Chapter 1: raise your glass if you are wrong (in all the right ways)
Title is from "Raise Your Glass" by P!nk.
Legendary Rangers featured in this chapter: Cam Watanabe of Ninja Storm, Rose Ortiz of Operation Overdrive, Antonio Garcia and Jayden Shiba of Samurai, and Casey Rhodes and RJ of Jungle Fury.
Mentions of Mack Hartford of Operation Overdrive and Dustin Brooks of Ninja Storm.
It takes about three weeks for Noah to realize that if the Megaforce team is going to not completely fail, they can't rely on Gosei for help.
Maybe he was Zordon's Apprentice, but even Zordon could have ended up with a complete moron as an apprentice. He did mentor about four separate teams, so maybe he can be forgiven a little for letting this slip through the cracks. Whatever the reason Zordon didn't dump him, though, it doesn't make Gosei any more competent.
Though Noah's friends all seem okay with Gosei, he's seen the way their eyes crease and their smiles falter when their mentor's name is mentioned. They understand just as well as he does that Gosei is incredibly fucking useless as a mentor. Noah has to change things around here, if they're going to succeed in battle.
Noah’s just gonna have to be careful about rocking the waters. He does have one massive fucking secret he has to hide, after all.
(The first day as Rangers, Emma had asked why they all had been chosen as Rangers.
Gosei had said, “You have been carefully selected to form a team in the long tradition of Power Rangers. You were chosen because of the strength of your Soulmate bonds, of course, just as the original team was.”
Noah glances down at his arm, blank as the day he was born, as it has been for the past seventeen years. There's gotta be some mistake- I have no Soulmate.)
Noah doesn't want to lose his role as Ranger- he can do such good for the team, if he's only allowed to stay. If he believes Gosei, which his teammates certainly do, his inclusion in the team must be a mistake. All of his teammates have already met their Soulmates- Gia and Emma met back in middle school, while Jake met Troy when he moved to town last year. Noah’s the only Soulless one on the team, and he can't let anyone know.
So he has to hide his own lack of a Soulmate at the same time that he is trying to dig up a way to access old Ranger teams’ knowledge and experience. Every day before Noah leaves the house, he writes on his arm as himself in blue ink, and then in black as “Michael Mell.” He’s developed a whole personality for Michael so that when his teammates ask, he’ll have answers.
(He’s based Michael entirely after a character in a novel he read as a kid, a story in which a kid named Jeremy had no idea how to interact with his Soulmate Christine so he had taken a pill containing an AI that made him "chill" and popular. The story hadn't been the happiest- Jeremy had abandoned his best friend, a Soulless geek named Michael- but it had been relatable and so Noah had never forgotten it.)
So it turns out that once you have a Morpher, it’s actually rather easy to hack into the Morphing Grid and access the locations and IP addresses of previous Rangers. It takes Noah about a week of hacking- squeezed in around school, his job at the fro-yo shop, and his duties as a Ranger- to finally get into the grid, but once he's in, he has plenty enough information to manage to connect with at least two separate former Ranger systems at nearly the same time.
"Who the fuck managed to hack into my personal system?" an Asian man in a loose green button down asks, seemingly shocked and somehow offended at the intrusion.
"Probably the same one who managed to hack into Hartford's network, Cam," a pretty Hispanic woman with pigtails and a lab coat says.
"My name's Noah Carver," Noah says, and flashes his Morpher by the video camera so they can see. "Megaforce Blue, and sorry for the abrupt entrance, but my team needs help. Our mentor's doing jackshit to help us in battle and our tech is barely strong enough to keep up fighting the Armada. If my basic hacking of the Grid is correct, then you two should be-" and he checks the code scrolling across his laptop screen- "Cameron "Cam" Watanabe, Green Ninja Storm Samurai Ranger, and Rose Ortiz, Pink Operation Overdrive Ranger. Am I right?"
"Not bad, kid," Cam says, giving Noah a begrudging smile, while Rose grins.
"Your hack job's impressive," she says, "Especially for a-" she pauses for just a second, dark eyes scanning Noah in an almost scientific way. "High schooler, if I had to guess? Damn, are they going that young now?"
"The Mighty Morphin' team was high schoolers too," Cam corrects.
"But they were high schoolers with a competent mentor, right?" Noah points out.
"Decent point," Cam concedes. "What can we do to help?"
"All our tech is hopelessly basic," Noah says, "We could really use your help to upgrade it, and we could also use the help of a mentor or two as ours is practically useless when it comes to practical advice. Do you have any ideas as to who can help outfit our gear and who of the previous teams would make good mentors?"
"Plenty of ideas for mentors," Rose says, a somewhat terrifying gleam in her eyes. Well, Noah did ask for it.
“Well, I'm gonna have our best Morpher expert drop by to check your Morphers and see if he can enhance them,” Cam says, "Then I can stop by to check on your Zords and help you set up a more adept computer system."
“And then after that, I'll stop by to check on any of your extra weapons," Rose says, "As well as your comm system."
"Fantastic," Noah says. "And I have another idea, too, if you don't mind the suggestion."
"We're all ears," Cam says.
"If Gosei continues to be as shit a mentor as he is now, then I want to wire a way into our suits that will alert former Rangers that we need answers or help."
"That's brilliant!" Rose praises, and Noah smiles.
“Thanks. We can't do it in the base, though,” Noah says, “I don't think I want Gosei having access to all of our tech, especially if legendary Power Rangers are working on it. I do think I have a good idea for a new location, though.”
Rose smiles. “Do share, fellow Ravenclaw.”
"Yes ma'am," Noah says, and begins to explain.
The next week, Antonio Garcia of the Samurai team shows up to take a look at their morphers.
