Disclaimer: They ain't mine, they're Saban's. We all know
the drill by now. "Ten Thousand Angels" is sung by Mindy McReady,
and "Autumn's Not That Cold" is by Lori Morgan. Yes, I like country.
Live with it. : ) Also, my French is atrocious. I didn't use much, but
corrections would be appreciated. This fanfic rated PG by the Motion Picture
Association of America. Some cursing, some angst.
In a plane high above the United States, Kimberly Hart sat looking out
her window. The rising sun, behind her and a little to the right, painted
the clouds outside a beautiful rose, but she didn't see it. She was far
too absorbed in her own thoughts. Coach Schmidt had nearly had a heart
attack when she informed him that she was withdrawing from the Pan-Global
games for "personal reasons." Despite his explosions and entreaties,
however, she had remained firm. Jason needed her, and she had to go to
him. That was what their friendship meant. It was as simple as that.
Explaining things to her boyfriend, Scott Mitchell, had been harder. She didn't know if they would ever see each other again. Angel Grove was a place of many uncertainties, survival being among them. Especially for someone like Kimberly, who had once been one of its protectors, the Power Rangers.
As usual when she thought of Angel Grove, her thoughts turned to the most uncertain thing of them all, Tommy Oliver. The tall, handsome, charismatic leader of the Rangers was also as unpredictable as a summer storm. One minute, he was sweetness and light, and the next, he was tottering on the edge of the dark places in his soul. His unpredictability had been one of the things that made it so exciting to be in love with him, but it had also made it frightening. When she had found herself away from him, in Florida, she had been so confused in her feelings. She had missed him like fire, but at the same time, she was relieved to no longer be afraid of his dark side. After she had regained some sense of stability in herself, she had realized that she could not survive a relationship with Tommy the way things were, and had almost immediately found Scott. He embodied all of the qualities that she had loved in Tommy, with none of the danger. He loved her, respected her, and she enjoyed his company a great deal. So why, the moment she boarded the plane, had she banished Scott from her thoughts with disturbing suddenness? Why did her mind constantly go to Tommy?
Shaking her head to clear it, she pulled on the headphones that the airline provided and listened to the plane's "radio." The song that was playing suddenly caught Kim's attention.
Time to face my weakness,
And look him in the eye.
Lord knows it won't be easy
But I've just got to try.
I can't let myself get lost in his arms.
That's how I got my heart broke before.
I need ten thousand angels
To walk me out the door.
Lead me not into temptation,
Heaven help me to be strong.
I can fight all that I'm feeling
But I can't do it alone.
Help me break this spell that I'm under,
Guide my feet and hold me tight.
I need ten thousand angels
Watching over me tonight.
Kimberly gasped. The song seemed to state perfectly her feelings about the upcoming confrontation with Tommy. She couldn't help feeling that things were going to be very hard for all of them.
* * *
"Are you sure he's going to be here?" Zack said anxiously.
"Of course," Tommy assured him. "He never misses a day of classes, even though he's almost too weak to stand. He's getting predictable."
Just then, Jason Scott, the subject of this conversation, walked slowly into the darkened youth center. Leaning heavily on a cane, Jason looked obviously sick. He was pale and drawn, and far too thin. His eyes, however, were still clear and alert, and currently scanning the room for some sign of an attacker.
"Hello?" Jason called, his voice clear and steady. He was rather proud that the anxiety he was feeling did not show in his voice. If Zedd or Mondo launched an attack, he would be unable to defend himself.
"SURPRISE!" the assembled teens shouted, flicking the lights on. Jason was instantly surrounded by friends, most prominently Zack and Trini.
"Trini! Zack! You're back?" Jason managed, startled.
"Hey, you bugged out on the peace conference, so we figured we'd follow suit. Besides, Tommy swore they'd throw us a "Welcome Home" party, and you know me," Zack grinned.
"Yeah. The Zack-man never misses a party," Jason chuckled, throwing an arm around the former Black Ranger.
"It's good to see you again, Jason," Trini told her friend quietly.
Jason smiled back at her. "It's good to be seen, Trini. Thank you for coming. It's good to have you here."
Billy, laden with drinks, came up to the group. "Here, take this," he said, shoving the tray at Adam, who took it good-naturedly. Then Billy went to join his friends.
"Friends of yours, Jason?" another voice asked. The four ex-Rangers whirled to see a tall, attractive brown-haired woman smiling at them.
"Lita!" Jason grinned. "Guys, this is Dr. Lita Kino, currently my psychiatrist, and a good friend. Lita has also kept Tommy from going off the deep end, and Billy and Tommy from killing each other, but that's a story for another time."
Lita smiled at Zack and Trini. "I'm looking forward to hearing your versions of the stories Jason and Billy have been telling me," she informed them, subtly flashing her communicator as she did so. The eyes of the two newly returned ex-Rangers bugged out, then they hurriedly got themselves under control.
"Those must be some stories, Jason," Zack chuckled ruefully.
Suddenly, a very familiar voice cut through all the noise in the room. "Hey, what's all the partying about?" Kimberly Hart asked.
"Kim!" Zack called. "Over here!"
Kimberly's jaw dropped. "Zack?" She hurried over to him. "What are you doing back here?" she asked incredulously.
"Same thing you are, I think," Trini responded quietly.
"Nice to meet you, Kimberly," Lita broke in. "I'm Lita Kino, Tommy's psychiatrist. Your friends have told me a great deal about you."
"Um, yeah," Kim replied, unsure of how to respond to this woman. Tommy's psychiatrist? What on earth had been bad enough to make him go to a shrink?
"Time enough for swapping stories later," Jason smiled, taking charge again, as he had been doing all his life. "Right now, we're all together, so let's party!"
As the five ex-Rangers moved off into the crowd, Lita noticed Tommy in a corner, staring at Kimberly as if he'd been pole-axed. She sighed to herself and made a mental note to have Serena keep a couple of appointment slots open. She had a feeling that she would be seeing Tommy Oliver on a professional basis in the very near future.
* * *
Even in early January, the weather in Angel Grove was warm and sunny, a perfect day to take a walk in the park. Jason had made a round of the concrete paths, and was now sitting under a tree, enjoying the beauty of the day. He was alone, much to his friends' objections. They had wanted to have one of them with him everywhere he went, but he had flatly refused. This was his independence, the only power he had left. He was not going to give it up without a fight. The Rangers had finally acquiesced, on the condition that he wear his communicator at all times and call them at the first sign of trouble.
Trouble was the last thing on his mind this morning, though. All he wanted was to sit in the warm sun and rest. His daily exercise, which before would not have even raised his heart rate, now wore him out. Still, he stubbornly refused to give it up. He was not going to give his physical deterioration any more ground than he had to.
"Is this a private party, or can anybody join?" an unfamiliar voice asked. Jason opened his eyes to see a girl he had never met before standing in front of him, smiling.
"Pull up a root and sit down," he replied, gesturing off to his left. "I don't remember seeing you around here before."
She shook her head. "No, I just moved to town a few days ago. I start school on Monday."
Jason couldn't help looking at her. She was striking, but not conventionally pretty. Her features were far too strong for that, but they were certainly pleasant, especially the curve of her mouth. Her hair was a brilliant red, the color of autumn leaves, and her eyes were a smoky hazel. Most startling of all was her height. When she plopped down next to him, he realized that she was almost an inch shorter than Kimberly, standing only about 5'1".
"I'm Jamie, Jamie Zedden. What's your name?"
"Oh, I've heard of you. It's nice to meet you. I hear you teach martial arts. What style are you?"
Jason grinned. Of all the ways he had envisioned his morning, discussing martial arts with a beautiful redhead was not one of them. He wasn't going to complain, though.
"I have a fourth degree black belt in American Style Karate," he informed her.
"American Style, huh? That's pretty interesting. I just earned my fourth in Shotokan."
Now Jason was impressed. "Shotokan? That's a tough style."
"Yeah, but I love it. Besides, where I come from, you have to be tough."
"Where are you from?"
"Just moved up here from one of Los Angeles' 'finer neighborhoods,'" she grimaced.
