Chapter 1: Prologue
In the end, she was fairly certain the blame for all of this fell squarely at the feet of everyone who was not her.
It wasn't like she asked to be drafted into the scheme to keep the various governments of the Earth from getting their hands on Ranger tech and using them as WMDs.
(That, she would insist to her dying day, was all Tommy's doing. Maybe Andros'. But Tommy was definitely in there too.)
If she hadn't been put in this position, then she would never have gotten involved with SHIELD. If she hadn't gotten involved with SHIELD, she would never have met the Avengers. If she hadn't met the Avengers, well ….
Point was, this was totally not her fault.
Chapter 2: Chapter 1
The original twelve and various other Rangers all gather together for an emergency meeting.
Story: Alpha Operations
Disclaimer: Power Rangers are owned by Haim Saban, Avengers and Co are owned by Marvel. I write for fun, not for profit.
Summary: When SHIELD starts sniffing around the Rangers, the Rangers take preemptive measures to make sure they don't get drafted against their will.
A/N 1: Prologue was crazy short so...here's the first chapter!
“Guys, guys, be quiet!”
Kim watched in amusement as Tommy failed to get the group to shut up. You'd think a bunch of hyperactive rangers who hadn't all been in the same place at the same time in months, if not years, would be easy peasy for the consummate ranger to corral, considering he worked with teenagers every day, but Tommy was not doing well at all. She caught Hayley's eye, where the redhead was sitting quietly by Tommy's side, and the two grinned as he threw his hands up and sat back down, arms crossing as a pout appeared.
Kim put her fingers to her lips and whistled. Immediately everyone shut up and turned to her, some wincing at the echoes. Like it was her fault Tommy liked caves.
“We're here for a reason, I believe,” she said simply and then turned to Tommy with a smile. “Well? What's up?”
Tommy shot her a thankful look and she preened slightly as everyone sat down and turned to the original green ranger.
“So, first of all, thanks for coming so quickly,” Tommy said, looking over the rather large group who'd descended on Reefside. All of the original twelve, the former Dinos, and Andros and Ashley. He focused specifically on two of the former yellow's and the original black. “I know it was difficult to get away for some of you.”
“You said it was important,” Tanya said, sitting side by side with Zack. Nearby, Kira nodded. Kim wondered briefly where their staff thought they were—Tanya and Kira were both on tour at the moment (Kira was opening for Tanya), which meant they should have been getting ready for a concert that night. She made a mental note to ask Zack when she had a chance.
“It is,” Tommy agreed and there was worry there. She wasn't the only one who noticed, either, cause everyone unconsciously straightened, focusing completely on him.
“What's up, Bro?” Jason asked quietly from his place next to Kim.
Tommy shared a look with Andros, who nodded from his place on the couch with Ashley. Tommy's lips twisted and he turned to them. “You all know about New York,” he noted and more than one person gave him a duh look. The rangers, all sixty-seven of them, had been scrambling to get together to go to the attack when the portal had closed and the fight had ended. Some had already been in New York and had gone to work helping where they could, acting as Good Samaritans (there had been a lovely photo taken of RJ and Casey helping a little old lady away from the streets around the recently renamed Avengers Tower. Yet another was of Carter, who'd been in the city to do a seminar with the NYFD, dousing one of the aliens with a fire extinguisher as civilians fled behind him—that one was still getting the former red a ton of teasing).
“Well, the Avengers were announced shortly after the attack as being under the jurisdiction of a group known as SHIELD—” He paused a moment and looked at Hayley.
“Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division,” she supplied helpfully and he nodded.
“What she said,” he continued as some snickered quietly. “Anyway, they're an international organization, supervised by the UN's World Security Council, who's specific job is to deal with the problems that normal soldiers and agents can't—like New York and Loki and technically mutants, though the X-Men seem to be taking care of that fairly well on their own.”
“What's that have to do with us?” Rocky asked, frowning.
“Well, apparently they've decided the Rangers fall under that umbrella,” he began but had to shut up because at his words, half the room stood up and began talking over one another. Kim whistled again. At this rate, she might as well find an actual whistle.
“Thanks,” Tommy smiled at her and she nodded. He turned to the agitated group in front of him. “I know, I don't like it either. But we've known for a while that the UN—and the US in particular—didn't particularly like that we refused to answer to any of them.”
“The only thing keeping them from declaring us a terrorist group is that they're not sure how that would affect any future attacks that would need Rangers,” Jason noted. He'd been an Army Ranger and had been unwillingly under the jurisdiction of a general who'd made no bones about the fact he wanted access to the Ranger tech and thought they were a dangerous group. The first chance he'd had, Jason had left Ross' unit. He'd also completely disobeyed orders and told Billy about one of the main targets of Ross' insanity and the rangers had been quietly helping Banner avoid the general when they could. The doc didn't know, of course, but that was the whole point.
“But everything's changing now,” Tommy agreed. “And SHIELD has been pretty much hounding all the known rangers, which is why only Andros and Ashley are here from them.” He didn't have to say it but everyone understood—they were all under observation and if the publicly known Rangers disappeared at the same time, SHIELD would take notice which was not conductive to what they'd been brought together to discuss. It was probably also why only the original twelve (and the Dino's) were there—it was easier for them to get away because they weren't known Rangers. They could then disperse and talk with the rest of the teams without raising too many eyebrows.
“Carter called me about it a week ago,” Andros agreed. “Him and Captain Mitchell have been keeping them off for the time being but they both agree its only a matter of time before an order will come in for all of Lightspeed Tech to be turned over to SHIELD, one they won't be able to circumvent. SHIELD has too much clout and they're a UN entity; we're lucky the order hasn't come already.”
Kim flashed back to the panic of when they'd heard the President had been considering ordering all of Lightspeed tech to be dispersed to the government to reverse engineer. It was only a timely intervention by the Prime Minister of England of all people that had stopped it—the man had had a little chat with the President about world sharing and the worry of the rest of the world about superior tech that wasn't their own. Kim, who'd heard about it from her father, figured the President had been worried about the US alliances with the various world governments if it became common knowledge that they had complete access to Ranger tech. He'd gone on to order that all Ranger Tech be turned over to the Rangers for cold storage and was therefore off-limits to any world government, a decree that had been supported by an equally worried UN. That had been three years ago now.
Lightspeed had technically been a US project but it had been overseen by the United Nations. After numerous failed tests to get the ranger tech to work for UN soldiers after the team had retired, the entire thing had been scrapped and the tech locked away. Billy was still highly proud of that achievement, if only because it had proved he was better than the Lightspeed technicians and only one of them had ever known they'd been sabotaged. It was still a point of contention between him and Angela though.
“So what do we do?” Billy asked. “I mean, between me, Hayley, Cam, Rose, Justin, and Angela, we can lock everyone out of the tech so they won't be able to use it themselves but that doesn't mean they won't be able to reengineer they're own stuff—it's what I did and I was only twenty. They're going to have people just as smart as me and with more experience doing that—not to mention, they've got Stark.”
From the expression on his face, he was more worried about the billionaire than about the SHIELD scientists and with good reason. Kim might not be scientific herself, but even she knew that the playboy would probably have little problem figuring out the tech. Some aspects, like the Morphin Grid, would probably give him trouble but...this was the man who'd built his first suit, if the rumors were to be believed, out of scrap metals in a cave. Knowing that, he'd probably be able to make ranger suits without the Morphin Grid, which was infinitely more dangerous. The Morphin Council didn't take kindly to rangers not attached to the Grid.
“We have to do something,” Justin said from his place on the floor. Somehow, no one was entirely sure how since the media had gone digging like crazy post C2D, he'd never been outed as a former ranger, hence his presence at the meeting. “We cannot let the Ranger tech into unknown hands. It wouldn't end well for anyone.”
“Captain Mitchell had an idea but...the Morphin Council would have to sign off on it,” Andros said softly. “It would mean knowingly breaking, or at least bending, the Code.”
Everyone shifted uneasily in their seats. The Code was a huge part of the reason none of them were known as Rangers, not to mention something they'd all sworn to uphold. Maybe not knowingly like the originals had to Zordon and the Dino's to Tommy, but subconsciously they'd all done so. Breaking the Code...it was a big deal.
“What's the idea?” Tommy finally asked.
As Andros outlined it, Kim felt her heart sink.
Breaking the Code was the least of their worries.
Chapter 3: Chapter 2
Kimberly really needs to get better at Not It.
Story: Alpha Operations
Disclaimer: Power Rangers are owned by Haim Saban, Avengers and Co are owned by Marvel. I write for fun, not for profit.
Summary: When SHIELD starts sniffing around the Rangers, the Rangers take preemptive measures to make sure they don't get drafted against their will.
A/N 1: I meant to get this out quicker but I'm subbing for fifth grade for two weeks and didn't get the chance. :/ It's here now though!
“Why did I get pulled into this, again?” Kim demanded as she smoothed her pants down her legs. They were black, to go with the black jacket she had on over the light purple blouse. She'd specifically chosen a color not her own for this meeting, as they weren't quite willing yet to reveal who she was.
“Cause you have experience in politics, you like arguing, your father is on the committee that funds SHIELD, and you had nothing else to do,” Carter answered promptly. “And we all agreed you're the one who was most likely to be underestimated based on looks alone.”
“Also, Tommy insisted it wasn't his turn and everyone else yelled 'Not It' before you could,” Adam added with a grin. Kim made a face at them both.
“You guys suck,” she grumbled. “This is gonna end in disaster. The first chance I get, I'm turning this baby over to someone else—maybe even Tommy.”
“But he said 'Not it'” Captain Mitchell reminded her blandly and Kim resisted the urge to kick out with her foot.
“Look alive,” Carter said suddenly and Kim focused on the two individuals in suits heading their way. More softly he told her, “That's Agent Sitwell on the right and Agent Romanoff on the left. Agent Sitwell is in Fury's inner circle, one of the higher members of SHIELD. He's handler for the Avengers and liaison to Stark Industries at the moment, since Agent Coulson died. Agent Romanoff...I think you already know.”
Sitwell was older than her, though she was uncertain as by how much. Hispanic and bald, he gave off the impression of being completely no-nonsense. She'd heard about him before; he was heavily involved as the liaison to the Senate committee that decided how much funding and support the US would give SHIELD and thus, someone her father complained about constantly at the beginning of every year.
The woman she recognized as being the Black Widow, the only woman on the Avengers (which all the female rangers were still being pissy about). Her identity had never been revealed and most news footage of the fight didn't even have the Black Widow or Hawkeye in them, but Kimberly wasn't most people—Billy's satellites had been monitoring everything the moment he'd heard about the attack and the moment she knew she was the one to be doing this, she'd been watching the footage non-stop.
“Agent Sitwell, Agent Romanoff,” Captain Mitchell greeted them once they stopped a few feet from them. He held out his hand and shook both of theirs. Carter quickly followed suit but Adam and Kim hung back a moment. Mitchell finally turned to the two of them. “These are two of our associates. Ms. Kimberly Hart and Mr. Adam Park. They're here for our meeting with Director Fury.”
“We weren't aware you were bringing anyone,” Agent Romanoff said, frowning. Kim leveled her with a look, not flinching at the veiled violence in the other woman's eyes. She kept her face blandly professional, un-intimidated, which was a lot easier to do than she'd been expecting. As terrifying as she'd been in the battle, Black Widow still didn't hold a candle to what Kim had faced in high school. At most, she was like Tommy when he'd been evil. Her lips quirked slightly at the thought and she saw the agent's own lips twitch in response. She couldn't possibly know what Kim was thinking, all Rangers were immune to telepathy thanks to the Power, so it must have been approval. She gave the woman a nod and then turned to Sitwell who was frowning at her.
“Agent,” she greeted him coolly.
He gave her a once over and she could see the underestimation start, which was surprising given who was standing next to him. He frowned again. “I wasn't aware Senator Hart was interested in these proceedings.”
“I'm not here for my father,” she said simply and didn't add, 'though he knows I'm doing this'. “I'm here on behalf of Alpha Operations.”
For the past month she'd been trying to subtly test her father on his opinion of the Rangers. He'd admitted to being concerned about them not being answerable to anyone but he had also made it clear he did not want the the US military to have control over any of the Ranger tech. He felt it would cause already high tensions with the other not-so-friendly nations to escalate even further—and given the anger of even their allies over the US's unwillingness to part with any of the recovered alien tech from New York, it would just make things even worse with them as well.
They'd discussed options for what the Rangers could (supposedly hypothetically) do about the whole situation. She'd given their actual plans as a possibility and to her relief, he'd been completely supportive of it, even going so far as to suggest he may suggest that himself to the President next time they spoke.
Having his approval, she'd gone ahead in the next part of the plan, which was telling him what, exactly, she'd gotten up to in high school. Only he'd broken down laughing before she'd even gotten to the important bit. Apparently he, her mother, and Pierre, had all known since high school. It was why they hadn't put up much fuss when Kim had asked to stay with Aisha to finish the school year before she'd ended up in Florida. They figured she and the team were trying to find a replacement, like they had with Jason, Trini, and Zack. He'd even gone so far as to inform her that all their parents, from the Scott's straight on down to the Hillards, had known and simply hadn't said anything.
She was still a little miffed about that, to be honest; all those years of sneaking around they'd all done, all the convoluted schemes Billy and Zack and Rocky had come up for on the few occasions they couldn't get out of their houses, and for nothing!
Her only consolation was the expression on Tommy and Jason's faces when she'd gone back to Reefside and ordered them to call and apologize for all the worrying they'd put their mothers through.
She focused back on Sitwell when he asked what Alpha Operations was. She smiled at him. “I'm afraid that's classified,” she told him sweetly. “I'm only to speak of AO with Director Fury.”
Years of dealing with her father's staff and various political allies and enemies had given Kim a keen ability to read people and right now, both Agents were displeased with her. She resisted the urge to smirk. It was about time the shoe went on the other foot!
“I'm afraid I cannot let you through to see Director Fury unless I know who you are, besides the daughter of a senator,” Sitwll said sternly.
“We're vouching for her,” Carter broke in. “Director Fury will want to meet with her.”
“Be that as it may--”
“It's fine, Agent Sitwell, I can see when I'm not wanted,” she said, smiling coolly, catching sight of Agent Romanoff's amused expression. She turned to Carter, her mind choosing her next words very very carefully. “Mr. Grayson, please inform Director Fury that once he wants to seriously discuss the Ranger situation, I'll be happy to take his call.”
She and Adam were five steps away when Sitwell seemed to finally break out of his surprise. “Wait!” Kim allowed herself a brief smug smile before she smoothed it out and turned to him. He was looking between Carter and Mitchell and her and Adam with a look on his face that was part confusion, part worry, and part curiosity. “You never said said this was about the Rangers.”
“Agent Sitwell, Ms. Hart and Mr. Park are with us and the only business we have with SHIELD has to do with the Rangers,” Mitchell said, frowning and crossing his arms as he stared the other man down. “Why else would they be here?”
“Alpha Operations...” he started.
“Is classified but I didn't think I had to publicly announce it had to do with the Rangers,” Kim broke in. “As Captain Mitchell said, our being in their company should have told you that. You're not a very good agent if you didn't pick itup right away.”
“She's right,” Agent Romanoff broke in and she was smirking. That was one woman who knew exactly what had just gone down and approved. Sitwell gave her a disgruntled look and she shrugged. “You really should have known. I did.”
“Follow me,” Sitwell said abruptly, turning on his heel and walking purposefully away from them. Pride, she suspected, had just been hurt. Part of her felt bad but a bigger part of her knew she had to do it this this way because otherwise, the repercussions could be...unfortunate.
“Shush,” she said, knowing what Adam was about to say. He'd been surprisingly quiet as she played Cat and Mouse but her actions were kinda mean.
“I was just going to say I think they chose well,” he said simply. She frowned. Adam had been hesitant about Tommy and Jason's appointing her as the spokeswoman, not sure if she could hack it on the political level even with her father being who he was. It was part of why he'd tagged along. If he believed the group had chosen well, then...
She really needed to get better at Not It.
Chapter 4: Chapter 3
Kimberly and Co meet Director Nick Fury and make him a proposition...
Story: Alpha Operations
Disclaimer: Power Rangers are owned by Haim Saban, Avengers and Co are owned by Marvel. I write for fun, not for profit.
Summary: When SHIELD starts sniffing around the Rangers, the Rangers take preemptive measures to make sure they don't get drafted against their will.
A/N 1: My substitute teaching, two week job is nearly over so I may (I say may cause too many teachers have been asking me repeatedly when I finish cause they need subs) have more time to devote to this in the coming time. Of course, once November hits, all bets are off as I have NANOWRIMO!
The SHIELD headquarters was like any other office building she'd ever been in; boring grey monochrome and with desks spread out in a familiar looking grid pattern. The main difference was the security installed on each floor—at least, she thought they were on each floor. Sitwell and Romanoff had taken the foursome straight to the elevator and up to the top floor, where they'd discovered security officers posted at equal distances along the walls.
The layout for the top floor was open and airy, with windows facing every side except one. Sure, one side of the building had what appeared to be two separate offices and a conference room but the rest of the place was open floor with desks set up in a row by row pattern, each with high tech looking computers. There had to be dozens of desks and from the little she was able to catch before being ushered into the conference room, each was monitoring a different continent or country.
Hm. Good to know.
“Captain Mitchell,” a tall dark skinned man with an eyepatch over one eye and a black leather get-up greeted the Lightspeed director with a handshake. She recognized him instantly, he'd been at her father's holiday party last year and hadn't seemed very happy about it. She's suspected then (and it was only reinforced now) that he'd only been there because the President had decided to accept the invitation (which meant so had everyone else) and he'd wanted the opportunity to network. The man nodded at Carter, shaking his hand as well. “Mr. Grayson.”
“May I present Director Kimberly Hart, of Alpha Operations, and her lawyer, Adam Park?” Captain Mitchell greeted them. “They're here to speak to you about the Rangers.”
“You're Senator Hart's daughter,” Director Fury said, shaking her hand and studying her. She gave him her firmest smile.
“My father is aware I'm meeting with you but not why,” she informed him. “He also doesn't know what Alpha Operations does and I'd appreciate it if he didn't find out from you. I'm sure you can agree that he has enough on his plate as is.”
It wasn't a full out lie, her father really didn't know what Alpha Operations were going to do, but this was Kimberly's attempt to protect her father from schemes. She just hoped Director Fury left the man alone—he'd been and Oregan state Senator for ten years now and he had no plans on quitting anytime soon.
“He does,” Fury agreed with a tight look that she took as confirmation he'd leave her dad alone. “You brought a lawyer?”
“Adam Park sir,” Adam held out his hand. “I'm head of Alpha Operations legal team. Given the situation, I decided to handle this personally.”
Technically Adam was Alpha Operations legal team but Fury didn't need to know that. Part one of this scheme was to make it seem like they were a bit more put together than they actually were. As it stood, the only official members of the AO were her, Adam, Jason, and Carter.
“What exactly will you be handling, Mr. Park?”
“The legalities of the Power Rangers forming a coalition with SHIELD,” Kim answered before Adam could. “That's what we're here for.”
“Alpha Operations then are...”
“The business front for the Rangers, as it were,” Kim agreed as they all sat down. She was across from Mitchell, with Adam on one side and Carter across from him. Fury sat at the head of the table.
“I'd like to call in Agent Sitwell and my AD, Maria Hill--”
Fury paused and she had a feeling not many people had ever interrupted him before. She could see a spark of anger in his stance as he replied, “May I ask why?”
“The Rangers live by a Code,” Carter was the one who answered. “We've asked Ms. Hart to follow that same Code in all her dealings as Director of Alpha Operations. Secrecy, as I'm sure you're guessing, is a big part of it.”
Fury nodded slowly. He didn't seem happy about not having more of his people in the meeting but he was willing to adhere for now. That was a good sign.
Or possibly that they were being played, Kim wasn't entirely sure.
“So you were chosen by the Rangers?” Fury asked, looking at Kim.
“I was in the Peace Corps for six years and I was working as a peace liaison with Lone Wolf Industries when I was approached for the position,” Kimberly said, sticking to the cover. They all knew it was likely Fury would put two and two together and come up with four eventually but the longer they could put that off, the better. And the info was true and would check out—following her stint in the Peace Corps, she'd been in charge of handling all the humanitarian efforts Billy's company did because, as the original blue had semi-jokingly put it, no one had a bigger “heart” than her.
“Kimberly and I are both from Angel Grove,” Adam added. “Several times we both helped clear out civilians and assisted the rangers when it was needed. They remembered, which is why they found us. Afterward, our experiences simply made us easy choices for this project.”
“A lot of people from Ranger cities, Angel Grove in particular, have gone on to work in volunteer and peace organizations,” Kim added wryly. “Or the military. It's been a thing.”
Fury nodded thoughtfully, leaning back in his chair. The information about the Ranger cities didn't seem to have surprised him so he'd probably already known. “Given that, they trusted you to have their back.”
“And we will,” Kimberly said. “They're not enemies, Director. They're heroes. They should be afforded the respect that deserves.”
“I don't disagree,” Fury said simply. His face hardened. “I simply don't trust anyone with that sort of power who doesn't answer to someone else.”
“From my understanding, they do answer to someone, they just aren't of Earth,” Kim said. “They're called the Morphin Council.”
“And if the Rangers were to go off grid, what could they do?” That was what it boiled down to for a lot of people, her dad said. Rangers had, up to now, been almost exclusively heroes but there had been...exceptions and that worried the people in charge.
“Take away their powers,” Kim answered calmly and succinctly. “The Morphin Council, and I've spoken to them myself as the face of Alpha Operations, is made up of former Rangers of other worlds. They're number one priority is protecting from evil, even if that evil comes from the Rangers themselves.”
“They have the ability to take away a planet's ability to have rangers,” Carter agreed. “And they've done it before, when Ranger teams have voluntarily gone rogue.”
“I'm not a scientist, Director Fury, but from what I understand, it boils down to them being able to cut off the, heh, power,” Kim said, smiling a bit. “Every ranger gets their power from the same source, called the Morphin Grid. Every planet has a connection to it and the Council can cut off that connection. No more Rangers. Which, from my understanding, would be incredibly bad for Earth. Over the years, the Rangers have proven unconquerable—there are many who would take advantage of Earth's lack of Rangers to come in and claim it just for the clout it would give them.”
“Also, the Grid is sentient to a point,” Carter said and Kim blinked. She hadn't planned on revealing that but she was curious to see where Carter was going with this. “The Grid would never allow its warriors to use its power for evil. That's why they chose the Council—each member was chosen for their nobility, honor, and heart. Because of that, the Council will do anything to uphold the name and integrity of the Power Rangers, even if...”
He didn't need to finish, because Fury was nodding. “I still don't like that you don't answer to anyone on Earth, but at least you do answer to someone,” he noted. He got a flinty look in his eye. “The Grid, you said it connects every world?”
“I wouldn't go looking for it, if I were you,” Carter smiled, seeing where that was going a mile away. “People have in the past, former rangers and not. Those that found it said...they often wished they hadn't. The Grid doesn't like meddlers.”
There was a warning there, one Fury had to have heard. He nodded slowly but she wasn't sure if he'd take it to heart. “Is that why none of the attempts to utilize the Lightspeed morphers have worked for anyone other than you six?” he asked and Kim could see Carter was surprised by the question.
“Most likely,” he agreed after a moment of thought. “Before a morpher is bonded, the Grid...scans the person, for lack of a better world. If they're found worthy...”
“The power clicks on,” Mitchell finished. “If not...nothing will happen.”
Fury nodded again, looking thoughtful. “So reverse engineering the tech...”
“Wouldn't get you rangers, most likely,” Kim offered. “No offense, but you're a spy and intelligence organization. From my dealings with the everyone involved, something tells me the Grid wouldn't approve of anything you'd want to do with a Ranger team.”
“That said, we strongly believe, given what the Council has told us, that the Grid would never allow any of the former rangers to work for SHIELD,” Mitchell said. “Rangers are usually chosen for specific reasons, to face specific threats, and...you already have fighters. The Avengers may just be enough to have the Grid cut off power to any ranger who would join SHIELD to fight alongside them.”
Fury didn't seem to like that, not that she thought he would. “So us getting rangers would be almost impossible,” he noted tightly and Kim shrugged.
“I'm putting my trust in what the rangers and the Council have told me and...yeah. I think you're out of luck on that front,” she told him, being completely honest. No ranger wanted to work for SHIELD and so none would do so willingly, which meant the Council would intervene. It was the deal they'd struck with the group via Andros and her.
“Make no mistake, though, the Council approves of what you're doing,” Carter said, smiling. “As do us rangers. You're trying to protect the Earth and we respect that—we simply have different ideas on how that can be accomplished.”
“And what are your ideas?” Fury asked, head tilting slightly as he looked at them. “I'm assuming Alpha Operations has something to do with it.”
“Good catch,” Kim agreed with a smile. “Alpha Operations is a specific organization created by the former rangers. They've chosen everyone who works there, from me down to the janitors. Our base is hidden: it's an invisible untraceable island in the middle of International waters. The only way to get there is through specifically designed transportation pads.”
They'd asked Zedd for access to Venus Island, which he'd promptly granted, even going so far as to formally give it to the Earth Rangers for use as their main planetary HQ. As the island existed in a dimension alongside their own, they all agreed the island was the perfect place for the rangers to stage from. Anton, Tommy, Zedd, the Earth and water ninja's under Dustin and Tor, and a few of the earth spirits of Avalon (including Xander, Madison, Leanbow, and Daggeron) had spent a week clearing it out for their use. As they spoke, various rangers and assorted allies were on site, building and setting up the actual base. Leanbow, who'd been more than happy to take over that particular job when Rita had asked him, had told her the last time she'd seen him that they'd probably be done in a week or so and those who needed to, could move in. Kim really needed to confirm everyone working there and quickly. She had a feeling Fury would want to visit.
“So when you said classified, you meant that quite literally,” Fury said and Kim wasn't surprised he'd been listening in or had been informed of the conversation before they'd arrived on the top floor. He seemed somewhat amused which was either really good or really bad. She suspected there was little in between with this guy.
“Correct,” she said, nodding. “Alpha Operations base has to remain a secret for the rangers and the employees own protection, but as a group, we're gonna go public as soon as an agreement is reached between us, SHIELD, and the UN.”
“And what sort of agreement were you hoping for?”
And there it was. What everything boiled down to, what they'd spent months figuring out with the Council after Tommy'd called the emergency meeting in Reefside. She glanced at Adam, who gave her a small nod, and Kim turned to face Fury fully.
“Here's our proposal....”
Chapter 5: Chapter 4
Kimberly (and others) officially meet the Avengers. It goes as well as she expected.
Sorry for the wait, I had...familial things to deal with, the worst of which was my baby sister passing away in March. I'm starting to write again though so...updates should be mucho quicker!
Kimberly looked around curiously when she and her small group landed on the top of Avengers Tower. They'd chosen to come in one of the older aircraft they'd built, the ones with reverse engineered ranger tech, so as not to give away all their secrets so quickly. Fury knew, from what Kim had told him, that the Rangers had access to much more tech than they'd shared and Kim knew that he'd do anything he could to get access to it, even now. She didn't want to bring in blatant ranger tech and then find out after the fact that the top of the Tower had scanning capabilities. Reversed engineer stuff wouldn't give him much more than what Billy was okay with him having.
“You know, Stark may not be happy to see me here,” Andrew said to her left. “I am, technically, the competition.”
“Stark can stuff it,” Kim said as they waited for the ship's back ramp to lower. “You're part of AO, he can deal if he wants to get a look at what you're installing.”
“Are we sure that's a good idea?” Carter asked from behind her. “Angela was saying Stark might actually be able to reverse engineer the pads.”
“He'd have to have a complete understanding of Ranger physics,” Andrew said. “And Billy and I both agree he'd never get past the Grid. It's less science and more...magic.”
“We'll deal with that if it comes to it,” Kim said firmly. “Until then, no worrying. You're gonna give me a bigger ulcer than I already have.”
Eric smirked as he came to stand on her other side, dressed in the uniform they'd all agreed on for the AO. “You can always hand over the reins,” he said knowingly.
She didn't answer.
“Look alive, people, the Hero-Brigade just showed up!” Taylor's voice said, coming from the cockpit. “Looks like Fury's with them, plus some guy in a doctor's jacket.”
“A doctor?” Eric asked, frowning. “Why a doctor?”
“Because Fury has a patient I offered to have our people take a look at,” Kimberly answered, waving back at where Dana was checking her bags and Clare was double checking her outfit. Their resident sorceress was still really nervous about the job Rita had given her at Kimberly’s request. “I guess SHIELD's stumped on why the guy's not waking up. Fury mentioned something about magic being used during his attack, hence Clare. ”
“I wondered why they came,” Andrew murmured and then a moment later said, “We should lower the ramp.”
“Taylor?” Kim called and a minute later the ramp began lowering. Kim was glad for her acute sense of balance, glancing over when Clare stumbled slightly. The ramp was less a ramp and more of a lift, lowering the small group and their cargo down to the ground below the ship. Kim glanced up idly to see Xander, Rose, and Jarrod all staring down at them nervously. Or, well, Xander and Rose were nervous, the former villian was all troubling stare—one of these days she'd get him to stop being so broody.
Once they landed, she waited until Eric and his team—Search and Rescue her ass, he was grooming a security force—got their bearings, hands hovering at their morphers. At the first sign of trouble, she knew, Eric would order the team to get her back inside the ship and the ship to take off, with or without the rest of them in it. Not because she was a damsel, oh no, but because Jason was being a paranoid little prick and it was rubbing off on the Quantum Ranger. She put up with it for now, mostly because the response of Fury and the Avengers amused her. Fury was scowling and Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Captain Rogers were all tensed up, expecting a fight.
Rolling her eyes, she stepped forward, hand held out. “Director Fury,” she greeted him with a quirked grin. “Sorry about them—Eric's being paranoid. Again.”
“Constant Vigilance!” Cassie called out and there was a smattering of snickers from the team as Eric scowled. Kim smirked—her successor would be hearing about that from her boss later, she could be sure.
“Can't take 'em anywhere,” she said and Fury snorted, amusement in his eyes, if not his face.
“Director Hart,” he greeted her, shaking her hand finally. “Welcome to Stark Tower.”
“Nice suits,” the man she recognized as Hawkeye noted. He smirked at her, giving her serious Rocky vibes. “No spandex, huh?”
Kim rolled her eyes. “Spandex does not breath,” she informed the other archer, who chuckled. “We went for something a bit more hard-wearing.”
Which was completely true. Jason, surprisingly, had been the one to point out that as an official peace-keeping/civilian assistance group, they might want recognizable uniforms for those who wouldn't be in the ranger suits. Kim and Ashley had taken great pains to design something that was professional but still, understandably, rangeresque.
The uniforms were all leather and stainless steel. No skirts here, even the women were in formfitting protective leather pants, which had caused some issues with the female rangers who were used to skirts on their suits. They all carried firearms against their thighs, even Andrew, and they all had high fitting collars to protect their necks. Those blatantly rangers, the ones everyone knew were rangers, had the top of their uniform dyed into a darker shade of their own color while those who weren't known had linings on theirs, supposedly “in honor” of who they were working for and to denote rank. Kim alone was sans leather—she was wearing a black dress suit, which coincided well with her “position” in AO.
“But you still look like a pride parade,” Stark snarked, finally taking his eyes off the aircraft perched on his Tower. She smiled, amused, as she heard some distinct huffs behind and around her.
“Don't knock the rainbow,” she advised. “Especially around this lot—they take their colors very seriously.” Which so very much the truth—even Eric, who everyone referred to as Quantum, would not have anyone deride the color red in his hearing. She resisted the urge to shift and try and find herself some visible pink clothing. It had been unanimously decided that until her cover was blown, they would carry on as if it had not been—which meant no specific color for her.
Unless they saw her sans the suit, anyway, cause she was totally wearing pink underwear.
“Why?” Captain Rogers asked, head tilted.
“It's a psych thing,” she told him. “Color denotes personality, tradition, solidarity, place on a team—would you be happy if you and the walking tin-can over there had to change colors?”
“Hey!” Stark exclaimed and Kim smiled briefly at his pout before focusing back on Rogers.
“I see your point,” he conceded, lips quirked.
“I like you,” Hawkeye said, relaxing his posture. He gave her an obvious once over, playful leering in his gaze.
“I live to serve,” she replied dryly, looking over her shoulder when she heard a vaguely lion-esque sounding growl. She turned back to the Avengers just in time to see the Captain shift nervously away from the plane. “Though I have a lion in the ship that doesn’t like it when guys flirt with me—something to keep in mind.”
Eric snorted as he came back to hover over her shoulder. “One of these days he is going to figure out you are NOT his big sister,” he said. “I really hope I’m there when he does.”
“Shut up,” she scolded before turning to Fury. “Before this degrades any further, perhaps we should do introductions?”
“The Avengers,” he said without preamble. “Agent Barton, Agent Romanoff, Tony Stark, Captain Rogers, and Dr. Bruce Banner. Dr. Michael Regis, SHIELD physician.”
Agent Barton was Hawkeye. She knew the rest (more or less) so she didn’t need to confirm their personal identities. She smiled warmly at Dr. Banner, however, holding out a hand for him to shake.
“It’s a pleasure to finally meet you face to face, Dr. Banner,” she said and he frowned.
“I’m sorry, you know about me?”
“Ross is an idiot and the Rangers don’t exactly take kindly to idiots like that,” she informed him simply. He just stared at her, uncomprehendingly. She smirked. “Whenever they could they… tossed him off your trail. The original red in particular took it as a matter of pride that he could convincingly get Ross to think you were in Bolivia when you were, in fact, on the other side of the globe.”
“I can attest to that,” Will said as most of the team stared at them in surprise. “Cause for some reason, I was the one he usually got to run around with the “Hulk” simulator the original blue built. It simulates the trace radiation the Hulk gives off, which Ross was tracking to try and find you.”
“You’ve got a gift for subterfuge,” Kim reminded the former black ranger as Banner gaped. “Ross never stood a chance.”
Fury wasn’t the one who snorted. “That explains a lot,” the SHIELD director noted. “Perhaps we should trade files?”
“Perhaps,” she agreed. “So long as Dr. Banner approves. It’s his safety at stake, after all.”
It was a subtle warning, one Fury acknowledged with a brief nod of his head.
“Anyway, got off track again,” she said. “I’m Kimberly Hart, director of Alpha Operations.”
“Eric Myers, Quantum Ranger and Director of Search and Rescue and Security,” Eric said. He jerked his head back behind him. “My current team, Cassie Chan, Space Pink; Ronny Robinson, Overdrive Yellow; Will Aston, Overdrive Black; and TJ Johnson, Space Blue.”
Kim turned to look at him. “Since when are you security?” she demanded, hands on her hips. “I never made a position like that!”
“You didn’t,” he agreed. “We did. Morphin Red approved.”
“Of course he did,” she muttered, vowing to both smack Jason when she saw him again and remind him that she was in charge, not him, damnit! “We’ll talk about it later.”
“You’ll talk, doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll listen,” he said with a smug grin. She glowered at him before giving up and tugging a smiling Andrew, Carter, Dana, and Clare forward.
“This is Dr. Andrew Hartford, he created the Overdrive ranger tech and is part of our science group,” she said. Then she pinned Stark with a stare. “I know you’re rivals but play nice.”
“Of course,” he agreed easily—too easily. There was totally scanning tech on the roof. He raised an eyebrow in Andrew's general direction. “Hartford. Nice company you keep these days.”
“I could say the same for you,” Andrew replied easily. He gave the other man a quick hand-shake, smiling. “No worries Stark, I’m here to help install the pad, nothing more. You’re secrets are safe from me.”
"Are yours?" Stark asked, smirking. Andrew frowned.
“An-yway,” Kim said before it could devolve. She tapped Carter's arm. “Most of you already know him, but this is Carter Grayson, former Lightspeed Red. He’s now Director of our Emergency Response Division. And Eric’s boss.”
“And we will be talking about that security thing later,” Carter added with a look at Eric. The Quantum Ranger just rolled his eyes.
“It's like herding cats,” she muttered before motioning to the rest. “Dr. Dana Mitchell, former Lightspeed Pink and Director of Medical Services. Clare Emrys, head of Mystic Support. She’s a sorceress, officially known as the Gatekeeper.”
“The Gatekeeper was my mother,” Clare said, smiling nervously at the group as they all shifted. “I’m just Clare.”
“Well, ‘Just Clare’ was appointed to the position by the most powerful white sorceress in Avalon,” Kim said, giving the girl a look. “She’s got the goods.”
“Why is she here?” That was Hawkeye, who was eyeing Clare somewhat warily. If she remembered the reports right, he’d been hijacked by Loki’s magic. This couldn’t be comfortable for him. She made a mental note to send him a recounting of her time as “Maligore’s Daughter,” though in a way that was obvious it wasn’t from her.
“She’s here to work with Dana,” she told him. “She has experience with healing magic.”
“And why is Dr. Mitchell here?” that was Stark.
“Fury mentioned there were still injuries among the SHIELD personell,” she said, shrugging. “They’re here to see if there’s anything they can do.”
“And why would you do that?” Agent Romanoff finally spoke up, looking coolly at her. Kim shrugged.
“A gesture of good-will,” she said simply. “I want this alliance to work, Agent Romanoff. That means meeting SHIELD at least half-way, if not further.”
"And what do you get out of it?" Stark asked. "I've read your file--your last job pays much more than this one."
"One, Billy's gonna kill you if you hacked his computers again," she said and Stark smirked. "Two, how do you know how much I get paid?"
"He's Billy, is he?" Stark asked and there was no misunderstanding what he was hinting at.
"Yes, has been since we were five years old and I decided William was too stuffy for him," she replied dryly. "Wanna try again?"
"I look forward to it." She paused and then added, "By the way, tell Pepper I said hi and we need to do coffee one of these days."
Stark frowned at her, no doubt wondering if that was a threat or what it actually was--an old friend wanting to catch up.
Though she really honestly wanted to be a fly on the wall when Pepper found out she was head of AO now. They'd met at a joint Long Wolf/Stark Industries fund-raiser and had kept in contact. Pepper was a good friend.
"Perhaps we should get this installed and then head back to HQ," Eric suggested, breaking her and Stark's little staring contest. "Morphin Blue did say to be quick about it."
"True," Kim agreed. She raised an eyebrow at Iron Man. "This is your tower--lead the way oh Iron one."
"Funny," he noted, turning on his heels and leading the way inside. "You know it's not actually Iron though, right? It's a gold metal alloy--"
"I really don't care," she broke in before he could get going--she'd seen his youtube videos, give him an opening he'd never shut up. She paused and then added slyly, "Sorry, it's just, after flying in a zord, your, uh, prosthetic isn't that impressive."
A muffled choking sound made her glance over her shoulder to find Hawkeye stuffing a fist in his mouth, Widow and Fury smirking, and Banner and Rogers both hiding smiles. Turning back to Stark, she found him eyeing her speculatively.
"I see why they chose you."
Chapter 6: Chapter 5
It's a sad, sad day when Tony Stark follows her directions better than her own people.
I'm thinking I'm gonna try updating every couple days or, baring that, every Friday from here on out.
"I'm going to kill him, Kimberly, I swear to all that is holy I will!"
Kimberly looked up from where she was attempting to figure out the departments to everyone's general satisfaction. Eric was being stubborn about the security thing, as was Jason (though he did agree to let the "always watch out for Kim" thing go the wayside) so everything had to be figured out before they went back out. She was NOT having another, "Oh, by the way, we created a new department and forgot to tell you" thing in front of Fury. No way, Jose.
Of course, she was pretty sure that was about as professional as they were likely to get with her at the helm, so Fury might want to just get used to it.
"What did Stark do now?" she asked knowingly.
"He refuses to step off the platform and shut down the protocols so I can fix a glitch on the holographic pad on our end," Billy replied, plopping down in front of her desk with an aggravated sigh. "And Eric's really not helping matters--he keeps snarking back and forth with the man and I can't get into the room unless I change into the Wolf and I'd like not to blatantly break the code, if you don't mind!"
"Is it a glitch or is it Stark fiddling?" she asked first. She really wouldn't put it past him...
"I'm pretty sure it's just a glitch but I won't know for sure until I run a diagnostic, which I can't do until he shuts down his end," Billy said. "Which he. Won't. Do."
Kim looked down at her laptop, partly to try and think about how to get Stark to shut down and partly because if she kept looking at him, she was going to burst out laughing.
She'd learned years before that if there was one non-villain out there that made Billy wish he could break the Code, it was Tony Stark. Having Billy work with him was either going to end in blood-shed or the world.
Speaking of which...
"Angela and I were talking," she began, looking up just in time to see him frown heavily.
"Nothing good ever comes outta those conversations," he muttered to himself. She decided to ignore that--for now.
"We decided to invite Stark to take a look at the Eagle, as Taylor has so subtly named her new jet," she continued. He groaned.
"Are you trying to kill me?" he demanded. "Lone Wolf built that!"
"Yes, you did," she agreed. "And guess who's gonna oversee his inspection of it?"
"You're an evil, evil woman, Kimberly Hart," he informed her as he stood up.
"No, I'm the poor schmuck who sucks at 'not it,'" she reminded him dryly. "And I'll talk to Stark."
"Thank you," he said, far less fervently than he probably would have if she hadn't just told him he was going to have to work with Stark on a one-on-one basis in the near future. "When?"
Kimberly looked down at her laptop and decided she could take a break. "How about now?"
"Thank you," he said again and when he left, there was a bit more pep in his step than when he walked in.
She shook her head. Oh how easily these boys were handled....
"Now, where'd I put that phone number Banner gave me..."
Just in case she couldn't get Stark to shut down on her own, she wanted a back up plan in place.
"Stark, you are pissing off Morphin Blue," Kimberly announced, walking into the Ranger meeting hall, which certain someone's who should remain nameless only half-jokingly called the Ranger Senate.
The building was a concession they'd had to make to the Council due to ranger tradition, even though none of the Earth Rangers were terribly excited about it. It was, at its core, an assembly hall, with spaces set aside for every single ranger and ranger mentor, including five seats for the missing Time Force group (Wes had insisted Alex have a seat, whether he liked it or not, and no one had thought to argue), one seat for the presumed sleeping Princess Shayla, one seat for the Sentinel Knight, and seven for the current team and their mentor in Panorama City. There was also one rather ornate chair for the deceased Zordon that would be in memorial only, never to be used by any person. Absolutely no one had argued when the plans for the building had been drawn up and that had been slipped in—even those who hadn't known the old mage had a deep abiding respect for the mentor of Earth's first ranger team.
