Ivan Ooze smirked as he looked down on Planet Earth. He'd been a long time bringing the pieces of his body-ooze together, thanks to that whelp of Zordon, Kelane... she of the dark curls, golden skin and dark, dark eyes...
[But now,] he gloated, [Kelane's dead. She killed herself getting rid of me. And now... the Ooze is back! And no one to stop me!]
On Earth, a long-haired man dressed in a white karate gi gave a howl of mock-rage as his little daughter, three years of age, jumped on his back happily screaming "Dada! Daddy! Daddy Tommy!"
"Cassie!" he groaned. "Please! Not now! I'm teaching a class!"
His students snickered at their karate sensei's predicament. "Silang!" Tommy pleaded. "Come and get your niece!"
A perky young woman in a pink leotard with flowing chestnut hair, caramel eyes and a pouting rosebud mouth poked her head out of the door. "Thomas Halkon Oliver!" she scolded playfully, blowing him a kiss. "Me and my gymnastics class could hear you clear to the other room! Can't you keep your daughter in control?"
"She's _your_ daughter, too, Kimmie!" Tommy pleaded, twisting around to look at his wife. "Where's Seelee?"
"I am here, I am here." Silang strolled out of her room. She and Tommy were so alike as to be twins, almost. That is, _if_ Tommy were five years younger, or Silang five years older. High, sweet cheekbones, golden skinned, almandine dark eyes and a poutingly pretty mouth were attributes that made, ironically enough, Silang gorgeous, and Tommy very handsome indeed. "Cassie, stop bothering your father." she scolded.
Like a leech sprinkled with salt, Cassie dropped off her daddy's back and ran to her aunt. "Auntie Seel! Auntie Seel!" she shrieked. Cassie was really adorable, a girl with flowing brown hair, her father's almond eyes and her mother's delicate features.
"Come here, you naughty little girl." Silang called playfully. She was twenty-three, unmarried, and _very_ beautiful. The eyes of Tommy's male students followed her out, especially the older ones that were about twenty-five.
"Now _how_ does she _do_ that?" Tommy asked, scratching his head. Only then did he notice once again that his students were drooling. "Oh, come _on_, you guys, knock it off. She'd kill you if she knew you were doing that."
Actually, she wouldn't, and they all knew it.
"Come _on_, Tommy, introduce us!" one of the older ones begged. "Pleeeease?"
"Not now." Tommy scolded. "And that's _sensei_ Tommy to you! Seet-HYA!" he yelled, aiming a perfect kick towards his student's forehead. It connected solidly, and the handsome Swedish boy fell to the ground. "See? That's what you get when you concentrate on things other than your martial arts, Christian!"
"Hey!" Christian protested, clambering back to his feet. "That's not fair! You have three more degrees on your black-belt than I do!"
"You were still not concentrating on our sparring." Tommy reminded him. "No matter that you're only a year younger than me: I'm still your sensei. Heet-YA!"
A young black woman dressed in yellow sat in front of her group and taught. Or rather, she _stood_ in front of her group and taught. The rap music playing all around them would have been uncommon in any other class situation... but then again, this wasn't just any situation. This was their band, called Aura of Music.
"Hoo, _yeah_!" a black man of the same age cheered her on. "Go Aisha!"
Zach watched his pretty wife hip-hop. Only twenty-eight, and they both looked a good five or six years younger.
Aisha finished the dance with a flourish, and whirled towards the rest of the group. "Now," she began, "can all of you do that routine for the music video?"
She was met by groans. "_No_ one can dance like you and Zach, Isha!" one particularly recalcitrant member moaned.
"Uh-huh, Rob." Aisha agreed sardonically. "Whatever. Now go up there, and _do_ it!"
A young Korean man dressed in black sat in front of his keyboard and typed. He frowned, then erased something and typed again.
A woman bounced into his room. She was Vietnamese, obviously, and all dressed in yellow. "Hi, honey!" she greeted, kissing him on the cheek. "How was your class today?"
"Tiring, sweetheart." he replied, honestly. "My high-school kids want me to prove the quadratic theory for them today, and you know I _hate_ doing that!"
She laughed. "Adam, you _know_ you don't have to do it! You can just say, it just _is_ like any other math teacher."
"Yeah," Adam replied, "but people used to do that to me all the time when I was young, remember? I hated that, and I'm sure you did, too, Trini."
"Yeah." Trini agreed. "I did. But if you're gonna go hide-and-hair over it, maybe it's not worth it. Do you _know_ how to prove the quadratic formula?"
"Sort of." he replied, ashamedly. "Remember, in Ms. Appelby's class? Silang gave this really great explanation of it?"
Silang had been in their class, because she was so intelligent. She had graduated at the tender age of thirteen, and had just whizzed through college. She was now only the age of twenty-three.
"Oh, Adam!" Trini exclaimed. "That was ten years ago! I'd bet that no one but Billy still remembers it!"
"Billy, yeah," Adam agreed, "And Seelee. You know she never forgets anything."
"Why don't you call her? She can teleport over here."
"Too obvious. Besides, I don't like calling her over for something as little as that. I'll call her when one of us is dying of tuberculosis, or bleedin' to death or something."
"Being a Healer must be hard." Trini mused.
"Believe it." Adam admitted grimly. Suddenly, a little ball of energy skittled into the room, carrying a mewling cat.
"A-nyooong, Papa!" ten-year-old Mi-Hae yelped, carrying her Siamese cat with hazel eyes. Ironically enough, that cat had been a present from Silang when Mi-Hae was five."Say a-nyong to Papa, Mai Lee!" she told the cat in her arms.
"Mew?" Mai Lee meowed pitifully.
Kethry Rashkae jumped into the midst of a group of little kids. It was so uncannily quiet there that anyone would have been unnerved. The scuffle wasn't punctuated by yells, or screams, or cheers for either side. Just the sounds of bodies rolling on the ground. Of course, no one there really noticed. They couldn't. There was no one in that little playground who was not deaf. Even Kethry. _Especially_ Kethry.
<Stop it!> she called with one hand, picking one of the boys up by the shirt-collar. <Now what do you think you were doing, Michael?>
<Nuthin'.> the bigger boy answered sullenly.
One of the girls from the outer ring starting gesturing and signing frantically. <I saw the whole thing!> she exclaimed. <Michael grabbed Alex and told him that if he didn't give him his lunch money, he'd beat him up!>
<That's a lie!> Michael exclaimed frantically. <Grace is lying!>
<I _don't_ think so.> Kethry replied. She turned to the other kids. <Who here agrees with Grace?>
The hands of all the kids went up.
<I guess that's that. To the principal's office again, Mr. Michael?> Kethry asked, nudging his collar in the direction of the door.
"Run!" Dirk Rashkae yelled, shoving a beautiful young woman in the direction of the door. "I'll cover for you!"
"I won't leave you!" she replied.
Dirk's eyes never left the hallway. He flicked the pistol he was holding from side to side. "You forget." he said, softly. "I'm married."
"Who cares about her?" the girl whined. "You're so much better off with me than with some bimbo teacher--"
Dirk whirled and backhanded her into the walls. "Don't ever, _ever_ talk about Keth like that!" he shouted.
"Cut!" the director screamed.
"Oh, damn." Dirk swore. "I did it again, didn't I."
"Damn right you did!" the director replied angrily. "Dirk, you've _gotta_ remember that you're supposed to say "Michelle", _not_ fill in the name of your actual wife!"
"Sorry, sorry." Dirk apologized. He was gorgeous to the point of unbelievabilty, with softly sculpted face, blue-blue eyes, hair that wrapped around his face like a gentle wave, and a childish innocence about him that all women loved. "Let's take it again."
A handsome, rugged-looking American man sat in front of his computer. He could buy a better computer if he wanted--he was a multimillionaire, now: his company, WolfCorps, had surpassed both IBM _and_ Macintosh--but this was the one he'd built himself, a long, long time ago. He could buy a _better_ one, yes, but he'd never find one with as many memories in it...
He hardly looked like the type to be sitting at a desk, tapping into a keyboard; he looked like the kind of guy who played soccer, or football. He had high, prominent cheekbones, beautiful green eyes, a gentle flow of blonde hair, an honest face, and powerful, rippling biceps showing through a sleeveless shirt. He looked like a jock, actually. But he wasn't. William James Cranston, president-owner of WolfCorps, was anything _but_ a jock.
He logged in as Lupine, his screen name, and quickly proceeded to look up his old friends. They'd all gone their different ways when Tommy had come back from the dead; Kimberly and Tommy had married, he knew, but the rest had all gone their separate ways. Only Kadiya, Jason, Tommy, Kimberly and Silang still had constant contact with each other: they had to, because Jason's, Tommy's and Kimberly's schools were all part of the same building! Only they had stayed in Angel Grove. Everyone else had moved.
He was in a nostalgic mood. [Well. Let's see what we can see... Ahhh.]
"You'd be amazed what one can find on the 'Net." he mused. "Let's see, let's see.' Zach and Aisha Taylors' band, Aura of Music, is the number one on the hit list, and they've been there for the past eighteen weeks: a new record!' Zach _and_ Aisha Taylor? Hmm, guess they got married. 'For some reason, though, their three-year-old son, Jessie, hates rap music!'"
Billy shook his head, and went to dig up some information on Silang Oliver-Lee Scott. Of all the others, she had been the one who had understood him the most. She had to.
[She'd be, what, twenty-three now? I wonder what she's been doing. Been a long time since I saw her, since I could talk to her.]
Suddenly, his Internet connection broke. "Aw, dammit!" he groaned. "I hate it when it does that!"
"When _what_ does that, luv?" asked Erin, his newest girlfriend. She was from the West, an intelligent woman, but still nothing like the other Ranger women had been like. She strolled in, carrying a little book.
"New book, sweetie?" he asked distractedly, trying to get the web connection back up.
"Yup!" she exclaimed happily. "Silang Lee Scott's newest. _Boy_, would Ah love to meet her! She is _such_ a great writer."
Billy shot out of his chair like a bullet. "Silang Lee Scott? You don't mean Silang _Oliver_-Lee Scott, do you? She writes?" he asked, his eyes full of surprise.
"Oh, yeah." Erin replied cheerfully, rather startled by his outburst. "You mean you've nevah heard of her?"
"The only Silang Oliver-Lee Scott I know is the little sister of one of my best friends from high school! She was my classmate!" Billy exclaimed.
"Well, she's right up theh with Stephen King and John Grisham!" Erin replied. "Mah goodness, you've been cooped up in here a long time, dahlin', if you've never heard of her. It's about time you got out of heah. Let's go out foh dinner, what says you?"
"Sounds great. Wanna go see a movie?"
"The new Dehrk Rashkae one, please?" Erin begged. "He is _sooo_ dreamy."
"Careful!" Billy exclaimed cheerfully. "I might get jealous! Wait a minute, did you say Dirk Rashkae?"
"Uh-huh." Erin agreed.
Billy quickly vowed to get out more.
Ivan Ooze looked downwards once again. He could not see any of the prominent beams of Power that an activated Power Ranger gave out. He could not see _any_ signatures of Power, but that didn't mean much, only that someone might be shielding against him.
[Hmmm.] he thought, grimly. [I need a host body. An innocent-looking little thing, a girl, maybe. Has to be pretty. No one suspects a pretty girl of anything.]
He reached down and saw a young woman of about twenty years of age, with dark, curly hair, typing at a keyboard.
[Goodness,] he thought with a moue of hatred. [She looks almost like Zordon's whelp, Kelane. But Kelane did not _have_ any children. Right? So this is safe. And it is sweet revenge that I may take against that bitch who tried to put me away forever!]
He reached out to brush away the spider-web's worth of lines that are a normal person's psychic defenses.
Instead, he encountered a titanium-alloy barrier of psychic power.
It grew spikes.
And suddenly ran fifty-thousand volts of energy through itself.
Ivan Ooze collapsed into a million little pieces at the shock. "Aw, nuts." he groaned. "I hate it when that happens."
Silang gave a little start, then rolled up her dark eyes and tossed her curls over one slim shoulder. "I guess I had better go warn the others that Ivan Ooze is back." she remarked casually. "Feh, someone of his age and experience should know better then to try and possess a full-blooded Selanian healer."
With that, she disappeared from the room.
She reappeared in the command center. It was a beautiful place, all white and metal and silver and gold. Of course, there was always the obligatory floating head in the middle of the room...
"Hello, Lolo Zordon." she greeted casually. "It has been a long time, has it not?"
Zordon awakened from his ten-year sleep with a start. "Silang?" his voice boomed. "My granddaughter? What are you doing in the Command Center?"
"The time has come to bring the Rangers back, Zordon." Silang commanded. "I have felt the presence of Ivan Ooze: he tried to possess me. Feh. You think, Zordon, he does not know about Tommy and me? About the prophecy?"
"'Only the Sunrise and the Morning can destroy the Night.'" Zordon thundered. "If he did know, Silang, he would not have tried to possess you, he would have killed them all on the spot. You are a Healer, and therefore vital to the team. He does not know."
"It is time to bring the Power Rangers back to the world, Zordon shon neEltar."
"You are right, Silang shena keKelane. But who? Who will be the ones to fulfill the Prophecy? Only two Rangers can be the Sunrise and the Morning."
"I cannot say, Zordon." Silang told him, fingering the precious locket at her collarbone that held the Jewel Power Coins of five of her friends.
"Bring them back, then." Zordon spoke, resolutely.
Silang jumped to the panels on the side, and pressed a few, one by one, color by color.
Adam and Trini Park were the first to disappear...
Aisha Campbell-Taylor and Zach Taylor zipped away from wherever they were...
Dirk Rashkae, taking a break from his newest movie, suddenly dissipated...
Kethry Rashkae, walking home from a day of teaching, turned into a colored beam of light and zipped through the air...
Rocky deSantos, perusing through a martial arts book in a local library, suddenly looked up and disappeared...
Jason Lee Scott, sitting on the porch with his wife, Kadiya, suddenly blasted away in a beam of multi-hued light. For some reason, Kadi wasn't the least alarmed...
Billy Cranston looked up from the movie, quickly realizing that his watch was making 6-tone sounds he hadn't heard in years... and suddenly told Erin that he had to go... he ran out the door, touched his watch and disappeared.
Finally, Kimberly and Tommy Oliver, drying off after a day of gymnastics and martial arts teaching, zipped from their comfortable homes to the austere beauty of the command center.
"Zordon!" Kimberly greeted happily. "We never thought that we'd see you again!"
"I mean... it's been, what, like ten years, man! And not a word from ya!" Zach commented cheerfully. In five years--heck, in _ten_!-- Zach Taylor hadn't changed a bit. Not one bit. And that was how he liked it. He did a little dance right in the middle of the command center.
