Disclaimer: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers aren't mine. They
are the property of Saban the great and terrible. No animals were killed
or harmed during the making of this motion picture. Thanks to Jen Bigley
for Zordon's wife.
This fanfic is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America. Some harsh language. Tearjerker warning! Break out the Kleenex!
Excerpt from the diary of Jason Lee Scott.
September 17, 1996
It looks so strange there in print, all alone. It's not any easier to deal with it, though. I'm not even sure how I feel about it, much less how to deal with it. I'm pretty sure that it's the truth, though.
I haven't written for a while, so I probably ought to start at the beginning. This whole thing started when- well, when I accepted the Gold Ranger powers, despite the risk, I guess. Really, though, things seem to have started a few days after I gave the Gold powers back to Trey. I was tired, and everyone could understand that. After all, losing your powers is a physically and emotionally painful process. Tommy could tell you that. I was just tired; it'd get better soon.
Except it didn't. I was too weak to take the Red powers when Tommy needed a surrogate, during his therapy with Doctor Kino. Fine, all right, it was just taking a while. I just needed to rest.
Then I began throwing up every morning. By now, I knew something was wrong. When my mom caught me, I just made some joke about being pregnant, and passed it off as stomach flu. After that, I threw up more quietly.
I knew that the only way I was going to get any answers on my condition was to talk to Trey. So, I grabbed him at school (he enrolled to be closer to Chelsea), pulled him into a corridor, and told him quietly what was happening to me. He went pale, deadly pale, and right after school, he teleported me to Pyramidas. He must have used every scanning device in the Zord on me. Then he sat down facing me, his expression grim.
"Jason, I- I think you're dying," he told me quietly. The news hit me like a thunderbolt.
"What happened?" I managed to ask.
"The Gold Power is not really designed for human physiology," he told me. "Somehow, the Gold Powers caused your life-force to short out. Your life energy is leaking away, sort of like water from a broken pipe."
"Can't you patch it or something?"
Trey shook his head. "I can't stop this. I don't know what to do. We'll have to ask Zordon."
"Wait," I ordered, my head spinning. "How long 'til this is irreversible?"
"I don't really know. Theoretically, it's reversible until you're dead."
"How long 'til that happens?"
"You probably have five, six months tops, if you're lucky."
Six months. No graduation, no Prom, no college, no marriage or children. Six months. One last Christmas with my family and friends. The enormity of the situation had finally hit home. I'm not ashamed to say that I broke down in tears. Finally, I calmed down enough to raise my head and look at him. "Don't tell the Rangers."
"They've got enough problems to deal with at the moment. They don't need this weighing on them, too. Besides, if they find out, that means Mondo can find out, and I don't want to spend the rest of my life as bait."
He just stared at me, not understanding. "Jason, they're the best friends you have. You have to tell them."
I shook my head. "No. They'll all just blame themselves. I'm not going to tell them unless and until it becomes absolutely necessary."
He just sighed and did as I asked. We told Zordon, of course. I made him promise not to tell the Rangers either. Everyone thinks I'm in denial or something, but that's not it. I have very good reasons for not wanting them to know about my condition. Most importantly, I can't deal with their guilt and my confusion at the same time. I'm scared. I'm not ready to die yet.
This morning, the shakes started. I woke up, trembling so badly that for a moment I was literally unable to rise from bed. It went away, and I went to school like nothing had happened. At lunch, I grabbed Trey and told him about it. He looked at me and shook his head. Apparently, my nerves are misfiring. There isn't enough life energy in my body right now to keep them working correctly. It'll start out mild, but it's supposed to increase as I get weaker. As if dying wasn't bad enough, I'm going to be having seizures now. I just don't know what to do.
Jason put down his pen and closed his journal with a sigh. For some reason, he still felt compelled to keep the journal, even though he wouldn't live long enough to finish it. Maybe he could leave it to Tommy or something. Maybe ask to have it burned at his funeral. Jason chuckled. He could just imagine his friends' reactions if they knew he was planning his own funeral.
Sighing, Jason got up from his desk and went to lie down on his bed. He was sleeping a lot lately, partly because of his tiredness and weakness, and partly because of his dreams. Every night he had a lot of strange, very vivid, bittersweet dreams. They were usually about the five original Rangers, together as they had always been in those days. Sometimes he woke up crying, but he still preferred that time to the present. Then he'd been young, full of hope for the future. There were days when he couldn't believe three years had passed since Zordon had called them to the Command Center, and then there were other days when he felt like it had been a million years, rather than just three. More and more, his days seemed to fit into the latter category.
I miss Zack, he thought to himself. I miss them all. Idly he wondered if the other four members of the original team, now scattered to the four winds, would return for his funeral. He'd like to have them there, if he could. Those four, and the current team, were as much his family as his mother and father. No one should die alone, he thought to himself, dropping off to sleep.
* * *
A few days later, at school, Jason was loading his books into his locker after last period when he felt the weakness in his limbs which presaged a seizure. No! he thought to himself anxiously. Not now! There was nothing he could do about it, though. The shakes began to spread through his body and he dropped to the ground, twitching.
