...I just don't know what's eating me. Lately, I've been really irritable and impatient. I've always been a bit impatient, but I nearly slugged Hans Ziegfried for some thoughtless remark about "California teens". I've been losing my temper a lot, and that's pretty bad, since I'm at a Peace Conference. I guess I'm just getting fed up with the whole idea. Zack, Trini, and I have been here for over a year now, and nothing's changed! Nothing! We couldn't prevent wars in Bosnia, Rwanda, or terrorist attacks in the Middle East. I guess I'm not the kind of guy who can sit down and talk out problems. I'm a fighter, and that's all there is to it. I don't have the patience to do this work...
Jason stopped writing for a brief moment, and glanced around his room. It looked exactly like a college dorm room would, with bunk beds, two dressers, one rather large window, with an excellent view of the Alps, and a clutter of clothes and odds and ends on the floor. The wall was decorated with Zack's posters of Coolio and Black Street, as well as Jason's posters of Chuck Norris and the Power Rangers. He remembered how Hans always said "Jason! You should no better than to idolize such characters as the Power Rangers and that American fighter! They stand for everything we oppose! They solve their problems through violence, while we are trying to save the world through peaceful means."
I think that's my problem. I just can't do this! I really believed in the Power Rangers, and I understand that not every problem can be solved through conversation! Its not like I'm a warmonger or something. I totally respect the work that's being done here. I just don't think I can take a lead in promoting World Peace. I'd rather be out in the heat of battle, with the fate of the universe resting on my shoulders. That's my way of saving the world. This...just isn't..."
Jason sighed deeply and sat up on his bed, the bottom bunk. He took a long sip of soda, and looked down on the floor. He stared at his bookbag for a moment, and shrugged. He was supposed to be studying with Trini and Zack for their final exams, which start in a few days. The participants of the Peace Conference are all given an excellent high school education, so they don't fall behind their peers. Jason was just too troubled to study this evening, so he told Zack and Trini to go ahead to the library without him.
I don't think Trini and Zack are having the same problem I am. Trini has always been peaceful, and she's so dedicated to saving the world that it doesn't matter how she does it. Actually, being a world peace activist is better suited to her than being a super heroine. She's really enjoying herself here. Zack is just a great guy. He's so easy going, and so adaptable. He can handle any situation thrown at him, and I really respect that. Mr Caplan was right to choose them to come here. Zack and Trini are really doing a fantastic job. But me? No, I'm not cut out for this sort of thing...
Jason closed his journal and stretched his arms. He then picked up two hand-held weights, and began doing a his daily routine of curls. He did this to calm his nerves, and to think. Today, though, he was more upset than usual.
"Why did I ever come here?" he asked himself aloud, absently lifting the weights, "I must've realized that Jason Lee, a martial artist since kindergarten, can't suddenly become Ghandi! I just don't have a peaceful nature! I loved being the Red Ranger. I really shouldn've stayed, its just that..."
Jason sighed and put the weights under his bed. He then lay on his stomach on the carpetted floor, and began doing push ups.
"Ever since Tommy became the White Ranger, and leader of the team, I always felt a little...uncomfortable. I mean, why did Zordon demote me? What did I do wrong? Tommy's a great leader and all, but was I that bad myself? Zordon never told me why he gave leadership to Tommy. Was it because he should be the leader, or was it because I couldn't be the leader. Was I a failure as a leader? Was I a failure as a Ranger?"
Jason rolled over onto his back to being a round of sit ups. Each time his chin touched his knee, he released a deep, cleansing breath. He knew he had reached a crossroads in his life. He knew a change had to be made. He just wasn't sure if he was man enough to do it.
"That's it," he declared to himself, "I can't do this anymore. I can't be such a hypocrite, talking peace while thinking of fighting. I just can't. And I can't change my nature, either. No, I can never be a man of peace. Not while there's a war going on. Maybe once Earth is safe from intergalactic threats, then I can promote peace. But I know that the rangers can't try to reason with Zedd, he's just too evil. The only way to save Earth is to fight, and that's what I was born to do."
Satisfied with his decision, Jason sat up and stretched out his legs. "There's only one thing to do. I'm going back home. As soon as final exams are over, I'm going back to Angel Grove. I don't belong here. I doubt Zordon would make me a ranger again--heck, I was a lousy leader! But maybe I can help them out or something. I don't know...I just can't lie to myself anymore."
At that moment, a key turned in the lock, and Zack Taylor, Jason's best friend and roommate, entered the room, with his hands full of books. Trini Kwan, their mutual friend since middle school, followed him into the room. They both smiled at Jason, who stood up to greet them.
