When Tony got out of bed that morning, the last thing he expected was to be surrounded by people when he opened the door. Gwen, Dia, Lyla, Katie and Gina stood around him, smiling all the while. Being surrounded by cheerful, friendly, attractive women meant one of two things:
1- That he was still asleep and having a dream that no one would be in a hurry to wake up from.
2- He had flashed back to his school days, when girls grinning at him meant that they were plotting cruel treachery.
For some reason, Tony couldn't help but feel it was the latter.
"Tony! We have an idea to stop Funland!" said Gwen.
Great. Another attempt to turn the place into a nature preserve. Everyone wanted Tony's help with their plans but who was helping Tony with his? Raising fifty thousand to buy the land back was the best way to go about it. All they had to do was give their life savings to a scruffy guy who had only just moved in. What was so hard about that?
"Did you ever watch Power Rangers when you were a kid?" Gwen asked.
Girls asking boys if they like something always meant trouble on the school playground. They only asked you if you liked things so that they could make fun of you for it.
"Sometimes." Tony answered. 'Sometimes' meaning that he had watched every season from the original up to the current one. Giant monsters and robots fighting, sparks flying every time someone landed a hit, stuff blowing up; It was a guilty pleasure. Not to mention the fact that the female rangers were usually played by very beautiful women.
"Why do you ask?"
"Well, in Japan, they do outdoor plays with the cast of the Japanese version; Super Sentai."
"We want to put on a show like that!" Katie cut in "If it gets popular enough we can get enough signatures to petition Funland to stop!"
"Everyone's helping." Lyla added "Dia's written the script, Gina's making the costumes, Louis is making the sound effects, Tim's putting leaflets around to advertise the show, Auriella's going to be the fight coordinator and Chester is going to direct it."
Tony thought about it. It sounded promising, with everyone getting involved.
"So, you'd like me to help? Okay. What can I do?"
"We'd like you to play the villain."
That was certainly flattering.
"We're getting able bodied men to play the villains." Gwen explained with a twinkle in her eye. "There are quite a few fight scenes in the show."
Tony couldn't help but think it was just a plot that Gwen hatched as an excuse to beat him up. But he didn't see any reason to refuse. Katie looking at him with those big cute eyes certainly helped.
So they arranged a time to rehearse and left Tony to get his chores done.
Later that day, Tony made sure that his cows had water and went over to Dia's villa to meet everyone. Joe, Kurt and Bob were reading copies of the script.
"Hey guys. You've been drafted too?"
"Yup." said Bob, "I'm playing Bronzdar. He's the muscle for the bad guys. Here's the cast list."
Bob handed Tony a piece of paper. Tony read it.
Leaf Red- Gwen
Leaf Blue- Gina
Leaf Green- Dia
Leaf Yellow- Lyla
Leaf Pink- Katie
Lord Eccs (Lead villain) - Tony
Bronzdar (Head enforcer of the villains) - Bob
Crouch (Comic relief villain) - Joe
Bamboo (Comic relief villain) - Kurt
Hostage- To be decided
Then came the realisation that the bad guys were all male and the good guys were all girls. Tony thought that the Spice Girls had disbanded years ago.
As the rehearsals went on, Kurt read his lines in a very quiet voice."
"Are you sure you're okay to play the role, Kurt?" Tony asked him.
"Yes. I'm fine." He said simply.
"Just wait until the dress rehearsal!" said Joe "He'll do a great job!"
Kurt continued reading.
"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, behold the criminal mastermind, Lord Eccs."
That was Tony's cue.
"Now that I have my hostage, I rule this stage! All shall bow before me!"
"Say it in a raspier voice! Lower and raspier! Lower your voice a few octaves!" Chester barked.
It took a while, but Tony's voice was soon fine tuned to how Chester felt that an evildoer, tyrant and enemy of The Harvest Goddess should sound like.
Despite a few teething troubles, the rehearsal went well. When it was over, everyone grabbed their coats and headed home.
Joe went with Katie.
"Is the bar open tonight?" he asked
"It should be."
"Great! I'll walk with you, since its open! Are you coming for a pint, Kurt?"
Since Joe and Kurt went off for a drink, Tony walked with Gwen.
