Midday saw a lull in Inves activity.
In Manehattan, the Manefair Hotel had finally been cleared, and the surviving guests had been allowed to leave. Sweetie Belle, her parents, and Hotaru wasted no time in heading for the airport. "If it's gonna be this crazy everywhere, we might as well go home and hunker down in our own cozy house," Sweetie Belle's dad had decided.
"From what Sweetie Belle's told me, Canterlot is the center of all this craziness, so it's probably where I need to be anyway," Hotaru said. "I just hope Haruka-mama and Michiru-mama don't show up looking for me at that hotel. Or Setsuna-mama or...or any of the other Senshi," she added fretfully.
"You don't have a phone you can call them with?" Sweetie Belle's mother asked.
"Even if I did, I don't think it'd work here," Hotaru said. She glanced at Sweetie Belle. "That girl, the one that destroyed the monster...you know her?"
"Well, yeah," Sweetie Belle said pensively. "She was acting strange, though." She shivered. "Even when she was bad, she wasn't that...that cold. And she's changed a lot..." She frowned and pulled out her own phone. After a moment, she spoke into it:
"Rarity? Yeah, we're headed for the airport. We're alright, but we're coming home. Listen, I wanna ask if Sunset Shimmer's been acting strange lately. Huh? Well, we just saw her here in Manehattan but she was...she was really mean. Like, worse than she used to—" Sweetie Belle trailed off. "Huh? But that's—!" She shook her head. "No, I'm sure it was her, I—"
The others listened as Sweetie Belle suddenly paused.
"Huh? You weren't? But...! No, I'm sure! I mean, you're kinda hard to miss in a crowd, y'know? You turned into some kind of armored beetle fighter and killed a monster, then you told my new friend Hotaru she—"
"No, listen! I know it was you! I mean, same eyes, same hair, same voice..." She trailed off suddenly. "Waaaait a second. You know how there's two Twilights? What if there's...yeah...yeah...okay. We'll talk more when we get back to Canterlot. I think my battery's about gone anyway. Okay. Say bye to Rarity for me." She disconnected the call and leaned back, frowning.
Sweetie Belle's father shot her a worried glance in the rear view mirror of the rental car. "Everything okay there, kiddo?"
"I don't know," Sweetie Belle said with a sigh.
* * * * *
Sunset grimaced as she handed Rarity back her phone. "Great," she said. "We found the other me and apparently she's still a bitch."
"The other you?" X asked. Everyone glanced curiously at Sunset.
Sunset looked around at her friends. "Okay, you know how there's Princess Twilight and then there's the Twilight from this world? Well, didn't you ever wonder—"
"If there was another Sunset Shimmer who's from this world?" Pinkie Pie chipped in. "Yeah, I kinda figured out there must be. I just figured you probably murdered her and took her place or something."
"Umm...I thought the same thing," Fluttershy said sheepishly, ducking her head. "I'm sorry..."
Sunset gave her friends a hurt look. "Really? You thought I'd—really?"
"Well..." several of the girls said plaintively. Sunset groaned.
Trunks coughed. "Okay, so...you're not native to this world even though you live here and call it your home, and there's another Sunset Shimmer who is native to this world?"
"That's about the size of it," Sunset agreed.
"Makes sense to me," Miles said with a shrug. "I mean, the Peter Parker in my world died a long time ago, but I hang out with a different Peter Parker almost every day in an alternate dimension."
"Anyway, it sounds as though this other Sunset Shimmer is even less nice than our Sunset used to be before she changed," Rarity said. "Also, it seems as though Sweetie Belle made a new friend in Manehattan and is bringing her home with her."
"Well that's nice," Fluttershy said.
"It also sounds like this other me has superpowers," Sunset said. "Sweetie Belle said she turned into some kind of..." She frowned. "Armored beetle fighter?"
"Armored beetle fighter," Kouta said thoughtfully. "Why does that sound familiar...?"
