Totally oblivious to the conversation taking place in the front of the Tracker, Suzanne sat in the back seat with Billy, the wind blowing her hair and her heart singing. She was with him! Mother Goddess, thank YOU so much! This is a dream come true, and if I'm sleeping PLEASE don't wake me up! Billy turned to her and apologized gently, "I should have asked if you wanted to come along, Suzanne. I'm sorry for over-stepping myself." Billy cleared his throat nervously, "So, do you mind going out with me?"
Her smile lit up the night as she shook her head, "No, I don't mind. I'm flattered you thought to ask me at all. You have been a perfect gentleman, don't worry."
Billy gave a brilliant smile and told her, "Good, I would never forgive myself if my high-handed manner caused a rift between us."
Her laugh was musical, happy, "I don't think you could ever do anything to cause a rift between us, or offend anyone for that matter. Besides, I have my soul-sister in the front seat. Do anything wrong, she will happily straighten you out rather quickly. She's fiercely protective of her friends, especially the Sisterhood. That's the seven of us, by the way."
Billy laughed as he cast a quick look at the brunette in the front seat, "I'll be sure to keep that in mind, then." He reached out and touched her hand, "Suzanne. . ." he started. Then all Hell broke loose.
"Jason!" Kahva's scream pierced the night air. They swerved wildly, brakes squealing in protest. Suddenly the Tracker slammed to a stop with a loud metallic thud, throwing Billy and Suzanne against the backs of the front seats. Jason was slumped over the steering wheel, Kahva already had their seatbelts unfastened, starting to check him over. "He's hurt, he hit his head on the steering wheel! Don't move, Jason," she cautioned. He wasn't unconscious, merely dazed, but he was trying to climb out of the little truck. "That Cog came out of nowhere, guys! We hit it. . . Jason, please stay still!" Before either back seat passenger could demand an explanation, Cogs were grabbing them and yanking them out of the truck. Jason struggled with the ones pulling him out of the Tracker but one landed a chance blow to his temple, right where he had hit the steering wheel. It knocked him unconscious to the asphalt. Kahva was fiercely battling over his prone body with snarls of rage, but it was four against one, bad odds even to an unmorphed Ranger.
Suzanne struggled wildly against the Cogs as they bound and gagged her. Over all the noise she could hear Billy's frightened scream of, "Suzanne!!" She even caught a glimpse of his face as he reached out to her, yelling "NO!" as the Cogs worked on tying her up. Once finished, they clunked her onto the ground without apparent concern for her well-being and went after Kahva. Her Sister was still battling over the Gold Ranger, nearly snarling at the metal goons who had already captured her Sister. But the combined forces were too much, and she went down to receive the same treatment meted out to Suzanne just moments before. They dragged the similarly-bound Kahva over and threw her down on top of Suzanne, knocking the breath from both with the impact. A sickening jolt wrenched at them, and they found themselves lying in the middle of Mondo's Throne Room. Terror over her helplessness made her heart pound as she could feel Kahva trying to mentally retreat. Only the fact the fear was shared allowed her to keep her sanity over a situation that was sheer madness. Mondo and his vile domain aren't real! But the grating mechanical laughter that echoed around the room, drowning out the strange -clicks- and -whirls- that came from the metal gadgets clustered about them, proved otherwise. Suzanne couldn't turn her head to see HIM -- Mondo, the Machine King. But she could hear his laughter, could not block out the horrid sound, and that was by far worse. . .
Suzanne jerked awake and lay there in the darkness, trying to still the frantic beating of her heart. Forcing her eyes closed, she spent several minutes breathing deeply to clear her mind of the last lingering cobwebs of the dream. Then she got up and groped her way to the door, stubbing her toe on the rocking chair near the bed. It took quite a bit of control to keep silent against the pain. But the loud -bump- in the night didn't disturb any of the other Sisters. She tiptoed down the stairs and through the kitchen. When she reached the living loom she finally thought it was safe to cut on some lights.
Finding her pocketbook was easy enough, but figuring out where that little scrap of paper with Tommy's phone number on it was no easy task. She finally gave up and dumped the entire contents onto the floor and rooted around until she remembered she had stuck it in her checkbook -- so she would know right where it was. She said a few naughty words as she pulled it out and reached for the phone. A glance at the clock on the mantle made her wince and put the receiver right back down. Four o'clock in the morning. Tommy was gong to kill her. But he said to call whenever I needed him, and right now, I REALLY need to speak to someone who has dealt with Mondo! What do I do? She mulled over the situation for a few minutes, then reached for the phone again. I have to talk this out! The Sisterhood isn't familiar enough with this world to give me any advice. They don't take Mondo any more seriously than I did at first, so how can they help me to cope with the fact that in this dimension, he really DOES want me? I've seen most of the scenarios from the Series played out right in my own head. And they aren't pretty ones, either. Forgive me, Tommy, but you're just going to have to lose some beauty sleep. Ivy won't mind if you're looking rumpled! Suzanne steeled herself and dialed the number written on the scrap of paper.
"Yeah," came the groggy answer after about six rings, then a crashing sound as if the phone had been dropped. "Sorry," he murmured after a moment.
"That's okay, Tommy. I'm sorry to call you so early, but I had a nightmare and I need to discuss it with you. Do you mind?" It was hard to repress a giggle at the image of Tommy, hair sticking up every which way, trying to wake up enough to think that over.
"Nightmare?" the groggy voice repeated. "You need to talk to me about it? Forgive me, but who is this? It's four o'clock in the morning!"
Oh! she thought. He doesn't recognize my voice! "This is Suzanne, Tommy."
"Su-Suzanne!" he repeated, sounding much more awake this time. "Well, I did say you could call at any time, right? I won't do that again." Despite the slurred tone there was distinct amusement in the comment.
"I can call back later if you'd like."
"No, no, that's okay. I gotta be up in a little while anyway. This should keep me from going bald."
"You will explain that later, won't you?"
"It's a deal. So what was this nightmare about, as if I couldn't guess?" he yawned, then a loud rustle indicated he was getting out of bed.
"Well, can I explain a few things to you first, Tommy? Things that will make the night-mare a little more understandable?" Suzanne clutched the phone tighter, one hand nervously twisting the hem of her nightgown. Let him be awake enough to handle something like this, please! Just thinking about all that Kahva and l wrote is tearing me up inside!
"Sure. I'm assuming the 'Silver Flame' Series is somewhere in that explanation?"
"Yeah, actually it has a lot to do with what's going on right now. Sure you're coherent enough to deal with this? The explanation will take awhile."
"Trust me. I'm wide awake now," Tommy assured her, thinking, I sure am! This is my chance to get some answers out of you, and I'm all ears!
Suzanne sighed deeply, "There's so much to tell you that. I'm not exactly sure just where to begin."
"How about starting with how your character became the Silver Ranger, and go where ever you think you need to from there?" Tommy suggested. "Would that help?"
"I think it might," she agreed. "Okay, here goes nothing." Before she lost her courage, she allowed the basics of the 'Silver Flame' Series to pour out of her, "My character was pulled into the Ranger dimension by her ancestor, and had about a year of living in that dimension before her presence was discovered by the Rangers and King Mondo. Her ancestor had managed to keep her hidden by using her powers, but without revealing her own presence. Mondo found my character before the Rangers could, and turned her evil, then sent her back to her apartment to retrieve her Power Crystal, and claim her Silver Ranger powers. While she was evil, she kidnapped Billy so that Mondo could use him as a hostage, at least, and possibly use his knowledge against the Rangers, or force him to make inventions for him." Suzanne stopped and sighed, the images of her story dancing through her mind. "Billy had made a spray that would hopefully break the mind control potion's hold over her, which it sort of did."
"Sort of?" Tommy broke in for the first time. He was rapidly finding himself drawn into this fictional world Suzanne and Kahva had created, and didn't want the tale to end, but he had to ask questions where he could. It was the only way he could possibly start to get his answers.
"When you," she paused for a moment, "your character, that is. When he sprayed Sheena with the potion, it wiped her memories. She returned to the dungeons in the Skybase where Billy was being held prisoner, and it was his touch, his love that activated their link, told him her name, and by speaking her name triggered the Silver Flame, which burned out the potion and made her good again." Suzanne laughed a little after that. "After they escaped and returned to the Power Chamber, Zordon married them at their request. Well, Billy did have a little adventure right after they returned which gave him his Sapphire Ranger powers, but once he had those, they were married by Zordon, about twenty-four hours after Sheena had been first captured by Mondo."
"You and Billy got, I mean, they got. . . they got married that quickly?" Tommy gasped. After she had finished laughing and had her breath back, Suzanne explained about the link, the bond that had existed through the millennia, and how she had become the leader of the Power Rangers so quickly, with Tommy becoming the second-in-command. She also explained how Tommy and Sheena were related, and started to go into the introduction of Kahva's character, but Tommy's questions drew her back to the beginnings of the Series. "We're cousins in the Series?" he asked, almost the exact same tone of incredulity in his voice as when he'd asked about Sheena and Billy's speedy marriage.
Suzanne went into a few more details, doing her level best to satisfy his curiosity. "Now that I'm already the Silver Ranger, I'm left wondering what is going to happen next. Can I expect Mondo to go after me, to try and turn me against the Rangers? He's already gone after me twice now, and nearly got Kahva the second time. Tommy, the thought of her or any of my Sisters in his clutches terrifies me. To them, Mondo isn't quite real just yet, I don't think. I mean, they know he is real now, but there's still the part of them that thinks of all this as a work of fiction, the bad guys always lose, the good guys always win. . . and then the nightmare I had this morning. . ." Suzanne finally told Tommy about the nightmare, and though he didn't admit it to her over the phone, it had him shivering once she finished. She gave him a few more details about how the character of Sheena had worked with the rest of the team at his continued gentle prompting, but after the summary she informed him, "A lot of what we wrote, and how we wrote it, was based on the TV show. But some areas, like Zordon's past and how the first group of Rangers was formed, we had to make up a story because the show never went into any detail. It was, after all, only a kid's show. Kids didn't want to know why or how the Rangers came into being. They just wanted to see all the neat fights."
"How were we introduced?" Tommy wanted to know. He was getting some of his answers now, but they were giving him more and more questions.
Suzanne told him about the first show, then added, "You didn't join the group until later, after Rita had made you the evil Green Ranger that nearly destroyed the group, and you sent Zordon out of his time warp into a dimension they almost didn't find. When they broke the spell over you, they invited you into the Rangers. Much better for you to fight with them than against them, after all, and they knew your evil actions were due to Rita's spell. Also, they had already seen your skill, when you and Jason tied in the Karate competition." At the sudden stark silence on the other end of the line, Suzanne feared for a few moments that she had said something wrong.
