Disclaimer: "Might Morphin Power Rangers" and "Power Rangers Zeo" are owned by Saban Entertainment. No copyright infringement is intended by this story and if reproduced, this dislaimer must be included.
Billy slumped into his chair. He picked up his shake and sipped it and
set it aside with a sigh. It didn't taste right. Either Ernie had changed
the recipe, or his taste buds were broken. The way everything tasted lately,
he was starting to think it was the latter. He leaned back in his chair
and wished he hadn't come. The Juice Bar was filled with screaming kids
and the noise was making his head pound. It didn't help that he was starting
to feel sick.
"You okay, Billy?" Rocky wasn't a particularly perceptive person but lately he had been starting to worry about his friend. Billy wasn't in school anymore, he had no reason to look so ragged out as far as Rocky was concerned. "You seem kinda.... logy."
"Huh?" Billy was startled. He hadn't been paying attention. The colors on Rocky's tie-dyed t-shirt had held him captivated for some odd reason. He shook his head. Lately, he had found that colors distracted him. He'd taken to wearing black and grey and that helped a little but the Juice bar was a veritable rainbow, Rocky's shirt even more so.
"Are you okay?" Rocky's voice suddenly grabbed his attention. The lilting tones captured his focus. Rocky had a pleasant baritone, but nothing ordinarily captivating. Still, the sound of his voice, compared to the cacophony of the Youth Center was almost musical. "Billy? You there?" He jumped as Rocky shook him lightly.
"What?" he asked, shaking off the weird revery. He was starting to get worried about the episodes of distraction he'd been having. It was unnerving, and happening more and more often. He had chalked it up to loosing the power. Zack and Trini had both warned him that he would feel odd for a while. It was getting worse, not better and he was considering talking to Tommy. Tommy had been through it too, and he'd had far more problems adjusting than Zack and Trini.
Rocky watched Billy zone out and felt his worry increase. Ever since they had become Zeo Rangers, Billy had started to concern him. At first it hadn't been obvious. Oh, sure, Billy had seemed a little out of sorts after taking the hit of voltage from the Command Center's computer bank. Rocky had often wondered if Billy had been thinking clearly when he gave up the power to Tanya.
But after a few days, Billy had been fine. Back to normal, if perhaps a little sad. Then, starting before he went to Aquitar, slowly but surely he had changed. Little things really. If he had to sum it up, he thought Billy was becoming withdrawn. Rocky couldn't count how many times in the last month he had seen Billy blank out like no one was around. Like he was doing right now.
"Billy. Are. You. Feeling. Okay?" Rocky saw Billy's eyes light up as he registered the question. Finally, he thought with a sigh. Now if only he could get an answer.
"I've been tired lately...." Billy sighed again. "And... I don't know... achy. Nauseous." He straitened up in his chair. "I'm fine, really."
"Sounds like the flu. You should go home." Rocky said. He'd asked Billy to help him study but it seemed a bit mean on his part to make Billy stay if he was sick.
"No... well...." Billy hesitated. The noise in the Juice bar was starting to overwhelm him. "Maybe we could cut this short?" He rubbed his head as it started to throb. "You know... I thought when I graduated that I'd be bored, but it seems like all I ever am is busy and tired."
"Billy... you know, you can take breaks. We don't mind." Rocky said.
"I know.... Look, here's a thought. My dad is picking me up soon. We can study at my place instead of here." Billy wasn't really opposed to studying at the Juice bar but he was feeling out of sorts, and the noise was only making his headache worse. He looked out and saw his dad pull up. "Well.... my dad is here so, if you want math tutoring, and maybe dinner... come on...."
"Dinner? I'm there!"
* * *
"Hello?" Tommy had one hand on the receiver and the other was stirring a pot of spaghetti. His voice was curt. Calls at dinner time simply annoyed him. His father hated it too.
"Tommy! You gotta! It's...."
"Whoa... calm down." Tommy held the shrieking phone away from his ear. Someone having a hissy, probably one of his dad's legal clients. "Go slow...."
The person on the other end stifled a sob. Tommy felt a moment of anxiety. A divorce call... custody issues were often messy. He waved his dad over, positive he would need to hand off the phone.
"Tommy. It's Rocky... you... you need to come down here." Rocky's voice choked. In the background, Tommy could hear people shouting and the clamoring of buzzers.
"What's wrong? Where are you?" Tommy felt a sudden flash of fear. Rocky seemed pretty fried mentally.
"The hospital...there was an accident. Tommy...." Rocky sobbed.
"You were in an accident?" Tommy dropped the spoon into the spaghetti. Richard Oliver gave his son a serious look and moved to grab the car keys on the table. Dinner obviously going to be on hold. "Are you okay?"
Over the line, he could hear the bustle of the hospital die down as Rocky slowly calmed down. "I'm okay..." Rocky sputtered, "And Billy just cut his head and arm sorta bad ... he should be okay... but... Tommy, Billy's dad is.... there was blood everywhere."
"We'll be right there."
* * *
Rocky was just about vibrating across the waiting room as Tommy and Richard rushed in. To Tommy's untrained eye, he appeared unharmed, simply very very upset. "Guys!" Rocky gave Tommy a sudden hug, surprising from someone so normally adverse to touching.
"Where's Billy? And Mr. Reeves?" Tommy asked as he returned the hug. Rocky withdrew and pointed to the far end of the busy waiting room. Billy was sitting in one of the uncomfortable chairs, his knees pulled up to his chin. As Rocky had said on the phone, Billy had cut his head and arms to the point that they had obviously been tended to... a large bulky bandage covered one arm and a smaller one graced his forehead. Tommy sat down next him. "Billy, man... you okay?"
Billy nodded, his eyes staring intently at one of the emergency treatment rooms. His skin was a pasty grey color. He wasn't really registering the bustling activity, or even Tommy's prescense. Tommy had a feeling that Billy would have nodded if he'd been asked to jump off a cliff. Slowly, Billy raised his eyes to Tommy's face. "They're working on my dad.... I want to see him...."
"I know...." Tommy noticed a young doctor leave the room Billy had been so intent upon. The doctor's eyes lit upon Billy. His expression was grim.
"Your father is asking for you...." Billy got up without hesitation, leaving a bewildered Tommy to deal with the doctor. The doctor sighed sadly. "Are you family?"
"No, just a friend."
"Do you know of any family?" Tommy suddenly understood what the doctor was driving at. He paled. After much thought, all he could say was "There's maybe an aunt and uncle... do you think?" His voice trailed off. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Rocky suddenly burst into tears. His father took the crying boy in his arms.
"I think..." the doctor said softly, "That someone should call your friend's aunt and uncle. There's too much internal damage... we could deal with the blood loss... eveb the trauma from the arm injury by itself... but so much ... its just a matter of time."
* * *
After a flurry of calls, Richard Oliver had tracked down the only living relative rather easily. Billy's uncle ran a mountain resort just outside of Angel Grove.
"I really don't see why Billy had to move out here." Tommy said softly as he drove. "I mean... he is a high school graduate. And he is 17... and between you and me, Dad, his uncle didn't seem real pleased to have him."
Beside him, Richard Oliver sighed. "Look, legally speaking, there's really no choice. Billy is a minor and his uncle Reggie is his only living relative. And this doesn't have to be a permanent arrangement." Richard didn't want to admit his own misgivings over handing Tommy's friend over to Reggie McCarthur. Richard wouldn't have even thought Billy and Reggie were related. It turned out that they were only related by marriage. Billy's aunt Jennifer had married Reggie some five years earlier. She had died of breast cancer soon after Billy's mother had succumbed to the same illness a year ago. Reggie was a big, gruff older man with swarthy coloring. Next to him, at the funeral, Billy had seemed like a pale, fair bundle of reeds. Richard had been able to tell that Reggie was not enthralled with custody of his nephew, even though it was going to amount to maybe six months. One of the reasons Richard had chosen to accompany his son to visit was the faint hope that, a week after the funeral, Billy would have himself together enough so that they could discuss his future. As Ward Reeves's executer, Richard knew that Billy was not some indigent orphan. If the living arrangements were not satisfactory to all, Richard was sure something could be worked out. He didn't expect to get much accomplished on the first visit though. The poor kid had been totally shattered. All Richard really wanted was to make sure that Billy understood the basics about the will.
Tommy had an entirely different agenda. As they pulled into the mountain lodge's parking lot, he mentally rehearsed his words. Billy had barely spoken at the funeral, and his uncle had dragged him off that day. Since then, he hadn't contacted anyone. All of the rangers had tried calling but they had heard nothing in return. Tommy was worried. Billy had been... almost ill looking at the funeral. Very pale, very shaky. Tommy had worried then that Billy's uncle was a poor choice for custody. Billy needed his friends around him, not some sort of bizarre solitary confinement at in the mountains. Tommy worried that no one had been giving their phone messages to Billy. He'd even had Zordon call Billy through his comminictor but as far as they could tell, Billy was just refusing to answer. He needs us, Tommy thought as the car pulled into the small compound, not this place.
It was a nice place though, Tommy thought as they entered the bustling lodge. There was a fire burning at the far end of the huge cathedral-like meeting room, with several large comfortable looking sofas set up around it. A few guests were there and considering how brisk the air was outside, he couldn't blame them. He was starting to wish he'd worn a heavier jacket. Still, despite the chill, he had to admit, he liked the woodsy, hunting lodge feel that the place had.
Reggie was working at the check in counter with several of the hotel employees. He saw them, and held up the discussion for just a moment. "Richard Oliver, right?"
Richard nodded. "I just need to talk with you and Billy about a few details... is he around?"
Reggie frowned. "Yeah... in his room probably." There was an expression of distaste on his face that Tommy didn't like. "It's room 18 if you to go find him. I'm going to be a few minutes so why don't you take a seat?"
Tommy decided it was time to track down his friend. He left his father to wait and went plodding down the wood paneled hall. At the far end he found room 18. He knocked, but there was no answer. Finally, he gave in and just opened the door.
The room was very dark. Sitting on the floor was an opened suitcase, its contents barely touched. Like the main lodge , the room was wood paneled, and a large deer head was mounted over the bed. Billy was lying on top of the bed covers, an extra blanket half on top of him and half wound around his shoeless feet. He was curled up around a pillow in a tight ball. In the dark, it was hard to tell if his pale color was from illness or from spending too much time inside. It looked like a little of both to Tommy. He'd never known Billy to be a heavy sleeper but there he was, so deeply asleep that Tommy had no worries that the bustle of the hotel was keeping Billy up.
