.........."A mirror, right?"
As soon as he spoke, Billy knew he'd messed up. He couldn't even see straight...
and Kimberly was holding his stupid hologram project, not a mirror. How
was he supposed to know... she usually carried a mirror.
.........."That's the fake." Kim said with a grin. Billy shook his head, trying to clear it while the clone pushed him off. How did Kimberly get his hologram, anyhow? He'd just used it.
.........."It's Morphin' Time." In seconds, the Power Rangers were lined up, facing him. The fake Blue Ranger raised his blade blaster. "Your masquerade is over," he said coldly.
.........."You wouldn't dare." Through the mental haze Billy started to feel an icy cold bolt of fear. The fake had fooled his friends. They were standing with it, not him.
.........."You picked the wrong Ranger to replicate!" The fake fired his blade blaster. Billy dodged it, but the other Rangers opened fire along side the fake. His suit protected him against the first few shots but then a shot to his shoulder breached the suit. He cried out from the pain. Then he felt the sensation of being transported. Zordon saved me, he thought as he winced in pain. Then he lost consciousness.
..........He came around seconds later when he felt a sword probing his side. He pushed it away weakly... his shoulder was killing him still, and opened his eyes.
..........Fangs and red eyes filled his bleary vision. He jumped and tried to back away but he was backed up against a stone wall. He realized that he was in normal clothes, not his uniform. And his power coin was gone.
..........Goldar scratched his head. This was something new. Typically a defeated monster came back in pieces. Granted, the replica appeared wounded and a bit confused, but it was just strange enough that he summoned Lord Zedd.
.........."Master..." he droned to his leader, "We might be able to reuse this one."
..........Lord Zedd looked at the dazed teenager. "Goldar, you fool! This isn't my monster! This is the Blue Ranger! The real Blue Ranger."
..........Billy blinked. Was it really possible that Lord Zedd was standing less than two feet away? He should, he thought slowly, try to do something, but what? He could barely stay awake, let alone leap to his feet and rush the evil leader. He shivered instead, and tried to ignore the dizziness and pain.
..........Zedd chuckled. "Well, Goldar, my plan may not have completely failed after all." He kicked Billy, who made no real effort to avoid the blow. "This is a most interesting turn of events."
.........."What?" Goldar thought he understood. "How do you want him killed, oh high lord of evil? We still have some Fog of Morpheus left...."
..........Lord Zedd shook his head in disgust at Goldar's stupidity. "We don't want to kill him, you moron. Not now."
..........As they argued, Billy saw his chance. His friends would rescue him, he knew that. However, there was no reason to just wait in a jail cell on the moon. He had an idea that they might try to drain his power or worse. There was an open crevice just a few feet away... if he could get there, maybe he could get into the maze like caverns and tunnels that undermined the whole castle. At least he wouldn't make it easy for the forces of darkness. He inched towards the crevice. Fortunately, Zedd and Goldar were still arguing about what to do with him. He crawled into the crevice. He was right... it was a tunnel.
.........."I say that we will steal his powers and give them to our Blue Ranger. That's final Goldar. And you will get a refund for the Fog of Morpheus!" Zedd looked down at his captive, wanting to taunt the frightened Ranger, but Billy was gone. "What!"
..........The two evildoers looked. There were tracks in the dirt leading to the crevice. They looked in just in time to see Billy's sneakers disappear around a dark corner.
.........."Well, this is just lovely, Goldar." Lord Zedd wanted to scream. "Now I've got a Ranger running loose in my beautiful castle. Do you how hard they are to get rid of? Worse than getting rid of termites! Well... never mind. He can't get out... and even you can catch a caged mouse, Goldar." Zedd mused outloud. "We still have a spy on the team. A fake ranger, complete with power coin. This could be interesting, Goldar. Very interesting indeed." Zedd laughed maniacally.
..........In the cold darkened tunnel, Billy heard the laugh and shivered again. He was in a real bad situation, he knew that. He was hurt, he was trapped in enemy territory, and thanks to the Fog of Morpheus he could barely think. Plus, an evil clone was taking his place on the team.
..........He shook his head. That was really the last thing he needed to worry about. The clone would make a mistake soon enough. Or Zordon and Alpha would figure it out. Either way, his friends would be there soon with a rescue. It wouldn't be long. What he had to worry about was staying alive until then. A few hours stuck in Lord Zedd's castle... how bad could it be? Maybe he could learn something.
..........He shivered again. He hoped it didn't take them too long.
..........Kat thumbed through her calculus text and sighed. She knew math was important, especially in architecture, but boy did it puzzle her sometimes. She looked up and caught both Billy and Adam's eyes. "Guys... could one of you give me a hand?"
..........Adam grabbed her paper and looked. "Seems okay..."
..........Billy took the paper. "No...you've done your derivation incorrectly. Here...." he pointed out her mistake. "Fix that and you should be okay." His hand touched hers briefly, and for an instant she had a sudden flash of fear. She flinched away.
.........."Thanks, Billy." She hoped he hadn't noticed. She liked all of her new Ranger friends but.... sometimes Billy gave her the creeps. Oh, he was nice enough. Sometimes though, she caught him looking so cold and hateful... she wondered if maybe it was her. From various people, Rangers included, she had gotten the impression that Kimberly and Billy had been close. Not dating close, but good friends. And Aisha had hinted a few times that Billy had been covering a crush on Kimberly for years. Now Kimberly was gone, and here she was, the replacement. Not that Billy ever was rude or unpleasant... he was just cold. His smile never seemed to reach his eyes. Not that he smiled much anyway... for someone so young, Billy was pretty grim most of the time.
..........Billy walked off and Adam took a seat beside her. "Good thing you asked both of us to look." Adam grinned sheepishly....
.........."YeahÉ." She could, she thought, ask Adam. The other guys weren't particularly sensitive about such things but Adam seemed pretty mellow. "Adam... has Billy always been like this?"
.........."What? Smart? Yeah...." Adam sighed. "He's like a computer sometimes."
..........She shook her head. "No... I mean... well, haven't you noticed that he's ... so deadly intent? Cool... even cold sometimes."
.........."Well... he used to kid around more." Adam sighed again. "And he used be awkward... now he makes me look awkward." He grinned a little but Kat could tell he was embarrassed. "I mean... sometimes I feel like I'm in a losing competition with him. He does everything better... he's even a better fighter now, and it used to be like nothing to win a match with him." Adam blushed. "He's almost perfect... it's hard to compete with that."
..........Kat wanted to kick herself. Aisha had mentioned that Adam was prone to feeling under confident. And why was she being so paranoid about Billy? So she didn't click with him... it happened.
..........Their communicators buzzed, and she put her thoughts aside.
.........."Rangers, the day I feared has arrived. Behold the viewing globe." They turned as one. In the globe was a glowing sword. Goldar was waving it about. "Lord Zedd has given Goldar the mighty Sword of Darkness. With it he will become five times as strong."
.........."Where is he?" Tommy asked, always eager for a fight.
.........."He is still practicing with the sword in Lord Zedd's palace." Zordon looked intently at them. "Rangers, the Sword of Darkness is a formidable weapon... for either the forces evil or good."
..........Billy looked up intently. "What do you mean, Zordon?" The others nodded. They didn't understand either.
.........."It is a neutral weapon." Zordon explained, "It's power is neither good nor evil... merely there. If you were able to capture the sword... its power would channeled into the fight for good."
.........."Could we capture it?" Adam asked hesitantly. "I mean... Goldar's already got it."
.........."Well... if he's still practicing with it...." Billy mused out loud. "I imagine he must take a break now and then and store it somewhere. We could try sending someone in to steal it."
.........."Oh...." said Adam.
..........Kat sighed.... Billy was just too into the problem to notice how bad he made Adam feel. If she wasn't so new to the team, she would have taken Billy aside and said something about his insensitivity... but she was new. It wasn't really her place.
.........."Good idea, Billy." Adam added, trying to cover his blush of embarrassment.
.........."The question is, " Rocky said suddenly, "Who goes to the moon and takes it?"
.........."I'll go...." both Tommy and Billy chimed together.
.........."No...." Kat said quietly. "I know the palace quite well. Neither of you are very familiar with it...."
..........Billy nodded. "You're right." They all turned and waited for Tommy to agree. Slowly, Tommy nodded, though it was obvious that he wasn't really fond of the idea.
.........."Okay... Kat, be careful." Tommy hated sending his friends off by themselves on missions. It made him nervous.
.........."Kat... we barely have enough energy to get you through the palace's force field undetected." Billy added. "Get the sword and get out. Don't fool around... you don't want to get trapped there." The concern in his voice made her blush. Now she felt bad... Billy was worried about her and she'd spent most of the day picking apart his behavior.
.........."I'll be careful." she said seriously. Then, she teleported away.
.........."We'll keep an eye on her with the viewing globe." Tommy said grimly.
..........The palace was as dark and cold as ever. She crept along, keeping a wary eye out for Rita and Zedd's henchmen. She turned the corner. There it was, the chamber with the sword. She stepped up to the sword. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a flash of movement. Then, she was pummeled to the ground.
..........Out of the corner of his eye, Adam saw Billy making adjustments to the viewing globe controls. He shrugged it off... that was what Billy did all the time. Then, just as they all saw something drop down on Kat, the viewing globe turned to fuzz. Adam spun around and saw Billy pounding furiously at the controls.
.........."Billy... what's happening?" Aisha tensed up.
.........."I don't know." His eyebrows crinkled with worry. "I was just trying to enhance the transmission."
.........."Oh man." Tommy muttered. "I hope Kat can handle whatever that thing was."
..........Kat dropped and rolled. With a quick twist, she jabbed her assailant in the stomach and flung it into the wall. It curled up in a ball. Kat took a closer look. Underneath the layers of grime... it was a human.
.........."Kimberly... don't hit me. I didn't mean to scare you." Kat looked again. Pale, dirty, and awfully thin... but his voice. She knew it didn't she? And how did this... person know that Kimberly was the Pink Ranger?
..........The guy stood shakily. Shorter than her, she noted, a brunette. Or else he was super dirty. He squinted at her. "Don't touch the sword, Kimberly. It's got a force field around it." His voice... she played around with what he said. Force field....
.........."Billy?" She took a step forward. What was going on?