"Oh, this must be her!" Pinkie said suddenly, laying her tablet on the table. Everyone close enough leaned in to see a shaky video of a scarlet-armored figure battling a monster.
"Masaka...!" Kouta exclaimed. "But...! No, Kabuto is Tendou Souji, not..."
The others peered curiously at him. "You know something about this?" Trunks asked.
"Well, that's a Masked Rider named Kabuto," Kouta said. "I've run into him once or twice." He scratched his head. "Funny, I can barely remember how or why...but anyway." He shook his head. "His real name is Tendou Souji."
"That's not a 'him'," Rainbow pointed out. "That's not a 'him' at all.'
"No, obviously not," Kouta said, shaking his head.
Sunset frowned. "Is it possible the other me got hold of whatever lets this Souji transform?"
"Hmmm..." Kouta stroked his chin. "I suppose it's possible," he said. "I mean, most Drivers pretty much react to the first person that uses them. At least, the ones I know of. That's how the Sengoku Driver works, it's possible Kabuto's Rider Belt is the same way."
"Sounds like this is something we need to keep an eye on," Miles said. "I mean, if there's another Sunset Shimmer and she has superpowers and goes rogue..."
"We need to make contact with her," Sunset decided.
"I can take care of that," Trunks said. "It might take some time to find her, it looks like this Manehattan is a pretty big city."
"Alright. Be careful, we don't know what else is gonna show up or even where," Sunset cautioned.
Trunks nodded, rose into the air, then shot off at supersonic speed.
Everybody watched him go.
"Did...did anybody even tell him where Manehattan is?" Kim wondered.
The others glanced at each other. Sunset facepalmed.
* * * * *
The last couple of hours had been a bit hectic for Monica and Kooh.
With the help of the surviving Servbots, they managed to rig up a stretcher with which to carry Tron. By the time they'd done so, a course attendant had arrived, surveyed the damage, and screamed at them, threatening to call the police. Monica had managed—just barely—to calm him down before Kooh beat him senseless, then asked him some questions and pointed out the very injured and unconscious girl in their midst. The attendant was far more interested in reaming them out for the thousands of dollars' worth of damages they'd caused to the fairway than doing anything to assist them.
When Monica had pulled a gold bar out of her bag and offered it to him, he'd become far more cooperative.
He had explained that they were at the Whitetail Woods Country Club in a city named Canterlittle, on the north side of town. He further explained, at Monica's gentle insistence, that the Whitetail Woods served as the buffer zone between Canterlittle, which was a small coastal resort town, and the larger city of Canterlot. Canterlittle was essentially divided into four main districts. The north side of town was taken up by the country club, the train and bus hubs, the aquarium, and a number of museums. The west side of town was the shopping district, while the south side of town was the residential area for the locals—homes, schools, city services, and so forth, isolated from the tourist zones by the main roads and a public park. On the east side was the beach, the main tourist draw of Canterlittle, which also harbored the hotel and restaurant district.
He had further explained that in recent days, since the world had gone completely insane, Canterlittle had effectively shut down, with very little tourist traffic or leisure activity anywhere within the city. Once he was done answering their questions, he called an ambulance for Tron. Monica had told Kooh to go with Tron to the hospital, asked the attendant to leave Tron's mecha and Servbots alone for the time being until she was awake, and then had taken a cab—using money the attendant gave her—to the west side of town to do a little shopping.
"A little shopping" turned into a whole wardrobe for herself and Kooh, a rented car and driver, and a massive wad of cash that would probably take care of anything else they needed for some time. Evidently gold was worth far more in this world than it was back home...
By the time Monica arranged for a suite at one of the beachside hotels, dropped off her purchases, and changed clothes, Tron had woken up. Her injuries had apparently not been severe enough to warrant inpatient care; Monica arrived at the hospital just in time to be badgered by the administrative nurse about insurance information and other such paperwork. After shutting the obnoxious woman up with a gold bar, Monica collected Kooh and Tron and took them to the car. "So we're all stuck in some parallel world," Monica explained. "Apparently we're not the only ones." She glanced at Tron. "Do you think you can behave yourself for a little while?"
