Disclaimer: Saban owns 'em, blah blah blah, yakety shmakety. Thanks to Jen Bigley for use of her characters Gina and Lisa. "Anymore" belongs to Travis Tritt, I guess. "Wayfaring Stranger" is an old American folk song, and doesn't belong to anybody, as far as I know. This fanfic rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America. Contains violence, some cursing, and some sexual situations. Note: All Japanese animation discussed herein really exists. I've even seen some of it. I personally think Sailor Moon R is the best of the three movies, but that's my opinion. : )
"Welcome to Little Angel's Haven," the social worker oozed.
"We hope you'll be very happy here."
"Yeah, right," Kelly Maitlin grumbled, tossing her two duffel bags on the bed. "I'm so sure."
"Is that all you brought?" the woman asked, frowning.
"I travel light. Never know when you have to move again."
"Well, we'll have Gina, one of our supervisors, take you shopping."
"Whatever," Kelly shrugged. "You can go now. I'm not going to slash my wrists on the window glass, you know."
With wide, wary eyes, the social worker edged out the door. The saccharine smile never wavered, however. "If you ever need to talk, Kelly," she began.
"I wouldn't go to you," Kelly shot back rudely. "I'm sure we both have better things to do." The woman disappeared.
"Wow!" a young boy said. Kelly turned to see a twelve year-old smiling at her from the doorway. "I don't think anyone's managed to get rid of 'Dragon Drogan' that fast before."
Kelly shrugged. "Yeah, whatever. Who are you?"
"Justin Stewart. I'm just down the hall. Who're you?"
"Kelly Maitlin. Nice to meet you." Turning her back on him, she began to arrange her room. Raising his eyebrows at the obvious dismissal, Justin left.
Sighing, Kelly pulled a black tank top out of her bag. The duffels really did contain all her worldly goods, except for the blue jeans and black t-shirt she wore. In the first was a second pair of jeans, this one black, three black t-shirts, two black sweatshirts, and three black tank tops, a hairbrush, and a number of ponytail holders. The second contained a number of videotapes and books. Also, she wore a gold heart-shaped locket around her neck. The locket contained two old pictures, one of each parent. It had been a gift from her mother and father, for her tenth birthday, right before the accident.
Sighing, Kelly crossed to the mirror on one wall and began brushing out her thick black hair. Pulling it back into a simple ponytail, she examined her reflection carefully. Pale, flawless skin that never seemed to tan, no matter what, sharp, foxy features and a small, pointed chin, and cynical black eyes. Nothing new. Turning back to the bed, she threw herself down on it, wondering what the odds were that she'd make it another year without a move.
* * *
Kelly was sitting on her bed reading a fantasy novel when a knock at the door made her look up. A tall attractive woman with dark hair and eyes stood in the open doorway smiling at her. "Hi, I'm Gina. You must be Kelly Maitlin."
"I hear you don't have a lot of clothes. I'm here to take you shopping."
Kelly shook her head. "I'm fine."
Raising one eyebrow, Gina indicated the closet on the far wall, which stood open. "You have a grand total of nine shirts, two pairs of jeans, and seven sets of underwear. You need more clothes than that. There are parties and special occasions around here. Besides, you should wear something other than black."
"I like black," Kelly shot back.
"Tough. You need more clothes. We have a reputation to keep up here. Besides, I'm taking Justin and Lisa clothes shopping as well, and I need someone to help me watch Lisa. She can be a bit of a pain, especially when Justin's trying stuff on."
"You're not going to leave me alone until I agree to this, are you?" Kelly sighed, levering herself off the bed.
"Nope," Gina replied cheerfully. "Come on, let's go. We'll head to the Angel Grove mall."
* * *
"Justin, you're right, it's a lovely shirt. But don't you have enough blue shirts already?"
"I like blue," Justin replied innocently. Sighing, Gina placed the shirt in the cart.
"Lisa, honey, I think that's a little big for you," she remarked, pulling the Men's XL shirt out of the four-year-old's hands. Turning to Kelly, she raised one eyebrow at the shirts the teen had picked out.
All three were black t-shirts with varying designs on them. One bore the legend "Don't worry, be crabby," one had three penguins in sunglasses, and the third had a picture of the Guyver on it. Gina cocked her head.
"You like anime?"
Kelly shrugged. "Some. This one's pretty cool."
"Cool!" Justin cried. "You got any sentai?" Kelly looked at him and smiled slightly. Justin reminded her of herself at his age. At twelve, she had still been hopeful that someone, somewhere, would want to adopt her. Five years of bouncing from pillar to post had cured her of that, though.
"As a matter of fact, I do. Zyuranger, Dairanger, Birdman, and Megaranger. You like sentai?"
"Everyone in Angel Grove likes sentai, even if they don't know it. Haven't you ever heard of the Power Rangers?"
"Oh yeah. They're sort of an American sentai team, aren't they?"
"Would you mind if I watched some of your tapes sometime?"
Kelly looked at Justin. It was usually her policy not to make any bonds, but Justin was just too much like she used to be. She couldn't resist him. "Sure. We can watch some of the sentai, and I have some anime you could probably handle."
"If I may interrupt," Gina said wryly, "Kelly, you need something other than that to wear. Come on, you haven't spent even half of the allowance we got to get you some new clothes. Try this." Gina held up a pink t-shirt.
"I don't wear pink," Kelly replied flatly. "Black, blue, and occasionally purple and red, but not pink."
"Fine." Reaching into a rack, Gina pulled out a lovely red button-up shirt. "How's this?"
"Great. Now, let's see about a dress."
* * *
After considerable fighting, Gina and Kelly finally compromised on a nice outfit. Kelly refused to wear a dress, so the outfit had long pants and a blouse, both of a light, silky rayon. Gina had her way, however, in that it was a bright crimson. Kelly had wanted black.
Returning to the shelter, Kelly hung her purchases up, while Justin looked through her tape and book collection. "Battle Angel! Cool! Robotech, Zyuranger, Sailor Moon R?" He looked up at her in surprise.
"What?" she asked defensively. "I like the occasional romantic thing. Besides, it's the best of the three movies."
"Five girls in sailor suits fighting monsters. Sounds kind of far-fetched to me."
"Oh, and five people in Spandex fighting monsters is perfectly normal," she retorted with a grin.
Grinning back, Justin returned to looking through the bag. "Hey, neat books! You like sci-fi?"
"Sci-fi, horror, fantasy, all of that. You like any of those?"
"Just sci-fi. I've read all of Asimov's Foundation books."
"Asimov? That's kind of deep for a twelve-year-old."
"You didn't know? I'm a genius," he said ironically. "They've bumped me up to ninth grade. I'm doing a little catch-up work in summer school, and in the fall, I'm going to be a freshman. Sheesh."
"Hmm. That's tough. I'm just at grade level, even with the moving around I do. I study a lot to keep up."
"Cool. How often do you move from place to place?"
Kelly shrugged, coming to sit next to him on the bed. "It varies. My parents died seven years ago, and I've been a "ward of the State" ever since. Lived all over the state of California. I think I've had ten foster homes in seven years, and another three shelters. No one keeps me for very long."