..........He backed up. "You're not Kim." Billy looked around for the nearest exit. A trick... a stupid, stupid trick and he'd fallen for it. It was probably Scorpina... she was the only one who made any real effort to hunt him down anymore. Goldar was always busy. Squatt, Baboo and the new guy, Rito weren't really a challenge. Scorpina hadn't been around in about a month or so.
..........He thought it was a month, anyhow. He'd lost track of time. Zedd and Rita had no real sense of time passing... they sent monsters down to earth at wildly random intervals. It was just the silly hope that his friends were finally going to rescue him that brought him out of hiding. He'd been on his way to sneak into Finster's lab... to "assist" in the making of monsters. Somehow, he hoped his interference was helping out down on earth. Typically, he replaced what he assumed were significant ingredients with sand or dirt. Finster never seemed to notice. Finster didn't even notice that his candy supply was constantly being raided. Without the occasional candy bar, all Billy had to eat on a good day was whatever he found in the trash that was borderline edible. He was so dizzy from hunger, he had almost missed the pink blur of the impostor. An obvious fake, now that he thought of it. She didn't even sound American.
..........The impostor held out her hands in a gesture of peace. "My name is Kat." She removed her helmet. It was a pretty blond girl. Definitely not Scorpina. And besides, any of Lord Zedd's lackeys would've killed him by now... it was a standing order at the palace. "I replaced Kimberly on the Ranger team."
.........."Replaced?" He considered that in horror. "Did... did the impostor do something to her?" That would explain so much, he thought. They've been so busy battling the clone...they haven't had time to rescue me. It had been hard to keep finding reasons to explain why there had been no rescue. He could understand few days... they had to discover and deal with the clone. If there had been serious problems, say that involved recruiting a new ranger, he could understand how maybe there hadn't been time to plan a palace storming. Until the moment he'd spotted the Pink Ranger, he had pretty much given up the hope of being rescued. The simple act of survival made thinking about much else impossible. Hiding, finding food and water... he looked down at his filthy clothes and wanted to cry. Water was the worst. If people were active in the palace, he couldn't sneak down to the lone water tap. The last few days had been very active... he'd been reduced to licking the drops of condensed water off the walls. He wondered if this new Ranger had any idea how thirsty he was.
.........."Impostor?" An ugly idea formed in Kat's head. "You mean... you're Billy and the Blue Ranger is a fake?"
.........."You didn't know?" He really wanted to cry now. "No one even noticed? This isn't a rescue?"
..........Kat wanted to cry herself. Her own time as a captive in the palace hadn't been fun. Billy had obviously kept his hopes pinned on his faith that his friends would discover the clone and come to rescue him. She'd just taken probably the only thing that had kept him alive and stomped it into little pieces. It was written like a book on his face. Her communicator bleeped suddenly.
.........."Kat... are you okay?" It was Tommy. "We lost visual... Billy just got the communicators working again but still no picture."
..........Of course not, she thought to herself. Someone doesn't want to give himself away. "Tommy, I'm all right." She waved a hand at Billy to keep him silent... she had a feeling that if the impostor knew she knew... she would end up trapped there too. "Look... the sword is in a force field... Give me a minute... maybe I can get it out." She looked at Billy and sighed. She hated to do it but....
.........."Billy... listen to me very carefully." She hoped she could get through his shock and disappointment. He nodded... he was trying, she could tell. "I can't take you back with me... the impostor's in the command center right now. Do you know where the cells are?"
.........."Below the throne room," he said bleakly.
.........."Good. I'm going to come back in a few hours." Kat crossed her fingers on that. She had to get some help.... "Maybe even a day. I want you to wait there for me, okay? Then I'll come back and get you."
..........He nodded and scuffed the dirt at his feet. "Sure...."
.........."Billy... I promise." She crossed her heart.
.........."Okay... I'll wait for you." He smiled, a smile that Kat realized was genuine. It reached his eyes. How could anyone have been fooled, she wondered as she teleported away.
.........."Kat...." Tommy gave her a hug. "Are you okay? What attacked you?"
.........."I really don't know." she said quickly. "I hit it and it just disappeared." One thing working with the forces of evil had taught her...she could lie like a rug when she wanted too. "I couldn't get the sword."
..........Tommy considered. "Billy... could you make something that could dissolve the force field?"
.........."Well, sure...." Billy paused, "But we don't have enough energy to get Kat in and out again safely."
..........Of course not, Kat thought grimly. He was good... real good. What puzzled her was how Zordon had failed to pick up on the impostor. Then, it struck her. The power coin. The clone got Billy's power coin before Ninjor linked them with the forces of good. The coin was masking him... and if the real Billy were to get the coin back, he would destroy the clone, much the way she had almost destroyed Kimberly.
.........."Kat, are you okay?" Billy asked. "You look a little pale."
..........Bastard, she thought suddenly. "I'm just a little shaky." Her voice dripped sweetness. "Look... it seems like there's nothing we can do until Goldar decides to attack." Who, she thought, can I trust to help me?
.........."Yeah." Rocky said. Not Rocky, she thought quickly. A nice guy... but it would take days to explain it to him. The other Rangers nodded along, and she considered each in turn. Aisha will spill everything if Billy looked at her wrong, cross her off. And Tommy... she sighed. He was in most ways the perfect choice... the problem would be convincing him that his best buddy and second in command was an evil clone. Too difficult.
..........Adam. Insecure and a little jealous of Billy. She hated playing with his emotions like that but he was it. Plus, unlike Rocky, Aisha and Tommy, Adam had a pretty good head for technical problems.
.........."I guess we just have to wait. " Tommy said.
.........."Yes." she agreed. "Say, Adam... I need your help on a school project...what do you say we go to my place?"
.........."Sure." The others teleported away and they teleported together to her house.
..........Adam looked around at Kat's place and was impressed. Her parents had set the whole basement up as a sort of apartment for her. A tiny kitchen, a bedroom, a living room, her own phone line. Privacy... how nice. He had to make do with sharing a bedroom with his younger brother. He was even envious of Billy's garage on occasion. "So..." he asked as he took a seat on the couch. "What school project are you having trouble with?"
..........She sat down next to him. "Adam, I lied. There is no school project. We have a big problem. I have to ask you some questions. I'll explain everything but there's some things I need to know first."
.........."Okay...." This was odd, Adam thought to himself.
.........."Was Billy ever replicated by Lord Zedd?" After all, this could simply be a trick. She didn't think it was likely, but she had to confirm that Billy could have been captured.
.........."Uh... once, but we took care of it." Adam was surprised. This was hardly what he expected.
.........."Explain what happened." As he did so, she became more and more convinced that the real Billy had been left to rot in Lord Zedd's palace. People make mistakesÉ he could've misspoke. And the Rangers could've misidentified the clone.
.........."And then we fired our blasters at it until it was transported out by Lord Zedd. You know... like when we destroy a monster." Adam winced, remembering. The clone had cried out in pain before it was transported away... he hadn't liked that. "Kat, what are you getting at?"
.........."It was the wrong one. Billy isn't BillyÉ it's the clone." Kat said.
.........."But..." Adam considered. In a lot of ways, it made sense. Billy's coldness, his recent attainment of near perfection in most things, his newfound insensitivity... it cleared up a lot of things. On the other hand, "Kat, that means we... we killed Billy."
.........."No, you didn't." Kat reassured. "That thing that jumped me, it was really Billy. He thought I was Kimberly and stopped me from touching the force field."
.........."And, that's when the visual went out." Adam added suddenly. "Billy said he was trying to fix it.... Kat, are you saying that Billy's been trapped in Lord Zedd's castle all this time? It's been months."
.........."I promised him we'd rescue him." Kat said forcefully. "The problem is that we have to do it without the fake finding out. He has the Blue Ranger power coin... we have to rescue Billy and get the coin away from the fake."
.........."Yeah, because if the coin was linked through him and not Billy, then Billy touching the coin, being a good person... the coin will react to him and repel the clone's evil." Adam considered the problem. "You realize, don't you, that we can't use the command center at all."
..........That was new. She'd fully planned on Zordon and Alpha's help. "Why not?"
.........."Because Billy..." Adam stopped and corrected himself, "The clone has had access to all the computers. He might have fail-safes and booby traps set up for just such an occasion. Kat, we've had a spy working against us for months. Who knows what he's done."
.........."Well..." Kat was more of the opinion that the clone was in deep cover, but Adam had a point. The command center was out. "What do you suggest?"
..........An idea crashed through Adam's skull. "Okay, what if the clone was lying about us not having enough power to teleport in and out of the castle? All we'd need is a spare communicator for Billy, and he could teleport out."
.........."I know where he'll be." Kat added, her excitement growing. "I could go in, give it to him and then... Oh, shoot. Adam, how are we going to explain away an extra Billy?"
..........Adam gestured to the apartment. "You could hide him here."
.........."Good point." Kat was beginning to understand some of the damage the clone had caused; Adam had more than his share of good ideas when he felt confident enough to share them. "What about the spare communicator? If I ask the clone for a spare, he'll know I know."
.........."I have a plan." Adam stood up, "I'll be back. With a spare."
.........."Oh, hi Adam. Come on in." Adam stepped into Billy's garage. He was a little nervous. Billy... the cloneÉ and Rocky were evidently working on something.
.........."Billy," he said, "I need a favor."
.........."Sure, what is it?" The clone smiled. Adam's arms broke out in goose bumps.
.........."I, uh... dropped my communicator in the lake while I was swimming." He spoke quickly, hoping the clone would chalk it up to his embarrassment. "I was gonna go snorkeling for it, but I was wondering if maybe you had a spare I could use until I find mine. I wouldn't want to be out of contact in case of an emergency."
.........."Well, of course." The clone set down the device he was working on. "I'm sure I have a spare here somewhere. If not, I could just make you a new one. Do you have a minute?"
..........Adam nodded. He almost didn't trust himself to speak. The clone looked through a few boxes. Rocky merely chuckled at Adam's misfortune. Adam also looked around, realizing that Billy's lab never used to look quite so neat. In fact, Billy never used to look so neat, so cool, so blonde.
.........."Billy, what have you been doing to your hair?" Adam couldn't help itÉ he wanted to try and catch the clone in some sort of lie.
..........Unexpectedly, he got help. "Yeah, Billy," Rocky said suddenly, "Your hair used to be almost as dark as mine. Like ever since you got contacts, your hair's been getting lighter."
