#11 - "POP Go The Rangers!" (Originally Written In: 2017)|
[ Song du Jour | Close ]
An abandoned farmhouse is located on the outskirts of Venture Capital. The farm used to belong to Dwayne and his family before they moved to their current farm on the other side of the city, where they had more land available to work with. Through the years, explorers and hikers have visited it, taking pictures and videos of their journeys and posting them online. With the good, of course, comes the bad, as teens have used it for unseemly activities that they could get away with without being caught. The walls are lined with graffiti from various visitors throughout the years. The citizens of Venture Capital have been petitioning the city officials to get it demolished, and a resolution is close to being passed that would recondition the land into a park.
Deep in space, a capsule is heading toward the planet Mirinoi at a breakneck speed. As it gets closer to the planet, it is approaching Venture Capital's outskirts. In particular, it is making its way toward that abandoned farmhouse. The capsule entered the atmosphere, and its nose began to glow orange from the heat. After a few minutes, the capsule crash-landed behind the farmhouse. The hatch opened, and a gold-colored monster pulled himself up. He shook his head and got out of the vessel, trying to get his bearings. He looked around. "Where am I, anyway? This place looks so... Deserted." He pulled out a compact-looking device and flipped it open. "Computer? Am I on an already-conquered planet?"
-"You are on the planet Mirinoi, on the outskirts of a city called Venture Capital. It has not been conquered yet. The evil Xityrant has been terrorizing the residents, but has since left the orbit of the planet for an unknown destination."-
"So, what you're telling me is that this place is ripe for the picking?"
-"Not necessarily. They do have a squadron of Power Rangers protecting it."- An image of the TQG team appeared on the top monitor.
"Those candy-colored guys? They're no match for the might of Joopy McCorgan!"
-"If you say so..."-
"Are you getting smart with me, computer?"
"I'll show you! I bet that I'll conquer this place and capture those Rangers with just one monster!"
-"Really? Just the one?"-
"Yes, just the one. I thought I programmed you to have faith in my plans!"
-"After three hundred failed attempts, it's kind of hard to keep the faith alive."-
"Oh, but you don't know what this monster is going to be capable of, computer!"
-"Mm-hmm. That's what I thought. Just like every other time, you're going to plunge head-first into trying to conquer a planet, only to get chased away as soon as you try."-
"Fine. I'll think of a plan. Will that make you happy?"
-"It'd be a start."-
"Done." He closed the compact computer and put it back in his pocket. "Now, how should I make my grand entrance?" He walked around, eventually making his way into the farmhouse. "Should I just set out to capture the Rangers? Nah, they'd be expecting that. I know! I'll turn them into bugs! Then, I'll capture those bugs and put them in a box. I'll send the box to myself, and when it arrives? I'll smash it with a hammer!" He shook his head. "No, that'd require paying for shipping and postage. Think harder." He looked at the walls, and saw a drawing that caught his attention. He looked at the caption: "'Portrait of the Artist as a POPcorn Character.' Interesting..." He pulled out his compact computer. "Computer!"
-"What is it now?"-
"Look up 'POPcorn Character Mirinoi' and tell me what exactly it is."
-"According to my research, a company called HappyCo makes them. They're small, collectible likenesses of all sorts of characters and real-life people. The company is making money hand-over-fist by putting out new characters on a weekly basis. -- Wait, this isn't your plan, is it?"-
"YES! I'll create a monster to turn people into these POPcorn Characters. He'll turn the Rangers into those things, and they'll be powerless to stop me! THAT is a brilliant plan! Thanks, computer!"
-"That's so stupid--"- He closed up the computer and put it back in his pocket.
"Now, I need to create a monster. Think, Joopy! Think!" He extended his left arm and formed a giant syringe, filled with a blue substance. He squeezed it out, and it took the form of a monster that was adorned with marionettes. When he was done, the syringe dematerialized. "I'll call you... Snoodles!"
"What is your command, sir?" Snoodles asked, bowing in allegiance.
"I want you to go into the city and turn the citizens into these," he said, pointing out the POPcorn Character on the wall. "I especially want you to turn the Power Rangers into these and bring them to me. Understood?"
