Weaving the Threads of Fate
by: Kahva and Ivy

It all began late one Saturday night at the Ramada Inn

Through twists of fate, the Sisterhood {most of whom were members of the 'Billy Cranston Appreciation Society'} would be in my hometown of Greenville, North Carolina, at the same time. Such an occurrence should be considered a miracle, for the chance to meet the others in person had been but a dream up until now. To have Jaycynda Ashleana, Kahva Brittain, Suzanne Harrell, Rianna Lia, Katie MaGee, Gayla Reese, and myself {Ivy Tant,} in the same place all at once was the answer to many a prayer and plea. For almost two years, the only way to speak with them was through the Internet and the infrequently sent wav files. I was accustomed to the printed words on the computer monitor, and I wanted very badly to hear their voices instead! Kahva, who lives only a short distance away, was driving in to meet them at the hotel where they were staying. I would join her there to greet the Sisters as they arrived. The game plan was to assemble in one of the conference rooms available and hash out an impending Power Rangers fan-fic we had been working on via Internet for months now. When the outlines were completed to our satisfaction, we would skip over to Champagne's in the Hilton and attend the dance held at the club. All were dressed to the nines for the occasion.

As a matter of pride, we had gone out of our way to be as attractive as possible, and there were many pleased exclamations over the dresses worn. Privately, I decided we certainly made for one diverse and colorful bunch. Jaycynda wore an eye-catching, body-hugging black dress, mid-length and bespangled with silver, black, and green beads. Kahva looked both splendid and solemn in a velvet charcoal gray sheath skirt and black silk blouse with a ruffle at the neck. Suzanne was happily turning heads in a flamboyant outfit of silver lam,; a sleeveless dress with a tailored bodice and flared skirt that boasted hundreds of tiny pleats. Rianna seemed as somber as Kahva if one could discount her cheeky grin; her dark blue velvet sheath skirt, black silk camisole, and dark blue velvet bolero jacket were too business-like for the impish expression. Katie wore a marvelous creation in burgundy; a dress with a sweetheart neckline and capped princess sleeves, ending in a short skirt with a slit up one side almost to her hip. I'd chosen what Kahva calls my 'killer' outfit; a mini-dress of green velvet with fitted bodice, tight sleeves, and flared skirt {comfortably short, mind}, along with riding boots whose tops disappeared beneath the skirt. And with Gayla in a bold sunny yellow sun dress whose top almost didn't exist and a short length of what was supposed to be her skirt, it was mighty hard to ignore us. It was gratifying to realize most didn't try. One poor fellow almost broke his nose walking into a wall, he was staring so hard. Oh, the giggles that erupted!

We stood for awhile in the lobby of the hotel, chattering away as the weekend crowd surged around us. Our joy over actually meeting each other caused us to remain indifferent to the tentative smiles cast our way by a variety of men, almost all of whom gave Suzanne second --and some-times third-- glances. With the way she towered over most of those present {she is around six feet, two inches}, she was impossible to miss. But small talk could not hold our attention for long as excited as we were. Rianna kept bouncing up and down in her glee, causing any man near to notice us even more. Kahva was the one to lose patience first, stating, "Champagne's simply cannot do without us another minute! Now move!" She shifted her hold on the hefty blue notebook she carried; it contained the ten Silver Flame stories written thus far, "I'll drop this off in my car as we pass through the parking lot." We eyed the binder with great fondness, for many months of hard work and head bashing had gone into those fan-fics about 'The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers'. Suzanne chuckled at her Sister's impatience and pushed us toward the exit.

We had no clue as to the adventure about to begin. Obedient to Suzanne's added prompting, we headed for the side door towards the club, laughing at how the Silver Flame Series, {written by Suzanne and Kahva}, was evolving into a lifeform all its own that didn't need the Sisterhood to continue having exciting escapades. Suz chose to play doorman, holding it open and herding us through like so many ducklings in a row. "Hurry it up, you insufferable dingle-dorks!" she was muttering under her breath as Kahva passed her. Before anyone could make an appropriate reply to that quote from the first Power Rangers movie, a brief flash of dizziness swept over us all. Without warning, the entire world seemed to drop from beneath our very feet with nightmarish swiftness; the screams of panic were instantaneous and quickly swallowed by the dark chasm we tumbled into. The others were falling around me as I got the flash impression of walls impossibly smooth and seamless and a strange, wavering light that danced and flickered around our forms. The dimness made it difficult to estimate how far we fell, but abruptly the multi-hued light gave way to a blinding glare as the bottom rushed up to greet us. Suddenly I knew how Wile E. Coyote felt when he ended up flattened into a cartoon pancake while chasing the Roadrunner. 'Flattened' sounded like a good description to me.