In addition to the ranger/mentor seats, there were holographic panels set aside in a special section for non-ranger allies, primarily to be used by the Morphin Council and earth's immediate allies like Trey and the Aquitain Rangers. No unauthorized people would be allowed on the island, which basically meant no one but rangers and allies. Anyone who wanted to speak to the Rangers would have to do so from a distance and would have to request a holographic platform, which, thanks to Billy, Hayley, Angela, Rose, the Aquitans, Udonna, Leanbow, and Rita, would be untraceable to the Island. They had another section set aside for spectators to assemblies, mostly brought in because all the ranger assembly halls in the universe had them and if nothing else, they could be used for the various allies that they'd collected over the years.
Stark was being holographically projected onto the twin to the platform they'd installed in Stark Tower, which was seated in the center of the hall. He was chatting with Eric even as he seemed to be doing something on his side of the connection. She could also see what Billy meant when he had mentioned a glitch--half of Stark's body seemed to be missing. She raised an eyebrow as his head, detached from his torso, turned to look at her as she walked in. "And if you're messing with the pad in any way, you'll have the entire tech department of the Rangers on your ass faster than you can say JARVIS," she warned him.
"Aww, c'mon Hart, you know you like me," he needled. "I'm your favorite hero, I heard you."
"What I believe I said was that you were a pain in the ass," she corrected, leaning against a railing and crossing her ankles and arms. She'd told that to Fury after Stark had left--she should have known he'd been eavesdropping in some way.
"Yes, but I am your pain in the ass," he said, all smug confidence.
"Not really," she said dismissively as various rangers on the outskirts, where Stark couldn't see them, all stifled laughs. Apparently word had gotten out she was going to speak to Stark and her last interaction with him had already been making the rounds. Naturally, everyone was curious as to what would happen this time.
"I'm everyone's pain in the ass," he insisted and wow, he really should have thought that one through.
"Well, that parts certainly true," she heard Tommy mutter. Stark frowned, looking around, but since he couldn't see anything but the main floor of the Senate, there was no way he could tell A, where the comment had come from or B, who had said it.
She seriously loved Andrew's fiddling with the lighting right now. From where he was standing, he'd never be able to see anyone in the stands.
"Look, Stark, Morphin Blue really needs you to shut off your end of the pad," she said, frowning. "Don't make me call SHIELD about this--I really don't want to."
"Why does he need me to shut it off?"
"We're getting glitches on this side---you have no neck or arms or thighs right now--and Blue needs to figure out what's causing it," she said. "He can't do that with the connection open on your end."
"Could the glitches affect my own systems?" he asked, hand disappearing only to reappear with a Stark pad. He must have picked it up off a nearby table.
Kim glanced at where Billy was standing to see him shrug at her and then nod. "It might," she conceded. "So could you please step off the pad and shut it down?"
"Why can't I talk about this to Morphin Blue himself?"
"Because we have a very strict code on morphing without an emergency and this does not qualify," she replied.
"And you don't want me to know the rangers super-secret identity."
"You might be willing to plaster yourself to the heavens but we're not," Kim agreed firmly. "For one, most of the Rangers have families and there is no way in hell we want to endanger them. And two, again, part of our Code."
Stark was quiet for a few minutes before nodding abruptly. "Alright," he agreed and she had a sneaking suspicion he wasn't just talking about getting off the platform. "Tell him to email me anything he might need on my end at the address I gave Hartford."
He stepped off the platform and a few minutes later, the lights at the base of the platform that indicated a live connection turned off.
She watched Billy double check something before he headed straight to the platform. "Thank you," he called out distractedly, already pulling off the outer casing.
"You're welcome," she said, straightening up. "The rest of you, scat! Show's over."
"You handled him well," Tommy said, coming over to stand with her as the various rangers and allies disappeared.
"Yeah, well, I have a lot of experience in handling men with ego's," she said dryly.
"I don't have an ego!" he argued as they fell in step, heading out of the Senate.
"I never said it was you but if the shoe fits..." she trailed off, eyes twinkling. Her ex frowned at her and she laughed as she shook her head. Seriously, way too easy.
Shouts of hello made her and Tommy look over to where Leanbow and Daggeron were working on the the last cosmetic parts of the new Power Center, so named in honor of the first two HQ's they'd had. It would hold their main HQ and would be run by Alpha 5 and Alpha 6. It would monitor the Earth, including all past, present, and future ranger cities, and would be from where any mission or objective would be organized and implemented.
It had been the first non-housing building finished (minus cosmetics, of course) and Billy, Angela, Andrew, Rose, Justin, and Cam spent a good portion of their time in it for now, setting up all the computers and whatnot (their labs would be in another building, as no one wanted to risk explosions where they conducted business). It was also where Kim, Carter, Jason, Adam, Dana, and Taylor had their offices. Kim's ultimate plan was to get different buildings for the different departments but...even with magic, that was a few months, or even years, off. Clare alone had her area sorted out and that was mostly because Rita had stepped in and helped her have a place for all the magic users helping out to have a base to work from.
"Hey Lean, Dag," Kim greeted both. As usual, they ignored the nicknames. "What's up?"
"The Power Center is finished," Leanbow said, smiling down at her. "Xander's going to add one or two touches we can't but other than that..."
Kim cheered. "Sweet!"
"What about inside?" Tommy asked.
"You'll have to talk to the techs about that," Daggeron said, shrugging. "I honestly don't know."
"In the meantime, we're going to take a few days break and then tackle the next building on that list you gave us," Leanbow said. "Medical, right?"
"Yes, a hundred times yes!" Dana said, popping up at Kim's elbow and absolutely beaming. The former pink wondered only briefly where the hell she'd come from. "I have the floor plan in my office."
"Take a week off then start on it," Kim ordered and Daggeron and Leanbow both looked relieved. Their magic was a HUGE help in getting the buildings up but Kim knew it tired them both out to use that much magic in such a short amount of time. "And maybe you can get some help from your fellow mystics this time?"
Leanbow had had to have his arm practically bent in half to accept even Daggeron's help--apparently he took Rita's request he help the AO as a way of penance--but Kim was frankly tired of it. He could use the assist.
"If you don't, I'll talk to Rita," Tommy said, arms crossing as he stared Leanbow down. The red wolf made a face but grudgingly nodded his agreement. Last thing he wanted was to piss off the Mystic Mother and they all knew it.
"You do realize the techs are gonna pitch a fit when they find out medical's next and not their labs, right?" Casey asked, walking over with Jarrod and Camille. Both boys had towels around their necks and sweat on their brow--she figured they must have been using their spirit forms to dig out the underground zord bay Andrew had been talking about the other day (the giant cats and dogs were awesome, if a little overwhelming at first--she still wanted to know if she could d that with the Crane). She wondered absently how they were keeping the water from coming in and filling it.
"Yes, Tiger, I'm aware," she agreed. "But we need medical more than we need their labs so..."
"Speaking of which, Clare and I need to go back to SHIELD," Dana said. "We think we might have an idea on how to help our patient."
Kim felt a feeling of relief flow through her. She hadn't been sure when she'd offered Dana and Clare that they'd do any good but if they could get this man back up and on his feet, well...she had a feeling that would go a hell of a long way with Fury and the Avengers.
A sudden rumbling caused Kim to stumble into Casey and Jarrod, who steadied her even as the ground heaved slightly under their feet. "What the...?!"
"Sorry," a voice called out and Kim looked up to find Tori coming over with Shane. "Dustin said the earth students were liable to get a little...enthusiastic about what he wanted to do."
"What'd they do?" she asked, slightly miffed. She hadn't known Dustin was even here, let alone with his students doing something.
"Adding an island nearby," Tori replied and Kim's mouth dropped open. The blue ranger smily wryly. "For the techies. It was Cam's idea and Dustin kinda ran with it."
"Next time," Kim said, trying not to be annoyed. "He needs to run it by me first. And the Mystics."
"Rita helped him," Shane said and Kim rolled her eyes.
"Of course she did." Rita had the weirdest fascination with the Ninja's and Pua Zhua's. She eyed them critically. "Any other surprises for today?"
Tori, Casey, and Jarrod all shifted uncomfortably as Shane and Camille both smirked. "We...have a new cove?" the blue ranger offered weakly.
Kim just sighed.
Chapter 7: Chapter 6
Kimberly's in New York for a meeting. It doesn't quite go as expected.
"Yo! Kimberly! Hart!"
Kim had been walking through Central Park, waiting for the meeting with Fury again, when she'd heard her name. Thinking for a moment it was someone else being called--no one she knew of was actually in New York at the moment--she didn't react. The calling of her last name, however, made her look up and around.
"Barton," she greeted the agent with a quick smile as he jogged over to her. "What are you doing--nevermind."
He was in sweats and no t-shirt, a thin sheen of sweat covering his torso and earbuds dangling from his neck. He'd obviously been on a run.
"Steve's getting some more water," he said, jerking his head back towards a vendor nearby. "What are you doing in the city?"
"Killing time till my meeting," she answered promptly, holding up the book in her hand.
"What're you reading?" he asked curiously. He made a face. "Please don't say Twilight--my opinion of you will drop dramatically if you do."
"As if," she laughed, showing him the cover.
"Potter, nice," he said, nodding in approval. He looked over his shoulder. "Hey, Rogers, you read the Potter series yet?"
"The what?" Captain Rogers asked, coming over. Like Barton, he had a light sheen of sweat but he was wearing a form fitting tee--no shirtless working out for him then. He startled slightly when he saw her and unconsciously straightened. "Ma'am."
It was Kim's turn to make a face. "Do not ma'am me," she ordered. "I'm not much older than you. Physically speaking."
"You were born the same year as my grandfather," she informed him quietly. She paused and then grinned mischievously. "Who, coincidentally, has been ranting and raving since New York about the 'upstart' they got in the Captain's uniform. He's a bit of a fan of the original."
The last bit was said with her leaning forward, as if imparting some great secret. Rogers made a complicated face, part embarrassment, part pride, part...something else. Barton just laughed. "He's not the only one," he said.
"Yeah, but Grandad has a reason to be a fan," she said. The Avengers expressions turned quizzical. She gave the Captain a look. "He was captured in the war. You broke him out."
"I did?" he asked, frowning.
Kim nodded. "He used to tell me bedtime stories about it, to my mothers horror," she agreed. "He said once that you had gone to get a friend and he and the others were kinda...an afterthought."
"What was his name?" he asked, with another weird look.
"Kenneth Branson, US Army," she said. "That was where he got his Purple Heart."
"I remember him," Rogers said slowly. "From California, like Morita. I offered him a place on the Commandos but he got another opportunity, back stateside. Said he had someone waiting."
"My grandmother," she agreed. She outright grinned at him. "She likes hitting him on the back of the head when reminded he turned you down to be with her."
Rogers gave a short, slightly rough laugh. Barton smirked. "So it's genetic?" he asked and she focused on him, giving the Captain time to get himself back together. "The female badass thing?"
"Damn straight!" she laughed. "Mom's the same way. So is her sister, my Auntie Caroline. And Kelly, my cousin, owns a extreme sports shop. Badass runs on both sides."
"Should serve you well with Fury," Barton noted. "I take it that's who you're meeting with?"
"Yup," she agreed, popping the p. "Apparently SHIELD's on board with our little plan of forming a coalition. Now I just get to worry about the UN."
"Good luck," they both said at the same time, though in distinctly different tones. Where Rogers was all hopeful optimism, Barton was knowing doubt.
She gave them a small smile then glanced at her watch. “Speaking of which, I should probably head to the subway if I want to make my meeting on time,” she said regretfully.
“We need to finish our run,” Barton agreed. “Tash will know if we don't.”
Rogers apparently decided she needed an explanation because he added, “She's got everyone on a training schedule just in case. Something about needing to be prepared for the next big thing.”
“Not a bad idea,” she noted as she stuffed her book back in the purse she'd brought with. “I myself have started regularly training again since I got this gig.”
“What do you train in?” Barton and Rogers asked simultaneously as they fell in step with her. Looked like they were going to escort her to the nearest station, which she wasn't arguing with. She could definitely take care of herself but no way was she gonna turn down the option of hanging out with a half-naked archer. And don't get her started on Rogers ass.
It was unprofessional as hell, of course, but no one said she was a saint.
“Surprised you don't know, pretty sure Stark's got my life story by now,” she said, resolutely pushing away her inappropriate thoughts. The two men exchanged looks and Kim smiled. “Thought so.”
“I haven't read the file,” Rogers said, sounding apologetic. “And I don't think Bruce has either.”
“I skimmed,” Barton admitted. “Just the basics though, I didn't have time for a deep read. Natasha did though.”
“I'm a gymnast,” she said and Barton looked pleasantly surprised. “Been a few years since I actually did any serious training.”
“Did you compete?” the other archer asked and Kim smiled as the station entrance appeared. She turned around to look up at them, standing just off to the side, allowing others to go down the stairs.
“When you get back to the Tower, ask that AI of Stark's to bring up the 1996, 2000, and 2004 Olympic teams.”
And with that, she turned around sharply and headed down the steps.
Walking into the Conference room, Kim frowned when she saw Fury wasn't alone. An older gentlemen was with him, in a general's uniform. It wasn't Ross, she had his face memorized, but...this guy looked familiar.
“General Michael McKnight, this is Kimberly Hart,” Fury introduced them and Kim flashed back to the Lightspeed and Dino Thunder files she'd read. So this was Connor and Eric's father. “She's head of Alpha Operations.”
“Pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Hart,” the General said. “We've heard a lot about you from Director Fury.”
“It's Miss. And we?” she asked, side-eying the SHIELD director.
“The United Nations,” he clarified. “I'm a liaison.”
“Not expecting me, I take it?” he asked, smiling slightly.
“Not really, no,” she agreed. “I wasn't aware SHIELD had contacted you already.”
“I thought it might be prudent,” Fury said.
“What he's not telling you is that he informed the Security Council that SHIELD was forming the coalition whether they liked it or not,” McKnight said and he was definitely smiling. “And after looking over the proposal, they agreed it was a good idea.”
“I...beg your pardon?”
“I also forwarded the legal agreement,” Fury said and he was smirking.
“I...see,” she said and woo boy, this was not what she'd been expecting. “So the UN...”
“Has signed the agreement,” he said, handing over said paper. “They'll expect timely reports, per the agreement, and they already have two situations they'd like assistance with, if you have the manpower.”
“General, when did you go to work for the United Nations?”
“After the fiasco with the Cyborg Rangers,” he said, grimacing. “I understand the importance of the human element of the Rangers and...well, they made me an offer I couldn't refuse.”
“Okay,” Kim said and she seriously needed to regroup. Unfortunately, she had no time. “What are the situations?”
“There's been an outbreak of cholera that's troubling us down in Wakanda,” he said. “And Saudi Arabia is under some unrest at the moment—a would be dictator is assassinating governmental employees of relatively high ranking. I have the two files right here.”
He waved at a pile of file boxes. She frowned doubtfully. “That's two situations?”
“Yes,” he agreed. He paused. “It's why the UN would like a swift response.”
“I can send our medical team to Wakanda, as long as you clear the way with the government there,” she said slowly, thinking about who could go and who should stay behind. “As for Saudi Arabia...As per the agreement, that sort of situation will have to be reviewed and voted upon by the Ranger Council. I can't make military-esque decisions on my own. It's not in my job description.”
“Do you think they'll take it?”
“Depends,” she said, thinking about Tommy's possible reaction to political assassinations. “The Rangers aren't keen on getting involved in governmental disputes. If its a legitimate threat to the legitimate government...they may.”
“How long until you have a response for us?” That was Fury and apparently he was in on the Saudi Arabia situation.
“A few days, no more than a week,” she said and privately, she started cataloging who would need to be called in. “In the meantime, I should get back to base to start prepping. Director Fury, you should have the contact pad up and running by now, shouldn't you?”
“Hartford got it done,” he agreed. “You'll contact us via that then?”
“Just call me ObiWan,” she agreed. “If you'll excuse me a minute.”
Stepping away from them, she pulled out the cell-phone Billy and Rita had collaborated on especially for her. She pressed two and waited.
“Power Center, Alpha 5 speaking!”
“I need teleportation transmitters for...seven boxes. Teleport them directly to receiving and then wait for me,” she said, not bothering with pleasantries. “Also, call in the Council.”
“Ai, Ai, Ai, sending now Kimberly!”
A hum sounded and Kim glance behind her to find Fury and McKnight staring and tense, at the little black devices that had just appeared on the table. The shape and size of buttons, they gave the computers something to latch onto when teleporting someone or something they hadn't teleported before.
“Thanks 5,” she said, because everyone agreed to use their number designations after calling out “Alpha” in the Center had more than once led to confusion. She scooped the transmitters up and started attaching them to the boxes. “Alrght, beam 'em up.”
The boxes disappeared. So did Kimberly.
“Uh....Alpha?” she said, still into her phone as Chip and Vida waved at her from where they were inspecting some sort of shipment from Avalon.
“You weren't supposed to teleport me with them,” she said, amused.
Instantly she got teleported back to the SHIELD conference room. Fury and McKnight just looked at her, the director with an eyebrow raised.
“Sorry,our tech didn't quite realize I wasn't to go with the boxes quite yet,” she apologized. “He gets...overzealous.”
“I see,” Fury said. “I have a request, on behalf of SHIELD.”
Kim frowned but obligingly sat down, waiting to hear. Fury sat down as well but McKnight said goodbye and left.
“I understand the need for secrecy,” he started and Kim instantly knew where this was going. “But I would like to assign a permanent elision to Alpha Operations.”
“Who did you have in mind?”
“She's a young agent, new, brought in by one of my level 7 agents,” he said, sliding a file over to her.
Kimberly flipped it open and zeroed in on the picture attached, taking in the large expressive brown eyes, long brown hair, and the quirked lips. Not your typical agent look.
She skimmed the particulars—the girl was just out of college—and didn't see a problem...yet.
“I cannot give any agent access to Power Island,” she said, using the name Aisha had bestowed on their headquarters. She looked up. “But we've purchased office space here in the city. I'll talk to the Rangers.”
“You've purchased office space?”
“In Stark Tower,” she agreed and mentally cracked up at Fury's expression. “Fourth floor.”
“How'd you manage that?” he asked and she figured he was wondering where the money had come from.
“Hartford and a few others made generous donations to help us get up on our feet,” she said.
“And you bought an office.”
“Well, Alpha Operations is supposed to be the face of the Rangers,” she said. She smiled wryly. “Can't really do that on an invisible island.”
Chapter 8: Chapter 7
Kim really needs to have Andrew install ringtones and an option of declining calls on the new holographic telephones he and Billy created.
“What's this I hear about you purchasing office space in Stark Tower?”
Kimberly looked up and blinked. What the...
“Where'd you come from?” she demanded and then realized he was being projected onto the beta versions of the smaller holographic pads Billy and Andrew had binged on ('binged' being the surprisingly appropriate term the rangers used whenever one of their scientists went on a bender and refused to stop working for anything because they were “nearly finished” on their awesome new gadgets that would “revolutionize how we do things around here!”--oh no, she wasn't irritated with them at all). It was roughly four inches in diameter and Billy had installed it in the corner of her desk, all the while he'd been enthusiastically telling her all the help it would be in the long run. Kim understood very little of what he'd actually said and finally, when the former blue ranger had run out of steam, Andrew had summed it up with “it's a holographic telephone.” Billy had been sent to bed like a petulant child when he'd been more than displeased when Kim had demanded to know why he hadn't simply said that in the first place.
“I popped into your little meeting place and Hartford decided I quote 'needed to be Kimberly's headache' and then he pushed a bunch of buttons on a pad in his hand and all of a sudden I was here,” Stark answered, standing only about seven inches tall. “What did he do?”
“Apparently they made holographic telephones,” she said, disturbed when he turned around in a circle and inspected her office. More to herself she added, “I need to talk to them about making ring-tones.”
“This is you office at HQ?” he asked, zeroing in on the wide windows showing the beach and ocean. Luckily, they had absolutely nothing planned for that stretch of area so he couldn't see anything he wasn't supposed to. “Huh. It really is an island.”
“Yes,” she said. “Magical island. Hidden. Private.”
“No island can be hidden from satellites,” he said, smiling smugly. She rolled her eyes back and then smirked slightly when Fireheart flew past and started doing loop-de-loops over the beach. Stark took several steps backwards and disappeared from view. He must have fallen off his own pad because she could hear him cursing up a blue streak right before he reappeared, staring intently at the dragon.
“Did you not hear the magical part of that description?” she asked and couldn't help but giggle at the way he gaped. Deciding to have a little bit of fun, she walked over to the window and poked her head out through the open pane. “Fireheart, come over here!”
The dragon did an about turn in the air before landing heavily in front of her windows. He lowered his head to peer inside and visibly brightened when he saw her. She reached out through the open window and rubbed a hand over his head before glancing back at Stark. It was a close thing but she managed, somehow, to keep a straight face at his expression.
“That's a dragon.”
“Yes,” she agreed, giving Fireheart one last pat before stepping back fully inside. “It is.”
“You have a dragon.”
“We do. His name is Fireheart.”
“Where did you get the dragon?”
“From an egg and I really hope I don't have to explain where the egg came from.” He gave her a dirty look and she shrugged. “The Mystic team hatched him. He decided to tag along when they volunteered to help out on the island. We think he thinks he's island security now.”
Actually, Kim was fairly certain he was island security now because the day before she'd seen Fireheart listening intently to Eric before taking off and doing what she assumed were aerial patrols of the island. A breeze cam through the room and Kim glanced over to see Fireheart resume his loop-de-loops.
Kim retook her seat and focused on the tiny Stark standing on her desk. “Not that watching you react to our security hasn't been fun, but you mentioned something about Stark Tower?”
“Yeah,” he said, finally turning away from the dragon. “You bought office spaces?”
“I cleared it with Pepper beforehand, but yes,” she agreed. “She thought it would be a good idea. She was kind enough to throw in an apartment on the eightieth floor too, for the AO's use.”
“She...how...She gave you an apartment in my building?!” he squawked and Kim raised an eyebrow at the way he was making a deal about this.
“She said something about claiming her twelve percent,” she said and watched as he fell utterly silent. “I take it that makes sense to you?”
“Yes,” he grumbled. “Women are connivers.”
She simply raised an eyebrow at him and waited.
“Think Hartford will show me one of the holographic telephones?” he finally asked, obviously trying to ignore the, heh, dragon in the room, and she snorted.
“Not likely,” she said. “He's already started the patent process on the tech in AO's name. Sorry.”
“Why in AO's name?”
“Because he didn't make it as a project for Hartford Industries,” she said. “He made it for the Rangers.”
“I could come up with my own version and sell it as an SI product.”
“But you won't,” she said, fairly confident about that. “At least not right now.” He gave her a shrewd look.
“What makes you think that?”
“Because underneath your playboy exterior, you've got a good heart,” she said. His expression didn't change and she tilted her head in acknowledgment. “And you're a good businessman—you're gonna wait to see what the public thinks about something so pricey and involved before you actually get in on it. Once you know if it'll actually sell, then you'll come in and 'perfect it.'”
She was pretty sure he humphed at her but it was kinda hard to tell. He looked over at something she couldn't see. “Hey Bruce, you think holographic phones would sell well?” There was a pause as Banner must have answered too low for Kim to hear. Then he came back, focusing on her. “Bruce thinks they'd sell. So why won't I just get in on it now?”
“Cause Dr. Banner is a scientist, a geneticist, not a businessman,” she said, leaning back. He turned to someone else, not Banner by the direction he was facing (unless Banner had moved, which was possible). He turned back to her again.
“Cap said he'd expected it by now,” he said smugly and she snorted.
“Stark, you and I both know you're gonna work on it but you're gonna wait to see if our sales do well before you come out with what you made,” she said. “I don't know why you insist on arguing about this.”
“What makes you think I'm gonna work on it?” he asked and she resisted the urge to pinch her nose—she was not going to give him the satisfaction.
“Cause at the very least you're gonna want to make sure you're as good as Andrew,” she said simply and he nodded.
“Fair enough,” he acknowledged. “You're really moving into Stark Tower?”
“Yes,” she said. “Deals already been signed.”
“Why Stark Tower?” he asked finally. “Why not build your own space or something?”
“Cause we already have an HQ, this will merely be our face,” she said. “As for your tower...I wanted to limit the damage to the city.”
“The damage to the city,” he repeated with a frown. “What about my Tower?!”
“Stark, how many times have you guys been attacked since New York happened?” she asked, thankful for dealing with men all her life—it was apparently great practice at dealing with Stark.
“Too many,” he grumbled. “It seemed like New York was all the crazy's of the world needed to come outta the woodwork.”
“Exactly,” she said. “What do you think's gonna happen when we make ourselves completely public?”
Stark was silent for a few seconds before he nodded sharply. “Any place you work from will become a target, so why not just work from someplace that's already a target,” he said and she nodded. “Did you tell Pepper this?”
“I didn't have to, she pointed it out first,” she said. At his look she shrugged. “We had lunch.”
“You had lunch with Pepper and I didn't know about it?”
“Focus,” she ordered. “I want to have a meeting with you guys eventually, by the way. To discuss...jurisdiction and whatnot.”
“We don't need your help,” he said promptly. He turned to someone else an rolled his eyes. “Alright, I don't need your help.”
“So having a flying zord, capable of lifting way more than you can, wouldn't have been helpful in your last fight with the giant mice?” she asked innocently.
“Damn vermin,” he muttered, looking disgruntled.
She smiled. “We have a lot of experience fighting mutant monsters that defy explanation...or sanity,” she said. “And we have lots of cool toys to do it with. One flying zord could have started plucking them up and throwing them into less populated areas.”
“Could your zords have gotten into those streets?” Stark asked critically.
“They have before,” she said, mentally seeing the Crane flying through the streets of Angel Grove. “But no, most likely I would have asked for some of the more versatile ground zords to come in, pick em up, and throw em up to the flying ones. Safer for everyone.”
“And if your pilots missed?”
“My people don't miss,” she coolly.
He looked doubtful but thankfully didn't pressure her. Then, all of a sudden, Tony was shoved off the pad and Captain Rogers took his place. “Miss Hart,” he greeted her respectfully as she could just make out Stark swearing in the background. A hand appeared and tried to tug Rogers off the pad but the out-of-time man was holding firm.
“What can I do for you Captain Rogers?” she asked politely and tried not to grin when Stark took hold of the captain's wrist with both hands, to no avail.
“From what I heard, you're planning on moving into Stark Tower?” he asked, ignoring the other man. She nodded.
“We purchased the fortieth floor,” she agreed. “As I told Stark, I'd like to arrange a meeting between you guys and some of my team,” she said. “Figure out how we'll handle any attacks on the Tower.”
“I think that would be a good idea,” he said and Tony's toes appeared on the edges of the platform, as if he was bracing himself to try and give himself leverage to get Rogers to move. They both ignored the cursing as it failed to help. For all the man's own naturally cultivated strength, it had nothing on the serum. His lips quirked at something and then he asked, “When are you planning on moving in?”
“A few weeks, I think,” she said. “SHIELD's assigned a liaison that I have to meet with, I have to figure out exactly who's joining us in the city, stuff like that. I was working on it all before Andrew apparently decided Stark should be my headache and not his.”
“He can be a nuisance,” Captain Rogers agreed with a grin as Stark quite obviously slipped and fell flat on his ass. “But he has his uses.”
They both laughed at Stark's outraged squawking. They chatted a little bit longer and then they hung up, promising to keep in contact about the meeting via email.
“I don't know how you stand him,” Jason said from the doorway and Kim looked up, startled. When he did he get there?”
“Captain Rogers is nice!” she said and he came in more fully to plop down in her guest seat.
“I meant Stark,” he said. “Hartford told me he transferred him to you?”
“Yup,” she agreed and then paused. “Do you know if Andros and Billy got DECA up and running yet?”
“I am here,” a familiar voice said and Kim smiled. “What is it you wish of me, Kimberly?”
“Did you record the conversation in this office the last hour?” she asked. There was a pause.
“Yes,” DECA said. “My protocols insisted.”
“Good,” she said. “Make a copy and send it to Jason and Tommy.” She paused and then added, “Make sure to try and get Stark's reactions as much as possible.”
“Done,” DECA said. She sounded amused. Jason gave her a look.
“Am I going to like this?”
“You're gonna love this.”
Deciding she needed a break from lists and forms and grouping people for maximum efficiency, Kim headed for the beach. Half-way there, she was silently joined by Camille and Jarrod, both taking up places on either side of her. She smiled and threaded her arms through theirs, leading he duo towards a large rock where they could all sit comfortably and talk, as they obviously needed to.
Camille and Jarrod had latched onto her after she'd stumbled onto Jungle Karma Pizza following their defeat of Dai Shi. It had been accident, no matter what some people said—she'd been hungry, wanted pizza, and found a place that looked interesting so she'd gone inside. RJ had recognized her Crane spirit and after a bit of awkward dancing around the subject, she'd figured out who he and his staff were. Upon finding out Kim was an original, Camille and Jarrod had both hightailed it to the kitchen where they could work without “seeing her disapproval” as Lily had put it when she'd explained their presence
Why they thought she would disapprove of them she didn't care thinking about but when she'd come by the next day with Jason in tow, she'd asked RJ if she could steal his lion and chameleon. He'd been more than happy to say yes and they'd had lunch together that day and every day for a week before the two originals told them about Maligore.
By the time a month had passed, Kim and Jason had found themselves with two shadows. Jarrod had, with RJ's blessing, quit JKP and had gone to work with Jason and Rocky at the dojo they co-ran in Angel Grove. Camille had likewise quit JKP but had gone to work as Kim's assistant at Lone Wolf. The two former villains were understandably more comfortable in their presence than the other rangers and had taken to viewing them as the older sibling types they'd never had (or remembered, in Camille's case). They were similar with all the others who'd had serious evil episodes or pasts (she'd once caught Camille and Zedd talking about some guy they'd both known years go and Jarrod would sometimes follow Tommy around like a puppy if he didn't have anything else to do) but not to the extent they were with the original red and pink. Kim thought it probably had to do with the two of them being the first to show them they weren't alone.
“So what's up?”
“Have you figured out what you want us to do?” Jarrod asked, more quickly than she'd expected.
“I have, actually,” she said, bracing herself for the girl's reaction. “Cammie, I'd like you to come back as my second. You'd have a lot more responsibility and when I'm not here, they'd be coming to you but....”
“If you don't want to do it because you'd rather do something else that's fine but if you don't want to do it because you don't think you can or you don't think you deserve the job, than shut up,” Kim said firmly and the chameleon's mouth snapped shut. “You've earned my trust, you've earned everyone's trust. And you've been right there with me as I've gotten this all up off the ground so you know almost as much as I do anyway. You can do this.”
Camille nodded slowly. “Okay,” she said. “I'll...I'll do my best.”
“I wouldn't expect anything less,” she said, giving her a little sideways hug before turning to her boyfriend. “Jason needs help.”
“Ranger Response,” she said. “We're gonna have working morphers soon, Andrew says they've nearly completed our first planetary defense team. They won't have zords yet but the suits themselves are done. Jason's requested you help him with that.”
“I don't know,” she said and it was only a little white lie—she had an idea of what he wanted but she didn't know for sure.
“I'll talk to him,” Jarrod promised.
“Good,” she said. “Now, anything else or can we enjoy the beach until some other disaster calls me back inside.”
“Do you trust the Avengers?” that was Camille.
“I do,” she agreed instantly.
“Even Stark?” the girls asked doubtfully.
“Even Stark,” she agreed with quirked lips. She tilted her head slightly. “I do not, however, trust the people they work for.”
“Why not?” Jarrod asked.
“Their endgame...I don't think it meshes with ours the way they're trying to make us think,” she said slowly. “So I'll trust the Avengers but keep an eye out. I suggest you do the same.”
Chapter 9: Chapter 8
The Avengers convene to discuss their new allies...and Kimberly both wins and loses a bet.
“So what do we know about who we've met so far?” Steve asked, looking around at the team (minus one Norse God) sitting around the table.
“They put Hart in charge because of her past experience working with Lone Wolf Technology,” Bruce answered. “It wasn't a bad choice from what I've seen. They've been getting a lot done.”
“Okay, so what do we know about Hart?” Steve asked. Clint glanced up quickly, not surprised to find the captain shifting uncomfortably. This probably didn't feel right to him but the entire team agreed they needed to know what they could about the other team about to move into Stark Tower.
“Hart was a world-class gymnast before she joined the Peace Corps,” Natasha said. “Quite a few people thought she would go into coaching or go to university and were surprised when she didn't.”
Natasha, he knew, had been doing her own deep investigation into pretty much everyone they had a name for. Hart had been at the top of her list, given her position in the AO.
“But she did end up doing correspondence courses and graduated with a BA in business a few years ago,” Stark said. He was fiddling with something in front of him and it was only experience that told Clint he was actually paying attention to the rest of them. “Stanford. Not easy to get into.”
“Which says she's smart--”
“A lot smarter than she leads people to believe,” Natasha broke in. Bruce didn't complain, simply looked at her curiously. “From what I've gathered, most that knew her in high school and university saw her as a kind-hearted but airheaded gymnast. She's clearly not.”
“Speaking of her gymnastics...” Clint finally spoke up. “I don't understand why she didn't continue competing.”
“What do you mean?” Steve asked.
“I've watched all her routines from all the competitions JARVIS could get for me,” he said. “Most gymnasts, after a certain age, they start losing momentum. They slow down, have to work harder to do what the younger ones are doing with ease. That isn't what happened with her. The older she got, the better she got. 2004 Olympics, she managed to kick the ass of the rest of the girls there, even though she was more than five years older than most of the girls she was competing against. She could have easily continued but she retired after that. She never gave an actual answer as to why she did, either. She wasn't injured or anything like that. She simply stopped training and joined the Corps.”
“Which is odd?”
“For a gymnast of her caliber? Yes.” There was no hesitation in answering. It was very odd and something Clint could not understand. If she had been even close to where he thought she'd been physically, it should have been years before she would have had to slow down.
“I may have the answer to that, if you all want to hear it,” Stark said, looking bored as he watched them. The device was down on the table, Stark's hands woven together and resting on his chest.
“Then by all means...” Steve said and Stark smirked.
“She was a ranger.”
Everyone was silent for at least a minute before Steve finally got his wits together. “How do you know?”
“Because no organization like the Rangers would simply choose a civilian to be their face,” he answered promptly. “It doesn't make sense. So I digged. JARVIS?”
Photo's appeared on the wall then, all of them of Kimberly with roughly the same group of people. “These are from her high school yearbooks,” he said. “Before she left for Florida. The colors they're wearing look familiar to you?”
“The ranger colors,” Steve said, leaning forward. “They're all wearing ranger colors.”
“And they never change, except,” Stark paused and couple more photos popped up, these without Kimberly. “When the team changed.”
“Who's the blonde in pink?” Natasha asked and she must have seen the same thing Clint had---Kimberly had been in pink.
“Billy Cranston's wife, Katherine. She moved to Angel Grove shortly before Kimberly moved away,” Stark replied. “JARVIS, the timeline.”
A pictures rearranged themselves, alongside pictures of the rangers of Angel Grove. Above a picture of Kimberly with five others was a picture of the first six rangers. The colors all corresponded. Kimberly hadn't just been a ranger, Clint realized with a startled exhale of breath. She'd been an original, one of the first.
“The original group was made up of Hart, William Cranston, Jason Scott, Trini Kwan, Zack Taylor, and Tommy Oliver,” JARVIS outlined, the pictures zooming in and out to show who each was. “Scott, Taylor, and Kwan all moved to Switzerland for the Teen Peace Summit shortly after Rocky DeSantos, Aisha Campbell, and Adam Park transferred to Angel Grove High. Katherine Cranston nee Hillard moved to Angel Grove from Australia shortly before Hart moved to Florida, as sir has said. When the team changed suits, so did the colors worn by Oliver, DeSantos, and Park. William Cranston graduated early from high school and his wardrobe lost quite a bit of its blue. His wife retained her color but Campbell moved to Africa with her parents and was replaced by a recent African exchange student, Tanya Sloan.”
“Wait, I know that name,” Steve said, straightening. “Isn't Tanya Sloan a musician?”
“They are one and the same,” JARVIS agreed, offering a brief picture of an older Sloan on stage. “Shortly after a new, black and gold ranger appeared, Scott returned to Angel Grove. When the team changed suits yet again, DeSantos was severely injured and moved to Stone Canyon, California. At the same time, Oliver, Park, Mrs. Cranston, and Sloan took a young prodigy, Justin Stewart, under their wing.”
The boy couldn't have been much older than thirteen. Clint could see Steve was unhappy about that but it had been years ago—wasn't anything they could do to change it now.
“What about the team we know about?” Natasha asked. “The ones who call themselves the Space Rangers?”
“TJ Johnson and Cassie Chan moved to Angel Grove shortly after Oliver, Park, Mrs. Cranston, and Sloan graduated high school,” JARVIS said and Clint could see the moment it actually hit Steve, how young they'd all been. The originals hadn't been much older than Stewart when they'd started. “Carlos Vega had been on the soccer team with Park. Ashley Hammond was his best friend. Andros Dante and Zhane Thoel are reportedly not from Earth.”
“So they graduated high school and passed the powers onto these four and Stewart remained,” Steve concluded. “Then became the Space Rangers, where Vega and Johnson both changed colors and Stewart left.”
“He and his father moved to Boston about a month before the Space Rangers were first seen on Earth,”JARVIS confirmed.
“What happened to the Originals?” Bruce asked. “After they left the team, I mean.”
“Scott graduated high school and moved to Florida, where he and Hart became roommates for a year. Then he joined the US Army. He was eventually assigned to General Ross' team but asked for a transfer within a week. It was granted four months later,” JARVIS answered.
The AO director smirked. It was a little evil, in Clint's opinion. “The original red in particular took it as a matter of pride that he could convincingly get Ross to think you were in Bolivia when you were, in fact, on the other side of the globe,” she explained.
“I can attest to that,” the dark skinned man he vagually recognized as a former public ranger said. “Cause for some reason, I was the one he usually got to run around with the “Hulk” simulator the original blue built. It simulates the trace radiation the Hulk gives off, which Ross was tracking to try and find you.”
“She really wasn't kidding,” Bruce muttered. He looked overwhelmed. Clint didn't blame him.
“What did he do once he left the army?” Steve asked.
“His official place of employment seems to be Red Dragon Dojo, in Stone Canyon,” JARVIS answered. “But there is a notice on the website saying that all of his classes are being taken over by another instructor.”
“And the others?”
“William Cranston started Lone Wolf Technology,” Stark said. “One of his...Hart called them Zords, was a wolf. He married Katherine Hillard. They have two children, David and Laura. I know him through SI.”
“Taylor is a choreographer on Broadway,” JARVIS said. “He's married to Sloan. Kwan is a psychologist in DC. She's married to another psychologist, John Tsukino. They have a daughter, Tai San. Oliver got a doctorate in paleontology and worked with Anton Mercer on the Dino Project before its end. After his lab was destroyed in an accident, he went to teach high school science in Reefside, California. He's married to Hayley Viktor, who owns an establishment called the Cyber Cafe.”
“Wasn't there a Ranger team in Reefside?” Bruce asked.
“There was,” Stark agreed. He smirked. “Wanna guess when they formed?”
Clint shook his head. “How has no one connected the dots before?”
“No one was actively trying to, is my guess,” Steve said. “What about the others?”
“Park is a lawyer and unmarried. He recently left a practice in Angel Grove to become head of the Alpha Operations legal team,” Stark said. “He was the one who came in with Hart the first time she talked to Fury.”
“I met him,” Natasha agreed. “He still moves like a fighter.”
“DeSantos married Campbell when she returned to the states to attend school for Veterinary Science. She's a veterinarian in Stone Canyon,” JARVIS continued. “They have three children, Steven, Karan, and Ashley.”
“Got a doctorate from MIT,” Stark answered. “Last I heard, he was working in Cranston's engineering department.”
Stark sounded distinctly unhappy about that. Clint guessed SI must have tried getting him and lost.
“So...Hart was a ranger,” Steve said, leaning back in his chair ad frowning at the timeline still on the wall. “And now she's head of AO.”
“The Ranger Council, whoever that is, chose to intercede in Saudi Arabia,” Natasha said. “They sent in a team this morning. And a medical team is already in Wakanda.”
Clint let out a whistle. “They're not wasting any time, are they?” he asked.
“No, they're not,” Steve said. He studied Natasha. “Anything else you know?”
“The UN has a list of situations and possible help the Rangers could provide,” Natasha said. “Hart already approved of two of them—both are peace missions, not military. Another four they declined to get involved in as they're clearly in-house situations. Two more are 'under review', according to the report Hart sent to Fury. They should have an answer in a few days.”
“How'd you get access to that?” Stark asked but Natasha didn't answer.
“Who's the SHIELD liaison to AO?” Bruce asked. “Didn't Miss Hart mention they'd been assigned one?”
“Darcy Lewis,” Clint replied. He swallowed. “She's new. Phil recruited her.”
“She any good?” Steve asked after a pause.
“She tased Thor,” Clint said, smiling slightly. “I think she can handle herself.”
“Wait, wait, wait,” Stark said. “This agent tased Thor? When?!”
“When he first came to Earth, before New York,” Clint answered. “She was Foster's intern in New Mexico.”
Kimberly was working late, trying to figure out who to send to Bulgaria, when her holo-phone rang. Not actually checking to see who it was, she called out “Answer.”
“Hello, Pinky,” a semi-familar voice said, and Kim looked up slowly, taking in the amused looking Barton.
“You are not the Brain,” she said, deciding to not actually acknowledge the nickname.
“No, I suppose for you that'd be Cranston,” he said, head tilted. “Speaking of which, did he have help? Stark wants to know.”
“Have help with what?” she asked.
“His ideas,” he answered. “Stark's assuming he reverse engineered the ranger tech, to get his company off the ground.”
Kim paused, a sinking feeling in her stomach. Damnit. “Why is he assuming Billy knew about ranger tech?”
“Because you are really really bad at the whole secret identity thing,” the archer informed her bluntly. “We figured it out.”
“Figured what out?”