"That's sad. Don't you get lonely?"
"Not anymore. It gets easier after a while. You'll see."
"I hope not," he muttered. Aloud, he continued, "I probably won't be here for much longer. My dad is coming back for me as soon as he gets his life together. He told me so himself."
_Fat chance,_ Kelly thought to herself, but did not say it out loud. "Do you get to see him?"
"Occasionally. He showed up for my birthday party a while ago." Justin grinned to himself, thinking of the events that preceded that party. "We do keep in touch."
"That's cool." The two of them began to talk about other things.
* * *
"Kelly, can you take me to the youth center?" Justin asked. "Gina's busy with Lisa, and I'm not allowed to head down there by myself."
"What, do they think you're going to get mugged?" Kelly griped, rising to her feet. "That place is in the nicest neighborhood in Angel Grove, it's broad daylight, and you're a frigging black belt in karate! What do you need me for?"
"Hey, I don't make the rules," Justin protested. "I just follow 'em."
"I know, Justin. Well, it'll give me a chance to practice." The two of them walked through the bright sunshine, heading down to the youth center. Without warning, they were suddenly surrounded by a mass of Piranhatrons. "Justin, what are these things?" Kelly asked, skillfully dodging a punch.
"Piranhatrons. They're bad news," Justin replied. As he punched and kicked the fish coming his way, he spared Kelly a glance and almost fainted. She was flipping through the air, performing handstands and scissor kicks. It was a style that he had never seen before.
The Piranhatrons had never seen it before, either, and were most definitely confused. Between the two combatants, the fish were outmatched and quickly defeated. Dusting off his hands, Justin turned to Kelly. "Wow, what was that style? I've never seen anything like that."
"Capoeira. It's a Brazilian fighting art, developed by slaves to defend themselves. It relies almost completely on the feet, so you can use it even if your hands are chained. I took some boxing too, to round out the hand techniques."
"Wow," Justin repeated, impressed. The two of them headed for the youth center.
* * *
"She's good," Tommy commented, watching Kelly work out.
"She's pretty cool," Justin responded, nodding.
"I don't know about that," Kat responded. "I was helping her check in for school next year, and she was cold and withdrawn, almost to the point of being rude. It's almost as if she doesn't want any friends."
"She probably doesn't," Justin shrugged. "If you'd had her kind of life, you probably wouldn't, either." Then he clapped a hand over his mouth. "Oops."
His four friends turned to him. "Justin," Tommy said slowly, "what do you know about her, and how did you find out?"
"Yeah," added Tanya. "I'm pretty sure they don't release that sort of information to the other kids in the shelter."
Justin swallowed. "Well, Chris and I were playing with his new directional mike, you know, with the dish, like they sell in the catalogs? Well, he got one from his mom the other day, and we were playing with it." Justin shook his head. "I can't believe Chris's mom. I mean, Chris hasn't seen her in five years, but she sends him a present for birthday and Christmas, every year, on the dot. No note, just a gift."
"Justin, you're drifting," Kat reminded him gently.
"Oh, right. Anyway, I had the mike on and was pointing it at the lounge. Two of the shelter volunteers were discussing Kelly, so I got an earful, all about where she's been and everything."
"So what did you find out?" Adam asked curiously.
"Her parents died in a car accident when she was ten. They were coming home from a party, had left her with a sitter. A drunk driver smeared them all over the highway," he snorted, his disgust evident in his tone. "After that, she was bounced from place to place, never settling in. Either the foster family she had didn't want to adopt her, or they weren't allowed to adopt her for some stupid reason. Anyway, according to Randy, she's developed emotional armor an inch thick. She's afraid that if she lets anybody get close, she's going to lose them. It's fairly common with shelter kids."
"You don't seem to have that problem," Tommy observed.
Justin smiled wryly, suddenly looking far older than his twelve years. "You'd be surprised, Tommy. In the first place, I have my dad. I'm not all alone in the world, and I know my dad hasn't abandoned me. We keep in touch, and he's always been there for me when I needed him. Two, I'm only twelve. My mom died two years ago. I haven't spent seven years being batted around by an inefficient, outdated system. I haven't really had time to become bitter. Last, I sort of went in the other direction. I directed all my energies out. Sort of a 'If I pretend it doesn't hurt, then it won't' kind of thing. As a result, I sometimes have trouble connecting to my emotions. At least, that's what my psych report says."
"And just how did you get your hands on your psych evaluation?" Kat asked archly. "Those things are classified."
"Kat, fifty percent of the kids in that shelter are transplants from the harbor district. Think about it." The neighborhoods around Angel Grove Harbor were the toughest, roughest places in the city. Kids there grew up quickly or not at all, and often had an early education in some of the seamier skills of life. "My friend Shawn taught me to pick locks two years ago, and I'm a great computer hacker in my own right. Plus, the shelter's security stinks."
Adam quickly raised a hand to his mouth to muffle a chuckle. If Tanya and Katherine heard him laughing, they would pound the living daylights out of him. They worked so hard to teach Justin right and wrong, but he couldn't help being amused by Justin's disdain for some of the aspects of the shelter that took care of him. Also, Adam had learned from his father that "legal" and "illegal" were not always synonymous with "right" and "wrong." Breaking the law was not a good thing, unless it was absolutely necessary, but bending it was far more acceptable.
"Justin," Kat started. She stopped as she saw the glassy look in the twelve year-old's eyes that meant he was tuning her out. The same expression was stealing over Tommy and Adam's faces, too. Sighing, she shrugged. "Forget it. I'm never going to get through to you."
"Fingerprints?" Adam asked, smiling.
"None, physical or electronic. No one could ever tell I was there."
"Why do you want to read your psych eval anyway, Justin?" asked Tanya.
"How else am I going to tell the shrink what he wants to hear?"
While Tommy and Adam snickered, Tanya and Kat just sighed, shooting each other understanding looks.
* * *
"This looks familiar," Jason Scott grinned. Tanned and fit from his month in Florida, he felt as if he had finally purged the last of his horrifying experience from him. In May, Kimberly Hart had come back to pay a surprise visit on her friends, and had enlisted Jason's help. The two of them had gone scuba diving, and wound up as captives of Divatox, an intergalactic pirate who wanted to feed them to a volcano to release her fiance Maligore. They had wound up dropped into the volcano and consumed with evil. If it hadn't been for the Power Rangers, they might have stayed that way indefinitely.
After everything had been resolved and all the excuses had been made, Jason had gone back to Florida with Kim, to try and work out some of what had happened to them. As far as his parents and the rest of Angel Grove knew, they had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and had been kidnapped by monsters. After an experience like that, the teachers had been happy to make allowances for him, and he had managed to graduate with the other seniors earlier in the month, even if it was long-distance.
Now he was back in Angel Grove, and he could hardly believe he had left. He was heading to the youth center when he heard a very familiar sound. A school of strange, fish-like beings teleported in around him, along with a face Jason found all too familiar: Elgar, Divatox's lunk-headed nephew. Jason fell into a fighting stance, although the trembling in his limbs made it hard for him to hold it.