The landing was a rough one, knocking the breath and sense from us, and I swear I think someone lodged a dagger into my temples when I wasn't looking. At first we laid there, dazed and confused by the jarring impact. I cannot remember who tried to get up first, but the attempted move triggered cries of, "Is that your arm or mine?", "No, no! That is MY leg!", "Get your foot off my hair!", and a growled, "Whoever owns that elbow is about to lose it!" that sounded like Kahva.

During this mass confusion as we struggled to untangle ourselves, Jaycynda came to her senses enough to realize something was horribly wrong. She slapped a hand on whomever was closest and said softly, "Toto, we aren't in North Carolina anymore, and why is the sun shining?" This question proved a real conversation-stopper! We quit yapping at each other long enough to notice she was right; it was indeed day instead of night. What in the world is going on here? It took time to organize both ourselves and our thoughts; for some reason we were so tired as to feel light-headed and faint. With numbed hands and fumbling effort we finally managed to 'unknot' ourselves despite the almost overwhelming tiredness Once on our feet, we took the time to catch our breath and get our clothes righted and brushed off. Then the business at hand was faced. As I reached out to steady a slightly wavering Katie, Jaycynda pointed to the area in front of us and asked Kahva and me, "Do you recognize that?" Logical question, really. Kahva and I were from around Greenville {where we were supposed to be}, and it was natural for our guests to assume we would know this place. But to my fear, the scene before us was not familiar. A small and neatly landscaped street, lined with ornamental trees and wooden benches, boasted a variety of curio stores and boutiques. Tall pine trees loomed on the right, forming a wall around two sides of the park-like clearing we stood in. Blocking the view was a huge brick sign; the kind usually seen marking the entrance to a housing development or apartment complex. Thank God {or Goddess, whomever you hold most dear} that sign hid us from sight, for people don't normally fall from the sky as we had done. Kahva shrugged, indicating she no more recalled this place than I did. Elements! I swore. Where in the Moon are we, and will someone please tell me what is going on?!

One swift glance around and Katie had an idea. "E.T. phone home?" she asked straight-faced, pointing at the pay phones just a short distance away. Digging into our purses, the others handed over their change to Kahva and I, and we trudged over to try this suggestion. But this wasn't the good idea it first sounded, for all the numbers we tried were long distance! Further-more, a mechanical voice either told us that number had been disconnected, or someone answered the phone who had no idea whom we were looking for. Since my Granny has kept the same phone number for over 28 years, and Kahva's mother for even longer, we knew something was seriously wrong. Kahva and I exchanged glances as we tried to figure out just what to do next, and how to tell the others of our findings. Fate, however, took the choice from our hands.

As we were trying numbers the others had fanned out, waiting expectantly for news. Rianna was picking some of the purple, bell-shaped flowers from the hostas planted around the sign, remarkably calm about this whole situation. That was about to change. She wandered over just far enough for the lettering to catch her eye, and dropped the bundle of blooms with an ear-splitting screech that raised the hair on the back of our necks. We converged on her en masse. Imagine our surprise to find ourselves facing a sign that said 'WELCOME TO ANGEL GROVE' in pleasantly scripted letters across a pristine white background. All at once I remembered Katie's fan-fic, 'Immortal Rangers', where one of her evil characters wondered to himself, 'Interesting how anyone in their right minds would live in Angel Grove.'

For a moment, I seriously thought several of our group were going to faint. I personally felt as though the world had just dropped us again. We huddled close, gripping each others hands tightly, trying desperately to sort through the chaos. Common sense couldn't make heads or tails of the situation, however, so Suzanne jumped onto the most wildly illogical assumption possible: This was another dimension. I'll give you three guesses as to what dimension she named, and the first two don't count, dear ones! She was convinced we now inhabited the very world the {dare I say the words?} Power Rangers existed in. "The Real Ones," she whispered, dreams of Billy flitting through her eyes. Oh, how we argued! How could this be the world of the Rangers? They didn't exist except on the TV screen and in our hearts.

The usually bubbly Rianna was solemn-faced over this, "The world where they really exist? You mean the one with Mondo and Klank and all their Cogs? Plus the other evil critters they like to create? I'm not so sure I'm ready to believe you on that score, Suzanne. I'll gladly take Adam any day, but I can do without all the danger that comes part and parcel with him!"

A warm chuckle drew our attention to Gayla. She was shaking her head, a most amused smile on her face. "Contrary to our wildest fantasies, Suzanne, they exist only in the show. I'm really sorry to crash your daydream, but that's the truth and all our wishing can't change it," Gayla told her firmly, giving her a stern look. It's alright to dream, she thought, but this is another matter entirely.