"That's not how it happened, Suzanne," Tommy softly informed her, pain in his voice. "Here, Rita made me evil before she turned me into the Green Ranger, before I ever met anyone in Angel Grove. I was under her spell for nearly a month before she got around to giving me the Power Coin. I don't remember all that happened during that time, but the others tell me I was a pretty nasty person. Jason and I didn't tie at the competition. . . because I tried to cheat and was thrown out for it."
Suzanne digested that for a moment, "What happened when the Rangers defeated you?"
"I lost my memory of ever having the power, right along with the way I acted after Rita cast her spell. For nearly a month I struggled to undo all the wrongs I had done while under her power, never knowing why or how I had behaved the way everyone was telling me I did. It was the loneliest month I have ever had to endure. I was alone and completely friendless, and I couldn't for the life of me figure out why everyone treated me so badly. I had just about given up hope when the Rangers approached me one day. Don't ever tell them this, Suzanne, but when they found me in the park. . ." Tommy abruptly stopped. When he continued, his voice wasn't steady anymore. It was low and hoarse, filled with pain remembered and endured, "I don't think they ever realized why I was there by myself. If they had known what I was thinking of doing. . ."
"Suicide? Oh, Tommy!" Suzanne wanted to rail at him for even thinking of such an action. Life was to be lived, not foolishly squandered. But she couldn't. Just the thought of being utterly friendless in a town where everyone seemed to hate you made tears come to her eyes, "How could the Rangers leave you in such misery?! They should have told you what was going on the minute you were set free!"
"They couldn't, Suzanne. They had no idea what I was actually like. Remember, for the month I'd been in Angel Grove, I was a bully and a troublemaker. They had no way of knowing if I was really like that or if the bad attitude came from Rita's spell," Tommy explained. "They had their identities to protect and a lot of damage to repair. I did a very thorough job when I ransacked the Command Center."
"But you never told them how close you came to killing yourself, did you?" Suzanne demanded. "You should have. They made a grave mistake that could have cost them far more than they knew," she said in a heated tone
"All it would have done was hurt them, Suzanne. When they came to me in the park, morphed and solemn, I thought they were there to kill me. But Jason stepped forward and pulled off his helmet. 'We have to talk to you, Green Ranger,' he said. And some of the memories came back when he addressed me in that manner. Enough that I finally understood what was going on. They took me in then, adopting me into their group. The townspeople didn't quite know what to think, but if Jason and the others had accepted me, then so would they. It took almost a year to live down all the bad incidents, but by that time Jason and some of the others were leaving the group, and I became the leader by a comfortable majority when they voted."
Such a sad story, she thought. But this is reality. The show made him joining the Rangers seem so natural. But here, he had a major obstacle to overcome before he could be a Ranger. What would the group have been like if he had succeeded in killing himself? Suzanne shuddered. I'm glad I don't have to find out. It would be like life without one of the Sisters, and that is NOT a thought to be contemplated! The thought of the other Sisters made her realize what she was doing. I have to talk this over with them first, before I tell any more to Tommy. Especially Kahva. So much 'here' is not quite what it was 'there', it's going to take a while to sort everything out. A glance at the clock shocked her, "Look, it's nearly quarter after five, I need to go, okay? The Sisterhood still has a lot to discuss, since we didn't actually get much talking done last night. We were too tired."
The sound of a huge yawn came over the phone, "I need to get a shower anyway. Kat threatened to shave me bald if I was late for the workout today -- and she doesn't make idle threats."
"Yeah, we've already run into that side of her," Suzanne told him dryly.
"Your group just frightened her, that's all. Jaycynda reacted the same way when you and Kahva were kidnapped, leaping on Billy and holding him hostage so I'd teleport her into the park battle with us. Rianna wasn't any better, jumping onto Jason's back and hanging on for dear life so he couldn't leave the Chamber without her." He chuckled at the sudden silence on the phone, "So Jay didn't tell you about going head-to-head with me? Only reason they got away with it was Zordon and Jason siding with them."
"Noooooo, she didn't say anything of the sort. Seems I've got some interrogating to do. You will excuse me so l can get right to it, won't you?"
There was an eagerness to her voice that made Tommy grin, "Just take it easy on her, okay? She was scared out of her wits about what had happened and needed to do something to release the tension." He paused for a moment then said, "Tell Ivy. . . oh, what the heck, tell her the truth -- that I miss her. I've got a rain-check on a sparring match I'd like to turn into dinner and a movie sometime."
Suzanne promised, "I'll tell her. Now get going. If I'm responsible for Kat attacking you with a razor, Ivy will never forgive me. She's very fond of that mane of yours. Now git!"
"Yes, ma'am! Talk to you later today, okay?"
"GIT!" came the thundering command.
A chuckle, then, "Bye!" and -click- Tommy was gone, leaving silence in his wake.
Slowly Suzanne lowered the receiver back onto its cradle. Goddess, the things that have changed in this dimension! Tommy, coming to Angel Grove under Rita's spell, and being an all-out bully? Billy, trapped in the Power Chamber, accepting the spirit of the first Sapphire Ranger into his body, thus gaining the power for himself, so he could save the Rangers from Mondo's trap? Jason, having to under-go an operation on Aquitar to save his life from the damage the Gold Powers had done to him, only to find the procedure would allow him to carry those powers indefinitely? Kim, choosing her friendship for Kat over her duty to the Rangers, giving up the Pink Power to Kat in the hopes of breaking the spell Rita had cast over her? Oh, this is too much to handle all at once! She carefully rotated her fingertips on each temple, trying to ease the headache coming to life. The sudden soft footstep on the stairs seemed loud to her aching head. Now who could be up at this time of the morning? She glanced at the small table lamp she'd cut on earlier. The light I've got on isn't strong enough to be visible from the stairs! Mentally she counted off the sounds as the person groped their way down, grinning when who ever it was hit the infamously creaky third step. The loud -renk- the step made in protest seemed enough to rouse the dead. The naughty word that accompanied it could accomplish the same thing. A moment later and Kahva stumbled into the room. What a sight! Suzanne thought, grinning at her half-asleep Sister. Kahva's hair was half out of the otherwise orderly braid, and the robe she wore was so big the sleeves concealed her hands and the hem was dragging the floor behind her.Our robes must have gotten mixed up in the wash again. How many times must I remind Ivy that I'm MUCH taller than Kahva?
Kahva found a sturdy prop in the door frame. From this safe vantage point she asked in a sleep-slurred voice, "Did you have a nightmare, or did I?" Her expression matched her almost joking tone. Despite being only half-awake, the question was serious.
Suzanne felt a shiver run down her spine at the innocent inquiry, "I'm not sure. Does it really matter, Sister dear?" Putting the query off, Suzanne patted the cushion beside her and said, "Come sit down before you fall." Don't tell me that the teasing we've done is true, and she and I are linked! Oh Goddess, if we are, what else could be true?
A lengthy yawn, then Kahva admitted, "It probably doesn't matter who dreamed what. And if it does, I don't wanna know. What are you doing down here? I just spent about five minutes talking to you upstairs -- until I woke up enough to realize your pillow wasn't going to answer me. That shook me up enough to come looking for you. l was doing real well with being quiet when I hit that damn third step that loves to scream." She grimaced, then rubbed at her eyes, trying to wake up enough to talk coherently. "Oj. I desperately need some Oj."
Suzanne laughed, "Yeah, I heard the step holler. One day we'll finally break down and have it repaired." She trailed along behind Kahva as her Sister fumbled her way to the kitchen. Suzanne wanted to make sure she didn't fall in her half-asleep state. It usually took her awhile to wake up properly. Kahva is so cute when she's like this! Oh, Jason, if only you could see her now!
Kahva had nearly reached the pantry when she suddenly came to a grinding halt and looked around for a moment. Her confused question of, "Where did the fridge go?" had Suzanne struggling not to laugh at her disheveled Sister.
"Right over there, " Suzanne said, steering her in the direction Kahva most certainly was not facing. "How about the two of us cooking breakfast for everyone?" She ignored Kahva's snort over the word 'cook' and continued, "Besides, it will give us a chance to talk over my phone conversation with Tommy."
THAT woke Kahva up pretty quickly. She froze in mid-reach for the inviting-looking orange juice container, "Phone conversation with Tommy?!" She jerked erect and slammed the fridge door with a -bang-! that echoed about the kitchen and was probably felt upstairs as well. But Suzanne was a little unprepared for Kahva's abrupt temper that came lashing out, "Spill it, Sister! When did you call him, and why?! I thought the Sisterhood was supposed to go over everything that we've learned, THEN you'd call the Red Ranger!"
Suzanne faked a cringe at Kahva's display of not-quite anger, "I had that nightmare and decided I needed Tommy to hold my hand for a little while. Figuratively, so don't go telling Ivy on me." She ignored the tongue Kahva stuck out at the insinuation she would 'tattle' to Ivy. "I really got my eyes opened by all that he told me. This world is so much different from the fantasy we've been playing with, but then again it isn't. It's a rough life here, most things aren't pleasant. Tommy told me how he became a Ranger, and his induction into the group gave me the shivers, especially when he admitted they nearly drove him to suicide."
"What?!" the word reverberated around the large kitchen that Kahva stood in the middle of, arms crossed and one foot tapping the floor with impatience. "Go on! I'd like to hear the rest of this little tale by the end of the century!"
"Tell you what. You help me fix breakfast," Suzanne suggested slyly, pulling out the egg carton, "and we can talk while we cook."
Kahva growled a little at the bribe, "Okay, but this had better be good! Me, up preparing breakfast at 5:30 in the morning. Ivy will never believe this." Suzanne chuckled at the heat in that comment as she handed Kahva a baking sheet for the toast. Over the next half hour they worked away, getting the food ready and talking over their first impressions of the Rangers. "As a group, I like them. There's a certain individual I nearly strangled last night," Kahva did not mention Kat by name, "but on the whole they're an amusing bunch. What they did to Tommy, though, brrr. . . that was cold. But they had their reasons, didn't they?" She paused in her work of buttering the toast, "And that's the whole point of this, isn't it? You're driving home this isn't a TV show; all the action doesn't take place in thirty or so minutes, with convenient breaks for commercials."