"Yes, sir!" Snoodles teleported out of the barn.
"This is going to be good!"
Phoenix walked into the guys' quarters, holding two giant shopping bags filled with small, rectangular boxes. When the door opened, Riley looked up from the book he was reading while lying on his bed. "Hey, Phoenix!"
He dropped the bags. "Riley! I, uh, didn't think you'd be here." He laughed nervously. "I see you're reading a book, there."
He looked at him in confusion. "What's in the bags?"
"Oh, these? Nothing special, really." He opened his closet partway and stuffed the bags inside, closing the door behind him and standing guard.
Riley could hear the sound of several stacks of boxes falling over. "What was that?"
"I didn't hear anything." Quickly, he changed the subject. "What's your book about?"
"It's about a guy that tried to keep a secret from his friends. Quite a compelling tale of DECEIT and LYING..."
Phoenix gulped. "Wh... What happens to the guy?"
Riley stood up and started to walk toward him. "He starts to go crazy from trying to keep his secret. It keeps him up at night. He's not able to focus on anything, because he's too busy wondering if his friends are going to discover his deep, dark secret. It tears him up inside."
"Oh, it is, and do you want to know the best part?"
He gulped again. "What's that?"
"The secret... It turns out to be..." He pointed toward the door behind them. "Naked cheerleaders?!"
Phoenix quickly turned around. "Where?!" Riley opened the door, and the fallen stacks of boxes fell to the floor, enveloping his feet and most of his calves. Phoenix slowly turned back around. "Oops."
Riley looked down at the boxes, each one adorned with a caricature of a fictional character or celebrity. He picked one up as Phoenix nervously watched. "Hm... 'HappyCo POPcorn Characters,' eh?"
"Be careful! That's the ultra-rare translucent Kawaii Sentai Nekoranger Red Ranger variant!" Phoenix started to bite his nails. "It's really hard to get!"
"Relax!" Riley gently stepped out of the pile of boxes, not damaging any of them, and walked over to him, still holding the Red Ranger character. "This was your big secret?"
"You don't think any less of me for this, do you? I mean, I have an image to uphold."
"Trust me, this is FAR from a dirty little secret. Chase watching this show? That's a dirty little secret."
Phoenix sighed. "That's a relief." He picked up the boxes and stacked them back up in his closet. "You know, there's a convention going on, where people from all over town are meeting up to sell and trade their POPcorn Characters..." He turned and looked at Riley. "You wouldn't want to come with me, would you?"
"When is it?"
"This weekend, at the Venture Capital Convention Center."
"Isn't that a rather large venue for something like this? I mean, they're not that large in size."
Phoenix laughed. "You have no idea how huge the following for these guys is. People come dressed up AS their favorite POPcorn Characters!"
"Really? Isn't that basically cosplaying, though?"
"Yes, but with GIANT HEADS!"
"You're... Not going to be cosplaying, right?" He shook his head. "Good. I'll go with you."
-"Go where?"- The door to the quarters opened, and Chase walked in.
"Phoenix and I are going to the HappyCo POPcorn Character Convention." Riley tossed the Red Ranger character to Chase, who caught it without damaging the box. "You wanna come, too?"
"What's a POPcorn...?" He looked at the box. His eyes widened with glee, and he smiled from ear to ear. "Say, this is Mal, the Red Nekoranger! And the translucent variant, at that!" He looked at Phoenix. "Are there more of these?"
"The whole team," he said, smiling.
Chase tossed him the character. "And, I'd be able to pick these up - for a friend, of course - at this gathering?" Phoenix nodded. "I'm in!"
"Should we invite the girls, and make a day of it?" Riley asked.
"Otome is still in town, so Gabi's probably a no-go. We can always ask Kaori," Phoenix suggested.
"POPcorn Characters?" Kaori asked, not diverting her attention from the schematics on her computer in the Weapons Lab. "You want me to come with you all to a convention for POPcorn Characters?"
"That's right. It'll give you a chance to observe Phoenix in his apparently-natural habitat, plus you could consider it a research experiment on obsessive behaviors and how they relate to small, plastic cariactures of celebrities and fictional characters," Riley answered.
