Prelude to Invasion Chapter One
POWER RANGERS:- Demon Wars
Prelude to Invasion
Faith sprinkled a handful of tiny marshmallows over four cups of hot chocolate. "Thanks Faith." One of the junior Slayers she half recognised from Sunnydale beamed and carried them over to their table
She looked over her shoulder and saw Connor desperately trying to make more, using the last of the thick syrup from under the counter. "Is everyone left in town here?" he asked not looking up.
There were supposed to be more than twenty Slayers in the City and it seemed like they had all descended on the Coffee Shop at once. Like a plague of locusts they'd already drank or eaten most of the stock. "Tradition, you should have seen the Bronze before all hell broke lose in old Sunny-D." She laughed. "That was a party. Didn't end well, but that's another story."
"She's not wrong." A familiar red head said.
"Vi, right? Heard you were in town." Faith grinned. "What do you want?"
"Hot chocolate, if there's any left." she asked looking at what Connor was doing.
The young man half sighed, half growled before slumping his shoulders. "Sure I'll go out back and get it."
"Be sure to grab some marshmallows while you're back there." She told him. "And see if there's anymore cookies."
"Will do." He said and vanished to the store room.
"He know about the whole Demons, Slayer thing?"
Faith hid a smile. "Not really. He knows what's out there, but who doesn't in this town."
"But you haven't told him what a Slayer is?"
Faith shook her head. "I told him a few stories about old sunny-hell but I left that out." She hated this, having to lie to the others, but they couldn't guess just who or what she was these days.
"That's cool," Vi tried to look over Faith's shoulder and at the door. "He is kinda cute. You sleeping with him?"
That came out of nowhere and Faith actually found herself surprised by it. "Urm, no." She even stammered. "I don't do that, well not so much, anymore." She couldn't really remember the last time she'd slept with someone, sure there was Robin but that was a year ago now.
"Why not? Playing for the other team?"
Faith found herself speechless, tact really wasn't one of this girl's strong points. Looking round she had to keep her jaw from dropping, half the Slayers were watching Vi embarrass her and chuckling about it.
"Hey I'm only asking. Like I said he is kinda cute and if you're not interested someone else might be."
"She's got a point." One of the other Slayers said.
"And he's got a nice butt." Another added just in time for the door to open.
"Faith, give us a hand." He asked, juggling two boxes and a container. She took the marshmallows as Connor set up the container.
"So Connor; what are you doing still in town, I thought everyone had gotten out?"
The Red Ranger shrugged. "I haven't anywhere else to go. I was on a gap year, travelling the country when I ran out of money. Got jumped by those demon guys and Faith pulled me out. She helped me get this job." Connor finished making Vi's chocolate and gave it to her. "So how do you know Faith, no wait let me guess you know her from that crater place. Sunny-vale?"
"Dale. yeah, I guess we all do." Vi shrugged. "It's a lot like here really. Demons and monsters around every corner."
"Well if you and those Rangers are going to bury this place too can you wait until I have enough money to get out of here?"
That got him a laugh from a few of the girls. "I'll see what I can do." Vi chuckled and headed to one of the tables.
"You heard?" Faith whispered under her breath.
"About you playing for the other team, and my backside? Of course I did." he said looking down, sorting out the till. "Vampire like hearing, remember."
"Don't get any ideas." She warned him, opening the box of marshmallows and filling up the hopper. "They're just kidding."
"What are you talking about?" he asked, confused.
"I know what your Dad was like, he had a weakness for Slayers." Faith warned him. "That's the last thing we need."
"No, the last thing we need is a bunch of teenage girls running around thinking they can handle what's coming." He hissed. "They shouldn't be here, you know that."
Faith wanted to agree, but couldn't. "You know it's not over, whatever A'Zores is planing is huge. We might need the help."
"Hey, what are you two whispering about?" One of the Slayers called out.
"If anymore of you guys turn up we might have to ask the boss to hire more people." Faith joked a little too quickly. Sounding fake, even to herself
"Awe, we'd hate for you to have to work." Another one teased as the main doors opened again. It was Willow and her girlfriend Kennedy.
"Kennedy!" "You're alright!" "How are you?" "What happened?" The Slayers babbled.
The two looked at each other and then saw the warning look Faith gave them. "We…" Willow coughed. "We were looking for more of those things when we met that A'Zores guy."
"Is he really as bad as all that?" Vi asked.
"Hell, he's worse." Kennedy admitted scratching at her chest. "Nearly killed me without really trying. If it wasn't for the Blue Ranger I would be."
"Was it magic? I saw that thing she did with the little girl months ago, it had to be magic."
Willow shook her head. "Magic couldn't do that, at least not what I saw. The Blue Ranger was, is, something else."
"Cool." Vi grinned as Faith waved Willow over.
