Disclaimer: I do not own Power Rangers, Saban does. I own all characters, places, and events not found in Ninja Storm.
Chapter 4: Meeting old friends
Rocky and Aisha called Sam and Chris into the office a few days before the Youth Center was due to be opened.
"We're taking a trip, guys. Grab your keys and follow us."
The White and Green Rangers looked at each other and shrugged, grabbing their car keys. They followed the veteran Rangers onto the Interstate, and soon pulled up upon a sign after driving for an hour.
Welcome to Angel Grove
Chris frowned, wondering why they were being led there, of all places. His question would be answered as Rocky and Aisha pulled into a parking lot and got out, activating the alarm. Chris and Sam parked their cars next to Rocky's, and looked around. The White and Green Rangers saw an awning proclaiming the place as Ernie's Juice Bar. Rocky and Aisha led them inside, and the Ninjas were amazed with how spacious the place was. There were tables on both levels of the Center, but the main floor had a small stairway leading to a workout floor, where exercise equipment was set up, along with a balance beam. A gym mat was set out for martial artists to train, teach their classes, or spar. Chris and Sam then turned their attention to the bar, which had a large blender and different fruits on display. There were also some pinball machines and arcade video games set up. A larger stairway led to the second floor, which had more tables with laptops set up, and a couch in front of a large HDTV.
"This place is awesome," Sam gushed as she took in the sights.
"Thank you," came a voice from behind. The four Rangers turned around to find a slightly obese man with a brilliant smile on his face.
"Rocky, Aisha, it's great to see you again!"
"Same here Ernie," Aisha responded as she hugged Ernie and Rocky shook his hand.
"You look great!" Ernie smiled widely.
"I decided it was time to lose some weight. I started using the equipment here, and dropped 3 sizes."
"Good for you," Rocky said as he grasped Ernie's arm in camaraderie.
"Anyway, you guys came at just the right time! Tommy and Kimberly are here!"
Rocky and Aisha looked at each other, excited. "Really? Where?"
"Up here, guys," Tommy's voice chimed from above. The veteran Rangers looked up to see Tommy and Kim looking down on them, smiles present, with White and Pink smoothies present at their table. Rocky and Aisha almost did a double take as they saw the different looks of their former teammates. Tommy's shoulder length hair was now cut short and spiked. He was growing a goatee and wore glasses. His White T-shirt displayed powerful arms, and tattoos that appeared to be a few years old. He was also at least 3 inches taller.
Kim was also a bit taller, but looked very much the same as before. Age only enhanced the brunette's beauty. Her almond eyes shone with happiness, and her once skinny, yet powerful arms and legs had gained some definition.
"Finally cut the hair, Tommy," Rocky joked as he came out of his stupor. Tommy rolled his eyes.
"That's Dr. Oliver to you," he cracked back.
"Well, excuuuse me," the Red Ranger retorted. "When did you become all stuffy?"
"Boys, behave," Kim said. "Men," she said under her breath, albeit in a good-natured manner. Aisha stifled a laugh.
"The usual smoothies for you guys," Ernie asked.
"Always," Rocky said. He and Aisha then saw Chris and Sam walking around the Youth Center, taking in the sights.
"Oh man, I almost forgot. Hey Chris, Sam, come here for a second!"
The White and Green Rangers walked back over to their boss. "Tommy, Kim, and Ernie, these are Chris and Sam, our employees. We brought them here to show them the inspiration for our own Center."
"Tommy's finally rubbing off on you, Rocko," Kim cracked.
"Ha, ha! Very funny, Pinky!" Now it was Tommy's turn to hold back a laugh as Kim got a wicked glint in her eyes.
"Pinky? Remember what happened to Jason the last time he called me Pinky?"
Ernie turned to the new Rangers. "Nice to meet you guys. You'll have to excuse them. They're always like that," he said with a laugh.
"Nice to meet you too," Sam said. Chris nodded.
"Yeah, same here. This place is great," the White Ranger added.