..........The clone grinned. "It sun bleaches, guys. I've been spending more time outdoors lately. It has nothing to do with my contacts. What, do you guys think I've been using my lens cleaner on my hair?" He chuckled and held out a dusty blue communicator to Adam. "Here you go. You can keep it if you want. You might want to change the band color though."
..........Adam took it. "Oh, I don't know. Maybe blue is my color after all." Both Rocky and the clone laughed as Adam trotted away.
.........."Man, that was good." Rocky said.
.........."Yeah." Billy followed Adam with his eyes as the black clad teen jogged down the street. Rocky stopped laughing, suddenly struck by the weird look Billy was giving his friend.
.........."You okay, Billy?" he asked.
.........."Yeah. Let's get back to work."
..........Kat met him at the Juice Bar. He looked about furtively and then passed the communicator to her.
.........."Blue?" Kat couldn't quite believe the irony. Adam grinned. "Told him I lost mine." He leaned in closer, "If I don't hear from you in an hour, I'm telling Tommy all of this. We can't afford to have you trapped there."
.........."Don't worry... I don't want to be trapped either." Kat gave him a smile and walked off to a darkened locker area. Adam crossed his fingers and began to wait.
..........Billy couldn't wait any longer. He tore open the Hershey bar and wolfed it down. He had grown to hate chocolate... too many times in the last few months it'd been chocolate or nothing. It took the edge of his hunger though, and he had to eat. He'd eaten worse when it was available.
..........He neatly folded the wrapper and tucked it carefully into a ragged pocket. No traces... that was his basic survival rule. Anything he left behind could be used to find him. Besides... paper was fairly edible.
..........Hopefully though, he wasn't going to be that desperate. He was of two minds about the new Pink Ranger. Either she was exactly who she said she was... in which case, she would be there soon to rescue him, or, she was some new evil creature who was just toying with him before she killed him.
..........Either way, he'd be out of the palace soon enough. And even if some third possibility turned up... he knew it didn't really matter. He simply couldn't hold out much longer. He was slowly but surely starving to death. He was filthy to the point that he didn't think pigs would associate with him. He hadn't seen light brighter than semi-darkness in months. Between lack of food, lack of sleep, and sheer mental exhaustion, he could barely string two thoughts together. If he didn't right out die, he'd be captured. Problem over. He sighed, and crossed his arms. He was always cold but the cell area was extra cold... he seldom hung around there much.
..........He was starting to nod off when there was a sudden flash of pink. He ducked farther down behind the rock outcropping... no point in being stupid.
.........."Billy?" Kat looked around. She hoped she wouldn't have to go looking for him... though she had given herself enough time just in case.
..........She actually came back. Billy's surprise was written on his face as he shakily stood upright. He fought the urge to find a hole and hide... either she would show her true colors and kill him, or she was telling the truth. Either way, she was his ticket out. "Hey...."
.........."Billy! Great!" She slapped the communicator on him before he could even speak. "We're going to my place." She pushed the buttons on both communicators and in a flash of blue and pink....they were gone.
..........An hour later, with Billy sleeping like a log on the couch in her darkened basement apartment, Kat realized that there was a major flaw in her plan. Billy was in absolutely no shape to take on a game of Trivial Pursuit, let alone the clone. She would have a better idea when Adam got there, but it didn't take a genius to see that Billy needed some recovery time.
..........Plus, they were going to have a problem making the switch. After getting Billy cleaned up and in some of her dad's old clothes instead of the rags he'd been wearing, he looked better but still... His skin had the ghostly pale look of someone who was ill, complete with ugly dark circles under his eyes. He was way too thin and dammit, he was a brunette. Kat sighed. That two-color look the clone had would be hard to replicate on short notice.
..........Worse still, Billy's nerves were shot. He jumped at loud noises, he jumped at the beep of the microwave. She'd made him some soup and tea and darned if he didn't jump at the sound of the cup hitting the saucer. It had taken little convincing to get him to take a nap. As soon as his head hit the couch, he was out. There was no way Billy would be able to deal with a fight.
..........There was a knock at the apartment door. "Come in, Adam." she called. No need to be quiet... she had a feeling it would be hours before Billy would come around. She'd been expecting Adam anyhow.
.........."Well... this is lovely, Kat. Just lovely." She spun around. The clone was standing on her stairwell. She put up her hands and got into a fighting stance. Maybe she could hold him off until Adam got there.
..........The clone chuckled. "Really, Kat.... Do you honestly think I came here to overpower you and commit some horrible act of evil on our mutual acquaintance?" He stepped down off the stairs. "Nice place."
.........."What do you want?" She kept her hands up and deftly placed herself between it and Billy.
.........."Just like old times...." the clone sniffed, "Only Trini was better at protecting him than you. Kat, you know that I could get by you if I wanted to...."
.........."What do you want?" she repeated. Stall him... that was her plan.
..........He held up his hands in a gesture of peace. "I just want to talk... wanton acts of violence will come later... depending on you, of course. I want to offer you a deal."
..........A deal? "What sort of deal?"
..........The clone sighed. "Obviously, I've been found out. We can handle this in several ways. First, you and Adam can tell all. That, I assure will cause a problem. If you all try to defeat me and take the Blue Ranger power coin... yes, eventually you'll win... but I'll take as many of you with me as I can. And let's not kid ourselves... that could be potentially bad."
.........."One on one, maybe." Kat knew there was some truth in that. "But not all of us together."
.........."We can argue that point later." The clone sat down casually in a chair. "You have other options."
.........."Oh, I'm sure. " Kat kept her hands up. She didn't trust the guy... not for a minute.
.........."Come on, Kat, think about it." The clone pointed to Billy's sleeping form. "Do you think for one minute that he can help you? And Tommy will never believe that his best buddy for the last few months is evil... he's more likely to believe that you've crossed back over to the dark side and taken Adam with you. Rocky... he'll side with Tommy. And Aisha...." the clone paused, "She is on the line but be assured Kat, you'll never get the whole team's support until its too late."
.........."So, what's your deal?" She could hear him out.
.........."I'll give you the power coin." The clone held it out. "And you and the rest of the Rangers never let on to Lord Zedd that you discovered me."
..........Kat stared at the clone in surprise. "You don't want to go back?" It didn't make any sense.
..........The clone waved his hand in irritation. "I swear... you people can be thickheaded sometimes. Do you think the palace is such a nice place for a human being? Look at Billy... he's a wreck. And Zedd will view my discovery as a failure. Because I'm human, I can never climb the hierarchy at the castle anyway... and I'm too good at what I do to be Rito and Goldar's whipping boy. Take the deal, Kat."
.........."No." Kat knew she was right. Letting the clone go free... Evil backed with intellect was a disastrous combination. There were footsteps overhead. Good, she thought, Adam was here.
..........The clone stood and stepped over to the stairwell. "I hope you'll reconsider." As Adam walked down the steps, unaware of his presence, the clone reached up, grabbed him and flung him to the floor. His hand stopped just short of Adam's throat. He looked up at Kat. "Just a demonstration... Five against one, you might win, but I'll make sure it never comes to that. I prefer more even odds."
.........."I said no. Let him go." Kat made a move toward the two boys. The clone released Adam and stood, grinning coldly. He pulled out a remote control device. "I hope you understand the consequences." He pushed the first button. "You've just had access to the command center completely shut off. Reconsider."
..........Adam jumped to his feet. "Go to hell." he hissed. The clone chuckled and pushed Adam away. "Billy could've taken you in a fight even before I replaced him." He pushed the second button. "Hmm... some ranger's car now has no brakes. I wonder whose? After all... I did fix everyone's." With a mocking salute to Adam, the clone left.
..........Adam and Kat looked at each other in stunned silence. "Do you think he meant it?" Adam asked.
..........Kat nodded. "Don't you? He's desperate... he doesn't want to go back. We've got to call everyone." She tried her communicator, hoping against hope that the clone had been bluffing. No dice.
.........."Let's try the phone." She made a move towards it, but Adam stopped her.
.........."No. We need to get everyone together. Rocky said he was going to the Juice Bar with Tommy. We'll go there and then find Aisha." Adam considered the problem. A good thing the Juice Bar wasn't far from Kat's house. No way was he using his car.
.........."But... what about Billy?" Kat didn't want to leave him alone.
..........Adam shook his head. "He'll be okay. Just leave a note. He'll understand."
..........They were too late. Ernie met them at the door. "Kat, Adam... you've got to get to the hospital." he said in a rush. "Aisha's car...she spun out of control on her way back from the airport. "
.........."Is she hurt?" Adam felt dizzy.
..........Ernie nodded grimly. "It looks pretty bad, guys." He looked around behind them. "Did you guys drive? I can give you a ride. "
.........."Yes...." said Kat with relief. Then, "Tommy and Rocky...they didn't drive did they?"
.........."No... Billy gave them a ride." Ernie didn't understand their crestfallen looks. He thought they were upset. They were, but for several reasons, not just Aisha's accident. The clone had gotten to Tommy and Rocky first. At the very least, now any tale they told would be tinged with suspicion. After all... the clone was right. In the grand scheme of things it was more logical to suspect Kat than Billy. At worst... another accident was just waiting to happen.
..........They found Tommy, Rocky and the clone in the waiting room. "How is she?" Adam asked, momentarily forgetting the clone's presence. "What happened?"
.........."She's in emergency surgery." Tommy's face was almost as white as his shirt.
.........."Her brakes went out." Rocky, Kat noted, was in tears. "It was one of those freak things." The clone put a comforting arm around Rocky. Kat wanted to smack him.
.........."I guess," Tommy added, not catching the weird looks of his friends, "No one else was hurt... guys, it looks pretty bad. I'm going to wait here."
.........."So will we." Kat and Adam said together. They had to keep an eye on everyone. Then, Adam nudged Kat. "You need to make a phone call." he said softly.
.........."Wha... why?" Kat was clueless.
.........."The note...." Adam tried to spell it out without anyone catching on. "People might worry... the note said we'd be at the Juice Bar...."
..........A light went on. She didn't want Billy wandering around, did she? He was an easy target. "Yeah...." She walked over to the pay phone and started looking for change.
.........."Want a quarter?" She jumped. The clone held out the money.
.........."You won't get away with this!" she hissed. "We'll figure out some way to prove you're an impostor... even without Zordon's help."
.........."Oh come on...." The clone was careful to keep his face a grieving mask but Kat heard his amusement. "You guys can't figure a way out of a paper bag without my help. My offer still stands... the power coin for your silence to Lord Zedd. Think about it."
