"Hey, Kimberly, you got a letter from home. Looks like a long one.
Must be from that ex of yours."
The thick envelope came soaring into Kimberly Hart's room and landed on her bed. She looked up from where she was doing her exercises and shook her head. Who would write her from Angel Grove? After she'd broken up with Tommy, she would have thought none of them wanted to talk to her again.
She took a look at the letter, then snatched it up. She couldn't have read that right. But the writing didn't change. It was a handwriting she knew as well as she knew her own. It was Jason. She sat down and tore the letter open, wondering what he was doing back in Angel Grove.
Almost half an hour later, she looked up, her mind swimming with information. A Gold Ranger... Jason the Gold Ranger. A woman from another universe, a Silver Ranger... Billy being married! She smiled. She could hardly imagine Billy married, but it seemed it was so. From what Jason said, they were an excellent match, and were quite obviously (and sometimes nauseatingly) in love.
"I've got about a week of vacation," she studied the calendar. "I think I'll take it in Angel Grove."
* * *
Billy and Rocky appeared in the Power Chamber's living quarters. "Sheena?" Billy called out. "You here?" She didn't appear to be. "Where do you suppose she is?"
"How would I know, I mean you're her husband and everything," Rocky teased. "You guys have that psychic bond, right?"
"Yes," Billy sounded a touch exasperated.
Billy shook his head. "I don't want to talk about it. Sheena and I are having some problems, that's all."
"Problems? The perfect couple? Billy, touching you broke a spell over her. I didn't think you guys could HAVE problems."
"It's just, well," Billy sighed. "She's been spending more and more time here in the Power Chamber, and less and less time with me. Whenever we see each other, it's like it was when we first got married. But we don't see each other like we did then."
"I know, you two were inseparable. I couldn't even see daylight between you most of the time."
A muffled shout sounded just then, and both the Blue and Sapphire Rangers headed for the sound. It turned out to come from the workout room, a place where the Rangers could practice their skills at odd hours or when they wanted privacy for something. Slowly, Billy opened the door and they looked inside.
Sheena was on the mat, two swords in her hands. Her long dark hair was tied back from her face in her usual style, and her green eyes were intent. The way she moved was liquid, beautiful. She was doing what appeared to be a kata of some type, but it was one neither of them had ever seen. They could only watch in awe as she moved.
Sheena bent and swayed and whirled, the swords moving in precise patterns that somehow seemed to deviate from what metal should be able to do, even in the hands of a master warrior. It was impossible to describe how flawless and beautiful she was as she danced around the training area. She didn't seem to notice them, or if she did, it didn't interfere with her training trance.
When she drew to a halt, she was facing them, with a proud, triumphant grin on her face. She leapt off the mat and came towards them, a fire in her eyes that even Billy had never seen before. "What did you think?"
"It was- it was-" Rocky stammered, not able to form a coherent answer.
Billy filled in, "Fantastic!"
Sheena actually blushed. She turned to hang up her swords, then threw herself into Billy's arms. "I didn't want to tell you until I was sure I was good enough to really use it. That's why I've been spending so much time here lately. I was training in ki-see."
"Ki-see. That's what I was doing. It's Old Eltaran. It means something like," she closed her eyes, trying to remember.
IT MEANS DANCE OF LIGHT. Zordon supplied. His voice could be heard anywhere in the Power Chamber complex. IT IS THE OLDEST OF MARTIAL ARTS FROM MY HOMEWORLD. NO OTHER POWER RANGER HAS STUDIED IT BEFORE. IT SHOULD BE QUITE A SURPRISE TO KING MONDO AND HIS COGS.
Sheena nodded. "I found out about it about three months ago, when I was browsing through some history files. There were extensive training tapes, and I studied them all. It absolutely fascinated me. I started training myself. Zordon and Alpha helped as much as they could. I wanted it to be a surprise for you guys."
"Well, I was surprised," Billy said. Sheena turned her face to him, and they lost each other in a deep, passionate kiss. Finally, Rocky cleared his throat, able to speak again. They stepped apart.
"Sheena, I came to ask if you wanted to go to the movies with Jason and Emily tonight." They started to head for Sheena's quarters.
"He finally got the nerve up to ask her out?" Sheena chuckled. "I thought I was going to have to hit him over the head with a board to get him to notice she likes him."
"It didn't go quite that far," Rocky laughed.
"Now you," Sheena appraised the Blue Ranger. "You I wouldn't have to hit with the board. You think all the girls like you!"
"Who me?" Rocky affected innocence.
"Just cause you wear blue now, does not mean you're the 'Girl-Magnet of Angel Grove'," Sheena teased him, referring back to when Billy was the Blue Ranger, and had attracted almost any girl who took the time to look beyond his glasses.
"But blue's such a handsome color," he teased back.
"I prefer," Sheena wrapped an arm about Billy, "sapphire myself. I'd love to go to the movies. When?"