Jason and Jamie spent a long time discussing everything they could think of. Jason was completely enthralled. Jamie was the most interesting person he had met in a long time, and he really enjoyed being with her. Even though she had obviously heard about his illness, she didn't seem to feel sorry for him at all. Reflecting briefly on the irony of making such an interesting friend so late in life, he steeled himself to ask the question that had been tumbling around in his mind. "Jamie, I was wondering if you'd like to go see that new action movie at the Angel Grove Multiplex tomorrow night?"
She smiled at him. "A date? Is this a date?" He flushed and she giggled. "Seriously, is that the one with those super-powered teenagers saving the world? 'Turbo Heroes' or something?"
Jason shuddered. "No way! Those things are so cheesy! I meant the new Segal movie."
"Sure. I'd love toÉ IF you promise to take me to that Turbo thing sometime. I like cheesy. Besides, I'm a sucker for men in Spandex."
Jason couldn't help smiling to himself. Oh, Jamie. Too bad you didn't meet me six months ago. That thought was a tad painful, though, and he let it go.
"Great," he told her. "I'll meet you there at eight?"
"Sure." They talked about other things for a while, but all too soon, the real world intruded, and they both had to go home. Walking back to his house, Jason almost didn't need the cane. He was too busy walking on air.
* * *
For the past hour and a half, Detective Stone had been staring at his telephone, wondering. He wondered if his business could support a long-distance phone call, wondered if his ego could withstand talking to the party on the other end, and wondered if they'd care at all. Finally, he sighed and picked up the phone.
In an office in Paris, the phone rang. An extremely bored Eugene Skullovitch picked it up. "Bonjour, comment aide-vous?"*
"Skullovitch?" came the rather incredulous reply.
"Detective Stone!" Immediately, Skull's feet left the top of the desk and he sat up very straight. "It's good to hear from you, sir, but why are you calling? There isn't anything wrong at home, is there?"
Detective Stone sighed. "Yes, and no. Your families are fine, don't worry. That's not why I called. I- I just heard not too long ago that Jason Scott is seriously ill. They think he's dying. Current prognosis gives him three months to live."
"Three- months?" Skull croaked.
"Yeah. I knew that the two of you knew each other, and I also figured that no one would think to call you. I- thought you ought to know."
"Thank you, sir," sighed Skull.
"Look, Skullovitch, how are things going with your new assignment?"
"Just wonderful, sir. I couldn't be happier. How are things with you? Business looking up?"
Detective Stone chuckled ruefully. "Since the two of you quit, business has been booming. I hired a new assistant. You remember Robert, the kid you bailed out on the Angel Grove Novelty case?"
"Yeah, nice kid. How'd he doing?"
"Good, good. He doesn't have your zest for the work, but he's a good detective. Look, I'll let you go now. I'm sure you have something important to do."
"Yes, sir. Good-bye." With a click, the line shut off. Dazed, Skull left his office to go tell Bulk the news.
* * *
Tommy was sweeping out one of the back rooms as a favor to Ernie when a familiar footstep behind him made him turn. Sure enough, behind him stood Kimberly, her arms full of cans, staring frustratedly up at a high shelf.
"Here, let me give you a hand with that," he offered.
"Um, thanks," she replied hesitantly. Taking the cans from her, he placed them on the top shelf with care. When he turned back to her, she was looking at him wistfully.
"It's been a long time," he told her.
"Too long. I heard you're with Kat now," she hedged nervously, refusing to meet his eyes.
He laughed, a slightly bitter sound. "That's old news. She dumped me, for my brother. Seems to be a pattern emerging."
Kimberly's eyes flashed. "I didn't dump you. I broke up with you, and it wasn't for another man."
"Oh no? That's not what your letter said. Or did I misread "her" as "him?" Did you dump me- excuse me, break up with me- for a woman?"
Kimberly slapped him. The sound of her hand against his face was a flat crack that echoed through the storage room. They stared at each other in silence for a long moment, then she replied quietly. "The person in my letter was Scott Mitchell. Yes, he is my boyfriend, but I didn't break up with you for him. I broke up with you because I couldn't stand the confusion anymore. You and I- sometimes, it felt so right, and sometimes it was so wrong. You were cold and distant, and then warm and loving. You always seemed ready to snap, and I just couldn't take it anymore. You scared me, Tommy."
"So you waited 'til you were in Florida to dump me? You couldn't say it to my face? Or were you afraid to break off the relationship until you had another one to step into? Why wait?"
She sighed. "I couldn't decide to leave until we were apart. When I was with you, things were always so confused. My emotions were a roller coaster ride, and I couldn't think straight until it stopped. Then, I didn't want to wait because I needed to do this, and I was afraid I'd lose my nerve. I did love you, Tommy. Whatever you may think of me, never think that I didn't love you."
Tommy deflated visibly. "I loved you, too, Kim. I still do, even though I'm not sure what else I feel for you. You said it best, the whole thing is confusing."
She nodded. "And we've both changed. You aren't the person I left, and I'm not the person who did the leaving. Do you think that we could start again?"
"I don't know. I have changed, and there's so much we need to talk about. Where are you staying?"
"With my dad and my brother. Funny, both of my parents moved to Angel Grove after the divorce, and didn't even know it 'til a year later. Look, I'll see you later. I have to get home."
Tommy nodded, watching her as she ran out the door. Then, with a sigh, he returned to his sweeping.
* * *
"Bulk, I just got some really bad news from home." Bulk looked up from his paperwork as Skull burst into the office. Inwardly, he marveled at how Skull could put on the office uniform of a crisply ironed suit and dress shirt, and still make it look rumpled. Today was no different. He had taken off his jacket the moment they had come in, and his hair was wilder than usual. The expression on his face, however, was deadly serious.
"Jason's really sick. They think he's dying."
Bulk sat in shocked silence as he absorbed this information. Jason, Mr. Exercise, sick, dying? It was almost inconceivable. "What else?" he asked, noting the glint in his friend's eye.
"He's got about three months. I'm going back."
Bulk's jaw dropped. "What! You can't! We haven't fulfilled our contract with Inspector Klouseau yet!"
"So what? He can keep the money he was going to pay us. This is more important."
"Skull, we did our level best for fifteen years to make his life miserable. They're not going to want to see us," Bulk pointed out, trying to reason with his friend.
"That's why we have to go back. This may be our only chance to apologize for being such dorks all these years."
"Skull, if we leave, that's it. We're finished here."
"Good!" Skull yelled, slamming his hands down on Bulk's desk. "I'm miserable! You're the one who wanted to be a spy. What are we doing? Paperwork and training. Lots and lots of training. I was happier as a detective, even if I did stink at it."
"It takes time to learn to do anything. All our lives, we got into trouble and made fools of ourselves by trying to do things the easy way. I've finally got something that I want to work for, and I'm not going to give that up."
Skull sighed. "You don't have to. I'm going home, whether or not you come with me. I got into this mess following you, but that was the last time. I'm not going to throw away my happiness one more time because our paths diverge."
Swallowing, Bulk stood and stuck out his hand. "I'm going to miss you, buddy, but I'd rather you were happy. Promise you'll write?"
Skull grinned. "You know it. We'll always be friends, Bulky, no matter how far apart we are." He took his friend's hand, and the two shook.
* * *
Serena Kyle had been working as Lita Kino's secretary and assistant for five years now, and the job had never been boring. Raving lunatics, paranoia, she'd seen it all. One of the most fascinating groups, however, had been the six or seven teenagers who had begun dropping in, often unannounced, over the past six months. Surreptitiously checking the billing records, Serena had noticed that no more than half of those visits were billed. Something decidedly odd was going on, but it wasn't her place to pry. Today, Tommy Oliver had dropped in, again, during the habitually clear space in the schedule that Serena had taken to calling the "free period." Looking him up and down, she shook her head.
"You again, Oliver? We're going to have to start charging you rent." Tommy blushed, and she waved him in. "Dr. Kino, Tommy's back."
"Come on in, Tommy," Lita called. "I'll be right with you." He walked into the office to find Lita shelving books, much like the first time he had met her. Finally, she finished her labor and sat down.