“What I'm trying to figure out,” he said instead of answering, lifting a hand to his chin as he stared at her. “Is why not the red? Why the pink? You weren't the leader. You might have been a ranger a fair amount of time but you never actually led. So why make you in charge now? From a military standpoint it doesn't entirely make sense. It's like putting a private in charge over a captain.”
Kim debated only for a minute about whether or not to play it off but ultimately decided Barton wouldn't have come to her like this if he didn't have proof. And, she acknowledged to herself, that proof would probably be really easy to get. He wasn't exactly wrong when he said they were really bad at the secret identity thing.
“Okay, one, I'm still not entirely sure I am in charge cause the others keep doing stuff behind my back,” she said and he smiled slightly. “Two...I'm totally more of a lieutenant. And three....I really really suck at not it.”
That gave him pause. “What?”
She shrugged. “The others all said not it before I could,” she answered, resting her chin in her hand as she stared at him.
“That's how you got chosen?” He didn't seem to know whether to laugh or be horrified at the news.
“Pretty much,” she agreed. “In case it escaped your notice, we're not always the most professional of groups. Our compromises are usually come to by use of Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock.”
“Big Bang Theory?”
“The science geeks all watch it.”
Barton was quiet a minute before he frowned. “We decided not to tell Fury,” he told her. “He's probably figured it out already though.”
“Yeah, I'm going to continue living in my land of delusion, thank you very much,” she said and he smirked. “That's one headache I don't want to deal with yet.” Kim thought for a minute and then shrugged. “Since you're doing me a favor, I'll do you one,” she said. “Something Fury probably doesn't want you to know but he never actually told me not to say anything and it's not in anything I signed...”
“What is it?” he asked, frowning.
“Phil Coulson is alive,” she told him and watched as his face lost all color. “That's the real reason I brought Dana and Clare with me the first time we met. Fury wanted them to take a look at him. He was in a coma.”
Barton's mouth opened and closed several times before he seemed to get his wits back together. “Was?” Kim resolutely ignored the way his voice cracked.
“Clare was able to take care of the residual magic in his body, that's why he wasn't waking up,” she said. “Once it was gone, he came to. Dana's been visiting him once a day, using some healing tech we have. Her last report said he was sitting up on his own now.”
The archer's face hardened. “Where is he?”
“New York Field Office,” she answered. “Level twelve.”
He looked like he wanted nothing better to do than run off right then and there but Kim waved a hand to get his attention. “Before you go off half-cocked, get the rest of your team,” she suggested. “Fury won't be able to fight it as much if all of you are there. And Stark can hack the security feed, may be able to get video evidence. I don't know how many people are aware he's actually alive. It might just be the doctors treating him and Fury.”
“Why tell me any of this?” he asked. “And don't bullshit me about doing us a favor for not telling Fury.”
“I don't agree with what he did, though I reluctantly understand his reasoning,” she said. “But I understand thinking someone you cared about was dead—we all do. One of my successors was thought to be dead for several months. It still haunts her teammates.”
He didn't reply in any way. Instead, he cut the connection. Waiting a few minutes, she finally pressed the button for the Power Center on the holo-phone.
“Justin here,” the youngest former blue answered as his face and shoulders appeared. He looked way too chipper considering it was almost one in the morning.
“Close out the bets on who'd confirm it first and who would confront us,” she said and then paused. “Who had Avengers for today? And Barton?”
Justin didn't seem surprised by the development, though he did sigh before looking it up. When he got the answer, he scowled. “You, Rose, Camille, and Kira got today right and you and Camille got the Avengers,” he answered. “RJ, Chip, Carlos, Alyssa, and Ryan all had Barton. How'd you all know? I was really off.”
“Lucky guess,” she said. In her case it was the truth—she'd literally pointed at a calender and said Avengers. “How much do I get?”
“$200,” he answered and then paused, eyebrows raising at whatever he was reading. “Tommy's gonna be pissed.”
“Let me guess, he said tomorrow?”
Kim smiled. “Well, he was only wrong by about an hour.”
“Yeah, Kim, I'm not gonna be the one to tell him that.”
I'm debating whether or not to have Kimberly date one of the Avengers (whether it works out is another debate). If I do, who do you think she should date (and Stark's off the table for now as it is Pepper/Tony). :)
Chapter 10: Chapter 9
Carter thinks it's a bad thing to have a Plan B when they're supposed to be allies. Kim thinks it's just a smart strategy. The Avengers have no idea what's about to happen.
Who knew being a Technology teacher would take so much time?! I'm really hoping this is just cause its the beginning of the year...*collapses on bed*
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Dana had been warned by Kimberly that she'd informed Agent Barton about Agent Coulson's survival. Given that, it didn't entirely surprise her when the doors to his room at SHIELD HQ slammed open and the entire team of Avengers, plus one Assistant Director Hill, spilled from the doorway like clowns from a car.
“She told them.”
Dana looked down at her patient, who was watching the group try and untangled themselves with an unreadable expression on his face. He was still too pale for her liking but the healing device had never been meant to be used on normal civilians—so where a ranger would already be walking around with its help, they were counting it a miracle he was even sitting up on his own. The damage had been extensive.
“She knows us Pinks are very particular about thinking people are dead when they're not,” she said simply.
“And she thought it was a dick move anyway so...” Cassie added from where she was standing in the corner watching. The known rangers never went into SHIELD without backup—it was one of Kim's rules.
Dana glanced over, taking in the way the team had arranged themselves—Stark was just behind and in between Romanoff and Barton, with Rogers and Hill on one side of him and Banner on the other. There was also another woman, someone Dana didn't recognize, standing on Banner's other side and looking just as irritated as the rest.
“Mister Stark,” Agent Coulson said, voice emotionless. “Natasha. Clint. Captain Rogers. Dr. Banner. Darcy. Maria.”
“You should know the only reason Pepper's not here is because we left her yelling at Fury,” Stark told him as Dana and Cassie exchanged looks at the mystery woman's name—their new SHIELD liaison, who they hadn't yet met, was a Darcy. “But just FYI, she's not happy with you either.”
“Miraculously,” Coulson agreed to Barton's simple declaration. His expression didn't change but his eyes...oh, his eyes said everything they needed to say as he looked between the two SHIELD-agents-turned-Avengers. “I flat-lined five times.”
“Speaking of which...” Dana said and almost as one they all looked at her, some more pale than the rest at his admission. She ignored that to look at the agent. “I need you to lean forward please. Time's up.”
He did as instructed and Dana slipped the healing device out from behind his back. She handed it off to Cassie, who quickly and efficiently put it back in its carrying case. Both pink rangers pretended not to notice Stark's eyes following the device like a hawk.
“What was that?” Banner asked, eyes also focused on the case, though probably for a different reason than Stark's.
“Ranger healing device,” Dana answered. “Kimberly gave permission for me to use it on Agent Coulson—normally, we don't use it on civilians.”
“It speeds up the healing process for rangers, working with the power inside our bodies to heal damage much more quickly than normal,” she explained. “It works on non-rangers as well but only to a degree.”
“How quick?” that was Romanoff and Dana shrugged.
“If he was a Ranger, he'd be completely back to normal already,” she said. “At this point, he shouldn't even be awake, let alone sitting up. It's helping but he's still got a long way to go before he's back to any sort of a schedule.”
“Understood,” Agent Hill said, expression firm. She turned to Coulson and gave him a look. He nodded back. “I'm going to see Director Fury.”
“Going to save your boss?” Stark snarked.
“To cheer on Miss Potts,” she corrected before turning on a heel and stalking out. Dana hid a smile—yeah, that was one woman who was not happy with her superior. Thank God Dana had Kim; there was little chance any of them would have to deal with such shenanigans with her in charge.
“Are you getting Red flashbacks too?” Cassie asked, watching Hill leave with an amused smile. Dana outright grinned.
“I wasn't going to say anything,” she agreed.
“Red flashbacks?” That was Rogers and the two pinks turned to him. He looked confused. So did Stark, Banner, and Darcy; Barton and Romanoff were on Coulson's other side, talking quietly. Updates, from the look of things. She had a feeling they were listening too though.
“A few years ago, all the red rangers gathered together for a mission they didn't see fit to inform the rest of us about,” Cassie answered. “The other men didn't see it as a big deal but more than a few ranger husbands slept on couches and, for one of them, literally in the doghouse, when they returned.”
Dana grinned as she recalled Ashley's rather smug expression when she'd told them about that tidbit. “Even the ones not married or dating had to deal with their pissed off female teammates,” she added, remembering Ryan laughing like crazy when he stopped by to say hi and told her about Jason running to Mariner Bay and the relative safety of Carter's place to get away from Kimberly, Tanya, Kat, and Aisha. “Carter avoided me and Kelsey for weeks.”
“Are we sure this is a good idea?” Carter asked quietly as he and Kim watched the Avengers prep themselves for battle. The Rangers they'd chosen to come—Eric, Ronny, Will, Cassie, Andros, and Kelsey—were all talking quietly off to the side and watching the Avengers with something akin to amusement. Rangers didn't really have to stretch themselves, the power did that for them; they were always prepped for battle once the adrenaline was going.
“Captain Rogers wants to know what we can do,” she shrugged. “He's not going to know it unless he goes up against it himself.”
“That's a good point but it wasn't what I was asking about,” he said, smiling at Kelsey when she turned and gave him a look Kim didn't even attempt to decipher.
“You mean our Plan B?” she asked, catching Eric's eye. He rolled his own, jerking his head towards where Stark was raising his hands straight up to the ceiling, his armor at his feet. She smiled back but did nothing else cause she could practically feel the force of Rogers' stare. One of them had to be slightly polite, as she knew the rangers were itching to test themselves against the Avengers and would not be holding back much.
Ronny in particular, she knew, was looking forward to showing off her speed while unmorphed. And don't get her started on Eric.
“The fact you felt the need to make a Plan B is what worries me,” Carter admitted. “We're supposed to be allies.”
“Relax,” she advised, walking over to where Bruce was leaning against the wall with Pepper. “You'll get wrinkles.”
Kim laughed as she left Carter behind. Sometimes he was too easy to wind up.
“What was that about?”
“Carter stresses too much,” Kim answered Pepper. “How's you, Pep?”
“Wanting to know if you'd be interested in a spa day?” she asked and yeah, she could see it.
“God yes,” Kim replied instantly. “I don't even have the difficulties as you do and I'm only coping through sheer determination.”
“You have different, no less horrid, difficulties,” Pepper corrected. “How about Saturday? I'll make the appointment.”
“Make it for three people and you are my hero,” she said, thinking it was high time to introduce Camille to the wonders of being pampered—the former villian had taken to her new position with a fervor that had surprised everyone except herself and Jarrod. The chameleon was going to burn out if she didn't start taking “me time.”
“Done,” Pepper said. “JARVIS?”
“An appointment has been made at your favorite spa, Ms. Potts,” the AI replied. “Saturday at one pm, party of three.”
Grinning, Kim turned to Bruce, who was looking between the two women with a bemused expression. “You okay with sitting this one out?”
“I'd rather not test the Hulk against the Rangers right now—he still has trouble fighting alongside the team,” the geneticist said apologetically. “I don't want him thinking the Rangers are enemies.”
“No worries,” she said. Then she thought of her Plan B and winced. “Though do me a favor and, uh, watch elsewhere?”
“I already planned on it,” Bruce agreed with a small smile. “Stray shots will not help keep the Other Guy at bay.”
“Not exactly what I'm worried about,” she mumbled but chose to ignore the puzzled look on Bruce's face. If she used her Plan B, he'd figure it out. If she didn't, he didn't need to know about it.
“You guys ready or what? Cause I'm waiting,” Eric said suddenly and Kim let out the sigh of the eternally suffering.
“Be nice,” she ordered before turning to Rogers. “We are ready though.”
“You haven't left,” he said, frowning, as Bruce and Pepper left to go to the observation room, wherever that was.
“Carter and I will be in the corner, watching,” she said. “Don't worry, we can take care of ourselves.”
“If you're sure,” he said over the sound of Tony suiting up. Kim looked over, smiling slightly when he rolled his helmet as much as he could. The part of Kim that would always be a ranger was inspecting him and coming up with weaknesses—without the thruster things in his hands and feet, he'd be screwed as the suit didn't give him great agility without them. Plus, he'd be kinda slow as hell too.
The two groups set up on either side of the room as Kim and Carter retreated towards the entrance. She needed to be close by just in case but she also didn't want to be in the midst of the fight.
She never saw the unspoken command to go but all of a sudden Ronny disappeared in a blur, using her super-speed to run over to Romanoff and knock her flat on her ass. At the same time, Clint shot the specially padded arrows he was using at Andros, who stopped it telekinetically and tossed it back at the surprised archer. And then the battle was on.
Kim slipped her earpiece in, which linked her directly to the private ranger cons inside the groups helmets. She wouldn't be able to speak to them but she could hear what they were saying when they didn't want the Avengers to. Just in time too, as Will, who's power didn't really help in this case, jumped up onto a ledge and morphed. Tony flew at him directly, and since they weren't actually trying to kill each other, swatted at the black ranger like a fly.
”Damn, that actually hurt,” she heard him say, after he stopped cursing of course. “Watch Stark's armor, I think I might actually bruise.”
Kim shook her head—he sounded absurdly pleased about that.
A flash of light made her look over—Cassie had just taken a direct volt of Romanoff's Widow Bite to the chest. It made her fly back and apparently that was a thing for them they'd have to try and fiddle with. Behind Romanoff, Rogers was playing a weird sort of Frisbee tag with Eric and Kelsey; he threw his shield at the two morphed rangers and then caught it when it came back after bouncing off the armor. Then Andros got involved and instead of hitting Eric for what seemed like the third time, the shield stopped abruptly about half an inch from the Quantum Rangers chest before flying straight back at Rogers. Only Rogers didn't have the correct angle to catch it so he ducked, pulled Romanoff down with him, and it hit Cassie instead. Andros got hit in the back with one of the arrows and it was only turning around after the hit that kept him from getting another one. Then Ronny got tripped by Romanoff, causing her to fly through the air and crash into the wall. Sad thing was, the original pink was pretty sure that had been an accident and not a deliberate move on the former Russian's part.
Kim had decided, early on, that she didn't want her team to lose this fight. It was prideful, yeah, whatever, but damnnit, they'd been doing this over twenty years, no way were they losing. Also this was, she knew, where she had to display power or the Avengers (and SHIELD) would never take them seriously as useful allies.
Hence, her Plan B.
“I still don't like this idea,” Carter murmured as Kim settled into the stance RJ, Casey, Jarrod, and Camille had taught her.
“Noted,” she said quietly before bringing her hands up in an enclosed fist in front of her chest, one hand over the other, as a pink glow coalesced on her body. She smiled when she felt the familiar connection finally spring to life.
The expressions on Rogers, Clint, and Romanoff's faces as a gigantic metaphysical crane appeared out of nowhere and started pecking at them was something she'd treasure for a long time to come.
“Can all of you do that?” Clint asked, plopping down beside Kim as the rest of the rangers talked with the Avengers, going over the battle (it had ended pretty quick after Kim called on the Crane—the New York group didn't know how to handle it, which had left them wide open for her team).
“Nope,” she said, sipping the latte Pepper had given her when she'd came back in. “And technically I'm still learning.”
“You're kidding.” He looked between where Tony was gesticulating widely at the screen showing the Crane pecking at him, to where Kim was sitting innocently on the ground.
“Nope,” she agreed. “It's part of the Jungle Fury team's arsenal but I had a power that was just similar enough that we decided to see if I could do it. Turns out I can.”
“What would have happened if you lost control?”
“She would have disappeared,” she shrugged. “I'm still at a point where I have to concentrate to use her—the Jungle team's spirits can and often will protect them even if they get knocked unconscious. And some of my other teammates who can do it are better at it than me cause, um...”
“They're not as flighty,” Camille said, coming in with Taylor. Hey, their ride was here. Kim scrambled to her feet.
Kim grinned wryly at the incredulous tone to Clint's voice. Oh, how far she'd come...
“I have trouble concentrating when I'm learning something new unless I deem it drastically important,” Kim admitted. “And I didn't consider it drastically important. My main teacher wasn't particularly happy with me as a student.”
Every ranger in hearing distance snorted. Kim pouted. “I wasn't that bad!” she argued, conveniently forgetting what she had just finished saying.
“Reflexive conditioning is a thing on Power Island now,” Will said dryly and Clint cackled next to her, obviously getting it. Kim turned a bit pink.
“What does that mean?” Rogers asked, looking puzzled.
“After walking into the training area while she was practicing, I learned to duck,” Will told the room. “Real fast.”
Those who finally understood snickered. “Sounds like the first couple missions with Natasha,” the other archer said. Natasha smacked him on the back of the head. “Ow!”
The redhead ignored his outburst to catch Kim's eye. They both smirked.
“Anyone else think that's a bad sign?” Tony demanded, looking between the two of them. Every hand save the two women in question's went up. “Damnit.”
Ronny heaved a great big sigh but her eyes twinkling when she said, “I better warn Jason.”
“Watch it or I will tell Rose what actually happened to that device she built,” Kim warned. The yellow ranger held up her hands, eyes wide.
“I'll be good.”
“So, Hart,” Tony said, leaning against the wall and staring at her. “Any other secrets you want to share with the class?”
Kim's eyes flickered over at Andros, Eric, and Carter before looking at the waiting Avengers.
“Nope,” she outright lied with a grin on her face. “Not a thing.”
Again, I'm debating whether or not to have Kimberly date one of the Avengers (whether it works out is another debate). If I do, who do you think she should date (and Stark's off the table for now as this is Pepper/Tony). :)
Chapter 11: Chapter 10
Kimberly is working with children in adult bodies, she's sure of it.
“Did you know?!”
Kimberly looked up from the report she was reading to see Jarrod standing in her office, panting as if he'd been running, and a desperate look in his eyes.
“About this!” he said, waving his hand around in front of her face. When he finally stopped, she got a good look at what was attached to his wrist and smiled.
“I suspected,” she agreed, watching in amusement as Jarrod literally collapsed onto the other end of the couch Dustin and Tori had gotten her as an apology. “I didn't know for sure but...I've known Jason a long time.”
“I'm not sure I can do it,” he said, looking own at the red morpher. He looked...lost. “I nearly...I wasn't the good guy.”
“Past tense,” she shrugged. “It's who you are now that matters and the Power never chooses lightly.”
“That's what Casey said.”
“And Casey's a smart kid,” she agreed. “You should listen to him.”
“How am I supposed to lead a team?” he asked, bewildered. “I don't know the first thing about leading!”
“Neither did Tommy, back when Zordon made him white,” she said, intentionally bringing up the ranger Jarrod most respected besides herself and Jason. “He learned. So will you.”
“And it's not like you'll be alone,” a new voice said and Kim looked up, smiling briefly when she saw it was Eric. Then she frowned. He seemed...distracted, even as he looked at the panicking lion. “You have the benefit of being surrounded by former reds—and current ones. Look to them.”
“And your own team,” she advised, well aware of how secretive the reds could get if left to their own devices. “Speaking of which, who are you serving with?”
“LeeLee, Fran, Alice, Heather, and Simon,” he rattled off and Kim stopped and stared for a minute. That was...unexpected. Usually it was four men and two women, not the other way around. She sent a silent “YES!” to the grid for changing things up finally, even if it had still got a guy as red. Jarrod gave a small smile. “Yeah, shocked the hell outta Jason too.”
And that explained why Eric was looking put out, she realized—Alice's inclusion in AO had been a point of contention between him and Tommy ever since the original green had showed up with the recent college graduate. To know the Power had chosen her, someone he considered a kid sister or even a daughter...he must be freaking out big time. She wondered if Jason had warned Tommy yet and then gave herself a mental smack—no way was a new team being chosen with their knowledge and Tommy not be there to watch. For a man who'd shouted “Not it!” when they'd been discussing AO, he was doing a damn good job of putting his nose in their business.
Though she would admit, in the safety of her own mind, to getting a sense of sadistic pleasure when Tommy wasn't given a choice in being named of the Earth Ranger Council. He had foisted this gig onto her and now he was paying the price--she was his boss!
“How'd they even get involved?” she asked—as far as she knew, any former ranger without a power who wanted to be considered should have been at the choosing and those who wanted a pass had to stay away, hence Kim locking herself in her office as far from the chamber as possible. How those six, only two of which had any reason to be there, got chosen was a mystery.
“Jason said anyone who wanted to be considered should go inside, past experience or not,” Jarrod said. “Then he, Camille, and Casey all shoved me into the Chamber and locked the door. I'm not sure about the others.”
Kimberly snickered. That sounded like something the two reds and the chameleon would do. “Fran?” she asked because of all of the ones chosen, she was who was confusing Kim the most—LeeLee had been the daughter of the Vampire Queen, Simon, Alice, and Heather had been Joel, Eric, and Carter's protegees. They made a certain amount of sense. Fran, not so much. Eric gave her a slight smile.
“I overheard her hyperventilating to Dom,” he said. “She went inside because she didn't think she'd get chosen and she's too curious for her own good. Might be why blue chose her.”
She really shouldn't laugh at the bookworm's expense, she really shouldn't but...Kim giggled. “Now do you believe me when I say the Power has a demented sense of humor?” she asked the director of Search and Rescue. Jarrod looked between them like they were a few screws loose.
“Shut up. It made my kid Yellow. Yellow!” Eric shouted.
“What's wrong with yellow?” she asked, already knowing the answer. She also wasn't touching the “my kid” thing with a ten foot pole—best he figure out he just said that on his own.
“It's not red.”
They look like they got called into the principals office, Kim thought bemusedly to herself as she and Jason inspected their newest rangers. All of them were standing tensely, Jarrod and LeeLee moreso than the other four. This didn't surprise her; they were the ones who felt the need to atone for past mistakes.
Inspecting them in their new uniforms, Kim felt a small surge of satisfaction. Fran was fidgeting with her blue hemmed sleeves but seemed to be a lot calmer than Kim knew she'd been before. Alice was beaming proudly, even as she kept eying Jarrod's red with a bit of envy. Heather seemed perfectly happy in her white, LeeLee looked uncomfortable in black, and Simon was practically glowing in his green—only he and Jarrod had gotten the same colors as their mentors.
“Welcome to the club,” Kim finally said.
“Bet that wasn't what you expected to hear when you woke up this morning,” Jason chuckled.
“No sir,” Simon replied cheerfully. Kim and Jason exchanged looks and then smiled.
“You guys are gonna do fine,” she assured them, watching in amusement as instead of relaxing, her words made them all stand up impossibly straighter. “You're gonna have something no other previous team has really had.”
“Constant support from former rangers from beginning to end,” Jason agreed. “Speaking of which...”
He looked at Kim and she scooped up the color coded manila envelopes up from the table, handing half to her oldest friend. “These are for you,” Kim said, giving Heather, Alice, and Fran theirs. They were all thick, though the red and black ones were by far the biggest and each were held closed with rubber bands. It hadn't been just the reds and blacks who'd decided to write them. Most of those who'd been turned evil at some point had added their own letters of encouragement—Karone in particular had written ten pages, front and back, to each other them. “Words of wisdom from your predecessors.”
All of them stared at the envelopes in excitement and not a little worry or dread. “We'll leave you alone to read them,” Jason said, straightening from his own slouch. “But word of advice? Maybe share a few of them as a group. Not all of them but...”
“Think of it as a bonding experience,” Kim suggested. “Have fun! Oh and Jarrod? Don't be such a red all the time!”
“What's that supposed to mean?!” Jason demanded as they disappeared swiftly from the conference room.
“You know exactly what it means, Jason Lee Scott, and don't pretend you don't...
Kimberly had strongly suspected hell was about to be unleashed now they had a team but hadn't wanted to jinx them by admitting it out loud.
Besides, why say it (and then get the blame) when your idiot ex could do it for you?
“Tommy!” more than one person shouted at their meeting when the head of the Ranger Council had opened his mouth.
“Seriously?!” Taylor, head of Air Support, demanded, hands going to her hips. “We're Rangers—we don't actually invite trouble if we can help it!”
Sitting at the head of the table in the conference room, Kim resolutely ignored the guilty expressions she could see. Now was so not the time and heaven knew she wasn't exactly innocent herself. “As much as it pains me to say it, the idiot's right--”
“We have a ranger team now—are we really not expecting to have to actually use them?” she finished.
“That'd be stupid,” Jason agreed. At Tommy's look, the original red shrugged. “Doesn't mean you have to say it aloud.”
Kim turned to Jarrod, knowing the two men were kicking each other under the table but unwilling to call them on it—they wanted to act like children in front of the, well, children, they were welcome to it. “How is your team doing? Will you be ready?”
“Yes,” Jarrod replied without hesitation. She raised an eyebrow at him. “Most likely,” he amended. Kim smiled.
“What about your non-fighters? How are they coping?” Adam asked.
“A lot better than I think they were expecting,” Jarrod chuckled. “Fran's turned out to be pretty lethal with her new staff.”
That didn't surprise Kim—she was one of the few who knew the entirety of the Jungle team, including the older masters (and the formerly deceased ones), Camille, Jarrod, and Flit, had been kidnapping the bookworm and training her several hours every day since she'd been chosen. Lily had been her instructor in her staff-work, it being similar to her own weapon. Kim hid a smile when she saw the Cheetah Master siting smugly next to the bewildered looking Jayden.
“I still can't believe the power chose four women,” Joel said. Every woman there, including his wife, looked at him. “Not that its a bad thing!” he hastily added.
“It is pretty unusual,” Trini, their resident shrink, agreed. “Usually it's only two.”
“It's only unusual on Earth,” Karone, who was representing the Galaxy team on the Council, said. “Elsewhere its just as common to see more women as men. Or neither.”
“Alright, keep me appraised if anything comes up,” Kim ordered, looking between Jason and Jarrod. They both nodded so Kim went onto the next thing on her list. “Tech's, how goes the new zords?”
“We finally agreed to use animal forms,” Billy reported. Kim raised an incredulous eyebrow at him and he grimaced. “I know that's not what you wanted o hear.”
“Not really, no.”
“What animals?” Jason asked, looking a bit annoyed. “And why haven't I been consulted on any of the new ranger team stuff?”
“You're not a tech,” Andrew answered, frowning, and Billy winced.
“No, but he is head of Ranger Response,” Kim reminded them tightly. “He should have been one of the first ones you consulted.” She thought he had been and knowing he hadn't...she wasn't happy.
“It's my people who are using these things,” Jason said. “I need to be kept in the loop.”
This was the problem, she knew, with so many people involved. Some of them, the techs in particular, could be really bad at communication. And most of them had never worked with others on Ranger things before—only Angela had been part of a team when she'd developed the Lightspeed tech. Still...this was ridiculous. “I want a plan of action, complete with designations, special powers, and general zord specs by the first of the month,” she ordered. More than one tech's eyes widened and Kim quickly cut off all protests. “You have had almost six months to think about it and three months as team—get your act together now.”
“Who's our boss?” Andrew asked quickly. He looked like he expected it to be him which, yeah, he'd done most of the work on the Overdrive team by himself but then so had Hayley with the Dino's and Billy had done the Turbo morphers with only Alpha 5 for help.
“Angela is head of the Research, Development, and Engineering department,” she answered. “With Rose as her deputy.” The others all started arguing but Kim held up a hand. “You have other obligations, like businesses and companies and schools to run—they do not.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Kim saw Jason and Tommy exchanged smug looks and decided it was time to move on. She turned to the only techie who'd not argued once. “Justin, how goes Central Command?”
“Up and running as of last night,” he replied easily. He was the third member of their triad in the central hub of Alpha Operations and had been doing most of the computer work inside. “I can show everyone later.”
“Central Command?” Chip asked, eyes wide. He was their rep from the Mystic Force team, since Kim had made the executive decision the people actively involved in AO would not represent their team too. So Daggeron and Leanbow were out, being part of Mystic Support. The other members of the mystic team hadn't wanted the job so it'd fell to the hyperactive yellow. She knew some thought it would mellow him out but Kim wasn't holding out much hope--in her experience, the hyperactive rangers never really "grew out" of that particular personality quirk.
“It's the main space in the Power Center, this building,” Eric explained. “It's where all our missions will be implemented and observed from.”
“Kinda like the main room in Rootcore,” Daggeron said. “Rootcore's bigger than that space but its the main part of the building and where Udonna would watch our battles.”
“What they said,” Justin agreed with a grin. “It's where 5, 6, and I are always at.”
“Ah,” Chip said, nodding wisely. “Good to know.”
“So if we need to use it...?” Kim asked and Justin nodded. She let out a breath of relief. “Good. Next thing—Merrick, how goes Colorado?”
“Tori and Madison have been working like crazy but there's only so much they can do—Tori especially since she lacks her old armor to protect her identity and she's not allowed to wear her Ninja uniform,” the head of Disaster Relief answered.
“She's not overdoing it, right?” Hunter, who was their Ninja rep, asked. Tori was, technically, only a representative herself—for what they called the Sentinal team—but she often could be found helping out wherever she was needed and the flooding in Colorado had been universally deemed a “need Tori” mission.
“No, she's just having to be more careful where she's working from so she's not recognized or caught on camera,” Merrick assured them. He paused and then added, “She's kindly requested some sort of head covering for our official suits though.”
“Uniforms,” Carter and Eric both corrected. Carter shot the other red a quick grin before adding, “Suits are the Ranger armor.”
“More like spandex,” someone mumbled, Kim wasn't sure who. She decided now would be a good time to end things and did so. Immediately Tommy and Jason fell back into their squabble as the techs all gathered around Angela as she announced they had to put anything not time-sensitive on hold and get to work that afternoon on the zords. Kim caught Camille's eyes.
The expression the two women exchanged spoke volumes.
As Kim suspected (and Tommy had given voice to), the ranger team was called out within the week when a familiar figure appeared in the middle of New York City.
I live in Colorado and know at least one person who's lost their home in the floods plaguing the northern area of the state. All my thoughts and prayers go out to the victims.
Chapter 12: Chapter 11
Things heat up as Fury makes a demand Kimberly's not willing to follow.
“How is he alive?” Kim asked shakily, standing in front of the holographic display and watching as the figure attacked people left and right in the busy and now panicking Central Park. “He should be dead.”
“We'll figure that out later, we can ask Rita and Zedd,” Jason answered, looking much more upset than she was at his old enemies appearance. “The Rangers are about to arrive.”
Nearby, Damon was double checking the zords they still had and could travel quickly if needed—Kim's crane and Tommy's Falcon and Phoenix were among them—while Justin seemed to be talking to five different people at once.
“No, do NOT engage the overgrown monkey!” she heard him practically shout at who she thought was someone from the NYPD. “The Rangers...just arrived, I'll call you back.”
“Hey, Hart?!” a familiar voice said and Kim turned around to find someone had projected Stark into Command Central. He wasn't in his suit and he looked tense. “That a friend of yours?”
“Not so much, no, though we do know he's supposed to be dead,” she said, hardly caring as he looked around their HQ. It wasn't like he didn't already know identities (she'd gotten a pretty accurate list of who he thought was who and for what team after the Avengers had broken Coulson out of SHIELD). “My team just arrived.”
“I don't recognize the uniforms,” he noted, frowning. She thought she saw him try and step forward, as if to get a better look at their display, and then remember he couldn't at the last minute.
“They're new,” she answered tensely as Jarrod, in his suit, went toe-to-toe with the blast from the past while the rest of the team evacuated the civilians.
“Fury know about them?”
“He probably does now.” An arrow suddenly hit in one of his explosed fleshy spots, causing the monkey to let out a howl.
“Barton's on scene,” Stark belatedly reported. “So is Romanoff. And Cap.”
“Why not you?” she asked, watching as the golden monkey was tag-teamed by the recently arrived Captain and Jarrod. Black Widow was in the background, helping with the final civilian evacuation.
“I'm...suitless at the moment,” he finally admitted. Despite the situation, Kim couldn't help what came out of her mouth next.
“Is that like being pantless?”
Stark let out a bark of laughter. “Quite possibly,” he agreed as Rita's former henchman somehow grew in size. “That is one big monkey.”
“And just as ugly as I remember,” Jason muttered next to her.
“Hey, Billy!” she shouted as the Ninja zords appeared, with Simon getting her Crane—she could practically hear the absent Joel screaming his approval at Simon having a flying zord, even if it was a pink one.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know, the new zords needed to be done yesterday!” he shouted back and Kim smiled grimly. She was pretty sure they'd have most of the initial zord building done in the next month. The original blue hated being caught with his pants down and judging the from the cursing she could hear coming from Andrew, Angela, and Cam, he wasn't the only one.
“What does he mean?”
“The new zords for the new team aren't ready,” she said, not wanting to tell him they hadn't even been started. “That's why they're using some old ones.”
“That you just had lying around?!”
She gave him a bright, relieved smile, when Goldar finally decided he had enough getting kicked around and took off.
“What can I say, we're a bunch of pack-rats.”
Kim had long ago tuned Fury out of his rant, knowing DECA would alert her if Fury actually started making sense. He'd been going on about the new team for over an hour and so far it seemed to be mostly just him wanting to know just when they had planned to tell anyone they had a new ranger team.
She'd been wondering at Goldar, trying to figure out how he was back when she very clearly remembered Rita and Zedd telling her he'd been killed by Zordon's wave. She had a horrible feeling his reappearance meant bad things were on the way. Very bad things.
“Get here, now.”
That snapped Kim out of her daze and she turned from the walls to stare at the fuming Fury (ha! She'd have to remember that one for Stark) on her desk. “Uh, no,” she replied. “I don't think so.”
“I can dissolve our contract,” he told her bluntly. “We need to talk.”
“No, we don't,” she said. “You knew we'd be using rangers for our work.”
“Past rangers!” he snapped. “Not new ones you specifically created for your little club!”
“Nowhere in our contract with you or the UN does it say we'd use past rangers,” she said. She knew that cause she specifically ordered Adam to make certain he didn't use any such language. “You simply assumed we'd use past rangers. That's on you, not us.”
“I want their identities.”
“I already know everyone else, I want theirs.”
“I want to vet them.”
“Damnit Hart!” he exploded. “Give me the damn names!”
Kim held her head high and walked over to the table. She leaned down so she was face to, well, body with Fury (she wondered just what he was seeing but quickly dismissed it as irrelevant).
“No.” Then she reached out pushed the button that would hang up on him.
She stared at the place he'd been a moment before and then pushed the red button, the one that connected her to Command Central. “Redirect all incoming messages from SHIELD, unless its medical or Coulson, to DECA.”
“Yes, ma'am,” Justin replied. “Fury didn't take it well?”
“I hung up on him,” she replied and then hung up on Justin too. She'd apologize to him later.
She turned to her windows, taking in the view. It was sunset, the water glinting off the water, and Fireheart was flying around and flashing in the light. It was beautiful, of course, but not even that could distract her for long.
Fury knew who they were. She'd known it was coming but...not so soon. What he would do with the information now was worrying her but she knew from experience that she couldn't let him blackmail her—she'd never have any sort of control again if she did. It was something she and Jason had discussed at length when she'd first been shanghaied into this. Speaking of Jason...
“Send out the word,” she said, not wanting to do this but knowing she had to. “We're at code yellow. Send the transmitters. I want a full house in an hour.”
“Done,” DECA said after a moment and Kim looked up when the ceiling began pulsing a gentle yellow. Every building on the island would be doing the same. As she looked out at the water, she could just make the reflection of the various lamps turn the same shade.
She paused and then added. “Call the Avengers.”
“Um, hello?” Bruce asked when he materialized on her desk. She turned around, taking in Eric standing silently by her doorway. She focused on the rumpled looking scientist staring around her office quizzically. “Why is your office glowing yellow?”
“Rocky calls it the Enterprise warning,” she smiled. “It means we're in danger as a whole and to be on guard.”
“What happened?” He asked immediately.
“Fury. He didn't take the new team well. I have a feeling he's going to retaliate.”
“You have an alliance!”
“And there are ways of getting back at opponents that can't be traced to you,” she replied and he had nothing to say to that. “I just wanted to let you guys know—and to ask for you to let Coulson know Dana won't be by till this is dealt with.”
“Will this affect his healing?”
“No,” she said as Camille and Jarrod silently slipped into the room with Eric. “Just tell him to take it easy till we get back to the status quo. None of us are going to SHIELD for a few.”
“Understood,” he said. He paused and then added. “Is there anything we can do?”
“Take care of yourselves and keep an ear out,” she replied. “We'll be in contact.”
Then, like the others, she hung up on him. She probably should stop doing that.
“You called an all-call?” Eric asked and Kim nodded. “One hour?”
“Get Wes but be quiet about it,” she ordered and he disappeared. She turned to Jarrod and Camille. “J, get your team and put them on standby. I don't know what the retaliation will look like but it's going to come.”
“Yes, ma'am,” he replied and disappeared. She then turned to Camille.
“I need updates on every single ranger project as soon as possible,” she said. She paused and then added, “Recall Tori.”
“Are you sure?” Tori was the only ranger currently out and about, even the medical teams were back from the various missions they'd been assigned to. The rains in Colorado had stopped but Tori had been sticking around to help.
“Yes,” she replied. “She's in danger. Call her in.”
“We'll be okay, Kim,” Camille smiled before she left. “We'll be fine.”
Kim turned back to the water.
“I hope so.”
Chapter 13: Chapter 12
Kimberly finds out just what sort of retaliation Fury decided on, something that will change everything.
It was like that first meeting in the Dino Lab only with more people and more crazy. The only team missing was Gosei's—nope, nevermind, he must have had to call them.
“Where are we?” the kid in red asked, looking around cautiously from where they'd just tumbled in. She raised an eyebrow. Had Gosei told them anything about what they were walking into or had he just decided to “surprise” them like Zordon had sometimes done?
“Welcome to the Ranger Senate,” Rocky cheerfully called, waving.
“It's not the Ranger Senate,” Kim said, exasperated. No matter how many times... “It's the Ranger Sanctum.”
“Ranger Senate sounds better,” Rocky insisted.
“Will someone shut him up?” Kim asked Adam, who smirked but obligingly went over to his best friend so Kim could deal with the rookies. She turned to them hands going to her hips. “I'm Kimberly Hart, director of Alpha Operations...and apparently one of the few sane members of the original team.”
“I resent that!” Zack and Jason called out from where they were thumb-wrestling and pretending they weren't worried.
“No, you resemble that!” she shouted before turning back to the five teenagers. She jerked her head at the two originals and pointed at the rookie in red and then the one in black. “For the record, those are your predecessors.”
“You're all past rangers!” the one in blue exclaimed, looking excited. Kim gave him a tired smile.
“Oh, Billy's gonna love you,” she said, amused. “Names?”
Troy was red, Noah was blue, Jake was black, Emma was pink, and Gia was yellow. Gosei had apparently not said anything to them beyond that someone needed to talk to them.
“We'll do introductions but no one expects you to remember everyone's names right off the bat,” she said, leading them to where they were going to sit down. “Just listen, pay attention, ask questions or suggest as appropriate. And as, uh, new rangers, don't hesitate to ask questions or clarifications. The Samurai team are in the same situation as you...more or less.” Said Samurai team looked over from where they were sitting in their own section and gave waves before turning back to whatever quiet discussion they'd been having. Kim spared a moment to wonder at the new girl—she didn't recognize her—before focusing back on the team who was completely new to this.
“What's going on though?” Kim's own successor asked. “Why were we called in?”
“It's an all-call,” she answered. “It means every Earth ranger needed to come in to discuss a danger. I'm sorry if you had plans...”
“Ranger things take priority,” Gia said immediately. “Don't worry about it.”
“I wasn't going to,” Kim said, smiling.
“What color were you?” Noah asked, looking between her and Gia curiously. Kim smiled.
“Original Pink,” she answered and watched as Emma's eyes got impossibly wide. To the awe-stuck girl she said, “We'll talk later.”
As she walked to the center of the room, she pretended not to hear Mia's commiserating comment of “Just so you know, that feeling of 'holy crap she's the first?! does not go away...”
“You're the first,” Jason teased as he abandoned Zack to join her. So did the rest of the main AO Directors.
“I don't want to hear it,” Kim shot back. “Cole still thinks you walk on water and it's been ten years!”
The tips of Jason's ears turned red as the others all smirked. For all that he ragged on the newbies apparent “awe” of the others, the original red always got adorably flustered when the same thing happened to him.
“Alright, lets get this assembly to order,” Kim said and stepped onto the platform. “Everyone, sit down and shut the hell up!”
“If that doesn't get the new pinks out of their hero-worship, I doubt anything will,” she heard Eric mutter behind her.
“Are you kidding, the fact everyone listened to her will probably only deepen it,” Taylor muttered back. A smiled touched her lips but she didn't acknowledge the two any more than that.
“Role call please!” Jason shouted.
“Original twelve accounted for,” Rocky and Katherine called. Technically Rocky was the first Dino team's council rep and Katherine the Zeo's, but they often worked as a team for the first dozen rangers, or Zordon's chosen as Rita liked to call them. Justin, though he'd worked with TJ, Carlos, Cassie, and Ashley, tended to stick with the first Turbo's during things like this. Kim still wasn't sure why but had a feeling it had to do with the Kerovians.
“Turbo's here!” TJ called. “And Astro is here too.” Zhane was the Astro rep but Kim knew he was with Andros in Central Command, talking with the Galactic Morphin Council.
“Galaxy is here!” Karone called. That pleased Kim, as she wasn't sure they'd be able to make it in time.
“Lightspeed ready!” Kelsey added.
“2/7th of Time Force is present,” Wes called. “I left a message for Jen though. Hopefully she'll get back to me tonight.” Kim blinked, surprised he'd done that as technically he didn't have to. She wondered what her successor thought of it.
“Wild Force is here,” Cole called and the role call continued.
“Ninja Storm ready,” Hunter said, arms crossed.
“Dino Thunder here,” Ethan said and more lowly she heard him tell Conner, “No, I'm not going to ask that.”
“Mystic here in force!” Chip chirped, to general laughter from the rest.
“Overdrive here!” Mack called. “We even got Tyzonn back!”
“So is Sentinal team, minus the Knight!” Tori added from her place in the Ninja section.
“Jungle is here,” Lily said calmly, ignoring the poking her boyfriend was doing to get her attention about something. Finally she turned and hissed. “Stop it!”
“Did you tell them Master Phant, Finn, and Swoop are here too?” he hissed back.
“I think they can see that for themselves,” she reminded him. Kim saw the three older masters all hide smiles.
“Samura team is completely here,” Jayden said, standing up. “And we have a new member since the last session. Lauren Shiba, my sister. She's a red.”