"I know that you have jobs now." Zordon boomed, not in the mood to play with Zach at the moment. "I am aware that all, but one, of you are married, and many of you have children. If you were to choose to turn down your position as a Power Ranger, none here will blame you for it."
Tommy stepped forward. "So what are we waiting for?" he asked. Ten years after they'd had their last battle, and already he was stepping back into the role of leader as naturally as breathing. "I don't think there's anyone here that would turn it down."
All across the room there were nods of agreement. "Let's do it."
"Excellent." Zordon breathed a sigh of relief. Despite knowing what all 'his' Rangers were like, he had still been nervous about what their replies would be. He, of all people, knew only too well what it was like to risk the one they loved. He knew only too well.
[Marguere.] he whispered in his mind. [If only you could see your grandchildren now. You would be so proud, so very proud of them.]
He looked fondly down at Tommy and Silang. Tommy had taken control of the others, re-preparing them for the fight about to come; Silang was in a trance, seeking out Ivan Ooze. [I promised you, my darling, that I wouldn't put any more people with too much to lose in danger. And here I am, sending married couples with children into battle.]
He shook his head at himself, and Silang looked up at him. Her cat-quick reflexes and uncanny eyes had earned her the nickname "Kidlat" back in her home country.
[Lightning.] he mused. [She would make a fine martial artist if she wasn't such an excellent Healer. She is too valuable to risk on the battlefield.]
"Is there something wrong, Zordon?" she asked, sweetly.
"No, nothing wrong." he rumbled.
Silang raised one eyebrow at him. He could tell she didn't believe a word of it. "You could not have done anything to dissuade them." she murmured, so only his ears could hear. "It was their choice. If you had not called them back, who would you have chosen? There are no more descended from those of Selanian blood. Unless you choose to select babes in arms, and I do not think that Kim, Tommy, Adam, Trini, Zach, Aisha, Dirk and Kethry would appreciate that. After all, the only ones left of Selanian blood are them and their children and their parents. You know that."
Trust Silang to put it into a child's perspective. The annoying part: she was right.
"You are correct, as usual." Zordon sighed. "Very well. Have you found him?"
"Yes." Silang replied.
"Then what are we waiting for?" demanded an impatient Zach. "Let's go kick some oozy butt!"
"You forget your Power Promises." Silang chided him softly. "'Never start a fight until Zedd or Rita--or in this case, Ivan Ooze--escalates you into it?'"
"So we're just supposed to sit 'round and cool our heels 'til he shows his ugly face?" Zach growled, knowing already what Silang would answer. He wasn't the least bit chagrined. Of course, it would have mortally shocked the others if he had been.
"As normal, yes. When is the _last_ time you did not do that?"
"Go back to your families for now." Silang advised.
"Um..." Billy began, uncomfortably, "If you don't mind, who _are_ you?"
Jason started to laugh, crossing his arms. Tommy grinned. Kimberly just burst out in extreme giggles.
"She, uh, a friend of yours?" asked Billy discomfited. "I thought... we weren't supposed to let anyone know..."
"It seems that it is too late for that, now. It has been too late for many years." Silang said, with a slight smile.
"Well... who _are_ you?" asked Billy, now extremely uncomfortable. This... woman... was making him feel like a child again, something that hadn't happened since... well... since Silang. But this couldn't be the pretty child that he'd known. Sure, she had the same head of golden-black curls... but this woman was... vibrant. Beautiful. And she was making his heart do circles, and his thoughts go flying off into the distance.
"My name is... Kidlat." she said, softly. "Maybe you should return home?"
"Yeah... yeah, I guess you're right." Billy nodded, staring at her intensely before teleporting out in a flash of blue tinged with copper.
Tommy and some of the others were staring at her with very puzzled expressions.
"Be seein' ya around, Kidlat." Zach and Aisha nodded before flashing out.
"Yeah. See ya." Rocky agreed.
Dirk and Kethry teleported out together, waving goodbye.
"Until later, Kidlat." Trini said her goodbyes. "Adam, are you coming?"
"Go ahead, honey." Adam advised. "I'll catch up to you later."
With that, it was just Adam, Kimberly, Jason and Tommy left with Silang.
"Kidlat?" Adam said, quietly.
"Come off it, Adam!" Silang laughed softly. "You know who I am."
"Kidlat." Adam repeated. "You introduced yourself earlier, remember?
Silang stared at him strangely. "I beg your pardon? My given name is Silang, Adam Park."
"Silang?" Adam asked wonderingly. "Is it... can it be you? You've changed so much!"
"Have I?" asked Silang, cocking her head. "Really?"
She looked down at herself. She hadn't really changed all _that_ much.
"Well, yeah!" Adam burst out. "Look how tall you are!"
That much was true: Silang was about six inches taller than Kimberly, bringing her to the height of about 5'8". "Oh, is that all?" Silang laughed. "Of course I have grown. You have seen my mother: she was only a little shorter than Tommy!"
"But... but... oh, boy, Trini's gonna skin me alive for saying this, but you're _gorgeous_! Before, you were cute, but now..."
Silang blushed, something that she had never, _ever_ done before. "Thank you." she said, softly. "No one has ever told me that before."
Tommy, Jason and Kimberly started looking at Silang through the eyes not of parents, as they had been for the past ten years, but as separate men and women.
They quickly concluded that Adam _was_ right. Silang _had_ changed. And right before their eyes, she'd become drop-dead gorgeous! And they hadn't even noticed! Suddenly, a thought occurred to Kimberly.
"Seelee," she murmured, "I thought that you couldn't ever lie."
"I cannot!" Silang agreed.
"Then how 'cum you said your name was Kidlat?" she asked.
Silang smiled and rolled her eyes. "Kidlat _is_ my name, Kimberly." she patiently informed her. "It was my nickname from home."
"D'oh." Kimberly exclaimed, feeling very stupid.
"Well, how come you didn't just say 'Silang'?" asked her 'adopted father', Jason Lee Scott.
Silang shrugged, discomfited for the first time in many years. "I felt like it." she replied.
They all stared at her then. Silang was not one who did something because she 'felt like it'. Rather, she was the kind who didn't feel like doing something, but decided to like it because she _had_ to do it for the good of everyone else.
Silang blinked. "Well? You should return to your families before they begin to worry." she advised once again.
Jason laughed in his deep, booming voice. "Kadi? Worry about that? Nah. She's had to deal with Power and whatnot since before we were even born!"
"Yes, Tatay," Silang agreed, "but what about your Tae-Kwon-Do students?"
Jason slapped his forehead and teleported out. Tommy swore, remembering that he had one last karate class before he could call it a night. He, too, teleported out.
Kimberly and Adam were left, and they still looked at Silang.
"Seelee, you can't lie to us." Kimberly said softly. "You're hiding something. Aren't you."
Silang's silence was more eloquent than any reply.
Adam looked into Silang's perfect, inhumanly beautiful, features. There was more than enough comeliness there to attract most any boy--or a _man_...
"I know what it is." Adam spoke up abruptly. He ignored the frantic shushing noises Silang was making in his head. He opened his mouth to speak--
And suddenly, what came out of his mouth was "She's changed so much that she's worried that they might not know her anymore."
Adam glared at Silang, who looked back with kitten-innocent eyes.
[You did that, didn't you.] he thought as hard as he could at her.
An impression of a very large grin appeared in return. He growled playfully under his breath. Oh, Silang hadn't changed so _very_ much...
Silang teleported back to her little room above the school that all three of her 'adopted parents' shared with a sigh of relief.
[That was way too close.: Silang thought frantically. [Much, much too close. He almost told them.]
:Silang, what's _wrong_ with you?: Adam's angry voice entered into her head. :Wha'd you do that for? What can it hurt to have them know that Billy's beginning to have feelings for you?:
[It can hurt a great deal, Adam.] Silang replied maturely. [Do you remember the last time there was a 'little relationship' among Rangers? And what it turned into? Remember whose granddaughter I am, who my brother is and who my mother was.]
:Tom and Kim, right? That was the last 'little relationship'.: Adam thought at her. :Oh.:
[Exactly.] Silang replied. [For all purposes, Kuya Adam, Big Brother Adam, I can be killed, but I cannot die of old age. I can change my age and appearance as easily as I can heal a minor cut or cleanse a wound. I am not human. Never forget that.]
:Then how come... Tommy?:
[What about him? Remember how miserable you all were when he died?] she thought piercingly. [Never to see him again, you thought. You were lucky, too lucky. I would not want to go through that again. Never, never again.]
:No, I mean what'll happen to Tommy and Kim?: asked Adam worriedly. :I mean, Tommy's half Selanian and all that--:
[Tommy is also half-human. And I'm sure that after his return from the dead, he would not live a fraction as long as a Selanian-- he will probably live as long as you.]
:Well, what do you think?:
[Of what?] Silang's thoughts were guarded. Where Adam's were an open book--he didn't know how to shield himself--Silang's were like a critic's review, only letting out choice pieces.
:Well, of all this. Of Billy.:
[He's very nice.] Silang replied smoothly.
:That's not what I meant.: Adam replied, nonplussed.
[I know.] Silang answered cheerfully before pushing him out of her mind with the ease of a housewife shooing out a mouse.
Silang flopped down on her bed and contemplated the computer nearby. She had just finished another book-- publishers were amazed by the rate that she turned out bestsellers-- but she wasn't thinking of that.
[Billy was very good with computers, last I saw him.] she thought, quietly. [I wonder if he has changed. He does not have those glasses any longer, and he had toned out in five years. He does not wear overalls, either. He looks well-to-do. There must be a woman caring for him, he would not normally take such good care of himself.]
Silang was surprised by the twinge that hit her heart of the thought of Billy with another woman. He had changed indeed. No longer was he the shy, sweet, 5'10", intelligent, Billy Cranston she'd known when she'd first met him. The intelligence was still there, but it was balanced off by a renewed sense of confidence, a taller, more powerful build, and Billy's now-obviously handsome looks which had been hidden by his shyness and glasses. Where most men reached their peak around their early twenties, Billy was only now entering his summit stages, at the age of twenty-seven.
[Do not be foolish, Silang.] she chided herself. [He is four years your senior. He is almost the age of your adopted father!]
[So are you trying to prove that it is possible to propagate at the age of five?] her less-- or more-- rational part chuckled. [Jason is your father in name only.]
[What, then, is your point?] she asked. [I am a Healer. I Heal many people. A man would never want a woman whose services and charms can never be his alone.]
[You do not know that.] her other side laughed.
She had to smile. [Shut up.] she told it mockingly.
[Oh, do not be so silly.] it replied. [You are twenty-three: more than old enough to be thinking of marriage and courtship. Look at your brother: he married at this age. Adam and Trini married at eighteen! And look how happy they are: ten years married, two children and never a fight.]
[That is not the point.] she exclaimed. She hated arguing with her other side, but it was a necessity that all Healers had to go through quite often. [I mean that if I were to stay chaste and I were to push any thoughts of such things as marriage and courtship out of my head, than my Healer powers would have a greater focus. I cannot afford to be thinking of Billy.]
[Very sweet-talking.] the other side replied. [But it is a little too late for that now, hmm?]
Silang mumbled, disgruntled, as her half-sister-in-law danced into the room.
"Hi, Seelee!" Kim greeted.
"Hello, Kim." Silang replied. She had learned how to speak English in approximately a week, after knowing none, but she had never quite gotten over the habit of speaking it _perfectly_. She used slang in her books and her poems... but in her speech? Never.
"How are you? You seemed a little... out there... in the command center. And _why_ did you change the words coming out of Adam's mouth?"
Silang felt like slapping herself. She'd forgotten, in her desperation to keep things hidden, that she'd trained Kimberly herself as a Healer. Only Kimberly _had_ enough Selanian blood for it to change into Healer blood, and so Silang had trained her to heal wounds-- and to feel for the workings of another Healer.
[I was careless.] she cursed herself. [I could have shielded myself, and she would not have felt a thing. Too late, Silang, too late.]
"It was important." she said, stubbornly.
"So important that you're hiding it from me, your sister-in-law, your brother and your adopted father?"
"That is the _most_ important." Silang told her obstinately, hiding everything behind her bland façade. Kimberly could not penetrate Silang's shields, heck, _nothing_ could penetrate Silang's shields unless she wanted them to.
"Silang..." Kimberly scolded. "Please?"
"Only if you promise on your Power that you will not tell anyone, and you will not act on what I tell you. I suspect that you already know, you only need my help to interpret what you know."
"I don't know about that, Silang." Kimberly said hesitantly. Normally, she'd leap for the offer, but Silang wasn't one to keep secrets. The very fact that she was keeping one meant that something was very wrong. And if something was wrong with the team, she owed it to the team to tell her leader--who also happened to be her husband--about it.
"It is your choice." Silang shrugged, turning to her computer. She turned it on, and waited for her Windows 2005 to start up.
"Fine." Kimberly said, reluctantly. "I promise on my Power."
"Very well." Silang began, not turning away from her computer. "Do you remember some strange emotional emanations coming from Billy? Do you remember ever feeling them coming from any of the others but Billy before?"
"Yes..." Kimberly began hesitantly. "I've... I've felt them from all the guys... all the guys _but_ Billy before. What is it, Silang? You've never told me."
"You have never asked, either." Silang pointed out. "Think, Kimberly. When do they come to Tommy?"
"Well, when he's looking at me."
"And when do they come to Adam?"
"When he's looking at Trini."
"When he's with Aish-- oh." realization suddenly came to Kimberly. "Oh my goodness... but who?"
"Who is the only other unattached person in the group, Kimberly?"
"Do you understand, now?" Silang asked, pensively. Kimberly was intelligent, yes, but in the affairs of love she was _too_ knowledgeable. And in the affairs of Healers, much too naïve.
"I... I understand. But why wouldn't you tell any of us?"
"Perhaps you do not remember. When I became the keeper of the others' Power Coins, I also became the keeper of some of their memories. I know that it became very, very important to them, when they found out that you and Tommy were in love, to get you two together. It became almost as important to them as stopping monsters and Lord Zedd. To Jason and Trini, yours and Tommy's best friends, it became even _more_ important. We cannot afford that."
"But what about after that, Silang? Don't you and Billy deserve a chance to be happy too? How do you feel about him?"
"He is very nice." Silang said, very formally.
"That isn't what I meant." Kimberly replied, hurt. Silang had never hid anything from her before.
"I do not know, Kimberly." Silang sighed. "It is not important how I feel. It can never work out. I know."
"How do you know, Seelee?" asked Kimberly, intrigued. "Can you see the future?"
