It was a pleasant day in Angel Grove, quite possibly the best day the
town had had for a while. The sun shone in a sky that was dotted with puffy,
white clouds, and a refreshing breeze gently wafted in from the ocean.
Adam Park left school that afternoon with a strong feeling of contentedness. Zedd and Rita had not attacked Angel Grove for a while now, and the Power Rangers had not been needed. It was a relief to all of them that they could take a break and just be ordinary teenagers again, even if for only a little while. Then, on top of that, his parents had made a decision and promised him that they would stay home and spend Christmas with him this year.
A grin spread across his face as he headed into the Youth Centre. So far they had kept their word, and there had been no mention of the "business trips" they were so fond of taking. So happy was he, in fact, that he began to whistle as he entered the Juice Bar.
His friends greeted him with amused looks as he joined them. "What are you so happy about?" Tommy asked curiously.
Adam continued to grin as he sat down with his friends. "My folks are going to be home for Christmas," he told them. "They promised that they wouldn't go away again until after New Year."
Billy looked pleased for his shy, young friend. "That's great, Adam." The others all murmured their agreement. Adam, generally the quiet one of the group, even compared to Billy, had often suffered in silence over the difficult family life he had to endure. Although they all knew what he went through, he either would not, or could not share it with them. To see him so happy was a relief to all of them.
"So, are you going anywhere with your folks?" Aisha asked, with just a touch of caution.
Adam nodded eagerly. "Yeah. We'll be spending Christmas day at home, and then heading over the border to visit some relatives on Boxing Day. I'm looking forward to it. I haven't seen them in a long while."
A moment of silence reigned as the friends exchanged quick glances. They were all thinking the same thing; Adam's parents were finally taking him on holiday with them, instead of leaving him behind to take care of himself. Adam caught the looks, and easily guessed what they were about. "It'll happen again next year," he admitted quietly, "but I'm just glad they'll be around for Christmas." He stood up and slung his bag over his shoulder. "And when school breaks up, maybe I'll be able to spend some time with my dad. I gotta go now, though. I promised my mum that I'd come straight home after school, and help her with some cooking. I'll see you tomorrow."
They watched as Adam hurried from the Youth Centre, not speaking until he'd gone. "I really hope things work out for Adam this time," Rocky said quietly.
Kimberly, Tommy and Billy all looked at Rocky, frowning. "How d'you mean?" Tommy asked warily.
Rocky took a sip from his drink, then went on softly. "Last Christmas," Rocky explained, "before we came to Angel Grove, Adam's parents went off on a "business trip" to the Grand Canyon. They were gone for three weeks, and Adam got shunted off to stay with some relatives, who didn't really appreciate having another teenager to look after. The Christmas before that, they just left him alone, and didn't even bother telling him where they'd gone. Adam was a total wreck for the entire time, until they came back!"
Tommy's face darkened with anger. "How could they do that? It isn't fair!"
Aisha shrugged. "His folks just don't really care. It sounds hard to believe, but it's true. I've known Adam for as long as I can remember, and his folks have always been like that. They're always going off on trips and leaving Adam behind. Most of the time they just leave him by himself, too."
Kimberly was visibly upset. "And I thought I had it tough when my parents got divorced. At least they're both still around for me when I need them!"
Rocky regarded them with a sad look. "I know. Adam's parents are still together, but they just don't give a damn about Adam. I was there once when his father told him straight out that he wished Adam had never been born. Adam hardly even flinched when it happened, but later on at my place he broke down and cried for hours. I really don't know how he's survived living like that."
"Well," Billy put in quietly, "hopefully this time it will be different." They all hoped for the same thing, but inside, each was skeptical.
* * *
Adam arrived home, expecting the smell of home cooking. His mother was a great cook and, when she had been bothered, had given him some cooking lessons. He had picked up on it fairly easily, and it had been just about the only times she had praised him. He would help his mother out with some cooking, he thought as he headed up the path. Then, after dinner, maybe he and his dad would go outside and throw a baseball in the yard....
He came to a halt in the doorway. It was almost eerily quiet inside, with virtually no sign that the place was inhabited. Adam stepped inside, his heart beating in his throat. "Mum.... Dad?" He headed down the hallway and into the family room, then through to the kitchen. He knew at once that there was no one around. But of course, that did not mean anything. They had probably gone shopping. Please God, let them have just gone shopping.... Adam felt his hopes sink when he saw the unmarked envelope on the kitchen bench. Although he guessed there was no need to open it, he wanted to confirm his fears, and he picked it up. Using a knife, he slit it open and pulled out a single piece of folded paper. The message on it was so simple and lacking in emotion that it very nearly broke Adam's heart right then.
Adam, we were offered a double ticket to a convention in Hawaii. Decided to take them. We'll be back after New Year. Left a credit card on the table for you. Tears flooded Adam's eyes and overflowed before he could stop them. They had done it again. They'd left him alone, and at Christmas time.... He collapsed into the nearest chair and buried his face in his arms, crying uncontrollably.
* * *
"Man," Tommy muttered, looking around in agitation, "where is he? He's never this late!"
Kimberly caught hold of Tommy's hand and squeezed it reassuringly. "Don't stress out, Tommy. He can't be too far away."
"Here he comes now!" Aisha said, and they all looked around to see Adam hurrying to catch up to them.
"Where've you been?" Rocky grumbled as Adam finally joined them.
"Sorry," Adam apologized. "I was up pretty late last night with my dad. We were working on a few things together. I guess I kind of slept in this morning."
Tommy nodded. "Yeah, well, any later, buddy, and we would've left you behind."
No one but Billy noticed Adam's expression alter for just an instant, then. A strange look flashed across his face for just a second, and Billy thought Adam was going to burst into tears. Then it was gone, and Adam merely smiled and shrugged. "Sorry."
"C'mon, guys," Kimberly urged them. "Let's get going!"
Adam fell in step behind the rest of his friends, annoyed at himself for nearly losing it then. Even if it had been for just a second.... He sighed inwardly, feeling guilty for having lied to them. He just wasn't sure he could handle the looks of sympathy if they knew the truth. poor Adam.... we're so sorry, Adam.... would you like to stay with me, Adam.... He couldn't handle that at all.
Of course, he had also held back on telling them the real reason for his lateness. The truth was that he had been so distraught over the abrupt departure of his parents that he had ended up walking almost to the outskirts of town, and back. He had not gotten to bed until nearly three-thirty that morning, and then had not slept for almost an hour after that. Adam bit down lightly on the inside of his cheek, and kept walking.
* * *
As they made their way towards the beach, Billy turned to watch Adam. In the space of just a few minutes, he had fallen into an almost somber silence, and the others, caught up in their laughter and fun, had not noticed. Then, there had been that instant when he'd seen through the facade....
Concern building up for his friend, Billy fell back into step with Adam. "Is everything okay, Adam?" Billy asked quietly so that none of the others would hear. Adam looked up at Billy and, for a brief second, Billy caught a disturbing glimpse of what was hidden behind Adam's emotional shield.
"Sure," Adam replied with a smile that Billy now thought seemed feigned. "I'm just tired, that's all." He paused, then joked, "I hope Zedd doesn't try anything today. Otherwise I'll be falling asleep in my Zord."
Billy groaned. "Don't even think it! It's nearly Christmas. We don't need any trouble with Zedd now. Especially with you going away." The remark had been deliberate, and Billy watched carefully for Adam's reaction.
Either there was nothing wrong, and Adam had been telling the truth, though, or he was a better actor than anyone gave him credit for, because he showed no reaction that Billy could see. "I know. It'd be great to be in the middle of Christmas dinner and to have our communicators go off."
Billy laughed. "Yes, I can just imagine it now. Zedd turns a plum pudding into a monster, and sends it to attack the city!"
Adam laughed as well, then, and for the first time that morning it seemed genuine. "We'd be laughing too hard to be able to do anything about it!"
By that time, the other rangers had tuned in and were staring at the two of them questioningly. "What are you talking about?" Aisha asked.
Billy shook his head, still grinning. "It's nothing. We were just saying how we hoped Zedd doesn't try anything until after Christmas."
The others agreed vehemently as they walked. The conversation eventually fell back to normal and, with the laughter over, Billy again found himself plagued with unease. He couldn't help remembering the look on Adam's face, even though it had been less than a second. He pushed the thought to the back of his mind. Surely everything was all right... surely... He tried to stop thinking about it, but still the thought nagged at the back of his mind.
* * *
Adam heaved a silent sigh of relief when the flow of conversation was finally directed away from him. He wasn't sure that he could have kept up the charade of happiness for much longer. It was especially hard with Billy, for the school whiz kid often understood a lot more than he ever let on. The young teenager drew in a slow, calming breath. It was okay; they had not found out. After all, how could he possibly let them know that his parents had broken their promise and left him alone again?
He fought back the tears and pushed his emotions down into the farthest corner of his soul. Why should he even be surprised? This had happened many times before, and he knew it certainly wouldn't be the last time. As with each time before, he simply had to stop thinking about it. Stop feeling. Go cold. His parents didn't care about it; why should he care about them?
A moment passed, and the pain receded. Forcing a hint of a smile onto his lips, he continued on after his friends.
