#01 - "A Beginning In One Part" (Originally Written In: 2016)|
[ Song du Jour | Close ]
~ One year ago... ~
"Are you looking to become part of something big? We have just the solution: Enlist in the Terra-Quasar Group's new 'Codename RANGER' program today! The top recruits could potentially become the next line of defense against an intergalactic evil menace! You can pick up an enrollment kit at any Big Kmart location near you, or log onto www.enlist.tqg to read the information and print out an enrollment form that you can drop off at the TQG Office located inside the Big Kmart store at the corner of Corbett Run and Henderson Drive, here in beautiful Venture Capital. Do you think that you have what it takes to become a RANGER? There's only one way to find out. Enlist now!"
"I'm going to do it," Phoenix said, closing his locker. Another couple of students, Manny and Dominic, were standing there. "I'm going to enlist in that TQG thing."
"Do you really think you can handle it?" Manny asked.
"Yeah, man. I heard that the training is BRUTAL," Dominic added.
"I can handle anything that they can throw at me. I'm the captain of our football team, and I'm dating the head cheerleader. I can do anything." Manny and Dominic looked at each other, then back to their friend. "What? Oh, you're calling me out, aren't you?"
"Pshh, no..." Manny shook his head.
"I am." Phoenix looked at him, as did Manny. "It's true. I've known you for years, and you always plan on starting things, but something comes along and distracts you. In fact, the only reason that you've managed to focus on football is because you snagged Kelly to be your girlfriend." He turned toward Manny. "Back me up."
"I hate to admit it, but he's right, Phoenix. You were born into money - your family's one of the founding families of Venture Capital, so you're loaded - and you've never really had to work hard for anything that didn't wind up serving only your own interests."
"I can't believe this. My two best friends are standing here, telling me that I can't succeed at something." He picked up his backpack. "Well, I'll show you. I'm going to not only enlist in Codename RANGER, but I'm going to become the Red Ranger! See ya." He turned and walked away.
"But, Phoenix, I didn't --" Dominic cut him off.
"Let him go, man. It's going to hurt now, but it's for the all-around greater good. We've got to get to the office to begin the new season of our show."
"I don't like fighting with him, Dom. You know how he gets."
"Let it go. He'll be fine. Besides, if he doesn't make it through the training, he can buy his way in. He'll probably become some ultimate Ranger."
Manny sighed. "I guess."
"C'mon, man. We've got a show to put on!" Dominic headed toward the A/V Office, but stopped when he noticed that Manny wasn't following him. He walked back toward him and grabbed him by his shirt collar. "Come on!"
"Remind me to not wear polos anymore..."
-"Attention, everyone!"- Dominic's voice boomed over the school's PA system. -"The season premiere of 'Manny and Dominic in the Morning' is about to begin! Please find a TV - located in every room on campus as well as in the cafeteria - and watch as we kick off another year of twice-weekly hijinks and shenanigans!"-
-"What my associate means,"- Manny interjected, -"is that we will be bringing you the latest school news and information. Isn't it?"-
-"Huh? No, that's not our show at all."-
-"OW! Oh, yeah, right. News. Information. Sure."-
-"Anyway, we'll be beginning shortly on Channel A1. We hope that you'll check us out!"-
Two girls stood by their lockers. "Ooh! Can we go and watch their show, Kelly?"
"Puh-leeze, Gabi," Kelly said, brushing her hair. "As if we'd be caught dead watching those two losers."
"But... It's the season premiere! It's got news and information! I think we might need those things!"
Kelly scoffed. "Anything that *I* need to know, I have people to know it for me. How do you think I maintain my straight-A average?"
"Heck no! I've got the Chess Club doing all of my homework for me! All they ask is... Well, that's not important. The point is that I'm getting A's for relatively little effort."
"Wow, you're so smart," Gabriela commented. "I wish I could be like you!"
"You can't. Now, carry my books. I don't want to be late to homeroom. I need to secure my seat."
"But, we don't have the same homeroom. Mine's right here," Gabriela said, gesturing toward the nearby door.