"No." Silang replied, softly, standing up from her chair and pacing around, before finally plopping down on her bed. "I am a Healer, Kimberly. I do not dabble in it, as you do, it is what I am, who I am. Lady-Healer Silang shena keKelane. It has always been my name, since I was born. It was known already them, when I was born. Therefore, I cannot be devoted to any one man, since I must heal all who need me."
"So?" asked Kimberly. "That doesn't matter, Silang." she murmured, sitting down beside her little sister--and friend, who had done so much for her, so much for the team. "Like I said, you deserve to be happy. If being with Billy is what'll make you happy, God only knows that you've earned it."
"You don't understand." Silang cried. "One day, Kimberly, it may happen, it may not, I may be required to enact some healing on someone, that may require me to become intimate with them. Will Billy be content with having a girlfriend who he may have to share with another man?"
Kimberly was taken aback. She had never thought of that. "I... I don't know. He never... he never really let any of us get close enough to find out what he might think. But if I know Billy... he was always willing to share..."
"A woman, Kimberly? Would you share Tommy with another woman?"
"No!" Kimberly said, immediately. Then she regretted her hasty outburst as Silang gave a sad smile, much too old and much too grown up for her twenty-three years.
"You see? That is how I must live my life, Kimberly. It is better for me to live my life alone than to break someone's heart when someone else needs healing."
"But... but... that's so... _lonely_!"
Silang sighed. "Look at what happened to my mother, Kimberly. She had at least two one-night-stands which resulted in me and Tommy. And yet, she was always alone, always separate, because there were no men who truly loved her. That is the way I must live. I do not plan to leave behind children other than those of my duty, either, because I would prefer to have children that were borne out of love for their father. And that is impossible."
Kimberly was shocked. "Why... why didn't you tell us this? How could you have been so happy, so cheerful before, knowing all this? I'd _die_ if I had to live without Tommy."
"Those are the sacrifices Healers must make, Kim." Silang replied, a wealth of age and maturity in her voice. Too much. _Way_ too much.
[This poor child!] Kimberly cried. [Her mother dies when she's thirteen, her brother when she's eighteen, and now, at twenty-three, she's finally found Mr. Right... and she has to turn her back on him because she's a Healer!]
:That is the way things are, Kimberly. That is the way things are.:
[But it's not _fair_!] Kimberly replied.
:Neither is life.: came the inevitable reply.
William James Cranston flopped onto the cot in the side of his office. He felt weird... and he didn't know why. And for some reason, he just couldn't stop thinking about that girl in the command center. What was her name? Kidlat?
He rolled off the bed and paced to the small bookshelf at the side of the room, near his computer. There was a tattered, ten-years-outdated Tagalog dictionary there, a remnant from when Silang had 'joined' the team not knowing how to speak English. He took it out and flipped through it.
[Kidlat, Kidlat, now _how_ do you spell that?]
The first he tried was Ckeedlaht. Then he remembered that the Tagalog language doesn't _use_ C's. So he tried Keedlaht. There was no such word. So he looked up Kidlaht. Again, no such word.
[Aw, dammit.] he swore. [You don't even know if her name _means_ anything, you idiot! You don't even know if it's in Tagalog!]
Then he looked one up from where Kidlaht would have been. And there it was, complete with pronunciation. Kidlat.
[Lightning.] he thought, abstractly. [How beautiful.]
He collapsed onto the cot again. "Great." he muttered. "Now what was the _point_ of _that_?"
His thoughts drifted back to the beauty in the command center. He remembered everything about her: the twisting waterfall of dark hair, the beautiful catlike almond eyes, the slim curves of her body, the almost unnatural beauty of her face...
He growled and slapped his own face lightly. [Snap out of it, Billy!] he scolded. [It would be a most irrational and dangerous thing to fall in love with a woman you don't even know! Besides, I am most certain that Erin would not appreciate the sentiment. And now you're starting to think like you did in high school, again.]
His train of thought was broken off by Erin coming into the room. She ran to him. "Billy, hon, why'd ya leave th'movie so early? Is mah baby sick?"
Erin's concern only made Billy feel more guilty for his feelings of earlier.
"No, no, I'm not sick, Erin." he told her, gently pushing her hand away from his forehead. "I just had something I needed to do, that's all."
"Well, then." she said. "Ah'll be gettin' along, now. Ah just stopped by to make sure y'all is O.K."
"Thanks." he said, weakly, feeling guiltier all the while.
"No problem, hon." Erin replied, winking at him as she left. Which only served to make Billy feel even worse. Much worse.
[Erin deserves better than some insensitive idiot like me. I mean, look how long I've been going out with her--what, ever since I broke up with Laura two years ago--and I still can't find it in me to love her. And then I go to the command center, I meet some little exotic beauty, and 'bam!' there it is. What a jerk I am.]
He punctuated his thought by banging on the waterbed's side, causing it to ripple. "Why? I don't even know her. She looks... well, a little like Tommy... but Tommy's only _got_ one half-sister, and that's Silang. Seelee wasn't _half_ so beautiful, either. She was more... cute. Like Kim. I wonder how they're doing."
He stood up and went to his computer. Before long, the annoying whines of an Internet connection started up.
Yet, Billy didn't look up his friends. No, he was curious. He went to a chat page about women, and started to ask around.
Lupine> Has anyone here seen someone called 'Kidlat' on the 'Net?
jthomp918>No. Sorry. How come? She a girlfriend of yours?
Lupine>Nah... just a flame.
newkid>yeh, i seen a kidlat on the net. she some chick that rites really boss poetry. she got a page with stories and stuff on it. you should check it out. it got her e-mail adres there, to, if you want to rite her. http://www.angelfire.com/mn/Kidlat/homepage.html
Lupine>Thanks, guys. You've been a help. I'll go check out that page, now. So the address is http://www.angelfire.com/mn/Kidlat/homepage.html?
newkid>yeah. no problem.
Billy opened up his Netscape and typed http://www.angelfire.com/mn/Kidlat/ homepage.html on the 'go to' column. He hummed as the page loaded in a matter of seconds.
"Hmmm." he murmured as the page finished loading. "Interesting. A page of stories and poems."
He looked at the titles. "Sunrise and Night." "Lightning and Thunder." "Earth and Sky."
He skimmed over the long list of stories and links until he came to the inevitable "About Me" link at the end. It read:
"I'm glad that you chose to check out my page. Just for your information, my name is Kidlat (yes, that is a pseudonym: I prefer to keep my real name secret.) and I am twenty-three. I live in Angel Grove, California with my brother and his wife and daughter. Here's a picture!"
There was a clear picture there of the girl that Billy had seen. She was laughing in the picture, her head thrown back and her hair cascading down to her waist. Billy's heart did flip-flops again.
"Stupid." he cursed himself. "Stupid, stupid boy."
He looked on.
"Yes, I am single (please, no flames) but no, I am not looking for a boyfriend or husband, please. I am quite happy the way I am." she seemed to scold him. Yes, the words actually _were_ written there. Billy looked quite chastisized to read this, and he felt a sudden emptiness inside.
[Snap out of it!] he screeched, running imaginary blackboard fingernails down the insides of his head. [She's just... just a girl! You don't even know her... don't know what she's like, or who she is, even! Even that name she told me, 'Kidlat', is just some pseudonym. You're too smart to do something like that. Aren't you?]
[And when,] came that annoying--always right--little voice inside his head. [was the _last_ time your intelligence or sensibility had anything to do with your feelings? How long did you have a crush on Kimberly, even knowing that she was in love with Tommy? Six years? Seven? Even while you were going out with Laura, you'd find yourself thinking about her. And now that you're over her, you _have_ to go and decide to be 'sweet' on another girl. Really smart, William. _Real_ smart.]
[As if it was something I _decide_ to do.] Billy answered acidly. [Maybe Tommy knows something about her, I mean, she _does_ live in Angel Grove, that's what she said...]
He opened up his Wolf Pro Mail and clicked on New Message. In the "TO" column, he typed Tommy Oliver <firstname.lastname@example.org>. In the 'FROM', he typed William <email@example.com>. He began to write:
"Hello, Tommy Oliver:
I was curious as to if you know who I am. I highly doubt it, but I was wondering if you know of the appearance of a certain woman who calls herself 'Kidlat' who lives in your fair city of Angel Grove. Being the martial arts teacher that you are, I suppose that you hear of many of the happenings around the city from your students, and if this woman should turn up, it would be highly appreciated if you would inform me of her at firstname.lastname@example.org. I have met her but once, and I would like a chance to get to know her better. If she is a close acquaintance of yours, could you please tell her that"
He stopped there, wondering whether to use his real name or not. He didn't even know why he was being so secretive about it. He just... was. That's when an idea came upon him. He rifled through the Tagalog dictionary again.
"Lintik would like to meet her again at the Youth Center, tomorrow. Thank you.
Tommy's brows furrowed as he read the note that had come in on his e-mail. How strange. How very strange indeed. It could be a trap from Ivan Ooze--in fact, it seemed the kind of thing that he would do. But then again, it could be a genuine invitation.
[I'll let Seelee decide on that. She's probably got some way of finding out whether it's a trap or not.]
"Hey, Seelee!" he called. "Someone sent you some mail!"
"I certainly get it often enough." Silang replied somewhat acidly. "All of my readers love sending me comments and ideas."
"No, I mean you just got flamed again, I think. Except that _this_ time, it's by someone who says that he knows you."
"Really?" Silang said, popping into the room, intrigued. "Who?"
"I dunno. He calls himself 'Lintik'."
Silang blinked, rather taken aback. "Truly? That is very interesting."
"He says he wants to meet you at the Youth Center tomorrow. You think it's a trap?" he asked worriedly.
"No." Silang said, calmly. "It is not."
Tommy looked at his little sister and grinned. "So, who's the guy?"
Silang just smiled, as composed as always.
The next day...
Billy waited nervously in the Youth Center. His palms were sweating, and he had ordered a chocolate milk-shake and not drunk a sip of it. He had never quite felt so... well... so nervous before. Not even on his first date.
His heart lurched as _she_ walked in the door, looking around. Her eyes met with his, and with a tranquil little smile on her rosebud lips, walked up to him and slipped into the chair facing his. He was very startled. "Uh... hello?"
"Hello." she replied.
"How'd you know... that it was me?" he asked, puzzled.
She shrugged and smiled again. "I knew. William James Cranston, is it not? President of WolfCorps, goes by the screen name Lupine, and prefers to keep out of the eye of the media?" she lowered her voice. "Blue Triceratops Ranger, Blue Unicorn Ranger, Copper Wolf Ninjeti Ranger?"
Now Billy stared. Anyone who could get into the command center without a Power Coin had to be something special, but this was ridiculous! "No-one's supposed to know that! _Any_ of that!" he exclaimed.
"_Almost_ no-one." she replied, with that same, serene little smile that sent his thoughts swirling in circles. "You wanted to see me?"
That simple, everyday statement sent his thoughts back to Earth. "Well... yeah. I... um... well..."
In truth, he hadn't thought back to meeting her again.
"I was just wondering..." he lowered his voice, "how you got into the command center, and how come you know so much?"
"The second question's answer answers the first. I am a Healer. There are no shields strong enough to keep me out of anywhere, and the command center is no exception."
"Oh... like Silang?"
Again, that little smile. "Yes, like Silang daughter of Kelane. And who are _you_, that goes by the name 'Lintik' to my 'Kidlat'? 'Thunder' to my 'Lightning'?"
"You know who I am." Billy blinked, surprised by the question.
"I know what you are." she corrected him. "I do not know _who_ you are."
"Well... maybe you can help me sort something out." Billy said, biting the bullet and finding it very uncomfortable indeed. "When I saw you in the command center... something happened to me. I think... I'm in love with y--"
She had leaned forward to hear his soft voice, and now touched a finger to her lips, effectively shutting him up. "Shh." she said, quietly. "Do not speak of such things. It can never be. Believe me on this. I know."
She leaned backwards and made as if to leave.
"Wait!" he exclaimed. "Please... don't go."
"But I must." she replied. "The more time we spend in each others' presences, the more the attraction will grow. And that cannot be."
She stood up and stood in front of his chair, her hand on his shoulder. Then she leaned over and brushed a kiss across his lips. "Farewell, son-of-the-wolf, unicorn-child." she whispered. "We will meet again."
"Wait!" he called one more time. "Who _are_ you?"
"The sunrise that comes before the morning." she answered. "Or the lightning that comes in the wake of the storm."
She ran out of the door.
Billy, after a brief moment of shock, ran after her. But there was no ionized 'aftertaste' in the part of him that warned of a Ranger teleporting.
[But she's not a Ranger.] he reminded himself. [She's a Healer. I remember, Seelee told me a few years ago that Healers are a part of nature, they don't change it like we do. But she said that there would always be a kind of an aftertaste in me whenever someone teleported out. Which means that she _didn't_ teleport, and I can't trace it! Dammit!]
Silang dropped lightly to her feet in her bedroom. She'd left the window open, just in case she'd had to do what she'd done. Billy hadn't seen the cream-coloured swallow cruising upwards on a convection current...
She flopped onto her bed. [You should not have kissed him.] she told herself remorsefully. [It was a stupid, reckless thing to do. You have become so careless lately. You did not _think_, Silang shena keKelane! Fine, admit it. You are in love with him. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Very, very stupid.]
She heaved a gusty sigh. [Stupid, and very much in love. Not only has Ivan Ooze returned... but now there is a Healer in love with a man who does not know who 'Silang' is, only who 'Kidlat' is. A Healer who cannot _afford_ to be in love. I am Selanian. I know my duty. I know that if I must bear children, one of my children must be of full Selanian blood, so that the Healer strain can continue. But Billy is not Selanian. So that cannot be.]
Silang slapped the pillows with a strain of psychic energy. [What is _wrong_ with me, that all that I touch goes awry? First Ina, then Kuya Tom... now Billy. Probably this world would be better off without a Healer meddling in it. But now... what can I do?]
She buried her face in the pillows and started to weep.
Billy flopped down on the pillows. He had teleported home right after that experience, and had promptly decided that he was tired. He, too, collapsed onto soft pillows and a mattress.
Billy touched his lips with the tip of his finger. [She kissed me.] his mind whispered incredulously. [She kissed me.]
His chest burned as if he'd been running too long, but he wasn't tired. He knew he wasn't. [She's a Healer. She's _so_ beautiful.]
But then the thought dropped a dark shadow over his mind like a blanket covering a beacon of light. [Didn't Silang say, once, when we were talking a few years back...]