* * *
Zedd watched the scene on Earth and mentally formed a cruel smirk. So the Black Ranger had been left all alone again, had he? An idea began to form in his mind, an idea born out of pure evil.
"Goldar!" he roared impatiently, and the overgrown ape appeared an instant later.
"Yes, my lord?" he asked in a grating voice, bowing low at the same time.
"I have an important task for you," the evil master told the giant ape. "I want you to journey to the Fourth Dimension and bring Calidorn back with you. I have found someone for him to realign."
"Who, my lord?" Goldar asked.
Zedd's eyes glowed evilly behind the visor. "Adam, the Black Ranger."
Goldar left immediately, and returned with Calidorn soon after. The being, nearly as old as both Zedd and Zordon, looked almost frighteningly human, with the exception of claw-like hands and eyes that glowed green with unmatched power.
Calidorn nodded dismissively to Zedd upon arrival, showing more interest in Scorpina, who was lurking in the background. He continued to show little interest in anything else until Zedd spoke the words he had been waiting hundreds of years to hear.
"I have found one for you, old friend."
Calidorn looked at Zedd skeptically. "You have no friends, Zedd, and I certainly doubt you would include me in the count if you did. Is it true, though? Do you have a child for me?"
Zedd spoke carefully. "I don't have him here and now. That will be up to you, if you want him. Come and see."
Calidorn followed Zedd to the balcony and took the telescope. Peering through, he spoke impatiently. "Where is the one you speak of?"
Zedd looked down on earth with his special vision. After a moment, Adam came into view, sitting on the beach and looking on with a forced expression of happiness as he watched his friends play volleyball. At that moment, Calidorn literally started to purr with excitement. "Yes, yes! I can see straight through him! There is so much pain, so much hurt and rejection. He has never ridded himself of that rejection! So vulnerable...." Calidorn stepped away from the telescope and spoke decisively. "He is perfect. I will have him, and I will kill all who stand in my way. What do you want for payment?"
If Zedd could have smirked then, he would have. "No payment is needed. I just have a request. Bring the boy back here when you have completed the change, so that I may see him, and so that his friends may see also."
Calidorn chuckled evilly. "See and despair. Yes, very well. Now, tell me, what is the boy's name?"
"He is called Adam."
Calidorn purred softly to himself. "Adam...."
* * *
Adam looked up sharply where he sat, thinking he had heard his name being spoken, but there was no one nearby. His friends, caught up in their game, had not called to him, and the voice had only been a whisper. He frowned and shook his head. It was probably just the breeze, and he was so tense and upset that he'd hear anything right then. He sighed softly and buried his face in his arms.
"Adam?" Adam looked up again, and this time he was not hearing things. Billy had left the game to come and join him. "Mind if I sit down?" Adam shrugged wordlessly. Billy sat down somewhat gracelessly, then spoke in a quiet voice. "What's wrong?"
Unease flickered across Adam's face. "How d'you mean?"
Billy paused, choosing his words carefully. "Yesterday, you were really happy because your parents were going to be home for Christmas. Today.... Adam, I can tell a fake smile from a real one. You've been faking it all morning. What's wrong?"
Adam looked across to where Tommy and Rocky had taken the girls on in a two-on-two competition. It looked as though the girls were winning. "I got home last night to an empty house," Adam confessed to Billy softly. "There was a note on the bench. They went to Hawaii and they won't be back until after New Year."
Billy felt his heart sink into the pit of his stomach. "I'm sorry, Adam."
"Yeah," Adam snarled, and the vehemence in his tone both startled and scared Billy. "Yeah," Adam went on angrily, "I'm sorry, too. I'm sorry I let them take me in like that. I should've known they'd take off, first chance they got. Who cares that it's Christmas? Christmas for them is getting as far away from me as possible so they can actually have a good time. Christmas doesn't mean anything anymore. Just another time to be alone!" Adam blinked and rubbed furiously at his eyes, trying to get rid of the tears that had formed there.
Billy hesitated, then put one hand on Adam's shoulder as he spoke. "Your parents aren't the only family you have, Adam. We're your family, too. Friends are family."
Adam ceased to fight the tears, and they came in a flood, streaming down his face. "What did I ever do?" he choked out. "What did I do?"
"It isn't your fault," Billy told him. "You have to believe that, Adam. It's never been your fault. It's your parents. They... they...."
"They don't care," Adam said in a muffled voice. Billy's shoulders slumped. Although he couldn't bring himself to say it, he knew Adam was right. He recalled the times he had gone to Adam's home, and he had always shuddered at the cold indifference that had been shown to Adam by his parents.
"Is everything okay?"
Billy looked up as Tommy and the others came up to see what was happening. He gave a very slight shake of his head.
Adam, however, pulled away and stumbled to his feet. "I'm fine, okay? Fine! I just want to be left alone!" He turned and ran back up the beach, away from his friends.
Aisha moaned unhappily. "They did it again, didn't they, Billy? They've gone off and left him."
Billy nodded gloomily as he got to his feet. "Yes. He got home last night and found a note saying they'd gone to Hawaii, and they'd be back some time after New Year."
Anger flashed across Tommy's face. "That isn't fair! They promised Adam they be here this year!"
Rocky sighed. "That's the way it goes, man. They don't really care about Adam at all. If they did, they'd still be here."
Kimberly tugged on Tommy's arm. "Let's go after him. If we let him go, then we'll be ignoring him just like his folks."
Tommy started to agree when the thing they were hoping wouldn't happen, did. their communicators went off. Moaning softly, Tommy glanced around automatically, then spoke into his communicator. "We're here, Zordon. What's wrong?"
"You must all teleport to the Command Centre immediately. There is an emergency situation."
A heavy sigh escaped all of them. "Okay," Tommy replied, "we're coming, but Adam isn't with us."
"Adam is here already. Please hurry."
Tommy glanced around at his friends. "Okay. Let's go."
* * *
Adam was indeed at the Command Centre already, trying hard to look as though nothing had happened earlier. He was standing at the viewing globe, watching a tall, hooded figure that was visible through it.
"Who's that?" Aisha asked nervously.
"What's that?" Rocky muttered.
"His name is Calidorn," Zordon replied in a grim voice. "He is a dangerous enemy that I had hoped would not surface again. Zedd must have summoned him from the dimension to which he retreated."
"Dangerous?" Tommy echoed tensely. "How dangerous?"
"Dangerous enough to be able to match all of you together in a fight, if he so wishes."
"Well, what's he doing here?" Adam asked, and they all thought his voice sounded just a little bit strained.
"Before Calidorn left this dimension, he attempted to take a child with him, to recreate in his own image. We were able to stop him, and save the youngster, but Calidorn vowed he would return and take someone as a protegˇ. That is his intention now, I am afraid."
Tommy stepped forward. "You mean, he wants one of us?"
"Not just any one of you," Zordon answered. He paused, before speaking reluctantly. "He wants you, Adam."
Momentary silence struck, and then Adam spoke quietly. "Why me?"
Again, Zordon hesitated before giving an explanation. "It is because you are the most vulnerable of all the rangers. You still carry much of the hurt and rejection of your earlier years, and it makes you the most susceptible to Calidorn. The other rangers must go to deal with Calidorn, but you must stay here. I cannot allow you to go, because it would place you in grave danger."
Adam remained silent, turning back to stare thoughtfully at the figure in the viewing globe. His friends watched him for a moment before returning their attention to Zordon.
"Go and try to fend Calidorn off," Zordon instructed them. "You may not succeed, but at least try. Whatever happens, though, do not allow him to catch you in his stare. If he does, you will be trapped until he releases you."
"Don't worry, Zordon," Tommy said vehemently. "We'll get rid of him for you."
The five teens then morphed and teleported out of the Command Centre.
* * *
Adam continued to watch the viewing globe in silence as his friends quickly engaged in battle with Calidorn. Already, he found himself fascinated by the almost human-looking creature that took on his friends with such grace.
He wants you, Adam. The thought churned in Adam's mind. At least someone wants me around.
Adam looked around as Zordon's voice cut into his thoughts. "What....?"
Zordon looked down at Adam grimly. "Do not allow your judgement to be clouded by the pain you are suffering, Adam. Calidorn is a dangerous enemy. More so than even Zedd or Rita, for his power far outweighs theirs."
Adam's expression altered visibly, and although he said nothing, it was blatantly obvious what he was thinking. How could you possibly know what I'm suffering?
Alpha's metallic voice cut through Adam's momentary annoyance, bringing him abruptly back to reality. "What's wrong?"
Alpha motioned frantically to the viewing globe. "Calidorn has trapped all of the rangers! He's calling for you, Adam."
Adam looked grimly at the scene. All five of his friends stood frozen, unable to move, while Calidorn moved between them, calling for Adam to come out. "I have to go," he said in a tense voice.
Zordon protested weakly, knowing there was no way he could really stop Adam if the teen decided to go. "Adam, you will be placing yourself in extreme danger. Your uniform is no protection against him!"
"Could Calidorn hurt them?" Adam asked.
Zordon answered reluctantly. "He could kill them."
Adam paused. No protection.... He made his decision. "Then I have to go. I can't leave them to him. I'll leave my power coin and morpher here."
Both Zordon and Alpha were stricken. "You can't go unprotected!" Alpha cried out, nearly breaking his circuit boards with worry.
