Somewhere in Time and Space
Xanthe of Aquitar stumbled as she was pushed into the cramped cell, and whirled around as her captor shut the door. It locked with a click, shutting out the light entirely, and the woman's footsteps echoed away down the hall. Deep below her, Xanthe could feel the engines of the spaceship rumbling.
Xanthe backed up a few steps, and her heel hit a warm body. It recoiled and swore in a man's voice, and Xanthe jumped. Fumbling in her pocket, she found the hole, and pulled a metallic loop out of the lining of her lab coat. Holding it up, she snapped it out to full width—big enough to fit over her head, and raised her free hand.
"Light," she said clearly, reaching into it. Her fingers closed around a flashlight, and she pulled it out of the pocket dimension. Turning it on, she pointed it down at the floor. Her cellmate lay on his stomach, head on his arms, and barely twitched towards the light.
Xanthe crouched down beside him, setting the pocket dimension aside for the moment. He wore a tattered blue-grey uniform, and his hair was shaggy, blond and clumped with drying blood. Slowly, he lifted his head, turning towards her, and Xanthe gasped a little.
The man was about her age, in his twenties, and had been fairly handsome not too long ago. Now, three scars crisscrossed his face—one through his right eye, one slanting from left eyebrow to right cheekbone, and one sidling up to his nose. They were red and swollen with infection, and his eyes were clouded and sightless. He had a stubbly beard.
"Hello?" He asked. He had an Estuary English accent—like Cockney, but melted around the edges. "Who's there?"
"Xanthe of Aquitar. I was in the chemistry division of Hourglass Facility." The first trace of her own bubbling voice made the man stiffen up, and even with him somewhat lacking eyes, Xanthe knew she was being stared at incredulously.
"Um, sorry, am I delirious? Half of those words make no sense. G-Garfield Brooks, Flight Seargeant, serial number 39472."
"Oh—you are from the universe where the Earth was decimated by Venjix?" Xanthe asked quickly. Garfield nodded a little, and winced in pain. She went back to her pocket dimension. "Medical kit."
"How are you doing that?" Garfield asked, as Xanthe undid the clasps of the small white case.
"Emergency pocket dimension. We were all given them on arrival in Toppled Hourglass. Please hold still; this may sting a bit."
"You seem to know what's going on," Garfield said, propping himself up as Xanthe began cleaning the gashes on his face. He didn't make a noise, but his knuckles whitened under the grime as he clenched his arms. "I heard something about 'Akra,' and that I'm going to be drained, which sounds bad."
"It is. The Akra are our captors: they are symbiotes controlling human and near-human bodies. The Toppled Hourglass Facility was the organization set up to combat them, but our base was just overrun, and I fear many of our Rangers—the primary fighters, superheroes—have been defeated. Draining is what the Akra do to those they consider inferior or damaged in some way—our life forces will be transformed into usable energy."
"Our? What's wrong with you—aside from your voice?" Xanthe finished cleaning the cuts, and took Garfield's right hand. It was callused and covered in little cuts. She put it on her face, over her lobes. He stiffened, his breath catching in his throat, as he realized that they were real.
"I'm too alien for them to bond with. Aquitar is my home planet, and all Aquitians sound like me." Garfield slid his hand around, feeling the ridges on Xanthe's face, and her bumpy, brain-like head. She felt a bit uncomfortable, especially as he fingered her queue of long black hair, but she knew this was the closest the man could come to seeing, and he'd never encountered an alien before.
"…Okay, then," he said quietly, moving back. "Got any escape ideas?"
"First, take these," Xanthe said, opening a jar and shaking two pills into her hand. She passed them to Garfield. "They'll reduce the fever." Nodding, Garfield swallowed them. "Now, you are a soldier, I imagine you can fight somewhat. We will have to use the element of surprise. When they take us to be drained, wait for my signal, then attack your guard. Can you run?"
"I've only walked so far, but I think so, if the floor stays even." Xanthe considered bandaging Garfield's face, but decided against it. The Monitors—guards—might not have time to notice clean wounds, but a bandage would raise questions.
