"I am not wearing pink!" Tommy asserted with finality, glaring at his girlfriend who was smiling with way too much amusement for his liking.
He had been dreading this moment ever since he opened his big mouth, challenged the Pink Ranger to an aerial race and lost. The forfeit had been to exchange Power Coins with Kimberly for forty-eight hours. So, for the next two days, he was the Pink Ranger.
"Oh, don't be such a spoil-sport," Kim chided brightly, fighting hard to suppress her laughter at her boyfriend's plight. "Besides, you won't be able to help it. For some reason, we're drawn to the colors of our Power Coins."
True, Tommy reflected, noting their propensity to color-coordinate their wardrobe. He remembered driving his mother crazy when he first became the Green Ranger and developed a sudden liking for green clothing. The same thing happened when he became the White Ranger.
He regarded Kimberly's outfit; she was dressed predominately in white: shoes, socks, shorts, shirt... though the close-fitting tee was striped and trimmed in pink.
Although he wouldn't admit it to Kim, he had been in something of a wardrobe quandary this morning. He had no problem with the jeans, but when it came time to find a shirt, he simply could not find anything that appealed. There he stood, half dressed, rifling aimlessly through his drawers when Kimberly bounded in with her present: a pink polo shirt.
"Aw, come on, Tommy," the perky Ranger pursued. While she didn't mind the view, he had to get dressed so they could get to school. "Guys sometimes wear pink; after all, I bought this in the Men's department."
"Thomas Oliver, you are going to be late for school!" his mother called up.
"At least I don't have to wear a dress," he grumbled, quickly pulling the blush colored shirt over his head. As he tucked in the tails, he paused, a look of dread filling his face. "What happens when we morph? Will the uniform have that little skirt?"
"I don't know," Kim replied as she began loading up his backpack to cover the fact that she was dying to burst out laughing at the prospect. "Maybe not. Neither Trini nor Aisha had skirts on their uniforms. Hey, we may never find out; maybe Zedd and Rita won't bug us until the time limit is up."
"I couldn't get so lucky," Tommy groused morosely. "They won't be able to resist the opportunity to humiliate me."
"Pink?" Adam gasped wonderingly, spotting Tommy at his locker.
"It was a gift from Kim," the White Ranger said tightly, inwardly cringing at the others' amusement. He felt the heat in his cheeks even as he justified his response to himself. Technically, it was the truth.
"The things love drives a man to do," Billy murmured sagely, feeling some sympathy with Tommy, recalling the time a tainted drink had him punked out with a studded collar around his neck --not his usual wardrobe choice.
"I was going to ask if you'd just learned how to do the laundry recently," Rocky chuckled. "The first time I tried, I didn't sort things so good. Left a red t-shirt in with the whites. Turned all my underwear pink." He paused, reflecting. "By the way, do you even own any red shirts?"
"Don't get any ideas," Tommy warned Kim sternly. She flashed him an angelic who me? smile. Their friends traded puzzled looks.
"Don't get so upset," Aisha soothed, a merry twinkle in her eye. "It really is a good color on you... though it does clash with your blush...."
Tommy clenched his teeth and bit back a growl as the bell rang and everyone scattered to their classes.
By the end of the day, Tommy wasn't quite so put out about having to wear Kim's favorite color. She wasn't rubbing it in or anything, and he had received some nice compliments from some of the other girls, which had done his ego some good. Still, he felt worlds better for being able to don his white gi for his class at the Youth Center.
He bowed to his students, dismissing them. Gathering up his gym bag, he headed over to the table where the others, excepting Kim, sat working on their homework. He paused midway en route to the table to glance over at the gymnastic equipment where Kim was still working on her beam routine. She, too, had adopted her familiar colors --pink bra top and form-fitting black shorts-- though her scrunchie was white.
"Earth to Tommy," Aisha called out, recalling him to the here and now. "Stop staring; you're drooling."
"Very funny," he muttered drolly as he joined them at last.
"More pink?" Rocky snickered.
"What's that in your hair?"
In the face of his friends' knowing grins, Tommy reached around to his ponytail and felt the bunched-up cloth securing it.