"And there's no assurances the good guys will win in the end either," Suzanne finished for her. "I know we've said time and again this world is real, and even I'm tired of constantly reminding myself of that, but it's the truth and it's going to take awhile before this sinks in completely. And like it or not, we may not have long to adjust to the changes. I certainly don't, now that I've accepted the power of the Silver Ranger." Whatever comment Kahva might have made was cut short by the over-loud -renk- of the stairs. "Here come the troops! Nothing like the smell of bacon and coffee to drag one's backside out of bed."
"Or the thought that certain in-di-vid-u-als," by separating the word into its separate syllables Kahva made it sound like a curse, "might be up to something."
Suzanne nodded and grimaced, "You'd think, after all this time, I'd have learned the Sisterhood cannot be bribed. They probably converged at the top of the stairs to try and figure out just what we're up to. Oh, well. At least we'll get a decent meal out of all this before they tack my hide to the wall."
"Now why would we tack your hide to a wall when you've gone and fixed a feast for us this fine mornin', lassie?" I joked in the best Scottish accent I could muster. A look passed between Suzanne and Kahva that seemed to ask, 'Tell them now or later?'
That look became very tense as Rianna called out from behind me, "Ivy, your Scottish accent is worse than Klank's!" The innocent comment called to mind all the things Suzanne and Kahva had just been discussing, and it caused the horror of the dream to resurface. Suzanne grasped the edge of the kitchen counter for a moment to collect herself while Kahva ushered us all to our seats.
Once she had plunked us in our more-or-less assigned chairs, Kahva stood in the center of the kitchen rubbing her hands together in mock professionalism, "Zo, ve have crrreated ze brrreakfast vorr your pleasurrre." She clunked the tray holding the toast onto the table with a thud that made us all jump, "Ze has slightly brrrowned brrread, bacon vor zose who wish vorr a massieve corrronarry ov ze 'earrrt, and mangled eggs vor zose who must kill something beforrre waking up." Her motions were followed by the baggy sleeves of her robe, forcing the Sisters sitting closest to her to duck at every gesture. As a comic act she wouldn't be thrown out of the club, but she was over-playing it badly as far as I was concerned. Something had upset both her and Suzanne. "Vorr zoes who like ze hot chocolate, it iz rrready, and vorr zoes wishing coffee, it iz arriving now."
Jaycynda begged, "Real coffee? Gimmie!" Her red hair was all over the place this morning, clashing badly with the hot pink nightshirt she was wearing. The little red slippers on her feet didn't match very well either, now that I think about it.
Kahva said in a normal speech, "Yes, this is real coffee, not the TV station variety that stands up and salutes you, then kicks your butt out the door first thing in the morning while it tries to eat your spoon." She handed the pot to Jay.
"And dissolve your coffee cup, if I remember correctly. Pass it on down, Jay. I have a feeling we're all going to need it," I said, looking at the pot with longing. If the two of them were so antsy the news couldn't be good.
Suzanne finally made it to the table with the mangled --oops, excuse me, scrambled-- eggs. Her face was pale and her hands shaking. She put the pan in a clear spot and quietly took her place at the head of the table. Everyone began to fill their plates, giving the eggs suspicious looks, for they had a strange orange tint to them that defied explanation until Kahva informed us tartly that Suzanne had added cheese to them. At my teasing prodding of the eggs with a fork and a solemn proclamation of, "It's dead, Jim," Kahva firmly informed us all, "She put the cheese in there because you all claim you like cheese with your eggs. If you don't like it," she shot me an arched eyebrow, "then you can go out and hunt and kill your own eggs next time."
I quickly shoveled a forkful into my mouth and found that though they looked rather inelegant, they were quite tasty. "Delicious," I proclaimed.
"Don't talk with your mouth full," Kahva countered.
"Yes, Mommie Kahva." Our banter continued throughout breakfast in much the same tone, all present taking an active part with the exception of Suzanne. I noticed Kahva seemed to be trying to fill in for Suzanne's lack of conversation, but I made no mention of it. The others had seemed to notice her silence as well, and no one wanted to press the issue just then. But as the last of the cheesy eggs, toast and bacon vanished, whatever was bothering our two early birds could no longer be ignored.
And the one who put an end to the tension filling the kitchen? "Okay, who's gonna spill it before I drag it out of her?" Rianna challenged, glaring at Kahva and Suzanne.
There was another one of those long, knowing glances exchanged between them, then surprisingly, Kahva started the story, "Suzanne had a nightmare this morning that woke her up, and she ended up calling Tommy to talk about it." I thought Suzanne was the one that something was bothering, why is Kahva speaking up so quickly? I wondered. I didn't have long to wait for an explanation.
"You've already talked to Tommy this morning?!" Katie nearly shouted the question. She pounded on the tabletop in exasperation and demanded, "What on Earth was the nightmare about that you had to talk to him so early?!"
"We were out in the Tracker with Billy and Jason," Kahva began, sparing Suzanne from having to repeat the nightmare yet again. "But in this version, the Cogs succeeded in getting us into the Throne Room." I watched our new Silver Ranger as the details of the nightmare flowed from Kahva, and her face showed surprise, then shock. Strange reaction, I mused. "And the last thing we could hear was Mondo's laughter echoing from somewhere in the room," Kahva finally finished. "We couldn't see him, but we certainly could hear him. It was the most chilling sound I have ever heard, dream or not." She opened her mouth as if to explain more, when Suzanne herself interrupted.
She rose to her feet in a jerky move that lacked her normal grace. "I never told you about the dream," she stated quietly. "I only told you that I had one, and I felt I needed Tommy to hold my hand over the phone for a while. I never went into any details, because I was too anxious to tell you about Tommy's attempted suicide," --What?!!-- "and all the changes to the Rangers. Never did I once refer to the contents of the dream!" Suzanne's face was ashy with shock, green eyes seeming black in her pale face.
Kahva's hand froze around her empty mug as the two girls stared at each other, completely -and maddeningly-- oblivious to the rest of us. "I asked which of us had a dream -" she started in quiet defense, then seemed to lose interest in the sentence. Abruptly she rose, pushing her chair back so suddenly it nearly toppled to the floor. "Explain it then, if you can. I'm going for more hot chocolate," she said in a taut rush, heading straight for the pantry to scavenge for more hot chocolate, deliberately ignoring our collective stares.
"Are you guys actually, honest to God or Goddess, beyond a shadow of a doubt, linked?" Gayla asked, when she finally found her voice. Right along with the rest of us, she seemed rooted to her chair in shock, staring at the pantry door that still swung slightly from Kahva's abrupt entry. Or retreat, if you'd prefer. What was that about Tommy attempting suicide? Talk, Suzanne, talk! But even I knew better than to press her at the moment. I'd have to get my answer later, whether I liked it or not. And I most certainly do NOT like it!
Suzanne finally looked from the pantry door to our grim group, and slowly nodded her head with a bit of hesitance. "I don't think that's in doubt anymore. Some how, some way, we have become linked. Who and what caused this, I'm. . ." she sighed, "It doesn't matter, does it? All it means is this world is real, problems and all. The bad guys aren't taken care of in the space of a half hour, or at the end of a 'to be continued' episode. Oh Goddess, I'm so scared right now." Her hands were shaking, so she folded them into her lap and continued in a hushed tone, forcing herself to face the truth, "I'm the Silver Ranger, Mondo and his lackeys are real, and we've got almost absolute proof that Kahva and I are linked, just like in the stories."
Into this shocking revelation came Jaycynda's quiet comment of, "This explains it, then." At our blank looks she gave a wan smile that spoke loudly of her own fear, "I think I can actually see when the two of you communicate. Your after-shimmer is silver, Suzanne, and Kahva's will take on that colour whenever you're very emotional. It's almost as if she draws on your power to link with you. . ."
Silence. Nerve-racking, patience-shredding, mind-numbing silence. It pressed down on us like a ten ton anvil, smothering all attempts to speak. There were some chilling thoughts trying to force their way to the surface of my consciousness. Some of the things written are coming true. How much more will we have to deal with before this is over? There was an issue that we'd joked over several times, one that hadn't been directly confronted because of all the implications it presented. One we teased Kahva with when her sense of humor needed a recharge. Can I do this? Admit to what I don't want to? Suzanne is no longer 'ours' anymore, she's a Ranger. But if I say something, Kahva won't be 'ours' either. The thoughts and questions battled fiercely against the bleak and paralyzing darkness surrounding my mind, fought through the intense and unadmitted jealousy that Suzanne could be closer to my closest friend than I was, and finally won free as I weighted the merits of voicing the conclusion. I was forced to choose between my friendship with Kahva and my loyalty to the Sisterhood. Loyalty won out. The Sisterhood would not be denied the truth we needed to hear, "Kahva brought us here. She opened a portal and transported us to this dimension using Suzanne's power. Remember, Zordon said Suzanne possessed the power before she had the crystal. If she didn't, we wouldn't have had a way into this world. What we need to know is how she did it, and why. Both must be answered, and from what we've seen, finding the truth means facing it. For some reason, some of us are supposed to be here. Some of us actually have places in this dimension. Why? Why are we so important that hidden talents had to be tapped to bring us here?"
Rianna stood up and said in a ringing voice, "Does it really matter why?" She had that disdainful look we had all come to know and fear so well. The one that said, 'You're acting like dummies, and it's my job to get you straight.' "We're HERE! Deal with it, you idiots! You keep saying this isn't a fairy tale world, so when are you going to start acting like it?! You seem to think this is all one big adventure in Disney World or something, a ride that's going to end the minute you walk out the gate! News flash, people - we're in this for good. So shape up and let's get on with our lives. The Sisterhood is together and nothing can defeat us as long as we stand united. It doesn't matter who has what power or who gets Billy or whether or not Mondo is after us. We can defeat anything! This is the Sisterhood! Are we going to keep questioning ourselves and our abilities, or are we going to deal ourselves into this game and play for all we're worth?"
Katie took exception to that scalding put-up-or-shut-up lecture, "Don't you think you'd better get some kind of consensus before you volunteer us? Some of us might like a few more choices before we go gung-ho into this. This isn't a dimension to take lightly, and I'd like some time and distance to make that kind of decision. And I don't want someone else making it for me, either."
Before more tempers could flare, Jaycynda rose to her feet, tall and commanding even in that hot pink nightshirt, "Alright you two, cool it. Or so help me, I'll do it for you. Rianna has raised a valuable point. Do we want to stay here? Do we really need to be a part of the Rangers' lives? No, don't turn from me. This is something we have to deal with, and the best time is now, while we're all right here. DO WE WANT TO STAY?!"