"Hello, Jason," said Trini, "How're you feeling? Did you get any studying done?"
"No," Jason admitted, "I was just...thinking."
"What about?" asked Zack curiously. He didn't like the look on Jason's face. He was hiding something.
"Well, about me, and the Peace Conference. Guys, I...I've reached a decision. Once the semester ends, I'm going home."
"What?!" cried Zack and Trini in unison.
"You heard me. I can't do this anymore. You guys've known me since sixth grade! You know I'm a man of action. I always have been. Being a Power Ranger was a dream come true--me, taking an active role in the future of mankind! I thought I could do the same thing here. But I don't have the patience to sit and talk about global problems."
"Jason," said Trini, "You may be a man of action, but you are also a man of peace! Being a Power Ranger has taught you to fight only in defense, and never to escalate a battle. We're taking the wisdom that Zordon gave us, and putting it to a greater use."
"You're right. But its just not...me. I'm a fighter. I always have been. Its hard for me to try to change that, to become a man sitting at a desk for hours, talking to people about global warming and world hunger. I can't do this! I don't think I'm putting my whole heart into this, like you two are. Someone else would do so much better here than I am. I belong on the battlefield."
"Jeez, Jay," said Zack, "Maybe you should, ya know, sleep on it or something. After final exams, we all get a week off before the talks start up again. Trini and I, along with a few others, are planning to go to Greece. You should come with us, and relax a little."
"Yes," said Trini, "You're just stressed about final exams."
"No," said Jason sternly, "I've made my decision. In the morning, I'm going to talk to the director and tell him I'd like to resign my position. Its for the greater good."
"So what're ya gonna do, Jay?" asked Zack, "Rejoin the Power Rangers? What're the chances there'll be an open spot on the team, just waiting for ya? Sheesh, we haven't even spoken to the guys for months! And we never talked about ranger business over the phone or in letters, for security reasons. You can't go back to being the Red Ranger, man. That's just part of your past."
"I know that," said Jason angrily, "I just...can't do this anymore! I'm gonna resign."
"Wait, Jason," said Trini, touching his shoulder, "Why don't you spend the week off in Angel Grove, and get re-aquainted with the guys. Then, if you really feel you belong there more than you do here, send the director a letter of resignation. Don't make any rash decisions, Jason. Its not like you."
"Alright," said Jason, "I'll do it your way. But I don't think it'll make a difference."
"We'll see," said Zack, "Now, in the meantime, let's grab a bite at the cafeteria, and then hit the books!"
Trini and Jason nodded in agreement, and the trio grabbed their books and headed out the door.
A week later, Jason Lee steps off the airplane, a connecting flight from Switzerland to Florida, and then from Florida to Angel Grove, in southern California. Jason is spending the night in Florida, and is planning on spending a few hours with his friend since elementary school--Kimberly Hart. Kimberly is the only one that Jason feels comfortable enough to talk to about his insecurities. Kim is so sensitive, she can always tell when something's wrong. If anyone can understand me, its Kim, thought Jason as he scanned the lounge for someone in pink. Sure enough, he spotted a short, slim young woman with a pink mid drift and white shorts, thick golden brown hair, and a twinkle in her eyes. She shrieked when she made eye contact with Jason, and immediately ran to him and wrapped her arms around his neck in a warm hug. Jason returned the hug, and then set her down on the floor at arms length.
"You look good, Kim," he said, "So, how's practice going?"
"Great. Coach Schmidt really has me ready for the Pan Globals in May, and he thinks I'm a guarantee for a medal in the individuals."
Kimberly grabbed Jason's arm and led him through the crowds towards the baggage claim. Kimberly continued to talk about her friends, family, and practice, while Jason stayed unusually quiet. Once they were in Kimberly's red Pontiac Sunfire, and pulled onto the freeway, the conversation turned.
"So Kim," said Jason, "how's the team? You left last July, right?"
"Yeah. Um, let's see...Rita and Zedd got married, the rangers went on a voyage to Phaedos to get the Great Power and the Ninja Zords, Rita's brother Rito Revolto made an appearance, and that's basically it."
"Oh,"said Jason, looking out the window, "So uh, how's Tommy?"
When Kim didn't answer, Jason turned to face her. He noticed her pallor became a few shades whiter. "Kim? What's wrong?"
"Well...I don't know how Tommy's been lately. I haven't kept in touch with him."
Jason was visibly surprised by this. "What happened?"
"I...I broke up with him. We're through."
"Oh," said Jason quietly. He could tell Kim was extremely uncomfortable with the topic, so he tried to change it. "So, what's the plan for tonight?"
