The next morning
Jason walked into the dining hall the next morning feeling as though a heavy load had been lifted from his shoulders. He noticed some of his friends, Rocky in particular, sparing him odd looks, and ignored it. Mark came up to him as he reached the table, and Jason spoke before the young commander could get a word in.
"You can stop worrying. Everything's okay."
Mark came to a halt, staring at Jason in surprise. "How did you know that?"
Jason looked at him questioningly. "Know what?"
"That I was worried."
"I don't know. Wasn't it logical?"
Mark frowned a little. "Maybe.... But I was awake most of the night worrying about how you were dealing with it."
Jason shifted uncomfortably. "Oh."
"It's okay," Mark murmured. "Just as long as you're all right."
"I am," Jason confirmed quietly. "Listen, you think that maybe later on you can teach me that telepathy stuff? I was thinking it might come in handy. You know.... Cut out huge telephone bills?"
Mark had to smile, then. "You don't need to be taught it, Jason. It's already there. If you try, you'll find you can do it without learning anything."
Surprise, and then realisation flickered across Jason's face.
"Oh yeah.... I already did. On Spectra, before you and Tommy and Colonel Cronus showed up, Zoltar spoke to me like that, and I talked back at him the same way. I don't know how I did it, but I did. It just happened. Is it really as easy as that?"
"Sure. There're other things, too, but I'll talk to you about it later. Okay? After breakfast."
"So what changed between last night and this morning?" Mark asked quietly as the two boys walked along the street, towards the town centre. Jason chewed lightly on the inside of his cheek as he thought it over.
"Well, it was one thing in particular. The thing is, before all of this, I never even wondered about my real parents."
Mark nodded, recalling the night when both Jason and himself had been woken by the same nightmare.
"Yeah, you said."
"And you know Zoltar said a lot of things to me on Spectra about my mother."
Mark nodded again. Jason went on quietly.
"It started me thinking about it. I didn't want to, but I couldn't help it. Anyway, when I was talking to Mum and Dad about it last night, they told me that the night they adopted me, they met my real mother. Mum said that she hadn't wanted to give me up at all, so I guess I believe that. They gave me something, though. Dad had a letter that my real mother gave them to give to me when I was old enough. Dad gave it to me, and I read some of it last night."
"I guess it gave you the answers you wanted," Mark murmured. Jason nodded.
"Yeah. It did." He paused as they came to a halt, and realised where they were standing. "A church?"
Mark smiled at Jason's startled reaction. "Yes, a church. I know the minister. Trust me, it's the best place for talking about what we need to talk about. C'mon."
Jason warily followed Mark inside. He hadn't been inside a church since just after his confirmation when he was thirteen. It unnerved him a little, and he didn't feel sure about what he should expect.
"Relax," Mark told him as they passed through the vestibule into the body of the church. "God won't strike you down with lightning, or anything. He doesn't work that way."
"Do you go to church much?" Jason asked nervously.
"Sometimes. But we do our good deeds in other ways. I don't think God minds that we aren't regular attendants."
The voice came from the front, near the altar rail. The boys looked, and saw for the first time an older man in casual clothes standing near the Paschal candle. Mark left Jason and headed down to greet the man.
"What can I do for you, then?"
"I just need a quiet place to talk with my brother. If that's okay? This seemed like the best place to come."
David was visibly surprised as he looked past Mark to where Jason was still standing halfway up the aisle.
Mark nodded. "That's right. It turns out I have a brother that I never knew about."
A smile broke out across the other man's face. "Well, how about that... Look, the church isn't too private, and the junior choir is due here for rehearsal in fifteen minutes. How about you boys come through to the vicarage? You can have the study to yourselves. It's as private as you'll get."
"Thankyou," Mark murmured, then looked back. "C'mon, Jason."
Jason grimaced, and followed Mark and the elderly man out of the church.
"What exactly do you think I'm capable of?" Jason asked tentatively. All of a sudden, he wasn't so sure that he even wanted to know. Mark shrugged.
"I couldn't say. We might as well find out now, though. Otherwise it'll just surface when you least expect or want it to."
Jason sat in silence for a moment, staring at the carpeted floor. "So What sort of things are there?"
"Psychic powers, you mean? Well, we all have telepathy. That's a natural ability. Then there's telekinesis. Most of us have that, although it's stronger with some than others. Some of us can heal, others are shape-shifters, some are empathic. You might have one or more of those abilities. It can vary. For example, I have a fairly strong telekinetic ability, but Keop doesn't. On the other hand, he's developing as a healer, and that's something that I don't have much ability in at all. Of course, there are some less attractive abilities..."
"Like what?" Jason asked, tensing a little in the chair. It would be just his luck, he thought gloomily, to develop talents that were not so desirable. Mark hesitated, then.
"I'd rather not say," he admitted, "but I guess I need to, don't I? Look, the two worst ones are pyrokinesis and coercion, the ability to manipulate people's minds. Pyrokinesis is bad because it's so hard to control. The other one... Well, it's not often that it can be used for genuinely good reasons."
Jason grimaced. "Why am I getting the sudden urge to bolt?"
He felt a hand come down on his shoulder, and looked up to find Mark staring intently at him.
"Whatever you have, you need to know. Because if you don't, then Zoltar will only take worse advantage of you. I'm sorry to sound negative, but you aren't free. He went after you for a reason. We need to know what it is. You need to know. If you do know, then you can defend yourself if he tries again."
Jason sighed faintly. "I know you're right. Part of me wants to know everything, the other part wants to run. I guess we'd better just get this over with."
Mark nodded his agreement. "I think you're right. Shut your eyes, Jason."
He shut his eyes, and settled down in the chair. Mark's hand moved from his shoulder and a moment later, Jason felt a cool palm pressing gently against his forehead. A moment later, a strange sensation began to fill him.
"Don't move. Just stay still. It'll be okay."