"So, who's this hostage that my character talks about?"
"It's some girl who you grab. We thought it could make for some audience participation, but we could get in trouble for grabbing a kid from the audience."
"Couldn't Bob's brother Tim do it?"
"Nah. We got him to deliver the leaflets to places like mineral town, so he's too exhausted to rehearse by the time he gets back."
"Mineral Town?! That's miles away! How can you send a kid that far?"
Gwen punched Tony in the arm.
"Oh, don't be such a killjoy! As far as Tim's concerned it's an adventure! It's fun!"
Tony rubbed his throbbing arm. Gwen just didn't know how hard a hit is when it's supposed to be playful.
"So what do we do about a hostage?"
"Don't worry about it. Just focus on remembering your lines. I'll take care of it. Here's where I live! Goodnight Tony!"
"Yeah, goodnight Gwen."
The next day, Tony tended to his animals, made sure that they had food and made his way towards the villa. He bumped into Gwen and the carpenter boys in the plaza.
Yes, that does sound like a cool name for an Indy band, doesn't it?
The four of them were just turning towards the villa when they heard a cry of;
They stopped in their tracks, turned and saw the Funland executives. Short, spectacled Renton and tall, pompous Charles, led by hot headed and scantily clad Alice. She held up one of the leaflets advertising the show.
"Is this the best plan you could come up with? Going on stage, pouncing about and shouting? How childish!"
Gwen made a fist and took a step towards her. The boys knew it would end in tears. Tony stepped in front of Gwen before a fight took off. He turned to Alice.
"You can lecture us about being childish when you stop wearing your hair like a nine year old. Those pigtails make you look like Angelica from Rugrats!"
The carpenters sniggered. Alice went red in the face.
"You jerk, Tony!" she squawked "What about that stupid hat of yours?! A grown man running around, wearing a baseball cap that says TOY! What kind of fashion statement is that?"
"Hey." Gwen interrupted, "If I had your kind of cash, I'm sure I could afford a less sluttish outfit than yours!"
Alice exploded like a bomb! She flapped her arms around and screamed blue murder. Charles had to hold her to stop her from getting into a catfight. Renton sighed and mopped his brow.
"So much for making a dignified protest…"
After counting to ten, three times, Alice calmed down and tilted her head back, regaining a condescending posture.
"Your little play will fail! I'll make sure of it personally! Come, boys!"
The three left to head back to their office.
"That's all we need." Tony sighed "Another one of their giant robots stomping around."
"Well, it's a Power Rangers spoof, so at least it'll be appropriate to the story." said Joe, a bit too cheerfully.
They arrived at the villa and got ready for the technical rehearsals. Louis wheeled in a contraption that looked like a hybrid of a keyboard and a tumble dryer.
"This is what I'll be using to make the sound effects." He explained "Every key has a different effect programmed."
"How do you keep track of which key makes which sound?" Tony asked. "I tried to learn a musical instrument once, but I still have trouble."
"Labels." Louis answered.
So they got to work. Louis' machine gave a great demonstration of what it could do during the fight scenes. Every battle was a loud medley of pipes, explosions, whistles, bells, cymbals and bird twitters. The sound effects made it seem like a live action cartoon.
At the end, Joe and Kurt went off to the pub again, while Tony walked Gwen home.
"So, do we have anyone to play the hostage yet?" he asked.
"I tried asking Auriella but she said there was no way in hell she'd do it."
You often wonder what the modern church is coming to when you hear that sort of language from someone who claims to be a nun.
"I guess she's not really the damsel in distress type. We're going to have to get someone though. There are only a couple of days left. Couldn't we just cut the character?"
"We can't change the script at the last minute. Don't worry. Everything will be fine!"
They parted ways and Tony went home to bed.
The next evening was the dress rehearsal. Gina had truly gone above and beyond when she made the costumes. Tony's mask looked like a cheese grater with a visor. One perk of this was looking at the leading ladies; five hot chicks in brightly coloured, skin tight spandex.
They reached the scene where the bad guys made their entrance.
"Ladies and gentlemen! Dudes and dudettes! Behold the criminal mastermind of all ages! Lord Eccs!"
