[See The Purple Ranger for the Disclaimer.]
It's a lazy summer afternoon at the Beach Club, and the Rangers are
enjoying a much needed break. Rocky sits perched in his lifeguard's chair
overlooking the lake. He waves at Tommy passing by on a jet ski.
"Looks like the 'Battle of the Yellow Rangers,'" Rocky says to himself, while glancing further down the beach. Tanya and Trini are enjoying an intense game of volleyball. He hears an "oomph" as Trini dives into the sand to save the ball. Rocky lets his gaze return to the lake. His eyebrow raises as he spots a pink bikini-clad Kat floating lazily on a raft. Rocky looks at his watch. "Alex and the guys better be coming in soon. They are almost out of air."
Alex glances around the clear blue lake. A curtain of bubbles rise to the surface around her. A small school of fish swims by. "It's so peaceful, so quiet here," she thinks. "I think I'd like to be a fish."
Her breathing is the only sound. She jumps a little when something brushes her shoulder. She looks back to see Adam and Billy. Billy taps his watch and points to the surface. Adam and Alex nod, understanding his sign language. In a trail of bubbles, the trio swim for the surface. They surface about 100 feet away from Kat's raft. Alex is the last to break the surface. She notices that the guys are ogling Kat too, though Adam is pretending not to. Alex sinks back underwater and with a sharp yank to their oxygen tanks, pulls Billy and Adam back under. A wicked look shows on Alex's face. She makes a shark fin above her head. Adam looks confused and then catches on. He points towards Kat's direction. Then the plan dawns on Billy. He shakes his head. Alex and Adam nod and gesture Billy to follow them.
A small snore escapes from Kat as she lies face down on the raft. Her dainty pink-painted toes trail off the end of the raft. A blood curdling screech breaks the silence as Kat's raft suddenly flips over. Kat awakens to see herself surrounded by facemasks. Alex is finding it very difficult to laugh with a regulator in.
"That wasn't funny, guys!" Kat yells. "You scared me to death!"
"We're sorry, Kat," Billy says, after taking out his regulator.
"Sorry, Kat." Adam does the same. "It was Alex's idea."
Alex removes her regulator and laughs harder. Kat leans over and dunks Alex.
"Hey, what'd you do that for?" Alex sputters.
Kat enjoys the free ride back to the beach. Alex grumbles as the three pull Kat's raft/chariot back to the shore. The trio waddle out of the water just as Tommy comes into the shore.
"Hey, guys!" Tommy says. "Hey, Kat."
Alex slugs Kat with her towel. "Here, I'm sure you must be cold."
"No, I'm fine, " Kat answers. "Maybe the guys would stop bumbling and stumbling over themselves if you covered yourself a little more," Alex insists, wringing the water out of her ponytail. The guys look sheepish. Alex is a little more conservatively attired in a short, black wetsuit with purple stripes running up the side. "So what do you think, Adam?" Billy changes the subject.
"I think that the two of you are ready for the test. If you dive like you did today, you should easily pass the open-water dive portion of the test," Adam says, removing his oxygen tank and unzipping the top of his wet suit.
"Then we'll be certified!" Billy says and gives Alex a high five.
"Cool!" Alex says, gathering all her equipment. "Let's take this stuff back to Chuck and sign up for the test."
Alex digs through her bag and pulls out her communicator. Before she even has it on, it goes off. Everyone groans in unison. "Don't these machines ever quit?" Alex says. "Hey, did you guys hear the signal?" Tanya says, as she and Trini arrive on the scene.
"Tell Zordon, we'll be there in a minute," Adam says, quickly grabbing his scuba gear.
"Leave it," Trini says. "You guys better go. I'll take the equipment back for you."
The Rangers and Billy, quickly but nonchalantly walk to the back of the Beach House. Rocky is making excuses to another lifeguard as they pass by.
"Rangers... Rangers?!" Zordon says as the columns of light enter the Power Chamber.
"What interesting attire, Rangers," Alpha comments.
"You didn't exactly give us time to change," Tommy says.
Alex shifts around uncomfortably as her wetsuit becomes increasingly clammy.
"Rangers, we have received a distress signal from Aquitar," Zordon continues. The Rangers head towards the Viewing Globe, dripping water the entire way. An image of Cestro lights up the screen.
"Greetings, Rangers of Earth," the message begins. "We are in need of your assistance. Curious events have occurred on Aquitar recently. Seven Earth days ago, Aquitar was pummeled with a meteor shower. Many of the meteors were destroyed in our atmosphere; however, some were able to pass through. We had limited structural damage to our pods, as most of the meteors fell outside our city. The heated rocks have greatly altered the water temperature in our seas. Many Aquitians were becoming ill from living in the heated water. The Aquitian Rangers volunteered to remove the destructive meteors from our oceans and return them to space. The plan was mostly successful. Two Earth days ago Tideus, Corcus, and Aurico were dispatched to the Iona Quadrant in the Tappia Sea. They have been missing ever since. Rangers of Earth, we need your assistance to search for our teammates and to remove the final meteors. The water temperature has risen to 27 degrees Celsius in the Iona Quadrant. Please hurry, Tideus, Corcus, and Aurico are in grave danger."
"Man, Cestro sounds like they are in deep trouble," Tommy says.
"You're right, Aurico, Tideus, and Corcus won't make it very long in 27 degree water," Billy says with concern.
"Aquitian popsicles, huh?" Rocky comments.
"Not popsicles, Rock. Twenty-seven degrees Celsius is about a balmy 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Aquitians are cold-blooded like amphibians. They can't cool themselves down by sweating like we do. That water must be boiling them alive," Billy explains.
"We gotta go help them. We owe them," Tommy says.
"Rangers, do not be hasty. Aquitar is greatly different from Earth," Zordon booms.
"That's right," Billy continues his lecture on Aquitar. "We will need a craft capable of both space and underwater travel."
"My Super Zeo Zord was designed for underwater use and is space hardy," Adam volunteers.
"Great," Tommy says. "Adam and I will make the trip."
"What if Mondo attacks us while you both are gone?" Alex inquires.
Tommy looks stumped.
"Alexandra is right, Tommy," Zordon says. "We need you here on Earth in case King Mondo attacks."
"I think Billy should go," Trini says. "He's the expert on Aquitar."
"I agree," Zordon answers.
"Guess I'll be getting to put my new scuba skills to work," Billy says.
"Then it is settled. Adam will pilot Super Zeo Zord IV, and Billy will perform the dive on Aquitar."
"Wait! Rule #1--You should always have a dive buddy. I wanna go," Alex volunteers.
"What do you think I am?" Adam asks.
"You can't pilot and dive at the same time. Besides, Billy might need me to flex some brain, since Billy is powerless now...." Alex regrets the last part before it is even out of her mouth. She sees Billy and Trini wince.
"I didn't mean that the way it sounded," Alex stammers, mortified at her blunder.
"Then it is agreed," Zordon begins again to break the awkward moment. "Adam, Billy, and Alexandra will go on the mission to Aquitar. If necessary, Trini will be able to pilot Taurus by remote from the Power Chamber."
"YES!" Alex says, hopping up and down. "My first galactic mission!"
"Adam, come help me refill Super Zeo Zord IV's oxygen tanks," Billy say, still smarting from Alex's slip.
"I'll help," Alex volunteers.
"That's okay. We'll get it." After the pair leave, Alex walks meekly over to Trini who is fiddling around on a computer.
"Dr. Kwan," Alex says softly. "Could you please surgically remove my foot from my mouth now?" Trini gives Alex a forgiving smile. She knows that Alex's comment wasn't meant to be malicious. But she also knows that the misspoken comment probably cut Billy to the bone.
"I'll go smooth things over with Billy for you," Trini offers.
* * *
"0300 hours?!" Alex says.
"Yes, Alexandra. It will take Alpha several hours to reconfigure Adam's zord. Several small modifications will have to be made for it to operate at its optimum capacity on Aquitar," Zordon explains.
"Go home and pack," Billy says cooly as he and Adam return from their task of filling the oxygen tanks. "We'll meet back here at 2:30 a.m. for any last minute preparations."
"Home?! Man, what am I going to tell my Dad? 'Off to another galaxy for the weekend. See you on Monday.'"
"Didn't you know that creative story telling was a prerequisite for being a Power Ranger?" Adam jokes, swinging an arm around a still perplexed Alex.
"My parents are going to a medical conference this weekend," Trini offers. "You could tell your dad that you are house sitting with me."
"Good one!" Alex replies. "What about you, Adam?"
"Hmmm...," Adam scratches his head. "Think I'll tell my parents that Billy and I are going up to Stone Canyon Lake for the weekend. We will be camping and I will be helping you prepare for your open-water diving test, Billy." Adam wants to make sure that they get their story straight.
"What about you, Billy?"
"I'm just telling my dad the truth," Billy answers matter of factly.
"Alex, remember after I graduated early? Where exactly do you think I went?"
"The rumors said Europe."
"I went to Aquitar."
"Needless to say, I couldn't come up with any good excuses to explain my disappearance to my dad. So, I told him the truth."
"Wow. My dad would wig if I told him I was a Power Ranger." Alex can see her father's expression clearly. "Hey, he might cut me some slack though, if I did. 'Sorry I didn't get my room cleaned up, Dad. I was too busy saving the Universe.'"
Adam suddenly bolts to attention. "Shoot! Speaking of dads. I promised mine that I would mow the lawn. He's not going to let me go Aquitar... ahem... I mean Stone Canyon Lake, if it isn't done. See you guys later."
"Alex, the bus is leaving at 0300 hours whether you are on it or not," Billy reminds the tardiest member of the team.
"All right," Alex winces. "I'll be there. See ya!"
At exactly 0230 hours, Billy and Adam teleport into the Power Chamber. They are surprised to see that Alex is already there, sitting on a very large duffle bag.
Billy eyes the enormous bag as he slips a large backpack off his shoulder.
"Good God, Alex. What are you bringing with you?" Billy asks.
"Just a few necessities," she answers.
"You didn't forget the kitchen sink, did you?" Adam teases.
Alex makes a face at him.
"So what is considered a 'necessity?'" Billy wonders.
Billy and Adam look exasperated as Alex begins to unpack her duffle bag some.
"Well, seems we are going to a water planet, I thought I might need a swimsuit, a flashlight, a swimsuit, some extra batteries, my Walkman, a swimsuit, a compass, a bag of Doritos, a magnet, a mirror, chapstick, a can of Cherry Pepsi...."
"That's got to go," Adam says, taking the can.
"I don't want it exploding all over my Zord," Adam insists. "I think that some of that junk can stay behind."
"What if I need it?"
"Well, I'm not going to lug that bag all over Aquitar for you."
"No need," Alex replies smuggly. Alex "lifts" her bag to make her point.
"Are you two ready to go?" Billy asks.
"I think I'm ready for just about anything," Alex answers.
"I's so excited!" Alex proceeds to chatter non-stop all the way to the docking bay.
"How do you feel, Adam?" Billy inquires. "You want me to take the first shift?" Billy secretly hopes that Adam is tired.
"No, I'm fine. Maybe you could take over in an hour or two. I didn't get much sleep," Adam answers.
"Sleep?! Who can sleep at a time like this?" Alex is bouncing off the walls. "I'll pilot!" she overenthusiatically volunteers.
"How many Cherry Pepsis exactly have you had tonight?" Adam puts a hand on Alex's shoulder to calm her down.
"I think that's about it, Billy," Adam says, flicking a couple of switches. "Go buckle in and we'll be ready for takeoff."
"Right," Billy says. He walks out of the cockpit area and climbs a ladder down into the "chest" of the zord. Alpha had converted the cargo area into a passenger area. Billy looks around. "It's pretty Spartan, but I guess it will do."
Alpha had installed a bench-type seat on the front side and the back side of the chest cavity. Straps descended out of the walls above the seats. Alex's monstrous duffle bag and the guys' backpacks were tied down in the corner. Billy sits down on the bench seat coming out from the back.
"Are you settled in Billy?" Adam's voice echoes in the hollow cavity.
"She's asleep," Billy informs him.
"Miss I'm-wired-for-sound is asleep?" Adam laughs.
"Well, she won't be for long. Engaging engines!"
Adam was wrong. Alex had fallen into a dead sleep. She slept through the takeoff. She slept through the five hour flight. She slept through Billy and Adam changing shifts.
"Boy, she's going to be mad when she wakes up." Adam can hear it now.
The Zord rattles as it begins to enter the Aquitian atmosphere. This awakens Alex from her blissful sleep.
"Heeyyy!" Alex's voice warbles as the Zord shakes violently again.
"Adam, rotate your Zord to an upright position, instead of head first. That should help a little," Billy says, stuffing his astrophysics book under his bench.
"Right." Adam flicks a couple of switches to make a feet-first landing on Aquitar.
As they rotate, Alex becomes smashed backwards into the bench. Meanwhile, Billy is hanging horizontally by his safety straps.
