spent years building up an immunity to the stuff.
This left eight Rangers with about five goblins in any condition to fight.
It wasn't quite like when the original Rangers would fight Zedd's putties, but it was close. Jason kicked a goblin into a tree. Justin landed a neat spinning kick to one goblin's head, knocking it out cold. Ashley and Carlos ran circles around the goblin with the knock out dust using their Turbo speed. It finally collapsed from being dizzy.
Ashley snagged the dust from the goblin's hands. "Nighty night, little goblin. Hope you have nightmares about me for a change!" She blew the dust into the goblin's face.
Billy drove his Power Lance right through one. "Anyone for shish kabobs?"
"Gross!" Justin exclaimed.
"Hey, Justin, that's Kim's line!" Rocky launched a flying kick at a goblin, knocking it into the altar. The pyre collapsed, most of the logs breaking under the force of the fall. "Oops, sorry, was I not supposed to mess that up?"
He landed with a thud. "Owww."
Justin, Jason, and Adam rushed over to him.
"You OK, buddy?" Adam asked.
"I think I threw my back out again," Rocky replied, quietly.
Adam winced, hearing the frustration in his best friend's voice.
"Just relax, Rocky, we've got your back," Jason said. Then winced. "I mean..."
"It's OK, Jason, I appreciate the thought," Rocky replied.
Justin, meanwhile, had started fighting the last goblin to keep it from hurting Adam, Rocky, and Jason. It was doing a good job of ducking and dodging his martial arts blows. The thing was nearly smart!
"OK, no more messing around. Turbo Hand Blasters!"
The goblin couldn't dodge two guns at once. It jumped away from one bolt straight into the blast from the other gun. It collapsed and nearly liquified, becoming a puddle of gelatinous slime on the grass, in a most non-monster-like fashion.
"Almost makes you appreciate Pirahnatrons," Justin said. "They just turned into water droplets."
The sound of Tommy's distinctive kyah's drew Justin's attention in that direction.
Tommy was desperately hacking at the octopus's tentacles with his Power Sword while trying to dodge the ones he wasn't hacking at.
Really, what Tommy needed was a distance weapon for that job. Justin very carefully aimed the left hand Turbo hand blaster at the octopus. He waited until he had just the right shot-- nothing but monster. Then Justin fired.
The octopus exploded into glowy blue ectoplasm, spilling all over the grass.
"Looks like something Nickelodeon would sell at Toys R Us," Justin commented.
Tommy came over and clapped Justin on the shoulder. "Thanks, buddy."
At this point, the goblin-y creatures that had been put to sleep by the magic dust woke up. They were met with a wall of seven rangers. As such, they turned tail and ran.
"Power down," everyone except Justin chorused.
"I've got a medical scanner in my backpack. In the meantime, Rocky, don't move," Billy said.
"Justin, how come you haven't demorphed?" Ashley asked.
"I just wanted to prove something. Watch. Power down!" Justin said.
He was met with six confused looks.
"See, I didn't shrink!"
Billy, in the meantime, had been scanning Rocky. "Well, nothing's broken or out of sorts. It looks like a muscle spasm." He made some adjustments to a different instrument. "Can you roll over to your side, Rocky?"
"I think so," Rocky replied, moving gingerly.
"That's enough," Billy said. He applied the instrument to Rocky's back. It glowed fuchsia and whirred.
"That feels better," Rocky said when Billy finished.
"You can try to stand up," Billy said. "Carefully."
Rocky got to his feet and stretched tentatively. "Man, better than a chiropractor."
"Next time we have a Ranger emergency, I bring T.J. and you watch the dojo," Jason said.
Rocky glared at him, but couldn't come up with a reasonable argument. "Anyone else hungry? How about some lunch?"
Justin's stomach rumbled. "I thought you'd never ask."
Tommy caught Justin by the shoulders. "The hormones really have kicked in, haven't they? So which way to the dining hall?"
Adam and Justin glared at him.
"I'm kidding," Tommy said.
"Carlos and I should probably get back to Angel Grove," Ashley started.
Storm Blaster trundled up, opening its glove compartment again.
Carlos picked up the two screwdriver devices inside. "Looks like T.J. and Cassie are back in the Turbo business as well."
Storm Blaster closed the glove compartment, beeped, and opened again. Billy picked up the power coins inside. "I'll make sure these get to the right people."
"I don't think you should mail those, bro," Jason said.
"Nah, I'll hand deliver them," Billy grinned.
"There's a custom's declaration I'd love to see," Adam joked.
"Well, if you want to travel by Galaxy Glider, give us a call, Billy," Carlos offered.
He and Ashley had pocketed their Turbo Morphers and strapped their Astro Morphers to their wrists, having all ready said their good-byes to the senior Rangers.
"Take care of yourself, Justin," Ashley said, giving him a hug.
"And take care of Adam too," Carlos added--reaching to shake Justin's hand, but pulling him into a bear hug and hitting his back.
Justin smiled as he pulled away, but the look on Carlos's face was dead serious. This just made Justin grin wider.
Ashley and Carlos morphed, called their Galaxy Gliders, and then departed.
The rest of the assembled Rangers made their way out of the clearing.
After their departure, a squad of goblins started cleaning up the alter. Their master had given them specific instructions that no matter the outcome, no sign of their activities should be left behind to alert the forces of good.
* * *
That evening, Tommy, Billy, Adam, and Justin went to the campus auditorium to see EdTV.
"Wait," the ticket taker stopped Justin by putting two finger against his chest. "You're not all that much older than last night, short stuff."
Adam sighed. "Abrams? You were the moron giving Justin a rough time last night? I should've known!"
"Hello, it's a PG-13 movie," Parker Abrams replied.
"Hello, I'm fifteen," Justin snapped.
"And, as far as I'm concerned, old enough to judge for himself whether he can handle anything they show here," Adam said. "So if I hear about him having problems again--and I don't care if what he wants to see is rated R--you and I are going to have some serious words!"
Abrams stepped aside, clearly cowed.
The Rangers entered. Justin whacked Adam's back affectionately. "Thanks!"
Tommy found seats first and bounded into the row. Justin tried to hang back, but Adam shoved him in next, Billy bringing up the rear.
Justin sighed, this wasn't going to be pretty.
* * *
As predicted, Tommy's hand flew towards Justin's face as Jill tried to seduce Ed. But at Justin's glare, he rescinded it.
"You're getting too old for that, aren't you?" Tommy smiled.
Tommy whispered into Justin's ear. Justin grinned mischievously. And then covered Adam's eyes.
"Carlos said I had to take care of you," Justin whispered.
"If I were you, I'd take your hand off my eyes--I sleep on the bunk directly below yours don't forget," Adam whispered back.
Justin withdrew his hand. Adam lightly smacked his shoulder.
Justin smiled. Maybe he was finally past the hair ruffling stage after all.
Billy leaned over and whispered something to Adam. Adam ruffled Billy's hair.
Maybe Justin would just have to learn not to take the hair ruffling stuff so seriously.
* * *
Night fell. A woman in a red dress and red stiletto heels made her way carefully into the clearing where the battle had taken place earlier that day. She found nothing but blue slime on the grass.
"Don't tell me someone actually defeated him? Now what am I going to do? He knew how to find my Key. Doesn't anyone up there want me to find my Key?"
She stalked off into the night, muttering to herself in a random, barely coherent diatribe.
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