"So, Oliver, what's the crisis this time?"
Tommy shrugged. "I just need someone to talk to. Kim's back, and I'm so confused. I don't know what to feel."
"Are you glad she's back?"
"Yeah, but sort of not, at the same time. We've both changed so much, it's like we aren't the same people who were in love with each other."
"You're not. You've both grown and changed. It happens with everybody, you two in particular. You've had to deal with huge amounts of stress, and have finally come to accept the darkness in your spirit. She's had to deal with not being a Ranger anymore, something which defined her almost completely for a great deal of time. It will take time for you to know each other again, and there is a chance that you won't be in love anymore."
Tommy suddenly looked up at Lita, his eyes shining with fear. "She said she was afraid of me, afraid of what I could do. I don't know what to think. Am really that much of a monster?"
Lita sighed. How one teenage boy could have so much pain in his life, much less survive it, was beyond her. But fate seemed to enjoy tormenting Tommy Oliver, placing bigger and bigger hurdles in his way, waiting for him to fall flat on his face. If there wasn't a payoff soon, she thought, he wasn't going to make it over many more hurdles.
"Tommy, you're not a monster. What Kimberly, and yes, probably Katherine as well, saw in you was the darkness of the Green Ranger, the part of you that you always struggled with. Now that it's a part of you, you can control it, and it will never hurt anyone you love. But the darkness is there, and to someone like Kimberly, who lives almost completely in the light, that's frightening. That's just the way it is. There's no wrong or right to these things, they just are."
"Yin and yang. Dark and light, not good and evil. They just are, the fundamental opposites."
He smiled at her. "Thanks, Lita. It's good to have someone to talk to." He left then, and Lita turned to her paperwork. This was going to be an interesting time.
* * *
On a plane high over the Atlantic, Eugene Skullovitch was relaxing in a seat, eating his complimentary bag of peanuts, and flirting with the stewardesses. Amazingly enough, some of them were flirting back. He remembered a time when they would have shot him down immediately. He really had grown up.
Part of it, of course, was his appearance. In his khakis, yellow button-down shirt, and suspenders, he didn't look like the punk he had been for so many years. He was also far more relaxed than he had ever been in his police uniform or the suit he mentally referred to as "Spywear." Life as a detective had agreed with him immensely.
His thoughts turned back to Angel Grove, and like clockwork, he began to think about her, Kimberly Hart. He had fallen for her the first day he had seen her, when she had first come to Angel Grove from Seattle. Her beauty, brains, and strength had grown on him, and at some point, his hopeless crush had metamorphosed into real, true love. Unfortunately, he hadn't know anyway to get her attention except by being obnoxious. That had only made her dislike him more, and he had very soon lost any chance of gaining her affections when she had begun dating Tommy. After she had left for Florida and broken up with Tommy, he had sadly bid farewell to his feelings and waited for them to go away. They hadn't. Now, with Jason so ill, she would undoubtedly be back. He wasn't sure he was up to seeing her again, especially since she would probably be trying to patch things up with Tommy. Oh, well. It wasn't as if he was a stranger to the game of "love her from afar."
Sighing, he closed his eyes and tried to get some sleep. He wasn't sure what was going to happen when he got home, and he wanted to be ready for anything. Yawning, Skull slipped off to sleep, and into dreams of Kimberly.
* * *
When his plane arrived at Angel Grove International, Skull was not surprised that there was not a large crowd waiting for him. He hadn't been very popular. What did surprise him was that standing next to his parents was Detective Stone. He had not expected the older man to come meet the plane. Maybe he missed me. Skull chuckled to himself at how unlikely that was.
After hugging his parents, he turned and shook Detective Stone's hand.
"Good to see you again, Skullovitch." Skull smiled.
"Sir, now that I am back, do you think the agency might have room in it for a kid who just got his detective's license?"
"I think we could work something out," Detective Stone nodded. The small group made its way out of the airport and to Skull's parents car. On his ride home, Skull could not stop looking out the window. He had missed Angel Grove immensely in his six months away, and now he was drinking in its sights like a man fresh out of the desert drinks water. Noticing some scorch marks on a building, he guessed that the Zeo Rangers were still in business. That brought back a host of interesting memories, especially of the time that he and Bulk were trapped in the Machine Empire's dungeons, waiting to fight a monster. He sighed. Hard to believe that he and Bulk had gone their separate ways. They'd been friends since before kindergarten, sometimes the only two in their group. As kids, Jason and Trini had drawn all the attention, leaving Bulk and Skull in the background. As a result, they had resorted to the usual attention-getting devices that young children use, and had just never grown out of them. There had never been a reason to. Jason Scott and his friends had always been in the spotlight, and no one had ever had a chance of stealing it away. As time had passed, he had fallen so far into the routines and thought processes of being a punk that he had almost forgotten that he was ever anything else. Only when he played his music did he break out of his shell.
"No more," he whispered. "I'm not going back to that. I've got a chance to be somebody, and this time, I'm not going to waste it."
The sun beat down on downtown Angel Grove, despite the fact that it was the middle of January. Temperatures were in the mid-60's, and the streets of the shopping district were clogged with people. The festive atmosphere of that Saturday morning was infectious, and Jason felt better than he had since November. Part of it had to be attributed to falling in love, however.
Even though he'd only known Jamie a few weeks, Jason was fairly sure that what he was feeling was at least the beginning of love. There was something so right about the two of them when they were together, and he was always happier by her side. She seemed to feel the same way about him, although he hadn't yet gotten up the courage to ask her.
They had enjoyed the Segal movie very much, and true to his word, Jason had taken Jamie to see the "Turbo Heroes" a few nights later. To his surprise, he found himself actively enjoying the cheesy movie, laughing at Jamie's jokes and cracking a few of his own. He had teased her about drooling over the Red Turbo Hero, but had to shut up after she caught him ogling the Pink one. Idly he wondered if morphing really did that sort of thing to a woman's physique. He hadn't noticed, but then, he'd been busy with other things at the time.
Now Jamie had dragged him antique shopping, something he had never before endured for any woman. Jamie was looking for antique weapons, however, which was something Jason had always been interested in. Besides, her excitement would have made everything worthwhile. She bounced around, frequently taking his hand or touching his arm, and every time, he felt better and better. He almost felt like he didn't need his cane anymore.
Finally they came to Old as the Hills, the last store on their list. Inside, Ignatz Hill, the proprietor took one look at Jason's cane and offered him a chair. Sinking gratefully down into it, Jason watched as Jamie looked over the man's collection of antique knives, swords, and other weapons.
A flash of light on steel drew her eye. Crossing to the case, Jamie saw a beautiful, strangely-crafted sword lying on the velvet inside. "Could I take a look at this one?" she asked.
"Ah," Mr. Hill commented in his Maine drawl, slowly coming over to the case. "A good choice. No one really knows where this sword came from. I inherited it from my grandfather, but how he came by it, I never found out. He never wanted to discuss it any. I've had it examined by every expert in the area, but not one of them can tell me where this sword is from."
Jamie listened and watched impatiently as the old man lifted the sword from its case and handed it to her. When she took it, she felt a slight shock, as if the blade had a small static charge, then nothing. Taking it in one hand, she tested the heft, raising her eyebrows at its light weight. "Steel?" she asked, swinging it.
Mr. Hill shook his head. "Nope. They don't know what it is. It seems to be plumb old, but just how old, no one can say."
She examined it closely. "You're right, it's very odd. Look, the blade is shaped like an English broadsword, but there's no blooding channel, and it has these funny runes etched on the blade. I'd almost say they were Norse, but the Norse never made swords like this. The pommel stone's like nothing I've ever seen. It could be milk quartz, or a moonstone, but it's huge, almost the size of a quarter." She suddenly came to a decision. She had to have that sword. "How much?"
Mr. Hill looked at the girl in front of him for a long moment. A sword like that usually cost upwards of a thousand dollars, but the girl and the sword seemed made for each other. "Well, I like you. And that sword doesn't have a past, and doesn't have no identifying marks, so it's almost worthless to a collector. I think it's time to unload the thing. Twenty dollars and it's yours."