Adam's eyes almost glowed as he placed the objects on the consule. "Zordon just said it wouldn't be any protection. And I'd rather not risk Zedd getting my morpher and coin. I can be replaced. They can't." He stepped into the center of the room. "I have to go to help them, Zordon. You know I do. Teleport me out."
Zordon hesitated, then spoke. "Very well, Adam. May the power protect you." There was a flash of black colour, and then Adam was gone.
* * *
Adam landed right in the middle of it all, less than three or four metres away from Calidorn himself. Calidorn turned around abruptly to see the young ranger, and his face creased into a broad smile. "Wonderful! I'm so glad you came, Adam."
Adam faltered for just a second. That voice... He'd heard it before. No more than a whisper on the wind.... "Let them go," he growled, forcing the unease to the back of his mind and taking care not to look directly into Calidorn's eyes.
Calidorn smiled calmly. "Of course, my young friend. I will release them as soon as you agree to come with me."
Adam backed away as Calidorn approached him, keeping his gaze fixed carefully on a point above Calidorn's head. Calidorn stopped, eyeing Adam mournfully. "My dear boy, why are you moving away from me? I only want to be your friend. I wouldn't hurt you for anything!"
"I'm not going anywhere with you," Adam said firmly. "And anyway, I don't have my morpher or power coin, so I wouldn't be any use to you or Zedd."
Calidorn laughed openly. "Either you have a marvellous sense of humour, or Zordon has told you practically nothing about me. I am not here for Zedd, and it is not your gadgets that I want. It is you."
Adam was caught by surprise, and finally made the mistake of looking into Calidorn's eyes. The evil master quickly advanced on the now helpless boy.
"You and I are much alike, Adam. Come with me, and I will give you everything you ever dreamed of. I will be the father you never had. I will always be with you, Adam, and I will never leave you as long as you need me. That I can promise. That is what you want, isn't it?"
Adam tried to move, found he couldn't and realised he'd been trapped. And yet, at the same time, he didn't really want to break free. "You'll let them go...?"
Calidorn nodded soothingly. "Yes, of course. I am not like Zedd, Adam. I do have a heart. I am capable of kindness, generosity and love... to the right person. Come with me, Adam. Be my son."
* * *
A short distance away, Tommy struggled uselessly against the power that held him. It was no good, though. He could neither move nor speak.
Fight him, Adam, Tommy thought desparately. Fight him..... break free.
Calidorn heard Tommy's thoughts and smirked coldly. It was too late, Adam was almost his. "Come with me, Adam. Together we will be unbeatable."
By that time, Adam was well and truly gone. He stared at Calidorn dazedly, and was only barely able to whisper his reply. "I'll come...."
Calidorn smiled a different smile, then. This one held an emotion that would never be seen in Rita or Zedd. It was genuine affection. "You will not be needing this any longer," he murmured, carefully removing Adam's communicator and dropping it on the ground. He reached out, then, and lightly touched Adam's forehead, then ran his clawed fingertips gently down the side of Adam's cheek. Such a perfect child....
Laughing softly to himself, he laid one hand on Adam's shoulder and vanished in a flash of green light, taking Adam with him.
* * *
The instant that Calidorn and Adam vanished, the other rangers were released from the power that had held them, and they all fell to their knees, momentarily weakened. Rocky was the first to recover. "He took Adam!" he choked out, stricken by the sudden loss of his best friend.
Tommy got to his feet and collected Adam's communicator. "Let's just get back to the Command Centre. There's nothing more we can do here." The others reluctantly agreed, and they all vanished in a flash of rainbow light.
* * *
Upon arrival at Calidorn's abode, Adam finally regained his senses and realised what had happened, and where he had been taken. He began to fight, and it was only through sheer force that Calidorn was able to subdue his young captive. Dragging Adam to a long, metal table, he physically lifted the boy onto it and quickly strapped him down so that he was rendered completely helpless.
"Now," Calidorn said quietly as he looked down at Adam, are you ready to listen, and to talk calmly?"
Adam stared angrily at Calidorn. "Let me go!"
"I will, when you calm down. I told you I would not hurt you, Adam, and I was speaking the truth. You are safe with me. I swear you will not be harmed in any way."
"As long as I do what you want me to do?" Adam snapped, glaring at Calidorn with suppressed fury.
Calidorn looked mournful. "I will not harm you, nor allow anyone else to harm you, regardless of whether you obey me. When you trust me, then I will release the straps."
Adam looked away stubbornly. "Then you'll be waiting a long time."
Calidorn sighed. "My dear boy, if I was intending to hurt you, or kill you, I would have done so already. I need you to trust me, Adam. Please, for your own sake."
Adam continued to stare off into space. Calidorn took a step back. "I meant what I said to you, Adam. None of it was a lie. I will stay with you, and be the father you should have had, if you'll let me." The ancient master was met with an icy look of mistrust. Calidorn went on softly. "I understand it is asking a bit much at this point. All I am asking right now is that you do not panic and make a foolish attempt to escape. Do you concede?"
Adam glanced around the area briefly: he could see no way out. "I don't see that I have any choice."
Calidorn paused, looking thoughtful. "Yes, well, here's the thing. There is a door, right over there. It's unlocked, and the moment you step through it, you will find yourself on Earth of the present. That is not point, however. The door is protected by a force-field which my predecessor placed there. The instant you step through it, it will wipe your memory of all personal information. You will forget everything about yourself, which I find to be a rather unpleasant notion. "I do not want you going through that door. For your own well-being. Can I trust you?"
Adam hesitated. A way out.... But was it worth losing his identity? He conceded reluctantly. "I won't go through it."
Calidorn smiled and immediately set about undoing the straps. "Good. I'm glad we understand each other." He undid the last strap, and Adam sat up slowly, gingerly rubbing his wrists. "May I suggest you hop off the table?" Calidorn said, and Adam did so warily. A moment later, the metal table vanished from sight, as though it had never been there to begin with. Responding to a suspicious look from the teenager, Calidorn laughed softly. "It was not a permanent fixture. I suspected I would be in need of something such as this upon first bringing you here. Now you have calmed down, we can discuss the situation ahead of us calmly and intelligently."
Adam glared angrily at Calidorn. "You mean how you trapped me, brought me here and plan to do who knows what with me?"
Calidorn raised an eyebrow curiously. "You make it sound as though I brought you here against your will."
A disturbing sensation rolled through Adam's stomach. "Well, that's what you did," he put in easily.
Calidorn's green eyes glowed with knowledge. "On the contrary, dear boy, I could not have brought you here unwillingly. One of the unfortunate rules of my self-banishment that I could not ignore. I could only bring you here if you consented, which you did."
"No, I didn't," Adam protested desperately. "You tricked me..."
Calidorn deposited himself in one of the odd-looking armchairs in the room. "Listen to me, Adam. Zedd and Rita work through trickery and lies. I do not. I cannot work like that. Unlike those over-characterized fools, I use the truth, and truth alone. And the truth is that you were tempted enough by my offer to accept. Your friends were released, as I promised. They are all safe in the Command Centre with Zordon. And you, my boy, are safe with me. Where you belong. You see, child, you could not have come here unless you had willingly consented."
Adam sank into another chair, overcome by horror. What Zordon had said was true, then. He really was prone to the dark. Calidorn got up and moved forward. "No more little tricks, Adam. You and I are truly alike. Give me a chance. I don't think you will be disappointed. In any case, you must face the facts. No one is coming to rescue you. There is no way for even Zordon to find you. You have no communicator, no power coin or morpher. It is just you and I, dear boy."
Adam felt sick, but he realised that Calidorn was right. Perhaps he should at least give him a chance.... After all, that didn't mean he had to give in to him, did it? Surely not.... He gave a reluctant nod, unable to bring himself to meet Calidorn's gaze. If he had done so, though, he would have seen the triumphant smile that etched itself onto the evil master's face.
* * *
Less than twenty minutes after arriving back at the Command Centre, Zordon spoke up in a grim voice. "Adam has just succumbed to the first stage of realignment."
"Aiyaiyaiyaiyai!" Alpha wailed in distress. "Zordon, what are we going to do if we can't find Adam in time?"
"Do not panic yet, Alpha," Zordon told the little robot. "We will not give up unless there is truly no hope of rescuing Adam."
Tommy came forward, then, worry creasing his forehead. "What do you mean, he's given in to the "first stage of realignment"?"
"There are five stages," Zordon explained. "The first is consent to Calidorn in form. The second is acceptance of any physical objects, including food. The third is to begin to trust Calidorn. At the fourth stage, Calidorn will begin to feed his own power into Adam. At the fifth stage, he will forget ever having been a Power Ranger, and he will fall completely under Calidorn's power.
"By that stage, he will have forgotten all of you, and everyone else that ever meant anything to him. If Calidorn succeeds in sending Adam through the fifth stage, then it will be too late to bring him back."
"We have to find him before then," Aisha growled vehemently. "Zordon, you can find him, can't you?"
"I do not know," Zordon admitted reluctantly. "Adam left his power coin and morpher here when he went to face Calidorn, and Calidorn removed his communicator. Also, Calidorn has taken Adam to an unknown dimension."
"So you're basically saying that Adam doesn't have a chance," Rocky put in, his voice strained with shock and grief over the whole matter.
