This part contains violent scenes and offensive language. It is entirely
up to the individual whether they continue to read. I take no responsibility
whatsoever for any persons offended by what they read. ('Course, I doubt
that'll happen; there's a lot of stuff out there a hell of a lot worse
I'm taking some liberties. I don't know much about blood types, so if there's anyone out there who does, please excuse my ignorance.
*A couple of hours later, Scott residence
"You didn't see anyone?" Michael Oliver asked wearily as he sat at the kitchen table with Jason and Melissa. Jason stared intently at the tabletop.
"For the third time, no! I didn't see any suspicious faces peering in at me through the window."
Jason!" Melissa growled. "Stop that."
Jason looked away in frustration, while Michael shook his head.
"It's okay, Melissa. I understand his frustration. I wish we could do more, but unless Alan's been sighted definitely in Angel Grove, my hands are tied. We are looking for him, but I can't pull officers off their regular duties on speculation."
"That isn't good enough," Melissa snapped. "For God's sake, Jason found a knife in his pillow! If that isn't proof, then what the hell is?"
"I'm sorry," Michael said with a heavy sigh. "I know you don't want to hear this, and I hate to say it, but that knife could have been planted by just about anyone. There are a lot of copycats around looking for attention, even in Angel Grove. I just can't do anything about it."
Jason stood up. "I'm gonna call Dad and tell him."
"Jason, this is no time to bother him," Melissa protested, but Jason was already out of the room. Michael looked at her questioningly.
"What does he mean, he's going to call his dad?"
"You don't know?" Melissa asked in surprise. "Jason found his real father, Michael. It's why he went to Hollywood in the first place. Robert Carter is his father."
Concern flickered over Michaels face. "Do you think it's possible that Alan is aware of that? That Jason has found his real father, I mean...."
"I don't see how," Melissa started to say, but was interrupted by Amy, who had come into the kitchen.
"Daddy does know, Chief Oliver. Mum, Jason didn't tell you because he didn't want to worry you, but he saw Daddy while he was in Hollywood. He told me the day he came home."
Melissa was pale. "If Alan knows Jason was with his real father, it would be enough to set him off again."
Michael twisted around in his seat. "Stewart, take a couple of men down to the bus port, and send Davis and Bates to the train station. Ask every employee there if you have to if any of them have seen Alan Scott. Take the photos with you."
The young man marched out of the room, and Michael turned back to Melissa.
"I promise, we'll do everything we can to find Alan. He's already broken the judge's order, so arresting him is no problem. We just have to find him."
Melissa focused a hard glare at the Chief of Police. "See that you do, Michael."
"And the knife was right in the middle of my pillow!" Jason was saying, his voice laced with tension and panic. On the other end of the line, Rob listened, his jaw tight with anger.
"What are the police doing about it?"
"Nothing! Chief Oliver says that they can't do anything because no one's actually seen him!"
"All right. Calm down, Jason. You won't do yourself any good by panicking."
"No," Rob interrupted firmly. "Listen to me. Everything will be fine. You just make sure that you don't go anywhere by yourself. I'll pick you up myself in the mornings, I don't want you walking to the Lot. I'll take you home, too. I'll have bodyguards at the Lot for you, and I promise that Alan won't get anywhere near you. All right?"
"Okay," Jason conceded reluctantly. Rob withheld a sigh.
"It'll be all right, son. I promise, it will be all right."
*The next day
Jason was tired, Rob could see it from the moment he picked the teen up. After mumbling a cursory greeting, Jason climbed into the limousine and sank into a heavy silence. Rob endured it for half the trip before finally breaking into Jason's gloom.
"Get any sleep at all last night?"
Jason looked up slowly at Rob. "Is it that noticeable?"
"Jason, you look like you came straight off a Freddy Krueger movie."
A slight frown touched Jason's face, and he looked away out the window.
"I got some sleep... Not a lot, though. Kept having really bad night- mares."
"Are you sure you're up to it?" Rob asked in concern. "The weather forecast said today was going to be very hot. I can always postpone the shoot for half a day, or so."
"No," Jason muttered. "Don't do that. It wouldn't make it any better, and we'd just get behind schedule. Besides, when did you ever know weather man to be right?" He hesitated, his gaze flickering down towards the cellular phone. "Could I use the phone? I need to call someone."
Rob handed Jason the phone. "It's a bit early, isn't it? Maybe you should wait an hour...."
Jason shook his head. "No. He'll be awake." He dialed a memorized number, then waited until it was picked up at the other end, and a familiar voice spoke at the other end.
,BR> "Hey, Billy. It's Jason."
There was a moment of surprised silence, then Billy spoke quickly.
"Where are you calling from?"
"From the limousine. We're on our way to the set. Can you fill me in on the, uh... science experiment?"
Another moment of silence, then Billy went on in a grim voice. "I take it you mean the nightmare crystal."
"There have been some developments," Billy admitted. "Unfortunately, not good ones. We were unable to determine the makeup of the crystal, so Zordon allowed Tommy to destroy it. However, it would seem that Zedd anticipated that happening. When the crystal was destroyed, the power was released. It didn't dissipate."
"Oh, that's great," Jason responded sarcastically. Billy sighed inwardly.
"We didn't realise what would happen. Tell me, has anything happened between yesterday afternoon and now?"
Jason hesitated, watching his father out of the corner of his eye.
"It's about the same as what happened a couple of years ago. You know, when you mixed gun powder and nitrogen in the school lab?"
Billy rolled his eyes at Jason's long-winded attempt at a positive reply. "I presume that means yes. When you have some time to yourself, call the Power Chamber on your communicator. I'll be there, and you can tell me what happened. Oh, Jason? How did you sleep?"
"I think you know the answer to that," Jason said flatly. Billy sighed again.
"Understood. I'll talk you later, then."
"Sure," Jason mumbled. "Later."
He switched the phone off and handed it back to Rob, who watched him questioningly.
"Gun powder and nitrogen? Sounds like your friend isn't too bright."
"Oh, he knew what would happen," Jason said. "He just wanted to scare a couple of bullies. Unfortunately, the bullies got tangled up somehow, and the mixture ended up blowing up the whole lab."
"And he did the same thing again?" Rob asked incredulously.
"No. He was, ah... He was working on a new experiment. It's sort of blown up in our faces."
"I see. I think."
Jason offered Rob a crooked smile. "Don't worry. Everything's under control."
Rob didn't protest, but he watched Jason carefully for the rest of the trip to the Lot.
The day passed slowly, getting quite hot towards mid-afternoon, and Jason found himself working harder than he had before. They were behind schedule for two or three scenes, and Rob was determined to get them finished before the day was over.
"This is a side of Rob that you wouldn't want to see too often," Sam muttered ruefully as they took a five minute break between shots. Jason didn't reply, but promptly downed half a bottle of Gatorade in one hit. Sam watched him warily.
"Are you feeling all right, Jason? You're terribly pale."
"I'm fine," Jason grumbled irritably. "Just tired. Can't a guy be tired around here?"
Sam put his hands up defensively. "Just asking."
"Everyone, back on the set!" Rob shouted. Sam shook his head.
"Much more of this in this heat, and I'll be going on strike."
He started towards the set, threatening curses under his breath. Jason followed, and made it halfway to the set when the heat, the exhaustion and the stress finally became too much. His legs buckled beneath him, and he crashed to the ground, his head spinning so badly that he couldn't move.
Sam heard the heavy thud behind him, and looked back to see Jason flat out on the ground. Shouting a warning, he ran to the boy's side. Rob and Alec were there seconds later.
"Jason?" Rob gently rolled the teen over and carefully brushed away some of the dirt. Alec signaled for the on-sight medics and doctor as he spoke.
"Looks like heat exhaustion. Shouldn't be too severe."
Rob moved back as the medics moved in. "We'll get him to his trailer. Everyone, take a break!"
A murmur of relief swept through the set, and they hurried to do so before Rob changed his mind.
"Well?" Rob asked impatiently as the doctor finished examining Jason. The doctor offered Rob a reassuring smile.
"It's nothing to be too concerned about. Just a mixture of exhaustion, stress, and this damned heat. His blood pressure is a little bit high at the moment, but it should come down when he gets some rest. That's all he really needs. If you don't mind, though, I'd like to take a blood sample. Better safe than sorry."
Behind them, Jason moaned. "Great. I hate needles!"
Rob couldn't resist a grin. "Go ahead, Doctor."
The doctor took a sample, with Jason looking away the whole time, then packed up his gear.
"Excuse me, I'll take this back to the hospital and check it straight away."
Rob waited till he'd gone, then went to Jason's side, a strict look on his face.
"I asked you this morning if you were up to it today. Why weren't you honest with me?"
Jason looked miserable. "I don't know. I guess it was pretty stupid, huh?"
"Yes, it was. Damn it, Jason, I told you before! I may be a tyrant sometimes, but I'm not deaf. I will listen! The next time this happens..."
"It won't," Jason said quickly. "I promise."
Rob glowered down at the boy. "It had better not. Now, you can stay in here for a while, and try and get a couple of hours sleep. I'll come and get you when the day's over."
Jason nodded, obediently settling down on the narrow couch. Rob and Alec both left the trailer, leaving Jason by himself. The former Gold Ranger waited patiently until he was sure they'd gone, then got up and went quickly to the small chest at the other end of the trailer, and found his communicator. Going back to the couch, he lay down and spoke into the device.
"Billy, do you read me?"
"I read you, Jason," Billy's voice answered immediately. "What's the situation?"
"Alan is somewhere in Angel Grove. He was in the house yesterday... Left a calling card on my pillow."
"Wonderful," Billy said dryly. "All right. First thing is to make sure you don't go anywhere on your own."
"Dad's already taken care of that," Jason confirmed. "He's hired a couple of bodyguards that follow me around everywhere. They even follow me into the bathroom! Man, that's embarrassing."
Billy had to grin, unable to resist it. "You never know who could lurking in the bathroom, Jason. Didn't you see Copycat?"
"Very funny," Jason grumbled, quietly disturbed at the possibility that Alan would be desperate enough to try ambushing him in a bathroom.
"Seriously," Billy went on quietly. "I've been working on a sedative. You've been having consistent nightmares, haven't you?"
"Yeah," Jason admitted reluctantly. "I haven't had a decent nights sleep since I touched that damned crystal."
"Well, I've been thinking about it, and we think that each nightmare you have is increasing the power of the crystal, and possibly drawing it closer to you."
Jason was silent for a moment as he contemplated Billy's words.
"I really don't like the sound of that, Billy."
"I didn't think you would, and you won't like this, either. Jason, I suspect the power that escaped from the crystal may somehow take on the form of your father."
"My father?" Jason echoed incredulously. Billy quickly corrected himself.
"I'm sorry. I mean Alan. You are scared of him aren't you?"
Jason hesitated before answering in an unusually small voice. "Yeah. I am."
"It's the likeliest form," Billy insisted.
"So you're basically saying the power or whatever it is could literally possess Alan," Jason said bluntly. "Like something out of The Exorcist?"
"It's entirely possible," Billy conceded. "I'll teleport the sedative to you as soon as Ill completed the tests. It should put you into a dreamless sleep. Please, try not to fall asleep before I get it to you."
"You shouldn't have said that," Jason muttered. "Okay, just hurry up and get it finished."
"I will. Be alert, Jason."
Jason sighed softly as he signed off. "As always."
"I knew something was weird with you."
Jason froze for several seconds, then looked around to see Lou standing the doorway of the trailer.
"Don't you ever knock?" he demanded angrily, slipping the communicator between the cushions. "And how'd you get past the guards?"
She stepped all the way in and pulled the door shut. "Quick trying to change the topic." She looked around, frowning. "Where's that walkie-talkie thing you were talking into? What did you do with it?"
"That's none of your business," Jason snapped. "Will you please get out? I'm supposed to be resting!"
"Oh yeah," Lou retorted, "and you were doing a hell of a lot of that. Who were you talking to, anyway?"
Jason fell into a tense silence, glowering at her. Lou shrugged and took up residence in a nearby chair.
"Fine, give me the silent treatment. I'm not leaving till you spill the beans on your big secret."
At a loss for what else to do, Jason sank down on the couch and rolled over, turning his back to Lou. She smirked at him from the chair.
"Going beddy-byes already, Jason?"
"Shut up," Jason growled. Lou continued to smirk to herself, and sat back to wait it out.
* * * *
Jason fell asleep within minutes, too tired to even try to stay awake.
Once Lou realised he was asleep, she got up to go, only to stop when a
flash of white light caught her eye. Looking around, she saw a small vial
had appeared on the dresser top, which she was sure had not been there
before. Curious, she went over for a closer look.
The vial was filled nearly to the top with a liquid that had a green tinge to it. She picked it up and sniffed at it, wrinkling her nose when she was met with a slightly pungent odour to it. She put it back down on the dresser, and then she saw the note. It was written in small, neat handwriting, and she bent in to read it.
*Jason, here is the sedative. Drink the full contents of the vial before you go to sleep. The effects will be almost instantaneous, so I suggest you drink it when you're in bed. It should last approximately seven hours. I'll provide you with the same substance each night until the problem has been resolved.
* * * *
Lou glanced back to Jason and shook her head. The last thing he needed
was a sedative. Frowning determinedly to herself, she picked up both the
note and the vial, and slipped out of the trailer. Going around behind
the trailer, she poured the liquid out of the vial and onto the grass,
then tossed both vial and note into the nearest bin.
She may not have gotten along with Jason very well, she reflected, but she would not let him needlessly take drugs and screw up his life. Filled with renewed determination, she went to find Rob.
