Tyler sat in his favorite tree in the park, watching as people walked underneath him. What's your story? he asked himself as he watched the occasional student. What's your favorite color? What do you do in your spare time? He pulled a single leaf from the tree and began eyeing it.
Would anybody notice if you left? He dropped the leaf. Tyler jumped from the tree, landed nimbly on his feet and began walking. A girl behind him, in the distance, jotted something down on a piece of paper and followed.
"I'll know her when I see her," TEC said.
"You have someone in mind?" Alex asked.
"I think so... there was a girl at the battle the other day. It looked like she was trying to help people get to the hospital."
"What are the odds you'll see her again? This place is huge. And anyone could've been attracted to the excitement."
"No. Only a few people were drawn towards the fighting. Everyone else was running away," TEC said.
"So we're looking for people who are attracted to action," Alex said.
TEC sighed. "It's not quite like that..."
He noticed someone getting on the treadmill next to his. It was a young girl. She looked briefly at him and began jogging. Tyler made a mental note and continued running. He glanced at her console and noticed it was programmed for five miles. Perfect timing, he thought.
When Tyler finished, he took a sip from his water bottle and took a seat, stretching his heated muscles. The entire time, he watched the girl from the corner of his eye. When she finished, she began stretching on the mat across from his. Now to ask why she's been following me.
"We need to talk," she said softly, never pausing her stretch.
"I'll say. You think I don't notice you watching me? Observing me?" he said under his breath. He felt like a spy exchanging information with another in enemy territory.
"Racquetball court B," she said. "Five minutes."
The girl stood up and walked out as though nothing just happened. Tyler continued stretching, watching the clock.
The girl picked up a well-kept racquet and racquetball. Tyler put his ball in his pocket and the two began playing. When the ball picked up speed and began bouncing loudly from the walls, the conversation continued where it left off. "What are you?" she asked.
"Who are you?" Tyler asked.
"My name is Kara," she said, hitting the ball back to Tyler.
"Why have you been following me?"
"How did you do what you did the other day?" she asked.
"Did when?" Tyler asked in mid-swing.
"A few days ago. With all those explosions. And then you said something and then you were something else."
"Sounds like a hallucination brought on by too much stress."
"It's the first week of school. I'm hardly stressed."
"Really? How about now," Tyler said. Never stopping game play, he pulled the other racquetball out of his pocket and hit it. He kept his attention on both balls as he hit them against any wall of the court. Kara began swinging wildly, trying to return them. But Tyler was running circles around her, keeping both balls moving.
"What are you doing?" she shouted over the echos of the racquetballs.
"Proving a point," Tyler said. When he felt the moment was right, he made a forceful swing hitting the first ball, followed by a strong backhand hitting the second. They bounced off the walls and returned to Kara. The first one hit her in the shoulder; the second hit her in the back of the head.
"What on Earth was the point of that?"
"Leave me alone."
"That doesn't make any sense," Kara said, rubbing her shoulder.
Tyler shrugged. "I suppose not. But still, leave me alone."
"Was that little display supposed to get me to leave you alone? Well, now I'm more curious about you than ever," Kara said, picking up one of the balls and putting it in her pocket. She wiped the sweat off her forehead and noticed that Tyler was only faintly perspiring.
"He'll turn up," TEC said. "I trust him."
"I didn't ask if you trusted him. I just wondered if you had any idea where he could be."
"I trust that he's not getting himself into trouble. I trust that he's on the lookout for someone to be the green ranger."
Alex leaned closer to TEC and whispered fiercely. "How can you trust him? How can you trust me? You've only been on this planet for a few days and you've already delegated responsibility to defend the world to two strangers."
TEC leaned away. "I have no choice. And when you have no choice, you do what must be done."
"We are aware of your concerns, Commander. And normally, we would leave the situation in your hands. But given the situation... well, we don't want to see our opportunity lost."
"Your opportunity. Lost," Kellik repeated.
"Try to understand, we-- our people, have been trying to win this war for generations. You are standing on the very planet that is supposed to give us the edge we need to win," the woman continued.
"That's what you always say," Kellik coughed.
