Disclaimer: I know that I am using Power Ranger characters with out permission from Saban Entertainment. I know that they are a trademark of Saban Entertainment. I am writing this for fun not profit. Anyone may print this page , but only for your own copy of the story. "Plague of the Mantis" episode was written by Mark Hoffmeirer. Sabrina, Victoria Soulless, and Magician Elan are from the author's imagination. Trini is still in Geneva, but she quit the Peace Summit for safety reasons. The martial art Xiang Yi Mao I made up, but the actual words are Chinese. They literally translate as " like a cat." I would like to thank Z Lois Ken and Akiko for their help, encouragement, and support. Please send me comments.
Trini Kwan sighed despondently as she climbed into the taxi cab. She
looked out through the window to see a dreary rainy night in Geneva. The
rain reminded her of the flood of tears she'd cried when she'd been mourning
for her parents. They'd been murdered two months earlier while visiting
her in Geneva. Afterwards she'd gone downtown for a week to mourn and deal
with her loss. The cab stopped in front of her apartment. As she got her
bags, she paid the driver as her thoughts drifted to Billy Cranston.
She was getting soaked to the bone, but she either didn't care or, didn't notice. All she could think about was that she may never see Billy ever again. She couldn't risk it. The murderess might follow and try to kill him. If anything ever happened to him .. . she turned the key and entered the quiet room not wanting to finish that awful thought. By the moonlit window, Trini glanced at her watch. It was already three in the morning. She didn't feel tired, though. She tossed her long black over her shoulder as she carried her bags to her room. Her heart was filled wih complete desolation. Trini plopped down on the bed as numerous emotions clouded the core of her soul.
Meanwhile at Angel Grove Beach, Jason Scott Lee, the Gold Ranger, sat
at a table along with his girlfriend, Emily Wells. He put his muscular
arm around her shoulders and gave her a loving squeeze. "Hey, you
okay?" Jason asked. She looked up at his rich mysterious dark brown
eyes which were full of concern.
"I'm fine," Her eyes began to brim with tears as she gazed at those eyes of his, that seemed to engulf her with love and caring. The tears rolled down her cheeks; he held her in his arms as she cried into his shoulder.
"What happened, baby?" he whispered into her ear.
"My dad left yesterday for Maine. I'll probably never see him again, since my parents just got divorced."
Jason knew how close Emily and her father had been; he also knew that it broke her heart to see him leave. He caressed her dark blond hair so gentlely she could feel the tenderness of his touch. She stopped crying.
"It's going to be alright." Emily smiled at him. Somehow that was all she needed to hear; that someone would be with her and support her always.
"I love you," Emily said.
"Girl, you know I love you."
A few minutes later Emily went back to her shift at Ernie's Beach Club feeling much better. Jason froze, spotting an old friend of his walking toward him. "Billy..."
"Hi, Jason. Mind if I join you? "
"No, not at all. What are you doing here? I thought you'd be working in the Power Chamber."
"I was. I need to get out sometime," Billy answered.
"Well I'm glad you decided to take a break." Billy replied, "Me, too."
"Well," Jason replied, "I found the microchips you ordered. I checked them and they're all blank. False chips."
"I can't believe Comer Works is staying in business after ripping off millions of customers with false products."
"I know. It stinks." Jason laughed.
"What's so funny?"
Jason shook his head, once he was done laughing. "I just remembered something." Billy looked at him quizzically. "Don't tell Trini what Computer Works did." Jason chuckled amused; his eyes gleamed with fondness. Billy began to laugh understanding what Jason had meant.
Billy, still chortling, replied, "I can see it now. Trini gets on a plane , comes here and gives the manager a humongous speech on honor!"
Once they'd stopped laughing , Jason said "Man, she'd do it too."
They were silent for a few minutes, until Billy broke the silence, "That's one of the things I admire about her. Her sense of honor and trust."
"Yeah, me too."
"Have you heard from the guys?" Billy inquired changing the subject.
Jason nodded, "Yeah,"
Trini tossed and turned in her troublesome sleep. Images of pain and
anguish flooded her dreams. One incident she remembered clearly. It occurred
one and a half years ago when she was still the Yellow Ranger, using the
fearless power of the agile Saber- tooth-tiger to morph into her alter
She remembered that day above all others because it was a day of betrayal and triumph. She'd been practicing a new Kung Fu style named Praying Mantis Kung Fu, in the Juice Bar with her teacher Master Lee. "Trini, what is the most honorable tradition of Kung Fu?" "In Kung Fu we honor the tradition of the fair fight, always face your opponent with equal numbers," answered Trini.
