The Darkest Dimension
By: Kristen Fallon

So far he had not opened his eyes. He lay there, motionless, trying to recollect the events of the past few...minutes?...hours? one trying to remember the shadow of a dream upon awakening.

Billy slowly rolled over onto his side, sat up and opened his eyes. Nothing-- darkness.

"Hello?" he called. "Aisha? Tommy?... Kimberly?" Billy whimpered. No answer. Billy rubbed his eyes, shifting his dry contacts into a more comfortable position. He strained his eyes to accommodate the darkness. He assumed that as his eyes became accustomed to the darkness, he would begin to see outlines and shapes that would help him identify his surroundings. But still nothing. He waves his hand a few inches in front of his face. He felt his fingers flex, heard the stiff joints crack, but he couldn't see his hand.

In fact, he couldn't even feel a breeze; waving his hand in such a manner would normally produce a slight one. The air was unusually still... silent... heavy... damp. And chilly.

A convulsive shudder traced up his spine. Billy clapped his hands to his shoulders and began rubbing them to ward off the chill.

The light cottony feel of his shirt startled him. He wasn't wearing his gloves, either. Hadn't he just come from a battle? If not, then from where? Was there even a battle at all?

Yes.... There had been a battle. Zedd and Rita had sent a monster to Angel Grove... What monster?... Some sort of bug.... it was "really gross," as Kimberly had put it... and Zordon had sent the Rangers to the park to battle the monster. And Goldar was there. And Putties. And the monster could fire... fire what?... and it fired. And Tommy was directly in the line of fire.

"Tommy!" Billy shouted. However, instead of looking at what was coming at him, Tommy instinctively turned towards Billy.

No time to think.... He felt himself flying towards Tommy, his arms outstretched... and... there was a flash of light... an electrifying pulse passed through him... and...

...And he couldn't remember what happened after that. Billy glanced around again. Everything was still dark. He instinctively reached for his morpher- somehow fingering it always eased his mind when he was in trouble. Gone. Panicking slightly, he tapped his communicator. It was missing as well.

He took a few deep breaths, trying to clear his mind. Instead, he convulsively coughed as the cold, damp air poured into his lungs.

Billy speculated that the blast meant for Tommy had grazed him instead and, perhaps, knocked him unconscious; somehow, the monster had captured him and transported him to this dark dimension.

Normally, that prospect would slightly panic him, he noted. But he felt unusually calm and clear-headed. Except for a slight headache. Billy lightly fingered his temples, trying to ease away the tension.

Billy stretched out his hands, groping along the floor. He cautiously inched along the floor on his hands and knees. He saw no indication of his surroundings getting any lighter, and he didn't want to take any chances of misstepping as he fumbled his way through the darkness- hopefully towards an illuminated area.

The floor was cold to the touch, solid and smooth -like surfaced stone- only Billy couldn't feel and crevices or pits to indicate where one "stone" joined another.

As Billy crept... forward?... his ears began to pick up noises. Barely perceptible at first, they grew slightly in intensity and clarity. Billy paused for a moment and sat down on the cold floor. The pounding in his head had increased, and he wanted to make sure that there were actually sounds, and not some weird figment of his imagination. He cocked his head to one side, straining to comprehend the faint sounds.

Static -like the sound an old car radio makes when it's not properly tuned- and...

Billy held his breath. His heard leapt, filling him with the throbbing sensation of blood rushing through his body. He could hear its erratic pounding in his ears; he could feel it in his aching head, relishing the pulsating rhythm it produced behind his eyes.

Voices- not just any voices, but the Rangers' voices. Very faint- underneath all of the static. Billy stood up and rushed towards the voices, abandoning the caution he exhibited earlier.

Suddenly, his feet went out from under him and he landed on his back with a jarring thud.

Billy rose unsteadily to his feet, tottered a few steps and slipped again, hands outstretched.

Repulsed, he quickly jerked his hands off the floor. A thin coat of oily slime covered the floor- and now covered him. Billy curiously raised his hand to his face and inhaled. No scent. And he wasn't about to identify the substance by taste.

By this time, Billy could distinctly make out the different voices of the different Rangers, but he couldn't fully understand their conversation. His head was pounding, his ears were ringing, and he thought he caught some sort of disturbing whisper underneath all of the background static....

Billy...tsetse... That was the name of the monster!... Tommy... demorphed...cannon... Ayi yi yi!...

"Alpha?" Billy questioned. "What's he doing here?"

