..........Cold wind howled, blowing over
a plain as dark and barren as Lord Zedd's heart. Tommy Oliver looked around
in confusion. "Where am I? What is this place?" The whipping
wind stole his words away, carrying them to the ends of the earth. Worried,
Tommy felt for his communicator and found it gone. Unconsciously, his voice
rose in frustration. "What's going on here?"
..........As if in answer to his question, a green light began to glow on the horizon, almost seeming to beckon to him. "Well, anything's got to be better than staying here," he grumbled, silently hoping that that was true as he set off in the direction of the glow. The emerald light reflected against the low clouds, making it impossible for him to judge how far he had to go.
..........After a timeless interval that could have been ten seconds or ten years, he suddenly came across a tower of black stone. Actually, ran into it would have been a better description. It seemed to rise out of nowhere in the space of a blink. Running his hands over the walls, he looked up to see green light pouring out of a window set high in the tower wall, and no other openings in sight. Suddenly, he knew that he had to get inside. He didn't know why, only that it was vital. Examining the rough basalt, he decided that it would make passable handholds.
..........Great, he thought to himself, just wonderful. Ever since Mondo's Quadrafighters blew me off the top of the Power Chamber, I've hated heights. Tossing off a quick prayer to whatever powers might be listening, he began to climb.
..........Finally, he reached the top. Sighing thankfully, he pulled himself through the window and into the room. Oddly enough, the green light had vanished without a trace. As he slowly rose to his feet, he looked around, absorbing his surroundings. The walls of the room were of the same rough basalt as the tower. The floor was covered with tiles, a mosaic of images that were for the most part hidden in the gloom. That was quite all right with Tommy, who had the very distinct feeling that he didn't want to see them better- or at all. In the center of the room was an altar, carved of some darkly glistening stone. Tommy would have bet the price of Rocky's next lunch that it was obsidian. On top of the altar was a small golden something that shone even in the dim light of the tower. Tommy crossed the floor and looked down to see that it was a coin. A Power Coin. It wasn't his White Coin, though, emblazoned with the symbol of the Falcon, or even the Tiger. Oh, no, it was his Green Coin, which had been in the possession of Tommy's clone the last time he'd seen it. Tommy swallowed the bile welling up in his throat, suppressing the flood of memories threatening to wash through him. He didn't want to deal with this, now or ever.
.........."I see you've found my treasure," a cold voice remarked from behind him. Tommy whirled to see the Green Ranger standing behind him, fully morphed. The other was lounging insolently against a wall, arms crossed nonchalantly across his chest.
.........."Hello, Tommy. Long time no see. How've you been?" the Green Ranger asked, pushing away from the wall. Slowly, he walked toward the other boy.
..........Tommy ignored his words, concentrating instead on studying his old foe. The Green Ranger looked much stronger than when Tommy had last seen him, and certainly stronger than when Tommy had last been him. His suit was a glittering emerald green and the Dragonshield sparkled, even in the dim light of the tower. Tommy thought he caught a predatory gleam in the dragon's eye, but dismissed it as his own imagination.
.........."What's the matter, Tommy? Kat got your tongue?" Green Ranger taunted.
.........."Leave Kat out of this," Tommy growled.
..........The Green Ranger shrugged, and Tommy could just imagine the oily smirk spreading across the features beneath the helmet. After all, he'd felt it on his own enough times. "It's good to see you again, bro," the Green Ranger spat contemptuously, using Tommy and Jason's old nickname for each other.
.........."Right, whatever," Tommy snorted. "Where are we?"
.........."This is my world, Tommy. Don't you feel at home here?"
.........."No way! This place is dead. We might as well be on the moon!"
.........."Ah, yes," the Green Ranger chuckled. "We always did have a liking for that place, you and I."
.........."Speak for yourself," Tommy shot back. "Why are we here?"
.........."You belong here, Tommy. Darkness is your destiny."
.........."NO!" Tommy yelled.
.........."Who are you trying to convince, me or yourself? You can't deny the darkness inside you. It's part of you."
.........."No," repeated Tommy, quieter this time.
..........The Green Ranger sighed. "For untold millennia, the Green powers were controlled by the forces of evil. You, pathetic Ranger, were the first to ever use them for good. No wonder you lost them."
..........Tommy raised one eyebrow. "If what you say is true, then it proves I'm not evil."
..........Amused, the Green Ranger shook his head. "Sorry, Holmes, but you're wrong. There may be bits of light in your soul, but your heart is dark on the whole. Why do you think Rita chose you?"
..........Something had been bothering Tommy throughout the conversation, and now he realized what it was. "You talk too differently, and know too much to just be my dark side. Who are you?"
.........."I am the spirit of the Green Coin, an amalgam of all those who have possessed the Coin over the centuries. I am the Green Power, and I've come to claim you."
.........."Not without a fight, you're not." Tommy fell into a fighting stance.
.........."Oh, please," Green Ranger waved contemptuously. "I don't have to fight you. Your personal darkness will fight for me." With a gesture, the room's windows disappeared and darkness began to flow out of the walls. "Hope you can swim!"
..........The black tide surged around Tommy's legs like a living thing, clinging tightly, trying to climb his body. The waves climbed higher and higher, singing a siren song of evil. Tommy thrashed, trying desperately to keep his head above water, but to no avail. The black flood climbed up, up, closing over him. Dimly, Tommy could hear the Green Ranger's evil laughter as the darkness seeped into his soul.
.........."NOOOO!" Tommy cried, sitting bolt upright in bed. His eyes darted around the room, trying to reassure himself that there was no black tide getting ready to close over him. He dropped his sweat-slick face into his hands with an inarticulate moan, just as his family ran in.
.........."Tommy, what happened," his mother asked, concerned.
.........."It- it's okay, Mom. Just a nightmare," he managed, smiling sickly at her.
.........."Tommy, this is the sixth night in a row that you've woken up screaming," his father told him. "This is the last straw. First thing in the morning, I'm making you an appointment to see a psychiatrist."
.........."Dad!" Tommy wailed. "I'm not crazy!"
.........."No one said you were, Tommy. Psychiatrists are trained to listen and help with problems, though, and I think you need that. You- we can't go on like this." With that, his parents turned and walked out of the room, leaving him with his sister and brother.
.........."Scoot over, Tommy," Chelsea ordered her "twin." He obeyed, and she hopped up on the bed to sit next to them. "Okay, spill your guts. What did you dream about?"
.........."Just your ordinary Angel Grove nightmare," he lied. "Monsters chasing me all over the place."
.........."Shyea, right," scoffed Teddy. The ten-year-old regarded him with skepticism. "We really believe that."
.........."Should we tell him?" Chelsea asked.
..........Teddy nodded. "It's the only way we'll get the truth out of him."
..........Chelsea turned back to Tommy. "Okay, mi hermano, we know. We know you're a Power Ranger."
.........."WHAT?" Tommy spluttered. "I mean, what are you talking about. Me, a Power Ranger? Get real."
..........Rolling his eyes, Teddy shook his head. "Duh, Tommy. Give us credit for some intelligence. You disappear all the time, you wear a weird-looking watch, you have all these unexplained bruises, and your girlfriend has an Australian accent just like the Pink Ranger!"
..........Taking up the litany, Chelsea continued. "When we first moved here, you suddenly became very cold, just when the Green Ranger appeared. When he joined the other Rangers, you suddenly had five very good friends. When he left the team, you became very depressed and stopped seeing your friends. Then the White Ranger appeared and you were happy as a clam, radiating energy. Every time one of your friends leaves, a Power Ranger gets taller or shorter, and their voices change. Plus, Green Ranger, White Ranger and Zeo Ranger V all have the same fighting style, your style. Remember, fighting styles are like fingerprints, and I've been trained to recognize them. I know you're a Ranger, and Teddy does too. Tell us what's wrong."
..........Tommy sighed. "Okay, you got me. Yes, I'm a Power Ranger, but no one's supposed to know about that. Can you two keep that secret?"
.........."Of course," Chelsea scoffed. "Now, what did you dream about?"
..........Tommy smiled. "To tell you the truth, I don't remember," he lied. He trusted Chelsea and Teddy implicitly, but he just didn't feel ready to tell anyone about his dream. "You know what Mom says. I've got a brain like a sieve."
.........."Bull," Teddy said quietly. "Tommy, just because you were adopted and we weren't, doesn't mean that we don't care about you. Please, let us in."
..........Tommy regarded his little brother with some surprise. He kept forgetting that Teddy was much wiser than his ten years would suggest. It was funny, in a way, how alike Tommy and Teddy were, despite the fact that they were not blood relatives. Both had long dark hair, melted-caramel-colored puppy dog eyes, and the sharp hawklike features that had every girl in the school trailing after Tommy. Even at ten, Teddy had the promise of height to equal his brother's, and was beginning to develop the fluid muscle tone of a martial artist. Teddy also had the same lopsided smile that melted any female heart it was turned on.
..........Tommy then turned to look at his sister. She too had the coloring, sharp features, and height that marked her brothers, and David Trueheart, Tommy's brother-by-blood. Unlike them, however, Chelsea wore her hair cropped close in a sensible cut. Like David, she shared Tommy's age and birthday, which is why she and Tommy had always considered themselves twins. Also a martial artist, she was a kung fu student, rather than taking karate like her brothers. As a result of the difference in style, she was more smoothly muscled. Most of her opponents thought that meant that she was not as strong. It was a mistake people only made once.
..........Tommy smiled. These two might not be his blood relatives, but they were his family all the same. He owed them the truth, but he didn't want to discuss his dream with anyone yet. "Guys, I can't talk about it. Maybe later, okay?"
..........Teddy grumbled and went back to his own room. Chelsea regarded her "twin" skeptically for a second. "Thomas T. Oliver, you are the most exasperating person I know. If you won't talk to me, talk to somebody, all right?"
..........He smiled. "Yes, Mother. Go back to bed, Chelse." Reluctantly, she did as she was told. Tommy flopped back down to the bed. It was going to be a long night.
..........The following Saturday, Tommy had his first appointment with Dr. Lita Kino, the psychiatrist his father had hired. Gingerly, Tommy walked up to the door and knocked. "It's open! Come on in!" called a voice from inside. Opening the door, Tommy saw a tall, attractive woman with shoulder-length brown hair shelving books. "You must be-," she broke off, glancing down at her calendar, "Tommy Oliver. Sorry you had to let yourself in, but my secretary Serena has the day off. Sit down, I'll be with you in a second."
..........Tommy lowered himself into a chair, watching Dr. Kino work. Finally she finished, sinking into her chair with a sigh of relief.
.........."Oh, you have no idea how glad I am to get off my feet!" As she smiled at him across the desk, Tommy noticed that she had startlingly green eyes that were set off perfectly by her forest green suit. No matter where I go, I can't seem to get away from that color, Tommy thought wryly.
.........."Look, Dr. Kino, let's get something straight. I'm only here because my dad said that I had to come. I don't have any problems, and I don't need your help."
..........She raised an eyebrow. "Your father says that you've woken up screaming for the past six nights. You don't consider that a problem?"
.........."They're just nightmares. I can handle them."
.........."Have you had dreams like these before?"
.........."Everybody has nightmares, Dr. Kino."
.........."Not everybody wakes up screaming six nights in a row, Tommy."
.........."So it's been a bad week."
.........."Luck of the draw?"
.........."Tommy, I can help you, but you have to let me do it. I can't do anything if you don't cooperate."