"I assume that you are still hurt from your loss along the Talin Border. That was a tragic and unforseeable loss," the woman said. "That is why we are keeping a closer eye on the situation this time."
Kellik sighed. "What will you do all the way from Varn?"
"Perhaps nothing," the woman said calmly. Her demeanor changed to a more angry one and said, "but by hyperdrive, it will only take a few days to get to Earth from our homeworld." Returning to a more pleasant state, she continued. "Now, I received word from our sources in the Science Minister of Dalec that the Task Force gloves have left the planet." She motioned to the walls behind and to the sides of Kellik. "We don't have any specifics on the capabilities of the gloves yet. But we were able to find these test videos."
Kellik watched the walls. There was a green, red, yellow, blue and pink ranger, each fighting a couple of robot skeletons. Each ranger had white pulses of energy shooting from their fists. The rangers were somewhat clumsy; even when they won, they were badly hurt themselves. "Those are the powers, all right. What is this supposed to show me?"
"These are the gloves in a prototype stage. Our sources are trying to find more recent information, but in the meantime, you are left to find out what you can."
"I see there are five rangers altogether. The first battle only included three," Kellik said, pointing to the red, yellow and blue rangers.
"Five pairs of gloves were stolen," the woman repeated.
So if I'm going to take them out, the time is now. While there are only three rangers. "I'll send down modified robosoldiers and another controller. With the new information we received from the last battle, we should be able to neutralize the threat," Kellik said eagerly.
"Perhaps so. But be careful about making promises you can't keep," the woman said, pushing a button. "Out."
He walked down the stairs outside the huge glass building. The air was still thick as summer ended, but at least a cool breeze was blowing. Tyler sighed as he walked back to the dormitory. Suddenly, he looked up and behind him, only to see Kara following him. "Don't you have anything better to do?" he shouted to her.
She said nothing. Tyler stopped walking as she continued towards him. "It's just a coincidence. Do you think my entire life centers around you?"
"I'm starting to wonder," Tyler replied.
"You're not the only person who lives in the dorms, you know."
"Who said I was going to the dorms?"
"You always go back to your room for a nap after you work out," Kara said as though she outsmarted him. Even though he was wearing sunglasses, she could sense his glare. She ignored it. "Can I walk back with you?"
"I can't stop you now, can I," Tyler sighed.
"You could always blow me up," Kara said, smirking and forcing a laugh.
Tyler rolled his eyes and kept walking. Kara followed him in step. When they were halfway back to the dorms, Tyler froze in his tracks. Kara stopped with him. Tyler peered into the distance, trying to see something. Then he took off running. Kara ran with him. The two stopped behind one of the buildings.
"More robots," Tyler said.
"So you know what they are. So you were there!" Kara exclaimed triumphantly.
"If you were there, you know they mean trouble. Get out of here!"
"No way, I want to help."
"You can help by leaving so I'm not worried about protecting you. Now go!" Tyler put his hands in his pockets so she wouldn't notice the gloves that appeared on his hands.
Kara ran behind the building. Protecting me. Ha. As she watched the battle unfold, however, she became increasingly worried. He's just coming back from a major workout, he doesn't have the energy to keep fighting.
Tyler kept fighting. He could feel his legs trembling and his arms weakening, but he couldn't stop. He looked to the building and saw Kara behind it. He rolled his eyes and sighed. He formed an energy sphere in his hand and threw it; it only made a light explosion.
"Task force, transform!" he shouted, putting his hands together. In a flash, he transformed. "Energy spheres," he shouted, throwing more of the balls at the robots. With each throw, the balls travelled less and less distance.
Even he gets weary. I suppose nobody can keep going with the intensity he does Kara thought. She pulled out her racquetball racquet and ran over to him.
"You're still here," Tyler said angrily.
Kara ignored him. "I can help you. Give me some of those energy balls."
Tyler began forming energy spheres and letting Kara use her racquet hit them to the approaching robots. With her help, she was able to a couple of the robosoldiers. "Now for that one," she said pointing to the controller.
Tyler grabbed her hand. "It took three of us to destroy the controller the other day. You'll be killed."
"If you go in alone, you'll be destroyed. At least we increase our odds by having two of us."