Kaori stopped typing and turned to look at him. "Sounds interesting. I'm in." After a few seconds, she asked, "You don't think they have scientists in this line, do you?" Riley shrugged. "Feh, I'll figure that out while I'm there."
Snoodles materialized near the Convention Center, where people were lined up around the block to get into the event. "Whee-hee, this will be easy!" He made himself translucent and ran past the patrons, turning them into POPcorn Characters, one by one, until the entire line had been transformed into a mass of plastic figurines. He made himself visible again. "Time to collect the booty and take them back to the boss!" He raised his hands, levitating the Characters, and teleported them to the marionette-shaped storage vessels on his person.
-"It's gonna be great! There are hundreds of vendors, and the line is usually around the block..."-
"Uh-oh! More company's coming! Better skedaddle!" He ran into a nearby alley and took refuge behind a dumpster.
Phoenix, Chase, Riley, and Kaori rounded the corner, and Phoenix stopped dead in his tracks. "Where's the crowd?"
"Maybe you have the date for the event wrong?" Kaori asked.
"No, it's definitely today. See?" Phoenix pointed to the banners hanging on the Convention Center, and the parking lot full of cars. "There should be a ton of people here!"
"Maybe they're already inside," Chase suggested. "They might have let them in early."
"Wait," Riley interjected, stopping everyone from going further. "Phoenix is right." He looked around. "Something's definitely off here." He saw the sun gleam off of something metallic in a nearby alley. Riley pointed in that direction. "Over there."
"Aw, I've been spotted!" Snoodles exclaimed, jumping up from behind the dumpster and running out of the alley onto the street in front of them. "Four more delicious people for my collection! Master Joopy will be quite pleased!"
"Master who?" Kaori asked.
"Doesn't matter," Riley said, stepping forward. "Hope you're ready for a fight, whatever you are."
"Where are my manners?" The monster bowed. "My name's Snoodles, and my speciality is turning people into collectible toys! You're next!"
"'Snoodles'?" Phoenix scoffed. "That's a stupid name."
"I already claimed everyone waiting in line at this venue, so the four of you should be a breeze!"
"I KNEW that something was wrong! This guy kidnapped hundreds of people!" Phoenix exclaimed.
"Then, we definitely need to defeat him. We have to save those people!" Riley pulled out his Engine Charger, and the others followed suit. "Ready?"
"TQG, Activate!" The four teens inserted their Engine Chargers into their Rail Morphers, instantly transforming them into the Power Rangers.
"Ooh, such pretty costumes!" Snoodles clapped. "They'll make for lovely collectibles!"
"I don't think so!" Kaori ran toward Snoodles, summoning her weapon. "Earth Claw, Slash!" She leapt into the air and landed in front of the monster, slashing him with her weapon and knocking him back.
"Stand aside, Kaori. He's looking a bit cold," Phoenix said, summoning his axe. "He needs to feel the Fire of the Phoenix!" He ran past the monster, charging up his axe as he approached. As he passed the monster, he slashed through him with a charge of fire, causing him to spark and fall over. He and Kaori regrouped on the other side of the monster.
"Time to put out that fire," Chase said, pulling out his Hydro Blaster. "Water Blast!" He shot a sphere of water at the monster, putting out the fire and leaving the slash wounds behind.
"I'll dry you off! Wind Saber, Tornado Slash!" He slashed through the air with his sword, sending a tornado in Snoodles's direction, hitting him and sending him careening into a nearby building. The Rangers regrouped next to Riley. "Still think we'll be easy to beat, clown?"
"I may be down," Snoodles said, coughing and struggling to get up, "but, I'm not out yet! I'll be back!" He made himself transparent.
"...Did he leave in the middle of the battle?" Chase asked.
"I don't know," Phoenix replied, "but, I do know that there's a whole convention of POPcorn Characters over there with nobody in line to get in. I'm going!"
"Wait!" Riley shouted. "We can't just let this monster be. We need to get back to the base and find out what happened and what his next move could be."