..........After Tommy left, Lita played the tape she had made of the session, shaking her head. Tommy had been totally uncooperative. No matter what avenue of discussion she had tried, no matter what questions she had asked, he had refused to answer. Politely but firmly he had shut her down. Lita had been a psychiatrist long enough to know when a patient was hiding something. The question was, what could a perfect, All-American kid like Tommy be hiding? Drinking, drugs? Lita shook her head. Not this kid. Lita had actually heard of Tommy before he made the appointment, and she knew that he was very vocal at anti-drug rallies throughout Angel Grove. He wasn't at all the type to be mixed up in drugs. What secret could he possibly be keeping that was eating him alive?
..........Tommy walked into the Youth Center and flopped down into a chair. After a second, he felt someone sit next to him. He didn't have to look to know that someone was Jason.
.........."Hey, Jase. How're you feeling?"
.........."Pretty good. How about you? I called your house this morning and your dad told me that you were out seeing a shrink. What's the matter?"
..........Tommy turned to regard his friend speculatively. Jason had been his best friend for years. Through thick and thin, no matter what crisis Tommy had experienced, Jason had been there to lend support. Tommy knew that Jason would never betray a confidence. If anyone could be trusted with his secret, it was Jason.
..........Quickly, Tommy outlined the dreams that he'd been having, finishing up with the one he'd had the night before. "Every time, the Green Ranger's there, turning me evil. I can't fight him; nothing I do has any effect. Maybe he's right, maybe I am destined for darkness."
.........."Man, that's crazy. You are not evil, you will never be evil. It's just a nightmare," Jason hissed.
.........."Is it?" Tommy asked, his voice cracking slightly. "There's more. I've been having blackouts, periods of lost time. I have no memory of what goes on, and people say that I've been doing things that I would never do. I think I'm losing my mind."
.........."You should talk to Zordon about this. Maybe this is some trick of Mondo's, or Rita and Zedd's. It could be one of their spells," Jason offered.
.........."And if it isn't?" Tommy replied belligerently, the violent undertone in his voice startling Jason immensely. "Zordon will strip me of my powers faster than you can say 'Dragonzord.'"
..........Jason steeled himself for what he had to say. "Maybe that's for the best." Seeing Tommy's eyes widen in surprise, he hurried on. "Look, man, I don't think you're losing it, but if you are, or if one of our 'friends' on the moon is trying to control you, don't you think that you should give them up? Think of the team," Jason entreated. "You're dangerous enough without powers. With 'em...." Jason shook his head.
..........Tommy thought about that for a while, then nodded. "You're right, buddy. Let's go see Zordon." The two boys rose from their seats and walked out of the youth center. Ernie, drying dishes behind the counter watched them go.
..........Jeez, he thought to himself, Tommy looks like a zombie. Check that. Zombies don't look scared to death. Worried, Ernie made up his mind to ask Jason what was going on. Not that he'd get a straight answer. Those kids had stopped giving him the whole truth two years ago. Still, he'd be able to get some answers just from reading Jason's body language. That'd have to be enough.
..........At the Power Chamber, Tommy told Zordon and Alpha about the dreams he'd been having. "Alpha, scan Tommy for spells," Zordon ordered. The little android waved a strange-looking device over Tommy, shaking his head as he did so.
.........."Ai yi yi, Zordon. No spell energy detected. He's clean."
..........Tommy deflated. "Great. I guess I really am losing my mind."
.........."Not necessarily, Tommy. You have been under a great deal of stress lately, but this does not mean that you are mentally unstable. Most likely this is simply a reaction to large amounts of stress. I do think that you should seek professional help, though."
.........."Oh, yeah, right. What am I supposed to do, walk up to my psychiatrist and say, 'Dr., I'm a Power Ranger, and I've been having some weird dreams?'" Tommy asked sarcastically.
.........."Why not?" Zordon replied calmly. "You are not the first Ranger to experience stress-related psychological trauma. The previous holders of the Power Coins often encountered the same troubles. The only difference is that they were able to reveal their identities. I suggest that you return to your psychiatrist, and if you think she can be trusted, bring her here and tell her the truth. First, however, I think that you should choose someone to take your place as the Red Ranger. During your treatment, you should be spared the stress of battles."
.........."Jase?" Tommy asked, turning towards his friend.
.........."I am afraid that Jason is still too weak from his encounter with the Gold Powers to support the Red ones. They would place too much of a strain on his recovering system."
..........Tommy thought for a second, then smiled. "I know the perfect choice." With that, he teleported out of the Power Chamber.
..........On the reservation close by the city of Angel Grove, a young man named David Trueheart sat on a flat rock, watching an eagle soar overhead. Suddenly he was alerted by the unmistakable skzrchh! of teletransport behind him. He whirled and leaped to his feet, ready for anything, and relaxed as he recognized the red glow that signaled the arrival of his brother Tommy.
.........."Hey, Tommy, what's up?" David's greeting died on his lips as he got a better look at his brother. Tommy's skin was pale, and he had dark circles under his eyes that only came from too many nights without sleep. Even his movements were jerky and uncoordinated, rather than the smooth motions so natural to him. "Man, you look like hell," David remarked, moving forward to grasp his brother's shoulders. "Sit down before you fall down."
..........Tommy did as he was ordered, and David sank down next to him. "Y'know, that's what I like about you, Dave. You really have a way of lifting my spirits," Tommy grinned. David snorted.
.........."What's wrong with you, Tommy?"
.........."I haven't been sleeping very well." Quickly, Tommy outlined the events of the past week, finishing up with Zordon's advice to him. "So we need a new Red Ranger, at least for a while."
..........David's mouth fell open. "ME?" he shouted, jumping up. "I wouldn't even know what to do!"
..........Tommy rose to his feet as well. It was the only way to avoid a crick in the neck. "It's not hard, Dave. You're already a martial artist, and the powers teach you everything you need to know about handling them. Just follow Adam's orders and you'll do fine."
..........David raised an eyebrow. "Adam's your second-in-command?"
.........."No reason. I just always thought it was Rocky."
.........."Nah, Rocky's a great guy, but he's not a leader and everybody knows it. Adam, on the other hand, is a natural leader, although he'd blush if you said so. C'mon, Dave, what do you say?"
.........."All right, Tommy, I'm in." With that, the two boys teleported back to the Power Chamber in two flashes of light, one red and one white.
..........Taking a deep breath, Tommy entered the waiting room of Dr. Kino's office. Serena, the pretty blonde secretary, smiled at him. "Go on in, Tommy. The doctor is waiting for you."
..........Pushing open the door to Dr. Kino's office, Tommy saw her sitting at the desk. When he entered, she looked up and smiled at him. "Hey, Tommy. Since you called and asked for an emergency appointment today, I'll assume you're not here for another fruitless session of noncooperation."
..........Tommy smiled lopsidedly at her. Jeez, he thought to himself, was I THAT bad? Aloud, he replied, "No, Dr. Kino, I've decided to cooperate. I do need your help after all."
.........."All right!" She pumped one fist in the air. "Sit down and let's get cracking."
.........."Um, actually, I need to show you something first. Would you come with me?"
..........She regarded him for a second, then shrugged. "All right, just let me tell Serena to hold my calls," she told him, rising from her chair.
.........."Actually, you won't have to do that. She won't even know that you're gone." He extended his left hand to her. After looking at it for a moment, she sighed and took it. Quickly, Tommy hit the teleport button on it, transporting them both instantly to the Power Chamber.
.........."Tommy, what was that? I have never --," Her voice broke off as she absorbed her surroundings. "Tommy, where are we?" she asked in a small voice.
.........."This is the Power Chamber, center of operations for the Power Rangers. Welcome, Dr. Kino," Zordon boomed.
.........."The Power- Who are you? Why am I here?" She whirled on Tommy. "Okay, Oliver, spill your guts. I want some answers," she growled.
.........."Whoa, whoa!" Tommy raised his hands defensively. "That's Zordon. He's sort of our mentor."
.........."Our?" Dr. Kino inquired, raising one eyebrow.
..........Ignoring her question, Tommy turned towards the shadows, calling, "Guys, could you come out here, please?" Out of the shadows stepped five teenagers, two girls and three boys.
.........."I'm Katherine Hilliard, Zeo Ranger I, Pink," the blonde girl said.
..........Next to speak was the black girl in the yellow T-shirt. "Tanya Sloan, Zeo Ranger II, Yellow."
.........."Rocky De Santos, Zeo Ranger III, Blue," smiled the young Hispanic boy next to Tanya.
..........The next to introduce himself was a young Korean boy in a green sweatshirt. "Adam Park, Zeo Ranger IV, Green."
..........The last to step out of the shadows was a tall boy who, Dr. Kino noticed, bore an astounding resemblance to Tommy. "David Trueheart. I'm Tommy's brother and Zeo Ranger V, Red- but only temporarily."
.........."And I'm Jason Scott, formerly the Gold Ranger," declared a voice behind her. Out of the darkness stepped a tall, well-built seventeen-year-old with dark hair, dark eyes, and skin the color of cream. To Dr. Kino's trained eye, he appeared to be recovering from the effects of exhaustion.
..........Ignoring Jason's condition for the time being, she turned back to Tommy. "How do you know the Power Rangers? Why did you bring me here?"
.........."You see, I used to be a Power Ranger, up until Saturday, in fact. The reason I brought you here is because my problems are tied into my having been a Ranger, and I didn't think that I could explain them to you without revealing that fact," Tommy told her seriously. "No one can know that we're the Power Rangers, not even our parents. Of course, we aren't always able to keep it secret," he grimaced. "My brother and sister figured it out for themselves a couple days ago. Still, we'd like to keep the number of people who know our identities down."
..........Dr. Kino nodded. "I understand. So what problems are you having?"
.........."That's a very long story, Dr. Kino, and it's tightly interwoven with the history of the Power Rangers. I might as well tell you the whole story. It started about two and a half years ago...."
..........The other Rangers listened raptly to Tommy's story, for a number of different reasons. Tanya, of course, knew almost none of the history of the Power Rangers. None of the others had ever thought to sit her down and tell her everything that had happened between the beginning and the present. They had only told her what she needed to know for the situation at hand.
..........Kat listened because she had once been evil herself. Tommy had shared bits of his experience with her, but this was the first chance she had had to hear the whole thing all in his own words. So much of what she knew about Tommy was gleaned from her conversations with Kim, and she was eager to learn more about him.
..........Rocky and Adam listened to the story and tried to connect the Green Ranger that Tommy was describing with the noble, kind leader that they knew. Their image of the Green Ranger was of the heroic, tragic figure who gave up his powers to save his friends. The only experience that they had had with the evil Green Ranger had been too brief for them to learn anything about him.
..........Jason listened for a very different reason. He knew the story like the back of his hand, having lived parts of it, and had gone over Tommy's side of it thousands of times when his friend was in the grip of a guilt trip. None of the elements were new to him; rather, it was the way Tommy told it that held his attention. He can't create a story, Jason thought to himself, but he can tell one with the best of 'em. His kids and grandkids will be lucky someday. Suddenly, Jason was jolted by an unpleasant realization. The chances were fairly good that none of them would live to have any children at all.
.........."So that's everything," Tommy said, drawing the story to a close. "Do you think I'm going crazy?"
..........Dr. Kino shook her head. "I don't think so, Tommy. You've just been under a lot of stress lately. You lost the powers that Zordon assured you could never be taken away, one of your friends wound up powerless, your longtime girlfriend broke up with you, you found and nearly lost a brother that you never knew you had, you had to learn to control a new Zord, a villain turned you against your friends again, another of your friends began losing his powers, and your friend Billy left to live on another planet. I'd say that this is just a classic case of the mind dragging up bad memories in times of stress. To make sure, I'd like to take you back to my office and put you under hypnosis."