* * * *
Inside the trailer, Jason's body stiffened noticeably on the couch,
and the tips of his fingers twitched as a fresh nightmare gradually overtook
him. This time, however, he did not wake up.
* * * *
Alan Scott had been driving aimlessly for hours in a light blue van,
dodging police cars, staying away from well-populated areas Areas where
he would have been recognised. He hated having to sneak around his own
home town, but the situation had deteriorated to the point where he no
longer had a choice.
Anger and hatred gnawed away inside him. It was entirely Jason's fault. He knew it had been a mistake to let the boy stay in his home. He should have forced Melissa to put him up for adoption before he was born. Or even taken the little brat and drowned him after birth But no, he had been weak, had folded under his wife's pleading. She'd made the mistake, she'd told him. He shouldn't.... *couldn't* take it out on the child.
Alan smashed his fist down on the dashboard. Who the hell was she to tell him that? And now, he didn't even have his own family, let alone a bastard boy that wasn't his. The anger began to rise from the pit of his stomach, and bubble violently to the surface, and his eyes began to glow with a dull reddish light. Guided by an unknown, invisible force, Alan turned the car around and headed in the opposite direction; not knowing where he was going, only that he would know when he got there.
*An hour or so later
"Drugs?" Rob echoed incredulously. Lou nodded solemnly.
"Uh huh. I guess I should have kept the stuff, but I just wanted to get rid of it."
Alec regarded Rob grimly. "Not all a bed of roses after all, is it, Rob?"
"Shut up, Alec. It'd be nave not to believe he wouldn't have some problems. I just didn't expect it to be drugs. Damn... I guess I'd better go and talk to him about it."
"He's actually asleep," Lou said quickly. Rob sighed a little.
"Well, I suppose I should be grateful for that, at least. We'll just leave him be for now." He hesitated, his gaze falling on Alec. Although the other man didn't say a word, Rob knew what he was thinking. He spoke in a soft, forcibly calm voice.
"Can I speak with you alone, Alec?"
Alec nodded. "Of course."
"I know what you're thinking," Rob said tightly once they were within the safety of Rob's office. Alec sank into a large armchair.
"I'm sure you do."
"We don't need this sort of problem."
"No, we don't."
"And it would better off for all of us if we just distanced ourselves from Jason, from everything."
"Yes," Alec agreed, "it probably would."
Rob sat down, then leaned forward across the desk. "But out of all the boys that were lined up to audition that day for the part of Austin, you were the one who picked Jason."
Alec grimaced. "I'm not in the habit of being able to pick out drug addicts, Rob."
Rob sat back with a thud. "This is ridiculous. We're jumping the gun, here. For all we know, he may have been prescribed the drugs by his own doctor."
Alec glanced at the cellular on the desk. "Why don't you give his mother a call? Ask her. She should know."
When Rob hesitated, Alec let out of sound of frustration.
"Damn it, Rob, you're not doing anyone a disservice by finding out! Especially not Jason. If the drugs are legitimate, then fine! We can forget all about this. Jason doesn't have to know you checked up on it! Hell, he probably wouldn't mind anyway. He's sensible enough to know you're only checking out of concern for him. But if they're not legitimate, then you'll know, and we can do something about it."
"I'm not turning my back on him, Alec," Rob said softly, staring intently at the desk top. "I promised him that I wouldn't do that. Even if he does have a drug problem. You think it'll bring bad publicity, but firstly, I don't give a shit about that. Secondly, I don't think it would. What would bring bad publicity would be if it went public that I'd found my son, then turned my back on him because he had a few problems. I won't do it."
"Have you thought anymore about confirming it?" Alec asked quietly. Rob glared at him.
"I can't believe you're still harping on that."
"C'mon, Rob," Alec growled. "It can be done on the quiet. Jason doesn't have to know about that, either. The doctor took a blood sample! All you have to do is call him up and ask a couple of very specific questions. You should almost be able to tell by knowing what blood type Jason is."
Rob frowned to himself. "I'm B negative. Melissa... I think... is A positive. Jason should be either one of those."
"So call the doctor at the hospital and find out," Alec urged him. "Go on. It's just one phone call."
Rob gritted his teeth, and reluctantly reached for the phone.
"Something tells me I'm going to regret this."
He picked it up and dialed the number of the doctor, It rang several times before it was picked up on the other end.
"James? It's Rob Carter, here."
"Oh, hello, Mr Carter. What can I do for you?"
"I just had a query. The blood sample that you took from Jason a while ago?"
"I don't suppose you could tell me what his blood type is?"
"I think so, if you don't mind holding for a few minutes. I'll check."
"Well?" Alec asked softly.
"He's checking," Rob replied wearily. A few minutes passed, and then the doctor's voice came over the phone again.
"Mr Carter, are you still there?"
"I'm here. What is it?"
"The nurse just came back with the blood sample and the results. You'll be happy to know that I can't find anything wrong with your son."
"That's good," Rob said, genuinely relieved. "But what about his blood type?"
"Oh, yes.... Lucky for him, it's very common. He's O positive."
Rob froze, the blood draining from his face. "O positive?"
"Yes. He'll have no problems if he ever needs transfusions."
"Thankyou," Rob said weakly. "I...." He faltered, then spoke again. "Thankyou."
He switched off the phone, then looked back to Alec, sickened. "He's O positive, Alec. That's a genetic impossibility."
"Call Melissa," Alec said softly. "Maybe you were wrong about her blood type."
Rob snatched up the phone and quickly dialed the number. It was answered almost straight away by a less mature female voice.
"Ah... Could I speak to Melissa, please?"
"Sorry, she's not here right now. Can I take a message?"
Rob hesitated. "Amy? Is that you?"
On the other end, Amy frowned. "Who is this?"
"It, ah.... It's Robert Carter. Amy, I need to speak to your mother. It's urgent."
"Well, she's at work right now," Amy said tentatively. "Do you want the number?"
"Okay, just a second It's 84 32 867. Did you get that?"
"Yes, I did. Thankyou, Amy."
"Sure. Um.... Is everything okay? With Jason, I mean..."
Rob swallowed hard. He didn't care to tell her the truth, but he was not clear-headed enough to make up a reasonable lie.
"I have to go, Amy. Excuse me."
He hung up abruptly, waited a moment, then dialed the number Amy had given him. It was answered almost immediately by a familiar voice.
"Hello, Sam's Bistro, can I help you?"
"Melissa? It's Rob."
On the other end of the line, Melissa started a little in surprise, and immediately she felt a touch of panic.
"Rob? Is something wrong?"
He shut his eyes as he spoke.
"That depends. Melissa, can you tell me what blood type you are? Please, it's very important."
Melissa felt deep confusion. "I'm A positive. Rob, what's wrong?"
Rob buried his face in his free hand, suddenly finding himself struggling to hold back a flood of tears.
"Some things have happened, Melissa. Jason collapsed on the set this afternoon. He's perfectly all right, it was just exhaustion... But the doctor took a blood sample to be sure. I just talked to him Melissa, he told me that Jason is O positive."
Melissa was silent for a long moment before speaking. "O positive? That's his blood type?"
"Yes. I'm B negative. Melissa, Jason isn't my son."
On the other end of the line, Melissa abruptly sat down hard. "Oh god... Oh my dear Lord... Alan is type O.... Oh no, I've made a mistake..."
"And Jason will be the one to pay for it," Rob whispered.
"I'm on my way," Melissa said firmly.
"No, you don't have to...."
"He's my son, Rob. He has to be told, and he deserves to hear it from me."
"From the both of us," Rob said. "All right. I'll meet you at the gate."
They said goodbye, and then Rob switched the cell phone off and looked back at Alec through a thin film of tears.
"Are you satisfied now? You were right. He isn't my son."
"Maybe not," Alec conceded. "Now it's up to you whether that makes a difference."
Rob shook his head as he got up. "I can't figure you out, Alec. First you're on my case to find out for sure whether he really is my son, and now you tell me it shouldn't make any difference. I just can't figure you out."
Alec watched him go, then shook his head and followed in heavy silence.
* * * *
Alan Scott pulled into the Youth Centre car park, keeping a careful
eye out for anyone that might have recognised him. He wasn't entirely sure
why he'd come here, but he supposed there was a reason for it. He glanced
over his shoulder, to the small collection of weapons that lay on the floor
of the van, and felt a touch of satisfaction. Everything was right, he
was sure of it. He didn't understand how, or why, but he knew everything
was working out the way it should.
Smiling coldly to himself, he sank down in the seat to wait.
* * * *
"Jason?" Rob trailed off as he entered the trailer to find
Jason on the floor, curled up in a tight ball, shivering uncontrollably.
Sparing Melissa a worried glance, he hurried over and crouched down next
to the teen, gently shaking him awake.
"C'mon, Jason, wake up, son..." He faltered, but Melissa shook her head.
Rob sighed inwardly, then gave Jason a harder shake. It was enough, and the boy awoke with a start, lathered in a thin sheen of sweat.
"Wha....?" Jason gasped, starting up abruptly. Rob laid a hand gently on Jason's shoulder.
"It's all right. You were having a nightmare or something. C'mon, get up off the floor."
Jason allowed Rob to help him back up onto the couch, and that was when he saw his mother.
"Mum?" He looked back to Rob in dismay. "You told her I collapsed?"
"Yes," Rob confirmed softly, "but that isn't the reason she's here. Jason, we have to talk about something. It... It's pretty serious."
"Like what?" Jason asked in confusion. "Is it about Alan?"
"No," Melissa replied. "Not this time. Jason, honey, you remember the blood test the doctor took earlier today?"
"Uh huh. What about it?"
"I spoke to the doctor a short time ago," Rob explained. "There's nothing wrong.... But we found out that your blood type is O positive."
Jason was thoroughly confused by then. "What's wrong with that? It's a common blood type, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is," Rob agreed, "but that isn't the problem. The problem is that your mother is A positive and I'm B negative. It would be impossible for us to have a son that's O positive."
The confusion fell from Jason's face to be replaced with shock and distress. "You mean.... You're saying you're not my father? But...."
He trailed off, even more confused. Melissa didn't even try to wipe away the tears. "I made a mistake, Jason. A horrible mistake. It.... It looks like Alan really is your father after all."
"This can't be happening," Jason whispered, numb with shock. "Tell me it isn't happening..." He looked from one adult to the other. "Everything I've been through.... It was all for nothing? All of it?"
Melissa reached out for Jason's hand and was hurt, though not entirely surprised, when he jerked away from her.
"Jason," Rob started to speak, but Jason cut him off.
"No!" He got quickly to his feet. "My life has just been totally screwed over! You can't just expect me to accept that! I went through hell, and now you tell me it was a mistake? It isn't fair!"
"You think we're happy about it?" Rob demanded, rising up to meet Jason head on. "You just listen to me, boy. I've gone for eighteen years, wondering about a son that I'd never met, wondering what he was like, what his interests were... The whole damn lot! Then you came along, and I had a chance to get to know that son. If you think I'm happy to just shrug it all off and get on with my life, then you're wrong. I know you're confused. So am I. But we have to face the facts, no matter how much it hurts."
Anger and pain shone in Jason's eyes. "What am I supposed to do? Go back to Alan and say, sorry it was all a mistake. You're really my dad after all. How about we forget everything and start again? It won't work like that! Everything I thought was true.... It's all a lie! Twice over, now! Now, I have to deal with knowing that my real father hates me! I can't handle that!"
Stricken, Jason pushed past them and literally threw himself out of his trailer.
"Jason!" Rob shouted, but the teen would not stop, or be stopped. He went straight through the security guards, through the cameras and the crew, disappearing from sight. Melissa laid a hand lightly on Rob's shoulder.
"It's best to just let him go. Let him work it out in his own way. You won't get through to him when he's like that."
Rob leant in the doorway of the trailer. "Why did I even have to tell him? Melissa, why couldn't I let things be?"
Melissa shook her head. "It wouldn't have been right. This isn't your fault, though. It's mine. It never even occurred to me that Jason might have been Alan's child after all. I didn't actually learn that I was pregnant until five weeks after Alan came home from his trip. He already knew about us, and we both just assumed Jason was your child. I should have ordered a genetics test as soon as Jason was born."
"We just turned that boy's world upside down," Rob whispered. "He thought he'd found a new family. Where is he going to belong now?"
Tommy and Ernie were in the last stages of cleaning up before closing time when Jason came in. Tommy froze near the bar, broom in hand, watching wordlessly as Jason strode over to the nearest punching bag and began to belt into it with a fury that Tommy could not recall seeing for a long time. Ernie joined Tommy, concern creasing his brow.
"He looks really upset," Ernie commented softly. "What do you suppose is wrong?"
"I don't know," Tommy admitted, "but I do know that Jason never gets this upset without a damned good reason. Something must be up."
Ernie took the broom from Tommy. "I'll finish this. You go talk to him."
Tommy nodded. "Yeah, okay. Look, Ernie, why don't you go, let us close up for you? From the looks of it, we might be here for a while."
Ernie hesitated, then conceded, collected his coat and went. Tommy watched him go, then walked slowly down the steps and over to where Jason was turning the punching bag into putty with his fierce attack.
"Need someone to hold that thing still for you?" he asked quietly. Jason hesitated just long enough for Tommy to see the tears before continuing the assault. The concern turned to a touch of fear, and Tommy grabbed the punching bag as it swung in his direction.
"Whoa, Jase. Take it easy! You're gonna hurt it, man!"