"Well hello, human! Nice to see you again! Auntie Di would like to have a little talk with you about ruining her wedding. Piranhatrons! Get him!"
As the fish-monsters attacked him, Jason forced himself to keep calm. _Think of them as putties,_ he told himself. _You stomped those claybrains every time they appeared. You can do the same to these fish._ He could feel panic eating at the back of his mind, though. Being dumped into the volcano, and the events following his dousing, had been the most frightening events of his life. Now he understood why it had taken Tommy so long to recover from being evil. All that bitterness and hate poured into your soul left a lasting mark, even when you had your mind back.
"You know, the Pit of Eternal Fire is still bubbling on Muranthias," Elgar said casually, buffing his nails on his shirt. "I'm sure you'd just love another swim. I got deep fried, but you should just turn evil again. Won't that be fun?"
That was the last straw. The panic burst through the barriers at the back of Jason's mind, reminding him forcefully that he had not purged the experience from his system after all. He stopped battling the Piranhatrons and fell to the ground. Curled up in a ball, shaking, he made no move to stop the fish as they closed in on him.
"KI-YAHH!" A blood-curdling battle-cry made everyone except Jason look up. A black-clad figure hurtled into the middle of the fight, and Piranhatrons began flying in every direction. One struck a telephone pole and disappeared.
"Now there's something you don't see every day," Kelly mused. "Flying fish!" After leaving Justin in the capable hands of his friends, she had been walking back to the shelter when she'd heard the sounds of fighting. Never one to pass up a rumble, she had immediately joined in.
Faced with someone who would actually fight back, Elgar and the Piranhatrons decided that the 11-1 odds were against them and teleported out. Kelly turned back to Jason, ready to make an acerbic comment about his lack of help in the fight, but stopped as she saw the state he was in. His shaking had become full-fledged sobbing, and his head was buried tightly in his knees. Kelly had seen nervous breakdowns before, hopping from shelter to shelter, and the big guy on the ground looked as if he was hovering on the edge of one. Kneeling next to him, she gently put a hand on his shoulder.
"Hey, are you okay?" she asked quietly, trying not to startle him. His head snapped up, and she found herself looking into a pair of eyes that were so black, she could barely tell where the pupil left off and the iris began. That was also a function of his distress, however. He was in such a state that his pupils were almost completely dilated. Kelly had never seen anything like it.
Taking a few deep breaths, Jason forced himself to calm down. "Yeah, I'm okay," he sighed. "I had a bad run-in with those guys a while back. I guess I'm still reeling."
Kelly nodded. She'd seen reactions like Jason's before, usually from the kids who'd been seriously abused in their former homes. She wondered what the fish could have done to Jason to leave him feeling so vulnerable and violated. "Look, you're in no condition to go anywhere by yourself. Let me walk you home," she told him, helping him to his feet. _No harm in playing the Good Samaritan,_ she thought to herself, _even if he is kind of cute._
"NO! No, please." He grinned sheepishly. "I'm okay now. I don't want to go home. I'd have to tell my mom what had happened, and she thinks I'm over it. I don't want her to know."
Kelly regarded him for a long moment. "Okay, then, where were you headed?"
"The youth center. I was supposed to meet some friends there. Do you know where it is?"
"Yeah, I just came from there. I'll walk you down."
* * *
At the door of the youth center, Jason and Kelly exchanged names, and she left him behind. Heading inside, he saw the five Rangers sitting at a table. Tommy, Adam, and Justin looked amused, while Tanya and Kat looked exasperated. Grinning, Jason came up and tapped Tommy on the shoulder. "Is this a private table, or can anybody join?"
"Jason!" Tommy grinned. "Man, sit down! How are you?"
"Fine, except that I had a run-in with some old friends on the way here." Despite himself, Jason could not repress a shudder. "Elgar and a school of guys in fish suits attacked me. I would have been toast for sure if this girl hadn't appeared out of nowhere and saved my butt. I think her name was Kelly. That's it! Kelly Maitlin."
"Kelly Maitlin saved your butt?" Kat asked, raising an eyebrow.
"She just hasn't been very friendly to any of us, that's all."
"Oh my gosh!" Justin interrupted, leaping to his feet. "Look at the time! I've got to get back to the shelter. Can somebody walk me home? New policy is that anyone under sixteen has to be walked to and from the shelter, due to all the monster attacks. Kelly walked me here, but she's gone now."
Jason perked up. "Why don't I walk you home, Justin? It'll give me a better opportunity to get to know you." The other four Rangers snickered behind their hands, but the grin on Justin's face said that this was exactly what he had been after.
"Sounds good to me. Come on." The two of them walked out of the youth center, leaving the other four Rangers shaking their heads.
"That kid is a definite matchmaker," Adam chuckled.
"Yeah, but I think he's on to something," Tommy responded, a little more seriousness in his tone. "Jason's a warm, caring, patient guy. He'd make almost anyone feel safe. If anyone can bring Kelly out of her shell, Jason can."
* * *
Justin had invited Jason up to see his room at the shelter. As they walked through the halls, they passed the open door to Kelly's room. No sooner had they reached the stairs beyond it than they heard her talking. Exchanging glances, they sat down on the stairs to listen.
"I've really done it now, Snips," Kelly sighed.
Jason shot a look at Justin, who mouthed "her stuffed dragon" at him.
"No, I don't mean Justin," she continued, responding to an imagined question. "He's sweet. Even if I have to leave again, I'm kind of glad I met him. I'll miss him, but he's a shelter kid. We'll probably keep in touch. He knows how it is. No, I mean I did something really stupid. I think I've gone and fallen in love.
"Don't shout at me, Snips. I know it was stupid. This guy's different, though. He's sweet, he's funny, and he's vulnerable. His name? It's Jason. Jason Scott. Yeah, I know I've only known him for a few hours, but there was just some connection there. I've never felt anything like it before. He was attacked by those Piranhatron things that went after Justin and me on our way to the youth center, and he just folded. Poor guy, he was scared out of his wits. It's like some of those kids they bring in, the ones who have been really abused at home. I thought he was going to go catatonic on me."
Jason blushed bright scarlet. Feeling Justin's hand on his arm, he looked down to see the younger boy looking at him with sympathy and a disturbingly understanding expression.
"I'm not going to do anything stupid like telling him how I feel or anything. It's just- he's sweet. Well, when I want your opinion, I'll ask for it! Now be quiet, or you're going in the clothes hamper!"
Sensing that the conversation was over, Justin and Jason rose silently to their feet and headed up the stairs to Justin's room. "She's talking to a stuffed dragon?" Jason asked incredulously, once they were safely inside.
"Not really. She's talking to herself, through the dragon. It happens a lot when you're alone all the time. I talk to a picture of my mom when I'm upset."
Jason absorbed that, nodding.
"What happened to you today when you were fighting the Piranhatrons?" Justin asked. "She said you nearly went catatonic on her."
"This stays between you and me, all right?" Jason asked, embarrassed.
Justin nodded. "Sure."
"I panicked. I was so scared that I just folded up, sank down into a ball. I would have let them carry me off to God knows where if it hadn't been for her. Elgar mentioned the Pit of Eternal Fire, and I lost it. All the memories of being under the volcano's power came rushing back to me. I just lost it."