Tanya Sloan, the Yellow Ranger, was at her locker nearby when Jason's attack began. Instantly, she was by his side, all her first aid training kicking in. Quickly and efficiently, she made sure his airway was clear and slid her knees under his head, making a pillow of her thighs so that he wouldn't injure himself by beating his head on the ground. "Somebody go get the nurse!" she cried. "Hurry!" Even as one student ran to do as she asked, Tanya wondered to herself. What in the world could have triggered Jason's seizure?
* * *
When Jason stopped shaking, and became aware of his surroundings again, he was in the nurse's office at school, and his parents were looking down at him in concern. Oh shit, he groaned to himself. There goes my secret. Sitting up, he looked around muzzily. The Rangers, all six of them, were sitting in the office as well.
"What happened?" he asked. "What time is it?"
"It's 3:15," Tommy told him. "You had a seizure by your locker, and then you passed out. What happened out there, Jase?" Despite the concern in his voice, Tommy's tone was not completely that of a worried friend. There was a steel there that Jason had never heard directed at him before. With a mental smile, he identified it as a fairly good copy of his "leader voice." Tommy wanted answers, and he wanted them now. Jason sighed.
"Mom, Dad, can we go home? I have some things I want to tell all of you, but not here. Not at school." Jason's parents looked at each other and sighed.
"We should really take you to the hospital to be checked out, Jason," his mother protested.
Jason shook his head. "There's no need, Mom," he replied quietly. "I already know what's wrong. Please, can we go home?"
His father nodded. "Sure, Jase. Come on, Tommy and I will help you out to the car."
* * *
Once in the Scotts' living room, Jason comfortably ensconced on the couch, the Rangers began demanding answers. Finally, Jason held up a hand to squelch the noise.
"It's a long story, especially since I'm going to start at the beginning. The very beginning." Tommy opened his mouth to say something, but Jason beat him to it. "I already asked him, Tommy. I thought I might have to tell this story sooner or later. Mom, Dad, I've been keeping something from you for the past three years. You see, three years ago, I became a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger. The Red one." Jason's parents sat, dumfounded and open-jawed, as their son quietly detailed his history as a superhero. Finally, he reached the present day.
"Everyone thought that once I gave the Gold Powers to Trey, I'd be fine, physically if not mentally. I'm not, though. The Gold Powers shorted out something inside me. My life-force is leaking into- well, I don't exactly know where it's going, but the end result is the same. I'm dying. Trey's machines say that I have approximately six months to live." His parents both shot to their feet in unison, but never had a chance to be heard over the Rangers.
"WHAT!" Tommy yelled.
"Why didn't you tell us?" cried Kat.
"Jason, there has to be something we can do," added Tanya. Only Adam and Rocky were silent, too stunned by Jason's revelation to speak. Once again, Jason held up a hand for quiet.
"I didn't want you to know. I knew you'd all feel guilty and helpless. I wanted to keep this to myself as long as possible. Before anybody has a cow over this, let me remind you all that I chose to take up the Gold powers to prevent them from being lost. Trey warned me that it would be dangerous simply to hold them, even if I didn't fight. I knew the risk, and I took it. I'd take it again. This is no one's fault." Jason looked straight at Tommy as he said this, but found, as expected, that the Red Ranger would not meet his eyes.
Jason's parents were sitting on the couch, shocked into silence. "Jason, what can we do?" his father asked finally.
"I'm going to need you to cover for me. Tell the school that I've been diagnosed with some chemical imbalance, something that is potentially fatal, and results in seizures and weakness. I'm sure Adam and Zordon can create some fake medical records to back that up. Aside from that," Jason shrugged, "just be there for me. I'm going to need you."
Nodding, his parents drew him in for a hug. All three Scotts held on much longer than usual.
* * *
It was a beautiful afternoon, but Tommy didn't see it. He was too busy walking with his eyes on his feet, trying to come to terms with what Jason had told them. Dying? Jason couldn't die. They were Power Rangers, the good guys. Good guys weren't supposed to die, and especially not in such a stupid, pointless manner. The worst part was, he couldn't shake the conviction that this was somehow all his fault. If he hadn't asked Jason to rejoin the team, if he had been there for Jason so that he hadn't had to push his powers to the limit, if he hadn't been so preoccupied with his own stupid problems, maybe he could have done something.
When he finally raised his head, he saw with only moderate surprise that he had come to Angel's Rest, the largest cemetery in Angel Grove. The marble tombstones stared at him accusingly. Lying there in that cemetery, he knew, were people who had died in monster attacks. People who had died because he had failed. In his mind, he could see their names engraved on their monuments, monuments he had visited a dozen times or more, asking for forgiveness, searching for peace. He never found any.
Now, into his mind sprang an image of a stone with "Jason Lee Scott" written on it. "No," he whispered. "Jason is not going to die. I will not fail again. No more failures. No more names."
* * *
Up at Hunter's Point, overlooking the city, Trey of Triforia sat with his girlfriend Chelsea Oliver. "So how's Tommy taking this?" Trey asked listlessly, throwing a pebble over the cliff.
Chelsea snorted. "You know my brother. He's beating himself up over the whole thing, sure it's his fault, sure that he's responsible. He went to the cemetery again yesterday. He doesn't eat, he barely sleeps, and he's beginning to look like a zombie- again. Dad's about to send him right back to Lita if he doesn't shape up."
"Might be the best thing for him," Trey sighed.