"I don't know _how_ I feel about Laura." Billy wailed. "I _want_ to love her... really I do... but the implications of what my feelings are suggesting are, all circumstances and ramifications considered, quite far from that!"
He waited for the inevitable 'huh?' that would come from eighteen-year-old Silang. _No_-one really understood him, not even himself, sometimes. But much to his surprise, she nodded. "Well," she began, cocking her head, and reaching out to trace a wayward lock of blonde hair out of his green-gray eyes. "Maybe you are trying too hard to find the right girl for you."
"What do you mean?" he asked, puzzled.
"Oh, feh." she exclaimed with a little smile. "You try too hard. You see how happy the others are, and you wonder why you have not found that kind of happiness with someone. So you try to find that someone. If there _is_ a special girl out there for you, Billy, she will come to you, there is no need to go looking for her."
Billy shook his head. There it was again, Silang's childlike-- and always correct-- philosophy. "And what about _you_, Silang?" he teased, his voice taking on a lighter note. "Have _you_ gone looking for that special man for you, yet?"
He wasn't expecting a sudden shield to drop over Silang's expressive features, though, or for her to turn away. "Seelee?" he asked, hesitantly. "What's wrong?"
"I am fine." she replied curtly. Her very manner of answering and her demeanour told him that something was very wrong indeed. He realized that Silang had made an art form of getting around her Truth Spell, and hadn't answered his question.
"Seelee, was it something I said?"
"No." she replied.
That's when it occurred to him, and all the pieces fell into place. "Oh, Seelee. You're not human, aren't you. You're stuck on this planet. So there _is_ no 'special guy' for you, since there's no one like you here."
Silang heaved a gusty sigh. "No, that is not it." she replied. "I have never told anyone my reasons for this before. No one has ever asked. It is not important, and changes nothing. It is not necessary for you to hear it."
"Oh, yes it is." Billy told her resolutely. "It _is_ important, if it matters to you, Seelee."
"Very well." she replied. "It is a long story, though."
"We've got time." he answered.
"It begins with my ancestry, Billy. All the full-blooded Selanian women of my bloodline are Healers. Our ranks are few; there are other Healers, but their powers are not passed on from generation to generation. Their abilities are not trained by other Healers. There are no Healers as strong as those of the blood of Bast."
"Bast?" Billy said, puzzled. "Isn't that the Egyptian cat-goddess?"
Silang smiled. "Yes, here Bastet was worshipped as a goddess. But she was Selanian, the first Healer of the family. She invoked a promise out of all of her female descendants: that they would carry on the Healer bloodline."
"So what's this got to do with you?" he asked, puzzled. "How hard could it be to 'carry on the bloodline'?"
"It means that the man I bear children with must be full Selanian, Billy." she informed him gently. "A child with a man from another planet, of another species, dilutes the blood greatly, and so the powers. The universe needs the descendants of Bast more than I need to find the right man for me. And that is not all."
"More?" Billy groaned, raising his eyebrows. "Poor Seelee, you've got a lot standing in the way of you being happy, don't you."
Silang shrugged. "A Healer... sometimes needs to Heal hearts as well." she began slowly. "If the wound is shallow-- as the pain of finding out your crush is going out with someone, perhaps--all the requirements are that I know the people involved. But if the wound is deep-- as perhaps, the death of a lifebonded one, or a Possession by another--and I do _not_ know the person heart-and-soul, then I may be required to... to become intimate with them." she forced the words out.
Billy stared at her, horrified. "What?!"
"Yes." she nodded, sighing again. "I always knew that it may happen. It still may, or it may not. I have no way of knowing. Attaching myself to someone... would only serve to hurt him when I may have to help another."
"So that means... that if you fall in love..." Billy didn't need to finish the sentence. Silang nodded. "That's awful!"
"Well." Silang puffed a lungfull of air out. "I always knew where my duty lay, Billy. When I _do_ have children... it will be for the sole purpose of passing on the Healer bloodline. So it is for all Healers."
"_All_... Healers?" Billy murmured, horrified, as he had five years ago. "All? Oh, $#!^. $#!^, damn, &^%+." he swore. _That_ was why _she_ had said...
"No!" Billy Cranston cried. "Oh, God, NO!"
Just when he'd found the _exact_ right girl for him... she was just out of his reach. Billy buried his face in his pillows and sobbed.
He didn't know that across the state, in Angel Grove, California, there was a beautiful woman doing exactly the same thing.
Tommy was greatly disturbed. His senses had become more acute lately, and he had began to feel strange now and then. Sort of like he didn't belong. His eyes had changed, too. For some reason, every so often they would grow to be a darker colour: like Silang's and Kelane's. And he knew that ever since Silang had flown through her own window in the shape of a cream swallow, she had been crying.
It took quite a bit to make her cry. She was no ordinary woman. When upset, she was just as likely to shut herself off from the world as get help. More than likely, in fact. She had never used her own Healer powers on herself, claiming that she needed them to help other people.
[If that... that bastard, Lintik, did anything to her... I'll kill him.] Tommy grated out. [I swear I will.]
Suddenly, the six-tone-page that came through his communicator removed all thoughts of Silang from his mind. "Yes, Zordon?" he queried.
"Tommy. Ivan Ooze has returned to Earth. I am summoning the other Rangers now."
"I'm on my way." he told him, before teleporting out in a beam of white light tinted with gold-silver.
He rematerialized in the command center, the other Rangers appearing milliseconds after him. "What's going on, Zordon?" he asked, worried. "What's happening?"
"Ivan Ooze has issued an ultimatum to us. Either you give up your power coins and Ninjeti weapons--"
"Hey, where's the Kim-girl?" asked Zach, worriedly. "And where're Trini and Isha and Keth?"
"Oh, no." Tommy whispered. "He hasn't got--"
"Oh, yes." Zordon agreed, grimly. "He has your wives, Power Rangers. He says that each of the women have their emotional 'tags' on you men, and he is monitoring your movements through those. He says that he will know if you decide to come after him, and kill them. Observe the viewing globe."
The sight of their wives dressed in nothing but teddies in their respective colours, caged and manacled like animals, made their blood boil. "Why that no good--" Rocky began. Then he noticed that Ivan Ooze had _his_ wife, Princilla, too. "Prinsa!"
"Yes, Rocky." Zordon agreed, sadly. "He also has Kadiya shena keNyara. And..."
He cut himself off.
"And what, Zordon?" asked Tommy, worriedly.
"He has my wife as well, Power Rangers." Zordon said, softly. "Marguere."
_That_ caused a hubbub, because none of them could _quite_ imagine Zordon, married.
"You mean... my grandmother?" Tommy gasped.
"Ay-ya-yay-ya-yay!" Alpha grated, annoyingly.
"Alpha," Billy growled in a decisively bad mood, "Can it or I'll make you into a lap-top."
The others stared at him. Billy was normally as cool and peaceful as a Siamese cat. And about as emotionless. Then they stared at the viewing globe.
"There are seven ladies there..." Tommy began...
"And eight of us." Rocky finished. "Then where's--" he shut up as Billy cast dagger glances at him.
"Do you know where Ivan Ooze is?" Billy asked harshly.
"No." Zordon admitted worriedly. "But Silang should know. I will summon her now."
A swallow seemingly made of cream-coloured light appeared nanoseconds after being summoned. "You need me?" she asked in an ephemeral voice.
"Where is Ivan Ooze, child?" asked Zordon, grimly.
"What do you want me to trace?" she asked.
"Kimberly and the other women. Then Ivan Ooze." Billy told her curtly. Then he turned away and sneered at Alpha, who was threatening to go 'Ay-ya-yay-ya-yay!' again.
The swallow regarded him piercingly, cocking her head to one side. "William James Cranston, stop sulking." she cooed at him sternly. "Kidlat did not have a choice."
_That_ snapped Billy out of his anger and into shock. "How did you know?" he asked.
"Healers know. Now stop feeling sorry for yourself. There are more important things to consider now than a broken heart." she scolded. The others were just as surprised. Silang was not known to speak plainly and bluntly as she was now, but then again, Billy had never been known to fume and sulk, either.
"Easy for _you_ to say!" he spat at the swallow. "_You_ don't need to worry about it! Who told _you_, anyway? It's none of your business!"
The swallow regarded him carefully, with slit-narrowed eyes. Zordon knew that look. He'd seen it too often on the face of his daughter. Silang was more like her mother than she seemed. If Kelane, Silang's and Tommy's mother, had been there, she would have gleefully begun to wager on how many words it would take for Silang to flay Billy alive.
With an arcane twist of a talon, the swallow began to grow. When she grew to the size of a human, she abandoned the bird-form and stood there in her own, natural, beautiful form.
"Is it not?" she asked, acid in her every word.
"Kidlat?!" Billy gasped. "Or... Silang?"
"Truly?" she asked, sarcastically. "Make sure you know who you are talking to before you decide to cast harsh words at her, son-of-the-wolf, unicorn-child." With that, she turned away and dropped into trance.
If Billy had had any doubts about Silang being 'Kidlat', they were now gone. "But..." Billy gasped, all animosity gone.
"Do not disturb her while she is in trance, please." Zordon reprimanded gently. "It could have effects that I am sure you would not enjoy."
"The women are in the Dimension of a Thousand Deaths." Silang said. "Ivan Ooze is in a nearby dimensional pocket, called Hynnkell."
"We've got to save them!" Tommy insisted.
Silang shook her long head of dark curls. Billy watched the beckoning, dark waterfall spill over her slim shoulders. He wished he could touch it. "No. You forget, your very hearts are touched by those women. If you go after them, they will be dead by the time you reach them. And Ivan will have triumphed." she informed him. "Billy, do you think you are capable of freeing the women?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah." he replied, blushing. Silang couldn't help but smile a little, knowing that he was watching her.
"Good. Free the women, and I will go after Ivan Ooze."
"What?" he expostulated. "But you can't--"
"I can stall him for a while." she replied. "Long enough for you to free the women, and for the other Rangers to come to me."
"You seem to be very full of objections today, Billy." Zordon noticed. "Silang can take care of herself."
"But she doesn't even know martial arts!"
"Yes, I do." Silang replied, again giving him that calm, infuriating little smile. "Do not worry about me, Billy. I am at least a second-level black-belt in karate, trained in combative magic, and a Healer with mind-magic. I can take care of myself for as long as it is necessary."
Billy looked over at Tommy. He knew that she couldn't lie, but when Tommy nodded at him and held up three fingers, signifying that Silang actually had _three_ stripes on her black belt, he had no more objections to give.
"Fine." he said. "Doesn't mean I have to like it, though."
"No one was asking you to." Silang replied, sweetly.
"Whatever." Billy agreed. "Essence, it's time to go into action again." he informed his lance.
"It certainly _took_ you long enough!" the wolf on the end exclaimed. "Very well."
With that, copper light enveloped Billy, turning into his Ranger costume-- but not his normal blue Triceratops one that he still used from time to time. No, this time, it was the copper wolf-headed one.
"Let's get going." he said.
Silang held out both her hands and traced a shimmering shape in the air facing him. It glittered for a moment in the air before settling on him.
"What was _that_?" he asked.
"So that you can enter the Dimension of a Thousand Deaths without me there." she replied. "And so that all you need to do is touch a lock for it to open. Let us go."
Silang shrunk again into her creamy sparrow-of-light form and disappeared. Billy followed suit behind her.
Billy appeared in what could only be the Dimension of a Thousand Deaths. He gagged at the scent of blood and pain, and despite the fighting spirit of the Wolf suffusing him, he suddenly lost willingness to do his job.
In front of him, _something_ lurched to his feet, and he resisted the urge to retch again. It _may_ have been just a bloody corpse with its guts spilling out... if it hadn't been moving for him, and if there hadn't been something unholy gleaming out of its eyes...
With a snarl of rage at the perversion of nature, Billy lashed out with Essence at it. It sent it flying with a wet 'snap!' He ran for the cages along the walls--
And realized that the thing had gotten up again. He whipped out with Essence again, and again the thing went flying... but not before it had scored on _him_, first. He shrieked in pain as the shallow wound that the thing had scored along his gut began to burn.
He looked down at the area, and was shocked to find that there was _no_ cut on his Ranger uniform... but his blood was staining it. As he watched, the blood began to glow black.
[Some kind... of poison.] he thought through the pain that was threatening to overwhelm him. [Got... to stay... awake. For... Kimmie.... and Isha... and Keth... and Trini... and Princilla... and all the guys... who depend on them... for their stability...]
He lurched forwards, clutching his stomach, and clenched the first lock with his other hand. It was Kim's cage, and she dropped with a little cry into a crouch when her manacles snapped open along with the lock on the door.
"Billy!" she gasped, softly, so that Princilla couldn't hear. Princilla had never known, never suspected, of her husband Rocky's ties with the Power Rangers. "What are you _doing_ here?"
"Saving your life... and your husband's... sanity." he drawled, trying to use humour to keep himself awake. He staggered to the next cage, and touched the lock.
"Who are you?" Princilla asked, frightened, as she pressed as far away from him as she could. He could understand how he looked fearsome, with his wolf-head mask, carrying a spear and dressed all in copper. On another day, he might have gone easy on her. But every second wasted was another second where Silang might be losing...
Silang gave a gasp as she barely dodged Ivan Ooze's tendril of power. They were both weakening slowly and surely. Only problem? She knew that though _she_ was semi-immortal, she could be killed. Ivan Ooze, unfortunately, was a different story. Only the Child of the Sunrise--her-- and the Child of the Morning could kill Ivan Ooze, the Night.
[Billy, hurry!] she sent a mind-message to him, tinged with urgency. [I don't know how much longer I can hold out...]
Billy got her mind-message just as he snapped open the cage of Marguere. With a flick of his wrists and a motion with Essence, he sent Princilla home and Marguere to the command center. He reached then to send Kadiya back, but she wouldn't let him.
"This is my fight, too." she told him, with a spirit like her fiery-red hair. Her green eyes were hot with anger. "Ivan Ooze was my father. I swear that I will make him pay for what he has done."
"Jason won't approve, Kadi." Kimberly informed her.
"When was the _last_ time he approved of something I did?" Kadiya asked with a smile, tossing her head defiantly.
"Have it... your way." Billy stumbled. He was still in incredible pain.
"You should go back, Billy." Trini advised him.
"No." Billy replied. "Silang... needs me... there. She's...the one... holding off... Ivan Ooze."
"You can't help her in your condition, Billy." Kimberly said, worried for her friend.
"Wanna... bet?" he asked, before he teleported out.
Kimberly touched her communicator. "Tommy, come in."
Tommy's voice, thick with relief, came back through. "Kimmie? Are you all right?"
