Hayley looked around the room. She wasn't entirely sure why she always ended up organizing these things, but it was something about the fact that everyone else couldn't be bothered (e.g., Fran) or was unable to organize anything that didn't involve a morpher or high explosives (e.g., Cam). Besides, she was the one with the café.
The café's contributions to brunch were set up, smoothies were self-serve for the morning, and the gang was trickling in. Hayley took a deep breath and set out to greet her fellow Power Ranger support and technical staff.
"We do count," Billy said, crossing his arms and pouting.
"Of course we do," Trip said, patting his arm gently. "We're technical staff and we can come to the brunch if we want to."
"Just because we were also Rangers doesn't mean we didn't provide technical support to our teams."
"And get the usual lack of appreciation, yes, I agree. But we're here. If Hayley really wanted to keep us out, we'd have been met by a brachiosaurus rather than a roll of the eyes," Cam said, adding a judicious amount of mango juice to his smoothie.
"...so then they just went running right out the door, leaving the place looking like the demons had already been there." Fran waved her hands around so vigorously, she nearly smacked Clare on the forehead, but Clare ducked automatically.
"Leaving you to clean everything up, of course," Hayley said with a sigh.
"Of course," Clare agreed. "If I had a penny for every time I had to clean up all the eye of newt..."
"Ew." Fran grimaced. "I think I'll stick with the pizzas, thanks."
"No, we're not related." Cam's sigh showed he'd been asked the question too many times.
Billy frowned. "But...you've got the same last name. And you're both samurai."
"Yes, but if Mia and I were related, we wouldn't have the same last name. I'm samurai on my mother's side."
"Is that recessive?"
"I have no idea. I call it aggravating, myself."
Ji sidled up to Hayley and pointed at the long-haired woman flitting around the room. "What is Shayla doing here? She's very...sweet but she's certainly not technical."
"I know, she's not particularly bright. But nobody can bring themselves to hurt her feelings by pointing that out." Hayley shrugged. "Besides, she doesn't hurt anything and she always brings a really good fruit salad."
"Fair enough," Ji said, and wandered off to try the crab puffs.
"Ai-yi-yi," Alpha said. "Teenagers! Who thought it was a good idea to give all this power to teenagers?"
"Absolutely," Tensou agreed, swiveling his head furiously. "I have no idea why they always insist on recruiting teenagers. They're unstable."
"They have no self-control! Every time you turn a corner, they're doing one of those human reproductive activities!"
"Or playing 'pranks', which just make a mess, which we have to clean up."
"I'm afraid the adult rangers are just as bad," Circuit said, wings drooping. "At least with the reproductive activities."
"You said it."
"Where are Andrew and Spencer?" Cam asked as he picked all the tomatoes out of his salad and set them aside. "I wanted to talk to them."
"Spencer called last week to say they couldn't make it. Something about a trip to the Amazon to find...what was it? Some lost artifact or other." Hayley stole one of the tomatoes off his plate. "Spencer didn't sound very optimistic about the thing even existing."
"He always sounds like that."
"So maybe they'll bring whatever it is by later so we can all look at it."
"Is that a good idea? Last time they brought a new artifact to a gathering, it sent Clare and Ji to a demon dimension. I still have scorch marks on my second-best uniform from that adventure."
"Ah. I'd forgotten about that." Scowling, she thought about it. "I'll turn on the perimeter alarm for unusual energy signals. I haven't used that one in a while, anyway."
"At least you could do something," Fran said, sinking deeper into the couch. "I just sat there and watched them get beaten up."
"That's not true," Hayley said firmly. "RJ says you fed them, patched them up, monitored them, and listened to them whine endlessly about being Power Rangers."
"He said that?"
"Well, not the last bit—that was me extrapolating from personal experience."
Billy spun the stool around with a grin. "You had better luck than I did, at least."
"Really?" Hayley's eyebrows shot up. "You must be kidding. Do you have any idea what he did to my file structure? And the cycles? And the zords? And the kids?"
He leaned forward. "He blew up the entire command center while he was evil."
"Huh. I guess you've got me there."
Ji and Clare bent over two books. "Really?" she asked, peering at the one he held. "Just the symbol and the will?"
"Really. Of course the symbol has to be exactly right and the will has to be strong."
"But no words to memorize? No funny-sounding incantations?"
"No, not really."
Her eyes widened. "And if you get it wrong, do you ever get turned into a sheep? Or start turning into a tree?"
"Uh...not usually. If you use the symbol power wrong, it doesn't work."
"I love Udonna, but I think being your apprentice would have been a lot easier," she said with a sigh.
"Angela," Hayley said with pleasure, hugging the other woman. "How's the professorship?"
"Tenure six months ago," the other woman said with a big smile. "I have a book in press about the zords I built for Lightspeed Rescue and a huge DoD grant and the committee nearly fell over themselves to give me tenure."
"I knew it! Congratulations."
"What about you?" Angela said, picking up the smoothie she'd put down. "Considering how fast you finished that PhD, you could easily do the same."
"Academic life was never for me." Hayley looked around the café. "Finishing the PhD was more a matter of principle than anything else. I do some consulting, of course, to keep a hand in or if there's an interesting project, but this is really what I want."
Angela followed her gaze. "This, as in the café, or this as in, being den mother to a bunch of Ranger tech hooligans?"
"Would you believe both?"
They both laughed. "Yeah, I would."
Over the sound of conversation and eating, several people heard alarms nearby. In moments, every head had turned toward the sounds and a few moments after that, they'd all rushed outside to see what was going on.
As a clearly alien spaceship landing on the roof of a nearby building, Hayley sighed. "Boy, they picked the wrong day to invade Reefside."
She leaned against the front of her café and watched nearly all her guests take off. After a moment of thought, she pulled her cell out of her pocket and dialed. "Tommy? I may need your assistance. Nobody's hurt. I could just use some help reining in the property damage. Yes...it's just like old times."