To Tommy's astonishment, Jason abruptly turned away and began on the second bag, pounding it with relentless rage. Gritting his teeth, and ready to take a few excess blows, Tommy stepped between his best friend and the punching bag.
"Get out of my way." Jason spoke in an almost guttural, grief-wracked tone, the likes of which Tommy had not heard since just after their brief bout on Rita's Island of Illusions. He hesitated, then reached out to touch Jason's shoulder. He was not surprised when Jason shrugged him off.
"What's wrong, Jason? I've never seen you this upset. Did you have a fight with your dad?"
Jason's angry expression finally crumbled away into despair, and he sank helplessly to the ground.
"He's not my dad, Tommy," he whispered, stricken. Tommy felt his throat tighten.
"What do you mean, he's not your dad?"
"I had a blood test earlier today," Jason explained, wiping aimlessly at the tears that fell, "after I got a little woozy on the set. They checked my blood type, and I'm O positive."
"So?" Tommy asked in confusion.
"So," Jason growled, "Mum's blood type is A positive, and Dad... I mean, Rob's is B negative! He can't be my father!"
"You mean..." Tommy whispered. Jason nodded.
"Alan is my dad after all. I went through all of this crap for nothing! It was a total waste!"
"Hang on," Tommy growled. "It can't have been a total waste. Why do you have to just quit on everything like that? You got along with Mr Carter and his family, and they all like you. Especially those kids. I bet they won't care now whether you're related to them by blood. What difference could it make?"
"It makes every difference!" Jason burst out. "Don't you get it, Tommy? They aren't my family, and no amount of pretending is gonna change that! I can't have something that doesn't really belong to me."
Tommy frowned. "Jase, that's ridiculous. It really doesn't make any difference. If they care about you, and you feel comfortable with them, then that's what counts."
"How do you know?" Jason exploded. "You don't know anything, Tommy! You can't possibly know how I feel!"
Tommy's jaw clenched with sudden anger. "I don't know how you feel? Where the hell do you get off saying that? Damn you, Jase, I'm adopted! I've lived all my life with a family that I'm not blood-related to! I know exactly how it feels to wonder where you really belong! I know you're confused! So was I, when Mum and Dad first told me I was adopted. Maybe Mr. Carter isn't really your dad, but he's been more of a father to you in a few weeks than Alan Scott was in your whole life! Blood or no blood! It doesn't make a damned bit of difference! And if you can't believe that, then maybe you deserve to be stuck with Mr. Scott."
Jason had drawn his knees up to his chest, buried his face in his arms and his shoulders shook with suppressed sobs. Tommy gently laid a hand on Jason's back.
"I'm sorry, Jason. I didn't mean that. The last bit, anyway. No one deserves that. But I meant what I said, that blood doesn't matter. You have to believe that. I'll bet that if you give it a chance, Mr Carter won't care that you're not really his son. You've gotta give it a chance, Jase. If you don't, then these last several weeks really will have been wasted."
Jason finally looked up, his face flushed, and his eyes red and swollen from crying. "I want to be alone, Tommy. Please.... Just for a while."
Tommy got up. "I understand. I told Ernie that we'd close up for him, though..."
"I'll close up," Jason whispered, sniffing a little and rubbing at his eyes. "I've done it before."
Tommy nodded. "Okay. Will you be all right?"
"I don't know," Jason admitted. "But I just want to be by myself."
"Sure. Look, give me a call tomorrow. We'll go to a movie, or some- thing. Okay?"
Jason nodded, and Tommy clapped him lightly on the shoulder, then collected his jacket and hurried out of the Youth Centre. Jason stood still for a long moment, wondering numbly what to do, then turned and headed for the bathroom to clean himself up.
* * * *
Alan Scott watched Tommy leave, and waited until the boy was out of
sight before twisting around and picking up a knife and a short length
of iron from the floor of the van. Then, with eyes that burned blood red,
he climbed out of the van and disappeared into the darkened building.
* * * *
Jason leaned over the basin, splashing cold water over his face to clear
his mind and ease the fire that he could feel in his eyes. He hadn't been
lying to Tommy; he was confused, quite literally more confused than he'd
ever been before in his entire life. And scared. All of a sudden, the ground
beneath his feet felt dangerously unstable, and he honestly didn't know
which way to turn any longer. He tried to think over Tommy's words, but
it was painfully hard to concentrate past the hurt of unintentional lies.
He shut his eyes tightly, resisting the powerful urge to scream. Then again, he was so stressed out, that maybe he needed to scream, and just let it all out....
He splashed the icy water over his face one more time before reaching for the paper towels to dry his face. Ripping off a piece, he turned back to the mirror, and froze. Standing only a few metres behind him was Alan, methodically slapping a short length of iron against the palm of his left hand. Jason shut his eyes for a long moment, silently praying that it was only his stressed mind playing tricks on him. He opened his eyes again, but the apparition was still there.
"What's the matter, Jason?" Alan asked softly. "You don't seem pleased to see me."
Jason turned around slowly to face him. "Y... You're not supposed to come near me..."
"I'll do whatever I fucking want. Little shit. You've really done it this time, haven't you?"
Alan started to advance on the teen, and Jason spoke out of sheer panic.
Alan stopped, glowering at the boy. "Dad? What do you mean, Dad? Didn't your mother tell you I'm not your father?"
"Shut up," Alan spat. "Just shut the hell up. Get over here right now."
Jason swallowed hard. Whatever happened now, he had little else to lose. Clenching his fists, he side-stepped away from the basin.
"You defiant little bastard!" Alan snarled. "You get over here now, and maybe I won't kill you. Do you hear me?"
"You can't hurt me anymore," Jason persisted. "I won't let you!"
Enraged, Alan let go with a stream of obscenities and strode towards Jason. Struggling to remain calm and in control, Jason fell back into a defensive stance, and when the iron bar was swung at him, he easily ducked out of the way.
Alan cursed loudly as the momentum of the swing carried him around and caused him to stumble and crash into the wall. Jason took the chance and bolted. Still uttering curses under his breath, Alan grabbed the knife and the iron bar, and went after the teen.
Jason was halfway across the floor to the exit when something hard slammed into his back, and sent him to the floor with a crash. Stunned, he tried to get up, but a steel-tipped boot connected with his stomach, effectively winding him.
"I've controlled you all your damn life," a grating voice whispered into his ear. "Do you really think you could just walk away from it now?"
Jason gave a sob of fear as he felt something cold and sharp pressing against the back of his neck. Alan laughed softly.
"Maybe I'll kill you, and maybe I won't. Maybe I'll let you live with the scars. That'd be worse, wouldn't it, Jason? Having the scars where everyone can see them."
The knife shifted, and Jason felt the cold steel pressing against his cheek. "I'll make you up for that movie, Jason. They won't need any of that latex shit. Save them a fortune on special effects."
"Please..." Jason sobbed, terrified. Alan couldn't resist a smile. He could almost smell the boy's fear, it was so acute.
"Please what, Jason? You want me to use the knife?"
"No!" Jason gasped in panic. He cringed with pain as Alan pressed his hand hard against the spot where he'd been struck by the iron bar.
"Yes, no, whatever," Alan growled. "You don't know what the hell you want. That's why I always had to take charge, Jason." He drew the blade slowly across Jason's cheek, and Jason was barely able to keep still as he felt the sharp, stinging pain, followed by the warm blood, oozing slowly down his face.
"You how how good I am with a knife?" Alan asked absently. "I'm damned good. I could cut your damned heart out before you have you're even dead. Would you like me to do that, Jason?"
Jason shut his eyes tightly, not daring to move or speak. Alan looked down coldly at the boy.
"You're worthless, Jason. Say it. Say you're worthless."
The protest ended in a scream of pain as Alan used the hilt of the knife to break Jason's right hand, crushing the bones relentlessly.
"Say it," Alan hissed threateningly. "Damn it, say it!"
"I'm worthless," Jason whispered in a trembling voice, tears of pain and fear trickling down his cheeks. Alan nodded.
"Good. You don't deserve to live."
Jason hesitated, and was rewarded with a brutal blow to his shoulder.
"I... I don't deserve to live."
"That's right," Alan whispered. "You don't, and I'm gonna do something about that, you little shit. Right now..."
He lifted the knife, and brought it down, only to strike the floor when Jason rolled out of the way. Cursing furiously, Alan got up off his knees and reached Jason in a few long strides, snatching up the iron bar on the way. Then, before Jason had a chance to move, or defend himself, Alan slammed the bar down across Jason's skull, knocking the boy senseless.
Alan's eyes glowed violently red as he lifted the bar up again.
* * * *
Tommy had just gotten out of sight of the Youth Centre when he realised
he'd left his wallet behind, on the bar. He hesitated, debating whether
to just leave it and pick it up tomorrow, but his concern for Jason overrode
it. He hadn't really liked leaving Jason by himself when he was so upset,
and going back for his wallet would be a good excuse to see if Jason really
was okay. Gritting his teeth, and hoping Jason wouldn't be angry at him,
he headed back in the direction of the Youth Centre.
* * * *
Alan Scott grunted as he dragged Jason's semi-conscious form across
the floor and back into the bathroom. He'd left a trail of blood on the
floor, but that wouldn't matter. He'd be long gone by the time anyone came
along and found Jason.
He let the boy drop, and then knelt down, the knife held and ready for use. He'd already beaten him within an inch of his life, and the knife was only a guarantee. Smiling evilly to himself, he tore Jason's shirt wide open, and used the knife to reopen some of the welts across the boy's stomach. Blood bubbled out, and flowed freely to the floor, spreading rapidly across the tiles. Jason, weak and helpless to fight, could only moan softly in pain. Alan laughed in response.
"Don't worry, Jason. At the rate you're losing blood, you won't make it till morning."
He reached up, and was about to make a thin cut across Jason's throat, when he heard someone enter the Youth Centre.
Tommy looked around, frowning. Where had he gone....?
"Where are you, bro?"
He wandered over to the bench and grabbed his wallet, which sat there. The odds were that Jason was probably in the bathroom.... Tommy just hoped he hadn't removed any facilities from their place on the wall in a fit of anger. He started towards the bathroom, determined to confront his friend.
Jason had heard Tommy as well, by then, and opened his mouth to try and shout a warning. Alan, not caring to deal with another teen, one much more physically able and confident than Jason, clamped a hand tightly over Jason's mouth to keep him quiet.
Tommy was almost to the door of the bathroom when his communicator chimed. Scowling with frustration, he reluctantly answered the call.
"Tommy, here. What's up?"
"Report to downtown Angel Grove immediately," Zordon's voice ordered the Red Ranger. "We have a serious situation there with one of King Mondo's monsters. The other rangers are already on the scene."
Tommy sighed inwardly. It never failed....
"I'm on my way, Zordon," Tommy muttered as he turned away from the bathroom. "Sorry, Jase. You're gonna have to deal with this on your own after all."
Jason dimly heard Tommy's voice, and the musical chime of the communicators, and realised that unless he thought of something quickly, he would not have to worry about anything again. Instinct took over, and Jason did the only thing he could think of. Opening his mouth, he bit down as hard as he could on Alan's finger.
Tommy spun around in shock, seconds before activating the teleportation beam, alerted by a howl of pain that erupted from the bathroom. That had not been Jason, he was sure of it. Which meant someone else was in the building with Jason....
Heedless of his own safety, Tommy charged forward and slammed his full weight into the bathroom door, forcing it wide open. Alan Scott was immediately on his feet, leaving Jason bleeding and helpless on the tiled floor, and for a second, both teen and adult stood in a silent impasse.
Finally, Alan spoke in a soft, threatening voice.
"Tommy, I'm going to give you five seconds to turn around and walk out of here."
Tommy looked past Alan to Jason's limp form, battered, bruised and bleeding on the floor. A moment later, he felt the old rage hit, and he took up fighting stance in the doorway.
"Not a fucking chance," he whispered, ready for a fight.
Alan hesitated. Even though Jason and Tommy had been equal martial arts opponents when Tommy first arrived in Angel Grove, Tommy had since surpassed Jason in skill. Tommy also had a vicious, almost savage instinct that Jason had never possessed. Finally, though, he shook it off, lifted the knife and advanced on the Red Ranger.
Tommy stood still, perfectly still, refusing to give way to panic or fear. He held Jason's life in his hands, and quite possibly his own now, as well. There was no time to contact the other rangers. He either took Alan Scott down himself, or Jason would pay the consequences. He watched the knife warily, ready for any move. He'd been witness plenty of times in his young life to knife fights; he had been in some of them himself. He knew what to expect, and how to deal with it.
Alan moved sharply forward, slashing at Tommy with the long blade. The boy leapt backwards, just out of reach, and as Alan was still recovering from the velocity of his lunge, Tommy came back and kicked the knife cleanly out of Alan's hand with a hard, fast roundhouse kick to the wrist.
Alan fell back, clutching his wrist in pain and shock. "You little shit!" he gasped, more in shock than pain. Tommy advanced slowly, cautiously.
"You're not that good with a knife, Mr. Scott. Please move over to the corner."
Alan glanced around, but the iron bar was nowhere in sight. He realised with dismay that he had to have left it out in the main area of the Youth Centre. Biting back the pain in his wrist, he straightened up and took a defensive position. Tommy regarded him sceptically.
"Don't be stupid, Mr. Scott. You know I can beat the crap out of you. I'll do it, if you force me to."
Alan looked back to Jason, who lay still, seemingly unconscious. Then, he finally gave in and walked slowly across the floor to the far corner, where Tommy had indicated. Watching him out of the corner of his eye, Tommy then went over to check Jason.