"You too," Chelsea informed him. "Come on, Trey, I live with the Guilt King of Angel Grove. I can tell that you're beating yourself up over what's happened to Jason."
Trey shook his head. "I can't hide anything from you, can I? I should have known- I did know how dangerous the Gold Powers are for humans. I should have called a Triforian to take them, or just let them dissipate. I should never have let him put himself in danger."
"Trey, what could you have done? You could no more let those powers lapse than I could jump off this cliff and fly. You're a Ranger, sworn to defend. Could you really have let your only means of saving people and planets dissipate? As for Jason, he knew the risks. He really understood them. Jason thrives on risk. He needed to be a Ranger again, to make that sacrifice, to take that chance. You gave him a second lease on a life he thought was gone. Neither of you could have know that this was coming, nor should you have."
"Maybe," Trey allowed. "I keep forgetting how short and fragile human lives are."
Something nagged at the back of Chelsea's mind. "Trey, how long do Triforians live?"
"On average, approximately 14,000 years," he admitted quietly.
Chelsea suddenly had trouble swallowing around the lump in her throat. "How old are you?"
"4000. In your earth years, in terms of physical maturity, I'm about twenty."
Chelsea couldn't meet his eyes. "Trey, I'm not going to live that long. Do you- can you really love me?"
Going down on one knee before her, he raised her chin so that he could look into her eyes. "Chelsea, I can and do love you. There are ways for me to extend your lifespan so that we could spend the rest of our lives together. I guess I'm asking you to marry me. If you do, we can be together for the rest of our lives. I'm not pushing for an answer; it won't become a problem for another seven years, at least. I'm just saying that if you want, we can be together."
Chelsea threw her arms around his neck and held him tightly. They sat there for a long time, immersing themselves in the comfort the other offered.
* * *
"Ki-yah!" Rocky yelled, his foot slamming into the bag which hung from one of the trees in his backyard. Ever since Jason's revelation three days ago, he had been in a constant frenzy of activity. No matter how much he exercised, however, he could not shake the accusing thoughts floating around the back of his mind. You failed again, they whispered. First Jennifer, now Jason. How many of your friends will die because you couldn't save them?
"What could I have done?" he asked out loud. "I didn't ask him to become Gold Ranger."
You could have been there when he needed you in those battles. Instead, you left everything up to him, and now he's worked himself into a state of exhaustion. He's dying because you failed him. You're worthless, Rocky. Completely worthless.
Shaking his head, Rocky tried to concentrate on the bag once again. It was getting harder and harder, though, and his other solution was becoming more attractive all the time. Rocky shook his head. No, he would not go inside and get drunk. He had promised his mother, after Jen had died, that he would not use the bottle as an escape route again. Still, more and more, it seemed like the only option he had left.
"Rocky?" Whirling to see who had spoken, Rocky saw his brother Pedro standing in the doorway, concerned.
"Hey, Pedro. I thought you were still at college," Rocky answered, picking up his towel.
"We've got a week off. Mom called and told me about Jason, so I thought I'd come home and see how you're doing."
"How does it look like I'm doing?" Rocky yelled, his anger and fear exploding all at once. "One of my friends is dying slowly! I should have done something- should be doing something! Instead all I'm doing is beating up on a punching bag and trying not to get drunk!"
Pedro was a little taken aback by the violence of his younger brother's outburst. Except for a similarity in their heights, the De Santos brothers were as different as night and day. Pedro had their late father's Mexican features, with dark skin, hair and eyes. Rocky was lighter, with their mother's midbrown coloring. The differences extended to their personalities as well. Pedro was intense, throwing himself into everything he did, while Rocky was the easygoing, laid-back brother. If he was yelling, then the stress on him must have reached the breaking point.
"I know you're hurting, Rocky," Pedro told him quietly. "This has been a bad year for you, hasn't it? But you are not responsible for this sort of thing. It just happened. Jennifer was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Jason's just unlucky. Look, I'm no good at this. I'm in pre-law, not Psychology. Maybe you should talk to Father Callahan down at St. Maria's. He's trained to give advice in these situations."
Rocky almost laughed at the image of him spilling his story to the rather staid priest. Then he sobered. Actually, Father Callahan would take it in stride. Nothing ever seemed to faze him. Still, he couldn't break his word to Zordon. Then an idea hit him. "I think I have someone who I can talk to about this, thanks," he told his brother. "I'm glad you're home, Pedro."
Pedro smiled. "Hey, what are big brothers for?"
* * *
Zordon was startled out of his thoughts about Jason's predicament by the tone which signaled an incoming sub-space transmission. "On screen," he commanded the computer. Instantly, the viewing globe lit up, showing a picture of Billy.
"Billy, this is indeed a surprise. Is everything all right on Aquitar?" the inter-dimensional being asked, concerned. The picture was somewhat fuzzy, subspace transmissions not being of the greatest clarity, but Zordon thought that Billy's eyes appeared red. It looked as if the young scientist had been crying.