"To help you master the Praying Mantis style , I have brought along this," the wise master said. He held up a plastic cage containing a small praying mantis insect. "Observe the Mantis , delicate but powerful , .. peaceful but always ready to defend itself." Then they continued to practice the lithe , flowing movements of the Mantis. Trini had always wondered if perhaps , when Master Lee had been describing the insect, he may have also been describing her.
Afterwards Trini had gone to the park to practice. That's where she'd met Rita's latest monster , the Mantis. She'd morphed and fought the monster . The other Rangers had come to help her, but the Mantis teleported away saying, "Because of your friends , it's not a fair fight , you have no honor." The last four words struck her like a slap to the face.
Trini received a letter , supposedly from Master Lee , to come to the quarry for some special training. She went to the quarry only to find the Mantis instead. "Master, Master," she called looking around, "are you here?" The monster teleported in front of her.
"No, but I am, " he turned around, " you have no honor , you will now face me alone."
"I do have honor . I believe in fair play , but you, your one of Rita's monsters, you can't be trusted."
He moved his pincher , "Hiya!
Trini took a stance, "Hiya!" The Mantis vanished and appeared beside her. She turned shaking her head defiantly.
"I give you my word as Kung Fu master, " it persuaded in its bee- like voice, "Regain your honor , except my challenge."
A few minutes later she morphed. "So, you decided to face me after all, Yellow Ranger."
"Yes, you see , I do have honor , Mantis!"
"Perhaps, but it will not save you from destruction!" it yelled as it charged."
After a few minutes of fighting, the monster struck her with his pincher, sending her flying. She crouched down and exclaimed, "You haven't beat me yet, Mantis!"
"Ah, but the day is still young." he retorted as he crossed his pinchers. The Yellow warrior leapt high and landed on those pinchers. She repeatedly struck the mantis's face with her hands curved and piercing the creature. Once she ceased , Trini flipped back and sent the monster flying ; he landed on his side on the hard ground. The mantis got up and cried , "Get her Putties!" The clay creatures surrounded the Yellow Ranger. "This should test your honor!" He laughed evilly.
"What about your honor?"
"I have no honor. Like you said I am one of Rita's monsters." The Putties rushed toward her and one punched her out of the circle. She rolled.
While she was getting up she shouted angrily, "You Cheater!!!!"
"Such a fool , you're finished!"
"I've got to remember what Master told me!"
Flailing its pinchers it shouted, "Fight cowardly Ranger!" She crouched, leapt, and jumped off of the creatureÕs back. She kicked the bug's feet as if to sweep it , but she did the same move with the opposite leg which stopped it from falling. Trini curved her hands and hit the monster on its hip with lightning speed. Then the brave warrior whipped out her knife and slashed the adversary with one quick movement. She landed gracefully on her feet while the monster crashed to the ground. She stood in a defensive stance as her friends came up behind her.
Trini shouted with victory, "Now it's a fair fight , Mantis!" Her friends attempted to fight the enemy and were all slashed to the ground. The Mantis grew as tall as a building as the Power Rangers shouted for their Dinozords. When they formed the Mega Zord they destroyed the monster with the Power Sword. Back at the Command Center Zordon congratulated her, "Trini , you did the honor able thing. You tried to be fair."
"Thanks , Zordon."
Kimberly chimed in , "It's not your fault Rita cheats."
Billy put his hands on her shoulders. "At least all your practicing paid off."
"Hey, we're teammates. We'll always be there to watch your back," said their leader , Jason.
Trini replied, "I know. You guys are the best."
"Besides," said Zack , "we showed Rita we're not afraid of her big bug. Euww." Everyone laughed.
Trini stirred as another memory haunted her dreams. Swords clashed as another battle raged with complete hatred as its motivation. This adversary she could never abolish. If she did , then she would get the vile murderess's soul. This enemy caused her much pain by killing her parents , but Trini had to fight against herself to control her urge for revenge. She'd spent the next month eluding the villianess , at the same time , trying to learn the mentality of her adversary.