"Fine. But Billy's gone after Ivan Ooze. He's hurt real bad: one of our guards got him."
"Then we'd better get going, too. Silang's gonna need all the help she can get! Morph and head for Dimension Hynnkell."
Aisha's bear-headed mace Forte produced himself out of nowhere, and Kimberly's kestrel-topped whip Swift materialized into her hand.
"Time to do it, Swift."
"Let's go, Forte!"
Beams of silver and brass light shot out of Swift and Forte, covering the two women. Kimberly emerged dressed all in silver, with a kestrel's hooked beak and piercing eyes, and holding the deadly silver whip. Aisha's outfit became brass-tinged, and her helmet turned to a bear's head.
"Wind!" Trini cried, sweeping her hand through the air in a balletine motion. It replied by wrapping her in an ephemeral, wispy costume that looked to be made up of opaque, shimmering white veils. Her helmet was scored with what seemed to be wind-marks
<Earth!> Kethry requested, reaching downwards. Her costume was more functional than pretty: amber-brown leggings and a spandex top. Her helmet was simple: no frills or markings, simply a leaf curling up over one ear, and an eyepiece and mouthpiece.
"Let's go." Kimberly--the Silver Kestrel Ninjeti Ranger--commanded, the beak of her helmet moving uncannily to match her words. It was like the helmet was actually _part_ of her, not just protection. She changed her shape to a silver spirit-kestrel before teleporting out, just as Aisha altered her form to that of a bear made of glowing brass light and disappeared. Trini teleported in a gust of wind, and Kethry vanished in a wash of soil--which, ironically enough, disappeared as she did.
The men had waited in silence and nervousness for Kimberly's call to come. They all breathed a mutual sigh of relief, Zordon included, as Kimberly's voice came through the communicator. "Let's go, guys." Tommy ordered. "No time to lose."
"Flight, now!" Tommy commanded his falcon-topped bo-staff. He was wrapped in platinum energies that resolved into a platinum outfit, with a falcon's proud head crowning his.
Adam didn't need to say anything: without a word, his bow,Vision, made golden forces twist around Adam and form the golden costume with his owl helmet.
"It's time for the big beat-down!" Rocky crowed happily as his lance Lithe's bronze power flowed through and around him, and his jaguar-headed helmet settled on his head.
"Fire!" Zach called, flickering his hands around each other like tongues of flame. His costume appeared, in the everchanging colors of the red tigers' eye, and the swift brutality of the fire that he had called.
"Water!" Jason asked, making a _fluid_ movement. He was covered by a flowing costume of agate's myriad colors. All in shades of blue, of course.
"Heart!" Dirk said, clasping his hand over the aforementioned organ. Violet energy flowed through him and around him, encasing him in his costume in shades of amethyst.
"Let's do it, guys!" Tommy commanded, turning into the shape of a falcon-of-light and flying upwards before disappearing, just as Silang had.
"I _hate_ it when he does that." Rocky exclaimed, changing to his jaguar form as he teleported.
"You're not the only one." Zach agreed, vanishing in flames.
Jason departed in a gurgle of water, just as Dirk had disappeared in a wash of warm anxiety.
Adam gave a hoot as he changed into his owl-of-gold-of-light form and disappeared.
They all remateriallized at the same time on Hynnkell. With the new animal-helmets they'd gained, they could see the tremendous amount of power that both Ivan Ooze and Silang were putting out.
:Kuya Tommy... I can not... hold on... much longer...: Silang panted. Even her mind-voice sounded tired. :Ivan Ooze... is also... tired... but he is... almost immortal... I am not...:
Kimberly's head snapped up at that, and Tommy knew that it was worse than Silang had said it was. Silang's control of her mind-powers was all but legendary. If Kimberly had heard a mind-message directed at _him_, then Silang must have been at the very end of her strength.
[She's just a child!] he cried. His rage grew as he realized that his little half-sister was losing... losing slowly and inexorably. He didn't realize that his hands were glowing with power.
:Kuya... keep yourself... in control!: Silang reprimanded him. :You are... coming into... your power. If you... let your anger... control you... you will hurt yourself... and all around you!:
The news came to Tommy like a bucket of cold water over his head. The glow around his hands disappeared as he realized with shock that it was true. But Silang was slowly failing. What could he do? She was more powerful than he could ever be.
Weakly, Silang collapsed as she used up the last of her life-force and Ivan Ooze wavered on his feet. He didn't even have the strength to cackle in his joy. That's when all the _others_ realized that they weren't just supposed to be _standing_ there.
Rocky screamed, "Jaguar claws!" as he gave a leap forwards and extended his hands. The tips grew into five-inch long metal nails. He hit Ivan Ooze like a battering ram through a tin-foil door, and Ivan screeched and swiped at him with a blow of Power that sent him flying, but Rocky had already done damage. Long gashes streamed black blood down Ivan Ooze's shoulder.
"Sooo." Ivan Ooze panted, staunching the flow of his own blood from the wound. "The heroic calvary arrives."
"Damn right!" Zach agreed. He raised his hands and yelled, "Fire strike!" Long beams of flame shot out from his palms and struck Ivan Ooze. And _still_ he was unfazed.
"Guys, cover your ears!" Billy called weakly. He was still gripping the wound on his stomach, and it was still bleeding thick black blood, expelling the poison from his system. They hastened to comply. No sooner were all of them protected than he called, albeit faintly, "Howl from beyond!"
The soft words amplified and echoed until even those who had covered their ears cried out in pain. But for cocky, unprotected Ivan Ooze, it was pure torture.
"No!" he screamed ineffectually. "NooOOooO! Stop it!"
He flew apart into a dozen globs of purple ooze.
As the echoes of Billy's Howl faded away, the Rangers looked at each other. Was it over? Could Ivan be... gone?
The globs started moving towards one another.
The globs reformed into Ivan Ooze again. But this time, he was _huge_! "HOHOHO!" he screeched. "I see some bugs down there. Maybe I'll squish them!" He moved to step on them, and they barely managed to roll out of the way.
"We need Ninjeti Megazord Power, now!" Tommy cried.
"Bear!" Aisha called.
"Jaguar!" Rocky commanded.
"Wolf!" Billy asked in an almost inaudible voice.
"Kestrel!" Kim bubbled.
"Owl!" Adam instructed.
"Falcon!" Tommy cried.
Many galaxies away, the brass bear looked up from her feeding on the bark of an oak. She reared up on her hind legs and sniffed. Her mindmate was Calling her. :I'm coming, mindmate!: she replied, rising into the air to come to the aid of her friend.
The bronze jaguar snapped awake from his bed on the top of a mahogany tree in the middle of a galactic rainforest. And promply whacked his head on the top of an overhanging branch. He growled. Why did his friend always Call him at the most inconvenient of times? Still, he needed his help. :I'm on my way.:
The wolf broke away from his arctic pack. His copper fur shone in the golden light of the longest day. He was being Called. But wait-- the one who he guarded was hurt! He'd just have to take extra care of him, then. The interdimensional snow crunched under his feet as he howled an answer. :Wait for me, little comrade! I will be there...:
Swiftly, the silver kestrel banked and mantled as she felt the Call come through the dimensions and the galaxies. She swooped off into the skies, leaving the prey she'd been chasing behind without so much as a thought. :Everything will be fine, friend.: she reassured her little silver partner.
The owl arose from his daytime sleep when he felt the Call in his very bones. He contemplated for a while before rising on silent wings to help his young protégé, his little student, the wise, silent one. :I come.: was all he said.
The falcon screamed a full raptorial shriek of joy when he heard the Call echo through his blood. It was time to fight again, time to defeat evil with that wonderful, all-consuming partnership again. :Let us rid the world of evil again, little brother, little eyas!: he replied happily.
They came to Hynnkell, swift as wings and intergalactic steps could take them.
"Log on!" Tommy requested.
"Bear's here, let's get movin'!"
"Jaguar's fine, time to kick some butt!"
"Kestrel, time to rock and roll!"
"Owl, hey, stop that!"
That last was from Adam when his Zord had taken a sudden loop-de-loop, joyful to be reunited with his little student after ten years.
"Let's get 'im!" Tommy cried.
The ones on the ground were feeling more and more ineffectual by the minute. They _had_ no Zords: theirs had been destroyed by Ivan Ooze.
"Jason." Zordon's voice reverbrated through the Agate Ranger's communicator. "Tell your team to call for their Thunderzords."
"The Thunderzords were destroyed, Zordon." Jason told him sadly.
"Yes, but we repaired them, Alpha and I. You did not think that we were doing nothing through the ten years of peace, did you?"
Jason didn't deign to answer. "But without the Gargoyle Thunderzord, we can't form a MegaThunderZord."
"Just do as I say, Jason." Zordon commanded.
"Whatever you say, Zordon." Jason agreed hesitantly. "We need ThunderZord power, now!"
The others who were ground-bound stared at him. "What?!"
"Just _do_ it!" he hissed.
"Deinonychus-Jackal-ThunderZord-Power!" Dirk called, raising one hand to the sky.
<Archaeopterix-Lynx-ThunderZord-Power!> Kethry signed.
"Mastodon-Lion-ThunderZord Power!" Zach cried into the wind.
"Sabretooth-Tiger-Gryphon-ThunderZord Power!" Trini shrieked.
"Tyrannosaurus-Red-Dragon-ThunderZord Power!" Jason said, last, his baritone booming across the galaxies.
From their hiding places, the Zords raised their heads once more.
They came roaring: the Deinonychus from the plains, the Archaeopterix from the riversides, the Mastodon from the cold North, the Sabretooth-Tiger from the forests and the Tyrannosaurus from the primal fury of the Earth itself.
"Yeah!" Jason yelled as the Zords morphed into the ThunderZords. "It's good to have you back, ol' friend." With that, he jumped into the cockpit of the Red Dragon Thunderzord.
The others were wearing away at Ivan Ooze as a dog worries at a bone. No sooner did Ivan take a swipe at Kim who was zipping around him, than Tommy's FalconZord came in to claw at his eyes and Billy's WolfZord jumped to gnaw at his legs. But he _had_ made some serious damage. Rocky's LeopardZord was limping, having been blasted by a bolt of power. Aisha's BearZord was out of action altogether for the meantime.
"Let's do it!"
Kethry's Archaeopterix ThunderZord gave an unholy screech before swooping down on Ivan to scratch at his neck and Jason's Red Dragon ThunderZord breathed a gust of fire at him.
Then they noticed that he was shrinking again.
He fell to his knees, having returned to his normal size. "Mercy." he whispered. "I give up."
The Power Rangers exchanged a long, long look. They jumped out of their Zords, and sent them running or flying back to wherever they'd come from.
:It could be a trap.: Kimberly warned. :I can't touch his mind to find out-- it may corrupt me, too.:
"I think... he's serious!" Billy exclaimed hesitantly. Then he bent down to clutch at his stomach again. "Owww."
They all exchanged another look. Billy had gained the ability to see one's heart. Which meant that Ivan Ooze _was_ serious about giving up.
"Mercy." Ivan Ooze whispered once more. "You have defeated me."
Tommy suddenly looked around. "Hey." he exclaimed, his eyes filling with worry. "Where's Seelee?"
Billy's back suddenly straightened. He whirled and looked at Ivan Ooze again, with poison in his very glare. "Where'd you hide her, Ivan. If you've hurt her, I swear I'll--"
"Oh, you mean that _darling_ little Healer of yours?" Ivan asked, grinning evilly. His 'mercy' mask seemed to have disappeared at very short notice. "Oh, you let me go, I'll tell you where she is. And _maybe_ you'll see her again."
"You're in no position to make bargains, buster." Rocky growled. "Silang never did anything to you. Now let 'er go."
"Your 'Silang' came closer to killing me completely that that bitch Kelane." Ivan Ooze replied, hatred glittering out of his eyes. "If she'd had _one_ more ounce of power... I would be gone. But it wasn't enough." he giggled horribly. "No, now she's mine. The pretty little thing. After all... death binds the killer to the killed more surely than in life..."
"You're mad!" Trini gasped, horrified.
"I'll kill you, you bastard!" Billy screamed. He morphed into his huge copper wolf form and leaped at him with a roar of sheer rage. But Tommy jumped in his way, and the insanely angry Billy had to pull back to avoid hitting his leader.
"Billy! He wants you to end it, so that he doesn't have to pay for what he's done! Morph back, dammit, don't let your anger control you! " Tommy yelled at the Copper Ninjeti Ranger, exerting every inch of psychological leverage he had over Billy.
Billy did so, depending on his sheer force of considerable will to keep himself calm. There were tears streaming down his lupine face with shameless abandon, and loathing flaring out of his slitted eyes with a erratic rhythm like a sunspot's movements. "Tommy," he growled, sounding more like his wild counterpart than a human being and Power Ranger. "Get out of my way, or I'll _make_ you."
"Billy..." Kimberly whispered. "Oh, no, Billy."
"What's _wrong_ with you, man?" asked Tommy completely puzzled.
"Didn't you _hear_ him, oh _gracious leader_?" Billy spat. "He... he killed... he killed Silang!"
"I heard him." Tommy replied. There were no tears streaming down Tommy's face, but Billy could hear the sheer grief in Tommy's voice.
[A falcon can't cry.] his mind reminded him coldly and dispassionately. [No tear ducts.]
"He... he could be bluffing!" Rocky said, desperately. "He..."
"...could also be serious, Rocky." Adam murmured, low in his throat.
"And without a young descendant of Bastet's blood," Ivan Ooze giggled horribly, "You can't get rid of me. You can kill me now... but I'll come back to get rid of _your_ children, your children's children, and your children's children's children! You'll never be rid of me!"
:Tommy.: Billy whispered through his grief. He remembered back to that long-ago talk with Silang. :_You're_ of 'Bastet's blood'. _You_ can kill Ivan Ooze!:
:But... how?: asked a grief-stricken Tommy. He firmly resisted the urge to keen in sorrow, as a falcon would.
:I don't know!: Billy replied, exasperated and sorrowful. :Just... do it!:
"Ahhh." Ivan sighed, getting back to his feet. "I think I'm ready for one more round, how about you?" he asked maliciously, grinning like a dolphin.
"Silang was like a daughter to me." Jason growled. "Fight me, you misbegotten son of a goat."
"No." Tommy commanded, getting to his feet. "You'll fight me."
"Hah!" Ivan Ooze laughed derisively. "_You_? You didn't even have the strength... to save your little friend!"
Adam and Rocky grabbed Billy's arms to keep him from attacking Ivan Ooze right there and then.
"I've got enough strength to do _this_!" Tommy replied. "Falcon Flight Kick!"