"Oh, yeah, Zordon. Everything's fine," Billy replied. From the strangled tone in his voice, however, Zordon deduced that something was indeed wrong with Billy. In his rather limited experience with humans, the ancient sage had noticed that many of them said "Everything's fine," when what they really meant was, "Everything's going wrong." He had idly wondered whether this particular behavior was confined to teenagers, or present throughout the majority of the species. Bringing himself back to the present, Zordon heard Billy continue. "I'm- I'm coming home. I can't stand being away from Earth anymore. The Aquitian Rangers have prepared a teleportation beam for me. I'll arrive on Earth in about three minutes."
"The Power Chamber is standing by to receive you, Billy," Zordon replied softly. He had thought that this day might come. Love can make all places seem like home, but it must be very strong. He had not seen that strong a bond in Billy and Cestria, although he had been wrong about such things before. Memories and thoughts of things that might have been rose before Zordon, but were swept away for the time being. Right now, two of his Rangers needed his help. In a way, they were his children, the children he had never had. Since he was stuck in this time warp, they were the only children he would ever have, and he loved them as much as any father loved his children.
Billy's blue-white teleportation signal began to coalesce in the center of the Power Chamber, and soon after, Billy was solid once more. He kept his eyes downcast, a sure sign that he had been crying. Zordon smiled to himself. Did Billy really think he wouldn't notice? Although the worst of the teasing Billy had endured in his life had passed by the time he became a Ranger, it had not stopped completely. Also, Billy had always been the most sensitive of the original five Rangers. As a result, Zordon had had plenty of opportunities to observe Billy's behavior after he had been crying. It was always the same.
"Welcome home, Billy," the wizard rumbled quietly. "It is good to see you again. I'm sure your father and friends will feel the same way."
"Yeah," Billy replied listlessly. "Anything interesting happen while I was gone?"
Zordon took a deep breath. It really isn't fair, he thought. Of all the times to drop this bombshell, and all the people to drop it on, this combination must be the worst. "Billy, I'm afraid I have some bad news. Do you remember that Jason had an adverse reaction to the Golden Powers which left him extremely weak?"
Billy's head snapped up and he frowned. "Sure, I remember. Why?"
"Apparently Jason's troubles didn't end with returning the Golden Powers to Trey. He is dying, Billy. His life-force is slowly leaking out of him and neither I nor Trey knows how to stop it."
Billy had been growing more and more pale throughout Zordon's reply, and now his knees felt like rubber. He sat down very abruptly, not caring that there was nothing beneath him but floor. Dying? Jason was dying? Billy couldn't accept that. Jason was so energetic, so alive. He'd taught Billy so much. Jason had been one of the first people to treat him as more than a brain, had been the first to invite him to do things. He'd taught Billy about discipline from that first karate class, and about courage in so many little ways. Jason had never backed down from a fight, but he'd walk away from one if you'd let him. The thought of Jason, the first best friend he'd ever really had, dying was shattering.
Billy raised his head, no longer ashamed of the fresh tears standing in his eyes. "Jason always told me that you never give up without a fight. Where do we start?"
Zordon smiled. In all their long acquaintance, he didn't think that he'd ever been more proud of Billy.
* * *
California is mostly desert. The few islands of green that man has managed to establish there are fragile and small. Step beyond the boundaries of the cities, and the desert descends with the speed and force of a diving eagle. Angel Grove was no exception to the rule. Out in that desert, on a high mesa, a single Jeep was parked. The afternoon sun beat down on it, but its occupants paid no attention. They were far too busy with their own problems.
"I can't believe it," David repeated, his shock evident in his voice. "He's always been so strong."
Katharine, her head on his shoulder, nodded. "I feel so numb. Like I should be feeling something, but don't. It's not real to me yet, I suppose. I'm having a much harder time dealing with the thought that Rangers are mortal, just like other people. I always knew we could die in battle, but of something like this, just from having those powers," she shook her head. "It's scary."
"It's natural," David told her. "You- we don't know him all that well. A few months' friendship, a lot of stories, and that's it. You really have no base to grieve him from, especially because he's not dead. If he does die, you'll feel it then."
"David, you know I love you, right? It hit me the other night that I don't say that nearly enough. Something could happen, and we'd never see each other again."
He held her tightly, running one hand up and down her arm. "I love you, too, Kat. I always will, no matter what happens to us." They fell silent then, watching the desert and all its harsh beauty.
* * *
Tanya rapped at the door of the Cranston garage. "Adam?" she called. When she didn't get an answer, she carefully pushed the door open. Inside, she found Adam sprawled on the couch, dead asleep, with no sign of Billy. Sighing, she walked over to him and shook him awake.
"Damn it, Adam," she growled, once he was coherent enough to understand her. "Did you and Billy spend the whole night looking at those medical tests again?"
"I dunno, maybe," he mumbled, rubbing at his eyes. "There has to be something we missed. There has to be."
"I think he managed to drag himself upstairs. I dunno, after three o'clock, everything got a little blurry."
Tanya sighed, sinking down onto the couch next to Adam. "Adam, you and Billy are going to kill yourselves if you keep going on like this. You have to sleep."
Adam shook his head. "No sleep. I have caffeine, that's all I need. There'll be time enough to sleep when we've found a way to help Jason."