Jason fell silent, sitting stiffly in the wooden chair. For a long moment, the sensation faded, leaving a dull, resonating pulse somewhere in his head. Then, without warning, a rush of cool air engulfed him and he felt himself being lifted right off the chair. Panic rose in him, subdued only by the knowledge that Mark was still holding on to him.
_Relax, Jason. Just let yourself float_
He heard his brother's voice echo inside his head, and tried to do as Mark said. He couldn't pull it off, though, and felt himself slowly spinning out of control.
_You're trying too hard. Stop fighting it_
_I don't know how!_
Jason was panicking, and Mark knew he couldn't really blame him. It was a frightening experience, and one that Jason was not entirely ready for. But still, it had to be done. Drawing in a deep breath, he dove deeper still into Jason's mind, searching for any sign of psychic power. So far there was none, aside from the natural power of telepathy. Mark was starting to wonder whether Jason's talents had been suppressed for so long that they no longer had the potential for active use.
There was a sudden explosion of almost blinding power, and it was all Mark could do not to let himself be thrown right out of Jason's mind. The shock passed through Mark in waves. Jason did not have the ability of just one or two powers. He had damn near all of them.
Mark withdrew quickly, anxious to avoid being drowned by the sudden flood of power. He took his hands back from his brother, and regarded him almost fearfully. Jason opened his eyes slowly, and a moment later his vision focused on Mark.
Mark swallowed hard. "Well, I guess I have to say that now we know why Zoltar wanted you so badly."
Jason paled considerably. "What is it?"
A moment passed, and then Mark stood up.
"Let's go for a walk. A really long walk."
"Where's Jason, anyway?" Rocky wanted to know as they gathered in Tommy's room before dinner. Tommy shrugged.
"I don't know. He and Mark went out this morning after breakfast, and they haven't been back all day."
"Maybe they're just trying to spend some time together," Tanya suggested. "After all, it isn't every day that you learn you have a brother. Or in Jason's case, two."
"Maybe," Tommy conceded grudgingly. Kat regarded him in surprise.
"What's the matter, Tommy? You aren't jealous, are you?"
Tommy hesitated, then sighed. "I suppose I am, a little. It's not just over what's happened, though. It's the fact that Jason knew he was adopted all along, and never cared. It drove me nuts, not knowing anything about my natural parents. But Jason Hell, he never wanted to know. I'm just really envious that he could be so casual about it. And now I guess I'm sort of jealous of him and Mark. I mean, I always felt like Jason and I were sort of brothers. And then finding out that he was adopted the same as me, I felt even stronger about it. But now Jase has found he has two brothers, for real, with Mark and Keop. I don't know. I just feel like I'm losing him."
"You aren't losing him, Tommy," Adam said quietly. "You'll probably find that when we get home to Angel Grove, you two will be closer than ever. Just give Jason some time to sort himself out, and to get to know Mark all over again, as his brother. Okay?"
Tommy sighed. "I guess so."
A light rapping on the door got their attention, and almost guilty silence fell as the door opened and Jason looked in. The nineteen year old stiffened a little, faltering in the doorway.
"Am I interrupting something?"
"No, come in, Jase," Tommy urged him. "We were just..."
"Talking about me," Jason finished off abruptly. Silence fell again. None could bring themselves to lie. Jason sighed heavily, walked around the circle of friends and sat down on the edge of Tommy's bed.
"I suppose I can't blame you. Not after everything that's come out."
Tommy shook his head. "We weren't talking about that, Jase. We were just talking about you and Mark being brothers."
"And about how I've turned out to be a freak?"
Tanya was on her feet an instant later, and sat down quickly next to Jason on the bed. "No! We have not been thinking that. Jason, you aren't a freak! Get that thought out of your head right now!"
Jason's gaze flickered around the room, at each of them. "That's what you've all been thinking. Whether you know it or not."
Kat joined them on the bed, throwing her arms around the former Gold Ranger and hugging him gently.
"We can't help what goes through our subconscious minds, Jason. You know that. But we telling you that we don't think any differently of you, and we would never turn our backs on you."
He hesitated, then looked around at Kat, tears shimmering in his eyes.
"Thanks, Kat. That means a lot."
Tommy, Rocky and Adam had all risen to their feet as well.
"Did you want to talk about anything?" Tommy asked. "Get it off your chest?"
Jason sighed, then. "I wanted to talk to someone about today. What's happened... Everything, I guess. Mark and I went out this morning. He wanted to find out for sure why Zoltar was so determined to find me again."
"Did you find out?" Adam asked. Jason nodded miserably.
"Yeah. I was starting to feel better this morning, you know. Now I feel worse again."
"So talk to us," Kat encouraged him. "You can trust us, Jason. You know you can."
He was silent for a long moment, contemplating Kat's words before speaking.
"Look at this."
He lifted his shirt and peeled away the padding that covered the stab wound, even as the others protested. Stunned silence fell. The wound was gone, healed and looking as thought it had never existed."
"How did that happen?" Rocky asked hoarsely.
"I have the power to heal," Jason answered. "Among other things. Mark showed me how to use it. I healed the wound myself. It didn't even leave a scar."
"What are you feeling so awful about, then?" Tanya wanted to know. "Being able to heal is a good thing!"
"That is," Jason agreed, "but pyrokinesis isn't."
The teens stared at Jason in speechless shock. Finally, Tommy found his voice.
"You... You have the power to light fires? Like in that Stephen King book?"
"Firestarter? Yeah. I've got that. And that isn't all. When Mark said the firstborn of each generation are endowed with a lot of power, he wasn't kidding."
"Exactly what powers do you have?" Tommy asked tentatively. Jason regarded Tommy grimly, then quietly reeled off the startling list.
"Telepathy, telekinesis, pyrokinesis, healing, empathy and shape- shifting. The only major power I don't have is the ability to coerce. Thank God."
"Pyrokinesis is the only bad one," Adam said thoughtfully. "The others could be used for good."
"That's all the main stuff," Jason said. "Mark said other stuff could surface from time-to-time, like precognition. The thing is, I was expecting maybe just a couple of powers. Three, tops. Not nearly all of them!"