Kelly shrugged. "So? My homeroom is Room 856."
"That's on the other side of the school!"
"Which is why you should shut up and take me there... NOW!"
"Oh, sorry! Let's go!" Gabriela ran off toward Kelly's homeroom.
"I don't know why I keep her around..." Kelly walked off, passing by two less-than-average students. "Get out of my way, losers!"
"So, Big Jack, what did you do over the Summer?"
"Well, Skinny Mack," Big Jack boasted, "I got a job and managed to put aside $300!"
"$300? That's awesome! Where is it, and can you get me in? I need to start saving for college."
"I worked at the Dog Park."
"Oh, is that what that smell is?" Skinny Mack sniffed the air. "I think you brought your work to school with you."
"Did I?" Big Jack checked his shoes. Skinny Mack started laughing. "You..."
"Sorry! I couldn't resist!"
"I oughtta --" Big Jack went to punch Skinny Mack, but a woman grabbed his hand before he could.
"Excuse me, but violent physical contact between students is not allowed," the woman spoke. Big Jack turned around. "Shouldn't you be getting to class?"
"I... You're right. Sorry, Ms. Sheridan. C'mon, Skinny. Let's go!" Big Jack ran off, dragging Skinny Mack in tow.
"Nice meeting you!" Skinny Mack shouted as he was being dragged off.
Cybill shook her head. "I can see that I'm going to have my hands full here." She looked at her paperwork. "I'm supposed to be at Room 432. Where do you think that is? Oh, wait. The rooms are numbered. I guess I should just follow the signs."
In another part of town, a young woman and her mother were driving to the aforementioned Big Kmart. The girl, Kaori, was excited about enrolling in TQG. Having graduated from Venture Capital High a few months ago, she would be able to devote all of her time to training. Her mother, however, had other ideas...
"I'm totally going to sign up for a tour!"
"No. Absolutely not."
"But, mom! You can't say 'no' to something sight-unseen!"
"I'm your mother. That means I can say 'no' to anything I want: boys in your room, indoor campfires, going off to this school. What happened to your dreams of owning your own salon?"
"Psh, that's so yesterday," Kaori replied. "Besides, you always said you wanted me out of the house."
"Watch the road! You're going to hit something!"
"There's another gray hair. Unless you want to be completely gray by the time you hit 40, you'll let me go to this school. I'll be out of your hair, and think of the money you'll save from having to constantly dye your hair!"
"Watch it, young lady. I was born with dark roots!"
"Will you stop nagging me if I let you go to this school?"
"I won't be living at home, so... Yes."
She sighed. "I'll probably regret this, but... Fine. We'll take a tour and decide from there."
"Thanks, Mom! I love you!"
"Kaori! The road!"
"Oops!" She swerved back into her lane. As she approached the light to turn into Kmart, she looked over at her mother. "I think this is the one that I can drop off the completed application at, too. How lucky is that?"
"The only luck that I want to think about is how lucky I am that we made it here in one piece."
~ One month later... ~
The door on the bus opened, and Phoenix stepped out, taken aback by just how large the TQG building actually was. "It looked so much smaller in the pictures..."
"Most things look smaller in pictures," a female spoke from behind him. "Now, could you please move? Other people have to get off of this bus, you know."
"Oh, I'm sorry," he said, stepping to the side. As Gabriela got out, he recognized her. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm enrolling at TQG... Duh." She stopped a short distance away from the bus and turned to him.
He scoffed. "Yeah, but... This is to *save the world,* not to get an education."
Gabriela rolled her eyes. "Did you even read the brochure?" He shook his head. "The welcome kit they sent?" He shook his head. She sighed. "Did YOU even fill out the application?"
"I don't have time for this. I've got a score to settle with Manny and Dominic, and to all of the rest of you that think Phoenix Bolton isn't able to work hard at something and succeed. Now, if you'll excuse me, I..." He trailed off, and his gaze locked onto the exit area of the bus, as another young lady stepped off.