Suzanne wasn't ready to let go of her dream so easily, "Then where are we, Gayla? And how do you explain away that," she asked, pointing to the sign. "I can't imagine anyone going through the trouble of putting that up just to confuse us, you know." She sighed, and dragged us over to some benches in the shade, "As much as this conversation amuses me, it is not the main issue right now. Even if this is the dimension with the Rangers in it, we're still in a lot of trouble. We need to pull ourselves together and think! What are we going to do?"

Jaycynda nodded, her expression of confusion being replaced by one of determination, "Yes, we are in this deep, aren't we? We have very little money, no food, no car, no house, and only the clothes on our backs." She made a vague motion toward the clearing around us and sighed, "And no way home, either." This dampened our spirits considerably -- if this was a different dimension, how were we to get back to our families and friends?

But trust one of us to lighten the others' mood. Katie lifted one elegantly clad foot and pulled off the burgundy shoe adorning it. "And only the shoes on our feet, Jay. You forgot to add that little tidbit," she said miserably. Since all were wearing heels, the assessment was right on the mark. Something had to be done.

The debate was short and quick, for practically won without a battle. No matter the reasons of how and why we had been dumped here, {Kahva also suggested when, but this distinction was ignored for the situation was complicated enough} we were stuck in this place and nothing looked to be changing that anytime soon. The immediate concern was our lack of funds; jobs were the first order of the day if we were to survive to return home. We decided to concentrate on hunting for employment while there was daylight available. Lodging could be worried over later.

Once the course of action had been approved by all, we were eager to begin. Much better to do something, we thought, than to sit there and wait for the anvil to hit. Pocketbooks were emptied and the money collected was divided evenly between the seven of us. Not knowing how long this could take, we synchronized our watches, memorized the street name, and agreed to meet back in three hours regardless of the circumstances. The question of how to handle the story of our arrival came up as we headed out. My quiet advice was complements of Mr. Spock of the Starship 'Enterprise', "Why lie when misdirection works just as well? If you hesitate to answer, they will come up with a reason or excuse of their own." This was received with hearty approval as the search began. Too bad we didn't notice Kahva's notebook half-hidden by the greenery surrounding the sign. . . Meanwhile, the arrival of the Sisterhood had not gone unnoticed

Deep within the quiet peace of the Power Chamber, a short red and gold droid named Alpha 5 was nearly through running the diagnostic program when an amber blimp suddenly appeared on the control panel. "Well now, whatever could that be?" he asked no one in particular, and studied the readings. Comprehension came instantly, and he whirled toward the time warp located in the front of the vast chamber where the Power Rangers' mentor, Zordon of Eltar, looked on. In great agitation Alpha blurted out, "Zordon, our sensors have detected an opening portal!" Alpha all but shook with dread as he recalled the last time King Mondo had opened a portal between dimensions. Adam still had occasional nightmares about the horrific creature pulled through it. With that thought in his circuits, Alpha glanced back at the console to give Zordon more information and nearly jumped through the ceiling, "But. . . but it is already closed now! There isn't an energy reading for the sensor to trace anymore! Oh, ay-yi-yi-yi-yi!! Whatever could Mondo be doing now, Zordon?!"

WE MUST DETERMINE IF IT DID COME FROM MONDO, ALPHA. TRY THE SCANNERS AGAIN. PERHAPS WE CAN IDENTIFY WHICH DIMENSION THE PORTAL TOUCHED, Zordon ordered in alarm. An unexplained portal could only mean trouble in the making for the Rangers. And the Machine King had been silent for several days, not sending so much as a Cog down to harass the brave teens. What had he been scheming in all this time?

Alpha punched up the scanner's data as ordered, and verified it was a portal. But there was no indication of Mondo's involvement; all the readings confirmed the portal didn't originate from the Skybase. "But where, then, did it come from? And who created it? A portal takes such a vast amount of energy to produce!" he wailed.


"Then perhaps I should call them to investigate?" Alpha asked as he checked over the panel for possible malfunction. "This really has me worried. If I hadn't run that particular test, the sensors would never have picked it up. Even now, I cannot trace where it came from, for there isn't enough of an energy signature left. Oh, aye-yi-yi!" he fretted, punching buttons and toggles on the consoles, checking just ONE last time to be sure he was right. The readings stayed the same, and he turned to Zordon to await further instructions.


Billy Cranston, the Sapphire Ranger, answered the droid's call promptly, "Yes, Alpha?"

"There is something I need you to examine, Billy," Alpha said hurriedly.

"I can believe that," he told the droid. "It's been days since Mondo's last attack. On my way." Seconds later Billy teleported into the Power Chamber. He proved to be an attractive young man, tall and very well-built, with sandy blonde hair and blue eyes that gave him a boy-next-door look. But looks were deceiving, for his formidable mind knew very few limits. The Power Rangers could not survive without his technical expertise, and this point had been proven time and again. "Hey, what is Mondo up to now?" he guessed as he draped an arm around Alpha. The act allowed him free view of the consoles, and he immediately straightened up, the teasing light leaving his eyes as he shifted into what the other Rangers affectionately termed his 'genius' mode. "Am I seeing what I think I am?" he asked Zordon, fear sending cold shivers down his spine.