Tron frowned at her. "Rude much?"
"Hey, you attacked us, remember?" Kooh pointed out.
Monica smirked. "It's just that Kooh and I are going to be living it up at a beachside hotel until we figure out what's going on and find a way back home, but if you'd rather just rampage around in a mecha hoping you can steal enough money and food to get by on until you get arrested..."
Tron frowned. "What's so great about the beach? Where I come from, it just reminds you that less than five percent of the world's surface isn't the ocean."
"Huh. Really?" Monica frowned. "Well, it's not like that here, and I love the beach!" She smiled. "Anyway, we're willing to forgive you for that whole attacking us thing if you're willing to stick with us for a while. Maybe we can all help each other find a way to get home."
Tron smirked, flouncing her hair. "Well, clearly you'd be completely hopeless without the genius of Tron Bonne-sama...!"
Kooh rolled her eyes. "This is gonna be fun," she said sourly.
"You young ladies had better watch yourselves," the driver said suddenly. "Pardon me for eavesdropping, by the way, but I've been watching the news, and all sorts of bizarre things have shown up in this world. I don't think we've had any monster attacks down here in Canterlittle yet, but up in Canterlot there have been swarms of these horrible monsters."
The girls looked at each other. Tron gulped nervously. "M-monsters?"
"Well, if any monsters show up nearby, we can deal with it," Monica said confidently. "I'm a pro at fighting monsters!"
"I won't lose to monsters or to Monica!" Kooh said enthusiastically.
"Still," Monica said thoughtfully, "maybe we'd better think about keeping track of..." She frowned. "What's the best way to stay updated on things like that here?"
"Television? The Internet?" the driver suggested. "I always check the news on my phone, myself."
"And where can we get this...Internet?" Kooh asked.
The driver glanced back at them, then pointedly at Monica. "I can take you to an electronics store," he said. "You'd be able to purchase a prepaid smartphone or...whatever best meets your needs."
Monica nodded. "Alright," she said.
* * * * *
Two blocks from Crystal Prep stood Berry's Smoothie Shack, a trendy smoothie bar frequented by the students of Crystal Prep. With the school temporarily closed, many students were relaxing at Berry's, enjoying smoothies while getting ahead in their studies or pursuing their own interests with the bar's free wi-fi. At one table sat five girls who, only recently, had become what you might consider friends.
"Man, those CHS girls are so lucky!" Indigo Zap said. "They get to be out there kickin' monster butt with real-life superheroes! How awesome is that?"
"Not very," Sugarcoat said. "It's dangerous and they'll probably end up getting killed."
"Well, yeah, but other than that."
"Well I think it's wonderful!" Sour Sweet simpered. Then, with a cross glare, she spat, "Since this is probably all their fault in the first place!"
"While I no longer hold Canterlot High in the same disdain as I once did," Sunny Flare said, "it does seem as though they are responsible for dangerous and destructive forces being unleashed in our world."
"Oh come on, there's no proof they caused all this!" Lemon Zest said.
"There's no proof they didn't, either," Sugarcoat pointed out.
Sunny Flare frowned. "Still, doesn't it seem strange that these phenomena are appearing in places such as Manehattan and Mareis? I mean, this does seem rather beyond the scope of what we saw during the Friendship Games."
"That's a good point," Sugarcoat admitted.
Whatever Indigo wondered was drowned out in a rush of wind as the lights went dim and the air began to crackle. The girls' hair stood on end as they looked around in alarm. At one end of the dining area, a swirling red portal opened, arcs of electricity snapping inside. As a sudden violent wind blew napkins, straw wrappers, papers, and other detritus all over the room, most of the students and other patrons present screamed and ran for the exit. The five Shadowbolts who had witnessed magical phenomena before stayed in their seats, watching the portal curiously yet cautiously.
And then, a man stepped out.