And by ‘shows up,’ Noah means Antonio literally sits down at the counter in the fro-yo shop, orders a cup of vanilla-chocolate swirl, and waits until Noah walks in and stops dead in his tracks. For a second, he's not sure if he's seeing things or not. Up until now, he hasn't met a single Power Ranger other than his team in person, and yet here sits Antonio Garcia, Gold Samurai Ranger, at his part-time job.
“Hear you need a Morpher genius,” Antonio says to Noah, grin brighter than a million suns, and Noah understands Cam’s reference to him as “The Literal Embodiment of Apollo.” “And my golden moment has arrived, kid.”
“You look like you can’t be more than three years older than me,” Noah says. “I can't be your ‘kid.'"
Antonio shrugs. “You've been a Ranger for what, a month? A little longer? Wait until you've been fighting this war for two and a half years, and don't tell me that you feel aged older than you were when you first started fighting."
Noah's been so busy trying to find new ways to improve their tech, find a competent mentor, fight the Armada, and keep his grades up in high school at the same time that he's had no time to himself. He's ended up collapsing into bed every night, too tired to dream or have nightmares. The fact that they're fighting a war is always in the back of his mind, but he tries not to focus on the broader implications of it.
"So," Antonio says, taking a bite of his fro-yo, and Noah blinks. Somehow Antonio has managed to make it to the bottom of his cup of fro-yo without Noah even noticing. "You wanna show me your base, Brainy Smurf?"
"Sure," Noah says, "As long as you never call me that again."
"I'll try," Antonio says, but he has that look on his face that Jake sometimes gets when he has no intention of keeping a promise.
Still, Noah's team desperately needs the help, so he just ignores his base instincts and instead nods. "Follow me, and I'll show you."
Antonio grins and follows Noah out of the store, chucking his empty cup into the trash can as they go by. Noah leads him across the mall and toward the store that the Hartford family money is helping pay to rent.
"I understand that the other teams really like their secret bases," Antonio says once they reach the door, "But a closed down athletics store? You've gotta be joking with me."
Noah grins. "Wait 'til you see inside." He unlocks the door and slips inside, Antonio trailing right behind him. Noah flips on the switch, revealing the base that the Hartford family fortune bought for the team after Noah mentioned his lack of funds to Cam and Rose. "Welcome to the Megaforce Base."
"Mierda," Antonio swears, glancing around at Noah's basic computer system, the team's bare bones training set-up, and the Weapons Wall. "This base is golden, kid!"
"It's not even finished," Noah says, though his proud smile doesn't slip away. For the week he's had to set all of this up (with a little help in moving everything from Mack Hartford himself, who had dropped by one day to see what he was helping pay for), it's pretty damn good. "Cam and Rose are gonna stop by within the next week to help with the computer system and the weapons systems, respectively."
"Well, I'm proud to help you however I can," Antonio says, and for the first time in their conversation the Gold Ranger is completely serious. "What your team is doing is important, and I'm honored that you asked me to help you all out."
"Cam said there was no one better to help with the Morphers," Noah says honestly, and Antonio grins at him.
"I think I'm going to keep you."
Noah shrugs. "After we defeat the Armada, I'd honestly love to come work with you or Cam or Rose."
A week later, Noah drags his team to their new base. He's pretty excited to show them everything he's worked on in the past week, and he's hoping they'll appreciate all the work he's been putting into improving the team. (Maybe even enough to ignore the fact that he's Soulless, whenever he works up the courage to tell them.)
"I've got something to show you," he says, standing in front of the entrance to the athletics store. "Remember Antonio stopping by last week?"
"How could we not?" Jake snorts. "He souped up our Morphers and dropped about a thousand puns related to gold- not exactly easy to forget."
"Well, I've been getting help from a few other former Rangers as well," Noah admits. "They've helped with upgrades to a lot of stuff- our computers, our training space, our weapons, and our Morphers. And..." he says, unlocking the door to the store, "I've gotten us a new base." He pushes open the door and leads the way in. He steps aside and watches his teammates as they step in and see the base. The expressions on their faces as they file into the base are absolutely priceless.
"Fuck, this is awesome!" Gia is the first to say, and the enthusiasm on her face is beautiful.
Along the counter where the cash register used to rest is a fully developed computer and surveillance system, coded mostly by Noah and Cam with some advice from RJ of the Jungle Fury team. Along the walls that used to house shoes are the team's weapons, mostly blasters and other long-range weapons developed by Rose and swords helped along by Mack Hartford's Soulmate Emily Allen Mori of the Samurai team. Half of the base is taken up by mats and up-to-date training gear that the Hartfords also helped pay for. There is even a small rack full of keys to various vehicles that the Ninja Storm team helped develop.
"We've made a number of upgrades to the weapons, Morphers, and computer systems," Noah says, "We also have better transportation and we'll actually have a fully functioning Mentor system that utilizes veteran Rangers to help us."
"How?" Troy asks, gaze curious but not suspicious, and Noah is all too willing to answer.
"You'll be able to contact former Rangers both through the comm systems in this base and through your suits in battle," Noah answers. "I call it the Home Office."
"May I ask why the name?" Emma asks, though her smile betrays no true judgement of the term.
Noah shrugs. "Because it was partially my brain child and thus I got to name it," he says. "And 'cause I thought it sounded kinda cool."
"No argument here," Gia says, already over at the rack of vehicle keys. "Where are all these vehicles kept?"
"In a secret room attached to the back of the mechanic's shop out front of the mall," Noah says. "The Hartford family fortune paid for most of this, though the tech was developed by various Rangers over the years."
Gia practically squeals. "This is gonna improve our fighting so much."
"Well, this is brilliant," Troy says with a smile to Noah. "This base is already five times better than the one Gosei has set up for us. This one actually has computers and a place to train."