Kurt blew everyone away with his delivery. Tony stood stunned. Joe patted him on the shoulder and grinned through his mask.
"See? I told you he'd be fine!"
Maybe Kurt was like Spider-Man; a shy fellow who turns into a wisecracking extrovert when he's in costume. By putting on a physical mask, he removed his social mask.
After a successful run, everyone went home. Joe and Kurt went off with Katie while Tony walked with Gwen. All these nights when he walked her home, Gwen was almost starting to feel like a girlfriend. Maybe she'd invite him inside for a night cap. Maybe even spend the night!
"What are you thinking about?" she asked.
If Tony told her what he was really thinking she would likely have beat him up, screaming "Pervert!", so he settled for a half-truth.
"I was just thinking about how good a shot of whiskey would go down before bed."
"Now that you mention it, I could go for a drab myself. Come on in."
They went into the little wooden house.
Oh boy! Tony thought. Back to Gwen's for drinks! Girls inviting boys home for drinks always leads to other stuff!
"Hello Gwen. Hello Tony." Said Woody.
Oh. That's right. Woody.
Tony was so engrossed in his fantasies of what he wanted to do with Gwen that the fact that she shared a room with her grandfather had completely slipped his mind.
"We're just having a night cap, Grandpa."
"Don't have too much! I've marked the bottle! You can't sneak anything past me!"
So they had their coffee with a single teaspoon of whiskey. It seemed that Woody was applying the war-time rationing system. Either that or he loved his booze too much. Didn't he realise that if you love something, sooner or later, you have to let it go?
"How did rehearsals go?" Woody asked.
"Great, but we still need someone to play our hostage tomorrow."
"I keep telling you Tony! Don't worry!"
"It's when you say that, that I start to worry the most."
When Tony finished his coffee, he decided to call it a night and go home. Gwen saw him to the door.
"Are you having an early night too?" Tony asked her.
"I might stay up a while longer and have some more whiskey with Grandpa."
"Don't get too drunk! The last thing we need is Leaf Red having a hangover!"
They shared a laugh.
"Goodnight Tony." said Gwen.
Then her dark, sensual, almond shaped eyes began to close. Tony smiled, closed his own eyes and puckered his lips.
He leaned forwards and landed a kiss on the door.
Apparently Gwen had just started yawning before she closed the door. So a sober and disappointed Tony went home.
Finally, the big day came. All around the plaza, people gathered with picnic baskets. Children were getting excited, running around with flashing plastic swords.
"Tony!" Gwen called "We managed to get someone to play the hostage."
Tony breathed a sigh of relief.
"Thank goodness. So, who is it?"
"Oops! Look at the time! We've got to get started!"
She slipped her helmet on and ran off to join the other girls.
Chester made the opening announcement.
"Ladies and Gentlemen! Put your hands together! Here come our heroes! The Leaf Rangers!"
There was a blast of fireworks and the Leaf Rangers leapt onto the stage. The audience burst into a thunderous applause.
"Hey kids! Has anyone seen a kidnapped Princess around here?" Leaf Red called.
From the place where Tony and the others were hiding, he took a peak at the crowd. He saw the Funland men, booing and hissing.
Seriously? That was their dark and evil plan to ruin the show? Heckling?
The rangers left the stage.
"Good riddance!" called Charles.
Then it was the bad guys turn to come on. Kurt introduced them with more ham than you'd find on a pig farm.
"Ladies and gentlemen! Dudes and dudettes! Behold the criminal mastermind of all ages! Lord Eccs!"
There was a flash and Tony appeared on stage in his Lord Eccs guise.
"Kneel before me! Now I control this stage!"
This time everyone booed. But they were the baddies, so it was to be expected. Bob brought something onto the stage, covered with a red cloth. It was the stand where the hostage was tied to a pole. Thankfully, Bob was a big guy, so he was able to carry it onto the stage without doing his back in.
Tony strutted towards it.
"Those bimbos in spandex have no clue that the princess they're trying to rescue is already in my clutches!"
He grabbed the cover, still wondering who the mystery victim was. He admittedly had butterflies in his stomach anticipating who was under that cover. Finally, the time came to pull the cover off. Tony whipped it off to revile the white pig tales and angry face of Alice.