The blonde at his side stood and gave a little wave. That caused a minor uproar, mostly among the women, but even the guys were grinning and cheering.
“About damn time!” Kim heard Aisha yell over Tanya's, “You go girl!”
“Alright, alright, alright, shut up!” Kim shouted, smiling despite herself. “Jayden, talk to me and Jason later. Lauren, welcome to the family. Next?”
“Um, Megaforce is here,” Troy said, standing up. “I'm Troy.”
“Hello, Troy!” the entire room chorused and Kim put her hands back on her hips to stare at the older rangers as Troy startled back into his seat.
“Guys, don't scare the newbies,” she scolded. She turned back to the team between the Samurai's and Jarrod's. “All of you are welcomed to the family. Introduce yourself and your color and we'll move on.”
They did so, all of them looking slightly starstruck as the rangers welcomed them. Finally, she turned to Jarrod, who nodded. “Gaurdian's are here,” he said calmly.
“And yes, for the record, they are the Guardian Rangers,” Kim said as she saw Andros and Zhane slip into their seats. She gave them a look and they nodded. She smiled and turned to the others. “Earth's first officially sanctioned planetary team.”
That got a cheer from everyone but the two newest city teams, who looked confused. She made a mental note to get someone to explain the difference to them later.
“So, thank you all for coming,” she said. “We have a situation, obviously.”
“Is it bad?” someone called.
“Might be,” she said. “Probably. Fury's not happy about the new team and wants their identities.”
As she suspected, most of the room exploded with annoyed shouts. “Shut up!” Jason roared and everyone went silent. “Kim can't explain if you keep shouting over each other.”
“Thank yoy,” she said. “He claims he already knows all of us. I don't know about Mega or Samurai but I wouldn't put it past him to already have someone in town spying. Lightspeed, you're recognized.”
Kelsey dropped the hand she'd been holding up. “So you're saying he knows who every ranger is? Even the non-public ones?”
“So he claims,” she agreed. “From the conversation we had...you know what, DECA? Could you please replay the last conversation I had with Fury?”
Kim stepped out of the way as Fury's visage appeared. She could see Alpha 5 shuffle in across the room and hand something to Eric before going back out the door. She'd asked him and six to stay in Command Central so Justin could come, which they'd been more than happy to do. Kim frowned as Eric immediately went to one of the consol's along the side of the Sanctum and started typing. When Fury's recording disappeared, Kim retook center stage. “Jungle, you're recognized.”
“You think he's going to retaliate,” Lily said and Kim nodded.
“Yes, we do,” she said. “How, I don't know, but he's going to.”
“He already has,” Eric said and jerked his head for Kim to go over. Kim did so, frowning, as the galley all started muttering amongst themselves. Softly, so no one but the directors would hear, he added, “We have a situation. I called Rita, told her to initiate the Family Plan.”
“What did he do?” Kim demanded, her entire body going cold as the other directors froze. The Family Plan was simple and to the point—gather the immediate families of rangers and take them somewhere safe. Given some of the wives and husbands didn't actually know about their pasts as rangers, it was a last resort sort of plan.
“He outed us, Kim,” Eric said heavily. “He outed us.”
“Outed?” Jason asked, face pale, and hand twitching toward his pocket and the cell she knew he kept there. Emily, his wife, didn't know about his past. They'd been having some problems for the last couple years or so, though, and Kim ached for what this could potentially do to his marriage.
“He released a complete copy of every ranger to the press,” the Quantum ranger said. “Samurai, Mega, and the Guardian's are the only three he didn't have. Everyone else...our identities are known.”
“The press have ran with it,” Justin said, having gone straight to the computer himself. He turned back to them now, face pale. “It's everywhere, Kim. The genie's out, there's no way to put it back in. They have too much.”
“Okay,” Kim said faintly. More strongly, she added, “Okay. Lock the Island down.”
“What, why?” Taylor demanded. Locking it down meant no one could leave.
“Because once I tell them, every single one of them are going to want to go get their families,” she snapped and Taylor reared back as if struck. “We have the Family Plan for a reason, Taylor, let Rita, Zedd, and the others do their jobs. Lock the Island.”
Jason, just like when they were teens, nodded sharply and went and did the one thing she knew he didn't want to do but would because it was what was needed doing. He initiated the lock-down as Kim went to the center to tell everyone what had happened.
“For the last twenty years, there has been one thing that most of us have held closely to the chest as Rangers,” she said, not raising her voice and everyone quieted to hear her words. “One thing that has kept us sane, kept us...human to those we know and love. Fury chose to attack us using that very thing.”
Tommy, she could see, had already figured it out. He was slumped in his chair, running a hand over his face. Some others looked like they suspected but didn't want to believe it. She knew the feeling. “I'm sorry,” she said and she honestly wasn't sure if she was talking to the rangers in the room or the memory of Zordon. “The genie's out of the bottle. Fury knows who we are and now so does the rest of the world. Our identities...are public. With the exception of our three newest teams, we're known.”
The room was dead silent as everyone digested the news. Still eerily calm, she looked from one team to the next. “I've initiated the Family Plan and the Island has been locked down. No one leaves. Rita, Zedd, and our other allies will bring our families within the hour, as has been planned since the first of our number got married. It's time to buckle down everyone—it's going to be a bumpy few days.”
Chapter 14: Chapter 13
Stark finally gets permission to visit Power Island.
It was Stark who'd alerted them to what Fury had done. Stark who'd found out the press knew who they were. Stark who'd promptly contacted Alpha. When Kim had a chance, you can bet your ass Kim was going to give him a kiss on the cheek (she'd have given him a full on kiss—no tongue—but she figured Pepper would disapprove). In the meantime, she'd do something he'd infinitely appreciate more.
“Welcome to Power Island,” Kim said, watching as Stark took in the scenery around him. He was there in the flesh, not a hologram, and though some of the Council was leery of bringing him over, most had agreed with Kim. He wouldn't be allowed free reign and he WAS NOT going to Tech Isle, but he was here to talk and to help.
“I can't get a hold of JARVIS,” he noted, frowning at his Tablet. “And why does this say I don't exist?”
Kim outright grinned. “Magic,” she said and he scowled at her. “Have fun trying to figure it out.”
His expression didn't change until they got into the Sanctum. She was taking the long way to Command Central because she wanted him to see who his warning had helped save. He looked around the main floor, taking in the various kids and significant others milling about. Something in his expression tightened as he stared over in the direction of Theo and Lily's infant daughter, who was being sung to by her aunt Guin. “Who are they?”
“Families of Rangers,” she answered, nodding over at her goddaughter, Tenaya, who was being distracted by her Aunt Elsa while her twin brother pouted next to them. “Once you gave the alert, Eric initiated what we called the Family Plan. The allies we'd made over the years, they went and got our wives, husbands, and children out of the line of fire. So to speak.”
“Why didn't you do it yourselves?”
“Because we locked down the Island,” she said. “We saw what happened when the world found out about the Space team—we're pretty sure this'll be worse.”
“There are more of you this time,” he noted.
“And several of us are kinda famous,” she reminded him. “Tanya's cell died within like an hour cause of how many texts she got from people...and Kira and Zack have both changed their voicemail messages and turned their phones off completely.”
“Tommy's been fielding calls from the school board,” Jason added, coming over. “But Billy said stock in Lone Wolf has gone through the roof.”
“Yeah, same thing happened after I came out as Iron Man,” Tony nodded. “He's going to have fun with that. … Why is the Reefside school board interested?”
“Because someone did the math and realized the Dino Rangers were seniors in high school when they served...and Tommy had just become their teacher,” Jason answered. “They want answers about that.”
“If Tommy keeps his job after this, I'll be very surprised,” Kim murmured, looking over at where the Connor was playing soccer with a few of the older boys. “Connor said his parents are pissed off about it. Proud, of course, but pissed.”
This was just the tip of the ice-burg, Kim knew. There were so many rangers in now interesting positions because of what Fury had done. Some, like Billy, Tanya, Kira, and Zack, probably wouldn't face much backlash—this would actually help their reputations, rather than hinder. Kim suspected she herself would lose her Olympic medals—they could say she'd had an unfair advantage being a former ranger—Tommy would lose his job, Jason his marriage (Emily was beyond pissed and refusing to speak to her husband—Kim counted it a win she allowed him to even see his kids). Trini wouldn't have a problem, though she'd probably get more clients now. Rocky, Adam, and Kat were either going to have more new students than they knew what to do with or none at all. Aisha would be fine, more or less, as she owned her own clinic and it had nothing whatsoever to do with her ranger past (though Kim figured she, like Trini, was probably going to get a lot more patients here soon). Justin already got several job offers a day—those were liable to go through the roof too.
And that was just the original twelve. Kim got a headache when she started considering the rangers who'd come after them.
“What are your plans?” Stark asked as they passed Joel and Angela's twins, who were being fussed over by Chad and Marina. “About Fury.”
“Still working on it,” Kim said. Personally she'd liked to stick his nethers into a blender and press spin but that would be messy...and evil...which she was not (damnit).
(Though, as Jason tended to say when the two of them wanted to do something a tad unethical, they were Maligore's Children...)
“I may have an answer,” he said and slipped a USB out of his pocket and towards her.
“What is it?” she asked, not taking it.
“JARVIS,” he replied easily but with a steely glint in his eye Kimberly recognized. “And he's still in SHIELD's network.”
Kimberly took the USB and turned it over in her hand a moment before she slipped it into her pocket. She wasn't sure she'd give it to the Tech's but...she also wasn't stupid. This was huge of Stark to do, even if he was probably hoping to hack into their computers. If they used it, she'd have to get the techs to use it somewhere completely separate from their system.
“Alright, c'mon,” she said, leading the way out of the Sanctum. “Time for the part I know you wanna see.”
“Central Command?” he asked just as a shadow covered the two of them. Stark stared up, stunned, as a large form dropped from the sky to land just in front of them.
“Damnit, Kim, you weren't supposed to do that!” Billy complained, coming over with Jason as Stark got stuck in a staring contest with the dragon.
“Break his brain,” the original blue answered plaintively. “I just lost a hundred bucks to Jason!”
“You have got to stop betting with me when it comes to Kim,” Jason informed him idly as he laughed at the gaping Stark. “I've known her longer than you.”
“By two years!”
“Still longer,” Jason said.
“Hey Stark, do we need to give you and Fireheart some alone time?” Kim asked, amused.
“So how come you and Oliver didn't work out?” Stark asked, obviously turning away from Fireheart by sheer determination. He was so trying for a way to get back at Kim for startling him that she wanted to laugh. If he thought going at her through her ex would get it, he was in for a rude awakening.
“Hard to have a relationship with someone you want to strangle more than you want to kiss,” she responded dryly and Jason doubled over laughing.
“He wasn't that great a boyfriend then?” Stark just wasn't going to let this go, was he?
“I wasn't the one wanting to strangle my partner,” she said and Jason, who'd been calming down, collapsed in on himself again. Stark frowned and she smiled at him. “I was high maintenance.”
She and Tommy had buried the hatchet long ago—to the point where they could make fun of their teenage selves without fear of hurt feelings. Hayley thought it was hilarious, especially when they'd start arguing about who caused all the problems in the relationship (both insisted it was them).
“Stark, seriously, do not get her started,” Billy said, making a face. “You'll regret it if you do. She can go on for hours.”
“So can I,” the genius winked and Kim and Jason both snickered when the blue ranger turned pink.
“That is not what I meant!” he squawked. Stark just smirked.
“Come on,” Kim said, patting Fireheart's head and making a shooing motion. “We have to get going.”
Fireheart disappeared and Kim took great pleasure in watching Stark stare after him even as they headed towards the Power Center. She was pretty sure it wasn't everyday the billionaire was struck mute in wonder.
Command Central was a hive of activity as everyone was accounted for and the Ranger Cities were looked after for. Every single holographic platform was being used and Kim saw at least two platforms zooming in on groups of people outside houses. She winced, recognizing her dad's place. She should call him, she figured, and apologize for not giving him a heads up.
“Hey Kim, you're dad's on CNN!” Think of the devil...Kim's attention snapped over to where Tommy was standing, arms crossed, as he watched a screen. She hurried forward as someone turned the sound up and everyone paused what they were doing to watch.
“Senator Hart, do you have a comment on the information that your daughter is a Power Ranger?” someone shouted and Kim slapped a hand over her face. Her dad, step-mother, older brother, sister-in-law, nephew, younger step-siblings, and her half-siblings were all standing on the front steps of her dad's DC place, apparently having an impromptu press conference.
“I do, actually,” her father said and Kim peeked between her fingers before dropping her hand entirely. Her father was smiling, her step-mother was trying not to giggle and failing miserably, and her brother was grinning outright, all smug pride. The kids all still seemed slightly shell-shocked but were hiding it admirably well. “I've always known my daughter was destined for great things. This just proved I wasn't blowing smoke out of my ass when I told Stern my daughter was so much more than some schmucks trophy wife.”
“Not to mention she'd eat them alive if they tried the trophy wife thing,” someone, she thought it was Andrew, muttered. There was some snickering behind her but she ignored it.
“Do you know where your daughter is now? Have you spoken to her since yesterday?” another reporter asked.
“No but I suppose she's with her old teammates,” he said and Kim definitely saw her brother choke on a laugh. “After all, some asshole decided to out her against her will and with no thought to the families the Rangers have made over the years. If I know my daughter at all, I imagine she's making sure they're all safe. She's fiercely protective of those she considers hers.”
Half the room all laughed but Kim just frowned at the screen. There was no mistaking the warning there but it wasn't just for the press, she figured. He must have realized Fury was the one behind the list. “Do you have anything to say to your daughter?” the same reporter pressed on. “Now that you know the truth?”
“I always knew the truth, she's my daughter for God's sake,” he replied and the crowd all began muttering to each other. Kim winced. That was probably going to backfire on him in the Senate.
“Why didn't you ever say anything prior to this?”
“Not that I would have told them, it was kept secret for a reason, but no one ever asked me,” he shrugged. Then he looked straight into the camera. “As for a message...Kimmie... I'm proud of you. Keep up the world-saving, sweetheart. Don't let the Man get you down. We'll be waiting for when you can come home for dinner. Marcie'll make lasagna.”
“Kick ass, Kimmie!” Keith yelled, only to get smacked by his wife. Shaking her head, Kim turned away from the screen as the press conference ended.
“His careers over,” she said, frowning. She looked at Jason, who looked back at her calmly. “They're never going to let him forget he never told anyone he knew the identities of the Rangers.”
“I wouldn't say his career's over,” Tony said. “I'd say it's just beginning.” Kim frowned at him but he wandered off to inspect one of the platforms showing Reefside.
“I'm pretty sure we don't want to know,” Tommy said, shaking his head. He looked down at her. “All clear by the way. Everyone's here.”
“Good,” she said, some of the weight on her shoulders lifting. “Udonna?”
“Sealed off Avalon with Claire's help, just for now,” he replied. “They'll open the portal back up once it's less crazy.”
“Portal?” Stark asked, popping into their personal space like a puppy who just heard the word “walk.” “What portal?”
“None of your business,” she said. She paused and then added, “Also, if that thing you just stuck to Billy's computers messes anything up, you'll be meeting his Wolf up close and personal.”
Kim thought long and hard about what to do with the USB Stark had given her and after the man left, she'd come to a decision.
“Cam, can you come to my office?”
“Be there soon.”
She was staring down at the USB when the Samurai walked in. Looking up at him, she motioned for him to stay standing. This wasn't going to take long.
“Do you have anyplace you can go, completely separate from our computers?” she asked. “Somewhere we can't be connected to?”
“I know a few places,” he agreed easily. His posture was relaxed but his eyes were sharp.
“Stark gave me this,” she said, handing the USB over. His hands twitched, just slightly curling around it.
“What is it?”
“JARVIS,” she answered. “His version of CyberCam. And JARVIS is in the SHIELD mainframe.”
“What do I do?” he asked, no hesitation, no guilt, no second guessing. It was one of the reasons she'd decided on him rather than the others. The rest, with the exception of Rose, Ethan, and possibly Hayley, would have had reservations about this. It wasn't honorable, wasn't nice. But it was real and Cam knew that.
“Look at the research they're conducting, mostly the weapons stuff,” she said. She'd thought about this for a while too. It wasn't anything like what he'd done to them but it was as good as she could do for payback. “Anything non-essential, anything that won't get people killed if it gets destroyed, delete from their servers. I trust you to know what that's going to be.”
“That could be a lot of stuff,” he said.
“I know,” she said. She gave a half smile. “But it's fitting, don't you think?”
“Destroy their own protection without destroying their identities, like he did ours,” he mused, a small smile lifting his features. “Not exactly the high road...”
“But close enough.”
He nodded and headed for the door, the USB slipping into his pocket. He paused and then looked back at her. “I'm heading to a coffee shop I know in Boston, near MIT,” he said conversationally. “You want anything?”
“I'm good,” she said, smiling. “Maybe a donut?”
“I'll see what I can do.”
She waited until he'd been gone for about ten minutes before looking up at the ceiling. “DECA?”
“Delete every record that Cam was just in my office,” she said. “Including your own.” She waited a few seconds and then asked, “DECA, who was the last person in my office, besides myself?”
“Dr. Cranston came to ask about keeping Mr. Stark from ever coming back to the Island,” DECA answered promptly. She paused. “Are you alright, Director Hart?”
“Just peachy,” she said, relieved. “Thanks DECA.”
Then she went back to figuring out what to do about the kids currently wanting to go play at the beach.
Clint looked up from where he was making a veritable mountain of PB&J's with Natasha when Stark sauntered in, whistling a jaunty tune. “What's got you in such a good mood?” he asked. “Or are you still on a geek high for being allowed on Power Island?”
“It's the weirdest thing,” Stark said, slipping into a seat and snagging a triangle sandwich from the pile. “According to JARVIS, someone piggybacked into the door he'd created and wiped out all the weapons research SHIELD's been doing.”
“Someone hacked SHIELD?” Steve asked, coming inside with a frown.
“Mmmhmm,” Stark agreed, swallowing his bite. “All their weapons research, including every scrap of Ranger tech research they had, is just gone. If they don't have a hard copy...”
Clint exchanged a glance with Natasha, who gave a barely there smile. “What a shame,” Clint said easily. “All that work...”
“All those weapons...” Natasha added.
“Who could have done it?” that was Steve and from his expression, he didn't actually care about the answer, he was just playing along.
“Don't know,” Stark said. “Whoever it was did it from a computer cafe near MIT.”
They all were silent for a few minutes before Clint got an idea. “JARVIS?” he asked.
“Yes, Agent Barton?”
“I don't suppose you have footage from Fury's office when he found out?”
“He hasn't, yet, but I'm keeping tabs of his movement in SHIELD,” the AI replied. He sounded impossibly smug, for a computer program. “Would you like a copy for when it happens?”
“Make it a hard copy,” Steve, surprisingly, was the one to make the request. He gave the others a small smirk and completely ignored Stark's startled look. “I can think of a few people who'd appreciate it.”
See you on the other side of NANO!
Chapter 15: Chapter 14
Kimberly's inability to stay out of things finally catches up to her.
Story: Alpha Operations
Disclaimer: Power Rangers are owned by Haim Saban, Avengers and Co are owned by Marvel. I write for fun, not for profit.
Summary: When SHIELD starts sniffing around the Rangers, the Rangers take preemptive measures to make sure they don't get drafted against their will.
A/N 1: *waves sheepishly* Sorry about the wait, ya'll. It's been....a time.
After the fiasco that was Fury and they're identities, the Rangers all laid low for a few weeks. Those who could went out and did as much damage control as they were able but some things not even their sparkling personalities and shiny shiny suits could fix.
Such as Emily telling Jason she wanted a divorce or Tommy getting told the school board had terminated his contract for the next school year. His final finals really had been the last ones, unfortunately. He'd gone in to clean out his desk and classroom and it was really unlikely he'd ever get work in education again, which was a shame—he was actually a damn good teacher once you got past the whole turning-his-students-into-Power-Rangers thing.
Which meant, joy of joys, she currently had two former originals always on Power Island, pretty much living there full time, as they got all up in her business.
“It's driving me nuts!” she complained. “I mean, I get it, you know? But seriously, they're the ones who wanted me to be in charge and not want to be the one everyone looks to...”
“You sound like you need to let off some steam,” Pepper said, sipping at her latte and completely ignoring the stares the two powerhouse women were garnering from the other coffee addicts in the shop.
“Yeah, right,” Kim snorted. “Like that's gonna happen. Pepper, we've been here, what, ten minutes?”
“Yes?” she replied, looking at her watch. “Why?”
“That's how long it took the paparazzi to find us,” she answered, motioning over her shoulder at the less than subtle photographer. “It's been like this for weeks now.”
“You'll get used to it,” Pepper said. “Trust me, they'll die down eventually.”
“I know, I'm just being impatient,” she agreed. “Is it bad I'm wishing your beau does something stupid to take the attention off us?”
“Yes, it makes you a very very bad person,” Pepper agreed dryly. “Because then I'd have to deal with the fallout.”
“But you're used to it,” Kim pointed out and Pepper sighed.
“That is, unfortunately, very true,” she agreed. She drained her cup and stood. “C'mon.”
“Where are we going?” she asked, standing as well. They threw out their cups as they passed the front door and Kim tried getting into the head-space she'd retreated to whenever she'd had to deal with the media as a gymnast. It wasn't working as well as it used to.
“Stark Tower,” Pepper answered. “Tony just finished a new project I think you'd appreciate.”
“Pepper, you are a fantastic person,” Kimberly breathed out when the redhead had led her into a shooting range. “But you realize I don't know the first thing about actual guns, right? My weapons were always energy ones, as a ranger. And that was pretty much all mental adjustments the Power made to my head.”
“But you were an archer, weren't you?” a new voice said and Kim turned to find Barton standing there, holding a bow. To Pepper he added, “Natasha called, said I needed to bring my extra down here.”
“I haven't actually practiced in years,” Kim argued even as she took the offered weapon. After she'd first become a ranger, she'd went out and bought her own set to practice with but that was currently with her mom and step-dad in Paris. She'd stopped doing archery after she'd gotten to Florida and discovered she hadn't the time to sleep, let alone do anything other than breath and eat gymnastics.
“Good a time as any to get back into it,” Barton shrugged. “Besides, you said it yourself, you used energy stuff that was installed in your pretty little head. You probably need the practice.”
Clint knew it was a challenge. Pepper knew it was a challenge. Hell, Kim knew it was a challenge, but that didn't stop her from falling for the bait. “I might be rusty,” she said, eyes narrowed at him. “But don't think for one minute I'm an amateur.”
“I'll believe it when I see it,” he replied, arms crossing as Kim moved to the arrows on the table. She glanced over her shoulder when she heard the door open but it was Pepper leaving. She frowned and then turned back to the targets. She smiled as she realized what the redhead had done.
“Sneaky,” she murmured. Barton smirked but otherwise didn't say anything. She put that out of her mind and fell back into the familiar feeling of bow and arrow in hand. Despite her words, she was actually a bit nervous. It had literally been years since she'd used one of these things.
She and Clint stared down at the range at where the arrow had imbedded itself two rings out of the center. “Huh,” she said, blinking a bit stupidly down at the target. “Apparently it really is like riding a bike.”
“Shift your center of gravity,” Clint said abruptly.
“Which way?” she asked instantly. This was something she was used to, being told to do this or that for a sport.
“Right,” he said quickly. “Then try again.”
She did so and the arrow moved one ring closer to the center. Just as she wondered if this was going to devolve into the ultimate archery cliché (she privately admitted in her head she wouldn't be averse if it did), Barton picked up his own bow, snapping it open.
“Watch my body,” he instructed. “Your center of gravity is still slightly off.”
She did as instructed, taking in the hard lines of his body as he held himself tightly. He wasn't moving an inch and she knew it was so she could see what, exactly, he was doing that she wasn't. Then he let go and she wasn't surprised when she looked over to find that he'd hit the bullseye. She thought back to what she'd seen as she picked up another arrow. She got back in position and took her shot. She smiled. Gotcha. Still not dead center but definitely a bullseye.
They went like that for a while, taking turns shooting and not really talking but there was a camaraderie she found she'd missed. It kind of reminded her of the friends she'd had at the public archery range in Angel Grove. Barton was a good teacher too, like the older gentlemen who had helped the fumbling and highly skeptical but determined fifteen year old learn how to actually do something with her bow besides give herself welts. By the time Barton moved the targets to the back of the room, she was hitting the bullseye eight times out of ten.
And if she was imagining Fury's face on the targets (with Jason and Tommy making occasional cameos), well, know one had to know that but her.
“Hey, Kimberly?” he asked after about a half-hour.
“Yeah?” she asked, setting up another arrow. This had relaxed her to the point where when she went back to Power Island, she wasn't as liable to punch one of her boys in the face. She made a mental note to send Pepper a thank you gift of some kind—maybe an offer to take Stark off her hands for a few hours with geek talk?
“You wanna go out and get drinks after this?”
Kim paused in the action of pulling back her bow and looked over at him. He looked...not nervous, exactly, but like he expected to be turned down. “Sure,” she said, going back to the bow and the target. She released and smiled when the thud came down the line. She turned back to find the Avenger staring at the target with his head slightly tilted. He finally looked back at her and she smiled. “Drinks sound good.”
Drinks, because that was really just Kimberly's luck, were postponed when a new attack happened in the city less than ten minutes after he'd asked her out. Kim had been quickly ushered upstairs by a very insistent JARVIS (who knew a non-corporeal AI could be so damn pushy?--she made a mental note to keep an eye on DECA) while Clint had grabbed his bow and practically bolted out the door when the call came through. She'd asked JARVIS to patch her into the Avengers comms and almost instantly she'd been cheerfully greeted by Stark.
“Those are gross,” she said, nevertheless munching on popcorn as she watched the satellite footage JARVIS had brought up for her.
“They smell even worse,” Steve answered. “Where the hell are they all coming from?”
That was a good question actually and Kimberly set aside the snack to study the screen. She frowned at the image being projected onto the wall. “JARVIS, can you zoom in on the northeast quadrant of what I'm looking at?” she asked quietly. Instantly the image went to what she'd seen. One of the walking squid, one that was obviously new to the fight, poked its head out of the subway entrance, looked around, obviously deemed it safe, and scurried up and out of the staircase. It headed towards the fight but it wasn't taking the most obvious route.
“Damn, I see it,” Stark said.
“Wait!” she called out and she could just make out Iron Man stop a few feet from where he'd have a perfect shot at the thing. “I want to see something, don't kill it.”
“Rogers, it's your call,” Stark said after a moment. “Team leader and all that jazz.”
“One more on the loose really won't bother us too much right now, so long as she keeps an eye on it,” Barton put forth. There was an agreeing sound from Natasha but judging by what Kim could see of the redhead's current fight, actual words were probably not happening.
“Do you think it's important?” Steve asked and he didn't sound a bit out of breath. Kim took a moment to envy him that sort of stamina—she'd had it once upon a time but age had taken its toll.
“Maybe,” she said honestly. “I don't know. Something's just bugging me about the guy...thing.”
“Alright, just keep an eye on it for us,” Steve said. “And if you can, please let us know if you figure out what's bugging you.”
“Will do,” she agreed, watching as Stark shot at another squid coming up from the subway. Her eyes went back to the one she'd seen and frowned. What was that in its hand?
“Zoom in, JARVIS,” she ordered before adding a belated “Please.” He zoomed and Kim blinked. “Is that a manhole cover?”
“It appears so,” JARVIS agreed. “Many of the squid have been throwing those and other such objects at the Avengers.”
“Why there, though?” she asked aloud. “I mean, its at least a block away from the actual figh—oh. That's why. Stark, you're up.”
A dozen more squid had come crawling out of the manhole, some heading towards the main fight but most of them were heading towards the unprotected city streets surrounding the area. Iron Man shot straight at them, cackling about calamari as he roasted the ones he could see.
“At this rate,” she heard Barton say. “We're never going to catch them all.”
“They're coming from the subways,” she said. “So maybe someone should investigate?”
“Can't,” Steve replied as she saw him take a hit. The squid had black stuff they were shooting out of their bodies that acted like acid. More than one Avenger had spots on their outfits where it'd burned through. “Too busy here. Damnit, Stark, call Fury. Tell him we need a SHIELD team to investigate the subway.”
“No,” Kim said, already moving towards the balcony and the secluded corner just off to the side of the door. Time to let loose a very closely guarded secret—not even Jason or Tommy knew about this, because Kim had never found the time to tell them. She winced as she stripped down to nothing but her underwear, putting the clothes in a small pile nearby to change back into later. Luckily she was wearing pants and though she didn't relish going commando the rest of the afternoon, she'd also rather not lose the entire outfit.
“Director Hart, may I ask what you're doing?” JARVIS's voice came out of nowhere. He sounded perturbed.
“Tell Stark that if he shoots me, I will be extremely pissed off,” she replied before promptly shifting into a firebird, wincing at the experience. Dulcea had understood, she transformed into an owl herself, but no matter how many times she did it, Kimberly still couldn't get used to the feeling. Once she opened her eyes, she could see flames on the edge of her vision but she pushed that aside—it was normal in this form. Also normal was the ash currently piled on the ground around her—remains of her clothes as well as her “human” skin. She'd never asked Dulcea how she got a human body back again if her old one fell away like the woman had said. Mostly, it was because she wasn't sure she wanted to know and only partly because she wasn't sure she'd understand the explanation.
“...Director Hart appears to have transformed into a phoenix,” JARVIS said and Kim wondered only briefly why he was still speaking aloud when it was obvious he wasn't talking to her. Then she was up and in the air, heading towards the fight and the subway entrance closest to it—which just so happened to be the one she'd seen the squid come out of earlier.
“Holy shit,” Stark said as Iron Man came out of no where and flew next to her. “Did we know you could do that?”
Unfortunately, Kim didn't have the necessary vocal chords to speak in this form so she simply glared at the cyborg and then took a steep dive. It didn't deter Stark very much, as he quickly joined her.
“Oh, hey, nice trick,” he said as she spotted the subway. “By the way, Rogers says to tell you that your team--”
That was all Kimberly heard as she disappeared down into the underbelly of New York City. Given the flames on her body, she had little trouble seeing in the dark, and the platform was empty of anything, human or future calamari. Once certain Stark wasn't going to follow her—she really wouldn't put it past him—she shifted back into her human form. Shivering and aware she was butt naked in the middle of a subway platform, she took a battle stance. “Pink Ninjette Power!”
Pink energy covered her head to toe and soon she was back in her old uniform. It was a lot weaker than her old one—pretty much no powered protection to speak of—but at least this way she wouldn't catch a cold or or really really bad publicity. She could just see the headlines if someone caught sight her fighting naked. She could go full on Pink Ninja Ranger but they'd all agreed after Fury outed them to keep the fact they could still morph a closely guarded secret. Only a full on invasion would warrant her doing that at this point.
“Alrighty,” Kim muttered to herself. “Lets go find us some squid.”
“That sounds good,” a voice said. “Also, Stark wants to know if they knew you still could morph?”
Kim jumped about a foot in the air and whirled around to glare at her brother-in-arms. “What the hell are you doing here?” she hissed, taking in the original red. He was dressed head to toe in the black leather outfits they'd designed. Instead of stripes, however, he'd obviously decided to throw caution to the wind and actually go full on dark red topping.
“Tommy sent me,” he replied, smirking as his hand went slightly to the comm in his ear. “And he's not happy with you at the moment.”
“Tommy can kiss my ass, I'm not happy with him either,” she replied with a scowl. “Or you for that matter. What are you doing here?”
“Tommy and I sent the team in when it was obvious they needed the help,” he shrugged. “When we saw you change and fly down, he ordered me to follow.”
Kim was fully prepared to go into a full on rant but a scuttling caught her attention and she snapped her gaze to a corner, where a squid was scurrying out the subway tunnel going to the left. She and Jason immediately moved out of sight, watching as it quickly made its way to the entrance. Jason lifted his arm, a civilian blaster in hand, but Kim quickly put a gloved hand on his and shook her head. They watched the thing go up and then give a gurgling scream as the tell-tale sound of Iron Man's blasters echoed in the platform.
“You follow my lead, Jason,” she said, staring at him. “You want to come with me, you follow me. Got it?” Despite the fact he'd been her leader back in the day and still had the tendencies of one, he nodded his agreement. He went to holster his blaster but Kim shook her head. “Keep it up,” she ordered. “I don't have any weapons with the suit.”
He scowled at her and she knew she'd be hearing about that eventually but luckily he decided they had better things to worry about. Cautiously they made their way down the tunnel they'd seen the squid come out of. “Stark says to stay away from the rails, the power's still on,” Jason whispered quietly and Kim rolled her eyes.
“Tell him I'm not an idiot,” she replied, eying said rails warily and wondering how she could use that to her advantage when the fight came.
“That's debatable,” she heard him mutter. “No damn weapons.”
Yup, definitely getting yelled at for that later.
“Do you hear that?” Jason asked abruptly and Kim stopped and listened. It was more scuttling but this wasn't the sound of just one—oh no, this sounded like a couple dozen at least.
“Where is it coming from?” she whispered back. It was echoing around them, making it difficult to pinpoint.
“Up ahead, JARVIS says there's a small emergency platform,” Jason replied. “Then a station.”
“Could it be the station?”
“No,” Jason replied. “Jarrod says the station itself is clear.”
“Jarrod?” she asked sharply.
“You did hear me mention we sent in the team, right?” Jason asked, side-eying her. “He and Fran are making their way towards us. Jarrod left Alice in charge of the team topside. She may be slightly giddy about it.”
“Remind me to kick all of your asses later,” she muttered before stopping. She could just make out two rangers approaching in front of them, red and blue. She made a mental note to talk to the techs about finding a way to tone down the shininess of the suits—those were way too bright in this gloom.
“Jarrod says his sensors say there are about thirty of the squid on the platform...and Fran says she thinks they're growing,” Jason whispered and Kim moved ahead slightly. “What are you doing?”
She ignored him and peeked around the corner counting to five in her head and then pulling back. She waited a moment but when nothing happened, she nodded. Not noticed.
“There's a machine, it's green, and I'm pretty sure it's what is creating the squid,” she said. “There's also some guy in a suit next to it.”
“What kind of suit?” Jason asked, head cocked to the side.
“Business,” she said and then smirked at his look. “Yeah, me too.”
Jason shook his head and pulled out his weapon. He looked at it a moment and then at her before flipping and offering the grip. She looked at him. His jaw tightened “I'd feel better if you had a weapon.”
“My entire body is a weapon in this form,” she said, conveniently leaving out the fact that, technically, all she was wearing was the suit. She didn't have the power that typically went with it and wouldn't until she morphed into the pink ranger again. He wasn't Ninjette, hadn't been in on the various meetings with Dulcea and Ninjor following Zordon's gifting, so as long as Tommy didn't hear what she said, she figured he wouldn't call bullshit. She was right, as Jason pushed the gun at her again.
“Take the weapon.”
She pushed it back at him. “No.”
“Take the weapon.”
“Take the weapon.”
“Take the—goddamnit, Jarrod!” Jason hissed and Kim twirled around at the sound of blaster fire. Jarrod had stepped out in the open and was firing on anything that moved. Fran had followed his lead and was already doing her level best to get at the machine. Kim flew into the fray, intent on helping out. Jason quickly followed, still cursing under his breath even as he went back to back with the newest red ranger.
The fight was over rather quickly. Topside the squid had a lot more room to maneuver and get out of the way but down here...not so much. Jarrod and Jason didn't even have to aim at the beginning, all they had to do was pray and spray and they'd hit at least one, if not many many more. Some of those that tried getting off the platform landed on the rails and soon Kim could smell cooked squid all the way through her face-mask. Fran had gone straight to the machine and, thanks to all the time she'd been shadowing the techs lately, it didn't take the blue long to figure out how to turn the machine off. Kim, on the other hand, went after Mr. Suit. His eyes widened when he saw her but his shock didn't last long. Expecting a scientist—and not one like the ones she was used to—it was an unpleasant shock to find he actually knew how to fight back.
“Alight, that's it,” she muttered, getting back to her feet as the shooting behind her tapered to every so often instead of continuous. “I am done with you!”
“As am I,” he sneered and she only had time to register the gun in his hand before the pain blossomed in her chest. As she staggered back, eyes wide in disbelief, she saw the man get hit with three shots of blaster fire. Then arms were bracing her and she was looking up at the ceiling. The last thing she saw and heard before she passed out was Jason's frantic face yelling her name.
Chapter 16: Chapter 15
Kimberly finally returns to work.
Kimberly's idiocy, as Jason called it for almost two months after it happened, cost her almost three weeks on bed rest. If it weren't for the Power and the various gadgets they'd collected over the years, she probably wouldn't have survived the shooting, let alone be up and walking around after only a week or so of treatment. To make those three weeks worse, Kim had actually been physically barred from going back to Power Island, with Billy going so far as to redirect her teleporter to send her straight back to her bed if she tried using it. After almost landing on a frantic Dr. Banner and a laughing Dana, Kim decided not to try it again.
Because she was banished until healed and Dana gave the okay, Kim had been forced to stay in Avengers Tower, which meant every day she had visitors. This was nice, as it never got boring, but there was only so much talking in a bed or on a couch one person could do before going absolutely positively bonkers.
The only bright spot was that Kim had actually finally, gotten the chance to get to know Agent Lewis, the woman assigned to liaison with Alpha Operations from SHIELD and the team of super-freaks (Darcy's nickname, not Kim's). She was surprisingly nice and non-judgemental and hilarious. She also had tried helping with Kim's version of a prison break and had laughed herself sick when Billy stormed into the room after they'd calmed everyone down to scold Kim about Where The Hell Did She Think She Was Going?!
Even Darcy agreed that the lecture was impressive and deserved its capitals.
Kim and Clint never did go out for coffee but Kim didn't mind. With the meds she'd been on, she wasn't allowed caffeine anyway. They'd had a few “in house” dates where he brought her the takeout food none of the rangers were willing to get her (when she'd told him he'd taken his life in his hands by doing so, he'd just told her he liked to live life on the edge and winked at her—that was her first clue she was sorta-maybe dating a weird mix between Rocky, Jason, and Tommy). Despite what Darcy kept insinuating, all they did during these dates were video games. Jason had caved eight days into her exile and brought her a couple of consoles and such and so she and Clint decided to try and get through all of the Lord of the Rings Lego game. He took entirely too much pleasure in beating poor Legolas to a pulp (she quickly learned not to play the archer if she could avoid it) and he inadvertently taught her how to curse in four new languages whenever he got smashed to itty bitty pieces. Once they got through all the extra's and such, they proceeded to kick each others ass (and piss each other off) by playing Mario Kart.
That was about the time Darcy showed up to get to know her new boss and also around the time Jason decided he didn't like how much time she was spending with Clint alone (he didn't consider Darcy, being a SHIELD agent and a friend of Clint's, to be adequate “protection”).
Fortunately, after about three weeks Dana declared her fit for duty again, full duty, which meant Kim had actually been fit for light duty for a while and the other pink just hadn't said anything.
“Why?!” Kim demanded when she'd confronted her. Dana gave her a look.
“Trini told me you needed the break,” she answered. “And frankly, I wanted to make sure you ate more.”
“I can do that!” Darcy exclaimed and Kim and Dana both looked at the SHIELD liaison. Kim had forgotten she was there. Darcy grinned. “Get her to eat, I mean. That was practically my entire job when I was interning for Jane. She gets all up in the science and forgets to exist.”
“Sounds like some others I know,” Dana murmured with a pointed look. Kim glared.
“You are seriously not comparing me to the techs!”
“If the shoe fits,” the other woman said and then left the room while Kim was sputtering too much to reply.
“A plethora of things she could say and she goes with 'if the shoe fits?!'”
“So, you've already been eating, so no worries about that today,” Darcy broke in before Kim could continue. The former pink looked at her. The agent was practically bouncing in her seat. “What now, Boss Lady?”
“I...go to Power Island,” she said. “Jason said Tommy took over in my absence since Camille wasn't sure she could yet. I'm fairly certain its going to take weeks to get everything back on track. How that man ever got a PhD I'll never know.”
Darcy looked absurdly disappointed at Kim's plans. “And me?”
Kim frowned. “You know we're sort of on the outs with SHIELD, right?” she asked. She didn't know how much this girl knew...though judging by the sudden righteous fury on her face, it was probably more than she'd thought.
“That was a dick move,” the bespectacled girl said flatly. She paused and then added with a smirk, “Coulson and Hill completely laid into Fury for it. Stark got it on tape if you want a copy.”
Kim's lips quirked. “How on Earth did you end with SHIELD?” she asked, eyes dancing. Darcy smirked.
“Apparently, when you taze the Norse God of Thunder, shady government agencies like to keep an eye on you.”
Kim had asked Darcy to take charge of cleaning up the Alpha Operations offices and organizing them. It was clear to her that Darcy was only with SHIELD because she didn't really have another option and Kim intended to try and change that. She didn't think she was being played and she'd take her licks if she were, but they could always use more people like Darcy on the payroll. Granted, the office wouldn't take very long as Kim was the only one there and they'd only recently gotten their furniture but she figured if she gave Darcy a list of all the personnel who would be working out of the office, it would test how well the brunette could organize and herd current and former power rangers.
Once certain Darcy understood what she wanted, she'd lifted her wrist to teleport away but stopped when she heard the agent step outside of her bedroom and speak to someone. “Did you need her? She's about to go back to Power Island, which, you know, is kind of a lame name.”
“If you ever meet her, blame Aisha,” Kim heard Dana reply. “And no, I didn't need her....how angry is she that I kept her from going back to work when she could?”
“Not very,” Darcy replied instantly and Kim smiled. Perceptive girl. “I think she's more upset you couldn't come up with something more inventive than 'if the shoe fits,' actually.”
“That's Kim,” Dana laughed. “Priorities firmly set.”
“Damn straight!” Kim yelled through the door.
“Get to work, you lazy brat!” Dana shot back. Grinning, Kim hit the teleport button on her communicator.
And promptly landed back in her bed.