The large kitchen echoed with silence for several minutes before I hesitantly spoke up, "Look, I don't really see that it matters all that much. If we go, that means Suzanne has to leave as well. Can any of us truly force her to give up the life and opportunity she has here to do something more than dream? Here she can make a difference, can ram some of Mondo's own evil right back down his throat and make him swallow it. Who knows, we may get lucky and poison him to death that way." I shrugged and picked at my bacon, unsure of myself. I'd never really taken a stand one way or the other with this issue, preferring to simply agree with the popular opinion. In my own mind, I was a friend along for the ride. Never had I really considered myself a firm member of the Sisterhood because of the distance between the others' love for the show and my own, private opinion of a kiddy show I had problems watching more than ten minutes at a time. But my jealousy of Suzanne's connection to Kahva had to be faced, and repaid. So. . . "Look at the life we have here. Weigh it against the one we were living in our dimension. I don't know about yours, but mine is much more inviting. I live in a great house with an entire melee of close friends that I can call Sisters without a qualm. I have a great job that appreciates my efforts, with a salary higher than I received back in Greenville. I also know seven very special young people who are braver than I could have ever believed. THEY are willing to make a place for us here. Why aren't we willing to do the same? Are we not made of the same courageous stuff? If we aren't, then maybe we had best leave."
More silence, which I feverently hoped someone else would break after my do-or-die speech I really hadn't intended to make. Finally, Katie nodded her head, "So be it. I'm here to stay. My life is better here, because I'm surrounded by the greatest people I have ever known. The Sisterhood. I'll stand behind you through thick and thin, and it starts now. Who is with me?"
"Me, of course," Rianna piped up. "Unlike all of you, I've been HERE ever since we arrived. I like this dimension because here, I matter. I don't have parents who don't care, two siblings who drive me crazy. I've got you and the Rangers. I like the company just fine."
"I can't leave," was Suzanne's quiet reply.
"Of course you can!" Gayla snapped at her. "You don't have to be the Silver Ranger. If you told Zordon today that you were leaving this dimension, he'd wish you well and help you in every way possible. The Rangers would do the same, never saying a word against you. You KNOW this. Don't make excuses. Say what you mean."
Suzanne hung her head, "I'm afraid for you. I have a power to protect me, but the rest of you don't."
Jay laughed and gave her wild hair a pat in the attempt to tame it, "In case you haven't noticed, certain of us have Rangers wrapped around our littlest fingers, so I can't say as I'm worried." She looked around at the table, then the counter, "What I am worried about is all these dishes. Did you and Kahva have to use every dish in the house just to fix breakfast? It's going to take days to clean this kitchen, and we're supposed to go shopping today, remember?" At the mention of shopping, all of our attitudes changed drastically. We are women, after all, and not immune to the weaknesses of our kind. . .
Jason had invited Tommy to a match, which the Red Ranger had eagerly accepted. Jason and Tommy didn't often have the time to spar with each other because they were usually teaching someone else. But this bout was about as brutal as Adam had ever seen the two of them go at it. Jason seemed bent on rending Tommy limb from limb, and was doing it with the most chilling, expressionless face he'd ever seen. Tommy wasn't quite sure what was going on, and kept trying to tone the match down, but Jason wouldn't have any of that. Tommy finally got mad and began to give back what he was receiving. The Gold Ranger found himself meeting the mat face to surface with a startled grunt of pain. Are we playing 'King Of The Mountain' here, or just trying to turn each other into liquid Jell-O? Adam wondered as Jason sprang back up and immediately back-flipped over Tommy to issue a low, sweeping kick at his ankles, knocking the Red Ranger off his feet. We are all on the same side here. . . Perhaps one of us needs to remind them? A glance at his fellow Rangers informed him that he wasn't the only one a bit puzzled by the polite free-for-all. Except Billy, he's not paying attention to the match, not one bit. Does he have Suzanne on his brain that badly? The thought of Suzanne reminded him of Rianna's bracelet in his pocket. He pulled it out for a few moments, thinking of her beautiful face, warm laughter. . . I can't talk too much, I've got Rianna on my mind. . . but I don't think I'm quite as lost as Billy. Not my mind anyway. But my heart. . . my heart is hers, and happily so. I can only hope she'll accept it. As he watched Tommy hit the mat once again, Adam could only shake his head. I think a few of us have decided to. . . What did Kahva say last night? Ah, yes. A few of us have had our brains to go running off the Cliffs Of Insanity, screaming madly, diving into the Sea Of Chaos, from which never to return. A resounding 'wham, bam, THUD' as Jason hit the mat confirmed it, as far as Adam was concerned. Yep, they've gone starkers, all right.
THUD! The sound jerked Billy out of his daydreaming. He glanced at the mat and was startled to see Jason just lying there, spread-eagle and gasping for breath. A second later he was back on his feet and flying to the fray again. Billy preceded to watch most the 'spar' with his heart in his throat. The last time those two had gone for each others throats was when a hate spell had been cast on them by Rita. They had almost fought right in the middle of the hallway at Angel Grove High School until Mrs. Appleby had stormed in and stopped the nonsense. And the two were too evenly matched to risk either in a do-or-die battle Oh, God, please don't let that be happening all over again!
On the mats Tommy was yanking his hair back and impatiently securing it with a tie, glad he still had hair to pull back into his ponytail, glaring at the Gold Ranger all the while. Jason had asked for this bout with him, had seemed eager to spar. But from the moment Jason had stepped out onto the mat with his usual calm demeanor he'd been tossing Tommy around like there was no tomorrow. This had been going on for the past quarter hour and Jason hadn't said so much as two words. Tommy was just inches away from losing his patience entirely. I've got too much on my mind to deal with this! Suzanne calls me out of the blue this morning, suffering from a nightmare that I've actually lived through a time or two. It brought back too many memories. I didn't want to relive my evil Ranger days, but after she'd opened up to me the way she did, how could I not tell her? Somehow I have to ease her into the group without getting her in over her head, but I'm afraid she's already in too deep. Why else would she be afraid enough to be haunted by nightmares? "I thought this was supposed to be a friendly little spar. When did you decide differently?" Tommy asked, stretching to ease the cramp in his lower back. That last throw had caught him by surprise, and he hadn't rolled as smoothly as he should have. "If you've got a bone to pick, tell me what it is. You've got my attention, anyway." What is with him? Something has got to be eating him, but what? Has he got Kahva on his mind that badly? No, it has to be something else. If it was just Kahva, he wouldn't be after me so badly. . .
"Just making a point," was the only answer Jason would give him. If you can't figure it out, then I haven't driven you into the mat quite enough. We're all trained for battle, Suzanne isn't. We're a team, have been, for quite some time. . . I don't have anything against Suzanne, but where are you going to fit her in? And what are you going to do about the others? Have you stopped to think about ANY of this?! We all have our particular places on the team, our own specific roles to fill. Tommy is the leader, thus the 'general'. Since I'm the former leader, the place of Second-in-Command has always fallen to me. Billy is the technician, of course, but as the one who's been a Ranger the longest, the position of Third-in-Command is also his. Adam functions as Billy's assistant, helping with sensor readings and the up-keep of the Zords. Rocky makes the perfect solider, leaping when told before bothering to look. But his mind does have a decidedly logical bent --when he wants it to-- so he often doubles as our tactical officer. Kat and Tanya usually deal with any innocent by-standers who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. They also protect any fallen Rangers long enough to get them to the Power Chamber, where either of them can treat them. The arrangement has worked smoothly for a number of years. . . and here is Suzanne, bent on messing it all up. Does she have any training at all? Any worth mentioning? And how about her 'Sisters'? How much of a strain can we take trying to protect them from Mondo? Jason caught his breath as the image of a certain dark-haired Sister flashed before him. Kahva is one of those 'Sisters', his traitorous mind whispered, and he mentally kicked himself. A glance at Tommy revealed the same calm regard, Why doesn't he say anything about what has happened? He's spent the whole morning acting like everything is just fine and dandy. You'd never know we're in a major dilemma! The entire team could be in jeopardy. But his stare was countered only by Tommy's apparently unflappable calmness. This is maddening! "Just simply making a point," he repeated softly, emotionally spent from thinking over the situation so hard.
"Fine. But I think it's time I make one of my own," so saying, Tommy proceeded to take Jason down four times before the Gold Ranger tired of being slammed onto the mat. If some-thing's bugging you, TALK to me, don't toss me around for fun and profit! Come on, just tell me, don't make me have to drag it out of you in front of everyone! This time it was Tommy's stare that was deflected by an outwardly calm manner.
"Enough," Jason finally said. He gave Tommy one last appraising look, then turned to the sidelines, "Billy, you ready for your lesson?" Jason motioned for the Sapphire Ranger to take his place on the mat. Billy did so with a great deal of trepidation and not a little dread. But whatever was bothering Jason so badly seemed to have worked its way out of his system, at least temporarily, as Billy joined him on the mats. He made no attempt on Billy's life as he carefully guided the Sapphire Ranger through a new kata. When one of the kicks gave him trouble, Tommy quietly stepped in and helped Billy to understand he was shifting his feet wrong. Jason did not object to the assistance
The rest of the workout was surprisingly uneventful, largely because the Red and Gold Rangers quit being so defensive.
At nine, Tommy called for a halt, "That's a wrap, folks. I've got to get home to do chores, but we'll meet back at the park at four for that game of touch football, right? Losers have to do the housework for the Winners for a week." There were some groans over the reward. If the girls were on the winning team, that meant the losers would be washing dishes and clothes for an entire week. There were worst things than fighting Cogs. . .
"Tommy, can I talk to you for just a moment?" Billy asked as he hurried over to where Tommy was gathering up his stuff. "Look, I heard you make a comment concerning the Sister-hood. Did you talk to them already this morning? Was Suzanne okay?" The questions came out in a rush.
Deciding to answer Billy, Tommy pulled his shirt on and fished his ponytail out of the collar, "She had a nightmare about the attempted kidnapping, which isn't unexpected. I still have nightmares about being the evil Green Ranger every once in a while. But she seemed okay when I hung up. Why do you ask?"
"I'm just worried about her. There's an incredible amount of strain and pressure on her right now, what with being in another dimension and suddenly becoming a Ranger. Are you sure she sounded alright?" Billy pressed.
"Yes, she was fine," Tommy sighed. I can't tell you more because I won't know anymore until she talks to the Sisterhood, figure it out, Billy! "Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get home and mow the grass," Tommy tried to walk past Billy, but was considerably surprised when the Sapphire Ranger blocked his way.