"Good. This ship should have portal technology, if not readily available weapons." Garfield nodded, and cocked his head to the side.
"Someone's coming." Quickly, Xanthe tossed her equipment back into the pocket dimension, folded it, and shoved it into her pocket. The sudden light from the opening door was blinding, and she threw up an arm. The Monitor grabbed it, dragging her to her feet, and Xanthe was hustled into the hallway.
She stumbled a little, and staggered along as the Monitor dragged her. Pretending to be dehydrated was easy, and the Monitor bought it—her grip stayed slack. Garfield was right behind her, trying not to fall down as his guard pulled him.
Xanthe waited until Garfield had gotten the hang of walking. As they reached an intersection, Xanthe shouted, twisted around, and threw the Monitor over her shoulder in a judo throw. Garfield somersaulted, flattening his guard, and slammed an elbow into the man's throat. The Monitor gagged, and Garfield sprang to his feet. He caught himself on the wall for balance.
"This way," Xanthe said, taking him by the hand and starting down a passageway. Free hand extended, Garfield ran gamely. The Monitors began shouting, and Xanthe turned another corner. Garfield tripped, and Xanthe quickly dragged him up again. "Sorry."
"Go!" The two kept running. All of the hallways looked the same—silvery, square and boring, dotted with panels that looked somewhat important. Xanthe wished she knew how to hack into a computer system, but knew she'd probably set of an alarm if she tried anything fancy. Just as she thought of it, an alarm began to blare.
Then a door hissed open, and they ran into an open room. Xanthe stared around at it, panting. Tables, benches, lockers—this was some kind of break room. And in the middle of the room was a round glass case, holding a collection of bronze objects on chains.
Xanthe walked forward slowly. Garfield's grip on her hand tightened, and he moved slowly, still keeping one hand extended. There were six necklaces there, each in its own mirrored segment of the case. They were miniature hourglasses set inside two metal rings, each with differently-colored sand; purple, green, yellow, blue, red, copper and iron gray. Below each sat a small, silvery device shaped like a laser pointer, with two buttons on one side. Xanthe put a hand on the glass.
"What is it?" Garfield asked. His voice echoed in the empty room. The alarm was still going, but distant now.
"The Gyro Morphers. The devices our Rangers used to transform," Xanthe explained quickly, seeing the blank expression on Garfield's face. "There were originally nine Rangers, and from this, only three have escaped."
"Back up," Garfield said, letting go of Xanthe's hand and pulling off a shoe.
"What?" Xanthe did back up, and Garfield slammed the heel of his shoe into the glass. It shattered, and Garfield smacked the bits of glass away before he reached in. His fingers tangled in the chain of the blue Gyro Morpher, and he drew it out and felt it. Xanthe grabbed the laser pointer, and pushed the uppermost button. Both lit up, but the lower one was blue.
"Portal Pointer—this is our escape route," Xanthe said, "But it's been deadlocked. That's how the Akra got so many of us—they automatically lock on to an Akra signature now."
"Okay, we'll just take them out as we go. That's what your superheroes did, right?" Garfield smashed another case, and took out both Gyro Morpher and Portal Pointer. He held the morpher out to Xanthe. She stared at him.
"Do you know what you are suggesting?" She wanted to take the morpher, very badly—and with a little twinge, she recognized it. Viridian green; it had belonged to her cousin, Urisus. Her fingers itched, but she held back.
"Yeah, basically. Come on, we need to hurry." Xanthe carefully gave her Gyro Morpher a single turn, so the full side of the hourglass was on top. She did the same for Garfield, and the two devices began humming with energy. Taking a deep breath, Xanthe took the morpher, and raised the Portal Pointer.
"Upon entry into an Akra timestream, our morphers will give us the shapes of two of the major players in the scheme—Akra always try to create an ideal and rather ridiculous life for themselves. We may be separated in order to do this, though. It lasts until the sand in your morpher runs out—you will know; turn it again if necessary."
"I'll be careful," Garfield replied. "You contact me?"
