Conner had been one of the first to hire aliens alongside humans for his soccer camps. He didn't act as if it were any different to hire them than anyone else. He'd mentioned that he was on good terms with the good half of his team's arch-nemesis and vented with his formally evil principal so it was probably understandable that he didn't think too much about it. He also tended to think about the rest of the Ranger Family. Andros was a bit aloof, but a nice guy. Karone was a great partner in crime if you could convince her to help out. Zhane was one of the most fun guys that Conner knew. Aquitar and their Rangers were where he tended to vacation. Marah and Kapri were hilarious, even if Cam firmly disagreed with him strongly on that point. Tyzonn was a good friend of Kira's and Conner had always found him to tell a good story. So for Conner, it seemed weird to not hire aliens. They just needed to be the best fit like anyone else.
The second thing about Conner was his reputation with his hires. Conner took what he was doing seriously and, like his teacher before him, felt like these were 'his kids' that he was responsible for. While his hiring practices were very open ended, they were also incredibly rigorous. It wasn't strange, then, that he'd turned off the news that morning and headed out the door with a tunneled sense of purpose. His phone was ignored, anything else forgotten. Instead, he just headed to where he guessed one of his employees would take to hiding.
“You know,” Conner said, walking into the building casually. “Empty warehouses usually come down during monster attacks.”
“Mr. McKnight?” His subordinate asked and Conner smiled softly. He'd found Nezav to be more than a little adorable when he'd hired him. A new-to-earth refugee alien that looked like a weird cheetah with blue fur and green markings. He'd been of that age where he was just slightly too old to be a student, but almost too young to hire. Conner had worked around it.
“Conner, Nezav. You're supposed to call me Conner,” he teased and sat down next to his worker. He leaned back as the alien looked at him.
“I didn't do it,” he said. “I wouldn't kill anyone!”
Conner nodded. “I know. Don't worry. We'll figure this out.”
Nezav nodded, but didn't look too enthused. His boss ran soccer camps. He wasn't sure what he could do about this.
Conner led his employee back to his office and pulled up his computer. He still wasn't the best on the stupid things, but several years of Ethan beating it into his head on how to use it helped. As much as he wanted to call his teammates, he knew that he needed a better start on this. He dialed up one of the numbers. The man on the screen glared at him. “You're lucky we're in.”
“They still let you guys patrol? Aren't you guys a little old?” Conner asked, almost sounding innocent. Eric glared back at him before Wes quickly took over.
“Conner,” he warned but Conner grinned cheekily.
“Hey Wes!” He said. “I have a favor to ask of you guys.”
Wes' expression turned to amusement. Few Rangers would try to heckle Eric before asking for help, but Conner was one of them. “What do you need?”
“An employee of mine just got a murder rap on him. He didn't do it, but since he's not from Earth...” Conner said and Wes nodded.
“Got it. We'll look into it,” he promised. Eric nudged his partner out of the way and looked Conner in the eye.
“Are you sure he's innocent?” He asked. Conner nodded.
“Positive,” he answered. Eric grunted.
“We'll call you back,” he said and hung up. Nezav looked at Conner, shocked when the man didn't look surprised.
“He must be in a good mood,” Conner said cheerfully. “That should help with the cops.”
“Conner? Did you read the whole thing?” He asked.
“To be honest, I read your name and that you killed someone,” Conner said. “Why?”
“They said I killed someone important,” Nezav said. Conner paused and sighed.
“Seriously?” He asked with a groan. “Alright, alright. Let's call in the big leagues then.”
Conner reached over and dialed two numbers. The man and woman that looked back both radiated authority. “Hey Carter! How's it going, Taylor?”
“Eric warned me you'd be calling,” Taylor said, folding her arms. “Let me guess, you just found out who he supposedly killed?”
“Nope,” Conner said. “But I heard the word 'important' so you guys came to mind.”
“State senator,” Carter said. “For California. She was leading the way for better alien/human relations.”
“That sounds bad,” Conner said. Carter managed to hide his annoyance, but Taylor didn't.
“Conner, if you're not going to take this seriously...” she threatened. He dropped the act.
“I'm very serious and yes, I believe him. If you don't trust me, get Cole here,” he said. Taylor met his eyes and waited before nodding.
“I can buy you 48 hours,” she said. “That's it.”
“I can get you another 24 after that,” Carter said. He looked at Taylor. “I'll have to fight you for jurisdiction. Sorry.”
Taylor nodded. “We've done it before,” she assured him. She turned back to Conner. “Fix it.”
“Yes, Ma'am,” he said before hanging up. Nezav looked at him.
“That was a Colonel,” he mentioned. Conner looked impressed.
“Yep,” he said. “She's in the Air Force. I don't know all of the ranks, but Doctor O told me 'Don't bother Colonel Earhart! I'm sick of getting calls from Taylor!' so I know that one.”
“You teach soccer. How do you know a colonel?” He asked.
“Trade secret,” he answered. “Alright. That leaves SPD... Or I need to answer my phone...”
He reached over and answered the incoming call. Trini looked back at him. “What happened?”
“He didn't do it and I'm trying to figure it out,” he answered. Trini nodded.