"'You' what?" Gabriela turned to look at the bus. She saw Kaori step off, and watched as Phoenix's eyes followed her as she passed the two of them. Once she was far enough away, she turned back toward the lovestruck boy. "Reality to Phoenix!" She loudly clapped her hands. "Snap out of it!" He shook his head, as if coming out of a trance. "She's not going to fall for you."
"Oh, just you wait. She'll feel the fire of the Phoenix." He nodded. "Oh, yeah..."
"'Fire of the Phoenix' sounds like an STD, and it's not something I'd like to feel. Besides, aren't you dating Kelly?"
He waved his hand in a dismissive manner. "Ah, she won't know the difference. She's back at the school, and I'm here. How's she going to find out?"
"This isn't --" She paused. "No, you know what? You go for her. You go, and you make her feel the 'fire of the Phoenix.' Spread your wings and soar!"
"Not that I needed your approval, but thanks! And, away I go!" He ran into the building after her.
Gabriela shook her head. "And, people think that *I'm* the dumb one." She sighed and walked toward the building.
Inside the building, a middle-aged man with a receding hairline greeted the group of students. "Welcome to the Terra-Quasar Group Central Headquarters. I am your tour guide for today's events. My name is Brandon Morgan. If you have any questions, please save them until the end of the tour. It's much faster that way. Now, the Terra-Quasar Group - or, 'TQG,' for short - is the continuation of the studies began by the scientists of the Terra Venture Space Colony from many years ago. The Terra Venture..."
Phoenix moved closer toward Kaori, who was busy scribbling in a small notebook. He leaned toward her and whispered, "Hey." She ignored him, continuing to focus on her scribbling. He tapped her on the shoulder, causing her to instantly react by elbowing him in the stomach, knocking the wind out of him. He grabbed his midsection and fell to the ground.
Brandon, not missing a beat, continued on with the tour. The group moved with him onto the next area of the tour. As they moved on, Gabriela stopped to help him up. "So, loverboy... How'd it go?"
"I think... She likes me."
"I think... You're dreaming," she commented, mocking his strained speech. "Come on. I'm not leaving you on your own anymore. Who knows what trouble you'll get into?" She grabbed his arm and dragged him along to the rest of the tour.
"Hold up! This doesn't mean we're a thing. There are a lot of honeys that need to fee--"
"Trust me. It's the furthest thing from my mind."
"You're just in denial. That's stage 1 of feeling the fire of the Phoenix."
"No, it's just a lack of interest. Now, come ON! We have to catch up with the others!"
Eventually, the tour concluded, and the group was seated in an auditorium. A blonde woman with glasses stood at the podium, accompanied by an Asian male with spiky hair. The woman was dressed in white, while the man was dressed in blue. Behind them, a montage of different areas of TQGHQ played on a screen.
Brandon's voice crackled on the overhead PA system. -"Attention, recruits! Please focus your attention on the stage!"-
Gabriela glanced over to Kaori, who was still frantically scribbling in her notebook. "Can I ask you a question?"
Without diverting her attention from her activity, she responded, "Shoot."
"What are you writing down?"
"Oh, no," she chuckled, "I'm just seeing how dark I can make this paper by drawing on it." She showed Gabriela her paper, which was entirely covered in pencil scratches. "See? It's almost completely covered!"
"Wow... That's really, um... Impressive?"
"It is!" She paused. "Oh, hey! I don't think we've formally met. I'm Kaori Yamada." She held out her hand. "Pleased to meet you!"
"Gabriela Velasquez," she replied, shaking Kaori's hand. "So... You're the one that elbowed Phoenix earlier, right?" She nodded. "I would have done the same thing. He can be SO annoying, and I've only gotten to know him from this tour. You, though..."
"Oh, I didn't do it because he was annoying." Gabriela looked at her, confused. "I did it because he tried to distract me by touching me. I don't take too kindly to uninvited touching."
"Good to know," Gabriela commented, scooting a bit in her chair. When she realized that she was scooting toward Phoenix, she maneuvered herself to the exact center of her chair.