"Chocolate?" she asked
The red headed witch gave her a cold dark look. "I still don't like you." She said after a long moment. Faith set her shoulders, this wasn't going to be fun;
"Not asking you to Red." She tried to be nice, if not friendly. "I'm not even asking you to trust me. I'm asking if you want some chocolate."
She smiled faintly at that. "All right, coffee, three sugars." Faith nodded and got right to it.
Kennedy, meanwhile, had most of the girls gathered around her. "What are they like?" One of them asked.
"Who the Rangers?" There was a chorus of replies. "They're, well I don't know. I spent most of the time asleep. Sweetie, you saw them fight, didn't you?"
Willow looked back. "Oh yes, I saw them."
"So, how do they do it? Is it some sort of trick?"
Faith had to bite her bottom lip to keep her grin hidden. Willow shook her head "No, it's not a trick. They say it's some sort of technology."
"I always thought they were alien. You know from the planet spandex in the galaxy of kickassia." Vi nodded in agreement.
"Get real, there's no such thing as aliens."
"Of course there are!"
"Nahh, They're probably some secret government group. You know like that initiative group you told us about." One of the Slayers looked to Willow.
"I think she's behind it." Another one argued. "Yeah, Buffy and her cooked them up. Like a Slayer special forces team!"
"Then what about all the others?" Vi asked. "They're aliens I'm telling you!"
"No Amy's got a point. Come on Faith's been in town for… hey Faith, how long you been here?"
"I don't know, a few months." She lied quickly. "After the Rangers turned up at least." Willow, knowing the truth, scowled at her. She probably didn't like having to lie to the girls. That or remembered how Faith lied to keep her working with the old Mayor a secret.
"Doesn't have to be Faith. Could always have been something the Watchers had ready." The Amy girl said.
"What if they're robots?" another Slayer asked
"What, get real!"
"No, serious. Robots. Think about it they got the big ones why not have them the size of one of us. They could have those really small ones, Thats how they fixed Kennedy."
"You think there are these little robots in me? You're nuts."
"Makes as much sense as secret Slayer army, or aliens."
"As if. Vi's right they got to be Aliens. Under those helmets I bet they got blue skin, or scales."
As the Slayers argued Connor went out and collected the empty cups. Faith lent back on the counter to watch him try and not get caught up in the discussion, failing badly.
Sari flicked idly at the controls for the Viewing Globe. They cycled through a number of images. Scans from the sigils, as Dawn called them, across Amethyst City. They didn't make any sense to her, just a bunch of lines. Some crossing, others connecting but there wasn't any real pattern to any of them. At least not one she could see.
Twisting a knob the Viewing Globe changed again, this time showing the whole city and the College. Little flashing dots appeared all over the image. Showing where they, and the Slayers, had seen them.
She pouted, this was pointless. She could play connect the dots all day and it still wouldn't work. For fun she tried overlaying the glyphs on the City. Some of the points matched, but she couldn't tell if it was just luck or part of the master plan.
Magic was a complete mystery to her, the rules made no sense. If there were rules. Dawn insisted there were, but she was insane. No, she understood computers a lot better. She knew how they worked and why. They had rules, and laws, and made sense. Even when other people couldn't see it.
Well most of them did. There was one that didn't seem to make much sense to her. Alpha. He was more like an Autobot than a computer, even if she couldn't feel a Spark from him. Over the last few weeks he'd even been strange. Stammering when there was no one else around. Insisting that he had something important to do with the Zords, or systems around the Command Centre.
At first she hadn't thought very much of it but it didn't take long for Sari to figure out he was lying to her. There was nothing wrong with the Zords and what parts of the Centre that did work were all more or less alright. There was so much that neither her or Alpha really understood. When Zordon died he took a lot of his secretes with him.
But as time went on Sari knew it couldn't be that Alpha was smart enough to give up, or ask her for help, if he had to. There had to be something else, maybe something was wrong with him. The developing stammer might have been just part of something much deeper and he was embarrassed.
There was a brief burst of static, almost like a cough, and she turned around. Alpha was there with a cargo box, "Urm, Sari are you busy?"
"No." Was he going to ask her to help with the repair? "Do you need me for something?"
He tilted his head. "No, well not need. I just thought you might want to get out. Of the Centre I mean. See the desert; there's a few flowers, a couple of shrubs and even a caucus. I've been trying to keep them alive for awhile and thought you might want to see them."
Sari blinked, it would be kinda nice to get out of the Centre and not have to save the world. "What's with the box?" She asked him.
Almost as if he'd forgotten he had it Alpha managed to look guilty. "Oh just a few things. I synthesised some more of your energon and a few bits and pieces. Even some human food you said you liked."
"You're talking about a picnic?" Sari said, stunned and he nodded. She'd never been on a picnic before. "Cool!" she grinned.