"Billy?" He leaned over and shook Billy. Billy was warm to his touch. Maybe Billy was sick, he mused. As he thought that, he became aware of the slight odor that hung in the room. Faintly mediciney and sour, as if someone had been ill. Overlaying that was the smell of old toast. Tommy looked around and sure enough, on the nightstand was a plate of dry toast, nibbled on but mostly still there. "Billy... come on...."
Billy slowly opened his eyes and sat up, blinking in surprise at Tommy. "Wha... how...." He hadn't expected anyone. Even the staff didn't check up on him... especially after the cook got yelled at for bringing him toast the day before. His uncle had shouted something about how he wasn't a guest... that once he was eighteen, he'd be out. Billy didn't care. Uncle Reg had never liked him, even when Aunt Jennifer had been alive. He looked at Tommy with fuzzy vision and wondered how Tommy had gotten there.
"I came to see how you were. And my dad needs to talk to you." Tommy was definitely worried. Billy was probably one of the most fastidiously neat people Tommy had ever known. Sitting before him however, was someone who clearly was not concerned about his appearance. Billy's hair was disheveled and his eyes were so red, Tommy just knew he'd left his contacts in for too long. His shirt was untucked and his clothes had clearly been slept in. The bandages on his arm and forehead had a ratty look, as if they hadn't been changed recently. "Billy.... you don't look good. Are you feeling all right?"
Billy sat up against the headboard, holding a pillow close against his chest. "No... I haven't... haven't been feeling well."
"Well, did you tell your uncle?" Tommy didn't like that at all..
"Yes..." Billy sighed. He had held off telling his uncle how poorly he was feeling, hoping it would just go away. Uncle Reg hadn't wanted him or any of the hassle involved with having him stay there. He knew that... Reg had said so. "He said I should grow up and stop depressing everyone."
Tommy's anger flared but he pushed it down. It was entirely possible that Billy had mistaken what was said. Reg seemed like a jerk but Tommy couldn't quite fathom anyone being that cold. "Billy... look, why don't we head out to the lobby? It seems really cozy there...." Maybe Billy just needed a more cheerful place to hang... his room was depressing and the lobby did seem like a cheery warm place.
"No..." Billy sighed again. He doubted Reg would get upset while Tommy was there but it was only putting off the inevitable fit. The lobby was nice and warm, but, "Uncle Reg doesn't want me moping around where the customers are." He hugged the pillow closer, the sleeve of his shirt catching on the pillow and revealing a large fresh bruise.
Tommy's eyes narrowed. "How'd that happen?"
Billy pulled the sleeve down self consciously. "It's nothing... I fell that's all."
"Oh... Uncle reg and I were kinda arguing.... I was pretty sick earlier....he got mad and shoved me... I fell down the stairs...." Billy saw the flash of anger. "Tommy... it was an accident, really..."
"Billy! You could have been hurt. And you're sick...." Tommy stood. "Come on.. let's go talk to my dad."
Billy slowly dragged himself to the edge of the bed. He didn't want to talk to Tommy's dad... he barely knew the man. It wouldn't do any good anyway. There wasn't any other relatives he could live with, so he had to make the best of it and just stay out of Uncle Reg's way. He stood and took a few shaky steps and then sprinted to the bathroom.
Tommy watched in silence. He didn't like it. Billy wasn't even throwing up, he was dry heaving. It took either a lot of throwing up or just not eating to produce dry heaves. When Billy was done, he have his friend a hand up and steered him back to bed. Billy's legs almost buckled as he sat back down on the bed.
"Tommy... I'm really not feeling well, okay. I'm a little dizzy. Can seeing your dad wait?" Billy curled back up around his pillow before Tommy answered, and closed his eyes. Tommy seemed to be surrounded by a reddish glow and it bothered his eyes. He sighed heavily again, a weary sound. "I just want to be alone."
"I'll be right back." Tommy fairly flew down the hall. His father was still waiting and Reg was clearly taking his time. He motioned his father over to him. "Dad.... look... I think this is a bad situation for Billy." He quickly described Billy's state, barely concealing his anger.
Before Richard had a chance to respond, Reg strode over and shook his hand. Richard suppressed his anger. It was possible, unlikely but possible, that Tommy was badly overreacting. "Reg, I need to sit both you and Billy down and go over this paperwork. Why don't we go get him?" If Reg had anything to hide, he wouldn't want a lawyer having a look at the boy.
Reg looked at the anger in Tommy and Richard's face and frowned. He led them down the hallway, his whole body saying that he was irritated. "The kid's barely spoken to me... never leaves his room. I'm starting to think he's gone mental on me." He opened the door to Billy's room without knocking.
Billy was much as Tommy had left him, curled around a pillow, his eyes closed. Richard shoved by Reg and put his hand to Billy's forehead. Billy didn't even twitch. He just softly mumbled. Richard took his hand away and glared at Reg. "He's burning up! Reg, how long has he been like this? What were you thinking?" Richard knocked the toast off the nightstand in his anger. Billy started at that. Tommy stepped over protectively. He had a feeling that there was about to be a bad scene.
Reg crossed his arms defiantly. "You know.. I've had it up to here with this. I didn't ask for custody...."
"So you let him get this sick?" Richard was livid. He reached down and pulled up Billy's sleeve, to see if Tommy was right. There was a large bruise running the length of the boy's arm. "And how exactly did this happen?"
"He fell." Reg drew himself up and crossed his arms. His pose was belligerent. Richard stood also, and they stared at each other in silence, almost daring each other to speak.
"Accident...." Billy muttered thickly. "Tommy... it was an accident...." Billy was more than a little muddled about what was going on, but Tommy was there, he knew that. The odd reddish glow that surrounded Tommy was back. It made his head ache.
Later, Tommy realized that it was only Billy's sick muttering that kept his father from leaping on the much larger man. Richard looked down at the sick boy and then at his son. He turned to Reg then, and Tommy was struck by how his father could show his disgust and anger with just a raise of his eyebrows. Then, Richard turned to Tommy.
"Son...." He spoke softly. "Why don't you take Billy out to the car. I'll be out in a moment. Reg, let's go talk about custody...." He simply ushered Reg out the door.
"Okay... come on Billy." Tommy got Billy into shoes and a jacket more quickly than he expected. It was when he pulled Billy into the brightly hallway that he saw just how pale his friend was. "Here," he said as he gave Billy a supporting hand.
"I'm okay," Billy muttered irritably, but Tommy kept his arm around Billy's waist just the same. Under his touch, he could feel his friend trembling. He didn't think Billy could have made it on his own. The second they stepped out into the crisp bright light, he felt Billy's shaking increase.
Billy put a hand to his forehead. The bright light and sudden activity was making his head ache even more. His knees started to give way and Tommy quickly scooped him up in his arms. "No... I'm fine...."
"Sure," Tommy said softly. It was only a few feet to the car and in seconds he had Billy safely ensconced in the back seat. Despite his not quite coherent protests, in minutes Billy was curled down on the seat, asleep. Tommy threw his jacket over him and sat back in the front passenger. He was worried. Something was seriously wrong... though Billy not a large person, he wasn't a lightweight either. Tommy shook his head. Billy had felt like a sack of bones.
Richard walked out, carrying a suitcase. He quickly stuffed it in the trunk and got in. "Let's go." His voice was curt. The car pulled out in silence.
"Dad... I think Billy is really sick." Tommy couldn't let it go. "I mean... Dad, I don't think he really understands that we're taking him to our house."
To his surprise, his father chuckled. "Tommy... do you remember when you were seven and you had the flu? You spent the better part of a week talking to the furniture, becuase you thought people were hiding inside. I'm guessing Billy has been running a low grade fever for a few days.... A situation like this and he was an easy target for a virus. We'll have your mom look at him." His face darkened. "To confirm my suspicions, if nothing else."
* * *
"So, Billy's going to stay with your family?" After hearing Tommy's tale, all Jason wanted was a semi-happy ending.
"For now," Tommy said. "He's been really sick. My mom says it's normal... He's pretty down on top of that. I mean, he barely talks at all and not about the accident at all. That's when he's not sleeping...." Tommy sighed. After four days, they had all rapidly adapted to the extra person in the house. It actually had been easy... Billy was so quiet, with no complaints about anything. That worried Tommy.. he got the impression that Billy just didn't care. Billy spent most of his waking hours, what few there were, sitting on the couch thumbing through books. It didn't help that Billy was still sick. He barely ate and then only kept it down rarely. Tommy shook away those thoughts. Billy was just sick and depressed.... "Anyhow... my dad said Billy was definitely staying with us until he was better. He defiantly isn't staying with his uncle. My dad had him sign over custody right there. He said it would be easier to do it that way than get child welfare services involved. This way, Billy isn't stuck in the system. Once he wants to, he's got a lot of options so its really up to him. I know my folks won't mind him staying." Tommy smiled at that. His mother liked nothing better than having extra kids in the house and with Billy so sick, her mother hen instincts were running wild.
Jason sipped his smoothie. "What sort of options?" Jason hoped they were good options. Billy deserved something good. Ever since Billy had stepped in front of the exploding panel of the Command Center to save the other rangers, things had been going bad for him. It was like that accident served as a trigger. First, Billy's impromptu graduation, which Jason knew had left his friend out of sorts and lonely, despite his denials. Then, after having his hopes built up, the accident had made Billy unable to accept the Gold Ranger powers and he'd had to watch Jason take a place that by all intents should belong to him. Jason knew that Billy had been hurt, and he'd tried to be sensitive but sometimes he felt it wasn't enough. Sometimes, he had looked in Billy's eyes and knew that it would never be enough. And now, with Billy's father dying so suddenly... Jason couldn't hep but feel that Billy was jinxed somehow by the explosion.
Tommy could almost see Jason's thoughts. Well, he thought to himself, at least this little bit is good news. "My dad said that Mr. Reeves was um... not exactly poor. When Mrs. Reeves died, the insurance money paid off their house and Mr. Reeves put the rest of it in a trust for Billy. And now...It's like this. Billy's not going to have to worry about money. If he wants, once he's well, he can just move back into his house if he wants. Or he can sell the place and get an apartment. My dad will represent him if he wants independent minor status...or he can stay with us."