Alpha answered him, "The sensors picked it up then lost track of the energy signature. I haven't been able to figure out just where it came from. The portal's appearance was startlingly brief, and all readings prove it ISN'T from Mondo."

The Sapphire Ranger swore, very quietly and under his breath, "Zordon, we have a major problem then. If the readings indicate it isn't King Mondo, or most likely Klank, there is no telling who we're dealing with. I'm calling Tommy. We have to examine the area of the occurrence. Maybe I'll find some answers there." He called the leader of the Power Rangers, Tommy Oliver, the Red Ranger.

Who answered as quickly as Billy had, "Tommy here."

"It's Billy. We need you in the Power Chamber immediately."

"Right. On my way." A split-second later he appeared in a blaze of red light. He, too, was an attractive and athletic young man, around 19 or so, just a little taller than Billy. Deeply tanned, with long dark hair tied back into a ponytail, he resonated a deep self-confidence one could almost feel. He'd obviously been interrupted during a workout; his skin shimmered with sweat and he wore his usual workout clothes -- a loosely-knotted handkerchief covering his hair, tight red tank top, and comfortable black sweats. On bare feet, he padded to the consoles for a look. "Is Mondo up to something new?" he guessed, much as Billy himself had earlier. He didn't seem surprised either as he bent over the panel, lips moving silently as he puzzled his way through the readings carefully.

"We're not entirely sure. The readings indicate otherwise, and this is a little too quiet for the likes of Mondo, anyway," Billy began explaining, only to be interrupted by a word from Tommy, clearly spoken in the Indian dialect his twin brother and Mr. Sam Trueheart had been teaching him. He turned to Billy, brown eyes wide with surprise, "A portal? Oh good God, not again!" Another glance at the controls made him frown, "Didn't you tell me a portal couldn't be executed quickly, some time back, for some reason or other?" Then the rest of Billy's words penetrated his concern and he gritted out, "And what do you mean, you aren't sure if this came from the Machine Skybase?"

"We're still trying to confirm that. Alpha will teleport us down to examine the site. I didn't want to go by myself in case there IS something waiting there for us," Billy said with a shrug. While his martial arts skills were formidable, Mondo had a nasty habit of throwing everything he could at the Rangers all at once, and Billy wasn't foolish enough to tempt fate. As the wiz-kid in the bunch, he was a prime target for the Machine King, second in line only to Tommy, who was the leader. Might as well paint a bull's-eye on the Red Ranger's back as far as Mondo was concerned.


"Sure thing, Zordon," Tommy answered, and Alpha teleported them away.

Seconds later, the two found themselves behind the sign welcoming visitors into Angel Grove. All was silent and peaceful. No cars traveled down the small side street at the moment, so the only sound was the wind whistling through the trees looming on the right. The park-like clearing was undisturbed. "Nothing out of place. Pick up anything?" Tommy asked as Billy activated the hand-held sensor and ran it over a patch of trampled grass in the center of the area.

"Just some trace energy readings. Nothing to show a portal opened here. It is strange," he said as he moved over to the sign and picked up a bunch of wilting blooms some kid must have gathered. He held the purple bell-shaped flowers up and scanned them as well, but the sensor didn't even beep.

"Tell me what is so strange. And why Alpha can't trace the portal. He has always managed before," Tommy said with some exasperation. The wind brushed at him, causing him to shiver slightly as the sweat on his skin dried.

"Opening a portal takes a tremendous amount of energy, Tommy. Usually, whoever is creating it lets the power build up slowly to avoid a drain on their energy source, and the portal forms layer by layer. It allows anyone trying to trace it a good amount of time to lock down on a location. It also leaves quite a mess, because as the energy funnel forms it creates within an almost tornado-like blast of wind. But all we've found is a flattened section of ground-cover and some wilted flowers. Let me do one more scan, and we'll head back." Billy quickly began another circle of the area, scanner held before him like a shield.

"Could someone have been sent out of this dimension, Billy? Maybe a person Mondo had considered a hindrance? Zedd has stuck more than one of us in his dark dimensions," Tommy reminded, looked around the serene spot with apprehension making the fine hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. This whole situation felt. . . wrong. Billy was right, Mondo was not this subtle by any means. But who was responsible, then? Had Zedd and Rita come back, and were they already beginning their attacks again? And if that comical couple wasn't responsible, did they really want to meet whoever it was? Tommy wasn't entirely sure where his opinion lay in that matter.