The little robot hefted the box again and seemed to shuffle it's feet in excitement. Sari laughed, but before they could leave Tommy Oliver beamed into the building.
"Oh you're both here. That's good."
"Hi. Something up?" Sari asked glancing at the alarm light. It was still cold.
Tommy shook his head. "The City's fine. This is about me, really it's about Goldar."
"You should have called one of us," Sari grumbled. "We would have helped."
He shook his head. "We agreed, Goldar and Me, we agreed one on one. He kept his word, I had to keep mine."
"He didn't have a choice." Alpha pointed out. "He didn't have friends, or any allies left."
"That's just it." Tommy said. "He didn't see any options. Instead of helping him all I did was kill. There had to be another way."
"What if there wasn't?" Sari asked. "You didn't see one when you agreed to fight him, right?"
Tommy pulled out a small stool from under part of the console. "I'd hoped to change his mind, get him to see reason."
"And he didn't."
"Alpha's right, he didn't." Sari said. "It's like when we were fighting Decepticons. We couldn't hope to capture all of them. Sometimes, sometimes the only way to save lives is to fight to the death."
"When does that become right though. Kill one person to save a thousand? Fine. What about killing two people for two thousand, or ten for ten thousand? Soon you're justifying killing millions." He waved at the wall and Sari felt ill. "How am I saving them, what am I saving them from? Evil? Who's to say just what that evil is? Me? My views of Good verses Evil? How long until I become the Evil I'm trying to fight?"
Sari didn't have an answer for him as Tommy just looked at the floor. "I should never have agreed to the fight. There were other options, other things I could have done." He took a deep breath. "I'll never know now."
Sari shook her head, this was eating him up. She could see how he'd dwelt on it. Twisting the facts until he couldn't see straight. He was right of course; as an Autobot it was her duty to protect life, all life. Killing, even when absolutely necessary, really was a slippery slope. You needed a strong hold on your morals and a clear head. At least according to Optimus and Ratchet.
From her time as a Ranger she knew they were right. "Look I know you're feeling guilty and thats natural, from what I get that's what your supposed to feel, but dwelling on it like this isn't going to help anything."
"No." Tommy shook his head sadly. "No. I'm not just going to try and forget what I did. Never in all the years of being a Ranger did I have to kill. The closest I ever came was Smitty."
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "An old colleague, not a Ranger. I met him when I was working with Anton Mercer. He was injured, killed in an accident. What was left was rebuilt into Zeltrax. A sort of Cyborg minion for Mesogog. The creature made of mutated Dinosaur DNA I battled as the Black Dino-Thunder Ranger. What was left wasn't… wasn't Smitty. An insane thing that rampaged all over the place in a giant mech."
"What's the difference?" Sari asked
"There was nothing… Alive… left in him just a shell."
"Is that what you told yourself?"
"That's the truth. I knew Smitty, he was a good man. A good friend." Tommy snapped. "What was left was a twisted shadow. Goldar, he was always Goldar. A sentient being, the last of his people. He'd spent the last few years I don't know what. Trying to survive. He didn't stand a chance and we both knew it. I could have just disarmed him and locked him away somewhere."
"He'd have broken out." Sari tried to argue.
"I didn't even try." He said stubbornly. "I've lost something, I don't know what, or when, or even how, but I lost it and I can't go on like this."
"What, what are you saying?" Alpha asked. Sari couldn't believe what she was hearing.
"I'm leaving, my job here has been to help the Sari and Rangers but I can't do that any more. I can't guide you when I no longer trust my own judgement."
"What are you going to do?"
"Some people call it walkabout, others call it a sprit quest." He took a breath. "I'm leaving it all behind. Just head out there, without any ties or arguments holding me back. The idea's that out there I'll have to face who and what I am. I won't be able to duck, dodge or justify myself to anyone. It will just be me, myself and the truth." To Sari it sounded crazy, she told him as much.
"I know some people that it's worked for. I feel like it's something I have to do."
Alpha looked between them. "When?" he asked.
"Now. As soon as I've finished here. I didn't want to go without telling any of you."
Sari shook her head. "No, you can't. Not now." Tommy opened his mouth but she interrupted. "We all know something's coming. A'Zores attack at the College proves he's not just gone. This is big, as Dawn says Apocalypse big. We'll need everyone we've got. Slayers and Jack's army guys too. We need you."
"What for?" he asked coldly.
"You're the only one that can organise us." Alpha told him. "The Rangers are going to be out there, I'm going to be fixing everything in sight. We're going to need someone to hold us all together."
"You still know more about this stuff than anyone else." Sari added. "Alpha's right we need you, now more than ever."
Tommy looked between them. "I can't… You're right I can't go. Not now, but when this is all over, I'm not going to say goodbye. I'll be gone, just gone." He looked around the room, a haunted look on his face. "I think maybe forever."
End Chapter One