Disclaimer: This story contains somewhat distressing
themes and should not be read by the faint of heart. Be sure to have plenty
of Kleenex handy.
Our story begins at the end of the episode "Missing Green". (At least, I hope that's right). Jason has just rescued his friends from the Dimension of Doom, and is about to step through the portal himself....
Jason stood back and watched as his friends leapt through the portal
one by one, anxious for them all to get through before the portal closed.
Billy jumped through after the girls, and then Zack....
Jason stepped forward, but before he had a chance to pass through the portal himself, a clawed hand locked onto his ankle and yanked hard. A sharp cry escaped Jason as he lost balance and fell heavily. Then, before he could get up again, another clawed hand grabbed his other ankle and dragged him back, away from the portal.
The moment Goldar had Jason a decent distance away from the portal, he let the boy go, grabbed Zedd's staff and aimed it at the doorway. There was a crackle of light, and the portal closed. "No....." Jason whispered, mortified.
Behind him, Goldar laughed cruelly. "You're my prisoner now, Red Ranger! Trapped here, in the Dimension of Doom forever!"
Jason's head dropped to the floor, and it was all he could do to hold back the tears. Zordon had warned him he may be trapped, but his friends were more important, and he'd gotten them all out. Perhaps, just perhaps, Zordon would have a way of taking back his powers, and transferring them to Tommy. Then, maybe, the Power Rangers could continue on.
Jason swallowed hard, fighting off the nausea that threatened to overtake him. He could only pray that his own fate would be quick, and painless....
"Where's Jason?" Kimberly asked, her voice strained with tension. A painfully long silence filled the Command Centre, and when the red ranger didn't appear, the four teenagers turned back to Zordon anxiously for an explanation. Zordon did not have good news.
"I'm afraid Jason was stopped by Goldar before he could escape. The portal is closed now, and Jason is trapped in the Dimension of Doom."
Panic struck the others, and Zack stepped forward, speaking anxiously. "We have to go back there and get him, Zordon."
Alpha spoke up mournfully. "It's no good, Zack. The portal only only once every few hundred years. You can't go back."
"Wait a minute," Trini whispered, her voice barely audible as she struggled with the mounting horror at the situation. "Zordon, are you telling us that there's no way of rescuing Jason? He trapped there... forver?"
There was a moment of silent hesitation before Zordon replied. "I'm afraid so, Trini. Jason understood the risks when he went in. He knew he would be trapped if he did not escape with the rest of you."
Billy came forward then, with an expression of sheer panic on his face. "Zordon , there has to be something you can do. Can't the computer lock onto Jason's communicator, or his power coin? If we can get his location on the computer...."
"The dimension is sealed," Zordon replied in a remarkably quiet voice. "No power extends so far as to break through the seal. I'm afraid there is only one thing I can do, rangers. That is to take back the powers of the red ranger before Zedd can control Jason, or before the powers can be destroyed completely."
The four teenagers were absolutely stricken. "You're gonna leave Jason to Zedd without any powers?" Zack asked in a tight voice. "You're gonna just... just leave him there?" Zordon could not bring himself to reply. Distressed, Zack growled, "I'm getting outta here."
Before anyone could speak, he teleported out of the Command Centre. A moment later, the others followed suit.
* * *
Goldar was no less than stunned when there came a flash of red light that momentarily engulfed Jason. Then the light was gone and, while Jason remained, he was no longer in ranger uniform. He was simply in his black pants and red shirt.
Jason was unable to hold back a shudder. Zordon had done it. He'd taken his powers away. He knew for sure that they were gone, because all of a sudden he felt terribly vulnerable.
Goldar eyed Jason angrily. "Well, at least I still have you for Lord Zedd. Even without your powers."
He turned back to what he had been doing, leaving Jason to wonder just what would happen to him.
* * *
"What are we going to do?" Zack asked softly as they walked together through the park.
Billy shook his head helplessly. "I don't know. I've thoroughly exmained every possibility and it would appear that Zordon was right. There's no way to get back into the Dimension of Doom until the portal opens again, and that may not be for another hundred years. At least."
A heavy silence enveloped the group as they tried to deal with the apparent loss of their friend and leader. Then, finally, Kimberly spoke in a strangled voice. "We need Tommy."
The three words said it all and, with no hesitation at all, they headed off towards the carpark.
* * *
Tommy was up at his uncle's cabin, as Kimberly had guessed. He was just returning from the lake when they arrived, and the surprise on his face was obvious.
"We're really sorry to come up here like this," Kimberly apologized in a slightly shaky tone.
Tommy smiled, although he was clearly confused. "It's okay. C'mon in."
* * *
Inside the cabin, Tommy bade them all sit down. Once they had done so, he looked around at each of them, and felt a moment of gloom wash over him. "Jason couldn't come, huh?"
The four teenagers looked at one another, distressed. It was then that Tommy began to realise that something had happened. "What is it?" he asked quietly. Silence reigned for a long moment, and then Billy went on to tell Tommy what had happened. Tommy listened in tense silence until Billy had finished.
"And Zordon said there's no way back into this dimension? That Jason's trapped there?"
Trini nodded unhappily. "Yes, and that's not even the worst part! Zordon took Jason's powers away from him!"
Tommy was outraged. "He what?! He left Jason to Zedd without any powers? No protection...?"
The others all nodded miserably. Tommy stood up abruptly. "Let's go."
"Where're we going?" Zack asked as Tommy ushered them out of the cabin.
"Back to Angel Grove," Tommy told them. "We're going to get Jason back."
* * *
"Do you have an idea?" Kimberly asked softly as they headed back to Angel Grove. Tommy stared intently out the window.
"Not yet, but I'm not going to sit back and do nothing. I'm not leaving Jason to Zedd."
* * *
Jason stood in stoic silence as Zedd walked around him. He had seen the evil ruler in the viewing globe enough times, but this was the first time he'd actually come face-to-face with him. It was a frightening experience.
"How does it feel to be trapped here with no powers, Jason?" Zedd taunted cruelly. "How does it feel to know you've been abandoned by that ancient fool Zordon?"
Jason drew in a slow, calming breath and said nothing. He hadn't been abandoned. Zordon had warned him of the dangers, and he'd taken the risk. He'd been abandoned by no one. He was glad that Zordon had taken his powers. Kind of....
Zedd motioned to Goldar as he spoke. "I wouldn't be so glad to be without my powers, if were you. If you still had them, this wouldn't hurt so much."
Goldar stepped in. then, and slammed his armour-plated fist into Jason's stomach. Jason doubled over in agony, and dropped to his knees. Before he even had a chance to recover, though, the fist came again, this time slamming into the side of his head.
Jason collapsed to the floor, and the last sound he heard before he lost consciousness was Zedd and Goldar's cruel laughter echoing in his ears.
Command Centre: mid-afternoon
Tommy's arrival in the Command Centre was no cause for celebration, despite Alpha's attempts at an enthusiastic welcome. "Tommy, it's good to see you!"
Tommy spared the little robot a grim smile. "Same here, Alpha."
Zordon, however, wasted no time with false pleasantries. He knew full well the reason for Tommy's visit. "Tommy, I have already told the other rangers that there is nothing we can do to help Jason."
"I can't accept that, Zordon," Tommy replied. "There's got to be some way we can rescue him. He can't be lost!"
"I'm sorry, Tommy."
Tommy looked away from the column of light, tears forming in his eyes before he could stop them. "He's my best friend, Zordon. I can't leave him. I can't...."
"If there was a way," Zordon intoned, then I would tell you. Even if it was dangerous. I understand you are all angry and upset, but you know I would not abandon Jason if there was even just a slim chance that he could be rescued."
"So why'd you take his powers away from him?" Tommy demanded. "Zedd'll be able to do whatever he likes with him now!"
"I could not risk Zedd taking control of Jason with the powers of the red ranger, nor could I risk allowing Zedd to destroy the powers completely."
Tommy stared up at Zordon, unyielding. "Like he destroyed mine?"
"Yes," Zordon admitted after a moment's hesitation.
Tommy felt a rush of anger and nausea scramble his insides. "You mean, Jason is replaceable, but the powers aren't."
"Tommy, you know that isn't fair," Zordon answered. "If there was a chance of rescuing Jason, I would let you take it."
"But I don't get it," Tommy protested. "Billy said you couldn't lock onto Jason to teleport him back, but you can locate the powers to take them back?"
"The powers are seperate to Jason," Zordon explained patiently. "I can take them back because they are not solid matter, and are connected to the power grid which, in turn, is connected to me. Jason is completely seperate; he could only be located through his communicator, and the seal around the Dimension of Doom has rendered it useless. There is no way for Jason to leave the Dimension of Doom, unless Zedd allows him to leave."
Tommy felt his heart sink with despair as he realised the awful truth in Zordon's words. "And there's no way that Zedd'll let Jason go. Right?"
"The odds of that happening are very remote," Zordon replied.
Tommy hung his head, feeling sick and miserable. "I believe you. But if anything does happen... Anything at all... With Jason, I mean...."
"I will contact you and the other rangers immediately," Zordon told him firmly.
Tommy nodded, barely able to bring himself to look at Zordon, or to speak to him. "Thanks."
Dimension of Doom....
The moment that Jason fully regained his senses, he knew what was happening. His hands and feet were strapped to a cold, metal table, and there was some sort of leather brace or mask to keep his head squarely in place and to ensure that he couldn't move. There was a sour taste in his mouth, like he'd been forced to swallow something while unconscious.
He knew what was going on. He'd been forced to swallow some sort of potion or liquid while unconscious, probably to try and turn him to evil.
Jason suffered a moment of panic, but managed to fight it back down. It would do him no good to panic. The best thing he could do was to keep as calm as possible and wait to see what happened.
Jason tried to turn his head at the sound of the grating voice, but couldn't. A moment later, though, Zedd came into sight, peering down at him triumphantly.
Jason tried to speak to tell Zedd where to go, but the brace stopped him from speaking. All he could make was a few muffled sounds of anger, and so he had to settle for as malevolant a glare as he could manage.
Zedd laughed obnoxiously at that.
"Hate is good, Jason. Very good. I want you to hold on to your hate so that it may serve me in time."
Jason moaned silently and shut his eyes. Calm.... got to stay calm.... A moment later, he nearly choked as a foul-tasting liquid was forcibly poured down his throat. Fighting hard not to gag, he tried to spit it out, but Zedd had tightened the strap around his chin, and he could no longer even get his mouth open. The only choice he had was to swallow it, which he did.
As soon as he had done so, the jaw strap was loosened off, and Zedd reappeared above him.
"There, see how easy that was? There's no point in fighting me, Jason. No one is coming to rescue you. You know it as well as I do. You are mine to control."
Laughing coldly, Zedd disappeared from sight, leaving Jason alone to contemplate his fate in despairing silence.
Angel Grove Park....
"Nothing?" Kimberly asked unhappily as Tommy finally rejoined them. He shook his head, feeling worse than he ever had before in his entire life.
"Nothing," he confirmed miserably. "Zordon said there was nothing he could do, and I had to believe him. I don't want to believe that he deliberately leave Jason like that. Not if there was some way to rescue him."
The other rangers nodded gloomily, and they all fell into a despondent silence.
Dimension of Doom....
Jason knew he was in serious trouble when he woke up and found he no longer wanted to fight Zedd. Whatever the potions were that Zedd had steadily been feeding him, they were starting to work.
He shut his eyes tightly. trying to find some way of clearing the fog that was starting to close in around his mind. The only thing he could think of was to recite the names of his friends over and over in his mind, which he did.
Billy, Zack, Tommy, Trini, Kimberly..... It was the only thing which reminded Jason who he was. A terrible feeling of anguish struck him. Who he had been. He wasn't a Power Ranger anymore.
In that moment, Jason wondered if it was really worth fighting Zedd. He knew no one was going to rescue him. Not this time.
A moan escaped him. That was Zedd's potions again. He couldn't give in. If he did, it would mean he had lost all hope. And if he lost all hope, was there any point in even going on living?
He couldn't give in to Zedd. He had to hold out for as long as he possibly could.
Angel Grove Lake....
Don't give up, Jason, Tommy thought silently as he sat near the lake in Angel Grove Park. Wherever you are, don't give up, buddy. We haven't given up on finding a way to rescue you. Don't give up on us. Fight Zedd. Fight him with everything you've got.
"I can't get it out of my mind, either," Kimberly said softly as she sat down beside Tommy on the soft, cool grass. "It isn't fair. Jason always looked after us, and now when he's in serious trouble there isn't a single thing we can do to help him! It just isn't fair!"
Tommy sighed. "I know. I just wish there was something we could do... Anything! He's probably so damn scared, wherever he is...."
Kimberly hugged Tommy miserably. She couldn't say anything to ease his distress; she couldn't even do anything to make things easier on herself.
They were all feeling guilty, of course. If Jason hadn't taken such a dreadful risk, they would have lost their powers, but Jason would still be with them. Which was worse, losing their powers, or losing their friend and leader?
None of them had been able to answer that one. They knew what the politically correct answer was, but the truth of the matter was that they would have all traded their powers if it meant getting Jason back safely.