"And what if you can't?" she shot back, her voice rising. "Are you going to go without sleep for the next five and a half months? You'll collapse long before then." He just stared back at her stubbornly. Exasperated, she tried another tactic. "Adam, it hurts me to see you killing yourself like this. I know you feel that you have to find a solution, but sometimes there isn't one. Sometimes you just have to accept what's happened and live with it. When my parents disappeared, when I thought they were dead, I was full of fantasies and ideas about how they were just lost, and I was going to find them. Eventually, though, I had to accept that I would never see them again. You can't let loss make you afraid to go on living. Ashala told me once that the greatest memorial the dead can have is for the living who love them to go on living as best they can. Jason's having a hard enough time dealing with this as it is. Don't make it any harder on him."
Adam let out his breath in a long rush, then drew her close and rested his head on her shoulder. She sat holding him until he fell asleep once again.
* * *
The Angel Grove youth center was always a place full of sound and life. That was one of the reasons Jason was so drawn to it now. He could sit at a table, drink a juice, and almost forget his predicament for a while. "Almost" because there was always someone looking at him in sympathy. Jason didn't really mind that. He could handle sympathy. At least it wasn't pity.
He was enjoying himself at Ernie's annual Halloween party, dressed as a vampire, when Emily, who had come as a princess, came up to him. Drawing him aside, out of the hubbub of the crowd, she looked down at her own feet for a long while before she spoke.
"Jason, this is hard for me to say, and I know it's going to be hard for you to hear. I've tried to be here for you, and not pull away, but I can't. I can't be strong anymore. I want to break up with you."
Jason was stunned. "What? Why?"
Shaking her head, Emily appeared to be on the verge of tears. "I can't watch you get weaker and weaker, the way you have been. I can't watch you dying!" Taking a deep breath, she pulled herself together and continued. "When I was ten, my grandmother died of cancer. She just wasted away. I- I can't watch someone else go through that. I'm sorry. No hard feelings?" she asked wistfully.
Somehow, Jason managed to smile, even through his pain. "No, Emily. No hard feelings. I understand, and we'll always be friends." She nodded at him and disappeared back into the crowd. Jason, left alone, felt as if someone had mistaken him for a real vampire, and pounded a stake through his heart.
* * *
One morning in early November, Dr. Lita Kino walked into her office, looked at her schedule for the day, and began to chuckle. Her first three appointments, in order, were Jason Scott, Tommy Oliver, and Rocky De Santos. Suddenly, she sobered. If all three were coming to see her, then something must have gone wrong for the Power Rangers. Sighing, she sat down at her desk. This was going to be yet another interesting day.
Jason walked into Lita's office, looking even paler and weaker than when she had first met him. Lita frowned. Did this have something to do with three Rangers coming to see her at once? Sitting down in the chair across from her desk, Jason took a deep breath.
"Um, I suppose you'll want to know why I'm here. It's not a Ranger problem exactly. You remember that I lost the Gold Ranger powers because they were incompatible with human biology? Well, we didn't realize it, but the powers damaged me fairly badly. My life-force is leaking out, and I can't stop it. I'm dying. I've got approximately five months left."
Lita was stunned. She could hardly believe that someone as alive as Jason could be dying. Still, she'd counseled victims of terminal diseases before, and her training kicked in. "How are you feeling?"
He sighed. "I'm numb, I guess. Somehow, I always expected this. Ever since joining the Rangers, I had a feeling that I wasn't going to live a long life. I just always thought that I'd go out in battle."
"Are you afraid to die?"
"You know, that's the really funny thing. I'm not. I guess I used to be, but not anymore. I've seen so much that I know- I just know that there's nothing to worry about on the other side. I'll miss living, but I'm not afraid to die.
"What's worse than dying is the fact that I'm deteriorating. I'm weak, I'm tired, I can't defend myself, I could well be a danger to everyone around me. That's what I'm scared of. My girlfriend broke up with me a couple days ago, because she couldn't stand to watch me go downhill. Am I going to lose all my friends like that?"
Lita shook her head. "Of course not, Jason. Your friends will stand by you forever, no matter what happens. The type of bond you have can't be broken so easily."
Jason smiled at her. "Thanks, Lita. It's good to have someone to talk to."
* * *
"Negative," the computer beeped for what had to be the twentieth time. Frustrated, Billy slammed his fist down onto the desktop. Nothing again. No matter what he tried, nothing worked. Sighing, he pulled himself together. Getting angry wasn't going to help Jason. Carefully, he loaded yet another treated blood sample into the analyzer and sank down on his couch to await the results. While he waited, his mind began to wander.
He'd been home a few weeks now, but he couldn't stop thinking about the events which had brought him home, and those that had occurred directly after his arrival. He didn't want to think about them, but they came into his mind anyway. Especially Cestria, and the look on her face when he told her he was leaving.
Knuckling the tears from his eyes, Billy could still see her stricken expression when he had explained, slowly and carefully, why he was going back to Earth for good. "It's not that I don't love you," he had told her, "it's just that I don't love you enough, or in the right way. Cestria, you've been very important to me, and I wouldn't trade this for anything. It's just- there's no real passion there. And as much as I love you, Aquitar will never be home for me. I'm sorry."
She had understood, even though she would miss him, and had even kissed him on the cheek before leaving. He hated to think that he might have broken her heart, but he couldn't stay. In the end, it wouldn't have been fair to either of them.
