Disclaimer: Power Rangers Ninja Storm and all related characters are the property of BVE. No infringement is intended, and no money has been made through this exercise in creative writing.
Author's Note: For the record, I haven't been impressed with PRNS yet. The maturity factor of the series seems to have regressed to the opening episodes of MMPR ten years ago, only these characters lack the appeal and novelty that served the original team so well. Still, I enjoyed the "Thunder Strangers" mini-series, and the Tori/Blake dynamic in particular. I'm sure the series will oversimplify Blake and Hunter's redemption, and the Wind Rangers will no doubt welcome them into the fold with open arms and no hard feelings, but I decided to explore a slightly different scenario. This is a missing scene written in Tori's voice, that fits neatly into "Thunder Strangers, Part Three" right before she meets Shane and Dustin at Storm Chargers and tells them that Blake and Hunter left. If this piece is well received, I may consider writing a follow-up from Blake's point of view. © March 2003.
The Weakest Link
It's another perfect day at the beach. The sun's shining, the breeze is strong but warm, and the waves have some bite to them. The shore is full of life, with kids and adults alike enjoying a lazy afternoon. Almost a dozen surfer boys are trying their luck in the waves, each one trying his best to outlast the guy to his right.
Any other day I'd be right out there with them, teaching them all a thing or two about surfing these waves. Only today, I just don't have it in me. I'm utterly and completely spent, and for once it's not from surfing. Or even training with Shane and Dustin.
I spent this morning alone. After a fitful night's sleep, I went out for some fresh air. What was supposed to be a short walk became a five-mile run. I had so much nervous energy, building inside me for hours, that I had to expend it.
Now, I sit and stare at all the life around me, feeling so detached from it all I might as well have been watching the scene on television. I feel that comfortable burn in my limbs from this morning's jog, and the familiar grit of sand between my toes. And I still feel this insatiable need to hit something. I just need to feel strong, in control. I'm tired of being so damn weak.
'A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.' Sensei taught me that months ago, when he first tried to teach us teamwork. Now that we're Wind Rangers, Shane, Dustin and I have been revisiting those old lessons, applying them to our lives with much more fervor. Now they're not just notable quotables. Now, those little pearls of wisdom just might save our lives.
Weakest link, weakest link seems that lesson was in the basic curriculum of the Thunder Ninja Academy as well.
The Navy and Crimson Rangers targeted us with a vengeance. Their objective was clear and focused: to nab Sensei and make him pay for killing their parents. Sure, they were dead wrong to implicate Sensei, the most honorable man on the planet. But at the time, he was their only suspect, and all the love they carried for their adoptive parents fed their hatred for the man that took them.
They were cold, cruel, and calculating. They befriended Dustin first, and watched our every move. For days they pretended we were friends, giving Dustin motocross pointers, hurrying to help us after the Megazord was K.O.'ed and all that time they were just gathering reconnaissance. Figuring out how to get to Ninja Ops, and to Sensei. Testing out the chain, one link at a time and choosing their target.
The weakest link and they picked me.
Dustin's heart's in the right place, but he can definitely be a little thick sometimes, and mind-blowingly irresponsible. Shane acts like he's bullet proof, and prefers to shoulder all the responsibility than truly trust that Dustin and I have his back.
Hey, I still love them. When push comes to shove, Shane and Dustin will be there for me. I know it, and I'll never doubt it. Still, they've got some serious personality quirks that could've given the Thunders a clear opening to Sensei.
Instead, they picked me. He exploited me. And like some starry-eyed school girl, I fell for it hook, line and sinker.
I thought I was a Ninja warrior. I thought I was strong, intelligent, and fearless. I thought having a Wind Morpher on my wrist meant I was worthy that I was a hero.
But I was as helpless as the cliché damsel in distress when Lothor's frog monster attacked the shore the other day. And Blake rode in on his bike like some fairy tale knight on a white horse, and risked his life to save mine. Or so I thought.
Dammit! How could I be so stupid? So naïve??