-"My next move, dear boy, is easy! It's this!"- The Rangers looked around, but Snoodles was nowhere to be found. One by one, they were transformed into POPcorn Characters.
Snoodles rematerialized and collected his booty, storing the Rangers in the vessels on his body. "They were pretty smart, but I'm smarter! Four down... Probably one more to go. I'd better regroup!" He teleported away.
-"ALERT! ALERT!"- The alarm voice accompanied the blaring alarm horns at TQGHQ. Brandon ran over to the computer and silenced them, reading the printout of what just transpired.
"Again? You'd think these monsters would get more creative."
"What is it?" Mackayla ran up to him.
"Yeah, what's going on?" Alex asked.
"A monster's transformed a bunch of citizens - along with Riley, Chase, Phoenix, and Kaori - into something called 'POPcorn Characters' and kidnapped them."
The two girls looked at each other, then back to Brandon with puzzled looks on their faces. "This has happened before?" Alex asked.
"Well, the kidnapping part, yes, but the POPcorn Characters bit is a new twist. What are POPcorn Characters, anyway?" Brandon inquired.
"They're only the hottest craze sweeping the city," Mackayla explained. "They're little caricature-style dolls with large heads and tiny bodies. They can resemble basically any celebrity or fictional character that HappyCo gets a license to recreate."
"How do you know so much about this?" Alex asked.
"Phoenix got me hooked on them. He's OBSESSED with them."
"We have to do someth-- Really? Phoenix? Hm, I never would have guessed." Brandon shook his head. "Anyway, we need to figure out where this monster is. Any suggestions?"
"You said that the monster captured Riley, Chase, Phoenix, and Kaori, correct?" Alex asked. Brandon nodded. "What about Gabriela and her boyfriend, Otome?"
"That's right!" Brandon snapped his fingers. "They haven't been captured yet! I'll get in touch with them."
"What should we do in the meantime?" Mackayla asked.
"Keep working on the new project. We may need it."
"CITRUS? I thought that was already finished," Mackayla asked.
"Not that one, Mackayla," Alex replied. "The other one."
"Oh! Okay!" She headed toward the Research Lab. Alex rolled her eyes and followed her.
Brandon pressed a few buttons on his console. "Brandon to Gabriela. Come in!"
Gabriela and Otome were sitting on a blanket in the park, enjoying a picnic-style lunch and watching the kids playing on the nearby playground area. "Oh, to be that young again," Gabriela commented.
"You wish to be a child again?" Otome asked. "That doesn't sound like a good idea."
"No, silly," she snickered. "What I meant was, kids have such a carefree existance, you know? They get to sit at home all day and watch TV while their parents get them whatever they want. It really is the perfect life. Then, you grow up, and you start getting bills, which means that you have to work, and all of the stress of your day at work weighs on you at night..." She started to crinkle up a napkin in her hands. "...So, you're not getting a good night's sleep, which leads to bags under your eyes, and premature aging, and your hair goes gray, and..." Otome coughed. "What? -- Oh, your hair. Oops."
"It's okay. I understand where you're coming from, but you really need to relax. Would you like one of my intergalactic massages?"
She scooted toward him, turned around, and brushed her hair aside. "Oh, God, yes." She closed her eyes as Otome began to massage her shoulders. After a little bit, she let out a moan. "Right there... Don't stop..."
"I learned that move from a certain someone." Otome smiled and continued to massage her. Suddenly, her Rail Morpher's communicator sounded, startling the both of them. Her head snapped back, right into Otome's forehead.
"Sorry!" She pressed the call button. "What is it?"
-"Big trouble by the Convention Center! Some new monster's turned Riley and the others, along with a decent chunk of the population, into something called 'POPcorn Characters,' and is holding them captive in the teal-and-white vessels on his legs. You must destroy the vessels to free the captured civilians before destroying the monster. If the monster gets destroyed with the captured civilians on his being, they will be destroyed as well."-
"Oh, my gosh! That's terrible! We're on our way!" She turned around to face Otome. "You feeling okay?"
"I'll be fine. Let's defeat this monster!"
"We need a plan, though, don't we?"
"I'll distract him, while you sneak around and bash the vessels open with your Lightning Hammer."