It took almost half an hour and several angry phone calls but eventually Billy readjusted her communicator and she was deposited back on Power Island. She took in a deep breath of the ocean air, smiling when she caught sight of Fireheart doing lazy circles around what appeared to be a gigantic fox. Billy and co had done good work since Goldar's random reappearance (which they still didn't have an explanation for) and all of the Guardian Rangers would have their own zords in a few weeks time—all of which were based on their spirit animals (thank God for Ninjor stepping in and helping with that, as Kim had been a hairsbreadth away from shooting someone if she had to listen to them argue over the animals again). There was a red lion for Jarrod (naturally), a black bat for LeeLee (which had had more than one person snickering, including the girl's mother and stepfather), a green sparrow for Simon (Joel was ecstatic about that—Simon less so), a yellow lovebird for Alice (which, for some strange reason, made both her and Eric grin like loons), a white tiger for Heather, and the blue fox for Fran. From what she'd heard, Billy had had fun trying to design zords based on those six animals that could all form a megazord.
“Welcome back,” Jason greeted her when she finally stepped into the office wing. “Has Tommy seen you yet?”
“Nope,” she answered, leaning against his desk. “How much do I have to clean up?”
“Not a lot, actually,” he said, studying her. She let him, knowing from prior experience that ranger or not, capable or not, Jason worried about her. Jason suddenly smirked. “For someone who keeps complaining he said not it, he's actually doing a fairly good job of running this place in your absence. Of course, he has Camille. She's taken care of about 85% of the crap that's come up.”
“And does he know that?” she asked knowingly.
He snorted. “Of course not,” he replied. “Doctorate or not, Tommy still tends to be Captain Oblivious.”
“Well, do me a favor and call a senior staff meeting,” she said once they'd finished grinning at each other. “One hour from now. But don't tell anyone why. Billy'll know, but no one else.”
“Why will Billy know?” he asked, already moving to send the request.
“Because he had to redo the teleportation system once Dana gave me the all-clear,” she replied and he nodded.
“Got it,” he said and then cleared his voice before speaking into the intercom. “There will be a senior staff meeting in one hour in the conference room. I repeat, senior staff in the conference room in one hour. Anyone late will get a pie to the face.”
She waited until he'd hung up the intercom before snickering. “A pie to the face?”
He shrugged unrepentantly. “Might actually get a few people to come in on time.”
“And some might just be late on purpose so they can find out if they'll actually get a pie to the face,” she pointed out. “You know I'm right.”
“Sadly, I do,” he agreed and then pressed another button. “Justin, can you do me a favor and get a bunch of whipped cream and pie pans? I'll need them in an hour.”
“As long as I can record it all, sure,” Justin replied. Jason chuckled, gave him permission, and then hung back up.
“Somehow,” Kim said thoughtfully, “I have the feeling this is going to backfire on you.”
Kim walked into the meeting room and instantly cracked up laughing. Jason paused in the act of wiping off the whipped cream as everyone stared at her in surprise.
“Not a word, Kimberly Ann,” he warned as she collapsed into giggles against Tommy, who'd come over to brace her before she slid to the floor in an undignified heap.
“I told you it was going to backfire on you,” she choked out and promptly got a fingerful of the stuff flicked in her direction. Luckily for her, Jason had horrible aim and missed her and got the original green instead. This just renewed Kim's giggles as Tommy wryly wiped the white stuff off his face.
“Should have seen that one coming,” he commented as the rest of the staff all snickered. Some came over to welcome her back but most continued what they'd been doing before, which was watching as Jason cleaned himself up.
“What happened?” she asked, head tilted at Justin as Camille hugged her. He grinned.
“Guess who was late?” he asked and Kim snorted another laugh.
“I wouldn't have been late if it weren't for Tommy,” Jason grumbled. He glared at the rest of the senior staff as they all took seats around the conference table. “And I don't see him getting whip cream in his face.”
“Tommy's always late, it's expected by now,” Eric said with a shrug causing Tommy to send him a scowl. “Teasing him about it has lost its shine. You, on the other hand...”
Kim grinned. Good to know the others had been keeping Jason on his toes in her absence. Now to find out if they'd been doing it to Tommy too...
The others had, it turned out, been taking cracks at Tommy any chance they got and even a few they hadn't had. While the meeting was productive, they spent at least half of it telling Kim about all the stuff they did or had done that Tommy got to deal with. Kim's favorite story, which seemed to be just as much a hit with the others not involved, was when the techs, after he'd pissed them off for the bazillionth time, gave Tommy a PINK morpher (that didn't actually work, though Kim didn't doubt Billy could make it work if Black Christmas pushed him far enough). Angela's contribution to that story, as it had been Billy, Andrew, and a highly amused Ethan telling it, was to serenely inform Kimberly she was glad she was back.
“I'm glad you're back too,” Tommy told her quietly as the senior staff all filed out, talking about this and that, with the two originals following at a more leisurely pace. “Seriously, I am so sorry for making fun of you. I won't do it again.”
“Thank you,” Kim replied, pleased and also amused—she did, after all, have something to ask him. “You look happier than the last time I saw you, anyway.”
“You'd just gotten shot doing something stupid,” he told her pointedly. “I was bound to be angry. Also, I don't have to deal with those nutcases as CEO anymore. I'm a happy guy.”
“I have a job for you, if you want it,” she told him promptly and with a smirk.
“I'm not acting CEO anymore so whatever it is, I don't care,” he told her with a grin. “You're not gonna spoil my good mood.”
“Oh, Tommy, I think we both know from experience that's not true.”
Tommy made a face at her, thus proving her words quite accurately. “What do you want me to do?” he asked with a defeated sigh.
“One, officially accept the title as Director of the Ranger Council,” she told him, “And two, head the liaison office.”
Tommy frowned. “Those two don't seem like they should go together.”
“You're the top council member for rangers,” she said. “Who better to liaison with the people we're gonna have to make nice with? Besides, it won't be fore long, just until I can find someone else who won't bash in heads when people are being morons about us.”
“What makes you think I won't bash in heads?” he asked, honestly curious. “I was pretty pissed about the reveal, as you well know.”
Kim did know—she hadn't seen a temper tantrum from him on that magnitude in ages. Granted, everyone was upset but Tommy's reaction had been by the far the biggest—and the most violent. “Because you never blow up in front of people you don't trust,” she pointed out. “And you already have experience playing politics—Anton told me about your internship, before you got your doctorate and went to work with him as colleagues.”
“Remind me to smack him the next time I see him,” he muttered.
“Will you do it?” she asked, stopping in the hallway and looking up at him. “You can help me figure out who will replace you.”
Tommy ran a hand over the top of his head, looking down at her a moment before he finally nodded. “Fine, I'll do both,” he agreed. “But we need to find someone to take over the Liaison office quickly. Knowing my luck, I'll get saddled with it for months.”
Kim smiled. “Thank you,” she said. “You just made my job ten percent easier.”
“Speaking of your job,” he said as they began walking again. “What's this I hear about you mixing business with pleasure?”
“Oh, don't you start,” she scowled. “I'm hearing enough about this from Jason, I don't need it from you too.”
“He does seem mighty perturbed about the whole thing,” Tommy agreed. He paused as they both walked outside and squinted in the sunlight. “I just have one question.”
“What?” she asked warily.
“Are you happy?”
“Clint's a nice guy and he makes me laugh,” she said slowly. “We're still getting to know each other. But the spark is there.”
“Is that a yes?” he asked, frowning. “Cause sometimes I can't tell.”
“Yes,” she said with an eye roll. He stopped her then, a quick hand on her arm, and smiled down at her.
“Then I won't meddle or make angry cat noises like Jason,” he said with a quirked grin that quickly morphed into protective glare. “Just know though that if he hurts you—”
“I'll shoot him full of holes and then let you and the others have a shot at him,” she broke in.
He laughed and bent down to kiss her forehead. “Damn straight.”
Chapter 17: Chapter 16
Kimberly hates paperwork....and meets someone new.
Slight spoilers for recent Dino Charge episodes.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It took a while to get things organized with Tommy. Most of the others had absolutely no problem with her decision to make him the Director of the Ranger Council, but some did have issues with him also heading the liaison office. Eric in particular didn’t think it was a good idea, to the point where he literally scheduled an entire four hours with her to argue about it. This was, of course, because she got sick of his complaining and told him to make an appointment if it bugged him that much.
She really should have known he’d actually do it.
It wasn’t like she didn’t understand Eric’s concerns, she had them herself. As she told him, though, what was she supposed to do? No one else was stepping up and Tommy needed something to do before he drove everyone around him to drink. Eric had not argued that but insisted they could find some sort of hobby for the man that didn’t involve him being head of the liaison office.
“Well, you are technically the director,” was his stubborn reply when she’d repeated the whole no one else wanted to do it part. “You can order one of them to do it.”
Yeah, cause ordering someone to do something they didn’t want to do has worked out so well in the past.
“Ugh,” Kimberly groaned, head banging on her desk. Why couldn’t people just…do what she wanted without her having to be the Boss Lady? She hated being the Boss Lady.
“I see you’re having a good day,” Jason said, amused, as he came into her office. She straightened in her seat, taking in a deep breath. “Liaison office still annoying you?”
“It’s not the office itself, it’s the people who don’t want Tommy running it,” she complained. “They won’t shut. Up.”
“Well, maybe I can help with that,” he said, smiling as he settled into the chair across from her.
“Unless you came in to tell me someone is stepping to the plate, I don’t think you’re gonna be as much help as you think you are,” she informed him grumpily.
“The Corbett’s are moving back to Earth,” he said, smirking at her. “Mike asked if I knew of anything he and Leo could do for a job.”
Kimberly’s head shot up, staring at him as hope filled her chest.
“Mike’s moving back to Earth?”
“And Kendrix and Leo,” he agreed. “They want to raise their kids here.”
“What about Maya?”
“Was just made Elder,” he answered. “She’s not leaving and, according to what Leo told me, encouraged them to return home. Said she’d miss them but she understood wanting to return to their home planet. And she’ll still have Kai. He was just made head of the Earth colony. Mike said he’s pretty sure Kai plans to live there until they kick him out.”
Either Corbett brother would be fantastic in the liaison office. And she could offer Kendrix a job in R & D or as coordinator of their bio lab. Damon she was already promoting to Tech Maintenance Coordinator, with Angela’s approval.
“DECA, call and tell Tommy to get his ass in here,” she ordered, looking up at the ceiling. As an afterthought she added, “Karone too.”
“Have you figured out what to do with her and Zhane yet?” he asked curiously. Most people outside of Angel Grove hadn’t known Karone Thoel nee Dante had once been Astronema but the reveal had quite firmly made that public. They and their kids had been getting harassed about it so they’d more or less moved to the island and had taken to helping out wherever they were needed.
“I have an idea for Karone but something for Zhane is still eluding me,” she told him. “Why?”
“Zhane would make a good assistant director for me,” he told her seriously. She raised an eyebrow at him and he shrugged. “He’s pretty much doing the job anyway. Might as well make it official, you know?”
She nodded. If he was okay with that, she had no problem either. She pulled a sticky note out and jotted down the assignment, to add it to her to-do list. She also made a note to check on the website Madison and Dominic were working on for PR. Since all their identities were public anyway, she wanted to have a directory. This of course meant she had to finalize all the jobs, she realized. She made a face.
“What?” Jason asked.
“Just thought of more paperwork I need to complete,” she sighed. Jason had the gall to laugh at her.
“Hey Kim,” Karone said, coming in with Tommy hot on her heels. Her fellow pink smiled at Jason before sitting down on the chair next to him. Tommy grabbed one of the chairs at her work table and brought it over, turning it around so he could hang his arms off the back.
“So what’s up?” Tommy asked, head tilted.
“What do you two think about making Leo or Mike Director of the Liaison office?” she asked. To Karone she added, “They’re moving back to Earth.”
“I knew, Kendrix told me,” she answered with a grin. “And I was going to suggest Mike come work here at the meeting tonight.”
“Either one would be good,” Tommy nodded, looking relieved he could hand over the reigns. He glanced at Karone. “Which would be better, do you think?”
“Mike,” she said instantly. “He has the experience, it’s half of what he did on Mirinoi anyway. Leo would be better elsewhere. And you should make Kendrix head of the bio lab. I know you were trying to find someone and she’d be happy there.”
Kim smiled. “Already thought of it,” she assured her. She pinned the former villianess with a look. “Where do you think we could put Leo?”
“Emergency Response?” she suggested after a moment, looking thoughtful. “He has the experience and he gets along well with Eric and Carter. I don’t think he’s had too much interaction with Will or Merrick though.”
“I know Carter was complaining he needed help,” Tommy told them. “Assistant Director, maybe?”
“Do you think Will and Merrick will be okay with that?” she asked. “They don’t really know him, like Karone said.”
Jason snorted. “Will’s still on cloud nine about being made head of security,” he said. “As long as we don’t take that away, I don’t think he’ll really care.”
“And Merrick’s pretty easy going about all this,” Karone added. “I don’t think he’ll mind much.”
“Okay, I’ll suggest it at our meeting tonight,” she said. She leaned back in her chair.
“Speaking of meetings, I got a request from SHIELD,” Tommy said. Since he’d taken over the liaison office, she’d had Justin forward and transfer all such things to him. The original green had cursed her out for five minutes straight after he’d found out.
“What does the one-eyed wonder want now?” she sighed.
“It was from Coulson, actually,” he said. He smirked. “Apparently Fury finally realized you won’t talk to him and is sending Coulson in.” They’d all been ignoring Fury’s incoming calls, wanting to calm down before they did anything really stupid. She’d been planning to contact the director soon to begin working again. Then what he’d said about Coulson caught up to her.
“Can he handle that?” Kim asked, frowning in concern. “I wasn’t aware his recovery had progressed that far.”
“I had Dana working with him in Stark Tower while you were recovering,” he told her. She blinked, Dana’s constant presence in the Tower suddenly making a lot more sense. “She and the SHIELD doctors gave him the go ahead for a light schedule about two weeks ago.”
“Well, what do they want?” she asked, shaking her head.
“Something about helping SHIELD with an in-house problem,” he shrugged. “He wanted to talk to you and you alone about it.” He paused a moment. “It sorta sounded like he, Hill, and Fury are the only ones who know what its about.”
That did not inspire her with a ton of confidence. She sighed.
Kimberly was slowly becoming used to random strangers on the street watching her, taking pictures, and even coming up and asking for autographs (as well as the few people who had nothing nice to say about Rangers in general and wanted to tell her ALL about it). Still, she wasn’t really in the mood to entertain anyone that afternoon when she was walking in Central Park with Clint. He’d been on a mission, she’d been frantically trying to get the official roster for AO done, and they hadn’t seen each other in an entire week.
Kimberly paused in the act of licking her ice cream cone. Looking up, she saw Clint looking at the guy behind her with an annoyed expression. He turned back to her and caught her eye. She made a face and he laughed, thought it was strained.
“Go ahead,” he said. “Consider it payback for those rabid fangirls last week.”
She made another face at him but obligingly turned around to face the guy.
“Oh…,” she breathed out, eyes widening comically as she caught his gaze and felt the Grid connection flare to life. “Shit. Where’d you come from?”
“I…you know?” He looked stunned.
“I have lived with this since I was a teenager, I can recognize a fellow when I meet them,” she snorted. “And I repeat, where did you come from?” As far as she knew, the only current ranger team was the one in Harwood County. There had been some claims of a couple new rangers in Amber Beach too but they hadn’t confirmed that yet. She wasn’t as inclined to believe the claims as they only mentioned black and blue and Jason hadn’t seen anything to indicate a team had taken root in the town when he’d gone to investigate with Jarrod. Of course, that didn’t mean it wasn’t about to happen but…
The guy shook his shock off. “I found this in a cave about nine years ago,” he said, holding out what she immediately recognized as a ranger power source. He hesitated and then added, “I’ve been hunted ever since. I…need help.”
“Wait, he’s….” Clint trailed off, having clearly gotten with the program.
“Yeah,” she said, looking back at her boyfriend. Clint looked a lot less annoyed and more confused. She took pity on him. “Rangers can always recognize each other. It can take some time to figure out how to do it but…”
If she was perfectly honest with him, she’d mention that it took her longer than usual because she hadn’t thought to do it. Then she started randomly running into new rangers every time she went to California and not recognizing them until she ended up in the middle of one of their battles. RJ, though he’d already finished his stint, had been the last straw and she’d spent an entire month with Rita learning to hone the skill.
“You said you’ve been hunted?” Clint asked, frowning as his brow furrowed.
The guy, who was wearing an aqua shirt to match his power source, nodded. “He’s a ranger monster.” He looked warily around, as if half expecting the monster to show his face.
“What does he look like?” she asked, head tilted. They still hadn’t seen Goldar again but this guy said he’d been hunted for nine years…
“Tall, red armor…” he trailed off, no doubt trying to come up with a way to describe him that made sense. She could have told him that was a lost cause.
“Butt ugly?” she offered and he huffed a small laugh.
“Pretty much,” he agreed. “Calls himself Fury.”
Clint choked behind her and Kim stared a moment before cackling. She knew it wasn’t SHIELD’s Fury but still…
“Sorry,” she finally choked out when he stared at her, completely lost. “I’ll explain later, I promise.”
He nodded and waited for her and Clint to calm down. Finally, she looked him up and down. “Why don’t you come with me to Stark Tower. We can try and figure this out there.”
“You look like you could use a break,” Clint agreed, still laughing softly. “Maybe a good meal.”
From the look of relief on his face, he probably hadn’t had that in a while. “Hey, what’s your name anyway?” she asked as they headed towards the subway.
He paused a moment, biting his lip. Finally, he took a deep breath and gave her a small smile.
Wow. So, uh, 2 years. I...did not realize it's been that long. *squeaks* Sorry!
I'm going to try and update this at least once a month. I may do more than that but for now, that's the plan. I'm working on finalizing my teaching license (while teaching--oy vey, why did I think this was a good idea?!) so I can't guarantee more than that.
Chapter 18: Chapter 17
Kimberly is ready to shoot every single person who works for her...and even a few who don't.
James Navarro was a new ranger, had a shiny new power in a color they hadn’t quite had before, and he was seriously depressed about not seeing his son in eight years because he had to protect him from the ranger monster hunting him for his gem.
Getting him installed at Power Island and in therapy with Trini and John had just been the start of one of the most frustrating and annoying weeks of her life.
“Why do I suddenly have three thousand emails in my alpha account?”
“…I may have forgotten to tell you about the website directory going live today…”
“So, uh, have I mentioned Tommy and Jason have decided that we’re apparently serious enough that they have to have a chat with you?”
“We’re serious enough?”
“To them, anyone I go on a single date with is ‘serious enough.’ To be honest, I think they were being nice and not cornering you long before now.”
“Your friends have serious issues.”
Sigh. “Tell me about it.”
“But it will work!”
“That’s not the point! It’s stupidly dangerous!”
“Kim, think of it though! If we can reverse engineer the DNA Tommy found, we could create miniature raptors to help Fireheart patrol the island! No one will ever get in unless we let them!”
“And we won’t be able to get out cause we’ll be dead and eaten!”
“Maybe we can even create a docile version as an exotic pet!”
“Am I the only one who has ever seen Jurassic Park?!”
“Darcy, is there a particular reason you have piled all the tech in the corner like a naughty school child?”
“That’s just the stuff Stark brought down.” A beat. “It started talking to me.”
“All of them.”
“JARVIS talks to you.”
“Yeah, but he’s J-man. He’s different. And all of the stuff sounded like a Teletubby! My coffee maker should not sound like Laa Laa!”
Sigh. “I’ll have Stark come and get his crap.”
“Why is Mike covered in whipped cream?”
“Leo apparently decided his big brother needed to be brought down a peg. There was pie involved.”
“Why are you hiding in my apartment?”
“No one will think to look for me in the Black Widow’s apartment…and if they do, no one’s stupid enough to come in here uninvited…Maybe Tommy.”
“He has the survival instincts of a lemming.”
“Stark, stop trying to poke around Billy’s tech!”
“But it’s new tech! And it’s in my Tower! I don’t like new tech in my Tower unless I built it!”
“Well if your tech actually worked the way I wanted it to, I wouldn’t have to go to Billy,”
“My tech works great!”
“The tablet you lent me tried to kill me.”
“And I thank you greatly for helping me test my prototype!”
“…Tony, why did I just get a text informing me that if you don’t leave her floor, Kimberly was going to kill you?”
“…Low blow, Hart. Low. Blow.”
“What the hell was that?!”
Deep breath. “Camille?”
“Probably a stupid question, but why are there explosions?”
“Techs are experimenting with a new metal Karone got them access to. Naquada, I think it’s called.”
“And this ends in explosions?”
“Don’t worry, I’ve been assured they’re not going to blow up the planet….they think.”
“Do I want to know why Andros is passed out cold on the floor?”
“You decided it would be a good idea to hire siblings.”
“Dominic, why did I just get a phone call from my niece offering to teach me how to get better at ‘Not It’?”
“…We finished the informational video on Alpha Operations and how it formed?”
“You did not.”
“…I’ll take it down.”
“Thank you for meeting with me,” Coulson said when Kimberly sat down at the small cafe at the end of her week from hell. He looked better than the last time she’d seen him, not that that said much as the last time she’d seen him he’d still been unconscious. In a nondescript suit and sunglasses, he couldn’t have looked more “secret agent” if he’d tried. He chuckled softly when she informed him of such. “I’ve been told that before.”
“Then why do it?”
“When you see someone who looks secret agent, are you really going to think they are?”
She blinked at him for several seconds before shaking her head. “If you want to talk about the human psych, you chose the wrong Ranger. Trini would be better at unraveling that logic than I would.”
He chuckled again as a waitress came over. They ordered coffee and tea and waited until she was gone before looking back at each other. “I wasn’t sure you would come,” he said after a moment.
“Tommy said you seemed to think it was important,” she shrugged. “And Clint thinks highly of you—even if he is still pissed.”
Coulson winced. “Trust me, if I could have told them, I would have,” he assured her. “I’m not any happier than they are at what Fury did.”
“So what do you need?”she asked, deciding to drop that line of conversation.
“First thing you need to know is that neither Fury nor Hill authorized the release of your identities,” he told her without preamble. She stared at him, mouth opening slightly. “We still don’t know who leaked it but it wasn’t by their order or design—Fury is actually quite angry that it happened at all.”
“Excuse me, what?”
“Director Fury didn’t reveal your identities,” he repeated. “Nor did Maria Hill. We’re not sure who did but our list of suspects is, thankfully, quite short.”
“Billy traced the leak to SHIELD,” she said, frowning. He’d done it from the old Power Chamber so as to keep from being detected but he’d been able to trace the email from the New York Times to the SHIELD server five days before the reveal and the day after her fight with Fury. The reporter who’d received it had been some low-level guy, barely a blip on the radar. He’d apparently did the research to verify it and then gone to his editor. The article and complete list (with descriptions of each ranger and what they were doing now) had dominated the paper the next day.
“We’re aware, we found the same thing,” he agreed. “But it wasn’t on Fury’s orders. We’re investigating who it could have been.”
“You expect me to believe the man who was clearly unhappy about my refusal to reveal private details of our organization didn’t totally screw us over in retaliation?” she demanded.
“What would Nick Fury get out of doing something like that?” he asked calmly. “Besides pissing off the group he wants to be allied with?”
She opened her mouth to answer and then realized she didn’t have one. She had to grudgingly admit he had a point. Fury wouldn’t get much out of them by revealing their identities except a whole heap of anger.
“You said the lists of suspects was short,” she said instead. She wasn’t sure she believed him but…well, it couldn’t hurt to play along, could it? “How short?”
“Five individuals not including myself, Hill, and Fury,” he said. “No one else at SHIELD had access to the list and it hadn’t been hacked that we could see.”
“And have you made any headway on finding the guy?”
“That’s where we come into a bit of a problem,” he said, shifting uncomfortably. “All five of the others are top operatives in the organization, with access to things even more…dangerous…than who the rangers are.”
“That’s why you’re coming to me,” she realized. “You need help. You have a rat in the ranks.”
“One possibility, the best one if I’m being honest,” he agreed. “Theoretically however it could also have been someone trying to curry favor with the Director. He made it quite clear after your…discussion that he wasn’t pleased.” He didn’t sound confident in that theory though and she called him on it. He got a pinched expression. “None of the five would need to do something in order to curry favor with Fury…nor would they be stupid enough to think it would work. They’re well aware of how the game is played.”
She stared at him as the waitress came back over with their drinks. After assuring her they didn’t need anything more, she left. Once she was out of earshot, she took a sip of her tea. “What do you want from us?”
“We’re aware Stark gave you access to the SHIELD mainframe, though we haven’t been able to flush the connection out,” he said and she raised an eyebrow. “We know you won’t do it from your headquarters but your people may have better luck trying to find the culprit than we will, especially since most of SHIELD is aware Director Fury’s been trying to find them.”
“And why should we do that?”
“Because someone leaked your identities, compromised your security and the safety of your people,” he answered solemnly. “Maybe this is all this person does but can you really take that risk? The ranger tech is gone from our servers—good job on that by the way—but these five had access to it as well.”
Which meant if they were working for someone outside of SHIELD that someone could have had access to the research. Could have made copies, passed it on before Cam had destroyed it.
And here she thought her week from hell was over.
I have made this a series and added a notes work, with various lists and other notes on this universe. It'll also host one-shots and drabbles.
That said, if you have a scene or such that you would like to see, feel free to suggest it! I'm taking requests!
Chapter 19: Chapter 18
Discussions are had...and pranks are played on people who should really know better after almost 32 years of friendship....
“So, basically, Fury didn’t actually rat us out?” Jason asked, blinking repeatedly at her. He wasn’t the only one, some still looking skeptical.
“I knew that scenario didn’t make much sense,” Carter sighed.
“I don’t recall you actually saying anything though,” Tommy frowned at him.
“Yeah, cause I am also well aware SHIELD does stupid crap all the time that doesn’t make sense,” he shrugged. “I just figured this was just another example of that.”
“Point is, we have a new problem,” Kimberly said, bringing everyone back on track. “SHIELD has a leak and they may have our tech. Or at least, access to some of the research on our tech. Cam destroyed it in their servers but it’s possible they copied it before then.”
“Send in Cam again,” Mack said immediately. “Coulson gave you permission to sneak around, right? Maybe he can find the leak.”
“He’s already at a cafe in Montana,” she assured him. “Nothing connected to any of us, he chose it at random. So far he hasn’t had much luck.”
“Is that really wise?” Ethan asked. “I mean, what if they’re just wanting to catch us or something?”
“Which is why she had Cam go somewhere not connected to us,” Hunter pointed out.
“And if they catch Cam?”
“I agreed it was worth the risk,” Cam himself said, coming in. He looked exhausted. “I didn’t find anything except that it was definitely someone in SHIELD who emailed and there was a hacker in the research prior to my deleting it….and it came from inside SHIELD’s mainframe, from a computer labeled 616-42. I’m going to Newport tomorrow to look again.”
“Any worries about being caught?” she asked as he laid down on the tabletop. They were in the biggest conference room they had in the Power Center, capable of holding the entire ranger council and the administration of AO. Still, it was a bit stifling and he nearly hit Hunter’s arm with his forehead.
“No,” he said, voice mumbled as on his other side, Tori rubbed circles on his back. “I only stayed about four hours. No one came in except a college kid who was panicking about a 30-page paper due tomorrow. From her muttering, I don’t think she had even started researching it, let alone written it.”
Kimberly winced. She wasn’t the only one.
“I’ll pass the information to Stark, see what he can do with it,” Kimberly said and stopped when half the room stared at her in confusion. “What?”
“Why are you giving it to Stark and not SHIELD?” Eric asked.
“Because if this is a set-up, Stark can fight SHIELD off better than we can,” she shrugged. She thought that would have been better.
“That sorta feels like throwing them under the bus,” Tommy frowned. “I mean…wouldn’t it affect the Avengers?”
And your new boyfriend, was clearly unheard. Kim rolled her eyes as more than one person side-eyed them both.
“Clint was the one to suggest Stark be our go between in this and he agreed once Clint called him,” she said and all the stares went straight back to her. “He’s not thrilled about what Coulson told me.”
“How did Coulson handle you telling Barton?” that was Eric and from his expression, he already knew the answer.
“I don’t know, I haven’t told Coulson I told Barton yet,” she said and he smirked.
“Wait, what’s happening here?” Lily asked, holding out a hand to stop all conversation.
“What do you mean?” she asked, frowning.
“It sounds like we’ve gone from us against the Avengers and SHIELD to us and the Avengers against SHIELD,” she answered.
“It was never us against the Avengers and SHIELD,” she answered after a moment. “We always intended to work with them both, to better facilitate our emergence into the world platform of politics.”
“We did?” she seemed surprised by this; so too were Chip, Ethan, and Jayden. Kimberly sighed.
“Okay, here’s the deal,” she said. “Yeah, SHIELD screwed us and we kinda fell on the outs but we’re still technically on the same side—even when we were pissed at them, we still intended to try and work with them. I’m not going to ignore them in the face of world protection just cause they acted like an ass.”
“Okay, but what about the Avengers?” Karone asked.
“The Avengers were an unknown entity at first but it’s become very apparent to the admin team who’ve interacted with them that they are a lot like us,” she said after a moment. “In all honesty, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they were all named worthy by the Grid. Not that that’s something I ever intend to tell them but it’s still there.”
“The Avengers are like us?” Lily asked skeptically.
“They even have color designations, though they don’t follow them at all,” Jason said wryly. “Kim’s not wrong about them being like a ranger team.”
“Who’s their Sixth?” Zhane asked, looking fascinated. He hadn’t had much interaction with any of them before.
“I think, at their core, they’re all Sixths,” Tommy mused before she could try and get them all back on track again. “Some more than others, of course, but all of them would be considered sixths.”
“Bro, you lost me,” Jason stated, looking as startled as Kim herself felt. “I mean, yeah, I can see the two SHIELD agents as Sixths but…Captain America?”
“I would have thought he’d be a Red,” Kim said but Eric was shaking his head.
“Maybe back in the forties, yeah, total Red,” he said. “But now? Too much shit happened to him—he’s a Sixth.”
“A borderline at most, but he’s more Sixth than Red theses days,” Tommy agreed.
All the sixths in the room, though there admittedly weren’t a lot of them, nodded in agreement. Kim and Jason exchanged looks and mutually decided not to push it.
“So, a team full of Sixths,” Justin mused. He glanced over at Zhane and Andros. “That happen often?”
“No,” Andros said and now that she was actually looking at him, he appeared a bit shaken. “They’re incredibly rare—and usually a bad sign.”
“Because when Sixths form their own team, it usually means bad shit’s about to go down,” Zhane told her. “Things a Core team aren’t typically equipped to handle.”
“Um, excuse me?” a voice piped in and everyone turned to look at James, who was shifting uncomfortably. Even though he didn’t have a team (yet), they’d all agreed he should be involved in the ranger council because it was almost universally accepted he would. He hadn’t agreed to that and it had taken Kimberly over an hour to get him to agree to come to the meeting; she was fairly certain he only did because he’d wanted to shut her up and leave him alone.
“What do all those terms mean?” he asked cautiously. “Sixths, Core, Red—though I think I understood that one.”
“Yeah, I’m…a bit lost myself,” Gia agreed.
“Okay, so, vocab time,” Kelsey said, bouncing in her seat. “Red is probably exactly what you think it is—the leader type, the one who everyone pretends has everything under control—”
“What do you mean ‘pretend’?!”
“—and who is usually the one who does stupid crap cause they don’t use their words,” she continued, blithely unaware or uncaring of the glares being leveled her way by every Red and former Red in the room. There was a lot of snickers from the others though and Kim saw Gia’s lips quirk.
“There are a few different types of Red, subgroups, but that’s the gist of what a Red is,” Lily piped in. “Casey, my Red for example, is very laid back. That isn’t always the case.”
“Shane, for example,” Tori added with a smirk. Cam, Hunter, and pretty much anyone who’d ever spent any time with Shane when he was in a Red mood snickered.
“Then you have the other colors,” Jason said, obviously trying to interject some dignity back on himself and his other Reds. “Like Pinks, they’re—”
“The ones who suck at ‘Not It’,” Camille muttered and half the room lost it.
“—typically the heart types,” Jason continued over the raucous laughter. “Emotional, mother hens, the ones who get on your case if they think you’ve done something stupid.”
“I wouldn’t get on your case so much if you’d just stop doing stupid shit,” she informed him primly and this time, even James cracked a smile at the look Jason sent her.
“New York Subway, Kimberly Ann, New York Subway,” Tommy scowled at her.
“She is starting to exhibit Red tendencies, actually, you’re right,” Justin mused.
“I am not!” she yelped, horrified. She was inundated with several incredulous looks.
“Any-way,” Billy brought the conversation back on track. “Blue’s tend to either be the goofball or the techie, though not always. The Ninja team, for example, was a mess.”
“Thanks a lot,” Tori drawled as Hunter pouted and Cam looked up long enough to shoot his fellow coordinator a dirty look.
“I’m just calling it like I see it,” he replied. “Then you have the others—yellows tend to be the ones with common sense—”
“You realize you just said Ronny had common sense, right?” Will asked from next to his yellow and then yelped when she smacked him.
“—and greens and blacks flip flop on theirs, sometimes they’re techs, sometimes they’re comic relief—”
“I was comic relief?” Adam asked no one in particular. Kim snickered.
“—and sometimes they’re the shy quiet types who should have stayed that way,” Billy finished and Adam smirked at him, eyes gleaming.
Kim finally lost it.
The meeting about SHIELD descended into chaos for almost an hour as they explained the various terminology to the newbies. Several times she’d seen Jayden suddenly look like he’d figured something out. She’d not been happy at the lapse of knowledge they’d given them.
“You want me to what?” Tommy asked flatly after the meeting, after they’d finally agreed to wait until Cam found anything or a week had passed, whichever came first. She’d asked him, Jason, Andros, Karone, Carter, and Eric to stay behind.
“I want you to have informal classes on ranger things,” she repeated. “You and Zhane too. Jayden’s been with us a few months, Jarrod even longer, and a few of those terms they clearly didn’t understand.”
“Why me?” Tommy demanded.
“I really shouldn’t have to answer that.”
“So you want me to do this cause I was a teacher?” he asked. “Alyssa is too.”
“And of the two of you, which one created a ranger history for his team just in case something happened to him?” she pointed out. He made a face at her. “I’m not asking you to go all out but…just, give them a heads up on vocab and stuff we throw around. Ranger history. Um…”
She looked at Andros, who, thankfully, actually seemed on board with this. “Galactic history, explain the Grid, the Morphin Council…” he trailed off. “I can contact the Ranger Academy on Eltar, ask someone there for advice on what they think would be best.”
“The newbies shouldn’t be the only ones learning,” Eric said, folding his arms across his chest. “Some shit I still need explained to me.”
“Seminars,” Justin offered. She jumped, not having noticed him stay behind. “Organize a schedule of different seminars on different subjects. I know Chip wanted to know more about the tech of the zords, he’d probably be very excited about attending something about it.”
“And, I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but we could invite the Avengers to a few of them?” Jason asked more than stated. “Not everything, obviously, but just a few things, like the full history, some galactic politics? They know the bare minimum about us, if you’re really serious about allying like I think you are, it wouldn’t be a bad idea.”
“And you’re okay with allying with them like that?” she asked after a moment.
“I have my reservations,” he admitted. “However, I trust your judgment. Always have.”
“Ditto,” Tommy smiled at her. Justin, Carter, and Eric all nodded in agreement. She looked at Andros and the still silent Karone.
“Pink’s aren’t usually put in positions of power like this, it isn’t something they typically want or can handle,” he said slowly. “Not that they’re not capable, they are, but their area of expertise doesn’t usually equip them to handle it…or want to handle it.”
“Not it,” she quipped and Andros smiled.
“But I never had a problem with you as the director,” he continued. “It’s always been obvious to me, Zhane, and Karone that you’re one of the darker Pinks on Earth. You may try to deny it, but there is definitely a streak of Red in you, Kim.”
“And what the idiot is forgetting is that historically, when a planet goes from one city team at a time to a planetary team, it’s almost always been a Pink who led the way,” Karone added quietly. “Not always, but nine times out of ten. You’ve always reminded me of Catya.”
“Catya?” she asked quietly after a moment.
“Pink Ranger of Kerova who led the way to a planetary ranger team thirty years ago,” Andros answered. “Without her, we may never have become a full member of the Ranger Alliance. Not that it helped when Dark Spectre attacked but…”
Kim stared at them a moment before flickering her eyes at the others. None of them seemed terribly surprised by this revelation. She sighed, shoulders slumping in resignation.
“Do me a favor and don’t tell the techs any of this. Last thing I need is another power source. I’m not Tommy.”
“Alright, you are miles away today. What’s going on?”
“Hm?” Kim asked, blinking over at Clint. He rolled his eyes but there was a fond tint there too, she was relieved to see.
“You are miles away,” he repeated. “What’s up?”
“I’m apparently developing into a Red,” she finally told him. He paused in the act of wiping the dishes they’d eaten dinner off of to stare at her.
“Okay, I’m going to assume this is a ranger thing and ask for more clarification,” he finally said.
She sighed and relayed the conversation they’d had that morning about vocabulary and all that. She ended it with a long string of incidents the reds had ever pissed her off with, including the insanity that as going to the moon, by themselves, and thinking they would receive a warm welcome on their return.
“So, essentially, they think because you got shot trying to do your job, you’re turning into a Red?” he clarified.
“And they’re not entirely wrong,” she admitted. “Going into the situation the way I did just screams Red—if Jason had done it, I’d still be giving him hell.”
“Like he is you?” Clint asked, a glint in his eye.
“Well, yeah—oh.” She stopped, eyes widening and a bright grin slowly crossing her face. “Oh. Oh! Clint, you are a breathtaking genius!” Bouncing up, she grabbed his sweater and pulled him down to her, just barely slowing down before she gave them both a fat lip. He dropped the plate entirely on the counter, arms going around her waist and pulling her in close as her own arms went around his neck and into his hair. They remained like that for several minutes, just slowly exploring each other’s mouths, until finally, she really needed to breath for more than a few seconds.
“You know, I should be a genius more often,” he mused and she laughed, standing on tip-toes to kiss him again.
“KIMBERLY! WHY ARE ALL MY UNIFORMS SUDDENLY PINK?!”
“You act like a Pink, you get treated like a Pink.”
I have posted a one-shot over at Story Board about Darcy's POV of her introduction to Alpha Operations and Kimberly in particular. Enjoy!
Chapter 20: Chapter 19
Kimberly gives a tour of Power Island...and also has an interesting conversation with Coulson.
This feels kinda filler-y to me but I also think it's needed for certain aspects of the plot....
“Thank you for meeting with me,” Coulson said when Kim greeted him and Clint on Power Island. Both men were doing their absolute best to keep their attention on her instead of staring around at everything. She had to give them points for that, even if it wasn’t expected.
“No problem,” she said. She paused. “Fury get my message?”
“He did,” the level 9 agent agreed. His lips quirked in a half smile. “I’m here on his behalf.”
“And I’m here on Cap’s,” Clint pipped in. “Fury has him going on a mission, which is why he couldn’t make it.”
“Good to know,” she said. She stopped for a moment and then smiled. “Want a tour?”
“Yes, please,” he said and she could practically feel the excitement as he finally took that as permission to study the area he’d arrived in. Coulson did the same, though his excitement was a lot more controlled and muted.
Power Island was nearly finished, to Kimberly’s immense satisfaction, so she was actually really excited to be showing it off to people who had no idea what rangers were capable of.
The area they were in had been designated just for arrivals and departures. Most of the rangers and allies just called it the Platform, even though it looked more like a gazebo. About fifteen feet by fifteen feet, it had four pillars holding up a domed roof that extended about two feet out to protect arrivals from the weather. It didn’t rain often but when it did… well, most people stayed inside.
The Platform was close to the edge of the island, near where the rangers had originally traveled all those years back to get Trini’s cousin. Paths criss-crossed everywhere on the island but, depending on the route, most would lead back to the Platform if you kept going. You had to pass the Platform to get to the Cove, as it was between it and the Power Center. An accidental result of Pua Zhua’s and Ninja’s working together, the Cove had been turned into a mooring station for all the aquatic zords. A nearby under gound bay, which opened up to the side of a cliff-face, held the land zords. The aerial zords—such as Kim’s Crane and Tommy’s old zeo zord—were in a hanger above that, on the top of the cliff. Due to their sizes and the sheer amount of them, the zords took up almost the entire west half of the island. When Clint asked what was in the hangar, she smiled.
“We call it the Cove, it houses the zords and other assorted craft,” she answered and Clint’s interested practically quadrupled. “I’ll take you by later—I try to avoid it normally, cause that’s Taylor’s domain and she gets tetchy when people visit without warning.”
“Taylor Earhardt, correct?” Coulson asked and Kim nodded. “She’s in charge of the zords?”
“She’s the Transportation Director, which includes all the non-active zords, yes,” she agreed. “The zords for active rangers are under Jason, who’s the Ranger Response Director. They’re more or less housed in the same area though.”
She didn’t mention that Taylor had decided she wanted her own island, like the tech’s had. That was something the two women would be arguing about for a long time to come because Kimberly just wasn’t gonna do it, no matter how many times Taylor flooded her email with pleas. They had enough issues with the last island they made as it was.
“What about that way?” Clint asked, pointing down a path to the right of the one leading down to the Cove. “Zords too?”
“No, that leads to Techopia,” she said and waited patiently. She didn’t have to wait long.
“Techopia?” Coulson asked, looking bemused. Clint grinned, she having already told him about this.
“The tech’s had an island built so when they experiment they don’t blow up anything besides themselves,” she told him with a straight face. Clint sniggered as Coulson raised an eyebrow. She smirked. “When I finally saw what they’d done to it when they finished building their labs, I joked it was like a utopia for the techs. Rocky started calling it Techopia and it stuck. Billy and Angela hate the name.”
“How do they get to the island?” Coulson asked.
“Bridge,” she said, a bit surprised he hadn’t asked about them creating an island. “With one of those moving sidewalks so it’s relatively quick to get back and forth.” The bridge was enclosed in shatterproof glass, so as you passed over the water, you could see everything in almost every direction. She’d taken, when needing to get out of the Power Center, to checking up on whoever was on Techopia, just because she could stand quietly for about ten minutes and watch the water go by. It was soothing. Smiling, she tilted her head in the direction opposite of the Cove. “Come on, let’s show you the rest of the place.