"What aren't you telling me? What did you talk about, how bad was the nightmare?"
First Jason, now this, am I going to have to start tranquilizing these guys?! "Billy, she had a nightmare about the kidnapping, who wouldn't? You heard her and Kahva and the others last night, they've written so much about us, our world. . . Who knows what kind of stuff they've put us, or themselves, through?" Tommy finally managed to get outside, but Billy was still hot on his heels.
Reaching the Tracker, Tommy opened the door and threw his bag in. Before he could climb in, Billy reached out and physically restrained him. The move surprised Tommy, but Billy began asking questions in a rush again, "But she did sound okay? Not upset? What is her emotional state right now? Are you sure she's going to be alright--"
"What part of 'yes' did you not understand, William Cranston?!" Tommy demanded in exasperation. "YES, she's going to be okay. YES, she sounded alright when I hung up with her. In fact, she was MOST eager to discuss a few things with the Sisterhood. Would you like to strap me down onto a lie detector?"
"You mean wire you up to one," Billy corrected automatically.
"WHATEVER!! She has to talk to the Sisterhood before she can tell us anymore!! Why can you not get that through that genius brain of yours?! You want answers, I want answers, we all want answers, but I don't have any right now. Now if you will unhand me, I need to inhale the lawn before it comes to life and eats my house," Tommy pulled his arm free of Billy's clinging grip and leaped into the cab of his Tracker. Billy had to hop onto the sidewalk to avoid being backed over.
"Touchy. But what must I do to get the truth around here? Tommy won't tell me what little he knows, Zordon won't even listen, he's so caught up in the prophecy. . ." Standing in the settling dust of Tommy's heated departure wasn't going to get him anywhere, so Billy headed to his refuge: his lab.
It didn't take long for Billy to settle into a now-familiar routine: pull up readings from the past few weeks, go over them again and again, download any new readings from the Power Chamber's main computer, pour over those. . . Billy repeated this cycle over and over until some of his irritation at the Red Ranger had subsided. "You didn't have to bite my head off just because Jason threw you around like a rag doll," he muttered under his breath. "I hope you sneeze your head off; serves you right for mowing the lawn without a breathing mask when you know good and well what the grass does to your allergies!" Billy winced as he realized he was shouting to the air. Good thing I had this place sound-proofed a long time ago, otherwise Mom or Dad would think I've gone starkers, yelling at thin air. I shouldn't let Tommy's actions get to me, he wants answers too. . . I just wish he had simply told us exactly what he and Suzanne had talked about.
Billy was so engrossed in his work, he didn't hear the knock at the door leading into the house, nor did he notice the extra light flowing into the room from the doorway. His eyes were crossing and uncrossing randomly as he stared at the computer screen, his chin wobbling on the unsteady hand which held it in place. His heart did stop as he almost flew through the roof at the touch of his mother's hand on his shoulder. "MOM!!" he screamed with a startled squeak, somehow remembering to place his body between the computer screen and his mother. "Don't sneak up on me like that, you nearly caused me to experience a premature massive coronary event!"
"Nice to see you too, dear," his mother smiled, suppressing a chuckle. "I did knock, but you didn't hear me, I guess. I'm sorry to have caused you to have a heart attack before your time," she apologized with a grin. "Homework troubles?" she asked, indicating the computer behind her son.
"Not exactly," he answered, shutting the computer down before she could see the sensitive information. "More like a research problem, there was an," he paused for a second, not wanting to lie to his mother, but unable to tell her the truth either. "There was an unusual event in the park a few weeks back, a section of the ground appeared to have suffered a strong downblast of some sort. It's probably the result of some type of machinery, but the mystery of what could have done it has been chasing me ever since I heard about it. It's nothing major, but-"
"But whenever there's even something slightly mysterious, you have to figure it out, I know. You've always been as curious as a cat. I still remember you taking apart my vacuum cleaner when you were little to figure out how it worked." She hugged her son and gently pulled him out of his garage laboratory, waiting for him to lock the door and set his security system. She and Billy's father hadn't minded one bit when Billy had added the security to his lab, there was a lot of valuable, if at times unidentifiable, equipment lying about in there. "You've been cooped up in there for too long today, why don't you go for a walk? Maybe relaxing for a little while will help you with your little mystery. And Billy?"
"If what has been bothering you this morning is the totaling of your Tracker, don't worry about it. The insurance companies in Angel Grove started adding monster attack coverage to their policies two years ago, remember? The damage is covered, sweetheart. Though there is just one little thing," she smiled at him. "The next time you take this young lady you were with last night out on a date, would you mind bringing her by here and introducing her to us?"
Billy sighed with relief. "I'll be sure to bring her here first thing, Mom," he assured her. "And thanks for reminding me about the Tracker, I'd forgotten about the insurance. Maybe I should take that walk." With one last glance at his security panel, Billy headed outside, with one goal in mind: the small clearing the Sisterhood had arrived in. Maybe, just maybe, we missed something. . .
"I guess we didn't miss anything," he said to himself. After a few circuits around the clearing, he hadn't found anything new. Now he was drifting about the clearing aimlessly, but eventually his wandering steps led him back to the sign where Suzanne first came into his life. Idly he looked around, wondering how Angel Grove must have appeared to seven young women who had literally fallen into this dimension. He spied the benches nestled in the shade, and settled down. What must they have thought, what had SHE felt, on being thrown into this world? Elation? Fear? He shook off the last, Suzanne was not one who feared easily. Billy gazed around the clearing, noting the peace and calm of the area. At least she had been welcomed with serenity into his world. Billy smiled as the image of Suzanne in her 'lethal silver dress', as Tommy had called it last night, raced through his mind, her laughter and smile warming his soul in a way he'd never experienced before. Those thoughts had him feeling much better very quickly. A slight breeze ruffled his hair and sent the broad leaves of the hostas planted around the sign rippling. A flash of dark blue against the green and white of the leaves drew his eyes, and he walked over to investigate. It was a large, three-ring binder, filled to over-flowing. Part of the cover exposed to the sunlight had faded, indicating it had lain there for some time. He opened it to the first page and the words leaped out at him, 'Silver Rising' by Cynthia and Kahva. Kahva? As in Kahva Brittain, the ShadowKeeper?
Only the flashing lights on the cordless phone made her realize it was ringing. She hit the off switch in a flash, yelling, "I've got it!" as she dived for the phone. "Hello?" she asked eagerly.
"Hello to you as well," Tommy managed to get out before he sneezed. "I'm sorry, but I just" -ha-chew!-- "got through mowing the lawn. Got time for another little talk? I've got a few ideas I'd like to run by you." He sneezed again. "I'm never going to breathe normally again," he moaned.
"Try some Benadryl," Suzanne suggested with a laugh. "It always seems to help Kahva. What ideas did you have? You'd better make it quick, the Sisters will be downstairs anytime to see why I've stopped vacuuming."
"Alright, the quick version. How would you like for me to pick you up every afternoon after work? I figured we could head to my house for a little workout in my peaceful, isolated backyard. How does that sound?" the invitation was offset somewhat by the enormous sneeze that seemed to shake the phone. "Darn allergies. I thought we could test your abilities, maybe talk a few things over, get to know each other." He laughed dryly after another earth-shaking sneeze, "And I can bug you to pieces about Ivy. Deal?"
"You betcha ya!" Suzanne herself laughed as Jaycynda walked into the living room, "Oops, the cleaning patrol just walked in."
"Why in such a rush? You've got all day to clean, right?" Sneeze, sneeze, sniffle, "Darn allergies!"
Laugh! "No, we don't have all day. We're planning to go S-H-O-P-P-I-N-G," and Suzanne sang that word, "this afternoon, but we can't leave until all the housework is done. Hold on just a minute more, Jay. This is Tommy on the phone. Okay, you'll pick me up in front of Dr. Klein's office at 5:00?"
"Yes, ma'am, and I promise not to be late. If Kat threatens my hair if I'm late, I shudder to think what YOU might harm," came the witty response. "Please tell Ivy that I miss her, and I hope to talk to her soon."
"Oh, I will. Now leave me alone so I can get finished, okay? I wanna go shopping!"
"Alright, alright. I'll let you get back to your housework if you wish me good luck."
"Good luck at what?"
"We've got a game of touch football today, and the winners have to do the chores of the losers for a week. I really don't want to do more chores than I already do. Enjoy your shopping trip, your group needs the rest and relaxation. I'll see you Monday, don't be late," that last was said in jest as Tommy hung up, leaving her holding the phone, laughing her head off.
"Are you alright, Suz? You're acting a little strange right now," Jaycynda stated, and pointed to the vacuum. "I want to shop, so you'd better move that thing or I'll. . ."
"Or you'll do what?" I demanded, coming into the living room armed with Pledge and a dust rag. Kahva was right behind me, human now that she'd showered after mowing the lawn.
"She thinks talking to Tommy will get her out of vacuuming," Jay accused with a smile and an impish wink at Suzanne. "Did he let you talk to Billy?"
"No, and you're standing in the middle of the one part of the carpet I haven't vacuumed. So move your backside before I let it suck you up!" Suzanne 'threatened', shaking the hose at her in mock anger.
"Alright, Suz, calm down. Talk too loud and you'll give Klank an idea for a new monster that does carpets, throw rugs, and Power Rangers," Rianna joked as she bodily moved Jaycynda away. "Hurry up and get that one little part done, and then it's shopping city! Ya-hoo!" She did an impromptu dance around the couch, dragging Gayla with her, who in turn grabbed Katie, who snatched Kahva into the line, who snagged Jaycynda in an attempt to free herself, who latched onto Suzanne, who then captured me into the chain as we worked out way out of the house and to the cars, singing the whole way. . .
Billy had settled down behind the sign to read, pausing only once in a while to drag himself back into reality. The stories were incredible, written with both talent and insight, and his admiration for the new Silver Ranger was elevated to whole new heights. The few differences between her and Kahva's tales and this dimension were slight, and he began to wonder if his theory concerning the DreamWeaver was closer than he had first thought.
"I hate this!" Billy shouted softly after reading through several of the fics. This is not fair! This is not my life on these pages! I'm NOT married to Suzanne, I'm NOT living with her, I'm NOT sharing my life with her. . . this is NOT FAIR!! I want the life she's created here, a life with her, and I don't have it! I want to spend eternity with her, but right now that's the last thing possible! She's got so much riding on her, so much to learn, so much to cope with, how can I add more pressure? I can't, but I don't know how long I can wait! I need her in my life!