"That's something, I guess..." It didn't seem like much to Jason.
"You sound like Billy." Tommy sighed. "I know it's not much, really, but I heard my folks talking last night about well... what if they died suddenly... they were worried they hadn't made plans, you know? Billy's lucky in that respect. I just wish Billy would...I don't know... perk up a little. He's been pretty...."
"Sick." Jason added.
"You know..." Rocky spoke for the first time since Tommy had started his tale of woe. "Billy was sick.... that's why we were going to his house. Maybe... maybe something is really wrong." Rocky had been pale and quiet since the accident. He'd been racked by nightmares and guilt. Like Jason, Rocky had wondered if Billy had somehow been cursed with bad luck. "You know, ever since the command center exploded, he hasn't really been right."
Tommy brushed aside Rocky's words. "I'm sure he'll be fine. My mom is dosing him with flu remedies."
* * *
Mary Oliver stirred the chicken soup slowly, keeping one eye on the pale young man in the living room. She was worried, more than she would admit. Billy was never a talkative kid, but now he unnaturally quiet. Grieving, and grieving hard. She and Richard had told Tommy not to press his friend, that Billy needed time. Some time to grieve and get used to what had happened, and Billy would be all right. Loosing a parent, getting thrown to an abusive relative like so much garbage, and being ill in the bargain was just to much. He needed a breather from stress.
It was a sound plan, but Mary thought sadly, it was being foiled by Billy's illness. She had been startled by how Billy had looked but like Richard, had chalked that up to flu and neglect. People who were grieving sometimes couldn't stop grieving to take care of themselves, and Billy hadn't been in a supportive environment. What worried her was that despite plenty of medicine and caring support, Billy was still very ill. His fever was still re-occurring, despite plenty of tylonel and the persistent aching, dizziness and nausea was slowly getting worse. She had prodded him out of bed but that had really accomplished nothing. He'd spent most of the morning sitting listlessly in the living room, covered with blankets. In theory, he was watching television, but she doubted he was paying any attention at all. " Billy, lunch is ready...."
Billy slowly trudged into the kitchen and took a seat. Mary set a bowl of steaming soup in front of him. Almost mechanically he started to eat, but after only a few bites he set down his spoon. "I'm sorry Mrs. Oliver... I'm... really not that hungry." He trembled slightly.
"Billy...." Mary gave him a hug. "You need to eat... I know you aren't feeling very good but you're not going get any better if you don't start taking care of yourself."
Unexpectantly, he burst into tears. "I miss my father...." He curled up and hugged his arms around himself. "It's not... not fair..."
"I know...." Mary held him, knowing in her heart that it was small comfort, but better than nothing.
"I need him...." Billy cried. "I don't... It's not fair...." He continued to sob quietly. All Mary could was hold him and hope that this was the catharsis he needed.
* * *
"Hey Tommy, you have to leave so soon?" Adam tossed the frisbee they'd all been tossing around. School had let out early and the Zeo Rangers were having a rare afternoon of frolicking in the park. A free afternoon was rare enough, a free afternoon without a monster attack was almost un heard of.
Tommy nodded as he caught the frisbee. "Yeah. I want to see if I can pry Billy outside for a little wile."
"How is he doing?" Kat asked. She had gone to see Billy the day before. He hadn't looked good. Depressed, she thought.
"Better in some ways." Tommy picked up his knapsack. "He's sick... but at least he's not getting worse, really. And he is starting to ... move on, I guess. Last night we went through a bunch of those college manuals...you know..where they list all the majors and stuff and he was really into it. I think he'll be okay."
"That's good." Adam said. "I hope he gets better soon, though. Its just not the same without him." The other rangers nodded. Things had seemed odd to all of them. Tommy shouldered his pack and started to leave. Suddenly a horde of cogs fell from the sky. Tommy flung down his knapsack and shouted "Its Morphin Time!"
In seconds they were all morphed. The cogs surrounded them. They fought valiantly but Mondo had apparently decided to use up as many cogs as he could. There were almost one hundred cogs in the park battling them.
"Man, this is rough!" Tommy shouted.
"I know!" Jason yelled as he slammed a cog down with his power staff.
"There's too many!" Adam shouted as he flipped by. "We need help!"
Almost as if on cue, there was a sudden grey flash of light. All of the rangers, and even the cogs paused in battle. Standing on a grassy knoll was a ranger. A grey ranger. The uniform was reminiscent of the older uniforms with grey as the base and white diamonds on the chest. A gold shield, much like Tommy's old green ranger shield was on the mysterious ranger's chest. It lacked any of the dinosaur insignia of the old uniforms but otherwise it was very similair. Though it wasn't always easy to tell by size, the ranger appeared to be male... the fact that the uniform had no skirt led Tommy to make one instant deduction.
"Hey man!" he called to the stiff grey figure. "You wanna help?" The grey ranger seemed to look across the battlefield as if he'd never seen the place before. Slowly, he nodded to Tommy. The cogs seemed to take that as an order to resume and in seconds, fists were flying again. With the added help, the cogs were quickly defeated. The zeo rangers all gathered around the new grey ranger to congratulate him and find out who their new ally was. Oddly though, the grey ranger backed away, as if uncertain if they were really friends. He seemed to want to run, and then before anyone could stop him, he teleported away.
"Wait...." Tommy called futily.
"Oh man, not another one of these mysterious rangers from other planets things again." Rocky sighed. "Sorry Jason...."
"I know." Jason said quietly. "It gets old. Maybe Zordon has some idea about this.... that guy didn't seem to have a zeo ranger outfit."
* * *
Tommy and Jason entered the Oliver house. After talking with Zordon, the rangers had decided that until Zordon completed his analysis, the best they could do was rule out the obvious candidate. Billy had been a ranger. It was possible, unlikely to both, but just possible that Billy had discovered some new power source and hadn't told them. He had been out of the loop with the team and Tommy had no doubt that any sort of research he'd been doing had taken a backseat. Still, none of them really thought it was the case, but it was better to make sure, if only so they didn't spend a lot of time accusing Billy the way they had with the gold ranger.
"Hey Mom," Tommy called, "Where's Billy?"
Mary walked out of the kitchen and shushed them. "He's asleep Tommy."
"Well... um...." Tommy wasn't quite sure how to broach his problem. "He didn't go out today did he?"
"Tommy...." Mary almost chuckled. "He was pretty sick. I sent him to bed after lunch...he was running a fever. I don't think he decided to go to the mall. Why don't you two go check on him?"
Tommy and Jason nodded. They walked down the hallway to what was now Billy's room. Jason noted with some pleasure, that Tommy's parents had made a lot of effort to change the room from its prior status of office/guestroom into space that felt like Billy lived there. Someone, probably Tommy, had brought over a lot of Billy's possessions, pictures and knickknacks. It was a nice, brightly lit room. Someone had chocked the window open, and the warm spring breeze blew in, giving the room the scent of fresh flowers.
Billy was scrunched up in a ball, blankets pulled up around him. In his hands was an old science fiction novel. Billy was sleeping soundly though, and both boys figured that he had been reading himself to sleep. Clearly though, Billy was deeply asleep.
"Well," Tommy whispered, "Unless he was sleepwalking, we can rule out Billy."
* * *
Billy wolfed his dinner down hungrily. For the first time in weeks, his appetite had returned. He had spent the afternoon trying to grind his way through the novel "Lucifer's Hammer." His head had been pounding and he'd finally given in and taken a nap. But for once, it had worked. He didn't feel great but he did feel better. He even felt rested. Lately his sleep had been disturbed by dreams of the accident and of wild animals chasing him. He didn't understand either dream, which made them worse. He didn't consciously remember the accident... the last thing he remembered before coming around in the hosptial was talking to Rocky in the juice bar. His dream usually went far afield from reality and it was psetting to say the least. The other dream, of animals, was just strange. It didn't seem to relate to anything he'd known. Sometimes, it was even a snarling wolf that chased him. Some sleep, decent dreamless rest, and he felt a hundred times better. He listened to the dinner conversation with interest for the first time since he'd moved in.
"Tommy," Richard said as he passed the potatoes. "Your mom and I have to go out tonight. Are you two going to be okay here?" It was not something Tommy's parent's usually asked but Tommy understood what his dad was driving at.
"We'll be fine." Tommy said quickly. "Maybe we'll watch some movies. "
"Hey, how about we watch Twister?" Billy chimed in as he got another helping of stuffing. "And we can make popcorn."
Tommy nodded, pleased that Billy seemed interested in doing something, even that involved seeing Twister for the thousandth time. It was starting to look as if Billy was getting over his illness. Maybe, Tommy thought with some hope, Billy will be able to lend a hand with discovering the grey ranger's identity. Zordon had come up with nothing from the afternoon's appearance, except that the grey ranger was not using zeo energy. Zordon surmised that perhaps some entity had reformed the morphing grid. Either way, they could do little until the grey ranger revealed a little more about himself. In the mean time, Tommy decided to just let it go. It was more important to him that Billy get himself together.
It seemed that for once, things were going to go just as planned. The two boys popped the movie into the vcr and made popcorn. They settled down and watched. As the movie finished, Tommy took the tape out and prepared another. He was about to ask Billy what he wanted to watch next, but realized with a smile that Billy was asleep, his head resting on the arm of the living chair and his hand still in a bowl of popcorn. Tommy just chuckled. He put in a Jackie Chan movie and was watching when someone started pounding on the front door. With a glance to Billy, who was starting to stir from the noise, he quickly entered the front hallway. It was awfully late, he thought suddenly, for someone to stop by. As a precaution, he put the chain on the door and opened it only a crack. "Hello?"
"Open the goddamn door!" Tommy recognized the voice instantly. It was Reggie MacArthur and he was quite angry from the sound of it, not to mention drunk. Tommy could smell the stale odor of beer even several feet away. Tommy quickly shut the door but he didn't move fast enough. Reggie kicked the door open. He stomped in and with a mighty heave, he tossed the much smaller teen into the wall. Tommy slumped to the floor, knocked senseless. Reggie kicked him for good measure and then moved on.