Jamie nearly fell over. "Twenty dollars? Sir, are you sure?"
"Course I'm sure," Hill snapped. "Twenty dollars, take it or leave it."
"I'll take it!" Jamie handed the man a twenty dollar bill, and he put it into the cash register.
"Oops, almost forgot." Hill cackled. Reaching behind the counter, he drew out a scabbard made of something dark. "This was always with the sword. Part of the purchase price. You'll want to keep it sheathed in town, of course. And before you ask, no, it ain't leather. Nobody knows what it is, either."
"Thank you very much, sir," Jamie replied wholeheartedly, slipping the sword into its scabbard and going out into the sun. Jason rose to go, and Hill suddenly put a hand on his shoulder.
"Young man, is she your girlfriend?" the old man asked, seriously.
"I certainly like to think so, sir," Jason responded, wondering what this was about.
"You keep an eye on her. There's something funny about that blade. It almost seems like it was made for her. I don't reckon there's anything dangerous about it- I wouldn't have sold it to her if I did, butÉ" He trailed off, but Jason caught his meaning.
"I'll keep my eyes open, sir." He then followed Jamie out into the sunshine.
* * *
In the park, Jamie stopped to unsheathe her new sword and try a few practice moves. Sitting under a tree, Jason watched her, smiling. She looked completely natural with it, despite its odd manufacture. Like Mr. Hill, Jason didn't feel that there was anything directly malevolent about the sword, but something very strange was happening, all the same.
The arrival of a flash of gold fire broke both teens' concentration. Goldar materialized in the middle of the park, grinning evilly at the two of them. Jason immediately tried to scramble to his feet, cursing his weakness and reaching for his cane. Meanwhile, Jamie had stepped in between Goldar and Jason, sword held at the ready.
"Relax, Jason, I'm not here for you," Goldar growled. "You're far too pathetic to be of any interest to Lord Zedd now."
"If you're after Jamie, you tin-plated baboon, you can just forget it," Jason growled back. "Weak as I am, you'll still have to go through me to get to her."
"Your little girlfriend here is quite safe, for the time being. All I want is the sword. Hand it over, and I'm out of your hair."
Jamie raised an eyebrow. "You want my sword, that I just paid twenty dollars for? I don't think so."
"Give it to me, human. You have no use for it, no clue about its true power and worth. It's useless to you."
She shrugged. "It's got an edge, so it can cut. How useless can it be? Tell you what. You want this sword, you come fight me for it. Winner takes the sword."
"Are you crazy!" Jason cried. "He cheats!"
Jamie barely glanced at him. "What do you say, Goldilocks? You against me, winner takes the sword, and no matter what, nothing happens to Jason."
Goldar thought for a moment, and then nodded. "It shall be done."
The two combatants immediately took "guard" stances. Then, with a ringing downslice, Goldar attacked. Jamie blocked him, and the fight was on. Immediately, it was apparent that the two warriors were masters of their art. Their cuts, thrusts, and parries formed a glittering web of razored steel that glinted in the sun. Goldar was far stronger than the human girl, but Jamie had grace and speed on her side. They were evenly matched.
Then Goldar tripped over a root, and Jamie stepped away to let him rise, never taking her eyes off him. Instead of standing, however, the monster fired two energy bolts from his eyes. Jamie instinctively lifted her sword to block them, but instead, the blade absorbed them and fired them back as a bolt of purple energy, which Goldar barely managed to dodge. Taking advantage of Jamie's shock, the flying monkey leaped into the air and knocked the sword from her hands with his own.
"You put up quite a fight, human. I'll do you the honor of making your end swift," he cackled, shooting another, larger golden energy beam at her. Jamie crossed her arms in front of her face in a futile attempt to block- and absorbed the shot. A purple aura formed around her as she stared at her hands in astonishment. Then she looked up at Goldar and smiled. Suddenly, a large purple bolt left her hands and struck him directly in the chest, knocking him back several feet. With a low groan, the monster disappeared, leaving the two teens alone in the park.
"Well, that was fun," Jamie grinned, turning towards Jason as her purple aura flickered out. "What was all that about?"
"I think that sword gave you special powers," Jason managed. "If I hug you, am I going to get electrocuted?"
"I don't think so."
"Good." He limped over to her and enfolded her in his arms. "God, you must have a death wish or something. That guy could have killed you!"
She shrugged. "I knew I could take him. I think the sword told me."
Looking down at her, Jason sighed. He was going to have to tell Zordon about this. "Get that sword and come back here, okay? There's someone I think we should talk to about this."
She did as he asked. "Who? Where are we going?"
He smiled. "You'll see." When she came within arm's length, he reached out and grabbed her wrist, simultaneously teleporting them both to the Power Chamber.
"Jason, is something the matter?" Zordon asked as the two teens materialized.
"You could say that, Zordon," Jason replied. Jamie, meanwhile, was staring around the Power Chamber with awe. "Goldar attacked us in the park. He wanted Jamie's sword. She fought him for it, beat him, and then absorbed an energy bolt he threw at her. She did it, not the sword."
"Hmm. Alpha, please run a scan on the sword," Zordon requested.
"May I see it?" Alpha asked Jamie timidly. Any girl who could take on Goldar without Ranger powers was not someone he wanted mad at him.
"Friends of yours?" she asked Jason dryly.
"You can trust them."
Reluctantly, she relinquished the sword to Alpha 5. "I want that back in one piece!" she called after the retreating android. "So where are we, and who are they?" she asked, turning back to Jason.
"Jamie Zedden, meet Zordon of Eltare, inter-dimensional being and mentor to the Power Rangers."
"Power Rangers? You're a-"
He shook his head. "Not anymore. I lost my powers, and that's why I'm so sick."
"Oh. Look, I won't push you, but if you need to talk about it, I'm willing to listen."
"Thanks, Jamie," he smiled. "Maybe later."
"Jamie Zedden?" Zordon interrupted them, frowning. "Aged 17, daughter of Lawrence Zedden?"
"Yeah," she responded, puzzled. "My dad's dead, though. Do you know me?"
Zordon sighed. "I would be more appropriate to say that I know of you. I now have my suspicions as to what occurred in the park, although I will have to wait until Alpha finishes his analysis of the sword to be sure."
Jamie looked at Jason, who shrugged. He had no idea what Zordon was talking about.
"Ai yi yi! Analysis complete, Zordon! The sword is of Zarakin manufacture, one of the six Elemental Blades manufactured by the Wizard Ralthor over three hundred millennia ago! It is the long-lost Sword of Lightning."
"Then it is true," Zordon replied heavily.
"What is true? Zarakin? Sword of Lightning? What's going on here?" Jamie asked.
"It is a long story. The Zarakin are a people who live many light-years from here, on a planet known as Danata. Long ago, they settled there to escape the constant invasions their people were subject to."
"Oh, kind of like Belgium," Jason interjected.
"Somewhat. The Zarakin were determined not to be driven off their planet again, so a great wizard named Ralthor created six magical swords, to be given to worthy wielders. These six swords were known as the Elemental Blades. They were the Sword of Fire, the Sword of Water, the Sword of Wind, the Sword of Earth, the Sword of Heart, and the Sword of Lightning. The Zarakin House of Swords, an organization of bodyguards to the king, grew up around these blades. Aside from being able to control the element for which they were named, each of the swords had another, hidden power, known only to the wielder. The Sword of Lightning, however, had a power which could not be kept hidden. It transformed its wielder into a formidable warrior- the Purple Zeo Ranger.
"Purple!" Jason exclaimed. "The Zeo Crystal has more powers?"
"Yes. There were ten colors embedded in it when it was first created and broken into ten pieces. The Gold piece, the King Crystal, was turned into the Golden Power staff and presented to the Lord of Triforia. The Purple piece, also known as the Shard, was apparently forged into the handle of the sword."
"Do you want it back?" Jamie asked shyly.
"Jamie, the sword has bonded to you. The power is yours, no matter what. We would like you to be a full-fledged Power Ranger, tied into the grid. That way, we could come to your aid if necessary, but you are under no obligation."
"I'll do it. What do I have to do?"