.........."One down, four to go." The clone risked a grin. "You'll never prove it wasn't an accident... and accusing me will only endanger your own position." He put the quarter in the phone. "Make your call." He walked away.
..........She glared and dialed her number. No answer... well, she didn't think Billy'd wake up. The answering machine clicked on. "Billy," she said into the recorder, "We're at the hospital. Don't leave my house. Don't worry... I've got everything under control."
..........Unknown to Kat or the clone, someone overheard their entire conversation. She watched Kat leave the phone booth and began to put two and two together. Then she came up with four and decided to check out Kat's house.
..........The someone snuck into Kat's house. Much like most residents of Angel Grove, the Hillards seldom bothered to lock their doors. The basement was also unlocked. The steps creaked but the sleeping form on the couch didn't waken.
..........The Ranger knelt down beside the couch and quickly examined Billy. The conversation the Ranger had overheard was correct... the guy at the hospital was a clever, evil copy. Poor Billy was here. The Ranger gently brushed Billy's hair away from his eyes.
..........Billy awoke with a start. He jumped back on the couch, badly frightened. He brought his hands up protectively. Sleeping was the greatest risk he could take in the palace... it was so easy to get caught. Then, as he felt the soft cushions underneath him, he remembered and relaxed a little. It was Kat's basement... he was safe... and he knew this person. One of his friends.
.........."Hi...," he said as he sank back down onto the couch. "How'd you get here?" He felt muddled and confused. It had been awhile since he'd made conversation. And he was tired.
.........."Just checking up on you." the Ranger said softly. Disturbing Billy had not been in the plan.
.........."Is everything okay?" He tried to shake the cobwebs out of his head but the Ranger gave him a hug and pushed him back down on the couch.
.........."Everything is fine," the Ranger reassured. "Go back to sleep. I'll take care of things. Do you need anything?"
..........Lulled by the familiar voice, Billy closed his eyes. He pulled the black flannel shirt Kat had given him around fro warmth. "So cold...." he muttered sleepily.
..........The Ranger nodded and stood. Carefully, the Ranger drew a blanket over Billy. Then, the Ranger's hand clenched into a fist. The clone won't get away, the Ranger promised.
..........Adam waved Rocky over to the table he was sitting at. He had to tell Rocky. Kat and he had agreed... she would get Tommy and he would explain to Rocky. He didn't envy her task at all. Rocky was... he admitted to himself... a little slow on the uptake but hardly stupid. Tommy was much quicker to comprehend but a lot more stubborn.
..........He sipped his soda pensively, keeping a close eye on the clone's retreating figure. He had followed it down to the cafeteria, where it did nothing more suspicious than buy a soda. The clone had smirked at his suspicion and then bought another soda and handed it to him. Adam had to restrain himself from punching the guy.
..........Rocky, Adam noted, was indulging in coffee. Hopefully decaf... his hands were shaking. Rocky, ever steady in a fight, was shook up badly. Adam crossed his fingers, and gulped his soda down.
.........."Rocky, where have you been?" He had spent the better part of an hour tracking his friend down.
.........."I needed some air." Rocky sat down heavily.
.........."Oh... well... look... I gotta tell you something... its important." Adam idly rubbed his chest as he spoke. A burning sensation.... He shrugged it off.
.........."What?" Rocky perked up.
..........Adam was sweating, despite the rather cool cafeteria air conditioner. "There's..." The burning sensation increased. He took a deep breath. "I can't...." Tears welled up in his eyes... the burning turned into pain. He clutched his chest.
.........."Adam... what's going on?" Rocky got up and stepped over to his friend. Adam was gasping for air.
..........Through darkening tunnel vision, Adam saw the cup of soda and understood too late. The clone had switched cups.... He had to warn Rocky. "Rocky... soda... poison..." He fell off the chair.
.........."HEY! I NEED A DOCTOR!" Rocky shouted in panic and dropped to his knees. Adam had turned a deathly shade of pale. "Listen... hang in there... you'll be okay. "
.........."Soda... poison..." Adam whispered. He had to make Rocky understand.
.........."The soda was poisoned?" Rocky glanced up... a young intern was running over. Good. "Who wants to poison you?" He was just playing along. Adam was sick... God knows what he was thinking.
..........Adam grabbed him by his shirt and yanked him down close. "Billy... not real. Talk... to Kat." Adam could feel the darkness closing in. "Don't trust him...."
..........The intern pushed Rocky away and started working on Adam. "Jesus... This kid's having a heart attack!"
.........."No...." Rocky's eyes narrowed and a look of fierce anger flashed across his face. Awareness struck him like a bullet. "He was poisoned. Check his soda." Before the intern could respond, Rocky was up and out the door.
..........Billy was finally starting to get warm. He shifted position and pulled the blanket tighter around his body. Even his hands, always chilled, were beginning to feel like something other than icicles. It was nice. In his sleepy state, he simply didn't care that Kat wasn't back. She's busy, he thought slowly, and what's wrong with curling up on the couch and sleeping? Not a thing.
..........His stomach growled. Quiet, he told it, I'll get you something later. It wouldn't be quiet. After a few minutes of loud rumbling, he knew what he had to do if he wanted to keep sleeping. Find something... and fast.
..........He sat up and looked around the room fuzzily. It was dark but he could make out the kitchen area. Food... maybe he could even heat something up. Hot food... never mind the taste. Just the novelty of a prepared meal slowly perked him up.
..........He opened the fridge. The light blinded him. He closed his eyes, wincing at the bright dazzly spots. Stupid, he told himself. He and Kat had already painfully discovered the consequences of living in perpetual darkness when they had teleported into Kat's usually brightly lit apartment. Light sensitivity... he grimaced. What a pain. He decided to avoid the fridge.
..........Ah... on the counter... Chex Mix. He picked up the bag. Salty, he recalled as he took a few bites, and not very nutritious. Too salty...finally he just grabbed an orange off the table.
..........Now he was cold again. He quickly peeled the orange and went back over to the couch. A thought struck him as he grabbed the blanket...where had the blanket come from? He vaguely recalled someone putting it over him.... someone not Kat. And where was Kat? He glanced at the clock on the answering machine. He remembered falling asleep around 12... it was nine pm now... He didn't know... The answering machine kept blinking at him.
..........Would she have called, he wondered as he ate a slice of orange. He pressed the button.
.........."Billy... We're at the hospital...." He listened to the message. She seemed upset... maybe not telling him everything. And who was "we" anyway? And why was she at the hospital? He didn't like it... she was in trouble and didn't want him to worry. More than likely, she was in trouble because of him.
..........The clone, of course. Kat had mentioned something about the clone, hadn't she? Somehow, he had a feeling that the clone wasn't going to be happy about being discovered.
..........He had to help Kat, that was all there was to it. He considered the problem. It was dark out... no problem with light. He was fairly presentable... well, he hedged, he was clean and Kat's father's clothes fit reasonably well. He wouldn't offend anyone...that was the better way of putting it. He knew, physically speaking, he looked like hell. That was okay though, because he felt like hell too... he would blend in at the hospital.
..........The only real problem was that he had no shoes. Going barefoot was simply not an option. He sighed and got up. In the kitchen, in the trash can... there they were... his old sneakers. Coated with palace dirt, full of holes... and they hadn't been in great shape to begin with, but they would do. And this, he vowed, is the last time I salvage anything from a trash bin.
..........Patrolling at night was good fun, both Bulk and Skull had agreed. They got to use a city car, they got to stay out past curfew, and a lot of the local restaurants gave them free food. Cruising around town looking for curfew violators...how could they say no? Trolling around the city looking for violators, they had little to do, really. A nice easy job.
..........Skull looked out the window. Off up ahead... was that a curfew violator? He wondered. "Bulkie? Look...."
..........Bulk's eyes narrowed. "Let's get him." He revved up the car. He slammed on the brakes just short of the guy and dove out. In seconds they had the guy face down on the ground. The guy shivered and covered his head and slowly Bulk realized that perhaps he and Skull had been a little too rough. He yanked the guy up off the ground.
.........."Sorry about that... but you're in violation of ordinance 34-8." Bulk said. There was something about the guy, he thought. I know him.... "Billy?" He looked closer. Yes, it was Billy, shivering despite the unseasonably warm night. And obviously pretty freaked out.
.........."Are you okay?" It had been a long time since Bulk had managed to scare Billy like this. Billy had, as of late, been fairly undisturbable. Like a statue, both Bulk and Skull had agreed. They weren't bullies anymore... they had responsibilities as junior police officers, but sometimes it was fun to remininisce about the old days. Throwing Billy in trash cans... locking Billy in his school locker... it'd been fun. Impossible these days, even if they weren't junior cops. Billy's patience for that sort of thing had gotten awfully short and his ability to hit back was much better.
..........Still, as Bulk examined Billy, he realized that something was wrong. Seriously wrong. Billy was still shaking for one thing. In the soft streetlight, his face was ghostly pale... almost ...Bulk searched for the word. Ethereal... that was it. A shadow of what he normally looked like. "Are you sick, Billy?"
..........Badly shocked, Billy didn't even register the question at first. Getting slammed into the pavement had flashed him back to one of the times he'd nearly been captured in the palace. Then, the realization that it was Bulk and Skull, in cop uniforms no less, blew him away. "Bulk? Skull?" When, he wondered suddenly, did Bulk lose his hair?
.........."Billy, you don't look so hot." Skull said.
.........."What happened ?" Bulk pressed. "Did you get mugged or something?"
.........."No...." Billy searched for a reasonable explanation. There really was none... he couldn't even come up with a reasonable lie. "I don't think you'd believe me...."
.........."Aw, come on... if you can't trust us, who can you?" Bulk said quickly. If Billy was in some sort of trouble and he and Skull were to help... they might get commendations from Lt. Stone.
..........Billy considered that. He couldn't tell the whole truth, of course... but some of the truth would be okay. After all, he had few months of absence to explain. "I was captured by Lord Zedd. I was held captive in his castle for..." he put a hand to his forehead, "Gosh, I don't even know how long.... The Pink Ranger rescued me...."
.........."Wow...." Skull was impressed. "But... then how have you been going to class?"
.........."It's a clone, stupid!" The whole scenario revealed itself to Bulk. "It took Billy's place! We gotta tell Lt. Stone! Let's move!" They jumped back into the car.