Billy checked his watch. "In about an hour."
"I'd better start getting ready then. I look horrible."
"Not from this view," Billy examined her. "You look perfect."
Rocky rolled his eyes, but said nothing as Sheena went to the room Zordon had given her in the Power Chamber. It had come as a surprise to them all that the Power Chamber had sleeping quarters, much less that Zordon let the Silver Ranger stay there. But her apartment had been devastated by Cogs, once when she'd led them there in the search for her Crystal, while she'd still been under Mondo's control, and again after she'd escaped his power.
Mondo had apparently taken some petty revenge by trashing everything Sheena owned.
Feeling guilty over it, Sheena had paid her ex-landlord for all the damages, and managed to pass the whole thing off as a case of mistaken identity before moving to Angel Grove. She hadn't had enough money to get another apartment, so Zordon had opened up the Power Chamber to her. She and Billy were hoping to be able to get a place of their own once they were 'officially' married.
"Billy," Rocky asked tentatively. "What's it like to be in love?"
The Sapphire Ranger looked at his friend, his brow furrowed. "Why do you ask?"
Billy grinned. "I don't think that's quite the reason, but as for being in love... 'it's wonderful' doesn't begin to describe it. I wouldn't trade this for anything."
Suddenly a booming voice filled the room again. BILLY, SHEENA, ROCKY, PLEASE COME TO THE MAIN CHAMBER AT ONCE. WE HAVE AN EMERGENCY.
Sheena's door flew open and she came out, her usually tied-back hair loose and flowing about her shoulders. She was efficient about changing, and already wore her customary blue jeans and silver-tinted blouse. "What are you two waiting for? Let's go."
"Were you going to wear that on our date?" Billy asked as they headed to the Power Chamber.
"No," she almost snapped. "I threw this on when Zordon called."
As the three of them emerged into the main room, they saw that the five other Rangers were already there. "What's going on, Zordon?" Sheena asked.
MONDO HAS SENT A MONSTER TO EARTH, RANGERS. IT IS CALLED THE DECHARGER AND IS CAPABLE OF DRAINING THE ENERGY FROM ANY HUMAN, EVEN FROM YOU, AND IS CURRENTLY WREAKING HAVOC AT THE ANGEL GROVE POWER PLANT. YOU MUST STOP IT BEFORE IT DRAINS EVERYONE THERE.
"On the way, Zordon!" Tommy looked at the Rangers. "It's Morphin' Time!"
"Zeo Ranger I, Pink!
"Zeo Ranger II, Yellow!"
"Zeo Ranger III, Blue!"
"Zeo Ranger IV, Green!"
"Zeo Ranger V, Red!"
"Sapphire Ranger Power!"
"Gold Ranger Power!"
"Silver Ranger Power!"
The eight Rangers teleported to the power plant. Tommy glanced around. Things were quiet here. Almost too quiet. "Sheena, take Adam, Tanya, and Rocky and check out things on that side of the plant. The rest of us will see what's going on on the other side."
"Sure thing, Tommy," Sheena started off with her team. Tanya edged up to her as they got out of sight of the others.
"Sheena, aren't you worried about Billy?"
"Why should I be? He's been a Ranger longer than any of us. He can take care of himself."
"Well, sure, but," Tanya wasn't sure how to frame her thoughts. A moment later, she didn't have to worry about it.
"Cogs!" Adam pointed. Under her helmet, Sheena bit her lip. Fear and a lust for revenge both boiled up inside of her. She immediately locked both down under ki-see discipline. The machines ran towards them, and she began to recite the ancient litany of ki-see in her head as she fought, entering the same half-trance she had been training under.
A ki-see master does not fight with their body. She fights with her mind. Discipline, dispassion, and dedication are the hallmarks of a true ki-see master. See the mistakes your foes make, and turn them against them. They have no minds, no souls. A warrior of the ki-see is a master of using body, mind, soul, and heart as one.
As the litany ended, Sheena emerged from her trance. The other Rangers were staring at her, especially Rocky. "I've never seen anything like that!" The Cogs were all gone now, except for a few scattered spare parts.
"It's ki-see," she told them.
"It's awesome!" Tanya breathed.
* * *
On the other side of the plant, Billy stopped suddenly. Tommy looked at him. "What's wrong?"
"Sheena and the others were attacked by Cogs. I think they're going to be all right, though. Sheena's using ki-see."
"An ancient martial arts style. I'll see if she'll show it to you sometime."
"You have no time left to see anything, Rangers, except me destroying you!" a metallic voice laughed. They turned to see a huge robot with several long metallic tentacles lumbering towards them.
"That must be the Decharger," Kat said.
"My, but you're a bright one! Let's see how smart you are when it comes to me draining your strength from you!" The Decharger leapt towards Kat and wrapped her in its 'arms'.