"A possibility, one I haven't discredited yet. But the energy traces are here, so I seriously doubt it. Besides, opening a portal is a phenomenal waste of energy just to get rid of one person. We can go back now." He straightened up from his examination of the trampled grass, and glanced around him, "I don't like this, because I can't find anything to account for the quick shift. I'm hoping further study of Alpha's readings will yield more clues. Maybe we overlooked something the first time in our haste."

Tommy absently rubbed away the goose bumps on his arms as Billy joined him, "Let's. There is a feeling about this that gives me the willies, like someone's walking over my grave. It's eerie." His eyes were distant as he searched for the source of his unease and encountered only questions. For months now Mr. Trueheart had hinted to both brothers there were changes awaiting in the future. He was quiet and subtle, that mysterious man, but his exact words brought a chill to Tommy, 'The Winds of Change bring the Storms of Completion. Out of the Rains come the Ones you've been Seeking. They weave the Tapestry of Fate for the Warriors brave.' It made no sense to him, but then that was the point. 'A puzzle,' Mr. Trueheart had said, 'does the heart and soul good; a challenge keeps one from getting complacent.'

The statement alarmed Billy, "Now why do you say that?" He looked at his friend in concern. Hard experience had taught him the futility of doubting Tommy's instincts; they were rarely wrong, and the Red Ranger had a point. Something very strange was happening.

"I can't explain it really. It is just a sensation of. . . change. Like something is going to alter now that we have discovered the portal. Odd, huh? I can't pin it down any better than that." He said nothing of Mr. Trueheart's words, for fear Billy would laugh. Giving the peaceful clearing one last uneasy look, Tommy ordered Alpha to teleport them back. Before the droid could respond, half a dozen Cogs, with Klank in the lead, appeared on the other side of the clearing. Most of the henchidiots of the Machine King were burdened with odd-looking sensors and scanners. All were very surprised to see the two teenagers there.

Klank sprang into action, bellowing out, "Get them!" as he grabbed several pieces of equipment away from the Cogs and thrust the unwilling metal goons at Tommy and Billy. The two Rangers barely had time to move before they were attacked. Tommy kept them back long enough for Billy to morph.

"Sapphire Ranger Power!" he shouted, then began kicking Cogs left and right as Tommy separated himself from the fray and morphed as well.

"Zeo Ranger V, Red!" Back into the battle he bounded, carving his way across the clearing and through the ever-increasing number of Cogs, trying to see what in the world Klank was doing over there with all that equipment. It boded ill for the situation. If Mondo's wiz-droid was attempting to take readings just like they had, it meant Mondo no more knew who was responsible than they did. Fear tightened his stomach and made him careless; a Cog nailed him with a wicked hook and sent him tumbling to the ground. Billy arrived to knock the Cog into six billion pieces then helped the Red Ranger to his feet. Both immediately turned toward Klank but it was too late. Klank, the equipment, and the Cogs vanished before either Ranger could take a step toward them. Tommy made an indelicate sound of frustration, then sighed and placed a hand on Billy's shoulder in gratitude, "Thanks, man. That's one I owe you. Could you see what Klank was doing? Those Cogs of his wouldn't let me near him."

Billy took one good look at the spot Klank had been a moment before and shook his head, "Ten to one odds he was scanning everything the way we did. Strange that he would willingly leave a fight with only two Rangers. The minute he had what he wanted, he high-tailed it out of here. Mondo must be anxious for some answers. Maybe he thinks WE have something to do with the portal. I couldn't see much, though, so you'll have to describe the equipment to Zordon."

Tommy didn't have any answers for him as he assured the highly excited Alpha everything was fine, "They didn't hang around for some reason, Alpha, so there's no need to call the others. Go ahead and teleport us back to the Chamber. I don't think we're going to find anything here." The two youths disappeared in blazes of red and sapphire light, never noticing in all the excitement the partially hidden notebook lying beneath the hostas planted around the sign. . .

Back in the Power Chamber, Zordon listened patiently as Billy listed the few paltry clues he had uncovered, most in the form of elimination; it wasn't this, it couldn't have been caused by that. Tommy, who had been closer than Billy to the equipment Klank had brought with him, carefully described what he could remember of it. I SHARE YOUR MISGIVINGS, TOMMY, BILLY. BUT LIKE YOU, I HAVE NO EXPLANATIONS FOR THIS. KLANK'S UNUSUAL REACTION IS VERY PUZZLING, AND A LITTLE WORRISOME. I WILL HAVE ALPHA CONTINUE TO MONITOR FOR ANOTHER OCCURRENCE. The great voice paused briefly, then addressed Tommy, BILLY SAID YOU WERE UNEASY IN THE CLEARING. YOU CANNOT FURTHER ELABORATE ON YOUR FEELINGS? And Tommy reluctantly shook his head. THEN WE SHALL NOT DWELL ON IT, Zordon's words held the undertones of a command. Tommy and Billy were not in the habit of disobeying their mentor, but so many questions remained that it was hard not to press the issue.