He was young—it was hard to tell exactly how old he was, but his tanned face was unlined. He had short, spiky black hair, a strip of a goatee, and a soul patch. He wore a white lab coat over a red and green striped shirt, black jeans, and black steel-toed boots. His eyes were sharp and dark, and he carried an aluminum briefcase.
As soon as he cleared the vortex, it snapped shut with a muted thunderclap, and the lights returned to normal. He looked around warily, his posture tense; after a moment, he relaxed and glanced at the counter, where a fuschia-skinned woman stood staring at him in shock. "Sorry about the mess," he said pleasantly.
"Wow, he's kinda cute," Lemon Zest said.
"Sure, let's talk about how cute he is and not the fact that he just came out of a glowing hole in the wall!" Sour Sweet growled.
"That was a hell of an entrance, though," Indigo said with a grin.
The man noticed them and walked over. "Hi," he said. "Umm...sorry to bother you, but I could kinda use some local guides. I'm uhh...not from around here."
"No, really? We didn't notice," Sunny Flare said sarcastically.
"Great, what did those CHS girls' freaky magic do this time?" Sour Sweet muttered.
"Brought a man in a lab coat here," Sugarcoat said.
"Actually, I brought myself here," the man said. "I'm Dr. Thomas Oliver. Um, you can just call me Tommy."
"Ooh, he's cute and he's a doctor!" Lemon Zest squealed, jumping up and latching onto Tommy's arm. "Mine!"
"Uhh..." Tommy glanced at her awkwardly.
"What do you mean you brought yourself here?" Sugarcoat asked.
"I've been studying the dimensional fold from my lab," Tommy said. "Every dimension across the multiverse is collapsing into this one. All of reality is coming apart and folding together into a new merged reality here. If somebody doesn't do something fast, there'll be no way to repair the damage. I came here to..." He trailed off, then shrugged. "I came here to help. I don't know how, but I'll find a way."
The girls looked at each other. "You jumped into this crazy mess on purpose?" Sugarcoat asked. "You must be insane."
Tommy laughed. "Not the first time I've heard that."
"So are you an M.D. or a Ph.D.?" Sunny Flare asked.
"Ph.D.," Tommy answered.
"What's your doctorate? Astrophysics? Nuclear physics? Temporal mechanics? Quantum physics?"
"It's gotta be something super-sciencey!" Lemon Zest said. "I mean did you see that portal thingie?"
Tommy coughed. "Umm, actually," he said a bit awkwardly, "Paleontology. I'm a paleontologist."
The girls blinked.
"Well that's wonderful!" Sour Sweet said cheerfully. "A paleontologist is JUST what we need right now!" Her bright expression turned into a vicious scowl. "Maybe we can dig up some dinosaur bones to THROW AT ALL THE MONSTERS!"
"What does a paleontologist need with a dimensional portal?" Sugarcoat wondered with a frown.
"That's a long story," Tommy said.
Something exploded outside.
"And it sounds like we don't have time for it right now," Tommy said. He pushed his briefcase off on Lemon Zest. "Hold this a sec," he said as he rushed for the door.
"Hey, wait! What—" Lemon Zest stared after him.
"He's going to get himself killed," Sugarcoat stated bluntly.
"Better him than us," Sunny Flare said.
"Yo, Tommy! Wait up!" Indigo Zap called, shooting to her feet and chasing after him.
The other Shadowbolts looked at each other. After a long moment, Sour Sweet let out a grunt of disgust, stood up, and followed. The others soon joined her.
* * * * *
Monica, Tron, and Kooh had made a second trip to the clothing district to get a wardrobe for Tron; Tron had dismissed their concern over the state of her attire, but Monica had flatly insisted that she would not be seen in public with a girl wearing a metal plate on her crotch. Drawing attention to that feature of Tron's outfit had set Kooh off with a vengeance, and between the two of them, Tron had finally become embarrassed enough to agree to just about anything.
