Summary: It’s sometimes hard to explain criminal impulses, especially when they’re not just criminal. A bit AU to the AU “The Dreamt-of Call”. PG/8+
Note: My brain does “what-if”s far too frequently; it’s OCD-ish in that way. In this one, I ponder what would have happened if Ziggy had checked out that place he was being drawn to.
Elephant in the Room
Ziggy gave a silent cheer as the door popped open. He’d been passing by the place for weeks, and curiosity had gotten the better of him, an urge to visit that finally couldn’t be denied. Carefully easing the door open, he slipped inside, noting quickly that he’d wandered into a garage. That wasn’t a surprise, given the large door right next to the one he’d entered.
The occupants seemed to be out, though nothing else seemed to be shuttered. There were a series of rooms upstairs, though if they were storerooms or something else was a good question. He decided checking upstairs would cause too much noise, and instead concentrated on the downstairs sections.
There was a ton of automotive supplies, which were expected. Some electrical stuff, too, which wasn’t so odd as cars had so many electronics in them. He passed through, determined to just look. All he wanted there was to find out why he wanted to come. So far, he hadn’t found it, and he hoped he wouldn’t have to look upstairs.
He passed a kitchen and living room area, the looks of which meant that someone – or several someones – lived at the place. But they seemed to be out, or in their rooms, or whatever, and he was safe. He walked into an area that he wasn’t sure about, that seemed to have several monitor screens, but nothing else. Come to think of it, there were an awfully large amount of the things around.
But no answers, so he pressed on. He came to a set of doors, almost blast doors but prettier. He touched them, and to his surprise, they opened. Making a mental note to maybe leave a note with the owners – maybe he’d sell himself as a security consultant – Ziggy stepped inside.
And any thought about security consulting or whatever were forgotten as he saw the uniform. Uniforms, really, he could tell that he’d somehow walked into Ranger HQ, but at the moment he didn’t care. All he cared about was that the uniform was the green that had been calling him in his dreams, exactly as he’d dreamed it.
He couldn’t take his eyes off the thing, though vague alarm bells were running through his head, helped by something landing on his foot.
The something – he didn’t dare see what it was – had given him enough focus to realize that he was in major, major trouble. He’d broken into Ranger HQ, he was standing in the room with their uniforms, and he’d been lucky that he hadn’t been caught.
Yeah, time to get out of there in a damn hurry, before someone realized there was a breach in their security. He had no desire to go to jail, not when the kids needed him.
The blast doors slid shut as he was thinking that, and he looked frantically for a way to open them. He mashed a few buttons on one side, but they didn’t seem to do him any good.
So… tools. He looked around, tried to spot anything that might pry open the doors. As he was approaching one table, a voice spoke.
“Remain where you are.”
It was a male voice, distorted, slightly high-pitched as if the creator was trying for female and completely failed, not that Ziggy was going to point that out at the moment.
“Um, I don’t mean any harm, let me go and I won’t breathe a word to anyone about your security problems! Really!” He held up his hands, wondering how he was going to leave. The voice had him pretty well contained, it looked like, and it really did look like he was going to face jail time.
“There were no security breaches,” the voice said. “Your entire visit was to test you.”
“Oh.” Maybe the Rangers needed a lockpicker, or something. He doubted it, but it made more sense than the other idea, that he was testing as a Ranger as he heard sometimes they had people do. “I know a lot of guys who do second-story work, if that’s what you’re looking for.”
“Are you normally this stupid?” the voice asked, with a hint of exasperation.
“Well, you gotta admit,” he said, “I’m not exactly Ranger material.” He wasn’t. There was no way he could be. He was a confidence person and occasional burglar, not a warrior.
“That is true,” the voice said. “Why did you choose to visit this place illicitly?”
It took him a second to parse that. “Oh, why did I choose to break in? Well, I was curious. I kind of had to.” He doubted the voice would understand, and would think that it was some weird criminal thing instead of a compulsion that he didn’t understand either. And then he could talk the voice into letting him go.
He’d just lay low for a while after that.
But as he caught sight of the uniform again, he strangely didn’t want to leave. Not that he’d tell the voice that. He had to give the impression that he’d never darken their doorstep, that all they had to do was let him go.
“‘Had to’?” the voice asked, echoing his last words back to him.
“Well, yeah.” It wasn’t like he could precisely say that he’d been drawn to the place for no reason he could clearly explain, that he’d been dreaming of the uniform in the case to the side, that he’d walked in because he couldn’t stand it anymore. He didn’t want to sound crazy or anything.
“Elaborate.” The voice was like steel. Obviously the speaker wasn’t going to let this go.