Tommy and Kimberly sat there for a long time, neither one saying a word.
Dimension of Doom....
Zedd watched silently, anxiously as Jason woke up. It was the fourth day of the boy's captivity and three times a day, every day, Zedd had been forcing him to to take the specially brewed potions. Now, on the fourth day, Zedd watched anxiously for a sign that the teenager was under his control.
Jason blinked and opened his eyes properly.... and Zedd caught a flash of red. Moving closer, he looked down at Jason and finally saw what he had been waiting to see. Jason's eyes were red, a sign that the potions had finally overcome him.
"Jason?" Zedd asked, tense with excitement. Jason blinked again and looked across at Zedd. For the briefest moment the reddish glow faltered. Then it passed and was as strong as before.
Zedd laughed aloud. Finally he had one of the Power Rangers brats in his true control. Now he would terrorize the others through Jason, and show them the true meaning of despair.
* * *
Much to Zedd's dismay, the reddish light in Jason's eyes did not last. In its place, however, something else emerged, something completely unexpected, yet welcome to Zedd all the same. In fact, it guaranteed control over Jason better than anything else possibly could have.
"You are going to do everything I order you to," Zedd told Jason when the boy was finally released from the straps which had held him down for the past five days. Jason glared at Zedd defiantly.
"No, I won't. You don't have any control over me, Zedd."
Zedd smirked knowingly at him. "Oh yes, Jason. I do. Because unless you carry out my orders, this is what will happen." Zedd aimed his staff in Jason's general direction, and a moment later, Jason doubled over in agony. He clutched his head in his hands as an unbearable shard of pain ripped through his skull, and a faint sob escaped him as he went down on his knees.
Zedd pulled back the staff and waited patiently as Jason recovered. then, when the teenager looked up at him in dazed shock, he spoke triumphantly.
"The potions didn't give me control of your mind, as I had expected them to. However, they have given me control of your physical well-being. Do as you're ordered, and you'll avoid the kind of pain you just experienced. Defy me, and you'll suffer more than you ever imagined possible. Do you understand?"
Jason stared at Zedd in deep dismay. He still had free will, and yet could not defy Zedd. Not unless he virtually wanted to commit suicide. This was far, far worse a fate than he could ever have imagined.
Not for the first time, and not for the last, Jason felt despair wash over him.
Zedd looked down at Jason expectantly.
"Do you understand?" he repeated quietly. Jason lowered his gaze to the floor. He had no choice.
"Yes," he replied in a dull voice. "I understand."
Angel Grove Park....
The last thing Tommy and the rangers were expecting as they headed through the park on their way to the Youth Centre, was to see Jason, alone and apparently free. They had been heading despondently across the park when Tommy came to an abrupt halt, causing the other rangers to walk into him. When they started to ask what was wrong, Tommy nodded speechlessly in the direction he was looking. They all looked, and were nearly overcome with shock.
"Jason...." Kimberly whispered, stunned. Indeed, it was Jason, standing by a large Oak tree, watching them silently, expressionlessly.
Tommy shook himself back to reality and started forward, a little confused but grateful all the same to see his friend apparently unharmed. "Jason, it is you...!"
Jason stepped back, away from Tommy, as the teenager approached. "Don't come any closer."
Tommy froze in his tracks, realising from the expression on Jason's face that something was very wrong. Zack came forward, then, moving up to stand beside Tommy. "Jase, you got away from Zedd! How'd you get away, man?"
Jason swallowed hard, wishing desperately that Zedd wasn't making him do this. "I didn't."
A startled, tense silence enveloped the group. "What d'you mean, you didn't?" Tommy asked, feeling worse with every second that passed. "You're here, aren't you?"
Jason lowered his gaze as he spoke, unable to bring himself to look straight at any of them. "I'm here for Zedd."
Trini came forward, then, a horrified expression on her face. "Jason, no! It isn't true."
Jason watched her uneasily as she moved towards him. "It is true," he told her, and then: "Trini, don't!" The warning that Jason shouted was too late, and Trini ran to him before anyone could stop her. It happened so suddenly that no one realised what was going on, until it was too late.
Trini came within arm's length, and Jason reacted according to what Zedd demanded, unable to resist and stop himself. He made a single, sharp movement and struck out viciously at Trini, sending her reeling back into the others.
It was all they could do to keep their balance as Trini crashed into them, and when they recovered, they all stared at Jason in disbelief. Jason stared back, unable to conceal his distress at what he had just done, and, as they turned and fled from him one by one, the tears began to flow.
Only Tommy remained, staring at Jason with open shock and anger. Then, finally, Tommy forced a path through his anger, and saw Jason clearly. The other boy was standing there, tears running uncontrollably down his cheeks. Before Tommy could say or do anything, though, Jason turned abruptly and disappeared over the rise of the hill.
For a long moment, Tommy considered following Jason. Then he changed his mind and hurried after his friends.
* * *
Tommy caught up with them at the Youth Centre. Trini was sitting on a chair, holding an ice pack over her left eye and cheek, shaking as she cried. Kimberly stood off to one side, also crying silently. Zack and Billy stood close by in solemn silence, neither moving nor speaking.
"You okay?" Tommy asked Trini in concern.
When Trini didn't reply, Ernie, who had come over to help, spoke up. "It might swell a little. It's a pretty bad knock. Looks like she walked into a tree!"
The attempt at humour went unnoticed. Tommy reached over and put a hand on Trini's shoulder, but still she said nothing, continuing to cry softly. Ernie hesitated, then left them alone. Once he was gone, Tommy spoke up in an urgent tone. "Did any of you take a good look at Jason?"
Zack looked up at Tommy and spoke bitterly. "What was to see? He took a shot at Trini."
Billy nodded sombrely. "It would appear that Lord Zedd has Jason completely in his control."
Tommy spoke anxiously, desperate for them to listen. "That's just it! I think Jason knew what he was doing!"
Kimberly stared at Tommy, confused and distressed. "You mean he did it on his own?"
Tommy hesitated, realising how it was going to be translated. He went on, choosing his words carefully. "I think Zedd's got control of him, but it's different to when Rita controlled me. I really believed I was evil then, and that I had an allegiance to Rita. She was in total control of my mind. I don't think Zedd's in control of Jason like that! It's something else. Jason didn't want to do what he did back there, but somehow he didn't have a choice."
Tommy trailed off breathlessly, looking around at each of them and hoping they would comprehend what he was saying. Finally Trini spoke in a shaky voice. "Why do you think it's any different?"
"When the rest of you guys ran off," Tommy explained quickly, "I stayed back. I got a good look at Jason. Guys, he was crying! Like, he knew what he was doing, knew it was wrong, but couldn't do anything about it."
There was a stunned silence amongst the friends. If what Tommy was saying was true, then perhaps there was hope for rescuing Jason after all. Tommy took hold of Trini's hand and pulled her to her feet.
"C'mon, let's get to the Command Centre. We have to tell Zordon." They charged out of the Youth Centre, leaving Ernie to wonder just what was going on.
* * *
Zordon listened in tense silence as Tommy rapidly explained his theory, barely pausing for breath. When he was finished, Zordon spoke slowly. "If that is true, then there may be a chance of saving Jason from Lord Zedd. You will need to find out for certain, though. I will not allow any of you to risk yourselves if it becomes clear that there is no chance of a rescue."
"How are we going to find out?" Trini asked softly. Tommy looked over at her grimly.
"we'll have to talk to Jason. See if we can get him to tell us what's happening. If there's even just a slight chance of getting Jason back, I want to take it. There'd be nothing worse than leaving him to Zedd, with him knowing what's he's doing and not being able to fight it. We have to try."
The others all nodded finally in agreement. Despite Jason's hostile actions earlier, they had to take heart and believe, at least remotely, that there was some truth in Tommy's words. Because if there wasn't, and Jason really was lost to Zedd, then what hope was there for the rest of them?
"In any case," Tommy went on vehemently, "Jason's my best friend. There's no way I'm letting Zedd have him without a fight."
The rest of the team exchanged glances. If Tommy could believe and hope, even after losing his powers, then so could the rest of them.
* * *
Jason watched his friends from a distance as they made their way back through the park. He was desperate to go to them, talk to them, make them realise that he hadn't wanted to do what he did earlier. He desperately wanted to ask them for the help he needed so badly to get away from Zedd.
He couldn't do it, though. Zedd was keeping permanent tabs on his every move, and he knew what would happen if he tried to approach them without Zedd's say-so.
He slumped back miserably in the branches of the tree as Tommy, Trini and Zack disappeared over the hill. Kimberly and Billy were nowhere to be seen. They were probably off somewhere, trying to avoid a run-in with him. Well, after what he had done to Trini, he couldn't blame them.
Jason's black mood deteriorated even further when Goldar suddenly appeared at the bottom of the tree, waving his sword around like the prize fool he was. "Come down from there!" the over-sized ape barked sharply.
Jason sighed heavily and jumped down from the branches to land beside Goldar. "What does his Mightiness want now?" he asked in a wearily sarcastic tone.
"Show some respect for your master!" Goldar roared angrily, but Jason was equally quick to retaliate.
"Zedd's got me so I have to do what he says," the teenager snarled angrily, "but that's all he's got from me. I'll die before I show him any respect."
Apparently deciding it was not worth the time or effort to fight it out with Jason, Goldar abruptly switched the topic. "Lord Zedd has a new task for you."
Jason withheld the urge to reply with any further sarcastic retorts. He had been lucky that time, and he knew already from experience that continued attempts would only bring him unwanted suffering.
"Okay. What is it?"
"Write out a note for the Power Rangers," Goldar told him. "Make sure it's delivered immediately."
"What's this note going to say?"
"It will say you need their help to break the control that Lord Zedd has over you. Tell them you will contact them soon. That is all. Do it now, ranger."
A bitter look flashed across Jason's face. "I'm not a ranger anymore. You know that."
Goldar laughed cruelly at Jason's anguish. "Yes, that's right. Well, go then, human. Carry out your orders as you've been told. And here's a reminder for you not to disobey."
Jason cried out sharply and fell to his knees as a searing bolt of pain sliced down through his head. It lasted for a few unbearable seconds, and then it was gone as suddenly as it had come. A shudder passed through Jason as he got unsteadily to his feet.
"Don't worry," he said in a soft, sullen voice. "I'll do it." Turning, Jason stalked off, leaving Goldar to stare after him.
* * *
"Did you see that?" Kimberly whispered in shock. She and Billy were hidden almost dangerously close to where Jason had just been met by Goldar, and they had seen and heard everything. Now, after Goldar had gone, they emerged from their hiding place to talk it over.
"I saw," Billy replied quietly. "Perhaps Tommy was right. Maybe Lord Zedd isn't in control of Jason's mind after all."
"C'mon," Kimberly said anxiously, "we'd better find the others and tell them about this."
Billy nodded, and they hurried off together in search of their friends.
Angel Grove Park; mid-afternoon
Jason sat under a tree, staring at the blank piece of paper that Goldar had given him. His heart was beating almost painfully hard against his chest, and he didn't even notice the gentle, cool breeze that ruffled his hair slightly.
Write a note asking the rangers for help.... Although Zedd didn't realise it, he'd just given Jason the chance he so badly needed. Of course, Zedd obviously meant it to be part of a trap, but what was to stop him from turning it around to aid himself? Zedd wouldn't know....
Jason quickly scribbled a message on the paper, making himself fight against the hope that surged through him. Perhaps, just perhaps, it wouldn't be too long now before he was back on the right side of the fence, fighting against Zedd again with his friends.
Shoving the note into the unmarked envelope, Jason got to his feet and hurried off to give it to the one person who he knew would get it to Tommy and the others.
Angel Grove Youth Centre....
Ernie was surprised, but pleased when Jason came in and headed up to the counter.
"Hey, Jason," he said pleasantly, but his smile faded when he got a good look at the teenager. "Are you feeling okay, Jason? Don't take this the wrong way, but you don't look too good at all."
Jason managed a faint smile. "I'm okay. I've just had a lot on my mind lately." literally....
Ernie nodded, still frowning a little. "Sure. What can I get you? Soda? Hamburger...?"
"Nothing like that," Jason answered somewhat breathlessly as he handed the envelope to Ernie. "Just a favour. could you give this to Tommy and the others when you see them?"
Ernie hesitated, then spoke slowly. "Sure I could, but why not tell them whatever you want to tell them face-to-face? Tommy, Zack and Trini are right over there."
Jason froze for a moment, stricken. He dared not go near them, knowing what Zedd would probably do to him if he did.
He finally gathered his wits and spoke in a tense voice. "Could you just give it to them? Please, Ernie...?" Jason turned and hurried from the Youth Centre as fast as he could move, not daring to even look in the direction of his friends.
* * *
Across the room, Tommy, Zack and Trini watched in grim silence as Jason entered and left the Youth Centre. Ernie had obviously pointed out to Jason that they were there, and it looked as though Jason had panicked. He had literally bolted from the Centre.
Rising up, Tommy went up to the counter. "Ernie, what did Jason want?"