"Our coordinates have us set approximately three miles outside Tranquility Pod." Adam's voice reverberates in the hollow chest cavity of his zord.
"Good. Don't want to cause any strong currents to hit the pod," Billy says.
"Prepare for impact in 3... 2... 1!"
Alex constructs a shield around herself to cushion the blow. An "oomph" escapes from Billy as the straps cut into his shoulders.
Super Zeo Zord IV sinks heavily through the Sea of Tranquility. Sweat pours off Adam's forehead as he struggles to keep the zord upright. The zord begins to make a creaking noise.
"Adam, you need to adjust the internal pressure," Billy diagnoses.
"I don't have enough hands!" Adam snaps, uncharacteristically. "You come up here and take care of it."
Billy unhooks himself and cautiously climbs the ladder to the cockpit. Not to be left behind, Alex unhooks herself and follows Billy. Billy begins flicking switches and turning nobs. Alex's ears suddenly pop and she knows that equilibrium has been reached.
"Hang on, Adam. Only a little farther," Billy encourages. "Lucky for us, the Tranquility Pod is on 'high ground.'"
"The sensors read that we are almost one mile beneath the surface," Alex says in disbelief. Then she begins to panic. "Won't the pressure kill us?"
Billy chuckles. "The Aquitians are an advanced race. Their pod cities are enclosed, so that they can control their environment. You will find the pod surprisingly dry and pressurized."
Alex sighs in relief.
"There," Billy says, surveying the monitor. "Stop descent and proceed horizontally one league."
"You two better go strap back in. We're going horizontal," Adam warns.
Alex and Billy return to their seats and prepare for the rotating of the zord. With increasing pressure, Alex finds that she is once again squished to the zord and Billy is hanging.
"Forget this!" Alex says. She unhooks her safety harness and constructs a force field around herself. With a mental push, Alex rights herself until she and Billy are perpendicular to each other. Alex proceeds to "push" herself up the ladder and into the cockpit. She "floats" up next to Adam.
Adam has rotated his pilot's chair to put him in an upright position. The glass visor/windshield is now at his feet.
"Cool!" Alex says, gazing between her feet at the Tranquility Pod now almost below them.
"I can't see squat!" Adam complains, looking over the sides of his chair, trying to get a visual.
"I'll put that on my 'To Do' List when we get back," Billy yells from below. "Use your scanners and sonar instead."
Adam pushes a couple of buttons. A small, flat computer screen rises from the side of his chair and settles in before him like a tray table.
"That's a little better." Adam replies. He sees Alex suspended in mid air. The tips of her boots barely brush the visor/windshield. Sometimes he wishes that he had her powers. It would be wild to defy gravity like she does. He pushes the envious thought out of his mind. "Why don't you try hailing Cestro."
* * *
The trio of Earthlings dock on the outskirts of the pod. A clear tube attaches to Super Zeo Zord IV, that allows the Rangers to enter an antechamber of the pod.
Alex is still gawking in disbelief as they pass through the decompression chamber. Billy knows the drill, and Alex and Adam dutifully follow him. Two odd beings great them on the other side of the decompression chamber.
"Cestro, Delphine," Billy says with a warm smile. "It's so good to see you both again."
"Welcome back, Billy," Cestro and Delphine says in unison, with their customary circular arm gesture.
"You remember Adam--Zeo Ranger IV," Billy says.
"Welcome, Adam." They repeat the gesture.
"And this is Alexandra--the Purple Ranger."
Alex tries to repeat the greeting gesture. Blushing, Billy quickly grabs Alex's hands and pulls her palms apart. Alex repeats the gesture correctly.
"Welcome, Alexandra," Cestro says after clearing his throat.
"Earth Rangers, please follow us," Delphine instructs. "Callipso is expecting our immediate arrival."
"So what exactly did I do wrong back there?" Alex asks Billy softly as they travel down the enormous panoramic corridor.
"You basically gave them the Aquitian equivalent of the One Finger Salute," Billy says meekly.
Adam stifles a snort and Alex looks horrified at her faux pas.
"Don't feel bad, Alex," Billy consoles. "I learned that one and a couple of others the hard way."
Alex mentally kicks herself the rest of the long journey.
* * *
The group walks for almost fifteen minutes down corridor after corridor of clear tubing. Adam gasps as a school of brightly colored fish swim by. He abruptly stops as a school of Aquitian youth swim up to the tube and peer at the strange humans. Alex jumps and grabs Adam's arm when she suddenly spots an Aquitian youth with his face pressed against the glass-like tube. Delphine spots the youth also. She makes a series of gestures. The youth reddens, bows and quickly spurts away.
"Ooh, that was a major dressing down," Billy says to his Earth friends.
"I don't understand," Alex says.
"Like humans, Aquitians need oxygen, or at least another gaseous compound, to make their vocal cords vibrate. Water is too heavy and it makes them gurgle underwater. Instead they have come up with a complex sort of sign language to use when they are underwater and unable to verbally communicate," Billy instructs.
"This is a pretty cool place," Alex says nodding her head and looking around.
The tunnel finally leads them to the center of the pod city. They walk over top of what appears to be the town square.
"I feel like Mergatroid," Adam comments.
"Who?" Alex asks.
"Mergatroid--the hamster I had when I was eight. I built him this elaborate cage of tunnels and large spheres. All that's missing here is a wheel for us to run in circles on."
The pod city does resemble Mergatroid's abode. The tunnel they have been following opens up into a large dome sitting on the bottom of the sea floor. A series of tunnels branch off the dome and lead to other domes around the pod.
"Oh, look," Alex says, peering down at the mass of people assembled in the dome. "Looks like they sent a welcoming committee."
Alex waves to the crowd of bystanders.
"I don't know," Adam says. "They don't exactly look pleased at our arrival."
"What do their posters say? Is that mylar?"
"Obviously, there are no trees on Aquitar to make posterboard," Professor Billy begins again. "Therefore, the Aquitians harvest a sea plant similar to seaweed, and chemically treat it to make a paper-like product. You're right though, it does kind of resemble mylar."
Cestro and Delphine look at one another uncomfortably and mutter something inaudible under their breaths.
"Please ignore them," Cestro says.
"Some Aquitians believe that the recent events signal the end of our world. A kind of 'Dooms Day,'" Delphine expands.
"I'm afraid that not everyone appreciates your help," Cestro adds with chagrin.
"Who's the guy on the poster?" Adam asks.
Cestro clears his throat. "Troas."
"Please, Callipso is waiting for us," Delphine urges.
Adam opens his mouth to inquire more about the mysterious Aquitian, but a look from Alex makes him decide to drop the subject. She nods over at Billy, who is intensely studying the posters as they continue on their journey.
A nondescript door wooshes open to reveal an immense laboratory. Alex and Adam allow a "wow" to escape their lips.
"This is my favorite room in the whole pod," Billy says.
"I bet he's like a kid in a candy store in here," Alex says softly to Adam.
Several Aquitians mill around the lab working on different projects. Adam tries to pick out the most likely candidate for this Callipso person.
"Ah, here they are now," a deep voice says from behind.
The group turns around to see an older Aquitian dressed in gray robes. His face is slightly wrinkled and metallic silver scales are beginning to show on his head. Something about him reminds Alex of her grandfather, and she likes him immediately.
"Callipso, it is good to see you again," Billy begins the introductions again. Billy holds his breath as Alex attempts the greeting once again.
"We welcome you all to Aquitar," Callipso says with a grand sweeping gesture of his arms. "I know of someone else who is excited about your return. She will be here momentarily."
"She?!" Alex and Adam say to each other as Billy flushes.
"This way please," Callipso leads the group over to a group of computers. The elderly Aquitian proceeds into an indepth account of the recent happenings. He includes volumes of scientific data that only Billy can interpret. Alex and Adam begin gazing around the laboratory. Even Delphine becomes distracted and lets out an uncontrollable yawn.
"I'm sorry," Callipso stops his lengthy discussion on the Aquitian ecosystem of microscopic organisms. "I apologize for keeping everyone up so late. Our guests must be tired from their long voyage. There is nothing more that we can do tonight. Let us all have some refreshment and take a rest. We will meet here at 2600 hours. Tomorrow the adventure will begin."
"Earth Rangers, please follow me," Delphine says. "I will show you to your quarters."
"2600 hours?" Adam asks Billy softly as they depart. "So what time is it now? I'm really confused."
"One Aquitian day is broken up into 26 hours," Professor Billy begins yet another lecture. "This was the hardest thing for me to adapt to. Without sunlight to adjust my Circadian rhythms, my body wasn't sure when it was supposed to sleep. Cestria installed a special lighting system in my quarters to act as a rising sun. The light slowly became brighter and brighter, signalling my body to wake up."
"Who's Cestria?" Alex asks.
"I do not know what has happened to her," Cestro says. "She was supposed to meet us earlier."
"Here we are," Delphine says, waving a hand over a sensor. The door opens to reveal a small, Spartan room done totally in shades of green.
"My kinda room," Adam says, gently nudging Alex in the ribs.
"I apologize for our poor hospitality. With the recent meteor damage done to the pod, we have a shortage of housing," Delphine says.
"This will be fine," Billy answers.
"Am I staying in here too?" Alex says under her breath to Billy while nodding to the triple bunk bed.
"Is this a problem?" Cestro asks innocently.
"No, no it will be fine," Alex answers then adds softly to Adam, "If my dad asks, you slept down the hall. WAY down the hall."
"You think I would tell him?" Adam jokes. "Do I look like I have a death wish or something?"
"Please, order anything that you would like from our automatic canteen," Cestro offers, gesturing to the computer with a large slot underneath.
"Tranquility Pod boasts a wide variety of native and alien dishes," Delphine announces proudly.
"Pleasant rest, Earth Rangers," Cestro says as he leaves.
"We will collect you tomorrow morning," Delphine says.
Adam politely waits until the Alien Rangers leave and then walks quickly over to the computer.
"Man, I am starving," he says pushing a variety of buttons, trying to find something palatable.
"I can't tell what any of this stuff is," Alex complains.
"Wait," Billy pushes a couple of buttons on the terminal. Magically, the Aquitian symbols turn into English characters.
A crystal-like chime announces a visitor. Billy jogs over to the door. He takes a sharp breath as Cestria enters.
"Uh, I'm not sure if I want to eat any of this stuff," Alex says. "See if you can find a PB & J sandwich on there."
"Yes, we have such a dish," the visitor says. "Try under Alien dishes, Earthian delicacies."
"Alien?" Alex says, turning around.
She notices an attractive, at least by Aquitian standards, young female dressed in a short, pleated, metallic skirt.
"I am Cestria," she says.
Billy makes another round of introductions. Several minutes later, the four sit down at a nearby table and enjoy their cuisine. The Earthlings enjoy a round of PB & J sandwiches, while Cestria enjoys a native soup.
"That looks incredibly similar to pond scum," Alex thinks to herself.
"Billy, I have several projects to show you when you have some free time," Cestria says.
"I would like to see them. Did you get the dermal replacement tissue to grow on the bacteria medium?" Billy asks and the two begin an indepth scientific conversation.
Adam yawns despite himself. Alex is beginning to feel a little hazy herself.
"I bet you guys are exhausted," Billy comments to his friends. "Why don't you guys turn it. I'm going to go to Cestria's lab for a little while and then I'll be back."
"Thanks," Adam says grateful for the reprieve.
* * *
As soon as Billy and Cestria leave, Alex goes to the computer and begins exploring.
"Adam, why do Aquitians have such strange water drop-like voices?" Alex asks.
Adam shrugs, his mouth filled with toothpaste.
"Why do they have such weird things on their heads?"
Adam gives her another shrug. Frankly he could care less presently. All he wants to do is sleep.
* * *
"It's so wild here. Don't you think?" Alex asks, snuggling into the indentation between Adam's chest and shoulder. "Adam. Adam?"
A slight snore escapes from Adam. Alex realizes that he hasn't said a word in the last fifteen minutes.
Alex sighs and closes her eyes. The soft cotton of Adam's green t-shirt brushes her cheek. Sleep is long to come. Though exhausted, Alex's mind refuses to shut down. Just as she finally pushes the thoughts out of her mind, one last one appears. Her father--wearing a very disapproving look. Alex's eyes fly back open. As much as she would enjoy staying right where she is, her conscience won't allow it.
Reluctantly, she removes Adam's arm from around her waist and gently gets off the bottom bunk. She kisses him lightly and whispers "Good night." Adam mumbles something inaudible in reply.
With a quick mental calculation, Alex jumps off the ground. A mental push brings her effortlessly up to the top bunk. Settling down in her own cold, lonely bunk, Alex begins thinking again.
Soon she hears voices outside of their door and laughing. After a brief silence, the door slides open and Billy tiptoes in. He turns on a low light off to the side of the room and sits down at the table. Billy rests his head in his hands and stares off into space for several minutes.