"Well, I'm taking you to the Holiday Inn, so you can clean up and get settled, and then we can go to dinner. I'll pick you up tomorrow morning at seven and drive you to the airport. Sounds good?"
"Yeah. Sounds great."
Kim stopped the car at a red light and turned to Jason. "Are you okay? You seem a bit...distant. What's bothering you?"
Jason sighed. "We'll talk about it later, okay?"
Kim looked at Jason for a moment, and noticed how frustrated he seemed. She remained quiet for the rest of the car trip, and soon she pulled into the Holiday Inn driveway. Jason stepped out and took his luggage from the trunk.
"Need any help?" she called from inside the car.
"Nah, I got it."
"Okay, I'll be back at about eight, and we can go to dinner. Okay?"
"Right. See ya then," said Jason with a wave, headed towards the doors. Kim beeped the car horn in reply, and drove away. Jason watched the car pull away, with a small smile on his face.
She's so different, but she's still the same. She's more mature, more serious, more independent. But at the same time her eyes still shimmer with a love of life, and she's still so sensitive. I wonder if she regrets leaving the rangers. If not, than I'm the only one that does.
Jason and Kimberly are seated at a Red Lobster a quarter mile from the hotel. They had walked to the restaurant, talking about current events. Jason has yet to tell Kimberly about his decision to leave the Peace Conference for good. Jason studies the menu while Kim watches his facial expressions intently. Jason feels her scrutinous gaze, and looks at her through the corner of his eye.
"Jason," she asked quietly, "What's going on with you?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I can tell something's wrong. You're not...talking to me, like you used to. Something's bothering you. Something's lingering in your mind, and you don't want to tell me what it is. C'mon, Jase! You've always been a brother to me. You can tell me anything."
Jason sighed and smiled at Kim weakly. "Well, you're right. I've decided to leave the Peace Conference and move back to Angel Grove."
Kimberly's eyebrows rose, but other than that, she showed no reaction. "Really? Why?"
Jason explained his predicament to Kim, and she listened intently to his story. She nodded while he spoke, and really thought about his problem. When Jason finished, he looked at Kim questioningly, as if he was seeking her approval. Kim smiled and touched his hand.
"Jason, you've always been a strong and fierce fighter. A fighter, a protector, and a leader. You're right--you are more suited to being a soldier than a negotiator. I'm just surprised that you lasted so long at the Conference it this is how you really feel."
"I really hoped that I was wrong, that I could acustom myself to the new way of life. Zack and Trini adapted fine to being on the sidelines, but for some reason, I didn't. I didn't leave because I didn't want to quit. I'm not a quitter. But I realized not too long ago that all I was doing was lying to myself, and that the truly brave move to make is to be true to myself, and that means doing what's best for me."
"You're absolutely right, Jason. Sometimes, its hard to make decisions, and sometimes we make the wrong ones. Do you regret leaving the Power Rangers?"
"Well, I don't know. I really miss being the Red Ranger, but I must admit I've learned a lot and I've grown alot over the past year and a half. Besides, when I left the team, I was absolutely sure I was making the right choice. If I didn't go to Switzerland, then I would've always wondered if I had made the right decision."
"Is that all, or is there something else you're not telling me?" asked Kim, with a knowing expression on her face.
"I just can't keep a secret from you!" said Jason jokingly, "You're absolutely right. There's more."
"Well, remember when Tommy first became the White Ranger?"
"Yeah," said Kim, chuckling, "and I fainted at the sight of him. It was pretty embarassing, you know."
"It was an experience. I was thrilled to see Tommy back on the team. He went through alot as the Green Ranger. But, to this day, I don't understand--"
"Why Zordon made Tommy the leader of the Power Rangers?" interrupted Kimberly. Jason looked up at her in surprise. She just smiled as innocently as possible.
"Am I that transparent?"
"No. Its just a perfectly rational question. I mean, Zordon just said 'This is the White Ranger, the new leader of the Power Rangers.' He didn't tell us why."
"I can't help but wonder if I was a failure as a ranger."
"Jason!" said Kim angrily, "Don't think that for one minute! You led the rangers through the most difficult challenges we've ever faced! Like when Zordon vanished, or when the Megazord was destroyed by Cyclopsis, or when Goldar had Tommy's powers on the line. Each time you stepped up, took control, and led us through tragedy. You were a fabulous leader, and a great hero."
"And what about Tommy? Is he a good leader?"
"Yes, Tommy is also a very responsible leader. But Jason, he learned how to lead from you! Before he joined the team as the Green Ranger, Tommy was a loner. He was completely withdrawn! He was so insecure about being the leader, especially once you left. He turned out to be a great leader, just as Zordon predicted, but you were always his example. He looked up to you from day one."