"A shocker, I know," Noah can't help but snark, but he can't keep the smile off of his face. His team appreciates him, and whether or not he has a Soulmate he's definitely an important part of the team.
"Great job, Noah," Jake says, slinging an arm around Noah's shoulders. Noah smiles at the praise, holding it close to his heart.
Maybe he's Soulless, but that doesn't mean he's any less valuable to the team. He doesn't need a Soulmate to do all of this, to utilize his resources to create a base and build tech for the team.
As his team explores the base, occasionally calling out praise or words of excitement, Noah smiles. He did this.
“I’m Soulless,” he admits to Cam and Rose on one of their routine conference calls. For the first time since joining the team, he is not feeling bad for being a Soulless. Instead, he knows himself to be useful, and he doesn't believe that Cam and Rose will judge him for his lack of a Soulmate. Their teams weren't based on Soulmates- they were based on skills and talents. “Just so you know. And Gosei said that he chose the members of the team based on the strength of their Soulbonds. So my Marks...they’re fake.”
“As if I needed one more reason to hate the fucker,” Rose mutters, and Noah nearly flinches with the force of her vitriol. “Being a shit mentor, not having proper tech, discriminating against the UnBonded, the list just goes on and on.” She takes a deep breath and calms down. “I’m unBonded, unlike our jolly Green Giant over here.”
Cam raises an eyebrow. “That joke doesn’t even make any sense, and I’m our team’s snark captain.”
“There’s no way you named yourself that,” Noah says with a relieved laugh. Neither Rose nor Cam seem to be judging him for his lack of a Soulmate.
“No,” Cam says with a roll of the eyes. “Hunter did that, but the entire team’s adopted it as my title and I’ve just kinda learned to live with it."
“Hey, Cam, you're bonded to your Yellow Ranger, right?” Noah asks.
“Dustin?” Cam asks, and an uncharacteristically fond smile takes over his face. “Yeah. He's a bit of a numbskull, but I love him.”
"I'm glad," Rose says with a teasing smile, "Otherwise his constant bragging about how much he loves you would be a bit awkward." But then she turns her attention back to Noah. "See, Noah, there's nothing wrong with having a Soulmate or not having a Soulmate. What matters is what you choose to do with said fact, and whether you let it control your life or not. Cam and I are both happy and both useful to our teams and to your team. And you are definitely useful to yours."
Noah smiles though he feels the backs of his eyes burning with relieved tears. "Thanks."
"No problema," Rose says with a smile. "Us UnBonded have to stick together."
"And what am I?" Cam asks, "Chopped liver?"
"Nah," Rose says, "You're just feeling like the odd one out, just like Noah feels on his own team."
Noah gets a sour taste in his throat at the reminder of his status within the team, but Rose's teasing smile keeps it from overwhelming him. Instead, he just focuses on the feeling of spending time with two Rangers who know what he is and still accept him.
The first usage of the Home Office as mentors comes only a week later, when Gia and Emma get hit by a bee monster's powers and find themselves DeMorphed, with their Soulmarks wiped away and their powers drained from them. A scan from one of Rose's scanners reveals a depletion of their animal spirits- something Noah hadn't even been aware that his team could lose.
"Cam, Rose," Noah says into his comm, "We need help." He explains the situation with as little panic in his voice as he can, and when he's done he hears a little muttering before Rose responds.
"We're sending a couple of the Jungle Fury Rangers to help you. They went through something similiar back in '08 and they're probably your best bet."
"Thanks," Noah says, breathing a sigh of relief.
"No problem," Cam says, "They'll meet you back at your base in about an hour."
"Thanks," Noah says.
"No problem, kid," Cam says, and it looks like Noah's gonna have to get used to that nickname. It's bothering him less and less as they go on, though, becoming more a sign of affection than a derogatory nickname.
When they reach the base, they find a man in a red flannel button-down and a man in a white and purple striped t-shirt standing next to the door of the base.
"Casey Rhodes," the man in red introduces himself, "Jungle Fury Red, and this is RJ, Jungle Fury Violet."
"Holy shit!" Jake shouts, "You're the only Violet Ranger in history!"
"Glad to know that I'm recognizable," RJ says with the most zen smile Noah has ever seen.
Casey, on the other hand, seems to have a more grounded personality as he just rolls his eyes. "You're the best mentor that's ever existed, RJ, of course they recognize you."
"You're just biased," RJ jokes back, and Noah catches sight of the red and purple ink clearly displayed on RJ's arms. Ah.
"Regardless of that fact," Noah says, studiously ignoring the fact that the Red and Violet Jungle Fury Rangers are Soulmates. "We do have a problem that we could use your help with."
"Of course," Casey says, humorous gaze leaving his Soulmate and instead moving to the team. "Who got hit?"
"That'd be us," Emma gestures weakly with the hand that isn't being held in Emma's. They're both pretty exhausted, and Noah winces a little in sympathy. It must royally stink to have your spirit ripped out of you and your Soulmarks erased.
"Both of you got hit?" Casey asks, and Gia nods. He winces in sympathy. "I was the only one who got hit our time around."
"And what a wild time it was," RJ says, and Noah hates that he registers the pun. All Jake's influence, he can guarantee.
"It definitely had a great outcome, but I never want to repeat it," Casey says to Rj, then turns back to the Megaforce Rangers. "Our time around I got the monster to return my spirit. But since then we've learned that there are other ways to restore your animal spirit. Meditation, diverting the Power into your body, bonding time with your Soulmate, and a few more creative uses of Pai Zhua training can all get the job done."
Emma gives Gia a fond (though weary) smile. "Bonding with your Soulmate? I can definitely work with that."
"Not sure if we'll be able to pull that off when we're so drained, though," Gia says apologetically. "Though I'd love to bond with you some other time."