"Man, that would be tough. I've seen kids fold like that. It's nothing to be ashamed of, Jason. People can only take so much before they break, and you've taken a lot. There's no shame in breaking."
"Maybe not, but I just want to let it go. It's over, all right? And how'd you get so smart for a twelve year-old?"
"Living in a shelter, you grow up fast. Just ask Kelly." Their conversation then turned to other things, and Jason and Justin soon became good friends.
* * *
Some time later, Lt. Stone decided to revive one of Ernie's traditions, Amateur Night. For a small fee, which went to pay the band, anyone could get up on stage and sing. The Rangers and Jason were present, of course, and Jason was a little surprised to see Kelly come in and sit at the bar.
There were the usual awful singers, of course, and no one was too surprised when the monkeys that Lt. Stone took care of climbed up onto the stage and tried to sing. Nor was anyone surprised when Tanya took the stage to sing one of her own compositions. What was surprising was that Tommy took the stage right after her.
The band, after some discussion, began to play the first notes of what sounded like a country ballad. Tommy waited a little, and then launched into Travis Tritt's "Anymore."
I can't hide the way I feel about you
I can't hold the hurt inside,
Keep the pain out of my eyes
My tears no longer waiting,
My resistance ain't that strong,
My mind keeps recreating
A life with you alone,
And I'm tired of pretending
I don't love you anymore.
Adam was stunned by the sweet, melodic quality of Tommy's voice. Admittedly, the only time he'd heard Tommy sing was when he'd been under Machina's spell, the one that made him sing everything. That had made his voice so operatic that he sounded ridiculous. Now, however, the melody of the country ballad was simple, and his voice rang true.
Let me make one last appeal
To show you how I feel
'Cause there's no one else I swear
Holds a candle anywhere
Next to you.
My heart can't take the beating,
Not having you to hold.
A small voice keeps repeating
Deep inside my soul,
Says I can't keep pretending
I don't love you anymore.
Kat sighed. She knew where this song and the emotion behind it was coming from. Even though she and Tommy were dating, and everyone thought they were boyfriend and girlfriend, she knew he still loved Kimberly with all his heart. She could accept that, seeing as she didn't really love him either. They had just battened onto each other because the alternative was too painful to contemplate. The loneliness sometimes threatened to overwhelm her. Sometimes, she saw the same emotion in Tommy's eyes as well. No, she wasn't sighing because she wanted him to love her, but simply because she wanted someone to love, one way or another.
I'll have to take the chance
Or let it pass by,
If I expect to get on
With my life.
I can't hide the way I feel about you
I can't hold the hurt inside,
Keep the pain out of my eyes
My tears no longer waiting,
My resistance ain't that strong,
My mind keeps recreating
A love with you alone,
And I'm tired of pretending
I don't love you anymore.
Setting the microphone down, Tommy walked off the stage and back to his table, to the sound of thunderous applause. He was smiling broadly, and only someone who knew him very well would be able to see the unshed tears standing in his eyes.
* * *
A little later in the evening, Jason looked up on stage to see Kelly climbing the stairs. She began to talk to the band, and after a second, they put their instruments down. Adjusting the microphone, she took a deep breath and began to sing, acapella.
I'm just a poor
This world of woe,
But there's no sickness,
Toil or danger
In that bright world
To which I go.
I'm going there
to see my mother.
I'm going there
No more to roam.
I'm just a-going
I'm just a-going
The mournful, sweet tones of the folk song cut through the room, silencing it in a matter of minutes. The pain and wistfulness in Kelly's voice was enough to bring a lump to the throat of anyone in the room. She ran through two more verses, then bowed and left the stage, to the applause of the crowd. Ignoring them, she walked out the front door of the youth center. Jason made some excuses to his friends and followed her.
Outside, the night was still and fragrant, with bright stars shining in the sky. Jason could only make Kelly out by the black silhouette that she made against the heavens. "Hey," he said quietly, coming up behind her. She turned, relaxing as she saw who it was. "You sounded great up there tonight."
She shrugged. "I guess so. Thanks."
"Why are you out here all by yourself?"
"I like being by myself. It's how I spend most of my time."
"Don't you ever get lonely?"
"I'm not lonely."
Jason chuckled. "Oh, doesn't that sound familiar. I think I heard a thirteen year-old boy by the name of Jason Scott say that once."
Kelly snorted. "Oh, right. Come on, Jason. Everyone's always talking about what great friends you and your group were, how you were always together. I don't believe you've been lonely."
"I'll admit, Kim, Zack, Trini, Billy and I were good friends, but that wasn't always the case. We weren't even a fivesome until sixth grade. That was when Zack moved here. Even after that, there were times when- we just didn't connect. We weren't closer-than-hell, die-for-you friends until ninth grade. That year changed us, bonded us. From sixth to ninth grade, there were a lot of times when I felt alone. Billy was still in his shell, for the most part. I never had been able to bring him out all the way, or for very long. I liked him a lot, but Trini understood him a lot better than I did. I never understood her, either. She was always so distant, so reserved. We were friends, but I never got close. No one ever did. As for Kim, well, Kim was the cheerleader type. Bouncy, bubbly, and a great friend, but we never were on the same wavelength. And Zack, well, Zack was so determined to be the life of the party that I couldn't always open up to him. After ninth grade, I wasn't lonely anymore and I wouldn't be lonely again, but I was lonely a lot as a kid. Maybe I don't know what you're going through, but I can definitely sympathize to some extent."
Slowly, so as not to frighten her, he came up behind her and enfolded her in his arms. She stiffened for a minute, then slowly went soft against him. She sighed.
"Why are you so afraid of me?" he asked softly in her ear.
It took her a second to reply. "I'm not," she responded. Indeed, fear was not what she was feeling at the moment. She felt warm and safe, as if nothing could touch her. A sudden stab of alarm shot up her spine. This was a bad idea. She'd relaxed too many times before, and it had always ended badly. Gathering her resolve, she pushed him away. "I'm sorry, Jason. It's not your fault. I just don't- want to be touched."
He nodded, his eyes unreadable in the half-light of the street lamp. "I can see that." Anything else he might have said was cut off when Elgar and the Piranhatrons teleported in. Jason and Kelly both immediately fell into defensive stances.
"Get them!" Elgar called. The Piranhatrons attacked, and Jason and Kelly quickly found themselves surrounded. Attacking with furious punches and kicks, the two fought in silence, instinctively covering the other's back.
Unfortunately, the fish monsters had adjusted to the styles of the two combatants, and the fight was not so even as it had been. A vicious punch from a Piranhatron knocked Jason back through the glass doors of the youth center. The fish quickly took the chance to surround Kelly, disappearing with her as quickly as they had reappeared. Only Kelly's gold necklace was left, laying in one of the flower beds, where it had been dropped during the fight.
Jason's re-entry had been loud enough to cut through the noise of the current singer's performance, gaining everyone's attention. Leaping to his feet, Tommy was instantly at his friend's side. "Jason! Are you all right?"
The bigger boy sprang to his feet, dusting the glass off himself. "Kelly and I got attacked by Piranhatrons. One sent me through the door."