"I forgot my elastic band this morning, and Kim said she had a spare I could use...." he explained; however, when he removed the frilled hair decoration, he discovered that it was a vibrant pink (to match Kimberly's top). He stared at it in amazement. She hadn't handed him the scrunchie; she let him get it from her bag.... "Must have grabbed this one by mistake," he murmured.
Then, the moment he'd been dreading all day came to pass.
Beep. Beep. Beep-beep. Beep. Beep.
Still, instincts kicked in, and Tommy led the group to a secluded corner. Kim quickly scampered over, too.
"What is it, Zordon?" Tommy queried.
"Rito and a group of Tengas are tearing up the park."
"We're on it," he confirmed, and with a long-suffering look at his girlfriend, he hit the teleportation mechanism on his wristband.
"Ninja Ranger Powers!"
Even as the sextet materialized in the park, they assumed the first level of the latest power incarnation and took up a wedge-shaped defensive formation, with Tommy at the point. However, it was immediately apparent that something wasn't quite right.
"Uh, Tommy, I hate to bring this up now, but it looks like Alpha washed our uniforms together in hot water," Rocky muttered, doing his level best to contain his laughter.
"Or he shrunk Tommy's and gave it to Kim," Aisha giggled.
"Not now, guys," Kim hissed.
"All right, Bonehead, what are you and your flock of freaks up to?" Tommy demanded, ignoring his teammates' reactions as best he could. Whether in white or pink, he was still team leader, and they had a job to do.
"Oh, don't you look pretty in pink," Rito cooed, after which he completely lost it, doubling over and clutching his ribs as he began to laugh. Around him, his henchbirds were rolling on the ground, cackling with uproarious merriment.
Tommy rolled his eyes behind his mask.
"It isn't that funny," he snarled. Behind him, he heard a snort and a titter and a stifled guffaw. He didn't need to look back to know that Aisha and Rocky were clinging to each other, as helpless as the villains across the way.
"I love the skirt thing," Rita's dim-witted brother snickered. "Hey, if I unwound your mummy wrap, would I find coordinating lipstick and blush?"
"I'm outta here," Tommy grumbled in disgust and teleported out. As soon as he was gone, those who had been fighting to maintain their composure lost it as well.
"They were laughing at me!" Tommy fumed. Kim had brought him back to her house to cool down following the encounter in the park. "Okay, I expected it from Rocky and the others, but Rito and the Tengas...? That was too much!"
"At least the others apologized... and be thankful Goldar wasn't around," Kim soothed, biting the inside of her cheek to rein in her mirth. Whether he knew it or not, Tommy was hugging the stuffing out of Mr. Fluffy, the pink rabbit he had given her for their first Valentine's Day together --the way she always did whenever she was upset. "I'd give you your coin back if I could, but Zordon said...."
"I know," he replied with an exasperated huff. Getting lectured by Zordon hadn't been fun either. Their mentor hadn't been exactly thrilled to find out about their switch, and he had informed them that since Tommy had pledged his word on his coin, they would be unable to undo the exchange until the forty-eight hours were up. And even Zordon could not predict if the transfer was relegated to merely color/Zord changes or if it ran deeper. "I really put my foot in it this time, didn't I?"
"Has it really been all that awful?" his normally-pink counterpart asked sympathetically.
"It could have been worse," he admitted grudgingly, flashing his girlfriend a wan smile.
Suddenly, it was worse.
One minute, Tommy was in Kim's bedroom; the next, he had been teleported to the park, bunny and all.
"What the...." he sputtered, trying to regain his equilibrium.
"Greetings, White Ranger... or is it Pink Ranger now?" Goldar sneered, and Tommy was hard-pressed to flip back out of the way of the sword that slashed down towards him. Quickly, he reached for his morpher.
"White Ranger Power!" he shouted.
Muttering an invective that would have had his mother threatening to wash his mouth out with soap if she'd heard what he said, Tommy tried again, this time with much better results.
"Pink Ranger Power!"
In a flash, Tommy was garbed in his girlfriend's usual uniform, complete with the dreaded little pink skirt. He groaned inwardly.
"Getting in touch with your feminine side?" Goldar baited, but he was not prostrate with laughter, as his cohorts had been.