Now, they sat around their hotel suite, exhausted, with bags of fast food hamburgers piled up on a table between them, playing with their shiny new smartphones. "Max would go completely nuts over this," Monica said as she stroked the phone.
"There's definitely some nice technology here," Tron said. "It's nowhere near as advanced as what my world has, but..." She frowned. "Actually, in its own way it's more advanced. I mean, we don't have anything like this Internet."
Kooh tilted her head. "You have sentient robots and assault mecha but no Internet?"
Tron shrugged. "Long-range communications are...kinda problematic in my world," she said. "Every time somebody tries to build a communications network, the buoys or low-orbiters usually end up getting destroyed or breaking down."
"Huh." Kooh blinked. "Okay, so...what's the plan? Are we just gonna stay here hoping everything fixes itself? Go back to the country club to wait and see if that whatever-it-was that sucked us up shows up again?"
Monica frowned. "For now, we should sit tight here," she said. "Going by what the driver said, it sounds like the city of Canterlot is where all the action is. I think we should study the situation. Learn what's going on, watch the news, figure out this Internet thing. Once we have enough information, we can get moving. We're set for money pretty much indefinitely, so we can take our time. I hope, anyway."
"You hope we're set for money or you hope we can take our time?" Tron asked.
"I hope we can take our time," Monica said. "I know how much money we have, but I have no idea how much time we have or even if there is a time limit. That's the first thing we need to try to figure out." She glanced at the other girls. "Kooh, do you know how to handle a sword?"
"Sure," Kooh said. "I am a pirate captain."
Tron looked at her with interest. "You're a pirate too?" she asked.
"Yeah, but I don't do much pirating," Kooh said. "I'd rather play Pangya all day than actually go out to sea. Besides, there's...there's no need for me to adventure..." A sadness filled her eyes.
"Well right now we're on an adventure," Monica said firmly. "So we all need to stay sharp." She looked at Tron. "If I give you a weapon, can we trust you?"
Tron rolled her eyes. "I'm not stupid enough to betray you while we need each other to survive," she said.
"Meaning you'll wait until you don't need us anymore to betray us?" Kooh asked, arching an eyebrow.
"Of course!" Tron said cheerfully. "But for now, we can be friends. You girls are actually pretty fun to hang out with. So yeah, you can trust me." Her eyes lit up. "But once we've found our escape route, I'm taking all your money and running."
Monica groaned and facepalmed. "Yeah yeah, whatever," she muttered. "So I'm guessing you're better with guns and exploding things than swords, right?"
"I've honestly never even held a sword," Tron said.
"Okay. I'm pretty sure I've got some of Max's old guns and bombs in here," Monica said, rummaging through the medium-sized pouch in her lap.
Tron raised an eyebrow. "Guns and bombs, in that?"
"Magical bag," Monica said. "It's way bigger on the inside and doesn't weigh any more than the bag itself." She eyed Tron sharply. "Don't even think about trying to steal it."
"I won't," Tron whined.
"Good, because if you do..." And then Monica began to glow; Tron's jaw dropped as Monica transformed into a small but ferocious-looking red dragon wrapped around a glowing, magma-filled crystal. Flames trailed from the dragon's nostrils.
"Eep," Tron whimpered. Kooh giggled.
* * * * *
Absolute chaos reigned the street outside Berry's Smoothie Shack.
The ground shook as a massive monster stomped down the street. Easily nine feet tall, it looked like a cross between a dragon and a turtle, with a spiked shell on its back, spiked armbands on its massive arms, spiky red hair, and massive, shaggy red eyebrows. It angrily smashed a car into pulp with a swipe of one powerful claw.
"I HATE THIS PLACE!" the monster bellowed in a deep, gravelly voice. "IT STINKS!"
"Then leave!" Tommy said as he skidded to a halt in the monster's path. "You're not welcome here, and these people didn't do anything to you!"
"HUH? WHAT'S THAT?" the monster stopped, glaring curiously at Tommy. "YOU WANNA MAKE SOMETHIN' OF IT, PUNY PUNK?"