"Always great to have new people take to the place." He then slightly cocked his head and studied the two Rangers, taking in their White and Green T-shirts. They had the same aura that the old gang had, and still have. "Let me guess: A coconut smoothie for you," he said pointing to Chris, "and a honeydew smoothie for you," he finished, pointing to Sam. The Rangers looked at each other, and shrugged their shoulders.
"Yeah, sounds great," Chris said. He pulled out his wallet, but Ernie stopped him.
"No need. It's on the house," he said. Sam and Chris smiled.
"Great, thanks!" Sam exclaimed.
While Ernie went off to make their smoothies, Sam and Chris wondered just how much the gregarious man knew. He struck the Rangers as being very perceptive, and likely knew much more than he was letting on. After Ernie gave them their smoothies, Rocky and Aisha had gone upstairs to talk to their old friends and teammates while Sam and Chris sat down at the table nearest the small staircase. The irony of the newest Rangers grabbing the same table they used to sit at was not lost on the veteran Rangers.
"Here you go, guys," Ernie said as he brought them their smoothies. Chris and Sam took a sip and decided they really liked his smoothies.
"Wow. This is delicious. How did you know what we'd like, though" Chris asked. Ernie shrugged.
"You have a penchant for White, and Sam has a penchant for Green," he responded, gesturing to their White and Green T-shirts and light jackets. "They're the same way," he added, pointing his thumb upwards to gesture to the older Rangers. "They like to stick to their color, and I thought you would, as well."
There was that feeling that he knew something again. Choosing to play their cards close to the vest, the Ninjas chose to simply shrug and compliment him.
"Thanks. They're great," Chris said, and Sam nodded.
"I never found a place that made honeydew smoothies before. Usually I have to get a kiwi smoothie."
"Well, let me know if you need anything else," Ernie said as he went behind the bar to rinse out the blender. He put on the TV by the blender to the news, and heard of the latest attack in Blue Bay. Sam sighed as she heard the report.
"I was hoping to not be reminded," she muttered only loud enough for Chris to hear.
"Tell me about it. But we can't run from it," he said with a sigh of his own. "Lothor's not going to give up anytime soon."
"Thank God for the Power Rangers," Ernie said as Sam and Chris were listening to the report. Sam nodded.
"They've been a very big help. We're not used to getting attacked, so Lothor showing up…it's been hard."
Chris nodded. "Especially if you've just moved there days ago," the White Ranger added.
The veteran Rangers listened to Ernie and the news report.
"It's good to see Chris actually open up," Rocky said. Tommy and Kim looked at their teammates.
"What do you mean," Kim asked. Aisha sighed.
"He's pretty reserved. He's very disciplined, as you can tell from his physique. But he doesn't talk a lot, and we don't know much about him. What you heard is what we know," she finished. Tommy shrugged.
"Maybe he's just shy. Billy was that way. And I wasn't exactly Mr. Outgoing when I arrived in Angel Grove either," he pointed out. Rocky looked down at Chris, contemplating Tommy's words.
"I hope that's all it is." Just as he was about to say something else, the Rangers heard a beeping sound. They immediately reached for the wrists, only to remember that they weren't wearing their Communicators. They looked down at Chris and Sam, who were looking around for a place to take the summons. Kim sighed while Tommy took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. They immediately sensed something familiar about the way Chris and Sam carried themselves, but couldn't place it.
"Did you hear something," Ernie asked. Chris spoke the first thing that came to mind.
"It's the alarm on my watch. I just remembered that I have to check on something in my car. I'll be back in a minute." Sam gave a minute nod, silently telling him to take the call. He stepped outside and went behind a tree.
"Chris, we've picked up Kelzacks near your location. You and Sam are the only ones available."
"Got it." The Kelzacks showed up just as Cam signed off, and Chris got into an attack stance. The group was too large for Chris to hold off, and he was eventually thrown into the side of the Youth Center. He shook his head free of the cobwebs and held up his morpher.