Jason looked at Kimberly for a moment, completely bewildered. She just smiled at him, and then went back to scanning her menu. They chatted while they ate dinner, and then they walked together to the hotel, basking in the balmy breeze of springtime in Florida. Jason was in a much better mood now than he had been in weeks, and he let himself enjoy the warm beauty of Florida, a drastic change from the chilly but picturesque Swiss Alps. But even though he was feeling better, he still had a question that plagued him. He turned to Kim, who was watching the sunset as she walked.
"Kim," he asked in a serious tone, "can I ask you a question?"
"You just did," she answered with a giggle. Jason just smiled and shook his head in disbelief. Kimberly Hart is the only person he knew who would answer a totally serious question with a light-hearted joke. "Are you happy here in Florida?"
"Yes," she answered honestly, "The work is hard, but I enjoy it here. The rest of the team is really nice, once you get to know them, and I have a few close friends. I get along great with my roommate, and I have a lot in common with the rest of the guys. I love the weather, and I talk to my mother and Billy all the time. It was hard for a while, but you get used to it, ya know?"
"You just got to get used to it, eh?" he asked her. He then stopped, and looked down at her. "Do you ever regret leaving the team, Kimberly?"
"Well, I don't regret leaving the Power Rangers. I mean, it's been my dream since I was seven that I compete in the Pan-Globals, and then in the Olympics! I have a chance to fulfill my dream, but I can't deny that I'll always view Angel Grove as my home. I miss everyone so much...you, Trini, Zack, and Billy and Aisha, Rocky, and Adam. And despite what's happened, I miss Tommy. Alot."
"What exactly did happen?"
"Well, we used to be in contact all the time, writing letters and talking on the phone at least once a week. But, we still lived thousands of miles apart, and its not fair. I missed him so much, it actually hurt. So, I met this guy, who's sweet and kind, just like Tommy. I had to break up with Tommy, Jason! It wasn't because I met Trevor, we aren't really serious or anything. We're really good friends, for the most part. Its just that I left Angel Grove, probably for good. Once the Pan-Globals are over, I'll be starting practice for the Olympics, and then, who knows? College, maybe, or I may move to Paris. In either case, I won't be going back to Angel Grove. So I figured I'd end it, and get it over with. After I wrote that last letter, I tried to call him, and try to make him understand why I dumped him. That letter wasn't good enough, and I felt I owed him a better explanation than that. So I called him that Friday, but his mother answered, and said he went skiing with Katherine. Katherine can comfort him better than I can, given the fact that he probably hates me. He never tried to call me, so I stopped trying to reach him. He didn't want to talk, or else he would've called me. I guess I deserve getting the cold shoulder from him. I hurt him, maybe more than I'll ever know."
Jason leaned over and hugged the shorter girl warmly. Kim's eyes watered slightly, and she buried her face in Jason's black T-shirt. Jason felt horrible whenever Kim cried. He wished he could protect her from pain, her as well as Billy, Zack, and Trini. That was his responsibility, to protect them. But he failed.
"I'm sorry I brought up the subject," he whispered. Kim pulled away and smiled up at him, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand.
"It's not your fault," she said, "Besides, I think I had to get it off my chest. This whole scenario has really been bothering me for months."
The two friends continued their trek to the hotel. Once they reached the hotel, Kim kissed Jason gently on the face and went to her car.
"I'll see you tomorrow at seven!" she called, "Don't be late!"
With that, Kim pulled out of the parking lot, and Jason strolled into the hotel, waiting for the elevator to come.
I'm lad I got a chance to talk to Kim, he thought, It feels just like old times! Now, all I have to do is muster the courage to talk to Tommy when I get to Angel Grove tomorrow. I don't think I can tell him my concerns about my demotion. I don't want him to think I'm mad at him for taking the leadership away from me. But I can't avoid Tommy, and I sure can't lie to him. He's just as sensitive as Kim regarding others. He's my bro, and he's gonna want to see me.
Its ten o'clock in the morning, and the sun is pouring into the neat and busy Angel Grove Airport via the large windows. Sitting at gate 11A, a middle aged couple waits anxiously for the arrival of flight 345 from Miami, Florida.
"What time is it, Scott?" asked the brunette woman, glancing around the area.
"Its ten, Margaret," said the tall, black haired man, not looking up from his newspaper, "Only five minutes later than the last time you asked me. Calm down, Honey. The plane will be here any minute."
"I know, I know. I'm just so worried..."
"There's nothing to worry about. Flying is by far the safest means of transit. Jason'll get here in one piece."