"Billy?!" Reggie yanked him up out of his chair. Billy was too startled to react at first. He'd never seen his uncle in such a rage. He struggled for just a second and Reggie punched him. Reggie lifted him up until his feet came off the floor and shook him until his teeth rattled. "You goddamned idiot! You're coming with me! I'm not loosing out on the insurance money! My lawyer said that bastard Oliver might even press charges! Well, screw it! Possession is nine tenths of the law!" With that, Reggie whipped a very confused Billy around, so that his arm was twisted painfully behind him. As Reggie forced him into the front hallway, he continued to mutter, "You're not gonna tell the cops or anyone one else a goddamn thing...."
Billy spied Tommy slowly getting up, blood dripping from his forehead. Something snapped in Billy. He could deal with not being a ranger...he had never gotten a thrill from battle the way the others did. He could accept the horrible fact that his father was dead. He could even accept that his uncle was nothing more than a cruel brute of a human being. But he could not accept the fact that his uncle had hurt someone simply to get to him and keep him from pressing charges. Ironically, it hadn't even crossed his mind to tell the police about Reggie. From deep iside, his anger started to burn like a red hot flare.
With a sweeping twist, Billy got out of the hold, though he heard rather than felt something in his wrist snap. He lifted his shocked uncle up and slammed him through the screen door. Then, he quickly went to the phone and called 911.
Tommy got up, his mind whirling. Impossibly, when Billy had thrown his uncle, Tommy had seen a flash of grey. As if someone had called upon the morphing power.
* * *
Richard and Mary walked into the hospital emergency room braced for the worst. They had gotten a call from the police while at the awards function Richard had to attend. They had been told that an assault had a occurred, with Reggie MacArthur involved, at their home. The two boys were at Angel Grove Community Hospital, the policeman on the phone said, and they had arrested Reggie.
Quickly, the majority of their fears were allayed. Both Tommy and Billy were sitting in the emergency room waiting area. Tommy had a small bandage on his forehead, and Mary could spot the telltale glaze of a person who was slightly concussed. Damn that man, she thought angrily. The natural rage of a mother who's child has been threatened rose within her, and she clenched her hands into fists as she rushed over. It was quelled slightly when she realized that Billy had borne the worst of Reggie's anger. His wrist was in a fresh plaster cast. That was barely visible though as Billy was bent over in his seat, sobbing. Tommy was trying to console him and one of the young residents that Mary knew was kneeling beside both boys, evidently trying to explain something. She and Richard walked up to them.
"Mom!" Tommy started to get up but Richard pulled him up into a hug before he got himself to his feet. Billy continued sobbing, his head between his knees. The resident gave Mary a look of uneasy recognition. He gestured helplessly to Billy. "I'm sorry, Mary. We gave...." He had to think to get a name, "Billy here a painkiller so we could set his wrist and he's having a bad reaction." The resident patted Billy gently on the back. "It's all right Billy... I know you feel out of control right now but its going to pass. Do you understand?" Billy simply continued sobbing. Tommy looked helplessly at his mother.
"He's been like that for a half hour, Mom," Tommy whispered. Mary nodded, but if the resident was correct, there was little they could do. It was not an unusual drug reaction.
"Are you boys all right?" Mary gave both boys a clinical onceover. She was a nurse, after all. Tommy seemed to be all right if banged up, and Billy's only obvious injury seemed to be the broken wrist.
"I'm okay Mom." Tommy shrugged off his injuries easily. He felt rather silly, if the truth was known, that he'd been taken out so easily. "Just a cut and a headache."
Billy lifted his head up from his knees. "I r-really want to l-leave." He tried to pull himself together but couldn't. He burst into a fresh round of tears. Tommy put his arm around his friend, hoping that some support would help Billy calm down. The resident rose and motioned Richard and Mary over to where neither boy could hear.
"Look, Richard, Mary...." the resident seemed more worried than what the injuries seemed to warrant. "Tommy just has a mild concussion and some stitches. Billy though... I'd really like to keep him here for observation for a few days. "
"I can understand wanting to keep him for the night." Mary said slowly. "But really, John... I know you normally let broken bones go... Even with the bad reaction.... you know I could take care of him at home, and he really seems pretty disturbed about staying."
John nodded. "I know you're a good nurse, Mary. And you're right... its not the broken wrist or the drug reaction that's got me worried. While I was examining him, both he and your son mentioned how ill he's been lately. After listening to the symptoms, I sent some blood down to the lab, and I'd like to keep him here until I get the test results back."
"What are you looking for?" Richard was perplexed. So was Mary. Billy's illness was just a hardy case of flu.
"Well... have you noticed all the bruises? When I examined him, I found a lot of old contusions. Coupled with the other symptoms...."
It suddenly dawned on Mary. " Oh my... That could be...."
"What?" Richard didn't like the way she looked. "What could it be?" He worried about his new charge. Billy had been through enough. It surprised Richard more than once that Billy was functioning as well as he was.
"He has all the symptoms of leukemia." The resident gestured to the check-in papers he held. "It could be nothing... It could be exactly what you thought it was, the flu. I just think it might be a good idea to keep him here until the test results are in, and we're sure. Of course," the resident added, "It's not a necessity, and if he's going to be really traumatized by staying...."
"Let's try it." Mary walked back over to where Tommy was still trying get Billy calmed down. Billy had returned to sobbing with his head between his knees. He wasn't hysterical, simply crying. Inwardly, she wished that the resident hadn't given him any painkillers. Knowing the way their luck had been running, Billy wasn't going to stop crying for a while and that made things a lot more difficult. Billy was a very rational young man for the most part but in the throes of a bad drug reaction, she doubted he'd be very agreeable to anything. She sat down beside the two boys. "Billy, listen... the doctor thinks its a good idea for you to stay here for the night."
"No...." Billy simply curled up even tighter. He started shaking. "I really don't want to stay. Please don't make me stay...."
Richard pulled Mary aside. "I don't think we should push this...." He didn't think the boy needed any more upset in his life. Bad enough there was a real possibility that Billy was seriously ill.
"You're right." Mary turned back to Billy and Tommy. It was getting late and both boys were upset. The police wanted to talk with them tomorrow. Forcing Billy to stay in the hospital was just making a bad situation worse. She suppressed her fears. If something was wrong... they would find out in a few days regardless. "Okay... why don't we go home and get some sleep?"
* * *
"Look, I know it sounds impossible, but I know what I saw, Zordon." Tommy had decided to air his suspicions to Zordon. Three days of considering what he had seen had Tommy almost too wound up to think. It was hard to believe that Billy would keep that from the team, but then, Billy wasn't well either. "Could Billy be the grey ranger?"
Zordon seemed to consider the idea carefully. Finally he spoke, his words almost designed to be neutral and non-alarming. "Tommy, it is possible... however, I have no knowledge of how such a thing could have happened. It is beyond my knowledge."
"I just don't understand why he wouldn't tell us." Tommy felt betrayed in a way. "I know he's been through some pretty rough stuff lately, but this is big."
"I do not know the answers to your questions, Tommy. I will need to examine Billy to discover if he is indeed somehow channeling the morphing power. Do keep in mind that his emotional equilibrium has been uneven as of late." Zordon sighed. "The last few months have been very difficult for Billy. Remember too, that you were unaware of being the green ranger. If Billy is this grey ranger, he may not know it. Perhaps most important of all... remember that Billy may not be this grey ranger. It would be very bad for Billy to get his hopes up. You would not want to hurt Billy like that, would you?"
"I know." The last thing Tommy wanted was to make Billy feel bad by getting his hopes up. "I'll bring him in this afternoon, if he's feeling up to it." Tommy shook his head. Billy had been okay for almost a day and a half. No fever or illness... he'd seemed to be over his flu. Then, it suddenly came back. Tommy was starting get damn worried.
The alarm went off. Tommy glanced at the veiwscreen. Yet another monster was stomping around the park with a band of cogs. "Well... I'm going. Call everyone in."
* * *
The rangers massed around Mondo's newest monster, Electrica. Electrica's trick was an electrical field that surrounded it, and a bolt of lightning it could shoot. The rangers couldn't touch it without receiving a serious shock. Adam was already nursing an almost numb arm. Tommy regrouped everyone.
"Okay... let's get rid of the cogs first." Tommy said breathlessly. "Then we'll worry about Electrica." The rangers quickly got at it. As Tommy looked up from bashing in the last cog, he caught a flash of grey. The Grey Ranger materialized on a high knoll.
The new ranger seemed to take in the battle at a glance. The cogs he ignored, except to armbar one as he walked by. He watched as Electrica flaunted his forcefield and then a lance appeared in his hands. Before any of the rangers could shout a warning, he jammed the lance into the field. A tremendous flash of light exploded across the park. When Tommy could see again, he saw that the grey ranger had morphed down into a ninjetti outfit and was lying sprawled on the ground. More importantly, Electrica's forcefield had been shorted out. "Guys, zeo blasters now! While it's weakened!"
The zeo rangers lined up and opened fire. Electrica burst into flames and teleported out. The rangers congratulated each other. Tommy ran to the fallen grey ranger.
"Guys... he's hurt." Tommy knelt down and tried to wake the grey ranger.
"He took a lot of voltage." Rocky peered at the grey ranger's mask. It was the all over face mask that they had opted for when they returned from Phaodos. "We should take him to the power chamber." Tommy nodded. In a flash, all the rangers teleported.
Zordon had the grey ranger deposited on the examining table. Alpha quickly went to work. After a few tense moments, Alpha and Zordon exchanged a grim look, as if a fear had been confirmed.
"Rangers, I will need to utilize your zeo crystals to demorph the grey ranger." Zordon seemed nervous about it. So were the rangers. Zordon was proposing to strip a ranger of their secret identity. Of course, they were all rangers too, but it was an irrational fear that they all held. They nodded, hesitantly, and waited for Tommy to give the final ascent.
"All right." Like the others, Tommy didn't really approve. A ranger should give up his identity willingly and the grey ranger had not been open with them. Whoever or whatever it was had no overtures to the team and there were many reasons why an unkwon ranger would wish to remain so. On the other hand, the guy was hurt. Zordon wouldn't suggest such a thing without a reason.