"Well, there's nobody out there now," Lt. Stone said grimly, turning away from where he had been peering out the door. "They must have taken her. I'll call the police. Everyone stay calm."
Tommy looked at his friends. "Sounds more like a job for the Power Rangers. Jason, you stay here and deal with the police. We'll start on our end of things, okay?"
Jason nodded, swallowing hard. He hated being helpless, especially when someone he cared about was in danger. Still, he understood that he couldn't do anything to help Kelly on his own. "Go on. I can handle things here."
"All right." Heading into the hall, the five Turbo Rangers teleported out, leaving Jason to deal with the police.
* * *
"Alpha!" Tanya cried as the five materialized in the Power Chamber. "Elgar and the Piranhatrons just kidnapped a friend of ours! Can you scan for her? Her name is Kelly Maitlin, you probably have her on file. She was with Justin when he got attacked the other day."
"Yo, yo, yo, Tanya, already on it," the little android replied, pushing buttons. "Unfortunately, I've come up with zilch. I'll keep at it, but the odds ain't good."
"What would Divatox want with Kelly, anyway?" Adam asked, pacing.
"Are you not worried and afraid for her?" Dimitria asked. "And would you not take considerable risks to get her back?"
Tommy nodded. "Of course. She's bait. Divatox will probably use her to lure us into a trap. I guess we just have to wait until Divatox makes the first move."
* * *
On the sub, Kelly was struggling fiercely, but to no avail. The Piranhatrons held her tightly by the arms, keeping her feet off the floor. One experience with Kelly's powerful kicks had been more than enough for them. Divatox looked her over, seeming unimpressed.
"And you're sure, Elgar, that this little girl can do everything you say she can?"
"You bet, Auntie Di. I asked Porto about her, and he did some checking up on her. He says she's perfect, better than that Jason guy."
"Perfect for what?" Kelly asked warily, eyeing Divatox with disdain.
"My dear, you are going to help me in my conquest of Earth. You and I have so much in common, abandoned by family, alone in the world, but with my help, you could be the most powerful human alive. No one would make your decisions for you. You could do anything you wanted."
Kelly stared at her for a moment. "My parents didn't abandon me. They didn't want to die in that car accident."
"But the fact is, they're gone," Divatox oozed, "and you've gotten the short end of the stick since. Now you have the chance to take control of everything you want."
Kelly thought for a long time. "No," she said at last. "All you want is a warrior. I won't help you destroy the world. I may not have friends, but I don't want to see people die. I'll never help you."
"Never say never," sneered Divatox. Grabbing Kelly by the front of the shirt, she shoved her at Porto. "Take her down to your lab and- 'convince' her of the advantages of joining us."
Hanging once more in the grasp of two Piranhatrons, Kelly spat at Divatox's feet. "Do what you like. Where it counts, you'll never break me." With those defiant words, she was dragged away.
* * *
Almost an hour later, Kelly returned to the bridge of the sub, this time under her own power. Her face was cold and impassive, and a strange light seemed to shine in her black eyes. Porto walked beside her, nearly bouncing with joy. "Divatox, may I present to you the newest Power Ranger- your Black Sun Turbo Ranger!"
"Can it, Porto. What can she do?"
Porto turned to Kelly. "Morph and show Divatox your new abilities."
Kelly complied, pulling out of her pocket a key which shone with black light. "Black Sun Turbo Power!" she called. The key flashed, and ribbons of black light spun out of the key. Soon, she was clad in the uniform of a Turbo Ranger. It was exactly like that of the others, save for its color, which was onyx black, and the helmet. The windshield/visor almost looked like a stylized pair of eyes or butterfly sunglasses, sweeping up into points at the outside edges. Set into the center of the forehead was a glossy black sunburst. On her wrists and ankles were armored braces, seemingly to protect the joints against injury. She stood ramrod straight, waiting for her next command.
"The gauntlets on the wrists and ankles conceal six-inch knife blades, perfect for adding a little oomph to a punch or a kick. Also, the sunburst on her helmet can release a blinding flash that will blind a morphed Ranger for one minute, an unmorphed Ranger for five, and an ordinary human being for a total of ten minutes. Very effective for escapes and battle. Plus, the arm gauntlets fire tranquilizer darts or small explosives. She also has all the traditional Ranger capabilities, although I have not yet designed her a Zord."
Divatox dismissed that with a wave of her hand. "Zord shmord. The Rangers won't call theirs unless we escalate the fight, so take all the time you need. I think this will be very interesting indeed." Laughing evilly, Divatox strutted over to one of the consoles, her arms folded and her expression thoughtful. "Now, we need a way to send her back so that those Rangers won't suspect that my Black Ranger is their little friend, here."
"If I may make a suggestion?" Black Ranger spoke up, her voice low and cool. "Pretend I'm bait and let them rescue me. They should swallow it, hook, line, and sinker."
Divatox considered. "Yes, an excellent suggestion. Demorph, and Elgar will escort you back up to the surface. Then he and Rygog will call the Rangers out, they'll rescue you, and they'll never know what hit them. However, I have one final command. Don't destroy the Green Ranger. I have- other plans for him. Simply capture him and bring him to me."
Black Ranger bowed, flashing back into Kelly. "As you wish. I would also like- payment for my troubles. Permission to spare Jason Scott?"
Divatox raised an eyebrow. "He ruined my wedding, along with those other brats. Certainly you can spare him, as long as he's miserable."
Kelly smiled coldly. "I think I can manage that."
* * *
"Yo! I think I got somethin' here!" Alpha 6 cried. "Elgar and Rygog are at the beach yellin' for ya, and your friend seems to be tied up at the moment!" The Rangers turned towards the viewing globe, and saw Elgar and Rygog standing at the foot of the bluffs by the ocean. Behind them, Kelly was lashed to the Angel's Needle, a tall spire of rock that stood by the sea.
"The tide's coming in!" Justin cried. "At its highest point, it covers more than half of the Needle! She'll drown!"
"Let's go, guys. Shift into Turbo!" called Tommy. A bright flash, and the Rangers were instantly transported to the beach. The night was dark, but the headlights on the Rangers' helmets allowed them to see perfectly.
"Let the girl go!" Red Ranger called, pointing his sword at Elgar.
"Oooh, I'm so scared! Let's get him, Rygog!" The two henchman charged the Rangers, who were easily a match for them. Red and Pink Rangers handled Rygog, while Green and Yellow took on Elgar. Blue Ranger slipped past the battlers to where Kelly was tied to the rock.
"I'll have you out of there in a second, ma'am," he told her, unsuccessfully trying to deepen his voice. Kelly suppressed a giggle. Did he really think she wouldn't recognize him? Still, she did have the advantage of already knowing his identity.
Once she was free, Blue Ranger contacted Alpha and had him teleport her back to the youth center. Then he went to go join the fight, which was rather short-lived. Elgar and Rygog, realizing that Kelly was gone, transported out.
"Come on, guys, let's get back to the youth center," Green Ranger said. "There's probably a lot of confusion there right now."