Jason had taken a vicious beating. His head was badly bruised and there hardly seemed an inch of flesh on his body that hadn't suffered from the attack. The cuts to his stomach were the worst. Jason was losing blood fast, and Tommy knew he had to get Jason to hospital. His heart beating in his throat, Tommy pulled his jacket off and tore it quickly into thick strips, which he used as compresses.
"Hang on, buddy," he whispered, wincing in sympathy pain as Jason sobbed with agony. He was so busy taking care of Jason that he didn't notice Alan Scott move across to the door and slip silently away.
Alan froze, his eyes nearly bugging out in shock as he came face to muzzle with four laser weapons. Looking past the nearest weapon, he found himself staring into the mask of the Blue Zeo Ranger, who was flanked by the Green, Pink and Yellow Rangers. He would have risked taking on one Ranger, but not four. Beaten, he made no protest when the Pink Ranger placed a pair of metal restraints on his wrists. Blue Ranger then nodded to Green Ranger.
"You three go and help Tommy and Jason. I'll take Mr. Scott to the local precinct."
Green Ranger nodded and the three of them hurried into the bathroom as Blue Ranger teleported out with Alan.
"The guys' bathroom!" Tanya exclaimed with a wrinkled nose as she removed her helmet. "Gross!"
Adam spared her an exasperated look as he crossed the floor to join Tommy, who was cradling Jason in his arms and trying desperately to stop the steady flow of blood.
"How is he, Tommy?"
"I don't know," Tommy answered, struggling to keep his voice steady. "He's losing a lot of blood." He looked around, and saw that Alan had disappeared from the corner. "Hey, where...?"
"It's okay," Adam reassured him. "We cornered him just outside. Rocky took him to the police station. Tommy, are you okay?"
"Sure," Tommy mumbled. "Sorry about not showing up for the fight."
"Huh? Oh... Don't worry about it. We took care of it. It's a good thing for Jase that you didn't follow orders."
The girls approached, then, and Kat cringed at the acrid smell that met them.
"I've never seen so much blood!" she gasped, struggling to maintain a calm exterior.
Tommy looked grim. "Except in Nightmare On Elm Street. Tanya, go and call an ambulance, quick!"
"No," Adam said firmly. "We'll teleport to the hospital. It'll take less time." He looked back to the girls. "Helmets back on."
They obeyed, and gathered around Tommy and Jason. A moment later, all of them vanished in a flash of rainbow light.
*A short while later
Melissa was still on the movie set, discussing the situation with Rob, when the call came through. He answered the ringing phone, sparing Melissa an apologetic look.
"Hello, Rob Carter speaking. Oh, Chief Oliver. What can I do for you? Yes, Melissa is right here with me. Is there a problem?"
Rob fell silent, then, and a moment later his face turned the colour of ash.
"Oh... Jesus Christ... When the hell did this happen? He was only here on the set less than an hour ago! ....I see. Do you know if he's all right? ....Oh. ....Yes, we're on our way."
Rob hung up, and found Melissa staring at him with fearful concern.
Rob got up, and motioned for Melissa to do the same. "We have to get to the hospital. Jason was attacked in the Youth Centre by Alan. C'mon..."
Melissa allowed herself to be led out, numbed by shock. Rob issued orders as they went, until they were cornered by both Alec and Sam near one of the hired cars.
"What's going on?" Alec demanded. "Rob, you can't just walk off the set!"
Rob glanced tensely at Melissa, then spoke in a strained voice. "You'll have to take care of it, Alec. Just focus on the sound editing for the rest of the day. I'm taking Melissa to the hospital. Jason's been attacked."
"Attacked?" Sam echoed in shock. "When?"
"Less than an hour ago, at the local Youth Centre. I got a call from the Chief of Police. We have to go. I'm not sending Melissa by herself."
He helped Melissa into the car and was just climbing in himself when Alec caught his shoulder. He looked back at his personal assistant with a touch of impatience.
"What is it, Alec?"
"Let us know how he is?"
Rob hesitated, then nodded. "Will do."
He got in, and the car was driven quickly out of the Lot.
* * * *
Michael Oliver had just finished taking a statement from his son when
Melissa and Rob arrived at the hospital. He offered the two adults a weary
"I do have some good news for you. We have Alan in custody. Courtesy of the Blue Power Ranger." He paused, glancing at his son, then added: "And Tommy."
When Melissa and Rob looked questioningly at him, Michael led them away from the pale boy.
"Tommy interrupted Alan," Michael explained softly. "He stopped Alan from hurting Jason any worse than he already had been. He's been a bit shaken by the whole thing, though. We'll probably need a psychiatrist to talk to both boys."
"Get the best you can find," Rob said firmly. "I don't care what it costs. I'll pay all the expenses." When Melissa opened her mouth to protest, he silenced her with a look, then spoke again quietly. "I'll pay the hospital expenses as well."
Michael nodded towards the front desk. "You can sort all of that out over there."
Rob thanked Michael, then strode across the floor to the front desk.
Michael watched him go, then turned back to Melissa.
"I take it that's Jason's real father, then?"
Tears abruptly filled Melissa's eyes, much to Michael's surprise.
"Please, don't ask," she begged him, stricken. Michael conceded, guessing that something had happened between then, and when he had last spoken to her. Tommy came over, then, still trembling a little from delayed shock.
"Dad, I don't feel well."
Michael placed a gentle arm around his son's shoulders. "C'mon, Tommy. I think I might get a doctor to check you out as well. Excuse us, Melissa."
She nodded, then stepped forward quickly. "Michael, just a moment."
He looked back to her questioningly, and she went around to stand in front of Tommy.
"Tommy, you saved Jason's life. Thankyou so much."
She gave him a quick, but warm hug, then stepped aside for Michael to take Tommy to find a doctor.
*A few hours later
"You don't have to wait here," Melissa said softly. Rob nodded.
"Yes, I do. I've been thinking, Melissa. It doesn't make any difference to me that Jason isn't really my son. As far as I'm concerned, he is in spirit. And... I love him as much as I love my own kids."
Melissa stared up at Rob sadly. "It's strange that it's worked out like this. Jason looks so much like you... It's hard to believe you're not his father."
Rob squeezed her hand and gave her a reassuring smile. "It'll work out. Somehow...."
"Excuse me, Mrs. Scott? Mr. Carter?"
They looked up to see a nurse standing there. The young woman offered Melissa a kind smile.
"Dr. Rowan asked me to get you. Would you come with me, please?"
Melissa got up, then looked back to Rob. "Aren't you coming?"
Rob hesitated. He badly wanted to go, and find out first-hand what condition Jason was in, but he felt out of place all of a sudden. Melissa looked pleadingly at him.
"Please, Rob. I don't want to go alone."
It was the right thing to say, and Melissa had known it. Rob nodded and got to his feet, following the women from the waiting room.
Dr. Stuart Rowan offered the adults his best reassuring smile when they entered his office. He offered them a seat, waiting until they were comfortable before speaking.
"I have to say, Mrs. Scott, you have a very stubborn son. Of course, that's just as well for us doctors. It means half the battle has already been fought and won."
"Does that mean he's going to be all right?" Melissa asked anxiously, not caring for the doctor's philosophy. Rowan nodded.
"Yes, Jason will be fine. He'll be a while in recovering his full strength.... perhaps a month or two.... but he will be fine." Rowan hesitated, then went on. "Unfortunately, I don't have all good news. I'm afraid he's going to have some scars from this. The stomach lacerations were particularly bad. In fact, they caused us the most number of problems. The blood loss was severe, and we needed to transfuse a fair amount of blood to Jason as a result. The lacerations were quite wide. I doubt the scars from those wounds will ever fully fade."
"That will be all right," Melissa said firmly. "As I as I know he'll be okay. We can get him past that later. Now, can I please see my son?"
Rowan smiled as he got up. "I think I see where he got his stubborn- ness from."
Jason hadn't yet properly woken up from the anaesthetic, and had only just been moved from Recovery to a ward. Rowan stepped back, allowing both adults the chance to see Jason.
"Oh god..." Melissa whispered tearfully as she lightly stroked her son's bruised face. "Look at what that bastard has done to you...." She looked up at Rob in distress. "I promised Jason that I'd never let Alan hurt him again! And look at what he did to my baby boy!"
Rob had to fight to swallow back the anger that simmered inside him.
"You couldn't have known this would happen, Melissa. It isn't your fault, and you know it."
Melissa looked around, then pulled a chair up to the bedside, taking up a post that she would not leave until her own motherly concerns had been dispelled. Rob looked from her to Jason, then back to Melissa again.
"I'll let Amy and Max know what's happened. They deserve to know."
She didn't speak; only nodded. Rob waited a moment longer before silently leaving the room. Rowan joined him.
"That really is one very lucky one man in there."
Rob sighed softly. "I suppose so. For all he's been through, I doubt he feels all that lucky, though."
"He's lucky to be alive," Rowan pointed out. "Twice over, actually."
Rob stopped, looking sideways at Rowan. "What do you mean, twice over?"
"During surgery," Rowan explained. "As I told you earlier, we had to transfuse Jason with a lot of blood during surgery. Halfway through, he suffered a severe reaction to the blood we were giving him."
Rob stiffened with anger. "You gave Jason bad blood?"
"No," Rowan said anxiously. "No, let me finish. He had the reaction, so we did a fast check, and it turns out it was the wrong blood type. I don't know who checked that boy's blood type last, but they made a serious mistake. Jason is not O positive. He's AB negative. If we hadn't found that out when we did, we could very well have lost Jason during surgery."
Rob stood frozen, not quite comprehending what had just been said. "AB negative?"
"That's right. Someone is going to get a royal kick in the proverbial when I find out who made the mistake. Pathology, of all places, is no place to screw up."
"AB..." Rob whispered, at a loss. "He's not type O...."
"That's what I said," Rowan agreed. "Is something wrong, Mr. Carter?"
"Tell me something," Rob said suddenly, his heart pounding hard in his chest. "Is it possible for a mother who is A positive and father who is O positive to have a son who is AB negative?"
"No," Rowan replied decisively. "The O strain is dominant. The child would come out type O, and that's a ninety-nine percent certainty."
"But a mother who is A positive, and a father who is B negative....?"
"That's a hundred percent more likely combination," Rowan confirmed. Rob's face had lit up like a beacon, and he slid an arm around Rowan's shoulders.
"Perhaps you can help me out a little, Doctor...."
*Some hours later
Rob walked up the path to the Scott family home, feeling a deep twinge of apprehension. He hadn't been inside the house for nineteen years, and it was unnerving to be so close to it again.
"You can't chicken out," his wife's voice said to him suddenly. "Those two kids are probably worried sick about their mother. You should have come here hours ago."
"I had to have the tests done!" Rob protested. "I told you that..."
She smiled and pushed him firmly up to the door, then rang the bell before he could object. A moment passed, and then the door opened to reveal a dark-haired girl with plenty of freckles. Her eyes widened when she saw who it was.
He managed a weak smile. "Hello, Amy." He faltered, gazing at her thoughtfully. "The last time I saw you was when you were just a baby.... God, it's been a long time...." He coughed as Anne thumped him hard, and reluctantly told her the reason for the visit. "Amy, can we come in? We have to talk to you and Max."
Amy stepped aside and let them in. She called Max, and they went into the family room.
"Is something wrong?" Amy asked, anticipating trouble. Rob looked grim.
"I'm afraid so. Your mother is in hospital...."
"What's happened to Mum?" Max exploded in panic. Anne frowned at Rob as she spoke.
"That was not well-worded. What Rob means is that your mother had to go to hospital because something has happened to your brother."
"Jason?" Amy asked in confusion. Then: "Oh no... Daddy...."
Rob stared at the floor. "Jason was attacked in the Youth Centre. I'm afraid it was your father. He's going to be all right, but he was hurt fairly badly. He'll be pretty sick for a while."
"Was Daddy arrested?" Amy asked abruptly. Anne nodded.
"Yes, dear. He was."
"Good," Amy whispered, tears rolling down her cheeks. Rob forced himself to go on.
"I understand how difficult this whole situation must be for the two of you. It must seem unfair that Jason has us, while you two have, ah...."
He faltered, at a loss for what to say.
Amy wiped away the tears. "It's all right, Mr. Carter. You don't have say that. Daddy brought it on himself. He shouldn't have blamed Jason for what Mum did. And I wouldn't want to live with him, knowing that he tried to kill Jason."
"Me neither," Max agreed in a trembling voice.
"You don't hurt people, just because you're not related to them," Amy went on quietly. "Daddy could have at least pretended that Jason was adopted, or something." She straightened up a little. "Are we allowed to see Jason?"
"Yes," Rob told her, "but not until tomorrow. It's too late now. I came by here because your mother didn't want you staying in the house by yourselves. If you'll both pack a bag, I'll take you to our hotel."
Amy got up. "C'mon, Max. I'll pack your bag for you."
Max snorted in response. "I can pack it myself."
"Fine," Amy grumbled, "but don't you dare pack all junk food and magazines."
Rob and Anne exchanged weary smiles as the two disappeared from the room.
*Regent Hotel, 20th floor penthouse
Danni watched Amy for short while before finally gathering the courage to speak.
"You are so lucky."
Amy looked around at the younger girl, visibly startled. "What do you mean?"
"You've got Jason," Danni explained quietly. "He won't stay with us. He said his home is here. I'm gonna miss him when we go home."
For a brief instant, Amy felt a rush of guilt. Then, she went over and sat down next to Danni on the bed.
"You really care about Jason a lot, don't you, Danni?"