"Hot date tonight?" Alex voice teases through the darkness.
"Huh? Did I wake you?" Billy asks apologetically.
"Nope. Can't sleep." Alex "throws" herself off the top bunk and gently lands on her feet. She looks slightly dwarfed in Adam's long, flannel shirt. The shirt tails brush her knees and the sleeves are rolled up several times. She pads barefooted over to Billy.
"I've definitely never seen you this way before," Billy comments.
"Don't even go there," Alex warns. "And no snide remarks about me bringing everything except my pjs. It was either Adam's flannel shirt or the Purple Ranger get-up. And that white collar is just too damn itchy."
Alex brushes her long wavy black hair over one shoulder.
"You look just like Trini when you do that," Billy says, slightly lost. "How come you never wear your hair down? It looks nice that way."
"Because I never know when the Purple Ranger is going to be called into action. I can't get my helmet on with my hair down. Guess I have a hair hazard! Get it?" Alex jokes, punching Billy lightly in the arm.
"You sure are punchy tonight."
"'Cause I'm sleep deprived. Whaddya expect?"
"Go back to bed. I think I'm going to stay up a while."
"Something on your mind?"
"No," Billy answers, though not very convincingly.
"Okay, but if you want to talk...." Alex slowly turns around and heads back towards the bunks.
Billy interrupts her leap back into bed. "Alex, what would you say if I decided to stay on Aquitar for a while longer?"
"Cestria asked me to stay. She has this large project she's been working on. She could really use my help."
"Your help or your company?" Alex asks bluntly.
Billy is silent for a few moments. "Both."
"What about Trini?" Alex says in defense of her best friend. "Trini needs you too and so do the rest of us."
"Trini doesn't need me in the Power Chamber. She can do pretty much anything I can."
"I think she appreciates more than just your intellect."
Stumped, Billy is silent.
"While you were with HER tonight," Alex continues. "Adam and I did some exploring on the computer. We read up on Aquitian culture and customs. Ever notice that these aren't exactly touchy-feely people. They don't hug or kiss or even shake hands. 'Tactile stimulation is limited to the most...ahem...intimate situations,'" Alex quotes the text.
"I know," Billy answers quietly. "And humans are tactile creatures."
"So ask yourself, Billy." Alex gently places her palm on Billy's cheek. "Can you live without touch?"
Slowly, Alex removes her hand and silently slips back into the darkness.
"Think about it , Billy," is her last comment for the night.
The words stab right through Billy's heart--the emotional struggle compounded. The Trini-Cestria triangle had been tugging at him all evening. Now he has to clamp down on other feelings. Feelings that he had repressed out of his deep friendship with Adam.
An hour later, Billy still hasn't come up with a solution. Exhausted, he heads for the middle bunk. He tries to press all the conflicting emotions out of his brain. Soon he falls into a restless sleep. Snippets of his life ebb and flow and blend into each other.
"Billy, I've missed you. Please stay," Cestria says.
"I love you too, Billy," Trini answers that fateful day in the docking bay.
"Ask yourself, Billy. Can you live without touch?" Alex's hand brushes his cheek.
"Billy! Billy! Wake up, man!" Adam says, shaking his friend. "Cestro said he'd be here in ten minutes."
Alex returns from the bathroom-type area, zipping up her wet suit and handing Adam back his shirt.
Billy hits the floor with a thud and slowly heads for the bathroom. Splashing cool water on his face revives him but also causes the unsolved problem to resurface. He peers out the door to see Alex standing on tip toe, fixing the back of Adam's collar on his shirt. Finished, the two share a private joke. Alex wraps her arms around Adam's waist and hugs him.
Sickened with envy, Billy pounds the button to close the door. "Everything is so perfect for them. Adam's life is just so perfect," Billy mumbles under his breath, between clenched teeth.
Exactly ten minutes later, the door chime sounds. Alex bounds to the door to let Cestro in and finds Cestria instead. Alex's smile disappears.
"Good morning, Purple Ranger," Cestria says warmly.
"'Morning," Alex says icily.
"I offered to fetch you. Cestro and Delphine are waiting for us."
"Billy, _Cestria_ is here. Hurry up!"
"Oh God," Billy says to himself, wishing to avoid the whole situation.
As they head back to Callipso's lab, Alex is first to interrupt the awkward silence.
"So Cestria, Billy tells us that you are working on dermal replacement tissue. Did he tell you about his and Trini's experiments on Earth with the same stuff?" Alex asks pointedly.
"No, he did not expand on the subject."
"Yes, Trini and Billy make a great team. Trini is brilliant, great at science. And she's gorgeous too, right Billy?"
"Uh, yeah," Billy answers timidly.
Alex proceeds to inform Cestria of all of Trini's accomplishments and accolades until they reach the lab.
"What has gotten into you?" Adam says softly, pulling Alex back a couple of paces. "Why are you Trini's cheerleader all of the sudden?"
"'Cause I'm not about to stand around and let my best friend's heart get broken. Especially when she isn't here to defend herself," Alex answers, inflamed.
"You mean...?" Adam nods at Cestria and Billy.
* * *
"Welcome, friends. I believe we are almost ready for our mission." Callipso double checks some data points with a lab assistant.
"Cestria has volunteered to accompany us on our mission," Cestro announces. "Our teammates may require urgent medical attention."
Billy cringes. He had hoped that the mission would require all of his mental abilities. He needed time away from Cestria and even Alex to make his final decision.
"I'm going to go do a spot check on the Zord," Adam says. "I want to make sure the creaking we heard yesterday didn't leave us structurally impaired."
"That would be imperative. I sent our technicians down there before you arrived," Callipso says. "I will inform Billy and Alexandra on their part of our mission. Prepare to disembark at 0100 hours."
"I will accompany, Adam," Cestro says, picking up some scanning equipment and following Adam out of the door.
"Friends, we will set a course to the Atlantian Mountains," Callipso begins.
"Mountains? I thought this planet was totally submerged," Alex asks.
"It is," Billy answers. "The Atlantian Mountains are the highest 'ground' on Aquitar. Its tip is only a few hundred feet underwater. This allows for growth of a variety of species of vegetation, because they are able to receive sunlight."
"Billy is correct," Callipso says. "Navigating to the Mountains will be easy. Once you are at the mountains, our problems begin."
"Problems?" Alex asks.
Before Callipso can answer, Adam and Cestro return followed by two Aquitian Zord technicians.
"Billy, we have a problem," Adam says gravely, carrying two tanks of oxygen with him. "It seems that not everyone is happy about our mission."
Adam places the canisters on the table and everyone crowds in for further inspection. The guages register almost empty on both cannisters.
"How can this be?" Billy says. "We specifically filled these before we left Earth."
"My friends," Callipso says. "I believe that your supplies have been sabotaged." He points a digit at one of the damaged guages.
"But why...?" Alex says in disbelief.
"These were the problems I was speaking of," Callipso answers.
"Sir, we found this when we discovered the tanks," a young technician says, handing a letter to Callipso.
Callipso nods and carefully unfolds the mylar-like paper.
"Then it is as we suspected?" Cestro asks.
"Yes," Callipso answers slowly. "Word of our mission to the Atlantian Mountains has been leaked to the opposition."
"So? We're doing search and rescue, what's the big deal?" Adam asks.
"The Atlantian Mountains are considered sacred ground," Cestria informs him. "Our religion says that this is where life on Aquitar began. That our ancestors landed there over 3,000 Earth years ago, and that we evolved from them."
"No one is permitted by religious law to enter the mountains," Cestro adds.
"Is that what the posters were saying?" Billy finally understands. "That the recent meteor shower was the beginning of some sort of Armageddon. That the Aquitian Rangers' mission to the mountains to remove the 'punishment' was considered profane and sacrilegious?"
"But who is Troas?" Adam asks.
"Troas is insane," Cestro says bluntly.
Delphine gives Cestro a chastizing look.
"Troas was once my star pupil. I had hoped that he would someday take my position," Callipso says remorsefully. "Several months ago, I began noticing a change in him. He became more interested in religion than science. He began preaching about how our world would soon end because our science had deeply offended our elders. He soon had a large following and gave up all of his scientific duties. When the meteors came, he said that this was proof that the end was coming. He left that day to go to the Atlantian Mountains. He believed that he was the only Aquitian sacrosanct enough to face our elders and beg their forgiveness."
"Your elders are still alive?" Alex asks.
"Religiously--yes. Scientifically--no," Callipso answers. "But, I digress. We need to concentrate on saving our Rangers."
"Let's go back to Super Zeo Zord IV and see if we can siphon off some oxygen," Adam says.
Alex picks up a tank and Adam the other.
"I want to check our total oxygen supply to make sure we have enough to make the trip home," Billy says with concern.
"Can't we borrow some oxygen tanks from the Aquitians?" Alex asks.
"We have no equipment to fill tanks. We have no use for them," Delphine explains.
"We filter oxygen out of our surroundings through large membranes and circulate it through the pod where necessary," Cestro adds.
"Oh, boy. We may have a problem," Billy answers honestly.
The Earth Rangers return thirty minutes later with the bad news. Adam carries one half-filled tank--the only portable, contained supply of oxygen they could come up with. They walk into the middle of an argument.
"No, it is out of the question," Cestro says strongly. "You will not sacrifice the Earth Rangers in the name of science!"
"Cestro, be reasonable. How else are we going to solve our problems?" Callipso says, putting a hand on his friend's shoulder.
"There has to be another way," Cestro continues.
"Another way for what?" Billy asks.
Callipso looks pleadingly at Cestro. Cestro shakes his head.
"C'mon, try me," Billy probes.
Cestro sighes and nods to Callipso. Callipso appears to grin.
"Rangers, we may have found a way for you to breathe under our water," Callipso says excitedly.
"It's never been tested," Cestro adds as the voice of reason.
"When Billy was last on Aquitar," Callipso begins. "He allowed us to perform many tests on him. We were interested in the anatomical, genetic, and chemical makeup of humans."
"Plus, we didn't know how my body would react to the conditions on Aquitar." Billy remembers the poking and proding without a lot of fondness.
"We learned that though humans are a dry loving people, you are actually very dependent on water," Callipso continues.
"Yes, our bodies are about 60% water," Alex adds, remembering Mrs. Crumb's anatomy lesson.
"We also found that our respiratory systems are structurally similar. Aquitians, however, have trilobed lungs; because we need the extra lobe for underwater respiration. We also discovered that both races produce a surfactant in our lungs that reduces the surface tension of the respiratory fluids. This keeps our lungs from collapsing when we are in the water and on land."
Billy notices that his friends have blank expressions on their faces. He interrupts Callipso to translate.
"Okay, guys," Billy says. "Think of your lungs like a plastic ziplock baggie. What happens when you fill it with water and then dump it out?"
"The remaining water causes the plastic to stick to itself," Adam answers, though not sure of its relevency.
"The insides of the baggie would stick together in places because the water molecules would be attracted to each other?" Alex struggles to remember the lesson on the properties of water.
"So you weren't just day dreaming about Adam in Chemistry class after all," Billy teases.
Alex and Adam both flush slightly.
"Humans have a fair amount of water in their lungs," Billy continues, "But not as much as Aquitians, obviously. Our bodies naturally produce a protein in our lungs that reduces surface tension. This is what keeps our lungs from collapsing."
Billy nods to Callipso to continue.
"Sometimes Aquitian offspring are born too early. Their respiratory systems are not completely formed. Their lungs are not mature enough to produce the surfactants mature offspring can. In the past, these offspring would soon die because their lungs would collapse both on land and in the water."
"I wish Trini were here," Billy says. "I think humans have a similar problem, but I can't remember. Medicine is Trini's specialty."
Alex smiles wickedly and shoots Cestria a look.
"Today, with our more modern medicine," Callipso continues. "We administer an artificial surfactant to the immature offsprings'lungs. This treatment coats the lungs and keeps them from collapsing. The treatment usually lasts one month. By the end of that time, the offspring have matured enough to begin making their own surfactant."
"I don't understand what you are getting at," Alex comments.
"My theory...," Callipso says.
"And it is only a theory," Cestro interrupts.
"My theory is that by introducing the synthetic Aquitian surfactant into human lungs, a human would be able to breathe like an Aquitian."
"You mean we would be able to breathe underwater?" Adam says, excitedly.
"Yes," Callipso answers.
"Perhaps," Cestro contradicts.
"How?" Billy asks.
"As you know, Billy, Aquitian water is supersaturated with oxygen. Hence why we have trilobed lungs and not gills," Callipso says. "I believe that by inhaling our supersaturated water, oxygen molecules will be able by random chance to make their way into your blood stream through the capillaries in your aveoli. The surfactant will keep your lungs from collapsing, allowing the oxygen molecules to reach the capillaries."
"Wow, breathing underwater. Wow, Trini would be amazed," Billy says, scratching his head. He stops abruptly when he catches Cestria's eye.