Then Trini had met a powerful ally named Sabrina, who ironically , had been an enemy of Trini's while she'd been a Ranger. Millions of years ago Sabrina had been the best friend of Victoria Soulless. While Sabrina was escaping Lord Zedd , Victoria captured Sabrina and simultaneously a ship full of rebels escaped the clutches of Zedd. Victoria was in fact evil herself and had used her friendship with Sabrina to try to stop the rebels. Victoria erased Sabrina's mind and placed her under an evil spell. She was bitten by an evil scorpion and became half Eltarian , half scorpion. Sabrina had changed her name to Scorpina. Without memories of love and good , the spell could never be broken , Scorpina was a heartless shell of flesh.
When Rita brought Scorpina back , she'd forgotten to chant the spell that had erased the memories of Sabrina. So slowly Scorpina began to remember. She fled Zedd and paid for her crimes on many planets. She met Trini and they became close friends dealing with their pain together. This helped both of them not to want revenge any longer. Magician Elan , a dear friend of Sabrina and Zordon's , came to help the women.
A beeping sound rang in her ears as she felt the heat of the sun against her body. She woke feeling exhausted from another night of memories clouding her mind.Why did I dream about the mantis? she wondered to herself. Then a whirl of wind twirled and materialized into Sabrina. "Oh, you're up."
"Yeah, what's up? What time is it?" Trini shut off her alarm and looked at her alarm clock. "It's eight thirty." She moaned.
"You , wanna go back to bed?"
"No, I'll get up."
"Something bothering you?"
"Sabrina, I dreamt about the Mantis last night."
"That happened so long ago."
"I know. I don't get it."
Sabrina replied, "Ehhhhh, don't worry about it. You're brain's just storing information. Oh, you're supposed to meet your cousin, Sylvia this afternoon, right?"
"Yeah," Trini responded, "I'm not sure if it's such a good idea though. With Victoria and all.
"Don't let her control your life, Trini. She can't be the center of it. I know. It's just hard." Sabrina nodded understanding.
Trini went to the woods that afternoon to visit her cousin. It was always
hard for her to go back there, since that's where her parents had been
murdered. Sylvia had insisted on meeting in the woods, not knowing that
was where her Aunt and Uncle had died. Trini could never tell them the
truth because it could lead her family to find out about her former status
as the original Yellow Ranger and Victoria wasn't human so she couldn't
be tried as a human. She'd told them they'd died in a car accident.
She walked further into the shady forest. A tree branch shook slightly. Trini turned around sharply as the familiar rush of adrenaline filled her body. A familiar sense of alertness and concentration cleared her mind. She relaxed her muscles and felt the weight lift from her limbs. She was ready.
Someone leapt from the trees and landed in front of her. Flowing wavy blond hair bounced against her back as she landed. Her brown eyes gleamed with evil pleasure. The aura exuding from this person chilled Trini's soul, and for but a moment, all she could feel was complete fear. Her nemesis stood there smiling vilely.
Victoria held her sword menacingly in front of Trini. Trini's eyes narrowed into tiny slits as she looked upon her adversary. "What do you want?" Trini said through clenched teeth.
"Well, let's see, I want Good to surrender to Evil, I want Divatox to stop whining about the Rangers, and I want you to surrender to me and admit defeat. Think I can get all that?"
"Why are you here?"
"Oh, well," Victoria replied, "your supposed to meet your cousin if I'm not mistaken." Trini held her breath. "Oh, no. I'm afraid she just canceled." She replied with mock concern. "She's not dead, yet, anyway."
"Where is she?"
"Why should I tell you?" Then before Trini could respond, the villianess disappeared in a cloud of smoke.
Trini looked around the woods just incase Victoria hadn't left completely.
She scanned the treetops carefully with her eyes. Then among the cluster
of leaves she spotted her enemy! Trini knew she had to run to get a boost
up a tree. Victoria flipped out of the tree, slid her sword back in its
holder and ran after Trini.
Her heart beat quickly as she became more afraid. She's going to kill me! Trini screamed at herself as she began to panic. She flung herself into the safety of the tree shadows, avoiding the knives hurled in her direction. I mustn't lose my concentration. I have to remember what Mom taught me!! Okay, get it together . You can do this. A master in Xiang Yi Mao always hides and attacks when necessary. Be one with the Mao.- think, act, move, breath as the cat would. I am the Mao.