"Alright, Zordon, we will let it go for now. But mark my words, whatever is happening, it is going to change us somehow," Tommy said quite clearly, meaning it to the depths of his soul. Billy, startled by the intensity of this statement, nodded thoughtfully and returned to his lab in his parents' garage. The Red Ranger stood in the center of the Power Chamber for a few minutes, lost in the eerie feeling. He wondered if he should tell Zordon of the 'destiny' he and his brother were fated to meet, then decided against it. In all likelihood the Eltarian was well aware of it, as he was aware of so many things. He shook himself and returned to the Youth Center and his interrupted workout. . . Unaware of the Rangers upset, the Sisterhood continued on the quest

I had worked as manager in a Photo Lab for nearly five years before the portal intervened, so the sight of a small Photo store on a corner cheered me considerably. I walked in and introduced myself to the owner, politely inquiring if he was looking for experienced help. Mr. Alligood was a kindly older man who seemed to have too many problems awaiting his attention, and was delighted to hire me. Turns out he had plenty of younger part-timers, but none he felt were worth the extensive training necessary to work the print machine. 'Fred', the name given to the machine, was fortunately the same one I had trained on, an Agfa MSC 200. I was running through my knowledge of the printer when he suddenly asked if I was from around here. At my startled glance, he smiled and said, "Your accent is not something we often hear in these areas."

"North Carolina," I answered, admitting I and several friends had arrived in town rather unexpectedly. With no way home we had chosen to make the best of it and look for jobs. Mr. Alligood admired the courage in that decision, and came to the conclusion --entirely on his own-- that a dishonest tour bus company had stranded us here. I wasn't about to contradict his theory.

He announced I was skilled enough to handle the position of Lab Manager. "Wages and other interests can be discussed tomorrow," he said. "For now, work a couple of hours." At the end of that time handed me a twenty, some keys, and a map. The money was for the work, since I wasn't officially hired yet. The keys were to the company car I could have use of until I had my own. And the map led to a two-story house he'd been thinking of renting.

"It is built dormitory-style, with eight small bedrooms on the upper floor, and a huge living area downstairs. The kitchen itself is big enough to drive a bus through. You and your friends are welcome to use it for as long as it takes to get back on your feet. When you think you are financially ready, we can discuss the rent." At my shocked look, he smiled and told me firmly, "You're doing something most kids your age wouldn't even try; refusing to quit. If you and your friends are brave enough to start a new life here, it won't hurt me any to help. I want the house lived in, and you need one. Makes for a pretty good solution to me."

Simple thanks were not enough, but he waved it off and invited my whole group to his church that night. (It was interesting to note the differences between our 'departure' and 'arrival'. It was Saturday night when we 'left', and Wednesday afternoon when we 'landed'. Hmm. . . Maybe Kahva's question of WHEN wasn't as ridiculous as it sounded.) I saw no reason to refuse myself, but as some of the group had religious beliefs quite different from mine and Kahva's, I merely promised to tell the others of the invitation so they could decide on their own. Mr. Alligood quietly added dinner would be served, and he thought we might like to join them. My stomach rumbled softly at the mention of food. But it reminded me the three hours allotted were almost up, so I said good-bye and left the shop. Since it was only five blocks to the sign, I elected to walk, needing the time to clear my head of all the jumbled thoughts trapped within. I was grateful to Mr. Alligood; who else would have let us live rent-free? Maybe there are Guardian Angels, I mused, watching the sun set. I arrived at the sign and was nearly tackled by the two already there; Kahva and Rianna.

The stories tumbled from both, forcing me to bounce back and forth between them like a tennis ball. Kahva had a company car, too, I realized. She had applied at the local TV station as an engineer, after reading a newspaper ad saying they were hiring and wanted experienced applicants. "The station's equipment is the latest thing, too! No more tape-eating machines, no more old, broken-down satellite dishes that won't receive the feed half the time, no more lazy employees who leave me with ten or more Cycle-Sats to do on Saturday night. . . Oh, this is truly heaven!" she said. I suppose this means I won't get anymore war stories about just what idiotic thing the supervisor did, or how many nerves he had gotten on. It is going to be rather odd not to hear her so creatively promise a dire fate to both man and machine, I thought. The station had snatched her up since their part-timer had walked out, leaving them with a bunch of teenage hopefuls that didn't know a VTR from a VCR. The only problem was the hours were normal ones. No more nightowl Kahva Brittain, I'm afraid.