Ernie looked confused. "He just asked me to give this note to you guys. When I said you were here, I think he panicked. Tommy, is Jason okay?"
Tommy smiled uneasily. "Sure he is. Why?"
Ernie shrugged. "I don't know. He hasn't been hanging out with you kids for over a week now, and between us, he looks like he's getting sick or something."
Tommy nodded as he pulled the note from the envelope. "He's okay." He fell silent as he read the brief message scribbled hastily on the paper.
I don't want to follow Zedd, but I can't fight him. Not alone. He'll kill me. I need your help. Please believe me.
Tommy drew in a sharp breath and darted back to the table just as Billy and Kimberly arrived.
"Check this out," Tommy told them, his voice full of anxiety. Zack took the note and read it just loud enough for each of them to hear it. He then looked up at Tommy, a mixture of doubt and hope on his face.
"You think it's for real?"
"It could be," Billy interrupted, "but we'll have to be very careful." He went on to describe all that he and Kimberly had seen and heard, including the moment of agony that Jason had suffered when Goldar had reminded him of his "obligations". The others listened grimly, and when Billy finished, Tommy spoke quietly and determinedly.
"We'll have to be careful, then."
"Tommy," Trini whispered anxiously, feeling the bruise on her cheek start to throb slightly, "it's a trap. You heard Billy."
"I know," Tommy said. "But what if Jason's trying to use this to get help for real? You heard what Billy said about whatever it was that Goldar did to Jason. What if this is the only way Jason can get to us without Zedd stopping him?"
Trini stared at Tommy tearfully. she wanted to believe in Jason as he did, but it was painfully hard after Jason had attacked her.
"What if it's not?"
Tommy squeezed her hand gently, reassuringly. "We'll be careful. We have to see."
"Very good, Jason," Zedd purred at the teenager in the throne room. "You're following orders very well."
Jason didn't reply. He avoided speaking to Zedd as much as humanly possible. It had frequently resulted in Zedd getting angry and using what he was now calling The Control, but Jason didn't care. It was the only show of resistance he could give, and he was using it as much as he could.
It didn't seem to affect Jason this time, though. Instead, Zedd went on to speak in a nauseatingly pleasant voice.
"In fact, I think you have earned yourself a few hours of rest. You may go to Earth and have some time to yourself. Oh, and while you're there, you might continue to try and convince the rangers that you're trying to break my hold on you."
Jason stared at Zedd blankly. Zedd turned away, motioning dismissively with his hand. "Go."
* * *
The rangers were a little startled, although not entirely surprised, when Jason suddenly appeared in front of them.
"I need to talk to you," he said softly, and they couldn't help but notice how weak and exhausted he looked. They exchanged wary looks, and then Tommy nodded.
"Okay. There's no one around here. We'll talk now."
A moment passed, and then Jason sat down slowly on the cool grass. "Don't get too close," he warned them, and this time no one did.
"Ernie gave you the message?" Jason asked, making a desperate effort to keep his voice reasonably steady.
"We got it," Zack replied quietly, "but Billy and Kimberly saw when Goldar told you to write it."
Jason looked first at Billy, and then at Kimberly. He took in their skeptical expressions, and felt hope start to drain away. "Then you probably don't believe me. I don't blame you."
Tommy leant forward anxiously. "Give us a reason to believe you!" Jason shrugged a little, unable to bring himself to look Tommy in the eye.
"I can't, really." He glanced around at them briefly, then his gaze darted away from them again. "Maybe I'd better just go."
He started to get up, and only Tommy speaking out stopped him. "Jason, no! Don't go. We want to help you. Tell us what's going on, please!"
Jason sighed heavily and sat back down again. "Would it really make any difference? Anything I tell you is just going to sound like an excuse."
"Try and tell us," Kimberly told him softly. "We really do want to help."
Jason hesitated for a moment, then went on to speak in a quiet voice, hoping to God that Zedd wasn't listening in. "After I was trapped... in the Dimension of Doom.... Zedd started to feed me some potions. I guess they were supposed to turn me to evil, or something...."
"They didn't work?" Zack ventured.
Jason shrugged a little. "Not the way Zedd expected them to. He didn't get control of my mind, but he got control of my.... I guess, my health. I don't really know what it is that he does. All I know is that when I don't do exactly as he says, he points his staff at me and I get a really bad pain in my head. I guess he could kill me if he kept it up for long enough."
Billy nodded. "And that's what Goldar did to you earlier."
"Right," Jason answered.
"And what about the note?" Tommy asked tensely.
Jason faltered for just a moment before making himself speak. "It's supposed to be part of a trap," he whispered as loudly as he dared. "I don't know anymore about it, but I meant everything that I wrote. I want to get away from Zedd, but I need help. Before it's too late." He looked up at them, struggling with the tears in his eyes. "Please.... I really don't think I can handle this for much longer."
Tommy locked gazes with Jason and gave a single, firm nod. "We'll do whatever we can. I promise."
Jason smiled gratefully at Tommy. Then, getting slowly, painfully to his feet, he left them there.
* * *
"Ernie was right," Tommy said softly when Jason had gone. "Jason is getting sick. Did you see him?"
Zack nodded. "Yeah, we saw. He's really pale, and it looked like it hurt him to move."
Tommy stared in the direction that Jason had gone off in. "We have to move fast if we're going to help him." He paused, his gaze falling on the girls.
Trini looked at them guiltily. "I'm sorry. I just can't help thinking... what if this is all part of Zedd's plan? What if he's using Jason to pull us in, and we're falling for it?"
Tommy saw her point of view, and understood her fear. "I know what you're worried about, Trini, but I have to believe that Jason really wants our help. I can't believe he'd willingly turn sides like this."
Trini fell silent, feeling miserable and angry at the same time. Miserable over everything that had happened, and angry at herself for having such a hard time believing in Jason. They'd been friends for so long, and now she was passing him off like... like... she didn't even know....
Tommy put an hand gently on her shoulder. "C'mon. Let's go and figure out how to handle this. Okay?"
* * *
Jason approached his home slowly and cautiously, even though he knew that neither his mother nor his father would be home. He hadn't been intending to come here. He had just been walking almost blindly, and this was where he had ended up.
Home... It was almost a foreign concept to him now. His home was not his home any longer. His home was now in Zedd's palace. His stomach twisting into a knot, he ventured up the steps and went up to the front door.
The door was locked, of course, but reaching up into the bottom of the hanging potplant, he found the spare key. Not entirely sure of what he was doing, Jason fitted the key into the lock and went inside the house.
* * *
His room was exactly as he had left it, however many days ago. Neat, clean.... The sun shone through the curtains, giving the interior a sense of warmth that Jason had almost forgotten. The sky blue walls were a direct contrast to the cloudy dark that was starting to engulf his mind and soul.
Jason wandered over and sat down on the soft bed. He was surprised that Zedd had allowed him to visit his home like this, but grateful that there'd been no interferrence.
Looking around, he spotted the model of the Tyrannosaurus that sat on his chest-of-drawers and a tired smile flickered across his face. He had gotten a sudden, inexplicable urge to buy the do-it-yourself model about two months before Rita escaped and Zordon called him and his friends to be Power Rangers. He hadn't known why he wanted it so badly at the time, but later on came to understand.
The smile faded from his face as he reached out and took the model in his hands. Over the past months, when things had gotten tough, he'd come home and stared at this model, and felt his courage come back to him. It had provided his strength through many dangers, but now.....
He stared at the model, feeling nothing but cold edging through his body. The magic he had once felt, the affinity with this terrible, yet regal creature, was gone.
Despair flooded through him as he realised that even if he could break free from Zedd, he could never go back to being a Power Ranger. Tears flowing freely, he lifted the plaster model and threw it as hard as he could.
The Tyrannosaur hit the wall and smashed into a hundred irrepairable pieces, and destroyed with it were Jason's last hopes of escape. Turning around, he threw himself face down on his bed, and began to sob uncontrollably.
* * *
Jason finally left his house more than half an hour later, heavy with the knowledge that he would not see the house again. He was met by Goldar who seemed to have been waiting for him for some time.
"Come with me," Goldar ordered him, and Jason followed without protest, all the fight gone from him.
They headed through the park in silence until they reached the top of the hill. Goldar pointed down, to where Tommy, Zack, Billly, Trini and Kimberly were standing together. He looked down at Jason, eyes glowing.
Angel Grove Park....
Kimberly drifted from the conversation that her friends were holding. She felt so tired, so depressed, that she simply couldn't concentrate on anything at all, least of all a steady conversation.
She looked around wearily, wondering how the sun could possibly shine so warmly when everything was so bleak. Such a clear sky.... Today should have been a good day when all of them took the time to have a picnic and just enjoy each other's company.
She shoved her hands into the pockets of her jacket despondently. Instead, they were standing around, trying to figure out some way to rescue Jason before it was too late.
She glanced up to the top of the hill, took in the two figures that stood there, and looked away again.
Kimberly froze, then looked back to the top of the hill slowly. She realised just who was up there, and guessed what was about to happen.
Tommy and the others looked over at her in surprise. "What is it?" Tommy asked, and Kimberly motioned frantically to the top of the hill.
They looked, and Tommy moaned softly. "Oh no...."
* * *
Jason stared at Goldar, horrified. "Attack them? You can't be serious...."
Goldar returned Jason's stare with a harsh one of his own. "You will do as you have been ordered! Now, attack them!"
Jason turned his gaze to his friends, wondering how he could possibly bring himself to attack any of them. They were aware of his presence now; all five were watching him and Goldar, probably wondering what was going to happen. Jason drew in a deep breath and tried one last time.
"Please, don't make me attack them...." He was cut off mid-sentence as a shard of pain sliced through his skull, forcing him to his knees.
"You will attack them," Goldar hissed, secretly enjoying the agony he was causing Jason. "Lord Zedd orders you to!"
Jason fought the Control for several more seconds before it finally became too much for him to handle. He pressed his hands desperately to the sides of his head, and begged Goldar to stop.
"I'll do it," he sobbed, forced almost to the ground by the pain. "Please, just stop..."
The pain suddenly receded and Jason was able to move again. He got to his feet unsteadily, regarding the scene at the bottom of the hill with a growing sense of nausea.
How could he carry out his orders when he was so weak...? A moment later, he felt the tip of Goldar's sword touch his back, and a wave of power flooded his system. He spoke gratingly.
"Lord Zedd has given you temporary power to fight the rangers. Now, attack!"
* * *
"Here he comes," Tommy murmured, watching tensely as Jason began to make his way down the hill. "On your guard, everyone."
The other four teenagers moved close together, ready to defend each other.
* * *
Jason forced his conscience to the back of his soul, knowing he had no choice in what he was about to do. He simply couldn't resist Zedd; the Control was too great.
cold... go cold... don't think about them
"Jason...?" Tommy asked tensely as Jason reached them.
The teenager regarded them with a dull stare. "I've been ordered to attack you."
Tommy stood stiffly, refusing to move. "I figured. Do you really think you can take on all of us?"
Jason glanced back up the hill to see Goldar raise his sword threateningly. He looked back at Tommy. "I have to. I'm sorry."
Jason attacked, then, and in the next few minutes he managed to beat all of them back until only Tommy was left standing. "I thought you wanted our help!" Tommy cried out breathlessly, staring at Jason in anger.
Jason stared back, barely able to keep his voice steady as he spoke. "I do, Tommy. Don't you see I don't have a choice?"
"No, I don't see!" Tommy snapped, backing away even as Jason advanced. "Dammit, Jase, you're hurting your friends!"
Jason stopped, then, staring at Tommy with despair in his eyes. "I don't want to do this. Please, Tommy, you have to stop me...."
Tommy glanced around at the others who remained still on the ground, none of them daring to get up.
He looked back at Jason, feeling desperate. "I don't want to hurt you, Jase."
"It's either you or me. At least you're free. Please, Tommy...."
Fighting back the nausea, Tommy acted and launched an attack at Jason before he could talk himself out of it. Jason, his strength failing, faltered under the fury of Tommy's counter-attack and went down hard.
Tommy came to stand over him then, and Jason spoke two words that shook Tommy to the very core. "Kill me...."
Tommy stepped back in shock, horrified by Jason's plea. Then, a moment later, both Goldar and Jason vanished in a flash of light.
For several seconds no one moved. Then Tommy dragged himself back to reality and began to help his friends up. "C'mon, guys. Let's get out of here."
* * *
A short while later, Tommy sat silently on the floor of the Command Centre while the others discussed the predicament between themselves. He had to admit, at first he had been angry that Jason had attacked them. Then, gradually, his mind slipped back to another incident not so long ago. A terrible memory assailed him, and he buried his face in his hands, moaning softly.
"What is it, Tommy?" Kimberly asked softly. The others all gathered around quietly, expectantly.
Tommy ran his fingers through his hair, feeling agitated and frustrated. "I was just thinking, I was so mad at Jason for attacking us, even if Goldar did force him to do it. Then I remembered something. Back when Rita first made me into the Green Ranger, it was me that sent Jason to the Dimension of Darkness to fight Goldar."
"That's old news, man," Zack told him. "Forget about it."