"Rangers, please," Cestro pleads. "This is only a theory. The surfactant works for one Aquitian month in Aquitian infant offspring. We have no idea how it will effect almost physically mature human beings."
"Cestro, Callipso. I am a man of science," Billy explains calmly. "Throughout history, scientists have put themselves at risk to gain knowledge to help humankind. I would like to join the ranks."
Cestro's doubts are infectious. Alex and Adam look at each other with concern.
"Billy, can we talk to you privately for a second?" Alex asks.
Once off to the side, Adam begins.
"Billy, I don't think this is such a good idea."
"This really isn't the time to get macho on us," Alex adds.
"We can't exactly call Zordon in if things go bad," Adam says, putting a hand on his friend's shoulder.
"You don't have the power to protect your body anymore," Alex says. "I'm sorry to be so blunt, but you know I'm right."
"Then you two don't have to do it," Billy says sharply. "I'll be the guinea pig."
Billy walks defiantly back to the Aquitians.
"Adam, I'm concerned," Alex says.
"Billy's been so reckless lately."
"Not just lately. He's been like this since...," then it dawns on Adam. "Since he gave up his powers."
"It's like he's on some kind of kamakazi course."
"Like he's trying to prove he's still powerful to everyone."
"I think he is trying to prove it to himself," Alex adds intuitively.
Thirty minutes later, calculations done, Billy inhales a small canister of surfactant. He zips up his wet suit and attaches a weight belt to himself.
"Billy, are you sure you want to do this?" Alex asks one last time.
"Yes," Billy answers firmly and brushes past her towards the large glass tank.
"My rough estimates are that you will have approximately two hours of protection," Callipso says, tapping madly into his computer system.
Billy climbs up the ladder and lowers himself into the aquarium. He hangs heavily onto the side of the tank.
"Signal me at one hour to be on the safe side. Don't want to drown or anything," Billy jokes nervously.
"That's not funny, Billy," Alex says sharply. "I'm setting my stopwatch now. One hour only."
"Okay, everybody," Billy says breathing hard from trying to tread water with the added weights on. "Let's do this."
Billy stops treading water and allows himself to sink. Bubbles escape from his mouth as he expells all the air in his lungs. Billy begins to twitch and struggle as his lungs fill with water. He grapples with the weights trying to free himself.
"I can't watch." Alex buries her face into Adam's chest.
"Humans have been breathing air for thousands of years. Billy is not in pain, but his most primal instinct believes that he is dying. It is hard to retrain one's natural instinct," Callipso says.
Alex is not comforted by his logic.
"What if the plan doesn't work?" she thinks.
Alex feels Adam's breathing stop. She looks up at his panicked face and then over at the tank. Billy is slumped heavily on the bottom, eyes closed.
"No!" Alex rushes towards the tank.
"Wait!" Callipso orders, grabbing Alex's arm.
Billy's eyes slowly open and he cautiously looks around the tank. He opens his mouth a little wider, and Alex can see his chest expanding and contracting.
"He did it!" Callipso says.
Adam rushes to the tank to see for himself. Billy gives them an "okay" signal.
"I don't believe it," Adam says. "He is actually breathing underwater."
"Scan Billy's vital signs," Callipso orders his assistants.
Billy allows the Aquitians to poke and prod him, while he calmly lounges on the bottom of the tank. After the tests are done, Billy begins entertaining Alex and Adam by doing tricks. He does backward flips in the water and somersaults.
_This is incredible!_ Billy thinks. _I can't wait to tell Trini all about it. She will be fascinated with...._ The tank suddenly becomes dark to Billy.
"Billy? Billy!" Adam taps on the glass. He rushes to the side of the tank and climbs the ladder. "Alex! I need a brain!"
Alex "lifts" Billy from the bottom of the tank and "hands" him to Adam. Alex mentally helps Adam get Billy down the ladder and onto the floor.
Great floods of water gush from Billy's nose and mouth as Adam compresses Billy's diaphram. Alex tilts Billy's head to allow the water to spill out. Several more gushes of water escape before Cestria returns with an instrument to suction the remaining water out of his lungs.
"His heart is beating, but respiration has not resumed," Cestria says.
"It won't be beating for long if you don't begin artificial respiration," Adam diagnoses, his CPR training finally paying off.
"Artifical respiration? I do not know any alien medicine."
"Then get the hell out of my way," Alex says with a combined physical and mental push that sends Cestria spralling to the side.
"Tilt the head back slightly, pinch the nose," Adam talks Alex through the steps that they had learned together only a few months before. "Complete the seal over the mouth. Don't over inflate the lungs. We don't want air going into the stomach."
Alex breathes gently into Billy.
"A little harder, his chest didn't rise," Adam says.
Alex breathes a little more forcefully. She can see Billy's chest expand and then contract. Alex continues for several more breaths. She begins to get light-headed from hyperventilating.
Cestria stands, peering over Alex's shoulder. She rapidly types notes into her small, hand-held computer. She looks up when Billy begins to cough. Adam rolls Billy to his side to cough up any remaining water from his lungs. Alex sits back on her heels and breathes a sigh of relief.
"Had us worried there, Bill," Adam says, helping Billy get to an upright position.
"Of all the asinine ideas!" Alex explodes. "Chalk that science experiment up to a total disaster!"
"It wasn't a disaster," Billy answers softly, his lungs still aching and his nose feeling raw.
"If Adam and I hadn't been here, you'd be dead about now."
"But the experiment was a success. I breathed underwater. The surfactant calculations were wrong. That's all. Now we know where we went wrong. Next time...."
"Next time?" Adam interrupts. "Let's not tempt fate again, okay?"
"Then how do you suppose we are going to rescue the Aquitian Rangers?"
Adam and Alex are silent for a few moments.
"Exactly," Billy says smugly. "We don't have a choice. The oxygen tank wouldn't last long enough. We have no idea where the Rangers are. I'd run out of air before I could find them and bring the three back."
"Then let me go get my wetsuit," Adam says. "I'm coming with you. We don't know what kind of shape the Rangers are going to be in. You may need a hand."
"Who's going to pilot the Zord?" Alex asks.
"You are," Adam answers.
"I can't pilot that thing. I only know how to pilot Taurus and I haven't even done that in a while."
"She has a point," Billy says. "We need your expertise to get any heated meteors to the surface for the handoff to Delphine's Battle Borg while I'm diving."
Alex sighs, already regretting what she is about to say. "I guess it's back to Plan A. I'll dive with Billy."
"You aren't going to be a lot of help limited to that tank," Billy says.
"I mean that I am going to participate in this crazy experiment too," Alex says, looking apologetically at Adam.
"Absolutely not!" Adam stands up abruptly.
"Adam, we risk life and limb everyday as Power Rangers. How is this different?"
"With great responsibilities come great risks," Cestro says.
"Earth Rangers, I cannot ask you to do anything that you are not 100% sure of. If the risks are too great, please tell me now. I will need to begin an alternate plan. We have lost much time already," Delphine adds.
All of the Rangers look at each other in silence. Billy nods. Alex nods. Reluctantly, Adam nods. Delphine's face brightens and she immediately begins giving rapid fire instructions to everyone.
* * *
Alex hovers lightly above the windshield/visor of Super Zeo Zord IV.
"The tension is so thick down there, I had to escape," Alex admits in a low voice to Adam.
"And here I thought you just enjoyed my company," Adam teases.
"That too," Alex replies with a wink.
"How's it goin' up there?" Billy's voice echoes up into the cockpit.
"So far, so good," Adam answers. "At our current rate of speed, we should arrive at the Atlantian foothills in about one hour."
"Good," Cestria answers from down in the Zord's chest cavity. "That will give me time to calculate the amount of surfactant to administer to Billy and Alexandra."
"I should have our communicators modified by then too," Billy says, while tinkering with the bracelets.
"Alex! Can you come down here?" Billy yells thirty minutes later.
Alex effortlessly floats down the ladder into the Zord's chest. Cestro and Cestria struggle to do medical computations while squashed on their backs. Billy had unhooked himself from his hanging perch and presently sat on the medical supply box.
"Here you go, Alex." Billy hands Alex back her communicator. "Put it in your water-proof pack to protect it."
"So how exactly is this going to work?" Alex asks.
"I modified the distress signal to signal back to Adam's Zord at five second intervals. He will be able to track our progress on his scanners, as oral communication is impossible."
Alex nods and heads over to their supplies. She picks up the heavier of the two small, lunch box-sized packs. She holds the pack tightly and carefully unzips the top. She peers down into the over-stuffed bag, wondering how she is going to fit the communicator in.
"Good God, Alex," Billy comments. "You won't need a weight belt, with all the crap you're bringing. What are you bringing?"
"My morpher--though I wonder if it would activate from inside the bag? A compass, a small knife, some rope and chapstick."
"Yes, chapstick. And don't start with me, Billy."
"Whatever." Billy throws his hands up in disgust.
"There it is again," Adam says as another puff of lime green, oily liquid passes by his windshield. "Billy, I think we've got a fuel leak."
"I'll be right up." Billy struggles on all fours to climb up the horizontal ladder into the cockpit.
"None of the warning lights are signalling," Adam says and then suddenly points. "See! There's another one."
Billy peers down between his feet to see another slick cloud.
"Nope, that's lubricant. Not fuel. Are you sure there aren't any signal lights?" Billy asks.
"Do you see any?" Adam asks, gesturing around the cockpit.
"No. I'll run a diagnostic check." Billy madly presses keys for several minutes. He lets out a frustrated sigh. "I can't find any leaks, Adam. I guess just keep an eye on it. If a warning goes off, shut down that area and I'll fix it when we get back."
Adam nods and then his eyes widen in disbelief. "Guys, we're coming up on the foothills. I can see them now!"
"Adam," Cestro answers. "Go only to the base. Do not venture into the Ederon Forest."
"Forest?" Adam says quizzically to Billy. "What forest?"
"That one," Billy replies, pointing to the dense forest of seaweed hundreds of feet tall. "Cestro's right. We don't want seaweed to clog up the intake valves and propeller. We should stop here."
"Get ready, everybody," Adam warns. "We're going vertical!"
Adam turns Super Zeo Zord IV and lands it on its feet. Adam unharnesses himself and goes below to join the others.
"I sealed off the Zord's right foot," Adam says. "When you're ready, I'll flood the area and open the escape hatch. We'll do it in reverse when you get back."
"Great," Billy says, zipping up his wet suit and grabbing his face mask. "Ready, Alex?"
"Yep," she answers confidently though her hands are shaking so badly she can't get her pack buckled.
Adam steps up to her and buckles the pack. He takes Alex's quaking hands in his own.
"Alex, you don't have to do this," Adam says softly, concern darkening his eyes. "You don't have to be a kamakazi like Billy. Nobody will think any less of you. I'll love you just the same."
Alex throws her arms around Adam and gives him a fierce hug. "I've got to."
This public display of affection seems to make the Aquitians uncomfortable. Both suddenly become absorbed in their work. Alex gives Billy a knowing look. Billy looks like he could use a reassuring hug of his own.
"Hope that gets him thinking," Alex thinks smugly.
"Earth Rangers, I have finished the calculations," Cestria says, producing two tiny canisters. "Because of her smaller body mass, I have reduced the amount of surfactant in Alexandra's dose. By my calculations, you should have approximately four hours before the surfactant wears off."
"I want you back in three," Adam warns. "3:01, I put on the only oxygen tank and come after you."
"We'll be back before then," Alex replies optimistically, more for her own benefit than Adam's. She gives Adam's hand a squeeze.
"Let's get going," Billy says. "Adam, check to see if you are receiving our signal. In exactly 10 minutes, start flooding."
"Be careful." Adam pulls Alex towards him for a final hug and adds softly in her ear, "I love you."
"I love you too," Alex replies. "Now get out of here before I chicken out."
With one last glance over his shoulder, Adam climbs up the ladder and into the cockpit.
"Ready?" Billy says to regain Alex's attention.
"Bottoms up," Alex jokes weakily.
The pair slowly expire as much air in their lungs as they can. Just before they breathe in again, both bring their cannisters up to their mouthes. They deeply inhale the cannisters' contents.
"Oh man, feels like someone is standing on my chest," Alex says between wheezes.
"Be patient," Cestria says. "It will take a few minutes for the surfactant to completely cover your bronchioles. Try not to cough."
"Easier said than done," Alex replies between muffled coughs.
Billy continues to stifle his own coughs but sputters out, "We should head on down."
The pair take a service elevator down the right leg and into the Zord's foot. A loud clanging let's them know that they are completely sealed off.
"There's no turning back now," Billy says, noticing that Alex is looking at the ceiling apprehensively.
"Billy, I'm scared," Alex confesses.
"Relax and don't fight it. Let the water come into your lungs. Your brain will tell you that you're drowning, but you're not," Billy counsels.