"There is a chance," Zordon replied firmly, "but it will take time. I must begin searching the dimensions myself, to try and find which one Calidorn took Adam to. There is nothing any of you can do now, so I suggest you all return to Angel Grove. I will contact you when I have news."
The rangers agreed reluctantly and, after making Zordon promise to call them the instant he knew anything, they teleported out.
* * *
Adam sat in miserable silence in one corner of Calidorn's chamber, staring blindly at the floor. It really wasn't fair. What had he done to deserve this? Maybe, he thought, this was fate working in its own, strange way. His parents didn't give a damn about him, so fate had chosen to give him a new parent....
He stiffened a little as a shadow fell across him, and he looked up to see Calidorn standing there, looking down at him with a sympathetic expression. "Is it really so terrible here, Adam?"
"My parents are going to be really worried," Adam started to say, but Calidorn cut him off with a shake of his head.
"Adam, do you have any idea where your parents are now?"
Adam looked away, fighting the tears. "Hawaii," he admitted finally.
Calidorn nodded. "And do you know what they are doing right now? Would you like to see? I can show you, if you like."
Nausea rolled through Adam's stomach. "I don't think so," he whispered as the tears began to spill down his cheeks.
Calidorn put one clawed hand lightly on Adam's shoulder. "I did not think you would. But I now I have upset you. I am sorry. I did not intend to."
"Sure," Adam retorted bitterly, "and I suppose now you're going to tell me my friends don't care either?"
To his surprise, and confusion, Calidorn responded to that with a snort of disgust. "Don't be ridiculous. That is an idiotic tact that Zedd would use. I would not be foolish enough to try and convince you of that. The truth is that right at this moment, your friends are driving themselves insane trying to come up with a way to find you and rescue you."
Adam stared blankly at Calidorn through his tears. Now he was totally at a loss. What sort of tactic was that...? Calidorn regarded Adam somberly. "But your friends are not your family. They are not here. I am. I will always be here, if that is what you want. You and I together."
Adam looked away quickly. He was becoming entranced again, and it was a struggle to fight it. But fight it he did, and he succeeded in breaking the hold that Calidorn had held over him for a brief second. "I want to go home," was all he said.
Calidorn nodded and straightened up. "I understand. We will talk again later."
Adam watched Calidorn sweep back across the floor, back to what he had previously been doing. He continued to watch him for a long moment before looking away and sinking once again into a pit of despair.
* * *
Billy returned to the Command Centre a little while after departing from his friends' company. He was worried sick about Adam, and he could not conceal it any longer. "After everything that's happened, I thought I was the one who was most prone to this sort of thing," Billy said gloomily, as Alpha worked anxiously at the consul of the computer. "How could this have happened? First me... now Adam.... Who's going to be next?"
"These are different circumstances," Zordon replied. "In a way, you are all prone to the dark forces. It is merely a part of your humanity. You are vulnerable because of the years you spent alienated because of your high intelligence. Tommy is vulnerable because of the time he spent under Rita's control. Each of you is open to dark suggestion in various ways.
"Adam, however, is a different prospect. He has been in a situation all his life, where he has experienced rejection. He has always hidden the true extent of his own intellect due to suffering at the hands of bullies as a child, and has never been secure with his peers. Adam, more so than any of you, is prone to the dark forces. He is aware of what is happening, Billy, but he cannot stop it because, deep down he does not want to stop it. If he truly wanted to, he could walk away from Calidorn unharmed, and without being stopped. Because he is tempted, however, he is unable to do so."
Billy felt a rush of misery twist up his stomach. "Calidorn isn't going to let Adam go like Zedd and Rita let me go, Zordon. If we can't find him in time, it really will be too late, won't it?"
"I'm afraid so," Zordon replied in an unusually quiet voice. "Once Adam has passed through all the stages of realignment, it will be impossible for him to return to the light."
Billy looked around the Command Centre in frustration, wishing there was something to kick. How could they have let this happen...? Zordon had warned both them and Adam of the dangers, and yet Adam still went, vulnerable as he was, to face Calidorn.
All of a sudden, Billy felt sick. That was the how and why of it all. Adam had faced Calidorn alone and unprotected for the sake of his friends. He moaned softly and buried his face in his hands. Self-sacrifice always got them into so much trouble....
"Billy," Zordon said in a concerned tone, "there is no point in you staying here. There is nothing even you can do. Go home. You will be less help to Adam if you are exhausted."
Billy conceded reluctantly. "All right, but if something happens, call me. I don't care what time it is."
"I will," Zordon promised. Billy nodded once and teleported out of the Command Centre.
* * *
Calidorn watched out of the corner of his eye as Adam drifted in and out of sleep in the chair. Finally, seeing that the boy was exhausted, he rose up and murmured an incantation under his breath. There was a shimmer of light, and a large, comfortable-looking bed appeared in one corner of the room.
Crossing the floor, he gently took hold of Adam's shoulders and lifted him up out of the chair. "Come, my boy. You need your sleep."
Adam murmured something incoherently under his breath, but put up no argument as Calidorn led him to the bed. He took care in removing Adam's shoes, then helped him into the bed. The boy was asleep before his head even touched the pillow.
Smiling to himself, Calidorn stepped back to observe Adam for a long moment. This was truly the one he had been waiting so long for. He hesitated, then reached out and gently touched Adam's forehead with the tips of his fingers. So innocent... so vulnerable.... He would protect this one for as long as he could, even if he had to kill to do so.
* * *
Adam awoke with a start the next morning to find that Calidorn was nowhere in sight. He sat frozen for a long moment before he realised exactly where he was. He slid out of the bed as fast as he could, and the moment he did so, the bed vanished in a shimmer of light.
Adam shivered. Another temporary fixture.... A hideous thought occurred to him. Had he actually allowed Calidorn to put him to bed last night? Nausea rolled through his stomach at the thought, and he tried to push it aside. Where was Calidorn? Hiding somewhere, waiting to see if he tried to escape?
Adam looked around uneasily before sitting down to pull his shoes onto his feet. Escape didn't seem to be one of the options open to him right then. All he could see as a way out was the door which Calidorn had pointed out to him yesterday. The door which, if he went through, would apparently wipe his memory clean.
He shuddered at the thought. It was not something that he felt desperate enough to just then. Drawing in a slow breath, he wandered around to examine the rest of his enclosure.
After several minutes had passed, a shadow fell across Adam and he spun around, startled.
"Easy there, my boy," Calidorn said, putting his hands up defensively. "It's only me." Adam fell back, watching Calidorn warily. The evil master motioned behind him, to a table that Adam did not remember seeing before. "I expect you're hungry? I took the liberty of preparing some breakfast. Sit...?"
Adam moved to the table in silence, never fully taking his eyes off Calidorn. Equally, Calidorn watched Adam carefully. "Are you going to eat something, or just sit there and watch me?" Adam glanced down at the food. It looked all right, and it certainly smelled good, but how was he to know whether Calidorn hadn't put something in it?
"No poison, no drugs," Calidorn promised, with a smile. "I have absolutely no need to drug you." Adam wasn't sure whether to be pleased or disturbed by that statement, but he decided that it was either take Calidorn's word, or starve. He wasn't desperate to starve himself right then, either. Slowly, cautiously, he put a small spoonful in his mouth, and swallowed.
Across the table, Calidorn smiled to himself. That was all that was needed. Even if Adam tried to starve himself now, he had still passed through the second stage. Three more to go....
* * *
"Adam has passed through the second stage of realignment," Zordon announced in a grim voice soon after the Power Rangers had all arrived.
A heavy silence followed. They all understood the gravity of the statement. Only three more stages, and Adam would be beyond all help. They hoped and prayed silently that they would find him and rescue him before it was too late.
* * *
Adam was back in the chair in the corner of the room, sitting stiffly and refusing to move. Nearly half an hour had passed since Calidorn had gone off on an errand, or something like that, but still he stayed where he was. He had long since decided that it was safer to simply stay put, and not move.
He shut his eyes, and wished the nightmare would end. A flash of gold light drew Adam's attention, and he was startled and frightened to see Goldar suddenly appear in the room. Goldar paused, looking around carefully. Then, as his gaze came to rest on Adam, a cruel smirk formed on his face. "Greetings, Black Ranger."
Adam was on his feet in an instant, and trying to move away even as Goldar closed the distance between them. "Where is your master?" Goldar asked, and Adam felt a rush of anger.
"He isn't my master, furface!"
Anger flickered in Goldar's eyes. "Show some respect for your betters, boy, and maybe when we see each other next, I won't make you kneel to me." Goldar reached out towards Adam and, in his panic, Adam lashed out at Goldar and sent him reeling. The over-sized ape snarled in rage. "You'll pay for that, ranger."
Before Adam had a chance to defend himself, Goldar shot forward with startling speed and grabbed at the teen. Adam fell back against the wall, feeling Goldar's claws rake painfully across his left shoulder, and the monster's armour-plated fist slam into his ribs.
He gasped for breath, couldn't manage it, and collapsed to the floor even as Goldar started to drag him up for another punch. Before Goldar could land the blow, however, there was a shadowy movement behind him, and suddenly he was literally ripped away from Adam and thrown clear across the room.