Trini panted like a cat as she waited for her prey to come into view. She crawled silently until she hid in a sea of grass. She could feel the dirt slide underneath her sneakers and fingers although, they barely touched the ground. She had to spring on an instant's notice. She spotted her enemy as the vile murderess came closer. She had to move, or be a helpless target; nothing near her could shield her from weapons.
Trini pounced, blocked the rod with a quick hand movement and kicked her opponent's weapon out of her hands. They both blocked punches and kicks as the fight continued with vigor. Trini back flipped and sprang upward. She agilely climbed up a tree and leapt from a branch to another as if she were a cat herself. She jumped off the tree and landed expertly , lightly on her feet. As she bent down she crept into a shadowy area of the forest. Again she was ready to pounce; again she waited for her prey. She cleared her mind of all thoughts possible and listened for the slightest rip in the air, or the mere sound of breathing ; she listened intensely as her life depended on it.
Then she heard the sound of leaves being crunched. An instant later, She felt a familiar hollow streak in the air around her. Instinctively Trini spun around and caught the flying knife that had almost killed her. Victoria almost skewered me! Trini, think! What would she do next? Try to strike from an angle,maybe? She climbed a tree swiftly and saw the blond hair of her attacker. She gripped the knife in her hand and raised it to strike. Anger flooded her whole being as tears fell. She remembered that night ; the night she met Victoria. She saw the horrible occurrence; again she replayed the night when a part of her soul died.
She'd been camping with her parents in these same woods. She'd just come from a year and a half long career as a Peace Delegate in Geneva. Trini went back to the car to get some mats when she heard her parents' screams. She ran back and got there just in time to see her parents fall from impact. As they landed on the dirt, she saw what had made them fall. Both of them were stabbed in the heart.
"NOOOOOOO!!!" Trini yelled in anguish. Then she heard a high- pitched laugh of complete satisfaction. She saw the murdereress- a strong powerful build ,with long blond hair and brown eyes gleaming with happiness. Trini cried out in agony and collapsed as emotions threatened to choke her very soul. Her tears blurred her vision , but she managed to duck just in time. A knife had just missed her head.
A knife appeared in Victoria's hands; the sharp blade flew through the air. An evil laugh cried out in the night. Trini calculated the distance. Her hand swerved as an instinctive reflex. She caught the weapon- barely. She caught the blade a few inches from her heart; the weapon was was her only hope to stay alive.Trini winced in pain as she stared at her dead ,still ,parents. Her coal eyes filled with tears; her heart was torn in two.
"You killed them!!!" Victoria looked up in surprise, her eyes widened. "Looks like you won't be as easy to kill as I'd thought."
"You remember your ...... uh, great -great grandpa Chang? He kind of stopped me from conquering his city and forced me to go home. I promised him I'd make his descendants pay. Just repaying a debt. You understand."
The dream ended as her hand sweated and her grip became tighter. She was about to throw it when someone grabbed her hand. Trini looked at the person beside her. "I just teleported. You need to relax. She'll use your anger against you. Victoria wants you to get so angry that you won't be able to concentrate or think straight. Then she'll be able to kill you. Try to control it," Sabrina advised. Her friend nodded. Then they disappeared in a flash of a white energy beam.
Once the energy dispersed, Trini saw her bed and drawers; they were in her apartment. "Trini, what happened?"
"Victoria kidnapped Sylvia. We have to find her."
"How are we planning to do that?" asked an elderly man in a white and beige robe.
"I don't know, Elan," Sabrina replied.
"If I could modify the range of the scanners, and use my laptop as an energy source..... then we could locate Sylvia," Trini thought. Hours passed as Trini worked on making the conversions.
"I'm beginning to dislike the fact that Victoria doesn't lie about her accomplishments," Sabrina said dryly.
Trini responded, "She thinks the truth hurts more. And she may be right."
"Well that's certainly true," Magician Elan replied.
"I'm searching for her DNA , now," Trini said as she turned on the scanners, "Got her! They're in the Castle of Contretemps."
Elan started to rummage through some of Trini's mail.
"Trini," Elan asked, "what is this?" He held up a thin box wrapped in ribbon.