A valve opens and water rushes in. Within seconds, the water reaches their ankles. Alex glances frantically from the ceiling to the water to Billy and back to the rapidly rising water. Billy stands completely still, eyes closed. He looks like he is about to perform a kata not drown. Alex's breathing accelerates as the water rises to her knees.
"There are so many things I never got to do," Alex thinks as the water rises to her thighs. "I never got to tell my Dad goodbye. He doesn't even know that his only child is on Aquitar, that she is the Purple Ranger." The water swirls around her waist. "I never finished high school. I never danced on Broadway. I never...."
"I changed my mind!" Alex blurts out as the water laps around her shoulders. "Adam! Adam! Let me out of here!"
"Alex, get a grip on yourself!" Billy orders.
"I changed my mind. I'm not cut out to be a Power Ranger. I'm not ready to die!" Alex yells hysterically, fighting to keep her head above the water.
* * *
"Did you hear something?" Cestria's head twitches from side to side.
Cestro stops working and listens intensely.
"There it is again," Cestria says.
"I hear nothing," Cestro answers, returning to his task.
Open your mind, Cestria projects telepathically to her Aquitian friend.
Do you hear Corcus? Cestro asks.
No, it is a faint voice, a feminine voice. Not a voice really, more like a feeling.
I still don't hear anything.
She's not trying to communicate. I believe that she is only projecting, Cestria continues, staring into space. I feel agitation...being enveloped in fear. I feel....
Cestria's thought is broken off as a piercing thought enters her mind.
HELP ME! I'M DYING!
Cestro grabs his head to shut out the pain. Cestria collapses to one knee clutching her own reverberating skull.
"I heard it this time, though obviously not as loud as you," Cestro doesn't even bother to project.
ADAM, HELP ME!
"It's Alexandra!" Cestro gasps in surprise.
"I knew it!" Cestria says. "I've been trying to probe her mind all day to see why she detests me so much."
"Cestria," Cestro chastizes. "You know better."
Cestria ignores him and send out a message. Alexandra, do not panic. I am with you.
Alex inhales sharply in surprise, receiving a nose full of water. She looks at Billy. He continues his silent meditation, hands relaxed at his sides. The water has risen to Billy's clavicle, but he seems unaware.
Relax and clear your mind, the voice advises.
Alex continues to glance around looking for its source.
Do not fight the water. Embrace it.
Alex notices that Billy has dropped his jaw. Water begins to seep into his mouth, but his breathing pattern doesn't change.
Follow Billy's example.
With one last gulp of air, Alex allows the weight of her pack to pull her under the water. Water rushes over her head as her feet touch the floor. Alex slowly releases the air in her lungs.
Without opening his eyes, Billy reaches out to take Alex's hand. He gives it a squeeze.
Goodbye, Adam, Alex unknowingly projects. I know that someday, somewhere we will be together again. And all our hopes and dreams will come true....
"Your lacrimal glands are leaking, Cestria," Cestro says.
Cestria lets out a sob, tears running down her face uncontrollably. Cestro continues to stare, unaccustomed to such a display of emotions.
* * *
A grinding noise awakens Alex's mind, bringing her back to the present. Billy tugs at her hand until Alex opens her eyes. The hatch has opened and some brave Aquitian fish have swum in to inspect them. Soon Alex's vision clears and she sees a smiling Billy staring at her. Billy gives her the "okay" symbol and then points to her. Alex stands still surveying the situation.
_Am I really breathing?_ Alex thinks.
Billy's gurgling laughter gains Alex's attention. _I must be giving him the deer-in-the-headlights look,"_ Alex silently realizes, and then laughs at herself.
She finally gives Billy the "okay" sign, and Billy gestures Alex to follow him.
* * *
Finally convinced that the plan might actually work, Alex begins to relax. Once near the dense seaweed forest, Billy unhooks a small device from his belt and flips it open. Billy rotates 360 degrees until the scanner begins to blip a green dot and signals Alex to follow him.
_Bingo!_ Alex thinks. _Cestro's scanner must have locked on to one of the Alien Rangers' communicator signals._
* * *
Adam watches the two disappear into the kelp forest from the cockpit of Super Zeo Zord IV. Two green dots blip on his own scanners. He sits down in the pilot's chair for a long wait. Thirty minutes drag by. Adam drums his fingers and lets out a weary sigh. "I wonder," Adam says, jumping out of his chair and grabbing a headset. He begins fiddling around with knobs, desperate for something to do.
"Adam to the Power Chamber," Adam speaks into the headset's microphone.
Nothing but static. "Adam to the Power Chamber. Zordon? Alpha? Can you hear me?"
Nothing but more static. Adam tries for several more minutes without success. Just as he begins to take off the headset, he hears something. "...You there?....Chamber....Zord IV...." the voice crackles.
"Hey! Hey! Keep talkin'," Adam says. "Trini? Is that you?"
"Hey, homeboy!" Trini's delayed voice answers. "Everything okay on Aquitar?"
"We've hit a couple of snags, but I think we're okay now. Alex and Billy are diving as we speak. I'm still waiting on the coordinates of the meteors from Delphine. I certainly don't see any meteors laying about."
"Good. I don't think I'll get a good night sleep until you are all back safe and sound."
"Would I let anything happen to your boyfriend?" Adam teases. "Trini, I think IV is leaking something but I can't figure out what. Billy ran a diagnostic check before he left, but it came out negative. No warning signals blinking either."
"Hmm. Adam, keep this channel open for the next 30 minutes. I'm going to see if our mainframe can talk to IV and see what's going on with him."
"Adam out." Adam flicks off the volume knob and places the headset down. Soon the switchboard comes to life and the computers begin to hum. Super Zeo Zord IV begins an electronic conversation with the Power Chamber millions of miles away.
* * *
Alex can't contain a grin as she and Billy glide effortlessly over the coral-like formations. Billy continues to scan the area with Cestro's device. He ducks to swim under a low formation. Alex waits until he is all the way through before following. Emerging on the other side, Alex can't locate Billy. She treads water, turning her head from side to side. A sudden sharp pain in her shoulder blade causes Alex to turn abruptly around.
Above the formation rests humanoid creatures covered from head to toe in rubbery black outfits. One creature holds a thrashing Billy who signals Alex to swim away. Instead, Alex swims towards their aggressors. She stops to pick up broken pieces of coral. Though the pieces aren't heavy, Alex's whole shoulder begins to burn from the exertion.
One psi-powered rock strikes Billy's captor with an audible clunk. The creature releases Billy. Alex body-checks an aggressor and then wishes she hadn't. She feels the contact fully without the protective armor of her Power Ranger suit. The pain begins to spread across her back and slips down her arms. The other rock slips from Alex's grip uncontrollably.
Billy backhands his attacker and slaps a fin upside the head of another. He ducks and two creatures collide into each other. The burning sensation slips into Alex's central nervous system and quickly spreads up and down her spine. The attackers are rapidly approaching, but Alex can't will her legs to move.
As a last ditch attempt, Alex constructs a shield around herself. Out of the corner of her eye, Alex sees that Billy is going down fast. _I feel so sleepy,_ Alex thinks. Wooziness permeates her brain and her eyesight becomes blurry. Alex slips slowly into a deep sleep.
* * *
Plink. Plink. Plink.
The fog slowly begins to clear in Alex's brain.
Plink. Plink. Plink. Alex groans and begins to stir.
"Alex? Alexandra?" Billy's voice cuts through the fog.
Plink. Plink. Plink.
"Billy, where are we?" Alex asks slowly.
"A Chinese water torture room, I believe," Billy jokes, wondering if she is ready for the truth.
"I think someone slipped me a mickey." Alex gently pushes herself up to a sitting position. She groans as another wave of nausea passes over her.
"I have good news and bad news," Billy begins. "The good news is that we are somewhere somewhat dry."
"Obviously," Alex replies, squinting to see in the dim light. "And the bad news?"
"I don't think we are alone."
Alex jumps at the thought.
"I didn't want to investigate until you were up and going again," Billy says. "Can you walk?"
Leaning more on Billy than she would care to admit, Alex drags herself to her feet. She takes a deep breath hoping to clear her brain with a rush of oxygen. She chokes and wheezes gagging on some latent water. "Ah, man!" Alex complains, grabbing her aching nose.
"I'm afraid that there is a painful side effect to underwater respiration--getting the water back out. I compressed as much water out of your lungs as I could, but we'll need a suction to get the rest out later."
"Wait a minute. Who did your lungs then?"
Billy points to himself. "Though you may not want to go over there. Unless you want to see remnants of my breakfast too."
"Eew," Alex cringes. "There's got to be a way out of here."
"I believe that we are in the hull of an alien ship or underwater vessel."
"How do you know?" Alex asks running her hands over the rusted bars of their jail.
"Aquitians don't use metal vessels in their corrosive environment. Even the Battle Borgs are made of a hard plastic-like polymer."
"Brilliant deduction, my dear Watson." Alex tugs on the bar. A low growl interrupts her.
"Oh, did I mention that we aren't alone?" Billy asks. A pair of red glowing eyes illuminate the darkness. The creature emits a hiss and slithers into a brighter spot.
"Oh man!" Alex exclaims as the alligator-like creature bares rows of razor-sharp teeth. The creature charges at the captors. It pokes its snout through the bars and snaps at Billy and Alex. The humans stumble backwards to get out of the way. Alex trips over an object and falls heavily to the ground. "OW!" Alex yells.
She leans forward to inspect the object. With a blood-curdling screech, Alex leaps to her feet and runs into Billy. "Billy, I don't know what the hell that is but I don't think it has been alive in a while."
Billy cautiously peers down at the darkened form. "I can't tell for sure in this light but I think it is an Aquitian."
"Billy of Earth?" a weak voice comes from the back of their metal prison.
"Yes, who are you? Where are you?" Alex takes a defensive stance.
"It's Aurico, the Red Aquitar Ranger."
"Aurico?! Keep talking so we can find you."
"We are all here," Aurico continues though barely above a whisper. "But we are weak and dehydrated. The leaking water of this space ship has kept us alive the past few days, but we need fresher water."
Billy and Alex soon come across three creatures crouched in the corner. In the dim light, Billy can't tell which one is Aurico. "One... two... three," Alex counts. "Then who is that?" She points in the direction of the corpse.
"Troas," Billy and Aurico answer at the same time.
"I'm afraid that we arrived too late. Troas was already dead when we found him," Aurico says. "Our morphing powers have prolonged our health."
"So where exactly are we?" Alex presses the question.
"Corcus," Aurico prompts.
The shadow reaches out his hand. In his weakened state, his lightning bolt glows more like a light bulb. The lit room reveals an approximately 20 x 20 foot metal area enclosed with bars. On the outside of the cage lies the alligator-like monster. Alex gasps in horror.
"The Vardon isn't happy about being enclosed either," Corcus says. "Look how its collar digs into its skin. It is cruel to capture such a beautiful creature."
Alex decides to keep her comment to herself. "Hey, there's our packs!" Billy says pointing to the wall behind the Vardon.
"And my morpher!" Alex says.
"Morpher?" The Aquitar Rangers look at one another.
"Sorry," Billy says. "Guys, this is Alexandra-Earth's newest Ranger."
"Something is coming!" Corcus quickly douses the light.
The Rangers wait in darkness and silence. The grinding-clinking-clanking noise becomes louder. A door slides open and five figures walk in. The Vardon growls and snaps at them. "Get that stupid reptile under control!" the biggest figure barks. "And turn on the damn lights!"
The lights come up quickly. The Rangers shield their eyes from the painful glare. "They're Cogs, in wet suits!" Billy gasps. "I thought those green clouds looked familiar. It was Cog oil!"
"How are our new captives?" the biggest machine asks. A smaller feminine machine removes a bow from her back and sends an explosive arrow into the captives' cell. The Rangers scramble backwards to escape the blast. Alex constructs an invisible shield around them. Sparks pour off the shield like rain. "Careful Archerina, darling. We don't want to damage our new specimens."
"Yes, my prince." Archerina replaces her bow on her back. "Gasket, look. The two new captives appear to be different from the other Aquitians."
"The Cogs found them snooping around the ship. They do look different. They're probably mutant Aquitians."
"That would explain their grotesque features," Archerina adds.
"Grotesque?!" Alex says indignantly. "I'll show her...."
"Down, Alex," Billy counsels. "Let's not show them all our cards yet."
Alex grumbles but backs down.
"What do you want with us?" Billy asks, walking to the front of the cage.
The Vardon hisses and struggles. It takes all three wetsuit-clad Cogs to control the beast. "Silence, insolent mutant!" Archerina commands while drawing her bow once again. Alex jumps to her feet, wondering if she can construct a force field in front of Billy before Archerina's arrow could hit him.
"Easy, my love," Prince Gasket soothes his wife. "I feel generous today. I will indulge the mutant. In a nutshell, we need fuel for our voyage."