"Real funny, Goldilocks, but I'm no lady," Tommy retorted, launching himself at his opponent with a flying kick. However, instead of ducking or dodging, Goldar reached out and caught Tommy by the ankle, upending him. "Hey!"
"Just checking," the blue-furred minion of evil responded pleasantly, flipping up his captive's skirt.
"Get out of there!" Tommy fumed, struggling all the while. Goldar released him, and he landed in an ignominious heap on the ground. He silently prayed the others hadn't caught that in the viewing globe.
"Looks like Rito was wrong," Goldar roared triumphantly.
Don't even ask, Tommy warned himself even as, "About what?" spilled out of his mouth.
"He said you probably didn't have the balls to be team leader any longer. I checked. You do."
"That's it, you over-grown monkey, I'm gonna...." But Goldar teleported out before the totally frustrated Ranger could finish his threat.
Thoroughly disgusted, Tommy decided to teleport back to Kim's house; however, he dimly recalled having arrived with his girlfriend's favorite stuffed animal. He supposed he'd better find it. But before he could power down, the ground began to quake, and two portals of crackling light flickered to life. Then, from the heart of each roiling disk, a bolt of energy shot out, the two jagged arcs converging at a third point, creating another pulsing flare.
"Uh, Zordon...." Tommy radioed, shying away from the blinding brilliance.
"Return to the Command Center immediately," Zordon ordered.
When he materialized in the familiar confines, the team leader found Kim waiting for him.
"When you vanished from my room, I was so worried," she murmured, hugging him for all she was worth. "By the time we got a lock on your position, Goldar had let you go. Did he hurt you?"
"Only my pride," Tommy sighed, returning the embrace. He removed his helmet and shook his hair down. "Zordon, what's going on in the park?"
"A phenomenon I had hoped never to witness again," the timewarp-trapped entity announced somberly. The echo of his solemn pronouncement had scarcely died away when the other four members of the fighting force arrived.
"Hey, who's the tall chick in the pink uniform?" Rocky wondered, deadpan and puzzled. Tommy cast him a withering glare over his shoulder. The Red Ranger held up his hands defensively. "Geez! I didn't mean anything by it, but from the back with that long hair of yours, you look like a girl."
"Rangers, observe the viewing globe," Zordon interrupted.
"What's happening?" Billy queried, fascinated and concerned about the atmospheric disturbance in the park. The energy transference was still taking place, but the sky had become dark with ominous clouds, the thunderheads totally obscuring the sun.
"Gozar the Traveler is attempting to enter our dimension."
"Gozar?" Adam reiterated.
"Why does that name sound so familiar?" Rocky mumbled thoughtfully.
"Who or what is Gozar?" Aisha asked.
"An ancient demon who draws sustenance from the dimensions he destroys. He must not be allowed to enter our world."
take it he isn't one of Lord Zedd's monsters," Kim said.
"Correct. This is an entity vastly more powerful than Lord Zedd and Rita combined."
"How do we stop him?" Tommy questioned.
"The dimensional doorway must not be allowed to open," Zordon explained. "Alpha...."
At Zordon's prompting, the helpful automaton presented each Ranger with (what amounted to) a blaster attached to a backpack.
"Fire an energy stream into the doorway to counter the power from the portals feeding it," the android explained, concluding with a worried aye-yi-yi.
"Should Gozar emerge, do not cease firing into the gateway," the Ranger's mentor advised. "His power will be greatly diminished if he should be cut off from his host dimension."
"All right, guys," Tommy began, hefting his weapon, "let's go."
Moments later, morphed and on the battle scene, Kimberly complained to Tommy, "How can you move in this get-up?"
She tried raising her arms, but the 'wings' on his chest plate inhibited her range of motion.
"Cartwheels and back handsprings aren't exactly in my fighting repertoire," Tommy replied.
"I just hope I don't have to try using Saba," Kim murmured, eyeing the sword at her hip dubiously.
"He doesn't bite," Tommy assured her, while secretly hoping he didn't need to try and use her power bow.
"Guys, how about less banter and more blasting," Adam recommended as he readied his blaster.