He was nearly in tears as he spoke, and Kat hugged him again to reassure him.
"It's going to be okay, Jason. It will. You have to believe that. Just remember that no matter what you're capable of, you're still on the right side. You've got the strength to resist evil. You showed that with Zoltar. When we get back home, you are going to be a major thorn in Divatox's side."
A murmur of agreement swept through the group, but all were stunned when Jason spoke up vehemently.
"I'm not going back to fighting again."
"What are you talking about?" Rocky asked uneasily. "C'mon, Jase.... You aren't gonna turn your back on everything? Not when you could really turn the tide...."
Jason was on his feet and at the door a moment later. "I don't want to fight! I've had enough! Just because I've found out I have a few talents doesn't mean I'm going to go running off to take charge of the battle! Damn it, I thought you guys understood!"
He turned and stormed from the room, leaving the former Rangers in stunned silence.
"Incredible," Rocky grumbled. "He has the power now to defeat Divatox outright, and he doesn't want anything to do with it. How selfish can you get?"
"Shut up, Rocky."
It was Tommy that spoke, and his eyes were cold and angry as he looked at his friends.
"Jason's fought longer than any of you. And he's put his life at risk for the cause more than any of you. Now you expect him to go back to that?"
"Tommy..." Kat protested. Tommy shook his head.
"No. I know Jase. He'd be there to help if he's needed, but you can't expect him to give up everything he has planned and go back to fighting villains. If you do, then you're the ones being selfish."
He started for the door, and Kat stood up quickly.
"Where are you going?"
"I'm going after Jason. I'll talk to you all tomorrow."
Tommy left the room to find Mark standing just outside, looking more than a little concerned.
"Did Jason just go past?" he asked. Mark nodded.
"Yeah, like a tornado. What happened?"
"The others got it into their heads that because Jason has a few powers now, he's going to single-handedly defeat Divatox."
Understanding dawned on Mark's face.
"I see. And Jason didn't react too well."
"No. I don't blame him, either. He's earned the right to his own life. Why should he have to give it up now?"
Mark sighed as the two started walking down the hallway.
"What we want isn't always what we get, Tommy. I can understand Jason not wanting to get involved in the fight again, but he may find he doesn't have a choice."
"How d'you mean?"
"Look at it from Divatox's point of view. You're in the middle of a major war, and someone shows up who has the power to end it, either way. Regardless of what they want, are you gonna just stand back and wait for your enemies to try and recruit him? And even if they didn't ask him to fight with them, would you let an opportunity like that slip by?"
"I guess not," Tommy muttered.
"I'm in the same position," Mark went on. "Seven or eight years ago, when Chief Anderson first told me about the idea of G-Force, and how he wanted me to be the Commander, I nearly quit then and there on the spot. But I didn't know then what I know now. If I had quit then, I would have ended up either dead or on the Spectran side of the fence. Zoltar didn't know who I was then, either, but he'd been keeping track of us and he knew I had power. He wouldn't have let me walk away, regardless of whether I had any intention of fighting him. Jason may find he's got the same problem. Divatox might not be willing to simply leave him alone. And what happens if Zedd and Rita show up again, and realise who Jason really is? Look at how they reacted that time I was in Angel Grove. Jason is about four times more powerful than me, Tommy. The others were right. He does have the power to single-handedly end the war with Divatox. The bad guys are going to realise that, eventually. And when they do, Jason will become a prime target."
Tommy sighed heavily. "Okay, you made your point. What do we do, then?"
"Nothing," Mark answered.
Tommy gaped at him in astonishment, not sure whether he had heard right.
"Nothing? What do you mean, nothing?"
"Exactly what I said," Mark persisted. "All you can do now is support him. He has to make his own decisions. But he knows he can't run from it."
Tommy shook his head, starting to lose his patience. "I need to talk to him. Did you see where he went?"
"Into the gym. But I'd watch out for flying sandbags, if I were you."
The former Ranger spared Mark a strained look before walking on down the hallway and going into the gym.
Not entirely sure what to expect, Tommy went into the gym anticipating getting hit by a flying punching bag. Instead, he was surprised to find Jason sitting over by the far wall, staring miserably at the floor. Grimacing a little, Tommy walked across the floor to join him.
"Don't take it to heart, Jase," Tommy said softly. "It's not worth the grief. They just don't understand."
"Does it really matter?" Jason asked. "They're right, no matter how much I want to ignore it."
Tommy hesitated, then spoke softly. "I just talked to Mark. He... He said that you might not have a choice, that Divatox, or even Rita and Zedd.... probably won't leave you alone."
Jason's jaw tightened. "You think I don't know that? Credit me with some intelligence, Tommy. I don't want to fight anymore, but I know that I'll probably have to."
Silence reigned for a long moment, and then Tommy sighed heavily.
"Shit, what a mess. I'm almost starting to regret coming here. This was supposed to a time to relax. It's turning out to be exactly the opposite."
Jason shook his head slowly. "I don't know that it would have made any difference either way, if we'd turned down the invitation. Zoltar was looking for me before G-Force knew anything about. He'd figured out who I was before they had any idea. If we had've just gone home, things might have turned out even worse. I probably would have disappeared, and no one would have known where I'd gone. And at least I know, now."
"I suppose," Tommy conceded. "Tell me something, Jase?"
"What is it?"
"You don't feel any different, do you? Knowing what your background is, I mean."
"A little," Jason conceded. "It's sort of strange, knowing I come from a planet that's at war with Earth."
"But you come from a group of people that are allies with G-Force," Tommy pointed out. Jason nodded thoughtfully.
"The gypsy group... You know, just in that way, I'm sorry we didn't stay for longer. I probably had some relatives in that camp. Now I may never get to meet them."
"If we'd stayed any longer," Tommy muttered, "Zoltar might have shown up again with twice the number of soldiers. I think they understood that."
"I just hope nothing bad has happened to any of them," Jason murmured. Tommy started to get up, then paused.
"Jason, what are you going to do when we get home?"