..........Tommy shrugged. "That sounds okay to me, Dr. Kino." He took her hand and teleported them back to her office. Once there, she sat him down in a chair and told him to relax.
.........."Okay, Tommy, just close your eyes. I want you to imagine that you're getting lighter and lighter, all your tension is floating away. Now, picture yourself walking down a flight of stairs. With each step you tell yourself, 'I am going deeper and deeper into a trance.' Good." She stopped. Tommy appeared to be deeply asleep. As she had surmised from his description of Rita's spell, Tommy was a deep trance subject. In fact, he went deeper and faster into a trance than any patient she had ever hypnotized.
.........."Tommy, can you hear me?"
.........."Yes," he replied, slurring his words slightly.
.........."Good. I want you to picture a clock, the clock on the wall at school. Can you see it?"
.........."All right, now I want you to see the hands of that clock running backwards, and as they run, time itself is running backwards. It's getting earlier and earlier as those hands run."
..........A small smile crossed the blankness of Tommy's face. "Seen that before. When Zedd 'n' Master Vile turned us into kids, clocks did the same thing."
..........Dr. Kino smiled. "Well, we're not going to take you that far back. I just want you to go back to the last time you woke up from a black-out. Where are you?"
.........."I'm at the Youth Center. I don't remember why I came or how I got here."
.........."Okay, now I want you to go back two minutes. Where are you?"
Tommy's face changed, the blankness replaced by a chilling cold. When he spoke, his voice held an icy, sneering quality. "I'm right outside."
..........Dr. Kino sat up, frowning. This was not the same person she had been talking to. A nasty little suspicion entered her mind as she asked, "Who are you?"
.........."I have no name."
.........."What do people call you?"
.........."They call me Tommy because they can't see behind the face."
.........."If people knew you, what would they call you?"
..........Again the icy smile. "The Green Ranger."
..........She continued to question him, marveling at the patterns of his words, which were completely different from Tommy's. She didn't blame the kid for considering the Green Ranger a separate entity. She wouldn't want to claim him either.
..........As she asked him more, she began to build a very frightening picture of the Green Ranger. He was cold and ruthless, totally without emotion. Only one thing seemed to draw any warmth from him- Kimberly. Finally, she gave the Green Ranger a suggestion to stay hidden for a while and brought Tommy out of the trance.
.........."Did it work?" he asked innocently.
..........Ignoring him, she wobbled to the door and opened it. "Serena," she asked shakily, "do I have any more appointments today?"
.........."Just Mrs. Breckinridge," Serena answered, her distaste obvious. A rich, overweight woman who loved no one and nothing but her Chihuahua, Mrs. Elisandra Breckinridge's snobbish attitude annoyed Serena immensely.
.........."Call her up and cancel it. Tell her to take her case to Schuster. Say I have the Panamanian Flying Chicken Pox or something. Make it sound like Latin and she'll be impressed."
.........."Yes ma'am," Serena grinned. She began the phone call even as Dr. Kino shut the door.
.........."Dr. Kino, are you all right?" Tommy asked.
..........Still ignoring him, she crossed to the bust of Freud that sat on a large oaken pedestal. She twisted Freud's nose and the pedestal popped open, revealing itself as a large wood-pattern fridge. Pulling out a can of Jolt, she popped the top and took a long swallow, all in one smooth motion. Sighing, she sank into her chair. "Yes, Tommy, I'm all right, but you may not be once you hear my diagnosis. Could you call your friends here, please? I'd like to only have to explain this once."
..........Tapping his communicator, Tommy called in the rest of the Rangers. The six teens teleported in and found themselves seats. When everyone was comfortable, Dr. Kino began to speak. "Do any of you know anything about Multiple Personality Disorder?"
..........Tommy and Adam nodded. "It's a dissociative disorder where a person creates a second personality to deal with some sort of trauma. They can't handle it with their conscious mind, so a new consciousness is formed," Adam said.
.........."The personalities are usually radically different. Often, the primary personality is unaware of the secondary, but not the other way around," Tommy added. The other Rangers regarded him in astonishment. "Hey, I read a lot about psychology after my stint as the Green Ranger, especially aberrant psychology. I wanted to know what I was in for."
.........."Multiple personality cases are pretty rare," Dr. Kino informed them. "There have only been a few hundred cases reported worldwide. It looks like we've run across another one."
.........."Tommy?" Kat gasped.
..........Dr. Kino nodded. "Yes. When I brought him back here, I put him under hypnosis to substantiate my diagnosis. I regressed him to the point where he was in one of his lost-time periods, and I discovered a second personality that calls itself the Green Ranger.
.........."Here's what I think happened. When Rita put Tommy under the spell, he was too stubborn to let the spell take him over all the way. As a result, the spell had to create a personality to run the body, since it couldn't use Tommy's. It copied large parts of Tommy's personality, making changes where it had to, and created the Green Ranger. This new personality had Tommy's intelligence, his fighter's instincts, and his love for Kimberly." She noticed Kat wince at this point, but ignored it.
.........."Because this personality was created from Tommy, he naturally felt a great deal of guilt over it's actions. He walled himself off from it, ceasing to struggle with it for dominance. This probably saved his sanity, but allowed the Green Ranger to entrench himself in Tommy's mind. Only when the Green Ranger tried to destroy Jason did Tommy come forward. No matter what, Tommy could not allow an innocent person to be hurt. He attempted to take control of the body, causing the Green Ranger to hesitate just long enough for Billy to transport Jason out.
.........."When the Rangers broke the spell, the Green Ranger was no longer able to maintain his dominant position in Tommy's mind. Tommy's will was simply too strong. However, since he was created from parts of Tommy's personality, he didn't just dissipate the way an overlaid personality would have- and did, in your case, Kat. Tommy's guilt and instinctive need to have someone to blame his actions on kept him from dissolving into his component parts. Instead, he simply faded to the back of Tommy's mind, becoming dormant, merely coloring Tommy's thoughts."
.........."That's why I was always so depressed!" Tommy exclaimed.
..........Dr. Kino nodded. "Yes. Because the Green Ranger had not completely dissolved, you had no sense of closure, no feeling that part of your life was over. The Green Powers kept him in the back of your mind because to use them, you needed to accept that part of yourself, at least to some extent.
.........."Tommy's power loss, his first one, made the situation worse. Since he was no longer a Ranger, he no longer had the opportunity to make up for what he'd done, worsening his depression. Also, since he didn't need the Green Power anymore, he didn't need to accept what he was, and began to dissociate from the Green Ranger in earnest.
.........."The call back to action halted that process, but also set the stage for more serious problems down the road. With his powers running out, Tommy had, in effect, a time bomb hanging over his head. Since the powers failed at the most inopportune times, he began to regard them as almost a liability. With Zedd's concentration on turning him evil again, that idea was reinforced many times.
.........."Finally the Green Powers left Tommy for good. This would have been the ideal time for him to deal with the lingering guilt he felt, but he didn't have the know-how or the time. Zordon called him to be the White Ranger.
.........."In a way, Tommy's stint as the White Ranger was the most psychologically damaging event since the casting of the actual spell. The White Ranger was the embodiment of goodness, the perfect Ranger. Tommy had that to live up to, while still carrying around his guilt and the gnawing fear that he wasn't good enough for that position. I would surmise that during that period, Tommy went out of his way to be the perfect leader and Ranger, right?" She looked at Rocky and Adam.
..........Rocky nodded. "She's right, man. At first, we thought you were a bit of a glory hog, but then Billy took us aside and explained that you were so paranoid about being an albatross around our necks that you always wanted to shoulder more than your share of the responsibility. He told us about when you were losing your powers, how you felt helpless and were determined not to go through that again."
..........Tommy blushed. Dr. Kino looked at Rocky in some surprise. "I'm sorry that I never met Billy. He sounds like excellent psychologist material."
.........."The constant erosion of the team was almost as bad for Tommy. As each Ranger left, he relived his own experiences, undergoing constant reminders of the things he had been through. The Power Rangers had been the one constant in Tommy's life, and slowly but surely, they were being changed to something unrecognizable. Tommy, I'll bet that you felt very uncomfortable when you first saw the new Zeo costumes, right?" Tommy nodded, surprised. "The costumes were the last link with the Rangers you joined. The team is all different people now, especially since Jason spends little to no time with you when you're Rangers. At least Billy was there in the Power Chamber, but with him gone, the Rangers you knew are officially finished.
.........."The current stresses were simply the last straw. Gasket's brainwashing and the numerous power losses experienced by members of the team were especially bad, considering how they were charged with negative connotations for Tommy. With everything he understood falling apart around him, it's no wonder that the Green Ranger began to become dominant. This was exactly the opportunity he'd been waiting for."
..........The group was silent for a while, considering the implications of what Dr. Kino had told them. Finally, Jason spoke. "So what do we do?"
..........She sighed. "First, you guys should start calling me Lita. We're going to be seeing a lot of each other, and having you call me Dr. Kino makes me feel old. As to treatment, I would normally schedule a series of appointments and have the patient go about his daily life, but since Tommy's other personality is homicidal and a very efficient killer, that's not an option. Luckily, you kids caught me at a slow period. I've just discharged two patients, have one follow-up session each with two more, and just got rid of Mrs. Breckenridge. I can easily take some time off to do some intense work with Tommy. If I were in this situation with anyone else, I'd take him to a sanitarium, but the nature of Tommy's problem precludes that. Is there anywhere I can take him where no one will disturb us for an extended period of time?"
.........."My parents built a cabin up in the Birch Hills National Forest.," Rocky volunteered. "My mom hasn't been up there since my dad died, but my older brother Pedro and I keep it clean. We could go up there. It's isolated, and hard for the Cogs to get into."
.........."Thanks, Rocky," Lita said gratefully. "Tommy, does that sound good to you?"
..........Tommy frowned. "My main worry is being alone up there. It may be well-defended from outside attack, but what about inside attack? If we're alone, and the Green Ranger takes over...."
.........."I'll come with you. I can easily tell my mom that I'm spending a few weeks up at the cabin with friends. She won't mind," Rocky told him.
.........."Rocko, I can't ask you to do that. It's too dangerous. The Green Ranger is a stone-cold killer."
.........."Like danger scares me? Mondo's goons aren't exactly creampuffs, you know."
.........."We'll both go," Jason broke in flatly. He was using his "leader voice," the one that nobody argued with. Even now Tommy obeyed instantly when he heard it.
.........."I know how the Green Ranger thinks," Jason continued. "I know him better than anyone except Tommy. I may not have any Powers, but with Rocky to back me up, I shouldn't need them."
.........."Tommy?" Lita asked.
.........."All right," Tommy sighed. "I'll go home and run it by my parents, but they shouldn't give me any trouble. They'll be too overjoyed that I'm getting help. Lita, I'll call you tonight with their answer."
.........."Okay," she said. "Barring parental objections, we should be ready to go three days from now."
..........Three days later, the group met in the Youth Center before their trip. Actually, Jason, Tommy, and Rocky met there. Lita hadn't arrived yet.
.........."You up to this, Jase?" Tommy asked, concerned.
..........Jason nodded. "It's certainly better than waiting around for you guys to come back- or not."
.........."I know what you mean," Tommy laughed humorlessly. "Being helpless is not a fun feeling."
.........."'They also serve who stand and wait,'" Rocky interjected suddenly. "Milton. What?" he asked, as his two friends stared at him.
.........."Never mind," Tommy shook his head. He'd never understand how Rocky could be so out of it and still come up with the perfect quote for every occasion.
