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Can't Beat 'Em

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The second year the Space Rangers came, Tommy hadn't been expecting what happened any more than anyone else had. He, at least, didn't know the Space Rangers all that well, and less so the two members of the team not from Earth, so he could forgive himself for not being prepared.

That the rest of the team (and the second Pink Galaxy Ranger) hadn't expected it was more surprising.

It had started out like any Ranger reunion--hugs and how've-you-beens, introductions where they were needed (the Lightspeed Rescue team were the new kids, that year), and then the laughter and the games and the cooking all started. Tommy hadn't even noticed that the Silver Space Ranger had vanished.

Until Zhane had come stumbling back into the pavilion from the direction of the lake, clutching a bright red stain on the stomach of his silver t-shirt, before collapsing in a boneless heap.

The reaction was almost instantaneous. A swarm of Pink and Yellow surged forward, beaten to their mark by a single Red.

By the time Tommy had made it from the grill he had been tending, Zhane was sitting up again and was receiving a harsh lecture from Andros on why it wasn't polite to use a handful of ketchup packets to pretend to be grievously injured. Zhane didn't seem to be paying very much attention to his friend, a distracted grin on his face.

His girlfriend realized Zhane's goal about the same time Tommy did; Tommy winced in sympathy as Karone used her telekinetic powers to pick Zhane up and dump him into the nearby lake, scolding him about taking advantage of the fact that the girls who had rushed to his aid were all wearing short skirts, low cut blouses, or both--all while wearing her customary tight leather pants and leather corset-vest.

It was two years later--the first time the Wild Force team was invited to the reunion--that Zhane pulled another prank. Tommy really thought that Karone had a tight leash on her boyfriend. Every interaction he saw between the two of them certainly pointed towards that fact.

He'd failed to remember that Karone loved to cause trouble almost as much as the Silver Space Ranger did.

Of course, that had been a rather spectacular endeavor on both their parts. When the monster--Darkonda, apparently--appeared and challenged Andros to an arm wrestling match, everyone had just assumed that the late-as-ever Zhane had decided to dress up to trick his best friend. It was apparently a habit of his.

But then Zhane had appeared, and there had been several minutes of tension before Karone burst into a fit of giggles at the expression on her brother's face while he tried to beat his long-dead foe in arm wrestling, and the party carried on as normal once the monster vanished in a flash of sparks.

Tommy hoped Andros would be a calming influence on his sister and best friend for the following year.

Zhane didn't even give it a year off. Tommy could only imagine what the ninjas thought of the entire affair. He probably should have warned them ahead of time that something like this might have happened.

Not that he had really expected the usually serious and dependable Red Space Ranger to give in to peer pressure from his best friend and sister.

He probably should have known better, by that point.

And when the rest of the Space Rangers and Galaxy Rangers collapsed in helpless laughter while everyone else got coated in multi-colored, glittery, scented slime, Tommy realized they had all been in on the joke as well.

Clearly, it was time to call in the big guns. Zhane liked Jason, respected him even, in a way that the Silver Space Ranger didn't seem to do with almost anyone else.

Jason was one of Tommy's oldest friends; they had been teammates, back when Jason was Red and Tommy was Green and then White, and again when Tommy was Red and Jason was Gold. Surely he would do them all a favor and use his influence to keep Zhane in check.

Jason was one of Tommy's oldest friends; the original Red Ranger's easy-going "Sure thing, bro," should have been the tip off.

If Tommy had been smart, he would never have invited Conner, Kira, Ethan, and Trent. But they were Rangers now, too, and it was only fair to invite them. Maybe the smarter move would have been to schedule the annual picnic for a time he knew Zhane would be busy.

That probably wouldn't have stopped Zhane from finding some way to pull a prank.

Tommy had to admit, though, seeing everyone dressed up in various versions of the clothes he'd worn over the years was pretty impressive. And he could even forgive his latest team for launching into an impromptu lecture on dinosaur fossils, with Conner mimicking his mannerisms from class perfectly while Zhane (sporting a red plaid shirt and a ridiculous long-haired wig) asked outrageous questions.

Tommy grinned, feeling devious. Maybe next year, he would play some pranks of his own.