Six multi-hued beams of energy arced into the maelstrom; however, it was already too late. Even as they poured their containment blasts into the mix, the luminous image of a massive door took shape and solidified. As the ornate portal swung open, billows of smoke rolled out, obscuring the sextet's vision. When they could see again, they found themselves staring up a white stairway leading to a pyramid with golden doors. On the landing sat two huge, dog-like, gargoyle creatures.
"I have seen this before; I know it," Rocky insisted as he lowered his weapon.
"Some movie, I bet," Aisha snorted.
"I hope he remembers which one it was --quick," Adam added.
Suddenly, there was a small flash of light, and a figure appeared on the landing with the 'dogs.' It regarded the Rangers menacingly, snarling, eyes glowing read.
"Mr. Fluffy!" Kim gasped, as the fog parted, allowing them to see what had become of her beloved stuffed bunny.
"Gozar the Gozarian, Gozar the Destructor... the Traveler has come," an ominous voice boomed. "Choose and Perish."
"Huh?" Tommy muttered. "Choose --what?"
"Choose. Choose the form of the Destructor."
"Ghostbusters!" Rocky exclaimed abruptly. "Billy Murray, Dan Akroyd, Sigourney Weaver... remember? This demon Gozar arrived near the end of the flick and demanded they pick what it should look like as it ripped up New York City, and Akroyd's character picked the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man."
"This isn't a movie, Rocky," Billy chided.
"Maybe not, but fact is often stranger than fiction," Adam interjected.
"And we've faced some strange stuff," Aisha concurred.
"We've got a cute, cuddly, harmless stuffed bunny possessed by a demon... I'm open for suggestions," Tommy said.
"The choice is made. The Traveler has come!"
"What choice? Who chose...?" Tommy sputtered.
"I'm afraid you did," Billy noted grimly as the ground shook with a tremor. A distant booming --the sound of gigantic footfalls-- reverberated around them.
"Tommy, you didn't...." Kim groaned.
"Yep, he did," Adam confirmed, jerking his thumb towards the city where they could see pink rabbit ears looming over the buildings.
"Mr. Fluffy is on his way to squish Angel Grove," Aisha observed.
"Mr. Fluffy!" Kim cried.
"Okay, Rocko, how'd they toast the marshmallow guy?" Tommy asked.
"They crossed the streams on their proton beams and shut the gate," he explained.
"Which is what Zordon said to do," Tommy extrapolated. "All right, you guys work on getting that doorway closed while...."
"While Tommy and I take the Zords and try to slow up Mr. Fluffy," Kim interrupted with all of the usual White Ranger's impetuousness. When Tommy favored her with a questioning glance, she asserted, "I want my bunny back."
"That won't leave you guys shorthanded, will it?" the leader of the Rangers queried.
"Hey, there were only four Ghostbusters," Rocky piped up.
"Then let's do it!"
"Ow!" Tommy yelped, smacking his head on the ceiling of the Crane NinjaZord's cockpit as he attempted to settle into the seat. Obviously, the Zords did not change scale as the uniforms had changed sizes.
"I need a booster seat," Kim groused over the radio.
"Tell me about it; I feel like a sardine," Tommy commiserated. "Is there any way to slide this seat back? I feel like my knees are going to hit me in the nose or something!"
"We'll just have to make the best of it," the temporary White Ranger said. "I'm going in."
Tommy had to confess to being impressed as he watched Kim handle the FalconZord. Though almost three times the size of the Crane NinjaZord, she was piloting it as if it had been her machine all along. He was still trying to figure out how to move the control stick without accidentally injuring something delicate.
"Mr. Fluffy's the size of the NinjaMegaZord!"
He confirmed his partner's estimate on his own scanners. A 150,000 pound stuffed animal was nothing to sneeze at.
"At least I didn't say the Energizer Bunny," he muttered ruefully. "Can you picture that thing with a bass drum and mallets?"
"I don't even want to go there! Don't give Gozar any more ideas," was the terse reply. "I'll take him high; you take 'im low."
"Yes, oh-fearless-leader," Tommy mumbled under his breath. Was he always this bossy? Still, Kim was right --which was just a bit annoying for some reason. The CraneZord was much better suited for the lower altitudes and congested airspace. He put his ship into a dive, blurs of baby pink streaking past his windshield. He guided the craft into a tight figure eight around the massive legs, hoping to knock the demon over to impede its progress. Meanwhile, Kim was buzzing its head like an angry hornet.