Rianna Lia had gone no farther than across the street. The sign posted on the front window of the electronic store all but pleaded with her to apply for the job of 'Technical Consultant', for one of the requirements of the position was an addiction to Internet surfing. The manager had watched her from inside, and her apparent interest in the job caused him to all but pounce on her as she walked through the door. After hearing of her experience with computers in general, and web-browsing in particular, he assured the surprised teen that her services were desperately needed. "They want me to help them cope with all the teenaged computer geeks who don't seem to speak English -- apparently Internet slang is an entirely different language to the Elders." She was rattling off a list of her duties {other than interpreter} which included such things as answering all the e-mail the manager had no idea how to access, when the bus drove up with a squeal of abused brakes.

It was startling to realize our impromptu 'office' was in fact a bus stop. Jaycynda and Katie hopped out, exchanging friendly insults with the grizzled driver about his deplorable driving skills, or lack thereof. He laughed out loud at Jaycynda's parting sally and closed the doors with a snap, heading toward his next stop in a cloud of black smelly smoke. They were in a happy mood, and reported both had secured jobs, proving our good fortune was still running high. Jaycynda got a teacher's assistant job in the History Department of the High School. "The bus driver was the one who told me about it, all though insisted might be a better word. Said I seemed the 'proper' type to handle such unruly teenagers. I can't decide if it is the red hair, or the way I asked where he got his license, 'in a Cracker Jack box'?" she said dryly. "It isn't going to be bad, working there. The teachers are really nice for the most part, and the few kids I met today seemed welcoming enough. But it's funny," she said with a puzzled frown. "The High School is laid out exactly as it seems to be in the TV show. I know my way around better than the students, and it feels a little odd. There's even a Mrs. Appleby tucked in a small corner room." She said this with one of her patented gamin smiles, and I remember thinking she was joking at the time. Boy, would I be proved wrong!

"I still think the bus driver insisted about that particular job when you informed him a dim-witted dingle-dork could drive better than him. It's a wonder the fire in your eyes didn't singe him," Katie added. Her story was a little different from the others I had heard so far. She had run into the son of a lawyer (quite literally, she stressed) whom was so taken with her, he had convinced his father the firm couldn't survive without her to answer all calls. "And his father, junior partner for Bennett and Nash, is very indulgent where his son is concerned. And from the hints Derrick Nash laid out, I'm the only 'interest' Cray has ever brought home that dresses like a normal human being. He is QUITE determined to keep me around his son. Hence, the job. It's a wonder Mr. Nash doesn't think me a bit mad. I couldn't help but stare at him, I swear he looks just like Duncan MacLeod himself, even sounds a bit like him. Yes, Kahva and Ivy, I know 'there can be only one', so there is no need to give me such looks. But his son, Cray," she grinned impishly and remarked, "looks almost identical to Richie Ryan on 'Highlander'. Curly blonde hair, sweet blue eyes, friendly as a puppy. He is really cute, too." Jaycynda rolled her eyes but refrained from commenting. Her reaction said plainly she had heard all this several times on the bus.

We had a seat on the benches to await the arrival of the remaining Sisters. Suzanne and Gayla finally appeared, almost a half hour past the deadline. A distinguished-looking gentleman in a steel-gray Jaguar let them off. They hurried to us, and apologized for being so late, "Gayla was kind enough to wait up for me. I'm the records clerk at the local Doctor's Park. As the newest employee, it fell to me to lock up the office for the day. It gave me a chance to wander around and see where everything is located, at least. Dr. Klein --that was him in the car-- was working late, too, and offered me a ride." She glanced down at her dress and gave a wry little laugh, "When I told him I had arrived here rather suddenly and had no way home, he said I must have gotten lost on the way to Hollywood. Can you imagine ME in Hollywood? I told him he was insane, and it was all I could do not to laugh in his face!"

Gayla jumped in at this point, "So she teased him about it the whole way here. You should have heard him tell her she would make a stunning Amazon Warrior." She nudged Suzanne in the ribs, "That was quite a blush there, dear Sister!" Then she told her story with a twinkle in her eyes, "Across the street from the Doctor's Park is a Real Estate Brokerage. Since I have some secretarial skills, I thought I would give them a try. I kinda wish I hadn't!" She shook her head, "I walked in, and I swear I have never seen such a MESS! Not even Ivy's description of Kahva's room could possibly compare. It seems the Brokerage's secretary of twenty-five years had retired recently, and no one has been able to decipher her filing system. Ashley Barker, one of the Realtors, fell all over himself when he found out I wanted a job and was willing to tackle all that work. I suggested a salary, and he accepted." Gayla motioned to Kahva's car, with the TV station's logo emblazed on the side, "I get a company car next week, since I will have to take pictures of the houses for sale. You work in the Photo Lab, Ivy? Then I'll be bringing the rolls of film to you for processing. Ashley has even offered to train me in Real Estate, telling me if I get the license, I'm free of that office!"