His body, of its own accord, drew into the air and kicked Ivan Ooze harder than anything he'd ever felt before.
"OOOFF!" Ivan yelled as he went flying. He smacked into a rock... and got back up again, wiping black blood away from the corner of his mouth. "Not bad, little boy. But can you take... THIS!" he yelled, lashing out with a whip of violet power.
Tommy snapped Flight up and the whip wrapped around the staff before recoiling back to Ivan. Ivan ended up having to dodge the rebounding strap of power, as Flight had charged it with the energy of good.
"Hmm, this may be harder than I thought." Ivan grumped. "Oh well, I suppose I've nothing better to do..."
"'Nothing better to do' _this_, bastard." Tommy replied. Suddenly, he was right beside him, having teleported the short distance.
"Oh, $#!^!" Ivan yelled as Tommy's fist quickly approached his nose. And connected, sending him to the ground. "Hey, no fair!" he whined.
"I'll give _you_ 'no fair', @$$hole!" Tommy yelled. His rage was getting the better of him and he knew it. And he didn't care. Ivan Ooze had pushed him too far. He didn't even realize that his hands--and eyes--were glowing the same color as the light shining through a clear silver-white-gold; much like a masculine version of Silang's beige Healing energies.
Ivan Ooze, though, noticed. "Hey... hey, hey... wait a minute... can't we talk about this? Gimme a chance, here!" he asked, backing off. He realized now that there was more than one 'descendant of Bastet's blood'.
"You didn't give Silang a chance." Tommy growled in reply, advancing on his 'prey', who was cowering like a mouse in a hawk's shadow. He whipped out one fist, and the rippling energies hit Ivan. "That was for Kelane, my mother!"
"Your... mother?" Ivan Ooze gasped, spitting out blood. He was too weak to fight back. The fight with Silang had drained all of his energies. He just hadn't known it.
"Yes, Ivan!" Tommy howled. His falcon's aura flared into life. He sent a roundhouse kick spinning towards Ivan's head, charged with power."That's for Silang, my little sister!"
"Oh damn. Sister?" Ivan Ooze rasped. His breath gurgled in his throat. "You... child of the Morning... you... $#!^!!!!"
"And this," Tommy began, backing off and holding both hands out. He was grinning with insane joy and fury both. "Is for the Power Rangers!"
Bolts of power shot out of Tommy and into Ivan Ooze. Ivan howled... a scream of pain that seemed to go on forever... before he dropped to the ground.
Tommy, deprived of the impure energy of vengeance, crumpled to the floor.
Ivan Ooze's horrible exterior melted away... little by little by little. The ooze drained off him and dissipated into sheer nothing. All that was left was a man. A slim, lithe man with night-black hair and tan skin, maybe three inches shorter than 6'2" Tommy. A handsome man.
Who suddenly opened his eyes.
"What... what..." he murmured. His eyes were violet-tinted.
Kadiya came up to him with no pretense of caution and wariness. "Shhh." she murmured. "Rest."
"Who... are... you?" the words came with difficulty.
"Do you know who you are?" she asked, gently.
"Songwynd.... Songwynd shon neTamsen." the man who had been Ivan Ooze replied.
"Do you remember your life, Songwynd?" Kadi asked.
"Y...y... oh, by the Powers!" he exclaimed in horror. He sat up and looked around at the hostile faces of the Power Rangers, who had abandoned their morphed costumes. "What have I _done_?! What have I _done_?!"
"You killed Tommy's mother, murdered his half-sister, enslaved half of the universe, destroyed the Dinozords, almost killed Zordon, came close to killing the Ladies of Power--" Kadiya recited in a toneless litany.
"The Ladies?" asked Songwynd, horrified. "But what about... what about Oreial, the Guardian, my wife? And... and Mistaya, the Maiden, my daughter? I can't _remember_!" he finished with a wail.
"They are dead, Songwynd." Kadiya said, softly. The others stared at her. They knew her true identity: Kadiya's birth-name had _been_ Mistaya shena keOreial, shena neSongwynd. Now she simply called herself Kadiya shena keNyara. "They died when you abandoned them to the lure of power."
"No!" he screamed. "That... this can't be!"
"But Songwynd is dead as well." Kadiya reminded him. He stared at her. "He died the day Ivan Ooze was born. Now there is only you. One who was once a protector of good, one who was also the supreme evil. You."
He blinked at her. "You... are correct. From now... my name shall be Andesha. Not Anrane, not what remains... but what can be. You are very wise, lady. What is your name?"
"Kadiya shena keNyara."
Both his fine, tapered eyebrows went up at that. "Revenge, daughter of Sorrow?"
"Yes." Kadiya replied calmly. "Come, now, Andesha. Time to go home."
"But what of all the evil that I did as Ivan Ooze?" he asked desparately. "I can never make it up to the universe... all the evil I did... all the lives I defiled... How can any of you forgive me?"
"Some of us... can't." Kadiya told him wisely, with complete honesty. She looked back at Billy, who was so white that he might have been a corpse; her green eyes became sad, so, so sad. "There are wounds that only a Healer can heal... and those are the ones that never bleed."
"Let's go home." Rocky suggested.
You like? You want to kill me now for killing off Silang? Maybe I should write an epilogue sometime. We'll see. Please e-mail me at email@example.com with comments/flames/please no hate mail/suggestions.
Part Two: To Forgive and Forget
Kimberly lay in the sand, sunning her back. She had slipped down the straps of her white bikini (white being the only color which actually let the sun tan the skin _under_ the bikini). Beside her, there lay a glass of cool, iced water. They were at Boracay Beach, in the Philippines: a last tribute to Silang. Silang had loved the Philippine Islands more than anywhere else on Earth: they were where she had been born.
They'd put up a headstone in Angel Grove, reading "Silang, age twenty-three. Loving sister, friend forever." But somehow, this was more fitting than any grave.
Unknown to her, Kimberly was being stalked. A silent shadow blended in perfectly with the white, reflecting sands. The only noises were the squawking of gulls and the splash of waves against the shore. The stalker's footsteps made no sound against the soft, powderlike sands. In his hands, he carried a bucket of water.
As he neared, Kimberly gave a little sigh of pleasure at the hot sun beating down on her back. And as the stalker approached, he gave an evil chuckle, so soft that none but himself could hear him. He came up behind her, so that she couldn't see him. And as he raised the bucket to splash its contents on her--
Kimberly rolled, snatched her glass of iced water, grabbed the gartered waistband of his shorts and dumped the contents of the glass into Thomas Halkon Oliver's swimming trunks.
The others dissolved into helpless giggles at Tommy's agonized antics.
"Oh, man, Kim," Dirk howled, having taken the weekend off from his movies and stardom."You are _mean_!"
"Yeah, man!" Zach agreed, doubled over with laughter and pain-sympathy. "That was _cold_, girl! And I don't just mean the ice cubes! Hey, maybe you should have considered his plans for tonight before you tried that!"
They all screamed with laughter. Even Tommy.
"Hey, Tommy!" Kimberly called to her --loving?-- spouse. "You should have just used those newfound powers of yours if you wanted to get me wet!"
Tommy groaned and slapped his forehead, and they all erupted in peals of laughter.
All except Billy. He gave a wistful little smile and went to sit along the water's edge.
Later that night, as the others were about to sleep, Billy snuck out of his cabin at the Pearl of the Pacific resort. He walked a little way down the beach until he came to the two swings that hung from a pair of palm trees. This was his favorite place to do... nothing. Just think.
A large, sandy-coloured dog came up to him and pressed its cold nose into his hand, which was hanging by his sides as he sat on the swing. He pushed off, and listened to the soft weeping of the waves as they crashed into the shore.
"Hey, boy." he murmured to the dog. It whimpered in reply and rubbed its head under his hand. "How come you're here, boy?"
Another dog, this one the shade of the night and barely visible against the starlit skies barked a single note before running up to him. It sniffed noses with the first dog, then proceeded to wash the sand-hued dog's face. Billy laughed a little at the nonplussed expression on the golden-yellow-coloured dog's face. "Is that your mate, huh, boy?" he asked, petting them both. One was obviously male, the other female, so it _was_ a possibility.
The two dogs ran off together, matching strides and leaving Billy alone.
In the cabins, Kimberly sat up in bed, eliciting a murmur of protest from Tommy, her husband. "Kimmie, go to sleep." he muttered. "Please? It's only one in the morning."
"Tommy, Billy's snuck out again." she told him. "I think that someone needs to take care of this. I'm going to go talk to him. It's been almost half a year since she died... he's still grieving for Silang."
That snapped Tommy awake more than anything else could have. "No... it's O.K, Kimmie. I'll go talk to him. He needs to talk to someone who... well, who knows what it's like."
"Knows what _what's_ like?" Kimberly asked curiously, settling back down in bed as her husband pulled a pair of grey jogging pants over his 101 Dalmatians boxer shorts.
"Knows what it's like to love a woman more than your own life." he whispered in her ear, bending down to kiss her. "See you later, beautiful."
"Later, handsome. I love you." Kimberly replied clearly.
"Love you, too." he replied. He walked out the door and down the beach. He knew exactly where Billy would be staying.
Billy was startled out of his reverie by a "Hey."
"Hey yourself." he replied.
"Room for one more?" Tommy asked.
"I guess." Billy answered. Most of his answers were monosyllabic, now. He didn't talk much at all, hadn't since Ivan Ooze had killed Silang. Tommy sat down beside him on the other swing and pushed off from the ground.
"Have you... have you forgiven Andesha yet?" he asked hesitantly.
Billy shrugged, but Tommy could see the disguised pain in his eyes.
"It's... it's not his fault." Tommy began. He wasn't good at making these philosophical speeches. "He says that... he didn't know what he was doing. That... something took over his body... until I got it out."
Billy sighed and turned to him. "Look, Tommy, if you came here to preach at me, I don't need it, O.K?" he said, bluntly.
Tommy was startled by Billy's vehemence. "O.K." he agreed. The two men just sat there, swinging, for a while. Until Tommy took up the strain of talk again. "I miss her."
Billy didn't need to ask who.
"All the time, I miss her." Tommy went on, staring out into the stars. He could see them clearly over the swell of the ocean. There was nothing to block the view. "Whenever I look around, or back over my shoulder, I expect to see her there, saying something too wise for her age... or laughing... or just looking at me like she knew exactly what I'm thinking. Whenever I'm having problems, I ask Kimberly where Seelee is... and when she turns away, I remember."
"It's my fault." Billy rasped. He touched the ugly scar that creased his body from his lowest rib on the left side to his hip on the right. "I could have done it faster... freed the girls... then gotten there and helped her. If I had..."
"There aren't any 'if I had's." came a new voice in the night. A shadow of white blurred the vision of the stars. "Ifs and might-have-beens don't mend the broken pot, Billy Wolfson, Tommy Falcon."
"Who are you?" Tommy stated.
"You're... you're Marguere, aren't you." Billy asked. "I remember you."
"My husband told me of what you did." Marguere said. She was old, yes, but it was still evident that she'd been a beautiful woman when she had been younger. "Freed Songwynd from the yoke of power that had held him under the spell of the darkness. Your mother... would have been very proud of you, Thomas Halkon. You and Bituin Silang. I know, as your grandmother, that _I_ am. And you, William James Wolfson. Freeing the ladies--and me-- as you did while getting past our undead guardians, no one else could have done without being distracted from their purpose."
"Yeah," Billy muttered, "And all the while Silang was getting killed."
"Just know, Billy," Marguere said, slowly, "that Silang felt the same for you... as you did for her. She just knew her duty, knew her destiny, balanced it off against her happiness and yours... and found joy to be wanting."
With that, she faded out of sight.
Tommy and Billy stared sightlessly for a while into the distance, thinking on what Tommy's grandmother had said, before Tommy's selective memory decided to kick in. He dug in the pockets of his jacket, found a slip of white and handed it to Billy.
Billy was startled. "What's this?"
"I found it on Silang's desk... the first day we went home." Tommy replied. "I didn't open it... it's addressed to you."
Billy turned the envelope over, and there, written in ornate, glowing script, was his name. He touched it gently... and the envelope faded away into nothing, leaving a piece of white paper with beautiful, flowing, luminescent writing on it.
Ako ay nagdaramdam. Kaya nga, sinabe ko noong araw, hindi pwede tayo mag mahal. Mahal ko rin kita... pero alam ko yung obligasyon ko. Noon pa, alam ko mamatay ako pag mamatay si Ivan Ooze. Pag binabasa mo ito, patay na si Ivan, hindi ba? Hindi ka magdalamhati sa akin, sige? Kase, buhay pa ako pag maisip mo ako. Alaala: pagdumating yung umaga, mamamatay yung gabi, pero kailangan rin mamatay ang Silang.
Bakit labis kitang mahal?
Silang shena keKelane"
Billy wrinkled his forehead. "I can't read this." he frowned.
"I'll try to translate." Tommy replied, taking the note with its gleaming writing.
I'm sorry. That's why I said, we can't be in love. I love you too... but I know my duty. Even before, I knew that I would die when Ivan Ooze did. As you're reading this, he's dead, isn't he? Don't grieve for me, O.K? Because I'm still alive--"
Tommy stopped suddenly as Billy grabbed his wrists, trembling with confusion. "WHAT?!" he yelled.
Tommy shook his head sadly, dispelling Billy's fears. "--when you think of me."
Billy slumped in his seat. "Oh. Is that all?" he asked glumly.
"No, there's a little more."
"Remember: when the morning comes, the night dies, but the Sunrise has to die, too.
Why do I love you too much?
Silang shena keKelane"
Tommy finished, refolding the letter and handing it to Billy. When Billy took it, Tommy realized that there were dark tears plummeting onto the paper. Tommy understood with a sickening lurch of his stomach that Billy was crying. Billy hadn't cried when he'd found out Silang was dead. He'd just stayed stony-faced for a long, long, _long_ while. Billy hadn't cried when he'd found out that Tommy was dead, either--though he had cried for joy when Tommy had come back from the dead. Billy was, though he didn't seem like it, stronger than any of them.
And now... he was crying. And he seemed much younger than his years, though he was, in fact, only a year younger than Tommy's twenty-eight.
"You loved her, didn't you." Tommy said, gently putting a hand on the younger boy's shoulder. "Why didn't you tell us?"
"I didn't know," Billy gasped out through his tears. "who she was. I thought that... she was just... someone special... like Nyara or Kadi... I didn't know... that she was Silang."
"Oh, God." Tommy said, with furrowed brows and open mouth. _He_ knew, more than anyone, what it was like to lose someone he loved. Kimberly had married one David Roberts... and left him when she'd been told that Tommy had committed suicide because he'd found out that she'd gotten married. The very fact that Billy was hanging on said more for his strength than anything else. "Oh, God, Billy. So _you're_... Lintik? Thunder? I should have realized..."