"Beep-beep-beepbeep-beep-beep!" chirped his communicator, snapping his mind back unwillingly into reality. "Billy here," he sighed. Tommy's probably after my hide for bugging him so much, I should've backed off a little, but damn it, I want to know what's going on with Suzanne! Why can't he understand that?
"Hey, Billy," came the unexpectedly cheerful tones of the Red Ranger. "It's past four, are you going to play touch football or what?"
It's after four already? Geez, I've been here almost five hours! "No, I'm not much in the mood for football today, I'm afraid. I'll see you guys tomorrow, though," he tried to put Tommy off.
It didn't work. "You're working on our portal mystery, aren't you?" came the near-accusation. At Billy's reluctant admittance, Tommy started to scold him for driving himself too hard, "Billy. . ." he began.
"I know," Billy interrupted him, "and I promise if I figure out anything new, I'll come by and fill you in." Tommy's tone of voice told Billy he was none too happy with that vague promise, but he didn't insist on Billy meeting him right then and there, letting the issue drop for the moment. With great relief, Billy shut off his communicator and ran all the way back to his lab, rushing in through the outside garage door and quickly locking it behind him, breathless from the run and from the contents of the notebook he was clutching tightly to his chest.
With a bang he tossed the notebook onto a counter top and hurriedly set up his scanning equipment, feeding the pages in as fast as he could. He had no idea how long it would take Tommy's impatience to get the better of him and send him after Billy. If he could just get it into the computer before Tommy arrived, he'd have plenty of time to study everything later. . .
Tommy frowned at his communicator, not at all pleased with the conversation he'd just had with Billy, muttering under his breath, "Like I'm going to let you get away with this. Worrying yourself to death isn't going to do Suzanne a bit of good." Nevertheless, he called for the game to begin, and he and Jason were chosen as team Captains. They picked their players: Jason got Adam, Rocky, Todd and Kat; Tommy got Tanya, Raymond, Emily and David. He tried to be optimistic about the game in progress, but Billy had his worried and his concentration was divided. He watched, almost unseeing, as Tanya made an illegal tackle on Adam. It took a moment for the move to register.For a game of Touch Football, that was mighty physical! Adam bounded to his feet and protested the rough treatment, fully expecting Tommy to call the foul and put his teammate in place. "Flying tackles not allowed, Tanya. To the sidelines with you!"
She wrinkled her nose at him and bounced over to sit beside Jason, who didn't want to play for some reason. "Want some company, gloomy Gus?" she teased as she flopped onto the grass. She rolled over onto her stomach and watched as Raymond confidently caught the ball. . . and froze up in utter panic as Rocky came barreling down the field towards him like a runaway freight train, arms and legs pumping like pistons and showing no signs of slowing down. Giving vent to a terrified scream, he jumped several feet in the air and tossed the ball to Adam like it was some kind of hot potato, completely forgetting that Adam was on the other team! The Green Ranger snapped the ball up and sprinted back toward his in-zone, making for the goal post like a man running for his life. As soon as he made the goal, he did a happy little dance involving a back flip and a duck-like waddling walk.
Even though they were on the same team, David couldn't help but laugh at Tommy's crestfallen look, while Kat gave a cheering yell because her team had scored. She didn't care how the points were gained, just as long as they won! Emily made a face, however, and on the next play took off like a streak, dodging and weaving her way towards the goal. She was black-flagged on the last lap by a determined Todd, who had no desire whatsoever to be the Loser performing tasks for the Winners. But in the next play Tommy managed to squirm his way out of the pile and onto the line designating the goal. The score stayed even for the rest of the game until Jason finally came in long enough to throw the winning pass to a fleet-footed Adam. . . and Tommy couldn't shake the feeling he did that just so Tommy's team would lose. . . Man, this mess has me so paranoid I'm seeing evil plots in everything! Well, time to face the music. Wonder how many loads of clothes, and dishes, I'm going to have to face next week? "Okay, ante up time! Who am I replacing, and what are my duties?" he asked, laughing out loud at Raymond's crestfallen look.
Kat jumped in, "Me, of course! And Mom wants the windows washed this week, so it will take you a while!" She paused as the other Losers fanned out among the Winners, trying to find out what tasks awaited them. "Why wasn't Billy here?" her face betrayed her concern as she checked to make sure none of the others were near enough to hear them.
"Why do you think?" Tommy asked her in a tired voice. He slumped into a heap at her feet, winded by the last frantic play. "He's in his lab, pouring over all the readings taken when the Sisterhood arrived in this dimension, and I can't pull him away to save my life. It's like Suzanne has cast a spell over him or something so he can't think of anything but her." He glanced at the rapidly emptying field, watching as the Rangers began to slowly migrate toward him and Kat, "I'm afraid for him, Kat. He's never been this obsessed over a woman before. Heck, half the time he's as tongue-tied as I am, but to watch him go after Suzanne, you'd never know he has a shy bone in his body. And I'm so worried I'm starting to wonder if Suzanne is capable of something like that, because they've all admitted she really is a witch. I'm being unfair, I know. She would never do that because it violates her code of 'do not harm others', but, darnit all, I don't have any other reasons! Billy never acts like this!"
"I'm not sure what's going on, but all of you guys are acting out of character," Kat gave him a long, piercing look that caused him to blush even though she hadn't said anything about Ivy. "Spell or no spell. But you're right, Billy is the only one who seems possessed. I'm not really convinced its a bad thing just yet, but I'll get into that later. Look, why don't you go talk to him? As a friend, not a Ranger. Try and see what's going on with him. Don't worry, I'll make your excuses to everyone. And while you're doing it, why don't you think over Jason and Kahva? And although he's being a lot more discrete, Adam is attracted enough to Rianna to nearly come to blows with Rocky at the club we went to last night." At Tommy's raised eyebrows, she pushed him in the direction of the parking lot, "I'll explain everything later, I promise. Just take care of Billy for right now. I don't think he's been sleeping well since this whole thing started."
So Tommy left the field, more concerned than ever. The drive to Billy's house was too short for him to calm down much, and he arrived ready to do battle with the Sapphire Ranger, for the oldest Ranger's own good. Tommy marched up to the garage door, fully intending to pound his way through if necessary, then stopped himself. This was a friendly call, not an invasion. Why start things off on the wrong foot? If I go barging in, he'll be all defensive and not listen to a word I'm saying. We might try to convince ourselves otherwise, but William Cranston can be one very hard headed cuss when the mood strikes him So he turned around and headed for the porch. At his polite knock, Mrs. Cranston opened the front door with a startled, "Heavens, Tommy! Why are you knocking? You know you can always walk right in!" She opened the door wide and shooed him inside, shutting it behind him with a little more force than she intended, making Tommy jump. "Oh, I'm sorry, Thomas! I'm worried about Billy, that's all. I did manage to get him to take a long walk earlier, but he's right back in his lab now, puttering away at that blasted computer. Has something been bothering him recently? He came home last night so quiet, even though we assured him the Tracker wasn't his fault."
I hate this part of being a Ranger, Tommy moaned inwardly. What was he supposed to tell her? What could he tell her? "Actually, yes, there is something bothering him. . . bothering all of us, in fact," Tommy admitted. "There's a new group of young women in town, they're not from anywhere near here. . . and their situation isn't that good. They somehow ended up stranded, and are having to start their lives all over again here in Angel Grove, separated from anything and everyone they know and love, with only each other for strength and comfort. We're all trying to help them, to make the transition easier, and to be honest, it's getting a bit stressful. Getting to know them isn't all that easy, because they're on their guard, so worried about being hurt again." That's it, tell the truth, just not the whole truth. I still hate this part of being a Ranger, though.
Mrs. Cranston looked thoughtful for a moment, then her eyes lit up with a sudden connection. "Tommy, is one of those young women the person Billy went out on his interrupted date with last night?" At his nod, she smiled with understanding. "Things make a bit more sense now. He's worried about all of them, and especially about her. I can't imagine how I would react if I were caught in a monster attack, and I'm used to hearing about them. She must have been terrified."
Actually, she and Kahva tried to fight off more Cogs by themselves than we usually take on as a team. No one knows that they were kidnapped. . . but someone might tell the Cranstons something about the attack scene. . . Got it! "She and Jason's date were both pretty upset, so upset in fact, that we sent them on home right after the attack, so they could be with their friends. We're all concerned about how they're handling things, because Angel Grove is certainly a one of a kind place to live, but Billy is worried about Suzanne personally. There's a. . . connection between them we can't explain."
"So that's her name. . . Well, with all of you to look after them and be their friends, I think they'll fare just fine, Tommy. Billy is probably wishing he could be a Power Ranger so he can take on those monsters himself and protect Suzanne, and her friends. Tommy, could you try to help him understand that he can't stop things like what happened last night from happening? He will listen to you." Mrs. Cranston escorted him to the door of Billy's lab with a gentle smile. "In fact, I may have a way all of you can help your new friends. Miguel is going to have one of his famous cookouts next week, why don't you invite the girls over to the DeSantos'?"
"That is a very good idea, Mrs. Cranston! I'll tell the others and see what they think, thanks!" Giving her a grateful peck on the cheek, Tommy entered the lab. He fully expected to find Billy hunched over his computer screen. . . and was surprised to find him holding a large, slightly over-stuffed blue notebook. What has he been doing to himself, he needs to get some sleep and leave all this alone for a while. . . what is that notebook? Billy is holding it like a lifeline or something. All thoughts of calmly reasoning with the Sapphire Ranger took flight at the sight of his exhausted, wan-looking friend. Billy's hair was tousled, with dark smudges beneath both eyes. In the harsh light of the garage, Tommy could see all too well the weight loss his friend suffered from. Weave thy web, mistress of my desire. I've no defense, against thy burning fire. You weave my dreams from desire and flame, upon a tangled skein lay the threads of my shame. Moonlight and stars, sweet dreams and fantasy - they are the silken bars in my endless captivity. The words to his favorite song, a haunting ballad about obsession that was currently number one, floated through his mind as he looked at Billy in helpless distress. "Billy? What are you doing? You need sleep, not more work." In his concern, the question came out sharper than he intended. It was just enough to trigger that defensiveness he'd worried about setting off.
A fierce scowl greeted Tommy's hasty words, "Who are you, my keeper? I'm fine, and I don't need you shouting at me. And for your information, I'll getting ready to eat supper and lie down," Billy snapped out, laying the notebook on the counter for a moment so he could turn off the scanner. Tommy had caught him off-guard, never expecting him to walk into the garage from the inside door. Mom must have let him in. Now how do I get rid of him so I can read the rest of the stories?