"Then let's try meditation," Casey says, "RJ, you want to work with that?"
RJ gives Casey a tender smile. "Can always work on my mentoring skills, dear."
"While RJ's working on that," Casey says, "You want me to work with you boys on improving your fighting skills? I've got some mad skills with nunchuku."
"Sounds perfect," Troy says.
Casey smiles. "Then let's head over to your training area and get to work."
Once everything is over and done with and Emma and Gia have gotten their animal spirits back, they find themselves gathered back together in the front of the base. Casey and RJ have finished what they came here for, and the Megaforce team has a monster to go find and take down.
"Feel free to come up to Ocean Bluff sometime," Casey says, somehow summoning five fliers for a pizza place from his jean pocket. "Jungle Karma Pizza's always looking for new customers."
"You work for a pizza place?" Emma asks, and Casey smiles.
"I work there part time. My Soulmate owns the place and I manage the dojo downtown. It's lots of work, but I really enjoy it."
"But you're a Pai Zhua master," Gia says, eyebrow raised. The disbelief is clear in her tone.
"No, I'm not a master," Casey says, and there's something in his smile that says there's something painful about the story behind that statement. "Though RJ is, and he still decided to start and continue to run Jungle Karma Pizza despite the fact that he could have taught at the Academy." It might just be Noah's imagination, but it feels like Casey is looking at him for a bit longer than the rest of his teammates as he says: "Having a particular talent or skill doesn't determine your path in life- your choices do."
After that lovely inspirational quote hits them, RJ walks up and gives them just a moment to process before speaking.
"And hey, once you all defeat the Armada and hit summer break, maybe some of you can come work for us," RJ says, "We're down a couple of employees as Theo and Lily's daughter was just born and they're off on parental leave for at least a few months."
Emma practically squeals. "Daughter? Do you guys have photos?"
Casey sighs fondly as RJ pulls out his phone. "You had to ask. We'll be here for ages now." He doesn't seem too put out, though, if his smile is anything to go by. "Ever since Fran got him that phone, he's been cramming it full of photos of the team and their families, especially Theo and Lily's daughter and Fran's nephew."
"Hey," Gia says once they've defeated the monster and the whole fiasco is over. They're sitting in Ernie's, eating away at celebratory fro-yo. "Do you guys ever think about that fact that we're gonna be veteran Rangers someday?"
"You're right," Troy says, "Someday we're gonna be mentors and shit for the next team of Rangers, just like Casey and RJ."
"Don't forget our favorite Gold Ranger," Emma says.
Jake grins. "It's kind of hard to forget the knight in shining gold armor himself, Mr. Antonio Garcia."
"And Cam and Rose, too," Noah chimes in, thinking about the two techs who had made all of this possible, "And Mack and the Hartfords."
"Cam and Rose?" Troy asks, "You've mentioned them plenty of times. Think we're ever going to get to meet them?"
"If the Home Office keeps working, then you guys should get a chance to talk to both of them," Noah says as he takes a bite of fro-yo.
"Awesome," Emma says, "Troy's already gotten to talk to a Red- it'll be nice to get to talk to a former Pink."
"Ooh," Jake says, "I can't wait to meet a Black Ranger, or even another Blue or Yellow."
"I'm sure we'll get to in time," Troy says, tone placating. "After all, the Home Office worked pretty well."
"That it did," Jake agrees, offering Noah an approving smile. "Good work, bro."
Noah doesn't attempt to hold back a grin. "Thanks."
"Thank you, Noah," Gia says, "You're the one who saved our asses."
"And Gia and I's Soulbond," Emma adds. "Can't thank you enough for that."
Gia darts in and kisses Emma's cheek, and Noah isn't jealous. He doesn't want the kisses, or the sex, or anything remotely romantic in nature- he's fine with the concept of being UnBonded on its own. He just wishes that his value on the team wasn't tangled up in the concept of Soulmates.
So he just continues to smile as his team banters around him. This team camaraderie he can definitely get behind.
A few weeks later, Antonio stops by again to check on the Morphers, this time bringing a stranger with him.
"I'd like you all to meet my Soulmate," Antonio says, pulling a man into the base behind him, and by the color of the man's shirt Noah's pretty ready to peg him as Jayden Shiba, the Red Samurai Ranger. A moment later, Antonio confirms it by saying, "This is Jayden, the Red Samurai Ranger."
"It's nice to meet all of you," Jayden says, voice calm in a way Antonio seems biologically incapable of speaking in.
"It's nice to meet you as well," Troy says, and Noah tries to wrack his brain to see if the proper way to refer to Jayden is "Jayden" or "Lord Shiba." The Ranger archives say that Jayden does have an older sister, right? So she'd be Lady Shiba, Head of the House of Shiba, but what is the proper title of the younger sibling of the current Head of the Shiba family? And also, if Antonio is Jayden's Soulmate, does that also give him some sort of title that Noah should have been using this whole time? Fuck, has he been disrespecting Antonio the whole time he's been consulting with him about the Morphers?
"And the boy currently probably trying to compute all of the data from yesterday's battle using only his mind is Noah Carver, our resident tech genius and Blue Ranger," Jake says, and Noah glances up from his thoughts, realizing that everyone has gone around the circle and introduced themselves while he was thinking.
"Sorry about that," Noah says with a sheepish smile, "I was trying to remember the Samurai title protocol."
Jayden looks a bit surprised at that. "You know that?"
"I've been spending as much of my free time as possible going through the Ranger archives for information on previous teams," Noah says, "I've been trying to find anything that could be useful for our team to succeed. Nothing's gonna compare to real life advice from previous Rangers, but background knowledge can never hurt. As I've been going through, though, I have been memorizing a lot of extra tidbits as well."
Jayden looks at Antonio, who is smiling proudly. "I can see why you talk about him the way you do."