.........."Um... guys...." Billy stepped over to the car. "Could you maybe give me a ride to the hospital?"
.........."But what about the clone?" Skull asked.
.........."Hey... maybe he'll be at the hospital too. " Bulk considered. "With Aisha having that accident and all...."
.......... "...accident?... A horde of ugly possibilities opened up to Billy. He swayed and passed out. Bulk and Skull looked at his fallen form.
.........."Gee... maybe we should take him to the hospital." Skull got out of the car, Bulk following.
.........."Yeah... we'll throw him in the backseat." Bulk smiled at Skull. "Skull... we're gonna be heroes. Even bigger than the Power Rangers!"
.........."We're gonna catch the clone!"
.........."Tommy... I'm telling you... he's evil!"
.........."Kat, listen to yourself.... You're being completely irrational." This was the last thing Tommy needed. Aisha was in surgery and Kat was flipping out. He decided to try reasoning with her. "If Billy's really an evil clone... why hasn't he done anything evil?"
.........."What do you call fixing the brakes on Aisha's car?" Kat countered with a glare.
..........That was too much. "How can you even think that?" he hissed angrily. "Kat... he was just about in hysterics when he told us about the accident. I understand how upset you are but... you're going to really hurt his feelings if you keep making these accusations." Tommy pointed towards the clone's rapidly advancing figure. "Look, there he is now... does he look evil to you?"
..........Kat turned. Tommy had a point... sort of. The clone seemed quite upset... but Kat could see the delight in his eyes.
.........."Guys," the clone said in a rush, "Adam's having some sort of allergic reaction... he's really sick."
.........."Oh no...." Tommy felt weak at the knees. Billy, he saw, was just about in tears.
..........Kat grabbed the clone and flung him into the wall. "What did you do, you bastard!" The clone blocked most of her blows but put up his hands protectively.
..........Tommy stepped in between them and grabbed Kat. "Kat... what has gotten in to you?" He shook her a little, hoping she would calm down.
.........."Get him!" Out of the corner of his eye, Tommy saw two blue shirted people throw themselves on Billy. It was Bulk and Skull. Tommy let go of Kat and pulled Bulk and Skull off Billy.
.........."Don't be stupid, Tommy!" Bulk shouted. "It's a clone!"
.........."What are you guys talking about?" Billy asked plaintively. Kat aimed a kick at him.
.........."We have the real Billy in our car!" Skull said triumphantly.
..........Tommy pulled Kat closer. "I hope," he whispered, "that you realize how hurtful you're being by egging these two on." Louder, to Bulk and Skull, he said, "All right... if Billy is really in your car... why didn't you bring him in?"
.........."He was sleeping...." Bulk and Skull said together.
.........."You think I'm a fake?" The clone rose and put on a mask of indignation. "But why? I was just...."
..........Tommy took him aside. "Look," he said quietly, "Kat's... I don't know... really upset. She's having some sort of delusion... could you maybe go wait with Rocky while I calm her down?"
..........The clone nodded and stepped off down the hall. Tommy turned back to Kat, Bulk and Skull. "Now... let's check out your car."
..........Billy awoke with a start. For an instant, he had no idea where he was. Then, the vinyl seats gave it away. Bulk's police car, He sat up quickly and looked around. He was in the hospital parking lot. He hoped that Bulk and Skull weren't off persuading some doctor to come out and check on him.
..........Someone had thrown their cop jacket over him. Bulk, from the size of it. He put it on and zipped it up, grateful that police jackets were wool lined. He got out of the car. He would have to look for Kat. A daunting task... who knows where she'd be.
..........He felt the pockets of the jacket. Sunglasses... what every cop wears. Okay, so it was dark but hospitals were brightly lit. Bursting into tears in a hallway because the light was too bright was worse than the fashion faux pas he was about to commit.
..........With that, he walked into a side door, just as Kat, Tommy, Bulk and Skull came rushing out to the car.
.........."See?" Bulk said. He swung open the side door. Tommy looked in, not expecting to see anything. He was right... an empty car.
.........."Kat... I can't believe you'd pull a joke like this." Tommy was livid. He waved his hand encompassing all of them with it. "I hope you all realize how you've hurt Billy. This is cruel." He stomped off.
.........."But, he was here." Skull looked in the car. "Wasn't he, Bulkie?"
.........."Kat...." Bulk said earnestly, "We weren't fooling... he was here." He slapped his forehead. "Of course... he went into the hospital! "
.........."He said he wasn't feeling well." Skull added.
.........."Come on Skull... we'll find him and then we'll prove there's a clone." They strode off, leaving Kat in the parking.
..........She peered into the car and cursed under her breath. The absolute last thing she needed was Billy waltzing around the hospital. If Adam, who'd been on his guard, was taken out by the clone... Her eyes teared up suddenly. Her only real ally was down for the count. She had to see how he was... and she had to warn Rocky. Maybe Rocky would believe her.
..........As for Billy... She crossed her fingers. Hopefully he had enough survival instinct left to take care of himself.
..........Rocky paced around the hallway, full of angry energy. He couldn't find Billy. Maybe that was a good thing. What he wanted to do to Billy was probably illegal.
..........He believed Adam's last words. He had no doubts that Adam had been telling the truth. Adam didn't lie, not ever. He'd known Adam since kindergarten, Aisha too, and he trusted them. He didn't trust Billy, not after the day's events. Whether Billy was under Lord Zedd's control or had just flipped out, he didn't care. Someone was gonna pay for putting his two best friends in the hospital.
.........."Hey Rocky." Rocky spun around at the voice. It was the Ranger, dressed in a rather bulky jacket. "Have you seen Billy?"
.........."No," he snarled, "But I tell you, you aren't gonna want to see him when I get done with him!"
..........The Ranger nodded but frowned. Rocky was too angry. If the clone was even half as smart as Billy, it would take advantage of Rocky's anger. The Ranger wondered if enlisting Rocky's help was a good idea. No, the Ranger thought. I'll do this myself. The Ranger left Rocky to continue stewing.
..........Rocky's eyes followed the Ranger. Briefly it registered that he should have at least asked her how their trip had been. No, he thought suddenly, this was no time for exchanging meaningless pleasantries. The Ranger would understand.
..........Besides, he had a certain blond, blue clad ex-friend to pound. He turned around and strode down the hallway, ignoring the sickly looking junior policeman wearing shades. He didn't have time for the bumbling antics of Bulk and Skull's storm trooper buddies.
..........Billy had never seen Rocky in such a foul mood. As Rocky shoved past him, muttering darkly under his breath, he almost spoke, but before he could say a thing, Rocky had disappeared around the corner.
..........Rocky didn't even recognize me, he thought with a growing feeling of despair. A part of him hadn't really believed Kat. His friends were fooled. They thought the clone was really him. He felt his knees buckling and he slid into a waiting room chair, wanting to do nothing more than cry.
..........He didn't cry though. He didn't have time. Instead, he put his head between his knees and took deep breaths until he felt the faintness passing. He slowly raised his head and looked at the clock.
..........Wow... he'd been sitting there for almost twenty minutes. For a while, he'd just gone away mentally. It frightened him. He heaved himself up and staggered off. He had to find Kat.
..........But first, he wanted a drink. There was a water fountain right in front of him. It was right there. No need to consciously plan getting a drink, and no need to consider possible threats. If he wanted a drink, he could just get one. It was overwhelming.
..........He suppressed the natural urge to look over his shoulder and bent over the fountain. He turned the water on, and watched it bubble into the drain. He was enthralled. Mesmerized by the water, he didn't hear footsteps behind him, or the snicker of amusement.
..........A hand dropped on his shoulder. He jumped and spun around but found himself backed up against the water fountain.
.........."Well...." the clone smirked at him. "An unexpected guest."
..........Billy felt the blood drain out of his face. He was looking at himself... only not himself. The shock of the last few hours was already catching up with him, and he barely registered the danger he was in. "What?"
.........."We need to talk." The clone's voice was low and even, but cold. If anything got through Billy's shock, it was the coldness of his own voice coming from the copy standing before him. Before Billy had a chance to even put up his hands, the clone grabbed him and none too gently dragged him into a janitor's closet.
.........."I don't want to hurt you," the clone said softly. He let go of Billy's jacket and steered the shaking original to a box to sit on. He watched as Billy tried to regain some sense of calmness, and slowly shook his head. "Don't faint. We don't have time for it. Put your head down, take deep breaths and listen very carefully."
..........Billy did so. He didn't want to faint again. Especially with his double standing right there. Slowly it dawned on him that he was as close to dying as he had ever been in the palace.
.........."What... what do you want?" he asked slowly, his words muffled by his knees. He saw the clone's feet step closer.
.........."Isn't it obvious?" Billy could tell by the closeness of the clone's voice that he was inches away from Billy's seated, bent over position. Within striking distance. Despite trying to stop it, Billy's shaking increased.
.........."I just want to live. That's all." The clone was puzzled, and though he hated to admit it, just the slightest bit frightened. Billy's condition disturbed him. It confirmed his fears too.
.........."You've been in the palace, Billy. You know what happens to monsters that fail... It'll be worse for me. I didn't keep in contact. I didn't do Zedd's bidding. He'll kill me... or worse."
..........Billy nodded. In a sick way, he felt almost sorry for the clone. But... "You could have told someone. The other rangers... they wouldn't have hurt you if you'd been honest about switching places."
..........The clone sighed. "You don't understand. I couldn't tell them because I thought we'd killed you. It would've destroyed them, and the team. I became you because I had to survive and they couldn't have dealt with the truth... that their friend Billy was killed by them."
..........Billy felt his anger building to the boiling point. "You caused Aisha's accident. Don't tell me you care."
..........The clone stood. "I offered to give up your power coin, for nothing except the team's silence and Kat said no. I'll die if Zedd finds out I've been working against him." The clone's eyes narrowed. "We are different, Billy. I'm not prepared to die for the team... You think they're your friends, but they're not. I'm not such a bad guy. I'm not evil. I offered to just walk away with nothing but my life and your friends said no. They'd kill me as soon as look at me... just like they thought they'd done already. They betrayed me, and they deserve what they get."
.........."I fought along side them. I saved them from Zedd."
.........."You left me to die." Billy found his voice suddenly. "Don't forget that."