* * *
The five Rangers, in civilian clothes once again, teleported back into the hall of the juice bar, finding a scene that made it almost seem as if they had never left. People were milling around, but this time, Kelly was at the center of the attention, with Jason close at her side.
"So the Power Rangers saved you?" a reporter asked. The minute the call had gone into the police, the reporters had been hot on the trail of a news story.
"Yes, they did. They fought the two monsters that had me prisoner, and the blue one rescued me. If he's out there, I hope he knows how grateful I am."
Justin grinned to himself, pushing his way through the crowd. "Kelly, you're okay!" he cried, throwing his arms around her waist. He had been extremely worried about her, so it was not hard to counterfeit relief at all.
To his astonishment, she hugged him back, smiling. "Yeah, I'm okay, Jay. Thanks to the Power Rangers." Justin looked up at her and his eyes narrowed. There was something- not right about Kelly. Her smile seemed just the tiniest bit off. Filing it away in the back of his mind for future reference, he turned his attention to the reporters who were clustering around.
* * *
A few days after that, the Rangers were hanging out at the garage when their communicators toned. "We read you, Alpha," Tommy transmitted. "What's up?"
"Divatox has stolen one of Rita's ideas. There's an evil Black Turbo Ranger rippin' up the shopping district! She seems tough and very battle-ready."
Tommy did not respond. The other Rangers turned to see him standing frozen in the middle of the room, a haunted expression in his eyes. Kat laid a hand on his shoulder.
"Tommy, we have to go. Maybe we can help her."
He smiled down at her tremulously. "You're right, Kat. Let's go. Shift into Turbo!"
* * *
"Ah, Power Rangers, how nice of you to show up!" Black Ranger cried. "Your days are numbered!" She threw herself at them, extending the blades on her arms as she did so.
"Whoa!" Blue Ranger cried, ducking as he nearly received an extremely short haircut. "She's fast."
"We don't want to fight you," Red Ranger told her, raising his hands into the "I'm harmless" position. "I know what you're going through. Let us help you!"
"I don't need your help," she snarled. She launched a side kick at him. Red Ranger noticed just in time that the ankle brace had extended a foot-long blade. Falling onto his back, it passed over him.
Suddenly Pink Ranger grabbed her around the neck. "Yes, you do, even if you don't know it," she grunted. She let go immediately, as Black Ranger drove a sharp elbow into her stomach. Flipping onto her hands, Black Ranger launched herself at Yellow Ranger. Yellow Ranger was a little slow to dodge, and Black Ranger's boot blades cut through the muscles of her arm.
"Tanya!" Green Ranger yelled, rushing towards them. Black Ranger turned to face him, a smirk in her voice.
"Ah, Green Ranger. Just who I was looking for. Black Sun Flash!" A bright light burst from the glossy sunburst on her helmet, effectively blinding Green Ranger, who was looking right at it. Two tranquilizer darts shot from her gauntlets with a "thwip" sound, striking home in Green Ranger's chest. He suddenly crumpled to the ground, unconscious. Instantly, Black Ranger was by his side, hoisting him up to use as a shield, laying one of her arm blades against his throat guard. The Rangers who had been advancing on her stopped and fell back.
"I'd love to stay and destroy you, Rangers, but Adam and I have an appointment with Divatox. I'll see you again, though. Count on it." With an evil laugh, she disappeared in a flash of black light.
Pink and Blue Rangers gently helped the stunned Yellow Ranger to her feet. "Come on, guys," Red Ranger sighed. "We'd better get back to the Power Chamber. Maybe Dimitria and Alpha can make sense of this."
* * *
Adam woke up with a minor headache and the sensation of being in deep trouble. He was lying on something soft, almost reminiscent of a waterbed, but slightly firmer. Sitting up, he tested it, finding that it seemed to be a mattress made of some kind of gel. He also realized that he was out of uniform, and missing his shirt.
"What in the world is going on?" he muttered to himself, levering himself off the bed. The last thing he remembered was the Black Ranger darting him, and passing out. He figured he was Divatox's prisoner, but he couldn't understand his surroundings. Suddenly there was a noise behind him, the "whoosh" of a door sweeping open. He turned to see Divatox stroll in.
At least he assumed it was Divatox. She looked rather different, not wearing her usual knee-high boots and skirt-and-corset ensemble. Instead, she wore a gauzy robe that floated around her, but still hinted at the impressive figure beneath. Her hair was loose around her face, and she'd taken off the mask she always wore. Idly, he thought that she was rather pretty, except for the cold, hard lines around her eyes and mouth that even her current smile couldn't erase.
Still smiling, she walked up to Adam and put her arms around his neck. His eyes widened as she pressed up against him. Swallowing hard, he reminded himself, _She's evil, and you have a girlfriend. Think about Tanya._ Then Divatox kissed him, and his thoughts scattered in all directions.
Somehow, he wasn't sure from where, he summoned the strength to push her away. "What's all this about?" he asked roughly, trying to conceal the strength of his response from her.
"You caught my eye, Adam. I get so lonely here in this submarine, especially since my wedding fell through. I was hoping I might- convince you to keep me company." She smiled again, her hands coming to rest against his chest.
"And I suppose that my being a Power Ranger has nothing to do with it." He was fighting to keep his voice level, not an easy feat. Divatox had developed a great deal of skill in pleasing men over the centuries, and she was pulling out all the stops now.
"Adam," she pouted, sounding hurt, "if I wanted just any Power Ranger, I'd go after your friend Tommy. He's attractive enough, a first-rate fighter, and certainly much easier to control than you are. I'll admit, I probably wouldn't have noticed you if you weren't always in my way, but that's hardly the reason I brought you here." Her hands began combing through his hair.
_Think of Tanya,_ he ordered himself. _Her smile, her voice, how much you love her. You can't give in to Divatox. You have to be strong._ Hazily, he felt something pressing against the back of his knees, and realized that Divatox had backed him up until he was against the bed. In the back of his mind, something told him that if he didn't do something now, he was really going to regret it. With all his might, he pushed her violently away. "Not interested," he panted. "Go play with someone else."
Rising to her feet, her expression melted from seductive to cold. "Oh no. After a session in the brain-wash chamber, I'm sure you'll see things my way. Piranhatrons!" She snapped her fingers, and several of the fish-warriors appeared. "Take him to Porto's Brain-Wiper." The fish grabbed hold of Adam and dragged him away, despite his struggles.
* * *
Meanwhile, back at the Power Chamber, Tanya had recovered from her shock and was now boiling mad. "What would that witch want with him? She's already got an evil Ranger. What does she need Adam for?"
"Divatox likes men, period," Alpha said quietly. "I'm sure you can guess what she's got planned for Adam."
The four Rangers exchanged grimaces. Finally Tommy spoke. "Look, we can't do anything for him here. I know it's killing us, but we should go back to Angel Grove. Alpha, give us a call when you come up with anything."
"Will do, Tommy."
Tommy crossed to Tanya, pulling her close. "He'll be all right. Adam's tough."
She nodded, hugging him back. "I know. I know." The four of them teleported out.