"Sure," Danni confessed freely. "Dad told me about Jason as soon as I was old enough to understand. I've always wondered what he was like, whether he'd be anything like me and Sarah and Tyler. We got so excited when Dad brought him home that first night. It was almost like Christmas. So, yeah. I care about him a lot. Don't you?"
Amy swallowed hard, staring at the thick carpet. "Not too long ago, I would have said no. I do, though. I love him a lot. I guess I've had to grow up a lot over the past few weeks. Danni, did Jason talk to you much while he was staying with you?"
"Some," Danni replied. "He was pretty busy. Dad had him at the set everyday early in the morning, and he was always really tired when they got home. We talked a bit, though." She hesitated, then spoke somewhat self-consciously. "I told him."
"Told him what?"
"I told him I loved him," Danni confessed. "The night before we came to Angel Grove. I.... I just wanted him to know."
Tears filled Amy's eyes. "I've never told him that," she whispered, ashamed. "I guess it was Dad's influence but I never did tell him that."
Danni smiled reassuringly at Amy. "There's no time like the present."
*The next morning
Rob and Anne took all the children to the hospital the next day, and were gratified to discover that Jason was awake and reasonably lucid. The children, under strict orders not to get over-excited, remained dutifully quiet, much to Jason's obvious relief.
"How are you feeling, anyway?" Rob asked in concern. Jason managed a lopsided shrug.
"Okay," he said in a painfully soft voice. "Been better."
Danni leaned over the bed, being careful not to touch Jason and aggravate his injuries. "Jase? Don't worry about anything, okay? We're all here for you, big brother."
Pain registered in Jason's eyes, then, though only Rob, Melissa and Anne understood. Melissa started to speak softly.
"Kids, I'm afraid we have some bad news. It turns out that..."
"Wait," Rob said abruptly. Melissa looked around at him in surprise.
"What is it?"
Rob looked to his wife and the children. "Would you all excuse us for just a minute? Please, I have something important to tell Jason."
They all reluctantly conceded and filed out of the room. Once they'd gone, Rob walked over to the bedside, and looked down at Jason's bruised face. He paused for just a moment before speaking, feeling a fresh wave of anger as he looked at the teen's battered features. Son or no, it infuriated him that anyone would be callous enough to attack another human being.
"Jason? Are you with me, son?"
Jason managed to mumble an affirmative, and Rob smiled.
"Good. I need you to listen carefully, Jason. It's important. The blood test that Dr. James took. You remember that?"
"Yeah," Jason whispered. Rob spoke, his voice tense and his eyes shining with excitement.
"Someone mixed it up with another blood sample. When Dr James told me your blood type was O positive, he was wrong! It isn't O positive, it's not even close. Jason, you're AB negative. Alan isn't your father. I am!"
Melissa gasped audibly. "Rob, are you serious?"
He nodded eagerly. "Damn straight I am. Jason? Do you understand?" He reached down, and grasped Jason's uninjured hand firmly in his own. "I am your father, Jason. Not Alan. _I_ am."
"Dad...?" Jason whispered, tired and confused. Tears began to roll down Rob's cheeks out of sheer relief.
"That's right, son. I'm your dad." He looked back to Melissa. "I had the doctor do a DNA test. I got the results in triple quick time after I waved a blank cheque under his nose. The result was 99% positive. There's no doubt at all. I'm Jason's father."
Melissa began to cry, sinking into the nearest chair with a heavy thud.
"Oh, thank God...."
Rob looked back to Jason, grasping the boy's hand as tightly as he dared. "I am so sorry you had to go through all that, Jason. I'm tempted to sue the ass off this damned hospital for screwing up... but it's partly my fault as well. I should have been content to just leave it be."
It was obvious that Rob's words had gone straight over Jason's head; he was too tired and sick to understand any of it. Rob gently smoothed back Jason's rather mussed-up hair.
"It's all right," he murmured softly. "Everything's fine, son. Just rest, now. All right?"
That, finally, was something that Jason did understand, and he wearily settled back into the soft bed, soon falling asleep again. Rob continued to watch him for a little while before stepping away from the bed.
"I can't believe how easily everything could have slipped away," he murmured, as much to himself as to Melissa. "I should never have asked about the damned blood type. All of this could been avoided!"
"Maybe you believe that," Melissa conceded, "but I don't. If it hadn't happened, Alan might not have gotten to Jason when he did.... Maybe he wouldn't have gotten to him at all, but he would still have been out there, waiting for a chance. I don't want my son living in fear, Rob. It's over now, and it's turned all right. Everything's going to be fine."
Rob turned towards the door. "You may be right." He opened it up and looked out, to where his wife and the kids were waiting. "You can come back in," he told them, and they filed quickly back into the room.
"He's asleep?" Tyler asked, disappointed. Anne scooped the little boy up into her arms.
"Yes, honey. He needs a lot of rest right now."
"Mum?" Amy asked tentatively. "Is something wrong? What were you trying to tell us before?"
"Yeah," Danni joined in anxiously. "You said you had bad news..."
Melissa smiled tearfully. "No bad news. Just a bad mistake that none of you have to worry about. Everything's okay, kids."
"That's right," Rob agreed, walking over to take his wife's hand in his own.
"Everything is just fine."
Nearly a week later
"Well, you look a hell of a lot better."
Jason looked around, and smiled as Rob walked into the warm, sunlit hospital room. "I feel better. Especially knowing the police finally got Alan."
"Yes, I can imagine." Rob went over and sat down on the edge of the bed. "How are you feeling, really?"
"Tired," Jason admitted. He glanced down at his plastered hand. "My hand hurts... and so does my stomach... but I'm feeling okay. Um... How's the movie going?"
Rob smiled ruefully. "Still trying to work that out, actually. We've done all we can without you, but now we just have to wait it out."
"There were only three scenes left," Jason said, "weren't there?"
"Yes. The scenes in the house. Just you and Sam together."
Jason chewed lightly on his lower lip. "Well, why don't you change them to hospital scenes instead of house scenes? You could film it in here, and the hospital owes us a favour for screwing up the blood tests."
A moment past, and then a grin filtered onto Rob's face. "You're even starting to think like me, Jason. That's a damned good idea."
"I wouldn't even need makeup," Jason joked. Rob chuckled.
"Well, I don't know about that, but I'm going to go and have a chat with the administrator over your idea. You're right. They do owe us one."
Silence fell, and Rob made no attempt to move, in no hurry to move from his son's side. Finally, after a little while, Jason spoke.
"What would have happened if the blood tests hadn't been mixed up?"
Rob becam serious. "I was thinking about that, very hard. It wouldn't have made any difference to me, Jason. I like to think I can say that with a hundred percent certainty. After everything that had happened, I wasn't going to just shrug it off. I told you that before, and I meant it. What about you?"
Jason stared intently at the blankets. "I don't know. I didn't want it to make a difference, but it did. I just felt like, all of a sudden, I didn't deserve any of what you'd given me. I.... I don't know."
"I understand that," Rob conceded. "It would have been hard if the tests hadn't been mixed up. But it was a mistake, Jason."
"If you had to do it over again, though," Jason ventured tentatively, "would you have told me the truth?"
"Honestly?" Rob mused. "No. I wouldn't have. I wouldn't have told anyone the truth. Not even your mother. And you know something?"
"What?" Jason asked, watching Rob curiously. Rob smiled.
"I wouldn't have felt the least bit guilty."
Jason had to smile at that, and he settled back down contentedly. "Thanks, Dad."
"You're welcome, son."
A few weeks later....
"Typical of Zedd," Mondo retorted as he and Machina watched Jason emerge from the hospital with Rob, his mother, Anne and a couple of his Ranger friends. "Completely botches up a perfectly good plan by letting that pesky former Gold Ranger interfere. Silly fool doesn't know a good opportunity when it hits him in the face."
"What are you thinking, dear?" Machina asked.
"I'm thinking that it's time to show Zedd how evil should really work. Clank!"
Clank was there in an instant, kowtowing to his ruler.
"Yes, oh Great One?"
"You're to go to Earth," Mondo instructed. "Kidnap Jason and his father, and place them in the Labyrinth. They'll be secure there while I decide exactly what to do with them."
Clank nodded, backing out of the room. "Right away, my king."
"But what about the Minotaur, dear?" Machina asked worriedly. "You never did get all the bugs out of that creation."
Mondo snorted pompously. "It'll give them some exercise while they wait."
* * *
"Any thoughts?" Rob asked as the small group came to stand by the car.
Jason chewed lightly on his lower lip as he thought about it. "MacDonald's would be good."
"Please," Melissa moaned. "Pizza Palace would be better than MacDonald's."
A grin lit up Jason's face. "Good suggestion, Mum. Let's go!"
"What have I done?" Melissa said with a sigh.
Rob chuckled as the chauffeur opened the door of the limousine. "Said the magic words, obviously. All right, everyone in."
"Not so fast," an Irish-accented voice interrupted. Tommy, Adam and Jason all looked around at the familiar voice, and none were startled to see Clank there.
"What the hell is that thing?" Rob burst out.
Tommy and Adam both moved forward, ready for a fight. "I think it's one of Mondo's henchmen," Tommy said, playing ignorant. "Stay back, we'll hold him off."
Clank laughed. "Not today you won't. Cogs, attack!"
Tommy and Adam suddenly found themselves almost submerged in cogs. Jason plainly wanted to join the fight, but was thwarted when Rob's hand came down on his shoulder. "Don't you even think about it."
Even as Rob spoke, Clank had skirted around the fight and had opened a portal near the group. Rob turned his back for an instant, hustling Melissa and Anne into the limousine, and gave Clank the opening he needed.
He sent the signal, and Jason yelped in shock and fright as he was suddenly lifted off his feet by an invisible force, and thrown through the portal. Rob turned back just in time to see his son vanish, and he turned on Clank in fury. "What have you done with my son?"
Clank motioned to the portal. "Right through there. Be my guest."
Rob stood frozen, torn between going after his son, and staying to help Tommy and Adam. A moment later, he heard Jason's voice call to him, sounding distant through the barrier of light. Gritting his teeth and hoping he wasn't making a mistake, he jumped through the portal, vanishing in a flash of light.
* * *
Tommy spun on one foot, delivering a roundhouse kick to an opponent that suddenly wasn't there. Caught by surprise, he lost balance and went down with a crash. Adam, he saw, was in a similar predicament.
"Where'd they go?" Adam asked breathlessly.
Tommy shook his head, started up and froze. Melissa and Anne were climbing slowly out of the limousine, looking frightened and confused. He scanned the immediate area, but it was clear. Clank and the cogs were gone, and so were Jason and Rob.
* * *
Jason fell through the dark that was beyond the portal, hitting the ground long moments later. For several seconds, he lay frozen on the ground, then got quickly to his feet. He'd barely had time to think when there was a heavy thud behind him, and he looked around to see Rob flat on his back on the damp ground.
"Dad? You okay?"
Rob got slowly to his feet, and dusted himself off.
"I think so. What about you?"
"I'm okay. I don't know where we are, though."
Rob clenched his jaw as he looked around at their surroundings. "No place desirable, I'll bet. Perhaps you can explain to me, just what the hell happened back there?"
Jason shifted nervously from one foot to the other. "I don't know, really."
"First it's monkeys in armour and strange crystals," Rob grumbled, "and now this. How do you cope with living here?"
Jason shrugged as he glanced around. "You get used to it."
"Sure," Rob muttered. "Well, I guess we'd better start looking for a way out of here."
Worry flickered across Jason's face. "Maybe we'd better stay put. Just for now... I mean, I've never seen this place before. Who knows what sort of traps there might be?"
Rob came to a halt, then looked slowly back at his son. "You've never seen this place before? As in, you've seen other places like this? Jason, what is going on here? That metal thing back there targeted you specifically. Why? Tell me the truth, please."
Jason stood still and silent, torn. The truth was, there was no real reason for him not to say. After all, he would not be a Power Ranger again. The Gold Powers had guaranteed that in messing up his system, and so he would not be jeopardizing any chance he had of wielding new powers. But the promise he had made so long ago still held firm ground in his mind.
"Dad, listen. I'm sorry, but..." He faltered, a strange noise reaching their ears. "What's that?"
Rob tilted his head slightly, noting the odd sound. "It sounds almost like heavy breathing. Sort of metallic...."
Jason drew in a sharp breath. "I'm getting a bad feeling...."
"You're not the only one...."
Two red lights became visible in the darkness ahead of them. Small pinpricks of light, they gradually got larger until the creature, whose eyes the blood-red light belonged to, emerged out of the darkness in front of father and son.
"What in blazes?" Rob gasped in shock.
The monster rose over seven foot in height, with massive, pointed horns adorned on a huge bull's head that sat on powerful shoulders. The shoulders were followed by thick metallic arms, and enormous bronze hands, stretched out in front of a broad torso of plated armour. Legs similarly plated lifted heavy feet, causing slight tremors through the ground with every step. A tail lashed from side-to-side, crackling with a lethal electrical current.
Even as Jason and Rob backed away, the monster Minotaur opened its metal jaws and bellowed in fury.
"Run!" Jason yelled, taking the initiative. He grabbed his father's arm. "Dad, run!"
Rob didn't argue, and the two took off as fast as they could.
"Both Jase and his dad?" Rocky echoed dumbly as Tommy and Adam related the incident in the Power Chamber. "What would Mondo want with them? Jason isn't even the Gold Ranger anymore!"