"Got it. Let's go!" The two got up and ran toward the Convention Center.
When they arrived, they looked around. "It's like a ghost town," Gabriela commented.
"It's like being back on my home planet," Otome added.
-"Surprise!"- Snoodles appeared in front of them. "And, who might you be? Fresh meat for me to capture?"
"I don't think so." Gabriela pulled out her Engine Charger and inserted it into her Rail Morpher. "TQG, Activate!"
Otome took out his Power Orb and inserted it into his wrist-mounted morphing device. "Otome Momoiro, Power Up!"
Snoodles watched as the two teens were enveloped in separate pockets of energy, which soon dissolved into two new Power Rangers. He clapped. "That's a nice party trick, kids, but not as nice as this one! Take this!" He extended his arms forward and sent two energy charges at Gabriela and Otome, who quickly batted them to the side with their respective weapons. "Foul!"
"No, it was more like a baseline hit," Gabriela countered.
-"Remember the plan,"- Otome whispered. He focused on Snoodles. "Hey, clown! Betcha can't catch me! I'd make for a pretty rare POPcorn Character! Might even be worth thousands on the black market!" He ran toward a nearby alley.
"A rare POPcorn Character... I'll become so rich that I won't have to work for Joopy McCorgan anymore! Get back here!" He turned and ran after Otome.
"I'd better follow them before Otome gets captured, too," Gabriela said. She quietly pursued the two of them, eventually leading to a dead-end alley, where Otome stood against a brick wall, facing Snoodles. -"You've only got one shot, Gabriela. Don't blow it."- She thought to herself, before pulling out her Lightning Hammer again. She turned and walked back out of the alley a bit, before stopping and charging up her weapon.
"You'll never take me alive!" Otome exclaimed.
"Then, I'll just take you when you've been defeated. A defeated Power Ranger will make for an even rarer POPcorn Character! I'll make even more money!"
-"Lightning Hammer, Strike!"- Gabriela shouted, flying through the air toward Snoodles.
"Huh?" He turned around in time to be struck by Gabriela's Lightning Hammer, sending shockwaves through his body and shattering the vessels on his legs. "No! My marionette jars!" He screamed. Dozens of energy beams flew out of them and toward the Convention Center, materializing into the crowd that was waiting for the convention, as well as Riley and the other Rangers, who had powered down during the transformation. They looked at each other, confused.
"You did it!" Otome ran around the monster and hugged Gabriela.
"Was there ever any doubt? Now, let's get to the others and regroup, then we'll finish this creep off." Gabriela and Otome ran toward the other Rangers. "Hey, guys! Welcome back!"
"What happened?" Phoenix asked.
"You were turned into POPcorn Characters and captured by that monster, Snoodles. Otome and I freed you!"
"Really?" Kaori asked. "Ew, gross."
"We'd better morph again and finish this guy off," Chase said.
"Good idea. Let's do it!" Riley, Chase, Kaori, and Phoenix all took out their Engine Chargers and inserted them into their Rail Morphers, lowering the gate mechanism and locking them in.
"TQG, Activate!" The four of them shouted their morphing call in unison. Each was enveloped in an energy pocket, which soon disappeared, revealing the four remaining Rangers.
-"I'm not done with you candy-colored ninnies yet!"- Snoodles yelled, staggering out of the alley.
"Let's bring our weapons together!" Riley exclaimed.
"Right!" The five of them combined their weapons into the Hurricane Blaster. Gabriela inserted her Engine Charger into the weapon to act as the bullet.
Meanwhile, Otome powered up his staff with the team's Rainbow Charger that he'd previously received. "I'm ready."
"Hurricane Blaster, Lightning Blitz!" The team charged up their blaster weapon.
"Rainbow... Moon... Heart..." Otome charged up his staff and prepared to fire.
"Fire!" The Rangers shouted, sending Gabriela's powered-up Engine Charger flying toward Snoodles.
"...Ache!" Otome launched a barrage of hearts, accompanied by a trumpeting fanfare, halfway toward Snoodles. The hearts built up into one giant brick wall of a heart, and flew through the air, following the team's Lightning Blitz attack.