.........."Hey guys!" Lita called, waving to them from the door of the Youth Center. As she entered, she caught the attention of the three boys- and every male over age ten within eyeshot. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail and her green flannel shirt and blue jeans showed off an athletic figure.
.........."We ready to go?" she asked, crossing to where they stood.
.........."Yeah," Rocky told her. "Let's go load your gear into the Explorer and get going."
..........In the parking lot, Rocky and Jason quickly piled all of Lita's things into the back of Rocky's Ford Explorer. The truck, Lita noticed, was blue. It figures, she thought wryly. These kids appear to be psychologically drawn to their respective colors. I wonder if their parents notice their monochromatic wardrobe. Lita would have given a great deal to be able to see inside the Rangers' closets before and after they were tapped by Zordon.
..........The trip up was uneventful, for which Lita gave thanks. Tommy's friends had delicately warned her that her patient was a trouble magnet, a walking example of Murphy's Law. As Rocky had said, "Oliver's corollary to Murphy's Law reads, 'Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, and will probably be loaded for bear.'" Lita didn't think that she could have handled a Cog attack in her present state of exhaustion.
..........The De Santos family cabin actually turned out to be a large farm-house style dwelling. "Rocky, are you sure that we can all fit in here?" Tommy asked.
.........."Tommy," Rocky puffed, pulling his duffel bag out of the back of the truck, "it wasn't an accident that my parents had eight kids. I could put the AGH football team up in here without significant crowding."
.........."Oh," Tommy managed, blushing almost the color his Ranger suit had been. To forestall further conversation, he grabbed his luggage and headed for the house. Suppressing giggles, the other three followed him.
..........After stowing their gear, Lita and Jason headed down to the library. She wanted to ask him some questions about the Green Ranger, to better understand him.
..........The library was a cozy room, its walls completely covered by bookshelves that were thickly stacked with well-worn books. "Well," Jason managed. "I guess we know where Rocky got his passion for literature from."
..........Lita nodded. Whoever the library had belonged to had certainly been in love with the printed word.
.........."So," Jason asked, sinking into a chair, "what exactly did you want to know?"
..........Lita sighed. "I'd like you to tell me about the Green Ranger, and about Tommy during that time period. Not the events, but your impressions and reactions to those two."
..........Jason exhaled in a long breath. "Well, let me see. My first impression of Tommy was during the fight at the Youth Center. We were scheduled to compete in an exhibition match at the local Martial Arts Expo. We sparred, and I realized pretty quickly that he was better than I was. That sort of threw me. I'd been the best in Angel Grove for so long that I didn't really know how to react to it. I tell my students that there's always someone better, but" he shrugged, "I guess I never thought that I'd meet them."
.........."The match was a tie, but we both knew that if it had been a real fight, he would have won. When I shook his hand, I could see that he knew it, and he wasn't stuck up about it or anything." Jason snorted. "I remember thinking that he would have made a good Ranger."
.........."When Kim told me about how he saved her from Bulk and Skull, I knew I liked him. Bulk's big enough to be intimidating, if you don't know how dumb he is, but Tommy stood up to him without a problem. Then, even though he was obviously trying to impress Kim, he didn't do anything but scare Bulk and Skull. He didn't have to prove how good he was by beating somebody weaker than he. I knew then that he was a good guy."
.........."Then the Green Ranger appeared, knocking us out of our Zords. I fought him, one on one, and he beat me! He was better than I was too! Then we had to run away from him, back to see how Alpha was. I was never so angry in my life. I hated running away, and I hated the Green Ranger for making it necessary."
.........."When I wound up in the Dark Dimension, first fighting Goldar and then the Green Ranger, I learned a lot about him. First off, he let me get to my feet before he attacked me, not out of honor, but because there was no challenge in attacking an opponent who couldn't fight back. We fought, and I learned why he was better than I. He never lost his temper. I have a problem with fighting with my head instead of my heart, and he took advantage of that.
.........."When the Green Ranger knocked me to the ground and got ready to run me through with his sword, I was more frightened than I have ever been in my life. Rita's monsters, even Goldar, didn't seem exactly real. Oh, sure, I always knew that I could die, but this was when I really knew it. After I got home that night, I made out my will."
..........Lita leaned forward. "You have a will?" she asked. She didn't know why that surprised her. These kids were so responsible, so unnaturally mature, that wills seemed exactly right somehow.
.........."Yeah," Jason nodded. "We all do. You see, when you become a Ranger, it takes a while to sink in that you might not win. Sooner or later, though, every Ranger has an experience where they wind up staring Death in the face, where the consequences of losing are brought home to them. In this fight, the stakes aren't just your pride, or even your life. If you fail as a Ranger, you die, and everyone and everything that you care about goes with you.
.........."Tommy calls it "the test," but I think Zack put it best. We were up late one night, talking, and I brought this subject up. Zack calls it the "baptism of fire." The name sort of stuck."
.........."Interesting," Lita murmured. "Has Tommy undergone this process?"
.........."Oh, yeah. It was his time as Rita's Green Ranger. Being on the giving end of this stuff showed him quite quickly what awaited him if he lost. Tommy doesn't even have the luxury of knowing he'll die. If Tommy loses a battle, Mondo or Zedd will take him and turn him evil again. He'd rather die than return to what he was."
.........."How would you describe Tommy's behavior as one of Zordon's Rangers?"
.........."Driven. He wants so badly to prove that he's a good guy, and the sad thing is that no one doubts that anymore. Look at the current team. They almost treat Tommy like a god, or at least a figure out of myth. Without Billy, I'm the only one who remembers him as he was, a haunted, driven man. He says that he's put it behind him, but I know he hasn't. I can still see it in his eyes.
.........."Everybody approaches this fight differently. Rocky sees it as the ultimate high. It's not that he doesn't understand the seriousness of his situation, it's just that he's addicted to the adrenaline rush. For Tanya, this is her only way to fit in. She took Aisha's place because it was the right thing to do, but when the whole thing started, she was completely out of her element. The fiasco with Shawn didn't help either." Jason smiled slightly. "You know, Rocky told me once that Adam had threatened to rip Shawn's lungs out if he did anything to hurt Tanya. When Shawn broke up with Tanya because she wouldn't help him cheat on the test, Rocky thought that AGH had just lost a baseball player. Everything worked out, though.
.........."Kat's motives in this are more complex. First, she wants to keep Rita and Zedd from doing to anyone else what they did to her. Second, she wants to prove herself worthy of Tommy's affection. This is the only way she knows to compete with the ghost of Kimberly.
.........."Adam maybe the only one who simply wants to do what's right. He has no hidden motives, and he knows that this isn't a game. Wait- scratch that. He has one hidden motive. Adam's dad is a Detective with the AGPD, Homicide Division. Detective Park thinks the Power Rangers are a menace, putting the city in as much danger as the monsters. Deep down, I think Adam wants to prove to his dad that the Power Rangers are the good guys. He wants his father to be proud of him.
.........."As for Tommy, he sees this as a personal contest, him against evil. He's determined not to let evil win, no matter what the cost to himself. He's prepared to sacrifice himself to destroy the enemy, but he'd never give up his friends."
..........Lita smiled at him. "You know, Jason, you'd make a great psychoanalyst. Ever think about majoring in Psych?"
..........He grinned back at her. "No, I'm gonna take business courses at Crossworld City Community College and open my own dojo."
..........Lita shook her head. She had no doubt that he could do it.
..........Time passed. Every day, Tommy and Lita had sessions where Lita tried to get Tommy to accept his dark side, without notable success. His problem, Lita informed Jason and Rocky after one unusually frustrating session, was that Tommy was too noble. He loathed the idea of hurting innocent people so much that he pulled too hard in the other direction. The struggle between his guilt and his natural human fallibility was pulling him apart.
..........After every session, Lita called Max Delany, an old college friend of hers and the expert in MPD that she had told Tommy about. As she had promised, she used no names, simply referring to Tommy as "the Ranger" or "the kid." Max and Lita discussed various methods of treatment, and she found his help in analyzing Tommy's psyche invaluable.
.........."I think stress is the only way to go, Lita," Max said one day. Lita smiled, listening to his husky baritone. Max's gruffly soothing voice was one of the reasons he did so well with patients. It doesn't hurt his relationships with women, either, Lita thought.
.........."Let me get this straight, Max. You think that a stressful situation, one that requires all of the kid's personality traits, will cause spontaneous integration?" Lita asked skeptically
.........."Got it in one, Leets. Knocks the socks off of fourteen years of therapy, doesn't it?"
.........."Oh, yes. There's just one problem. The kid's a Power Ranger. He's seen exploding planets, intelligent amphiboids, a race which evolved from insects, and a robotic dragon roughly the size of the Shinjuku district!"
.........."How big is that?" Max interrupted.
..........Lita's verbal stride never faltered. "Very big. Think Manhattan. As I was saying, he faces off with killer robots, a walking pile of bones, and a guy with no skin on a regular basis. What situation am I supposed to come up with that would be stressful for him?"
..........Lita could almost hear Max shrug on the other end of the line. "That's your department, isn't it?"
.........."Max, you are a cold, callous son-of-a-lawyer."
.........."That's because I care." His voice became hesitant. "Um, Lita, speaking of caring, are you sure that you'll be all right up there? Stuck in a cabin with a homicidal martial artist?"
.........."Number one, Max, the kid's not homicidal. That's his other personality, and the characteristic is spell-induced, not naturally occurring. Number two, if something does happen to go wrong, I have two other Rangers up here to protect me. Don't worry about me." Lita decided not to mention that Jason wasn't exactly a fully active Power Ranger at the moment. Max didn't need to worry any more than he was.
.........."If you say so. Take care, Lita."
.........."I will, Max. Thanks."
..........A few days later, Rocky was chopping wood when Lita came up the driveway with the days mail, muttering to herself as she sorted it. "Bill, bill, letter for Jason, magazine- 'Martial Arts World,' what a surprise, oh, Rocky, a postcard for you," she handed it to him, "and a letter for me from- Cousin Mako."
.........."Your cousin's a shark?" Rocky asked, looking down at the postcard. Just a reminder from his dentist about his wisdom teeth. He pocketed it.
.........."No, Rocky. Mako is her nickname. It's short for Makoto. Kino Makoto is my younger cousin. She still lives in Tokyo."
.........."You used to live in Japan?" Rocky inquired, fascinated.
.........."Yes." Lita sat on a nearby log, motioning for the young man to sit next to her. As Rocky obeyed, she continued. "You see, back in the early 1900's, my five times great-grandfather was a man named Kino Ichiro. Since Ichiro spoke English well, when he came to San Francisco, he was able to get a job waiting tables, rather than being forced into railroad labor like so many other Japanese immigrants. He built up enough money to be able to keep in touch with his family back home, and so the American and Japanese branches of the Kino family remained close.
.........."My parents met and married, and because they were both scientists, they received an offer for a long-term research grant in a Tokyo lab. They accepted, and moved to Japan. They lived quite close to the rest of my family. I was born in Japan to American parents. That gave me double citizenship. I learned to speak both English and Japanese, and grew up comfortable in both countries. My parents moved me back here when I was ten."
..........Rocky cast about for something else to ask her, not wanting the conversation to end. "Why did you become a psychiatrist?"
..........Lita shrugged. "I was always interested in helping people, so it was only natural for me to be a doctor. I've always been interested in the mind, how it works, so I decided to become a shrink. That's why I took this case. Yes, I want to help Tommy, but also, diagramming a superhero's mind appealed to me. Even if I could never publish, I could still discover all sorts of amazing things." Suddenly she laughed. "You know, it's strange that of all the psychiatrists that could have become mixed up in this adventure, Tommy's parents chose me."