"Scott, I'm not talking about the plane! I'm worried about Jason. When he called us and told us he's spending his vacation here, he sounded so... depressed. And why did he tell us not to let Tommy and his friends know he's coming home? One would think the first person Jason would want to see is Tommy. They're very close."
"Maybe Jason just wants to surprise them. And as for him sounding depressed, he was probably worried about his final exams."
"And I suppose Scott Lee, attorney at law, has an answer for everything, eh?"
"That's what I'm paid for, Maggie," he said with a smirk.
^Attention. Flight number 345 from Miami Florida now arriving at Gate 11A,^ said a woman's voice over the intercom. Margaret and Scott Lee stood up and walked to the gate, and watched as the VIP business men and women from first class exited the plane. Then, the other passengers began to pass through, and Jason was towards the end of the line.
"Jason!" shrieked Margaret, giving her only son a warm hug, "How are you, Sweety? We haven't seen you since we visited you last Christmas! We've missed you!"
"I'm fine Mom," he said quietly, returning the hug. When his mother let go, his father walked up to him and extended his hand.
"How've you been, Son?" asked Scott, shaking his son's hand in welcome, "How did your finals go?"
"Well," said Jason as the trio began the hike to the baggage claim, "I'll get my grades mailed to me in a few days, but I think I did pretty well. Physics was easy, but I had a little trouble with European History and Economics."
"Where are Zack and Trini?" asked Margaret, "They didn't come home?"
"Nah, they went to Greece."
"Why didn't you go with them?" asked Scott, "You've always wanted to visit the Mediterranean."
"I... I guess I felt homesick is all," he said quietly, "Let's get going. I'd really like to just be home."
Margaret and Scott exchanged worried looks. "I thought you'd want to go to Ernie's," said Margaret, "After all, you've practically lived there since you were a freshman!"
"I'll go some other time."
The family piled into Scott's black BMW, and began the short ride to their home. Jason remained silent throughout the trip, only answering his parent's questions. Once they reached their split level ranch, Jason took a single suitcase and went straight to his bedroom. Scott and Margaret brought the rest of Jason's luggage into the house, and Margaret approached Jason's locked bedroom door. Before she had a chance to knock, Scott placed a hand on her shoulder.
"Maybe we should give Jason some space, Maggie," he said quietly. Margaret looked up at him.
"What do we do? What's wrong with my baby? He's never been this quiet and recluse."
"Listen, I'm no psychiatrist. All I know is Jason has returned home, and he looks exhausted. There's something he's not telling us. Whenever he tries to hide something from us, he gets very quiet and pensive. But he's an adult, and we can't force it out of him. Jason will come to us when he's ready. In the meantime, let him relax and reflect. Alone."
"Maybe I should call Tommy," said Margaret, "After all, Tommy always managed to cheer up Jason when he's down, and vice versa."
"Let's not interfere," said Scott, leading his wife downstairs into the kitchen, "Why don't we start cooking dinner? I'll make the salad."
Margaret threw a grateful smile at her husband, and began searching the freezer for steaks.
The next few days were rather quiet around the Lee household. Jason remained locked in his bedroom most of the time, practicing his katas and lifting weights. He is still very curt with his family, and hasn't made any effort to contact his friends. Margaret's worry escalates, and one morning, she quietly enters Jason's bedroom and takes a seat on his bed. She studies his sleeping face for a few moments, until he finally opens his eyes.
"Hey, Ma," he yawns, "What's up? Shouldn't you be going to the office?"
"My first appointment today is only a dental cleaning, Sweety, and he's not scheduled until ten. I have some time to talk, if you're interested."
"About what, Ma?" he asked, sitting upright in his bed. Margaret smiled and tried to tame his dark, curly hair.
"Honey, your father keeps telling me that you're an adult, and that you'd come out of your shell when you're ready. Well, frankly, I disagree. You may be eighteen, but you're still my baby boy, and I hate it when you act like this!"
"What's bothering you, Jason? Don't tell me nothing's wrong, because I've been your mother for eighteen years, and I know how your emotions work! You're usually so active, but now, all you do is sit in your room. Why haven't you left the house yet? You never, EVER spend this much time locked indoors, especially now, in the springtime."
"I... I just don't feel like going outside," said Jason, getting back under the covers, "Now, could we please not talk about this? Have a nice day at work."
Margaret stared mutely at her son for a few moments, and then slowly got up to leave. She began to close the door behind her, but then stopped and turned around.
"Jason, could you please do me a small favor?"
"Go get a shake at Ernie's. Could you do that for me?"
Jason remained silent for a while, and then sighed loudly.
"If you insist."