Billy nodded, tears still tracing furrows down his face. He realized that he probably looked awful: he hadn't shaved in a week, hadn't cut his hair for more than a month, and his clothes were probably worn ragged: he hadn't worn anything but black for the past six months. And since he didn't have much black clothing--the majority of his clothes being blue, because even though he wasn't the Blue Ranger anymore, he still thought of himself as such--he had just washed and reworn all of his black clothes, over and over again, declining Trini's, Kimberly's and Kethry's offers to patch them or to get him some new ones. And he didn't give a damn.
"Dammit, this is _my_ fault!" Tommy cried, his clenched fists glowing again. They always did when he was angry-- and whenever he was, it was always at himself and no-one else. "I should have known... should have realized... all these damn powers, all these damn effects, I should have known..."
"What, Tommy?" asked Billy. "There's nothing you could have done."
"That's what you think." Tommy replied, looking off. "I knew."
Billy's green eyes were boring daggers and knives through the back of Tommy's neck. "Knew _what_, Tommy?"
"You remember... the day Kelane died?" Tommy asked, endless eyes sorrowful.
Billy winced. Kelane was Tommy's birth-mother, and Silang's, too. Kelane had died to give them time to figure out how to get rid of Ivan Ooze once and for all.
"Yeah." Billy answered.
"Well, she told Silang... when she was dying... who was the Child of the Morning. Who could kill Ivan once and for all. I didn't think about it, really... I'm not in the habit of eavesdropping... but she told Silang. Told her that _I_ was the Child of the Morning. If I'd listened... really _listened_... I could have just gone and killed Ivan instead of standing there looking pretty."
"Well? _Are_ you the Child of the Morning?"
"I dunno, man." Tommy replied. In a sudden rage, he turned and socked the wall of sand behind them. It collapsed under the silver-white-gold light emanating from Tommy's fist. "Stupid, Tommy! Stupid, stupid, stupid!"
"What?" asked Billy, who was becoming more and more bewildered by the leader of the Power Rangers by the minute. Tommy seemed to be a two-dimensional figure: a generic karate guy, a sensei, with a beautiful wife and an adorable kid. It was only when you got to know him did you figure out that Tommy was like an onion: you peel away the layers, always thinking you've reached the core, and there'll always be another layer under.
"I speak Tagalog, Billy." Tommy exclaimed, slumping over. "I should have known... at least I should have guessed... Kelane told me, 'Only the Sunrise and the Morning can fully destroy the Night' or something like that."
"What does that have to do with Tagalog, Tommy?" asked Billy, more and more mystified.
"In Tagalog, Silang... means a beginning. To rise. Sunrise." Tommy explained. "What do you see when you look in the mirror, Billy?" he asked, suddenly.
Billy was taken aback by the question. "I see... well, me."
"Not _who_, Billy. What."
In an age that seemed a lifetime ago, Silang had asked him almost the same question. She'd said, "I know what you are. What I do not know is _who_ you are."
The sibling resemblance was more than enough to jar Billy's mind out of any thoughts. "I... I don't know." he replied, hesitantly. "What do _you_ see?"
"I see Silang's eyes looking out at me." Tommy replied, clutching the coarse rope of the swing's supports so hard that Billy was sure he saw blood trickle out from beneath Tommy's fingernails. His voice was haunted. "I see her bone structure in my own cheekbones. Even her powers burning through my blood--the ecstatic rush that comes when I use them. Is that what it was like for her? Is that why she loved Healing so much? Everything about me... is like her. And reminds me... that I'm a failure as a brother."
Billy grabbed his leader's arm. "Stop that. Right now." he commanded. Tommy was shocked by the sudden authority in Billy's voice. "You did what you could." he said, sternly. Tommy stared at him, and Billy suddenly realized that Tommy was right. In one way, at least, if not in the guilt section.
[No wonder he feel so guilty.] Billy thought in horror. [Every time he looks into the mirror, he must realize that he's got the same golden skin as Silang, the same body build, the same cheekbones, and most especially, the same eyes. It must be that which torments him the most. That he can never forget that he couldn't save his little sister.]
Billy let go of Tommy's arm as if it burned him.
"You see it too." Tommy said, sadly, not meeting his friend's eyes. "You can see her eyes in my face. I promised Kelane that when the last battle came against Ivan Ooze... I'd protect her. And now... I've broken my promise."
Andesha crept out of his hiding place. He'd heard enough. It wasn't enough that he'd taken Kelane's life, almost killed Zordon, almost killed the rest of the Ladies--
[I killed my wife and daughter.] he thought with extreme shame. [Kadi... I'd guess that she'd be almost the same age as Mistaya, if Mistaya was alive. And if that isn't enough... I killed a little girl.]
That was what gnawed away at Andesha's heart the most. The fact that he'd killed a child.
[She was a Healer.] he thought at himself angrily. [If I hadn't killed her... she'd probably have literally lived forever. And helped so many people, so many lives... She was only twenty-three, damn the gods! Barely entering her life! And then there's Jason and Kadi, her adopted parents; Tommy and Kimberly, her brother and sister-in-law; Billy, who loved her... With sins like this on my soul, I am doomed to eternal unrest.]
Andesha had nearly lost it when a little cherub of five years old had pounced on Tommy and Kimberly. Tommy had introduced the girl as 'Cassie', his daughter and Kimberly's. The girl jumping on Tommy had reminded him too much of Mistaya springing on Songwynd when he came home to Color Palace. And it had become worse when Cassie had promply asked, "Where's Auntie Seel?"
Tommy and Kimberly had exchanged a look, then said something that wasn't a lie... but wasn't the truth, either. "Auntie Seel's gone away, Cassie."
"When's Auntie Seel coming back?" she had asked, a bright gleam in her eyes.
[The joy of life.] the man who had been Ivan Ooze realized. [That's what the gleam was. And they all had it.]
Then Andesha looked at what he knew of Billy. For some strange reason, he wore black instead of his former color, blue, or his new color, copper. The others all wore their assigned colours: Kimberly wore pinks and silvers, Tommy wore silvers--that being the closest to platinum one could find--, whites and greens, even Adam, who spoke little and smiled less nowadays, wore gold and black. But Billy wore nothing _but_ black. And his eyes... they were dead.
[No strange reason, fool. The woman he loved is not in this world any longer.. And it's because of you.] Andesha thought tormentedly. [Tommy feels guilty-- he doesn't blame me. Neither does Billy. None of them do. They all blame themselves. But it's _my_ fault. They all say that they couldn't save her... but if it wasn't for me... for me and my power-hunger... they wouldn't have had to save her at all...]
Andesha knew that there was a solution to the problem. He knew the cost.
"You don't have to do it, you know." Kadiya spoke out abruptly from behind him.
"Yiii!" he yelped, jumping away. That was _another_ trait that all of the Rangers shared: the ability of the Sneak Attack. "Don't _do_ that!"
"Sorry." Kadiya apologized solemnly. "You know the price. And there are still people there who cherish you."
"Like who?" asked Andesha bitterly. "The Ladies and Lords of Power will never take me back after what I've done. The Power Rangers... they accept me, but they don't really trust me... my wife and daughter are dead..."
"No." Kadi sighed, deciding to abandon the pretence. "Your wife and daughter are _not_ dead."
"But you said--" Ivan Ooze interrupted bewilderedly.
"I said that Mistaya and Oreial were dead." she replied. "I said that they died when Songwynd did. I didn't say that no-one rose again to take their place..."
"Where are they?" he asked, desparately.
"But did you ever think that _they_, like the other Ladies, might not take you back again?"
That took Andesha aback. "But... but..." he stammered, "That's not like Oreial. _Or_ like Mistaya."
"It's been many millenia." Kadiya reminded him. "Things have changed. Mistaya is not the child that you bounced on your knee, nor is Oreial the laughing, bright woman any more."
Andesha stared at her. "How did you know? How _could_ you know?"
Kadiya shook her head. "You are as naïve as my dear husband, sometimes." she answered, her green eyes fanthomless. She tossed her red wavy hair over her shoulder and smoothed down her blue, ankle-length nightgown. "Did you never wonder why my name means 'Revenge'?"
Andesha's eyes grew huge. "Well... yes... but I presumed that there was a good reason for your name."
"And my father going over to the side of evil is not a good enough reason?" asked Kadiya tartly.
"Mistaya?" Andesha gasped. His eyes bugged out, and his jaw dropped. He had been so near his daughter the whole time...
Kadiya shook her head, and her mane of fire-curls waved about in the wind. "No. Not Mistaya. Never again. That was idealistic name you gave me, Andesha. Mist-Child. Very beautiful... also very naïve."
"But you... you _were_ Mistaya... weren't you?" he asked anxiously.
"Yes." Kadiya admitted. "I was."
Andesha enveloped her in a hug, which she accepted for a few seconds before she pushed him away.
"You're not the same person any more I am." Kadiya said in the way of explanation. "You're not my father any more, any more than you're Songwynd, father of Mistaya and husband of Oreial. Now... I'm Kadiya shena keNyara, wife of Jason Lee Scott."
"But... but..." Andesha protested. He felt somewhat like he wanted to cry. To find his daughter... only to lose her again?
"No buts, Andesha." Kadiya silenced him with her words, stepping backwards. "Before, I was always 'Mistaya, daughter of Oreial, daughter of Songwynd'. My parents made me who I was. My reputation was based on them. No more. Never again. I'm just Kadiya, now. Revenge. It fits me better than any name ever could."
"Come back with me, to Colour Palace." Andesha begged.
Kadiya laughed, throwing back her head. Her laugh had only the slightest tinge of cutting hurt to it. "You destroyed Colour Palace, don't you remember? And even if I could go back... no never again. I won't leave Jason. I won't leave the only friends I ever had who never cared who 'The Maiden Mistaya' was. They just know me as 'Kadi', a friend, no more. They don't even care that I'm not a Ranger. And when they found out I was the child of Ivan Ooze... they didn't care, either."
Andesha's heart was being torn into pieces. "What about... what about Oreial?" he whispered, a last grasp at what he had been.
"You mean Nyara. Sorrow." Kadiya replied. "With a name like she took... what do you think?"
Andesha stared at Kadiya. His soul bled. "No." he whispered. "She didn't... she didn't kill herself... did she?"
Kadiya shook her head. "No. She didn't. But she'll never come back to you. You have her word and mine on that. She--and I--cut that part of our lives off like cutting off septic flesh. Nothing can bring it back. _Nothing_."
Andesha stared and looked like he wanted to die right there and then. "Why did you bring me back?" he breathed, horrified. "Why did you cleanse me of my evil? There's nothing left for me to live for. You should have just let Billy kill me."
"No." Kadiya replied, with a cold frost settling over her green eyes. "You went over to the dark side of your own choice, Andesha. You chose the name you hold. If you wished to live in the past, you should have taken the name 'Anrane': what remains. You took the name 'Andesha': what can be. You have started with a clean slate once again. This is your chance to atone for the sins of the past."
"Kadi," Jason called, padding over to her. He was still a big bear of a man, and looked even bigger when compared to slim Andesha. "Come to bed, darling. It's late. Oh, hi, Andesha."
"I'm coming, Jason-dear. Good rest, Andesha."
"Good rest, Kadiya. Good rest, Jason."
"G'night." Jason agreed amiably. He and Kadiya returned to their cabin, murmuring softly to each other.
Andesha paced down the beach, letting his feet take him where he would. Maybe he shouldn't have. They led him straight back to Tommy and Billy.
"Billy. Tommy." he greeted flatly.
Tommy blinked at him. "Andesha." he replied. "What's wrong?"
Andesha cursed himself. Tommy was so _normal_, so _stereotypical_, almost, that it was so easy to forget that he detected things so _very_ easily. He had to, being the Morning Child. "What's wrong?" he asked, dully. "What's _wrong_? I deserve to be dead, that's what's wrong. I _should_ be dead, by all laws of fairness. But no, I'm not. Your love is. Your sister is."
Billy flinched away from him as Andesha reached out a pleading hand.
"Billy... forgive me." he whispered, his voice tearing.
"How can you expect him to forgive you, Andesha?" Tommy replied, a little harshly. "You killed the love of his life. And laughed while you were doing it."
"I tell you, it _wasn't_ me!" Andesha screamed angrily.
"Whose choice was it for you to go to the dark side?" rasped Billy, speaking to Andesha for the first time since that fatal day.
Andesha could not reply. They all knew the answer.
"Who didn't choose to resist the lure of power?"
Again, Andesha was silent.
"Who would have killed his wife and daughter, as well as their power-sisters, without a thought. Who could kill a woman who was trying to do no more than expel the darkness from you. Who could kill a young woman who was only defending all she believed in." Billy continued flatly. His voice held no emotion at all.
Andesha's voice caught in his throat. Billy was right. He'd wanted to transfer the blame back onto himself, away from Billy and Tommy. Well, now he had it. And his being right about it was very little consolation indeed.
Tommy looked away, and caught a flash of pink and silver off into the night. She slid into their company like a wraith.
"Seelee... she once told me that I was Tommy's one, his only." Kimberly began, slowly. "That I was his spirit. A half of an entire person. I would like to think that Billy is capable of the same devotion."
"And if Silang was Billy's heart and soul," she continued, "a half of what made _him_, then how can he ever be whole without the other half? How can a body live without its heart and soul?"
Andesha looked down, silently. And guiltily. She was right, of course.
"So you're saying," he choked, "that I've condemned Billy... to a life miserable?"
"I wouldn't put it that way." Kim sputtered.
"I would." Andesha replied bluntly. "You're right. I killed Silang for no reason at all. I killed someone who was trying to _help_ me."
"Silang knew she was going to die." Tommy answered. His voice was distant. As if it wasn't _him_ talking, rather another person from inside of him."She knew. And she knew that Ivan would die when she did. I couldn't have driven him from you if she hadn't worn herself to the ground getting rid of all the power you threw at her."
Billy's eyes narrowed, but in all fairness, he had to agree. "It's true. She wrote it in her... in her last letter to me." His shoulders heaved as he fought down a sob. He pulled it out of his jacket pocket, tossed it to Tommy, and pushed off again from the ground, swinging high as if he could escape what had happened.
The letter floated to the ground, a strain of light in a pool of sadness. Tommy caught it, and turned it over in his hands. "Wait!" he called. "Look, Billy." There were shimmering letters on the back, too. And this time, they were in English.
Billy jumped down from his swing and looked at the letter dully. "Oh." he spoke. He'd retreated back into his shell. And no-one, not Tommy, not Kimberly, not anyone, could blame him for it.