Tony gave a yelp.
His heart skipped a beat.
That temperamental top dog of Funland's Leaf Valley branch. That red face, those manic eyes and violent screams from under the tape covering her mouth told Tony that she wasn't acting.
What has Gwen done to us?
He turned to the audience to see a horrified Charles and Renton. They got up and ran towards the stage. Bob stepped forward in his Bronzdar guise. Music started playing. It was the sort of music that plays when a comic relief jerk is making a fool of himself.
If you want to get beat up,
Then you run onto the stage
You not allowed up here
No audience participation,
Get beat up! Get beat up!
Charles and Ren!
Get beat up! Get beat up!
Charles and Ren!
Tony couldn't believe it. Gwen even put in a song, anticipating that this would happen!
Bob quickly seized Charles and spun him around over his head before throwing him to the floor. Renton picked up a chair and smashed it on Bob from behind. Bob grabbed Renton's head, help the fighting man in place and punched him in the jaw. Joe and Kurt grabbed the floored business men by the ankles and started swinging them around. They became a blur and the men in suits flew off the stage onto a mattress. Tony began flailing his arms around, pleading for calm. He was about to explain to the audience when there was an explosion from the right side of the stage. The Leaf Rangers appeared to the cheers of the audience.
"We found you at last! Evildoers prepare to meet your doom!"
The rangers ran at the villains. Gwen went for Tony with a sword.
"You're getting on my nerves, Leaf Red!" Tony bellowed parrying with his staff. He had to stick to the script, so that the audience wouldn't know that Alice was really a captive. He was so angry at Gwen that it took all of his will power to stop himself from really kicking her away from him instead of just a gentle push. But if she wasn't a girl, then so help him…
Leaf Pink handed a package to Crouch. He thanked her and opened it to see a spring loaded boxing glove bash him in the face.
Leaf Green was pelting Bamboo with food based projectiles.
"Stop throwing eggs at me!"
Then something red hit him. He licked it off.
"Tomatoes aren't bad."
The audience was laughing at all this silliness.
The laughter got even bigger when leaf yellow kicked Bronzdar between the legs Leaf Blue pushed him over.
Tony tied to get to Alice. Maybe if he just explained and apologised, she's understand.
The first problem with that theory was how unlikely Alice was to listen when there were skulls to cave in. The second problem was Gwen swinging Leaf Red's sword at him.
All of a sudden he was surrounded by all five rangers.
"Five-Star-Crash!" they yelled as they all shoulder tackled him at once to the crash of cymbals.
The audience burst into hysterical laughter and applause as the sound of circling birdies complimented Tony's staggering.
The sound of an engine roaring was heard in the distance. The heroes and villains turned to see Charles and Renton riding on a bulldozer.
"Don't worry boss! We'll save you!"
Still tied to her pole, Alice screamed some unintelligible dialogue. Many assume it was something along the lines of;
"Get me out of the way before you run over the stage you blithering idiots!"
Joe leapt in front and addressed the girls.
"Ha! Now we have you right where you want you!" he was apparently sticking to the script, despite the fact that it was a completely different machine that was crashing the scene to the one that Louis had built.
"Go Doomdozer! Crush the rangers and their precious princess!"
Charles and Renton stopped in their tracks, realising that Alice was in the way.
"Hah!" Gwen laughed "That big machine doesn't scare us! Come on girls! Let's give it full power!
"Crimson light of sacred flame- Leaf Red!"
"Gently falling of snow- Leaf Blue!"
"Green Eyes of love and kindness- Leaf Green!"
"Blooming smile of the yellow rose- Leaf Yellow!"
"Wow, wow, wow, wonder- Leaf Pink!"
"Bringing order and harmony to the valley in the name of peace and justice! Pretty Girl Task Force:"
Fireworks shot from offstage, crashing into the bulldozer as Charles and Renton were thrown clear. A smoke bomb filled the area with smoke. This was the villain's cue to exit stage left.
When the smoke cleared, the Leaf Rangers did their victory pose.
"Well, the good guys have come out on top!" said Katie walking up to the tied up Alice, while addressing the audience.