"What can I say?" Antonio asks, "I'm proud of my protegee."
"I'd be Cam's protegee, more accurately, as I work more with computers than Morphers, but sure," Noah agrees.
Something chimes from Antonio's pocket and he pulls out what looks like the Samurai Morpher from the archives. There's no way it could be, though, as no one would ever turn a Morpher into such mundane use as a cell phone.
"Mierda," Antonio says, "Jay, Hatsu's getting antsy."
"Well, it was nice to meet you all, but we've gotta get back to the food court," Jayden says, "It was nice to meet you all, but we've got a niece to take care of and she's currently in Mike and Kevin's care, so if we leave her there for too much longer she'll probably be corrupted."
Niece? Jayden's only twenty one, and his sister's only a year older, and the records state that both were Unbonded during their time as Rangers. How could his sister have had a child? Perhaps his niece is actually one of Antonio's siblings-?
But wait, Antonio mentioned the name 'Hatsu,' which is of Japanese origin, and the archives list his heritage as half-Filipino, half-Mexican. How could that lend itself to a Japanese name?
There are definitely ways to have children when you are Unbonded, but when the Samurai team lasted for two years, it's rather unlikely that Jayden's sister had the reason or want for invitro fertilization before the age of eighteen-
"Noah's spaced out again," Emma says, and Noah blinks.
He chuckles. "Sorry, guys."
"No problema, niño," Antonio says, sounding just like Rose, and for a moment Noah wonders if Rose and Cam have told Antonio about him being UnBonded. Noah trusts their ability to keep a secret, but he wonders if the two of them would consider Antonio part of their inner circle of techs. Noah certainly does, after all, and he makes a mental note to talk to Antonio about his UnBonded status later. "But we do really have to go. Niece to take care of and all. Talk to you later, kiddo."
At least he didn't call Noah 'Brainy Smurf.' "Sure thing, Antonio," Noah says.
Antonio offers them one last, "Adios," then grabs Jayden's hand and practically yanks him out of the base. Jayden doesn't seem to mind, though, from the fond smile on his face, and Noah has to wonder how many of their mentors are going to carry that same fond look seemingly always caused by their Soulmates. Hopefully not all of them- he sure hopes that Rose isn't the only UnBonded veteran Ranger out there.
For now, though, he just goes back to training and working on upgrades to the weapons.
Chapter 2: in darkness, she is all I see
Title is from "Sunday Morning" by Maroon 5.
Features appearance by Jennifer Scotts of Time Force and Z Delgado of S.P.D.
Mentions of the Retro Rangers.
Also, Gia is as gay for Jen Scotts as the rest of us are. Well, at least as gay as I am for Jen Scotts. We are all as gay for Jen Scotts as I am, right?
As much as Noah is the nerd of their friend group, Gia has always been the one with the fascination for Power Rangers. Yeah, Noah has his superheroes and his comics, but Gia has her Power Rangers TV shows and her near-obsessive love for the history of the Yellow Rangers. She's not going to deny that she has nearly every Yellow and Black Ranger action figures ever made, both for the real life Rangers and the TV show ones. Some people collect snowglobes- Emma collects fallen flowers and photographs- and Gia collects Power Rangers figures. She's memorized stats and plotlines, battles won and powers gained and as many details as newspapers and the media and trading cards can give her.
(When Noah had revealed the Ranger archives, Gia had nearly fainted from utter excitement. She has three great loves in the world- Emma, shiny vehicles, and Power Rangers- and to have access to such information is fucking awesome.)
She'll deny it to her dying day that she's such a nerd about Power Rangers- she has a bit of a reputation as the school's bad girl (which always makes Emma laugh and call her a big softie) that she finds fun to uphold- but Emma knows just how excited Gia was when she found out that she was going to get to be a Power Ranger. Emma's not judging, though. After all, when Gia first admitted to her giant stash of Power Rangers, Emma had kissed her on the nose and called her "adorable."
Gia has known Emma since they were little kids. She doesn't think she can even remember a time when the pink ink on her arm didn't line up with the bright, warm girl in front of her, when she wasn't completely in love with the girl who loved nature and photography and everything soft. She can't remember not wanting to do everything possible to impress Emma.
She knows that not all Soulmate relationships operate the same way as hers does, though. Emma and hers is sappy as fuck, always doting and fond, while Troy and Jake's is far more bro-esque, full of teasing and dad jokes. Gia's parents show their love by debating philosophy (they're both professors, which sometimes makes Gia question how she turned out the way she did).
Noah betrays none of the normal signs of a Soulmate relationship, or even of someone head-over-heels in love with a Soulmate he's never met. He only started mentioning Michael a lot once they started the team, and even then only seeming to half-remember him most of the time. Gia could never imagine having to be prompted to tell news about Gia to anyone.
Gia would have a hard time believing Noah to be in love with anyone.
The first time they meet a Ranger without use of the Home Office (or that isn't one of Noah's tech friends) is when Jen motherfucking Scotts herself drops by their school on some sort of preliminary study as the Silver Foundation's been donating money to their school district's arts and martial arts programs for years and she's there to check.
To the average person, Jen Scotts appears to be just a pretty woman in her mid-thirties, dressed in a black leather jacket, pink plaid button-down, black slacks, black hat, and dark pink heels. She could pass as a businesswoman or a teacher, any ordinary passerby.
However, Gia has spent enough time in the Archives to know that Jen Scotts is one of the most awesome people to ever live, and she means that in the awe-inspiring definition of the word. Jen Scotts is one of the only female leaders in Power Rangers history, to begin with, and she led her team after their Red Ranger died in the future. Despite the loss, she then successfully led her team to the reform and capture of a mass criminal before deciding to stay in the present day and become a co-commander of the Silver Guardians. Nowadays, she is still the Co-Commander of the Silver Guardians as well as the Vice President of Media Relations at the Collins Foundation.