.........."They left you to die." the clone corrected. "They never even bothered to check if I was really you. They didn't care. And they don't care if I live or die. It'll be slow, you know. Dying in the palace. I'm sure Zedd will think of something special for me."
..........Billy could recall overhear Zedd's plans for him, after his capture. He shuddered. "What do you really want?"
.........."I just want to walk away, but no one will let me." The clone's eyes hardened. "You'd send me back too, wouldn't you?"
..........After a long moment, Billy lowered his head again. "No...." he said softly. "No one deserves that. Not even you." He felt a sudden blow to his head and crumpled to the floor in a heap.
.........."Lucky you," the clone muttered at Billy's unconscious form. He dropped the pipe he struck Billy with. "For that remark... I'll let you live. At least, for now."
..........Rocky saw Billy stepping out of the janitors closet. His eyes narrowed. He walked up behind the unsuspecting teen and placed his hand on Billy's shoulder.
.........."Billy, we need to talk." Rocky kept his voice cool. No need, he reasoned, to let Billy on to his plans. If genius boy couldn't figure out that Rocky was upset... oh well.
.........."Sure Rocky," the clone smiled. Reading Rocky was like reading a Dr. Seuss book. He considered. Taking Rocky out now was a bit ahead of schedule but... "Why don't we talk in here?"
..........Rocky looked at the door. An empty lab... it seemed okay. They entered the darkened lab. There was no sound at all except the gentle hum of the refrigeration unit. Rocky closed the door and flipped the lock.
..........The clone smiled. "What's up?"
.........."Why don't you tell me, Billy?" Rocky shoved the clone up against the wall. "What did you do to Adam? And why, for God's sake? What's wrong with you?"
.........."Nothing's wrong with me, Rocky." The clone shoved Rocky back and brushed off his clothes. "I think that question is, what's wrong with you? Are you really this dumb?"
..........Rocky backed up a little. He was confused, and he'd never seen the odd look that was on Billy's face before. "What... what do you mean?"
..........The clone shoved him again, until he was backed up against a metal lab table. "I know a lot of the rangers aren't exactly bright but this is ridiculous. Rocky, I'm not that good of an actor. Do I really seem the same to you? After all these months, don't I seem a little different to you?"
.........."Well... you dress a lot better." Rocky's confusion increased. He shook it off though. He had to take care of business. "What did you do to Adam?"
.........."I put digitalis in his soda." The clone was nonchalant about the whole thing. "Essentially, he had a heart attack. The doctors got to him soon enough. It could've been worse, you know. Cyanide would have been almost instantaneous death." The clone chuckled at Rocky's wide eyed shock. "Have you figured it out yet, or do I need to spoon feed it to you?"
..........Rocky tried to back away. Something about Billy' eyes was setting off his flight instincts, despite his great desire to smack Billy around. And Billy had openly admitted that he poisoned Adam. In the back of Rocky's mind came the idea that the person standing in front of wasn't really Billy. It looked like Billy, but its actions were getting pretty strange. "You're not Billy at all. Just a copy."
..........The clone grinned evilly. "And not a very good one either. I can walk and chew gum at the same time. Not that any of you noticed." He grabbed Rocky by the throat. "Think about that for awhile." His hand tightened around Rocky's airway. Rocky struggled for a second and then lost consciousness.
..........The clone chuckled. He pulled the lead pipe out of his back pocket and thumped Rocky's head. Gotta make sure, he thought ruefully. Rocky evidently had more brain matter functioning than he had been given credit for. Then, he dragged Rocky into the refrigeration locker.
..........A little ice never killed anyone, he thought. And if it did tonight, one dead red ranger was hardly a major loss to humanity's gene pool.
..........The Ranger was getting tired. For some strange reason, it was next to impossible to find any of the Rangers. The Ranger had searched high and low. Aisha was just coming out of surgery... she would be all right but out of action for some time. More unsettling news, Adam was recovering from cardiac arrest, apparently induced by his ingesting a massive amount of digitalis. Kat and Tommy were nowhere to be found. The Ranger almost wished that Rocky would pop out of the woodwork. Or the clone for that matter.
..........Speak of the devil, there he was. The Ranger ducked into a wall crevice and waited for the chuckling form of the clone to pass by. The clone was far too pleased with himself. The Ranger stepped out of hiding spot and looked at he door the clone had exited. A lab... what was he doing in there?
..........The Ranger entered the darkened room. Immediately, a trail of blood leading into the refrigeration unit caught the Ranger's eye. Upon opening the door, the Ranger found Rocky lying in a heap. His head was still bleeding but from what the Ranger could tell, he would be okay. As long as he didn't stay in the freezer.
..........With effort, the Ranger dragged Rocky out into the lab and deftly bandaged the lumpy cut on the unconscious teen's forehead. For a brief instant the Ranger considered calling a doctor but nixed it. Rocky would be okay... and there would be too many questions. But someone needed a call....
..........The Ranger entered the phone booth nervously. No telling where the clone was. The phone number came effortlessly, despite the time that had passed. Fortunately, the right person picked up the phone.
.........."Hey!" The voice at the other end was pleased. "What is taking so long? My flight got in hours ago...."
.........."We have a major problem." The Ranger cut off the happy voice and explained.
..........The other Ranger whistled in surprise. "Does Zordon know?"
.........."Zordon is out of the loop. Command Center access is cut off. I need your help. What are we gonna do?"
..........There was a heavy pause. "We have to get the power coin back. The clone isn't using his power... he's using regular ways to take people out. Maybe we should too."
.........."There's only place for one Blue Ranger." The other Ranger hesitated. "The clone is dangerous. Dangerous in a way that Rita and Zedd aren't. He's... physical about it. Real. We have to respond in kind. You know that."
.........."Yes, but... I don't think I can do that."
.........."I can." The other Ranger's voice grew bitter. "If it's hurt Billy and the other rangers the way you say... I don't care who it looks like. I'll be there soon."
..........Billy awoke suddenly. His head ached and it was dark. He was confused but knew enough not to get upset. Getting upset meant losing his concentration. Losing concentration meant getting caught. He didn't want to get caught. Slowly though, he remembered the situation. He was locked in janitor's closet. The clone was after his friends. Most importantly, he was not in Lord Zedd's castle. He let out a sigh of relief.
..........Of course, he was still in quite a mess. He took off the shades that were dangling off his ears. It was dark enough already, and his eyes were more adapted to the dim light. He tried the lock but was not surprised to find it locked. His eyes spied the heating duct up in the far wall by some shelves. A big duct. He looked around the shelves until he found a screwdriver and undid the screws that held the grate in place. He peered in. He was just small enough that he could crawl through the duct and maybe get some help. It would be tight but he was used to using crawl spaces much smaller. He had no real idea of what to do once he got into the duct work but... that would come to him. He hoped.
..........The clone put some change in the candy machine and pushed the buttons for a Snickers. He was hungry and there had been little time for snacking. He unwrapped the chocolate and took a bite, and considered his next move.
..........The best plan was to just find a car and leave. He knew he could create a new identity for himself in a matter of hours. He had figured after the first month or so that his presence on the Ranger team had slipped Zedd's mind. It had occurred to him then to tell the Rangers what had really happened, if only so he could leave and they could recruit a new Blue Ranger.
..........He hadn't lied to Billy though. He had been positive that the original Billy had been killed by the repeated blade blaster hits. If not already dead when transported out, he had assumed that Billy had died soon after. He didn't know what he'd have done if he had known. After all, he had all of the original's memories... Billy was a pretty nice guy when it came right down to it.
..........The clone shook his head. He was pretty neutral when it came to fighting. A ranger or a monster, it didn't really matter. If he was threatened, he would attack. And he was being threatened, not by Billy, who seemed mostly scared and tired, but by Billy's so-called friends. His so called friends. If he had been one of Lord Zedd's more traditional monsters, his eyes would've glowed red with anger. I fought the forces of evil right along side them, he thought angrily, and now they're all against me. And it's not like I tried to hide what I was... but no one even noticed how different I am. He understood why Billy's father hadn't picked up on it. He was a nice person but.... it was a good thing that Billy was not a half-wit because his father never seemed to notice his presence or lack there of. As long as grocery levels fell at the normal rate, no questions were asked. Oh sure, he had discussed with other parents, notably Rocky's mom, how he seemed more "serious" and "acted stressed out" but they had chalked that up to the pressure of adolescence and the recent death of Billy's mother.
..........But now what to do? Tommy was on his side, for now. Bulk and Skull were incompetent. If he had to take them out, he could, but it certainly wouldn't require much effort. No, the thorn in his side at the moment was Kat. She already tried to turn Tommy against him. She needed to be taken care of, but not like Aisha, Adam or Rocky. He had left them in dire but not unsurvivable situations. Kat however didn't deserve his kindness. As he walked by a lab cart, he grabbed a scalpel off the top rack. He figured it would come in handy.
..........Kat paced outside of Adam's room. She knew that visiting hours were over but Adam's parents had told her that they would see what they could do. Officially, Adam had an "allergic reaction" to his drink but unofficially, the hospital's cafeteria was shut down until they figured out how the digitalis got into Adam's drink. She looked up as Adam's mom and dad walked out quietly. They seemed pretty upset but calm. "How is he? she asked.
.........."He'll be all right." Adam's mom hesitated and then said, "He's asked us to let you see him. It's all right with us... but he needs to rest."
.........."I won't stay more than five minutes." Kat promised fervently. They let her enter the darkened hospital room. Adam was lying propped up on the bed. He looked pale and tired, barely conscious, Kat realized. She had to keep it short. "Hey... how do you feel?"
..........He smiled weakly. "I feel pretty rotten." He grabbed her hand and gave it a squeeze. "Kat, he's going to come after you... please be careful."
.........."Don't worry about me." she said softly.
.........."Kat, he's really dangerous. You warned Tommy and Rocky, didn't you? I don't think Rocky understood." Adam asked.
.........."Yes." Kat said quietly. There was no need to upset Adam with the news that Tommy thought she was crazy and Rocky was no where to be found. No need to burden Adam with that.
.........."Good...." Adam closed his eyes. Kat waited just a moment but Adam was asleep. She heard the door open behind her, but didn't look. Adam's parents had said the nurse would be in to check on him.
.........."We meet again." She felt something hard and sharp pressed into her back. The clone put a hand on her shoulder. His voice was had a harsh yet amused ring to it. "I think it's time we end this."