.........."In Japan, there's a type of TV show called sentai. Sentai programs have different casts every year, different stories, different titles. What makes them similar is the format. They all tell about a team of young people who transform into spandex-clad, color-coded superheroes fighting an evil empire and battling monsters of the week in large robots. Sound familiar? I was gone by the time it came out, but my relatives would mail me tapes. I could never get enough of sentai as a teen-ager, and now I'm in the middle of a real live sentai adventure."
.........."So what's your cousin like?" Rocky asked.
.........."Boy crazy!" laughed Lita. "If she met you, she'd say that you looked like her sempai- her ex-boyfriend," she explained. "Of course, she'd say the same thing about Tommy, Jason, Adam, or any other reasonably attractive guy in the area."
..........Rocky smiled, but it was a small smile, not his usual wide grin. "Did he dump her?" At her nod, he continued. "She hasn't let him go yet, and so she sees him everywhere. I know how she feels. A few," he swallowed, "a few months ago, I lost my girlfriend, Jennifer, to King Mondo's goons. She had been one of his androids, sent to infiltrate the Power Rangers and destroy us one by one. When it came time to destroy me, however, she couldn't do it. Faking human emotions had an unusual effect on her programming. She fell in love with me. I fell in love right back. Mondo kidnapped her to punish us both.
.........."I guess I lost it. I didn't even morph, just went up to the cave as I was. I got her out and we were running out of the cave when Sprocket threw a bomb at us. Jen saw it coming and pushed me out of the cave. The explosion triggered an avalanche and buried her.
.........."I thought it was my fault. For a month I mourned her, seeing her in every face that passed by, beating myself up over what had happened. Then I met Katarina, my current girlfriend. She brought me back to life again. I know exactly how your cousin feels."
..........Lita looked at him in surprise. She could hardly believe that someone as light-hearted as Rocky could be hiding such deep pain. "Rocky, is it worth it? Being a Power Ranger, I mean. Is it worth the pain?"
.........."A voice cried "Look me in the stars/ and tell me truly, men of earth/ if all the soul and body scars/ were not too much to pay for birth," he quoted. "Robert Frost. Yes, it's worth the pain. What we do, the people we protect, they make everything we suffer worthwhile."
..........She shook her head, wondering at how much anguish these seemingly perfect teens held. Tommy's guilt, Rocky's grief, Jason's feeling of uselessness, Kat's worry over how she might have hurt Tommy's happiness, and Tanya's isolation, they were such adult pains for such young people. Briefly, she wondered what scars Adam, the enigmatic Green Ranger, might hide.
.........."We're all hurting, Dr. Kino," Rocky suddenly said, startling her. The growing darkness hid him from her sight. "All of us, all the time. We can't be everywhere at once, and the monsters know it. Not everyone survives a monster attack. We all have the names of the people we couldn't save burned into our minds. Tommy is not going to join them," he said fiercely.
.........."I promise, Rocky, I'll do the best I can." She took his hand and sat with him, watching the stars come out.
..........Whistling, Tommy walked into the kitchen to sort through the mail. Spying a letter from home, he opened it to find a note from his sister and a makeshift envelope of some old, yellowed parchment. He glanced at the note, which read, "Tommy. Found this in the attic, thought that you should see it. Didn't tell mom. You owe me an explanation when you get home, okay? Love, Chelsea."
..........Curious, Tommy opened the parchment. As he did so, something fell out of it, clunking onto the linoleum floor. He picked it up and stopped dead. The object in his hand was the coin of the Green Ranger, the one that had been in his clone's possession.
..........That can't be! he thought frantically to himself. I left it back in 1700's Angel Grove! Then he smacked his forehead mentally. Duh, Tommy, the thing didn't just disappear after the 1700's. It's probably been kicking around the houses of the Green Ranger's descendants for the past 200 years. But if that's true, how did it get into my parents' attic? Then he remembered. His parents had the habit of storing everything from every house they'd ever lived in. There were boxes in his attic that had been in the attic of his grandfather. But- if Grandpa Oliver had the Green coin, then that means.... Paling, Tommy sank into a chair. Just then, Lita and Jason walked into the kitchen.
.........."Kuso!" Lita cursed, seeing how white Tommy's face had become. Jason raised an eyebrow at her. "It's Japanese, and you don't need to know what it means."
Jason shrugged, bellowing, "Rocky, get in here! We have a situation!"
..........Rocky rushed into the kitchen with his customary grace, which is to say that he resembled a Great Dane on roller skates. "What's the matter?" he asked breathlessly.
..........Tommy smiled weakly. "I'm all right. I just had a bit of a shock." Quickly he related what he had found in the envelope and its significance. "My adopted family is descended from my clone. Guess I'm related to them by blood after all."
.........."Have you read the letter yet?" Jason asked.
.........."No, I guess I'd better do that now." Taking a deep breath, he unfolded the parchment and began to read. "Tommy. I guess you never thought that you'd hear from me again, huh? Something incredible has happened to make me write to you. In my time, Angel Grove is the only British settlement on the west coast. The Spanish are not happy with us, and relations are strained. They could wipe us out at any time, and they know that. They also know that it would cost them.
.........."Recently the governor of the Pueblo de Los Angeles, to the south, came up to talk to our headmen. I had the fortune to meet and fall in love with his beautiful niece. We're going to be married in a few weeks. Her name is Rosalita Hernandez.
.........."The name rang a bell. Remember that genealogy project we did in eight grade? Probably not; your memory stinks. Giving me a photographic memory was the only improvement Rita made on the original. Anyway, I remembered that our three times great-grandmother was named Rosalita Oliver. Her husband was a gringo who moved down from the north.
.........."Rosalita and I are moving to Los Angeles, and I realized that this meant that we were going to become the ancestors of the family which adopted you. I knew that someday this coin would make its way back to you. I can't shake the feeling that you're going to need it, no matter how much you hate the sight of it. Take care, man. I wish you and- and Kimberly all the best." Tommy's voice caught on the last line. "Signed, Thomas Oliver, formerly the Green Ranger."
..........The four of them sat in silence for a moment, pondering the appearance of the letter. Finally, Jason spoke.
.........."Well, that answers a few questions, like why Chelsea and Teddy resemble Tommy so much. I wonder why it turned up now, of all times?"
..........Tommy smiled wearily. "Jason, if there's one thing I've learned, it's never look a gift Power Coin in the mouth."
..........A few days later, Tommy and Lita were in session when his communicator toned. "Nani yo?" Lita asked, rolling her eyes heavenward. "Tommy, answer that and ask him what he wants."
.........."Tommy here, Zordon. What's up?"
.........."Tommy, Lita, I must ask you to come to the Power Chamber. Monsters have been released on Angel Grove. It is not safe for you to remain at the cabin while the Rangers are in battle."
.........."We'll be right there, Zordon." Taking Lita's hand, Tommy transported them both to the Power Chamber.
..........The Rangers were already there, clustered around the viewing globe. A small distance away, Jason watched his friends wistfully. Lita touched his shoulder and smiled at him.
.........."Observe the viewing globe, Rangers. Mondo and Zedd have both taken Tommy's absence from the team as the time to launch their newest plot. Zedd and Rita have created a monster known as Raptar, a hyper-intelligent, animated Velociraptor statue from the Natural History museum. Mondo's contribution to this fight is two creations called ChopShop and Canopus." As Zordon spoke, the monsters appeared on the viewing globe, and the Rangers groaned. ChopShop looked as if someone had turned a blender inside out, and Canopus...
.........."A can opener monster?" Rocky asked, summing up the feelings of them all. "I thought cheesy monsters were Zedd and Rita's department."
.........."Cheesiness aside, these monsters are formidable opponents on their own. Released three at a time, they become a force to be reckoned with. You will have to split the team up dangerously to handle them."
.........."Dangerously is right," David remarked. "Who wants to be the lucky shmuck that has to go alone? There are only five of us."
.........."Perhaps I can help," an unfamiliar voice broke in. A golden glow coalesced in the center of the Power Chamber. When it faded, the Gold Ranger was standing in its place.
.........."Trey!" Tommy cried. "What are you doing here?"
.........."I sensed that you were in danger and needed my help. I am here to offer my services." He raised an eyebrow as he took in David and Lita's unfamiliar faces. "Is there something that I should be filled in on?"
..........Tanya chuckled. "It's too long a story to go into now, Trey. He's David Trueheart, Tommy's twin brother, and she's Dr. Lita Kino. They can both be trusted."
..........Gold Ranger bowed to Lita. "When this adventure is done, Dr. Kino, I look forward to hearing you tell me the whole story."
.........."I am not going to ask, I am not going to ask, I am not going to ask," Lita muttered to herself. She didn't think she could stand another weird explanation right now.
.........."All right," Adam said, taking charge. "Trey, you and Rocky handle ChopShop, Dave and Kat will take Raptar, and Tanya and I will handle Canopus." Dave grimaced. He didn't like splitting up the team this much at all. Out of the corner of his eye, Adam caught Dave's expression and smiled. "Cheer up, Dave. It could be worse. With a name like Raptar, he could be one of those annoying rapping monsters."
.........."Yeah, like the Hate Master," Rocky groaned. "I'd never heard such awful rap in my life- except maybe for Vanilla Ice."
.........."Pumpkin Rapper was worse," grinned Tommy. "Remember him, Jase?"
.........."How could I forget?" Jason groused. "He was so awful, he couldn't even keep the rhythm."
.........."If I may interrupt," Adam remarked, pulling the team back to reality, "we need to get going. Be careful, everybody. It's morphin time!"
..........In a flash of light, Green and Yellow Rangers appeared at the Halleck Planetarium. "Keep your eyes open," Green Ranger cautioned. "Remember, Mondo's watchword is "ambush."
.........."Got it." Slowly, they made their way around the deserted planetarium. Yellow Ranger's nerves were humming unbearably, and she could feel sweat trickling down her face beneath her helmet. Green Ranger's presence behind her was reassuring. He's been at this so long. I'm sure he can take care of himself.
.........."There!" Green Ranger cried, pointing. Yellow Ranger could just see a bulky, shadowy form that had to be Canopus darting into the building. "He's gone into the display room! Let's go!" The two Rangers took off, pursuing their prey inside.
..........In the shopping district of Angel Grove, Raptar was tearing apart a Wal-mart. "Watch for falling prices!" it snarled, using its tail to hurl a cash register at a fleeing employee. The register missed, and the hapless worker disappeared.
..........Chuckling to itself, Raptar headed back through the toy section to where the manager sat huddled beneath a desk, moaning about insurance payments. A flash of red caught the monster's eye. "Hey, Tickle-Me Elmo!" it rumbled.. "I didn't think you could find these things anymore!" Tossing the doll over its shoulder, it continued back towards the frightened manager.
.........."My HMO doesn't cover dinosaurs," the man squeaked.
.........."Boy, those guys don't pay for anything," Raptar sympathized in its gravely voice. "Look on the bright side, lunch. You won't have to worry about it any more." The raptor leaned closer to its prey, raising one of its powerful, well-clawed hind legs.
.........."Hey you! With the prominent overbite!" A voice cut through the silence of the store. Raptar whirled to see Red and Pink Rangers standing behind it. The manager, not being stupid, lost no time in disappearing out the back entrance.
.........."Now look what you did! You let my lunch get away!" Raptar whined. "Guess I'll have to eat you instead!" With that, the raptor monster launched itself at the two Rangers. Both having seen Jurassic Park, the teens were ready. Pink and Red Rangers threw themselves to opposite sides, causing Raptar to pass directly between them and smack snout-first into a display of assorted discount toys. The whole shelf came rumbling down on its head, burying it in Tonka trucks, giant robots, and large dolls. A particularly large truck landed on the monster's head.