"I'm not sure." She walked over to the magician cautiously and unlifted the lid. A black ninja outfit was folded inside. A note lay onto of the fabric. Trini read the note. "It's in Chinese. It's from my grandma. She said my mom used to wear this outfit while practicing Xiang Yi Mao. Back then it wasn't proper for girls to learn in , so she concealed her identity by wearing it," Trini paused trying to hold in the tears she felt in her eyes, "Grandma said mom would have wanted me to wear it."
Elan said, "I never knew you were Chinese." Trini nodded in response to his comment.
Trini pulled the cotton outfit out of the box. "This seems right that I wear it when I go to the castle."
Sabrina understood perfectly, "You'll be wearing an outfit your mom wore when she defended innocent people from a gang a long time ago. Now you're going to wear it fighting the murderer who killed her."
"Well at least mom and I were the same height," Trini said after she donned on the polymer of cotton. She securely tied the mask around her head as they prepared to leave. She fastened the Chinese star belt around her waist. She was prepared to fight and let the determined warrior breach from within her to become the Defender.
Trini teleported into the castle and her friends teleported to the Power Chamber Trini walked down a hallway and stopped at wooden double doors. She punched a button on her new communicator, "I found a room. I'm going in to investigate."
"Okay. Be careful," Sabrina replied. "You too."
Trini opened a door and slid in quietly. She turned on the lights and saw Sylvia in chains standing next to Victoria. "Hello, Trini."
"Trini, is that you??!" Sylvia exclaimed shocked.
"It's okay, Sylvia," her voice tightened as she spoke to her nemesis, "Let her go!! What do you want?? How did you know who I was?"
"Why should I let her go? You don't want her to die like your parents did?" Trini's eyes flashed with anger. "Only the daughter of the Defender would wear her mother's outfit. You see, I was in charge of the gang she stopped before you were born. After your ancestor stopped me I was pretty mad, but then she stopped me. That just gave me a little more motivation to kill her. Sylvia yelled, "They died in a car accident!"
Victoria turned to Trini, "Is that what you told them?" She laughed, "How pathetic!"
"Trini, what's she talking about?" Sylvia asked confused.
Victoria laughed wickedly, "I killed the parents of the Original Yellow Ranger!!" Sylvia gaped at Trini, her eyes wide with disbelief that her cousin was a Power Ranger and that this witch killed her relatives.. Trini flinched. I'm glad Sabrina talked with me about my parents' death. The pain is almost gone. When anyone mentions it I don't go ballistic. I let my pain out. I'm accepting it. Trini slid her hand to press a button on her wristband. She breathed deeply trying to control her emotions. I hope Sabrina and Elan have better luck when they go to Zordon's to teleport us out of Victoria's home.
"Why don't we get on with this?" Trini challenged, "unless you're scared." She knew Victoria wasn't afraid, but she wanted to get her angry.
"I'm not the one who should be afraid," Victoria retorted. Then Trini heard a bee-like voice humming behind her. No! It can't be! That's impossible! But she knew it was possible. Victoria could have reconstructed him. She turned to face her nightmare. She turned to face the Mantis.
Trini swallowed, She'd fought this monster before, but she'd had powers
then. How am I going to defeat him? I don't have powers or weapons. But
then Trini heard Sabrina's voice in her head. Trini, you know the real
power always came from your heart and mind. Use the power you have always
possessed. "Your move, Mantis." She circled the abomination as
he circled her. He jumped for the attack, but Trini leapt and kicked him
square in the face. "Hiiiyya!" He flung backwards and crashed
down on the brick floor. He scrambled to his feet as Trini landed gracefully.
Before he could recover, Trini twirled and kicked him again. She kept twirling
and kicking until he was so dizzy, he plopped to the floor. He disintegrated.
She had won.
Victoria said, "So you made the bug dizzy. You can't defeat this so easily." She grabbed Sylvia and placed a knife to her throat. Sylvia began to shake with fear. Trini lowered her head in defeat.
She made her decision. "Victoria, if you let her go and let her live-"
"Yes?" Victoria interrupted with an evil glint of pleasure in her eyes.
"- I will surrender." She smiled an evil smile. She shoved Sylvia to Trini. "I'm going to make your life miserable, Yellow Ranger."
"No, Trini! We can leave!" Sylvia shouted tugging at her arm.
"No, Sylvia. I can't."
"I gave her my word," Trini replied, "If I didn't keep it, I could never expect you to keep yours. She let you go, now I must do my part."