"Take the sword in both hands and concentrate on the crystal." Jamie did as she was asked, and her jaw dropped as she saw the crystal separate from the handle and float over to where the other Zeo Crystals stood, tied into the Power Chamber's computers. Jason took it in both hands and inserted it into the port with all the others. A huge purple flash filled the room, and when it cleared, one of the screens showed seven readouts where it had previously only shown six.
"Welcome to the team, Purple Ranger," Zordon said quietly. "The sword is still connected to the crystal, and will serve as your morpher, in a way. To morph, simply hold it aloft and shout "Zeo Shard Power!"
Jason finally asked the question that had been bothering him for a while. "Zordon, if the Purple powers were used by aliens, what's to prevent what's happening to me from happening to Jamie?"
"Number one, Jason, Zarakin are very close to humans, physiologically speaking. They do not have the chemical differences that Triforians have, so the powers will be far more compatible with Jamie than the Gold were with you. Number two, Jamie is not completely human. She is half Zarakin."
"WHAT!" the two teens asked in unison.
"Just what I said. Jamie, your mother is completely human. Your father, on the other hand, is a full-blooded Zarakin prince. This is why you have the ability to absorb energy. You inherited it from your father."
"Not just an alien, but an alien prince." Jamie shook her head, trying to absorb this. "What was he doing on Earth?"
Zordon sighed. "It is a long and somewhat ugly story. The Zarakin, like most races in the universe, are neither all evil nor all good. Like humans, they have the potential to produce great heroes and foul villains. One such villain was Lord Zedd."
"Zedd!" Jason cried. "I thought you said that Zarakin were physiologically like humans!"
"They are. The form that you know as Lord Zedd is not his true one. As a Zarakin, he appears to be a completely normal looking human. Zedd was born to the King and Queen of Danata many eons ago, before even my birth. He was the pride and joy of the royal court, a baby of uncommon handsomeness and intelligence. He had a slight temper, but that trait has bred true throughout seven hundred generations of rulers, and extends to most of the planet as well. There was little chance that Zedd would escape it.
"He grew to become one of the most agile warriors Danata had ever seen. Graduating first in his class from the House of Swords, he was given the Sword of Fire, possession of which could only be revoked by his death. As he grew, it was thought that he would be one of the finest kings that the Zarakin Sector had ever known.
"Then something happened, and to this day, no one knows what. Zedd was seduced by a dark power. Until her death, his mother believed that it had taken him against his will, much like Rita did with Tommy. Most believed he submitted to the darkness willingly. Regardless, he became an evil sorcerer of great power, drawing on the darkest sectors of the Morphin Grid."
"I thought we used the Grid," Jason frowned.
"You did. The Morphin Grid is a vast source of the power humans call magic. It permeates the universe, and is tuned to the polar extremes of being. Some power answers to the dark pole, some to the light, and power of one type will corrupt or dilute a power of the other. The Ranger powers are of the light side of the Grid, while Zedd draws from its darkest regions.
"This is why Lord Zedd has such a monstrous appearance. He is a sorcerer, drawing his power from an alternate form in which he can tap the Morphin Grid. Because he is evil, the alternate form he chose is naturally hideous. That is why there seems to be no rhyme or reason in the shapes that many of the villains you face. The sorcerers among them have taken shapes that no true creature ever wore. That is why Master Vile looks so different from Rita."
"I always just thought she took after her mother," Jason replied.
"In a sense, she does. Rita is a witch, like her mother before her, drawing her power from objects into which magic has been infused. She does not have an alternate form. Rito looks the way he does because he was caught in one of his father's magical accidents.
"I am a wizard, drawing my power from a natural connection with the Morphin Grid. Rather than spells or incantations, I use mental disciplines to summon and direct the power. There are many other classifications, but it would take too long to go into them now, and I have already strayed from my story.
"Zedd continued his career of evil for millennia, occasionally returning to Danata to cause trouble. One on of these expeditions, he sired a child, a boy named Zarador. Zarador is now the king of Danata, and one of my closest friends. He, along with the Council of Elders, managed to trap Zedd upon his return to the planet. Not having the heart to kill him in cold blood, they stripped him of his alternate form and sent him to a planet where he would fit in, but never be able to rise to power. They sent him to Earth. This was twenty years ago."
"Oh, no," Jamie said softly, closing her eyes. She had a feeling that she knew what Zordon was leading up to.
"On Earth, he took the name Lawrence Zedden, created a past for himself, and fell in love with Leslie Corren. The two married and had one child, a daughter whom they named Jamie."
Jamie smiled sickly. "Actually, they named her Jamaica Theresa, which she has been trying to live down ever since."
"Jamaica?" Jason raised an eyebrow.
"Hey, Mom was under pain medication! Give her a break."
"So you're Lord Zedd's daughter," Jason marveled, picking up where Zordon's story left off.
She shrugged. "I guess so. For twelve years, Mom and I thought he died. I mean, they pulled a body from the river that had his ID and the right dental work, so we always thought that he was gone."
"Jamie, I am unclear on the details of Lord Zedd's return to power, but I believe that the minions sent by his subordinates to retrieve him planted that body so that no one would wonder where he had gone. It would be easy for them to generate a duplicate of your father's physical form and dump it in the river."
"Great. Just great."
Jason put an arm around her shoulders. "Hey, I don't care if you are Zedd's daughter. I like you anyway. I don't know how Tommy's going to take it, though."
"Why would he have a problem with it?"
"It's a long story."
"Jamie," Zordon broke in, "there is something else that you must know. According to Zarakin law, your parents are still married. There was no divorce, and no real death, so the marriage was not dissolved. This means that Lord Zedd and Rita Repulsa are not really married, which may bode ill for you. Although it is unlikely Zedd will throw Rita over to return to you, she will still not be his wife in actuality, and Rita Repulsa does not like to be replaced."
Jamie shivered at the thought of the Tengas attacking her mother. "I'm going to have to tell her all about this, Zordon. She has to know."
"I agree. I think the two of you should teleport back to Jamie's house and explain things to her."
"What am I going to do with this?" Jamie asked, raising her sword. "If it's my morpher, I'm going to need it with me, but how can I carry it all the time?"
"The Elemental Blades can be stored in a pocket in hyperspace. Simply concentrate on putting it into a pocket." Jamie did so, and was surprised to see the sword disappear. "To retrieve it, simply imagine it in your hand." She concentrated again, and the blade appeared once more.
"Cool. And this pocket will go wherever I do?"
"Neat." She put the sword away again. "Any other interesting abilities I have?"
"Lord Zedd could tell you more about them. I only know of one. Jason, how long has it been since you last had a seizure?"
Jason frowned. "Almost two weeks. That's strange, they had been coming every day. I wonder what happened?"
"Jamie happened. When you have had skin to skin contact, she has been feeding energy into your system. She cannot heal you, but the energy will make you feel better and will stop your seizures."
"Does this mean that I have more time?" Jason asked, hardly daring to hope.
"I am afraid not. It is not the energy loss that is killing you, it is the systemic damage that the energy loss causes. Even if the damage were stopped from progressing, which Jamie can not do, you would still die from the injuries you have already received. I am still looking for a cure, though. Do not give up hope."
Jason smiled weakly. "At least I'll live better. Those seizures were a pain in the butt." He looked at Jamie. "Jamie, are you crying?"
She knuckled away the tears. "I'm just thinking of how ironic it is that we've found each other now, when we have so little time."
He looked at the ground. "Do you want us to stop seeing each other?"
"Of course not! It's just- I wish we had met sooner. I'm going to barely get to know you before you're gone."
He didn't respond, just drew her into his arms and held her as she cried. Zordon, watching them, mused on the ironies of the situation. Not only had these two, obviously destined to be together, found each other so late in Jason's life, but fate had set them up to be practically mortal enemies. She was the daughter of the evilest villain in the known galaxy, and he was the epitome of what made a Ranger. Who would think that they would fall in love, and so soon after their first meeting? Sometimes, life just wasn't fair.
* * *
Jamie teleported into the hall of her house. Jason had agreed to wait in the Youth Center until she was done, sensing that this was something mother and daughter had to discuss alone. "Mom?" she called.