.........."That had to hurt," Pink Ranger remarked.
.........."OOOH, brother," Raptar groaned, pulling itself out of the heap. "That was not good." Suddenly it noticed a Cabbage Patch doll chewing busily on its tail. "Ow, hey! Leggo, you little cannibal!" With some difficulty, it managed to unsnap the doll's backpack and shut down the mechanism. After extracting its tail-tip from the doll's mouth, the monster turned back toward the Rangers. "Now where were we? Oh, yeah! I was just leaving." Abruptly, Raptar turned and ran out the door.
..........Red Ranger cursed viciously. "Kat, come on! We have to catch up with him before he does even more damage!" The two hurried after the fleeing dinosaur.
..........Gold and Blue Rangers found themselves teleported into Forest Hills, the wealthy part of the residential section. Astonished, Blue Ranger examined a nearby bush. "Looks like somebody trimmed this thing with a weed-whacker. I think I'd fire the gardener."
.........."It looks to me as if ChopShop's been here. I doubt this was the gardener's doing," Gold Ranger replied, scanning the area.
.........."You have no appreciation of humor." Cautiously, the two made their way into the backyard of the house, following a trail of mutilated bushes. Peering around the corner, Blue Ranger saw ChopShop terrorizing a group of kids who were huddled on the patio.
.........."Hey, Blenderface!" Blue Ranger called, jumping out. "Pick on somebody your own size!"
.........."Somebody like you?" the monster asked, shooting several whirling blades at him.
..........Blue Ranger dodged agilely, ducking the blades with ease. "Actually, I was thinking more along the lines of Godzilla," he muttered. Over the monster's shoulder, he could see Gold Ranger herding the children back into the house. That's it, he thought to himself. I've got to keep his attention on me long enough for Trey to get the kids out of here. If I'm lucky, maybe I can keep it long enough for Trey to blindside him.
..........Having herded the children into the safety of the house, Gold Ranger turned just in time to see Blue Ranger fall to the ground in a heap, bleeding from several places. That thing's blades are sharp enough to penetrate Ranger suits! he thought, appalled. Those things are unstable molecular fabric, near-impossible to rip!
.........."Golden Power Staff!" he called. The weapon coalesced in his hand. With a flick of the wrist, he sent a barrage of Golden power directly at the monster. The energy ball impacted the back of the monster's head, distracting it from its attack on Blue Ranger. Unfortunately, distracting it was all the ball accomplished. The monster's armor was too thick for the attack to cause any damage.
..........I've got to do something! Blue Ranger thought desperately. His wounds were healing, and he'd be able to attack soon, but it would do no good. ChopShop was far too strong for the Rangers to defeat in hand-to-hand combat. He had to fight with his head, not one of his strong suits. C'mon, Rocky, think! he berated himself. Time to live up to the tradition of the Blue Ranger. Suddenly an idea sprang into his mind. Getting painfully to his feet, he shouted, "Trey! Slow him down, then follow me!"
..........Gold Ranger nodded, smiling beneath his helmet. Time for a new trick. "Golden Power Storm!" he called, raising the weapon above his head. A dark roiling cloud began to coalesce around the head of the staff. Bursts of gold light began to appear inside it. Quickly, the energy built to massive proportions, flashing out in a massive lightning bolt that temporarily locked ChopShop's circuits. The robot froze in place, and the two Rangers took off running. Almost immediately, ChopShop regained his mobility and was in hot pursuit.
..........Cautiously, Green Ranger pushed open the door to the planetarium's storage room. Easing his way inside, he kept a sharp eye out for Canopus. "Tanya," he whispered. "Anything behind us?"
She never had the chance to answer. A grappling hook and line shot out of the darkened room and wrapped around her throat. With a jerk, Canopus pulled her into the room and against itself, using her as a shield. Like lightning, Green Ranger pulled his laser pistol and trained it on the monster.
.........."Drop the gun, Green Ranger, or she dies," Canopus snickered. It raised an arm in front of Yellow Ranger's face, allowing the two to see that it was a wickedly sharp blade.
.........."Let her go," ordered Green Ranger. His aim never flinched.
.........."You're in no position to give orders, Green Ranger. Drop the gun or I gut her like a trout."
.........."If you do, I'll shoot you. You'd never take me out in time."
..........Canopus shrugged, bringing his knife-like forearm perilously close to Yellow Ranger's throat. "Then I take one Power Ranger with me. I can handle that. Can you?" For emphasis, the robot laid its blade against her throat guard.
..........Green Ranger was silent for a long minute, then dropped his laser pistol to the ground.
.........."Good. Now kick it over here." Green Ranger obeyed. "Very good, Adam. I'm pleased to see you so cooperative. Now, demorph and take off your Zeonizers."
.........."NO!" Yellow Ranger yelled. "Adam, you can't! If Mondo gets his hands on the Green Power, there's no telling what he'll do!"
.........."Do it, Green Ranger," Canopus sneered. "Or would you prefer to see her blood running all over this floor?"
..........Green Ranger hung his head. "I'm sorry, Tanya," he whispered. In a flash of green light, he was Adam again.
.........."Throw them over to me." Adam did so. "Excellent. Now," Canopus addressed Yellow Ranger, "it's your turn."
.........."Go to hell," she retorted. "I'm not afraid to die."
.........."How noble! Are you willing to sacrifice him?" Canopus released her, shooting another grappling hook at Adam. This one wrapped around his legs and body, pinning his arms to his sides and causing him to fall to the floor. "I can promise you, you'll watch him die screaming if you don't give me what I want."
.........."And if I do?" she asked defiantly.
.........."I'll let you both live. If you aren't Power Rangers, I have no further quarrel with you."
.........."Don't trust him, Tanya! Monsters have no honor!" Adam called.
..........A flare of yellow light, and Tanya was herself again. "Here," she spat, throwing her Zeonizers over to Adam's. "Take them and go." She ran over to Adam's side, putting an arm around his shoulders. "Are you all right, Adam?"
..........He nodded, his eyes dark and troubled. "We're dead, Tanya," he said quietly. "He's going to kill us."
..........She nodded, her lips tight. "I know, but- I couldn't just let it happen."
..........Adam smiled. "I love you, you know that?"
.........."I know," she smiled back. "I love you too."
.........."Isn't this sweet?" Canopus cooed. "I'm almost sorry to destroy you. Which one shall I handle first? Hmm, decisions, decisions."
..........Tanya set Adam down gently. "Seeing as how you'll have to go through me to get to him, I don't think there's a choice to be made here."
.........."Ha! You won't even be a challenge!" Canopus scoffed.
..........Tanya's eyes were cold and deadly. "Try me."
..........Blue and Gold Rangers were running for their lives, with ChopShop in close pursuit. Silently praying that his plan worked, Blue Ranger led the two into a steel mill.
.........."What are we doing?" Gold Ranger asked curiously.
.........."Setting a trap," Blue Ranger puffed back. "Didn't you ever see Terminator 2?"
.........."I was only on this planet a month, and I had other things on my mind," Gold Ranger reminded him wryly.
.........."Good point," his companion conceded. "Anyway, the climactic scene took place in a steel mill. They melted down the big robot by knocking it into a vat of hot steel. Now, I happen to know that this factory always keeps the steel molten, even when nobody's here. It's cheaper. All we have to do is get ChopShop into the vat."
.........."Easier said than done, my friend," observed the Triforian.
.........."No kidding. Hey, call me Rocky. All my friends do."
.........."Rocky. Where does that come from, anyway?"
..........Blue Ranger sounded embarrassed. "My full name is Rockford De Santos, named by a father who had a love of James Garner TV shows. "Rocky" was the natural choice. It could have been worse; he could have named me Maverick."
.........."I'll explain later. It's way too complicated to go into here."
..........As the two talked, they collected various objects, setting a very sneaky trap for ChopShop. A banging in the lower regions of the mill alerted them to the arrival of their enemy. "Hmm, looks like the guest of honor is here," Blue Ranger chuckled. "It'll take him a while to find us. We have time to finish this thing."
..........The two worked in silence for a while, then... "Trey?" Blue Ranger inquired. "Do you have family, back home on Triforia?"
..........Gold Ranger sighed. "Yes. A mother and two sisters. My older sister, Trianna, is studying to be a wizard. She's very good. My younger sister is named Trialia. She's training to be a warrior, and follow in my footsteps. My mother is Lady Trania. She's what you would call the Queen of the planet. She runs things in my absence, since I have the commitment of the Gold Ranger powers. My father, Lord Terian, died in a battle with some pirates a few years. I suppose that someday I'll have to marry and settle down to be the Lord of Triforia, but that day seems so far off. My current responsibility of helping you protect Earth is all I can think of now." He sighed. "How about you, Rocky? What's your family like?"
..........Blue Ranger exhaled. "Well, let's see. We're a big, I mean big Hispanic family. Both of my parents came from big families. My mom is one of seven kids, and my dad was the oldest of five. Add to that the cousins, second cousins, dates, parents, and relatives with no designations, and you've got one heck of a crowd at the family reunion.
.........."As for my immediate family, my dad died when I was ten, so it's Mom, my older brother Pedro, me, and my six younger brothers and sisters. In order of age, they're Lindsey, Rosa, Juan, Miguel, Emilia, and Alejandro. It gets pretty hectic around the house, especially because I always had to baby-sit. It wasn't that Pedro didn't want to help, but he just wasn't as good with kids as I was. I've always had that talent."
..........Sighing, Blue Ranger shifted position. "Y'know what the worst part of all this is? If I die, my mom'll think that I did it on purpose."
.........."I was really depressed after Jen, my girlfriend died. I got really reckless. Not suicidal- that's against my religion, and I never really considered it. But I did want to die. If I don't come out of this, I just want my mom to know that I did this for somebody, not because I wanted to die. I want her to be proud of me, not feeling guilty about what she could have done."
.........."I promise you, Rocky, if you should die and I should live, your mother will know of what you did, no matter how much noise Zordon makes about it." The two boys were silent for a while, listening to ChopShop search for them.
.........."Are you going to be staying on Earth for a while?" Blue Ranger asked hesitantly.
.........."I would think so. Pyramidas is safely cloaked on Earth, not far from the Power Chamber. I can live there quite comfortably for a very long time."
.........."It must get boring, cooped up in that pyramid whenever you're not helping us. What I guess I'm trying to say is that you might want to hang out with us when you don't have to be Gold Ranger."
..........Gold Ranger chuckled. "Thanks for the invitation, Rocky, but I don't think I'd fit in."
.........."What are friends for, man? I got a letter from Prince Dex of Edenoi the other day, from where he is on Earth, and he seems to be fitting in well."
.........."You know Dex? Where is he?" Gold Ranger's head snapped up. "We were very good friends, before the attack on Edenoi."
.........."Really?" Blue Ranger was amazed. "How'd that happen?"
..........Gold Ranger never got a chance to reply, because just then ChopShop burst up the steps, searching for them. "Now!" Blue Ranger called. He opened the nozzle on the fire hose he held, just as Gold Ranger spun the valve wide open.
..........The robot was struck with the high pressure stream and pushed back, away from the Rangers and towards the edge. The objects that the two Rangers had placed on the catwalk hemmed ChopShop in, giving the monster only one path to follow. Silently, Blue Ranger gave thanks for the enhanced strength morphing gave him. If he had been an ordinary human, the pressure would have knocked him off his feet. He watched as ChopShop neared the edge of the platform and was pushed off by the force of the water. With a single, despairing cry, ChopShop fell into the molten steel below. Blue Ranger turned his head away from the melting monster. He didn't need to watch it die.