Kaori chuckled. "Don't worry. I only do that to arrogant guys that are full of themselves. You're fine."
-"Now that you two are done with your introductions, may I proceed?"-
The entire group looked at the two girls and, in unison, exclaimed, "Ooooooooh...!" The two girls blushed in embarrassment.
"Thank you. Welcome to TQG. My name is Doctor Kendrix Morgan. This is our co-founder, Kai Chen. Years ago, Kai and I worked with the GSA on board the Terra Venture Space Colony as it traversed the universe, leaving Earth behind and, eventually, landing here on Mirinoi. Over the 212 day journey, Kai and I witnessed a number of monster attacks, and we watched as the Power Rangers fought them off and defended our colony. Once the colony landed, numerous cities were founded, including Venture Capital. We established a TQG station here, knowing that we could train the best and the brightest to become a fighting force similar to the very Power Rangers that defended our colony back in the day."
"Now, you might be wondering why we just don't have a random group of civilians find the location of the Rangers' Quasar Sabers and use those," Kai continued. The screen changed to images of the Quasar Saber Rock and photos of various monsters from the Galaxy Rangers' encounters. "The answer is simple: Those Sabers are bound to their original carriers, which means that we can't just have any group of people go up and pull them out. Our scientists have been toiling endlessly in trying to replicate the technology that the Power Rangers utilized, and we are close to a breakthrough. You are here because you believe that you have what it takes to defend the city from a monster attack."
"Thank you, Kai." Kendrix turned her attention to the recruits. "Your training begins now. While your regular school year commences, you will continue with your regular activities. You are, however, expected to report here on Friday evenings at 6:00pm for weekend-long instructional courses. You will be expected to spend your weekends here, and will return home on Sundays at 6:00pm. Does anyone have any questions?"
Phoenix raised his hand. "You mean, this isn't a permanent thing? I still have to go to school?" Kendrix nodded. "Aw, man!"
"I have another question," Kaori spoke, standing up. "This technology that you are developing... How are you going to harness it? Is it going to be through nanofibers that are transmitted to the bodies of the Rangers through a transformation device of some kind, or are you going to follow the Zordon route of 'it's magic, so live with it'? Also, will everything that the potential Rangers need to know about their powers be transmitted into their helmets through some sort of two-way communication system, or will they be left to their own on the battlefield?"
Gabriela's jaw dropped. Kendrix and Kai looked at each other, and Kai decided to answer. "We have not yet reached that point in our development of the powers. However, your expertise has piqued my interest. Would you like to intern with Brandon and the development labs?"
Kaori nodded. "That'd be great!" She sat back down and looked at Gabriela, whose jaw was still open. "What?"
"I just... How?"
She leaned in. "I'm smarter than I let on. Playing dumb is so much fun!"
Gabriela shook her head. "I have a whole new respect for you. I really think we'll be great friends!"
Phoenix took this opportunity to get into the conversation. "You know, I'm not seeing anyone right now, and best friends as lovely as the two of you--"
"Aren't you dating Kelly, the head cheerleader?" Kaori asked.
"And, I think I already expressed my disinterest in dating you," Gabriela added.
Phoenix leaned back in his seat. "Aw, man!"
Kai took notice of the young man's advances and whispered something to Kendrix. She looked at the young man, and turned back toward Kai, nodding in approval. Kai decided to wrap up the proceedings. "Please see Brandon and the Dev Team in the Outer Hall for your room assignments. Girls will be partnered in one wing of dorm rooms, and guys will be partnered in a separate wing across campus."
"WHAT?!" Phoenix shot up out of his seat. The entire crowd turned and looked at him. "Separate wings across campus?"
"Is there a problem, Mister Bolton?" Kendrix asked, addressing the young man.
"Oooooooooh..." The entire crowd spoke in unison.
Phoenix's face turned red from embarrassment. "Well, I... No." He sank back down into his seat. The crowd focused their attention back toward the stage.