Victoria laughed vilely, "She's surrendering to save your life, brat. Why don't you just accept that you'll never see her again!" She clasped the chains onto her prisoner's wrists and ankles. She threw Trini's communicator at Sylvia. The nine year old caught the wristband.
Trini yelled, "Push the yellow button!"
Sylvia did as she was told. A second later she was teleporting toward Earth.
Trini yanked on the chains that imprisoned her in the Cave of Darkness. She'd been chained to the wall. Dirt began to loosen around her right ankle. The steel became more loose as she kept tugging She placed her foot to look like nothing had changed. Victoria came in the cave to check on her prisoner. She stood right in front of the chained teenager. A sword hung from her waist in its holder. Then before Victoria could react, Trini swung her leg toward VictoriaÕs waist. Her foot kicked the sword straight up out of the leather. She kicked it again to make its blade slice down at the chain of her right arm. Her hand was free. Trini cut her right ankle free which made the other two chains break and clatter to the floor.
Trini kicked off the wall, landed and stood a few yards away from Victoria. Their swords clashed as a battle raged deep inside a cave of no escape. Her blade moved faster than lightning as she expertly countered each of VictoriaÕs moves. VictoriaÕs blade swerved and knocked TriniÕs weapon out of her grasp. Trini triple flipped toward Victoria and leapt over her. She ran out of the cave with an enraged murderess at her heels. Trini clutched her elbow searching for her old communicator. SheÕd used it while sheÕd been a ranger. All she'd had to do was enlarge the band to fit on her upper arm. Sylvia had used her new communicator.
"You promised to surrender! You're breaking your word, Trini!" Victoria yelled trying to make the former ranger feel guilty.
"I never said I'd stay your prisoner, Victoria!" Trini pressed the button and she was instantly teleported to the woods in Geneva.
"Weren't you scared?" Sylvia asked her cousin the following
day after hearing the whole story about her escape and promising to Zordon
to keep the rangers' secret."
Sylvia looked surprised. "You were?" Sabrina laughed, "Who wouldn't be?" They walked in the shade avoiding the heat of the sun.
"Everyone, even all the rangers, everyone can feel fear. It's what you do with that fear that matters," Trini said calmly, "You either let that fear control you , or you stay afraid and do what you have to."
"Right," said Sylvia.
"She's a fast learner," Sabrina said. The cousins smiled.
"I'm carrying all these picnic baskets and all you people are laughing and talking. There is something wrong with this picture!" Magician Elan said dramatically.
Sylvia giggled, "Mr. Elan, you're a magician! You can make them float!"
"Oh. Right. I knew that!" The trio of females laughed.
"Now what was the spell? Oh, yes. I have it!" He said the enchantment and watched the results. The baskets disappeared. "Oh, dear!" The girls laughed even harder. "Very funny."
"I'll make a picnic appear when we get to the spot," Sabrina offered.
"Alright," Elan said relieved.
"Trini, how do you feel about your parents now?" Sabrina asked her friend.
She was silent for a moment. "I've come to terms with it. I won't go ballistic."
Sabrina was relieved. "That's good."
"Thanks for making me face my pain, Sabrina. All those days of talking about it with you really helped."
"No problem. You helped me get to grips with the Scorpina charade . . . Thanks."
"Um.... I have a question. Where were you two when she and I traded places?" Sylvia asked.
"Elan and I went to go find Zordon so he could help us get a lock on you two."
"When I pressed my communicator on my wrist, I was signaling them to teleport us out. When you pressed the yellow button Zordon teleported you to Earth." Trini explained.
"We couldn't find a second signal, but we waited for one," Elan said.
"Got it," Sylvia said. They ate their picnic in peace in the late afternoon.
That evening Trini was alone in her room looking out the window. She lifted up the ninja outfit and held it gingerly. Her mother had worn this to learn a martial art that she was forbidden to practice. She'd worn it defending innocent lives from a violent and deadly enemy. Now Trini had worn it defending herself and her cousin from her mother's murderer. She had also become the Defender. Her mother had made up the name to hide her identity from her enemies. Trini was proud of that name. Proud of what her mother had left her with, a legacy. A name she would proudly call herself whenever she would have to wear the outfit again. She clutched the cloth as tears started to form and whispered, "Thanks, Mom."