.........."By the Triune Goddess!" Gold Ranger's gasp drew Blue Ranger's attention back to the vat. Incredibly, ChopShop was pulling itself out of the steel. A great deal of it was gone, but its endoskeletal support structure was still intact. Looking up at the two boys, the monster aimed and shot a blade with a cord attached up at them. The two dodged and watched in horror as the robot pulled itself up to the catwalk they stood on.
.........."I think it's pissed," Blue Ranger declared unnecessarily. "We are dead meat."
..........Slowly, Red Ranger rolled his body around the jamb of the door that led into the warehouse. "Keep your eyes open, Kat," he cautioned. "That dinosaur is sneakier than Delmar."
.........."More annoying, too," she muttered, following him in. Gradually, carefully, they began to explore the warehouse, always on the alert for an attack. "David, my nerves are so tight I'm afraid they're going to snap," Pink Ranger commented.
.........."I know, Kat. I don't like this any better than you do." A rustling sound off to Pink Ranger's left alerted him to the presence of something watching them. On a hunch, he threw himself at her, knocking her to the floor as a brown blur brushed past them. As it was, he wasn't quite fast enough. Pink Ranger received a nasty slash to her thigh.
..........Red Ranger examined it, drawing in his breath with a hiss. "Kat, it's deep. Luckily, he didn't hit an artery, so you're in no danger of bleeding to death, but I don't think you should walk on it."
.........."I don't think I can," she replied softly.
.........."Zordon? Zordon, come in!" Cold static answered Red Ranger's calls. "Damn! Communicators are out, teleportation is too. You know more about Rangering than I do. How long do you think it'll take you to heal?"
..........She shrugged. "I don't know. Twenty minutes, maybe, to be functional. An hour to fully recover. That's without treatment."
..........Red Ranger put his hands over his helmet-face. "We don't have that kind of time. All right, here's what we'll do. You're obviously in no shape to play the game by Raptar's rules, so we'll play by ours. C'mon." Abruptly, he scooped her into his arms.
.........."Where are we going?" She could hear the dangerous grin in his voice as he responded.
.........."Just be glad this is a restaurant supply company. We're gonna get Raptar to chill out."
.........."The freezer?" she asked when they arrived at their destination. "David, the latest research shows that dinosaurs were not cold-blooded. They were homeothermic, just like birds."
.........."Ah, but Katharine, anything slows down when it gets cold. Even humans. Our Ranger suits protect us. He doesn't have that advantage. Besides, that's only a side effect. What do we have that he doesn't?"
.........."Well, yeah, but we also have boots. Boots with treads. That gives us better traction on ice." With that, he tipped over a vat of chipped ice, sending it skittering over the already damp floor. Then he turned up the cold in the freezer and hid Pink Ranger behind a rack of meat. "Kat, there's something I have to say to you, in case we don't make it out of this."
..........She laid a gloved hand over where his mouth should be. "Don't."
.........."I have to. Kat, I love you. I've loved you ever since I met you in the juice bar that first time. Being a Power Ranger with you has only strengthened my feelings. I know you're with Tommy, and I would never do anything to break that up. I just wanted you to know that I love you. I don't want to die with that unsaid."
.........."Oh, David," she began. However, she was interrupted by a hideous squealing sound and a horrendous crash. Raptar had found them and torn the metal door off its hinges.
.........."Hello, lunch." The saurian monster lunged at Red Ranger, but found the floor a little too slick for it. It fell flat on its snout. "Ouch! Twice in one day! Oh, now you're really gonna pay for that!" Raising itself off the floor, it carefully began to stalk towards Red Ranger.
.........."Come and get me, scale-face," Red Ranger laughed, sounding more confident than he felt. He only had a slight advantage over Raptar, and if he lost that, he was dead.
..........Suddenly, Raptar whirled around, catching Red Ranger at the back of the knees, knocking him off his feet. He hit the floor hard enough to render him breathless and dizzy. Through blurred eyes, he saw Raptar advancing on him slowly. "Adios, amigo," the dinosaur chuckled, raising one powerful, sharp-clawed hind leg.
.........."NO!" Tommy cried, seeing the position his friends were in. "Zordon, isn't there anything we can do?" he wailed, clutching his coin tightly. Before the sage could answer, a low thrumming cut through the Power Chamber.
.........."What's going on?" Jason cried, looking around for some evidence of attack.
.........."Ai yi yi!" Alpha was yelling and running around in panic.
.........."Look!" pointed Lita. The other occupants of the Power Chamber followed her finger and saw the coin in Tommy's hands pulsing with a green light. The thrumming was also coming from the coin.
.........."Tommy, what's happening?" Lita asked cautiously.
.........."It- it wants me to use it! It wants me to use the Green Power."
.........."As the Green Ranger, you could help the Rangers!" Jason told him excitedly.
.........."But- the Green Ranger was evil- I don't- I can't..." Tommy stared at the coin in his hand confused.
.........."DAVID!" Pink Ranger's scream, transmitted through the viewing globe, drew all their attention. Red Ranger had managed to roll away from Raptar's strike at the last minute, but not quite far enough. The claws had slashed his left arm, which lay useless at his side. Still on the ground, losing blood too quickly to stand, Red Ranger groaned.
.........."Kat, I'm sorry. I love you."
..........Pink Ranger was now sobbing. "David, please, don't die on me!"
..........Her obvious agony was the last straw for Tommy. "I can't back down. Whatever it takes, whatever the risk, I have to do this! Dragonzord!"
..........A flare of emerald light filled the Power Chamber, searing the vision of all the occupants. When it cleared, the Green Dragon Ranger was standing before them. "Tommy?" Lita asked hesitantly.
.........."Yes- and no," he responded. "I'll explain when I get back." With that, he teleported out, leaving the four remaining beings confused. Who was in control of the body, Tommy- or the Green Ranger?
..........Red Ranger stared up at the Raptar as it approached. This is it. I'm going to die, he thought. Of all the ways to go out, dino bait was not one I would have anticipated. As the monster reared back, Red Ranger braced himself for the killing blow.
..........Suddenly a green blur plowed into the dinosaur, knocking it away from Red Ranger. Somewhat weak from the blood loss, Red Ranger nevertheless managed to stand. I will never underrate accelerated healing powers again, he noted thankfully. Quickly he crossed to Pink Ranger, offering her his good arm. She let out a small yelp as she stood up, but managed to put some weight on her leg. The two Rangers then turned to get a better look at their rescuer.
..........Green Dragon Ranger had pulled his blade blaster and was aiming for the Raptar's most vulnerable spot- its eyes. The monster was too busy guarding them to attack anybody.
.........."Kat, while it's distracted- aim your Zeo pistol at the monster's torso. Fire on my command. One- two- three!" The two Rangers fired simultaneously on the same spot, causing the monster to disintegrate. Cheering, Red and Pink Rangers turned to their rescuer.
.........."Tommy!" Pink Ranger gasped. Green Dragon Ranger shrugged.
.........."Tommy! But- but- how?" Red Ranger stammered.
.........."Long story, tell you later. Are you guys up for more fighting?"
..........Gingerly, Red Ranger flexed his arm. "I think so. The muscles seem to have healed."
..........Pink Ranger nodded. "I won't be launching any flying kicks for a couple of hours, but I can fight."
.........."Good. The others are also in bad spots, and they all need our help. Kat, you and I will go help Rocky and Trey. Dave, you go help Adam and Tanya at the planetarium. You should be able to handle Canopus alone. He got the drop on them, but you'll have surprise on your side. Let's go!"
..........As the three Rangers teleported out, David marveled at how quickly and easily Tommy slipped back into the role of leader. His brother was a definite miracle.
.........."Oomph!" Tanya grunted, falling back as a backhanded blow caught her across the cheek, knocking her back into a wall. She was bleeding from several places where Canopus had cut her with its blade-like forearms, and bruised in several more. However, none of her injuries were serious, and she was still fighting gamely to protect Adam, who lay on the floor struggling with his bonds.
.........."Give up, human!" Canopus sneered. "You are severely out-matched!"
.........."Yeah, right," Tanya grinned. "So why am I still kicking your butt?" Her eyes flickered up over Canopus' shoulder and she smiled even wider. "Oh, now you're really in trouble, metal-muncher."
.........."Oh, please! That's the oldest trick in the book!" Whatever else Canopus would have said was cut off as Red Ranger's flying kick plowed into the back of the monster's head.
.........."And that's the second oldest," Red Ranger grinned, pulling his Zeo pistol. "Say goodnight, Gracie." Leveling his pistol at the monster, he pulled the trigger. The beam slammed into the monster, causing it to explode. "Just as I thought. Since he made two monsters, Mondo didn't make either as tough as he usually makes one. Piece of cake."
.........."Thanks, Holmes," Adam replied sarcastically from his position on the floor. "Now, can you help me out of this thing!?"
..........With Tanya's help, Red Ranger managed to untangle Adam. The two unmorphed Rangers quickly scrambled for their Zeonizers.
.........."C'mon, Tanya!" Adam called. "Let's morph and go help the others. It's morphin time!"
.........."Zeo Ranger II, Yellow!"
.........."Zeo Ranger IV, Green!"
..........Blue and Gold Rangers slowly backed away from the half-melted ChopShop, looking for any way to escape. "It keeps going, and going," Blue Ranger muttered. "Hey, maybe we should just take out its batteries!" ChopShop launched a blade at them, narrowly missing their heads. "Or, maybe not."
.........."Rocky, how did the first movie end?" Gold Ranger shouted suddenly.
.........."You talked about a Terminator 2. That implies there was a first one. How'd they stop it?"
.........."Um,- Trey, that came out in the early 80's!"
.........."All right! Um, she squashed it in a metal press, crushed it's CPU. But I don't see a metal press around here!"
.........."We don't need one! Get him under that vat!"
..........Underneath his helmet, Blue Ranger's eyes lit up. "Got it!" Drawing his Zeo pistol, he drew the robots attention by shooting it. As it followed him, Gold Ranger scrambled up the ladder set into a nearby wall. Sensing his actions, ChopShop turned and shot a blade at him, nicking him in the leg. Gold Ranger cried out in anguish, but kept climbing. Chop Shop fired another blade at Gold Ranger, despite Blue Ranger's attempts to distract it. This one sliced through the big muscle of his arm. With one arm and one leg useless, Gold Ranger was beginning to despair of ever reaching the catwalk above him. Suddenly, the skzrchh! of teleportation made him look up. On the catwalk was Pink Ranger, reaching down to give him a hand. Gratefully, he let her haul him up.
.........."Hmm," she noted. "Looks like I'm not the only one with a leg injury."
.........."It's nothing," he assured her. "Come, we must get to the vat!"
.........."Lean on me," she told him. "Tommy and Rocky will get him into position."
..........Down on the factory floor, Blue Ranger's eyes nearly popped out of his head when he saw who had come to his rescue. "Tommy!"
..........Green Dragon Ranger gave him a thumbs up. "The one and only. C'mon, Rocko, lets get this creep into position."
..........With the two Rangers working in synch, it was relatively easy to maneuver ChopShop into the correct position. "Just hold that pose, blender-head," Blue Ranger muttered. Raising his voice, he called, "Okay, Trey, let 'er rip!"
..........Gold Ranger and Pink Ranger pulled the pins out of their positions, sending the vat crashing to the floor, squashing ChopShop underneath it.
.........."Well," Green Dragon Ranger said, "that's one guy Mondo's not gonna fix." Green, Yellow, and Red Rangers teleported in, just as Pink Ranger helped Gold Ranger down from the catwalk.