"I do not know what Mondo is up to," Zordon said grimly. "All I am aware of is that Mondo has transported Jason and his father to the Ze'Lokaa Labyrinth, in the sixth dimension. The Labyrinth is a dangerous place, with many pitfalls and traps. Very few have ever escaped the Labyrinth alive."
"Why would Mondo send them there?" Kat wondered. "What's the point?"
"I don't want to wait to find out," Tommy said. "Zordon, get us to that Labyrinth."
* * *
Thanks to the monster's bulky size, it couldn't move fast. Jason and Rob soon got ahead of it, taking corners at breakneck speed, gradually working their way deeper into the maze. Finally, Rob reached out and grabbed a fistful of Jason's shirt, pulling the teen up.
"Whoa... Jason, hold up."
Jason slowed to a halt, looking back at Rob with an expression that was part anxiety and part question. Rob paused, struggling to catch his breath before speaking. "I think... we got away...."
Jason grimaced. "Not for long. We have to keep moving."
"Just hold on a minute," Rob growled. "Jason, I don't know what the hell is going on here, and I want to know now!"
Jason was about to try and deflect the questioning when a familiar voice spoke.
"Well, then, allow me to enlighten you, human."
Father and son looked, and anger flashed across Jason's face. "Mondo..."
If Mondo could have smirked, he would have. "So nice to see you again, Jason. It's been a while. Had such trouble pulling myself together again after Zedd tried to blow me up. But here I am. I thought I'd give Zedd a lesson on being truly evil, since he botched it up so nicely with you. But I'm being impolite. I believe your father wanted to know what is going on. Well, it's simple. Jason here is a Power Ranger. Or rather, used to be. He was the Gold Ranger for a time, and quite a nuisance he was, too. Now, he's simply an odd-job boy for the remaining Rangers." Mondo hesitated, then added, "And bait."
Rob stared at his son in disbelief. "Jason?"
Jason's left hand clenched into a tight fist. "Damn you, Mondo..."
"Oh, don't be so indignant," Mondo retorted. "I think it was quite unfair of you to keep that secret from your own flesh and blood. I think he'd be interested about your little exploits when you were the Red Ranger, as well. But I'm afraid I can't stay. I thought I'd just add a bit of spice to the proceedings. Now you have something to discuss before you die at the hands of my Minotaur. Good riddance, ex-Gold Ranger."
Mondo was gone an instant later, but his departure was barely noticed by Rob. "You? A Power Ranger?" Rob said in astonishment. Jason cringed, but said nothing.
A long moment of silence reigned, and then, incredibly, Rob began to laugh. Jason looked around at him incredulously. "What's so funny?"
"Nothing, I guess," Rob conceded. "It's just... Did that over-grown tin can really expect I'd be angry at you?"
Jason shifted uncomfortably. "Aren't you?"
"What for?" Rob asked. "That you didn't divulge a secret to me that you had probably been made to promise you'd never tell anyone? When we only met for the first time a few months ago? Please, it's the most ridiculous assumption anyone's ever made. That rusted kettle obviously doesn't know much about humans."
Visible relief shone in Jason's expression. "Just another thing I was worried about, I suppose."
Rob looked around slowly, then sank to the ground, leaning against the wall of the maze. After a moment, Jason sat down opposite him.
"So tell me, exactly when did you become a Power Ranger?" Rob asked.
"About two years ago," Jason replied. "Just before my seventeenth birthday. Did you see the reports about Rita Repulsa?"
"Heard a little about it," Rob said. "It was more amusing than anything to those of us who didn't live in Angel Grove."
Jason smiled wryly. "Well, the same day she escaped, she settled on Angel Grove as a target. Don't know why. Anyway, I was in the Youth Centre with four of my friends when a quake hit. One second we're trying to just stay on our feet, the next we were standing in this weird place that we'd never seen before. That was the Command Centre, as it was two years ago. Zordon... He's the guy that sort of controls the powers the Rangers use Zordon had his robot assistant Alpha teleport us there, because he'd picked us out to be the Power Rangers."
"So that's when you became a Ranger."
"Not quite. I think I wanted to stay and hear more of what Zordon had to say, but the others were pretty freaked out by it all, so we just said no thanks and left. Stupid Rita, though... She thought we'd agreed to accept the power, and she sent her putties to attack us."
"Sort of like the cogs that attacked earlier," Jason explained. "Only they were a bit easier to get rid of. We managed to beat them eventually, but after that we ended up back at the Command Centre. We agreed to do it initially as sort of a one-off thing, but after we'd won our first battle, I guess it was like there was no turning back. It was almost like a tidal wave. Once we were caught up in it, we couldn't escape."
"I take it there have been a few changeovers?" Rob asked.
Jason nodded. "Yeah. First there was me, Billy, Zack, Trini and Kimberly. Tommy came along a bit later on, and joined us as the Green Ranger. A while after that, some things happened and the powers of the Green Ranger got lost, and Zordon created a new Ranger, the White Ranger. He gave those powers to Tommy, so Tommy went from Green to White. Then, the Geneva Peace Conference came up, and Zack, Trini and I got selected to go to that...."
Rob's face lit up with pride and delight.. "You were at that conference? How come you haven't told me?"
Jason shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe I thought it would've sounded like bragging."
Rob snorted in response. "Hardly. I want to hear all about that, as well. Understand?"
A smile touched Jason's lips. "Yeah, okay."
"So, you went to the conference with two of your friends. What happened with the Power Rangers?"
"We had three friends who knew the secret. Rocky, Adam and Aisha. They took over from us. I don't know much of the other details, except that when I finally came home, Kimberly had gone, and Kat had taken her place, and Aisha had gone, and Tanya had taken her place. And the colours had all changed again. Tommy was red, now, Adam was green, Rocky was blue, Tanya was yellow and Kat was pink. Billy wasn't a ranger anymore when I got back, either."
"And this Gold Ranger business?"
"That was Trey, from Triforia. It's a bit difficult to explain now.... But he was kind of having an identity crisis, and he needed someone to take over the powers for him until he pulled himself together. Tommy came and found me and asked if I'd do it. For some reason, Billy couldn't do it, and I was the only one within reach. I said yes, and I guess I would have still said yes even if I'd known what would happen."
Rob frowned. "Why do I get the impression this story isn't going to end happily?"
Jason glanced away, to the floor. "It's okay. It's just that the Gold Ranger powers were never meant for human physiology. The longer I held the powers, the more it screwed up my body. By the time I transferred the powers back to Trey, I'd collapsed about half a dozen times. Once was in the Power Chamber after a battle, and another was in the Youth Centre, in front of everyone. I suppose it never helped that Alan was always belting me up. Anyway, I'm okay now, but my body would never be able to support Ranger powers again. It's probably just as well."
Rob looked grim. "But if you were still a Ranger, you'd be able to get us out of here."
An odd look flickered across Jason's face, a mixture of pain and regret. Rob sighed inwardly, realising he'd struck a raw nerve. "I'm sorry, Jason. How about we try and figure this out together?"
Jason nodded, biting down lightly on his lower lip. "Okay." The teen sighed, then and got to his feet, wincing a little as pain shot through his stomach. Rob watched him in concern.
"Are you all right?"
"I think so," Jason murmured, rubbing his stomach gingerly. "It's sore... But I'll manage."
"Just be careful," Rob warned him. "The last thing you need is to reopen those stitches."
Jason grimaced. That was true. After getting fifty seven stitches in his stomach, and eight in his right cheek, he didn't need to suffer anymore blood loss than he had. He turned away from his father, looking into the darkness. "Man, I hope Tommy and the others find us soon. We can't dodge that monster forever."
"And Anne and Melissa must be going out of their minds with worry," Rob muttered. "You know, I could make a movie about this, but no one would believe it."
Jason smiled faintly. "Question is, would you label it science fiction or horror?"
Silence followed the comment, and after a moment Jason looked around questioningly. "Dad...?"
Jason froze, his heart skipping a beat. Rob was gone.
* * *
Rob gasped in shock as he hit the ground, and landed in a small pool of water. He floundered for a moment before finding a foothold, and rose up to find he was standing in knee-deep water. Coughing, he brushed his now-wet hair out of his face and looked around at his new surroundings.
He had no idea what had just happened. One second he had been sitting on the cold ground talking with Jason, and the next the wall behind him disappeared and he was sliding on his back, head-first down a steep slope.
As his eyes adjusted to the dark, he realised it was not a pool of water he was standing in, but rather a free-flowing stream. Shivering from the iciness of the water, Rob waded out of the stream, back onto dry ground.
"Jason!" he yelled, hoping in vain that his son was close enough to hear. "Jason!"
The only answer he got was the echo that called back to him, bouncing off the metal walls of the maze. Struggling not to panic, Rob pulled his jacket tightly around his body and trudged off up the long corridor, to search for his son.
Jason spent several minutes pounding at the wall where his father had been, searching for the trip that had opened up what he assumed was some sort of trap door. It was sealed tight, though, and he found his efforts were totally wasted. Distressed and becoming considerably more frightened with each minute that passed, he stood up again to contemplate his position. That was when he heard it. Heavy footsteps.... metallic breathing....
Jason felt his stomach start to churn as the Minotaur monster rounded the corner and charged at the boy, bellowing its rage. Covering his ears, Jason ducked beneath the grip of the monster and slipped around behind him. It was not a clean getaway, though. As he ran, the beast's tail flicked backwards and snapped against his back, sending a current of electricity so powerful through the boy that it lifted him clean off his feet and threw him several metres down the corridor.
Stunned, Jason pushed himself up slowly, then cringed at the pain that flared up through his back. He had little time to lament over his injury, though, for one glance over his shoulder revealed the Minotaur was coming back for a second try. Groaning softly, Jason pushed himself to his feet and started to run.
Mondo chuckled cruelly as he watched both man and boy through the monitors in the castle.
"They're separated. Now it's time to have some fun."
The Rangers landed in darkness. Tommy was on his feet immediately, peering around while the others took a moment longer to pull themselves up.
"Oh god, it's freezing," Kat gasped as an icy wind hit them. Tommy switched on the flashlight that Billy had provided him with, and shone it around. The brilliant light revealed to walls on either side of them, and an endless corridor running off in two directions.
"Which way?" Tanya asked. "Forward or back?"
"Forward," Tommy murmured decisively. "Listen up, guys. Stick close together and don't forget what Zordon told us about this place. It's got more pitfalls than an arcade game. If we get separated, we may never find each other again."
"Here," Adam spoke up, and began to unravel a length of rope. "I grabbed this before we teleported here. If we all hold onto it, we might have a better chance of staying together."
Tommy nodded his approval and took hold of one end of the rope, and moved into the lead.
"Okay, let's go find Jase and his dad."
He was fairly sure that he'd lost the Minotaur. At least, he couldn't hear it any longer. Jason groaned softly as he slowed to a halt and tried to catch his breath. His back was on fire from where the monster's tale had caught him. He knew electricity could cause bad burns, and he had no doubt that his back had been burned by the surge of electricity.
_Great_ he thought dismally. _This, on top of everything else_
"Mondo!" he bellowed in a burst of anger. "If I get my hands on you I'll disassemble you so they can't ever put you back together!"
It was mere bluff. He knew it, and he supposed Mondo knew it, too. At any rate, they both knew he had no hope of standing against Mondo without any powers. His shoulders slumped and he leant back against the wall, only to push off again, wincing from the pain the contact caused.
Why? he wondered miserably, could he not be just left alone? Not a Ranger anymore, but still right in the thick of it. He rubbed his hands together, trying to fight off the icy cold. Usually it was Tommy who was the target for insane plans like this. He wasn't used to being the target or the bait at all.
A sound reached his ears, and he froze, his entire body tensed and ready to either fight or run. Footsteps echoed down the corridor towards him, close but not close enough for him to see who, or what, was coming.
"Dad?" he called out with tentative hope, but there was no answer.
Deciding not to hang around to find out what else could be sharing the maze with him, Jason turned and took off down the corridor. He reached a forked passage and, after a moment's indecision, took the left passage and vanished quickly into the darkness.
Less than a minute later, a tinge of colour became visible down the other end of the corridor, and Tommy appeared, still leading the rest of the team with the rope. They reached the fork, and Tommy finally halted, pulled up by the others.
"What are you running for?" Rocky demanded to know. Tommy looked grim.
"I thought I heard someone call out. It sounded like Jason."
"If it was him, he must have panicked and taken off," Kat mused. "He had to have gone down one of these tunnels."
"It might not have been Jason," Adam pointed out. "It could have been a trick."
"Trick or not," Tommy said, "we have to decide which way to go. Any suggestions?"
Silence fell for a long moment before Tanya spoke.
"I say we go left."
"Based on what?" Rocky asked incredulously. "You know that in the movies, something bad always happens when you take the left door or turn."
Tanya glared at him. "Something bad is likely to happen no matter which way we turn, Rocky. I think we should go left because Jason is left-handed. If it was him that was here before, I think he would have gone left. I read a research report that people make navigational judgments according to which hand they favour."
Tommy had to smile behind his helmet. "Don't take offense, Tanya, but that's one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard. However, I think we'll go left anyway. C'mon. And stay close."
The Rangers hurried off down the left fork, deliberately staying close to each other.
Rocky had been more right than even he would have cared. Jason had gone nearly half a kilometre down the left fork when the floor suddenly fell away beneath him, and only a frantic grab at an overhanging vine saved him from a potentially fatal fall. He hung tightly to the vine with his one good hand, swinging over a wide chasm and holding on only by sheer force of will.
Then, he made the mistake of looking down.