"No," Tommy said in a quiet, but firm voice, "I can't forget it. You guys don't know how close Jason came to getting killed that time. First Goldar nearly killed him.... then Rita sent me in, and I nearly killed him. I was about to run him through with the Sword of Darkness when Billy teleported him out of there. Another second...."
He trailed off, leaving it to their imaginations. "I don't understand," Trini said. "What does that have to do with what's happening now?"
"Don't you see?" Tommy persisted. "even after you guys found out that I was the Green Ranger, even after what I'd tried to do to Jason, he didn't give up on trying to find a way to get me away from Rita. None of you did. You knew I might hurt you, but you still tried to help me. If you had've given up on me, I'd be serving Zedd now... or something worse. So we can't give up on Jason. No matter what happens. We have to find a way to get him back, no matter what it takes. We have to save him."
A heavy silence prevailed until Zordon spoke. "Your words are spoken with the courage of a true ranger, Tommy. Somehow we will find a way to save Jason."
Silence fell again as they all tried to think of a way to bring the Red Ranger home.
* * *
Jason shivered helplessly as he lay on a small, hard bed in a dank, narrow chamber that Zedd had so thoughtfully set aside for him. He was never going to get away from Zedd . He'd finally accepted that fact. Which left him with two alternatives. That he continue to follow Zedd and forget about his friends... or something else.
He'd come to the decision after very little deliberation that he couldn't go on serving Zedd. His friends meant too much to him. Not that they'd be his friends anymore after what had happened.
A feeling of grief welled up inside him, and he had to fight to keep it down. Yes, he'd seen the look in Tommy's eyes. Anger and disgust. And why not? That was how he felt about himself, so of course, Tommy would look at him like that.
He rolled over and buried his face in his arms. It wasn't his fault, couldn't they see that? He didn't want to do what Zedd told him to, but he couldn't fight! He just couldn't cope with the pain any longer.
He shuddered, knowing he had to face the one alternative that was left open to him. One choice, but the question was, how? He couldn't bear the prolonged agony of the Control, and he doubted that Zedd would let it go that far anyway.
Jason let out a heavy breath. He would just have to find another way. Rolling off the bed, he pulled on his shoes and hurried from the chamber.
* * *
"Hold it, guys," Kimberly whispered. She, Tommy, Billy, Zack and Trini came to a halt as they spotted Jason moving rapidly through the park, a determined look on his face. They waited until he was out of earshot before speaking.
"What's he up to?" Zack wondered aloud. The five friends exchanged grim looks.
"There's only one way to find out," Billy said. They hesitated for just a moment before following Jason to wherever he was going.
* * *
After a short while, Jason broke into a run, as though he was afraid of being stopped, and the others had to run to keep up with him. When he finally came to a halt near the top of a beach cliff, they began to wonder just what was going on.
It was only as Jason began to walk slowly towards the edge of the cliff that Tommy realised what was happening. Panic exploding within him, he broke free of their cover and ran into the open.
Jason spun around, and there was a slightly wild look in his eyes. "You followed me...?"
Tommy glanced back over his shoulder as the others emerged. "we all did. Jason, don't do it. There's nothing worse than ending your own life."
The pain in Jason's eyes was clear. "Not if life is worse than death. I can't follow Zedd anymore, Tommy. He's going to end up wanting me to kill one of you. I can't do that!"
"Then don't," Tommy countered. "You still have free will, don't you? Tell Zedd you won't do it!"
Jason shook his head despairingly. "Don't you understand? It's not that simple! I can't take the pain anymore, either. Zedd won't kill me. He'll just make the pain worse and worse until I give in and do what he says. At least this way it'll be over quickly."
Tommy was becoming frantic. He took a step towards Jason, only to stop when Jason backed away, towards the edge.
"We haven't given up on you, Jase. don't you give up! It isn't too late...."
Jason looked around at each of them, distressed. "Given up on what? There's nothing left to save! I'm never going to get away from Zedd. He'll never let me go."
Tommy's eyes flashed with anger. "Dammit, Jason! You didn't give up on getting me away from Rita, even after I nearly killed you in the Dimension of Darkness! Do you remember that, Jason? I do. I nearly skewered you, but you still risked your life to help me. Now, we're damnwell gonna help you."
Tears ran down Jason's cheeks. He badly wanted to put himself in their hands, but there was one risk he could not bear to take.
"And what happens if Zedd does want me to kill one of you? I can't fight him. I can't take that risk."
"Jason, please...." Tommy whispered, horror building up in his throat. Jason turned and broke into a run.
Tommy launched himself forward, but he was not quick enough. Jason reached the edge and jumped, quickly disappearing from sight.
Angel Grove beach, top of cliff
Tommy hit the ground hard and skidded to the edge of the cliff, looking over to watch with a sickening feeling as Jason fell.
Jason shut his eyes and felt the rush of wind, anticipating with dread and excitement the moment when he would hit the rocks below.
The rangers slid to the edge and looked down, unable to breathe for the terrible fear that twisted their stomachs and throats.
It happened at the last possible moment. There was a flash of reddish/ gold light, and Jason was gone, snatched from death by Zedd at the last possible moment.
Tommy fell back from the edge, letting his breath out in a rush. The others moved back as well, and all of them were white-faced.
"Man, I never thought I'd be grateful to Zedd for anything," Zack rasped breathlessly. Tommy shuddered.
"Let's get back to the Command Centre. We have to figure out a way to help Jason before it really is too late."
The rangers nodded their agreement, and they got to their feet and hurried off.
When Jason realised that he was back in Zedd's palace, unharmed, he collapsed to the floor, shaking helplessly.
"Get up," Zedd ordered icily. Jason eventually managed to stagger to his feet and face the evil leader. Zedd went on harshly.
"Do you honestly believe that I would let you go that easily?" Zedd demanded to know. "You belong to me, Jason. Forever. And for your foolish attempt at death, you will suffer and hour in the Dimension of Darkness with Goldar."
Before Jason could protest, he was gone, sent by Zedd to one of the very places he feared the most.
* * *
"I can't believe Jason tried that," Tommy said softly as they all sat glumly in the Command Centre.
Billy spoke up beside him in an equally subdued tone. "Jason must really be despairing for him to attempt suicide."
Zack nodded. "Yeah, he's gotta really be at the end of his rope by now. Remember what he said? That he couldn't take the risk that Zedd might want him to kill one of us? He said he couldn't resist Zedd."
Tommy stood up abruptly. "Dammit, Zordon, there's got to be a way! If we don't do something, Jason's gonna end up killing himself!"
"There may be a way," Zordon said unexpectedly. "If Jason can be brought to the Command Centre, I may be able to help him."
Trini stared warily at Zordon. "But you said before there was no way to rescue him."
"I have been thoroughly examining all options," Zordon replied firmly. "There is one possibility. It is a very slim chance, but in light of this recent incident, I believe it is time to take that chance."
Tommy drew in a slow, deep breath. "Why didn't you try it earlier?"
Zordon answered immediately. "Because if it doesn't work, Jason will be killed. I did not want to put him at risk like that. However, now it may be the only way of saving his life."
Tommy nodded. "All right. We'll bering him here. I just hope it works."
"So do I, Tommy," Zordon replied quietly.
* * *
Jason sobbed softly to himself as he lay on his bed in his small chamber. He had taken a severe beating from Goldar, who had relished every minute. It wasn't so much the beating, though. It was the fact that he no longer had a say even over his own death. He'd tried to end it, and had failed. He was truly in Zedd's control, and there was nothing he could do about it.
With a feeling of nausea, he remembered how, only days ago, he'd still hoped that he might escape Zedd with the help of his friends. Despite all that had happened, he'd still had hope. Now, even that was gone, stripped away from him just like everything else. His courage, his dignity, his very humanity....
Not wanting any of Zedd's grotesque little servants to see him, he got painfully to his feet and slipped out of the chamber.
Jason froze halfway down the corridor at the sound of Zedd's voice calling him. Knowing he had to go, whether he liked it or not, he drew in a calming breath and headed back towards the throne room.
* * *
"Goldar," Zedd ordered as Jason entered the room, "leave us. Take those idiots Squatt and Babbo as well."
Sparing Jason a harsh glare, Goldar did as he was told. Waiting until his minions had left, Zedd turned to Jason and spoke.
Jason did so gloomily, sitting down slowly on the steps of the dais. After the beating he had taken, he'd found he couldn't make any sudden moves without causing himself some pain. Zedd seemed oblivious to his discomfort, though, and went on talking.
"I've been thinking about your position. I've decided I'm willing to make a deal with you."
Jason stared silently at Zedd, waiting to hear what the evil ruler had to say.
"After much consideration," Zedd explained, "I have decided that I will release you if you do one last task for me."
Jason felt his heart leap into his throat. "You'll let me go...?"
"In a manner of speaking," Zedd replied, and Jason felt his heart sink. "I will never allow you to return to your friends. You know that well enough now. However, if you want to die badly enough, then I will allow you to do so. I'll even help to make it as painless as possible."
Jason felt both sick and elated. Elated that he might finally get out of this nightmare, sick because he suspected he knew what the final task was. His suspicions were confirmed when Zedd produced a long-bladed knife.
"You only have to kill one of them," Zedd coaxed lightly. He held the knife out to Jason. "Only one, and then you can end your own suffering. And you are suffering, aren't you, Jason."
Jason fought back the tears. "What if I say no?"
Zedd withdrew the blade a little. "There will be no unpleasant side- effects. It's your choice. If you carry out the task, I'll release you. If you don't, then you stay here forever. It's simple. You choose."
Jason was torn between his love for his friends, and his own wish for freedom of any kind. He weighed up the two choices he'd been given.
One, he could refuse. If he did, it would mean a lifetime of servitude to Zedd. In which case, Zedd could well force him to try and kill his friends anyway.
Two, he could agree. In that case, he would have to carry out the abhorrent task, but it would also mean his own freedom. Freedom from a life that had become an unbearable nightmare.
After several seconds, Jason reluctantly reached out and took the knife from Zedd.
Angel Grove Park....
Kimberly, Zack, Trini and Billy were sitting quietly in the park, still trying to figure out how they could get Jason to the Command Centre without injuring him or themselves when Tommy ran up, out of breath from exertion.
"I just came from Jason's place," he gasped as he fought to catch his breath. "Jason was there, for a little while."
Zack stood up. "You didn't catch him, though."
"No," Tommy admitted. "He'd already gone when I got there. His dad was there, though. He hadn't seen Jason either, but he showed me Jason's room. That model of the Tyrannosauras that Jason has on his chest-of-drawers? It's been smashed."
Kimberly looked distressed. "Oh no.... Jason did it?"
Tommy nodded. "I guess so. I hope it doesn't mean what I think it does... If Jason really has given up...."
"How's his dad?" Zack asked quietly.
Tommy looked gloomy. "Not so great. I felt bad that I couldn't tell him anything. He and Mrs. Scott are really worried about Jason." Tommy sighed and looked around wearily. "I really hope whatever Zordon's planning to do works. I don't want to have to explain anything to Jason's folks."
Tommy fell silent when Billy reached out and put a hand on his shoulder. "Tommy...?"
They all looked around and were startled, yet hopeful, to see Jason coming towards them. He stopped a short distance away, regarding them with a gaunt, haunted stare.
"Jase...." Tommy said softly. He hesitated, then ventured on. "I was at your place. I saw the model."
Jason turned his almost vacant stare on Tommy. "I smashed it. Is that what you want to hear?"
A pained looked crossed Tommy's face. "We all know how much that meant to you. Why'd you smash it?"
Jason shook his head, not wanting to talk about it. "Meet me at the rock quarry, at four o'clock."
"Jason," Kimberly jumped in quickly, "Zordon said he might be able to help you. If we can just get you to the Command Centre....."
"I can't," Jason said in a low voice, through clenched teeth. "Not now. Zedd might be watching."
Trini spoke up, then, her voice quivering slightly. "Jason, what did Zedd do to you...?"
He understood what she meant immediately. "He sent me to the Dimension of Darkness to go a few rounds with Goldar."
Tommy cringed visibly. He alone, out of all the rangers, knew how much Jason hated that place. Jason saw his expression, and shrugged, as though it were no big deal. "Punishment for what I tried to do. Please, just come to the quarry. It's the only place I can lose Goldar."
Jason turned and was gone before any of them had a chance to say anything more.
* * *
"Very well done, Jason," Zedd purred when Jason finally returned to the palace. "You did that very smoothly. I don't believe they suspect a thing. Will you need Goldar as back-up?"
"No," Jason replied dully. "If they see him, they'll know it's a trap. I don't want Goldar anywhere near the quarry."
Zedd nodded. "Very well. And remember, Jason. It's your choice. Freedom or captivity."
"I know," Jason whispered. "I know."
Angel Grove Rock Quarry....
Jason was waiting for them when they arrived at four o'clock. He sat on a small boulder, watching them with an incredibly sad expression. Tommy stared at him for a long moment before swallowing back his unease and speaking. "C'mon, Jase. We'll get you to the Command Centre. Zordon's pretty sure he can help you."
