Poor Judgement

I don't actually know when this story is set, exactly. If I had to pin it down, I'd say…a short time after the finale, in some weird alternate where Ban doesn't have to leave Earth to join the Fire Squad just yet, but is still planning to at some point? Definitely after episode 46, anyway.


"Stop and I'll shoot!"

Cornered at the end of the alley, the fleeing alien skidded to a halt, putting his hands up. "Er…don't you mean 'stop or I'll'—"

"No!" Levelling her pistol, Kodou 'Umeko' Koume sent a laser round directly into the criminal's chest, knocking him on his back. "Your species is tough, you'll be fine."

"That's police brutality," he grumbled as she approached with gun and cuffs at the ready.

"And a drug-fuelled psycho joyride through town is regular brutality!" she countered, dragging him to his feet and marching him back down the alley and towards her car. "Six people are in hospital! You're lucky no-one died, man."

"Well hey, no-one did, so you can stop being so aggressive, all right?"

She shoved him inside and climbed in the driver's seat. "Shaddup. I'm gonna be late for my date."

"Ooh," he joked as they pulled out into the road, sirens off. "I don't know what's considered attractive in humans, but for a tough girl like you…is he big, strapping, even tougher? Or a soft little guy for you to protect?"

"She is amazing, and I don't hafta tell you anything more'n that. Quiet already!"

"Oh, what are you even going to do?"

"Out of view of the station?" Umeko smiled sweetly. "Uncuff you, throw you out of the car, and we do round 2, which is the one where I'm wearing three layers of body-armour and using an automatic armour-piercing rifle."

"Shutting up."

"Thattaboy."


DekaBase…

Umeko skipped in past the other members of Earth's Dekaranger squad; Sen was leaning over Hoji's shoulder, attempting to offer advice Hoji was resolutely ignoring as he scrolled through case-files on the wall-mounted computer. Ban was supposed to be deep in thought about his own latest case, but had fallen asleep in his chair, which Jasmine was wheeling off to a corner of the room to keep him out of the way. Tetsu was just entering from the opposite door, having just finished giving a tour to some prospective new recruits.

Umeko slid into her own chair, giving it a spin so that when she saluted, she saluted the whole room in turn. "And that's another arrest for Earth's finest! Ah, no wonder I'm the leader…"

This, naturally, was what woke Ban up, toppling him off his chair, not that this bothered him. "For the last time, you ain't the leader!" he called from the floor, flailing around in his attempts to stand.

"Well it's sure not you!" she yelled back, immediately standing again and heading towards the others, now more or less clustered together. "Anyway, can't stick around! I told you all I've got a date set up later—I think that about covers me for today, so if you are too, then I guess we're off!" She beamed and extended a hand.

And was utterly shocked when Sen stepped forward to take it.

She drew back, shaking her head. "Um, no. No, no, no. No, Sen. Sen, no. Sen? What? No. What? Sen, what? What? No."

He immediately came over apologetic. "Oh! Did I misinterpret you? I'm so sorry! It's just, earlier you mentioned a date but not with who, and…I don't know…after everything with that alien who tried to scam you into marriage, and…the talks we had afterwards, I thought…I'm sorry. I just thought we had a moment. Did we not have a moment?"

"We did not have a moment."

"Oh."

"I mean, uh, wait…" She jumped up and down, a million thoughts fighting to escape her mouth. "We had! Moments! Friend moments! It was very sweet of you! You really helped me, that time. There were moments. Cool friend moments. You're a cool friend. I like you. I don't like you, but I like you. Y'know?"

"Yes! Yes." He laughed. "Sorry about all that. Really. I misunderstood. But, if it's not me, then…" He scanned the room. "Who were you talking to?"

"Uh…Sen…" She shrugged. "We really haven't been hiding this. I'm sorry you didn't notice, but like." She went over and hugged Jasmine. "Me and Jasmine have been dating for months, dude."

"Yeah, obviously," said Hoji, returning to his work.

"Right, they've never been subtle," Tetsu agreed, helping Ban up off the floor, the rookie also making general (loud) agreeing noises.

Sen blinked. "…you have?"

Umeko nodded.

Jasmine blinked. "…we have?"