"Hello?" Billy called, pulling himself up and carefully inching forward.

After a few slippery, unsteady steps, he fell again. "Dizzy...." he muttered to himself, pulling himself up again. His whole body felt heavy and listless- especially his head. He felt unusually exhausted. The throbbing pulse he had enjoyed earlier had intensified to an unbearable intensity, pounding at his temples and drumming in his ears.

Billy reached out in front of him, and, surprisingly, struck something solid. A wall.

He pushed the cool surface of the wall. It gave way slightly, like a giant Jell-O mold, but sprang back to its original position when the pressure was discontinued. Encouraged by this sign, he pushed harder. The wall gave in a bit further.

The Rangers' voices seemed much closer now- especially Tommy's. Billy summoned what little energy he had left and threw himself into the wall. It bent under his weight, but did not break as he had expected.

He wearily staggered away from the wall, feeling extremely light-headed. His legs quivered under his weight. The pounding increased. Something wasn't quite right- this wasn't natural.

Billy inhaled deeply, trying to clear his thoughts. Another convulsive cough as the air- the air! The air was much heavier and much more humid than before. It was also laced with a faint scent of vanilla. Or was it cinnamon? Or mint? It seemed to change with each breath.

"C'mon Billy... hang in there buddy... you can do it!"

Tommy? Tommy! Billy pressed against the wall, again, looking for a weak spot. Tommy must be able to see him! He pushed harder, ignoring as the tension in his head filtered down to his muscles. Nothing. He was too weak.

"Tommy!" Billy cried. His own voice alarmed him- it sounded distant... weak... sluggish. "Help me!" he screamed, pounding his fist into the wall.

With that, Billy slid to the floor- he was too exhausted to try pushing again. He lay down and closed his eyes, not caring that the oily slime was getting in his hair and coating his skin and clothes. The voices faded as he drifted into a deep sleep, carried off by the lulling rhythm of his own heard and the sweet citrus smell of lemons.

"NO!!!" He could barely hear Tommy screaming. "Billy, don't give up! Please!" The fading voice pleaded.

While Tommy's voice faded into oblivion, Billy thought he heard another voice replace Tommy's.

Someone was laughing....

* * *
"Ayi yi yi!" Alpha moaned. "Zordon, we lost him again!"

"Keep trying, Alpha," Zordon urged, "we don't have much time left." Discouraged by the turn of events, the Rangers backed away from Alpha's workstation and retreated to their own little spaces of the Command Center, absorbed in various meditations.

Tommy paced in front of one of the many computer consoles in the center-- one of the many consoles Billy had spent hours working upon at one time or another. He stopped momentarily, fixing his gaze on its mesmerizing, randomly blinking lights.

Suddenly, he raised his fist and smashed it into the console, sending sparks flying. "Damn!" he muttered, bending over the sizzling console and massaging his aching hand.

Kimberly cautiously inched up behind Tommy and tentatively placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder. The other Rangers shifted uneasily in place or stared at their feet. "Tommy," Zordon spoke, "you must not blame yourself for what has happened..."

"But, Zordon," Tommy objected, turning to face Zordon's image, "that blast was meant for me. If Billy hadn't stepped in...."

"Then I would have," Rocky interrupted.

"Or me," Aisha chimed in.

"Same here," Adam added.

"You would have done the same thing for any of us," Kimberly soothingly insisted.

Realizing they were right, Tommy looked down and nodded in consent. After all, there wasn't much he could do about it now.

An uncomfortable silence fell over the Command Center. No one knew what to say next. Aisha briefly made eye contact with Adam and wondered if he was thinking the same thing she was. She thought it was so cool when she, Rocky and Adam had been appointed the new Rangers. Fighting putties, riding in the Zords, being role models- it never occurred to her that she might actually be seriously injured. Or maybe even killed.

Sure, putty fights left bruises; monster hits smarted for a few minutes- sometimes even days. But they generally subsided. Many times she had been scared during a fight- but never experienced absolute fear. Nor excessive pain. She always knew the other Rangers would be there to help her out when she needed it. But had she really been there for the others- for Billy- today?

Aisha shuddered. It could have just as easily been her who had taken that hit in Tommy's place. And, like Billy, she wouldn't have thought twice- until it was too late. After all, she stood only a few feet away from them when the whole incident happened. What would it do to her parents if she never came back? The thought brought tears to her eyes, which she quickly blinked back. Upon opening her eyes, she caught sight of-

-Adam had been watching Aisha the whole time and gave her an uneasy half-smile as their eyes met again. She quickly looked away from him and pretended to busy herself with computer readouts.