.........."What are you going to do?" Kat's voice was calm but she was terrified inside. She hadn't been raised in Angel Grove. She knew what a crazy psychotic could do, and it was becoming clear that the clone had been driven over the edge. Billy, even if possessed by the forces of evil, simply didn't seem capable of the level of violence to which the clone had risen.
.........."Accidents happen a lot around here, don't you think? Why, a car accident, an accidental poisoning, a few accidental head injuries...." The clone nudged her with the scalpel. She bit her lip to keep from crying out. She wasn't going to give him the satisfaction.
.........."What do you mean? What have you done?" Kat was more worried about her friends than herself. She knew she was in trouble, but her fellow rangers were very trusting with Billy. Who knew what he'd done.
.........."Well...." The clone paused dramatically. "It was me with the lead pipe in the janitor's closet." He chuckled. "And Rocky is officially on ice right now. That leaves Tommy... and Tommy and I are such good friends." He shoved her towards the door. "Come on... we're going up to the roof."
.........."The roof?" It seemed like a strange place to stab her, Kat thought.
.........."Yes. The roof. It's tragic that no one noticed how depressed you were until after you take the swan dive off the roof." The clone grinned. "I'm sure you'll make a nice landing though... Ten stories is a long way down."
..........Billy pushed the grating away and slowly crawled into a new dark janitor's closet. He shook off the dust and coughed. Heating ducts were loaded with dust, a new experience. The tunnels in the palace were grimy and dirty but he usually hadn't felt like he was choking. He coughed again and tried the door. Finally a piece of luck. The door was unlocked. He put his shades back on and entered the hallway, feeling like some sort of intruder.
..........Out of place, that's how he felt. Everything was different. His friends were different... and he didn't even really know who his friends were anymore. He trusted Kat, but Kat was no where to be found. The other Rangers... he didn't know anymore. They seemed to be taken in by the clone's charm. Not only did that hurt, and hurt badly, but it made him more fearful than he already was. And now he didn't know what to do. He was physically beat already. He couldn't find Kat. Rocky was no where to be found... and Rocky seemed kinda mad. He looked down the hall and almost smiled. Tommy was walking into a hospital room. Tommy would help, he thought slowly. If Tommy wasn't completely taken in by the clone. Somehow, he had a feeling that the clone had worked extra hard on Tommy.
..........Tommy knew he wasn't supposed to bother Aisha. He'd heard the doctors talking to her parents. He needed some help though. He didn't know where to turn. Kat's little freak-out fit had upset him. He really wanted to talk to Billy about it, but Billy was not around. Adam was asleep, and Rocky was... well, Tommy figured he must've gone home. Kat probably didn't even want to see him. Not that he could blame her. He had lost his temper with her in a big way. He should've been more understanding. Kat had reason to be upset... and Billy's feelings weren't hurt that easily.
..........At least, he had realized a few moments earlier, not any more. And considering that Kat had never really known the shyer, less confident Billy.... He was starting to wonder himself. He needed to talk to someone who had known Billy and Aisha was as close has he could get.
..........Fortunately, she was awake, though to Tommy's untrained eye, she seemed more than little doped up. She saw him enter the darkened room and smiled a little, but Tommy could tell she was hurting. No wonder. She was lucky the internal injuries hadn't killed her.
.........."Hi Tommy," she said softly. He stepped and half closed the door, wanting the light from the hallway for himself but not wanting to turn on the room lights. He wasn't going to stay long, and there was no need to really disturb Aisha.
.........."Hey." He took a seat near the bed. "You got really lucky."
.........."Everyone in the accident got real lucky." she corrected. "And I think I got luckier than Adam. Do you know what happened?"
..........He shook his head. "Things have been pretty crazy. Aisha, I need to ask you something." He waited until she slowly nodded her head. "Aisha, do you think Billy's been acting well... odd, lately?"
..........Aisha closed her eyes and he thought for a moment that she had fallen asleep. Then she opened them again and said softly, "Tommy, he's gotten... different. I can't explain it...." Her eyes closed again and this time Tommy knew she was asleep.
.........."Will... will she be okay?" asked a soft hesitant voice. Tommy turned around, startled that someone else had entered the room. It was another junior policeman, not one that Tommy recalled meeting. A sick looking junior policeman at that. Very pale and shaky... and wearing shades of all things. The junior cop slowly took off the shades with shaking hands, and tucked them away. With his back to the light from the hallway, his face was in darkness, though something about the guy made Tommy realize that he must've met him, somewhere.
.........."The doctor said she would be okay...." Tommy noted the heavy sigh of relief. One of Aisha's friends, he wondered, though he hadn't thought she knew many junior cops. The guy put a hand to his forehead suddenly and swayed. Tommy stood and steered the trembling teen to the chair. "Hey man... here, sit down. Are you feeling okay?"
.........."No, I'm... I'll be okay. Just a little dizzy...." Billy put his hands over his eyes. He felt like he was spinning out of control and the throbbing headache was getting worse. And he felt like crying from frustration... Tommy was looking at him like he would a stranger.
.........."Hey... what happened to your head?" Tommy spotted the small cut and lump the clone had left with the pipe. Pulling Billy's hands away from his face, Tommy said with concern. "Look man, your head is bleeding. You need a doctor...." Tommy's voice faded away as he really looked at the junior cop. I know this guy, he thought to himself. Something about the cop was so familiar to him... With the dark hair and light eyes... take away the ghostly pallor and... maybe add a pair of glasses.... He suddenly felt faint himself as realization struck him like a blow from a Tenga. He dropped to his knees. "Billy?"
..........Billy nodded and put his hand back over the throbbing cut. Somehow, he didn't think Tommy was gonna be much help. "Have you seen Kat?" If he could find her, he could get reoriented. Maybe find out what exactly was going on.
.........."Oh my God." Tommy took a deep breath and tried to think. Kat had been telling the truth. At some point Billy had been replaced with an evil clone. The clone more than likely was responsible for the weird accidents... and funny, Tommy hadn't seen Rocky or Kat for awhile. Not since Kat's run in with Billy... the clone. And just how long had the clone been in place? Tommy drew a blank. Obviously a while... looking at what a wreck Billy was it had to have been a while. Tommy thought back through the last few months. A switch was made... and it dawned on him that the only time it could have happened was months ago. When the Blue Ranger was cloned from that statue... almost four months to be exact. And the clone had been such a good guy.
..........Tommy felt his face getting red with embarrassment. He hadn't really paid much attention to Billy before the team was reorganized with the new rangers. Whenever he needed a hand, there was Billy with a suggestion or two and a helping hand. Running the team was not easy and Tommy had found himself relying more and more on Billy's advice. He had slowly come to realize that Billy's help was often indispensable to the team, and to him. But, if he was right, he, the leader of the Power Rangers, had allowed a member of his team to be replaced with an evil clone, and he hadn't even noticed. The past few months flashed through Tommy's memory. He hadn't batted an eye at anything the clone had done... He hadn't even bothered to make sure they had the right Blue Ranger. Tommy felt like dirt.
.........."Tommy... do you know where Kat is?" Billy asked again. Kat was in danger. Somehow, he thought Tommy would respond to that, if nothing else.
.........."Uh... uh... no. She's pretty mad at me. " Tommy debated about saying why and decided not to. Billy was hurt, and clearly even without the lump on his head, Billy was not up to a fight. It was safe to say that Billy was up and around only through sheer force of will. Tommy had a feeling that a good hard shove would take Billy out quite effectively. "Do... do you know where the clone is?"
..........Billy shook his head. He pulled the leather jacket around tighter and shivered. "He locked me in a closet.... Tommy, he's probably going after Kat."
.........."Okay... calm down..." Tommy put an arm around Billy, and noted that Billy was starting to cry. "Why would he go after her?"
.........."He thinks Kat is to blame for his.... being found out." Billy said between tears. "He's angry... he feels betrayed...."
.........."He doesn't have any right to be angry!" Tommy said.
..........Billy bit his tongue. Part of him completely understood the clone's rage. Part of him wanted to smack Tommy's angry face and describe in detail just how awful few months had been, and just how betrayed he felt. If the clone had been accepted and treated as a friend, he had every right to feel angry. Billy took a deep breath and tried to let his anger go. It wasn't going to help anyone, and Kat was likely in danger. "Tommy... we have to find her."
.........."Yes...." Tommy hesitated. He could cover a lot more ground without Billy. Not to mention that even if Billy could keep up, he seemed... awfully dazed. A liability at best. Considering the clone's tactics, Tommy didn't need liabilities. "Billy... I think you should stay here. I, uh... think that the clone... might try finishing off what he started, you know?" He mentally crossed his fingers.
.........."But...." It was rather obvious what Tommy was doing but Billy didn't go along with it. No one was safe until the clone was found. "I have to help you...."
..........Tommy sighed. He hated to drive the point home the way he was about to but he saw no other way. He placed his hands on Billy's shoulders and applied some light pressure. "Get up."
.........."What?..." Billy tried to rise but Tommy's hands had him effectively immobilized. "Let go...." He slumped down into the chair. "I... I see your point."
.........."I'm sorry but.... Stay here. I'll be back soon." Tommy's voice, Billy recalled, had that ring of authority to it. Clearly, Tommy was used to his orders being followed implicitly by the clone... a nice bit of manipulation. Billy wondered absently if Tommy even considered the possibility that Billy might not listen to him. Well, Tommy was going to get a shock because he had no intention of staying there.
..........Rocky awoke to a pulsing headache. He slowly stood and fumbled with the bandage on his head. For a second, he completely blanked on what happened and then it came rushing back. Billy had choked him... no, not Billy... a copy. A copy of Billy. And he'd been hit on the head. There was blood on the floor. Maybe his blood. He staggered out of the lab, and looked around the hallway. It was pretty quiet. He considered his next move.
.........."Rocky!" He turned around. Tommy was sprinting down the hallway towards him. "Rocky...." Tommy was out of breath. "What happened to you?" Before he could answer Tommy waved away his question. "Never mind. Have you seen Kat? Or Billy?" Tommy shook him, making his head throb worse. He almost fainted.
.........."Billy hit me...." Rocky said slowly. "But... I don't know where he went. And I don't... I'm not really sure it was Billy."
.........."It wasn't. " Tommy shook him again. "It was a clone of Billy. I don't have time to explain, but we need to find Kat. She is in danger."