Margaret Lee blew her son a kiss, and then closed the door behind her. Jason waited until she was gone, and then got out of bed. He stretched his legs, and watched from the window as his mother's white Lexxus pulled out of the driveway. He then closed the blinds, and went to the bathroom. He started the bath water, with dozens of thought swimming though his head.
Now what have I got myself into! I just promised my mother I'd go hang out at the Gym and Juice Bar today! She'd be really disappointed if I told her I didn't want to go, and I can't lie to my own mother. Oh well, I can't keep myself locked in this house forever! I wonder what I'm so afraid of! Tommy? The others? I don't believe how tough it is for me to see my old friends again. I mean, I should be cyked about seeing Billy and Tommy, and Rocky and Adam. But no, I'm nervous and insecure.
Jason lowered his tan body under the fluffy foaming bubbles, allowing all of his toned muscles to relax.
They're my friends, whether or not I'm a Power Ranger. I guess I just don't want to lose face in front of them. Especially Tommy. I never realized how much he respected me until Kim pointed it out. I don't want him to think I'm a quitter for leaving the Peace Conference. I don't want to lose his respect.
At about noontime, Jason Lee jogs out of his front door. He was wearing a gray sweatsuit, with a red towel thrown around his neck and black and white running shoes. He jogged casually along the sidewalk, headed for Ernie's Gym and Juice Bar, which was right next to Angel Grove High, about six miles from Jason's house. As he jogged, he scanned the houses he passed. His gaze fell upon a white house with gray trim, a basketball hoop, and a tomato garden. He smiled as he passed that house, for he spent many hours on that driveway, shooting hoops with his best friend.
Man, I don't remember the last time I visited the Taylors' he thought as he ran, Ever since Zack and I became friends, I always spent my afternoons there, shooting hoops until sunset. Then, his mom always invited me for dinner, and she always made a batch of those delicious fudge brownies, just for us. Those really were the good ole days. Carefree, alive... just me and my friends. Zack, Kim, Billy, and Trini... we were family. Always together. Always having fun. Even after we became Power Rangers, it was fun and games. Then Tommy came aboard, and we welcomed him in. But then, Rita started playing hardball, first with creating that Green Candle, and then kidnapping our parents. Those were some tough times. There were some tough decisions to be made. And I made them. I could stand the pressure, and my conscience always pushed me to do what's best. Best for the team. Best for the planet. Best for the universe. And what was best was for me to pass the leadership on to Tommy. He deserved it. He still deserves it, I'm sure. It was for the best. For the team, the planet, and the universe. But, not for me...
Jason jogged past the park. That park was where he and his friends had dozens of picnics, frisbee games, football games, and karate lessons. He sighed wistfully as he sat on the bench and took a sip of water from his bottle.
Not that I'd ever put my well-being before that of the team and universe, but I can't deny that giving Tommy command really affected me. He's probably a terrific leader, but I can't help but wonder. Doubt myself. I was never one to doubt myself. But, I guess people change.
Jason stood up and stretched his legs and back before continuing his jog to the Juice Bar. In about half an hour, he reached the Youth Center. He took a deep breath and walked into the restaurant/gym. He sat down at the bar, and looked around. As usual, the Juice Bar was crowded by Angel Grove High students coming to eat and relax during lunch. Jason had already graduated from high school in Switzerland, but he really missed his old high school, and his old friends. Many of the people he saw were familiar faces. Some of them recognized him, and some did not. Jason scanned the room for four young men in particular--Tommy Oliver, Billy Mitchell, Rocky DeSantos, and Adam Park. No doubt they'd be sitting together with the new Pink and Yellow Rangers, on a round table. He continued to look through the crowds, until a hand tapped his shoulder. He turned around to see one lanky man and one burly man in trench coats and sunglasses.
"Jason?" said the lanky man, "When did you get back from Switzerland?"
"Oh, not too long ago," he said, "Bulk, Skull... what're you two up to now?"
"What d'ya mean?" asked Bulk, sitting beside Jason. Skull sat on Jason's other side.
"I mean the trenchcoats. Are you planning on sneaking around the park, looking for the Power Rangers?"
Bulk and Skull removed their sunglasses, and they both looked at Jason and smirked. Bulk then leaned closer to Jason.
"We gave that up ages ago," he whispered, "We're private investigators now."
"Yeah," whispered Skull, "and we're on a secret mission. We're tailing the suspicious guy on the treadmill. We think he stole some acids from the chemistry department three days ago. He's our only suspect."
"Skull," said Bulk, looking away, "Our man looks like he's leaving. Let's go. Bye, Jason."
"Yeah, bye Jay. Nice to see ya again. Welcome home."
With that, the two private investigators snuck out of the Juice Bar, leaving a bewildered Jason sitting alone at the bar.