"Well," Jason retorted, "I'm not going to just quit on all my plans and wait around for trouble, if that's what you mean. I'm going to apply to Angel Grove University, like I planned to do, but I'm also going to send away for information about the police force and the armed services."
Tommy was unable to resist a small smile. "With all you can do, now, you ought to join Bulk and Skull's detective agency."
Jason rolled his eyes and thumped Tommy lightly on the shoulder. "Yeah, right. We had enough problems before. I am not putting myself in the firing line."
Tommy snickered and got up, pulling Jason up after him.
"Well, whatever happens, bro, you know we're behind you all the way."
Jason smiled faintly, then. "I know. Thanks, Tommy."
The gym door swung open and Mark looked in.
"Jason, the chief wants to see you."
"Now?" Jason asked, feeling intensely tired all of a sudden. Mark nodded.
"Now. He said it's important. You'd better go. He gets impatient really quickly."
Jason spared Tommy weary smile and hurried from the gym. Mark hung back, waiting for Tommy.
"How'd it go?"
"Not too bad," Tommy said. "He's still upset about it, but I think he can deal with it okay."
"Good. But if it starts to get on top of him, there is something you can remind him of."
"What's that?" Tommy asked curiously. A grin lit up Mark's face.
"With everything he can do, now, he'll be able to well and truly kick Goldar's butt from one end of the galaxy to the other."
Tommy began to grin as well. "That will be welcome news. I'll have to get him to put in an extra hard kick for me."
The two boys laughed, and left the gym to go downstairs.
Jason's parents were already in the study with Chief Anderson when Jason arrived. Anderson nodded to the teen and motioned to the spare armchair.
"Sit down, Jason, please."
Jason sat, looking questioningly at his parents. Both adults shook their heads; they knew no more than he did. Anderson went on quietly once he had their attention.
"I'm sorry to call you in here at this time of night, but I just received a phone call that you all need to hear about. Jason, before we knew the truth behind your past, I made a number of calls to certain contacts of mine. It was through those contacts that we learned the fate of your biological mother. The call I just took was from another of those contacts. He's discovered something fairly startling, through access to police accident reports. There were three people in the car accident that killed your mother, Jason. That is not including the driver that caused the accident in the first place. The third person was an eight year old girl, called Nicola."
Jason blinked in surprise. "A girl?"
"Yes. To be precise, Jason, your sister."
The former Ranger froze, almost forgetting to breathe. "My.... My sis.... I have a sister?"
"Yes," Anderson confirmed quietly. "She is nine years old now, and living in a children's home in Astoria, Oregon. That's where your mother and her husband were living when the accident happened. So far, there have been no relatives come forward to take her in. As far as my contact could determine, you are her only living relation."
Jason sat back in the chair with a soft thud. "I have a sister.... Oh, man..."
"You have two choices," Anderson told him. "You can do nothing, or you can act on it."
"Does she know about me?"
Anderson shrugged. "It's possible. I couldn't say for certain."
Sarah reached out a caught Jason's hand up in her own. "Do you want to meet her, honey?"
"Yes," Jason said softly, finally. "I think I do. But...."
"But what?" Donavon prompted him lightly.
"Well, I was just thinking that we couldn't just go over there and then leave again. I mean, we can't just leave her there! In an orphanage...."
Sarah and Donavon exchanged knowing looks. Then, Sarah spoke quietly.
"Well, Natasha chose us to adopt her son. I don't think you would have had objections to us adopting her daughter."
Anderson regarded the pair in open surprise. "You would seriously consider adopting this girl? Without knowing what she's like?"
Donavon smiled faintly. "If she's anything at all like Jason, then yes. We would seriously consider it. But I'm not asking you to make arrangements like that now. I'm just saying it's a consideration. Right now, I think our priority is getting to Oregon so that Jason can meet his sister."
Anderson nodded, then. "Fair enough. We'll take the Phoenix, and leave first thing tomorrow morning. I'll contact the Home to let them know."
Donavon nodded and stood up, and Sarah and Jason followed suit.
"Until tomorrow, then," he said quietly, and ushered his family from the room.
Tommy awoke the next morning to the roar of jet engines. It was the Phoenix, he realised. Wondering where they could be going, he got up, dressed quickly and hurried downstairs. He was surprised, upon walking into the dining room, to find all the members of G-Force, bar Tiny, quietly eating breakfast.
"What's with the Phoenix taking off so early?" he asked as he took his place at the table.
"The Chief, Jason and his parents have to go to Oregon," Mark replied. "They took the Phoenix because it was quickest."
Tommy paused, confused. "Oregon? What's in Oregon?"
G-Force exchanged glances at that, and Mark finally spoke after a long silence. "Jason's little sister is in Oregon, Tommy."
The former Ranger froze. "Sister? Jason doesn't have a sister."
"Actually, he does. It's just that no one knew about her until the Chief got a phone call last night."
Tommy frowned as he sat down. "His mother had another kid, then?"
"It seems like it," Mark agreed. "They should be back tonight. We'll know for sure then."
A faint sigh escaped Tommy as the plate of pancakes was passed along the table to him. "It's gonna be a long day."
Nicola Devlin, better known to her friends as Nikki, was in the middle of a baseball game with a number of other children who lived at the Jackson Lane Orphanage. There were the Bears and the Gipsies, and she was a Gipsy. Appropriate, she believed, since her own mother had been a gipsy.
She wasn't concentrating on the game, not totally. For some reason, she had been thinking about her family a lot that day, far more than usual. Her mother.... Her father.... And, to a lesser degree, about the brother that she had never met. Oh, she knew about him. Her mother had often talked about finding him again, and her father had gone along with it just to keep the peace.
Nikki frowned and adjusted the Dodgers cap on her head. Part of her wanted to meet this mysterious brother; the other half never wanted to meet him. He'd been her mother's obsession, something that constantly occupied her thoughts, sometimes to the point where nothing else had been able to enter. Nikki clenched her jaw. Including herself.