“If you're vouching for him, I can look into it more here,” she assured him.
“I thought you were in Washington D.C.,” he mentioned. “The head of environmental stuff or something.”
“Administrator of the Enviromental Protection Agency. I'm looking into California's smog regulations,” she answered. “I can ask around on the side.”
“Thanks, Trini,” he said.
“Don't thank me until we find something,” she ordered and smiled. “It will be alright, Conner.”
He nodded as she hung up. He waited. After all, if Trini knew, that meant that someone else knew. He didn't need to wait long. “Conner?”
“Hey Doctor O,” he said. His old teacher looked back at him with a sense of exhaustion. “Oops?”
Tommy snorted. “Only you,” he answered affectionately. “The rest of us who aren't in a position of authority are trying to find out what's going on. Did you call Ethan?”
“He's next on my list,” he assured him. “And Doctor O? Thanks.”
“Anytime,” he assured him.
The phone call to Ethan was short and was one word: “Cassidy”. Ethan just nodded and got off as Conner leaned back. “Alright,” he said. “Now, we just wait.”
“Wait?” Nezav asked. Conner nodded.
“They'll handle it. My job is to make sure you don't get arrested while they're handling it,” he said. There was silence for a minute before the alien spoke up again.
“Conner? How?” He asked and Conner looked confused. “You teach soccer.”
“Oh, I just have a big family,” he answered.
“Yep,” he said.
“You know military and Lightspeed Rescue. You know someone in SPD. You know someone in your country's capital. I'm surprised you don't know the president,” he said. Conner made a face.
“Never bring that up in front of Xander. He's still smarting over that one,” Conner said. Nezav just stared at him. “What?”
“You know someone who ran for president?” He asked.
“And lost,” Conner said.
“Like I said, I have a big family. And we're always there for each other,” he answered. Nezav was silent. All it had taken was Conner's assurance that Nezav hadn't done it and they were all running off to prove it. He didn't know a lot about humans, but that wasn't normal. The look on his boss' face when he said it though didn't give room for doubts. He genuinely believed every word he said. It was, by far, the craziest thing Nezav had ever seen.
It didn't take too long before Conner got a call back from an even different person. Conner grinned. “Hey Trent.”
“Ethan says you owe him one,” Trent started off with a slight grin. “Kira's rolling her eyes that even this long after high school you're still causing trouble with Ethan.”
“I missed you guys too. So, what really happened?” Conner said, folding his arms and raising his head a little. Trent's grin died down slightly making Nezav even more confused. Sure, Conner's employees backed down when he did it, but that's because he signed their checks. The man before him seemed like an old friend and neither looked like they were military.
“You were right. He was framed,” Trent answered, oblivious to Nezav's thoughts. “Anti-alien group. Taylor, Carter, and Eric are arguing over who gets jurisdiction. Wes is calmly waiting on the outcome. Trini and Xander are formally protesting that your employee was dragged into it over 'where he was born' as he's now an citizen of Earth. I'm not sure how Trini is involving herself, but Xander's using it to further his Unity platform. If he doesn't win the senator's seat this time around, I'll be shocked. Vida and Chip are backing them up as leaders of “Equal Rights for Non-Humans” and Madison put all of it online with Nick. Mack and Andros' teams came together to back them up publicly. Ethan and Justin had SPD distracted. Most of the others are cheering. And Cassidy is having a field day and talking about a Pulitzer. It's likely that several of the anti-alien bills are going to fail and we should get some more rights for everyone.”
“You're on top of it,” Conner said with a grin. Trent just sighed.
“Apparently, everyone decided it was easier to relate everything through me,” he grumbled. “Instead of calling you.”
“I'm in hiding,” Conner said easily. The other man glared at him, but he nodded. He glanced past Conner.
“It should be safe for you to come out now,” he said.
“Why?” Nezav asked. Trent waited patiently. “Why did you go this far?”
Trent paused for a minute and then smiled. “Conner claimed you,” he answered. Nezav glanced at his boss who acted like there was something interesting in the opposite direction. “He might make things way more complicated than they should be and screws stuff up and makes all of us want to hit him most of the time, but he's also particular about who he lets around 'his' kids. If he says you didn't do it, then you didn't do it. Hey Conner? Can you go call Doctor O? He's been texting me for the past fifteen minutes wanting to know if you're okay.”
Conner nodded and headed out the door to make the call. Trent looked at the alien sternly. “You never abuse this,” he said. His voice was darker and more than a little scary. “And you protect him. Understand?”
Nezav nodded wildly. Trent nodded back once. “Good,” he said.
“Umm...” he said quickly and Trent paused. “Conner said you were a family.”
“Good way of putting it,” Trent said with a nod. He gave a small smile. “And so are you now. Maybe one day, you'll understand. For now? It's easier to just go with it.”
Nezav nodded. “I will,” he promised. “And I'll keep an eye on him.”
Trent grinned. “We're counting on you,” he said.
As Conner came back in and shot Trent a look that said he knew exactly what Trent had done, Nezav realized that for the first time in a long time, he finally felt like he had a family. He didn't understand how they were a family or why they would invite someone like him into it, but maybe he didn't need to know. Maybe that's just the way it was.