By Silang Oliver-Lee Scott
The golden one
Ascending anew each day.
A glittering phoenix
Rising from the ashes
Of the flame that killed her.
The one that ended her life
Brings it about again.
Those that are dead are perfect.
Those who have died are forgiven.
As are those who had lived
And those who still do.
At the rise of the light
At the fall of darkness' reign
From her watery grave
From the hatred that slew her.
From the darkness that suppressed
The glowing life within.
The dark always falls.
And the sun always rises.
As long as people know
That she will return. They know.
The one thing that always comes back.
The child of darkness, child of light.
Daughter of death, yet the product
Of birth. Made to hurt
Yet who only heals.
The sun will always rise for those
Who believe it will.
"She wrote this... for you, Billy." Tommy choked as he read it. His tenor voice clogged off at the base of his throat. He wanted nothing more than to scream, to beat his chest, and to fall weeping to the sands at his feet. "To... to keep you going.... so that... you wouldn't... you wouldn't do... what... what..."
Tommy didn't need to finish. Billy understood what he meant. What Tommy couldn't say was "To keep you going so that you wouldn't do what I did."
"She's dead, Tommy. This is one sunrise that the world won't ever see again. The world mourns the loss of a great writer. Who do _we_ mourn for, Tommy, Kimberly?" asked Billy, his very voice tormented by his loss. "The girl, or the woman? The person, or the Healer? The writer... or the girl who laughed with us, who was always there, and brought us all through so much? And we didn't raise a finger to help her. No, we just stood there and stared as she died before our eyes."
Billy jumped off his swing and ran blindly off.
Tommy made as if to follow his comrade, but he was stopped by his wife's hand on his wrist. "Leave him be, Tommy." Kimberly advised. "He needs some time to himself. To think. And to remember."
"But--" Tommy protested, straining against her grip, "but he needs us now more than he ever did!"
"Yes," Kimberly agreed. "But he needs himself more now than he needs us. He lost a part of what made him Billy when Silang died. He needs to find that part again-- and he has to do it alone. Just like you did. And just like I did."
"But--" Tommy made a last-ditch effort. Kimberly put a finger to his lips to silence him.
"Shhh." she replied. "Don't say anything, Tommy. There's nothing you can do. There's nothing any of us can do. I can't heal hearts and souls like Silang could--only bodies. And for Billy... that's not enough. Come to bed, Tommy. We'll see him in the morning."
They both ignored Andesha as if he wasn't there. But he'd seen the emptiness, the despair in Billy's eyes. The tears that would bring no relief. He slunk off, having made his decision. And he knew that he wouldn't regret it.
When both Kimberly and Tommy had walked off, Andesha looked for heavy stones and tied them around his ankles and waist. He fastened the largest one to his neck. Then, slowly, he walked towards the edge of the beach, at the very shoreline, chanting softly to the cool waves and unfeeling water. "Forget that Andesha ever existed, Kadi, Nyara." he whispered as he walked. "Forget. It's better that way, that you don't ever remember." Deeper... deeper... deeper... until his head was fully submerged.
He didn't come back up.
Billy sighed to himself, sitting at the top of the cliff-like rock that extended over the water. He couldn't even take pleasure in the fact that the sun would be rising soon enough, painting the world orange and yellow. It hadn't peeked over the horizon yet, but it would soon--the sky was starting to glow. And Billy didn't want to watch. It reminded him _way_ too much of Silang. The stone was hard under his hands, and cold as winter.
Cold as death, almost.
[No.] Billy thought to himself. [Nothing's as cold as death. Nothing.]
"Umm... Billy?" Trini asked hesitantly, clambering over the edge of the rock. "There's a phone call for you. It's from the vice-president of WolfCorps. I think it's important."
"Screw WolfCorps." Billy replied harshly. "I don't give a damn about them."
"If it's from the vice-president, Billy, then it's probably serious. I mean, how many times do you get called by the vice-president of the man who beat IBM and Macintosh both?" Trini reasoned. "The kind of guy that I thought you would become."
Billy whirled on Trini with a snarl. "You idiot, I _am_ the president of WolfCorps. I don't _care_ if the entire company drops dead right now, or goes bankrupt! I don't care anymore."
Trini took five steps towards him and slapped him across the face. Hard.
Billy gaped at her, touching his bruised left cheek in shock. Trini wasn't a tall woman, and she'd only grown an inch or two in ten years, bringing her to the height of 5'4". He wasn't the small, shy boy that he'd been in high school anymore: he was only an inch shorter than Tommy. It took serious guts for her to hit him like she did. But then again... no-one had ever been able to call Trini a coward...
"I am _so_ sick of this, Billy Cranston!" she hissed at him malevolently. "You've been feeling sorry for yourself for six months. You keep the men out of bed to listen to your troubles, you sulk for days at a time, and you've become rude, uncaring, and anything but the polite, sweet, intelligent, adorable Billy we all used to know. And I HAVE HAD ENOUGH!" she finished with a shout, punctuating each word by grabbing the collar of his shirt. "If the guys are willing to put up with you, fine. That's their business. But Kethry and Aisha agree with me, and Kim probably does too. Healer or not, she's only human. And she's pretty well damn pissed."
Billy stared at his childhood friend like she'd grown feathers and a beak. "You don't understand..." he muttered, angrily. "You've got no right--"
Unfortunately for him, Trini's hearing was as sharp as it had always been. "I have every right." she replied coldly. "Do you know what you did last night, Billy?"
"Cried. Sulked." he answered sullenly.
"I know that." Trini retorted. "You do that every night. But _other_ than that."
"Talked to Tommy and Kimmy." he added, gloomily. "And Andesha."
"I see." Trini nodded. "And what did you say to Andesha?"
"Nothin' much." Billy answered her, suddenly on his guard. "Why?"
"What did you say to Andesha, Billy." Trini's tone brooked no reluctance.
"What happened?" asked Billy, alarmed. And looking a lot like his old self, and not the wreck and remnant he'd become.
"Andesha's dead, Billy." Trini replied, dropping his collar. Her eyes were ancient as she regarded the black-clad man in front of her. "He's dead. He drowned himself yesterday night."
Billy's world dropped out from around his feet and he swayed like he'd been hit by a board. It was fit revenge... but not the way he wanted it. Not the way at all. No-one deserved to die like that, gasping for every last breath until you couldn't help but breathe the water which didn't work at all... but you still had to keep on breathing it and breathing it...
"Oh my God." he breathed. "Oh dear God."
"That's about right." Trini answered. "Yes, he drowned himself. I asked Tommy what you told Andesha-- you said some pretty callous things, Billy. Tommy was horrified."
"But all I said--"
"Billy, did you ever try just talking to him? Did you ever know that Andesha wanted nothing more than to bring Silang back? He was appalled when he found out that you were in love with her, and that he'd killed her. But he didn't, Billy. He didn't touch a hair on her head. We all know that, except you. Nothing could have ever gotten through Silang's shields, you know that. Not even Ivan Ooze."
"Then..." Billy faltered, "What happened, then, if he didn't kill her?"
"She burned herself out." Trini replied. "Willingly. He didn't kill her, no matter what he said. No, she killed herself."
"No." Billy whispered in anguish. "I don't believe you. You're lying. Silang... she loved life too much... she wouldn't..."
But in his mind, he knew it was true. Silang had loved life, yes... but the only thing she'd ever held above life was duty. And if losing her own precious life to kill Ivan Ooze had been her duty... then so be it.
"Um... Billy?" came Kim's voice from the bottom of the rock he was sitting on. "I think you should see this."
Billy somersaulted off the rock, and Trini clambered down. "Yeah?" he asked, not meaning to sound distant but somehow doing it anyway.
"Well... I found this only last night. It was in my hair stuff."
She handed Billy a small hand-recorder, with a mini-tape inside. It wasn't labelled in words this time, though, but in cold, flickering tongues of copper-blue flame.
He turned it over in his hands. [Interesting.] the logical part of his mind thought. [This isn't an ordinary tape recorder. I've never seen technology like this before.]
He quickly squashed that part of his thinking. "Are you sure... that this isn't for _you_, Kim?"
"Look at the words, Billy." Kim reminded him gently. Sure enough, the fiery letters on the 'tape recorder' suddenly changed to read, "DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT IT, BILLY!"
He smiled a genuine smile, and it changed his morose, serious features back into a teenager's innocent smile again, if only for a second.
"I guess... I'll go back to my cabin and listen to whatever this has." he said, without a hint of reluctance. "And thanks, Kim." he added.
Kimberly's eyes brightened. "You're welcome, Billy." she answered.
Billy started jogging up the powder-soft sands towards his cabin.
Billy turned the tape recorder over and over as he sat down on the bed. He wanted to hear what it said--wanted to hear Silang's voice again, hear her light laugh and soft, underlying Filipino accent, wanted to hear her perfect grammar... but he was scared. Scared that hearing her again might push him off the deep end, literally and figuratively.
The words flickered under his hands again. "Do not be afraid." they read.
Billy sighed deep in his chest. Well, if it pushed him off the deep end, at least he'd be joining Silang, wherever she was.
[Stop that!] he scolded himself. [Right now!]
Even so, as he touched the 'play' button, he braced himself.
A ray of light shot out of the mini tape-recorder, and Billy winced. But it didn't hit him; rather, it shot out away from him, and grew... solidifying...
It was Silang, of course. He should have known.
Softly, she smiled at him. Her dark curls drifted lightly around her shoulders as if being tousled by the gentle wind that wafted around the cabin. "Hello, Billy." she spoke, as if trying not to alarm him.
Billy's jaw dropped. The image in front of him had moved as she spoke; her lips were making gentle motions to form the words, and the sound seemed to come from her rosebud mouth. She was even more beautiful than he remembered.
"I know that you are seriously depressed: I cast an imagery on the recorder so that it would only appear to Kimberly when you were sunk in the pit of despair. Billy Cranston is gone: now there is only the hopelessness and the pain of losing me, walking in a shell. I had hoped that you would never do that, and therefore, this would not have been needed. Let me go, Billy, and you will be whole again. You should be the Wolf once more: free, independent, and wise. You need to be. You cannot be fettered to any one spot by anything --or anyone-- or it will be your undoing. But since you are hearing this..."
She sighed a gusty sigh, and ran her hand through her hair. "Billy, I am sure that you have been told that it was not Ivan who killed me, rather, me burning myself out. And you know that it is the truth. You just do not wish to believe it. If you think about it... and I know you will... you will realize that it was necessary. Tommy, even though he was coming into his powers then, would not have been able to muster up the killing fury that he used to destroy Ivan, without my death, no?"
She cocked her head at him and sighed a sad smile. "I only wish that you could forget me, Billy--"
"No!" Billy cried involuntarily. "Never!"
"--but I know that the very idea is absurd. Were it not, a great many people in this universe would be a great deal happier. But since impossible is impossible, I cannot ask you to omit my memory from your mind. I only ask you not to grieve. I fulfilled my duty, Billy, and that is what I lived for. I lived a full life in twenty-three years: I had grief, sorrow, pain and suffering, but also joy, laughter, bliss, a childhood... and love. I had you. I did not die bitter. I died knowing that I had done what I was meant to do, and therefore, I was happy."
"But what about the rest of us, Seelee?" Billy asked the apparition-like woman. "What about those you left behind? I can't let you go... if I let you go, I'll forget you.
"And since you must remember me--if only you could forget: it would make the rest of your days so much easier!-- I would prefer if you remembered me happy, healthy, and smiling. Like now. Rather than fighting for my life against Ivan. You won't forget me by letting me go, Billy. I of all people know that best of all. No, in letting me go... you are trusting me to be memorable enough so that you will not forget me. Right? Do not worry, Billy. Remember me as the carefree child, and not as I was in my last moments. Erase those from your mind. Remember me as I am now, Billy."
In the background of the recording, soft music started to play. And Silang started to sing in her soft, sweet soprano. The theme song from Casper... made all the more real by the fact that it was _she_ who was singing it, not a background singer. But wait... it was a little different.
"Every now and then
We find a special friend
Who never lets us down,
Who understands it all,
Reaches out each time we fall,
You're the best friend that I've found.
And you know I can't stay but part of me
Will never ever go away,
My heart will stay.
I'll make a wish with you,
And hope it will come true,
That life will just be kind
To such a gentle mind,
And if you lose your way,
Think back on yesterday,
Remember me this way,
Remember me this way.
You don't need eyes to see
The love I bring to thee
No matter where you go.
And you know that I'll be there,
Forevermore a part of thee,
I'll always care.
I'll make a wish for you
And hope it will come true,
That life will just be kind
To such a gentle mind,
And if you lose your way,
Think back on yesterday,
Remember me this way,
Remember me this way.
And I'll be right behind your shoulder
I'll be standing by your side
In all you do,
And I won't ever leave
As long as you believe.
I'll make a wish for you
And hope it will come true,
That life will just be kind
To such a gentle mind,
And if you lose your way,
Think back on yesterday,
Remember me this way,
Remember me this way."
With that, she blew a soft kiss towards him... and faded away with a whispered, "The sun always rises again, Billy."
"No!" Billy threw himself at the vision with a muffled cry that sounded much like a sob. "Seelee..."
It was too late. The light-woman had already faded out, and the tape recorder had stopped, having come to the end of the tape.
Billy skidded to a halt. The sound of her cadenced voice, the soft rhythm under her words... her soft, sweet, singing voice without any echoes... had almost driven him mad.
[No.] he reminded himself resolutely. [You will not go mad, Billy Cranston. Seelee's last wish was that you not grieve for her. That you let her go, live your life again. I can't promise I'll do it, Seelee... it's so hard, so very hard... but I'll try.]
The golden-blue fires flickered again on the tape recorder, one last time. "Good for you, Billy." they read.
Billy shook his head and rolled his eyes to the sky. Was he _that_ predictable? He walked towards his suitcase, and dug into the very bottom of it. He didn't know what had possessed him to bring them... but bring them he had, and now he was glad of it. He pulled out copper-brown Armani jeans, and a white undershirt. Digging into the suitcase's hidden pocket, he pulled out a loose jacket-vest that Silang had made for him, so many years ago. It was a rich royal blue, of no material known to Earth, for Silang had woven the cloth herself, and on the back was hand-embroidered, in tiny, fine stitches that seemed a part of the material, a canine-like animal of copper threads. He then started to think about how he would tell the others that the Wolf was back.
[The Wolf _is_ back.]
He walked out onto the sands, dressed in his old colors of blue and copper, to go sit on the rock and watch the sun rise above the clear blue waters.