Then he had returned to Earth and made a discovery that made his own pain seem trivial. Jason, one of his oldest and best friends, was dying. Not from the machinations of Zedd, or Mondo, but from Ranger powers and his own body going haywire. Almost against his will, Billy was assaulted by images of the two of them throughout their lives. His first day in a new school, in fourth grade. Bulk and Skull, bullies even then, had attempted to make his day miserable. Jason had stepped in and run the two of them off. Almost immediately, the two had become fast friends. Then, Jason had introduced the young genius to Trini, one of his other friends, and Billy's first love began. The three had been inseparable all their lives. In fifth grade, Kimberly Hart, newly arrived from Seattle, had joined the group, and in sixth grade, they had picked up Zack Taylor, from Washington DC. Through it all, Jason had been the center of the action, always in charge. The thought of being without him was numbing. It was as if all the gravity in Billy's world had been destroyed, and he was drifting helplessly along.
Billy's mind then leaped forward to the night he had come home from Aquitar. His father had met him at the door, astounding him. Then Billy had noticed the communicator on his father's wrist. When he asked about it, he received a bit of a shock. He had not had time to bid goodbye to his father when he had left for Aquitar after his aging, and the Rangers had assured him that that detail would be taken care of. Apparently, Tommy and Jason had taken care of it, morphing and informing Hank Cranston that there had been an accident involving his son. They had given Mr. Cranston an extremely edited version of events and left him a communicator so that they could contact him in case Billy was ever able to call home. When Billy had arrived home this time, Zordon had simply beeped Hank and informed him of Billy's impending arrival. After the explanations, the two men had stared at each other in silence for a minute, and then embraced each other.
Billy sighed. That was what he had missed on Aquitar. As much as he had cared about Cestria and liked the Aquitian Rangers, it hadn't been home, and they hadn't been his family. Family was one of the most important things in the world. At least Jason would have his friends and family around him. No one should die alone, Billy thought, unknowingly echoing Jason's thoughts of almost a month and a half earlier. Just then, the computer beeped its signal that it was done with its analysis. Sighing, Billy levered himself up off the couch to go check the readout.
* * *
Trini Kwan was just finishing her assignment for math class when a knock at the door drew her attention. She frowned. Her roommate, Carla, never knocked. It was the major bone of contention between them.
"Who is it?" she called cautiously, rising to her feet. She wasn't expecting any trouble, but a year as a Power Ranger had taught her to be careful all the time.
"It's Zack," came the reply. Now Trini was really worried. The voice sounded like Zack's, but she had never heard the usually happy-go-lucky boy so disturbed. Opening the door, she gasped. Zack looked physically ill, his dark skin an unhealthy shade of gray, and the look in his eyes was that of a man who has just lost his best friend.
"My gosh, Zack! What's the matter? Is something wrong in your family?" she cried, ushering him in.
Zack shook his head. "Sit down, Trini. You're not going to like this." Warily, she sat. "I got a call from Angel Grove today, from Billy. Jason-" Zack's voice cracked, and he was unable to go on for a second. "Jason wrote to you about the Gold Ranger powers, didn't he?"
"That he took them and lost them again? Sure."
"Well, it's worse than we thought." Zack took a deep breath. "Something went wrong. The powers damaged his own life-force. He's dying."
"He's dying. Oh, God, Trini," Zack, normally the most unflappable of the group, burst into tears and threw himself into Trini's arms. She held him and cried with him, unable to believe that this was happening. Jason, dying? Jason had been her best friend from kindergarten. Even at five years old, they had both been interested in martial arts, and a firm friendship had developed between them. Jason had always been her protector, the center of the group no matter what the occasion. With Jason gone, what was to keep the four of them from spinning off in all directions, like rogue planets suddenly released from their sun?
Zack knew that sobbing in Trini's arms was wrecking the cool, unflappable image he had created for himself, but he didn't care. He had felt so out of place in his first days in Angel Grove, the inner-city black kid in a predominantly white suburban town. He'd been so sure he wouldn't fit in,- and then Jason had appeared, with his three friends and an offer to go to the youth center and just "hang out." Zack had played it cool, unwilling to appear too eager, but somehow, Jason had instinctively known what Zack really wanted to say and had taken it for granted that he'd be there. That had started a friendship unlike any that Zack had ever known. Jason had understood him, had taught him martial arts, and had made the decision that had lead Zack and the others into the greatest adventure of their lives, when they perhaps might have turned it down. Without Jason, Zack wasn't sure he knew where to go anymore.
After a while, Trini forced herself to speak. "Do they- do they want us to come back?"
Zack shook his head. "No. There's nothing we can do right now. If- if he gets worse, they'll call us. We can decide what to do then." The two friends looked at each other. They knew there was no decision to be made. Jason's welfare came before the peace conference or their own schedules. He needed them and they would be there. Jason was not going to die without his friends by his side.
* * *
"Kimberly? Kimberly, what's wrong?" Scott Mitchell called through the door to her room. Kimberly Hart, sitting on her bed crying her eyes out, did not answer for a long moment. Finally, she sighed, rose from the bed and opened the door. Scott, a tall boy with white-blond hair and blue eyes, looked down at his girlfriend in confusion. "What was that phone call about, angel?" he asked, choosing his endearment carefully. The last time he had called her 'beautiful,' she'd cried for almost an hour straight.