And Gia is fucking psyched to meet her.
"Gia Moran," Gia says, grin bright as she offers out a hand, "And this is Emma Goodall. And you are Time Force Pink."
Emma spent enough time with Gia as a kid to pick up the basics of previous teams. "Wait, are you from the future?"
"Yep. And she's the only Pink Ranger to ever serve as team leader," Gia adds, and Emma raises an eyebrow. Gia nods, answering Emma's unspoken question. "Ma'am, pardon my french, but you're a fucking icon."
Jen, on the other hand, doesn't seem entirely ready to accept the praise. "That piece of information is known only to Time Force and the Ranger Archives. Cam said that the Rangers were attending school here," Jen says with a smile that isn't stiff. "You two girls have to be said Rangers." She makes a quick, methodical glance at their clothing and says, "You're either the Yellow or the Black, and Emma is either the Pink or the Blue."
"You'd make a really gorgeous Black Ranger," Emma says to Gia with a small smile.
"Everyone knows that Yellow is best," Gia says, "Though I have always had a soft spot for Pinks." She offers Emma the kind of warm smile that she reserves only for her eternally optimistic Soulmate.
"Oh, you're a Yellow alright," Jen says, "You've got that Yellow smile."
Gia arches an eyebrow. "Yellow smile?"
"In-joke amongst the Rangers," Jen says, "We say that even if the sky went dark, a smile from a Yellow Ranger could light up the world."
"That's definitely true," Emma says. "You have no idea how many photos I've taken of this Eighth Wonder of the World."
Something empty flashes across Jen's expression at the flirtatious comment, and for a moment Gia wonders what could have caused such a reaction. They didn't say anything offensive, did they?
"Anyway," Gia says, trying to distract from whatever made that expression cross Jen's face, "I've got so much to ask you about your time as a Ranger-"
But, of course, Gia gets interrupted by her own teammates making their characteristically noisy entrance to the conversation.
"Gia! Em!" Jake calls out, running up to them, and Gia nearly laughs when she sees that Troy is practically getting dragged along with the overenthusiastic Black Ranger. Lagging a few comfortable steps behind them is Noah, who is busy tapping away at the tablet in his hands. "We've been looking all over for you!"
"We were talking to Ms. Scotts," Gia says, knowing for a fact that Jake won't recognize Jen Scotts as a Ranger upon first glance. Jake and Troy have their definite assets, but a dedication to studying Ranger history is not one of them.
"The donation lady?" Jake asks (because he has no tact), and Troy elbows him, probably trying to make some hopeless attempt at curbing Jake's rudeness.
Jen rolls her eyes. "Yes, I'm the 'donation lady.' I'm also the Commander of the Silver Guardians as well as the Vice President of Media Relations at the Collins Foundation." Jake's jaw drops and Gia smirks.
"At the same time?" Troy asks, "That's pretty impressive, ma'am."
Noah finally glances up from his tablet and his jaw drops. "Jennifer Scotts?" He gasps. "Cam said you'd be showing up soon, but I didn't think it'd be today!"
"You knew the Time Force Pink Ranger would be showing up and you didn't tell us?" Gia levels Noah with a stare of disapproval, and he swallows.
"Sorry?" he offers.
"Time Force Pink?" Troy asks, and Gia knows that he's at least learned a little bit about the history of the leaders of the Rangers from Casey's visit. He offers out a hand to shake. "Ma'am, it's an honor to meet you."
Jen's gaze searches Troy as she shakes his hand. "You're Red, correct?"
Troy nods. "Troy Burrows."
"And who would your team leader be?" Jen asks.
"Troy," Jake says, smile a bit proud around the edges.
Jen looks him over. "You're the team leader?" She looks to Gia, Emma, Jake, and Noah. "How does he do in battle?"
"Pretty well, though he could use a few improvements on military tactics," Noah says, voice matter-of-fact. "No offense to Troy, but he lacks the formal training of leaders such as yourself as well as lacking a proper mentor, so that's not his fault."
Troy smiles at Noah. "Thanks, man."
"No problem," Noah replies.
"We could get arrangements made for weekly training sessions," Jen says, "Revolving schedule of team leaders trained by government, military, martial arts schools, and we'll throw in the couple of naturals who had no proper mentor to help, such as Andros, Mack, or Jason." She looks at the rest of the team, and Troy seems to relax just a little when Jen's not staring at him. "And for the rest of you-" She gives them a small smirk. "I may have a few veteran Rangers that can do for your fighting skills what Cam, Rose, and Antonio did for your tech."
"More veteran Rangers?" Jake practically shouts, the rest of the team hushing him as he does so. "Awesome! I can't wait to meet more of you guys!"
Emma nods. "It has been pretty nice meeting all of these veteran Rangers."
"Wait until you meet the Retro Rangers," Jen says, "I'm sure they'll drop in at some point."
"Retro Rangers?" Gia asks. She knows every single Ranger team's name and has memorized every single Ranger name documented in the archives. She has seen no note of a "Retro Ranger" team.
"Another Ranger joke- I'm sure you'll learn them in time. My team certainly did when we dropped in from the past. But the Retro Rangers are a team of Rangers that helped Operation Overdrive when they lost their connection to the Morphing Grid back in '07. They consist of their temporary leader, Adam Park, Mighty Morphin' Black, Bridge Carson, S.P.D. Red, Tori Hanson, Ninja Storm Blue, Kira Ford, Dino Thunder Yellow, and Xander Bly, Mystic Force Green."
"But the only S.P.D. Rangers listed in the Archives are the team based on the Moon," Noah says, "And they formed in 2010 with Nathan Tate as their Red, and as far as I'm aware, he still is."