.........."Looks like we missed all the excitement," Green Ranger remarked.
.........."That's all right," Pink Ranger told him. "You can help us clean up." The group laughed. Green Dragon Ranger looked around, thinking of how good it felt to laugh with his friends again. It had been too long.
..........Back at the Power Chamber, the Rangers demorphed, including Tommy. Hands on her hips, Lita glared at them all with unusual venom. "All right, Oliver, you'd better tell me what happened out there, before I show you how I got my black belt in aikido!" she growled.
..........Tommy chuckled. "Well, when I morphed, I wound up sort of face to face with myself, everything that I'd done and been. The only way to the Green power was to accept what I'd been, and my friends needed me. I guess I just accepted the Green Ranger as part of myself, and suddenly I was morphed. The rest you probably saw on the viewing globe."
.........."So Tommy," David asked hesitantly, "are you the Green Ranger for good now?"
..........His brother shook his head. "No, the power's gone for good this time. It had built up a bit of a charge over two hundred years, but I don't feel any power left in it any more."
.........."It is simply a coin now," Zordon informed them. "However, it is a rather unusual coin, made of metals not familiar to this planet. What will you do with the Green Coin now, Tommy?"
..........Tommy looked at his coin for a long moment. "Lita, I want you to have this, to remember this case by," he said, placing the coin in her hand. "After all, this is probably the most exciting one you'll ever have," he grinned.
..........She chuckled in reply. "I'll second that! Listen, you guys, I want you all to know that if you ever need me- if any of you need to talk, my door is always open. Try to make an appointment, though. It'll be more convenient for everybody."
.........."So, Trey," Rocky grinned slyly. "Have you thought about my offer? You'll get pretty bored in that pyramid all the time."
..........Trey grinned back. "I'd love to, Rocky, but somehow I don't think my outfit would go over really well," he replied, gesturing to his tunic.
.........."Oh, that's no problem." Rocky grinned wickedly. "You're about Jason's size; I'm sure he could loan you a couple outfits. Then the girls could take you to the mall." Adam and Tommy groaned in unison, leading to chuckles from the other Rangers.
.........."If it wouldn't be too much trouble," Trey began hesitantly.
.........."Not at all," Kat told him. "We'd love to take you shopping."
.........."Lita," Tommy asked out of the corner of his mouth, "is there any chance that my therapy could run a little longer?"
..........She grinned. "Well, I think you've achieved spontaneous integration, but I do think we should have a few follow-up sessions, just to make sure. Why don't we head back to the cabin and do those? We should be completely done in a few days."
.........."I'll take Trey back to my place and lend him some clothes," Jason volunteered. "Then the girls can take him shopping."
.........."Just don't let them spend too much," Tommy cautioned the Triforian. "Money doesn't grow on trees; at least, not on this planet."
.........."Dr. Kino," Zordon broke in, "I would like you to remain behind for a second. There is something I would like to talk to you about."
..........Lita nodded, then turned to the Power Teens. "Go on; I'll catch up with you later." The seven teleported out to their various destinations, and Lita turned back to Zordon. "All right, what did you want to talk to me about?"
.........."First, I wished to present you with a communicator. I hope that you will help the Power Rangers in the future, and if you do so, you will need one of these. It will allow you to talk to the Rangers and teleport." Alpha brought her a communicator, which she saw was done in green and white stripes. She buckled it onto her wrist and looked back up at Zordon expectantly.
.........."Second, I wish to tell you about the Power coin you now hold. When Rita drained the Green Ranger's powers the first time, what she actually did was break the coin's connection with the morphin grid. Then she drained it's back-up supply. When I recharged Tommy's powers, all I did was fill the back-up supply again. This is also what Zedd and Rita did when they recharged the coin to give it to Tommy's clone. The coin still contained a small shred of energy when Tommy's clone gave up his powers. That little bit multiplied to the point where Tommy could use it today, but now the coin is completely powerless.
.........."I tell you this to explain some of the side effects the coin may have on you. You see, the coin is a transformer, a power focuser. In and of itself, the coin never had any power. The power all came from the morphin grid. Now the coin is powerless, but still functional, like a computer that has not been turned on."
.........."So what you're saying is that if the coin had some other source of power, it would make another Green Ranger?"
.........."Not another Green Ranger, no. That transformation comes from the power of the morphin grid. However, it could transform someone into something else. Into what depends on the source of the power.
.........."Since you are an ordinary human, the coin will only work off your natural human energy. Your speed, strength, and reflexes will be enhanced, and your senses will become more acute. This may be a distinct advantage if you are to defend yourself against the Power Rangers' enemies. I suggest that you keep it with you at all times."
.........."I will, Zordon. Is there anything else that you wanted to say?"
.........."Only thank you, Dr. Kino. The Rangers are very important to me, and it would hurt very much if I were to lose one."
..........She smiled. "You're welcome, Zordon. I was very glad that I could help." With that, she teleported back to the cabin.
..........Several days (and one extremely comprehensive shopping trip) later, Tommy was given a clean bill of mental health and reinstated as the Red Ranger, and the group at the cabin returned to Angel Grove. Ernie, never one to pass up a party, immediately began planning a "Welcome Home" gala to rival any other party ever thrown at the youth center. For the first time, one of Ernie's parties required formal wear, since Ernie was pulling our all the stops. That Saturday night, the Rangers invited a hesitant Trey and Dr. Kino to attend as well. Luckily, the girls were quite willing to guide Trey through the finer points of renting a tuxedo.
..........Looking around at the decorated youth center and all the teenagers dancing, Tommy smiled to himself. He hadn't really been able to enjoy himself like this for a long time, ever since he had first become the Green Ranger. Now, however, the depression hanging over his head had finally dissipated, and he was quite able to enjoy himself. Over in one corner, he spied his sister looking around for likely dance partners. Grinning wickedly, he grabbed Trey by the arm and guided him over to the corner.
.........."You're gonna love my sister, Trey," he told the other boy in a low tone. "She's smart, she's pretty, and she's good at taking care of herself. I think you two will get along great."
.........."Tommy, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't matchmaking resented by most Earthlings? And what am I going to tell her about myself?"
.........."The truth. She already knows about me; she won't even blink when you mention you're an alien prince." Tommy grinned at his friend. "Trust me."
..........Trey grumbled a little, but did not resist as Tommy drew him over to where Chelsea was standing.
.........."Hey Chelse." Tommy tapped his sister on the shoulder to get her attention. When she turned around, he said, "This is Trey Ackerson, a good friend of mine."
.........."Hi, Trey," Chelsea smiled, extending her hand to him. Instead of shaking it like she had expected, he caught her hand and kissed the back.
.........."Charmed, I'm sure." He smiled back at her, holding her gaze with his own. Grinning, Tommy melted back into the crowd, leaving the two alone. He really thought the two would be good for each other. Trey deserved someone he could trust with his secrets, and Chelsea deserved someone that wouldn't be intimidated by the fact that her brother was a six-foot-tall black belt. He chuckled. Maybe his mom was right, and matchmaking ran in the bloodline after all.
..........Leaning against the buffet, Tommy grinned, surveying his work. Out on the dance floor, Chelsea and Trey were swaying to the current slow song, smiling at each other with unconcealed delight. Even better, Trey was one of the few people he knew that wasn't shorter than his sister. They looked good together out on the floor. Even more appropriate was Chelsea's dress, which shimmered golden in the soft light.
..........Someone tapped him on the shoulder. He turned to see Lita smiling at him. "Hey, Lita. You enjoying the party?"
..........She laughed. "Oh, yes! I should hang out with teenagers more often. I've practically danced my feet off tonight." She looked out at the floor, raising an eyebrow when she saw Chelsea and Trey. "Your doing?"
.........."I can not tell a lie. They seem happy, though. There's Rocky and Katarina, over by the other food table, of course, there's Jason and Emily, dancing like there's no tomorrow, and there's Adam and Tanya talking to Ernie over by the bar."
.........."Hmm," Lita replied, "but I don't see David or Kat. I wonder where they could be?"
..........Just then, the band began to play "In This Life," by Collin Raye. Tommy smiled sadly. This had always been Kim and his song. They'd danced to it a hundred times, sometimes at parties, sometimes just alone in the park.
..........Gasps and whispers drew Tommy out of his reverie, causing him to look up. A cluster of people had formed on the dance floor, watching somebody as they danced. Curious, he made his way over there and pushed his way through the people to see who was drawing so much attention. Dancing in the center of the circle, with eyes only for each other, were David and Kat. Tommy's jaw dropped. He'd heard what David had said to her in the warehouse, but he had had no idea that Kat returned David's feelings. Nauseated, his head spinning, he watched them dance in astonishment.
..........Finally the song stopped and the two dancers parted. Both were flushed and smiling shyly. Almost in unison, they turned back toward the buffet table- and spotted Tommy. Kat raised a hand to her mouth and David took an involuntary step back as his eyes met his brother's. The two boys stared at each other in complete silence for quite a while. No one else in the youth center made a noise either. Even the band had stopped playing, choosing instead to watch the drama going on in front of them.
..........Tension radiated from every part of Tommy's body. His jaw was clenched, and the watchers were unsure of what his reaction would be, whether he would burst into tears or haul off and deck his brother. His hands were fisted tightly at his sides, but whether he was trying to control himself or preparing to start a fight was unclear.
..........In the end, it was Tommy who broke the silence. "Congratulations, David," he said, his voice cracking slightly. "You really have a wonderful lady there." Then he turned to Kat. "Kat-," he began, his voice dying. "Kat, I want you to know that I'm happy for you both. I cared about you a lot, but I didn't- couldn't love you the way you deserve. I guess that part of my heart belongs to Kim, and always will. It wasn't fair to you and I'm glad that you found someone who can give you what you deserve." His speech said, Tommy turned and ran, wanting to get out of the building before somebody saw his tears.
..........Tommy sat on the front stoop of the youth center sobbing. He could still hear the words to that song, running through his mind, mocking him. It had been his and Kim's, but she had left him, and now he was alone again.
....................Let the world stop turning,
....................Let the sun stop burning,
....................Let them tell me love's not worth going through,
....................If it all falls apart,
....................I will know deep in my heart,
....................The only dream that mattered had come true,
....................In this life, I was loved by you.
..........Well, everything had fallen apart for him, and he didn't know if being loved was going to be enough. He felt someone sit down next to him, and looked up, expecting to see Jason. Instead, he saw Lita, smiling at him sympathetically.
.........."Hey, Tommy. That's got to hurt, I know. If it's any consolation, I don't think they planned it that way," she offered.
..........He laughed. "It's not that, Dr. Kino. I really am happy for them both. I meant every word I said in there. It's just- it's just that I'm alone again. Everybody else has somebody, but I'm alone, and I'm still in love with the woman who dumped me. I haven't been fair to Kat at all. In a sense, I think I just latched onto her to avoid being alone. She probably got tired of competing with a ghost, but Kim's always gonna be hanging over me. That song- Kim and I danced to it all the time. I just feel so lost. I guess I traded one depression for another."
.........."Tommy, I know that right now romance and romantic love seem to be the most important kinds, but you have to understand that you're not alone. You're a part of a group of friends so close that nothing can come between you for long. You and Kat may not be romantically involved anymore, but you'll always be friends. Nothing that comes between you, now or in the future, will ever break that bond you have with your friends. That goes for Kimberly, too."
..........He smiled up at her. "Thanks, Lita."
.........."No sweat," she grinned, helping him to his feet. "C'mon. Let's go in there and dance!" They re-entered the youth center, going back to the party. For the first time in almost three years, Tommy thought that things were going to be all right.