"And what if I do?" Tommy challenged.
From a safe distance, the Shadowbolts watched him. "He's insane," Sugarcoat said.
"He's gonna get himself creamed," Indigo moaned.
"Maybe not!" Sour Sweet offered cheerfully. "Maybe he knows some secret weakness dino-turtles have since he's a freakin' dinosaur expert!"
"This would be so, so cool if it wasn't the scariest thing I've ever seen," Lemon Zest said.
Meanwhile, the monster laughed a booming laugh that rattled windows and set off car alarms. "KID, YOU GOT SPUNK," he thundered. "I HATE SPUNK!!" He stomped the ground, shaking it and knocking several bystanders off their feet. He leaned forward, snorting steam as he glowered at Tommy. "YOU'RE IN MY WAY, RUNT. GET LOST OR GET SMASHED!"
"No," Tommy said firmly. "You're gonna stop smashing everything in your path, or else."
Again the monster laughed. "OR ELSE WHAT?!" he roared.
"Or else this!" Tommy brought his left arm up swiftly, pressing a button on his watch which caused the top to split open, revealing a key slot. He pressed a stud on his belt buckle, which flipped open; he withdrew a small green figurine from it, flipping the bottom half up to reveal a key. "Ranger Key, set!" he shouted as he inserted the key into the slot on his watch.
"It's Morphin' Time!"
The watch gave off a blinding green flash of light with a faint gold tinge. The green light washed over Tommy's body, replacing his clothes with a shimmery green spandex bodysuit, white boots, and white gloves. Slim gold bands adorned the tops of his boots and the cuffs of his gloves; broader gold bands formed on his lower biceps. A gold breastplate with a diamond-shaped chest guard covered his upper body and shoulders. Lastly, a green helmet appeared on his head; the helmet's design gave the crown the appearance of a ferocious reptile, with ornamental 'fangs' surrounding the pitch-black visor above a silver faceplate with an engraved mouth set in a determined expression. A white belt with a black-and-gold ornamental buckle encircled his waist; a sheathed dagger hung at his left hip. He struck a series of arm poses, settling into an aggressive stance.
"Green Ranger, back in action!"
"Whoa," Lemon Zest said.
"Kickass!" Indigo Zap cried.
"That's a ridiculous costume," Sugarcoat opined.
The monster shook his head, staring at Tommy. "OH, YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING ME," he rumbled.
Tommy drew his dagger. "Last chance," he said.
"YOU DON'T GET IT, DO YA? YOU THINK A DUMB COSTUME AND A LITTLE TOOTHPICK SCARE ME? I'M BOWSER, KING OF THE KOOPAS! I EAT HEROES FOR BREAKFAST! I DON'T CARE HOW STRONG YOU THINK YOU ARE, I'M THE BADDEST OF THE BAD!"
"We'll see about that," Tommy said grimly. He leapt high into the air, somersaulting as he flew toward Bowser, delivering a sharp kick to his face. He followed up by slashing Bowser across the chest with his dagger; a shower of sparks erupted from the contact.
"AUGH!" Bowser roared, backhanding Tommy into the front of the nearest building. "YA LITTLE PUNK!" He drew a deep breath and exhaled a massive fireball which engulfed Tommy. As the building he'd collided with rained shattered glass, smoke, and sparks, the Green Ranger flipped out of the smoke and laid into Bowser with a fast combination of strikes, using his feet and his dagger. Every impact gave a dull metallic ring, as though solid steel were slamming into Bowser rather than flesh and bone.
"Dude, this is kinda awesome," Lemon Zest said from the sidelines.
"It...actually kinda is," Sour Sweet admitted, blinking. "Huh."
"He's better than I thought," Sugarcoat said.
"This...is so cool," Indigo Zap said excitedly.