"Tundra Storm, Ranger Form!"
Chris had an easier time with the Kelzacks until a monster was dispatched. It looked like a large bear with hands that crackled with electricity. The monster roared and charged Chris, who was still dealing with some lingering Kelzacks. The monster used its strength to knock the White Ranger down. It held its hands out and zapped the downed White Ranger, making him arc in pain. The Kelzacks picked Chris up and were about to teleport back to the ship when Sam showed up in her Ranger form. She shot the Kelzacks with her blaster, and used her Nature powers to wrap up the bear in vines, holding it in place.
"Thanks Sam," Chris said as she helped him back to his feet. Sam nodded and the two turned back to the monster, which had freed itself from the vines. It was further distracted by Tommy, Kim, Rocky, and Aisha showing up in their Ninjetti form. Sensing its opportunity to grab Chris was gone, the bear quickly went back to Lothor's ship. Sam and Chris turned to the Ninjetti Rangers, thanking them for their help. The Ninjetti Rangers nodded and disappeared. Chris and Sam demorphed, and to her relief, Sam saw Chris was free of any visible injury. But he bruised some ribs, as evidenced by the hiss he tried to hide when she touched a sensitive spot while helping him get up. She shook her head, and the two Rangers went back inside. By this time, Ernie had brought out a refill on everyone's smoothies, and some chicken wraps. Ernie noticed Chris had a slight limp as he came back into the Youth Center.
"What happened to you," Ernie asked as he gestured to Chris' left leg. The White Ranger sighed and silently cursed himself; he didn't realize it was noticeable.
"I twisted my ankle outside."
Sensing he wasn't going to get anything more, Ernie nodded. "Let me get you an ice pack to keep the swelling down," the proprietor stated, and quickly went into the back room. Chris sighed and sat down at their table.
While Ernie came back and helped Chris wrap up his ankle, Kim, Tommy, Rocky, and Aisha looked at Chris and Sam. Kim was visibly unnerved.
"They're so young." She looked at her former teammates. "Were we really that young?"
Tommy sighed. He never liked how people who were still kids were thrust into that life. "Seems like a lifetime ago, but yeah. But teens have some advantages we don't. I just wish this duty wasn't necessary."
The other Rangers nodded and continued to watch Chris and Sam, who were now talking in fervent whispers.
"Think Lothor will make a move on you again?"
Chris threw up his hands in exasperation. "Yeah, most likely. But how did he know that we were alone? Was he spying on us this whole time?"
Sam shook her head. "On us? No, I think he was spying on you. He's scared of you, and wants your power on his side. He may try to kill you if he can't convert you."
The two Ninja Rangers quickly dropped the subject as they saw Tommy and Kim coming down the stairs and heading their way. Sam shot Chris a look that clearly told him the conversation was not over.
"We need to talk," Tommy simply said as he and Kim stopped at their table. The Ninja Rangers looked exchanged a wary look as Tommy and Kim looked resolute. Rocky whistled down to their employees, who, along with Ernie, were shooting him a dirty look for the loud whistle, while Aisha smacked him upside the head.
"Boy, you need to calm down!" She turned to look at the White and Green Rangers. "There is something we should talk about. Please?"
The earnest tone in Aisha's voice got to them, but they still weren't sure they liked the look Tommy and Kim were giving them. The White and Green Rangers internally sighed, hoping to avoid letting who they thought were civilians from knowing of them. But they knew, and it was likely Ernie did, as well. Chris was going to have to tell his father, and hoped he'd understand.
AN: I know I said I hoped to have my Ninja Storm fics updated sooner, but I simply couldn't get past a certain point in each. I'm trying to finish the chapter of Lost Elements before the end of January, but can't promise anything.
And yes, Kim is back. While I'm usually more of a Tommy/Kat fan, the Ninjetti will be playing a large role in the story, and Kim was the original Pink Ninjetti. Kat will be around, but there won't be any drama on that front.
I hope you have a Happy New Year!