In a flash of brilliant grey, the ranger was demorphed. The teens looked on in shock. "No way...." muttered Jason.
The grey ranger was Billy. He was either asleep or unconscious, it was difficult to tell. His wrist was still in a cast, and while he didn't seem to be in pain, it was clear to the rangers that he had been ill. His complexion, always fair, had a pale, etheral look and a slight grimace crossed his face.
"What's going on?" Tommy asked softly. He didn't want to wake Billy. "Does he even know?"
Zordon hesitated. "I have a theory."
"Well, tell us!" Tanya couldn't contain her excitement. The rest of the rangers nodded and smiled. It was hard to keep from jumping for joy at the news.
"I believe that Billy somehow absorbed the morphin grid when the command center exploded. I doubt very much that he is aware of what has happened. I will need to make a more thorough examination, but right now I can say without a doubt that Billy has absorbed the morphin powers."
"That's why his color is grey, not blue... right?" Rocky spoke up, his curiosity plain. "All the colors combined."
"That is quite possible, Rocky." Before Zordon could say more, Billy began to stir. He sat up and rubbed his eyes. It was plain that he had no idea what was going on.
"Hey Billy, how do you feel?" Jason's voiced rolled with worry.
"Wha?" Billy blinked and rubbed his head. The last thing he recalled was falling asleep at Tommy's house. He'd been sick for the last day or so and he'd hoped that a nap would head off the relapse. "How... how did I get here?" He was disturbed. Perhaps something had happened... he felt really odd.
"You don't remember?" Jason asked softly. Billy shook his head. "Okay.... um...." Jason looked beseechingly at Zordon. Zordon took the situation in hand and explained things to Billy, while the rangers chattered excitedly to each other. Billy took the news rather calmly, but only Rocky noticed. Rocky watched Billy as Zordon spoke and his worry only increased. Billy was sick... there was something very wrong but Rocky couldn't put his finger on it.
"Well," Billy's voice was soft. "That's nice I guess... but I still don't remember doing anything. What good is this if I can't control it?"
"I will need to run some tests, Billy. You are correct in that right now, your power is uncontrolled. Hopefully we can discover a way for you to harness it. Until then, I think you should go home and rest. We can analysis the data from here."
"That sounds like a good idea." Billy said. It wasn't so much that he didn't feel well, in fact he felt pretty good. He was just a bit overwhelmed and his friends had that look that said they wanted to run out and celebrate. He didn't feel up to it. He'd let Tanya take the zeo powers for a reason. Fighting had never appealed to him and the fact that they had one too many people made it easy to bow out. He had wanted the gold powers, that was true, but only because his friends were starting to get overwhelmed. When it hadn't been possible, he'd only been disappointed until Jason had been able to receive the power. And now... his life was too much of a mess for him to even really care. He had barely even thought about the team and the whole grey ranger nonsense. "I'm gonna go, if you guys don't mind."
"Sure." said Tommy. "Tell Mom I'll be home soon. We're gonna clear up some stuff, but I won't be long." Billy nodded and teleported out.
"You know, for someone who just became a ranger, he's not exactly excited." Tanya commented. The other rangers nodded in agreement.
"He's been sick again." offered Tommy. "He'll be okay as soon as he's better."
"He won't get better," intoned Zordon.
"Excuse me?" Rocky looked up. "What did you say, Zordon?"
Zordon sighed. He was not enjoying his task. "If we can not find a way for Billy to control the morphin power, it will eventually kill him."
The rangers were stunned. "But... you can help him, right?" asked Rocky.
"I do not know," Zordon said. " I fear that there is little I can do. The power was never meant to be contained in one person. Billy seems unaware of it as well. I suspect that the appearance of the grey ranger is more of a subconscious safety release of power than a need to help. It is not enough, the power is still building. If Billy can not find a way to consciously morph, he will eventually die."
"But why?" Tanya didn't understand.
"Because people aren't batteries." Rocky's voice shook. "This is why he was acting strange even before his dad died. The power kept charging and charging.... That's why he was acting so weird.... He was sick... none of us wanted to admit it, but he hadn't been looking well in a while."
"That is correct Rocky." Zordon frowned sadly. "There is very little we can do. "
"You mean... just like that... Billy is gonna die. There's no hope?" Jason's voice was soft with fear.
"There is always hope, Jason." Zordon didn't want the kids to totally lose faith. "But you must be prepared. Right now, I see no way to help Billy. Without help, Billy will not get better. He will die. I am sorry, rangers." Zordon knew it was little consolation. While he continued to explain the situation to the rangers, he concentrated all his knowledge on finding an answer.
* * *
Tommy walked into his house with a heavy heart. Zordon had asked, and they all had agreed, that they wouldn't tell Billy just yet. Zordon simply pointed out that Billy was already deeply depressed. In such a state, he might simply give up and let himself die. No one wanted that. The longer Billy was able to fight against the morphing powers delibating effects, the more time they had to find a way to help.
To his surprise, his mother and father were both home and looking at some paperwork in the living room. It was obviously something serious. He was about to quietly skirt around and go to his room when his mother spotted him and called to him.
"Tommy, come in here...." He took a seat hesitantly. His parents had a grim sort of look on their faces. His mother sighed heavily. " We have a problem...."
"What's wrong?" Tommy started to feel a knot of worry grow. "Did something happen to Grandma?" That was the only thing he could think of that would have both of his folks looking so upset. His grandmother was diabetic, and his parents constantly worried about her as she lived alone.
"No son." Richard smiled a little at Tommy's guess. "It's Billy, Tommy. When you both were at the hospital the other night, the doctor took some blood from Billy for tests. The doctor was afraid... Well, Billy appeared to have all the symptoms of leukemia. Fortunately, that's not the case...."
Mary thumbed through the papers. "It's not leukemia, but Tommy, Billy is very sick. They found that his blood chemistry is dangerously out of balance." She hesitated. "They need to run more tests. Billy is sleeping now, but when he wakes up, we're going to take him to the hospital. "
"Okay..." Tommy almost wanted to say what he knew, but telling his folks that Billy was overcharged with morphin energy just wouldn't work. A hospital didn't sound like such a bad thing either. There was only one problem. "He won't have to stay very long will he?" Tommy envisioned some serious issues if Billy was stuck there for very long. Sneaking out of school was one thing... sneaking out of Angel Grove Memorial was another.
"Well, he'll need to spend tonight and probably tomorrow... After that it'll depend on what the doctors find." Mary added softly, "Tommy, I'm pretty sure that Billy isn't going to be real happy about this. We don't want to force him to go... but as his guardian ad litem, we can't not take him to the hospital."
"It's partly a legal issue," added Richard. "Right now, custody is temporary. If we know that Billy is sick and don't get him care, he could end up in a foster home. You know that's the last thing we need. Or want."
"You want me to sorta smooth this over, right?" Tommy could see where they were coming from. He couldn't tell them the truth, and maybe if Billy's condition was showing up on medical tests, a doctor might be able to help him. "So you don't have to drag him in kicking and screaming?"
"It's for his own good Tommy." Mary didn't like it either, but she couldn't deny the test results. At very best, the chemical imbalance was caused by Billy's constant vomiting and a day or so of rehydration in the hospital might be the cure. Her worry was that Billy needed to be with caring friends. He was depressed and being hospitalized had a way of making that worse.
"I know." Tommy sighed.
* * *
"So he was ticked off?" Jason shook his head. That didn't really sound like Billy at all. He and Tommy walked down the hospital hallway together. Tommy had suggested that a visit would be good for Billy, considering how upset he had been about going the day before.
"Not ticked off, just... upset. He didn't think it would help. He made my parents promise he could leave tonight." Tommy scoffed a little.
"He's probably right, you know," Jason said softly. Zordon still had no good suggestions to help Billy.
"We'll figure something out," Tommy assured. They stepped into Billy's room. Billy was sitting up on the bed, fully clothed, reading a magazine. The only hint that he was supposed to be sick was the two IV's running into his left arm, and the fact that he was wearing glasses as opposed to his contacts. It was simply more convenient. For just an overnight stay, he didn't want to bother with his contacts. He looked fine to both of the boys, maybe even better than the day before.
"Hi guys," he said softly. He smiled. It was good to see someone other than medical personnel. The whole day had been nothing but a irritant. He'd been poked, and prodded and no one would tell him what they were looking for. One doctor had even done a spinal tap, convinced that Billy had encephalitis. After that extremely painful procedure, he had simply insisted he get a break. After all, he told the various doctors, they had spent the evening before and the whole day starting at 8 in the morning testing him nonstop. He hurt, he felt worse than before and somehow he just knew that he'd had a giant needle jammed between his vertebrae for nothing. "What's up?"
"We just thought we'd visit. " Tommy said brightly. He held up a paper bag. "We brought you a snack."
"Hospital food sucks." Jason added with a smile.
Billy also smiled but didn't reach for the bag. "I can't guys, sorry. I have a CAT scan and a MRI later this afternoon. No solid food until after." He paused. "I really don't want to mess up the tests and have to stay longer."
"I don't suppose they found anything yet?" Tommy took a seat as did Jason.
Billy simply sighed. "Who knows? They won't tell me anything. Most of them won't even tell me what they're doing." Billy jiggled the IV pensively. "I have been wired into these damn IVs since last night and no one will tell me what they're giving me."
Both Tommy and Jason flinched a little at Billy's anger. That he was using curse words was bad enough. That they knew what was really wrong and weren't telling him was worse.
Billy jiggled the IV lines again. "You know... sometimes I wonder if maybe this all goes back to those anti-protons I absorbed. I mean... It would make a lot of sense. Anti-protons are a form of radiation." He hesitated. "And I guess I haven't been feeling well. Maybe I have cancer... I wonder if they've checked for that."
"Well, maybe the doctors can help," offered Tommy.
"Like they did with my father. Sure," Billy sighed.
"You don't really think that, do you?" Jason was incredulous.
"Everyone else walked away," Billy sighed again and glanced at his watch. "Guys, I appreciate you stopping by but I am pretty sure that my break is almost up." Sure enough, a doctor poked in the door and shooed the two boys out.
"Do you think Billy really thinks that?" Jason asked.
"About his dad? Maybe." Tommy considered. "My mom said it was lucky that only Mr. Reeves was killed. She also said he didn't really have a chance though. " Tommy paused. "His arm was torn off. Rocky's mom told my mom that Rocky's been having really bad nightmares over it."