Bowser ducked into his shell and began spinning. A tremendous shower of sparks exploded into the sky as the Green Ranger was sent flying. He landed several meters away; Bowser returned to his full height and sneered at him. "THANKS FOR THE WORKOUT, PUNK," he grunted.
Tommy stood up, his suit covered in burn marks. "Alright, now I'm mad," he said. He reached down to his belt and pulled out a new Ranger Key, this one depicting a mostly white figure. He flipped it open. "WHITE RANGER KEY, SET!" He jammed it into his morpher...
The ghostly image of a roaring white tiger appeared behind him, overtaking him. His Ranger suit glowed and changed: It was now bright white instead of green, with a dark green armored vest with gold shoulderguards covering his upper torso. Broad golden bands encircled his shins and forearms, and a slim golden belt encircled his waist. A sheathed saber hung at his left hip. His helmet, which now bore no facial expression of any kind, had changed from a green dragon motif to a white tiger motif.
The Shadowbolts blinked. "Okay, so...his costume's white now?" Sugarcoat said.
"It looks a bit better than the other one," Sunny Flare opined.
"I don't get it, what's he doing?" Lemon Zest wondered.
Bowser tilted his head. "HUH? WHAT'S THIS SUPPOSED TO BE?"
"Let me show you!" the White Ranger yelled, charging toward Bowser with his saber drawn. Bowser was forced on the defensive as Tommy's speed overwhelmed him; the longer reach of his new weapon meant more punishing blows were landing. When Bowser attempted to counter with a powerful claw jab, Tommy leapt high into the air and reversed his grip on his sword; the eyes of the tiger-head pommel glowed brightly and fired twin energy beams which raked across Bowser's torso. A huge explosion erupted; Bowser was knocked onto his back. He roared in agony as sparks and smoke rained down around him.
As soon as Tommy's boots touched the ground, he pulled a third Ranger Key from his belt, this one red. "ZEO RANGER KEY, SET!" As he inserted the key into his morpher, a glowing red five-pointed star framed his body. His Ranger suit turned solid red, with white boots and gloves; the shoulder section of the suit was white with elaborate gold trim, and his solid red helmet had a black visor shaped like a five-pointed star. A gold belt with holsters at each hip circled his waist.
The girls stared flatly at him. "Okay, that costume is super ugly," Lemon said in disgust.
"He should've stuck with the white one," Sugarcoat said.
"How does he even see out of that thing?" Indigo wondered.
As Bowser struggled to his feet, Tommy leapt high into the air, a laser pistol in one hand and a plastic-looking longsword in the other. He fired several red laser beams at Bowser, then followed up with a broad, sweeping slash of his sword that trailed red lightning that crackled across Bowser's body.
"I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU, YA LITTLE SH—"
"DINO RANGER KEY, SET!"
Black lightning arced over the Red Ranger's body, transforming the suit into a black costume with a pattern of gold diamonds running up the legs and arms. Abbreviated golden shoulderguards, a gold belt, and a chest emblem that could either be a stylized arrowhead or a stylized reptile footprint comprised the bulk of the suit's minimal detail. The helmet sported a tall crest and a jagged black visor and no other features. An ornate staff appeared in his hands; he spun it several times and lashed out, striking Bowser repeatedly. Each impact created a shower of sparks and black lightning. He finished by striking the ground with the staff.
The entire street shook.
A tremendous cloud of dust rose from beneath Bowser as the earth erupted beneath him. He roared in agony.
"It's over, Bowser!" Tommy yelled.
Arcs of electricity snapped over Bowser's body as showers of sparks rained down on the street. "I'LL REMEMBER THIS, YOU...YOU COLOR-CHANGING PUNK!" With that, Bowser leapt high into the air, tucked his body into his shell, began spinning rapidly, and flew away, a pinwheel of smoke and fire.
The girls stared, slack-jawed. Tommy relaxed his stance; his Ranger costume melted away in a wash of light, leaving him in the clothes he'd first appeared in. He took a deep breath, then turned to the girls. "So...like I was saying, I could use some guides..."