Her head snapped up in time to see the ball sail overhead, and she spun on her heel and took off after it. By the time she'd retrieved it, two of the Bears were home, and the third was making a run for it. She threw as hard and far as she could, and could only watch helplessly as the kid on third base fumbled it before throwing it home seconds too late.
Nikki groaned loudly and turned away. She froze. There, on the far left of the baseball diamond, was the orphanage director, Lynette Porter. She began to wave as soon as Nikki looked, signalling her to come over. Nikki hesitated. She could easily pretend not to have noticed, and go on with the game. There were few times that Lynn Porter wanted to see her that were not due to something she'd apparently done wrong. Intuition, or something deeper, told her otherwise, though.
Biting down lightly on her lower lip, Nikki abandoned the game and went to see what was going on.
Lynn Porter smiled broadly as Nikki approached. A good sign, Nikki thought dimly. It meant she was probably not angry.
"I'm sorry to pull you away from the game, Nikki," Porter apologised. "But this is rather important."
Nikki raised an eyebrow in a curiously adult gesture of mock amusement. "We're getting creamed. Chester can't catch a ball to save his life, and the Bears are getting all the runs. What could be more important than that?"
Porter smiled calmly as they began to walk back towards the building.
She'd learnt to be amused by Nikki Devlin's style and attitude. It was generally the only way to cope with the girl. "You remember telling us about a brother that you'd never met?"
Nikki nodded, experiencing an abrupt, almost startling sensation of dejavu. "When I first came here, yeah. Why?"
"Well, I got a call this morning from an old friend, and your brother is here now with the couple that adopted him thirteen years ago."
Nikki came a complete halt. "What?"
"His name is Jason, Nikki. Jason Scott. He's nineteen, and I think he's very much looking forward to meeting you."
Anger flashed briefly on Nikki's face. "Really. Well, what if I don't want to meet him?"
There was no surprise on Lynn Porter's face. She was privy to the psychiatric assessments of every child at the home, and she understood the resentment that Nikki felt towards the brother she'd never met.
"I know you probably don't want to meet him, Nikki. Please, I'm asking this as a favour. All you have to do is be polite for just ten minutes. That's all."
Nikki stared at the baseball glove she wore. "All my mother ever did was talk about getting him back. Half the time she totally ignored me, because she was so obsessed with him."
"It's not easy for a parent to give a child up for adoption," Lynn said quietly. "Sometimes the effect it has is a permanent one. I'm sure your mother loved you very much. She just never managed to get past giving up her son."
Nikki sighed and shrugged as they began to walk again. "Well, I still had my father. So what's this guy like, anyway?"
"He seems like a very nice young man. I couldn't really say very much, I haven't had that much of a chance to talk to him yet. So, will you do me that favour, then?"
"I guess," Nikki grumbled, trying to cover the curiosity she was starting to feel. "But, you owe me one, okay?"
Lynn Porter smiled to herself. "Okay."
"Nervous?" Donavon asked with a touch of amusement as Jason paced back and forth in the office.
"How can you tell?" Jason muttered.
Chief Anderson smiled faintly. "It's interesting, you know. This is the same orphanage where I found Princess."
Jason turned quickly at the mention of her name. "Really?"
"Yes. I scoured orphanages from one end of the country to the other, looking for the right children to train. In the end, Jason, Princess and Tiny were the only ones I found in orphanages. Mark and Keop were lucky flukes. Just like you, Jason, they could have ended up on the wrong side of the fence if it hadn't been for their mother taking terrible risks to keep them from Zoltar."
Jason sighed. "Just like me... And Tommy thinks he had problems with Zedd and Rita! If they'd known about me, they would have taken as much notice of Tommy as they took of the others."
"Be thankful they didn't know," Donavon told him. "They would never have left you alone."
The nineteen year-old walked over and flopped into a chair. "Yeah, well, wait till we get back to Angel Grove. I'll set off the alarms in the headquarters of every bad guy for miles around. Then the fun will really start."
A door opened close by, and Jason was on his feet again. Almost immediately, he was hit by powerful, mixed feelings of anger, resentment and curiosity. He barely had time to process it before the office door swung opened, and Lynn Porter ushered in a young girl with a baseball cap and shoulder length brown hair pulled back into a tight pony tail.
Nikki stopped just inside the doorway, her gaze locking with Jason's. For just a brief instant, nothing happened and nobody spoke. Then, Nikki broke the eye contact, and looked back to Lynn Porter.
"This is him? You've gotta be kidding. He doesn't look anything like Mum!"
Before Lynn Porter could even think of an appropriate response, Jason got in first. "Well, if anyone tells me I look like my father, I'll take a long walk off a high cliff."
Nikki's head snapped around, and she stared at Jason wide-eyed. For a long moment, there was silence, and then Nikki suddenly laughed. Donavon and Sarah exchanged startled, concerned looks, until they caught sight of the grin on their son's face.
"Congratulations," Lynn Porter murmured to Jason. "Very few people know how to react to her remarks."
Jason merely nodded in acknowledgment, then held his hand out to Nikki. "Hi, Nikki. I'm Jason. Nice to meet you."
Nikki hesitated, then shrugged and accepted the outstretched hand. "Same. I guess."
Chief Anderson rose slowly to his feet and walked to the door. "We'll leave you two alone to get to know each other. That is why we came, after all."
Disgust filled Nikki's face. "Don't bother going. I'm not talking to anyone in this room. Makes me feel like I've done something wrong. We'll go outside. That okay, Miss Porter?"
Lynn Porter smiled. "That's okay. Just be back here in an hour."
Nikki looked back over her shoulder at Jason. "You coming?"
Jason spared his parents a wry smile, then nodded. "Yeah. I guess so."
"So you did know about me, then," Jason said as they walked down a long hallway.
Nikki nodded. "Yeah, I knew. Mum hardly ever talked about anything else."
He caught a sharp sensation of pain, a mixture of anger and hurt. "I'm sorry if she neglected you over it," he said quietly.
"She didn't neglect me," Nikki said defensively. "She always looked after me. It's just that she wanted you back so bad that it did something to her mind. I don't know what. She'd forget stuff, and Dad had to watch her a lot."