There was a long silence.

Umeko stood back. She knew Jasmine. This was not something she'd joke about. "R…really?"

Slowly, Jasmine looked around. "I'm…sorry. I might have misunderstood as well." Her mind was working fast, piecing things from the past few months together with what she understood about how other people worked. "To be clear…this whole time, us together…those were romantic things?"

"Uh…yeah…" Umeko's voice came out very small, a little cracked. "Kinda…"

"And…you love me?"

"Hey hey hey now!" Umeko waved her hands in front of her, attempting a laugh and failing. "Words like 'love' are a bit much…I just thought we were, like…together. Every time we went out alone…and you'd treat me to stuff…and you'd look at me all adoring…like I was the most important thing in the world." The more she talked, the more ridiculous her earlier denial seemed. She slammed a fist into the table, dislodging a precarious pile of reports. "Yes. I love you."

"Oh. I…oh." Jasmine started moving away, face almost blank. "I'm so sorry, I should've…my mind just doesn't work on—on the same channels, as most peoples'. I, I never considered that anyone would…I have to, to go." She bolted out the door.

"Jasmine!" Umeko ran after her, but was intercepted—Swan, the team's technical advisor and something like a mother to all of them, hugged her close.

"It's okay," she whispered. "It's okay. You know her. She's introspective, she needs time to think. Right now she's going to be going through every memory of you from the past year and replaying it in a new light."

"I should have just said something…it seemed so obvious, I should've—"

"You didn't do anything wrong," Swan insisted, stepping back and holding the fraught Dekaranger by the shoulders. "You did say it. All the time. 'Jasmine, I think I really like you'. 'Wanna head out and catch a movie later?' You did just fine. You said one thing, she heard another."

"I just…feel like I've been tricking her…"

"Course not!" Ban slapped her back. "Not your fault! She's the smart one! Hey, back me up, partner!"

"Don't call me 'partner'," Hoji snapped, on instinct but with no real malice, before addressing Umeko. "He's right, though. Neither of you did anything wrong. As long as you give her the choice now you know what's happened, it's fine. We might do strange things…annoy each other, even…" He gave a little smile. "But it's never wrong to love someone."

Across the room, Ban smiled a little too.


"…and it was just…you know how I hear residual thoughts from my surroundings. I have to work to block them out. When I'm overwhelmed, I can't remember how, and—it was—it was all too much. So I ran away. I'm…" Jasmine looked out from her rooftop perch; the towering structure of DekaBase rose above the city's skyline a few blocks away. "…somewhere quieter. I'm sorry to interrupt you like this, Boss. I just feel like I can talk to you."

"It's no problem," said the gruff but friendly voice from the other end of the phone. "It's my job to make sure my team is at peak efficiency, and neglecting emotion is a good way to lose a team entirely." 'Doggie', DekaMaster, Hell's Guard-Dog or whatever you wanted to call him, was currently at Galactic Union Police HQ, half the universe away, receiving an award in the team's honour for their defeat of Agent Abrella and his syndicate. "So. Talk."

"I…have been talking."

"You've told me what happened. The facts. The set-up. Tell me how you feel now. You've presented the question. Let's work towards the answer."

"R-Right. Like a case."

"Like a case."

"So, where do we start?"

"Simple," he said. "How do you feel about her? Do you love her?"

"I don't know," she admitted. "You know me, things don't…occur to me. I have a hard time figuring out people. Ironically enough." She took a minute to think, then continued, "What does love feel like?"

"That's quite a question," he replied. "Most would say, you just know."

"I don't think I do."

"Don't worry, I know. So. Obviously you like her. You all get along, you're a fine team. But compare how you feel about her to the others."

"Umeko is…is." Her breath caught. What is this feeling? I need something to compare it to—a frame of reference—something to work from— "…my…best friend?"

"You sound unconvinced."

"I don't…know…"

"Is it more or less?"

"I don't—I can't—I, I—"

"Jasmine, calm down and answer the question, please."

"I don't know, I can't, I—love is for normal people, Boss!"

She took a deep breath.

"So," came the reply, after a few seconds of respectful silence. "That's what this is about."

"Apparently," she said, voice flat.