Sighing deeply, Adam glanced around the Command Center. Tommy and Kimberly stood in one corner, carrying on a hushed conversation. Judging by their facial expressions, Adam guessed that Kimberly was still trying to comfort Tommy. Aisha continued to stare blankly at her computer console, once again lost in some deep thought. Rocky sat on the floor, leaning against the wall. He pulled his knees to his chest, leaned his head back and closed his eyes. Alpha continued frantically working amid the uncomfortable silence.

Adam shuffled over to Alpha's workstation. "Anything yet?" he whispered as he neared Alpha.

The little robot paused, shook its head, and resumed working. Adam gazed down and the table. He cautiously reached over, to avoid disturbing Alpha's instruments, and brushed a wisp of hair away from Billy's eyes. Billy involuntarily twitched.

Adam froze. Had he awakened Billy? No, of course not. Billy wasn't sleeping- he was in a coma. Adam couldn't waken him, no matter how hard he, or any of the other Rangers, tried.

Coma- it was such a little word. Billy looked like he was dead- pale, limp and immobile, except for the gentle heaving of his chest as he struggled to breathe. A sleeping death... no, that's not what Rocky called it... what was it?... sleeping... oh yeah... sleeping sickness.

Just a few minutes earlier, Billy had shown signs of waking up. He shivered and his fingers began to twitch. Alpha reported that his life signs were climbing. Billy's eyes fluttered, his lips moves as if to speak. Finally, he mumbled something... Tommy... a cry for help... a deep sigh... and then his life signs dropped down again.

Adam took Billy's hand in his own. It was cold... clammy. He gave it a gentle squeeze and imagined he could feel Billy squeezing-

-Back to the wall, Rocky continued to wait. He hated waiting. Without anything to do, his mind tried to keep him occupied by daydreaming. But Rocky didn't want to daydream- his mind kept drifting back to the day's events.

* * *
He and the other Rangers had gone to the park for the day. The others were going to toss around a frisbee, but Rocky had work to do. He had waited until the last minute to start his biology report about the Tsetse fly and African Sleeping Sickness- due tomorrow morning in Ms. Applebee's class.

Rocky settled himself under a tree a few feet away from the others and furiously began scribbling notes.

After 45 minutes or so, Billy trudged up to the tree to check on Rocky's progress.

"How's it going?" Billy asked as he flopped down in the grass next to Rocky.

"Terrible," Rocky sighed, tossing another encyclopedia into his pile of "used " books. Actually, it wasn't going that badly; Rocky just wanted to be out there playing frisbee with the others.

Billy picked up one of the books and began thumbing through it. "Anything I can do to help?"

Rocky shook his head "no," as Billy propped himself up on one elbow and began reading.

"Have you read some of this stuff on sleeping sickness? Its absolutely fascinating," he remarked.

"Its all I've been doing all day," Rocky chuckled, snatching the book out of Billy's hands and bopping him on the head with it.

"Ow," Billy sheepishly grinned, rubbing his head. "Why don't you take a break and toss the frisbee with us- just for a few minutes, anyway," he suggested.

Rocky hesitated as Billy stood up, dusted the grass off his pants and ran to join the others. Billy stopped, looked over his shoulder and called, "Well, what are 'ya-"

* * *
-"thinking about?" Kimberly interrupted his train of thought as she sat down next to him.

Rocky shrugged. "Nothin'- frisbee," he mumbled. Kimberly smiled briefly. "I shouldn't have brought those stupid books with me!" Rocky snarled as he pushed up and away from the wall. "Then Zedd wouldn't have gotten the idea for that rotten-"

* * *
-"Tsetse monster," Zordon explained as the Rangers stood staring at the Viewing Globe. "It has started a path of destruction throughout the park."

"Oh gross," Kimberly thought, watching the giant bug. "I hate bugs. That thing is so... gross."

This bug was particularly nasty, Kimberly reflected. It was a large, black... totally gross... dirty fly with huge red eyes and a really long (what was the BillySpeak term for its "nose?")... proboscis (yeah... that was it. Or sounded reasonably like it, anyway). Unlike normal flies, its wings folded flat on its back instead of sticking out at angles.