Jason slid off the boulder, but remained standing where he was. just a few more metres.... be strong, Jason, you can do it... the first one to come within reach.
Tommy walked forward, towards Jason, when the teen didn't move or respond. Within several steps he was within arm's length.
It happened so fast that none of the rangers had a chance to move to protect Tommy. Jason grabbed Tommy's shoulders, swung him around and slammed him hard enough against the rock wall to wind him. He then pulled the dagger from his belt and pressed the blade to Tommy's throat, stopping just short of actually cutting him.
"Jason!" Kimberly screamed at him, not daring to move forward. "What are you doing?"
Jason spoke without taking his eyes off Tommy. "Even if Zordon does think he can help, it won't make any difference. Zedd's control is too great. Besides, I could never go back to being a Power Ranger. Not now. It's too late."
"So you decided to quit and serve Zedd?" Zack demanded, angry at the apparent betrayal.
Jason glanced back quickly at Zack, hurt by the accusation. "I'd never willingly follow Zedd. You ought to know that. But he promised that he'd let me go... if I kill one of you first."
Tommy's eyes were wild with sudden fear and panic. "Zedd won't let you go, Jason. He's lying to you!"
Jason smiled at Tommy, but was a frightening, haunted smile. "I know. He won't ever let me go home. He told me that. But he will let me die. He promised me that. He said he'd even make it painless."
Tommy stared into his friend's eyes, deep into his soul. "D'you really believe that, Jason?"
Jason hesitated then, and eventually fell back, releasing Tommy from his grip. "No," he admitted softly, "I don't."
He moved back further until all five of his old friends stood around him in a circle.
"Jase, come with us," Kimberly begged desperately. "Let Zordon help you. We want you back with us...."
Jason shook his head, wracked with grief and shame. "I can't. It doesn't matter if Zordon could help me. There's no way I can live with myself after this. I could never face any of you."
"It isn't worth it, Jason," Zack growled. "We can get past this! We're a team!"
"No," Jason whispered, unable to look directly at any of them. "You're a team. I'm not a part of that anymore. Don't you see that Zedd's never going to let me go? Even if we can break the control.... I'm going to be haunted by this for the rest of my life. I'll never have another day or night's peace as long as I live. I just can't live with it... no matter what side of the fence I'm on."
"Jason, please," Trini said then, tears in her eyes. "Don't do it. We need you...."
"You don't need me," Jason started to say, but was interrupted by a flash of gold light. Looking around, they saw Goldar coming towards them, sword drawn.
"Jason!" he roared, pointing his sword at the teenager, "either complete the task or return to the palace. Lord Zedd commands you!"
Jason looked around at each of them, and his gaze fell on Tommy. He looked down at the dagger in his hand. He looked back up at Tommy again.
"Kill him, Jason, and you will be freed!" Goldar coaxed.
"Jason, no!" Trini cried out, afraid that he was actually going to give in and carry out the terrible order.
Jason spoke softly then, in a voice that only Tommy heard. "I'm sorry, Tommy. Don't ever forget how much I love you guys." He then looked across at Goldar. "Zedd's never going to command me again."
He lifted the dagger and, before anyone could stop him, he turned the blade inwards and plunged it deep into his own chest.
Snarling angrily, Goldar vanished abruptly in a flash of gold flame. "Jason!" Kimberly screamed, and Trini buried her face in her hands in horror.
Tommy darted forward in an instant, and caught Jason as he went down. Cradling his friend in his arms, Tommy spoke in a frightened whisper, fighting back the sobs.
"Hold on, Jase, please... We'll get help..."
Jason stared up at Tommy almost blindly. "I'm sorry, Tommy. I'm...." He broke off, coughing painfully as blood welled up in his throat. Tommy guessed what Jason was desperate to hear, and he spoke the words for all of them.
"We forgive you, Jase. We all do. We forgive you for everything." Jason seemed to relax a little. "Tell my folks I love them...." He suddenly went limp in Tommy's arms. A long moment passed as Tommy laid Jason down carefully on the ground, and pulled the dagger from his friend's chest. Then, for the next half hour or so, the silence was broken only by the sound of five teenagers grieving for their lost friend.
Angel Grove Youth Centre....
Ernie was tending the refreshment bar in the Youth Centre as usual when a young boy ran in, his face dreadfully white.
"Ernie, you gotta come outside, quick!" the boy gasped. "It's the Power Rangers!"
Ernie dropped his rag and hurried outside.
* * *
A small crowd had gathered, but no one spoke. In fact, not a sound could be heard from any of them. Ernie quickly made his way through the teenagers, and finally saw what was going on.
The Power Rangers were there, walking slowly towards the building. There was only four, though, and they were carrying something... or someone... in a blanket between them. Even more startling was the fact that Tommy Oliver was walking alongside of them, his face pale and streaked with tears.
The Rangers came to a halt a short distance away, and carefully set down their precious load. A gasp of shock swept across the group, and Ernie moved forward, horror-struck.
"Oh no...." he whispered. "Jason...."
The Rangers stepped back, silent and stoic. Ernie paused beside Jason's motionless body for a moment, then spoke anxiously. "I'll call for an ambulance."
Tommy spoke up then, his voice full of grief. "It's too late. He's already gone."
Ernie felt a rush of nausea. "What.... What happened?" Silence met his question before the Blue Ranger finally spoke quietly. "He sacrificed himself for us." He said nothing more, and nothing more needed to be said.
Ernie took a step back as the Blue Ranger moved forward and crouched down beside Jason's lifeless body.
"Farewell, Jason," he said softly, nearly choking as fresh tears flowed. "We won't ever forget you."
He straightened up and moved back. The Pink Ranger came forward. "Goodbye, Jason. I hope you'll be at peace now."
She stepped back, and the Black Ranger moved forward. "So long, buddy. Maybe we'll meet again someday."
He backed away, and the Yellow Ranger came forward, hesitated, then knelt down beside the dead teenager.
"We'll never forget you, Jason," she said softly. "You were the greatest friend we could ever have. I've never met anyone as brave and strong as you were, and I don't think I ever will. I'm going to miss you badly. We all will. We love you, Jason."
She reached out and placed the tips of her gloved fingers against his forehead for a brief moment, then rejoined her friends. They nodded to Tommy, then vanished in a flash of rainbow light.
Several seconds of silence passed before Ernie spoke again. "I'll for call for an ambulance."
Tommy didn't say a word. There was nothing left to say. Nothing at all.
Angel Grove Park....
It was a deceptively pleasant day in Angel Grove. The sky was clear, aside from a few fluffy white clouds that dotted the vast blue, and the sun shone warmly down on everyone. A soft breeze blew, like a gentle kiss on the cheeks of everyone who ventured outside.
Tommy Oliver sat on a bench in the park, oblivious to everything and everyone around him. He should have been in school, along with his friends and all the other students of Angel Grove High. At some point, however, on his way to school that morning, he had taken a detour and had ended up in the park.
A faint shudder escaped Tommy, and he buried his face in his hands. How could he possibly think of learning.... of anything at all? when he'd just lost his best friend?
The tears threatened to come again, and he had to struggle to force the grief back into the recesses of his soul. There was no point in shedding tears. Not now. Jason was gone, and crying would not bring him back.
Tommy looked up dazedly, and was startled to see Mr Caplan, the school principal, standing there. Mr Caplan didn't frown, but rather regarded Tommy with a sad, understanding look.
"Kimberly said this was where you'd probably be. I thought I'd come here myself, and see."
Tommy looked away from him, out across the crystal clear waters of the lake. The times that he and Jason had gone swimming in that lake.... "I'm okay," he said in a dull voice.
"And I'd like to believe that," Mr Caplan replied softly. "Tommy, everyone knows how close you and Jason were. The entire school is grieving for him. You won't do yourself any favours by isolating yourself, though."
"I don't want to go back to school yet."
Mr Caplan nodded. "I'm not expecting you to. However... I don't want to sound callous, Tommy, but you aren't the only one who's been affected by Jason's death. You have four very close friends who are all hurting very badly."
Tommy bit down so hard on his lower lip that he drew blood. He spoke in a trembling voice, tasting his own blood at the same time. "I just want to be alone. Please...?"
Mr Caplan stood still for several seconds before conceding and heading back towards the school.
Tommy watched him go out of the corner of his eye before letting his emotions take hold again and giving a muffled sob into his hands. It wasn't right. He had made himself responsible for Jason, and had sworn to rescue him. Now look where his determination had gotten them....
Jason was dead.... The Power Rangers were probably no longer existent... And it was his fault. If he had just let things be, and not pushed so hard, maybe they would have worked out on their own. At any rate, Jason might still be alive.
Grief flooded through Tommy, and it took all his remaining strength to contain it. His best friend was dead, and it was his fault.
Getting to his feet, he stumbled down the path, hoping he could get home before the floodgates opened once more.
Angel Grove Youth Centre, 3:48 p.m....
Kimberly, Billy and Trini looked up as Zack came back to the table and sat down with a thud.
"If he's there," Zack muttered gloomily, "then he's not answering the phone."
Billy stared vacantly at the table top as he spoke. "I talked to Mr Caplan earlier. He said he saw Tommy by the lake, but couldn't get him to say very much."
A heavy silence fell as each of them tried to deal with what had happened, and what was happening.
Trini sat back a little from the table. If they could gauge how badly each of them felt, she thought she would come out feeling the worst. Well, she would come equal with Tommy, at any rate. After all, it had been her that had held the rest of them back, her with her doubts and fears....
She shut her eyes, wishing uselessly that she could wake up, and the entire horrible episode would turn out to be one bad nightmare.
She looked up into Kimberly's red-rimmed eyes, and suddenly found herself struggling to control her own tears. Kim reached over and pulled Trini close in a warm hug.
"It wasn't your fault, Trini. It wasn't anyone's fault. You have to believe that."
Trini sobbed into Kimberly's shoulder. "It isn't right! He can't be dead! He can't be...."
Zack and Billy looked helplessly at one another, neither one knowing what to do.
Finally, Billy shuffled forward in his seat and spoke awkwardly. "We know it's hard, Trini, but we have to accept it. Jason's gone...."
"No!" Trini cried out, and she wrenched away from Kimberly, got to her feet and fled the Youth Centre.
Kimberly started after her, but Zack caught hold of her arm and held her back.
"Let her go, girl. Just let her go."
Kimberly sank back into her seat unhappily. "Trini's blaming herself, and so's Tommy. God, this whole thing is a total nightmare...."
Zack looked away, not speaking. They all felt terrible, but it seemed there was nothing any of them could do. They couldn't even comfort themselves, let alone each other.
"It just seems so unreal," Billy whispered, his throat constricting and making it difficult for him to speak. "Even to say it... that Jason's... that he's... dead.... It doesn't seem real."
"We used to be a team," Zack said softly, staring at the floor. Neither Billy nor Kimberly could reply to that, and so they continued to to sit in solitary silence for a long time.
Zedd sat in a cold silence on his throne, staring into space, totally oblivious to the celebrations that were going on around him. Yes, he knew he should be happy and triumphant, like the rest of his pathetic minions. After all, Jason, the Red Ranger, was dead, wasn't he? Even if things hadn't quite worked out as he'd expected, they'd still worked out.
The remaining Power Rangers were each lost in their grief and guilt, blind to each other, and the essence of teamwork that had always defeated him so soundly was literally scattered to the four winds. If they didn't blame themselves for what had happened, they more than likely blamed each other....
Despite the way things were turning out in his favour, Zedd felt his mood plummet to abysmal depths. He was unhappy because this was not the way it should have worked out. Jason should have killed Tommy, and then returned to the Palace to serve him for the rest of his pathetic life.
Yes, he'd promised to let the boy die, but he was evil, and everyone knew the bad guys never kept their promises.
Zedd lifted his gaze to scan the partiers. There was Squatt and Baboo.... Idiots, of course, but he couldn't put the blame on them, no matter how much he tried. Scorpina.... She'd had no part in the entire business. His gaze continued to scan the room, finally falling on Goldar.
In an instant, Zedd felt his mood hit rock bottom, and his temper finally exploded. Grabbing his staff, he aimed it at Goldar and burned the over-sized monkey with a searing blast.
"You!" Zedd roared, standing up and stalking over to the now-cowering monster. "It's your fault, you useless ball of fur! I sent you to see that Jason carried out the task, and you let him turn the knife on himself! You pathetic excuse for a monster! That boy was mine, and you let him escape me!"
Without waiting for the inevitable plea for mercy and forgiveness, Zedd turned and stormed from the throne room, leaving his minions in confused silence.
Tommy threw himself onto his bed and buried his face in his pillow, his body wracked with uncontrollable sobs.
"Jason...." he choked out uselessly, and thanked God, or whoever was upstairs, that neither his parents nor his friends were around to see him in this state.
The tears came in a flood, soaking his face and his pillow, but he made no attempt to wipe them away. His grief was so acute that the persistent sound of the phone ringing in the next room never even reached his ears.
"No...." Tommy moaned to himself in a voice that was muffled by his pillow. "Jason, no..... It's my fault, all my fault..... I wasn't there...."
that's stupid, tommy. how could you have been there?