After the laughter died down, notes were compared. Three of us would receive paychecks next week; Suzanne, Gayla, and Kahva, the ones already on payroll. Rianna and Katie were on the bi-weekly system, I would get my check after it holds for one week, and Jaycynda {as a government employee} would only be paid once a month. "This means we will have to use a hotel for at least a week," Kahva said sadly. "And that will take most of our remaining money. But it can't be helped."

It was with great satisfaction, and silent thanks to Mr. Alligood, that I solved that problem. I told them of the house, and you could visibly see the tension drain from the group. "He also invited us all to his church tonight. Now, I know Suzanne and Jaycynda have no interest in such a gathering --nor are we trying in any way to convert you, dear ones-- but Mr. Alligood made the offer because they are having a covered dish supper. I have a sneaking suspicion he is worried we might not be eating as we should. . ." I swear, their stomachs rumbled louder than mine! And like me, all had been afraid to spend the money allotted for fear it would be needed later. We decided to go, although we did slip Gayla into Rianna's jacket. No need to shock the good folks with THAT neckline. Suzanne, Jaycynda, and Rianna rode with Kahva while Gayla and Katie walked with me to retrieve my car from the Photo Lab parking lot.

I felt sure our arrival at the church would be greeted with curious looks, but our welcome was far warmer than I had hoped. Turns out Mr. Alligood's wife, Roseleen, had taken things in hand the moment she learned of our plight. She had warned the entire congregation in advance of our situation, and all closets and pantries were raided to bring us clothes, food, shoes, and a variety of other dry goods, including sheets and towels. Her 'crowd' was as kind as could be, and we were much relieved by their warm comments and concerns. Many asked if we had jobs, which we told them with great pride that we did. This had them admiring our courage, and there were many 'gifts' of money carefully tucked in among those mundane items such as clothes and dish towels. When we unpacked later, every single piece had to be carefully dissected to make sure no one had hidden any dollar bills in it.

Roseleen pulled us over to the side just before we sat down for supper. In a low voice she explained, "The house is fully furnished, even though all the pieces may not match. It was Granddad's house, you see, and he hated to throw a table away, just because it didn't quite match with the chairs. The youth group cleaned it up for you, and all the donated items are already there. Some stragglers brought other things as well, and the boys are putting them in the cars for you. Parker even mowed the lawn, so you can actually SEE the house now." That last part was said with a teasing glint in her eyes.

Because of all the excitement, it was fairly late by the time we reached the place, cars packed with items of every description and bellies just as stuffed. {I had no idea so much food could be served at one time!} We were awed by our first view of the house; with Mr. Alligood so kind as to let us live rent-free, we really hadn't allowed ourselves to expect too much. But the place was absolutely beautiful!

Set away from the road, there was a sense of peace to the stately two-story-and-a-half white house, with its wrap-around porch and towering pecan trees swaying at either side in the faint night breeze. A graveled U-shape drive meandered up to the front porch, which proved inviting even though the columns needed a little paint. There were lights shining through the windows, and the front door stood open, waiting for us to venture inside.

We tumbled out of the cars in great haste, nearly tripping all over each other. The calm serenity of the place was a much-needed balm to our tired minds. Of course, that peace only lasted as long as it took us to cross the threshold. Boxes were brought in and piled up any old way as we hastened to explore every inch of the place. The downstairs was as huge as promised, with a kitchen, pantry, dining room, living room, den, study, laundry room, full bathroom, several large closets, and a screened-in back porch. Roseleen was correct; the furnishings, although mismatched, were so clean they shined. All the upstairs bedrooms were identical, with a large, slightly old-fashioned bathroom at each end of the hall, forestalling any fighting matches over who got which bedroom.

A donated deck of cards was used to decide who got a bath first. While the first batch sank themselves into heavenly hot water to soak away the tensions of the day, the remaining Sisters made up beds and stowed the left-overs from the church social in the kitchen. Once all were squeaky clean, we tore into the boxes containing the donated clothes and battled it out over the contents. When all were satisfied with the pilfered items, we finished the cleanup and gratefully hit the sack.

The room I'd chosen had a bed with a mattress far too soft for the other Sisters. As I nestled down deep under the covers, I replayed the day's events in my mind. Some of the memories collected this day were amusing, but most proved to be less so. One good thing shone through all the confusion and worry, however. Whenever this turned out to be, the Sisterhood was together and that meant everything in the world to me. I settled down to sleep, comforted by the thought of the six other people housed under the same roof.

Thus went our first day in Angel Grove. You know, I'm actually beginning to like this place. Maybe it wasn't going to be as bad as I'd first thought.. .