Private investigators!! Sheesh, I've really been gone long! So much is different...
Finally, Jason spotted Tommy. Actually, he spotted Tommy's dark ponytail, although it was substantially longer than it was before. What really threw Jason off was the fact that Tommy wasn't wearing his signature color.
Red?! Does that mean he's the Red Ranger now? Nah, it can't be. Rocky's red...
Just then, Rocky and Adam sat down with Tommy and the two girls. Jason was so surprised that he couldn't help but stare.
Rocky's wearing blue? What happened to Billy? Where is Billy anyway? I guess that blonde girl is Katherine, the one that replaced Kimberly. I can only assume that black girl is Aisha's replacement. And why is Adam wearing green? Could he be the Green Ranger now? Whoa, the team has changed so much that its barely recognizable.
Then, the five teenagers all glanced at their watched simultaneously. They then looked at each other, and then looked around the Juice Bar. Jason quickly turned around to avoid their glances, with a smile on his face.
Well, they are the Power Rangers. Sheesh, I never realized how conspicuous we are when we leave. Its so obvious something's happening. Oh, well, I guess the Power Rangers are going to save the world again. Without me, of course...
Jason turned back around, and just caught sight of Tommy leaving the Juice Bar. However, before he left, Tommy turned around, taking one last look around. Jason's and Tommy's eyes met, and a shocked expression crossed Tommy's face. He almost looked like he was about to come back in, but then changed his mind and hurried out of sight. Jason sighed and slouched into his seat.
Well, now Tommy knows I'm in town, and it won't be long before he drops by to visit. There's no going back now. I'm gonna have to face him. Very soon.
That evening, Jason sat home alone, eating a microwave dinner. His father was in his office, working on an important case, and his mother was also putting in a long day at work. Jason sat and watched television in the den, picking at his fried chicken and mashed potatoes. He was startled by a knock on the front door.
"I wonder who that could be," he asked himself, opening the door. He tried to hide his surprise when he saw Tommy, standing rather uncomfortably on the step.
"Hey, bro," said Tommy, "How've ya been?"
"Not bad," said Jason, "What's on your mind?"
"Uh... can I come in? We need to talk."
Jason nodded, and the two young men walked over to the couch. Jason turned off the television, and looked at Tommy expectantly.
"So, Jase... when did you get back from Switzerland?"
"A few days ago," he answered.
"Where are Zack and Trini?"
"So, uh, how long will you be here, bro?"
"I... I'm not sure. But, I've already decided not to return to the Peace Conference."
Tommy looked at Jason in surprise, and then stood up, with a knowing smile on his face.
"I knew it!" he declared, "I knew it! I had suspicions for a while now, but when I saw you in the Youth Center this afternoon, I was convinced!"
"What?" asked Jason, bewildered, "What're you talking about?"
"Why didn't you tell me, bro? I thought we trusted each other! You could've told me..."
"Told you what?!"
"That you're the Gold Ranger, Jason!"
Jason stared at his friend in shock. "Who?"
"The Gold Ranger. You know, the mysterious ranger who helps us out all the time, but never sticks around to tell us who he is! He's been showing up for a couple of days now, and no one can figure out who he is! At first, we suspected Billy. But that didn't quite work. Now that I know you're back in town, it all makes sense! How did you get this new power, Jay?"
"Tommy," said Jason seriously, "I honestly have no idea what you're talking about! I've never even heard of the Gold Ranger before. Trust me, its not me."
"Oh," said Tommy sheepishly, "Sorry about that, bro. I was so sure... wait a minute! If you're not the Gold Ranger, why are you leaving the Peace Conference?"
Jason sighed. "I decided that I couldn't hack it as a peace representative. It was tough for me going from the field of battle to the forum of peace talks. I tried for a long time to acustom myself to my new assignment, but I never did. I finally decided it wasn't my nature. So, I quit."
"You quit?" said Tommy incredulously, "I... I don't believe it! Wow, bro, it must've been pretty rough on ya, to make you leave like that. But still, I'm glad you're back."
"I'm glad to see ya too, bro. Sorry it took me so long to get out there--I've had lots of thinking to do."
"I can understand," said Tommy, "I mean, you're talking to the man who went to his uncle's cabin every other week to sort out problems. Sometimes you just need a little privacy. Say, me and the guys are going to the movies tonight. Ya wanna come?"
"No, I don't think--"
"C'mon, Jay! You can meet Tanya and Katherine, and get re-aquainted with all your friends!"
"Some other time, maybe. Go ahead, bro, and have fun."
Tommy looked at Jason for a moment longer, and then shrugged and walked to the door.