"In the kitchen, honey. Did you have a nice day? Buy anything deadly?"
"You could say that," Jamie grinned, entering the kitchen and leaning on a counter. Leslie Zedden looked up at her daughter and smiled.
"You look like you have something on your mind. Care to talk about it?"
Jamie studied her mother intently. It was very obvious where Jamie got her looks. Leslie Zedden had the same red hair and short, slim build as her daughter, with a similar face and strong features. Only their eyes were different, Jamie's a smoky hazel, Leslie's a cool emerald green. Jamie had also inherited her toughness of spirit from her mother. Jamie had never run across something too unpleasant for her mother to handle, but she still hesitated to drop this particular bomb.
"Mom, the day you found out Dad was dead. You never really talked about it. You just said that the police called and told you his body was found in the river. What happened that day? Why were we living at Grandma's after that?"
Leslie sighed. She didn't really want to remember the events of that afternoon, but Jamie was certainly old enough to deserve the truth, and she wouldn't ask if it weren't important.
"I was doing something or other in the kitchen and you were watching "Sesame Street" in the living room. There was a knock at the door, and I opened it to see two men outside. They looked strange, uncomfortable, like they didn't belong there and they knew it. They said they were friends of your father and wanted to talk to me inside. I didn't like the looks of them, so I said no. They insisted, so I shut the door in their faces and headed back towards the kitchen. That was when the door blew in."
Jamie jumped. The door blew in? None of this was part of her memories of that time, but she couldn't remember much from before she was five. Still, she had never imagined that her mother's story was so violent.
"Larry had been afraid that something like this would happen, although he'd never told me why, and he'd trained me in what to do. I picked you up, headed for the car, and peeled out of there. The next thing I knew, they were chasing us. I was never so glad for those driving courses he made me take. I threw everything I had into the chase, and I lost them.
"I couldn't go home, of course, so I took you to Grandma's. Later, I learned that our house had been set on fire. Very little had survived. For a while, the police even thought that we had died in the fire. Once they realized that we were alive, they called Grandma's to tell me about Larry. It was almost too much. If it hadn't been for you, I would have given up. To this day, I don't know who those men were or what they wanted. Why are you bringing this up now?"
Jamie sighed and took her mother's hands in her own. "Mom, I have something I need to tell you."
* * *
In a Winnebago roaming the Moon's surface, Lord Zedd was listening to Goldar's sniveling explanation with mounting impatience. He was about ready to blow a hole in the ceiling when something Goldar said caught his attention. "A girl, you say," Zedd asked, leaning forward. "Red hair, about 17?"
"Yes, my lord."
"And she was able to call on the sword's powers?"
"Yes, Lord Zedd."
"Hmm," Zedd mused. Common sense told him it was impossible, but nevertheless, his heart began to pound. "She must have been a half-breed Zarakin. Let me see this girl!" Zedd's eyebeams shot down towards Earth, magically allowing him to see what he wanted. As he did so, a duplicate of the image formed in front of his henchmen. "Goldar, is this the girl?"
"Yes, my lord." The image was of Jamie talking with her mother in the kitchen. Zedd's breath caught in what passed for his throat. He couldn't recognize the girl; too many years had passed. The woman, however, was as familiar as his own name. He dreamed about her every night.
"Leslie," he whispered.
"Leslie?" Rita asked.
Zedd whirled on her. "That's my wife!" Rita paled. "She's alive!"
"What- What does that mean for us?" Rita managed.
"I don't know. I'll have to think about this." Confused, Zedd left the Winnebago for a walk.
"Goldar," Rita said far too sweetly, "come here." The big gold monkey did so hesitantly, knowing what was coming. "You gold-plated buffoon!" Rita screamed, swatting at him with her wand. "You told me those Dendrian mercenaries would get the job done! You swore to me that Leslie Zedden and her brat would be dead by sundown and Zedd would be retrieved! Instead, I'm not his wife anymore, and it's all- your- fault!" Rita punctuated each screamed word with another swat with her wand.
Finster, hidden in a corner, listened with interest. Rita and Zedd were a formidable force together, but apart, they would be much less of a threat. The Rangers should easily be able to handle attacks if Rita and Zedd were to separate. This was exactly what Finster had been hoping for since the first day Rita discovered that Earth was not an easy target. He had made his monsters weak on purpose, and found various other ways to subvert the various evil schemes of the two villains. After all, that was why he had joined Zedd's service in the first place.
Millennia ago, Rita Repulsa's forces had conquered Finster's homeworld, enslaving the people and putting them to work. As one of the premier magicians on the planet, he had been given a choice. Either he could make monsters for Rita, or he and his family would be destroyed. He had chosen Rita's service. Some months after that, his family had been executed by Rita's soldiers anyway, right before his eyes. Then and there, he had vowed that he would somehow bring down Rita and her evil master, if it was the last thing he ever did. Through loyal service, he had worked his way into the position of top monster-maker for all of her armies. It was as much his interference as the courage of Zordon's soldiers that had carried the day. Under the circumstances, confinement to the dumpster along with Rita was almost triumphant.
After Rita's release, Finster had continued to make sure that Rita's monsters were ineffective and easily defeated. He wondered if those five teenagers that Zordon had chosen would have survived those first few months otherwise. He rather thought they would have, but he did not want to take any chances. Now, he saw a way to further sabotage her efforts, and listened carefully as Rita continued to scream at Goldar.
"Now, you have one last chance to get this right, monkey-breath! Take a squad of Tengas and get that woman, I don't care how. Kill her and her brat, and Jason Scott if he gets in the way, and get rid of the bodies. Without them, Zedd won't have a family to go back to, and he'll still be under my thumb. Now go!"
With a deep bow, Goldar disappeared, and Rita left, muttering to herself. When Finster was sure that the coast was clear, he slipped out of his hiding place and went to go find Zedd. He rather thought he had some news the Lord of Evil would like to hear. As he walked away, he shook his head. Rita had underestimated the human race again. He didn't think Leslie Zedden would be a very easy mark.
* * *
Jason was sitting at a table in the juice bar, sipping on a juice shake and waiting for his communicator to go off when someone sat down opposite him. He looked up and almost choked on his shake. Skull sat on the other side of the table smiling at him.
"Skull, I thought you were in France," Jason managed, once he had calmed down.
Skull shrugged. "I was. Detective Stone called and told us about you being sick. I was miserable in France anyway, so Bulk and I parted company, and here I am."
"Why are you back here anyway?"
"Like I said, Detective Stone told us about your being sick. I realized that I'd never apologized to you guys for what a jerk I'd been, and this was the only chance I was going to get. I always wanted to be one of the group but," he shrugged again, "I never thought you'd want me around. Kind of dropped into a downward spiral. I was wondering if we couldn't patch things up? It's never too late to start a friendship."
Jason smiled. Skull certainly had grown from the annoying, silly punk he had been for as long as Jason knew him. This version of Skull was definitely the type of person Jason wanted as a friend. He reached out and took the other boy's hand. "Skull, I would really like that. A guy needs all the friends he can get."
"Umm, Dr. Kino?" a girl's voice asked hesitantly. Lita looked up and was not overly surprised to see Kimberly Hart standing in the doorway, an uncertain expression on her face.
"That's what it says on my door. Call me Lita, though. All your friends do, and "Dr. Kino" makes me feel old. Have a seat, Kimberly, and tell me what's bugging you."
Kimberly sat down on the offered chair gingerly, tucking her legs under her. Lita raised an eyebrow at this obvious show of vulnerability, but said nothing.
"Um, the guys said I could trust you with our secret, and I believe them, but I don't understand. How did you find out about the Rangers? And what do you mean, you're Tommy's shri- uh, psychiatrist? Why did he need one?"