Jason bit down lightly on the inside of his cheek, wishing he knew how to block out the emotions that he was getting from her. Instead, he shifted the topic of conversation. "How much else do you know?"
Nikki stood still and silent for a long moment, then turned to face Jason, suspicion in her green eyes. "How do I know you're really my brother? How do I know you aren't a... a..."
"A spy?" Jason suggested when she faltered.
"Yeah, okay," Nikki grumbled. "A spy, then. How do I know?"
Jason looked away from Nikki, staring thoughtfully out the window. Finally, he spoke. "She used to sing to me, at night. I don't remember much about her, but I remember that. She said it was to remind me that she'd always love me, no matter what. She said I'd never be alone as long as I remembered that."
"She sang to me, too," Nikki whispered. "When I was little... She said it was the same song that she used to sing to my brother."
"Here, look," Jason said. He pulled out of his pocket the letter that his parents had given him and handed it to Nikki. She studied it for a long moment, then gave a choked sob. "That's her writing. You are my brother...."
Jason glanced down the corridor, towards the heavy wooden doors. "Why don't we go outside, and find a shady spot to talk?"
Nikki nodded, and the two headed out of the building.
"In answer to your question," Nikki said, "Mum and Dad told me every- thing. It freaked me out a bit, I guess, but Dad talked it over with me. He kept saying, you can't blame someone for who their parents are. Besides, you ended up away from him, so I s'pose you must have turned out okay."
Jason smiled wryly. "Thanks. And just for the record, I was never with him to begin with. Your... Our mother made sure of that."
"Well, did you always know who your father was?" Nikki asked.
Jason shook his head, then. "No. I always knew I was adopted, but I never knew who my real parents were. To be honest, I never wanted to know. But Zoltar never stopped looking for me, and about a week ago, he found me."
Nikki's eyes widened. "What happened?"
Jason glanced around again, then motioned to a large Elm tree. They sat down in the shade of the tree's branches, and then Jason quietly told Nikki of all that had gone on.
"He wanted you to join him?" Nikki asked wonderingly when Jason finished talking.
Jason nodded. "Yeah, and I told him where to go. He would have killed me then, I guess, except that Mark, Tommy and Colonel Cronus showed up in time to stop him."
"Who are those people?"
"Tommy's my best friend. Colonel Cronus is a friend of G-Force, and Mark is the Commander of G-Force." Jason hesitated, then added: "Mark's also my brother."
The deeper meaning in the statement was not lost on Nikki. "You mean Zoltar had other kids? Man, that really is freaky...."
"He had three other kids, actually," Jason explained. "One of them... Well, she died. But Mark and Keop are part of G-Force, fighting against Zoltar."
Nikki snickered. "I bet he doesn't like that."
"No, not really," Jason agreed, smiling. "I think it really got to him that he's got three kids all on opposite sides to him."
Silence fell for a moment, and then Nikki looked up at him. "So what now?"
"What d'you mean?"
"You know what I mean. Are you gonna just go off again now that you've met me? Are you gonna leave me in this orphanage like I don't exist?"
"No," Jason said tentatively. "I think the important question is, what do you want? My mum and dad are willing to adopt you, but they won't do that if you don't want to be adopted."
Nikki chewed lightly on her lower lip. "They hardly even know me. For all they know, I could be the biggest brat in the whole world."
A smile tugged at the corners of Jason's mouth. "Are you?"
The younger girl snorted in response. "Depends. What are they like?"
"Mum and Dad?"
Jason shrugged. "They're great people. I love them a lot. They took good enough care of me that I never really wanted to know who my real parents were."
"Too bad Zoltar never gave you a choice," Nikki retorted.
Jason had to smile. "Same thing's been running through my mind lately, too. Look at it this way. They're willing to give you a chance, if you'll give them a chance as well."
Nikki looked away from Jason, to where she knew the baseball game was still playing.
"When Mum and Dad died," she said finally, "the last thing I wanted was to get adopted. But after awhile, I stopped missing them, and started to miss just having a mum and dad. Some of the kids here have a mum and dad, you know. They're here because their folks can't afford to look after them, or because they're too sick to look after them. And they have a parents day, too, every second month. I just stay in the dorm on those days. And my friend... Elsie.... She got adopted three weeks ago. A mum and dad just picked her out one day when they came to look around. Do you know how often that happens?"
"Not a lot, I'll bet," Jason murmured.
Nikki shook her head. "Hardly ever. Last parents day, I watched all the mums and dads from the dorm. Then I realised I wanted to get adopted, and I didn't feel bad about it, either."
"I bet your mum and dad want you to get adopted as well," Jason said with quiet certainty.
"Mum picked your parents to adopt you," Nikki said. "I know, because Dad told me one time. He said she was really careful about who she chose to adopt you. So if Mum picked them to adopt you, you think she'd mind if they adopted me, too?"
Jason smiled, then. "I bet she'd be really happy about it. Because if Mum and Dad adopt you, too, then that means we'll be together. And that's something I think we both know she wanted."
Nikki stood up, then. "Can we go talk to them now? If they're gonna adopt me, I want to get to know them a bit better."
Jason grinned, and got to his feet. "I think that's a good idea. Lead the way, Tiger Lily."
Nikki froze, and stared back at Jason in shock. "Why'd you call me that?"
"What? Tiger Lily?"
"Yeah. That's what Dad used to call me. Because I liked the movie Peter Pan...."
Jason's smile faded a little, knowing he couldn't pass it off as a simple coincidence. He knew she wouldn't let him. "Can you keep a secret, Nikki?"
"Sure," she growled, a little indignant that he'd even asked. "I can keep any secret you tell me."
The former Gold Ranger glanced around quickly, then spoke to Nikki in a quiet voice. "When I asked you how much you knew about me, I didn't just mean if you knew who my real father is. Did our mother ever tell you about the sorts of things that Zoltar could do? Strange things that most humans don't have the power to do?"