"You must be careful," Zordon cautioned, "This newest creation of Lord Zedd has a very deadly weapon. It is able to shoot fireballs, containing its sleeping sickness, which can cause you to demorph. Once demorphed, the sleeping sickness will attack you."

"Sleeping sickness?" Kimberly asked.

"Yes, Kimberly. Sleeping sickness. If it attacks you, you will be transported to the Darkest Dimension."

Kimberly raised an eyebrow. "Huh?"

"Sleeping sickness," Rocky explained, "causes its victims to fall into a coma. I think what Zordon is trying to say is that if we're hit, we'll become comatose, hence, the 'Darkest Dimension.' I can't think of any dimension darker than a coma from which there is no escape." He shuddered.

"If I remember correctly from your books, Rocky," Billy added, "if not caught and treated early enough, a person will die."

"That is correct, Billy" Zordon said. "But this sleeping sickness is one of Zedd and Rita's spells. Their sleeping sickness causes a powerful coma- eternal sleep- but I doubt it is strong enough to kill."

"Rangers, be careful," Alpha whined.

Zordon nodded. "And may the power protect you."

Kimberly didn't like the way this sounded. She looked at Tommy, expecting to see some sort of reaction, but instead, he just nodded and they morphed into action.

Once in the park, the Rangers split up to take on the different monsters. Kimberly took Billy and Adam with her to wipe out the putties. Aisha and Rocky distracted Goldar, while Tommy battled the Tsetse monster.

Kimberly watched with an acute sense of smug satisfaction as her last putty disintegrated. A bright flash of light to her right caught her attention. She turned toward the light to find her world warped into sickeningly slow motion, like a bad dream.

One of those horrible fireballs that Zordon had mentioned was spinning through the air- hurling towards Tommy- spitting flames and sparks in every direction.

Kimberly tried screaming at Tommy, but her heart leapt to her throat and silenced her voice as she froze with fear.


That wasn't her voice- it was Billy's.

Kimberly watched with a weird fascination -like watching a murder on television- as Tommy turned towards Billy, who flung himself towards Tommy.

As the fireball exploded, Kimberly turned away to shield her eyes from the bright explosion.

When she returned her attention to the scene, both Rangers were flying through the air in opposite directions- Tommy was thrown 20 feet in the direction Billy had pushed him. Billy disappeared behind some bushes.

Kimberly started running towards Tommy, sick to her stomach. She felt as if she were running upstream in a rapid river. Each step seemingly failed to bring her any closer to Tommy.

A second explosion rocked the earth and tossed her to the ground like a rag doll.

That second explosion snapped Kimberly back into "normal time" and she rolled over, expecting to see another fireball cutting a path towards her. Instead, she saw a smoldering pile of ashes where the Tsetse monster had been, and, a little further in the distance, the Red, Black and Yellow Rangers deshouldering the Power Cannon.

When she finally reached Tommy, he was shakily pulling himself to his feet. He had dropped out of morphed mode and seemed a bit disoriented, but otherwise fine.

"Tommy, are you okay?" she asked, steadying him.

"Yeah," he groggily replied. Then, as if jolted by a live wire, he completely came to his senses. "Billy!" he screamed. "Where's Billy?!" Pushing his way past Kimberly, Tommy disappeared behind the same bushes that Billy had vanished into.

"Is he okay?" Adam asked, as he and the other Rangers came running up to Kimberly.

"Yeah, c'mon," Kimberly replied, not certain of the fact herself. She motioned to the other Rangers, who followed her behind the bushes.

Billy lay, demorphed, crumpled on the ground like a broken sparrow. Tommy was kneeling as his side. He looked up at the other Rangers as they approached. "We've got to--"

* * *
-"Stop him!!" Tommy screamed as he bolted across the Command Center, shoving equipment and Rangers out of his way.

"Tommy?!" Adam questioned as he was pushed aside. Tommy snatched Billy's hand away from Adam, and frantically began scanning Billy's face as the other Rangers cautiously gathered around, exchanging gazes of curiosity and doubt.

"Don't you--" Tommy broke off, noticing the others' strange stares. "What I mean... is... uh... I...." Tommy fell into a dead faint, still clutching Billy's hand.

"Zordon?" Rocky called over his shoulder.

"It is just as I feared, Rangers," Zordon began, but he was cut off by a shrill piercing hum.

"Ayi yi yi!" Alpha cried. "Poor Billy!"

"Alpha?" Aisha whimpered.

"I've lost him. Billy's gone."