Tommy swallowed hard, his sobs subsiding a little. It was his fault, though, and he should have been there....
no, you couldn't have. what's done is done. you couldn't have known. none of us could have known.
Tommy lifted his face from his pillow, dazed and confused. The thoughts echoed in his mind, and yet seemed totally separate, somehow....
you're too tired, tommy. you aren't thinking straight. you have to rest.
Tommy rested his head back on his pillow, then rolled over to stare out the window. His sobs faded, and the tears finally stopped. An unbeatable exhaustion came over him and he eventually fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.
Angel Grove Rock Quarry....
Trini had no idea how she'd ended up in the quarry. All she knew for sure was that when she finally stopped running, this was where she'd come to. She swallowed hard, looking around with a distinct mixture of fear and grief.
This was where Jason had died. Unable to stop herself, she walked over the loose stones to a particular spot and looked down at the ground.
Grief and anger rose up in her throat like bile, and she had to fight to keep herself from throwing up. There was the blood. Jason's blood.... A permanent marker of the place where he'd lost his life. And where the rest of them had lost their purpose and meaning.
She turned away, one hand coming up to cover her mouth. She shut her eyes to stop the terrible images that assailed her, but they only seemed to increase in strength.
trini, why are you doing this to yourself? Trini looked around sharply at the voice that seemed to whisper in her ear. There was no one around, though, so the thought must have been her own.
She shut her eyes again, immersed in grief. "I'm sorry, Jason," she whispered. "I am so sorry...."
sorry for what? it was me that hurt you, remember? Trini froze momentarily, then looked around again, fighting the panic that threatened to explode within her. It wasn't possible. She was just so upset that she was starting to imagine hearing Jason's voice.
She paused, waiting to see if it happened again, but only silence met her. Shaking her head, she took one last, sorrowful look at the dried blood on the ground, then turned and headed back towards the town.
Billy walked slowly around the gadget-cluttered table in a semi-daze for nearly ten minutes before finally gathering his wits enough to pull his stool up to the bench and sit down. He, like his friends, was completely devastated, but not for believing it was his fault.
He knew it was neither his fault, nor anyone else's. If the blame had to be laid upon anyone, it was Zedd. No, no one was to blame for this tragedy. It had been Jason's decision to take that particular course of action, and there was nothing they could have done about it.
Billy pulled his glasses off and tossed them carelessly onto the bench. No, he didn't blame himself, and he didn't blame his friends. His grief came with the realisation, too late, that he could have helped Jason. His knowledge of the human body, its workings, and his knowledge of chemistry and the more complex sciences, could have combined to find a solution.
Jason had told them Zedd was feeding him potions. Potions that had to have some sort of chemical make-up. If he could have found out what that make-up was, then he might have been able to make up a potion to counter-act the effects.
He blinked hard and buried his face in his hands as the tears came again. It was too late now. If he'd just.....
just what, billy? there was nothing you could have done.
Billy shivered. "I could have," he protested. "I could have done something...."
"Billy, what are you talking about?"
Billy turned around on the stool, and was half-surprised to see his father standing behind him. The surprise quickly turned to confusion. "Didn't you just say.... say there was nothing I could have done....?"
Mr Cranston regarded his son sadly. "About Jason, you mean.... No, son, I didn't say anything. But it's true. From what I've heard, you couldn't have done anything. Jason cut himself off from everyone, didn't let anyone help him. There wasn't anything anyone could do."
Billy was silent, having barely heard his father. If his father hadn't spoken before, then who had? Logic swiftly overcame all else, and he decided it had to have been his own imagination, reacting to the intense grief he was suffering.
He shook his head and stood up slowly. "What did you want, Dad?" He hadn't intended to sound abrupt, but he wasn't sure he could handle much company right then, even if it was his own father. If Mr Cranston had noticed his son's tone, though, he gave no sign of it.
"I was just about to head down to see the Scotts. I came in to see if you'd like to come with me."
Billy hesitated, not certain that he cared to face Jason's parents just yet. He would have to deal with that soon enough, when the funeral was held in a couple of days time....
go on, billy. don't be afraid.
The teenager finally nodded reluctantly and collected his glasses from the tabletop. The coroner was supposed to have given his decision as to the circumstances of Jason's death that morning and, although he wasn't sure why, he wanted to know what had been said.
"Okay," he said quietly, and followed his father out of the workshop.
Zack sat mutely at the dinner table, staring blindly at the plate in front of him. His parents watched him and put up with the silence for several minutes before speaking.
"Zachary, aren't you going to eat any dinner at all?" Mrs Taylor asked in concern. Zack raised his eyes to take in his mother's worried expression, then looked away again.
"I'm not hungry," he replied numbly. The Taylors exchanged grim looks.
"Starving yourself isn't going to bring Jason back," Mr Taylor said quietly, startling Zack out of his trance.
"I'm not hungry," Zack repeated, his voice laced with tension. Mr Taylor put down his knife and fork, then, and looked his son directly in the eye.
"Zack, I know you're hurting, but there really is no point in punishing yourself like this. Now, I want you to eat something. Even if it's just a few mouthfuls...."
Zack picked up his fork slowly... and stopped as a memory assailed him. A memory from some years back, when he and his folks had just moved to Angel Grove.
His first few days in town had been highly unpleasant, especially when he'd started school. Not only had he been forced to deal with certain racist students, but he'd also had to deal with a small group of fellow black students who believed he had no business hanging out with anyone white.
Something had happened, though. Something that he had never told anyone much about. On his third day, he had been on his way home from school when a group of four older boys had ambushed him, going on to taunt him and call him various racist names. Despite his martial arts abilities, he'd had no chance against the boys. He was about to get beaten to a pulp when someone had intervened.
That someone had been Jason. Jason had stepped directly into the fray, risking turning the boys' wrath on himself, and had managed to defuse the situation without it erupting into a fight. Later, Zack had discovered that Jason could have more than easily handled it if it had developed into a fight.
That had been the end of the taunts and the racial slurs, though. It was all around the school by lunch time the next day that Zack Taylor was a friend of Jason Scott, and from that point on, nobody bothered him at all. Pretty soon after that, thanks to Jason, Zack had been well on his way to winning the respect and friendship of the other kids in the school by his own merits. It had been the same when they'd eventually taken Billy under their wing.
Zack let his fork drop, unable to bring himself to eat anything at all. Jason had always been there for them, right from the start. He had always been the protector, in more ways than one.
He shut his eyes, but was unable to fight the tears, and they came in a torrent. His parents were at his side a moment later, trying to comfort the distraught teenager.
it's okay, zack. let your folks help you. Zack shuddered and slumped against his father's strong chest, and let the grief out.
* * *
Kimberly sat on her bed in numb silence, staring blankly at the floor. Her mother had been in three times already, and in that time, she hadn't moved an inch. It hurt so badly.... The pain in her chest, and the knot in her stomach....
She clasped her hands tightly together and tried not to shiver. After leaving Zack and Billy at the Youth Centre, she had tried Tommy's place again, actually going up to the door and ringing the bell. If Tommy had been there, though, he wasn't answering.
Kimberly bit down hard on her lower lip, so hard that it hurt. Zack had been right. They had been a team... once. But now, the tragedy with Jason seemed to have destroyed that. Once they had been able to share just about everything with each other, but now they had closed themselves off and refused to let anyone in.
She choked back a sob. How could this have happened? She didn't understand....
The harsh sound of someone rapping on the door startled Kimberly, and she opened her mouth to tell whoever it was to go away.
don't shut yourself away, Kim. open the door. She felt her resolve crumble and, reluctantly, she spoke out. "Come in."
The door swung open, and she was surprised to see her father there. "Daddy....?"
Mr Hart hurried to his daughter's side and and, sitting beside her on the bed, pulled her close in a tight hug. "I just got back from my trip, and I heard all about it on the news. Oh, honey, I'm sorry. I am so sorry...."
Kimberly gave a choked sob and began to cry into her father's shoulder. "Daddy, it hurts," she sobbed, feeling like a little girl who had just fallen off her bicycle. "Make it stop hurting...."
Mr Hart glanced over at his ex-wife helplessly. He wanted to be able to take the hurt away, but this was something that he simply had no power over. Instead, he held her protectively in his embrace for a long time.
Command Centre, 9:38 am....
Tommy and the rangers stood in the Command Centre in a heavy silence the next morning, speaking neither to each other, nor to Zordon. They were awaiting Billy's arrival, and then Zordon would tell them why he had summoned them there.
Billy's arrival was heralded by a flash of blue light as he teleported in, and then Tommy spoke in a toneless voice that disturbed them all.
"Okay, Zordon. What did you want?"
"I summoned you all here," Zordon replied, "because I believe Billy has something to tell you."
They all looked around at Billy, who suppressed a shudder at the emotionless expressions.
"What's up?" Zack asked, his usually warm tone barely a fraction of what it had once been. Billy gathered his wits and spoke quickly.
"I went with my father to see Mr and Mrs Scott yesterday," he told them. "They had the... the coroner's report of what happened to Jason."
"Why would you want to see that?" Kimberly asked softly, barely able to bring herself to speak without her voice cracking. "We already know what happened."
Billy nodded anxiously. "That's just it. There's something else that we didn't know about. That control, or whatever Jason called it... You all remember how we thought it was making him sick?"
"Yeah...." Zack answered, not entirely sure if he wanted to know where this was headed. Billy drew in a deep breath and went on quietly.
"It really was making him sick. When the coroner did the... the autopsy, he found that Jason had had at least a dozen minor brain haemorrhages. Probably more."
"Haemorrhages?" Tommy echoed softly, staring hard at Billy.
"Yes," Billy replied. "The coroner couldn't determine what had caused them, but he said ultimately it didn't matter that Jason killed himself."
"Billy, what do you mean...?" Trini asked tensely.
"Jason was dying," Billy told them quietly. "The coroner's report said that by the time he'd had the seventh or eighth haemorrhage, it was too late to do anything about it. He hadn't had any medical attention at all, and the damage done was irreversable. He would have died anyway, but it would have been a lot slower. A lot more painful."
A heavy silence struck the group. Finally, a long moment later, Tommy broke the silence. "Is that supposed to make us feel better, or something?"
Billy suddenly looked intensely uncomfortable. "No. I just thought it might help us all realise that there really was nothing we could do. It wasn't anyone's fault...."
"No!" Tommy exploded furiously. "That isn't true! We could've done something, if Jason had let us help him. It didn't have to end like this! But Jason couldn't handle it, so he took the coward's way out and killed himself!"
Shocked silence hit the group as they stared at Tommy in disbelief. "You don't mean that," Kimberly whispered, distraught.
Tommy glared at them all, angry and agitated. "Maybe I do," he growled. "Maybe I do mean it. Jason ended his own life, and left the rest of us here to suffer. If he gave a damn about us at all, he would've kept on living!"
Zordon spoke, then. "Tommy, Jason could not live under Zedd anymore than you could."
"That's not true!" Tommy screamed. Trini came forward to touch his arm, and he wrenched away from her. "Jason should've lived! He should've lived for us! But he copped out, and left us... He left us here...."
Tommy stumbled backwards, away from them. "Zordon, get me out of here!" Zordon teleported Tommy out of the Command Centre without a word.
"He's just upset," Zack said softly, and none of them were sure whether he was saying it to the group, or to himself. "He's just hurting.... We all are."
No one answered Zack, too distressed to even try.
* * *
Tommy broke into a run the moment his feet hit the ground. He bolted through the park, tears blinding his way. Reaching the park boundaries, he cleared the hedge in a single leap and ran on into the forest, away from everyone and everything. He charged through the trees and bushes, not stopping until he hit a rock face, and could go no further.
A strangled sob escaped Tommy and he slid helplessly to the ground, his face buried in his hands.
"I can't handle this," he said in a muffled voice, wishing he could just switch off from reality and block this whole nightmare out. "I can't....."
i think you can, tommy....
Tommy's head came up sharply at the soft voice that whispered into his ear. But there was no one there. He was alone....
"Great," he mumbled, rubbing furiously at his eyes, "now I'm cracking up. Just great...."
He shivered a little as he regathered his wits. Maybe this was becoming too much for him to handle. Or maybe it was punishment for getting angry at Jason.
A distressed cry escaped him. Everything was so damn screwed up, now. He didn't know which way to turn......
His gaze turned skyward, and he wondered how the sky could be so blue and clear when he was so damned miserable.....
He moaned softly to himself and his head dropped forward against his bare arms. A moment later, his shoulders began to shake as the sobs came again.
let it go, tommy
The voice was distant, and Tommy paid little attention to it, too caught up in his own grief. A moment later, though, he felt the light, soothing touch of a hand on his shoulder. He tried to look up to see who was there, but for some reason, he couldn't.
let me help...
Tommy shuddered and quit fighting. In that moment, his frayed nerves began to settle, and the constant feeling of nausea in his stomach began to ease. He kept his eyes shut, his face pressed into his arms. If he had opened his eyes, though, he would have seen a faint haze of gold light, mixed in with the warming glow of the morning sun.