"She didn't talk about him much," Nikki confessed. "Not to me, anyway. But I know she was scared of him. I heard her talking to Dad one night. I'd gotten up to get some water, and they were talking in the family room. Dad was telling Mum she didn't have to be scared, that they weren't after her. I guess he meant Zoltar. Anyway, Mum said to Dad that he didn't understand, that Zoltar could do things that no humans could do, and he had ways of finding people. She went on a bit about that, but Dad finally stopped her by saying that they wouldn't be interested in finding her now because they'd know she didn't have you anymore."
Jason nodded. "Your dad was probably right about that, too."
"The things that Mum talked about," Nikki said softly. "Whatever it was that Zoltar could do. You can do them too, can't you?"
Again, Jason nodded. "Yeah. I can. I can't really explain it very well, because I don't know much about it myself. I only started to learn about what I could do a couple of days ago. But some of it... It's like in the movies, where people sometimes have psychic powers, you know?"
"You mean, you can move things just by thinking about it? Stuff like that?"
"Yeah," Jason confessed. "Sort of like that. Some of what I can do is good. Some of it isn't so good. But I'm stuck with it, whether I like it or not. I just wanted to be sure you didn't care."
Nikki stared up at him intently, and for a brief moment, Jason found it hard to believe she was just nine years old. "It's not your fault that you can do stuff like that. Just like it's not your fault that Zoltar is your real father. I don't care whether you can do weird stuff or not."
Relief flickered across Jason's face. "Thanks, Nikki. I appreciate that."
Nikki turned her attention back to the path as they walked. "It's okay. I guess some of what Dad told me rubbed off. You know, I spent a lot of time stuck halfway between wanting to meet you, and not wanting to meet you. In the end I didn't know whether I wanted to or not. When Miss Porter said you were here, I nearly ran off on her."
"I'm glad you didn't," Jason said.
"Yeah, so am I," Nikki confessed. She hesitated, then looked back up at him earnestly. "I'm used to looking after myself, Jason. You have to look after yourself when you're in an orphanage. But it'd be sort of nice to have a big brother to look after me, too."
A smile crept across Jason's lips. "I wouldn't mind having a little sister to look after, either. So, what d'you say?"
He held out his hand to her, not really expecting her to take it. He was surprised and pleased when she did.
"I say," Nikki answered, "I want to go home."
Tommy was just drifting off to sleep in an armchair when the house itself began to tremble, and a low rumbling could be heard. He started up in fright, half-thinking it was an earthquake. The others, he noticed dimly, were equally startled.
"What the hell?" he gasped as the shelves lining the walls began to rattle alarmingly.
"Relax," Mark told him, not even bothering to look up from the book he was engrossed in. "It's just the Phoenix."
"Then Jason's back," Rocky said. "Maybe now we'll get to find out what's going on."
"I wouldn't count on it," Therese said from where she sat at a table, helping Penny and Jennifer with their homework. "It's late, and if they did bring the little girl back with them, you probably won't see Jason until tomorrow."
"Therese's right," Jason agreed. "Don't worry about it. We'll find out soon enough."
Although looking unconvinced, Tommy and the other teens conceded and reluctantly went back to what they had been doing, hoping they would have an answer to their questions very soon.
The next morning
Tommy awoke and, until the previous morning when he'd been woken by the roar of jet engines, all was quiet. He grimaced a little as he sat up and peered out the window. Mark had told him, some time ago, that their lives weren't as wonderful as some people liked to think. Now, after spending just one week with G-Force, he could certainly believe it. At least they ceased to be targets for bad guys after giving up their powers....
He pulled a face, recalling Muranthias. Well, they hardly ever became targets for bad guys after giving up their powers. G-Force would probably be targets regardless. Mark and Keop especially.
Sighing a little, he started to lie back down, only to catch sight of a clean white envelope sitting on his dresser. Curiosity overcame weariness, and Tommy reached over to pick it up.
It was from Jason, Tommy soon realised as he tore it open and looked at the handwriting, and there were just seven words.
Meet me at the beach at nine.
A glance at the clock on the wall revealed it was ten to nine already. Tommy cursed softly as he rolled out of bed and quickly dressed, anxious not to be late. Trust Jason to leave a note like that....
Tossing the note down on his bed, he darted out of his room, and out of the house.
Jason was sitting calmly on the sand when Tommy arrived, a faint, amused smile on his face. Tommy glowered at his friend as he sat down next to him.
"You know, you could have just woken me up instead of leaving that note."
Jason regared Tommy with a smirk. "At five-thirty in the morning? I don't think you would have appreciated that."
"You've been up that long?" Tommy moaned. "Man, this place is doing some weird things to you, bro."
"Not really," Jason said. "I just needed some time to think. Anyway, what are you complaining about? You got the note."
"Yeah, about ten minutes ago. I didn't even have time for breakfast."
"That's your fault. You didn't have to be on time. I wasn't expecting it."
"Asshole," Tommy grumbled, and Jason laughed.
"I'm sorry, Tommy. I promise, I'll buy breakfast for you later."
Tommy conceded to that, and flopped back on the sand. "So, what did you want to talk about?"
"Just a few things," Jason murmured. "I guess you're wondering about yesterday."
"A little. But you don't have to tell me if you don't want."
"Yeah, right. I don't tell you, but then I get collared by everyone else later on. The fact is that Chief Anderson got a call the night before. Apparently my mother and her husband had a child, a girl. She was in the car accident as well, but she survived. She's been in an orphanage for the last year."
"So you really do have a sister, then," Tommy said, and Jason nodded.
"Yeah. You aren't surprised."
"Mark mentioned it yesterday morning after you left with Chief Anderson and your folks. But we didn't know for sure."
"Well, it's definite," Jason said. "I have a little sister. I am now the oldest of four."
Tommy chewed his lip thoughtfully. "But she's not related to Mark and Keop."
"No, but that doesn't matter. I know Mark would accept her as family, anyway."
"So what's she like?" Tommy asked.