Adam blinked and forced his way through the haze of pain that clouded his senses. He was startled by what he saw. There was Calidorn, standing squarely between him and Goldar, and although Adam could not see the expression on Calidorn's face, he could feel the rage that emanated from the ancient master.
"What do you think you're doing?" Calidorn snarled at Goldar in rage.
Goldar got quickly, albeit clumsily to his feet. "He attacked me. I was defending myself."
Calidorn glanced back at Adam, noted that the boy was still too stunned to move, and turned back to Goldar. "I would say you were the one to do all the attacking. what do you want, Goldar?"
"I have a message," Goldar growled. "Lord Zedd wants to see you as soon as possible. That's all."
Calidorn nodded. "Then get out of here, and do not come back. Do you understand me? I don't want you anywhere near Adam! Not for any reason! And if I find you've caused him harm, I swear to the gods that I will make every last bit of fur fall off your over-sized body! Now go!"
Goldar spared one last vehement look in Adam's direction, then vanished in a flash of gold flame. Calidorn waited a moment, then turned and crouched down in front of Adam. "That over-grown chimpanzee...." he muttered angrily. "You've been injured!" Adam glanced down dazedly at his shoulder. His shirt was in tatters, and the flesh had been literally ripped open. There was blood flowing in every direction. "Come," Calidorn murmured, and he rose up, bringing Adam up with him. "It must be seen to."
Adam allowed himself to be led over to the chair, where he sat down numbly. Calidorn quickly gathered a few things, then pulled up a chair opposite the teenager. "I'm terribly sorry about that," Calidorn murmured as he carefully washed the wound with warm water, then dabbed disinfectant over it. Adam said nothing, cringing a little at the stinging pain the disinfectant caused. Calidorn watched him grimly. "I've let you down, haven't I?"
Adam looked up, startled. "Huh...?"
"I promised that I would neither harm you, nor allow you to be harmed. And yet, that overgrown ape came barging in here and attacked you! I let you down badly."
Adam looked away. "You couldn't have known."
Calidorn nodded. "Perhaps, but I still feel badly about it. After all, I made a promise to you, and I didn't keep it."
Adam opened his mouth to speak, but stopped himself short, closing his mouth quickly.
"What is it?" Calidorn asked quietly, carefully prodding Adam on.
"It.... It wasn't your fault," Adam said finally. "You didn't let me down. My.... My parents let me down. At least... at least you're still here. They couldn't even hang around for a couple of weeks!"
Calidorn reached out and gently lifted Adam's face up so as to look him in the eye. Tears were formed there, and now they overflowed. "Let it out, dear boy. Go ahead and let it out."
A choked sob escaped Adam. "They... they promised! They said they'd stay.... They said they'd be with me... but they didn't stay... they left me...."
Calidorn slid forward on the seat and put his arms around Adam in a protective embrace. For just the briefest moment, Adam felt a moment of shock and horror at what he was allowing to happen.... Then it was gone. He felt safe with Calidorn and he wanted to stay like that, beyond emotional hurt. He stayed within Calidorn's embrace, safe and protected.
* * *
It was a short while later that Calidorn had to admit that he could not effectively treat Adam's injury. "The marks are too deep," Calidorn said grimly. "I'm afraid I will need to take you to a hospital."
Adam was barely able to keep his expression neutral. "You mean, a hospital on earth?"
Calidorn eyed Adam with a hint of suspicion. "Yes, but I want you to promise me that you will not attempt to run from me. It is for your own safety now, anyway." When Adam remained silent, Calidorn went on anxiously. "Please, Adam. Surely you know now that I do not want to hurt you in any way. Please, trust me? Don't try to escape."
Adam finally nodded reluctantly. "Okay. I won't run. I promise."
Calidorn smiled beatifically as he stood up. "Good. Come, we will go immediately." His eyes narrowed and, a moment later, began to glow green. There was a crackle of light, and then a large gateway appeared in front of them. "Come, Adam."
Adam drew in a deep breath, and stepped through the portal with Calidorn.
* * *
Lights began to flash, and the whining of the siren startled all of them, including Zordon.
"What's happening now?" Kimberly cried out.
"Calidorn has returned to the Earth," Zordon replied, "and he has brought Adam with him. Look in the viewing globe, rangers."
They all turned quickly to the viewing globe, just as the mist cleared, to see Calidorn moving inconspicuously along a city street with Adam at his side. "Adam's hurt," Aisha said in a tight voice. "Look at his shoulder...."
They all noted the injury in grim silence, and then Tommy spoke up. "Zordon, can you get a lock on him and teleport him back here?"
"I'm afraid not, Tommy," Zordon replied. "They are nowhere near Angel Grove, and Calidorn has shielded them both with an impenetrable force. Unless Adam can escape Calidorn on his own, we have no way of locating him for teleportation."
"But why would Calidorn bring Adam to Earth now?" Rocky asked. "What's he up to?"
"My guess is that he is taking Adam to have his injury seen to," Zordon replied, effectively confusing all the rangers. He went on grimly. "Calidorn is evil, but he is not cruel in the same way that Zedd, Rita and Goldar can be. I did not tell you the full story before, because I did not want to worry you more than was necessary at the time. I think I need to tell you now.
"Many hundreds of years ago, towards the end of an interplanetry war, Calidorn reappeared and, while we were still recovering from our losses, he moved in, seduced and took the child I told you of. That child ended up killing himself. He had not wanted to leave Calidorn, and we had needed to take him back by force. The child never fully recovered from Calidorn's influence over him."
The rangers were all stunned, and a little bit frightened. "That wouldn't happen to Adam, though," Kimberly said tensely, "would it? Zordon....?"
"There is a danger that it could happen," Zordon replied softly. "Adam has already passed through the third stage of realignment, in allowing himself to trust in Calidorn."
Horrified silence met Zordon's words. Zordon went on reluctantly, not wanting to tell them the rest, but knowing it needed to be said. "In many ways, the child we took back from Calidorn was like Adam. He was very lonely, suffering rejection by his parents and insecurity around his peers. Calidorn presented the child with the opportunity to be more than he ever dreamed, with the chance to have a surrogate parent who would never reject him. I saw the comparison immediately when Adam came here for the first time. I said nothing, though, because I had hoped that Calidorn would never return."
"But he has," Tommy said in a strained voice, "and now there's nothing we can do. Is there? Unless Adam manages to escape Calidorn by himself, there's nothing we can do."
"I'm afraid you're right, Tommy," Zordon confirmed unhappily. A heavy silence fell as each of them prayed without much hope, that Adam would break free from Calidorn and come back to them.
* * *
"How come you're doing this?" Adam asked quietly as they moved through the city. Calidorn glanced down at Adam with a mixture of surprise and mirth.
"Why shouldn't I? I told you, Adam, I am not like Zedd and Rita. I do actually have a heart. I will not allow any son of mine to endure an injury of any sort."
Adam felt a chill run through his body, and he spoke in an icy voice. "I'm not your son."
Calidorn glanced down at Adam silently, withholding the thought that ran through his mind. No, you aren't, but you soon will be. I guarantee it. They hurried on, both cloaked in silence.
It was a short while later that Adam finally realised where they were. New York.... A thousand and more miles from Angel Grove.... He swallowed hard, his heart beating in his throat. If he could just slip away, into the crowd....
You promised me, Adam....
Adam looked up in shock to see Calidorn staring hard at him. A moment later, he realised that Calidorn had not spoken out loud, but rather had spoken to him mind-to-mind. The ancient master regarded the teenager harshly. Don't break your promise, my boy. You'll regret it immensely.
Adam turned his gaze away from Calidorn, feeling badly frightened. For just a second there, he'd sensed something else behind all the emotions, something threatening. He began to wonder whether Calidorn really was as kind as he seemed to be.
Calidorn watched Adam out of the corner of his eye. The boy was flighty, and looked ready to bolt at any second. After a moment's consideration, he reached out and laid a hand carefully on Adam's uninjured shoulder.
Nausea rushed through Adam as Calidorn's hand came down on his shoulder, as if to prevent him from running. He could feel the clawed fingertips digging into his skin a little, keeping him close to Calidorn's side. He started to pull away a little, when he felt it. A trickle of power, nothing much to start with, but it was growing, and soon the trickle turned into a surge of power that raced through his body.
Panic flooded Adam as he realised at the last second what was happening. Calidorn was feeding his own power into him, making him into a likeness of the evil master. The power flowed through Adam's system before he could do anything about it, nearly bringing him to a complete halt. Somebody, help me.... The thought skidded randomly through Adam's mind. How could so many people simply walk past them? Didn't they see anything strange? Dimly, Adam realised that they probably didn't see anything at all out of the ordinary, and that it was entirely up to him. In that moment, his shoulder didn't matter to him anymore. He only knew that if he didn't escape Calidorn right then, he would become like the ancient being, evil and manipulative.
Pushing all thoughts of retribution from his mind, Adam tore away from Calidorn and bolted back down the street, running as fast as he could.
* * *
Calidorn cursed softly as Adam jerked away and ran off back down the street, rapidly disappearing into the crowds. Angry that he had let the boy escape, he turned and hurried after him, knowing that if he didn't catch Adam immediately, he would be forced to use his power against the teenager. It was not something he cared to do.