They landed outside the juice bar, which now had the door replaced. Suddenly a glint of gold caught Justin's eye. Kneeling, he found Kelly's necklace. "This must have fallen off during the Piranhatron fight, when she was captured. Kelly loves this thing. Why hasn't she gone ballistic looking for it?"
Frowning, Justin followed his friends into the bar. Once inside, he saw Kelly standing at the counter, flirting with Jason. _That's not like her,_ he thought to himself. _She never flirts._ As he watched, Kelly slipped her arms around Jason's neck, kissed him hard, and left to go lift weights. Justin crossed over to his friend, who was staring after Kelly in a daze. "Jason? Are you okay?"
"I'm fine, Justin. It's Kelly I'm worried about. She's not that demonstrative, right?"
"Right. I'm going to get to the bottom of this. Come on." The two of them walked over to where Kelly was lifting weights with her legs. "Hey, Kelly," Justin smiled, waving. "Look what I found. It's your locket."
Kelly shrugged. "So? What would I want with a locket?"
"You told me it was the only thing that connected you with your parents."
"My parents are dead. I don't want that stupid necklace. You can keep it if you want."
Justin looked at her for a long moment, then shrugged. "Suit yourself." Pulling Jason over to one of the quiet alcoves of the youth center, he frowned.
"Jason, I'm sorry to bring this up, but I need to ask you a question. When Divatox turned you evil, what was it like?"
Jason swallowed. He didn't like to talk about it, but he knew that Justin wouldn't ask unless it was important. "It was like- all the anger, and bitterness, and hate in my soul was suddenly magnified a hundred times. Every little slight, even things that never bothered me before, suddenly seemed like the worst insult in the world. I didn't care about anyone, and all I wanted to do was hurt someone, lash out. Does that help?"
Justin nodded. "It clears everything up. Let's get the guys."
Once all the Rangers were gathered together, Justin began. "Guys, I've figured out who the Black Ranger is. It's Kelly."
Tommy frowned. "Kelly? How do you know?"
"Look, number one, she was captured by Divatox. It looked like she was bait, but that was when she started acting weird. Besides, that fight was too easy. They didn't even call in any Piranhatrons. They wanted her to be rescued, so we wouldn't think she was the Black Ranger.
"Two, I asked Jason about being evil. He told me it feeds on the bad emotions in you, and uses them to control you. Well, Kelly's perfect for that. She's angry and bitter about being sent here and there all her life. This suddenly makes her feel like she has control over her life. No wonder she can't break the spell. That's why she didn't want her locket back. It reminds her of the good things, of how much she loved her parents." Jason took the locket, sticking it in his pocket.
"Three, she's an excellent fighter, in a really unusual style. Capoeira uses the feet almost completely. Remember that handstand Black Ranger did?"
Kat nodded. "You could be right. Let's get to the Power Chamber and have Alpha run a correlation program."
"Right." Checking for onlookers, the four Rangers teleported out. Jason was left behind, his thoughts in confusion. Suddenly, a sharp blow caught him across the back of the head, sending him into unconsciousness. Kelly looked down at him and sighed.
"Sorry, Jason. I can't have you getting hurt." Picking him up, she teleported him out.
* * *
Jason woke up with a headache, and the sound of ocean waves in his ears. Picking himself up, he realized he was lying on a cold rock floor, obviously in a cave. Kelly sat on a nearby boulder, watching him with unreadable eyes. "Ohhh," Jason groaned. "My head hurts."
Kelly shrugged. "Sorry. If I'd had a little more time, I'd have slipped you a drugged drink or something. Unfortunately, Justin figured out my secret, and I had to improvise. Here, take these." She held out a hand to him. Lying in her palm were two white caplets. "Go on," she told him when he hesitated. "They're just pain pills, I promise."
Gingerly, he swallowed them, and the pain in his head almost immediately began to ease. "They dissolve on contact with your mouth and throat, and the medicine goes directly to your bloodstream. Feel better?"
"Yeah. Which brings us to the question of why? Why kidnap me? Why not just burn a hole in me or something?"
She smiled at him, and something in the curve of her lips sent cold rushing up his spine. "I like you, Jason. I want you intact." Rising from her boulder, she sauntered over to him, threading her arms around his neck. "Intact and in working order," she murmured, kissing him deeply.
Jason kissed back for a second, then pushed her away. "You don't know how much I enjoy that, Kelly, but not like this. I'd like to believe that you feel this way even if you're not under a spell, but I don't have any proof of that. I do know that the main reason you're doing this now is because you're in control. You like that, don't you? Something happened a long time ago that made you afraid to let anyone else have any control over the situation. What was that?"
"Who cares about the past?" she smiled. "We're in the present, and I have all the time in the world to deal with you. Look around you, Jason. There are no entrances or exits to this cave, unless you want to swim through one thousand yards of sea water. Your Ranger friends can't even teleport you out. This cave is totally impervious to scans. Only someone who knows where it is can reach it. Oh, and I'm afraid that your communicator signal, unamplified by Ranger power, won't be enough to teleport you out of here. I'm in no hurry to finish this, and I'm extremely patient. I can keep this game going forever. Can you say the same?"
She advanced again, and Jason swallowed hard. Fervently, he sent up a prayer that the Rangers found a way to rescue him before she did something he'd regret- or he did.
* * *
"First Adam, now Jason!" Kat cried. "Dimitria, what do we do? We're losing our friends left and right!"
"Do you think that the way to find your friend is to find where he is not?" Dimitria asked quietly.
"What?" Tanya asked, her forehead wrinkling.
Justin suddenly grinned. "I think I know what she means. Look, we can't find Jason, right?"
"Right," Tommy replied.
"That means that wherever he's being held is shielded, right?"
"Right," added Tanya.
"So if he's shielded, then the scanners don't detect anything, right?"
"Right," agreed Kat.
"So we look for a blank spot on the scans. We don't scan for Jason, or Kelly, or anything. We just scan, and the blank spots are shielded locations. Then we check them out."
"Justin, that's brilliant!" Tommy cried. "Alpha, can you do that?"
"Yo, Tommy, already on it," Alpha 6 cried. "And I think I've got a nibble. Two of 'em, as a matter of fact. One looks like some sort of craft running around the ocean, maybe Divatox's sub base. Unfortunately, that one's givin' me readings that indicate its shielded against teleportation, too. I can maybe punch through it, but it'll take a lot of time. The other one would appear to be an underwater cave by the ocean."
"Keep working on it, Alpha," Tommy ordered. "I'll check out the cave."
"No," Justin replied, startling everyone. "I'll go. Tommy, she trusts me. Maybe I'm the only one she trusts, besides Jason. I can get through to her. You can't. Besides, if that really is Divatox's sub, that's where Adam will be. You need to lead the expedition there. You're the best fighter we've got."
Tommy stared at the twelve year-old for a long moment, then sighed. "You're right, as much as I hate to admit it. Go on, but you be very careful."
Justin nodded, grinning. "I will." In a flash of blue light, he disappeared.
Tommy sighed again. "God, I hope I did the right thing."
* * *
Kelly had Jason backed against a wall when a flash of blue caught their attention. Both turned to see Justin in the middle of the floor. "How did you get here!" Kelly cried. In her astonishment, her attempted seduction was temporarily forgotten.