.........."Okay...." Rocky got the important parts. Billy wasn't really Billy. Kat was in danger. He trotted after Tommy, awfully confused but ready to do his part.
..........The second ranger just happened to glance up at the hospital's roof. He had just parked his car and was getting some equipment when he looked up, just to see the stars, and saw two people standing on the roof. A man and a woman. His eyes narrowed. He didn't think he knew the woman, but the guy... he knew that guy. At least, he reconsidered, he knew someone that looked an awful lot like the guy on the roof. He grabbed what he needed and looked for the entrance.
..........The first ranger was waiting at the front entrance, just as she said. "I can't find anyone...."
.........."The roof." the second ranger was blunt. "It's got someone with it... a blonde."
.........."Kat... that's Kat."
.........."Whatever. We'll split up and meet on the roof... maybe we can surprise it." The second ranger displayed the equipment he'd brought. The first ranger cringed but held steady.
.........."Are... are you sure?" she asked.
.........."Yes." The second Ranger hugged the first Ranger close. "I know this isn't easy but there's no other way."
..........She nodded and pulled away. "Let's do it."
..........Billy quietly staggered out of Aisha's room. He knew that if the clone really wanted Kat dead, there was little Tommy could do to stop him. Somehow though, he thought he could prevent it. Why, he didn't know, except that a part of him... knew how the guy felt. Maybe, he thought slowly, I can convince him to stop....
.........."Billy!" He spun at the direction of the voice, and jumped. It was the first Ranger. He smiled, and then began to wonder. It was all wrong. She shouldn't be here.
.........."Billy... you shouldn't be here." The Ranger was shocked. The last thing that was needed was her physical wreck of a friend wandering around. "Look... just go down to the emergency room... you need some help. I've got to go help Kat."
.........."Kat? You know where she is?" Billy carefully considered his words. The Ranger was not like Tommy. She would call a doctor and make sure he was safely tucked away. He had to convince her of his plan. "Look... I think... I can maybe defuse this. The clone has her, right?" The Ranger nodded. "Maybe I can talk him out of it." He briefly explained what had transpired in the janitor closet. "He just wants a way out." he concluded.
..........The Ranger sighed. She hated to admit it, but it was a good idea. "Okay... but you've got to be careful." She grabbed his arm and propelled him to the elevator. "We've gotta get on the roof."
..........Kat felt the wind on her face. It was a moonlit night. The kind of night that meant camping out at Ayers Rock. Listening to the dingoes bark through the night. Getting up at sunrise to watch the herds of 'roos bounce across the desert. Homesickness washed over her. Suddenly she chuckled.
.........."What?" The clone pushed her over to the edge.
.........."I was just thinking of how the night reminded me of home...." Her voice trailed away. "It seems pretty far away tonight...."
..........An odd look was on the clone's face. He looked almost sad. "It does. Your home and mine. You condemned me without even considering my offer. But no, you just throw me to Lord Zedd like I'm not even human." The clone's hands began to shake a little.
..........Kat felt her own anger rise. "You left Billy to die. That's not exactly 'humane' in my book."
..........The clone slapped her face. "I didn't know! How was I suppose to know? And since when do you have any right to preach to me? I tried to fit in. Not argue with anyone. Take all the crap that Billy puts up with and smile while I'm doing it." He saw Kat's look of confusion and his temper flared further. "Oh come on. Do any of you even know how to say thank you? Or maybe just try to pretend to interested in Billy's life outside the damn team? You all don't care a bit as long as Billy or I perform like a trained chimp. No wonder none of you noticed the difference."
.........."I didn't even know Billy...." Kat began.
.........."No, you didn't. You know me. And it took all of ten seconds for you to toss me aside. Why? Because I'm 'evil'" The clone's voice was thick with sarcasm. "Well, it takes one to know one."
..........Out of the corner of her eye, Kat saw a flash of white and red sneaking around the various rooftop protrusions. Her slight intake of breath warned the clone though. He spun around with the scalpel and slashed out just as Tommy tried to tackled him. The blade struck across Tommy's chest, and splotches of red appeared on the pristine white shirt Tommy was wearing.
.........."Awh! " Tommy clutched his chest and rolled away. Rocky grabbed him back and began checking him out.
..........The clone yanked Kat closer and put the scalpel to her throat. "Don't come any closer," the clone warned, "Or I will kill her."
.........."I thought you were gonna do that anyway." Kat hissed. The clone yanked her hair in response.
.........."Shut up!" he shouted. To Rocky and Tommy, he shouted, "Get back!"
..........Tommy pulled himself to his feet and clutched his chest. The wound was a shallow slash almost ten inches long. It was bleeding but he ignored it. He eyed the clone angrily. "If you hurt her...."
.........."If I hurt her, it will be because you didn't listen. Now, get back!" The clone yanked Kat's hair back, and with a grin, sliced a lock off with his scalpel. "Next time, it's her throat."
..........Rocky yanked Tommy back. "Okay... we'll stay back."
..........Tommy took a deep breath and tried to calm down. He wasn't much of a negotiator but he had to try. Or else Kat would die. "All right... what do you want?"
.........."To walk away." Tommy and Rocky spun around at the sound of the soft voice. Billy stood there, with Trini, of all people hovering behind him. Rocky was boggled. What Tommy had said earlier really hadn't sunk in. Standing roughly ten feet apart were two versions of Billy. And the version standing next to Trini looked almost dead. "That's all he wants, Tommy."
..........Tommy was the first to speak. "I thought I told you to stay with Aisha."
.........."Yes. Yes you did." Billy took a step closer to Kat and the clone. To the clone, he said, "Am I right? Because, if you kill her, you can't walk away. Not from that."
.........."They won't let me leave." The clone's grip on Kat tightened. "Your life for my power coin... that was the deal wasn't it?" Billy took another step towards them. Trini followed him, her concern evident. The clone smiled at her. "Trini the protector. See Kat, I told you she was better at it." The clone raised the scalpel closer to Kat's jugular. "Trini, I suggest you step back."
..........Trini did as she was told. She tried to pull Billy back with her, but he waved her off in an absent way. He was too focused on the clone and Kat to even really notice.
.........."That was the deal, wasn't it?" he asked again.
.........."Yes." the clone hissed. "But she said no. I told you... I tried to walk away."
..........Billy took another step. Behind him, he dimly heard Rocky and Tommy mutter warnings and Trini sobbing. It didn't matter. "The only person with any right to accept your offer is me." He paused, taking in Kat's frightened face and the clone's snarling facade. "And I do."
.........."Billy, no...." Kat pleaded. He silenced her with a look.
.........."They won't let you do this." the clone warned. "The second I give you the power coin, they'll get me. No mercy to the enemy."
.........."You don't deserve any!" Tommy shouted.
.........."Dammit Tommy!" Billy spun around, his anger so plain on his face that Tommy drew back. "You don't understand do you? All of you... you're condemning him to death! A slow miserable death. If you were in his shoes, you'd be doing the same thing." A haunted look crossed his face, and he spoke more quietly. "I know I would."
..........He turned back to the clone. "Kat and I will switch places. You give me the power coin... and I'll protect you. You can leave. My conditions are that you leave Angel Grove, and you don't use my name."
.........."All right." the clone's eyes narrowed. "I have one condition. No one comes after me."
.........."Agreed." Billy said softly.
.........."Billy..." Tommy stepped closer. "I can't allow that."
..........Billy sighed. "Tommy, I'm asking you, not as leader of the Rangers but as a friend... Don't go after him. As a favor to me... please."
..........Tommy hesitated. It went against every instinct he had to agree, but Billy's soft spoken request was almost a plea. Billy was pleading with him to agree, when it should be him pleading with Billy to forgive him. He glared at the clone, and nodded. "For you... all right. "
..........Billy held out his hand for the coin. The clone slowly withdrew it and set it in Billy's trembling hand. Quietly, in a hushed voice that only Billy and Kat could hear, the clone said, "You could come with me, if you wanted. Get away from this.... You don't deserve the garbage you put up with."
..........Billy shook his head. "It's not an option."
.........."They aren't your friends, don't you understand?" To Kat's surprise, the clone seemed to be almost pleading.
..........Billy shook his head again. In almost the same hushed voice, he said, "Sometimes, you have to accept things in order to be friends. No one meant for me to get hurt... and if you think about it logically, there's reason enough for no one to trust you." Billy pulled Kat out of the clone's grasp. For an instant, the clone was silhouetted against the night sky.
..........An instant was all the time that Jason Scott needed. He leveled his father's service pistol at the clone's chest and fired. A blossom of red burst onto the clone's white shirt. He staggered and fell over the side of the building.
.........."No!" Billy dove and grabbed the clone's hands. The clone's weight dragged Billy until he was almost over the side. Trini jumped forward and stopped him from going over by catching ahold of the junior cop jacket.
.........."Billy... let go of him." Trini was out of breath from the effort of holding him. "Guys...."
..........Tommy and Jason unfroze from their shocked positions and ran to help Trini while Rocky made sure that Kat was uninjured. The clone reached up and tightened his hands on Billy. Then, he yanked down, hard. Billy could feel himself slipping over the edge. "Stop it... we'll both fall."
..........The clone grinned up at him. "Then we'll die together. There's a certain rightness to that." He chuckled at Billy's dawning look of comprehension. "You are such a sucker. No wonder everyone walks all over you." He continued yanking downward.
..........Jason and Tommy heaved Billy up. Then, without speaking, but in complete agreement, they both began hitting the clone's hands and prying them off. The clone was weakening, though only Billy could see the fading light in his eyes. The clone knew he couldn't hold on much longer. He looked up into Billy's eyes and grinned once last time. "See you on the other side, Billy." He let go.
..........Trini, Tommy and Jason yanked Billy up. Trini pulled him close and tried to stop the shaking that consumed him. Tommy, Jason, Rocky, and Kat looked over the edge. Far below, on the sidewalk, was a bloody smear. But, no body.
.........."Where'd he go?" Rocky didn't get what happened.
.........."I don't think he could've lived...." Kat's voice trailed off. She looked back over at Billy. "But I don't think it matters." At Rocky's confused look, she added. "Billy will keep his side of the bargain." Kat felt the wind blow across her face again and felt another wave of homesickness. She glanced at her watch. It was daybreak at Ayers Rock. All while the clone had played out his hand, the sun was slowing rising over the peak, and the kangaroos hopped across the highway... and only the watchful campers would see the dingoes lurking behind.