Disclaimer: Zack. I don't own him. I do own any members of his family mentioned here that Saban didn't make first.

Silence of the Mind
by: Tarma Brighthawk

It was quiet on the plane. Too quiet. It made him think. Which wasn't necessarily a bad thing, but he had never been that inclined towards deep thought. That was more of Billy's thing. Zack's thing was dancing. It still floored him that he'd been selected as one of the peace delegates. He knew nothing about diplomacy or statesmanship. He knew dancing, hip-hop kedo, and saving the world, more or less in that order.

But it had been a good change, and during the last few years he had realized what the most important things in his life were. His friends. His hometown. Helping others. But not on the global front. Someone else would have to do that.

Zack Taylor belonged to Angel Grove. That was all there was to it. He had grown up there and it was where he wanted to spend the rest of his life. It had been a fun few years in Switzerland, and it had definitely improved his French to the point where he could actually carry on a functional conversation. But he had missed out on so much from back home. And he had been terrified a few times when he had watched the news and read the letters his friends had sent him. It wasn't that they didn't trust the newcomers to whom they had entrusted their powers, or that they didn't visit on occasion, but still...there was nothing like being there.

Besides...I really want a chance to meet that girl again. Aisha. He hadn't really gotten the chance to get to know her before they had left for Switzerland, and there had been something about the sparkle in her eyes that had drawn him as a moth to the flame. I don't want to make the same mistake that Trini did. He spared a glance for his dark-haired seatmate and saw a worried frown between her eyes. "Trini? Are you all right?"

She looked back at him, and smiled just the tiniest bit. "For now, Zack. For now." She turned to look back out the window, and Zack knew that she wasn't telling him the entire truth. But it didn't matter. Once they were in Florida and she was able to talk to Kim, then she would be all right. The two of them had absolutely no secrets from each other, and just seeing her oldest and best friend would be enough to cheer her up, he knew.

For him, things were going to be different. He would give his right arm to be hanging with Jason and Billy again. Oh, sure, Tommy was a bud too, he had fit in with them as if he'd grown up among them after that mess with the Sword of Darkness was over with. But it still hadn't quite been the same. It hadn't been bad. It just hadn't been the five of them anymore, and that had only marked the first of the changes. It sounds as if the Ranger world did a lot more changing than the rest of us did, though. New powers. New Zords. New villains. Even more new Rangers. I really want to meet Kat, Tanya, Justin. Words that were just names to him, but what he wanted to make into friends and allies. But that could come later. After Florida. After the Pan-Globals. After they saw Kim again. After the wounds of separation were finally healed.

I wonder if Kim's going to be surprised to see us there, he thought. We certainly didn't tell her we were coming. It's going to be good to see her, get caught up on things going on...

Zack smiled just the tiniest bit at the thought of how Kim would bounce around when they finally saw each other. She had sounded rather tired the last time they had talked on the phone; but that was probably because of her training. She was working at it day and night, practically knocking herself out in the quest to become the best.

She always has. I wonder who her new guy is. It was hard for him to think of Kim as being with anyone except Tommy; the bonds between the two of them had been made of steel, or so he had thought. Whoever he is, he's got to be awesome. I just wish we'd known about it beforehand. He and Trini had made a point of keeping in touch with the others, and the yearly conference calls had been like a breath of fresh air from home. In none of her letters or her calls had Kim hinted that she was dating anyone else until the actual letter to Tommy had been sent.

He glanced over at Trini, who was looking out the window at the ocean going by beneath them. He knew she was thinking most likely about Billy. She had almost constantly since they had arrived in Switzerland, and he knew she regretted not opening her mouth before departing home. Maybe we can get in touch with him on Aquitar or something. I'd like to meet this Cestria myself. I really want to find out about the girl who won Billy's heart.

Zack had known Billy for years, and even though he knew the young genius had conquered his deep-set fear of fish, he knew better than to think Billy would ever really want to remain on a planet made up totally of water forever. He almost drowned when we were seven. He can't possibly want to stay there.

He was the only one who knew about Billy's experience at that age. They had been at Zack's house; his mother had been asked to watch over the young Billy while his parents were out of town for a weekend. Billy had been overly fond of water even back then; the episode with the 'biting fish' had happened several months earlier, and now it was about to get worse. The two of them had been playing in the backyard, near the Taylors' pool, and Billy had gotten too near the edge and slipped.

Mrs. Taylor had managed to pull him out before any real damage was done to the young boy's body, but Billy's mind was irrevocably changed at that point: he hated water, fish, and swimming, more or less in that order. The odds he had ever overcome that hatred were practically astronomical, and Zack knew it. He asked me never to tell anyone about that little experience...I haven't, either. But something tells me that he loves this 'Cestria' about as much as I love Bulk and Skull.

Zack sighed just a little, stealing another glance at Trini. He wasn't overly surprised to see a tear falling down one cheek. "Trini? Are you all right?"

She glanced over at him, smiling faintly. "For now, Zack. For now." She turned to look back out the window, and he smiled just a little. He knew she wasn't going to be completely all right for a while yet. Trini was never all right unless she was with her friends.

But we will be with them soon. At least with one of them. He wanted to say something that would take Trini's sadness away, but the odds of that happening were fairly slim. Until she was with the 'old gang', it wasn't going to be completely right with her.

He glanced back at the magazine he plucked and paged briefly through it. Wonder what Florida is like? Sun and sand, I know, Kim's mentioned those enough. Plenty of nice people....he frowned just a bit. Why did romance keep popping up into his brain? He had been thinking about Aisha...Billy's romantic life...Kim's. Was someone trying to tell him something?

Zack had never really been the introspective type, but there it was. He was thinking. I sure have changed a lot...we all did...they've probably changed too.

In some ways, he hated the Peace Conference that they had left. Because of it, a group that had been together for years had been shattered. We were more than a group, more than a team, we were a family. One that hasn't been together in far too long.

Jason, Trini, Kim, Billy, himself, and Tommy. For years the first five had known each other, for almost a year and a half the six of them had defended the planet from Rita and Zedd. Then life...stupid life....had gotten in the way. I honestly can't remember why we ever signed up for that Conference anyway. All of them had known ahead of time that defending Earth was more important than anything to them. But when it happened...it had seemed like a good idea.

He frowned, his mind reaching back, reconstructing events. We were talking...laughing...then someone brought up the Peace Conference. Wanted to know if we were going to sign up for it. Zack's frown deepened as something hovered just out of his mental reach.

Oh, forget it, he sighed, leaning back in his seat and closing his eyes. The important part is, we quit and we're going to be with Kim. After that...who knows what we'll do! As long as we're together...

Sleep began to steal over him, and a faint smile replaced the upset expression. He knew when he woke up, he'd be in Florida with his friends. There he'd be happy again...he'd be whole again. He sighed deeply in his sleep. He could hardly wait....

The End