" and this choice wave came up out of nowhere, and I almost wiped out"
I nod and smile, trying to look interested as I make eye contact with the surfer hottie that caught my eye a few weeks ago. He'd seen me sunbathing alone, all dark and moody, and decided to cheer me up. Seriously, if he'd swung by to say "hi" like a week ago, I'd be hanging on his every word. Now I can't even get his name straight. Bill? No, that's not it
Then, out of nowhere, a shadow is cast over me. "Tori."
The deep voice sends a shiver through me. I try to mask it by grabbing my sunglasses, and sliding them on my nose before I look up. The last thing I want to do is make eye contact with Blake.
He's standing with his back to the sun, wearing trunks and an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt. Despite his smile, he still looks like a deadly viper, ready to strike at any moment. Standing at his shoulder is the taller, grimmer Hunter, looking just as out of place in his "normal" clothes. How did I not see the ice in their eyes before? Or their rigid stances? How the hell did they dupe me so completely?
Blake's stare cuts into I think his name is Will. There's a threatening chill in those dark eyes, and for a split second I think the bastard has come to pick a fight. "Tori, I need to talk to you. Alone."
I glare at him through the navy lens of my sunglasses. I can feel the grimace on my lips. When he says "alone," he meant to get rid of my companion. I'm sure Hunter's not going anywhere. After all, Hunter and Blake are brothers in all but blood they're completely loyal to each other. Each other, and no one else.
I don't like the idea of being outnumbered, but it's not like Phil will be any help if this degraded into a fight. I don't want to get the poor guy hurt, and I am capable of defending myself if necessary.
I turn to him, pulling off my sunglasses. Since I'm not quite sure what his name is, I decide to skirt around it. "Hey, could you get me a soda? Please?"
To his credit, Gil notices the weird vibe between Blake and me. His jaw tightens as he casts a quick, measuring glance toward Blake. Even he can tell something was off with them! Sheesh, some Ninja I turned out to be
"You sure, Tori?"
I muster my most earnest smile. "This'll just take a second," I assure him, and lean in to give him a quick peck on the cheek.
I don't know what made me do that. I guess I rationalized that a little affection would distract him enough to just do as I said. And if he had any concerns that Blake might be competition, the kiss would give him some reassurance that he wasn't being blatantly dismissed. A little manipulative? Well, yeah but it's for his own good anyway.
I toss a little wave to Dill that's his name! as he makes his way to the refreshment stand. Then, all cheer is gone in a wink as I stand up and face the guy that wiped his boots with me like I was a doormat before marching into my home base to kidnap my mentor.
I stare in surprise as Blake watches Dill leave through narrow eyes. Maybe I'm imagining things, but his stance seems even more rigid, his arms folding over his chest. That totally fake smile is gone, leaving an expressionless mask in its wake.
For a split second, I consider the possibility that Blake is actually jealous. But that would assume he actually gives a damn about me as a person, that I'm not just another step on the staircase to revenge. I know better. He's probably just pressing Dill's face to memory, storing that blurb of info into his "Tori File" for future reference. Just more data to use against me in case he wants to screw with my mind again.
"So," I mutter, drawing his attention back to me, "don't you two have somewhere more important to be?"
"Yes, we do," Hunter grumbles, very pointedly. And suddenly, I have a flash of insight. I had meant the motocross race Kelly sponsored them in but they have other plans.
Blake took a breath before turning to give his brother a glare. Apparently these two communicate without words often, for Hunter gets the message. His lips merely tighten as he backs off, leaving Blake and me alone.
Well, as alone as two people standing in the middle of a crowded beach could be. Too bad we're not really alone I'm just itching to drive my fist into his nose. But I don't want to draw any attention, and to be honest I don't really want to start another fight. I just want to prove that I'm formidable. That I'm a Power Ranger, not some brainless wimp.
Yesterday, the Navy Thunder Ranger was my enemy. He feigned injury to learn the secrets of Ninja Ops. He didn't even have the balls to actually fight for Sensei he preferred to trick me into letting my guard down. He had no qualms driving his Thunder Staff into my gut when we faced off in the woods.
But he also helped us. He and Hunter teamed up with us to defeat the ninja ghosts on the path to the Mountain of Lost Ninjas. We actually fought rather well together. We even defeated Lothor at least for the moment.