* * *

Billy snapped his head in the direction of the sound. Through the distorted wall that separated them, Tommy could tell his friend was disoriented, like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car.

Tommy's heart sank as Billy turned away from him and headed towards a bright, ethereal light in the distance. It was growing in intensity, with each step Billy made towards it.

"No! Wait! You're going the wrong way!" Tommy pounded against the wall, hoping to break through it and reach Billy.

"T-T-T-Tommy?" Billy weakly stammered. "I... I can't see," he sobbed, falling to his knees.

Tommy glanced around. Other than the wall, the light and the two of them, there was nothing to see. It was eerie.

"It's okay..." Tommy tried to sound calm, "just follow the sound of my voice."

"How do I know it's not a trick?" Billy shot back, bringing his sobbing under control.

Tommy sighed. "You don't."

"There's light up ahead... it's warm... I can feel it...."

"Forget the light," Tommy pleaded. But Billy didn't heed him and started back towards the light. "Billy! Stop! You're not thinking clearly, damn it!" Tommy momentarily lost control. Seeing Billy stop and shrink back, he took a deep breath to regain control and continued, "Billy... wait... I'm sorry...."

Tommy let out a sigh of relief as Billy inched towards him. "Good," he encouraged, "you can do it." His friend's steps were unsteady, unsure.

A shadow fell between Billy and the light. "Billy, look out!"

Billy slipped and dropped to the floor, but was caught. He shrieked as he was seized about the waist and hoisted off the ground.

"Put him down!" Tommy demanded.

The Tsetse monster turned its angry gaze towards Tommy, it's eyes glowing bright, blood red. "As you wish, White Ranger," he scorned, hurling Billy towards the wall.

The wall acted like a shock absorber, gently cushioning Billy's impact, but then cruelly dropping him to the ground with a resounding thud.

Then, as suddenly as it appeared, the monster vanished.

* * *
"I've got him!!" Alpha triumphantly called.

Kimberly, realizing she was holding her breath, exhaled a deep sigh. She faced Zordon. "I thought you said that the sleeping sickness couldn't kill him," she said, "and we almost lost him, and then this whole business with Tommy--" her voice cracked as she tried to stifle her frustration.

"I'm afraid I've underestimated the strength of the spell," Zordon explained. "It is slowly weakening Billy. He's giving up."

Aisha gulped. Billy should know better than that! They were here for him- they were trying....

"But what about Tommy?" Rocky asked.

"Tommy is in no immediate danger, Rangers," Alpha answered. "He is only sleeping."


"Because," Zordon bellowed, "although Billy took the brunt of the Tsetse monster's blast, Tommy was hit as well. I failed to realize this, at first, but Tommy's bizarre behavior indicated that he had not escaped without damage. The blast has somehow connected Billy and Tommy in the Darkest Dimension. Yet, I fell they are also separated. Tommy subconsciously felt the connection, though he was unaware of exactly what it was he was feeling. He perceived Billy's insecurity and fear, saw whatever Billy observed, heard what Billy was thinking."

Adam peered blankly at Zordon. "So, what exactly does that mean, Zordon?"

Kimberly stared at the two young men lying on the lab table side by side, their hands clasped together through friendship and the dark connection they now shared. "It means Tommy has gone to save Billy."

* * *
Tommy pressed his hands flat against the wall. "Billy, are you okay?"

"Yeah," Billy replied, sitting up and gingerly rubbing the back of his head where it had hit the floor. It was wet... hot... sticky. Billy pulled his hand away from his head and rubbed the substance between his fingers. Blood.

"Billy, you're bleeding," Tommy gasped, also noting for the first time that Billy was completely covered in some sort of shiny substance.

Billy mutely nodded. His head was swimming. Swimming... that was it....

Tommy noticed a bright flicker behind the weariness in Billy's light eyes. It could only mean one thing- Billy had an idea. "Well?" he expectantly asked.

"Swimming...." Billy began thinking out loud, "and this wall... semi-solid... and diving... hands...." The words came carelessly tumbling out of his mouth. His eyes clouded; he was getting weaker.

"Woah, wait," Tommy interrupted, "I'm not following you."

Billy struggled to focus. He couldn't explain- his thoughts were too incoherent. They kept getting mixed up somewhere between his brain and his mouth. "Divers... they way they fold their hands...." Billy pressed his palms together to demonstrate, "less surface area... penetrates...." Billy stifled a moan and clutched his head. "...tired..." he sighed.