"Jason," he said as he opened the front door, "remember that whatever problems you're going through, you can count on me and the guys. We're a family, Jason. Brothers and sisters. No matter how many of us leave and how many of us come, we'll always be rangers where it counts. Here."
Tommy pointed to his heart, and then waved goodbye, closing the door behind him. Jason sighed and sat on the couch in silence, a slight frown on his face.
"So, I'm a Power Ranger in spirit, eh? Then how come I don't feel like one, Tommy?"
Jason devoted the next several days to unpacking his belongings. He left the house more often, pleasing both his parents a great deal. However, he managed to avoid contact with the Power Ranger teens. He hadn't done that on purpose, but he made no effort to see them. He didn't visit their houses, or call them, or anything. He went to the Juice Bar every day for lunch, and he reaquainted himself with Ernie, Bulk, Skull, and some other old friends. But Tommy, Adam, Billy, Rocky, Tanya, and Katherine were never in the Juice Bar. Except for one occasion, when Katherine was practicing ballet and Tanya was watching. He was sure they noticed him, but they wouldn't recognize him as the former leader of the Power Rangers. He decided not to approach them, and minded his own business. Finally, over a week since he first got back to Angel Grove, Tommy dropped by. It was early afternoon, during seventh period in school. When Jason heard a distinctive knock on the door, he knew something was going on. He knew instinctively that this time, there was ranger business to attend to.
"What's going on, Tommy?" he asked as he opened the door.
"We've got a situation, bro," said Tommy, entering the house. He closed the door and looked around cautiously. "Is there anyone else here?"
"My parents are working. I'm home alone."
"Good. Okay, I'll get right to the point. Jason, remember a couple days ago, when I accused you of being the Gold Ranger?"
"How could I forget?" asked Jason with a smirk.
"Well, the Gold Ranger finally introduced himself. He is Prince Trey from the planet Triforia, and he has come to Earth to help the Power Rangers. However, he has a problem that won't allow him to continue being the Gold Ranger."
"Is he sick or something?">p> "Sort of. You see, Triforians are three personalities combined into one. Prince Trey's three personalties have split apart, and he has to rejoin his three personalities to be the Gold Ranger."
"Wait a minute. Are you saying there are three identical men in the Command Center?"
"The Power Chamber."
"Nevermind. Listen, Jay, the reason I'm here is that, we need someone to assume the Gold Ranger power until Trey is whole again. Now, we first thought to give the power to Billy, but the power doesn't agree with his bio-chemical makeup. Something about negative protons. So, there's a spot open on the team, and I was wondering if you're interested."
Jason stared at Tommy in surprise. "Are... are you sure you want me on the team?"
"Of course!" said Tommy in disbelief, "You were probably the best Power Ranger I've had the privilege of working with! I'd love to have you by my side again. Besides, I could use your help with leading the team. I mean, there've been some incredibly tough decisions to be made, and I was the one to make them. Once, I had to decide whether or not to surrender the team to Zedd in exchange for Kimberly's life. That was not an easy decision. Leading is really tough, bro."
"Don't I know it. But Zordon made you the White Ranger for a reason. You're destined to lead the Power Rangers. Oh, by the way, are you still the White Ranger, or am I missing something?"
"Actually, we're the Zeo Rangers now, and we all have new colors. I'll tell ya on the way there."
Both young men stood up and approached the door. Before they left, though, Tommy pulled a trenchcoat off the coat hangar, as well as a bandana. He threw them to Jason.
"There's no doubt in my mind that the Machine Empire will be watching us walk back to the Power Chamber. I don't think they'd know who you are, but just to be on the safe side... "
"I got ya," said Jason, donning the coat and bandana. He then put on a pair of dark sunglasses, "Lead the way, bro!"
Tommy smiled, and they both ran down the street, headed towards the mountains outside Angel Grove. Excitement filled Jason's whole being as they moved swiftly through the small town.
I just don't believe it! I'm gonna be a ranger again! Everything's gonna be fine. Of course, things'll be very different. The team is totally different--new colors, new members, new powers, new home base, new allies. But, just like Tommy said, no matter how many changes the team goes through, it'll always be the Power Rangers. And deep down, its the same. The same goal. The same kind of morphin power. The same kind of selfless, brave teenagers, willing to put their lives on the line for the preservation of our society. I guess I really always was a Power Ranger. Its just that now I'm an active ranger again. What's really important is that I'm a ranger here.
Jason lightly put his hand over his heart. Tommy glanced back and saw Jason clutching his chest.
"You okay, bro?" he asked with worry.
"Never been better, Tommy," he responded honestly, "Never been better."