Taking a deep breath, Kimberly looked up at him and pulled herself together. "An old friend of mine in Angel Grove is really sick. They think he's dying."
"Oh, man. Kim, I'm really sorry. Is there anything I can do?"
She smiled up at him wistfully. "No, Scott, but thanks for asking. I just need to be alone for a while, think some things through."
"OK, I understand," he nodded. "You give me a call if you need me, all right?"
"I will, Scott." Closing the door after him, Kimberly sighed and flopped down on her bed again. When Billy had called with the news about Jason, she hadn't believed it at first. Then she had immediately been plunged into her memories of her friend.
Jason had always been there for her, been her best friend. When she had arrived in Angel Grove from Seattle, he had been the first person to make her feel welcome. At the time, she had been recovering from her parents' divorce, so she hadn't been the most congenial person in the world. Jason and his friends had been so understanding, though. Slowly, she had come out of the shell she had shut herself in.
During their friendship, Jason had always been like a big brother to her. When people tried to pick on her, or guys (mainly Skull) had tried to hassle her for a date, Jason had been there, tall, dark, and very imposing. Jason had always made Kimberly feel safe, even when they weren't together. With him gone, what would she do?
Sighing, Kimberly bent her thoughts to the present situation. There was only one thing for her to do, really. Gymnastics and the Pan-Globals were unimportant compared to being there for Jason. The only problem was Tommy. She had hurt him very badly when they had broken up, and she wasn't sure she wanted to deal with the feelings that seeing him would bring. She still loved him, she couldn't deny that, but if she was honest with herself, she was afraid of him as well. He had been so dark and dangerous, always within an arm's length of some cliff inside himself. Always a step away from letting the darkness in his heart take over.
When she had come to Florida and met Scott, she had been drawn to him almost immediately. He had Tommy's strength, humor, and gentleness without his carefully restrained darkness of spirit. She sighed again. Tommy or no Tommy, Jason needed her. She reached out and picked up the phone. Coach Schmit would be disappointed, but she had to leave. She was going home at last.
* * *
In the Power Chamber, the computers beeped and whirred incessantly, processing information, searching tirelessly to some remedy for Jason's condition. Zordon didn't hear them, however. He was too lost in his own thoughts.
How had things come to this? Was there something he could have done? He had thought that he and Trey had made the risks of taking the Gold Powers clear, but neither of them had ever imagined anything like this. They had both assumed that tiredness and weakness would be the extent of the powers' ill effects on Jason. Now Jason was dying, and Zordon had to face losing yet another member of his family.
He sighed as his mind ranged back to his lovely wife Melita. Actually, she hadn't been his wife in any official sense, but that had been a mere technicality. She had been the Zeo Guardian, the protector of the Zeo Crystal, and her calling had kept her from marrying. No Zeo Guardian could place another person above the Crystal. Still, there had been a way for them to be together. Each Guardian could choose a Co-Guardian to share his or her life and the duty of guarding the Zeo Crystal. Plans had been made for the two of them to cement their union in this way, but Lord Zedd's forces, led by Rita Repulsa, had attacked, and in the battle, Zordon had been trapped in his time warp. Unable to become Co-Guardian, he had had himself posted to Earth, a minor planet near where Rita's dumpster had been placed. The small world would need his help should Rita ever escape captivity, and on Earth, there would not be so many memories of a time when he was whole to torment him.
Melita, unable to stand their separation, had followed him to Earth's moon, where she hid the Zeo Crystal, setting up a series of testing barriers with the help of some wizards, escapees from the M-51 galaxy, which had recently fallen to Master Vile. Then she had died of grief, while he could do nothing but watch.
Melita had been the only love in his life, and they had had no children. Perhaps that was why he regarded the Rangers as his children. They were the only young people he would ever teach, the only legacy he would give to the universe. He loved them as if they were his own flesh and blood, and they all seemed to regard him as a surrogate father.
All parents have one or two children who are, if not their favorites, at least those they most see themselves in. In a way, the Ranger Zordon regarded as his heir was Jason. Perhaps it was because Jason was a natural leader, just as Zordon had been. Only in his time as a member of the Order of the Meledan had he not been in charge. Then he had been second-in command, following the leadership of Lexian, then-Prince of Edenoi. Still, circumstances and his own personality had often thrust Zordon into the role of leader, just as they seemed to do for Jason. In addition, of all the teens he had brought to the command center for the first time, only Jason had not been afraid. Trini and Billy had been awed, Kimberly and Zack had been uncomfortable, Tommy had been guilt-ridden, and they all had been afraid. Zordon had been able to read it in their eyes. Only Jason had felt no fear. Almost instantly, the two had developed a kinship.
Zordon sighed. It was ironic, that of all the Rangers, the one he most regarded as his son was the one he was in the greatest danger of losing. I fought to keep Tommy on the team, and he was only losing his powers. We found a way to save him. Hopefully, we can do the same for Jason.
* * *
In the middle of preparing Thanksgiving dinner, Karen Scott put her knife down and started to sob. Almost instantly, her husband was by her side, holding her tightly. "Shh, shh, Karen. It'll be all right. We'll get through this," John whispered.
"Mashed potatoes are Jason's favorite," she managed to gasp between sobs. "It just hit me that this is the last Thanksgiving he'll be able to enjoy them."