For the barest second, his grip loosened and he very nearly fell. So far below him that he couldn't judge the distance, was the floor of the pit, covered with tall stalagmites whose metal surfaces glinted in the dull light.
Confusion flickered in Jason's mind. Metal stalagmites...?
Panic finally hit, and the former Gold Ranger opened his mouth and lungs, and screamed.
Rob Carter froze, his ears picking up a distant cry for help. That sounded like Jason.... He waited, not even daring to breathe, for the echo to cease, hoping that the last echo would give him a good idea of which direction to take. Finally, it faded and stopped and Rob made a calculated guess as to the direction it had come from. Praying he was right, he ran off up the corridor, hoping against hope to find his son.
The Rangers reached the edge of the chasm, skidding to a halt just in time to avoid tumbling over the edge. Tommy looked breathlessly down into the pit, then back to his dangling friend.
Jason looked quickly in the direction of the voice, then away again, terrified that he'd lose concentration and fall.
"He's slipping, Tommy," Kat whispered, her voice taking on a sharp edge. "What do we do?"
Tommy was at a momentary loss. What to do?
"Jason!" he called out finally. "Just hang on, bro. We're gonna get you down from there."
"Hurry," Jason begged them through clenched teeth. "I can't hold on for much longer."
"Tell him to try and swing this way," Adam said. "He might be able to swing far enough that we can grab him."
Tommy was about to concede when he remembered something.
"The rope!" he shouted. "Give it to me, quick."
He gathered up the length of rope and quickly made a lasso with one end.
"You think it'll reach him?" Rocky asked tensely. Tommy gritted his teeth in grim determination.
"It had better. Jase, listen up. I'm gonna throw a rope out to you, bro. I'm gonna try get it over your head and shoulders."
"Hurry," Jason pleaded again, and they could all hear the stark fear in his voice. Tommy drew in a deep breath and, swinging the lasso over his head, he threw it out across the chasm. The rope landed squarely over Jason's head, and the young man managed to maneuver the rope over his plastered hand and arm.
Not a moment too soon, for an instant later, the vine came free of the rock ceiling and Jason plummeted down into the pit. Tommy would surely have been hauled over the edge and into the chasm as well, but for Rocky and Adam lunging forward and grabbing hold of their leader, and slowly dragging him back, away from the edge.
"Gotta get him back up," Tommy gasped between breaths. "The rope's around his neck... It's choking him..."
The girls came in to help, and between the five of them, they managed to drag Jason up over the edge and to safety.
"Jase," Tommy said breathlessly as he quickly removed the lasso from around Jason's underarm and neck, where it had nearly become a noose. "You okay, bro?"
Jason coughed painfully, and his face gradually began to return to its normal colour, from the deep shade of purple that it had gone.
"I think so... Oh man..."
Rocky whistled softly as he peered over the edge of the chasm, to the stalagmites below.
"Wow, what a drop. Wouldn't like to be the sorry sucker to land on those things."
"I nearly was," Jason snapped, in no mood to joke. A moment later, he felt a pair of hands, gentle but firm, carefully massaging his neck where the rope had burned his skin. A glance back over his shoulder revealed it to be Tanya.
"Just relax," she told him quietly, holding him back when he tried to pull away. "Unless you want to lose all sensation over the next hour or so, then let me do this."
"She's right," Adam agreed. "Some of the nerves in your neck could have been pinched by the rope. Let her do it, Jase. We aren't going anywhere anyway. Not yet."
Jason looked aggravated. "I've had enough of this bullshit. I just want to find Dad and get the hell out of here."
Kat, who had been watching for any unwelcome characters, made a noise of surprise.
"I think we just found him. Look, guys."
They looked around to see Rob Carter appear on the other side of the chasm, looking wet and cold, but unhurt. Jason started up, only to be held down by Tommy and Adam as Tanya continued to massage his neck.
"Dad!" Jason called out. Rob peered at them through the dim light, and then relief flooded his face.
"Thank God. Are you all right?"
"He's okay," Tommy confirmed, getting up and moving to the edge of the chasm. "Are you all right, sir?"
"I'm fine, Tommy. It is Tommy, isn't it?"
Tommy froze, then looked back to Jason, who shrugged.
"Mondo spilled the beans. Not me."
A sigh escaped Tommy, and he removed his helmet.
"Yeah, it's me, Mr Carter," he confirmed. "Now, we just have to figure out how to get you over to this side. Better stay there until we do."
A wry smile touched Rob's lips. "Don't worry. I'm not going anywhere. A warning, though. Don't lean against the walls. They have a nasty habit of disappearing on you."
Tommy smiled and nodded, then looked back to his friends. "Any brilliant ideas, guys?"
Adam shook his head. "I wish Billy was with us. He'd probably be able to get the teleportation working."
Rocky's gaze fell on the rope and he was about to make a suggestion, only to be stopped cold by a threatening look from Jason.
"Don't even think about it. The rope isn't long enough, and he's heavier than I am."
Next to Tommy, Adam suddenly drew in a sharp breath of surprise. They all looked, just in time to see the dark emptiness of the pit shimmer slightly then disappear, to be replaced by what looked like solid ground. Rob stood still for a moment, then started to step forward.
"Dad, no!" Jason yelled. "That's what happened to me. I tried running across there, and the ground just disappeared!"
"Well, there's no other way across," Rob argued. "I'm not a magician, Jason. I can't levitate. I have to try it."
Jason frowned, but didn't argue. Tommy took the rope up and, untying the lasso, threw it across to Rob, who was just able to reach the end.
"Take the rope and hold on tight," Tommy told him as he put his helmet back on. "Then, if the floor vanishes again, we'll pull you up. Just don't let go."
Rob grimaced. "Thanks for the advice. God forbid I should die in this place. You'd never be able to explain it to the tabloids."
A pained look flickered across Jason's face. "Don't say that, Dad. Please..."
Rob stared at his son in surprise, then spared him a reassuring smile.
"It'll be all right, Jason. We'll get out of here, and we'll be fine. I pro..."
He faltered, and trailed off in mid-sentence.
"What's wrong?" Adam asked in confusion. Rob stiffened visibly.
"Don't you hear that?"
Jason got up, then, pulling away from Tanya. "Is it....?"
"It damn well sounds like it," Rob growled.
"What the hell is that?" Rocky spluttered as two red pinpricks of light appeared in the darkness behind Rob.
"Run, Dad!" Jason yelled. Rob needed no encouragement, and bolted across the ground just as the Minotaur emerged out of the darkness.
"Oh shit," Tommy swore, his eyes going wide behind his visor as he stared at the huge metal brute. "Hurry, Mr Carter!"
Rob picked up the pace, and was almost across when it happened. There was a shimmer of light, and the ground wavered beneath his feet.
"Jump!" Jason screamed, his voice laced with panic. "Dad, jump!"
Rob launched himself into the air, milliseconds before the ground vanished beneath his feet. Behind him, bellow of rage became an ear-piercing scream as the Minotaur fell, caught by surprise. Just as Rob landed with a crash on the very edge of the opposite side of the chasm, there was a roar as the Minotaur exploded, impaled by half a dozen metal stalagmites.
"Another one bites the dust," Rocky muttered, peering over the edge at the wrecked metal far below. Tommy helped Rob up, drawing him away from the edge.
"Are you okay, Mr Carter?"
Rob nodded. "Yes. Shaken, but not stirred." He paused, and shook his head when the joke brought no reaction. "Sorry. Little movie in-joke. Jason?"
Jason didn't wait for an invitation, but threw his arms around Rob in a tight hug. Rob smiled faintly at his son's reaction, and returned the hug happily.
"Uh Daddy?" Sprocket spoke up tentatively. Mondo began to walk over to his son.
"What is it, Sprocket?"
"I don't think you're gonna like it. The Rangers destroyed the Minotaur."
"What?" Mondo exploded. "How is that possible? That monster was indestructible!"
"I guess someone forgot to tell that to the Rangers," Sprocket suggested cheekily. Mondo turned away, almost steaming with fury.
"That is it! Clank! Go in there with a squad of cogs, and destroy them! Now!"
Clank barely withheld a heavy sigh. "Yes, yer majesty."
Rob drew back quickly from his son, looking Jason over in concern.
"What is it?"
Jason cringed a little. "It... It's nothing. It's just...."
"Your back!" Kat exclaimed, seeing the rip in the material, and the burned flesh through the hole. Rob turned Jason around firmly and lifted up the shirt to reveal a space of three or four square inches of burned flesh.
"That monster?" Rob asked, and Jason nodded.
"Yeah. It showed up after you fell through the wall. Caught me with its tail."
A smirk cross the older man's face. "Hope you like hospital food. You're going to be back in there as soon as we get out of here."
Jason looked mortified, but before he could make any sort of protest, there was a now-familiar flash of light.
"Cogs," Adam moaned. "Damn!"
Tommy moved forward, fists clenched. "Clank? Do you really want to take us on right now?"
Clank snorted in response. "It isn't as though I have a choice, Red Ranger. Cogs, attack!"
The Rangers all leapt forward into the fight, while Rob drew back with Jason.
"I'm getting dejavu," Rob muttered. Jason glanced back at his father.
"This is what got us into trouble in the first place. Excuse me."
Before Rob could protest, Jason threw himself into the fight, broken arm and all. For several seconds, Rob stood there in silence, watching the battle worriedly. However, it soon became apparent that his concern was unwarranted. The Rangers had no intention of being beaten, or tricked, twice in a row. Within minutes, all the cogs had been demolished, and the Rangers were advancing on a startled Clank.
"Now, take it easy," Clank pleaded with them. "I'm just a lowly hench- man. You wouldn't hit a lacky, would you?"
Tommy thumped his right fist into his left palm. "That depends how fast you clear out of here."
"I'm going, I'm going," Clank reassured them frantically. A moment later, he vanished, leaving them alone. Tommy nodded, satisfied, and looked around at the small group.
"I think it's time to get the hell out of here."
"That," Rob agreed as he moved up beside Jason, "is the best idea I've heard yet."
Tommy smiled behind his visor, and lifted his communicator.
"Billy, do you read me?"
"I read you, Tommy," Billy's voice came back, laced with static, but understandable. "Stand by for teleportation. We'll have you out of there in just a second."
Silence reigned for a long moment, and then there was a flash of rainbow light as they all teleported out of the maze.
"Back on solid, safe ground," Rob muttered as they arrived back in the Power Chamber. "Thank God."
Tommy approached cautiously, removing his helmet. "Mr Carter, technically, our identities all of this is supposed to be secret. We need you to vow to keep it that way."
Jason elbowed Rob lightly in the side. "That means no movies about the Power Rangers, and the people behind them."
Rob smiled, but the amusement had faded to be replaced by a genuine understanding.
"Don't worry, kids. The secret will be safe with me. I promise."
"Here, Mr Carter."
Rob looked around as Billy came forward, and was surprised when the young man offered him a bracelet the same as those worn by the other teens.
"It's a communicator," Jason explained. "Everyone who knows about the Rangers has one. You don't have to wear it. Just keep it close by."
"You think I'd need it?" Rob asked. There was no hint of mockery in his voice; just surprise and curiosity.
"Maybe," Tommy said with a shrug. "Our parents have been taken hostage before to try and make us do what they want. If nothing else, though, it'll cut down on big phone bills for you and Jason."
Rob grinned, then, and latched the communicator onto his wrist. "I'll never take it off. Well, hardly ever, anyway." He reached over and slung his arm around Jason's shoulders. "I think we'd better get our sorry butts back to town, son. Your mother and my wife will be insane with worry by now. And besides that, we have a movie to finish."
Alpha spoke up from where he stood at the control panel.
Then, they were gone in a flash of white light.
Three months later
"So where the hell is Jason, anyway?"
The question came from Rocky, and Tommy couldn't resist a grin.
"At the Youth Centre, helping Ernie. You didn't really expect him to come with us, did you?"
Rocky shrugged. "No, I guess not."
"Don't worry about him," Tanya said with a smirk. "He's simply annoyed that he won't have a chance to mock Jason during the movie."
Billy smiled knowingly. "From what little I've seen of the movie, there's little chance that Rocky would have the opportunity to mock Jason."
Tommy nodded as the teens made their way towards the designated cinema.
"Billy's right. And anyway, why would Jase need to be here? Don't forget, his dad dragged him along to the premiere in Canada."
Adam shook his head. "I don't understand why they chose Canada for the premiere. I mean, it was made in the U.S.!"
"That's true," Kat conceded, "but look at Bean: The Movie. That was a British made movie that was filmed in America and premiered in Australia."
"I'd say it was premiered in Canada because that's where they made the biggest box office profits with the first movie," Tommy reasoned. "Nothing like the thought of big bucks to make your decisions for you."
"Well, Jason is going to miss out on a great time," Rocky decided, ignoring the looks from his friends. "Seriously We're out enjoying a movie, and he's stuck drying dishes. I know where I'd rather be."
While the others only laughed, Billy spoke mindfully.
"We'll see, Rocky. I'd like to propose that if Rocky makes it through the entire film dry-eyed, I'll shout the first round of drinks back at the Youth Centre."
Rocky regarded Billy suspiciously as they paused at the doorway to the darkened cinema. "And if I don't?"
Billy favoured him with a shark-like grin. "Then you buy the drinks, and make a public apology to Jason for pestering him so much about the movie."
Rocky hesitated, then bristled with mock anger when Adam made clucking sounds.
"You're on. Hope you've got a full wallet, Billy. You're gonna need it."