Tyler limped to his duffel bag. He opened it and dug through the sweat-stained clothes to find the other pair of gloves TEC gave him. He presented them to Kara. "I'm sure you've seen me use these."
Kara nodded and put the gloves on. She yelped quietly when they conformed to her hands. She looked up and put the fist of her right hand into the palm of her left. "Task force! Transform!"
In the same white flash as the others, she transformed. "Awesome!" she exclaimed, running after the robosoldiers. Tyler followed after her.
I can't let her get hurt, he thought, throwing energy balls. They flew over her head and exploded around her.
To his surprise, she was a good fighter. She chose her targets carefully and went after them. When she hit one of the robosoldiers, an arc of green electricity flew from her fist, through that robot and bounced to a few more nearby. This keeps getting better! she thought. "Energy lightning!" she shouted, shocking several robots at once.
"What? You can detect when our powers have been activated?" Alex asked, leaning over the table.
TEC stood up and began walking. Alex followed. The two ended up at a map of the campus. Alex watched TEC in amazement. The irises of TEC's eyes turned green; the veins in his eyes began to turn yellow. He squinted slightly as he studied the map. "They're here," he said, pointing to a spot on the map. "Let's go."
The two casually left the common area and broke into a run when they left the building. "How is someone using the green gloves?"
"Tyler must have found someone. His gloves were activated approximately 4.3 minutes ago."
"Why didn't you tell me?" Alex asked.
"If Tyler needed our help he wouldn't have stayed to fight. I trust his judgement."
"Trust his judgement. Of course. I'll meet you over there," Alex said, running ahead.
"Leave it to me. Energy lightning!" she shouted, triumphantly thrusting her fists in the controller's direction. Green bolts shot from her hands and flew towards the robot. The controller stood still, absorbing the shock. The lights around the domed helmet of the robot began glowing brighter.
"It's not that simple," Tyler said. "It took three of us to take the last one down."
"Well, there are three of us here now, right?" another voice added. Tyler and Kara turned around to see Alex standing nearby. "TEC will be here in a minute," he reported. With a touch of conceit, he added, "I left him in the dust."
Tyler rolled his eyes. "Let's try what we did yesterday. Kara, you distract him. Fire around him. Alex and I will combine our powers and take that thing down."
"Right," she agreed, firing blasts at the robot's feet.
"Let's do it," Alex said. Tyler added nothing, creating an energy sphere in his hands. He looked to Alex, then hurled the ball overhead in the direction of the controller. Alex fired.
The controller's chest opened like a giant iris; the ball flew through the hole and exploded behind him.
"That won't work," TEC said, running up to the group. "They'll have adapted him to that strategy. I think I have a plan, though. Are you two up to it?" he asked, pointing to Kara and Tyler.
The two nodded and the group huddled briefly. After some objection by Alex that he wasn't involved in this plan, the plan was agreed upon. Tyler and Kara stood side by side. Tyler formed a baseball-sized sphere in each hand; Kara's hands began sparking. "Catch," Tyler said, throwing the balls.
"Trajectory calculated. Spheres will not intercept controller," the controller said in its synthetic voice.
"Energy lightning, fire!" Kara shouted, shooting intense lightning bolts at the spheres. An arc of electricity connected the two spheres, which began glowing green. Kara was amused; the lightning bolts between the spheres reminded her of her plasma ball. The balls flew past either side of the controller and disappeared.
"Target failed to de--" the robot began. Suddenly, the top part of the robot fell forward and the bottom fell backward; both halves exploded.
"Intense!" Kara exclaimed. "Power down!"
Alex scoffed and watched Kara walk towards the woods. "She knew I was going to win."
"I assume there's honor for men on your planet to beat women in a contest of strength," TEC said.
"No. Well, men and women are treated equally. But there's this old concept called 'chivalry'... well, it's kinda tough to explain."
TEC just smirked. "Speaking of tough to explain," Alex began. "You've got a lot to do..."
Tyler looked down from one of the topmost branches of the tree as he heard her calling. He made sure to keep himself hidden so she wouldn't find him.
"Okay, fine, stay up there. You can't hide forever," she shouted to the trees once before walking away.