There’s a flash of lightening, searing purple after-images into Doctore’s retina, even through closed eyelids. The alarmed shouts of the gladiators are drowned out in the roar of sound. Doctore blinks rapidly to clear his vision. A quick headcount of the training yard tells him all are present and accounted for.
With a few extra.
Seven new figures stand in the training yard, staring at the half-naked gladiators with expressions ranging from disbelief to wary suspicion. They could not be more out of place had they tried. They’re young, barely out of the first flush of youth, with slender bodies and soft skin. Only one – the big, dark-haired youth – looks like he might know something of the way of a warrior. They’re dressed in foreign clothing that is at once bizarrely modest, covering them from neck to foot, and indecent, cleaving close to the skin.
“What is going on?” The big one says. "Where are we?" He’s moved to cover the skinny boy in green and the girl with the long golden hair. A wise choice: the boy is even skinnier and more useless-looking than Pietros had been, if not quite as pretty. The girl is, even to the Doctore’s impassive eye, beautiful. Skin like a peach, and big blue eyes. Two very appealing prospects to men who’ve only had their own hands for company for months.
There’s another girl, though she hasn’t the classical beauty of her companion, resembling more the people found very far to the East. More exotic than pretty, though that has its own attractions. She stands shoulder to shoulder with a similarly featured man who might be her husband or her kinsman.
“–displacement. Exactly –”
“–what I was thinking.”
The rapid fire of their words, sentences rambling into one another, as if they are on person that happens to have two mouths, is unsettling. Their companions don’t seem to have problems understanding.
“Wait, another dimension?” This is from the solid boy who rolls his words oddly about the inside of his mouth. Good shoulders on him. If he were taller and older, Doctore might be able to do something with him. “You’re saying Venjix’s monster sent us to another dimension?”
“Well, not the monster–”
“– that would be inefficient–”
“– probably a machine set up as a trap –”
“ – that the monster lured us into –”
“ – very sneaky –”
“ – very –”
“ – I vote we use the grenades –”
“ – when we get back.”
They’re cut off by the boy in red.
“Right now how doesn’t matter. I’m more worried about the guys in loincloths with swords.”
The skinny boy in green huffs.
“Those swords are totally fake,” he points out, voice petering out when the attention falls to him, and edging behind the bulk of his larger companion.
The Doctore, however, is more concerned with the boy in red. The face is familiar but the confident stance is not. This boy has never known subservience. Obedience perhaps, but he has never crawled for anyone. That much is as clear as if it was written across his forehead.
“Pietros?” That’s Spartacus, blurting out the name of the dead slave boy.
The boy in red frowns, more puzzled than annoyed. His gaze has already passed over the gladiators, picking out the exits and potential weapons. Another difference; Pietros' situational awareness had extended to keeping himself out of the way of trouble, not causing it.
One of the gladiators laughs.
“He’s as pretty as Pietros ever was.” He walks over and reaches carelessly to caress the boy’s face. Doctore could have stopped him, but he's curious to see how the boy reacts.
He reacts with sudden smooth brutality, grabbing the gladiator’s arm. He doesn’t have the muscle to move the man, and yet somehow he does, forcing the man’s arm into a position that means he must move or break an elbow. And it’s quick, over in a second, man on his knees, the boy at his back.
“Sorry, but I don’t put out until third date.”
The boy’s gaze flits across the other gladiators. His companions have fallen in around him, forming a circle. A mistake to change his focus so quickly, but somehow he senses when the gladiator on his knees is about to make a move, and slaps his ear with a cupped hand. A dirty trick, but devastatingly effective. The gladiator instantly stops struggling, moaning in pain.
“We don’t want to hurt anyone,” the girl in yellow says soothingly to the rest of the men.
“That doesn’t mean we won’t,” the boy in black adds. There’s something not quite right about the way he moves. His tread is too heavy for someone of his build, and yet he moves with lightening quickness when a gladiator rushes him, punching him in the side of the head and laying him out flat.
Doctore moves out of the shadows. Instantly every eye is upon him, and he sees Pietros’s attitude – the boy who looks like Pietros – change instantly, shoulders straightening just a hint; he recognises and responds to authority. The boy in black has the opposite reaction, not quite openly sneering, but close.
“Who are you?” Doctore says.
“I’m Scott. This is Dillon, Summer, and Ziggy. That’s Gem and Gemma.” Scott indicates his companions in turn.
“How did you get here?”
“We don’t know. One second we’re defending the city, the next moment we’re here, in a courtyard of semi naked men.” He eyes the gladiators warily. “Are we going to have a problem here?”
It takes Doctore a moment to unwind the words and realise it’s a threat. A problem – but not necessarily for the intruders.
“No problem.” He steps over the gladiator half conscious on the ground. “Get up. Two extra hours of sword work for shameful display.”
He turns his attention back to Scott – a strange, blunt name, no rhythm to it – and cocks an eyebrow.
“Are you going to release my gladiator?”
Scott shrugs and lets the man go.
“You said you were defending a city,” Doctore continues doubtfully. “You’re soldiers?”
“Power Rangers.” Scott sees his incomprehension and shrugs. “We’re like soldiers, but better armed.”
“I’ve never seen soldiers like you before.”
“No.” Scott smiles suddenly, sharp like a wolf. “You haven’t.”