Ernie paused, watching as Jason fastidiously dried dishes and put them away in their correct places. After the truth had come out about Alan Scott, and in those weeks following, Jason had changed a lot. Ernie wasn't sure that he could pinpoint it But there was definitely something different about the young man. Perhaps it was that he had grown in maturity a little... Or maybe it was simply that he was finally prospering after escaping the cruel abuse of a man that he had only thought was his father.
Whatever it was, Jason Scott was becoming more confident and more content with his life with every day that passed. Shaking himself back to reality, Ernie walked over and patted Jason on the shoulder.
"Go and take a break, Jason. I'll finish up this lot."
Jason smiled and nodded, surrendering the towel to Ernie and making his way back out to the bar. The job with Ernie had been a suggestion that he had literally pounced on. After finally graduating, Jason had found himself not knowing exactly what he wanted to do. With a short break between graduation and the start of college, he'd decided to get a part-time job for some extra pocket money while he considered his options.
His friends thought him nuts, until he explained to them that the trust fund his father had provided him with was inaccessible until he was twenty-one.
That was not for another two years, and the money he'd made from the movie had already been divided into the trust fund and several other investments. All up, as far as money in his pocket went, he was no better off than any of his friends.
He finished blending a smoothie for himself and was about to take it to a table when something caught his eye, and he looked to see his friends coming into the Youth Centre. A smirk touched his lips, and it was all he could do to keep a straight face. None of them were speaking; they were all cloaked in a very somber silence.
"What's the matter with you lot?" he asked, fighting back a grin as they approached the counter. "You all look like someone died."
Tommy looked up at Jason, then, glaring at his friend with half-hearted anger.
"Why the hell didn't you tell us that your character died? Geez, Jase, you could've warned us!"
Jason shrugged. "Would've spoiled the ending." He watched them, eyes sparkling with humour. "So, what did you think?"
"I think it's gonna be a while before I see another movie," Tommy muttered, sitting down with a thud on one of the stools.
"It was good, really," Kat spoke up. "The critics don't have a leg to stand on, that's for sure. But tell us something, Jason. How much did it affect you? Honestly."
Jason's smile faded, then. "Honestly? It did affect me pretty badly in some places." His gaze went to Billy, and the other young man nodded his understanding. Jason came around the counter to join his friends on the other side, motioning them over to their regular table. "Most of the time, when we were shooting it, I was okay. But occasionally, there were some spots that threw me. Like, the abuse scenes. There were a couple of times during shooting that I just froze up completely."
"That scene in the hospital," Tanya said quietly. "That was done at St. James, wasn't it?"
Jason nodded. "Yeah. We had to get those last scenes shot, but at the time I wasn't fit enough to leave hospital. So Dad arranged with the hospital directors to shoot the scenes there. See, John was originally supposed to find Austin in the basement of the house. Dad had the scene rewritten to fit a hospital."
"Let me guess," Rocky said dryly. "He convinced them to let him use the hospital with a blank cheque?"
"Actually," Jason said with a chuckle, "he threatened to sue the hospital for screwing up my blood test. It wasn't just that it caused a mix-up between us. After you guys got me to hospital, I needed a blood transfusion during the operation, and they gave me the wrong type blood as a result of the blood test getting mixed up. That could have finished off what Alan started to do in the Youth Centre. Dad was furious, and the directors of the hospital just panicked and said he could do whatever he liked, as long as he didn't sue."
The others laughed, and momentary quiet settled on the group. It was then that Adam elbowed Rocky in the side.
"Don't you have something to say, Rocky?"
Rocky scowled: he'd hoped that they would have forgotten. "Yeah, yeah.
Don't rush me."
"C'mon, Rocky," Kat said with a smirk. "We're all waiting."
Rocky scowled at her, then forced himself to look at Jason. "I just wanted to say, you know... Sorry for hassling you so much. You know, over this movie business. Okay?"
Jason regarded Rocky in surprise, then looked around at the amused grins on his friends' faces.
"What's that about?"
Billy grinned broadly as he spoke. "Rocky and I had a little wager before the movie. If he made it all the way through dry-eyed, I would buy the first round of drinks upon arrival back here. If he didn't make it all the way through, then he would buy the first round, and apologize to you for pestering you so much about being in the movie."
Understanding dawned on Jason's face, and he couldn't resist a chuckle.
"I see." He looked to Rocky, bemused. "So that means..."
"He was crying like a baby when the film ended," Tanya confirmed.
Rocky turned a glare on her.
"Tell the whole damn Youth Centre, why don't you?"
Tanya only smiled cheekily at him, much to the former Blue Ranger's annoyance. Jason laughed and shook his head.
"Don't worry about it, Rocky. Man, if you think that's embarrassing, you should have seen my mother after she and Amy saw it. I think she cried all night. I half wished I'd told her not to go."
"Anyway," Rocky grumbled, "the rest of you don't have anything on me.
You were all bawling yourselves!"
"Yeah, we were," Tommy agreed. "But we're not too embarrassed to let anyone know."
Rocky scowled and, mumbling about needing to get drinks, got up and stalked off to the counter.
"He'll get over it," Adam said with a chuckle. "In a couple of years..."
Jason laughed and shook his head. "You're cruel, all of you."
"Hey, it's you we're defending!" Tommy protested. "Fine thanks we get for it."
A smirk formed on Jason's face. "Knock it off, Tommy. You know I appreciate you."
"But you don't show it anymore," Tommy gushed teasingly, and Jason went beet red, causing the others to dissolve into laughter once more.
"Funny," Jason grumbled, only half serious. Leaning across, Kat grasped Jason's hand and squeezed it reassuringly.
"Don't worry about us. We just need some time to get over the shock." She paused, then added teasingly, "Tell us, have you had any other movie offers?"
Jason laughed, then. "Actually, I have. I sent polite refusals, though. I don't want to go into that area. It's too uncertain. Besides, I have other plans, thanks very much."
"So you wouldn't go in for that even if your dad asked you to?" Adam wondered. Jason hesitated, staring at the tabletop.
"I don't think he would ask me. After this time.... He doesn't want me taking my career in that direction. I agree with him. I don't want to be an actor."
"Wait till someone offers him over ten million," Tommy chortled. "I bet he might change his mind then."
Jason snorted. "I don't think so. Dad set me up well and truly, thanks to that trust fund. As soon as I turn twenty-one, I'll be doing just fine." He looked at Tommy with a half-smirk. "Unless you're trying to tell me that you don't want to go into the karate school with me anymore?"
Tommy smiled, knowing he was beaten. "You know I do, bro."
Rocky arrived back with the drinks then, still grumbling, and talk fell to less serious matters for a while. Finally, the other had to go, eventually leaving Tommy alone in the Youth Centre with Jason. By then, everyone else had left, and only Ernie remained, to finish cleaning up and locking up the place. Jason and Tommy offered to take care of it, seeing the opportunity to have serious talk away from all prying ears and eyes. Ernie accepted, and soon the two boys had the Youth Centre to themselves.
"So, what did you really think?" Jason asked, and for the first time, Tommy noted the worry and pain in his friend's eyes.
"It really was good, Jase. Tanya was right. But man, it was heavy. No offence, but I don't think I could sit through it again."
"I understand," Jason agreed. "Seeing the premiere was almost too much for me. I could never see it again."
"It really was as bad as that, huh?"
Jason understood what Tommy was talking about. "Yeah. Sometimes worse.
It all depended what sort of mood Alan was in. But the weirdest part is that it never actually occurred to me that it was abuse. I always thought it was my fault, somehow. I honestly believed that I'd done something to deserve it. It wasn't until Mum told me the truth that it started to occur to me that maybe it wasn't me after all."
Tommy sighed softly. He knew he couldn't begin to imagine what Jason had lived with for so long.
"Is that why you never told anyone?"
Jason didn't answer straight away, and Tommy felt a momentary touch of concern that perhaps he'd pushed it too far. He was surprised when Jason favoured him with a sad smile.
"I didn't keep it to myself, Tommy. I told someone else a long time ago, and I made her promise never to tell anyone else."
"Her?" Tommy echoed. His eyes widened in shock. "You told Kim, didn't you?"
Jason nodded slowly. "Yeah. It was when we were eight or nine. She knew something was wrong. She's a hell of a lot smarter than some people ever gave her credit for. It was for American History, and we were assigned as partners to work an a major term-long assignment. Most time I went around to Kim's place, or we met at the library. Before that assignment, I'd never really had any friends to ask around, so it never bothered me much I mean, with the way that Alan treated me and all. I probably wouldn't have thought about it if Kim had come to my place first. But this was before Kim's folks started fighting, and having problems, and I got a firsthand look at how fathers treated their kids. I started comparing Mr Heart to Alan, and I started realising then that something was wrong. It's kind of hard to explain.
I guess it was just that Mr Heart treated me really kindly, where Alan made me think that I was the kind of person that no one could find it in them to be nice to. I thought there was something wrong with me, you know? After that, I didn't want Kim to come to my place. I started to get scared of what would happen if other people found out that my dad treated me differently to the way that other dads treat their kids. I didn't know what might have happened, but I was too scared to find out."
"But Kim did..." Tommy guessed.
"Sort of," Jason confirmed. "I don't know what she thought about all the excuses that I came up with to keep her away from my place, but one day she just fronted me after school and asked why I didn't want her to come to my place. I panicked and just ran. Pretty stupid thing to do, but it did the trick. Kim got sick of me being so evasive She'd already figured out that I was having problems at home; she just hadn't been able to guess what. So she followed me home that day. Alan wasn't there when she arrived, and Mum just sent her through to me in my room. She flatly refused to leave. Said we had to work to do on the assignment, and that we might as well work on it while she was there. I agreed just in the hope that we'd finish before Alan got home.
Not that it would have mattered. Amy was so nasty to me all afternoon that by the time Alan came home she was really starting to wonder just what was going on."
Jason paused, shaking his head as he recalled the fateful day. "Alan was furious when he found Kim in my room. I mean, we'd only been working on the history assignment, and I don't know what he thought we were going to get up to... I mean, shit, we were only eight! Anyway, Alan flipped and sent me out to the shed. Told Mum to take Kim home straight away. I missed nearly a week of school after that, and when I got back, Kim confronted me and wanted to know straight out if Alan was beating me. I couldn't lie to her, but I somehow managed to get her to promise never to tell anyone. I don't know how she kept that promise..."
"Neither do I," Tommy muttered. "It must have nearly killed her. One thing's for sure, there's nothing that could have made me keep my mouth shut."
Jason nodded. "And that's why I never told you."
Tommy stared at Jason, not sure whether to be hurt or angered. Jason sighed heavily, sitting down on one of the counter stools.
"Don't get me wrong, Tommy. It wasn't because I didn't trust you. By then, I could almost see freedom. Another year and a half till I turned eighteen, and then I'd be free to leave home, if that was what I needed to do. And after everything, I think I was more worried about Mum than myself. In my own mind, I could cope with the beatings. I just didn't know if Mum would be able to survive without Alan."
Tommy had to smile, then, thinking of how independent Melissa Scott had become. He'd often heard his own mother praising her to his father.
"I don't think you gave your mother enough credit, Jase."
Jason laughed. "I know I didn't. But it didn't stop me thinking that.
I guess that, in one way, it was an excuse for me not to try and break away, or make him stop. Aside from how bad it was, there was some security there as well. I didn't know what would happen if I decided to leave home, or even just go to the police about Alan. That scared me pretty badly."
"I'm almost tempted to thank Bruce Davis for beating you up that day.
By the way... Just why did you let him beat you up? You could hold your own against him easily."
Jason sighed. "Not when I'd already taken a pretty severe beating the night before."
Tommy glowered at that. "Shit... No wonder you ended up in hospital.
Three beatings in two days... Christ, no one should have to put up with that!"
Jason quirked a half-smile at his friend. "Except, maybe, Goldar."
The Red Ranger laughed out loud. "Oh yeah, ain't that the truth."
Momentary silence fell, and then Tommy spoke softly, seriously.
"I wish I could say that I understand, but I don't. Not really. I don't think I could ever understand. But you know I'm behind you all the way. You've got my support, no matter what."
Jason reached out to take Tommy's hand in his own, squeezing tightly.
"I know, Tommy. And that's all I ever wanted."
"But it's going to okay, now," Tommy murmured, his gaze flickering just briefly to the thin scar that now lined Jason's cheek, from where Alan had got him with the knife. Jason noticed Tommy's gaze, and one hand came up automatically, his fingertips tracing the outline of the scar down the length of his cheek.
"It's not a secret anymore. Alan made sure of that. Everytime people look at me, they know what he's responsible for. He'll never be able to live in this town again."
"If he ever gets out of jail," Tommy added, meaning the life sentence that Alan Scott had been given for the crimes of abuse, assault, attempted murder, among many others. Jason sighed.
"Yeah. With any luck, I'll never have to lay eyes on him again." He hesitated, then stood up. "I'm free now. It's not the way I imagined it happening, but it's finally happened. And the best part is that I don't have to acknowledge him as my father anymore. I've got a father now who really cares about me. I can't believe how good it's all turned out."
Tommy stood there, feeling momentary discomfort. He wanted, badly, to embrace his friend, but something held him back. Jason, however, saw the look in his friend's eyes and took the initiative, leaning over and wrapping his arms around Tommy in a huge bear hug. Tommy responded immediately, almost lifting Jason off the floor in his enthusiasm.
"I love you, Tommy."
The words were barely audible, but Tommy caught them and they brought tears to his eyes. This was his brother- maybe not by blood, but in every other sense. Brothers for life, and beyond.
"I love you too, bro," he answered, and meant it.