Tommy came to a halt halfway up the driveway of his home, disconcerted to see a strange car there. Dimly, his mind struggled to remember who's it was, but it remained a mystery, and he gave up trying to guess. Pushing it to the back of his mind, he headed inside.
Suppressing a sigh, Tommy side-stepped into the family room.... and froze. There, sitting in a recliner chair near the fire place, was Daniel Lomas, the local shrink. He blinked once as his father suddenly appeared in front of him.
"Tommy, we called Dr. Lomas here to have a talk with you. We've been a bit worried that you're shutting yourself away...."
"So you called in a shrink," Tommy put in emotionlessly. In the recliner, Lomas laughed.
"I always knew we were called that, but no one's ever been game enough to say it to my face! This is one for the record books!"
Tommy ignored the attempt at lightening the situation. "I don't need a shrink. I'm not crazy."
Mr. Oliver spoke nervously, not wanting to be in the room if Tommy decided to have a psychotic episode, like the ones he'd read about.
"We'll leave you two alone to talk, okay?" The Olivers slipped quietly out of the room, leaving Tommy in a face- off with the psychiatrist.
"I'm not here to analyze you, Tommy," Lomas said in a quiet, serious voice once the other adults had left. "I'm here as a sounding board. You can say anything to me, anything you like. I know you're not crazy."
Tommy continued to stare at Lomas with a threatening expression. Lomas motioned to the chair opposite him.
Tommy walked around and sat down with a soft thud. Lomas watched him for a long moment, and spoke when it became apparent that Tommy was not going to bother.
"Okay," Lomas said quietly, "why don't we start by talking about what happened?"
Tommy regarded Lomas with an almost blank stare. "Don't you watch the news?"
"Well, yes, but you were there, Tommy. I'd like to hear it from you."
"Maybe I don't want to talk about it," he said, his voice nearly a low growl.
Lomas hesitated, then reached into his briefcase and pulled out several sheets of paper that had been stapled together.
"What's that?" Tommy asked, suddenly unsettled. "The police and coroner's reports," Lomas replied. Tommy swallowed hard, and felt his stomach start to twist up painfully again. Lomas eyed Tommy carefully.
"Would you like to hear what the police and the coroner have to say?"
Tommy shut his eyes tightly, fighting sudden panic. Who did this guy think he was...? "No," he whispered, fighting to stay calm, "I don't want to hear it."
"Then talk to me, Tommy. Shutting yourself away will only lead to trouble."
Tommy opened his eyes and glared at Lomas. "You said you weren't here to analyze me."
"And I'm not. But I can't help thinking that you haven't let Jason go, yet. And because you were there, you're angry at yourself for not being able to stop him, and you're angry at him for giving up on life. Am I right?"
Tommy clenched his fists tightly. The worst part was that Lomas was right. He was angry at himself, and he was angry at Jason.
"He gave up on us," Tommy said, before he even fully realised that he was speaking aloud. He tried to stop himself, but it was too late, and the words came in a flood of fury and grief. "He left us alone.... He left me alone... He didn't have to do it! We could have helped him. We told him we could help him, but he didn't listen. He wouldn't listen. Even before the quarry, when he came to us, we said we could help him, but he didn't listen. He just told us to come to the quarry. He ignored us. Like he didn't want to live anymore. And then he said he couldn't live anymore. Said he couldn't face us.... He didn't even try! He just gave up! He didn't even try...."
Tommy trailed off, the sobs building up in his throat and preventing him from getting anymore out. He slumped over in the chair, muffled sobs wracking his body.
"It's okay," Lomas said, going quickly to Tommy's side. "It'll be okay. We're going to work through this, Tommy. I promise I'll see you through it. I understand what you're going through...."
Tommy stood up suddenly, forcefully. "How could you know?" he exploded. "How could you know any of what I'm going through? You don't know a damn thing!"
Lomas' expression hardened, losing all traces of sympathy, and he stood up to face Tommy. "When I was fifteen years old, my best friend stepped in front of a train. I wasn't there when it happened, but I still blamed myself for it. I couldn't understand why he did it. I still don't understand. I hated myself, I hated him, I hated life in general. Then, I started hearing his voice in my head, and I thought I was starting to go insane."
Tommy gaped in shock. Before he fully knew what he was doing, he admitted to similar experiences, in the park, at his home and in the forest that morning. Lomas listened carefully, and nodded understandingly.
"You aren't crazy, Tommy. Jason was your best friend, and you just haven't let him go yet. Because he isn't here physically, you're simply imagining you can hear him speaking to you. It's one way we have of keeping our loved ones with us. Unfortunately, it's not the healthiest way. You're going to have to let Jason go, Tommy. Sooner or later, and it would be better for you if it was sooner."
Tommy's face twisted in grief. "No...." Lomas reached out for Tommy's shoulder, but the teen drew back, tears flooding his eyes again. "No, I won't let him go! I won't!"
Tommy turned and bolted from the house before Lomas could say anything more. He fled down the driveway and up the street, not sure where he was going, knowing only that he wanted to get away from Lomas.
Running blind, he turned several corners before finally heading into Angel Grove Park.
* * *
"There's Tommy," Zack murmured as the four remaining rangers headed through the park. They all looked around as Tommy slowed to a halt nearby and fell heavily again the trunk of an old oak tree. A moment of silence reigned, and then Zack motioned to the others.
"C'mon, guys. Let's go talk to him."
* * *
Tommy looked around slowly to see Zack, Trini, Billy and Kimberly approaching. He looked away again, ashamed both of his tears, and of his earlier behaviour. Kimberly went up to him, though, found his hand and held it tightly.
"We know you're angry, Tommy. So are we. There's nothing we can do about it, though. We can't go back in time and change it."
"Yeah," Zack put in, anxious to get some sort of response, "Kim's right, man. We have to accept this. Maybe Jason couldn't go on living, but we have to."
Tommy looked up at the sky, and struggled to speak through the sobs that shook his body.
"The last thing... Jason said... said to me... before he did it... was don't forget how much... how much he loved us... I can't... can't let him go... If I do... I'm scared I'll forget... forget him...."
Trini stepped forward and threw her arms around Tommy in a tight hug. "We won't ever forget him, Tommy. He's still part of us. We're never going to forget."
Tommy slumped over as Kimberly hugged him and Trini together. Then, finally, Zack and Billy moved closer as well. They joined the embrace, so the five of them stood together in a tight, protective huddle and for a brief moment they could almost feel the presence of a sixth person, completing the circle of friendship.
Zedd watched the group of teenagers in disgust. How dare they pull themselves together like that? He stepped back into the palace room and looked around until he spotted Goldar, cowering in a corner. Time to give that hairy ape a chance to redeem himself.
"Goldar, get over here now!"
Goldar scuttled over like a giant crab. "Yes, O Mighty Lord?"
"Take a putty patrol and go down to Earth and attack those brats! Before they start acting like a team again! They aren't at full strength, so it shouldn't be too hard a task for you..."
Goldar bowed low. "Yes, Lord Zedd. Thankyou, I won't let you down."
"You'd better not," Zedd snarled, "or you'll spend the next hundred years scrubbing the palace floor with a toothbrush! Now get out of here!"
Goldar turned and fled before anything more could be said.
* * *
The group of teens was just starting to move apart when there were several flashes of light, and suddenly they were surrounded putties.
"Oh no," Zack moaned as Goldar advanced on them, waving his sword threateningly, "not now...."
"Prepare to die, you pathetic humans!" Goldar roared. "Putties, attack!"
The teenagers were soon lost in battle, struggling against the numerous putties that converged on the area, and on them. Goldar stood back, initially, watching the fight from the outer, when he spotted Tommy through the melee. The eighteen year-old was taking to the putties with a fury that Goldar could not remember seeing before, and he was having no trouble dealing with the excessive numbers.
Smirking evilly to himself, Goldar lifted his sword and waded into the battle.
* * *
Billy ducked just in timed to avoid a punch from one putty, and was forced to throw himself into the dirt and roll several times to avoid a kick from another. He was just pulling himself to his feet when he spotted Goldar heading for Tommy.
"Tommy!" Billy shouted, hoping Tommy could hear him. "Look out!"
* * *
Tommy heard Billy shout out to him, and as the words registered in his mind, he turned around quickly to find himself face-to-face with a leering Goldar. A moment later, a couple of putties grabbed him by the arms, and held him tight.
Goldar sneered at the boy and lifted his sword into the air. "Get ready to join Jason, Tommy."
Tommy felt a rush of panic as the sword started its downward swing, and he shut his eyes tightly in anticipation of the pain that would follow. Seconds later.....
Tommy opened his eyes slowly, realising no blow had come. Goldar still stood there, sword half-raised in the air, his gaze fixed on a point beyond Tommy, and beyond the fight. The evil malevolence was gone from his expression, and was replaced with a look of sheer terror.
Confused, Tommy tried to twist around to see what Goldar was staring at, but the putties still held him tightly, and he couldn't move. Then Goldar began to whimper like a baby, and back away in growing fear.
"No...." the giant ape moaned, and his sword dropped to drag in the dirt as he continued to back away. "No... you're dead...."
Goldar backed up until he'd passed beyond the fight line, and although Tommy thought he'd caught a glimpse of a soft, warm, golden light somewhere behind him, he still couldn't see what was frightening Goldar so badly.
"Putties," Goldar finally howled, waving his sword in the air in clear panic, "retreat!"
There was another flash of light, and Goldar and the putties were gone as abruptly as they'd appeared.
"What was that all about...?" Zack muttered as he slowly got up from where a couple of putties had knocked him into the dirt. Billy shook his head.
"I have no idea. It would seem that Goldar panicked...."
"It doesn't matter," Trini put in as she and Kimberly joined the two boys. "They're gone, and that's all that matters. We have enough to deal with without having to fight putties."
Kimberly nodded, then looked around wearily. Tommy was over by the oak, staring away from them, to some distant point.
Tommy signaled to them without speaking, motioning anxiously for them to join him. They did so in confusion, not quite sure what to expect.
"What's going on?" Zack asked, frowning a little. Tommy nodded in the direction he was looking in.
"There. Don't you see...?"
"See what...?" Trini started to ask, and then trailed off in shock. "Oh my god...."
Zack stiffened, then, and his hands began to shake a little at his sides. "I don't... I...."
Kimberly took a step forward, not quite sure whether to trust her own eyes. "Jason...?"
The image that was forming a short distance away seemed to shimmer slightly, and then solidified. The figure stood there without moving, watching them calmly, a small, warm smile etched on the familiar face.
Billy spoke, then, scientific logic struggling to overcome what they were seeing. "It's.... It's an hallucination. That's all. The fight.... We're all feeling stressed, and the fight brought it on...."
The figure smiled broadly, then, and shook his head. "Always the logical one, Billy. I don't think you'll ever change."
Billy shivered violently, and only Zack's firm hand on his forearm prevented him from tipping over.
"Jase...?" Tommy whispered, hardly daring to believe. "Is that.... I mean, is it really you? Really...?"
Jason laughed, a sound that they had all missed so badly. "It's me, Tommy. Who do you think just frightened Goldar out of his wits?"
Tommy bit down hard on his lower lip, fighting a fresh flood of tears.
"Ghosts aren't real...." Billy whispered, almost to himself, a look of panic in his eyes.
Jason grinned. "Think of me as a hologram, then, Billy. Maybe that'll be easier for you to cope with."
"I can't believe you're here...." Trini whispered, tears flooding her eyes. "Oh, Jason..... I'm sorry...."
Jason regarded her affectionately. "I already told you, Trini. You don't have anything to be sorry for. After all, it was me that hurt you."
Trini's jaw dropped. "You..... You were there...!"
"Yes," Jason confirmed softly, "I was. I was there for all of you. I always will be. It didn't work out the way we wanted it to, but I'd rather be with you like this than not at all. You know the truth now. I was going to die anyway...."
"No!" Tommy snapped suddenly, anger and grief flashing across his face. "You didn't have to... didn't have to die! You didn't....."
Jason shook his head. "It was too late, Tommy. Billy told you about the coroner's report. The damage was irreversable. I might have lasted anything up to a year or two, but most of that time would have been spent in hospital. What kind of life would that have been? You couldn't live like that anymore than I could, Tommy."
Tommy hung his head, knowing Jason was right. Jason moved forward, then, walking across the grass and coming to stand within a couple of metres of them. "You have to let me go, now. All of you. You have to get on with your lives. Zedd's still out there, and the Power Rangers are still needed."
"But who's going to be the Red Ranger?" Zack asked, feeling more than a little bit dazed by what was happening.
"There'll be someone to take over soon enough," Jason promised. "Just be patient."
Tommy looked up at Jason, then, taking in the faint golden light that surrounded his friend's body. "I can't let go, Jason. I don't want to forget you."
"You won't forget me," Jason assured him. "I won't let you. If you ever forget me, I'll come back and haunt you till you remember!"
Tommy smiled, despite his grief, and it was the first real smile for a long while. "I miss you, Jase. We all do."
Jason's own smiled faded into one that held a touch of sadness. "I know. I miss all of you, too. I'll always be watching you, though. Wherever you go, I'll be watching over you. I promise."