Gia nods, confirming his point. "I was just looking at their entry yesterday, and he's still listed as their Red." When her team stares at her, she shrugs. "I was going through all of the non-Earth-based teams, fell into a bit of an Archives blackhole." Noah nods- he gets it. Before they had the Archives, they both had tendencies to do the same thing when journeying through Wikipedia.
"You get used to time travel issues when you're a Ranger," Jen says, "Bridge was from 2035. He's part of the team then."
Speaking of time travel issues- Jen's team is listed as half returned to the future, with her, Wesley Collins, and Eric Myers remaining in the present day. Gia's gaze slides to Jen's forearms, which are covered by the arms of a dark leather jacket. She wonders what sits under that fabric, what Marks line Jen's skin. She wonders what kind of Soulmates a woman like the Time Force Pink Ranger has.
"Now, the second reason I wanted to speak to you all," Jen says, and when she looks over their team, dark gaze searching, Gia understands why the Archives hold her in such high regard. The Time Force Pink is, perhaps, the most intimidating person Gia has ever met, and Gia's pretty in awe that she's able to hold such intimidation factor in a pink button-down and pink heels. "I've heard rumors that your mentor somehow chose you based on your Soulmate bonds."
"That's what he said, yes," Troy says, holding Jake's hand, but Gia looks past him at Noah, whose expression she's unable to read.
"The power of a Soulmate bond is never a marker of how well a person will perform as a Ranger," Jen says, and there's something almost painfully sharp in her voice. "Being a Ranger is about your own personal strength and character. I'm sure that you all make good Rangers, maybe even great ones with your ingenuity and desire to learn, but I'm here to remind you that your strength does not come from a Soulmate bond. Your relationships are important, but they do not make your choices for you. Your soulmate can help make you strong, but they are not the only thing that makes you so."
And Gia once again finds herself looking at Noah, whose expression is a bit off, his mouth almost flipped into a frown. "If I may ask," he says after a moment of thought, a strange note to his tone. "And if it's too personal, you don't need to answer, ma'am, but, uh, what about you? About your Soulmate or Soulmates?"
"I'm in a relationship with Wes and Eric, if that's what you're asking," Jen says, and Gia blinks. She knows of poly relationships among Rangers- there are a few confirmed in the Archives- but no relationships other than the marriage between Katie Walker, the Time Force Yellow Ranger (and goddamn, that is a Ranger Gia would love to meet), and Trip Regis, Time Force Green, are recorded in the Time Force section of the Archives. There are absolutely no notes on Soulmates in the Time Force Rangers. "But I fell in love with them on my own. Soulmarks had next to nothing to do with it."
Noah nods. "Thank you, ma'am."
Jen nods. "And I do appreciate the "ma'am," but we're all Rangers here. No need to stand on honorifics."
"But you're Jen Scotts!" Gia protests, and Jen grins.
"I know I have a pretty outstanding record, but one of you could have a record as good as mine someday." Jen gives them all a proud smile, a smile that makes Gia want to live up to Jen's all ready existing pride in them. "All of us vets really do believe in you guys, and not just because we have to."
The next day finds Gia scrolling through the Archives, researching as much as she can about the Retro Rangers.
She digs through their notes on Tori Hanson, Adam Park, Xander Bly, Kira Ford, and Bridge Carson. Most of said Rangers have pages of information describing everything from their battles to their specific powers to even their Soulmates and children, but Gia's a bit of a fast reader so she's getting through it pretty easily.
However, she soon finds there's little information available about Bridge Carson. Makes sense- he's from the future, he fought all of his battles sixteen years ahead of today- but it's still pretty frustrating, hitting a dead end in her research so soon.
"Hey, Noah," Gia says that evening, when she goes into her shift at Ernie's that night. "Do you have any more information about future teams in the Archives? We have very little information about future S.P.D."
Noah looks up from the dishes he's washing (and to be honest, Gia wonders why Noah is still keeping up his job here. Between running the team's tech, being on the team, being in the school robotics club, taking five AP classes, and this job, she wonders how he even finds the time to sleep). "If it's not in the Archives, then even I won't have access to it, sorry."
Well, damn. Gia really hopes that doesn't come back to bite them in the ass.
Their first interaction with a Yellow Ranger- and thus, the fulfillment of all of Gia's childhood dreams- comes, actually, with a woman in a blue uniform.
The woman shows up right outside of their base, knocking on the door like any Ranger would. But the problem sets in when they let her in when Gia looks through the peephole through one of their papered-over windows and places the uniform the woman's wearing.
"That's the S.P.D. uniform," Gia says, "But I don't recognize the woman in the uniform."
Noah nods. "We'll let her in and hear her out because the current alien's really kicking our ass, but we'll have to remain vigilant."
Jake grins. "Constant vigilance, right, Noah?"
Noah high-fives Jake while Emma says, "Harry Potter reference, Jake? That's a bit of a surprise."
Troy snorts as he heads for the door. "Not really. Jake's been writing about it since we were kids. Noah got him into it."
Noah shrugs as the door opens. "Guilty as charged."
"Hello," the woman says as she steps into the room, "I'm Z Delgado, S.P.D. Blue. Formerly Yellow and Green."
But the current S.P.D. Blue is Martin Sanchez, according to the Archives. And there's only been one S.P.D. Yellow and Green- Leroy O'Malley and T'yana Walker, respectively, the current S.P.D. Rangers. How the fuck can she be-?
Z gives them a sympathetic smile. "I get it. The current S.P.D. Blue isn't me. I'm from a bit into the future."
The pieces fall into place. Gia gets it now.
"Oh, shit," Noah mutters, "What year are you from, ma'am?"