"The Aquitians are a peaceful people. I'm sure that they would be willing to sell you any supplies you require," Billy says.
"Sell?" Prince Gasket laughes heartily. "The Machine Empire does not buy supplies. Let's just say that people gladly donate whatever I require. And presently, the Aquitians are graciously donating quertar oil right into our hull."
"Let us go then," Billy continues to negotiate. "I'm sure the Aquitians would gladly give you all the oil you require in exchange for our release."
"What, and have you squeal to the Centari that we will be hitting them up for Idod metal next? No, we will wait until the next meteor shower hits Centari and execute this brilliant plan again."
"What are we going to do with the trespassers, my love?" Archerina asks. "I could use some new servants."
"Darling, I just got you new servants on Rychor. You really must learn to control your temper. Plus, this kind requires too much water. See how quickly they dehydrate. They wouldn't make the trip to Centari. Oh the stench they would make."
"Let's keep them until they are no longer worth their keep. Then we can put them out with the rest of the space garbage," Archerina pouts, batting her metal eyelashes.
"Oh all right, my love. You may keep them--for a little while. I'll have the Cogs water them for you. But for now, let's return to our dehumidified chambers. This moisture is oppressive."
"I can't wait to leave this horrible place. Aquitar is no place for us machines."
"Come my darling, there's nothing a nice hot oil bath can't fix," Prince Gasket says, guiding Archerina out the door. "Cogs, water the prisoners. But not too much. We want them to be space hearty but not too strong." The door slides closed. One of the Cogs loosens its grip on the Vardon and walks to a large hatch below the confiscated packs. It opens the hatch part way allowing fresh sea water to gush in around the seams. Soon the cell is flooded with an inch of water. The Aquitians and the Vardon compete for the precious liquid.
* * *
"This should allow you to receive an audiovisual response from Earth," Cestro informs Adam, placing his tools back in their case.
"Any news from Delephine yet?" Cestria asks, coming into the cockpit.
"Not yet," Adam replies. "I wonder what is taking her so long?"
"Power Chamber to Super Zeo Zord IV. Earth to Adam. Come in Adam." Trini's voice is followed by her visual. "Sorry. Always wanted to say that."
"Hey, Trini, what did you find out?" Adam asks.
This female is the one they call Trini? The one Alexandra was speaking about? Cestro projects silently to Cestria. Cestria eyes her competition.
"I ran several tests using the data provided by Super Zeo Zord IV," Trini says, brushing her hair over her shoulder. "I think the data may have been skewed during transmission. What do the clouds look like to you?"
"Luminescent, lime green. Sort of a mixture between antifreeze and Cog oil," Adam says.
"Cog oil...," Trini's voice trails off. Her forehead wrinkles in concern. "Adam, call Billy and Alex back immediately."
"It is Cog oil. I don't know how or why but the Machine Empire is there!"
"Oh, man," Adam says softly. "That means...."
"Billy and Alex have swum into the lion's den," Trini answers.
"Oh, man," Adam's voice rises in intensity.
"Adam, hurry. Billy is in great danger. Alex can morph, but Billy doesn't stand a chance," Trini says and adds with a seriousness Adam had never seen before, "Adam, I'm depending on you to bring my love safely home to me."
"I promise. I will bring them both back. Don't worry."
Cestria struggles to integrate the emotions that have been thrust upon her. She analyzes the strong bond that obviously connects Billy to Trini. _Maybe these emotions are not a sign of weakness after all. Instead, they seem to give humans courage,_ Cestria contemplates silently.
"Cestro, tell Delphine that the meteor toss will have to wait," Adam interupts Cestria's thoughts. "If I'm not back in one hour, send a distress signal to Trini and the Earth Rangers."
"I will accompany you on your mission," Cestro volunteers.
"Cestro, outside this artificially cooled Zord, you will not survive in the heated water for long, even morphed," Cestria says.
"I appreciate the offer, Cestro," Adam says, "But...."
"Super Zeo Zord IV, this is Delphine. Can you hear me?" Delphine's visual replaces Trini's.
"Delphine, we have big trouble. The meteors are going to have to wait," Adam says.
"But Adam, there are no meteors," Delphine answers, her head twitching side to side. "The information received from Cestro's scanners have shown that the thermal energy is coming from one large metallic object not many meteors."
"This is going from bad to worse," Adam sighs.
"Adam, I do not have another canister of surfactant," Cestria says. "I will teleport back to the lab immediately and produce more."
"How long will it take?"
"An hour or more, I'm afraid."
"We can't wait that long. Zeo Ranger IV, Green!" Adam removes his helmet and places it on his chair. "Cestro, start flooding the foot in exactly 5 minutes."
"How will you locate them?" Cestro asks.
"Their coordinates have not changed in the last hour. Forty-two degrees northwest." Adam grabs the compass that Billy had made Alex leave behind off the console. Adam climbs down into the Zord's chest and locates the 30 minute supply of oxygen. His heart pounds rapidly as adrenaline rushes through his veins. He climbs into the foot and closes the hatch. _I've got to slow my breathing down if I'm going to make it._ Water rushes into the Zord's foot and quickly submerges Adam. He takes one last gulp of air and ducks out of the Zord into the open ocean. Lining up his compass, Adam swims towards the Machine Empire's ship.
_I just hope I can get there in time,_ Adam thinks and swims on.
* * *
Alex gawks as the Aquitians rapidly absorb the water through their feet. Soon the floor is only littered with small puddles of water. "Thank the Elders," Aurico says. "My strength is beginning to return."
"If Alex and I can get us out of the ship, could you three make it back to our Zord?" Billy asks quietly, while a Cog cuts off the flow of water.
"I believe so," Corcus says. Tideus and Aurico both nod.
"Um, Billy,I hate to burst your bubble, but we don't know in which direction Adam is anymore," Alex says and then adds sarcastically, "If only we had a compass."
"If we can locate Cestro's scanner, it would only take a few minor adjustments to start picking up Super Zeo Zord IV's postion. Then we'll back track."
The Cogs leave and take up their posts outside the prisoners' door. Sufficiently hydrated, the Vardon curls up for a nap underneath their backpacks. "Here we go," Alex says, rubbing her hands together. She gingerly "picks" up the lighter of the two packs and floats it across the small room. This awakens the beast and it snaps at the pack. One of the creature's sharp teeth snags in the buckle of the pack. The Vardon shakes its head violently trying to unhook itself. The pack clunks noisely on the floor. "Shh!" Alex says, gesticulating wildly at the monster.
"Wait," Tideus says. Then the Vardon stops moving.
"What?" Alex says in disbelief.
"I have him. Finish retrieving the bag."
Alex realizes that Tideus's stare is what holds the Vardon. "You're telepathic too?"
"All Aquitians are cerebrally enhanced to some degree," Corcus informs her.
"Please hurry. I can't hold him much longer," Tideus says.
Instead of retrieving Billy's pack though, Alex "grabs" her own. It magically unzips and the end of a strand of rope snakes out of the pack. It slithers across the floor and wraps around the Vardon's snout. After several loops, the rope slips down the monster's scaly chest and hog ties its legs. "That should keep him quiet and busy until we've escaped," Alex says, and floats both packs to the cell.
Billy stuggles to squeeze the packs through the bars. He grabs the slightly dented but still functioning scanner and begins reprogramming it. Alex digs out her morpher. "Power Ranger 6, Purple," Alex whispers.
"Morphing increases Alex's psi powers," Billy explains to the dumbfounded Aquitian Rangers.
"Stand back." Alex takes a firm grasp on the iron cell door. She pulls with her combined physical and mental strength. The rusty door squeaks loudly. Alex immediately stops.
"I've got an idea." Billy dumps the contents of Alex's pack on the floor. Rummaging through the mess, he sees the Chapstick. He snatches it up and goes to the cell door. Billy flicks off the cap and proceeds to smear the hinge with the lubricant.
"Billy, you're a genius! Move over McGyuver!" Alex pounds Billy on the back. Alex pulls again and the door swings open with minimal squeaking. The pair high-five each other.
"Now to take care of the guards without alerting the rest of the squad," Billy says.
"Stay right here for a minute." Alex leaves the cage, closing the door behind her. She pulls her staff off her hip, but doesn't extend it. Standing to the side of the huge metal door, Alex begins to lightly tap on the door with the end of her staff. She stops and listens. Nothing. She taps a little hard and then stops. The door slides open and one of the Cogs walks in. Alex levitates to the ceiling to escape detection.
The Cog looks around for the source of the noise. "Hey, Tinhead!" Billy yells before the Cog spots Alex. "I'm freakin' tired of being cooped up in here." The Cog walks up to the cage to inspect Billy.
As soon as the Cog is in range, the Aquitian Rangers throw open the cell door, slamming it into the droid with an audible clang. The Cog stumbles backwards as Billy leaves the cage. "Hiyah!" Billy flips the Cog over his shoulder and sends it sliding across the slick floor into the cell. Aurico's foot stops the Cog's slide. Tideus stands on the droid's back to prevent its escape. The other two Cogs on duty come through the door to inspect the noise. Alex falls from the ceiling, flattening the guards. The Aquitian Rangers grab the severely dented Cogs and add them to the growing pile in the cell. Corcus closes the cell door and uses a blast of his lightning power to melt the lock.
"The water outside is very warm. You should probably morph for extra protection," Billy advises his friends and hooks his pack around his waist.
"It's Morphin' Time. Rangers of Aquitar, we need full power," Aurico says softly.
"Yellow Aquitar Ranger Power," Tideus says.
"Black Aquitar Ranger Power," Corcus says.
"Red Aquitar Ranger Power." Aurico finishes the transformation.
Alex whistles, impressed and adds softly to Billy, "I like our uniforms better though."
Billy opens the door and peeks around the corner. "I think the antechamber is down this corridor and to the left."
"What are we waiting for then?" Alex asks, swinging her pack over her shoulder. "What about our fins and facemasks?"
"I'd rather not waste time looking for them. This place gives me the creeps. Can you make it without them?"
"Yeah, it will just take a little longer without the fins."
"Wait," Corcus says and goes back into the room. A second later, he returns with a wiggling Vardon. "I couldn't leave him behind."
The jailbirds sneak down the corridor towards the antechamber. Billy locates the door first and sets to work figuring out which buttons to push. Alex glances over her shoulder nervously. _Things are just too quiet,_ she thinks.
"C'mon, c'mon...come on...Bingo!" Billy says, finally finding the correct sequence. "The antechamber can only hold four people at a time. You all go and I'll follow in a minute."
"No way, Einstein. You three go and I'll come with Billy afterwards," Alex says, not wanting to be cooped up with the Vardon in close quarters.
"Whatever. I don't know how long it will take to drain the room, so go ahead and head towards the Zord. Have Adam turn on the beacon light, so that Alex and I can find our way back," Billy says as the door slides open.
"Good luck," Alex adds as the Aquitian Rangers and the Vardon cram into the small space.
* * *
The antechamber door opens and the Aquitians swim out. Aurico flips open Billy's scanner. This way, my friends, Aurico projects telepathically.
Corcus breaks the ropes and gives the Vardon a little push. The beast swims gracefully away into the coral beds. As the Rangers head for the dense kelp forest, Adam breaks through from the other side. Both sides immediately recognize each other. Adam notices that Aurico has Billy's scanner. _Billy must have reprogrammed it to pick up my Zord's signal,_ Adam thinks. _But where are Billy and Alex?_
Adam holds out his hand to the Aquitian Rangers and puts up one finger for each of them. He touches his last two fingers and shrugs.
The Aquitians look at each other trying to comprehend Adam's sign language. A light comes on for Tideus. Tideus gestures at the ship and the four swim back toward it. Corcus pushes the button to reactivate the antechamber. While the door begins to open, Adam gestures for the Aquitians to leave him. He knows that the heated water must be draining to them. They shake their heads. Adam practically pushes them away and the Aquitians reluctantly leave. Adam climbs through the opening door of the alien ship and waits for the chamber to empty. His oxygen tank suddenly registers empty.
* * *
"They're out," Billy says and pushes a green button to close the door. "Now to drain the room and we're outta here."
"We've got company!" Alex says as an energy bolt explodes above their heads. Billy does a dive roll to escape the next blast.
* * *
Adam slaps at all the multicolored buttons, hoping to hit the one that will drain the antechamber. Thankfully, the chamber begins to drain. Adam gasps for air as soon as the water recedes enough from the ceiling. The water rapidly drains until he is able to stand on the floor. Adam fights to catch his breath, his head still swimming from the lack of oxygen.
"Hiyah! Hiyah!" Adam can hear Alex and Billy's voices through the metal door. He removes his now empty air tank, facemask and fins and looks for a way to open the door.
* * *
"Can I show them all our cards now, Billy?" Alex asks while slamming her staff down on a Cog.
"Be my guest." Billy flips a Cog and blocks the punch of another.