My lips curl into an angry snarl as I slide my sunglasses back in place. I can't believe this! I just stood there, staring into his eyes searching for the warmth and humor of the guy that flirted with me at Storm Chargers when we first met. I hate how much I want to believe that's the real Blake that he's not the cold-hearted bastard that pummeled us in the quarry a couple days ago.
I hate how much I'd started to like him
His face still inscrutable, he casually looks me up and down probably checking to see if I have my Morpher on. Right like I'm making that mistake again!
"Hunter and I are leaving."
I stare blankly as I slowly process that information. Suddenly, I feel the urge to interrogate him. Where are you going? Will you ever come back? What about Lothor? What about us? The Rangers, I mean. Not not you and me. There is no you and me.
Instead, all I vocalize is an oh-so-eloquent "Oh."
He almost fidgets. His arms release from their tense fold, and fall into his pockets. "We have to figure things out," he continues, despite the fact that I hadn't asked for an explanation. "We don't belong here."
Images flood into my mind, of how well we worked as a team but he's right. He doesn't belong. There's too much bad blood, too much lying and betrayal. I can't trust him again. I opened up to him, offered him help without thinking of the consequences, and he lied to my face without blinking an eye. I know he's a great fighter but I can't turn my back on him.
That heavy, uncomfortable silence hangs around us. Between us almost like a tangible wall. I look down from his face, watching one of his hands emerge from his pocket. He begins to raise it I can almost imagine him lifting my chin so he could meet my eyes and talk to me. But he doesn't do that.
Instead, he pulls his own sunglasses from the pocket of his open shirt, and slips them on, adding another barrier between us. Now I can't see his eyes at all, just as he can't see mine. He's so closed off from me he might as well be wearing his full uniform.
Is he hiding from me, or is this just another act of simple contempt? Not that I care, or anything.
"We came to say goodbye," he tells me smoothly. Effortlessly. "Tell Dustin and Shane."
And with that, he turns away, with Hunter falling into step beside him. Together, the Thunder Rangers walk away, not slowing down or even glancing back.
That's it. No discussion no acknowledgement of what happened between us yesterday. No excuses, no explanations, no apologies.
I didn't realize before now how much I want him to apologize. Not that empty "I'm sorry" he delivered while he was still holding Cam as a human shield. A real, earnest apology, that I could see in his eyes. Hear in his voice.
I can almost hear that perfect appeal in my mind: "Tori, I'm sorry I used you. I needed to get to your Sensei I needed to avenge my parents, and I was blind to anything else. Please believe me, I didn't want to hurt you. You have no idea how hard it was for me to betray your trust. I'd do anything to take it back to take it all back. I wish we could start all over again and I'd just be me. No lies, no tricks, no masks just me. Just Blake."
A bottle of Coke appeared in front of me.
"Hey Tori you okay?"
I generate a sweet smile for what's-his-name despite the ugly disappointment that knots my stomach. "Yeah, I'm fine."
He's not so easily convinced. "Who were those guys?"
I shrug casually as I take a sip of the soda. "They're my friend Dustin's biking buddies. They just wanted me to deliver a message."
I stretch my arms before sitting back on my beach mat. "So, finish that story about surfing in Waikiki? I've never been to Hawaii."
He's eager to continue the tale of his exploits surfing across the U.S.A. And I nod and smile, nursing my soda and that internal ache that refuses to go away.
I'm not mad that Blake kidnapped Sensei. It was a dishonorable, underhanded plot, and vengeance is never a solution to anything, but I could excuse him on the basis of his need to seek justice for his parents' murder. Fine. That doesn't go beyond the scope of my forgiveness.
I'm mad that Blake used me. He manipulated me painting himself as a brave, charismatic, adventurous, noble guy. He pretended to be interested in me. He played me for a fool and I fell for it.
That's what stays embedded in my heart like a rusty nail. I fell for it! Sensei was almost killed, and it's my fault! I thought I was strong and smart. But I'm vulnerable, gullible, and so, so stupid.
I'm just weak and I hate myself for it.