"Jasmine…it's all right. You aren't going to be rejected for being an ESPer anymore. This family's different. We all accept—"

"Hold." There was a professional edge to her voice, so he instantly stopped.

Jasmine looked down at the blade held to her neck, her expression unwavering. "What do you—"

"My lil' bro's sittin' in your cells, as'a this morning, Dekaranger!" came the snarl from behind her head. Umeko's earlier arrest, she rationalised. "So we're gonna stroll on down to your base and do an exchange! You pigs let him go, and I'll return you un-skewered. Clear?"

"Mostly. How are you going to skewer me from this position? You look more like you're about to cut my throat, which is very—"

"Shut up!" A clawed, scaled hand was thrust over her shoulder. "Phone! Gimme!"

"Okay…" Slowly, she moved the phone away from her head, bringing it towards his hand. About an inch away, she let go of it and grabbed his wrist with snakelike speed, transmitting a telepathic burst and offloading all the excess thoughts she'd been absorbing since her earlier breakdown right into his brain.

He shrieked, dropping his knife and stumbling away clutching his head. Jasmine spun, catching the phone before it hit the ground and rising to face her assailant, finally getting a full view of him: A crested lizard-like alien, patterned in earthy reds and greens, wearing ragged patched leather and a necklace of various species' teeth. Presumably the one Umeko arrested had looked similar, though she hadn't seen it herself.

He growled, his head clearing, drawing a faintly-glowing longsword from his hip. "Yer gonna wish you never crossed the Creed Brothers, Deka pig!"

"Never heard of you," she said curtly, raising the phone—or rather, her SP License. "Emergency! Dekaranger!"


The team rushed to the main monitor as a yellow light blinked to life next to it.

"Jasmine's transformed," Swan reported. "And her suit just registered an impact! I'm sending you her co-ordinates now. Get out there!"

"Roger!" Giving a quick salute, the five officers rushed for the exit.


Jasmine spun away from Creed, his blade raking across the floor where she'd just stood. She'd already taking a couple blows from it, and he hit hard.

He sneered. "You're pretty good, girl. You been doing this a while, huh?"

"You think?" she asked off-handedly, blocking his next strike with her own sword and dropping to one knee, unloading several shots from her pistol into his stomach and driving him back.

He gave a fanged grin. "Thanks."

"What?" Barely had the word left her mouth before he attacked again; if anything, he was faster than before, his blows raining down even harder. Just blocking one head-on was enough to fling her away and off the roof. She started to plummet for the ground, until something shot by and intercepted her, carrying her back onto the rooftop. DekaPink—Umeko—was carrying her in both arms.

"Hi…Jasmine," she said, sounding as cheerful as she could. Jasmine looked down, embarrassed. There was something…


What

Is

This

Feeling?


Creed hadn't been sitting idle, and was already charging them, but was brought up short by a sudden burst of impacts to his back. DekaRed, Ban, stood behind him, twin pistols raised.

"You wanna do this the easy way?" he called.

"Go to hell!" Creed shouted back.

"Hard way it is!" Ban tapped his helmet with the barrel of one gun. "Thanks for lookin' this way by the way! Umeko!"

Creed looked back just a little too late to react to Umeko dashing at him, slashing her sword up his side and continuing on past him. As he fell to his hands and knees she called out, "Finish it, guys!"

"Right!" Sen and Hoji brought up their rifles, timing their shots to coincide exactly with the burst of flame Tetsu unleashed from his bracer. The combined fire overwhelmed Creed, leaving him lying face-down and slightly charred.

And then he stood up.

He was completely unfazed, giggling like a loon. "You didn't do your homework, huh? Never heard of us, you say? Bad move! Thanks for the energy though!" He thrust his arm into the air, arcs of red lightning raining down on the rooftop and hurling the Dekarangers to the floor. "Have it back!"

"This is…nonsense…" Tetsu muttered, trying and failing to stand, electricity still coursing through his suit.

"Perfect…just perfect," Hoji groaned. "He absorbed our attacks and got stronger."

"You sunnova…!" Ban leapt to his feet, immediately falling again. "Rrrgh, I'll getcha! Just gimme…a minute…!"