Alex releases a psychic blast that reduces a trio of Cogs to a pile of metal and sparking wires. She sets her sights on another group of Cogs when an electric current runs through her back. Alex stumbles forward and into the floor as sparks ricochet off the back of her armor. She looks over her shoulder to see Archerina with her bow poised for another shot. Alex rolls to her left as another energy arrow is released. Flipping to her feet, Alex goes on the offensive. A blow from Alex's staff sends Archerina slamming backwards into Prince Gasket. As the two machines struggle to right themselves, Alex digs through her pack. "Billy, catch!" Alex flings her knife at him.
"Woah!" Billy catches the knife right before it hits him. He draws the dagger out of its sheath and brandishes it in front of the Cogs.
A high-pitched war cry makes Alex quickly turn back around. Archerina launches herself into the air and knocks Alex to the ground. Archerina uses the string of her bow to cut into Alex's throat, blocking her air supply. Alex struggles to pull her foot up so that she can flip a surprisingly heavy Archerina off her.
Prince Gasket laughs maniacally and pulls out his sword. "Now to take care of you once and for all!" A clang echoes through the corrider and Gasket sinks to the ground. "Adam...," Alex chokes out.
Archerina turns to see Adam wielding his oxygen cannister. Archerina's momentary lapse gives Alex the break she needs. Drawing her foot up underneath Archerina's body, Alex "pushes" Archerina across the room. "Metallic witch," Alex grumbles, rubbing her throat protectively.
"I could use a hand over here," Billy says before doing a backflip to escape a blast from the Cogs.
"You idiots!" Archerina screams.
The combined fire power of the 2 Cogs rips a fist-sized hole in the hull. Water sprays in. "C'mon Gasket. Come back on line!" Archerina whacks her husband in the back of the head with her bow. "We've go to get to the control room and seal this area off. We'll take care of these pests once we are in space. Cogs! Attack!" The Cogs turn up the intensity of the battle allowing Gasket and Archerina to slink off. Soon a metal door clangs down sealing off the area.
"Hurry up, guys. If they leave Aquitar, we're toast," Alex says, decapitating three Cogs with one fell swoop of her bo staff.
"Go get your tank Adam," Billy says. "Alex, how about opening the hole a little more."
"Uh, slight problem," Adam says, sending another Cog into the growing pile. "I'm out of air." ??? "Because my two best friends were in danger," Adam says, slamming another Cog into oblivion. "I couldn't just hang out in the Zord and do nothing." Actually, Adam had acted impulsively and was beginning to regret his decision.
A rumbling sends the friends jarring into one another. "They must be pulling up the oil drills to make a rapid departure," Billy guesses.
"Oil? So that's where the extra geothermal heat is coming from." Adam kicks the remaining Cog and sends it sparking to the heap. "Delphine reported that there weren't any meteors in this quadrant from the data she received from Cestro's scanners. And Trini's tests on the mysterious clouds revealed that they were Cog oil."
"Which we now know is actually quertar oil. But why did King Mondo send his son to come get it?"
"His son? Pirate Boy is related to Mondo?"
"By oil or by marriage, I'm not sure which. We didn't have a chance to inquire."
The rumbling ends.
"Can we discuss Mondo's family tree later, guys," Alex says impatiently. "We've got more pressing matters at hand."
Billy is silent, lost in thought for a moment. "The way I see it; Adam, you have two choices. Unfortunately, neither of them is pretty."
"Go ahead," Adam says seriously.
"One--we leave you on board somewhere that won't be filled with water. Then from your Zord, we'll send a distress signal to Earth. We'll bring our...I mean your...Zords into space and come after Gasket."
"How long will that take?"
"Honestly, probably at least four hours, depending on which route they take to Centari."
"IF they are still going to Centari," Alex adds. "Could you fend them off that long?"
"Um...what's choice number two?" Adam asks.
"You drown and we bring you back to life when we get back to the Zord," Billy says, almost apologetically.
"What kind of choices are those?!" Alex blurts out. "Let's just use his communicator and have Cestro teleport him back to his Zord."
Adam pulls back his glove to reveal a bare wrist. "I took it off before I left because I thought the water would ruin it."
Alex lets out a sigh of helplessness.
"So what do you want to do, Adam? Hurry. They're starting their engines. You must make a decision now," Billy presses.
Adam silently weighs the choices. "It looks like a die-die situation. Are you sure you could revive me?"
"I'll get Trini on the line as soon as we get back. She'll talk us through it."
"We're ascending!" Alex informs them.
"Okay, I'm leaving with you two," Adam answers.
"Start hyperventilating. Try to push as much oxygen into your blood stream as possible. Once we are out of the ship, let Alex and I drag you back. Swimming will use up your oxygen too quickly," Billy says.
Adam nods solemnly. "Rip the hull, Alex," Adam says and then begins hyperventilating.
Alex squeezes Adam's hand, too afraid to speak lest she burst into tears. Squating down to the rip, Alex grabs two sides of the rip and "pulls" the metal apart. Water roars in. Adam looks like he's about to go in front of a firing squad.
"Hurry!" Alex sees the sandy floor retreating quickly.
"Let's see... hmmm.... Got it." Billy rummages through the water until he finds what he's looking for--the concave, circular patella from a Cog's knee. "Adam, cup this around your nose and mouth after your last breath. This will keep the water out of your lungs a little better. Alex, it is your job to hold it there after Adam... passes out."
"Come on, we've got to go NOW!" Alex says as the water rises to her chin.
"Go, we'll be right behind you," Billy says.
Adam continues to pant.
Out of habit, Alex takes a big breath before dunking under the water. It takes some effort for Alex to force herself against the in-flowing water and through the hole. The force of the water pulls the pack off her shoulder and back into the ship's hull.
Alex treads water waiting for the guys to come through the hole. The ship ascends to 100 feet above her head and there are still no signs of Billy and Adam. Water seeps into her helmet causing her visor to fog up. Alex wipes at the visor from the outside, but it doesn't help.
"Power down," Alex gurgles. Her armor melts away and her morpher rematerializes in her hand. She decides to stuff it in her pack and realizes that she no longer has it. Alex looks around, but still doesn't see the missing pack. She unzips the top of her wetsuit and slips the device in, up against her clavicle. It digs into her skin, but she doesn't care. Alex glances up towards the ship.
"Hurry," Alex urges silently. "They must be having trouble coming against the force of the water."
Alex sees a flash of green in the rip. She "grabs" Adam's arm and yanks him out of the hull. Billy unceremoniously tumbles out behind him. Alex "pulls" them towards her. She notices that Adam's face is turning red.
Billy glances around the murky water, hoping to see Super Zeo Zord IV's beacon light. Adam notices the piercing green light first and points southeast. Billy grabs one of Adam's hands and, using a side stroke, drags Adam slowly through the water. Alex swims beside them, waiting until Adam passes out so that she can grab his other hand. Billy swims with all his might, but the Zord still seems a million miles away. Adam's face turns blue and he slips into unconsciousness. His grip on the mouthpiece loosens, and his armor disappears as Adam begins to die. Alex "presses" the Cog's patella against Adam's face for him and grabs Adam's now limp arm. The load lightens slightly as Adam's armor gives way to his street clothes. Even with their combined strength, the Rangers have only gotten to the entrance of the kelp forest.
Alex's heart races from exertion, and she hears the rush of blood in her ears. Her muscles burn from the build up of lactic acid.
"I can't quit now. But I'm so tired. Where is the calvary when you need them?" Alex thinks.
Completely in oxygen debt, Adam's face turns an ashen hue. The beacon light is getting brighter, but Billy calculates that they still have at least another fifteen minutes of swimming ahead of them.
_Adam has already been down without any oxygen about two minutes. I wonder how much brain damage he is going to acquire._ Billy gives Alex a reassuring smile, though he knows things aren't looking good. _We can't give up._
A flash of blue light catches Alex's attention and she points at it. Something is rapidly approaching. The pair stop swimming, and Alex constructs a force field in front of them.
_We don't have time for a fight,_ Alex thinks angrily.
The blue streak crashes into the invisible shield and ricochets off it. Backing up a few paces, the streak materializes into a person.
"CESTRO!" Billy and Alex say, though the water garbles their voices.
Cestro puts his hand up to his helmet and shakes his head, trying to recover from the blow. Alex immediately drops the shield. Not wasting any time, Cestro grabs Adam, placing his hand on the patella face mask. In a streak of blue light, the pair are gone. Billy and Alex resume swimming towards the beacon light. The distance closes faster without the added weight of Adam, but it is still an arduous task without their fins. Their hopes lighten as the Zord comes into view finally. The pair come to an abrupt hault as a white streak comes towards them. The streak materializes into Delphine, who grabs a hand of each the Earthians and pulls them through the water. Their travel is slower under the weight of two added people, but the trio arrive at the Zord's foot in thirty seconds. Delphine pushes the two into the foot and signals them to go on without her. She presses a button on her communicator and vanishes.
The water can't drain fast enough for Alex. The rawness of her nose and throat are only mild annoyances. Her mind is focused on only one thing: saving Adam. Both teens forcefully cough, trying to push the water out of their lungs.
"Do you remember CPR?" Alex asks between coughs.
"Sorta. I haven't done it in a while," Billy wheezes. "I'm sure Cestria is working on Adam."
"Yeah, right. She doesn't know any alien medicine, remember? She's probably just standing there letting more brain cells die," Alex says bitterly.
Billy winces at the criticism of his close Aquitian friend.
"Hurry up, dammit!" Alex pounds the button to open the hatch to the service elevator. As soon as it is open wide enough, Alex springs through. Billy climbs up the ladder as soon as it comes down. The service elevator creeps up the Zord's leg. Alex paces back and forth in the small elevator. Billy continues to cough, trying to remember his CPR lessons.
_Is it fifteen compressions to two breaths or five to one?_ he picks his brain.
The elevator finally creaks to a stop in the chest cavity. The door begins to slide open, Alex "pushes" it apart faster and bursts into the room.
"There you go, Cestria," a familiar voice says. "You're doing great. Four... five...."
Cestria gives Adam another breath.
"How long has it been now?" the voice asks.
"Two minutes," Cestro answers.
"Trini?!" Billy says.
"Thank God you're here," Alex says, rushing up to them. "Move it, Cestria. I'm here now."
"Four... five... I don't think so Alex," Trini says. "One... two... not with the amount of water still in your lungs. Four... five... Cestria is doing just fine. Stop and let's check his vitals."
Trini checks for a pulse and a breath. Cestria grabs her scanner. "Nothing," Cestria reports.
"We need to jump start Adam's heart," Trini says, resuming chest compressions.
"Would an electric current restart Adam's heart rhythm?" Cestria asks after giving Adam a breath.
"Yes, do you have a machine that is capable of doing this?" Trini asks, never breaking her rhythm.
"No," Cestria gives another breath. "Yes! Corcus! Corcus, could you produce a shock light enough to stimulate Adam's heart?"
"I can try," he answers.
"Place your hand here, over Adam's heart." Trini takes Corcus's hand and places it on Adam's exposed chest. She moves his hand down to cover Adam's sternum. "Can you give him a light, stimulating shock at approximately 600 volts," Trini asks.
Corcus looks at Cestria for clarification. Unsure of the conversion herself, Cestria gives Corcus a guestimate in Aquitian. Cautiously, Corcus gives Adam a small shock. Adam's body twitches slightly. "There is still no cardiac activity," Cestria reports.
"Again," Trini says. "A little more energy. Enough to make all his major muscle groups contract."
Corcus gives Adam a stronger jolt.
"I see cardiac activity," Cestria announces excitedly, showing her scanner to Trini.
"Yes! Come on, Adam. Come back to us," Trini encourages.
"Respiration is resuming."
"Why isn't he waking up?" Alex asks, frozen in her spot.
"Patience, Alex," Trini answers, but silently wonders the extent of brain damage that Adam has likely sustained.
"Delphine to Super Zeo Zord IV." Cestro's communicator sounds.
"We read you," Cestro answers.
"What is the status of the Rangers currently?"
"The Aquitian Rangers are dehydrated and suffering from heat exhaustion," Cestria reports. "Adam is in critical condition."
"As soon as Adam is stable, return to Tranquility Pod. I will alert Callipso to their conditions and have them prepare for further medical treatment upon your arrival."
"Affirmative," Cestria says. "Can you bring Aurico, Corcus and Tideus back with you? They are fit for travel."
"Yes. Prepare for teleportation to my Battle Borg."
In streaks of red, yellow and black light, the Aquitian Rangers disappear.
"Would you like me to pilot the Zord back to Tranquility Pod?" Cestro asks.
"Please," Billy answers, having had enough excitement for one day.
Alex nods mutely, never taking her eyes off of Adam. She kneels down beside Trini.
"On your signal," Cestro says and heads toward the ladder.
"Alex?" Trini gently shakes Alex to break her trance-like state and adds gently but firmly, "Alex, stay with us. Keep your head on straight and focus. I need you to help me keep Adam still while we rotate the Zord. Can you do it?"