Zack took a tentative step forward. "Where are you now, Jase?"
The sad smile broadened a little. "Where nothing can ever hurt me again, Zack."
Zack lowered his gaze and moved back as Billy came forward. "I never really thanked you for everything... everything you helped me with... Jason...."
"It's okay, Billy."
"Same here," Kimberly put in, struggling to keep her voice steady. "You were always there for us... Always...."
Trini shivered visibly. "And we couldn't even..."
"Don't say it, Trini," Jason told her in a gentle, yet firm voice. "You were there for me just as much as I was there for you. This last time doesn't count. There was nothing any of us could have done. We had no idea what was going to happen. I had to go into the Dimension of Doom. Any one of you would have done the same, and you know it. It could have happened to any of us. There was nothing we could do."
"But it wasn't too late...." Tommy protested weakly.
Jason silenced him with a single look. "Tommy, it was too late from the first time Zedd used the Control on me. Even if I had lived, I would never have been able to face any of you again. I probably would have ended up taking this path anyway. At least I managed to take back a little of the dignity I lost to Zedd."
"You took it all back," Zack said fiercely, not bothering to fight the tears any longer. "You took it all back, Jase."
Jason smiled, and for just a moment, they thought the could see tears glistening in his eyes. "I'll always love you guys. Don't ever forget it."
"We won't," Tommy whispered, feeling his throat tighten and his stomach twist up painfully. "I promise you that we won't forget."
Jason nodded. "I have to go, now. I just have one thing to ask...."
"Anything," Trini answered softly.
"One of you go to my home, before tomorrow. Go up to my room and look under the bed. There's a key taped to the underside. It'll open the wooden chest that's in the corner of my room. Get the yellow envelope that's in there. You'll find a cassette tape and another, smaller envelope. Give the smaller envelope to my folks."
"What about the tape?" Tommy asked.
"Take the tape to the funeral tomorrow. Play it there. It's already set. All you need to do is put it into a stereo and hit play."
"What's on it?" Kimberly asked.
Jason took a step back, away from them. "Just one song. It might hurt, but I want you to hear it."
"Do you really have to go...?" Tommy asked.
Jason nodded. "Yes. Don't forget. I'll always be with you. One way or another." The five teenagers watched in painful silence as Jason took another step backwards, and finally disappeared from their sight. They stood there for a long time, then, none of them speaking a word, they turned and headed from the park.
St. Mary's Church, Angel Grove....
"I want don't want to go in there...." Kimberly whispered as the five friends approached the church. Tommy glanced at the hearse as they passed it, then reached over and squeezed her hand gently.
"I know. After yesterday, it seems even less real than before. We have to, though. We have to say goodbye."
"Did you get the tape?" Zack asked in a strained voice as the paused before the arched doorways. Tommy nodded and produced an unmarked cassette tape from his jacket pocket.
"Right here. I wanted to put it on last night... hear what's on it... but I couldn't. It wouldn't have been right."
Trini took a small step towards the doors. "Let's go inside, guys." Zack nodded. "Yeah. Let's do it."
* * *
The teenagers took a seat near the front, all of them feeling intensely uncomfortable. The sight of the coffin sitting up near the altar was also an unnerving sight, and they found it hard to comprehend that Jason was inside the casket.
The realisation that they were never going to see Jason again.... Trini found her hands were shaking uncontrollably, and reached for the nearest hand... Billy's... and held it firmly. Billy responded almost without knowing it, and squeezed her hand reassuringly.
Kimberly stared at the coffin for as long as she was able, then looked away, burying her face in Tommy's shoulder, trying not to cry again. Tommy looked over Kim's head to Zack, who sat staring stoically ahead.
"I'm fine," Zack replied softly, his voice laced with tension. "I just want this to be over."
Tommy nodded his silent agreement, then turned his attention unwittingly back to the coffin. As much as he wanted, he could not look away from it.
Jason's parents had not spared any expense. The coffin was ivory white with gold rimming. Probably mahogany... maybe oak... whatever it was, it was probably a few thousand dollars worth....
He swallowed hard and glanced around the fast-growing congregation. There were Jason's parents, sitting in the front row on the other side of the aisle, holding each other close. There were his own parents... Billy's father.... Gradually, he picked out each of their parents, plus numerous friends... teachers... people whom he didn't even recognise....
"A lot of people really cared about Jason...."
Tommy looked around as Zack spoke. "I know." He paused, then realised he had nothing else to say. "I know...."
* * *
The service was not long, but it seemed to drag on forever, so when the minister finally ended it, the friends were all deeply relieved.
"If anyone would like to come up and say a few words," the minister said, "then you may do so now."
Before Tommy had a chance to stand up and say anything, Jason's father rose up and went up to the front. He paused, looked down at the coffin, then back to the full church.
"I'm not really sure what I should be saying. I don't know the circumstances of my son's death. I don't understand why he couldn't come to me for help.... All I know for certain is that he didn't die alone. He was with his friends, and that would have meant a lot to him.
"I... ah... I was handed an envelope yesterday. It had a letter in it that Jason had written a while ago. I won't read it out here, except to say that he was extremely grateful for his friends." Mr Scott looked over at Tommy, Billy, Trini, Kimberly and Zack. "You five kids were the best friends he ever had, and I'd like to thank you on his behalf. Thankyou for being there for him. Right up until the.... until the end."
Mr Scott sat back down hurriedly, unable to bring himself to look at anyone else. There was a long moment of silence, and then Tommy gathered his courage and stood up.
"Jason told me... a while ago.... that if anything ever... ever happened to him, to get this tape from the chest in his room. It... uh... he wanted us to play it...."
The minister walked over and gently took the tape from Tommy's trembling fingers, then went back to the stereo that had been set up to one side. He inserted the tape, and pressed play.
Tommy sat back down with a thud as music filled the church. It was a song they had all heard before. The song from the movie of Casper.
Tommy swallowed hard. He had taken Kimberly to see that movie..... He shut his eyes, and let the words fill his mind and take on a whole new meaning.
Every now and then we find a special friend
Who never lets us down,
Who understands it all, reaches out each time we fall,
You're the best friend that I've found.
And I know you can't stay but part of you will never ever go away,
Your heart will stay.
I'll make a wish for you, and hope it will come true,
That life will just be kind to such a gentle mind,
And if you lose your way, think back on yesterday,
Remember me this way, remember me this way.
I don't need eyes to see the love you bring to me
No matter where I go.
And I know that you'll be there, forever more a part of me,
I'll always care.
I'll make a wish for you and hope it will come true,
That life will just be kind to such a gentle mind,
And if you lose your way, think back on yesterday,
Remember me this way, remember me this way.
And I'll be right behind your shoulder watching you,
I'll be standing by your side in all you do,
And I won't ever leave as long as you believe.
I'll make a wish for you and hope it will come true,
That life will just be kind to such a gentle mind,
And if you lose your way, think back on yesterday,
Remember me this way, remember me this way.
Tommy had stopped fighting the tears by the end of the first chorus and, looking over at his friends, he saw that they, too, were crying. In fact, the entire congregation was in tears.
"He always knew...." Zack whispered, not even trying to wipe his cheeks. "Even when we still thought the whole thing wasn't serious.... He always knew what could happen...."
Tommy looked back towards the coffin as the pallbearers, Jason's four uncles and two of his cousins, bore the coffin from the church. "We're gonna miss you, Jase. We're gonna miss you so much...."
Zack reached over and put one hand on Tommy's shoulder. "Let's go, man."
Tommy nodded and led the way out of the church.
Hours later, the five teenagers sat together in the family room of the Scott's home, waiting in silence as Jason's parents saw the last of the people out. Mr Scott finally came back into the room, went over and sat down in the one free armchair.
"I haven't shown this to anyone else," the older man said quietly as he produced a thick envelope from his jacket pocket. "It, ah... it says a few things that I think you'd want to hear...."
Tommy swallowed hard. "Please, Mr Scott, we don't want to...."
Jason's father silenced Tommy with a single look. "It'll be all right, Tommy. I promise. I know how hard it's been on all of you, and I wouldn't put you through this if I thought it'd make things worse. But I was watching you all during the funeral, and I don't think you've said goodbye yet. Not properly."
None of the teens responded. Mr Scott nodded and turned his attention to the letter in his hands.
If you're reading this, then I guess something must have happened to me. Okay. I know that's a dumb thing to write, but how else do I get started? Anyway, like I said, something must have happened to me for someone to be reading this, so....
There's a lot I want to say, but I'm not really sure how to say it. Oh well.... Everyone knows I was never any good at writing letters....
I just want to start off by saying that whatever has happened, it couldn't have been anyone fault. Maybe that's a dumb thing to say as well, but I don't want any of my friends blaming themselves for something that I'm sure they couldn't have prevented. You guys know what I'm talking about.
Mr Scott glanced briefly at the teens, then went back to reading the letter.
The next thing is, I want to say thanks to Tommy, Zack, Trini, Kimberly and Billy for being my friends. You guys really are the best friends anyone could have. I'll always be glad that I was lucky enough to meet you all.
Zack, you always know how to have a good time, no matter what the weather's like. Whenever I felt depressed, or anything at all like that, you always knew how to cheer me up.
Same with you, Kimberly. You always made the sun shine, even if it was raining. P.S., if this is read before you and Tommy get together, I swear to god I'll come back and haunt you.
Both Tommy and Kimberly turned a deeper shade of red.
Billy, thanks for just being my friend. I wouldn't have ever gotten through Chemistry if it hadn't been for you. I was really lucky to have you for a friend. I never gave a damn what anyone else said. You really are someone that I can trust in. You were always there for me when I needed someone to talk to. Don't ever change, Billy. You're great just the way you are.
Trini.... I guess you've always been my counter-balance. I could have gone charging off like a mad bull half the time, but you've always been there to calm me down and help me see reason. I guess I'm about to embarrass you now.... I always cared for you a lot, Trini. I don't think I can say much more than that, but I hope you understand.
Tommy.... Okay, I think I'm at a loss for words here. I'm really not sure what to say. I know things were really rocky to start with, but we got passed all the competitive stuff, and got to be really good friends. I guess I just want to say you've been just about the best friend I've ever had. That meant more to me that anything else really could. I couldn't ever really thank you for everything it meant, having you as a friend, but I guess you know.
I'm sorry.... I don't think I'm doing this too well, but it's the best I can manage. If you've played the tape I left with this letter, then I suppose that really says it all. Okay, I know it's lame, but I still think it fits. I think you'll all understand, too. But above everything else, thanks for being there. For being my friends. I would never have managed to get by without you."
Mr Scott trailed off, and looked up to see that all of them were crying. He smiled sadly. "I guess it makes a bit more sense to you kids than it did to me and my wife. There's a bit more here, as well. I guess it's really Jason's will. He's listed a few things that he wants each of you to have."
Tommy looked stricken. "We don't... I mean...."
Mr Scott made a gesture, silencing Tommy. "I've already sorted everything out with my wife. We read this through before we did anything with Jason's things. Everything that he's mentioned in here has been put aside for you all already."
There was a long, painful silence, and then Zack spoke softly. "Thank you."
Mr Scott nodded. He started to get up when Tommy suddenly spoke in a slightly strangled voice that was laden with grief and shock. "He isn't coming back...."
"What...?" Kimberly asked, reaching over and putting an arm around his shoulders.
Tommy stared at the floor, blinded by the tears that were threatening to flow. "We're never gonna see him again..... He isn't ever coming back..... He's gone...."
Mr Scott rose up and strode over to where Tommy sat. "It's all right, Tommy. Let it out."
Tommy began to cry then, as it finally hit him that Jason was gone, and they would never see him again. Kimberly put her arms around him and held him tightly, also starting to cry, and soon, Billy, Zack and Trini joined in, all of them in tears.
Mr Scott stood back and watched, tears flooding his own eyes, as the five teenagers finally accepted the death of their friend.
Angel Grove Cemetary....
Tommy walked slowly along the path, and then a little ways up the hill, until he finally came to the place where Jason had been buried. Pausing for a moment, he looked around, taking in the sweet air and the warm sun. This was a nice, peaceful place. Jason would have liked it.
He sat down on the cool grass beside the grave which had, only recently, had the soil filled back in to cover the coffin. He stared at the head stone for a long moment, trying to sort his thoughts out.
Again, it looked as though the Scotts had spared no expense. It was a marble head stone, with ornate engraving. The inscription was simple enough;
Jason Lee Scott
Beloved son & friend
We'll always remember you
Tommy swallowed hard. No tears. Not anymore. He'd finally managed to accept Jason's death, and, although it still hurt, he no longer blamed himself. All the anger was gone, replaced by a grief and sadness that he knew would fade with time.
"I'll remember you, Jase," he said softly, reaching out to touch his fingers lightly to the engraved letters. "I promise I'll remember."
He paused, half expecting to hear a voice speaking to him again, but the only reply was the gentle, whispering wind. He lowered his gaze and sighed a little to himself.
He paused a moment longer, then rose slowly, but steadily to his feet and went to rejoin his friends, who stood waiting for him at the cemetary gate.