"That must be why the little brother was so tough," Umeko realised. "He's not as good at it as this one, but he must've absorbed part of my shots."

"In that case, I think I'm onto something," Jasmine said. "How the technique works. I'm not there yet, but I'm getting there."

"Oh?" Creed turned their way. "Well, I was gonna be on my way to breaking out my bro, since there shouldn't be any Dekarangers at your base right now. But if you're figurin' it out, that makes ya dangerous. It don't pay to let dangerous people live." He lunged, charging his sword with the same red lightning and making a two-handed overhead swing—

—that struck Umeko directly across the chest as she dived between him and Jasmine, collapsing with a pained scream.

"Umeko!" Jasmine knelt down by her fallen partner, pressing a hand to the pink helmet. "You didn't have to—"

"Sure I did," Umeko said weakly. "You might figure out a way to win. Can't let him get you. And…" Shakily, she reached up and gripped Jasmine by the shoulder. "If you don't feel the same, that's okay. But what I did, I'd do a hundred times. I love you."

Jasmine held the outstretched hand for a moment, nodding slowly, then stood.

"You done with your little moment?" Creed asked, tapping his foot, sword resting on his shoulder.

"You a fan of the movies, Creed?" she asked, out of the blue.

"Huh?"

"Let's have a quick-draw. SWAT Mode, On!" She slotted her SP License into the suddenly-materialising armoured vest. Further tactical embellishments enhanced her suit following it, culminating in the heavy dual-barrelled rifle forming in her hands.

Creed snorted. "Quick-draw? You're havin' a laugh! You gotta be able to beat me in one shot for that!"

"Just so."

"Bullshit!"

"Try me."

He raised the sword again, while she remained perfectly still. He edged closer. She didn't flinch. The rest of the team's eyes were locked on the two of them. He feinted attacking, pulled back. Still she didn't move.

Finally, he struck, a stab aimed for her neck. She swung one arm up, her forearm smacking against the flat of the blade and knocking it off-course, while the other arm rammed the barrels of her gun against his chin in the same moment he'd attacked, sending a dual laser burst into his skull at point-blank range. He rocked back, screeching, coils of wild energy arcing around him.

"You've got an energy field around you," she explained. "About five centimetres from your skin. It absorbs impacts. But when you absorbed that much, it became just about visible. And when you attacked Umeko, I saw it disappear, just for an instant." She set down the rifle, walking up to him. "The field goes down when you attack, maybe to avoid negating your own attacks. Either way it had a very hard time absorbing a blast that came in the exact moment you made your own attack. So now, your energy field's volatile."

She grabbed him by the forearms, staring into his aghast face. "So I'll be taking it. All of it."

Brought in contact with something to ground itself against, the energy leapt from Creed to Jasmine, coursing through her armour, suit and body. She gritted her teeth and held on against the ever-increasing pain, until he was sucked completely dry. The shock had completely overloaded her suit, and when she released him she was left back in her regular police uniform, and he with no energy field at all.

"Wha—" he gasped, staring down at his hands. "How—"

"You haven't done anything warranting a Delete, but you'll be locked up a long time. Look forward to it." She drew her sidearm, flipping it to D-Knuckle mode and punching him across the face, dropping him. "You're under arrest."


Umeko sank deeper into one of her several baths a day, mired in her own thoughts. Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Hadda go and be all dramatic-like. Coulda caught her any other way, hadta do the full princess hold. And the speech! The heck was I thinking? Now there's no way she'll—

Jasmine was standing over the bath.

Jasmine was gently drawing her up until her whole head was out of the water.

Jasmine was kissing her.

And now she wasn't thinking anything much at all.

When they finally drew apart, she asked, "are you sure?"

Jasmine nodded, putting a hand to her face and giving an adoring smile. "I'm sorry. Really. My mind doesn't really…go to those channels very easily. Acknowledge someone might like me, that I should hope for…it's something I learned growing up. I wish I hadn't.

"But, I think…every time we went out…and I'd look at you like this, and you'd say those things…of course there was something there. I just didn't know what to call it." She laughed as she was suddenly on the receiving end of a dripping soapy hug. "It's taken too long. I love you too."


Case Complete