It wasn't easy to stifle the smart remark, but Billy didn't look like he could stand an extended argument. Heck, who am I kidding? He doesn't look able to stand! "I'm sure your mother will be happy to hear that. She's worried." Tommy kept his expression bland, watching as Billy shut down some equipment. But the Sapphire Ranger wasn't slick enough, for Tommy recognized the scanner. Why was he scanning? And what? A look at the innocent-seeming notebook made him curious, "What's in the notebook, Billy? I've never seen you with it before, but it looks like it's had some hard use lately."
"Just some notes. It occurred to me I needed to get them into the computer before they ended up being shredded in a Cog attack or something. You know how they love to trash this place every chance they get," Billy said with a shrug. "I couldn't find anything new on the Sister-hood's arrival here, and needed to do something. Figured now was as good a time as any."
At Tommy's understanding nod, Billy flashed him a grin and continued to shut down the computer. He fell for it! Adam, thank you for all the times you conned me into something with that innocent look of yours! A polite knock on the door called his attention away as his mom stepped into the garage, "Billy, honey, I've got a bowl of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich ready for you. It'll take just a minute to fix some for Tommy as well."
"Thanks, mom. We'll be right out."
Mrs. Cranston turned to go, then glanced back over her shoulder, eyes sparkling with sudden mischief, "Oh, why don't you invite Suzanne over for dinner tomorrow night? Your father and I can't wait to meet her, you know. I had to grill Tommy to get her name, and I would have preferred to hear it from you instead."
With a cringe, Billy apologized, "Sorry, mom. I've had a lot on my mind lately. Suzanne and her friends aren't having an easy time of it here, and I've gotten drawn into their problems more than I expected. I'll ask her, but she'll probably decline for right now. She's under a lot of pressure, and she barely knows any of us. Having to meet my parents after one crashed date is a little fast."
"You're right, Billy. Just forget I asked. Maybe she'll come to Miguel's cookout next weekend, like I suggested to Tommy. That way all her friends can be with her. It will give them a chance to meet the neighborhood without any stress. Come and eat your dinner before it gets cold," she ordered with a smile, and left the garage.
"And you really thought you could hide this from me? I ought to rip you apart, William Cranston!" came the heated comment from behind him the moment his mother was out of earshot.
Billy frowned as he turned back to his friend; what on Earth could Tommy be talking about? "Hide what - oh," he stopped cold. Tommy was standing over the notebook, hands firmly planted on either side, with a most displeased scowl crossing his features. Oh brother, I'm in for it now! "Umm, Tommy -"
"How long have you had this?" the Red Ranger asked tightly, slamming the binder closed with a resounding -bang- and tucking it securely beneath his arm.
Billy's shoulders sank in defeat, "I found it this afternoon. It's their stories, Tommy. Suzanne and Kahva's stories, the Silver Flame Series." The Sapphire Ranger best resembled a puppy caught chewing on a prized pair of loafers. He was in trouble, and he knew it. Now what? he wondered. Am I to be taken before the firing squad?
"I can see that," Tommy replied. "Right here on the title page, 'The 'Silver Flame' Series by Cynthia and Kahva'. Billy, when were you planning on telling me, or anyone else about this?" He held up his hand, cutting off whatever answer Billy may have offered. "No, don't say anything, you were going to read the whole thing without stopping, try to figure out all the riddles, then bring it to the rest of us, right? Don't try to deny it, you've been way too obsessed with this from the beginning. Billy," he said gently, switching from leader to the concerned friend he was, "Billy, you can't keep trying to take on this whole thing by yourself. It will beat you down to a pulp if you don't let us help." Laying his hands on Billy's shoulders, he finished, "You won't be much good to any of us, much less Suzanne, if you let this thing take your health. We're a team, remember?" At Billy's reluctant nod, Tommy smiled. "Now you're being reasonable. We're all in this together, Rangers and Sisterhood, and only together are we going to get our answers."
"Now you're starting to sound like Zordon," Billy gave a dry laugh.
"Maybe he's finally rubbing off on me," Tommy chuckled. "Look, I'm going to make my apologies to your mom, and I'm taking this," he took up the prized notebook, "before you get any ideas about staying up all night and reading it cover to cover. You need sleep, and I want to look at it for a while. After that, maybe we can figure out what to do next. Okay?"
"If that's what you want," came Billy's ready reply. Tommy wasn't used to winning this easily over his friend, and put his acquiescence down to the obvious fatigue the Sapphire Ranger suffered from. After Billy double-checked everything in the lab to make sure nothing was left on, he and Tommy locked up the lab, set the alarm, and carefully entered the kitchen so Tommy could make his apologies to Mrs. Cranston for not staying. After Tommy left, Billy finished up his chores in the kitchen, the ones his mother would allow him to anyway, then took his tomato soup, grilled cheese sandwich and iced tea on a tray up to his room. "Mom always makes the best grilled cheese sandwiches, Tommy's missing out tonight," he chuckled softly to himself. "But while he misses out, I gain."
Billy placed his dinner tray on his desk, and pulled out his laptop computer. In a matter of seconds, he was into the Power Chamber's database, and pulled up all of the pages he'd frantically scanned from the notebook. "Take the notebook, Tommy. I've still got the stories right here," he smiled, taking the precaution to make a copy of the stories onto his laptop. That will give us three copies, one in the lab, one in the laptop, and one in the Power Chamber. Billy quickly dove into the stories while downing his supper, not caring where the time went. The rising sun found an exhausted Billy asleep on his keyboard, dreaming of a world created within the imagination of a woman he now loved. . .
In his haste he nearly ran over his neighbor, who laughed and waved, believing Tommy had been playing with him. "Keep your mind in reality, Tommy Oliver," he muttered to himself, not looking at the notebook lying on the seat beside him. Whether he wanted to admit it or not, 'reality' was a relative word at the moment.
When he pulled up into the driveway, he realized his father had seen the whole thing from his vantage point on the roof, where he was cleaning out the gutters. He was greeted with a laughed out, "I didn't know Trackers could hunt. Figure it could scare us up a deer? Venison is a favorite of mine, you know."
Tommy got off with a blush and a muttered, "Oops," that caused his father to throw a handful of leaves down on his adopted son. Ducking, Tommy hustled into the house only to face a scolding from his mother for tracking leaves into the hallway. He gave her a peck on the cheek and an "I love you too, Mom" that got his hair tousled. There are times when the innocent 'Tommy Oliver' persona comes in handy. A sweet, shy smile and shining eyes can work wonders if you know how to use them. The miracles Adam manages with them know no limits! Stowing the notebook in his room for safe-keeping, he hurried back to the kitchen to help his mother fix dinner, forgetting he was supposed to go to David's.
"You'd better call your brother if you're eating with us tonight, sweetie. He'll send Mr. Trueheart after you if you don't show up or let him know you're not coming," Rebecca reminded as she checked the stir-fry. She glanced over to see Tommy standing by the sink, a faraway look in his eyes. "In fact, David called you not too long ago, asking if you'd heard from Suzanne today. Is she someone I need to meet?"
Tommy looked at her with wide, startled eyes, "I'm gonna kill him."
She chuckled, and threw the box of rice to him, "Measure out three cups, please. Now why would you kill your own brother?" There was a great deal of amusement in that comment, "And who is Suzanne? Come on, tell me or I'll sic your father on you."
"She was Billy's date last night. David asked about her because she was pretty shaken up over the accident in the Tracker. She's not from around here, and the notion they could run into a Cog never occurred to her," he told her as innocently as he could, pouring the rice into a measuring cup and handing it over, "In fact, all her friends were upset by the incident. We've been trying to help them through it."
"Oh, I know you are, Tommy. I'm sorry for teasing you like that, but I just wish. . ." she let her voice trail off as her son suddenly developed a great interest in the floor. "Tommy, stop that! Is it so bad for me to hope you'd met a young lady to go out with? You haven't really seen anyone since Trini. . ." When Tommy flinched away from her almost violently she stopped. "Alright, I've said enough. Go tell your father dinner is ready, then come help me set the table." She watched him bolt from the kitchen, silently cursing herself for mentioning that name. It's been nearly three years now. When are you going to forgive yourself for something you had no part in, Thomas Oliver? Inwardly she ached for her shy, quiet son.
Tommy felt like a heel as he called his father indoors for supper, but he knew of no better way to end a potentially embarrassing conversation. He'd long ago gotten over, but not forgotten, the lesson Trini had taught him and all the Rangers. His mother didn't know that, however, and Tommy didn't know how to tell her without compromising his secret identity. Some super hero you are, can't even tell your mother, you wimp, he playfully chided himself as he put the ice in the glasses. Just get dinner over with so you can call David. You've got a hot date with a notebook tonight!
Dinner was relatively peaceful despite the uneasy start, with his father surprising Tommy by asking quite nonchalantly, "So, you met Ivy. How is she doing, with that accident last night? I've noticed she and her 'Sisters' are very close." Frank gave his startled son a grin and commented, "You have no idea how many of my mail carriers are willing and eager to go pick up a roll of prints just as soon as they're ready. She's done no more than give them a smile and tell them thank you for their order, how did you get her to talk to you?"
"Uh, well, um. . ." Tommy floundered desperately for an appropriate answer, "She and her friends all have some training in karate. . ." Words failed him. How could he explain? It wasn't everyday a shy, tongue-tied techno-geek such as Billy Cranston took on a living Silver Flame like Suzanne. He got a hold of himself and stared at his father suspiciously, "Who's your spy? And were they incognito, or in plan sight?"
"Plain sight. Ernie called and told me about the little match between David and Ms. Flame from the High School. I asked David about it when he called, and all he did was sputter and stammer. I've got you were you can't get away, though, so I'm going to get some answers out of you sooner or later. I fully intend for it to be sooner. So talk."
The ring of the phone saved him, "I'll get it!" Tommy beat his best sprint time by several seconds in his mad dash to the living room and into the hallway. He tried to stop at the small end table where the phone rested but ended up in the middle of the foyer because the area rug decided it was going to take him for a ride. He raced back and snatched up the receiver, "Yes?" His voice was breathlessly husky.
"It's just David," came the amused response. "Not Ivy. So quit using your 'telephone voice', I'm afraid it's a wasted effort on me."
"Very funny. Look, why didn't you warn me about the spy in the Youth Center? Dad's been grilling me for the past few minutes. So make this phone call nice and long so he'll forget what he was talking about. Rat fink. You just had to get me in trouble, didn't you? The subject of Suzanne didn't have to come up," he accused.