"Go on," Tommy said, crouching down to get a good look at Billy's face. It didn't look good. "C'mon, hang in there. Keep talking."

Billy shook his head "no". Instead, he pressed his palms together again and pushed, fingers first, into the wall. His fingers slipped easily through the wall. Billy let out a yelp of surprise and pain.

The interior of the wall was filled with a cold, thick liquid, not unlike the substance that coated the floor. It was much colder than anything Billy had ever felt before. It bit into his flesh and penetrated deep down to the bone. It burned.

Tommy's eyes widened. "That's it! Just put your head down between your arms and push a little further through. I'll pull you the rest of the way."

Billy felt stinging tears involuntarily welling in his eyes and streaming down his face. "It hurts," he whimpered.

"I know...." Tommy soothingly encouraged. "Remember what Jason and I taught you about focusing pain outside of yourself when breaking boards? Try it now. It'll work the same..."

Billy took a deep breath, closed his eyes (not like they were doing him any good anyway) and tried to focus the pain outside of himself. He lowered his head and pushed into the wall, just like Tommy had told him.

Billy's hands broke through Tommy's side of the wall as most of his body slipped into the wall. Tommy grasped Billy's hands. They were ice cold, wet and slick from blood and the nasty liquid substance inside the wall. Tommy pulled.

Something pulled back.

The Tsetse monster had reappeared and had grabbed Billy's ankles. "No!" it hissed, "He's mine! He cheated me of you!"

Tommy felt Billy's hands slipping out of his own. Once inside the wall, Billy lost track of the outside world. The cold liquid was nearly unbearable. Yet, at the same time, it was peaceful. The gentle swishing of the liquid -a sound not unlike a fetal heartbeat- reminded him of something far distant in his past. It calmed and soothed him.

Billy panicked as he realized that he was not moving. He couldn't hold his breath much longer and began thrashing about, trying to swim towards Tommy. Both his ankles and his wrists were restrained. He felt something pulling him in both directions, and he desperately tried to kick himself free.

Unable to suppress the breathing reflex any longer, Billy inhaled. The cold liquid rushed into his lungs. Its weight and temperature shocked him, but not nearly as much as the fact that he could actually "breathe" the liquid. It was laced with a faint trace of orange spice.

Billy took another deep breath and instantly relaxed. He ceased struggling against the pulling at his hands and feet, and let himself roll through the cool waves. The outside world ceased to have any meaning for him. He felt his mind drifting far away....

Suddenly, the cold liquid dissipated and was replaced with a shocking heat. He felt himself falling.

* * *
Tommy bolted up, gasping for air.

"Tommy!" Kimberly gleefully shouted. She threw her arms around his neck and planted a kiss on his cheek.

Tommy dropped Billy's hand to return the hug, but stopped short when he realized his hand was covered with blood and some sort of cold, gelatinous substance.

"Oh gross... what is that stuff?" Kimberly asked, handing Tommy one of Alpha's work towels to wipe his hand with.

"I'm not quite sure," Tommy slowly answered, wiping his hands and setting down the towel. "And I don't think I really want to know, anyway."

Next to him, Billy began coughing. He slowly rolled to his side, gasping for air, and was assisted by Adam and Rocky to a sitting position.

Aisha took the towel and wiped Billy's hand. "Welcome back," she smiled.

Billy appeared puzzled. "Did I go somewhere?" he asked, self-consciously withdrawing his hand.

"You don't remember?" Adam asked.

Billy shook his head. He looked beseechingly at Tommy, who winked knowingly. "We'll talk about it- later."

Alpha scanned Tommy, then Billy, with a small hand-held medical device, jerking the device away from Billy's curious pawing. "Everything looks A-okay," he cheerfully reported.

"Congratulations, Tommy," Zordon commended. "It's good to have both of you back."

"Thanks, Zordon," Tommy acknowledged, "It's great to be back. But you really should be congratulating Billy...."

Billy turned a curious glance towards Tommy. "For what?"

Tommy and the other Rangers smiled. "For being there for us," he answered, clapping Billy on the shoulder.

Feeling an overwhelming urge to reach out and be touched, Billy clutched Tommy in a tight embrace. Tommy returned the hug. It felt good. And he noticed a faint, but pleasing smell.

Tommy smelled like oranges....


Author's note: I was in a Hemingway bashing mood when I finished this paragraph... If you don't get it, read "The Sun Also Rises." Everything that could be potentially meaningful and deep is just "good" ;)