"Go strap in," Billy says.
Cestria straps in on one bench and Trini on the opposite one. Billy looks at the space on either side of them. Who does he sit with? Alex notices his indecision.
"Would you just pick one already!" she snaps.
Billy straps in next to Cestria and Alex takes the seat next to Trini. Trini gives Alex a puzzled look.
"Ready to go, Cestro!" Billy yells up to the cockpit. He can feel Alex's glare boring through him.
The Zord's engines engage and they head toward Tranquility Pod. An uncomfortable silence looms over the Zord's occupants.
* * *
The door to the Medical Area wooshes open, and Trini walks out into the hallway. Billy sits on the floor slumped against the wall. He stands up as soon as he sees Trini. "Well?" Billy asks.
"I think Adam is going to be okay. Callipso's scanners found only a minute amount of dead brain cells. He said that by having Adam morph again, his body could repair the damage," Trini answers.
"Wow. That's something we couldn't do."
"Nope. That's why I'm glad you weren't in Adam's shoes." Trini throws her arms around Billy, but he doesn't return the embrace. Trini steps away, hurt and confused. "Billy, what's going on?"
"I'm...I'm not coming back to Earth."
"I've been invited to stay on Aquitar for a while and I'm think about taking them up on their offer."
"I don't understand. Why do you want to stay? The Earth is your home. Our home."
"I need to be alone for a while," Billy stammers out and retreats down the hall.
Trini watches him walk away, heartbroken. The door slides open again, and Alex enters the hallway. The look on Trini's face tells the whole story. "Trini, I'm so sorry," Alex says, giving her best friend a hug.
"But why?" Trini says quietly.
* * *
Billy heads to his former lab area, far off to the side of the Pod. The room is empty, and tarps cover the equipment in the tiny room. He uncovers the equipment and flips on his computer. He tries to recall the last experiment he was working on before he returned to Earth.
"Something that had to do with Hydro Hog," Billy remembers. "But what was it?"
He stares out the tiny porthole, looking for inspiration.
* * *
"OW! Take it easy, Trini!" Alex says.
"Oh, stop being such a big baby, Alex," Trini teases, inspecting the puncture wound on Alex's shoulder blade.
Trini grabs a bottle of antiseptic and begins cleaning the wound. Alex hisses from the sting of the antiseptic.
"Whatever they hit you with must have packed a wallop," Trini says.
"You get into more trouble than anybody I know. What would you do if I wasn't around to patch things up all the time?"
"Speaking of which," Alex says sheepishly. "I had a little mishap with my communicator."
"What did you do to it this time? Let me see it."
"I lost it."
"It wasn't my fault this time, honest. I had it in my pack when we left Gasket's ship, but when I got outside the whole pack was missing."
Alex adds, "And my morpher may have water damage."
Trini playfully throttles Alex and says, "Well, at least you didn't lose that too."
"Are you almost done? I'm cold."
"Whine, whine, whine. I think you're going to live. You'll probably need a tetnus shot when we get back though."
"How am I going to explain that one?" Alex jumps off the exam table situated across from Adam's table. She slides her arm back into her wet suit and zips it back up over her swimsuit.
"Ah, a sight for sore eyes." Adam struggles to sit up.
"Welcome back." Alex gives Adam a bearhug.
Adam groans from the pain.
"Easy, Alex. Adam's ribs are going to be sore for a little while," Trini says, instinctively grabbing Adam's arm and checking his pulse.
"I want to go home," Adam says.
"Me too. I think I've had enough water to last me a lifetime," Alex adds.
"How are you feeling?" Trini asks.
"Fuzzy," Adam replies. "But relieved to make it back. I had my doubts there for a while. Can someone fill me in on what I missed?"
"That's a long story." Alex hugs Adam gently. "Can I tell you on our long trip home?"
"I want to know how King Mondo got here," Trini says.
"He's not here, but his son was," Alex explains.
"No, Gasket and his metallic witch of a wife, Archerina." Alex rubs the sore muscles in her back which she had acquired from her fight with Archerina.
"I didn't know Mondo had a long-lost son."
"Well, I hope his long-lost son stays long-lost for a while," Adam says and the girls agree.
"We should brief the other Rangers about Mondo's rapidly expanding family tree when we get back," Trini suggests.
"Did you teleport all the way here?" Adam returns to his original train of thought.
"Yep. Actually, Zordon teleported me halfway and then handed me off to the Aquitians. They teleported me the rest of the way. I don't want to EVER do that again. I'm hitching a ride back with you two."
"Go find Billy and let's get out of here," Adam says.
Trini looks away.
"Billy's not coming with us," Alex explains.
"I'm sorry, Trini," Adam says, feeling like a heel.
"Trini, why don't you pilot Super Zeo Zord IV back? I'll switch with you later, if you get tired. I don't think Fly Boy here is up to the challenge quite yet." Alex attempts to bribe a smile out of Trini by adding, "Besides, you know we're better pilots than the guys anyway."
"You said it, girlfriend." Trini gives Alex a high five.
Adam gives them a mock "hmpf" of indignation.
* * *
Billy stares out into the water.
"Here, I'm different," Billy thinks. "I have a real purpose. I can make a difference. Cestria and I make a great team. With our combined intellect, we could make great changes in Aquitian history. On Earth, I'm just a big geek with an even bigger secret. What kind of life is that?"
A school of bright yellow-colored fish swim by. Unused, Billy's computer kicks into screensaver mode. Over a year had passed since Billy was last on Aquitar. He'd forgotten what he had programmed into his computer.
A collage of photos begins to blanket his screen. One by one a new photo appears until they begin to overlap. Billy smiles as he takes a trip down Memory Lane.
"Oh man, I look like such a dork," Billy says with a laugh as a group picture of the original Rangers appears. Zack makes bunny ears behind Billy's head.
The photo changes to one of him and Trini, morphed, for a publicity shot they had done for a "Just Say No to Drugs" event.
"Trini was always into something. Whacking putties or cleaning up the environment...."
The next picture is of Trini standing on a cliff giving him the peace sign.
"That was the day, Trini overcame her fear of heights."
The next picture causes Billy's heart to skip a beat. He leaps out of his chair and races out the door. He doesn't even bother to turn his computer off.
* * *
"Our friends," Callipso begins. "We would like to thank you again for coming to our aid. We are indebted to you."
"The way I see it, I think we're even now," Adam says, leaning heavily on Alex and Trini. He had insisted on walking to his Zord, but now couldn't wait to sit down again.
"Call on us anytime," Alex adds.
"And you the same," Delphine says.
"Take care of Billy for us," Trini says softly.
"He will be an asset to our Pod," Cestro answers.
Cestria scoots through the crowd of Aquitian Rangers and well-wishers. "Allow me to give Adam a sedative once you have boarded. It will make his trip back to Earth more comfortable."
Everyone says their final farewells and the Earth Rangers board their ship.
"Alright, already. I'm fine," Adam says as Cestria and Trini fuss over him.
Alex "floats" down from the cockpit. "I think everything is ready for you, Trini."
Trini takes a deep breath and turns to Cestria. "Thanks for all of your medical help, Cestria. I don't know what we would have done without you."
"It was your skill that saved Adam," Cestria demures. "Now I understand why Billy thinks so highly of you."
Trini squeezes out a final "thanks" and retreats to the cockpit before she loses her composure.
**I hope that you will return to Aquitar one day, Alexandra.** Cestria projects without turning around to face Alex.
"Why?" Alex answers.
"Why what?" Adam says.
**So that we can perfect your talent,** Cestria answers after turning around.
Alex notices that Cestria's lips never moved though she heard her perfectly.
"Why what?" Adam repeats.
"You...you did...he didn't...," Alex stammers, pointing to Cestria and then Adam.
"Alexandra is telepathic," Cestria says aloud for Adam's benefit.
"No, no. I'm telekinetic," Alex says.
**Can you hear me?**
"Yes, but I don't know how to answer you back," Alex says.
"What?" Adam says now totally confused.
"Alexandra can hear me, but she doesn't know how to consciously answer me. However, subconsciously she does."
"Now I'm confused too," Alex says and then a light comes on. "It was YOU talking to me when I thought I was dying."
Cestria nods. Alex flushes, hoping that she hadn't revealed too much of herself to Cestria during that intense time.
"I know that you are anxious to return to Earth, but I hope that one day you will return to Aquitar. Callipso could help you develop your talent," Cestria says.
"Yeah, maybe," Alex says, still trying to absorb all the information.
"I should go." Cestria gathers her medical belongings. "Delphine will signal when you are clear for departure."
* * *
Trini drums her fingers on the side of the pilot's chair. She looks at her watch for the third time in the last five minutes.
"What is taking so long?" Trini mumbles under her breath. "I just want to go home."
Trini unstraps herself and walks across the room to one of the computers. She runs diagnostic tests on the Zord to distract herself.
"Do you have room for one more?" Billy climbs into the cockpit, dufflebag swung over one shoulder.
Trini stands dumbfounded, wondering if she should hug him or slug him.
"You were right," Billy says, placing his dufflebag down and walking towards Trini. "The Earth is my home, OUR home."
"What made you change your mind?"
"All the accomplishments in the world don't mean anything, if you don't have someone to share them with. I need you, Trini. I need your intellect. I need your heroic spirit. I need your loving heart. I need the person who could look past the bookish exterior of a scared boy and see the man trying to get out."
Speechless, Trini throws her arms around Billy and this time, he returns her embrace.
"Super Zeo Zord IV, you are cleared for departure. Have a safe trip home," Delphine's voice interupts the moment.
"Affirmative," Trini and Billy say in unison and then laugh.
* * *
Cestria walks away from the crowds as the Zord pulls away. Hurt from Billy's last minute change of plans, she heads away from everyone to sort through her feelings. Without meaning to, she wanders down the corridor where she and Billy had first met. They had collided into one another not long after he had arrived on Aquitar, over a year ago. Cestria smiles remembering the abashed look on the strange Earthling's face as he scrambled to pick up her papers.
"The tiny closet of a lab they gave Billy is down here, but which room?" Cestria thinks.
A light further down the hall attracts her attention and Cestria heads towards it. She enters the room that was obviously vacated in a hurry.
"They even left the computer on." Cestria tsk-tsks at the waste of energy. "Somebody is going to get a reprimand."
Then she realizes who's computer it is.
The final picture is still frozen on his computer screen--the day Trini left for the Peace Summit.
* * *
..."Come on, one last shot before you go," Kimberly said. "Billy, you with Trini this time."
Billy adjusted his thick glasses and lumbered over to Trini. His overalls dwarfed his increasingly muscular frame. Kim had kept on him about ditching the overalls for regular jeans, but he found the overalls much more comfortable.
"I'm going to miss you, Billy," Trini said, with her famous heart-melting smile and teased, "Don't forget me while I'm gone."
"Don't... don't worry, I won't," Billy stammered out, embarrassed at his ineptness with the English language all of the sudden.
"Okay, stand a little closer to her, Billy," Kim said.
Billy scooted a little closer to Trini.
"Closer, closer, closer. Oh, for Pete sake. Trini doesn't bite, you know."
Trini threw her arms around Billy and pulled him in close to her.
"Is this close enough?" Trini joked.
Billy's glasses were pushed lop-sided as the two stood cheek to cheek.
"Perfect. I never want you to forget this day," Kim said.
Billy sighed and thought, Believe me, I won't._
Epilogue The water-laden space ship struggles through the Aquitian upper atmosphere and limps into space. Chunks of ice with pieces of Cogs imbedded in them are jettisoned into space as the machines attempt to clear the hull. Prince Gasket slumps into his pilot's chair with a moan. "I can't believe it," he whines. "My perfect plan--ruined!"
"There, there, darling," Archerina consoles him. "Let's return to our space station for repairs. We'll seek revenge another day." Gasket continues to pout.
"Next time, we'll be better prepared. I'll have Graken analyze this curiosity when we return." Archerina dangles the odd metallic bracelet with a stripe of purple on its band in front of Prince Gasket's face. He snatches it out of her hand and inspects it closely. "Yes," Gasket says, scratching his chin. "Perhaps this little trinket holds the information we need to defeat those mutant Aquitians."
"Maybe it will lead us right to them?" Archerina suggests. "Beware mutant Aquitians, your days are numbered. The House of Gadgetry is declaring war on you. We will meet again." Archerina and Prince Gasket explode into maniacal laughter. Meanwhile, their ship hobbles through space towards home.
Science Fact: The surfactant idea actually came from a discussion
in my Anatomy class a few years ago. Some infants are indeed born immaturely
and lack surfactant that will keep their lungs from collapsing. Infants
suffering from Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS) are given a synthetic
surfactant which tides them over until their bodies mature enough to do
so on their own.
Thanks Jeremy Ray for doublechecking my medical facts for accuracy!