"2035," Z says, and Gia suddenly gets what Noah means. She remembers Jen's comments about the Retro Rangers- Jen had said that the Red S.P.D. Ranger she'd met had been from 2035, so Z could be from the same team, but she could be from before or after Bridge Carson. Jen's words float back to Gia- Time travel is complicated. It sure is. "My team defeated our Big Bad four years ago."
As excited about meeting a former Yellow Ranger as Gia is, she's busy thinking back to what she can remember of what she's researched of the Retro Rangers. Bridge Carson is noted on mentioning that his original Ranger team- from around the year 2030- are all his Soulmates, and that two of his contemporary team are his Soulmates as well. And if the Overdrive Rangers marked the dates and mentioned names correctly, then that could make Z...
"You're in a relationship with Bridge Carson, right?" Gia asks, pretty sure that she's gotten things right and that she shouldn't be spoiling if they're from the same year. Bridge Carson had been in a relationship for five years prior to 2035- even if Z's from before his trip into the past, Gia won't be spoiling anything.
Z raises an eyebrow, her bright 'Yellow' smile dropping away. "Yeah, I am. How'd you know?"
"Time travel shenanigans," Noah immediately says, "We can't say everything because of paradoxes and the like, but we did learn some things."
"Did he mention it when he visited the past a few months ago?" Z asks. "Because I could have sworn that he said he visited 2007, not 2013."
"It's mentioned in our Archives," Gia says. "The team he helped out wrote down as much of what he said as they could remember."
Z's expression turns fond. "They could understand what he was saying?"
Emma's brow furrows. "Why wouldn't they be able to understand him?"
Z lets out a small chuckle. "Long story. Bridge can be hard to understand for people who don't know him well."
Emma, however, is the one of them with common sense, who brings the conversation back to its original topic. "But why are you here, if you don't mind me asking?"
"Rose Ortiz developed a special archival system for S.P.D. in the years after Bridge and the other Rangers helped out with Operation Overdrive. It's designed to release on certain days to call Rangers back in time to certain dates in order to help teams. Our Archives self-censor any mentions of current S.P.D. Ranger teams' interactions with past teams, thus not allowing any Ranger to know about what they did in the past. When we get a distress call from a previous team, it is like a call from a far-away region rather than knowledge of what we've done. Because we don't know what we are going to do, sending us into the past doesn't cause paradoxes."
Gia's not entirely sure what all of that means, but she thinks she gets the fact that Z hasn't read anything about Bridge's soon adventure to the past because her Archives hadn't shown her any of said records.
Noah, on the other hand, seems to have processed everything Z just said. "So your Archives said that a Ranger would be needed today?"
Z nods. "And Bridge was busy with a side mission with the special detection unit so I came to help. What's the alien problem?"
"We're having a hard time pinning it down," Troy starts, and Jake snorts.
"Literally. He's basically goo."
Noah nods. "Our weapons are having a hard time making any kind of damage, and we don't have any way to capture him."
"So you need a containment card to capture him," Z says with a grin. "I can definitely work with that."
"Containment card?" Noah says, eyes going wide with curiosity as he leans forward. "How does that work?"
Z smirks. "I'll show you."
So a day and a battle later, Z goes back home to the future with a wave and her containment card- because they certainly can't keep future tech like that in the past- and they're back to normal.
Today's a training day so they're working on their sparring mats in their mall base, currently Jake v. Emma and Gia v. Noah, with Jake and Emma going hand to hand and Gia and Noah working with the blades that Emily of the Samurai team provided. Troy is working solo with a bo staff against a dummy. They're all in tank tops (with the exception of Noah, who Gia doesn't think she's ever seen outside of a polo) and shorts (gym shorts in Emma, Troy, and Jake's cases, khaki shorts in Noah's case, and jean shorts in Emma's case.)
"Alright, then," Jake says as he strikes out at Emma, who dances back quickly so that she can't get hit. "Should we count her as meeting a Blue, Green, or Yellow Ranger?"
"Well, we've met Two Reds, a Purple, a Pink, and a Gold so far," Troy says, offering up a quick calculation of all the veteran Rangers they've already met.
"Rose and Cam are Pink and Green respectively, if you want to count them," Noah adds as his practice blade hits Gia's. "And Mack and Emily, who are Red and Yellow themselves."
"Yeah, so not fair that you've gotten to meet all the veteran Rangers," Jake says, ducking and only just avoiding Emma's foot.
"Kinda necessary," Noah points out, and Jake gives him a lopsided grin.
"Yeah, I know, man," he says, "Just wish we could meet more."
"But as to what we're qualifying Z as," Emma says, thankfully pulling them all back into the conversation, "If we qualify her as all the colors she's been, then we've hit a Ranger for every color except yours, Jake."
And though Gia is never one to boost Jake's ego, she is one for Power Rangers history and teams. "And historically, Black and Green tend to fill the same role, depending on the team," she tells them as she ducks her blade under Noah, landing a strike on his side- bulls-eye. Noah lowers his blade in a gesture of surrender. "So we can even squeak in a "technically" everyone's met someone of their own color."
Jake grins. "I'm cool with that."
"And then if we meet Green, Black, or Yellow Rangers from teams that didn't promote, we can just consider her Blue," Emma says.
"Or vice versa," Noah says, then gives Gia a raised eyebrow. "Another round?"
Gia grins, tucking a piece of sweaty hair back behind her ear. "Always up for it."
So this is her new normal, and Gia really enjoys it. She's a Power Ranger, training with her best friends, fighting evil, and getting to meet veteran Rangers who she's looked up to her whole life. Gia doesn't really want things to change, other than for them to possibly fight and beat the Big Bad- she loves the current state of events too much.
Then a Silver Ranger begins to make appearances, and things start to really shift within her team, disrupting their balance of friendship and bringing to light all the things she's been purposefully ignoring.