"I shall. I will be the first to call you by your true name, Garfield Brooks." Garfield ducked his head in acknowledgment, and Xanthe pushed the button. A blue light shot from the end, hitting the wall and expanding into a wide, pulsing portal.
Then the far door slammed open, and Monitors began pouring into the room, shouting. With one last longing glance at the remaining morphers, Xanthe seized Garfield by the arm and ran. A laser shot past their heads, and then they were in the portal. It felt like walking into a layer of cold jelly. Then there was a pop and a snap, and Garfield's hand was ripped out of Xanthe's grip.
Gasping, Garfield stumbled, and flailed for something to grab on to. Just as he found a doorpost, someone walked into him, and they both went sprawling. As Garfield hit the floor, he realized several things. One, even though he still couldn't see and felt feverish, the scars on his face were gone. Two, he was in new clothes, including a leather jacket and something hanging around his neck on a cord. Three, whoever he'd bumped into had spilled their duffel bag all over the floor.
Scooting forward, Garfield began feeling around. He found a spilling water bottle and quickly righted it, and a slender hand plucked it out of his hands. People murmured around them, and whoever-it-was was out of breath.
"Sorry," he said, and paused. That was not his voice, nor his native accent. Why was he Scottish all of a sudden? Ohhh, right, disguise. He hadn't expected the voice, though. Actually, now that he was paying attention, his body felt rather different—the disguise thing Xanthe had mentioned was thorough. Even his teeth felt different.
"No, no, it's my f—" A girl replied, trailing off. Garfield could smell violets now, very strongly—his mother had worked in a perfume shop, and he could distinguish a dangerously effeminate number of scents automatically. Suddenly, he sensed that the woman in front of him was the most beautiful creature he'd ever seen—although he couldn't see a thing. The rest of his mind shrugged in bewilderment.
"You're the Blue Ranger!" The girl exclaimed. The same thing that had told Garfield what kind of girl this was made him grin, and told him exactly what to say next. Too tired and confused to argue, he went along with it.
"You've got me. Flynn McAllistair, RPM Operator Series Blue," he said, holding out his hand. The girl shook it. "Knock people down here often?"
"Alicia Wilson, and yes, but usually on the sparring court," she replied saucily.
"Do you, now?" Garfield grinned, and helped her stand, and passed her the duffel bag.
"Come back here tomorrow if you want me to prove it to you," Alicia replied.
"Why not now?"
"Because I just finished my workout for today, plus I think those two with the worried expressions heading for us are your friends." Garfield turned around, hearing footsteps, and a hand came down on his shoulder. He stood up, and felt the Gyro Morpher bump against his chest, under his jacket. Okay, one thing had stayed the same—it was the cause; it made sense.
"Flynn," another woman, around Alicia's age, said, "Doctor K wants us back at the Garage. New weapon or something." Xanthe? Apparently not—or else it wasn't safe yet.
"On my way, Summer. Same time?" He asked Alicia. This drew a rather odd-sounding "oooh" from Summer.
"You've got it. If you're supposed to be protecting the city from Venjix, you'll need all the help you can get," Alicia said. Garfield couldn't help freezing up briefly, as Alicia slipped past him. Venjix? Was this Corinth City? He thought he'd heard Rory mention it a couple of times. They'd been heading there, but been picked up by the Akra along the way.
"Flynn!" A man snapped, and Garfield jumped as he was punched in the arm.
"I'm fine, let's go," he said, feeling his ears turn a little pink. From Summer's giggle, she interpreted the color change a little differently, and Garfield shook his head. This was going to be a strange job.
So, sorry for flooding everybody's alerts like this! As you can see, I've decided to restore the...not the oldest draft of this story, but the one that I actually finished. I decided that I should repost Mesozoic Giants a few months ago, since I'd decided that the people who submitted characters to it deserved to have that version of the story available again, even if I wasn't entirely happy with the fic. And of course, that story crosses over with this one a lot, and uses a lot of concepts that have been changed or taken out of Shattered Hourglass entirely. In order to keep Mesozoic Giants readable, and because the two drafts have gotten so different that this isn't redundant, Toppled Hourglass is back to stay.