* * *
Adam kept running, not slowing down even though he was starting to get painfully dizzy. He knew Calidorn was coming after him, and he knew he had to get to safety. He blinked hard. His eyes felt hot, and watery, and he was having trouble seeing clearly. A result of the power that had been fed into him, he thought dimly. Glancing around, he saw he was just coming up level with Central Park. Forgetting what a dangerous place the Park could be, Adam darted across the road, narrowly missing getting hit by a car, and ran into the Park.
* * *
Calidorn saw Adam run into Central Park, and cursed again, bitterly to himself. Stupid child. Muttering to himself, he slipped across the road, and headed into the Park after the teenager.
* * *
Adam skidded to a halt, looking around frantically. If only he had his communicator.... He needed somewhere to hide, and fast. Not in the trees. That would have been painfully obvious.... Looking back, he sensed Calidorn coming, even though he could not see or hear him. Fighting the panic, he started forward again, only to slam into a powerfully built figure that towered over him. "Well, lookit what we have here."
Adam stared up at the tall figure in front of him, and felt himself to start to lose control of his fear. The man, who had been smirking at the teenager, though, suddenly blinked and frowned a little. "What's the matter, kid? You're shaking like a leaf. You'd think someone was after you." The man trailed off, staring hard at Adam's pale features. "Is that it? Someone's after you...?"
Calidorn arrived on the scene, then, coming through the trees and stopping a short distance away. "Adam? I would like you to come with me now, please."
The man whom Adam had run into, glanced at the boy to see him pale even more, and back away a little. He decided to step in. "Listen, Mister, I don't know who you are, but this kid obviously doesn't want to go with you."
Calidorn regarded the man with a cold stare. "This is no affair of yours. I suggest you walk away now and forget about it. Adam...?"
"I'm not going with you!" Adam exploded. "I don't want any of this! You can take your power back! I just want to go home!"
Calidorn stared mournfully at him. "Don't force me to use it against you, Adam. Please, for your own sake, come with me now."
Fear raced through Adam's system, but he held his ground. "Do what you have to. I'd rather die than go with you."
The man stepped forward again, this time placing himself between Adam and Calidorn. "Listen, pal, I think you'd better just clear out before I call the cops."
Calidorn finally lost his patience, and turned his anger on the stranger. His eyes flashed with green, and an instant later, the stranger disappeared. Adam looked around breathlessly, his heart beating in his throat. "Where'd he go...?"
"Disintegrated," Calidorn replied coolly. "Now, will you come with me? I'd like to see you save yourself similar suffering."
Tears flooded Adam's eyes. "You lied to me! You said you'd never hurt me! No matter what I did!"
A look that was akin to anguish flickered over Calidorn's face. "My dear child, don't you understand? I cannot let you go. I need you, Adam. I cannot last forever, and I need to pass the power on to someone else. Someone worthy. I need you! I don't want to hurt you, but unless you come with me, you will be hurt! Please, don't make me hurt you."
Adam looked around despairingly. He didn't have a hope, not a single one.... Finally, realising that he had no way of escape from Calidorn, he gave in and went to the master's side.
Calidorn smiled calmly. "Good. You will realise eventually that this is for your own good anyway. After all, you have passed through four stages of realignment. There is only one stage left, and then you will truly be my son."
A chill ran through Adam. Stages...? He'd been passing through stages, and hadn't even known it...?
He stood frozen as Calidorn created the portal to the dimensional abode. Four stages passed, and only one left? His fingertips came up to touch his eyes.
"Come, Adam," Calidorn told him. "I have only a little energy left. The portal cannot be kept open for long."
Adam moved forward wordlessly, his heart beating painfully in his chest. He shut his eyes for just a moment, feeling the strange sensation as he passed through the portal with Calidorn. They moved through to the other side, Calidorn's eyes flashed green and the portal began to close.
At the last possible second, Adam back-flipped through the portal, and landed with a crash on the grass in Central Park. He twisted around, looking up just as the portal closed, and though he couldn't hear Calidorn out loud, he could hear his voice in his head. I'll come for you, Adam, I promise.
Adam shivered and got slowly to his feet. His shoulder was aching, he was dizzy and nauseous, and he was bitterly cold. Pulling the remnants of his shirt around his bare shoulders, he went to find help.
* * *
It was getting dark when Adam finally stumbled into the emergency area of a hospital. He had been wandering around in a daze what seemed like hours, and had only made it to the hospital because some kind person had gently taken him and guided him to the place.
He was intercepted by a nurse, who immediately took him through to one of the doctors on duty.
Now, Adam sat on an examination table while the doctor carefully disinfected and stitched up the injury, trying at the same time to keep up a conversation with the exhausted boy.
"We'll need to keep you here overnight," he said, and Adam glanced at him sharply.
"I can't. I have to get home."
The doctor shook his head. "Don't worry. Just give the nurse your phone number, and your parents will be contacted."
Pain flickered in Adam's eyes. "My parents are in Hawaii. I need to call my friends."
The doctor frowned a little. "Well, what in God's name were you doing, wandering around Central Park?"
Adam didn't answer, but rather looked away gloomily.
The older man sighed inwardly. "All right. Is there a relative we can contact? Anyone....?"
"Give me a phone. I'll call my friends."
"We can contact them for you, if you want," the doctor replied, "but we really need to contact an adult. Isn't there anyone?"
"No," Adam answered tensely. "There isn't. I look after myself." He looked around at the doctor, then, and a moment later his eyes began to pulse with emerald green light. "You'll get me a phone, and let me call my friends."
The doctor opened his mouth to protest... and stopped. "I'll... get you a phone...."
"And you'll check me out of here tonight when my friends come for me. No questions asked."
"No questions asked...."
Adam nodded. "You can go and get the phone now." The doctor turned and walked mutely from the room. Adam watched him go before tearing his gaze and doubling over on the table, gasping painfully. What was happening to him...? He'd just mentally coerced another person....
Nausea rushed his system, and he only barely had time to make it into the nearby bathroom before he threw up.
* * *
The rangers were sitting in gloomy silence in the Command Centre when Billy's home-made mobile phone rang. The teen answered it reluctantly, expecting it to be his father, demanding to know where he was.
"Hello...?" he said into the mouthpiece, unable to defeat the listlessness in his tone.
"Billy?" a trembling voice spoke on the other end of the line, and Billy was on his feet in an instant.
"Adam?" The other rangers also stood up quickly, watching Billy in tense silence. For once, even Alpha was silent.
"It's me, Billy." Adam's voice was heard throughout the Command Centre as Billy quickly hooked the phone up to the speakers. "I... I got away from Calidorn, but I can't get home.... I'm in New York.... At County Hospital."
"Okay," Billy answered quickly. "Just don't hang up for a couple of minutes, and we'll get a specific location, then we'll teleport to you."
"Please hurry," Adam begged, his voice cracking just a little. "I don't know how much time I have left. He said he'd be coming back for me...."
"Don't panic, Adam," Tommy spoke up quickly. "Just stay cool, man. We'll come get you."
Billy acted quickly, getting a lock on the exact location of County Hospital, where Adam had said he would be. As he did so, Tommy spoke to Zordon, his voice laced with tension. "Adam's through the fourth stage, isn't he?"
"Yes," Zordon replied in an equally grim tone. "You will need to bring him back here immediately. It is going to take all your combined strength to defeat Calidorn when he comes for Adam."
"Hang on," Rocky piped up, confused and a little disturbed, "we couldn't beat him before. How are we going to beat him now?"
"It is going to be mainly up to Adam," Zordon explained. "His will to resist was much stronger than Calidorn anticipated, which was the reason he escaped when he did."
"But you said that Calidorn would feed his own power into Adam to send him through the fourth stage," Aisha put in. "Won't Adam be... be like Calidorn?"
"Not yet, Aisha," Zordon told her. "That will happen only if Calidorn succeeds in taking Adam with him again. Adam will have an advantage, though. To try and compensate for Adam's strong will, Calidorn gave much more power than he should have. The result is that Adam is now nearly as powerful as Calidorn, and with the five of you behind him, he will be able to defeat him.
"We must act immediately, though, rangers. There is very little time left. Calidorn will soon regain his strength, and come for Adam."
"Almost got it...." Billy muttered, hearing only the last couple of sentences that Zordon had spoken. "There! We can go get him now."
Tommy stepped forward. "I think only a couple of us should go. He might be pretty upset...."
There was a brief moment of uncomfortable silence, and then Rocky spoke up, struggling to hide the hurt in his voice. "You and Billy go, Tommy. We'll wait here."
Tommy nodded, relieved. "Okay. You ready, Billy?"
"Affirmative." The two boys then vanished in a flash of blue and white light.
* * *
Adam looked around tiredly, and was greatly relieved when Billy and Tommy were led into the room by the doctor.
"Your friends are here, Adam," the doctor said in a slightly dull voice. "You can go any time."
Adam nodded. "Thank you."
The doctor turned and walked out again, and Billy and Tommy watched him go, wonderingly. Not even the doctors in Angel Grove Memorial Hospital would have let Adam go without an adult there....
"I took care of it," Adam said in a soft, trembling voice. Tommy looked back to Adam to speak, and was unable to stifle a gasp of shock. Adam's eyes, which had once been chocolate brown, were now emerald green and fairly pulsing with power.