"We've got rid of the baddies and saved the princess!"
She pulled the tape off Alice's mouth.
"YOU INSANE BI…!" Alice was cut off by Kate replacing the tape, as the crowd snickered.
"There's no pleasing some people!"
"Thank you for watching everyone! Goodbye and may the power protect you!"
Another smoke bomb gave the girls cover to get offstage to the huge applause of the crowd.
Later, the cast had got out of their costumes and were meeting at the local pub. Tony frantically paced around.
"Are you sure you don't want another drink while you're waiting for her?" Joe offered.
"I'm in a really bad mood right now, Joe. If I get drunk, there's no guarantee that I won't do something that could get me arrested! Although, thanks to Gwen there's probably a warrant out for all of our arrests already!"
He turned to Louis.
"And you! You were in on all this! You even had a song written for when the those suits went onto the stage!"
Fearing a beating, Louis backed away.
"I-I-I only did what Gwen told me to do! She told me to put that song in, in case they tried to ruin the show! I didn't know that she kidnapped Alice!"
It turned out that nobody knew Alice hadn't willingly volunteered. Did Gwen hatch the whole idea just to mess with her?
Finally the girls arrived. Tony stampeded towards them.
"What the hell?!" he snapped. Gwen was unfazed, although, the other girls nervously tiptoed around Tony to get to a safe table.
"Hey, she started it." said Gwen "Serves her right for having her head up her ass."
"She's rude to you and you risk all of us going to jail?! Are you out of your mind?!"
Before she could answer, the doors opened and Alice entered with her entourage of suits.
"You've really done it this time! I won't forget the way you handled me!"
"Oh, shut up!" Tony snapped at her "I'm not in the mood to listen to your whining!"
Alice's jaw dropped.
"Right! That's it! That's the straw that broke the camel's back! Renton! Hand me the business phone!"
He did as instructed and Alice dialled three digits.
Everyone froze. You could hear a pin drop.
"I would like to report that I was kidnapped and strong-armed into the production of an outdoor play, earlier today. Yes, that's right, Leaf Rangers."
She smugly looked at the horrified crowd.
Then her own face changed to match theirs.
"What do you mean you can't identify the cast? There are only eight women who live in Leaf Valley! It can't be that hard to narrow down five suspects! Next time?! That's not good enough! What are they paying you to do, with my tax money?!"
She hung up, pressing the button as hard as she could. Yeah, press the button really hard, that'll show them!
"You win this round, but I'll be back! This isn't over!"
She stormed out, followed by her henchmen.
"Well, looks like we got away with it." Said Tony "Although, this means that we can't ever do the show again, or the police will grab us afterwards. We also can't sell any merchandise or the police will be able to track us. So, this whole community project has been a big waste of time. We can all thank Gwen for that."
All eyes gave Gwen dirty looks. She started to look a tiny little bit embarrassed.
"Well…yeah, it was a stupid idea. I was drunk when I grabbed Alice…"
"Oh! Well that makes if perfectly okay for you to risk getting us all arrested!" said Bob.
"I'm sorry." said Gwen "I messed up. But we still made a bit of money from the show today. So, how about I make it up by buying everyone a few drinks?"
There was grunting and nodding of heads in agreement.
Tony went to his table and picked up the bottle of whiskey that he bought when he first came in.
"Actually, I've had a long and disappointing day. I'm just going to go home and drown my sorrows in front of the television."
He left the bar and Gwen walked after him, while everyone else was ordering their drinks.
"I said I was sorry, Tony!"
He took a deep breath.
"I know. Look, I'll get over it, I just need some space. Because if I ever see people in motorcycle helmets and colour coded spandex, I'm just going to go insane."
They came to an agreement and parted ways.
Tony finally got home, tired, angry and still no closer to saving the Valley. He changed into his lounge pants, poured himself a drink and turned the TV set on.
"Let's do it guys! It's Morphin' Time!"
Then he went red.
Then he picked up his bottle.
Then he screamed
Then threw the bottle at the TV.
"Sabre tooth Tiger!"
Then it hit the TV.
Then it exploded. Then there was a golden silence.