"You can say 'shrink,'" Lita grinned. "It doesn't offend me. As to your two other questions, it's a long and convoluted story, and I think you should hear the whole thing from Tommy. He's the only one who really understands what happened. Still, in a nutshell, the story is that Tommy began having awful nightmares about the Green Ranger appearing and turning him evil. Every night he'd have these dreams, and he woke up screaming. His parents sent him to me. After deciding he could trust me, and with a little prompting from Zordon, he told me about his day job, and I hypnotized him. I just expected to find an over-stressed subconscious mind. Instead, I discovered a full-blown case of multiple personality disorder. Tommy had split into two people, his normal self and the Green Ranger. Thanks to the timely return of a certain coin," and here Lita pulled the Power Coin that she wore around her neck out and showed it to Kimberly, "and a couple of monsters, Tommy achieved spontaneous integration. Now, he just comes and sees me when he needs guilt counseling, which is very often. His guilt muscle is even more developed than the rest of 'em."
"Whoa," Kim replied, suitably impressed. "That's quite a story."
"Well, I haven't been bored since Tommy Oliver walked through those doors six months ago. But we're here to talk about you, Kim. What do you need to talk about?"
Kim sighed. "Everything's changed so much, even me. I don't know where to go about fitting back into my life, or how to even try. I mean, we have Zeo Rangers, the Machine Empire, an alien prince dating Tommy's sister, Tommy has a brother, and Jason's dying! Everything's so strange. I went to the command- no, the Power Chamber to visit Zordon, and I saw those costumes that they have behind the glass. It was like seeing myself entombed in those cases. I just don't know if I can adjust to this!"
"Culture shock," Lita nodded wisely. "It's perfectly understandable. You just have to roll with it. Either you adjust to it, or you have a nervous breakdown, and you don't seem to be the type, if you don't mind my saying so."
Kimberly chuckled. "Yeah, I've always been tough. Except when it comes to Tommy." She looked at Lita with an almost ashamed expression on her face. "I loved him once- I still love him. That never was and has never been the problem. I just don't know if I'm in love with him anymore. Maybe I never was. The worst thing is, I'm afraid of him. I know he'd never hurt me, but I can't understand him, and that scares me. I've seen him so depressed, I was really afraid that he'd go kill himself! I was just so afraid."
Lita reached out and touched the girl's shoulder. "Kimberly, you have nothing to be ashamed of. I've seen Tommy's dark side, and it's pretty scary. He has control over it now, and he's nowhere near as depressed as he used to be, but it can still be frightening. If you're that incompatible, then maybe you made a mistake falling in love with him. Mistakes are part of life, though, and as they go, this one wasn't catastrophic. You're a very nurturing personality, and you want to heal people, especially Tommy. But sometimes, you have to look out for yourself. This is one of those times. Think about what will really make you happy, because if you're not happy, you'll be cheating both of you."
Kim smiled at the older woman. "I see why Tommy likes talking to you so much. Thanks, Lita. I really needed this."
"Come back anytime," Lita called as Kim headed out the door. "My door is always open." She bent her head back to her paperwork, smiling to herself. Angel Grove psychiatry was certainly never boring.
* * *
It had taken a fair amount of arguing, one exploded toaster, and a morph, but Jamie had finally convinced her mother of the truth of her story. Now Leslie was trying to deal with the realization that her daughter was a superhero, her husband, whom she had presumed dead, was a space alien, and his current wife was probably hiring an avian hit squad to attack them even now. She was taking it rather well.
"So, what are the vulnerable areas on a Tenga?" Leslie asked calmly. Jamie blinked for a second, then grinned. Very little fazed her mother for long.
"Eyes, throat, beak, the usual," Jamie replied, miming a knee to a sensitive area. Leslie winced.
"So these are male birds?" Jamie just shrugged. Suddenly, the room was filled with a hail of feathers.
"Looks like you'll get a chance to find out!" Jamie called, dropping into a fighting position as Goldar and the Tengas materialized. Both sides prepared for a fight.
"NOT IN THE HOUSE!" Leslie bellowed, startling all the combatants into silence. "We can just take this outside," she informed them all. "You have no idea how long it took me to clean the floor this morning."
Goldar and the Tengas looked at each other sheepishly, then walked out the back door. Jamie and Leslie looked at each other for a moment, and then Jamie teleported them both to the Power Chamber. They materialized in the middle of the room, holding on to each other.
"Well, I suppose I'm going to have to get used to that," Leslie sighed, taking in her surroundings. "So this is that Power Chamber you were telling me about?"
"It is indeed," Zordon boomed. "Welcome, Mrs. Zedden. I am Zordon, mentor to the Power Rangers. May I congratulate you on a rather ingenious way of escaping the Tengas? However did you think of that?"
Leslie shrugged. "Even things like those had to have mothers. Some behaviors are just universal."
"Where are Goldar and the Tengas now, Zordon?" Jamie asked.
"They have apparently returned to the Moon and are relating their failure to Rita as we speak. I doubt that they will show up for a while, but in case they do, Mrs. Zedden, I would like you to have this communicator. Jamie, I have made one for you, as well." Leslie received a purple and white wristband, while Jamie's was simply purple. "Should you be attacked, simply touch the large button. It will teleport you here instantly."
"Thank you," Leslie replied, buckling the band onto her wrist. "I had better go home. I had a cake in the oven that will probably need my attention soon." With that, she teleported out.
"I'd better head to the youth center myself. I told Jason I'd meet him there, and I think it's time the other Rangers knew about me. I'll see you later." She also teleported out, in a purple rush. Zordon smiled to himself. It was good to see that color gracing his command post again. There had been no Purple Ranger on his team for far too long.
* * *
"So you're Zedd's daughter?" Kimberly asked in astonishment. Jamie nodded. Jason had contacted all the Rangers and asked them to meet in the park. Once everybody arrived, he and Jamie had taken turns telling the story of her origin, powers, and battle with the Tengas earlier. Now everyone was watching Tommy nervously, wondering how he would react to this particular bit of news.
"Hey, that's cool with me," he replied seriously. "I try to judge people by their actions, not their parentage. Besides, in a way, I'm glad Zedd's your dad."
"Why?" Jamie asked.
Tommy grinned. "Because that means he's not mine." Everyone laughed, and the conversation turned to other things. While everyone was talking and horsing around, Jamie and Tommy slipped off to one side.
"How do you feel about being Zedd's daughter?" he asked her, no more humor in his tone.
"I don't really know. I mean, I'm sort of glad that my dad's alive, because I still love him and I always will. On the other hand, who wants to find out that their dad's a slimeball? Still, I don't really feel it the way one of you might. I never really knew him as a villain. It's going to take me awhile to get the idea absorbed. Then we'll talk about it."
He sighed. "You know, I meant what I just said out there. I've always known I was adopted, and after I found out that there seem to be some- oddities about me and David, like the fact that we're danger-prone, and some minor discrepancies on scans, I've been worried that maybe my parents were, if not Zedd and someone else, at least someone evil. Knowing I'm not Zedd's kid is a bit of a load off my mind."
"How do you know you're not?" she grinned up at him. His eyes were fascinating, dark and extremely perceptive. If only they weren't so sad.
"Oh, just a hunch," he grinned back. "Maybe it's the fact that I'm not a short redhead."
Laughing, she dragged him back towards the group. Jamie had a feeling that she and Tommy were going to be good friends.
* * *
After a few hours of searching, Finster finally caught up with Zedd. "My lord, I have some rather disturbing news."
"What is it, Finster?" Zedd growled. "I would prefer to be alone right now."
"I overheard Rita and Goldar talking in the trailer, and I made an interesting discovery. The fire that consumed your home, and that you thought killed your family was set by Dendrian mercenaries, the same ones who brought you back to your forces."
Zedd's head swiveled slowly towards the little crafter. "What? Why?"
"To destroy your ties on Earth, so that you would have no real choice but to leave your life as Lawrence Zedden and return to being Lord Zedd. Apparently, there was also a contract out on your wife and daughter, but the mercenaries underestimated her and she escaped."
Pride was evident in Zedd's voice as he spoke again. "Leslie always could take care of herself. It was one of the reasons I fell in love with her."
Finster chose his next words carefully, delivering them in a soft, quiet voice. "I also know who placed the contract on your wife and daughter."
Zedd suddenly began to glow a baleful, angry red. "Who?" he growled, sounding rather like a Rottweiler at the end of its tether.