John sighed. "I know, honey." From out in the living room, he could hear the sounds of Jason and Tommy arguing good-naturedly over which channel to watch, with Rocky fruitlessly trying to mediate. The sound of the kids, so natural, brought a lump to his own throat. It was all he could do not to break down in tears of his own.
The last two months had been understandably hard on the Scotts, but all of the Rangers had been there for them. In a way, Jason's friends had become a true part of the family. Tommy especially had provided much-needed stability for both Jason and his parents. That was why the Rangers were all eating an early Thanksgiving meal at Jason's, the Wednesday before the actual holiday.
"Aw, forget it," Jason called, walking through the swinging doors to the kitchen. "Mom, do we have-" His voice trailed off as he saw that his parents had been crying. "Ah, Mom." He walked over to her and embraced them both. Wiping her streaming eyes, Karen pulled away finally and turned back to her cooking.
"Go on, you two, get out of here or I'll never get any work done." Jason and his dad flashed smiles at each other and walked out onto the porch.
"I still can't believe I didn't notice. Now that I think back, I can remember you being gone a lot, and always dashing out of the house at odd times, but I never once wondered what was going on."
Jason shrugged. "I tried pretty hard to make you think things were normal, and to get you to trust me. I guess I did a pretty good job."
"You did. Jason, I want you to know something. I'm very proud of you. You obviously were a very good Power Ranger, and that's a very brave thing to do. It especially took courage to get back into it when you knew what it entailed. I'm very, very proud of you."
"Thanks, Dad," Jason managed, glad that it was becoming dark. That way his father couldn't see the tears gathering in his eyes.
Surreptitiously knuckling away some tears of his own, John put his arm around his son. "Come on. Let's go inside. I think your friends are waiting for us." Together, they went inside.
* * *
"A sweater. Just what I wanted," Jason grinned, looking down at his Christmas present from Tanya. Over the three months that he had been ill, his weakness and paleness had grown steadily worse, but his spirit was unbroken. He walked more slowly, but still unaided. The seizures had indeed increased in frequency, but still did not significantly interfere with his life. That was for later, he supposed. Now, he and all the Rangers were celebrating Christmas together. Tomorrow was Christmas Eve, which they would all spend with their respective families, but tonight, they were all together at the Power Chamber exchanging gifts.
"Kat? What is this thing?" David asked, holding up something that none of them could identify.
"Modern art. My aunt made it. I think it's titled "Flying Crane" or something. Don't you like it?"
"You want a straight answer?"
The mood at the party was cheerful, but not annoyingly so. All of Jason's friends had managed to come to terms with his situation, even Tommy, although that had taken a lot of therapy from Lita. She had also been invited to the party, but had declined, saying something about mistletoe and an old colleague. Tommy hadn't asked further.
Sighing, Jason detached himself from the party and headed outside. They wouldn't miss him for a little while, and he needed a breath of fresh air. The desert surrounding the Power Chamber was surprisingly warm for late December. The temperature was merely brisk, not cold, and the wind was almost non-existent. Above him, the sky was clear, and the stars shone like jewels.
Some time after Jason came out, he heard footsteps behind him. He didn't even have to look to know that it was Tommy. "Still feeling guilty, bro?" Jason asked, keeping his eyes fixed on the stars.
Tommy chuckled. "Not really. I'm not guilty anymore, just angry and despairing. I mean, why you? Why not me? I'm the one we can stand to lose."
Jason whirled on his friend angrily. "Don't think that! Don't ever think that! There are so many people who love you and need you. I'm the one who's out of place in Angel Grove. I've been gone so long, I haven't been able to fit back into my place here. When I go, people will miss me. If you go, though, you'd rip a big gaping hole in everybody's life! You are a better leader for the Rangers than I ever was, you are better with the kids, and you've been here! Kat loves you, even if it's not boyfriend/girlfriend-type love. You have a sister and a brother, and all those kids you teach. Whatever happens, happens for a reason."
"You really believe that?"
"I have to. Things would look pretty bleak if I didn't."
"What are we going to do without you, Jase? You've been the heart and soul of this team for so long."
"You'll survive. That's all anyone can do. Besides, I'm not dead yet. Trey's machines give me another three months. A lot can happen in three months."
"'And maybe the horse will learn to sing,'" Tommy snorted, quoting from an old joke.
"Maybe. Anything's possible, man. This job hasn't taught you that yet?" Tommy just looked skeptical. Jason continued. "Look, remember the story of Pandora's box? Every kid learns about that one sooner or later. When she let all the evils out, it seemed like too much for men to endure, and even the gods took pity. They put one more thing into the box, to make everything bearable. That was hope."
"Hope, huh?" Tommy sighed. "Well, this is certainly the time of year for it."
"Yeah." Suddenly a star began to streak across the heavens. "Hey, a shooting star! Make a wish!" Both boys wished silently, then Tommy stood.
"Come on, Jase. Let's go inside. They're probably getting worried." He offered his hand to his friend.
Rising slowly, Jason took his best friend's hand. Then they went back into the Power Chamber, together. Above them, the stars twinkled on, bright symbols of hope and life.
* * *
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wise men at their end know dark is right
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men, who caught and sang the sun in flight
And learned too late they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men who see with blinding sight,
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.