Adam looked away, ashamed and miserable. Billy glanced grimly at Tommy, then walked over and put one hand on Adam's arm. "C'mon, Adam. Let's go home and figure out how to deal with this, okay?"
Adam slid off the table, and went in silent complacency, his eyes carefully fixed on the ground.
* * *
The other rangers immediately started forward when Tommy and Billy arrived back with Adam, and were stopped only when Tommy held up one hand sharply and shook his head.
Aisha hesitated, then spoke softly, trying to get Adam to look at her. "Adam...?"
Adam looked away from all of them, fighting back the tears as he struggled with the deep shame he was suffering.
Zordon spoke, then, in an attempt to reassure the distressed teenager. "Adam, none of what happened was your fault. You must believe that, and have confidence in yourself if you are to gain full control of your new power and defeat Calidorn."
"He was sending me through stages, and I never even knew it...." Adam mumbled, still refusing to look up.
"That is true," Zordon admitted, "but you did not consent to the transfer of power. You had the courage to run from Calidorn, and you must now find the courage to fight him."
Adam finally looked up, and it was a struggle for the other rangers not to cringe at the sight of his eyes. "What d'you mean, my power...?"
"Adam, Calidorn misjudged you badly, and in an attempt to defeat your strength of will, he gave you more power than he should have. If you are willing to learn to use this power, then you will quite possibly be able to defeat him."
Adam stood stiffly, torn over what to do. He didn't want what he'd been given, and using it once, against the doctor, had made him physically sick. If it meant beating Calidorn, though, and regaining his freedom, then maybe it was worth it.
He felt a hand on his shoulder, and looked around to see Tommy standing there, watching him determinedly. "Whatever you decide, Adam, we're all behind you. Every step of the way."
Adam swallowed hard, and made his decision. He looked back to Zordon, drew in a deep breath, and spoke firmly. "All right, Zordon. Tell me what I have to do."
* * *
Adam walked slowly around in a wide circle in a deserted area of the park while his friends watched in silence. How should he start...? Zordon had said he had perhaps four or five hours before Calidorn regained his strength and came for him. Four or five hours to learn to use a power he did not want....
He swallowed hard. Regardless of how he felt, it was too late now. There was no turning back, and whichever direction fate took him in, he would end up with the power that Calidorn had given him. Better to have the power on the side of good, rather than evil....
His gaze fell on a small boulder. Something simple... something basic....
He turned to face the boulder, and concentrated. After a brief moment, his eyes began to glow with a clear, pure green light, unlike the darker light that affected Calidorn. With remarkably little effort, Adam lifted the boulder into the air with his new power, turned it around slowly, then set it back down again in the same spot.
Behind him, he heard someone whistle, and looked around to see Tommy and the others coming over to him. "Impressive, but I'd really like to see you do that with the tengas."
A faint smile flickered across Adam's face. "Don't worry. You will."
Rocky laughed, and clapped Adam on the shoulder. "Just you make sure of that, Adam."
Chewing lightly on his lower lip, Adam looked around slowly. "I know what I should be doing, but I'm just not sure...."
Tommy looked thoughtful. "I wonder if this power'll affect the martial arts at all...?"
Adam shrugged. "It might. There's only one way to find out."
A playful grin crossed Tommy's face, and he kicked his shoes off. "C'mon, then. Let's spar."
Adam hesitated, then decided it couldn't hurt. Hoping he wasn't wasting precious time, he kicked his own shoes off and began to spar with Tommy.
Within a few minutes, it became painfully obvious that Adam's skills had been affected by the new power. With his eyes almost glowing with green light, Adam sent Tommy to the ground again and again with a series of precise and lethal moves. If Tommy had been a putty, he would not have lasted five minutes.
Adam blinked, then stepped back. "I guess it did, huh?" Tommy sat up, rubbing his hands against his pants. "No kidding. Man, Calidorn is gonna get a major shock."
Worry flashed across Adam's face. "I have to get to work. I don't have much time."
Billy came over, then, and put one hand on Adam's shoulder. "You mean we, Adam. We're all in this together. Don't forget it."
Adam looked around at them and felt a rush of emotion. He was lucky to have such good friends who cared about him so much in the wake of parents who didn't. He nodded, fighting back the tears. "Let's get to work, then."
* * *
Nearly four and a half hours later, Tommy, Billy, Rocky, Aisha and Kimberly sat on the grass under a tree, watching wearily as Adam did small tests of power. They were all starting to fall asleep when something unexpected and frightening happened.
They all looked up to see Adam standing close by, an expression of panic on his face. "What's wrong?" Tommy asked, getting slowly to his feet.
"I can't... I can't... control it...."
Billy was on his feet a moment later, and headed for his friend, only to be restrained by Tommy. "I don't think we'd better get too close, Billy."
Billy, however, ignored Tommy's words and hurried forward. "Take it easy, Adam. Breathe deeply and concentrate."
"I am...." Adam whispered. Tears were running down his cheeks now as he fought with the awesome power that had been thrust upon him. A moment later he knew he could withhold it no longer, and he cried out a desperate warning to his friends. "Get back...!"
The rangers all fell back as quickly as they could, throwing themselves to the ground and expecting the worst. For a brief moment nothing happened. Then, the ground beneath them rocked with a violent explosion and they had to shield themselves from the debris of wood and soil that fell all around them.
When they were sure it was over, they sat up slowly and looked around.... "Omigod...." Kimberly whispered in unconcealed horror. The others all stared in shock at the hole in the ground where the oak tree had once been. A moment later their attention was dragged away by the sound of an anguished sob. Nearby, Adam had collapsed helplessly to the ground, his face buried in his hands.
Billy was the first to his side. "It's okay, Adam...."
"No, it isn't," Adam said in a muffled voice. "It isn't okay! I just blew up a tree! I can't control this. If I use it, I'll only end up hurting someone. I won't do it!"
Tommy walked around and crouched down in front of Adam. "Would you rather go with Calidorn?"
Adam looked up at Tommy, his face pale and streaked with tears. "No. You know I wouldn't...."
"Well, you're sure acting like it. C'mon, Adam. Snap out of it! D'you think Calidorn's gonna hold back when he comes for you?"
Adam looked past Adam, to where the tree used to be. "What if I do hurt someone? I couldn't live with that."
Aisha put a hand on his shoulder. "You won't. We trust you, Adam. Try trusting yourself."
Adam got up slowly, almost painfully. "I guess I don't have much of a choice, do I?"
Rocky grinned. "Nope. C'mon, buddy. Let's...." He trailed off as a fierce wind suddenly built up, nearly knocking all of them to the ground. All that was, except Adam, who remained perfectly steady on his feet.
"He's here...." he whispered fearfully as he looked around him. The wind ceased as abruptly as it had begun, followed by an eerie silence. Then, a moment later, there was a loud crackle of energy, a spark of green light, and a doorway appeared through which Calidorn stepped.
Initially Calidorn ignored the other rangers, and turned straight to Adam. "My boy... Dear son...."
Adam took a sharp step back and spoke slowly and deliberately. "I am not your son."
Calidorn smiled. "But you soon will be. I allowed one child to be taken from me, long ago. I will not allow it to happen again. There is no one to fight for you, Adam, and you alone cannot defeat me."
"We'll fight for him!" Tommy yelled furiously. Calidorn grunted and made a single motion with his hand. An instant later, none of the rangers could move a muscle. He looked back at Adam, and smiled when he saw the teen's eyes were glowing green.
"Getting acquainted with your new power, my boy?"
Adam gave a single nod. "Yes. So I can fight you."
Calidorn's smile faded abruptly. "What....?"
Adam didn't move, neither advancing nor retreating. "You heard me. I don't want to go with you."
Calidorn, Adam noted, was starting to look a little uneasy. "Do you honestly believe you have a choice in the matter? The power I've given is only minute, compared to my own."
"That's not what Zordon told me," Adam shot back, "and it isn't what I've found out."
A cold look started to form on Calidorn's face. "Oh...?"
"Yes," Adam growled, knowing the danger he was in, but also knowing it was too late to retreat. He had to run the gauntlet through.... "So unless you let me and my friends go, I'll fight you myself, and I think I might have a better chance than anyone. Don't you think so?"
Calidorn stared stonily at Adam. "Don't do this, Adam. You will only end up causing yourself and your friends pain and grief. Come with me. I can erase all memories of your friends from you, and all memories of you from them. You can have a new, better life. You won't need to fear anything ever again, and you will never be alone!"
Adam regarded Calidorn with an equally stony expression. "I never was alone. Maybe my parents left me, but my friends never did. And as for this power, I don't want it, but I don't seem to have a choice, so I'd rather see it used for good, than for evil."
The cold look on Calidorn's face faded to one of genuine grief. "Adam, please. I do not want to hurt you, but you will be hurt unless you come with me willingly. Either way, I intend to take you, so spare yourself unnecessary pain, and come willingly!"
Adam held his head high, knowing the decision he was making could well be his last. "I'd rather die."
Sorrow flickered across Calidorn's face, then passed into something that Adam couldn't quite pinpoint. "I am very sorry to hear that, Adam. I had hoped you would be sensible and surrender yourself to me. However, if this is the way you want it to be...."