"Of course it did. I'm the evil twin, remember?" was the witty response.
"Well, just remember that when this just-as-evil twin gets you into trouble with a certain redhead. You did cancel all your other dates when you decided she was the only one for you, didn't you? Be kind of awkward if you invited her to the movies and your several dozen 'others' all showed up there as well," came the not-so-subtle hint of retaliation. "You'll pay for this one, believe me. I can't come over tonight like I planned, Billy found something involving our 'Sisterhood' that can't be discussed over the phone right now," Tommy went on in a quieter tone. "I'll tell you all about it between classes on Monday, but I have a feeling Sam might know what's going on, ask him and see what he knows. Be brave, my brother. He likes it when we're courageous."
An order!? What's happened to you, Tommy? You're so upset you're ordering me around like I'm a Ranger! It wasn't easy to keep his tone civil as he said, "Yes, he does. If that's all, I'll let you get back to the interrogation. Hope your father has fun dissecting you."
"You're all heart, brother," Tommy moaned.
"Of course. It's my name. See you Monday," and he hung up without waiting for Tommy's goodbye.
That troubled Tommy, but his dad was calling him back to the table to finish his dinner, so he put the receiver back down on the cradle and reluctantly headed into the dining room again. To his surprise, the topic of Ivy wasn't brought up, and he was able to escape as soon as he did the dishes. "Night, Mom, Dad. I'll see you in the morning," he called down the stairs, then made a beeline for his room.
The notebook was waiting for him, and he stared at it for a moment. It's mysteries were about to be unlocked, and he had the uncanny feeling once he opened the door to Suzanne and Kahva's imagination, there would be no turning back. It was a little frightening to think a version of him existed in another time and place, without knowledge of the life he lived here. Sighing, he sat down on the edge of the bed and pulled it into his lap. It was very heavy, so stuffed the binding had actually cracked with the strain. The edges of the pages were yellowed and curled as if exposed for a long time to the sun, and the cover itself was faded in spots as well. I wonder where in the world Billy found it. We searched the clearing and didn't find anything. Of course, we were looking for energy readings, not an over-stuffed notebook. It would have been easy to miss. He took a deep breath to steady his nerves, then crawled onto the bed and flipped the binder open. The title leaped out at him again, 'The 'Silver Flame' Series, by Cynthia and Kahva', just as it had in the lab. I wanted so much to get the full story from Suzanne about these stories, but now that I have them in my possession, I'm reluctant to read them, as if by doing so I'm betraying Suzanne. But I have to know, have to be prepared, have to have some idea as to where to go from here. Forgive me, Suzanne. I don't mean to cause you pain, but I have to know the truth.
For several hours he read, becoming so lost in the tales it was difficult to distinguish his world from her dreams. So much of what she had written was frightening accurate - how he would react to a given situation, how Mondo tended to implement his traps for unwary Rangers, Klank's genius at inventing or innovation. Zordon's past startled him the most, and made him realize that the Rangers who fought so hard for his dreams of a world without evil knew practically nothing about the man behind the power and the machines. Kahva's lineage shocked him so badly he almost threw the notebook away from him, but he resisted the urge to hurl it across the room. Seeing Zordon as a father was not easy, even though he'd helped them to grow over the years they'd been Rangers. Tommy finally realized what was bothering him. Zordon's only apparent vulnerability was his time-warp - shut off the power long enough and he'll die. But if he were truly the father to as lovely a young woman as Kahva. . . Tommy's mind shuttered back from the implications. If Mondo ever understood what Tommy suspected at that moment, the Machine King would stop at no ends to kidnap and hold hostage the one thing Zordon could never compromise on. He would ransom his soul for the life of his daughter without a single hesitation, and the Rangers would fall. Dear God in Heaven, how could You put that powerful a weapon within the reach of someone like Mondo?!
Before his courage failed him, he bounded off the bed and teleported into the Power Chamber. It was three o'clock in the morning, so most of the consoles were dark, and Zordon's time warp was empty. Alpha was nowhere to be seen, so Tommy put the notebook on a counter and sat down to enter a few queries into the computer system. He was only about half through when Alpha came charging into the room, yelling, "Intruder alert! Intruder alert! Oh, Ay-yi-yi!" He nearly ran over Tommy in his haste to get to a console, "What -? Oh, Tommy! It's only you!" Alpha put a hand on Tommy's shoulder, "You nearly blew all my circuits! What are you doing up at this time?!"
Zordon suddenly appeared in his warp, ALPHA, I JUST RECEIVED YOUR MESSAGE. TOMMY, WHAT ARE YOU DOING OUT AT THIS HOUR? YOU NEED YOUR SLEEP. The comment was so typical of him, so normal, but made so nightmarish by the knowledge contained within the Sisterhood's notebook.
"Zordon, I need to talk to you about something." Tommy laid a hand on the notebook, "These are the stories of the Sisterhood that Suzanne mentioned last night. She wasn't kidding about the similarities between what she wrote and our dimension. But there's something in here, a possibility revealed, that I find alarming. In her Series, there's a friend named Kahva Briton. She is later discovered to be daughter of you and your wife, Elysia. In the real world, they have Kahva Brittain, whom they suspect opened the portal that brought them here."
Silence greeted this as Zordon actually turned from Tommy to stare into the distance, his face hard as if carved from stone. "There's something else, Zordon. The character based on Suzanne is supposed to be a descendant of the first leader of the original Power Rangers, the first Silver Ranger, Kahva Kilanye. They also mention a single son, Tilrak Kilanye, who was supposed to be the first Diamond Ranger, and the one who carried on the family line. . . Zordon, according to the Series, he's my ancestor too, making me and David cousins with Suzanne's character." After long moments of silence, Tommy couldn't stand it anymore. "Zordon, is any of this true? Anything at all? Did Kahva Kilanye really exist?"
YES, TOMMY. SHE DID EXIST, AND SHE WAS THE LEADER OF THE FIRST TEAM OF RANGERS. THEY WERE NOT FROM EARTH, HOWEVER. I ORGANIZED THEM ON ELTAR, TO HELP IN THE BATTLE AGAINST VILE AND HIS UPSTART DAUGHTER, RITA.
"Fifteen thousand years ago?" Tommy asked softly, looking at Zordon intently. "That is when you first created them, isn't it? And you weren't in that time warp. You were flesh and blood, working with them in a way you can't with us. True? It was a later injury that forced you into that warp, an injury sustained in a battle with one of Vile's monsters that destroyed the Command Center."
THAT IS PARTIALLY CORRECT. I WAS INJURIED WHEN THE COMMAND CENTER WAS DESTROYED, BUT IT WAS MY BATTLE WITH VILE LATER THAT FORCED ME INTO THE TIME WARP. MY INJURIES WERE TOO SEVERE TO MAINTAIN THE SPELLS NECESSARY TO WAGE MAGICAL WAR WITH VILE, AND I COLLAPSED. I LATER AWOKE WITHIN THE WARP, THE ONLY WAY THE RANGERS COULD SAVE ME. I HAVE THUS BEEN CONFINED SINCE, Zordon told the Red Ranger quietly. I KNOW NOT WHAT THE STORIES HAVE REVEALED, BUT YOU, TOMMY, ARE THE DESCENDENT OF KAHVA AND SILIAS' SON TILRAK.
"Silias' son?! But, but. . ." Tommy sputtered for a moment, "That's Billy's ancestor! Are you telling me he and I are related, in addition to Suzanne? Zordon, break this down for me and tell me it isn't so!"
YOU ARE THE DIRECT DESCENDENT OF TILRAK, NOT BILLY. HIS ANCESTOR IS SILIAS' BROTHER, DARIAN. I AM GUESSING, BUT I BELIEVE SUZANNE MIGHT BE THE DESCENDENT OF ONE OF KAHVA'S DAUGHTERS. THERE IS A FAINT CHANCE THE ELDEST, SHONSHEA, MAY HAVE ESCAPED THE ASSAULT OF KAHVA AND DALIEN KILANYE'S FARM. IF SHE DID, IT WOULD MAKE SUZANNE A DIRECT DESCENDENT AS WELL. SHE AND BILLY WOULD BE RELATED ONLY BY TIES OF MARRIAGE, WHILE YOU AND SUZANNE ARE COUSINS THROUGH KAHVA'S LINE.
"So what you're saying is that Suzanne is from Kahva Kilanye's line," Tommy pressed.
THE POSSIBLITY EXISTS, Zordon admitted. IF I WERE TO BE TRUTHFUL, IT MORE THAN EXISTS, FOR SHE WAS ABLE TO TAKE UP THE SILVER RANGER POWERS. IF SHE WERE NOT A DESCENDENT OF KAHVA, SHE COULD NOT HAVE ACCEPTED THE CRYSTAL, NOR WOULD SHE POSSESS THE ENERGY NECESSARY TO ALLOW KAHVA BRITTAIN TO OPEN A PORTAL FROM THEIR DIMENSION TO OURS.
"So she can open portals. You've just admitted it. That means there's a good chance she does have the essence of your daughter, doesn't she?" Tommy demanded, glaring at the time warp, angry over his mentor's constant evasions. When Zordon still didn't answer, what patience he had took flight, and he lashed out in a way he normally would never have dared, "Zordon, in the series your wife Elysia sent her gifts and the essence of your unborn child, a daughter, into the future to be reborn in someone in her family line. She also sent the name Kahva with that essence. Being able to alter magic or energy in order to do things like create an inter-dimensional portal is one of the things the character is supposed to be able to do, and it is something you have already admitted their Kahva can do. Two Kahvas in the Series, two Kahvas here in real life, and don't try to tell me its a coincidence."
Tommy paused expectantly, waiting for Zordon to confirm or deny the near accusation. But the Eltarian wasn't answering, wasn't even looking at Tommy. Instead, he seemed to look through, look past the Ranger. Whatever he was seeing wasn't pleasant, for his expression revealed both pain and regret. That didn't deter Tommy from letting loose again, "Zordon, I can't change whatever happened in the past, and no matter how much you want to, you can't either. I can't imagine how this must be hurting you if what happened in the Series is close to the truth, but this is the present and we've got a young woman here who could be in very serious danger. And if she is who I believe she is, then it puts us in danger as well. Because she can be used against you. The only way we can protect her, ourselves, and you, is if we know the truth. Zordon, IS KAHVA YOUR DAUGHTER?!"
Tommy's only answer was to watch in shock as Zordon winked out of the warp without acknowledging his question, or for that matter, even his presence.