"Rita. It seems even at that time, she had hopes of gaining control of the empire through you. She used a communications spell to hire the mercenaries which Goldar recommended, so that they would return you to your empire where she could someday get close to you."
Without a word, Zedd turned and strode back towards where the trailer was parked. Finster followed in his wake, smiling to himself. Fur was certainly going to fly tonight.
* * *
"Rita!" Zedd bellowed, standing outside the trailer. "Get out here, witch!" Rita knew better than to disobey Zedd when he spoke in that tone of voice, and hurried out the door.
"Yes? How can I serve you?" she asked nervously. Zedd couldn't have found out about the botched attempt on his wife yet, could he?
"I know about what you did, Rita. Both this morning and twenty years ago. I ought to tear you apart, but for some unfathomable reason, I'm feeling merciful. You can have the Tengas, Goldar, your idiot brother, and even that rotten trailer. I'm going back to my castle, if the Machine Empire left any of it standing. If I ever see your face again, or catch you even thinking about attacking my wife, there won't be nearly enough left of you to put in a dumpster." With that, Zedd turned and stomped away, calling back over his shoulder, "Finster, if you want to come, you're welcome."
Finster did some hasty mental calculations and decided that it would not take Rita long to figure out who had betrayed her. He was better off in Zedd's entourage. Quickly, he hurried off after the retreating sorcerer.
Rita, in utter astonishment, watched them go. "Fine!" she yelled. "Go on! I'll defeat the Machine Empire without either of you, destroy the Power Rangers, and have this galaxy for my own!" Turning, she saw Goldar and Rito staring at her. "What are you looking at, you nincompoops! Stand aside! I'm going inside to lie down. I have such a headache." With all the dignity she could muster, Rita Repulsa swished into the trailer.
* * *
A few days later, Kimberly was standing at Hunter's Point, overlooking the city, when a red Jeep pulled up. Tommy hopped out of it and came to stand beside her, looking at the view.
"I'm here, like you asked, Kim," he told her. "What did you want to talk about?"
"Us," she replied quietly, turning to take his hands in hers. "I've been thinking about us, and our relationship, and I have to know something. Tommy, how do you really feel about me?"
He looked at his feet, then up at her. "Kimberly, you are the greatest friend I ever had, and I will always care for you. I will always love you so much, and I don't regret a minute of the time we spent together. But- I'm not in love with you anymore."
It was the answer Kimberly had been wanting to hear, hoping for, and yetÉ Her eyes filled with tears. "I wanted to tell you the same thing. I will love you forever, but you and me- it's over."
He nodded, his lips tight. "Do you want a ride back into town?"
"No," she shook her head. "I think I'll walk. I need to be alone for a while." He nodded and walked back to his car, climbing into it and driving away. As he drove, he absently switched on the radio and found that his sister, who had driven the car last, had to a country station, as usual. The current song was "Autumn's Not That Cold," by Lori Morgan. He listened to it as he drove, smiling slightly. He didn't usually like country music, but this song seemed to speak to him.
Back here, the leaves are turning
On me, just like you.
The change is full of colors
And it's anything but blue.
Thought that I'd stop living
Without you here to hold,
But I'm just not that lonesome
And autumn's not that cold.
Tommy sighed. He felt exactly like the song said. He had expected to be devastated by the loss of Kimberly, and by the realization that he was now really alone again, but he didn't. He just felt a little sad about the fact that something good had gone away. Suddenly, he pulled the car over and rested his head on the steering wheel, sobbing. He wasn't crying for what he had lost, but what could have been.
* * *
Kimberly had been walking aimlessly along the road, blinded by her own tears, for almost fifteen minutes when she decided she couldn't go any farther. She sat down under a tree and started to sob in earnest. Suddenly, a hand rested on her shoulder. Thirteen years of self-defense and two years of Rangering kicked in, and she knocked the newcomer to the ground, leaping to her own feet, ready to fight. As her eyes cleared, she saw Skull lying on the ground in front of her, hands in the universal "surrender" position.
"Whoa, Kim, whoa! I come in peace! Take me to your leader."
Despite herself, Kimberly smiled. Skull had always had the ability to cheer her up, even when he'd been an obnoxious punk. He'd changed during his time on the police force, and according to Jason, being a private detective had changed him even more. He certainly looked better, dressed in a loose green pullover and blue jeans. Sighing, she put out a hand and helped him to his feet.
"Sorry, Skull. You just kind of surprised me."
Skull made a great show of dusting himself off and checking for broken bones, using the time to surreptitiously examine Kimberly's face. Her eyes were red and puffy, and her cheeks had two red splotches on them, one over each cheekbone. It was obvious that she'd been crying.
"You and Tommy broke up, huh?" he asked quietly.
Kim started. He almost sounded- sorry. She would have thought he'd been jumping for joy, but all she saw in his face was sympathy. "Yeah. You're quite a detective, Skull."
He shrugged. "It's my job. I'm really sorry, Kim. I know how much he meant to you."
"It's not that," she replied, suddenly wondering why she was about to spill her guts to Skull. "I'm not in love with him anymore, either. It's just- I hurt so badly, and I don't even know why!"
Skull took her hands in his own. "You loved each other very much. What you had was very special. It's natural for you to grieve at its loss, even if it was the best thing for both of you." She was still crying, and he wanted so much to make her feel better. "Look, Kim, my grandmother told me once that there are a lot of things in this world that don't last. Possessions are lost or destroyed, romances break down, and even life is fleeting. Love, though, that's eternal, forever. If you love someone, then nothing- time, or space, or growing apart, or even death can destroy that love. You and Tommy may not be in love anymore, but you'll always love each other."
Kimberly stared at him in astonishment. "Who are you, and what have you done with Skull?" she asked, when she found her voice again.
"Young lady, did you hear a word I just said?" he asked in mock irritation, sounding exactly like Mr. Caplan.
She smiled softly. "Yes, I did. Thanks, Skull. I really needed to hear that."
"You want me to walk you back into town? I mean, I just came out here for the view. I don't really have any pressing business to attend to."
"I'd like that," she replied, slipping her arm through his. Together, they headed back towards Angel Grove.
* * *
On the Moon, Zedd and Finster had found the castle intact, and were trying to make at least part of it livable again. Carrying a few boxes into his lab, Finster realized suddenly that Zedd was back in his natural form, a tall man with sandy hair and hazel eyes. The man stared wistfully out the big bay window in what had been the throne room, looking at the earth.
"I miss her, Finster," Zedd said suddenly, startling the little gnome. He had not realized that the man knew he was there.
"Rita?" replied Finster skeptically.
Zedd actually laughed, a rather pleasant sound. "Hardly. I mean Leslie. She'll never want to see me again, of course, but I wish I could go back."
"Well, if you weren't trying to destroy your daughter and her friends, that might speed the reconciliation."
Zedd chuckled again. "It might at that. Well, time to think of all that in the morning. Right now, I'm going to get some sleep." Absently, he reached out for the staff that lay against one wall, then stopped. "It'll be safe enough there until morning, I suppose." Leaving the staff behind, Zedd headed for his bedroom. Finster, left behind, examined the staff with interest. Except for the time Tommy had broken it in a fight, the staff had never once been out of Zedd's possession. It made Finster suddenly wonder if the old rumors were true, that Zedd had not crossed over to the darkness completely willingly. There did seem to be something malevolent about the staff, and in the darkness, it almost seemed to be glowing angrily. Finster cautiously reached out a hand to it, and received a nasty shock.
"Well," he told it, rubbing his hand. "Be that way. Let me tell you something, though. This is not over yet." With that, he turned and left the throne room. Briefly he wondered if he hadn't finally "lost his marbles," as the humans said. Then he shook his head. After some of the things he'd seen in his long life, sentient staffs were not too unlikely. That left him with the question of what to do about it. Sighing, he headed for his own bed. Time enough to think about it in the morning. Behind him, in the throne room, the staff began to pulse redly with a light all its own. Indeed, things were not over yet, it seemed to say. They had only just begun.
*"Comment aide-vous?" = "How may I help you?" (I hope!)