"Yeah, he has been looking a little off," Jason sighed. It seemed like they would never get the team back on an even keel.
* * *
"No. I'm not staying." Billy continued tieing his shoes.
Richard, Mary, and Billy's doctor exchanged nervous glances. The fact was that Billy's doctor, Dr. Randall, was seriously concerned.
"Billy, " Dr. Randall said sternly. "You are a very sick young man. The tests...."
"The tests were inconclusive. " Billy put on his other shoe.
"We need to find what's wrong, son." Dr. Randall was not deterred. "I can't let you leave until we have some idea of what we're dealing with."
"I can check myself out." Billy was curt. It had been a very long day, and he really wanted to get away from the hospital.
Richard cleared his throat loudly. "No you can't, Billy. You aren't legally an adult. In order to leave, you need the permission of your guardians. "
"You've got to be joking. We agreed I would only need to stay one night. And I feel fine. Better, even." That was true. For the first time in weeks, he felt well. No nausea or aching or fever, for almost two days.
"Billy, you feel better because we spent the last 24 hours replacing all the body fluid you've lost." Dr. Randall was blunt. "Son, your body is dangerously out of balance. You've been running around with things so out of kilter, you don't even realize it. I would be criminally negligent if I allowed you to leave." The doctor looked to Richard and Mary for support. They reluctantly nodded along. Billy was sick, they both had rationalized, and with his body over producing a variety of chemicals, it was totally possible he wasn't capable of making decisions for himself. The irrational dislike of the hospital, and the apparent paranoia he'd displayed to Tommy and to them helped them come to the decision.
For one long moment, all three adults thought Billy was going to explode. He clenched his fists and his face turned dark red. Then, his anger seemed to flow away. "Fine." He kicked off his shoes and jumped on the bed. "Can I at least get some sleep?" He said nothing else, simply frowning as they shuffled out the door.
* * *
"You shouldn't have left him there." Tommy was upset. He piled some pancakes onto his plate.
"Tommy, its not that cut and dried. You wouldn't want us to let Billy get worse if we could prevent it, would you?" Mary kept her voice calm. She hadn't liked leaving Billy at the hospital either and Tommy second guessing her was annoying.
"I guess not...." Tommy sighed. He hated lying to his mother. He knew, sort of anyhow, what was wrong with Billy, and a hospital was probably not going to do much good in the long run. His parents were worried sick about Billy, and Tommy felt like hell that he could say something but wasn't. "I wish you'd told me though. I would've spent the night there... kept him company...."
Mary chuckled. "Even with me working there, I doubt they would've allowed that." The phone rang and their conversation was halted. Mary answered the call while Tommy went back to his pancakes.
"Oh my god...." Mary's voice trailed off. Tommy looked up. It sounded like bad news. Mary held up a hand to stave off his questions. "No... no he's not here. What time? All right...we'll start looking at this end." She set the phone down, her hands shaking just a little.
"Mom, what's wrong?" Tommy stood quickly, his breakfast forgotten.
"Billy walked out of the hospital sometime last night." Mary sighed suddenly. "I should have thought he'd do something like this. Tommy, get your father. We have to start looking for him. I doubt he went very far. His car is here."
Tommy decided not to mention how Billy had once hotwired a car, just to prove he could. Besides, he could just get a hold of Zordon. Billy could be easily tracked down.
* * *
"Where the hell is he?" Rocky kicked a stone down the park pathway. "We've looked everywhere! Geez... Tommy and his dad even searched Billy's house. "
"I'm more surprised that Zordon couldn't find him." Jason said softly. He'd been paired with Rocky, and so far they had not even had a hint of a clue as to where Billy went. Jason thought searching the park was rather pointless since it was probably the first place everyone would look and Billy knew that. Rocky had suggested it though, and Jason was always quick to try and reenforce Rocky. Rocky sometimes needed to be backed, and it wasn't as though Jason had any better ideas. In his opinion, it was very possible that Billy was just holed up somewhere very close by. The fact that Billy had taken care to cloak himself from Zordon's sensor was definitely an indication. Jason just wished he had some idea where Billy had gone.
"Billy can be pretty slick sometimes." Rocky mused. "I mean... sometimes I'm real glad he's on our side. I'd hate to have him against us."
Jason almost snickered. Two years ago, the idea that Billy would be considered an asset on a fighting team was almost laughable. He choked back his laugh when he realized that Rocky was dead serious. It was hard to imagine the same guy that he used to play with as a kid was now viewed as an asset...even a necessity to the team.
Jason suddenly stopped in his tracks. His random musing about when he and Billy had been children gave him a flash of insight. "Rocky... I think I know where Billy went...." Without another word, he ran off towards the residential area. Rocky followed, confused but hopeful.
* * *
"Jason, they already searched here," Rocky sniffed impatiently. "Billy's old house was the first place they looked."
"I'm willing to bet that Tommy didn't look in the play room." Jason nonchalantly opened the door to the basement. He clamored down the stairs, Rocky following.
"Play room?" Rocky asked. He shivered suddenly. Just being in Billy's house made him feel nervous... as if something was going to leap out of a corner and attack him. He hated himself for feeling that way. Ever since the accident, he had barely been able to look Billy in the eye. The accident hadn't been his fault... he knew that. Still, he had been there, seen the whole thing, and hadn't even been scratched. It made no sense. They all had been wearing seat belts. Somehow, Billy's father had been thrown through the windsheild. Billy had been knocked out on impact, a lucky kindness as far everyone was concerned. Rocky had jumped out of the car, as had the driver that had slammed into them. At first, he hadn't understood... there was blood all over but Mr. Reeves didn't look hurt. Then he'd seen the arm... the arm with the pin striped sleeve that matched the suit Mr. Reeves was wearing. For the longest moment, all Rocky had done was stare at the bloody arm. The next thing he remembered was a paramedic leading him to an ambulance. He hated himself for that. Was it possible, he wondered, that if he'd been able to do anythng other than stare, that Billy's father might still be alive? He didn't know, but it haunted him. They had to find a way to help Billy, he thought. He owed Billy that. He returned his attention to Jason as they left the stairwell.
"What are we looking for?"
Jason pointed to the far end of the dark basement. "There's a finished room down here. When we were little, whenever we got too rowdy, Mrs. Reeves would always send us down here. It was pretty cool... an old couch, a TV... lots of boardgames and pillows. It was sort of a rainy day retreat. It's also really easy to miss." Jason walked over to the door, a dilapidated looking thing that Rocky would've guessed led to the furnace. He opened it.
Billy was lying on the couch with a pile of blankets thrown on top of him. It was clear that he was asleep. Littered around on the floor were old paperback novels and boxes of cookies and crackers.
"Well...." Rocky mused softly. "Now what do we do?"
"We wake him up and convince him to go back to the Oliver's. If he won't... we make him." Jason did not like what he was saying but he didn't see any other way. Billy was too sick to stay by himself. He leaned over and shook Billy. "Hey man... wake up."
Billy awoke with a start. He sat up quickly, and tossed off blankets onto the floor. "What! How did you...." His voice trailed off. He pulled away from the two boys stiffly. "I'm not going back to the hospital."
"Okay." Neither Jason or Rocky had a problem with that. The Olivers had already decided that they would not force any more overnight hospital stays. It wasn't worth the potential danger of Billy refusing to return to any sort of care. "The Olivers are really worried. They said that if we found you, to tell you that they wouldn't make you go back to the hospital." Jason hesitated. "I think you should go back... you can't stay down here forever. You've made your point, I think."
"You aren't lying to me, are you?" Billy knew he had to go back at some point, but Jason's words were almost too good to be true. A hospital was not going to do any good, Billy felt that instinctively. That he had felt well for the last three days had no bearing. More and more Billy was beginning to relate his illness to the morphing power and not some disease.
"No," Jason said brightly, though inwardly he cringed. They all were lying to Billy. It's for his own good, Jason rationalized. At least he could tell the truth about this. "Come on...."
"Okay...." Billy sighed. It had been nice to have even just a few hours to himself. Now, he was facing the extreme embarrassment of returning coupled with an almost familiar aching and queasiness. On the other hand, he knew he had to return. The Oliver's didn't deserve to worry like that. He already regretted what he had done. They had been good to him. Lesser people would've just let him rot with his uncle.
Rocky and Jason led him on a roundabout route to Tommy's house that included a long walk through the park. They walked mostly in silence, none of the boys having much to say. Rocky and Jason were too worried and Billy was simply not in the mood.
Suddenly a purple vortex opened and a horde of cogs fell out in battle formation. All three boys took ready stances. The cogs circled but did not attack immediately.
"Why aren't they attacking?" shouted Rocky.
"I don't know." Jason called back. He feinted a blow but the cogs simply back away.
"They must have a plan!" Billy dodged one of the cogs. He spun around, only to find himself separated from Rocky and Jason. "Guys, I need help!"
"It's Morphin Time!" Jason shouted. He and Rocky transformed and were immediately assaulted. Out of the corner of his eye, Jason saw that Billy was surrounded and having difficulty fighting off the cogs. A cog immobilized Billy by grabbing his shirt and bearhugging him from behind. Jason flung aside the cog he was battling and made a dive at the cog holding Billy. He just barely touched Billy's outstretched hand. Before he could move to stop them, a group of cogs hauled Billy off and jumped through the purple vortex. The rest of the cogs immediately broke off contact and teleported out.
* * *
Billy paced around the tiny cell nervously. The cogs had thrown him in the bare, cold room and slammed the door shut almost an hour ago. Since then he had been left alone.It scared him. He had been captured for a reason, it was obvious that the cogs had been after him. For what, he didn't know. Lately he thought he was more of detriment to the rangers than anything else. The obvious came to mind, that Mondo intended to ransom him off for something but what, he couldn't even guess.
Clanking footsteps rang in the hallway. His cell didn't have a traditional door, just a glowing forcefield that was quite painful to touch. He waited to see what was coming, though he already had a pretty good guess.
"Well, Billy... or should I say Grey Ranger?" Mondo's almost oily tones confirmed his guess even before the leader of the Machine Empire stepped in front of the field. "I trust you find your quarters satisfactory? Not that it matters. You won't be with us long." Mondo chuckled.