"What the...? Oh, no..." Snoodles was struck by the Lightning Blitz, and the Engine Charger returned to Gabriela's morpher, with Otome's giant heart smashing into him right after that, shattering into dozens of pieces, which soon dissolved into the air. "Lovely!" He shouted, falling backward to the ground and exploding into a similar amount of pieces.
"Yeah!" The Rangers posed, holding their weapons. The convention crowd cheered, having witnessed the whole thing.
"No!" Joopy motioned toward the vision of the battle that he was watching, causing it to fly to the right and disappear into the air. "This cannot be! Those Power Rangers are too smart for my own good!" He started to pace around the barn. "I need to come up with a better plan, but what? What could have been better than turning them into little dolls and capturing them?" Just then, something caught his eye. "Oh, that's it... THAT'S IT!"
Phoenix and Chase led the gang into the Convention Center, which was filled with vendors selling and trading POPcorn Characters as far as the eye could see. "This is INCREDIBLE!" Phoenix exclaimed. "I feel like I've died and gone to heaven!"
"Where are the Nekoranger characters? You promised me the whole set," Chase said, grabbing Phoenix by the jacket and pulling him toward his face. His voice lowered in pitch. "Don't go back on your promise, mate..."
"Okay, okay! Let go of me, first."
"Sorry." Chase let go of Phoenix's jacket and brushed it off. "There. Good as new!"
"Thank you. Now, the Nekoranger vendor should be this way," Phoenix said, pointing to the left.
"Great! Let's go!" Chase grabbed Phoenix and dragged him in that direction.
"I said to watch the jacket! I've already gone through five of them..." Phoenix's voice tapered off as they disappeared into the crowd.
"I'm going to ask some of the vendors about their sales and why they think this craze has become what it has, and then I'll do some people-watching," Kaori said. She looked at Riley. "Do you, maybe, want to come with me?"
"Well..." He looked behind him at Gabriela and Otome, who looked as though they were about to start kissing, then back to Kaori. "Sure. It could be fun!"
"Great!" The two of them walked into the crowd.
"You really were great out there today," Otome said, looking at Gabriela and smiling.
"I couldn't have done it without you," she replied, smiling as well.
"I almost don't want to go back to my world, but I need to help with putting everything back together."
She pouted. "Can't you stay just a little bit longer?"
He sighed. "If only I could, and I can't pull you away from your mission here, especially with whatever a 'Joopy McCorgan' is running around."
"Will you call me every day?"
"You know I will, and I'll always come back if you guys are ever in trouble." He tilted her head up, and leaned down to kiss her. After a while, they broke apart.
"I'm gonna miss that." She paused. "That reminds me: How DID you get here so quickly, anyway?"
"I traveled by Zord. It's the only way to fly!"
"Shut up! You have your own Zord, too?" He nodded. "Can I see it?"
"I don't have it here, but I have pictures in my wallet." He took out his wallet and folded out an accordion-style plastic insert that was filled with pictures. "Here's me, back before the attack... Here's you... Here's us... Ah, here it is! Isn't she a beauty?"
Gabriela looked at it. "Gee, Otome... It's really... PINK."
He looked at the picture more closely. "Do you really think so?"
"Um... Yeah. I mean, it looks cool and all, but it's no series of trains that come together and transform into a giant robot."
"That may be true, but mine can travel wherever it wants, without being confined to the train tracks running through town." He grinned. "I win."
"Okay, yeah, it's cooler than ours."
"While I've been here, I've been having your scientists find a way to combine its technology with yours. Perhaps, next time we battle together, our Zords can work as one, as well."
"Awesome! But, yeah, you're leaving..." Her joy soon turned back into sadness.
"We still have this convention, and there's still tonight. I can put off leaving until the morning, in case you... You know..." He smirked.
"I know what? -- Oh!" She started giggling. "You're bad!"
"C'mon, I'll buy you something nice. I think I saw a Yellow Nekoranger figure at a booth over there..."
"No way, it's mine!" Chase ran past them, with Phoenix in tow.
Gabriela and Otome looked at each other and laughed.