Adam braced himself, not quite knowing what to expect. It hit suddenly, like a cannonball slamming into his body, lifting him off his feet and slamming him into the nearest tree. Shock and pain rendered Adam momentarily helpless, but he recovered quickly as he saw Calidorn advancing on him.
Getting to his feet, Adam drew in a deep breath and concentrated, his eyes beginning to glow green. Less than a couple of metres away, Calidorn froze, suddenly unable to move.
adam, what are you doing....?
Adam heard Calidorn's voice echo in his head, and found he could respond in kind. fighting you. you gave me more power than you should have. you made me as strong as you.
Calidorn realised the truth in Adam's words, and knew then that unless he used his power to its full ability, Adam would indeed win. He shut his eyes, and let the power flow.
Adam felt it coming, and knew he was in trouble. help, o god help me....
Calidorn broke free of the paralysis that Adam had held him in, and threw himself forward before the teen could act. The world exploded in in green as Calidorn grabbed hold of Adam and lifted the teenager clean off his feet. At the same time that Calidorn realeased the power, Adam did the same, and the rest of the rangers were effectively blinded in the resulting light.
"What's happening?" Aisha yelled, shielding her eyes from the light. She, along with the other rangers, had been released from their own paralysis, and now they lay on the ground, torn between trying to intervene and protecting themselves.
"They're fighting it out with each other," Tommy yelled back. As he watched, he thought he could pick out two different shades of green light. One was a dark, muddy green while the other was a crystal-clear emerald green. Tommy swallowed hard. Corrupted and uncorrupted. He prayed that Adam was strong enough to win.
* * *
Adam fought Calidorn with every ounce of strength and power he had. He wasn't sure how he was doing it, but it didn't matter. The point was that he was doing it, his instincts manipulating the power to his purpose.
He felt Calidorn's grip on him loosen, and he fought all the more.
* * *
Calidorn felt himself losing his grip on Adam, and then felt another onslaught of power from the boy. Zordon, that ancient fool, had told Adam the truth. He had given Adam too much power, and it was proving a dangerous mistake.
He tightened his grasp, both physically and mentally, refusing to let go. He had allowed one child to be taken from him; he would not lose another.
* * *
Adam started to feel panic. He was losing the battle, and he knew it. He could tell by the way that his resolve was starting to fail in fighting against Calidorn. He needed help, desperately, and unless he got it, he would lose the fight and be taken by Calidorn.
* * *
The rumbling began at such a low level that none of the rangers noticed. Then, as it began to grow in intensity, they finally took notice.
"Wh... What's going on....?" Rocky spluttered as the ground beneath them began to tremble violently. None of the other rangers answered: they had no answer to give.
* * *
Above the scene of the battle, the clouds gathered quickly, blocking out the sun. Shadow fell over the area like a thick blanket, and it grew cold and dark.
It happened in an instant, unexpected and frightening. There was a third flare of light, this time of pure white light, and it engulfed both Adam and Calidorn. All the rangers were forced to look away, so brilliant was the new light.
Then, a moment later, a scream of unmatched proportions filled the air, a scream that was a terrible mix of fear, anger and pain, and unlike anything they had ever heard before in their lives. There was a vilent rush of wind, a tremendous sound that was somewhere between a hiss and a sucking noise, and then there was silence.
Tommy was the first to look up and be able to see properly. Things were suddenly, eerily, back to normal. Calidorn was gone, and Adam.... Adam lay nearby, silent and still. Tommy scrambled to his feet and hurried across the grass. please god, let him be okay.... A heavy sigh of relief escaped Tommy as he found Adam's breathing to be steady and strong. A shadow fell across him, and he looked up to see the others all gathering around.
"Is he okay?" Kimberly asked in concern.
Tommy nodded. "Yeah, I think so. Just unconscious. We'd better get back to the Command Centre. Maybe Zordon can tell us what just happened."
The others all quickly agreed. There were six flashes of light, and then they were gone.
* * *
Tommy, Rocky, Billy, Aisha and Kimberly all landed in the middle of the Command Centre as usual, while Adam was teleported directly onto the rest table. "Adam'll be okay, won't he?" Rocky asked in concern for his best friend.
"Yes, Rocky," Zordon reassured both him and the other rangers. "Adam was able to defeat Calidorn and has won back his freedom. It comes at a price, though, for the powers which remained in Calidorn were transferred to Adam at the moment of Calidorn's destruction. Adam now holds the full power inside himself."
There was an uneasy silence, and then Aisha spoke up. "There isn't any way to get rid of it...?"
"I'm afraid not, Aisha. These are powers which Adam will have with him for the rest of his life. He will need to learn to use them properly in order to protect himself, and the rest of you."
Again, silence met Zordon's words. Then Tommy spoke up worriedly. "Zordon, what happened right before Calidorn was destroyed? There was a really bright light that appeared, and after that we couldn't see anything. What was the light?"
For once, Zordon was at a loss. "I do not know, Tommy. All I am certain of is that the source of the light aided Adam in defeating Calidorn right at the moment when Adam might have lost his resolve and given in. Whatever it was, it was a miracle."
The rangers exchanged glances and then made their way over to gather around Adam. Miracle was right, and now all that mattered was that Adam was safe. He was safe, and they would not let him go again.
Several Days Later....
Adam looked up as Billy approached him by the lake in Angel Grove Park, and sat down on the grass beside him. "Are you okay?"
Adam smiled, but Billy thought he seemed just a little tired. "Sure. Why?"
"It just seems like you've been avoiding us lately."
Glancing sideways at Billy, Adam nearly laughed. Billy seemed so apologetic for simply saying that.... "It's okay," Adam told him softly. "I've just been a little uncomfortable since... since it all happened. I guess I've just needed to be alone."
Billy started to reply when he saw something, and a broad grin broke out across his face. "Adam, your eyes! They're not green anymore! They're brown!"
Surprise crossed Adam's face, mixed with a touch of hope. "Really? I... I haven't looked in the mirror for the past few days... I didn't want to see it...."
Billy chuckled. "They're not green anymore, I swear it. And you don't have to be ashamed about what happened. Don't forget, I know how you feel."
Adam lay down flat on the grass. "Yeah, I do seem to remember our roles being reversed not to long ago. I guess it's your turn to comfort me, huh?"
Billy laughed softly. "It must be."
A moment of silence reigned, and then Billy reluctantly asked the question that had been on the tip of his tongue for the past few days.
"Adam, do you remember the fight with Calidorn?"
"Yes," Adam replied, looking across at Billy seriously. "More than I want to remember."
"What about what happened at the end? Something happened.... There was a really bright light, and then Calidorn disappeared.... Do you know what it was?"
Adam turned his gaze back to the sky. "I know. I remember it. I know what it was, but I can't really explain it. All I can say is that it helped me beat Calidorn. I asked for help, and I got it. I'll always be grateful for it."
Billy glanced up at the sky, then back to Adam. "I don't understand, but I trust you. What about the power...?"
The expression on Adam's face altered visibly, and Billy knew he'd struck a raw nerve. "I don't know what to do about that," he said softly. "I don't want it, but there doesn't seem to be anything I can do about it. I guess I'll just have to learn to live with it... somehow." A pained smile clickered across his face. "Lucky my folks aren't here, huh? At least I don't have to worry about having to explain any of this to them. Hell, even if they were here, they wouldn't care...."
Billy stared down at the grass, feeling guilty for having a father who cared so much about him. Something occurred to Billy, then, making him feel even worse. "Adam, it's a couple of days till Christmas. What are you going to be doing?"
Adam managed a smile that was painfully false. "I'll find something to do. Probably...." He trailed off, realising with a sick feeling that he didn't know what he was going to do. "Actually," he admitted softly, "I probably won't be doing anything. It's okay, though. It's happened before, and it'll happen again. I just have to get used to it."
Billy could almost feel his own heart breaking in response to Adam's pain. "No," he said firmly, his voice laced with anger, "it isn't all right. No one should be alone for Christmas. C'mon, Adam. Let's go."
Adam, although confused, allowed himself to be pulled to his feet. "Where're we going?"
"To my place, to organize something."
"What?" Adam persisted.
"You'll see. C'mon!"
Adam shook his head and hurried after his friend.
* * *
Billy's father was at home when Billy and Adam got there. Wasting no time, Billy went straight to his father and spoke before Adam had a chance to stop him. "Dad, I'd like Adam to stay with us for a few weeks, and to spend Christmas here. Is that okay?"
"Billy...!" Adam cried out, mortified. Hank Cranston slowly put his paper down, looking from one boy to the other before speaking quietly.
"Any particular reason for this, Billy? What about Adam's folks?" Billy looked back at Adam, who had gone red with humiliation.
Hank Cranston nodded, suddenly understanding what had happened. "Well, it's fine with me. We'll be glad to have you here, Adam. Why don't I get my keys, and we'll go back to your place and let you get some clothes."
Mr. Cranston got up and left the room to get his car keys. Billy looked back to Adam, hoping he hadn't crossed the boundaries of their friendship by what he'd just done. He needn't have worried.
Adam looked at Billy, tears in his eyes. "Thanks, Billy. It means a lot."
Billy smiled affectionately at the teen, whom he had come to think of as a younger brother. He reached over and clapped Adam lightly on the shoulder. "C'mon, Adam. Let's go."