"What do you plan to do?" Billy tensed. Mondo's words held a definate threat.
"Absolutely nothing." Mondo chuckled again. "It's only a matter of time before the grey power kills you. The morphin power will be freed upon your death and then I can capture it and use it against the zeo rangers."
Billy paled. He leaned against the far back wall, suddenly dizzy. "I don't... understand. Are you going to kill me?"
Mondo looked at him quizzically. Then he laughed. "Obviously your ranger friends have kept the truth from you. Let me explain. You contain all the morphin power. This power, when unused, continually charges. Since you cannot control your morphing ability, the power will overload, and you will die. It is only a matter of time. I simply plan to be the beneficiary of your death, not its instigator." Mondo chuckled again. "I trust you enjoy your stay." With that, Mondo walked away, leaving Billy alone in his cell.
"Dying...." Billy muttered. He slid down to the floor, his legs shaking so badly that he couldn't stand. As horrible as Mondo's words were, they had a ring of truth. Despite his shock, Billy tried to put things in order. He'd been sick since before his father died. He had denied it to everyone, including himself, but it was true. Something had been wrong since the command center blew up and he hadn't been able to put a finger on it. Now he knew. He doubted Mondo would go to all the trouble unless he had something to gain by it. The problem was that there was very little he could do. He had no idea how to control the ability.
He hugged his arms around his body. Even if the rangers did rescue him, it didn't matter. He was going to die. The power itself would kill him. It really was just a matter of time.
"Perhaps not, little cub." Billy jerked up. The voice that spoke seemed to resonate in his head. He stood shakily and peered at the hallway. There was no one in sight.
"Who's there?" he whispered, suddenly afraid.
"Just an old friend." The voice seemed filled with concern and even though the situation was terrifying, Billy started to relax just a little. Whatever it was, it wasn't threatening him. It felt almost familiar.
"Little cub," the voice said quietly, "This isn't your place. Why don't you leave?"
"Yeah... I'll just go," Billy scoffed at the invisible voice. He sat back down on the floor. I must be imagining things, he thought. Still, he felt something in the room.
The air seemed to crackle around the cell. Though nothing changed, Billy felt a new presence in the room. Not the friendly, almost known feeling from before, but something different. No less powerful... The presence seemed to fill the room. He shivered, and heard a growly chuckle in response.
"Do not fear, little one...." The new voice was deeper and somehow wilder. "You must leave here.... Go through the forcefield."
"What?" Billy stood and looked around the room for the source of the voice, but there was nothing. "Where... who are you?"
"Why not?" The low voice seemed puzzled. "Do you not understand your predicament? Don't you see who I am?"
He shook his head dumbly. The voice growled slighty, and Billy pushed himself against the wall. Whatever it was, it was starting to scare him. Almost in response, the first prescence returned. "Little cub... there are only friends here. You have held yourself away for far too long." It's words were echoed by a ringing howl. The wolf spirit, Billy though suddenly. He relaxed slightly. But who was the other prescence? He thought about what it had said.
"Only... only a cog can go through the forcefield." I must be suicidal, Billy thought to himself, voices are telling me to do things and I'm actually considering it.
The voice growled and Billy suddenly had the impression of brown fur and teeth. "Little one... you are far more difficult than my first pupil. You are not defenseless here, despite how you feel. You can be like the wind and walk through the field. Shift your perception...."
The strange electrical feel to the air dissipated. Billy looked at the field pensively. "Who are you?"
"Once I guided your friend Aisha... I still do, after a fashion but she no longer has need for all of my abilities."
"The bear spirit...." Billy's voice trailed off. He was shocked. That his own animal spirit, the wolf, might still be with him, that wasn't unreasonable, but the bear spirit was Aisha's guide.
"Yes... you have kept awareness from yourself for far too long. To hibernate during winter is a fine thing but now spring is here... You must look within yourself and awaken the power to leave here. The forcefield is nothing compared to the power of your inner self."
The voice faded. He waited for a moment and then considered the forcefield. The cell was drafty... the wind could go through the field and it was cold. Be like the wind, the bear spirit had said... He concentrated for a long moment on the idea and then reached out to touch the field. Nothing happened. He remembered reading once that there in between every molecule was open space. To move himself through the forecfield, in theory all he had to do was move through the spaces not filled by the field's molecules. He reached further, taking a step and then he was through the field.
He looked back, suddenly chilled by what he had done. Walking through a forcefield... that wasn't just a ranger trick. Again, he had a vision of brown fur... Then, as if a wind blew by, he felt the first familiar presence.
"I know you," he said out loud. "You're the wolf." He heard a chuckle. Suddenly he felt himself change place. He was running through a green forest. A long howl rang in his years... Then, he was back in the cold metal corridor.
"Little cub, of course you know me. We were close once and you ran with me many times. I have always been with you...." The voice seemed to trail off. "Now, you must leave here... this is no place for one of mine."
"But... the other...."
"You have many friends, cub. You should listen and learn. We all will help you. The bear is only one of your teachers and there is much to learn in a short time...."
Billy nodded despite not seeing anyone. He walked down the hallway, keeping his eyes open for cogs and monsters. No one really knew much about King Mondo's Skybase and he'd seen just a tiny bit of the place. One thing he knew for certain, there was no way off except by teleporting. Maybe I can find a spot that isn't shielded, he thought suddenly, and the rangers can teleport me down to earth. He found a door and touched the pad that triggered its lock. Nothing happened. Lovely, he thought angrily, I'm locked in.
"Locks can be broken." He looked around warily, crossing his fingers in hopes that it wasn't some cog. There was still no one in the hallway.
"Locks also can be opened." The voice chuckled humorously. Billy had a vision of something swinging through a forest. "You have opposable thumbs... supposedly a human has a larger brain...." The voice chuckled again, a highpitched near screech, and even Billy smiled. It was the ape spirit, Rocky's guide, and its humor reminded Billy of his friend. More importantly, the ape has a point, he thought. He pried open the touch panel. The locking mechanism was complex but not beyond his knowledge. In a matter of seconds, he had the door open. Opposable thumbs do come in handy, he mused with a smile. Somehow, he heard the ape spirit chuckle along with him and he felt a sudden rush of happiness. He felt as if sudenly, things were going his way. He entered the next hallway and clambered down a stairwell.
He carefully ducked into a crawlspace as a cog patrol stomped past. His plan was to find the lowest point in the skybase and wait. Not a great plan, but if he died before he was rescued, at least the morphing power couldn't be harnessed by the Machine Empire. He wasn't feeling well and he had the idea that the more he ran around the skybase, the worse it would get. He felt like the illness was coming back more quickly and picked up his pace accordingly.
Some cogs clattered by his hiding spot and he moved down the hallway as soon as they were past. He opened a door, only to find that there was nothing there but the gaping understructure of the base. A long, narrow beam led across to a platform and stairs led down into darkness from there. A three inch beam, Billy considered, there's got to be an easier way over there. He was certainly a lot more graceful than he used to be, but he didn't want to risk a nasty fall. He went back out into the hallway, only to be spotted by another roving pack of cogs. They pulled what looked like weapons, and Billy didn't wait to find out if he was right. He ran back to the door and jumped on the small platform. Quickly, he pulled off the door's control panel and yanked the wires out, effectively locking it. Then, as he realized just how far down the potential drop was, he nearly vomited over the side. He was in trouble. To stay would mean recapture and he didn't know how to go forward without getting hurt. He could hear the cogs pounding on the door. It was almost as loud as the sound of his wildly beating heart. Then, a voice rang out.
"It is a matter of balance, fledgling, nothing more." Billy looked up, but nothing was there. The voice had been light and airy, but distinctly masculine.
"Where.... who are you?" Billy wiped his mouth nervously. He felt very sick, to tell the truth, and he still couldn't shake the idea that his illness was making him hallucinate.
"Your life force is out of balance with your energy." Billy caught a flash of white on the edge of his vision. The falcon spirit, he realized.
The tenor voice seemed pleased. "You are quicker than Tommy. I should not have doubted the wolf. However you lack his creative energy and intensity. Your vision is clouded.. you must learn to see...."
"Um...." Billy jumped nervously as a loud bang reverberated off the door. He hoped the falcon would cut to the chase.
"If your life force and energy harmonize, the forces within you will balance. "The voice grew quiet. "It is a matter of accuracy and control. You possess both. Use them."
Wonderful, Billy thought. I need a rope and I get told to harmonize. Part of him was very surprised that Tommy's spirit guide was so pacifistic. He decided to wait. Another bang changed his mind. The cogs were starting to really go at the door. I've to do something, he thought, but what? He decided to try the rather cryptic falcon spirit's suggestion. He took a deep breath and tried feel balance. Suddenly, he felt the sensation of wings flapping and without considering it, he trotted across the beam. He dove down the stairwell just as the cogs poured in. He entered the lower level. It was a lucky escape.
It was much darker and colder in the lower level. He blinked in the poor light. Up above he could hear more cogs clatter. It would only be a few moments before they found him. I'm going to die, he thought suddenly. He swayed and leaned up against the wall.
"You won't be extinct." That time it was a tinkly female voice, and he had a vision of long graceful legs and pink feathers. "But something inside you is in danger. You thought it was lost and that has made you turn your focus away from yourself... To help your friends in flight is a fine thing, but you need to tend your own nest. Focus on what's important." As the voice drifted away, he had a vision of pink feathers. The crane spirit, he mused.
If this got anymore cryptic, Billy thought as he looked around, I think I'd just lose it. Okay, focus.. what's important? He could hear the cogs clattering above him. What's important is hiding. I can't let Mondo get the morphin power. He'd use it for evil and maybe even destroy the rangers. He looked around but all he could see were the low pillars of the skybase's bottom structure. He ran across the sloping floor and slid underneath a raised panel. All right, he thought breathlessly, I'm hidden. The cogs won't find me. Again, he felt the all too familiar aching and nausea that had plagued him. Mondo won't get the power, he vowed.
In the dark, enclosed crawlspace, he couldn't see. The cogs clattered away after several tense moments. Strangely, he suddenly could smell a dank musty odor. Swampy and muddy but not unwholesome. The air seemed heavy with humidity. "Who's there?" he whispered.