The tour took roughly an hour. She pointed out the apartment complexes that stood between the hangar and the rest of the island. There were currently five, five-story buildings on the Terrace, as most people called it. Every team had a floor of a building to themselves. Kim pretty much lived in her apartment nowadays. She was actually planning to let her lease run out on her place in Angel Grove because she never spent any time there anymore. She wasn’t the only one, either—Jason and Taylor both lived in their apartments full time, though Jason also had his parents old house for when he had the kids. Eric was still commuting because he hadn’t officially resigned from the Silver Guardians yet (he was apparently on paid leave for now—and had been for six months). Wes had told her a few days prior he’d seen Eric packing up some of his things in his Guardians office though, so she expected to be hearing his request for a permanent apartment soon.
Near that was the Ranger Senate, the meeting hall. She pointed out Hogwarts (the nickname they’d all given Clare’s domain, even though it was a series of tree-houses and not a gigantic castle). She didn’t take them close by though, knowing their personal history with magic, as well as the fact you never quite knew what would happen when you entered the mystic’s space. The medical building and labs (only ever called the Med Center because none of them wanted to piss off their resident doctors) was fun for the two men, especially Coulson. It wasn’t big and it wasn’t busy so he was able to get a complete check up and make plans for one last session with one of the healing pads they’d been using on him. The Med Center was mostly for any accidents or recovery from battles, which was why it wasn’t very big.
Finally running out of things to show them once they got past the small park, she took them to the Power Center. Everything that wasn’t transportation, medical, R & D, or magic was headquartered there. It was the central hub of the organization. At the very center of the building, in a space six stories tall, was Central Command. Kim and Camille’s space was along the North side of the building, Jason’s was along the East, Carter was to the South, and everyone else (legal, liaisons, public relations, etc) was to the West.
“How long have you been building here?” Coulson asked as they stepped into the building just as the clouds, which had been threatening all afternoon, let loose.
“About six months,” she answered. His eyebrows went up and she smiled. “Pays to have access to magic—and really good friends who also happen to be alien royalty.”
Though she meant Trey and Corcus (who was, apparently, a first cousin to the current king of Aquitar), Jason was also considered royalty by the Triforians. It was a legal side effect of him holding the Gold Zeo powers for that short amount of time. Her best friend had been stunned when Trey had called a few years back and told him that until Jason renounced his claim to the throne, Trey couldn’t become king. Jason had done it, of course, and quite happily too, but it was something she was always going to tease him about.
She led them around, stopping briefly at Carter’s office so he could say hi then going straight along to Jason’s area. His was the largest of the departments in the building, extending out so that from the air, the building looked like a key. Closest to Central Command there were alcoves for each of the current teams to hang out in, which also led to dorms and bathrooms behind them. “They all share a bedroom and bathroom with one other person,” she told them as she waved to Jarrod and Fran, who were sitting in one of the alcoves and chatting with Lily and Camille. Theo and Casey were, if she wasn’t mistaken, with Darcy in New York finishing up the offices. Somehow those two and RJ had taken to helping the young agent in the organization of their Stark Tower floor.
Past that were two glass encased gyms, one with actual gym paraphernalia (such as treadmills and weights) and the other an space for weapons training. The final section before you reached Jason’s office was an open space with sparring rings on the floor that went from one side of the building to the other. That was where they found Jason and Tommy, both shirtless and going at it. There was already a fairly large crowd watching, mostly the newest teams, and the crowd parted slightly to give the trio a better view as they came in.
“And here we have two alpha males fighting for dominance in their natural habitat,” Kim drawled as Tommy roundhouse kicked at Jason, who ducked and swept the original green off his feet. Tommy was on his back for barely a second before he was up and punching out. Kimberly noticed with amusement that Jason was wearing his red sweats, while Tommy had on his green. They must have been feeling nostalgic.
“They do this often?” Coulson asked as Clint studied the two intently from Kimberly’s other side.
“Like clock-work since high school,” she agreed. “Even when they were at different universities, they only lived an hour apart so they’d meet up once or twice every week. And Reefside is barely an hour from Angel Grove.”
“They’re good,” Clint said, crossing his arms as he continued analyzing both men and their individual styles. His eyebrows went up when Jason used the wall as leverage to flip over Tommy, kicking back with both feet into the original green’s sternum. He used the momentum to push off and flip backwards so by the time Tommy steadied himself, Jason was already going into his own spin kick that the other man barely managed to dodge. “Very good.”
“You should see them when they spar with Kim,” Andros said, coming over with a grin. “You’d think after however many years they’d know better but…”
Clint and Coulson both side-eyed her. “I usually have to get them on their asses a few times before they remember I actually do know how to hold my own,” she shrugged. “I don’t spar with either of them often enough for it to sink in permanently.”
“You calling out for Tommy’s help so often didn’t help,” Rocky added from nearby. Adam was standing next to him, looking ready for his own spar. He caught Kim’s eye and they both smiled before looking away. Rocky didn’t notice but both SHIELD agents did. She didn’t elaborate, though she could practically feel their curiosity. Too bad, because it would go to her grave that Kim was never quite as helpless as she’d made herself out to be back in high school.
Male egos, how delicate they could be.
“Think I could take a crack at them later on?” Clint asked, bouncing slightly in place.
“You seriously want to spar with two men who think they’re my big brothers and who aren’t quite sure they approve of us?” she asked skeptically and Clint grinned.
“That just makes it more interesting.”
Despite Kimberly’s misgivings, Clint persisted in his wish to fight both men. Tommy and Jason, of course, had no problem with that and even said they’d forgo their traditional rules and fighter dirtier than normal, since that was Clint’s preferred method. Clint had argued he did know traditional sparring rules but he was outvoted.
“This is not going to end well,” Kimberly sighed, watching as the three men bounced in place and stretched.
“I think you’re overstating things a bit,” Adam said, coming over. “For all their grumblings, they like Clint. They won’t hurt him.”
“And Clint likes you too much to actively try and hurt them,” Coulson agreed on her other side. Much more softly, so the three getting ready wouldn’t hear, he added, “In truth, I think Clint is trying to impress you.”
“By sparring with my big brothers?” she asked skeptically. Adam snickered and she elbowed him.
“By sparring with two men who have always protected you in the past, either from monsters or from other men,” Coulson corrected. “He’s trying to convince you that he can protect you as much as they can.”
“He doesn’t have to convince me of that…even if I needed the protection, which I don’t.”
“Michael,” Adam coughed next to her and she elbowed him again, this time much much harder.
“I’ve never quite seen Clint like this with someone before,” Coulson continued, though she could see out of the corner of her eye that he was frowning at them both. She just knew he would be trying to figure out what “Michael” meant when he got back to SHIELD.
“What do you mean?” she asked, not sure she wanted an answer.
“Clint has always known being a SHIELD agent meant having a personal relationship with someone outside of the organization would be virtually impossible,” Coulson said. “It’s a sacrifice we have to make, to ensure the world’s protection. For the most part, we all think of it as a worthy sacrifice….Clint, though, has always struggled with that.”
“He’s mentioned he’d tried dating a few times…”
“He has and it has never ended well,” Coulson agreed. “When he dated inside of SHIELD, it didn’t end well because the agents in question were almost always lower than him level wise, and were never out on missions as often as him. Even when they were, it is incredibly difficult to plan a romantic evening when you never know when one or even both of you will be on missions. Dating outside of SHIELD, however, often meant he couldn’t even tell the woman what he actually did, let alone why he was gone so often. I think his longest relationship was Bobbi and she was the same level as him in SHIELD.”
“Bobbi Morse, he told me about her,” she said, frowning. “The woman he went undercover with.”
“Has he told you the whole story?”
“Do you mean the part where they got married after pretending to be married for a mission?” she asked and then realized only after the fact Adam was still in hearing range. Looking around quickly, she realized no one else was close enough to overhear except maybe Camille and she was smart enough to keep her mouth shut. Adam gave her a look and she knew neither of the former rangers getting ready to spar would hear about that from him. Good.
Coulson paused, turning to her fully. “The fact he told you about that tells me more than you realize,” he said quietly. “As far as I know, not even the other Avengers, minus Natasha, know about that from him.”
She blinked repeatedlyat him before looking back at Clint. “He truly cares about you, Kimberly,” Coulson said, using her first name for the first time. “I believe he’s in it for the long haul.”
The question should clearly hear though it wasn’t spoken aloud, was “Are you?”
She smiled and sat back to watch her boyfriend and her brothers beat the crap out of each other.
Chapter 21: Chapter 20
Kimberly and Cap have a heart-to-heart...
“So, now that you have the stupidity out of your system—”
“Who says it’s out of my system?” Clint smirked.
“—let’s move on to why you two are actually here,” she continued as if he hadn’t spoken. They were in the conference room. The sparring match had ended in a draw, if only because Adam had decided it wasn’t fair to have Clint against both Tommy and Jason so he’d joined the fray.
Kim would be lying if she said she hadn’t REALLY enjoyed the entire spectacle.
“Computer 616-42 is a laptop issued to a low-level agent in communications,” Coulson said, not beating around the bush. She appreciated it, especially since Clint was still smirking at her. Coulson looked unhappy. “We haven’t found the link between him and what’s going on yet but something was found that…well, it’s a development we weren’t expecting.”
“What is it?” Jason asked. He’d joined them after the sparring match. Tommy had wanted to come too but she’d shoo’d him out of the meeting. He’d needed to gather the council and she wanted to be able to talk to the two agents without his special brand of insanity. He’d clearly known what she was doing but he’d agreed to call for the council and let them talk to the agents alone.
“The timing you gave us for the entire thing…the laptop was in the communications lab. However, the survellience footage was tampered with.”
“Stark’s still going through it but from what he and Cap told me before I came here, he doesn’t think he’ll be getting anything off it,” Clint added. “Whoever it was who did it was damn good. Not even JARVIS has been able to reconstruct it.”
If she’d been willing to connect SHIELD tech to their systems, she’d be tempted to see if DECA could do it. She wasn’t willing to risk them that way, however, so she didn’t offer. She trusted Coulson, Clint, and Agents Hill and Romanoff. She was on the brink of trusting Fury again…everyone else at SHIELD, however, she wasn’t going near with a ten-foot pole.
“So it’s possible whoever it was used the laptop,” she said. Coulson and Clint exchanged looks. “What?”
“The agent assigned to the laptop is missing,” Coulson finally told her. “Sitwell reported his missed check-in this morning.”
“So what you’re saying is that the agent who owned the laptop used to break your own security is missing at the same time we’re looking into it?” she asked. Both men nodded. “That doesn’t sound good.”
“It’s not,” Jason said, frowning. He crossed his arms, studying them. “You don’t think you’re going to find him, do you?”
“Not alive, no,” Coulson said. “Someone went to a lot of trouble to hide their steps…my guess is the agent could have pointed at someone, someone who asked to use their laptop.”
Kimberly sighed. “And you lot wonder why we don’t want to work with SHIELD,” she snarked but it held no real heat. Oh, it was true, make no doubt about that, but she wasn’t aiming it at them and they both knew it.
“You said before that you were here on the Captain’s behalf,” Jason said suddenly, pinning Clint with a look.
“I told Kimberly that,” he frowned. She could practically feel his hackles rise from across the conference table.
“We talked when you were cleaning up,” she informed him. He nodded, calming down a bit.
“Where is the Captain?”
“On a mission for Fury,” Coulson added. He frowned. “A hostage situation.”
“Natasha’s with him,” Clint added. He didn’t look any more happy than his handler. “All she was able to tell me was that the Captain was probably going to be unhappy with her…which means she probably has additional orders.”
“Hostage situation?” Jason asked sharply as Kimberly considered the ramifications of the Widow having orders the Captain didn't know about. “Why didn’t you ask for help?”
“A SHIELD research vessel was attacked by pirates,” Coulson told them. “It’s our problem, not yours. And it seems to have been resolved. I got a message from Sitwell before we left.”
The last was said to Clint, who’d looked at the older agent sharply. The Avenger nodded slowly, looking unhappy.
“Alright,” Kimberly said, inhaling deeply. “Next steps anyone? I’m open to suggestions.”
“We keep digging at SHIELD,” Coulson said. He paused. “Could you keep looking at your end?”
She considered what Cam would say if she pulled him from this now and winced. “I think I might get shot again if I tried taking our tech off this at this point,” she informed them and resolutely ignored the way two of the three men went tense at the reminder of what had happened to her. She shook her head. “I think it’s become a matter of pride for him to find the mole.”
Jason rolled his eyes, some of his tension leaking out. “Dustin had to remind him to sleep last night.”
“Yeah, I think we’re okay on this end,” she said, making a mental note to thank Dustin and to back him up with Cam. No doubt the green samurai had had some snarky response and completely ignored his yellow teammate. Maybe she could sic Angela and Rose on him. Then she remembered neither had any idea what she had Cam doing and made a face. First she had to brief them…and deal with the yelling that was sure to occur…then she could get them to deal with Cam’s inability to let something go long enough to sleep and eat.
“So we keep looking and keep each other updated,” Coulson outlined and she nodded. He looked at Clint. “Do you believe that works for the Avengers?”
“I’ll clear it with the others,” he nodded. “None of us are thrilled with the idea of the ranger tech being in the wrong hands.”
“That makes…way too many of us.”
Who’s strong and brave, here to save the American way? Who vows to fight like a man for what’s right night and day?
“Cap, good to hear from you,” she said, answering her holographic phone. The ring tone told her this was from his own phone, not the platform in the tower. “Have you talked to Clint?”
“Yeah, just finished,” he answered. “Director Hart…could we talk? Alone?”
Well, that sounded ominous. “Of course,” she said. “Face to face, I’m assuming?”
“Yeah,” he agreed, sounding relieved. “Will you meet me at the Smithsonian?”
“I’ll be right there,” she said and he didn’t wait for anything more, just hung up. She immediately called for Camille.
“I’m heading to a meeting with Captain Rogers,” she said. “Unless the world is ending…hold everything for me.”
Hanging up with her assistant, she called Central Command as she gathered her phone and purse. “Teleport me to a secluded spot in walking distance to the Smithsonian please.”
“Right away, Kimberly.”
A blur of pink and white later and she found herself in an alley about two blocks from the museum. As she closed in on it, she realized they’d never actually talked about where in the gigantic place they would meet.
“Thank you for coming,” a voice said as Steve came up on her side. He was wearing a baseball cap and a jacket, trying for inconspicuous and largely failing. You simply couldn’t hide something that good-looking.
“Any particular reason we’re here?” she asked as they walked.
“I wanted to see the new exhibit,” he answered.
“Make sure it’s accurate?”
“Among other things,” he said.
They got their tickets and made their way inside to the Captain America exhibit. A symbol to the nation, a hero to the world. The story of Captain America is one of honor, bravery, and sacrifice.
“Well, that’s…a lot to live up to,” she commented softly at the overhead comment and glanced over at him. He had a small smile on his face as he shook his head, so she didn’t think she’d offended him.
“I was just doing the right thing,” he said quietly. “Nothing more than that.”
The made their way in, looking over the walls and different artifacts and informational stands.
“You were almost shorter than me,” she noted, seeing the wall with his stats pre- and post serum. “Just two inches.”
He smiled slightly. “I was shorter than almost everyone,” he corrected quietly.
“One of these days, I’m gonna have you talk with Justin,” she mused quietly. “He kinda grew in the suit so he’d be the same height as the rest of the Turbo’s—you’d have a lot in common.”
“I look forward to it,” he chuckled. Kim studied one of the walls, this one discussing the mission that ultimately made him famous—saving the lives of 163 soldiers no one thought would ever be seen again. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a little kid in a Captain America shirt staring, mouth agape, at the Captain and her. Steve held up a finger to his lips and the kid nodded slightly, clearly still stunned. She stifled a laugh and the two moved on.
“Howling Commandos,” she said softly when they got to the mannequins. “Did I tell you my Granddad burst into tears when he found out it was actually you in the suit?”
“No, you didn’t,” he said and his expression cycled quickly through a range of emotions before finally settling on concerned. “How is he doing?”
“Telling everyone and their dog how his granddaughter is a hero and his old buddy beat the odds…and hinting in every phone conversation we have that I need to try and make a move before you get snatched up by some ‘dame with no lick of sense.’ I haven’t yet told him I’m dating Clint.”
“Why not?” he asked, turning to look down at her, an amused expression on his face.
She grinned back up at him. “And break the poor man’s heart?” she asked, mock scandalized. “He’s convinced it’s fate that his old buddy is now working with his apparently single granddaughter and they’re both superheroes. Who am I to tell him otherwise? He's old, you know.”
“Give me his number, I’d like to say hello,” he said, lips twitching.
“As long as you don’t break his illusion, sure,” she agreed as he turned back to the Commandos. “Tell me about them?”
And he did, talking about how Morita knew the best ways to create moonshine and how Dugan seemed to have a woman in every town, no matter if they’d been there before or not. He talked about the French lessons and the German lessons, and how the very first thing they all did was learn the curse words, to General Phillips annoyance and Peggy Carter's amusement.
Then they got to the stand about Bucky Barnes, complete with videos about him. Best friends since childhood, Bucky Barnes and Steven Rogers were inseparable on both school yard and battle field. Barnes is the only Howling Commando to give his life in service of his country.
“I know it’s not worth much, but I am sorry,” she said softly as he stared at the looping video of him and Barnes. “I can’t imagine loosing Jason or Billy. Or any of them, really.”
“Bucky and I joined the army because we knew Hitler and the Axis Powers needed to be stopped,” Steve said. “We wanted to do the right thing. I’m not sure I know what that is now.”
“What’s going on, Steve?” she asked, using his first name instead of the Cap she tended to stick to. He didn’t answer, instead he grabbed her upper arm and gently led her over to a small video room showing interviews with the Commandos, General Phillips, and Peggy Carter.
She watched, concerned but supportive, as he played with an old compass with the woman’s picture in it. And it hit her all of a sudden—to him, this wasn’t seventy-odd years ago. To him, this was only…Jesus.
She was never going to complain about her accidental time trips again.
They left the museum, Kimberly following Steve’s lead as he headed East, towards the Lincoln and Washington Memorials. It was a quiet walk, neither one speaking.
“Fury has a project, an idea for protecting he world, and I don’t agree with it,” he said once they were along the water in the reflecting pool. There were people nearby but none that seemed to be paying them any attention. “It’s not protection, not to me. It’s fear.”
“And you told him that,” she said knowingly. He huffed a small laugh. She cocked her head to the side. “You’re worried.”
“I am,” he agreed, all amusement fleeing. “This isn’t why I fight.”
“So why contact me?” She had a general idea but she wanted him to say it.
“Because I think you and I are a lot alike,” he said honestly, staring down at her. “We both want to work for the greater good, regardless of what people think of us for it.”
“Naive, innocent, inexperienced…”
“We believe in a better way, a better world,” he agreed. “But I don’t know what to do, not with this. This century…”
“It’s difficult,” she agreed. “The atom bomb changed the way the world works. People were always willing to do atrocious things for their beliefs but after Hiroshima, Nagasaki, even the world leaders started buying into that. And here we are. In a world where anything can be accepted as long as it supposedly helps mankind.”
His jaw tensed. “I’m not sure I like that.”
“And that makes you a good man.,” she assured him. “A rare man…but a good man.”
“‘America will never be destroyed from the outside,’” Steve said, staring down at the Lincoln statue in its sheltered columns. “‘If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.’ Bucky and I never forgot that quote from Lincoln. We always tried to live by it.”
“Ole Abe was smart man,” she said. “Horrible fashion sense, but a smart man. And he still has a lot to teach us, even dead.”
They were quiet again for several minutes. “Don’t tell Fury or Coulson or Clint about this,” he said as they just stared at the memorials.
“They won’t hear it from me,” she promised, wincing at the thought of not telling her boyfriend. He wasn’t going to be pleased when he found out. A thought occurred to her then and she rummaged in her purse, hoping against hope she still had—Aha! “Here, take this.”
He accepted the little black device, looking at it curiously. “What is it?”
“Call it a get out of jail free card,” she said. “Press the button if you need an assist, we’ll answer.”
“Fury know about these things?”
“Thank you, Kimberly,” he said, smiling as he pocketed the device and using her first name for the first time. “Sorry for keeping you away from work for so long.”
“Are you kidding?” she asked. “I will do anything to get out of paperwork.” He laughed, more genuine than before. She smiled back at him. “What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know,” he sighed, still smiling slightly as he looked up at the sky. “Not about that, anyway.”
“I think it’s time I went to visit an old friend,” he told her, and her eyes flickered down to see he’d pulled his compass out again. She smiled softly, knowingly, and he ducked his head a bit.
“It’s time I collected on that dance.”
So ends the beginning of CA:TWS. This is going to be pretty AU in some ways, but will roughly be following the canon events. Just, you know, with a bit of rainbow interference.
Chapter 22: Chapter 21
Things start going south down in DC....
Short update but I wanted to get this out. Saw Civil War and it gave me so MANY feels (also ideas, holy crap have I gotten ideas!). It's...well, you'll see.
Kimberly was in the middle of paperwork (again—seriously, where was it all coming from?!) when Justin briefly appeared on her holographic phone.
“Get to Central Command. Now.”
She blinked at the phone a moment before instinct kicked in and she dropped everything and booked it to the main center of the building.
“What’s going on?” she demanded as she slid in to a stop, Jason, Carter, and Eric coming in opposite directions. Justin and both Alpha’s were furiously typing at computer screens. “Report!”
“Fury’s been attacked,” Justin answered. “Broad daylight, streets of DC.”
“Show me the aerial footage,” Kimberly demanded, standing to move to the holographic sphere in the middle of the room, a nostalgic upgrade to the Viewing Globe. The chaos that appeared made her breath catch.
“Those are not police,” Jason said instantly from next to her.
“How can you tell?”
“Normal officers don’t carry those types of guns,” he answered. “Not unless they’re SWAT or special forces.”
“Their general lack of care about civilian casualties is also a big indicator,” Carter added with a scowl.
“Who is that guy?” Eric demanded as they watched a new player, this one who seemed to have some sort of silver arm covering, joined the fray. The Quantum Ranger whistled low when the man pulled off the car door. “Strong guy.”
“He got out,” Kimberly said softly when the new player looked back up from inspecting the car. It appeared to be empty. “Now where would he go, I wonder?”
“Safe House?” Eric offered, frowning. She tilted her head in agreement.
“What do you want to do?” Jason asked, looking down at her as Tommy, Camille, and Taylor came and joined them, Justin getting them up to date.
“Fury has a project, an idea for protecting he world, and I don’t agree with it … It’s not protection, not to me. It’s fear.”
“I want a 24 hour surveillance on the Triskellion,” Kimberly ordered and watched as Alpha 5 and Justin immediately began pressing buttons. To the others she added, “Steve and I visited today, he mentioned something.”
“You think this had to do with that?”
“Since when has a coincidence ever turned out to just be a coincidence with us?” she asked sardonically.
“There have been plenty of coincidences,” Tommy argued.
“Green,” was all she said and he rolled his eyes.
“She has a point, bro,” Jason said, taking her side, Taylor nodding in agreement. Eric looked skeptical. Camille was just watching in amusement and clearly staying out of it. Smart woman.
She left Taylor and the boys arguing about ranger coincidences, going over to where Justin was looking over a read-out. “I gave Steve my emergency beacon,” she told him quietly. “I want you to keep a 24 hour lock on it.”
“If he needs an assist, I’ll have him out,” Justin agreed without hesitation. “Also, do yourself a favor and don’t tell Eric you gave away your beacon.”
“Not an idiot,” she promised with a quirked grin. “And I already got another one from Rose.”
It took about ten minutes (in which time the ranger coincidence debate had added Adam, Dana, Claire, and Angela to the mix) but eventually the holographic platform in the middle of the room showed a real-time view of SHIELD’s DC headquarters. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary yet but Kimberly couldn’t shake the feeling that wouldn’t last. “Keep watch,” she ordered. “Anything looks hinky, I’m the first informed, understood?”
“Ai, ai, ai, understood, Kimberly!” Alpha 5 chirped.
Satisfied, she headed towards the huddle in the corner and grabbed Jason, pulling him out with her towards his office. He didn’t put up a fight, just followed along quietly. Once inside the room, she hit the privacy button that disabled all recording devices.
“What’s up?” he asked, leaning against his desk instead of sitting behind it.
“This is your call as Ranger Response Director but I would like Jarrod’s team on standby,” she said and then quickly told him what Steve had told her. “It’s not a coincidence, Jason, and you and I both know it. Something hinky is going down with SHIELD.”
“We could get caught in the cross-fire,” he warned.
“I’m aware but I trust Steve’s instincts more than I do anyone on SHIELD’s payroll right now,” she said.
She hesitated, thinking about her boyfriend. They hadn’t really talked about his work yet, both sort of skirting the issue when they could. She wasn’t sure how devoted he was to the organization—something told her his loyalty was more to the people though and not the job.
“I don’t know,” she finally told him honestly. “But Steve is concerned about something, something I don’t think Clint knows about. That, coupled with everything that’s been going on with us being outed…”
“I see your point,” Jason conceded. “Yeah, I’ll tell Jarrod to be on standby. Though I’m curious why you don’t want it to be the older rangers.”
“The public knows who they are,” she answered. “No one knows who’s Jarrod’s team is yet.”
“If this goes south, Jarrod’s team can’t get in trouble because their identities are still under wraps,” he said. “The others don’t have that protection.”
“Neither do you,” Jason pointed out quietly. “You realize that, right? They could make you the scapegoat.”
“I’m expendable,” she shrugged. He straightened up, standing and not slouching anymore, as a rather formidable frown appeared on his lips. She rolled her eyes, knowing what was coming.
“I disagree but I know better than to argue with you about it,” he said, tone fond but annoyed. He switched gears. “What’s our next step?”
She glanced out his office window, where she could just make out Fireheart flying around the perimeter.
“We wait. And we watch. And if need be, we interfere.”
Chapter 23: Chapter 22
Fury dies and someone tries to intimidate Kimberly...this probably won't end well.
When word came to them about Fury’s attack at Steve’s apartment, Kimberly made an executive decision. She had a feeling this wasn’t going to end well and she wanted her people safe so she called an immediate but voluntary recall to the Island. While Camille got to deal with that headache, she teleported to the hospital Fury was at.
The agents on hand recognized her, thank goodness, and pointed her towards where Steve was. She got there just as he came out, looking more haunted and pissed off than she’d ever seen him. Granted, she hadn’t known him long but still…
“Fury’s dead,” he told her the moment he saw her. His jaw tensed and he took in a deep breath through his nose. “He’d already…”
“I know, I saw footage,” she told him, breaking in so he wouldn’t have to finish. “Where’s the rest of your team?”
“Right here,” someone said and she turned around. She raised an unimpressed eyebrow at what she found.
“Sorry, I meant the Avengers,” she told the agent—Brocklow? Brucklow? Something like that-- before quietly dismissing him and turning back to Steve. “Do you want me to call them for you?”
“Where’s Clint?” he asked and she paused, taking stock of what she knew about her boyfriend. She could still hear the man at her back and though she was uneasy, she was trying to ignore it.
She focused back on the Captain. “I think he’s with Tommy, actually,” she answered, remembering the quietly hidden terror of her ex with her current beau. “If he hasn’t found out by now…”
“He’s working as liaison to you guys, keep him with you,” Steve ordered and Kim nodded at the worry she could see in his eyes.
“Where’s Agent Romanoff?” she asked instead of arguing and he motioned into the room he’d just left. She nodded again. “What can I do, Captain?”
“Be on call as needed,” he requested and she could hear the man behind her shift. From the way his eyes flickered, Steve had noticed it too.
“You still have that gift I gave you?” she asked and Steve paused a moment before nodding. “Anything you need, Captain, you know how to contact me.” Agent Romanoff came out of the room then, her red-lined eyed eyes the only indication she was upset. Kimberly didn’t bother offering platitudes, knew it wouldn’t be welcomed. Instead, she nodded at the redhead. “Want me to bring Barton in?”
“No, keep him where he’s at, he needs to stay focused on his mission,” Romanoff told her and Kim nodded. There was clearly an uneasiness between both agents but they’d also both ordered her to keep Clint away so she intended to do as she was told for once.
She said her goodbyes and then quietly left the hall. She was aware of the man following her and ignored it until he made to follow her into the women’s restroom. She turned in the doorway, blocking him from going inside.
“Can I help you, Agent?” she asked with as much steel as she could muster into her voice.
“Stay out of this, Hart,” he ordered. His expression was hard, voice flat. “This is a SHIELD matter.”
“Maybe,” she said. “But the director of a global military organization in charge of a lot of projects, some of which my people are involved in, has just been assassinated. As a fellow director, I intend to keep an eye on things.”
“You’re not us,” he said, as if she needed to be reminded. “Stay out of it.”
“I don’t think I’m going do that, Agent,” she told him coolly though in her pocket, she was fingering her new recall device. “I may have had my differences with him, but I trust that Fury was doing what he thought was right so if he’s been assassinated, I want to know why. And to be honest, you’re in no position to tell me what to do as I don’t answer to you. Have a good day.”
She turned to leave but he grabbed her arm, squeezing hard enough she knew she’d have bruises without the power still thrumming through her blood. “This is your last warning,” he told her in what he probably assumed was a menacing tone. Granted, on a civilian it would probably have worked but she hadn’t been a civilian since she was fifteen years old. He eyes were cold as he glared at her. “Stay out of this.”
“And if you don’t take your hands off her in the next five seconds, my T-Rex will have a new snack,” a voice said and she turned to find Connor of all people standing behind the agent. With him were Ethan, Kira, Tori, and Dustin and she had to wonder as to what anyone was thinking, sending those five to back her up. Then the wall shimmered behind them and she amended her mental statement to include Trent. It could have been Tommy, with his invisibility, but seeing as how the agent hadn’t been thrown away from her yet, she really doubted it.
The agent took a look at them, probably wondered if he was being confronted with rangers or allies, and abruptly let her go. “We’re just having a conversation,” he said, holding his hands up and giving them all a mocking smile. “Nothing to see here.”
“Sure,” Dustin said and Kimberly’s eyebrows rose high on her forehead at the sarcastic tone. “Just a nice friendly chat between our boss about yours.”
The agent, apparently smarter than he looked, simply turned and stalked away. They all waited until he disappeared and then Tori immediately went over to Kim, holding out a hand cupped with water. “Do you need me to look at that for you?” she asked and Kim shook her head.
“I’d be blue if I were normal,” she told them and they understood it wasn’t bad enough that her powers weren’t handling it. She focused on Dustin. “You’ve been spending too much time with Cam, you know that?”
The others all snickered as Dustin turned bright red. Sensing she’d missed something here, she turned to give the wall an inquiring look. It rippled and Trent appeared, looking both amused and chagrined. “How’d you know I was there?” he demanded.
“You rippled when he was still trying to threaten me,” she informed him. “Lose concentration?”
“T-Rex snack,” he agreed and Conner grinned.
“Come on, lets get you back to base,” Tori said, still standing next to her. In a much quieter voice she added, “and I’ll tell you what’s been going on with Cam and Dustin.”
“Deal,” she whispered back and then allowed the six to teleport back with her to the Island.
It had been sheer dumb luck when their surveillance of the Triskellion caught the sudden stop of the elevator and then the fight going on inside. She’d already been coming inside the command area when Justin informed her of the situation.
“Teleport him!” she shouted, watching and helpless about it. “Teleport him now!”
“We can’t!” Justin shouted back, looking distinctly ruffled. “Not with them holding him—we’d get them too!”
Kimberly could see what he meant and was just about to tell him to do it anyway when Tommy grabbed her arm and shook his head. “Look,” he told her and she saw what had caught his attention—Steve was mopping the floor with the guys. Behind her, she could practically feel the others impressed expressions.
As she watched, the doors opened and then suddenly he was twirling and the elevator was dropping and then stopping. As she watched, she knew what he was going to do before he’d actually done it.
“Get him!” she practically screamed and thankfully, Justin had apparently realized what the captain was about to do just as she had because the national icon hadn’t even completely cleared the broken elevator before he disappeared in a blue, red, and white teleportation stream.
He reappeared next to them and for a moment, he tensed up, obviously not sure what had happened. She spoke up before he could go on the defensive.
“You know,” she said, trying to calm her racing heart and put as much humor in her tone as possible. “I do believe I gave you that recall beacon for a reason. This would have been one of those reasons.”
He looked up, took in her and the rest of the rangers looking down at him, and abruptly relaxed. He slowly stood up, brushing broken class off his body. “I didn’t exactly get a chance to use it,” he apologized.
She nodded, eyes tight. She looked at Justin and Cam, who were watching computer screens and listening to headsets. “Anything?” she asked and both shook their heads.
“From the chatter I’m picking up, they lost visual inside the elevator when the captain broke the camera,” Cam said with a sardonic smirk. “And they didn’t have any camera’s on the elevator when he jumped out so they didn’t see him get teleported out.”
“They’ll figure it out eventually,” the Captain told them. He focused on Kimberly. “You just picked up a whole lot of trouble.”
“So what else is new?” Jason retorted dryly from next to her. Steve just continued looking at them and Jason smirked. “You do not have all the trouble in the world, Cap, even though it might feel like it.”
“Trust us on that, we can handle ourselves,” Carter agreed. She took a quick look around and realized almost everyone in the building had apparently gravitated into the command center. She wondered if it was her screaming and shouting or word of mouth. Possibly both, she realized.
“They really, really can,” Clint agreed and she hadn’t even seen him come into the room, but there he was next to Tommy. He scowled at the surveillance screen that was now showing the unfortunate agents Cap had put down were stirring. “I never liked Rumlow.”
“Is that the guy from the hospital?” she asked and Steve nodded. “Huh. So not just a little bit of a jackass then. A major one.”
“Wait, is that the guy who tried intimidating you?” Eric asked, arms crossed. Though he was scowling, she could also see a bit of amusement, probably at the very idea of someone trying to intimidate her. Steve blinked a moment.
“He would have bruised her arm when he grabbed her if she weren’t a ranger,” Ethan pipped up. She gave him a dirty look and he shrugged back, not the least bit repentant. She turned back to find both Avengers looking at her intently.
She shrugged at them. “He was telling me to butt out of SHIELD business and I told him to shove it.” He and Clint both got pinched looks on their faces that looked remarkably similar to what she’d seen on Jason and Tommy’s over the years. Speaking of Tommy…
“It’s hard to intimidate someone who’s been to other planets and faced down monsters out of nightmares.” Kimberly was fairly certain Tommy was trying to reassure the Avengers but, as usual, he was largely failing.
She simply sighed as the room around her burst out laughing at Steve’s mutter.
“I still should have hit him harder.”
So...a year. I hadn't realized it'd been that long, life kinda snuck up on me and yeah. In the past year, however, I actually got to meet Amy Jo Johnson (Kimberly) and it was everything I could have imagined and...:D And now the movies out and it gave me so many ideas but I didn't have time and now I'm on the recovery end of Norovirus so all I can do is hang out and get my strength back so I did a LOT of writing. I promise to try and make sure I don't, you know, take another year between updates. :(
Chapter 24: Chapter 23
Kimberly is starting to get annoyed that Rogers keeps forgetting to use his get-out-of-jail-free-card...
“Alright, so, all joking aside, what do you need?” Kimberly asked once they got to the conference room. It was packed with every member of the admin team as well as the entire ranger council, which meant it was practically standing room only. Steve looked a bit overwhelmed but Clint seemed to be taking things in stride.
“He’ll need something else to wear, for starters,” her boyfriend decided. “And transportation to…where do you need to go?”
“Fury gave me some information before he got shot,” Steve answered after a moment of studying them. “He also said SHIELD is compromised.”
“See my surprise,” Kimberly sighed as the room filled with whispers and murmurs. “We’ll deal with that later, for now we focus on the immediate.”
“I’ll go get him some clothes,” Adam offered, standing up from where he'd managed to snag a seat.
“Make sure they’re baggy,” Kim told him. Everyone paused and stared at her, including Steve. She looked around. “What? Everyone knows his clothes tend to look painted on—if he’s going incognito, they can’t be. Its why he gets stared at so often—they do nothing to hide his patriotic hotness.”
“She’s right,” Clint said, and thankfully, he seemed more amused than jealous at the very thought of her checking his teammate out. He focused on Adam. “And don’t get him shoes that actually fit. Go a size or two bigger. It’ll change the way he walks.”
“Do I get a choice in this?” Steve asked but he didn’t look annoyed as Adam threw off a salute and headed out of the room.
“No,” she and Clint replied in unison. More than one ranger nearby was snickering but she ignored that.
“So what information were you given?” Justin asked, getting the meeting back on track.
“I don’t actually know, the USB drive…I hid it in the hospital,” Steve said. “Once you get me the clothes, I’ll go and get it. Find someplace I can access the information on it.”
“I want to say you can do that here but if SHIELD’s compromised…”
“I’m not going to let you anyway,” Steve told her. “You’ve done enough just getting me out of the Triskelion. I’ll do the rest on my own. And no, you’re not coming with, Barton.”
“If SHIELD is compromised, I need to know how deep,” Clint insisted, arms crossing. “I’ve been with them a lot longer than you have, I may be able to help root it out.”
“And what if you’re compromised?” Steve asked and the room went utterly still. Steve immediately looked contrite. “Barton…Clint, I’m sorry, that was uncalled for.”
“No, it wasn’t,” Clint said, looking both haunted and understanding. “You can’t trust anyone but the rangers right now and I get that—I could be compromised and not even know it.”
“He’ll stay here till we figure things out,” Tommy decided, taking the decision off her hands, thank God. The ranger leader folded his arms across his chest. “Like Kim said, what do you need from us? And don’t say we’ve done enough, because we haven’t.”
“Yes, you have,” Steve argued and Kim settled into her seat as one of the most stubborn soldiers in history decided to go toe to toe with one of the most stubborn rangers in history. This was going to be a long day.
In the end, Steve went alone back to the hospital. Or at least, he thought he did. Once they’d teleported him inside, Kim had nodded at Tommy and Rose and both of them disappeared and teleported after him.
Sometimes having rangers who could turn invisible was really handy.
While they waited on that, Kim headed to the platform connecting her to Stark Tower.
“About time,” Tony said when he appeared in front of her remarkably fast. “JARVIS has been trying to contact you for hours.”
“Get Pepper and Banner out of the country if you can,” she suggested, not even bothering to try and be contrite. “SHIELD’s compromised and if they’re willing to go after Rogers, they’ll go after the rest of you too.”
“Already done,” he replied without hesitation. “It’s just me and J in New York now.”
“Good,” she said. “Romanoff is off grid but I don’t think that’ll last, not with things as they are.”
“What about Barton and Coulson?”
“I’m not sure where Coulson is but Barton’s with me,” she told him. “He’s staying put just in case he’s compromised and doesn’t know it.”
“You got Rogers out of there, didn’t you? They can’t figure out how he disappeared,” Stark said, eying her. She smiled and he laughed. “Figures. What can I do?”
“What you do best,” she said with a look.
He smirked back at her. “Meddling it is. Stark out.”
“Meddling? I would say he pisses people off best,” Clint said from the doorway and she looked over at him.
“For him, that’s the same thing,” she told him and Clint chuckled. It faded, the smile disappearing. Even though she knew the answer, she still asked, “What’s wrong?”
“What if I am compromised?” he replied quietly, stepping closer. “After Loki…sometimes I don’t trust my own head anymore.”
“If you’re compromised, we’ll find out,” she told him just as quietly. She made no move to get in his personal space, though she was itching to. She remembered what she felt like after Maligore...and what had happened with Jarrod and Camille. She paused. “I know you hate magic…but there could be a way to find out for sure.”
“Clare,” he stated and she nodded. He wasn't arguing yet so maybe...
“I trust her with my life, Clint,” she told him, trying to convey with her voice and expression just how much she really did trust the sorceress. “And I trust her with yours.”
Clint nodded and straightened, a determined look coming to his face. “I can’t help with this hanging over my head,” he told her. “Let’s go find Clare.” She smiled, laughing softly. He frowned, looking a bit put out. “What? I was serious.”
“I know,” she told him, finally giving in and wrapping her arms around him. He did the same and she buried her face in his chest to add, “Which is how I know you’re a good man.”
“That makes no sense,” he complained as she led him out of the ranger senate.
“Unless you’re a ranger.”
“Which I am not.”
I wouldn’t be so sure she thought, remembering the colors of Steve’s teleportation stream. Non-rangers had always been just white. Even Rocky, Adam, Aisha, and Katherine had been white the few times they'd been teleported prior to becoming rangers. She’d never seen the teleportation stream of Clint or Tony, the two who'd actually been teleported before, but now she wasn’t wondering if they wouldn’t be purple and red.
She made a mental not to talk to Justin about it the next chance she got.
“We lost them,” Tommy reported back a few hours later. “Romanoff’s with him though so…”
They gave her a quick run down of what they'd seen, including the SHIELD team who'd been sent to the mall while the pair had been accessing the USB at an Apple store. Rose told her they'd gotten a location but she hadn't been able to get close enough to see where.
“They stole a truck and shook us as they left DC,” the former pink finished. “I think they may have been heading north though.”
“Of course,” Kimberly sighed. Clint was still with Clare, who was basically doing a full magical scan with Rita, Udonna, Leanbow, AND Daggeron helping. Jarrod and Jason were with the archer as moral support, but she’d been called back in to deal with the ongoing situation with SHIELD.
“Uh, Kim?” Justin called a few hours later. “Someone at SHIELD just fired a ballistic missile.”
“WHAT?!” she exclaimed, running over to him. “Where’s it going?”
“The trajectory indicates it will land at Fort Lehigh in New Jersey,” DECA announced.
“Fort Lehigh?” Kim asked, stumped. “SHIELD’s attacking a US Military base? That makes no sense.”
“Actually, it does when you take into account it’s where Steve Rogers was trained before the serum,” Eric told her. At her incredulous look, he shrugged. “I’ve been reading up on him ever since we joined forces.”
“Right, of course you have,” she shook her head. “How long till—”
“Now,” Justin broke in grimly and holographic sphere lit up with satellite imagery of the fiery wreckage of the former base. It switched to a map with red circles lit up, all of them moving steadily towards the site of the missile strike. “SHIELD’s already enroute.”
“Check for a recall beacon,” she ordered and a few seconds later Natasha Romanoff and Steve Rogers, both looking incredibly worse for wear, were laying in front of her. Romanoff had tensed up, as Steve had before, but the captain just relaxed and let his shield fall to the floor.
“Again with the not using the beacon,” Kim scolded as they struggled to their feet.