Of course, maybe if he sounded crazy, they’d send him to a place for the criminally insane instead of to Corinth Jail. So, he might as well use it to his advantage, all the time telling the truth.
“Well, I’ve been getting these dreams,” Ziggy said. “That I was a Ranger. In fact, it was that suit over there, so you guys must have shown it or something. Anyway, I’m fighting, which is kind of funny, ’cause I’m not a warrior. And, well, I’ve been finding my way here. Something’s been pulling me.” The last part could have been seen as just curiosity, but he hoped not. Maybe a bit more crazy stuff would do the trick. “It’s really funny, too, that when I have headaches, I see green too.”
The voice was silent for a few minutes, and then came back. “I have notified the other Rangers. They will be returning soon.”
“Oh, okay – what?” He’d caught the ‘other’ a second too late. “Do you guys have a new Ranger?” Maybe, if he could talk the voice out of having him arrested, he could tell the kids. It would cheer them up a lot.
“We will, as soon as you bond with your morpher.” The voice sounded like it couldn’t quite believe what it was saying. That was okay, because Ziggy didn’t believe it either.
“Okay, I’m leaving now.” He couldn’t have passed the tests for a Ranger, so somebody had obviously taken leave of their senses, or at least readouts. Maybe the voice’s readouts were screwy.
“You will only be drawn back.” The voice was matter-of-fact. “Eventually it will come to the point where you will be compelled to return.” But the doors opened, to Ziggy’s surprise.
Ziggy had to admit that he kind of didn’t want to leave. But somebody’s readouts were definitely screwy, and he had to get out of there before the Rangers made a big mistake. He walked forward, out the blast doors, and started towards the door he’d come in. It occured to him that because of the screwup, he was getting out of this scot-free, and at least the voice didn’t know who he was, so it couldn’t have him arrested after.
“I’m surprised I’m being let go,” he said softly.
“Only because you will return,” the voice responded. They must have their microphones trained on him or something. He was glad that the voice didn’t know who he was.
He walked out the door, still surprised that he’d gotten into Ranger HQ without being arrested or identified, and headed back to the Orphanage.
* * *
“Something’s bothering you,” Angelie Robinson, his boss, said. He was grateful that she let him work there and stay. She let him fly completely under the radar, not reporting his employment.
“Yeah. Well. Kind of.” It had been a day or so after he’d walked out of Ranger HQ, where the voice had let him go, convinced he’d return. He had to admit that he’d walked out of the orphanage that morning and his feet had started walking in that direction before he’d stopped and forced himself to walk the other way. “I.. I think it’s from the other day. I, um. Decided to check out that place I’ve been drawn to.” He looked around. Sida was watching the kids while he and Angelie worked on lunch.
“Oh, Ziggy.” She sighed. “Did you get anything useful out of it?” He knew what she was asking, if he’d stolen anything that they could use.
“No.” He shook his head. “I walked into Ranger HQ. By accident.” At her look, he told her about it, breaking in, running into the voice, the warning. “I’m only still free because he’s convinced I’m supposed to be a Ranger.”
Angelie nodded. “I think you were lucky.”
“I think so too.” He thought of the suit and how easy it would be to walk in there and accept the morpher, bond with it. He wouldn’t have to even pick the lock. Some part of him obviously thought it was a great idea to go back.
“As long as it satisfied your curiosity,” she said, working on cutting carrots. “We’ll keep you hidden here until they lose interest.”
“Yeah.” Though it had sounded like that would be a long time, and besides, if the voice’s words were true, he’d be going back anyway. “I’m lucky they made a mistake.”
But some part of him really doubted it. It was like not thinking about the elephant in the room; the more he tried not to think about it, the more he did.
“You’re not thinking about going back, are you?” Angelie asked, looking up from her cutting.
“I’m wondering if the voice was right.” It wouldn’t hurt to check. He’d try the door and then he’d come home.
“I’m sure it was wrong,” Angelie said. “Ziggy, I love you to pieces, but you’re not a fighter. It doesn’t make sense that you’d be chosen.”
“You’re right,” he said, but his mind went back to the uniform. The elephant in the room, indeed.
“He might have said that to convince you to come back,” Angelie added. “Don’t think about it too much, Ziggy.”
“Right. If I don’t think about it, it won’t bother me,” he said. He should know all about emotions; after all, his trade had to do with emotional manipulation. He played on guilt trips, knew they were powerful things, knew that he shouldn’t succumb to one.
This whole obsession was nothing more than a huge guilt trip, and he should get over it.
But getting over guilt trips was hard, he knew that. Maybe he should go back. Get it over with. Convince the Rangers that the disembodied voice had made a mistake.