"Whoa! Mr. Fluffy has some nasty teeth!" Kim exclaimed as the FalconZord peeled away to evade a series of energy beams shot from the possessed rabbit's eyes. "You know, when this is over, I'm never going to be able to look at Mr. Fluffy the same way."
"Me either," Tommy agreed whole-heartedly.
They continued their harrying tactics, reserving their firepower, knowing their cuddly foe would shrug the assault off, and waited for word from their teammates. Suddenly, Mr. Fluffy stopped, letting loose with an agonized roar.
"Tommy," Billy radioed, "The gateway is closed."
"Good work. Are you guys okay?"
"A little singed, but otherwise fine."
"Then get your butts over here... YIKES!"
"Kim?" Tommy picked up his visual scanning to find the FalconZord spiraling out of control. However, the skilled pilot fought through the dizzying roll. "You okay?"
"I think I need a Dramamine."
"Guys, we need the NinjaMegaZord."
"On our way."
Tommy broke off his flight pattern to cover for Kim. However, even as he opened fire with the Crane's lasers, Kim cut loose with the Falcon's wingtip rockets.
"This thing has a heck of a recoil. I am going to be soooo sore when this is over."
Privately, Tommy wondered if his knees would ever be the same.
Even with its dimensional power supply cut off, Gozar was still formidable. The aerial Zords were taking a beating when the cavalry finally arrived. They wasted no time in initiating the NinjaMegaFalconZord transformation sequence. Tommy slid into Kim's normal fore-seat. She had yet to slide down into his usual place, when Rocky said, "You're going to let Kim drive the MegaFalconZord?"
"You want to see how good you look in pink? Then be my guest and question her piloting skills," Tommy retorted.
"No thanks," the Red Ranger demurred.
"When did he develop common sense?" Aisha mused.
"Sorry I'm late, guys; that docking sequence was trickier than I expected," Kim said as she assumed the central seat.
"Shall we make us some rabbit stew?" Tommy quipped.
"Poor Mr. Fluffy," Kim sighed mournfully, but she was as resolved as the rest of her teammates.
The Power Sword made short work of Gozar the Traveler. The pink bunny perished in a rosy explosion, showering Angel Grove with a profusion of blush colored fur.
"Tommy, thank you!" Kim gushed, giving him an appreciative peck on the cheek as she cradled the bunny he had given her to replace the deceased Mr. Fluffy. The citizens of the city were still picking bits of pink fluff out of everything, in spite of the fact that the NinjaMegaZord had assisted in the clean up.
"Actually, thank you," Tommy said with a full measure of gratitude as he ran his hand over his Power Coin. He'd already stripped off the pink button-down Kim had provided for day two of his stint as the Pink Ranger. The forty-eight hours were up at last.
"It was a thrill flying the FalconZord, but it was almost too big for me to handle," Kim admitted. "And is Saba always such a backseat driver?"
Wisely, Tommy didn't answer that. "I will never doubt your flying abilities again," he assured her. "First time in the FalconZord, and you were flying rings around me."
"You didn't do such a bad job with the Crane... but how did you manage to move the seat back? Now I can't reach the pedals," the proper Pink Ranger complained. "Anyway, you didn't look that bad in the uniform. Maybe without the skirt...."
"No, thank you!" he said quickly. "If you don't mind me saying so, if I never have to wear pink again, it'll be too soon!"
"Good, you're home."
Tommy and Kim looked to the bedroom door as Tommy's mom popped her head in. She had a laundry basket in hand, and Tommy hastened to relieve her of it.
"Your father helped out with the wash this afternoon, but he didn't do a real good job of sorting things," Mrs. Oliver went on to say. "I'm afraid my new red sweatshirt got mixed in with your whites...."
"Oh, no," Tommy groaned. Everything in the basket from his gi to his socks and underwear were a delicate shade of pink.
"It could be worse," his mother continued. "At least you look good in pink."
"Tommy held his tongue until his mom had left, then he shot Kim a warning glare.
"Not one word!" he hissed. He needn't have worried. Kim was laughing too hard to say anything.