“And again with no time,” the soldier replied. He smelled strongly of smoke and dust and his sleeve was smoldering, like it had been on fire quite recently. He looked around. “Literally, in this case. What happened?”
“Justin noticed the missile and when we found out where it was heading, I figured you were probably there,” she told him. She couldn't help but tell him, “Seriously, I gave you the recall beacon for a reason, try and remember you have it.”
“What recall beacon?” Romanoff asked, rolling her shoulder and wincing as she did so.
“Basically a homing beacon that allows us to lock on and teleport someone out of danger,” Justin told her while Kim glowered at the soldier. “Kim gave Rogers one and this is twice now he hasn’t thought to use it before she did an involuntary recall to save his life.”
“Alright, who got blown up?” a voice demanded and they all turned to find Dana standing in the entryway, hands on her hips. She took a deep look at everyone before focusing on the two Avengers. “Well, this is new. Normally it's one of our techs I have to deal with when I get called to the Power Center.”
Immediately the techs all argued against this and, as usual, Dana ignored them.
“We need to lie low for a while,” Steve told Kim as the former pink ranger came over and began fussing over him. He ignored it, too focused on her. Out of the corner of her eye, Kim saw Romanoff smirking though.
“You can do that here,” she told him, folding her arms.
“I told you before, you’ve all done enough to help—twice now,” he insisted. “I can do this—”
“If you say you can do this alone, I am going to smack you,” she warned him. “Cause twice now we have had to pull your ass out of the fire.”
“I would have been fine,” he told her. He glanced at Natasha, who was just watching in amusement. “We would have been fine. I’ve dealt with this before.”
“Oh?” she asked and out of the corner of her eye she saw more than one ranger/ally suddenly trying to appear invisible. Good, she had them trained well. She focused back on Rogers. “And what, exactly, is this?”
“HYDRA,” Romanoff answered before Rogers could try and lie. Kimberly turned to the redhead, who was being surprisingly non-argumentative about Cassie running one of their new healing tools over her face.
“HYDRA?” she repeated and they both nodded. She focused more on Rogers. “And you can deal with them?”
“Yes,” he replied, tone firm.
“Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t you end up sleeping for seventy years the last time you ‘dealt with them’?” she asked and then steamrolled right over whatever it was he was about to say. “I’m not saying you didn’t win but let us help you avoid the cryogenic freeze this time, okay?”
“I am not Jason nor am I Tommy,” she informed him quietly. “Which means you can’t out-stubborn me. There’s a reason I got this job and that I’ve kept it. We’re helping whether you like it or not.”
“Fine, but I want to bring someone else in,” he said after a brief staring match. “Someone not connected to the Rangers.”
“Stark is doing what he does best—”
“Pissing people off?” Romanoff asked.
“—and Banner and Pepper have already been sent away from the US,” she continued, though she spared the agent a smile. “Clint’s getting his head looked at by our magical team to make sure he’s not compromised in any way he can’t detect. Thor is back on Asgard, as far as we know. Which leads me to ask who you want to bring in?”
“His name is Sam Wilson,” he told her and Kim nodded at Justin nearby, who immediately began looking for the man. “He’s former Air Force, not connected with me or Natasha as far as I know…”
“And he’s not connected with the rangers,” she said, nodding. “Okay, I see why you’d want him. Justin?”
“He’s a good choice,” he called back, fingers flying over the keyboard. He flashed Kim an amused grin. “He was one of the Falcons.”
Kimberly blinked, recalling the program the Air Force had asked Angela to work on years past. She’d used basic information from her time creating zords and other various weapons and devices to make the program a success. Program had died though when they lost two many of the pilots. “Wasn’t that program shut down?”
“Yeah, there's only one prototype left,” Justin agreed. He paused. “I can call Will to go and get it if you want.”
“Have him take Rose with,” she ordered after a minute and Justin made the call. She turned back to Steve. “You sure about this?”
“We need someone who can’t be connected to either the rangers or the Avengers,” Romanoff answered before Steve could. “I don’t know the guy and I didn’t report the interaction when I picked Steve up from their run. SHIELD wont have him on their radar.”
Steve got a look at his face at that but Kimberly decided she didn’t want to know. “Alright, we’ll do things your way, for now,” she told Steve. “But if I have to use the beacon even one more time to save your sorry ass, this becomes our op, do you understand? You can’t do this alone and there's easier ways of getting things done, ways that don't end with a bloody and bruised Captain America who smells like Vesuvius blew up on him.”
The expression on his face would have been comical if she weren’t dead serious. She’d seen what happened to people (rangers, mostly, but also others) who tried to do things on their own like this. No way in hell was she letting him do this alone.
A white teleportation stream lit up the room then and when it coalesced, she smiled at the alarmed look on the handsome man’s face. “What…?”
“We need your help,” Steve said, moving into Wilson’s line of sight. Wilson calmed down the moment he recognized the man.
“Everyone except these guys are trying to kill us,” Romanoff added.
To his credit, Wilson just looked at the two of them a moment, looked around, and then focused back on them. “Not everyone,” he told them seriously. Mentally, Kim cheered at his complete lack of freaking out--always a good sign when trying to get help with weird shit. “What do you need?”
“How would you like to get back in your wings?” Kim asked with a small grin.
“They’re locked up in a military base,” he told her, ignoring the actual question, which she supposed was answer enough. “How do you intend to get them out?”
“A world-class thief and a scientist who can turn invisible.”
Sneak Peak at what’s to come:
“…You’re not one of them?”
“God no,” she shuddered. “Can you imagine the insanity of me being an Avenger? Jesus, don’t give me nightmares like that.”
For a very brief moment, his lips twisted up in a humorous smirk. It vanished just as quickly as it appeared.
Chapter 25: Chapter 24
Kimberly finally meets the acting director of SHIELD...it goes as well as can be expected.
“Uh, can we go in yet?” Eric was starting to get antsy watching the fight but Kim was holding him back. She knew Steve wanted to keep them out of this and she even understood why. This wasn’t really their battle. She didn’t like it, but she understood it. She’d likely be the same way if the Avengers tried interfering in a Ranger battle,
Still, she was allies with these people, which was why they were here. They’d been on the outskirts, keeping an eye on everything as Wilson, Ramonoff, and Rogers went in after Sitwell. The death of that man was not something she wanted to think about at the moment. Thankfully, she was too busy watching from the sidelines to give it much thought. Dressed in her old armor, which she’d finally donned fully, she was waiting for when Steve truly needed them.
Then Steve flipped the Winter Soldier around, his mask came off, and the man stood up. Kimberly’s breath caught as she instantly recognized him. His hair was longer, he had more stubble than most of the pictures she’d seen of him, but this was undoubtedly…
“Bucky?” she faintly heard Steve say over the sound of Eric cursing a blue streak next to her and her own ears ringing in shock. Things happened ridiculously fast after that and she was suddenly glad she’d kept everyone back when SHIELD/HYDRA, led by the jackass Rumlow, came in.
“At least he had the smarts not to do anything in broad daylight,” she muttered as they clapped Steve in what looked to be reinforced handcuffs. Romanoff didn’t put up much of a fight and Kim wondered about that—she’d lost sight of the redhead for a while but it looked like she might be injured. Wilson was glowering at the goons taking his wings. Eric grunted next to her when all three were put in the truck. Her other side was suspiciously silent and Kim looked around, trying to find… “Where’d Tommy go?”
“He was just here!” Jarrod said, frowning, as he too looked around. Jason caught her eye, a twisted smile on his face, and Kim felt a headache coming on even as she couldn’t help but chuckle.
“He just can’t leave well enough alone, can he?” she asked and the original red sniggered. Shaking her head, she motioned for all of them to head out. Just before she pressed her button, she caught Steve’s eye and he glared with meaning and she waved a hand even as she rolled her eyes.
Yeah, no, she wasn’t stupid enough to try and get them out right now.
She’d wait until she got a sit-rep from Tommy first.
Less than ten minutes after she got back and ordered the techs to try and find both Barnes AND their wayward trio, Justin came into her office hesitantly.
“Kim, I…really don’t want to give you this news,” he informed her, holding a tablet in front of him like a shield.
“Then don’t,” she advised good natured.
“See, I really think I have to,” he replied and he looked rather annoyed about it.
“Did Tommy get caught?” she asked and he shook his head, lips twitching in brief amusement. Tommy hadn’t contacted them yet which she supposed was either a really good thing or a really bad one.
“No, it’s not him,” he said and then took a deep breath. “SHIELD’s calling us. Specifically, the new guy in charge, Pierce.”
Kim stared at him a moment, taking that in. From their eavesdropping, they knew SHIELD were suspecting them in the whole Steve disappearing act but they had no physical proof yet. This could be a call to sniff them out and find out what they could or…or it could be the new director trying to make nice with her. Which, she snorted, was so not happening anytime soon. The list of people she trusted in that organization was down to half a dozen, if that.
Justin was still looking nervous and wary and she sighed, standing up. “Where is he calling from?”
“The SHIELD platform,” he answered promptly. “He’s just…waiting. In the Senate. Eric’s with him.”
“Then maybe we should get over there before our head of search and rescue starts an incident, hm?” she asked and Justin gave a chuckle.
On the way to the Senate, Kim thought about the conversation to come, mentally planning and also throwing out different strategies. This could go any which way. Pierce was an unknown, she hadn’t had to deal with him even remotely yet. She had no idea what to expect him to try.
She was suddenly really really nostalgic for the conversations with Fury—at least with him, she knew exactly what to expect.
Jason joined her at the entrance to the chamber, where, just as Justin had said, Alexander Pierce’s holographic form was standing in the center, looking around. He wouldn’t be able to see anything except Eric, who was leaning against the half wall separating the seats from the main floor. He had his arms crossed and his expression was hard, unwavering. He also wasn’t speaking, even though Pierce himself was trying to talk to him.
“What’s the plan?” Jason asked next to her.
“MIUAWG,” she replied promptly.
Jason nodded sagely as she threw her shoulders back and walked into the room. “‘Make it up as we go,’ it is” she heard him mumble as Pierce noticed their approach and turned to them.
“Hello,” Kimberly greeted the new Director once she was a few feet from the hologram. Eric was still leaning against the wall behind her, not having moved. “I wish I could say it’s a pleasure to meet you, but that would be a lie.”
She heard a muffled snort from somewhere but was too busy watching Pierce’ reaction to either find out who it was or who all was watching. She was willing to bet it was a lot of people though. For some reason, they all seemed to enjoy watching her interactions with the SHIELD/Avengers people.
“Ms. Hart,” the older man greeted back.
“Director Hart, actually,” Jason corrected from next to her. “We heard you’ve taken over for Fury.”
“Temporarily,” Pierce said. “Just until a new director can be found.”
Kim would bet her entire salary as Billy’s humanitarian coordinator that the new director of SHIELD would actually be HYDRA.
“Any idea who that might be?” she asked. “I mean, SHIELD and AO aren’t on the best of terms right now but it’d be nice to know who I’ll be dealing with.”
“Well, for now it’s me,” he said. “And that’s actually why I called.”
She tilted her head a bit. “The new director?”
“No, SHIELD and Alpha Operations,” he said. “Director Fury may have had his differences with you but he strongly believed in what you were doing. He told me during more than one conversation that having you on our side could only benefit both our organizations.”
Though she was skeptical of the claim, she didn’t let it show. “And what about you?”
“I’m willing to give it a shot,” he said. He was studying her intently. “I agree that an alliance, a strong alliance, could greatly benefit both our people.”
“If you’re fishing for Ranger tech, I already told Fury the answer was no,” she told him promptly and bluntly. “I’m not changing my mind just because someone new is in charge.”
Most people wouldn’t have noticed the way the skin around his eyes tightened at that pronouncement but Kim had spent a lot of time with politicians because of her dad and her old job with Lone Wolf. She’d learned how to recognize most of their ticks and current job notwithstanding, this man was a politician through and through. “May I ask why?” he asked calmly.
“For one, it doesn’t work,” she told him. Before he could question that, she explained. “To properly use a ranger power, you have to have someone who’s been…chosen, so to speak.”
“What do you mean?”
Kim caught sight of their military liaison. “Lightspeed got their first team because, honestly, they kinda got lucky,” she told the temporary director. Behind him, the aforementioned people all straightened in their seats and one or two looked vaguely insulted. “Mitchell and Fairweather chose people with a strong moral center and with noble and honorable intentions. People who genuinely wanted to help and protect all of humankind, even if it meant giving their own lives.” Most of the Lightspeed team were now smiling smugly or blushing, though Angela still looked irked.
“What does that have to do with using a ranger power?” Pierce asked.
“The Power is almost sentient,” she told him. “I told Fury this—it can sense the intentions of anyone who puts on a morpher. Anyone who tries morphing or becoming a ranger has to be approved by the Power. It’s why none of the soldiers were able to use the morphers after Lightspeed hung up their helmets. The Power didn’t find them worthy because what they wanted to do with the ranger powers was against its code.”
“Correct me if I’m wrong but haven’t rangers been less than honorable in the past?”
“Yes, but every time was due to outside influence.”
“What do you mean?”
This was not the way she imagined this conversation going but at the same time, it really should have been what she expected. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Tommy appear, looking a bit annoyed. She gave a half smile. “The original green ranger was essentially brainwashed when he started out,” she told the man and she could just see Tommy startle. “The Power, however, could sense what a good man he was outside of that influence. It’s why he was able to use the powers and why, when he got the brainwashing out of his system, he was still able to morph.”
Tommy gave her a small smile but she ignored that to focus more on the acting Director.
“What if the person truly thought they were doing good?” he asked and flashing neon lights flew around in her head.
“For the Power, the ends don’t always justify the means,” she told him bluntly.
“Nazi’s, for example, would never be able to use a morpher,” she told him. “They may truly believe they were helping the human race by committing genocide but the Power would disagree.”
She was treading on thin ice now and she was well aware of it. Her entire body was tense, waiting to see what he would say. She hadn’t bluntly called him out on being HYDRA but the hint was there. She wondered if he was going to take the bait. She didn’t think he would—this was not a stupid man—but still…
“You seem to know a lot about this Power.” It sounded like a statement but she could feel the question. She inwardly nodded at the lack of a bite.
“I was a ranger,” she told him. “Knowing the Power is…instinct. Sometimes I know it better than I know myself.”
“You could be wrong.”
“But I’m not.”
“So, no rangers for SHIELD,” he said.
“No, no rangers for SHIELD.”
“Do all of your cohorts agree with this?”
“Yes,” Jason said before she could. “We do.”
“What he said,” Eric finally spoke up. She glanced at him and found him standing just to her right, staring down the acting director. She hadn’t even felt him move, too busy trying not to get tripped up by the older man on the holographic platform.
“You used the powers in a police force position,” Pierce said, looking at the Quantum Ranger. “‘The Power’ didn’t disagree then?”
She could tell, by the way he spoke, that he thought the whole “Power” thing was bullshit. Well, bully for him. The Power was real and always got real bitchy when people tried screwing with it. More than one person had found that out the hard way.
“I wasn’t murdering people who had done nothing wrong,” Eric told the man with a cynical and knowing tone. He paused and she glanced at over at him again. His face was thoughtful as he glanced back at her then focused on Pierce again. “I like to think the Power would have had no problems with me hunting down the Ten Rings, especially after what they did to Tony Stark.”
“It’d definitely would have let us hunt down the Nazi’s though,” Jason offered just as thoughtfully. Eric smirked and nodded in agreement.
It took every trick in her arsenal to keep her expression blank at the look on Pierce’s face. He knew a threat when he heard one and, being such a smart man, he had to know what they weren’t outright saying. If he stepped one toe out of line, the Rangers would be there to shut him down.
“Well, this has been enlightening,” Pierce said, giving her a smile. I bet it has, she thought but didn’t say. “While I’m sorry we can’t have rangers now, maybe in the future Alpha Operations and SHIELD can discuss it again. In the meantime, I have to go check on some of the missions SHIELD has in the works.” He excused himself and the platform cut off.
“Well, that’s it,” she said, sighing as the lights came on and she found the entire viewing gallery was packed with rangers and allies, more than even she had been expecting. “We go down in history as the people who ticked off ALL the SHIELD directors.”
“If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well?” Taylor offered and the entire room seemed to swell with snickers.
“Touche,” she said, lips twitching.
“Is no one going to talk about the fact he just threatened you?” she heard Clint ask. She looked around before she found him standing with Rita and Zedd in the entryway. He was pale but livid even as his lips kept twitching at whatever it was her former nemesis’ were fervently discussing next to him. From the way Zedd’s eyes kept glaring at the platform, she had a feeling it had to do with what they could do to Pierce and not fall dark again.
“Wait, he threatened her?” someone, she thought it might have been Fran, asked.
“Yup,” she chirped, not taking her eyes off her boyfriend. “The whole thing about future negotiations after his question if we all thought the same way—he was hinting I wouldn’t be part of them and maybe someone else would be more willing to give him working morphers.”
“The mission thing too,” Clint agreed flatly over the angry murmurings of several dozen rangers. “He was threatening to make you one of them.”
“He’s welcome to try,” Kim retorted with a snort. “I am not scared of one jumped up political Nazi.”
“You’re not leaving the Island for a while,” Eric decided abruptly and she snapped her head back to him. She opened her mouth but he steamrolled right over her, looking even more annoyed with her than usual. “And don’t argue with me because I can have Tommy put it to a council vote.”
There was a lot of nodding going around the room and Kim knew a losing battle when she saw one so she just rolled her eyes and let it go.
I'm gonna try and get through CAWS before next weekend. No promises though, lol. I've also decided everything after that is gonna be non-compliant though so just an FYI.
Also, I am SERIOUSLY thinking of creating Power Island on Minecraft this summer.
And when I say I'm thinking about, what I mean is I've already started planning on how to do it
Chapter 26: Chapter 25
Kimberly spies on the spy...and then makes some plans with Cap.
“So what do you got for me?” Kimberly asked once she’d dragged Tommy into the conference room. It was emptier than the last time, with just the main admin team there. Kim was sitting at the head of the table, Tommy on her left and Camille on her right. Jason was next to Tommy and Eric was across from him, with Carter, Dana, Clare, Angela, Justin, Mike, Mitchell, and Jarrod all filling out the rest of the table. Adam, Taylor, Zhane, Trini, Dominic, Karone, and Leo were also present but were sitting in the chairs against the walls. Clint was the only non admin team member there; he was standing just behind Kim in what could only be called a guardian pose.
“Well, first of all, Fury says thanks for getting Cap out of the situation and that it was a good call keeping Barton on the island till this is all straightened out,” Tommy said. There was a pause and then everyone started talking at once. Kim refrained from joining in the hubbub, figuring everyone else would ask what she wanted to know anyway.
“Some meds to make it look like he died,” Tommy said, answering Dana’s question on how he survived. He handed her a small print out. “This is for you, actually—Natasha wanted to know if there was anything we could do to heal up his recovery.”
“How pissed was Cap that you followed him?” Clint asked and she craned her head around to look at him—he didn’t seem all that surprised Fury had survived. He gave her a brief smile before focusing back on the description Tommy was giving of their—in his words—epic argument.
Apparently Captain America had a potty mouth on him when he’d had too many shocks in a short amount of time.
“It’s not just the shock,” Clint corrected them dryly before changing the subject. “What’s their plan?”
“I got sent out before I could find out,” Tommy said. “They knew about me but I called Justin and he sent Rose in when I left. They don’t know about my invisibility, I don’t think, and they certainly don’t know about Rose’s so…”
“You two switched out when you left,” Kim said and Clint barked out a laugh behind him. She looked back at him again and found him grinning.
“Fury is going to be pissed when he finds out you have two people who can literally turn invisible and he didn’t know about it,” he informed them all gleefully. Everyone chuckled.
“Oh, I think we can do one better,” Will said, coming into the room with a tablet.
“What is that?”
“There’s a reason Rose is my favorite pink,” the thief informed her with a smirk. He turned it around and Kim found herself looking at an alive, talking Nick Fury. She couldn’t hear it but his mouth was moving so…
“Give it here,” Justin ordered and he and Angela did their thing so the screen behind Kim lit up with the surveillance.
“I gave her the tech before she left,” Angela explained as they all turned to watch. “It’s still in the prototype phase but…”
“Why didn’t I know about this tech?” Kim asked, looking at her.
“We figured it was better to have it now just in case instead of wishing we had it when we needed it later on,” Angela admitted. “And we weren’t sure you’d give the go ahead—it’s not exactly in our Code to spy on people.”
Kim nodded, deciding to table the discussion for now. There were bigger fish to fry.
“This man declined the Nobel Peace Prize,” Fury as saying when everything finally got hooked up and the audio was activated. “He said peace wasn’t an achievement, it was a responsibility…See, it’s stuff like this that gives me trust issues.”
Kim glanced at Angela. “Can he hear us?” she asked in as soft a whisper as she could as the group on screen discussed what they needed to do. Angela shook her head.
“We can make it go two ways, Rose has a second tablet with her. But no, two-way communication hasn’t been activated yet.”
On the screen, Hill was explaining the reason for replacing the server blades. “One or two won’t cut it, we need to link all three carriers for this to work, because if even one of those ships remain operational, a whole lot of people are gonna die.”
“Taylor, prep any zords we can get piloted. I want them in the air and headed to DC in ten minutes,” Kimberly ordered quietly and the yellow ranger practically raced out of the room. Justin went with, probably to help organize.
“We have to assume everyone aboard those carriers are HYDRA,” Fury said. “We have to get past them, insert these server blades. And maybe, just maybe, we can salvage what’s left…”
Kim shook her head even as Steve broke in, “We’re not salvaging anything. We’re not just taking down the carriers, Nick. We’re taking down SHIELD.” Fury tried arguing but Steve steamrolled right over him. “You gave me this mission. This is how it ends. SHIELD’s been compromised, you said so yourself. HYDRA grew right under your nose and nobody noticed.”
Fury scowled a bit. “Why do you think we’re meeting in this cave?” he asked. “I noticed.”
“How many died before you did?” Kimberly muttered at the same time Steve said practically the same thing on the screen.
“He’s right.” Surprisingly, it was Hill who spoke up in agreement first. Kim made a mental note of that, watching as Fury looked around at the others finally getting to Wilson.
The man shook his head. “Don’t look at me. I do what he does, just slower.” Kim smiled briefly before looking at her tech director.
“Initiliaze two-way communication,” Kimberly ordered and Angela typed a few things in the tablet and then nodded at Kim to let her know they were live.
“If we’re taking a vote, I agree with the captain,” Kim said into the microphone she was given. On screen, everyone in the room but Steve and Natasha startled, even Fury. As an afterthought she added, “Don’t shoot my messenger, please.”
She smiled as they all suddenly focused in the same direction and she knew Rose had finally revealed herself.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Fury demanded.
“Well, you sent Tommy packing and as you just said, this is gonna get messy so we’re staying in the loop any way we can,” she shrugged. She focused on Steve, not knowing if he could tell or not. “I’m sending the zords we have to DC but I don’t know the ETA. Most of them are ground vehicles, they may not get there in time.”
“We’ll do what we can from here,” Steve told her. “What else can you spare?”
“Jason, how many active teams can you get ready to go out?” she asked, looking over at her friend.
“Three, maybe four,” he answered. “Plus several lone rangers.”
“One team per carrier, with the lone rangers on the ground,” Fury said, nodding. Steve nodded as well so Kim motioned for Jason to go and get his people ready.
“Kim, technically by our guidelines you have to run this by the council,” Tommy reminded her quietly.
“Then maybe you should go and let them know what we’re about to do,” she suggested.
“She can enact the Zordon protocol if need be,” Eric reminded them as Tommy left the room.
“What’s the Zordon protocol?” Clint and Natasha asked at the same time.
The Zordon protocol was basically a one use thing where she got to override the wishes the council. It was written into the guidelines they’d drawn up with Trey of Triforia and the Aquitain Rangers help. The problem with that, of course, was once she enacted the protocol, she would be forced to resign her post as head of AO.** It was meant to keep the director accountable and unable to assume complete control.
“Millions of people are going to die if these carriers get operational,” Natasha reminded them after Kim explained what it was.
“Which is why she won’t have to use it, not for this,” Carter assured them. “None of them are going to argue, Tommy taking a vote is just a formality at this point.”
“Who’s gonna argue if you don’t?” Fury asked and she could see genuine curiosity there.
“Half my paperwork is letting the galactic ranger community know what we’re doing,” she informed him dryly. “I’d rather not have the headache that will happen if they see I didn’t take a vote on something like this.”
“I can think of three planets off the top of my head who will give her hell for it,” Karone agreed.
“Back on topic, what else do you need?” Kim asked, breaking in.
“Rose will stay here,” Steve decided. “Help coordinate with you through Fury. When we have something else, we’ll let you know.”
“Deal,” she said. “I’m sending a few others to you. Make use of their talents.”
Steve frowned. “Who are you sending? What can they do?”
“Oh they can do lots,” Kim smiled. “Tell me, Captain, have you ever worked with ninja’s before?”
** I may or may not have taken this from the Quarians in the Mass Effect game. :)
Chapter 27: Chapter 26
Kimberly and co join the fight at the Triskelion.
About an hour later, Kimberly got a call from Steve while she was in the Command Chamber. She told Justin to put it up on speaker so they all could hear.
“Rose is sending you the plan we came up with,” he told them. “It’s not much but…it’s the best we got.”
She looked at Justin, who gave her a thumbs up.
“We’ll look it over and add what we can,” she told him, looking up at the ceiling for wont of a visual. “Anything else you need in the meantime?” He hesitated a moment and she frowned. “Steve?”
“The world-class thief you mentioned before, the one who got Sam’s wings,” he said slowly and nearby, Will poked his head up, looking over at her from where he’d been studying the schematics Fury had sent them.
“Think he’d be able to break into the Smithsonian for me?”
“You ready?” Eric asked her as the car pulled up outside the Triskelion. He’d argued like hell about this part of the plan and had finally only agreed to it when she told him he could be one of her guards.
“Are you?” she asked instead, motioning to him. “Sitting in that thing like this can’t be comfortable.”
She couldn’t see his face, the helmet was obscuring it, but she thought he might have smiled. “It may not be comfortable but I guarantee it’ll make an impression.”
“Are we doing this or not?” Wes demanded next to them. He too was suited up and Kim laughed as she opened the door and got out. The two men followed and just as she’d known they would, the people stopped to stare. She couldn’t blame them.
It wasn’t every day you saw two time force rangers bracketing the unmorphed original pink.
Other rangers were already in position around the building, all currently unmorphed but ready to change at a moment’s notice. In her ear, so tiny it was pretty much invisible unless you knew it was there, was a communication device. She had another device, this one for recording, stuck to her chin. It was designed specifically to blend. At most, they may think she had a pimple which, while not thrilling, she could deal with. The devices were connected to Justin, the Alpha’s, and everyone else. The only ones who weren’t connected were Fury, Hill, Wilson, Rogers, and Romanoff—they hadn’t told them about them. This way, everything could be recorded and analyzed later on without having to worry about them getting pissy about it.
Ahead of her she could see the World Security Council members getting out of their own cars. Pierce met them there. He didn’t even try to control his surprise at seeing her. They hadn’t exactly left off on good footing. “I wasn’t aware we were expecting you,” he greeted her curiously.
“I asked Director Hart to attend,” Hawley told them. “She’s the only other person on the planet with any idea the magnitude of what SHIELD is trying to accomplish, given her own director status.”
“Fury let me in on Insight,” Kimberly added. And technically, she wasn’t even lying; she just wasn’t telling them when Fury had brought her in. “He thought the ranger tech might have been of use. Unfortunately, my technicians said they didn’t have anything to add to the program as it stands now.”
This, of course, was a blatant lie as every single tech had had quite a lot to say about the project and none of it good.
“Of course,” he agreed as the other three councilor’s nodded in understanding.
“I also thought we might discuss your earlier proposal,” she told him and did her utmost best to look contrite and as if it physically pained her to admit it. “A few of my colleagues made points I hadn’t considered before.”
He was clearly surprised, but pleased. He motioned for them to follow him. “How was your flight?” he asked Hawley.
“Lovely,” she replied. “The ride from the airport, less so.”
Pierce gave a brief chuckle. “Sadly, SHIELD can’t control everything.”
“Including Captain America,” Councilman Rockwell said snidely. Kim blinked at him in fake curiosity.
“I’d heard about that,” she said. “What happened?”
She was ignored by pretty much everyone, not that she’d truly expected an answer.
::Kim, everyone’s in position and Rogers is in the building:: Jason reported through the comm link. ::Give us the go-ahead when you’re ready.::
“This facility is biometrically controlled,” Pierce said as a soldier came up to them with a box. “And these will give you unrestricted access. I’m afraid since we weren’t expecting you, I don’t have one for you, Miss Hart.”
“Director Hart,” Eric corrected.
“Of course. Director,” Pierce nodded.
::He’s forgetting her title on purpose, isn’t he?:: Merrick asked.
::Yeah, he’s trying to demean her.:: Clint agreed. He snickered. ::It must be driving him nuts that she hasn’t been reacting to it like he expected her to.::
“Surely we can trust Director Hart and her men to adhere to the rules here,” Hawley said and Kim gave her a thankful nod even as she tried focusing on both the in person conversation and the one going on in her ear. None of the other councilors seemed against it, to Kimberly's relief.
Pierce nodded. “Just remain with one of us during your stay,” he agreed but she could see the tightening around the eyes. He led them to the elevator and the group chattered about this and that on the trip up. When they exited, she found they seemed to be on the top floor. Eric and Wes were asked to remain outside of the council chambers, near the elevator. When they looked at her, she nodded in agreement.
::We’ll be ready to go at your order:: Wes informed her. She gave them a brief smile and then followed the group into the glass encased room.
“I know the road hasn’t exactly been smooth,” Pierce said once she and the four councilors had glasses of Champaign. “And some of you would have gladly kicked me out of the car along the way.”
::Apparently we aren’t the only one who dislikes Pierce.:: Carter noted.
“Finally, we’re here. And the world should be grateful.” He held up his glass and all but Hawley and Kim did the same.
“Attention all SHIELD agents, this is Steve Rogers.”
Kim looked up, mentally noting the plan seemed to be on schedule so far.
“You’ve heard a lot about me over the last few days,” he continued over the PA. “Some of you were even ordered to hunt me down. But I think it’s time you know the truth.”
Slowly, so she wouldn’t be noticed, Kim moved so she was behind and to the side of Hawley. She didn’t know what Steve planned to say but he’d promised to make it memorable and distracting so she and her team could do what they needed to do. The group was so busy listening to the PA that they didn’t notice when the biometric devices Pierce had given them silently disappeared from their persons.
“SHIELD is not what we thought it was. It’s been taken over by HYDRA. Alexander Pierce is their leader.”
Every one of them turned to Pierce, who just gave a wry smile and a shrug, like he wasn’t worried. Given his plan, she figured he probably wasn’t.
"The STRIKE and Insight crew are HYDRA as well. I don’t know how many more, but I know they’re in the building. They could be standing right next to you.”
Pierce had pulled out device, it looked like his phone, and began typing on it.
“They almost have what they want. Absolute control. They shot Nick Fury. And it won’t end there. If you launch those helicarriers today, HYDRA will be able to kill anyone that stands in their way. Unless we stop them.”
::HYDRA are at the carriers:: Tommy reported. ::They’ve shot the guards. Do I have a go to go in?::
She nodded at Eric through the glass.
::You have a go, Tommy.:: the Quantum Ranger relayed. She shot him a quick two and then three fingers and he nodded back. ::Ninja’s, Overdrive, you have a go as well.::
“I know I’m asking a lot. But the price of freedom is high. It always has been. And it’s a price I’m willing to pay.”
The elevator doors opened and Kim could see the STRIKE team come out and immediately smack and then shoot Eric and Wes. Both went down hard and didn’t get up.
::Like that’d be enough to put us down:: Eric said with a laugh as the STRIKE team decided they were finished and moved towards them.
::At least now we can report energy weapons do more damage than gunshots:: Wes replied cheerfully. Kim’s lips quirked even as she gave a signal for them to remain down. Better they think they got the drop on the rangers than know they were still a threat.
“And if I’m the only one, then so be it. But I’m willing to bet I’m not.” Steve finished and then a click was heard that indicated the connection had cut. Everyone froze a moment before the councilors turned on an unconcerned Pierce.
“You smug son of a bitch,” Rockwell said as STRIKE came into the room.
“Arrest him,” Singh ordered. Instead, the entire team pulled guns on the four councilors and her.
“I guess I’ve got the floor,” Pierce said.
::They’re trying to launch them early!:: Tori informed them as Pierce moved to the window. Kim fingered her morpher in her pocket as she eyed the group holding them up. Through the glass, she noticed Wes and Eric both crawling slowly towards the doors to the council chambers. ::Do I have permission to intervene?::
::Not yet!:: Dustin replied before she could. ::That scientist isn’t going to do it::
::We’ve got shooting!:: Shane shouted, not that he needed to as she could hear it.
::Rumlow’s overriding!:: Hunter added. ::Damnit, I really wish we had our powers!::
::Shit, they’re being launched!::
::Cam, can you override his override?:: Eric demanded.
::I won’t have enough time!:: Cam responded.
::The bay doors are opening!:: Tommy reported.
::Damnit, all of you morph!:: Jason ordered. ::Those carriers don’t get out of here!::
::ETA on the zords?!:: Carter shouted.
::The aerial zords are another ten minutes out!:: Taylor answered. ::We’re not going to make it in time!::
::Like hell we aren’t!:: Joel shouted. ::Go, baby, go!::
As Kim listened to her people’s conversation, all of the council members, Pierce, the STRIKE soldiers, and Kim turned to watch the battle that began outside. It didn’t take long for them to notice the brightly colored fighters suddenly joining the fray with their special brand of insanity. Kim smiled smugly.
“Coming to discuss my proposal, hm?” the head of HYDRA asked, glancing at her.
She shrugged. “I am not the only one to lie in this room,” she informed him. “I just wasn’t doing it to kill millions of people. Quite the opposite, actually.”
“Let me ask you a question,” Pierce said, going over to grab the champaign again. "What if Pakistan marched into Mumbai tomorrow and you knew they were going to drag your daughters into a soccer stadium for execution,” he handed Singh the glass. “And you could just stop it, with the flick of a switch. Wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you all?”
“Not if it was your switch,” Signh informed him and threw the glass away. Part of Kim, the part that wasn’t sure if the council was on board with the whole plan, sighed in relief. Obviously they weren’t fully aware of Insights parameters. Pierce chuckled and then turned to her.
“Hart, your people said you’d have gone after the Ten Rings if given the chance,” Pierce reminded her. “How is this any different?”
“If I knew about it beforehand, I still wouldn’t murder them,” she said. “Cause that’s what you’re talking about—pre-emptive murder for something they haven’t even done yet.”
Pierce looked vaguely disappointed in her. He turned to one of the STRIKE team members and grabbed a pistol. He brought it up to her and that’s when Kimberly and Hawley sprang into action. As the other woman took on the STRIKE team, Kimberly quickly morphed and got between the council members and everyone else.
As they watched, Hawley decimated the STRIKE team and then turned, the gun in her hand now pointed at Pierce. Wes and Eric joined her, backing her up.
“I’m sorry,” the woman said, grabbing at her face and pulling off the thing that allowed Natasha to pose as the council woman. “Did I step on your moment?”
“Oh, when I went and talked to her, she was more than willing to listen to me about you being HYDRA,” Kimberly informed him. Everyone looked at her and she smiled. “Didn’t you know? Candice Hawley is my step-dad’s cousin.”
“Here,” Natasha said and gave the gun to Yen as Wes and Eric went to work zip-tying all the STRIKE members. Yen immediate brought the gun up and pointed at Pierce, even though at this point they probably didn’t have to. At that point, Kim looked out the window when she heard Joel’s familiar whoop fill the comm. The aerial zords, the seven they’d been able to get up in such a short time, had finally joined the fray. As she watched, however, two immediately were hit by the carrier’s guns and went spinning off in the distance. One of them was her crane and she scowled.
::Kat, Simon, you okay?:: Jason demanded.
::Fine, but the damn thing got through the Crane:: Kat replied. ::I’m out of the fight. Sorry, guys.::
::Forced landings suck just as much as Joel said but I’m good,:: Simon added. ::I’m out too though.::
::All of you, go high, we have to plan this better,:: Taylor ordered. ::I didn’t think the guns would hurt us as badly as they did. We need a new strategy.::
Kim watched the zords all zoom away to regroup and turned back to the room. “What are you doing?” Rockwell demanded, watching as Natasha worked at a computer terminal.
“She’s disabling security protocols and dumping all the secrets onto the internet,” Pierce answered.
“Including HYDRA’s,” Natasha agreed.
“And SHIELD’s,” Pierce said. “If you do this, none of your past is gonna remain hidden,” Kimberly watched, concerned, when the redheaded paused briefly before going back to what she’d been doing. “Are you sure you’re ready for the world to see you as you really are?”
::Justin, can you intercept anything about Natasha you can?:: she heard Clint ask through the comm. ::If she’s going to Avenge, she can’t have that hanging over her shoulder.::
::What do they have on Natasha?:: Jason asked.
::Her past isn’t all that white:: Clint admitted. ::She joined SHIELD to make up for all the bad she was forced to do.::
“You have a go, Justin,” she said, tapping her ear. She’d known Natasha had a past, Clint had told her that months ago, and he was right—she didn’t deserve to have that hanging over her shoulder while she tried to make amends.
::Alpha 6, work on that.:: Justin ordered.
Kim tapped her ear again. “Banner too,” she added and ignored the looks she was getting. “And someone warn Stark.”
::You know, this battle would have gone a lot different if we could have just teleported inside:: Jarrod pointed out as he fought on the carrier Cap and Wilson weren’t on. She ignored the arrival of Fury, though she still kept an eye on the proceedings. At this point, she was just backup, not needed for anything else.
::I’m working on it but the system isn’t as precise as the one in the Command Center or the Power Chamber:: Billy reminded them, not for the first time.
::And with the carriers moving, that makes it even more difficult:: Angela added. ::Teleporting onto a stationary spot we already know about is a lot easier than teleporting onto a active location we’ve never been on before. Unless you *want* to be accidentally teleported into a wall?::
“Argue about it later, work on the blades now,” Kim ordered. She turned back to the group watching her. “Sorry, there’s been griping about our teleportation system recently.”
::Uh, guys?:: Nick said. ::A new player just showed up. I think it’s the Winter Soldier guy you were talking about. Cap's brainwashed friend.::
Kim sucked in a deep breath as he informed them he’d taken down the air support trying to lift off and had taken one of the quinjets towards the final carrier that needed to be fixed. She motioned for Eric and Wes to keep watch and moved over to the window to watch the battle below. “Ninja team, where are you?” she demanded.
::Level fourteen,:: Hunter answered. ::HYDRA’s not making this easy.::
::Third carrier, trying to get control of the thing:: Jarrod said. ::I don’t know how many people were on the other ones, but there’s dozens on this one.::
“You’re about to have company in the form of the Soldier,” she told them quietly, eyes flickering between carriers and trying to figure out which was which. “You do NOT have permission to actively engage him, do you understand? He’s a not-so-friendly friendly.”
::What if we’re not given the choice?:: LeeLee asked.
“Then it’s take-down, not destroy,” she replied. “Knock him out if you can but if it comes down to it, you run like hell rather than destroy him or get yourself killed.”
::Understood, Kim,:: Alice said. ::I have access to the camera’s.::
“Upload the DECA remote program,” she ordered. “And figure out where the Soldier is.”
“Done,” Natasha said when Kim turned back to them. She looked at her phone. “And it’s trending.”
A sudden sparking sounded then and everyone looked down at the pile of biometric device Kim had had Rose take off the councilors. Pierce looked furious and Kim smiled.
“By the way, I didn’t mention it before because you’re an ass and I wasn’t going to give you more information than you absolutely needed,” she said and Rose appeared at her side, grinning brightly. “But I have a scientist who can turn invisible.”
::Soldier’s engaging Captain in the server room!:: Alice shouted.
“Aerials, start coming back in,” Kim ordered. “Be ready to target the carriers the moment Hill gives us the go ahead.” She glanced at Rose. “How long do we have?”
“Not long,” she replied with a worried look. They all knew they were likely some of the targets who'd be taken out immediately if the weapons went off. “30 seconds.”
It was the longest 30 seconds of her life.
Annnnnnd that's all I have typed up for now. I have 5 weeks till the end of the school year, which means 5 more weeks of teaching and grading papers and trying not to hit my head on a wall because my kids aren't using the writing skills I KNOW they have.
I'm gonna try and continue writing but I cannot promise anything for five weeks or so. Thank you. :)
Kimberly sighed as she walked out of the Congressional meeting, ignoring the mass of reporters waiting for her on the steps. It had been a long and arduous process to get things even remotely sane since everything happened.
Pierce tried to commit suicide when the carriers began to fall. Luckily, Dana had anticipated that and had given Wes a device that essentially turned anything poisonous inside him inert. It didn’t last forever, just a few hours, but it was enough to hogtie him and throw him in the helicopter when they’d skedaddled out of the crumbling Triskelion. By the time it wore off, doctors had removed the cyanide tooth and made it so he’d be alive to face justice.
Even though the aerial zords had shot at the carriers, enough survived of all three ships to cause massive damage to several buildings when they crashed. It was something all of the pilots involved were still coping with—almost two hundred people were believed to have perished when the buildings collapsed like the Twin Towers had back in 2001.
Kim herself simply took comfort in the fact that less than 500 people died in total during the attack instead of the millions who would have if they hadn’t won.
Pierce was done for. All four of the councilors lived and Wes and Eric had been recording the entire thing in their suits. Between the testimonies and the video footage, he hadn’t stood a chance. President Bartlett had ordered his immediate arrest and incarceration and the courts had had no qualms in agreeing.
The biggest issue came with Natasha, her, and Fury, who had to deal with the fact it was also on camera that they released all the secrets of SHIELD/HYDRA into, well, the world. The entire video being uploaded to the internet was probably one of the only reasons she was still free—as soon as people saw the entire thing, heard what, exactly, was going on and found out what they were stopping, the protests against their incarceration had been fierce. Her father, bless him, had even ordered a national poll on the entire thing. 86% of American’s said they agreed with the actions. Other groups had done the same sort of poll and found the same percentage, more or less.
What really made an impact though were the families of over half those who died in DC banding together and claiming they didn’t blame anyone but HYDRA and that the actions of the rangers, Captain America, and Black Widow had been in the best interest of the world. A few of them, mostly family members of military personnel who’d died, had even gone so far as to say their deceased would have been right there with them, helping, if they’d known.