Jason hesitated, then lay down next to Tommy on the warm sand. "She's all right. Might take us a little while to really get used to each other, but I think we'll get along okay. She's a bit, um...."
"Stubborn?" Tommy suggested, and laughed when Jason threw him an odd look. "Hey, if she's anything like you, bro, she's probably stubborn as an ox."
"Very funny," Jason retorted. "I seem to remember having this conversation before."
"Seriously, though," Tommy persisted. "Does she know about you?"
"Yeah, she knows everything. What her folks didn't tell her, she figured out by listening in on their conversations. It doesn't bother her much. In the end, I think she was just glad that someone was willing to give her a chance outside of the orphanage."
"So your parents really adopted her, then?" Tommy asked. Jason nodded.
"Uh huh. We couldn't leave her there. I wouldn't have let them. She's my sister, after all. And I think our mother would have approved of it. After all, she chose Mum and Dad to adopt me."
"And she made a damned good choice," Tommy said.
"I know," Jason agreed, smiling faintly.
Silence fell for a little while as the two friends watched the clouds in the sky.
"You think Zoltar will leave you alone?"
Even as he asked, Tommy knew it was a mistake. He felt Jason go almost rigid beside him, and sat up quickly, ready to apologize and take back the thoughtless question.
"I don't know," Jason answered softly before Tommy had a chance to speak. "I hope so, but I'm not exactly holding my breath over it." He sighed heavily, and sat up as well. "Honestly, I don't think he will leave me totally alone. But on the other hand, now that I'm starting to get a grip on these powers that I have, I don't think there's much he can do about it. Mark told me the day after we got back from Spectra that eventually I'd be more powerful than Zoltar. Once that happens, he won't have a hope in hell of doing anything to me."
"That's good," Tommy murmured. He pointedly avoided mentioning Jason's ability to rid Angel Grove of her agitators. The smile on Jason's face, though, suggested that Jason knew what he was thinking. Suddenly uncomfortable, Tommy abruptly changed the topic.
"Jase, this hasn't changed anything, has it?"
"How d'you mean?" Jason asked, although he had a good idea of what Tommy meant.
"Well It's just that, before all this happened, I sort of looked to you like a brother. Especially since you never had any brothers or sisters, you know? But now you have two brothers and a sister...."
"You think I don't need you anymore?" Jason guessed. "You know better than that, Tommy. Sure, I have two brothers and a sister now that, two weeks ago I knew nothing about. But that doesn't change our relationship any. I need you as well, bro. I look up to you. I need a big brother, and you're it."
"I know it's stupid," Tommy muttered, "but I started to think that maybe this had changed everything. That you didn't need me anymore."
"It's not stupid," Jason told him. "Not by a long shot. I know how you feel. I felt the same way when you wrote to me in Geneva and told me about David. My first thought was that you wouldn't need me anymore because you'd found you had a brother for real."
Tommy looked at Jason in astonishment. "Really?"
"Yeah, really. It took both Zack and Trini to make me see sense. Me finding out that Mark is my brother isn't going to change anything anymore than you finding out about David. Okay?"
Tommy had to smile, then. "Okay. I'm sorry. I just felt like I had to get that sorted out. I mean, you're my best friend, Jase. I'd hate to think that anything could come between us."
"Nothing ever could," Jason promised. "No matter what happens, we'll always be best friends. And, for the record, if anyone like Rita or Zedd try for you again, I'll kick their ass clean across the galaxy."
Tommy laughed, and flopped back down onto the sand, starting to feel at ease again.
"Now, that's the Jason I know and love," he said with a chuckle, throwing his hands up to protect himself from the sand that Jason flicked at him.
"Smart ass," Jason retorted. Another silence fell, and this time neither boy broke it, comfortable enough in each other's company not to want to break it. Eventually, however, it was broken by familiar voices.
"There they are!"
Tommy and Jason looked around, and exchanged wry glances as Rocky, Adam, Kat and Tanya made their way along the beach towards them.
"Well," Tommy said with a sigh, "at least we had five minutes."
Jason smirked, but said nothing as the others joined them.
"How long have you two been down here?" Tanya asked. Tommy shrugged.
"Not long. Well, I haven't been down here for long, anyway. Jase has been here since five-thirty."
"You're nuts," Rocky moaned, collapsing onto the sand. "Don't you need sleep anymore?"
"No, Rocky, I sleep during the day and only come out at night," Jason retorted. The former Blue Ranger's jaw dropped as he gawked at Jason, and the other teens immediately went into peels of laughter. Realising the joke was on him, Rocky merely grunted and elbowed Jason in the side.
"Seriously," Kat said, sitting down next to Tommy, "is everything okay, Jason?"
Jason smiled, then. "Actually, everything is pretty damn good. I'll tell you now, so you can stop wondering. We found out that I have a little sister. We went to Oregon yesterday to see her, my parents decided to adopt her, and she came back with us last night in the Phoenix. And yes, she knows all about me, and it's cool."
"That's good," Adam said quietly. "Look, about the last couple of days, we're sorry if we haven't been too sensitive about everything. We understand it can't be easy."
"That's the funny thing, though," Jason said. "The more I think about it, the easier it is to cope with. Maybe Zoltar is my biological father And don't get me wrong, that's a pretty nauseating thought at any time But as far as I'm concerned, my real father is the man that raised me. No one else. Zoltar can do what he likes. Nothing's going to change that. And I know he was lying now with most of what he said about my real mother. I know now that it hurt her so bad to give me up that she nearly alienated her husband and daughter in the process. I'm not proud of that, but at least I know she loved me. That's what counts."
"You're lucky, Jase," Tommy said softly, and Jason nodded.
"I know. I have friends and family all over the place now. And I know where my place is. A lot of people are never that lucky. And I promise right now that I'll do my best to make sure that Zoltar never gets what he wants. No matter what."
Tommy reached over and clapped Jason on the shoulder. "And you know we'll be right behind you, all the way. No matter what."
Jason smiled at his friends for a long moment, then started back up the beach.
"C'mon. Let's go get breakfast."