"Silly tadpole. You know who is here." A bubbly wet laugh. "So silly... you sit here bemoaning your fate and yet you hold the power of your own fate." The frog's voice grew angry, "Tell me, on earth, does a frog breath air?"
"Yes...." Billy had a feeling something obvious was about to be pointed out.
"But a tadpole does not. You, silly human, are a tadpole that refuses to become a frog." The frog hummphed.
"I'm not a frog." Again, Billy wondered if he'd just cracked under pressure. The frog spirit had a definate attitude too.
"You are a human that can transform into a ranger at will. At will. Why won't you even try? Are you so crippled by doubt and grief that you will allow yourself to die a tadpole rather than transform and move on to the next level?" The voice trailed off and Billy felt a cold chill. He was alone. No one to guide him, not his parents, not the rangers, not even the spirit animals. They hadn't abandoned him, he sensed that. They were just waiting for his next move.
Okay, he thought rapidly, I'm not getting out of unless I morph. I could wait for a rescue, but if Monda has half a brain, he's sent fsome sort of distraction down to earth so forget the rangers coming. I'm on my own. The only times I've been able to morph as the grey ranger have been when I was a lot sicker than I am right now. He sighed. He did feel sick but not nearly as bad as it had been. The odds of a spontaneous morph saving him were low. Forget about the grey color, he told himself, concentrate on what you know. The time ticked away as he thought back to when he had been the blue ranger. For a long time, the memories wouldn't come. Then he thought back to the first time he'd ever morphed. It had been so much fun, he thought with a smile. Then, the sensation of the blue power seemed to wash over him and he unconsciously reached for a morpher he knew wasn't there.
But there was. In shock he withdrew the small morpher and looked at it. Instead of the blue power coin, there was an odd combination of the six spirit animals, like the monolith on Phaedos, only the wolf was in the center of the coin. He stood, feeling oddly self conscious and held the morpher out in front of himself. "It's Morphin time." he whispered.
Power rushed through him and the so familiar sensation of morphing overwhelmed him. When he came to his senses, he looked down at his gloved hands and almost burst into tears. Part of him had totally denied what Zordon had said.... To be a ranger again... it had felt like a lie. He stepped out of his hiding spot and his reflection on the steel metal walls captured. Dark grey, almost navy with the white diamonds that characterized the early rangers uniforms. There was a gold shield much like the one Tommy had when he was the green ranger, and his helmet had the three small horns of his old helmet. The triceratops.... He smiled sadly. Even as a little boy, his favorite dinosaur had been the triceratops. It was a change though... previously the grey ranger's helmet had been bare. He rubbed the horns, not sure why they were there, but reassured just the same.
"They're a reminder, little cub." Billy spun around at the sound. Standing before him was an ethereal, misty wolf. It wavered in solidity. "The triceratops is gone and he will not be back... but he was close to you once, and it is good to remember those who are gone." Billy nodded, sensing the wolf meant more than he was saying.
"Now, you must go." The wolf started to fade away. "The pack is calling...."
The wolf dissolved into nothing. Billy nodded at its final words. It's time to go, he thought, and with the toss of a hand, he teleported out of the skybase.
* * *
"Zordon, how do we get him out of there?" Tommy looked up at his mentor. The rest of the rangers waited.
"Tommy, the Machine Empire Skybase is impenetrable to our scans." Zordon looked grim. "If we can't locate Billy, rescuing him will be impossible."
"We should have teleported him right to Tommy's house." Jason said angrily. "How could I be so stupid!"
"It's not your fault, Jason." Rocky reassured. "I was there and I didn't think of it either. We both thought Billy might need some fresh air. And its clear Mondo was just waiting...."
"Aiy-yi-yi! " Alpha moved away from the viewing globe. "We have another problem. Mondo was sent the Roachbot to earth. Its destroying downtown Angel Grove."
"Okay guys... we've got to take care of this." Tommy reached for his zeonizer.
"What about Billy?" asked Kat.
"We can't do anything for him right now. We'll take care of this and then work out some way to rescue Billy." Tommy didn't like what he was saying, but it was true, and they didn't have any choice.
* * *
The Roachbot was surrounded by a horde of cogs. There seemed to be an orchestrated attempt to break all the windows on the street. The Roachbot waved its metallic arms in glee as the cogs threw bricks at windows.
"Hey! Cut that out, you stupid hunk of junk!" Jason waved his staff at the monster. The rangers spread out and began battling the cogs.
"Man, where are they coming from?" yelled Tommy. He whipped a cog into a wall.
"I don't know!" shouted Tanya, "But we need help!" A cog dove on her as she spoke and knocked her down.
"On my way Tanya!" Adam started to run to her side.
"I got it Adam!" The cog on top of Tanya was heaved off and when she looked up, it was the Grey Ranger. "Billy?"
"In the flesh." He helped her up. The other rangers and even the cogs stopped and watched. They all were shocked.
"Billy, you're like... here?" Rocky asked slowly.
Billy spun and kicked a cog that was about to leap on him. "Yes, I'm here. Its a long story so why don't we take care of this trash first?"
"Right on!" Tommy shouted. With renewed vigor, the rangers fought until only Roachbot was left. Out of no where, Clank appeared and threw Orbus. In seconds, Roachbot was towering over them.
The five zeorangers quickly called their zords. Jason hung back with Billy. He sighed heavily. "Pyramidas is still down from the last battle. "
"I'll have to have a look at it." Billy promised.
"Like the outfit by the way." Even though he couldn't see it, Billy knew Jason was grinning underneath his helmet. They continued to watch the battle, becoming more and more concerned as the Roachbot seemed to get the upper hand.
"Say Billy...." Jason said as they watched, "Did a zord come with the outfit?"
"I don't know." Billy said. It was a pretty good question, he thought. He winced as the MegaZeoZord was tossed into a building.
"Don't you think that now would be a good time to find out?" Jason kept his tone light, but he was concerned.
"I'll try...." Billy raised up him arm. "Ninja Power!" Much to his amazement, his old wolf zord bounded into sight. The color was less bright, and more of the chromework was now dull grey, but otherwise it was the same. He leaped into it and went to work. "Guys, where do you need help?"
"Billy! Great! Distract it while we get the MegaZeoZord up." Tommy said. Billy directed his zord to attack. Still, all it seemed to do was annoy the monster. What can I do, Billy despaired. This is when we would call the MegaNinjaZord. His thoughts held that idea.... Why not, he thought.
He watched in awe as the other five ninja zords cleared the horizon. Like the wolf zord, their colors weren't as vibrant and most of their distinctive markings were grey, but they were the same old zords. He heard the linkup commence and then felt his chair whoosh as it was propelled to the main cockpit. He grabbed the controls and pulled the Roachbot off the MegaZeoZord. "Guys, I've got it away from you but I can't hold it for long." Already he could hear the metal straining.
"No problem! We're on it!" As Tommy shouted, the rangers got the Megazord upright. "ZeoMegaSword!" The MegaZeoZord raised its sword and in one swoop, felled the monster.
* * *
"Is your mom going to let all of us in?" Kat asked Tommy as they pulled up to his house.
"Yeah... as long as we don't all stay in there too long." Tommy hesitated. "Billy is still pretty sick..."
"What did Zordon say about that?" Adam asked. The rangers piled out of Tommy's station wagon.
"Zordon has said nothing to me. I asked him this morning while Alpha ran some tests on Billy and he said he would let Billy tell us." Tommy sighed. "I really hope things are gonna be okay. Billy said Zordon was gonna give him the test results while I was picking you guys up."
"Oh man... so he might be...." Rocky's voice trailed off.
"Let's keep positive." Tanya said brightly. "Billy has control of the grey power. Zordon said before that if he could control it, he'd be okay." The rest of the rangers nodded, not because they agreed but because they didn't want to get worked up.
They poured into Tommy's house, to find Mrs. Oliver busily setting out snacks for them. "Hey kids," she said brightly, "Billy is in his room and you can all go see him, but don't tire him out." She sniffed with concern." He's doing a lot better but he needs his rest."
"Don't worry Mom. We're just gonna say hi and then maybe watch some movies." Tommy reassured. He led his friends down the hall to Billy's room.
Billy was sitting atop his bed, a laptop computer on his lap. He smiled as the six rangers all quietly walked in, their faces downcast and tense. "Guys... cheer up. Zordon said I was going to be fine as long as I was careful." He grinned as his friends all suddenly seemed to let out the breaths they'd been holding.
"Oh that's wonderful, Billy." Tanya smiled and Adam gave her a quick hug.
"Yeah man, that's cool." Jason waited until the first wave of happy exclamations died down to add, "What do you mean by careful?"
"I have to morph occasionally just to bleed off energy or else I'll get sick." Billy set the laptop down as he started to explain. "I was so sick because the power wasn't being released. So whenever I have flu symptoms, I'll have to morph just to make sure I've really got the flu. It's like being a diabetic only instead of shots every day, I just morph once a week or so."
"That's not so bad." Rocky said. "How long will you have to do that?"
"Umm... until I die." Billy said. "That's the downside. There's no way I can loose the power. As long as I'm careful and don't let it build up, I should be fine."
Mrs. Oliver poked her head in the room. "Kids, why don't you let Billy rest now? I've got popcorn out here for you." The rangers piled out, but Jason held his place. He walked over to the bed and took a seat.
"Okay... enough about the power. How are you doing?" Jason asked.
Billy smiled a little. "I'm... coping. Trying to accept, you know?"
"Are you going to stay here? With the Olivers?"
"For a while. They're good people... and to be honest, its probably going to be a while before I'm well." Billy gestured to a small framed picture of his parents. "When my father... died so suddenly... I felt so alone." He held up a hand to stop Jason's protests, "It wasn't anyone's fault.... but after all this, you know, I haven't had any time to deal with that."
"Yeah," Jason said softly, "You know... you need anything... Anything, at all, you just ask. You've got me, and all the rangers. You know that, right?"
"Yes," Billy's eyes caught sight of one of his wolf figurines lying on his desk. The memory of the spirit wolf returned to him suddenly, and he smiled. "I know. "I've got the rangers, he thought as Jason left, and a whole lot more.
Author's Note: All of the spirit animals characteristics were the result of my research with the book "AnimalSpeak" by Ted Andrews.