They finished up the food, and served the kids, and Ziggy found himself still thinking about going back, even if he shouldn’t. He forced himself to pay attention to Lydia and Arcie, losing himself in the joy of taking care of the kids.
* * *
It was obvious that he couldn’t stop thinking about it, though. If it was a guilt trip, it was a whopper of one, and Angelie had caught him daydreaming more than once. After the tenth time, she sighed. “Do you want me to take you there?” she asked.
He thought about that, but realized if he was going to be arrested, she shouldn’t be there. “No. But I think I have to go. I have to do this.”
She sighed once more. “Take care of yourself, and try to come back.” She enveloped him with a thourough hug. “Don’t do anything unless you want to do it.”
That was sound advice. He nodded, knowing his feet would find the way there. After a long walk, he was back where he’d been before, back to the Rangers’ headquarters.
He put his hand on the handle, wondering if the whole thing was a good idea. There was time to back out, after all. Took a deep breath, let go, staring at it. Did he want to do this? He wasn’t sure.
The door opened while he was still contemplating the doorknob. “So, are you going to come in?” asked a warm voice with a Scottish burr. He looked up, vaguely surprised that Flynn McAllistair, Ranger Blue, was standing in the doorway, smiling, as if expecting him.
“Um… maybe,” Ziggy said. Part of him wanted him to go in; the other part was screaming for him to get away before he found himself involved in something he didn’t want.
And he still wasn’t that keen on being a Ranger. So he didn’t step inside. He could walk away before the Blue Ranger figured out who he was. Before they made the mistake of trying to make him a hero when he wasn’t one.
“Might as well come in,” he was told. “You’ve got the look about you, and besides, we already know.”
Of course, the disembodied voice would have told them about him. What the voice had said was a different matter, but from the man’s reaction, he hadn’t come out sounding too overly stupid. And Ziggy did have the impression that Flynn McAllistair was pretty smart.
“Um.” He hoped he could manage to not sound so stupid in the future, but really, him? A Ranger? Angelie had been right when she’d said he wasn’t a warrior. “I think there’s been a little mistake….”
“Don’t think so,” Flynn said, but his tone wasn’t threatening. Amused, maybe. “Come in, lad. Some food in you and some explanations will do you some good.”
Ziggy hoped he’d have the chance to explain that there’d been a mistake. If he could, he was sure they’d realize what a mistake the voice had made and let him go. At least he’d be fed and that meant the orphanage could stretch the food budget a tiny bit farther. There was going to be a good part to this whole farce.
He met Summer Landsdown and Scott Truman with some trepidation, only getting through the whole thing by telling himself that it was a story to tell the kids when he extricated himself out of this. Of course, he didn’t really get a chance, not at first. He was scooted over to the kitchen area, served meatloaf, and settled down on the couch nearby, aware that he had three Rangers watching his every move, or at least it felt like it. Finally, he said, “There has been a mistake, though. I’m not a Ranger.”
Better get it out while he could, while he still wasn’t one.
But that only provoked smiles from his would-be teammates. And then Summer, Ranger Yellow, was explaining things about Biofields and Morphers and Calls that made his head spin, though he did figure out that somehow, a morpher had somehow decided that he, Ziggy Grover, would be a perfect Ranger Green, and then proceeded to raise havoc in his life by giving him dreams and trying to direct him towards this place, with no regard to whether he really would make a good Ranger or not, and was stubborn enough to not let him go when he clearly had refused, even if he hadn’t known what he was refusing at the time.
And that there was no way that it would switch its attentions to some other poor soul. He was their Ranger Green, and even if he left that very moment, he’d just find his way back again, like he had that day. To bond was the only way to keep the morpher from driving him crazy, but bonding with the morpher meant that he was fully and truly a Ranger. Ziggy had briefly glared in the vague direction of the blast doors, but he was beginning to realize that he had no choice. He was going to become a Ranger, and that was that. According to what the others had told him, he’d displayed every symptom, acted exactly like he should, and the morpher and suit had reacted right back.
They’d been expecting him back for a week. And he knew that Corinth needed its Rangers, and needed them badly, and he’d been holding the whole thing up because he believed that they were making a mistake. Still believed that they were making a mistake, but it wasn’t like they or he had a choice in the matter. Angelie’s words about not doing something unless he wanted to do it echoed in his mind, but he really saw no way out. And besides, if they could train him like they promised, it wouldn’t be so bad, would it? Saving the world had never been his choice in careers, but maybe it was time to want to. Time to be what the world needed him to be. Time to accept the morpher, make the headaches go away, go on to his destiny.
With that, he looked at his new teammates, watching them smile back. And he took on his morpher and his duty with a little trepidation and an open heart.
Crossposted from Ramblings Yet Once More here.