"I figured out where you weren't. I'm here to help you, Kelly. I promise. I know you're afraid, but you're not alone."
"Do you know what it's like to have no control over anything? Not your life, not your friendships, nothing? Divatox has given me the power to control myself, and I don't have to take anything from you losers ever again!"
"Divatox doesn't give control to anyone but herself," Jason said quietly. "I should know. She took mine away." Remembering what Justin had said about Kelly's locket, he reached into his pocket and drew the necklace out. "You told Justin once that this locket was your only connection to your parents. Now you say you don't want it, right? Why not?"
Kelly shrugged, but her eyes never left the small gold heart. "It's stupid. What would I want with something that reminds me of a couple dead people?"
"I think you don't want it because it reminds you of how much they loved you," Jason replied softly, taking a hesitant step forward. "The memory of that love is threatening the evil Divatox dumped into your heart."
"But they did love you," Justin continued, as quiet as Jason had been. "They didn't leave you on purpose. You have to remember all the things that were good about them, not just how much you hurt when they died. Trust me, I know. When someone you love goes away, the only thing that keeps the hurt away is remembering how much they loved you."
"You're afraid, I can see that. You don't have to be, though. Trust me, and I can help you," said Jason quietly. She just stared at him, eyes big and frightened. "You have to trust somebody sometime, Kelly. Why not me? Why not us?" She made no answer, but did not move away as he carefully clasped the locket around her neck. Releasing it, he stepped away as her eyes slipped shut. Tears began to trickle down her face, and all of a sudden, she cut loose. Sobs shook her body as she threw herself into Jason's arms. He held her close until her crying wound to a stop.
"Thanks, Jason. You too, Justin. I can't believe I let myself get so out of control. I'm sorry for what I did." Suddenly she gasped. "Adam! Divatox ordered him sent to the Brain-Wiper. We'd better hurry if we want to get to him before there's nothing left of him."
"Tommy said that there's a forcefield around it, though. How are we going to get in?"
Kelly smiled. "I have the correct bio-signature to pass the field. It's tuned to Divatox's minions, of which I am still officially one. I can get myself and one other person in. After that, between the two of us, we should be able to get Adam out."
Justin nodded. "Send Jason back to the Power Chamber, and we'll do it."
Jason opened his mouth to protest, but before he could, he found himself teleported into the Power Chamber by the other two.
"Jason!" Tommy cried, rushing to his friend's side. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine. Unfortunately, Justin and Kelly may not be. Justin broke the spell on her, but now they've gone to rescue Adam, just the two of them."
"Shit!" Tommy cried, slamming his hand down on the nearest console. "As if one damn loose cannon on the team wasn't bad enough!"
Jason put his hand on his friend's shoulder. "I wouldn't exactly call them loose cannons. They're just- freestyle. I remember a certain Green Ranger being the same way, a long time ago. And, I remember that if it hadn't been for him, we'd all be dead by now."
Tommy chuckled darkly. "Didn't you know? A certain Green Ranger was actively suicidal at the time. I was lucky- I never went through with it, and I never got myself killed. Those two might not do as well."
"Maybe, but you can't try to change them, man. You just have to have faith that they know what they're doing."
* * *
"Where is he?" Blue Ranger whispered. He and Black Ranger were sneaking through the corridors of Divatox's sub, praying that nothing would find them before they found Adam.
"Porto's lab. It's this way." The two of them rounded a corner and came face to face with a mob of Piranhatrons led by Rygog.
Blue Ranger summed up the situation in one word. "Uh-oh." Suddenly he launched himself into the group of villains. "Go get Adam!" he called. "I'll handle things here!"
"Are you sure?" Black Ranger asked.
"Yes! You're the one who knows the way!"
"All right! I'll be back!" Getting a running start, Black Ranger vaulted over the mass of combatants and ran down the corridor. Soon she reached the door to Porto's lab. "Shit, locked," she cursed. "Well, I'll just have to make my own door." So saying, she drew her Autoblaster and blew a hole in the door. Inside, she found Adam strapped to a table, with an IV dripping some sort of drug into his veins.
Crossing to him, she unstrapped him. "Bite down, buddy, because this is gonna hurt." With that, she pulled the needle out of his arm. Adam was so far under the drug that even this elicited no more than a whimper. Quickly, Black Ranger slung him over one shoulder, giving thanks as she did so for the extra power of morphing.
Heading back through the corridor, she found Blue Ranger mopping up the last of the Piranhatrons. "Are you done?" she asked sweetly. "I could use a hand here."
Immediately, Blue Ranger came over to stand beside her. "I'll teleport us back to the Power Chamber," he told her. "Hang on." In three columns of light, they disappeared.
* * *
The four Rangers and Jason clustered around while Alpha 6 purged the drug out of Adam's system. "Yo, he's gonna be all right. Seems to be some sort of pentathol derivative. They probably hadn't administered the mind wiping drug yet."
With a sigh of relief, Tommy turned away from his friend, looking at Kelly on the other side of the room. Ever since she had appeared with Adam and de-morphed, she had studiously avoided meeting anyone's gaze. Tommy looked over at Jason, who nodded. Taking a deep breath, he crossed the room and laid a hand on Kelly's shoulder.
"I want to thank you for helping us rescue Adam. We never could have done that without your help. If it hadn't been for you,-"
She cut him off. "If it hadn't been for me, he wouldn't have been in that situation in the first place."
"Hey, don't blame yourself. I know what its like to be controlled by someone. We don't blame you for what you did."
"Yeah, great, thanks."
"Look!" Tommy cried, finally losing his temper. "You think you're the only one who has problems? Maybe I haven't been batted around by the system for seven years, but my life hasn't been easy either. I'm half Native American. Do you know what that's like, growing up a half-breed, not at home anywhere? I'm adopted! I've never even known my parents! I don't know why they gave me up, or if they're dead, or what! I've been under more spells than I can count, lost my powers a grand total of four times, and had the woman I love, whom I would gladly die for, dump me like yesterday's trash! So go ahead and tell me to my face that my life hasn't been difficult!"
Kelly regarded him for a long moment, then sighed. "I can't. Look, I'm sorry. It's just- what does it matter? I'm sorry for what I did, everything's back to normal, end of story, right?"
"Wrong," Tommy said firmly. "The Black Sun Turbo Powers are yours now, not Divatox's. We need your help to beat her. Please, help us, fight with us. We need you."
"You really want me around?" Kelly could hardly believe it.
"Yes!" Jason cried, startling everyone. "You're a better fighter than any of us, and you've got the powers! We need you, Kelly, and just you. We want to be your friends, if you'll let us in."
Kelly looked at him for a moment, then smiled. "I'm in."
"Yesss!" Justin cried, causing everyone to laugh. Tommy stuck out his hand. After a moment, the rest of the team placed their own hands over his, Kelly last of all.
"POWER RANGERS!" Kat and Tommy's eyes met across the circle, and both smiled, remembering when they had undergone similar welcomes. As for Kelly, an unfamiliar feeling was growing in the pit of her stomach. Finally, she realized that it was the sensation of coming home at last.