“Miss Hart, what will you do now that you’ve officially been acquitted?!”
“Miss Hart, do you have anything to say to the families of the men and women who died while you played god?!”
“Miss Hart, how will Alpha Operations operate now that their alliance with SHIELD is over?”
“Miss Hart, what do you have to say about the thousands of American’s who believe you have made the country weaker than it was before?”
“Okay, let’s get one thing straight,” she said, turning around to face them. She paused and waited for everyone to quiet down to hear her. “It is Director Hart. I only say this because Nick Fury is still being referred to by his title and the main difference between the two of us is our gender.”
One of the reporters winced but most didn’t seem to care. She rolled her eyes.
“Director Hart, do you have anything to say about the hearings?”
Kimberly sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. “You people are ridiculous, you know that? I’ve already said more than once that I would cooperate fully and that I would respect the decision by the congressional committee. However, what you seem to forget is that justice *has* been served. My actions may not make people happy but they kept them alive. We came seconds away from a mass murder the likes of which we haven’t seen since World War II. Millions of people were going to be *exterminated*, many because of what they *might* do in the future. I would remind you that there were children, some as young as five years old, on that list. What did they do to HYDRA? What on earth could a five year old have done that demanded they be killed? The only way to stop them was to expose them for what they truly are; mass murderers. You ask how I could do what I did? How could I not? And tell me honestly, would you have done any different?”
With that, she left the steps of the capital and slipped into the backseat of the waiting car.
“Well, you are on every single news outlet right now,” Dominic announced. Kim looked up from where she was reading a report on the damage to the crane when he dropped a stack of papers on her desk. She eyed it warily.
“How badly are they raking me over the coals?” she asked, not sure she wanted to know the answer. She’d spent the entire drive back to the airport after the hearing berating herself for speaking to the reporters when everyone, including her father, had warned her not to.
“Most of them aren’t, actually,” he said, pulling a chair and sitting down with the back facing her. He smirked. “Most of those are articles and editorials with a heavy slant in your favor. Apparently your gaff at the capital galvanized. The 5 year old was a nice touch, by the way.” She gave him a dirty look and he frowned a moment before he held up his hands. “I wasn’t being facetious, I swear,” he assured her. “I was being serious. Reminding them of exactly who the Nazi’s wanted to kill was a good point and it made people focus on that instead of the hearings, which, frankly, are ridiculous.”
She sighed, dropping her head into her hand.
“They’re looking into the backgrounds of the list of people on the first wave,” he continued. She looked up just in time to see him tap a finger on the newspaper at the top of the stack. “This one actually listed the first two hundred on the list and what they do. It made a point of mentioning all of them were people who would have fought back against HYDRA.”
“How many rangers are on there?” she asked, only half joking. She knew every single one of them were on the list for the first wave.
“Surprisingly, only about ten of us made the top 200,” he replied. “You, of course, were the highest. Records say you were bumped up pretty recently though. Jason was higher than you before that.”
“Probably got put higher when I pissed off Pierce the first time,” she muttered and he laughed.
“Probably,” he agreed. Dominic stood up and headed towards the door. He stopped before he left, turning back to her. “By the way, Adam told me to tell you that our stock went through the roof in the last five hours.”
Kimberly frowned as he disappeared. Confused, she pressed her holophone and dialed Adam. “What stock?” she asked when he answered.
Adam paused, looking confused a moment before it cleared. “Oh, our stock,” he said. “People have been buying like crazy since your interview on capital hill.”
“Our stock,” he replied slowly.
“We have stock?”
“Kimberly, how do you think we can afford what we do?” he asked, now amused. “I mean, yeah, it helps we have a couple millionaires on our side, but even they can only do so much.”
“How do we have stock?” she asked. “We’re not a company that sells anything—we’re essentially a global security force.”
“Medical and engineering tech,” he replied slowly, looking at her oddly now. “Stuff we’ve learned about off-world, reverse-engineered stuff that can’t be, you know, re-reversed. We have almost a hundred patents right now.”
Now that he was mentioning it, she was vaguely remembering several conversations about patent applications and tech that they were releasing into the world. She sighed. “Right.”
“When was the last time you slept, Kim?” Adam asked, frowning at her.
“I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” she only half joked. Her desk was covered in reports and papers that she had to go through. It was a lot more than usual given what had happened—she was honestly afraid one or two piles might literally kill her, given how high and heavy they were. Death by paperwork, what a way to go. She shook her head and straightened in her seat. “Thanks for clearing it up, Adam, I have to get back to this paperwork.”
“Kim—” he started but she cut him off by ending the connection. Taking a deep breath and fighting off a yawn, she looked back down at the report in her hand and started reading it again.
“You have some very scary friends, you know that?” Clint announced, coming into her office about an hour later. She snapped her head up, blinking at him in surprise.
“What are you doing here?” she asked, not getting up and ignoring the question as she already knew the answer. He came to stand in front of her desk. Behind him, she could just make out Camille hovering outside the door. She tried focusing back on her boyfriend. “Aren’t you supposed to still be in New York?”
He’d been pulled in for an Avengers pow-wow after Steve had been released from the hospital. All of the team except Thor had started working on what to do now that they didn’t have the backing of SHIELD. Kim hadn’t heard anything from them except the occasional email asking about some finer points on AO’s organization.
“I was, but I got a call,” he said. His arms were crossed as he studied her. “When was the last time you slept?”
She wanted to say the same thing she’d told Adam but what came out instead was, “I honestly can’t remember.” Traitorous brain, she mentally scolded.
“That’s what I was afraid of,” he sighed. “Alright, get up,” he said, moving around the desk.
“Get up,” he repeated, grabbing her arm and guiding her to a standing position. She swayed a bit and he shook his head, a fond look coming to his face. “I suddenly understand Darcy a hell of a lot better.”
“What?” What did her unofficial office manager have to do with all of this?
“We are going back to your apartment and we’re gonna sleep,” he told her. “You will not argue with me about it because I really don’t think you want me bringing in Jason or Tommy to back me up.”
She glared at him. “I have—”
“An assistant director who can look through things and triage everything,” he said in an agreeing tone.
“That was not what I was going to say!”
“You also have an entire army of rangers who literally have nothing else to do who can look at stuff while you get some shut-eye.”
“And the nightmares?” she asked tiredly. “Who do I have that will take care of those?”
Kim stopped, staring at him. None of his joking or sarcasm was in evidence as he watched her calmly. He was dead serious.
“I’m your boyfriend, Kim, as much I think that title is very high school,” he told her and she gave a small smile “Part of my job as your significant other is to make sure you’re okay and getting what you need, which includes sleep.”
She stepped forward to wrap her arms around Clint’s waist. “I’m a strong, independent woman who don’t need no man,” she mumbled into his chest, not even sure why she was saying it. He chuckled.
“Except during the times when you do.”
“Get her out of here, Clint,” Camille said from the doorway. When Kim looked over, she found the younger woman was smiling softly at the two of them. Behind her was Eric.
“Keep her out of the office for 24 hours, would you?” he asked and Kim’s eyes widened. He saw it and rolled his own before she could say anything. “I promise we won’t blow up anything important in the next 24 hours, okay?”
“And what about after 24 hours?” she asked.
“I make no promises.” He brought his wrist up and tapped at his communicator. “Justin, teleport Kim and Clint to New York please.”
“New York?!” she demanded, straightening up in Clint’s arms, all tiredness suddenly gone. He chuckled against her, tightening his hold on her like she was about to run away. Which, granted, but still!
“We leave you on the island, we know you’ll just start working again,” Camille shrugged with a grin as Kimberly felt the first telltale sign of teleportation.
“You’re all fired.”
The above pixel art is my own making (though the heads of everyone but Kim belonged originally to Acatl) to show the new uniforms that will be appearing here soon. From left to right: Dr. Billy Cranston (Aeronautical Engineering Coordinator), Dr. Tommy Oliver (Director of the Ranger Council), Kimberly Hart (CEO/Director of Alpha Operations), Jason Scott (Director of Ranger Services), Dr. Trini Tsukino nee Kwan (Assistant Director of Medical Services), Zack Taylor (Non-Active Ranger). I spent almost an entire day designing the uniforms.
Also, I know technically the presidents name is Matthews in the MCU, but I LOVE West Wing so...you get President Bartlett back. :)
Chapter 29: Chapter 28
Kimberly gets settled in New York...
When Kimberly woke up the first time, she found herself alone in the bed. Eyes half-lidded and still tired, she peeked her head over the blanket she’d wrapped around her body like a cocoon.
Clint hadn’t taken her to the apartment set aside for the rangers, where she’d figured she’d crash. Instead, he’d taken her up to his own place. It was on the same floor as Natasha and Phil’s, though currently the latter wasn’t using his. She’d never been in his apartment before and wasn’t entirely surprised to find it was all black, whites, silvers, and various shades of purple. She vaguely recalled making a smart ass comment about the color scheme and his mock outrage as he’d defended his favorite color while simultaneously dissing her own.
The bedroom seemed fairly Spartan, which made sense as she knew he never seemed to be anywhere for too long. Being a top agent of SHIELD meant he was gone from home more often than not. A bed, two side-tables, a dresser, and a bookcase were the only pieces of furniture in the room. There were a few things scattered here and there—she could see a wrist-guard on top of the dresser—but otherwise it was pretty empty.
There were three doors, all of them open. One led out to the main part of the apartment, another to the bathroom, and the third to a walk-in closet. She couldn’t quite see out into the living room but she could hear what she assumed was Clint moving around.
She was just falling back asleep when Clint returned, dressed in nothing but boxers. He crawled back into the bed, a solid presence at her back.
“Hi,” she mumbled, eyes half-closed.
“Go back to sleep,” he whispered, getting more comfortable. One arm went around her waist, pulling her to his chest, the other wiggled under the pillows to grasp at her own extended arm. Their fingers tangled as she felt more than saw him lean in towards her hair.
The last thing she remembered before falling back asleep was him kissing the back of her head.
“Boss Lady!” Darcy cheered when Kimberly walked out of the elevator the next day. She’d ended up sleeping a lot longer than she’d intended and by the time she was fully cognitive again, her 24 hour exile from ranger business was over. She’d decided not to go straight back to the island yet though. After all, as Tony had been the one to point out at the Avenger team breakfast Clint dragged her to, she had an office right there in New York that she never seemed to use.
“Darcy,” she greeted the woman at the front desk. “This place looks amazing.”
And it did. Coming off the elevator was the main receptionist. The front of the desk was tall, so that anything on the lower desk could be hidden from curious visitors unless they looked over it. The tops were black granite but the paneling on the side and the walls were muted ranger colors. There were several chairs, all in the same muted coloring. The flooring was white stone and all the accepts that weren’t ranger colors were gold. Behind the receptionist desk was a white circle with a golden lightning bolt running through it and the words “Alpha” and “Operations” on either side of it. There were two doors leading into the private spaces (one on each side of the receptionist desk) and another two near the elevators that were bathrooms.
Darcy waved her admiration away, though Kim could see a tinge of pink in her cheeks. “Once we actually got furniture and stuff, it was a piece of cake. Casey and RJ have been awesome help, by the way.”
“Oh?” she asked, eyebrow raised. “Casey’s still helping?”
“Yeah, him and RJ both,” she confirmed. She smirked. “I asked Lily and she said JKP’s been insane since the reveal and just when it started to die down, the Triskellion happened and it started back up again.”
“Hence Casey and RJ coming here,” Kim nodded. Neither one dealt with fame well and given they were both proudly out as gay, they got more attention than others. “Who’s running the shop while they’ve been here?”
“Theo and Lily,” she said with a grin. “Casey said they’ve been in their element, Theo especially.”
Kim snorted. “I bet,” she said. She paused and then asked, “How’d you get the walls up?”
“Daggeron and Leanbow,” she answered with a delighted grin. “That was a fun afternoon. I thought Stark’s head was going to explode when they started building walls out of thin air.”
Kim laughed, wishing she could have seen it.
“So, want to show me the lay of the land?” she asked and Darcy grinned.
“J, put up the closed sign, ETA for return about half an hour,” she said, looking up at the ceiling.
“Done, Miss Lewis,” JARVIS answered. “Also, Mr. Stark would like it to be known that his head was not even remotely close to exploding at the walls integration.”
“Sure it wasn’t,” Darcy snorted. She turned to a bemused Kimberly. “C’mon, let’s go. Barton said he’s trying to talk you into spending more time in here. I need to impress you so you will.”
Kimberly rolled her eyes. “Clint's hoping for booty calls,” she informed her and Darcy cackled hard enough she had to lean against a wall for support. “What? It wasn’t that funny.”
“I told him the same thing!” the dark haired woman informed her with glee and Kimberly laughed. Darcy beamed at her. “Seriously. Best. Not!Jane!Boss. Ever!”
“I aim to please.”
To Kimberly’s surprise, she found Darcy had done so much in the office space that working from there was ALMOST as good as working from Power Island. Really, the biggest issue came from not having access to the ranger’s private database but she didn’t always need that to do her job properly. Given that and Clint's obvious pleasure at having her there, Kim vowed to spend more time in New York.
A few weeks after her decision, she had gone out of the Tower to grab lunch. She’d been inside the admittedly amazing building for close to three days without any fresh air and was starting to go stir crazy. So when Darcy mentioned picking up pizza, Kim had jumped at the chance to get outside. Halfway to the subway, she felt more than saw a shadow start following. She wasn’t as worried as she probably should have been—she’d been followed the last two times she’d left the tower and nothing had happened. In fact, she was fairly certain the shadow had taken care of a mugger for her the last time she'd gone out with Steve.
She was nearly to the pizza place two subway stops away when she’d heard something that sounded alarmingly familiar. Mentally telling herself she needed to call backup just in case it was what she thought it was, she nevertheless edged into the alley from where she’d heard the sound. She didn’t actually call anyone but she did mentally pull her morpher out of the subspace pocket it was kept in now.
She wasn’t totally stupid.
“Hello?” she asked, looking around cautiously as the sound grew louder. She knew what it was, would probably always recognize the ridiculous sound, but it really shouldn’t have been possible.
Zedd and Rita had both assured her putties could never be made again.
“Woah!” she yelped when a familiar grey form dropped down on top of her, grabbing her shoulders and tumbling them both to the ground. Groaning on her back, she looked up, yelped again, and rolled away just as a second putty fell where her head had been. Scrambling to her feet she looked frantically around. Three Z putties in the fire escapes above her; two more in the side of the alley out of there, four more deeper in. Not the greatest odds she’d ever faced but also not the worst.
Then Goldar walked in with six more.
“I’ve been waiting for this, Pink Ranger,” he growled and Kim sucked in a deep breath.
“Goldar,” she greeted him, taking in the familiar armor and sword. “Aren’t you supposed to be dead?”
“I have been given new life,” he told her in a gloating manner. “I am stronger and better than ever!”
“Still butt ugly though.”
“Make jokes all you want, Pink Ranger,” he said. “But my new master will reign havoc on this world and it shall be mine!”
“New Master, huh?” she asked, hoping to get him to drop anything more; they’d known about Goldar’s return but they still had no idea how he’d been resurrected. “Don’t suppose you’d care to monologue about him?” Instead of answering, he pointed at her with the sword and the putties swarmed forward. “Didn’t think so. It’s morphin time! Pteradactyl!”
Goldar remained where he was, just watching the fight which, while unusual, was good news for Kimberly because she knew in her heart there was no way she’d be able to beat him in her own, even morphed. As it was, she had fifteen putties to deal with. The only thing going for her here was the fact they were in a very confined space—and the putties were just as stupid now as they were back when she was in high school. She barely needed to do anything for several minutes except defend against their attacks. Half the time they simply tumbled away from her and back into their fellows. Eventually though the herd had been thinned enough that that stopped working and she found herself being held on either side by several putties. She cursed herself for not calling for help when she had the chance.
“I am going to take great pleasure in your destruction, pink ranger,” Goldar said, stalking forward. “Your death will be the catalyst for the destruction of the rest of the Power Rangers!”
“Newsflash, you wizard of oz reject! You haven’t been around in a while so I’ll give you a heads up—there’s a hell of a lot more of us now!”
“With you destroyed, Jason and Tommy will be weaker for it!” he crowed as she continued to struggle. “When they fall, so fall the rangers!”
“Yeah, good luck with that,” she scoffed. She really meant it too; without Tommy and Jason, Eric would probably be the one in charge and he didn’t play by the same sorts of rules her ex-boyfriend and oldest friend did. The golden ape wouldn’t know what hit him.
Goldar raised his sword and though her struggles increased, she knew she wasn’t getting out of this—too many putties were holding her down. She turned her head, eyes slipping closed because that would make it better.
Suddenly, the putties grips loosened, as if in surprise, and she cracked one eye open to look over.
“Pesky mortal!” Goldar screeched as a figure in black combat boots and pants viciously kicked and punched at him. He had on a hoodie and a baseball cap and though she couldn’t see his face, she had a good idea who it probably was.
It didn’t take Goldar long to come back to his wits and start fighting back. The two kicked and fought around and Kim suddenly realized the putties weren’t paying attention to her anymore. Taking advantage of their distraction she quickly jabbed four of the putties on their z’s, watching in satisfaction as they flew apart. That left three more for her to take care of. A loud clanging sound caught her attention as she finished the last putty and she twirled around to find Goldar straining as he tried bringing his sword down on her mysterious helper. The man's arm was up, deflecting the blow, and she knew instantly her suspicions were correct. She didn’t know of anyone else who could defend themselves with just their arm.
Well, technically Ethan could but this was clearly not Ethan.
Goldar roared as he pushed Barnes away from him. Kim ran to the soldiers side and stared at Goldar head on. Realizing he was alone, he roared again and disappeared. Kimberly blinked, a bit startled at the act—it wasn’t really Goldar’s style.
She hadn’t even gotten a shout that he’d be back and she was dead next time they met. How rude.
Barnes groaned and she turned to him, finding him leaning against the back exterior of what appeared to be a Japanese restaurant, which she found oddly appropriate. He seemed to be fine, if a little winded, from his fight. His hat was gone, lost somewhere nearby, his lanky hair was falling into his face, and he desperately needed a shave. His blue eyes were staring at her with a strange mix of surprise and pain. This was not the man Sam had described—this was not the Winter Soldier, at least not completely. Looked like Steve was right and he had started to remember.
“You know,” Kimberly said, crossing her arms as she stared back. “Normally I’d take offense at being stalked. However, given what just happened, I’ll accept it…as long as I can tell Jason Goldar got his ass kicked by a non-ranger.”
“What the hell was that thing?” he demanded.
Kimberly pulled the man who’d defended her against the golden armored monkey back up to his feet. “His name is Goldar. He’s like a cockroach, he can’t just stay dead. We have no idea why he’s back. Or how. But apparently he has a master, which is probably not a good thing.”
“…that doesn’t really answer my question.”
“He’s a space monster who wants to kill me cause, well, you haven’t met me before but according to some, I’m like a personal affront to evil guys everywhere.” And hadn’t the others all laughed themselves sick when Zedd had told them that? If she wasn’t as good as she was, she’d have killed her former nemesis for the remark.
Some days (usually when her people were being assholes and/or idiots), she really missed being Maligore’s Daughter. Things had been so much simpler when she had no conscious.
That…may be something she should keep to herself.
“You know the Avengers,” he said abruptly and it was only years and years of training that she wasn’t taken aback at the abrupt change of subject.
“Some days I wish I didn’t,” she sighed and then realized she was still morphed. She quickly powered down and pretended not to see his eyes follow her hand with the morpher in it. “Stark is going to drive me to drink…if Bruce’ puppy eyes don’t get me there first.” Not to mention Clint’s bedroom eyes…she sighed again. “Speaking of the Avengers…” she started and he tensed. “Is there a particular reason you’re stalking me and not one of them? Not that I’m complaining, exactly, because, you know, monkey reject.”
“You know them.”
“Yes, we covered that.”
“They trust you.”
“I like to think so, yes.”
“…You’re not one of them?”
“God no,” she shuddered. “Can you imagine the insanity of me being an Avenger? Jesus, don’t give me nightmares like that.”
For a very brief moment, his lips twisted up in a humorous smirk. It vanished just as quickly as it appeared. Still, she made a mental note to relay the conversation and his reaction to Sam and Trini for their expert pyscho-analysis.
“I don’t…who am I? Do you know?”
“Who do you think you are?” she asked instead of answering.
“The Asset,” he responded instantly, back going straight and head lifting up. It was something automatic, ingrained, and clearly not the Bucky she’d read about as a kid. Then he frowned, his body slouching again. “I…I saw another man though, with my face. At the museum.”
“…You went to learn about yourself by going to the Smithsonian,” she realized and pinched the bridge of her nose. How was this her life?
“It said the man…Bucky Barnes, he died.”
“They thought he—you—did,” she agreed with a sigh. “You fell off a train in Russia.” She conveniently left out the fact that was over seventy years ago. One issue at a time.
“They didn’t go looking?”
“In their defense, it was a really long fall,” she said with a grimace. “Honestly, if you hadn’t had the serum—”
“Serum?” he interrupted, brow furrowed. “Like that Puerto Rico flag man? The museum said…he used to be smaller.”
It took everything in her not to burst out laughing at his description of Steve in the suit. “We think you got another version of the same serum Steve got,” she ultimately said when she was sure her amusement was tapped down. “It’s the only thing that explains how you survived.”
“And my arm?” He looked down and opened and closed the mechanical fist.
“HYDRA,” she told him and he flinched. “They found you and…”
“Made me the Asset,” he finished and she nodded. She could hear footsteps then and she realized they were just off to the side of the entrance to the alley. No one coming from the street could see them. She hesitated.
“Steve wants to see you,” she finally told him. “What do I tell him?”
“I’m not ready,” he shook his head, backing away. “I need…I need…”
“Time,” she nodded and he looked relieved. “Just don’t take too much, okay? He misses you. Also, take this." She dug into her pocket and handed him her emergency beacon. "If you need help, press the button and ask for me. It won't track where you are unless you press the button.” She made a mental note to get Rose to deactivate the active tracking of it when she got back.
He was obviously conflicted but finally gave her a nod and then between one blink and the next he was gone. She looked around, trying to figure out where he went just as six multicolored heroes showed up.
“Kimberly!” Heather shouted, skidding to a stop next to her in her white armor. “Are you okay, Alpha said the sensors indicated you morphed!”
“Putties,” she answered, turning back to her team. “And Goldar. They’re gone now.” She left out Bucky, for now. The team all demorphed.
“I thought the putties were all destroyed,” LeeLee said, looking around. “Mom said they’d been extinct since the Wave. Almost no one knows how to make them anymore and the only one who does is so disgustingly good now she’d never tell.”
“Yeah,” Kim agreed, lips twitching at the description of Rita. She straightened up and firmly put Bucky in the back of her mind until she could talk to Steve. She shook her head. “Let’s go, I need to talk to a witch. It’s time we find out why and how our dead enemies have come back.”
Has anyone heard Not Gonna Die by Skillet? OMG, it’s Bucky and Steve’s song. Seriously, someone needs to just make a Bucky&Steve video to it. If you have no heard it, GO! LISTEN! Tell me I’m wrong and it doesn’t practically scream Bucky & Steve.
Chapter 30: Chapter 29
Why did she think bringing all of them over to the Island was a good idea?
It was mayham that afternoon. Not just because they’d called a complete recall of every ranger again (it was the sixth or seventh one since they’d gone public, Kim was starting to get thoroughly tired of it) but because the Ranger Council had agreed to let the Avengers, all of them, onto the island at the same time.
“There you are!” Kimberly exclaimed, walking into one of the new buildings a bored Daggeron and Leanbow had been working on. It was meant to be a training center so they could convert the training areas in the Power Center into more office space (or something, to be honest, she sorta stopped listening halfway through their explanation as to why they should build it). Clint and Natasha looked up from where they were looking over the schematics Leanbow was showing off.
“You were looking for us?”
“Yeah, our meeting is gonna start soon but I can’t find any of you Avenger types,” she informed them with a huff. Both of them smirked at her.
“Stark and Banner are with the scientists and I think Rogers and Wilson are at the zords,” Natasha told her.
Kimberly stared at them a moment. “And who’s bright idea was it to leave Stark alone with the scientists?” She ignored the zords—she knew Wilson had been wanting to get a closer look at the vehicles since everything that had happened in DC.
“Cranston’s, I think,” Clint answered with a smile. Kim groaned and he gave her a smile. “Ah, c’mon, it can’t be that bad.”
As if to illustrate just how bad it could be, a large boom was heard from the direction of Techopia. Kim turned to stare and found a plume of smoke rising from the island and Iron Man whizzing around above it. A couple specks joined him and it took a second before she realized it was rangers on the surf board things Andros had brought for them.
She sighed and turned back to her boyfriend. “You were saying?”
“Stark says everything is fine, there’s no fire and nothing irreplaceable got broken,” Natasha informed her, one hand to her ear and a smile playing at her lips.
“Tell him he’s paying for everything he broke,” she said and Natasha smirked and relayed her words. She turned to Clint and Leanbow. “We ready?”
“Where are we going?” Clint asked, sliding an arm around her waist as they exited the unfinished building.
“Senate,” she answered and Clint nodded, no doubt remembering the building from when she’d given him the tour.
“Where do we sit?” Clint asked as they entered the building. The doors to the actual chamber were completely thrown open and she nodded to Camille, who was standing in one doorway marking off people as they came in.
“Missing the scientists and a few others but other than that, everyone’s here,” she reported.
“Did you get…?”
“Yeah, Darcy, Clare, Flit and I are going to be late to the meeting while we set everything up,” she nodded.
“Good, make sure its good to go when we finish…whenever that is.”
“Will do,” she agreed and trotted off to talk with their new liaison to the Avengers, Darcy. With the fall of SHIELD, the woman had needed a new job and this was pretty much exactly what she’d been doing before only this time she reported directly to the team itself, rather than Fury and Coulson.
“What was that about?” Clint asked, a puzzled look on his face.
“Don’t worry about it, all will become clear after the meeting,” she assured him with a grin. “C’mon, let me show you where you guys are gonna sit.”
After directing Clint and Natasha to the allies box, she headed to the opposite side of the building, where Alpha 5 was poking around the holographic projection. “Are you and Six going to be ready in time?” she asked quietly once she got to him. The little robot looked up at her and nodded.
“Yes, Kimberly,” he agreed. “I’m just double checking the connection before we go live—everyone’s already standing by. Six will connect them once you give the go ahead.”
She nodded, face pensive. She wasn’t thrilled about having to do this but with Goldar back and apparently working for someone…they needed answers and some of their extraterrestrial allies might have some. At the very least, she was going to be able to see the Avengers faces when suddenly faced with ranger aliens. That would have to make up for it.
She turned around just in time to see the rest of the Avengers come into the assembly hall and stop dead in their tracks as they took in the sheer number of people in the room. Smirking, she headed over to them.
“You all look like you’ve been slapped with a fish,” she informed them cheerfully.
“Is everyone here a ranger?” Steve asked, blinking.
“You saw us in DC,” she reminded him.
“Yeah, there’s a difference seeing small teams here and there and seeing…” he trailed off, eyes tracking the Mega Force team, who had just come in with the newest member of the team, Orion.
“The mob?” Eric offered, having come over to join them. He, too, was smirking at their reactions. Only Stark wasn’t completely stunned but then again, he’d seen the island when it was full from the family recall.
“How many people are here?” Bruce asked, looking around.
“Rangers or allies?” she asked and he blinked before looking back at her.
“Non ranger people who’ve become friends and allies in our various fights,” she answered. She paused as out of the corner of her eye she spotted a pouting Cassidy getting derailed back to the ranger ally seats by her boyfriend. She caught Devin’s eye as he shook his head at what she suspected was a whine about not getting to meet the Avengers. She smiled. “Not all of them started out the way but all of them finished that way.”
“How many rangers are here?” Steve finally asked.
Kim’s mind drew a blank at the number but luckily Eric answered before it became obvious she couldn’t remember how many there were. “One hundred four rangers have fought on Earth in the past twenty-odd years and there are going to be one hundred two here today,” he answered and then caught her eye and jerked her head towards the door where a group of five people in white and black outfits had just come inside. “Apparently they finally deigned to answer Wes’ message.”
Kimberly blinked a bit at the rest of the Time Force team, none of whom she’d ever actually met. All of them were looking around with interest. Behind them were two others, also looking around. She raised an eyebrow at Eric and he shrugged. “You’d have to ask them why Ransik and Nadira came with cause I haven’t a clue.”
“Where are the other two rangers?” Stark asked and Kim and Eric turned back to him and the rest of the Avengers team.
“What?” she asked, confused.
“You said there have been one hundred four but only one hundred two will be here,” he repeated. “Where are the other two?”
“Amber Beach,” Eric answered and glanced questioningly at her. She made a face.
“They’re part of James’ team, from what we can tell,” she said, motioning to the man in teal sitting alone in his section. “We…don’t yet know who they are. We think they just got chosen in the last couple months, if not weeks.”
“So…they have no support?” Steve asked, frowning as Eric dismissed himself to head back over to his friends.
“More than likely they do, cause that’s usually how the Power works, but…” Kim shrugged. “We honestly just don’t know.”
“So…who are they fighting?” Clint asked, having apparently grown tired of waiting in the allies section, had come over to where his team was. Natasha had followed.
“Again, we don’t know,” she answered and then paused. “The only thing we know for sure at this point is the team is dino based and the gem things that gives them their powers also apparently stops them from aging.”
“Are you working to find out?” Natasha asked, arms crossed. Exasperated, Kim nodded over to Trent and Anton.
“They’re going this afternoon, once we finish with this meeting,” she assured them. “Trent is a former dinosaur based ranger who has camouflage-like powers and Anton was a dinosaur so…”
“Wait, what?” Steve asked, looking alarmed. Kim just smiled and didn’t answer, partly cause she thought it was funny and partly because Camille had just motioned that everyone was about there. She quickly excused herself and went over to where Eric and Wes were talking with their former teammates. A quick glance back told her the Avengers were all staring at Anton in fascination and wariness. She smiled at Anton when he sent her a quizzical look and then turned back to the Time Force team.
“Wes, Eric?” she asked quietly and watched as the entire group turned to her. “Introductions?”
“Right,” Wes said, flustered, and Kim hid a smile. “Uh, this is Jen, Lucas, Katie, Trip, Alex, Ransik, and Nadira,” he said, pointing to each. “This is Kimberly Hart.”
“The first Director of Alpha Operations!” Trip said, a bit breathlessly. He winced when his yellow teammate elbowed him. “Uh, I mean. Hi!”
“Nice to meet you,” she said with a grin and then zeroed in on her successor. “You and I should talk before you guys take off again.”
“That won’t be for a while,” Alex broke in. The present day rangers all looked at him quizzically and he grimaced. “Well, I’ll be going back this afternoon. They’re going to stay for a couple months, if that’s alright with you?”
“It’s fine with me.” That was a no-brainer, if only because she was not going to be the one to pop Wes’ balloon. “Though I’m curious as to why?”
“All he’s told us is that the historical record shows we were all here,” Jen answered. She side-eyed her ex-fiancee. “And they gave us our morpher’s back.”
“Wait, you didn’t have your morphers?” Wes broke in, looking confused.
Katie shrugged. “They weren’t needed in our time,” she explained. “So they were put back in storage.”
Which meant if they were given back, they’d be using them while they were here. Joy. “Alright, well, you guys have your section,” she said and then paused. “Anything you can tell us about why we’re meeting?” This was said to Alex, who shook his head.
“Sorry, I’m simply here cause they wanted to make sure I got the team here in one piece,” he said. “I actually don’t know much more than what they’ve already told you.”
“Fantastic,” she sighed. “Okay, let’s get going.”
She motioned for everyone to take a seat and when some people either didn’t see or ignored her, she let out a piercing whistle. “Seats, people!” she shouted and nodded in satisfaction as the main floor emptied in a hurry.
Time to get to work.
Chapter 31: Chapter 30
Discussions and surprised are had among the rangers and their allies.
As everyone settled down, looking around, she couldn’t help the satisfied smile that crossed her lips. For the first time it actually felt like they were doing something, getting proactive on their crap, rather than simply reacting to events out of their control. Oh, sure, they’d helped in DC but that had been Steve’s deal, the Avenger’s deal, not theirs. This, Goldar and whoever his new master was…this was their ballpark. It was kinda nice to be getting back into it.
“Alright, before we begin roll call, a few things to announce,” she said, voice echoing across the room as her mic activated. “We have some outsiders joining us today and not just the Avengers. Justin?”
She looked over at the sole ranger not actually sitting down beside herself. He nodded back and within seconds the holographic platforms in the corners, which were meant for their off-planet allies, flickered to life. She saw many rangers look at the new people in surprise but it was nothing on the Avengers. She smirked.
“Alright, Earth roll call please!”
As the ranger teams presented themselves, she kept an eye on the Avengers out of the corner of her eye. The sheer number of rangers had caught their attention but as team after team called out she could see the moment it truly hit every one of them the fact they’d been doing this a lot longer than most people ever really thought about. Over a hundred rangers meant nineteen teams who had fought on earth, who had had people, villains, who had wanted desperately to conquer, destroy, or subvert earth to their own means. The Avengers had fought Loki and she’d never demean them that or the battle but that was one extraterrestrial villain who wanted earth compared to however many they’d dealt with. Yes, Steve had fought and was continuing to fight HYDRA but even they were human based. Most of their villains really weren’t.
She focused back on the room when James nervously stood up. “Uh, hi, I don’t actually know the team name yet because there’s only three of us and I haven’t even met the other two but I’m a dinosaur ranger so we’ve been going with Dino 3 for now,” he said and she watched as Emma, who was closest, reached out a hand to rest on his arm and calm him down. “So, um, one of three of the Dino 3 is here.”
“Thank you, Rangers of Earth,” she said once he sat down. She sent him an encouraging look and then promptly did her best to get the attention off of him. “Rangers from Space, would you like to announce yourselves?”
There were one team plus a few solos who were watching, plus Maya and Kai who didn’t seem thrilled not to be able to be seated with the rest of the Galaxy Rangers. As Delphine stood up, she made a mental note to fix that as soon as possible.
“The Rangers of Aquitar greet you,” the white ranger said. “We are pleased to see the rangers of Earth have officially joined their galactic brethren and are now sanctioned by the Council.”
Kimberly smiled as a small cheer spread through the rangers at that before she motioned to everyone to quiet down.
“I too am glad of this, if only because it means I can now spoil my ranger brother’s children and not have to hide the fact,” Trey added, grinning from his spot. Several people laughed at Jason’s groan of dismay. Triforia law stated Trey and Jason were brothers due to having shared the gold zeo powers, which meant Jason and his kids were technically Triforian royalty. The king had been trying for years to spoil his nephews and nieces but Jason had always been able to put the kibosh on it by pointing out his family didn’t know about his ranger past. Now he couldn’t use the excuse to put Trey off. It was going to be glorious watching him fight with the gold zeo ranger about it.
“Phaedos looks forward to seeing what you accomplish now that you have been sanctioned,” Dulcea said from her spot to the right of Trey.
“As does Edenoi,” Dex added. “Before I forget, I have a few more Alpha units for you, if you are interested Director Hart.”
“I think I may get shot if I told you no, so we’ll be happy to have them, Your Majesty,” she informed the Masked Rider. He laughed and promised to make arrangements with Justin and Billy to transport them in a few days.
“Shall we move on?” Divatox asked from next to her sister; good now she may be, patient she was not. “Inquiris checks in.”
“KO-35 checks in.”
“I do not see anyone from Sirius here,” Zedd, who was with the Eltarian delegation, said once they’d said their greetings. He was looking around with a frown. “SPD has been in talks with Andros, have they not?”
“They did not answer our call,” Justin spoke in. He was frowning too. “I tried a couple times.”
“We will relay what is discussed here then,” Zedd nodded. He looked troubled and Kim made a mental not to ask him about it at a later date.
“Alright, the final group here none of our off-world allies know because they’re not rangers,” she said, stepping into the fray again. “They’re the Avengers, a group of individuals with their own gifts and talents who have been fighting to protect the earth in their own way. Though they’re not rangers, their team dynamic is similar enough that we’ve adopted them as one of us.”
This was obviously news to the team and she resisted the urge to snicker at the expressions on their faces. After looking at his team, Steve stood up, clearing his throat.
“We are honored,” he said. “My name is Steve Rogers, code-name Captain America. With me are Tony Stark, Natasha Romanoff, Clint Barton, Bruce Banner, and Sam Wilson, code-names Iron Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Hulk, and Falcon. Thank you for having us here.”
“We’re currently one member short—Thor is back on Asgard at the moment,” Clint added.
That caught the attention of the non-Earth people, all of them reacting at the name. “Thor as in…Prince Thor?” Divatox asked, looking excited. “Crown Prince of the realm of Asgard?”
“You know him?”
“Of him, yes, though we have never met,” she agreed. Kim glanced over at Rita, who was with the Mystic Force team. She tilted her head towards Divatox, a questioning look on her face. The witch smirked back in agreement and Kim stifled a laugh. Seems someone had the hots for the prince.
“I met him once, during my coronation,” Trey was saying during this. He sounded amused. “I had heard he had adopted a realm called Midgard for his own—is that what he calls Earth?”
“Yup,” Stark agreed. He looked at Trey. “Triforia isn’t one of the nine realms.”
“No, we are not,” he agreed but didn’t add anything more than that.
“Okay, well, we have a lot to discuss,” Kim broke in, not wanting to get side-tracked. “Earth has a problem and we’re hoping we can come up with a plan.”
“We are at your service,” Cestro said.
Kimberly nodded and took a deep breath. “Goldar is back,” she informed those who weren’t already aware. “For those of you who do not know who he is, he was a servant of Rita and Zedd’s before the wave. He was not among those who were given a second chance—”
“No, he was not,” Trey agreed. He looked a bit grey. “He was with Zedd and Rita when the wave hit—I personally saw him turn to dust. How is it he has returned?”
“We don’t know but he’s shown up twice now and it’s definitely him—the last time he showed up, he tried to kill me,” she informed them.
“If he is still trying to kill you, then he has not changed, for however he returned,” Divatox said.
“Actually, it was Tommy and Jason who usually pissed him off, not me,” she said and almost every single original snorted. “Also, he had access to z-putties.”
The last was said to Zedd, who looked stunned. “That should not be possible,” he finally croaked. “Even if they had found a way to create putties, to make them z putties would require my…my dark magic. Which I have not touched since the wave.”
“No one is blaming you Zedd,” Tommy, Kim, and Jason chorused instantly. She raised an eyebrow at both men who in turn looked at each other before Jason finally nodded for the original green to continue.
“We know you’d never bring them back and even if you did, they wouldn’t be used for evil purposes,” Tommy said. “We’re just confused as you are as to how they’re back—all of them.”
“Goldar did say he had a new master,” Kimberly said. “From the gist of what he said, I think his master may have promised him Earth if he helps against us. At least, I think that’s what he meant. Also, he took off once the putties were taken care of, which is not normal behavior for Goldar.”
“No, it is not,” Rita agreed. “He was always too tempestuous for such acts—which tells me he was probably ordered not to do anything that may end up with him destroyed. One on one is better odds for Kimberly than a dozen to one. It was likely too high a risk for him.”
“Which also tells us a lot about his new master and their influence on Goldar,” Tommy added. “Goldar from before didn’t have that sort of restraint, even if I think Zedd and Rita wanted him to.”
“Indeed, we did,” Zedd sighed. “It was one of the many things I hated about him—if it had been up to him, he would have continued every fight regardless of how it was going for him.”
“Um, question?” Steve said, butting in. He looked both confused and embarrassed as everyone turned to him. “I…don’t mean to be rude but am I guessing correctly you weren’t always on the side of good?”
The question was aimed at Zedd and Rita, who exchanged amused looks.
“Rita was the first villain us rangers faced,” Kimberly told him and the rest of the team. “It’s a long story but suffice to say she got her ass kicked by Zedd —”
“I certainly did not!” Rita squawked.
“—when he came to try what Rita had failed to do, which was conquer Earth,” Kimberly continued blithely on as various rangers around the room tried containing their giggles—though Trey wasn’t even trying to contain his mirth, as he was outright guffawing in his corner. Kim grinned. “Eventually they got married—don’t ask—and then both of them got their asses kicked by the Machine Empire and skedaddled.”
“Hmph!” Zedd said, crossing his arms and muttering something about stupid robots. Even Delphine couldn’t contain her smile at that.
Kimberly smirked. “Eventually they got turned good during the Space Rangers battle in Angel Grove—when Zordon’s wave swept through them, he deemed them redeemable and wiped their slate clean, so-to-speak. They’ve been allies ever since.”
All of the Avengers looked surprised by this piece of information but it was Natasha and Clint, she was intrigued to see, who looked the most stunned. She wasn’t sure why—she’d been upfront with the archer from the beginning that not all of the rangers nor their allies had started out as the good guys. Maybe it was the fact they were the very first villains? She’d have to ask later when she had a chance.
“Back to the matter at hand,” Divatox drawled, amused. “Do you have a theory as to who Goldar’s new master is?”
“We have no idea,” Jason said from his spot in the originals section. “Which is why we asked you all to attend this meeting. Any information you can come up with will be appreciated.”
“You should also inform the full Morphin Council,” Zedd advised. “Of course, to do so would require one of you traveling to Eltar.”
Every single original immediately looked over at Tommy, who looked back at them in exasperation.
“You are the head of the Ranger council here on Earth,” Jason shrugged with a grin. “You, Andros, and Mike should be the ones to go.”
“Me?” the green Samurai Ranger looked both stunned and excited.
“Uh, he means me,” the other Mike said with a laugh. “Seeing as how I’m also a Mike and the Director of the Liaison office.”
“Oh, right,” the younger man said. “That makes more sense.”
“So Tommy will travel to Eltar with Andros and Mike Corbett,” Zedd said. “I’ll make the preparations for your arrival as soon as you let me know when that is.”
“Within the week, Mike will contact you with the exact time once he gets it organized,” Kimberly said. “We need this information, we need to know how Goldar is back and who he’s working for and how they have z-putties. We already have one city team still active and another forming in Amber Beach. Our planetary team also got powered up, which means they’re gonna be needed too. The sooner we find out what’s going on with the golden monkey, the better off we’ll be.”