"As we were saying, Brandon and the Dev Team have your room assignments. Some of you will like your roommates. Others of you..." Kendrix looked noticeably at Phoenix. "... Others might not. Now, you're dismissed to get situated in your rooms. We have Welcome Ambassadors that will help you to find your rooms if you need them. We will begin the formal training on Friday evening. Remember: Your weekends will be spent here. We've worked it out with any sports teams, clubs, and whatnot to set up the schedules of their events to not interfere with your immersion weekends. Don't worry about losing your place on the team or in the club. That is all. Have a nice rest of your afternoon, and enjoy your stay here at TQG." She left the stage, with Kai in tow.
The crowd stood up and began to file out of the auditorium. Gabriela and Kaori stopped by a very depressed-looking Phoenix. "Should we ask what's wrong?" Kaori asked.
"It only seems right." Gabriela turned toward him. "Hey, what's wrong?"
"I was embarrassed back there. Didn't you see it?"
"Well, you brought it on yourself," Kaori replied.
"Oh, my gosh! Are you... POUTING?" Kaori snickered. "The star of the football team... Oh, this is rich!"
Gabriela silenced her friend. "Kaori, that's enough." She looked at Phoenix, offering a hand to help him up. "She's right, you know. You did bring it on yourself." She sighed. "Look, we're not at VHS here. This is a level playing field. This is possibly saving the world, and having an ego like that only works if you're the villain." He looked at her in confusion. "What? It's true! Don't tell me you've never read a superhero comic or watched an anime."
"How do you know about those things?" Kaori asked.
"I'm not the only one with secrets." She smirked.
Phoenix stood up. "Girl, I'm impressed. Guess I've got to turn down the ol' Fire of the Phoenix - patent pending - if I want to succeed here, huh?"
"Teamwork also helps," Gabriela added. "We've got our team here. What about you?"
"You two are sure you're going to be roommates?"
"Oh, I can be *very* convincing," Kaori replied, cracking her knuckles. "C'mon, Gab, let's go and make sure we're roommates!" She grabbed her by the wrist and dragged her off.
"Well, I guess I'll be seeing you around! Good luck with your roommate!" Gabriela's voice trailed off as Kaori dragged her out.
Phoenix grabbed his things and sighed. "Here goes nothing..."
After what felt like hours, Phoenix had his room assignment: Floor 3, Hall 3, Room 5. He slid his entry card through the reader, and the door slid open. He looked around at the accommodations and saw that his suite was quite large. "Aw, man! How many roommates am I going to have? This room's big enough to fit five people!" He noticed that there was only one bed, which struck him as odd. "Isn't this a dorm room?"
-"It is, Mr. Bolton,"- Kai spoke, standing in the doorway. Phoenix quickly turned around. "Your parents donated a hefty sum to make sure that you had a room to yourself, so we made it possible."
"All of this," he said, turning around with his arms extended, "is mine?"
"Well, yes. All of the other recruits are set up in their suites."
"Sweet!" Phoenix exclaimed.
"HOWEVER," Kai continued, "we do reserve the right to bring in additional beds and convert this room back to being able to fit three people. We informed your parents of this, and they were fine with it."
"But, for now... All of this is mine, right?"
Kai sighed. "Yes."
Kai rolled his eyes and exited the room, returning to his office.
~ Present Day... ~
A scientist was looking through a telescope at the Venture Capital Observatory. "Hey! Come and take a look at this!"
A second scientist ran across the room toward her. "What is it?"
She stepped to the side. "That wormhole just opened up."
He looked through the telescope at the cosmic event. "What do you think it could be?"
"Could be nothing... Or, it could be SOMETHING."
He looked at her. "Way to be vague, Vanessa. I'm surprised that you haven't likened it to evil space aliens."
"Colin!" She gave him a friendly shove. "I'm not just a comic book geek, you know."
"Uh-huh," he dryly said, nodding at her. "Sure you're not." He grinned. "Seriously, though, it could be aliens."
"What is with you and aliens?"
"Did you see the giant ship that just came through it?"
Vanessa quickly looked through the telescope again and gasped. "It IS an alien invasion!"
"You don't know that they're coming HERE. Maybe they're friendly?"
She looked at him. "Really? Remember when Mutiny came onto the Terra Venture, and everyone thought he was friendly? People wound up enslaved, and that giant worm thing ran through the subway system!"
"You know, why DID the Terra Venture have a subway system, anyway?"
"Not the point, Colin!"
On the ship, a being sat on a throne in a central command room on the highest level of the ship, surrounded by floating images of nearby planets. A female being, dressed in silver with wings, walked in. "Where are we, Xityrant?"
"Clerica, we are nearest to the planet Mirinoi," he responded. "It is rich in sources of energy. Since it is a jungle planet, it will be easy to conquer."
"Weren't there a team or two of Power Rangers on that planet? They might have something to say about conquering it."
He sighed. "That was YEARS ago. Clearly, there aren't any Rangers around anymore."
"Do you really believe that?"
"Yes. Now, have Entoborg and Blackjack devise a plan of attack. I'll monitor the situation from here. You'd better not mess this up." She stood behind him, mocking his speech with hand gestures and silently mouthing what he was saying. "I know you're mocking me."
"Good. Maybe it will sink in that there are Rangers EVERYWHERE, and your string of failed conquests is only going to get longer!" He waved a hand, dismissing her. Her expression turned toward anger. "Oh, no, you didn't just dismiss me like--" He pressed a button on the arm of his throne, causing her to teleport away.
He sighed. "Women."
In a room on the lowest level of the ship, a platoon of grunt fighters were engaged in various training exercises and conversations. These grunts, referred to as Spectres, were mostly black in color, with a white chest design resembling a ribcage and a belt with a buckle that resembled an eye. Two stood by the door, joking around.
"Are you pondering what I'm pondering?" The male one asked.
"Well, I think so," the female one answered, "but, this time, YOU wear the tutu."
-"...That! Just wait until..."- Clerica appeared in the midst of the horde of Spectres. She looked around. "I hate when he does that!" She looked around. "Have any of you seen Entoborg and Blackjack?"
"They're in the break room," the female Spectre answered.
"BREAK?! Just wait until I get my hands on them..." She stormed out of the room.
"Oops, I wasn't supposed to say that, was I?" The male one shook his head. She shrugged. "Oh, well."
Clerica walked down the hall, passing by a room adorned with chalkboards that had a myriad of plans drawn on them. She overheard the two generals planning out an attack.
"...What if we send the monster down to capture pure hearts?" Blackjack asked.
"No way," Entoborg replied, shaking his head. "That's stupid. We can't use those for anything. We need an ENERGY source."
"Well, my cards have pictures of monsters on them. If we only had a way to turn them into REAL monsters, we could do some REAL damage!"
"I could blast them," Entoborg commented, raising his blaster arm, "and bring them to life! They could drain the townspeople of their energy!"
"How would they store it?"
"Um... That's a good question."
-"We do have a storage amulet that you could give the monster before you send it down,"- Clerica said, walking through the doorway, admiring their plans. "This is pretty impressive. Xityrant wants us to launch an assault on Mirinoi as soon as possible."
"But," Entoborg asked, "doesn't Mirinoi have Power Rangers?"
"That's what I said, but you know how he is. He just sits on that throne all day and barks orders, and we're supposed to follow them without question."
"Didn't he learn from the last time?" Blackjack asked.
"Obviously not," she replied. "Now, formulate a plan that stands a chance against even the most experienced of Power Rangers. Remember that the Galaxy Rangers took out the all-powerful Trakeena with one close-range blast, and that was even AFTER she doubled her power level by merging with Deviot in that cocoon. Hey..."
"What is it, your highness?"
She shook her head. "Oh, nothing. Just come up with a plan and execute it." She turned and walked out of the room.
"Weird," Blackjack mused. "She zoned out after she mentioned Trakeena."
"No, that's not where she zoned out, Blackjack." He paused. "Whatever. We need a phenomenal monster, and we need it quick. What have you got?"
=== TO BE CONTINUED... ===