The Pink Ranger glowed as the energy began to leave her body and entered the Decharger. Tommy drew his Zeo Sword and charged the monster, forcing it to drop Kat. She lay on the ground, trying to catch her breath. The Decharger turned on Tommy, its tentacles wrapping around him.
Tommy bit back a scream of pain as he felt his energy leaving him. Suddenly, there was a flash of light, and the monster dropped him. He dropped to the ground, trying to recover, and looked up to see Sheena standing between him and the monster, the Silver Sword in her hands. "It's not nice to steal energy, Decharger."
"Yours will taste just as sweet as his, Silver Ranger!" The Decharger reached for her, but she wasn't there anymore. Sheena catapulted over the monster and kicked it in the back. The Decharger recovered quickly, only to find himself surrounded by six Rangers.
"Tommy, Kat, you guys better get back to the Power Chamber," Billy advised. "I think we can handle this creep."
"Good idea." It went against the grain for Tommy to leave a battle, but he trusted his fellow Rangers. He and Kat vanished in respective flashes of red and pink.
"Now what do we do?" Adam asked.
"Let's try this for starters," Sheena launched herself at the monster with a ki-see scream. The Decharger vanished just as she would have landed in it, with a maniacal laugh. Sheena turned her leap into a roll, coming to her feet and sheathing her sword in the same motion. She turned around.
"Where'd it go?"
"It just... vanished," Rocky looked around. "That's strange. It's not like Mondo to retreat."
"Unless he's got a plan in mind," Sheena frowned. "Alpha, are there any readings of the Decharger around here anywhere?"
"No, Sheena, it seems to have vanished," Alpha's voice came over her communicator.
"We'd better get back to the Power Chamber." Sheena looked around one last time. Something wasn't right here. "We can get back in a flash if the monster shows up again."
* * *
The sense of 'not rightness' preyed on Sheena's mind as they teleported back to the Power Chamber. Tommy and Kat would be all right, Alpha reported, once they got some rest. There were no signs of the monster; so Zordon dismissed them all until it showed up again. Sheena and Billy started to get ready for their double date.
"What's wrong, Sheena?" Billy asked later that night. "You act like your mind's a million miles away."
"Not quite that far," she muttered. "I can't get my mind off that monster. There was something about the way it just - just left. Something I can't put my finger on."
"What are you two whispering about over there?" Emily leaned over Jason to ask. Sheena reacted with lightning speed, draping an arm about Billy.
"Oh, nothing important," she grinned in a fashion Emily seemed to understand. Sheena brushed her lips past Billy's, then murmured, "We can talk about it later."
"How much later?" he whispered, returning the kiss with equal passion.
Emily looked over at them, then looked away. "How long have they been dating?"
"Oh, about six months now," Jason said innocently.
"And they're that serious?" Emily looked impressed.
"You might say, love at first sight." Jason turned his attention back to the movie.
* * *
The next day, Tommy and Kat both felt much better. They were at the Juice Bar, watching as Sheena demonstrated the basics of ki-see to the other Rangers. He glanced over at Kat. "She's good, isn't she?"
"Real good," Kat agreed. "So, where do you want to go tonight?"
"How about the park?" he suggested. "A nice quiet evening star-gazing."
"Sounds like fun to me."
Neither Tommy or Kat saw the figure who entered the Juice Bar just then. When Ernie saw who it was, he grinned. "You!"
"Shhh, I want it to be a surprise."
"You want the usual?"
"Sure." There was a vacancy at the table where Kat and Tommy sat. The newcomer turned to see who they were looking at and saw a tall, dark-haired woman on the practice mat, going through a graceful martial arts routine.
Billy stood near the woman, a look in his eyes that couldn't be mistaken for anything but true and pure love.
The new arrival sat casually in the empty seat. "So who's the new girl?"
"Sheena Devereaux," Tommy replied automatically. "She and Billy are really close, Kim."
He turned suddenly as his ears heard what his mouth had said. "Kim!"
The ex-Pink Ranger laughed at the expression on his face. "Hi, guys!"
"Kim!" Kat hugged her friend. "It's been a long time!"
"So I see," Kim grinned. She examined Tommy for a few seconds, trying to determine if there were any feelings there for him. "So, when do I meet this new Ranger?" That last was spoken in an undertone. "And what is that she's doing?"
"Ki-see. I'll let her explain it, she knows more about it," Kat told her. "I'll go get them."
She headed for the gym area, leaving Tommy and Kim by themselves. "So, uh, Kim, how are you?"
"Good." She looked at him. "I, uh, heard you and Kat were um, going out?"
"Yeah, yeah." Tommy suddenly didn't know what to do with himself. "Look, Kim, it's not like she's your replacement or anything, I just, uh, I like her."
Kim was about to say something when the rest of the gang joined them. Sheena looked a little nervous. Kim could understand why. "You must be Sheena. Hi, I'm Kim."
Sheena blushed almost as red as Tommy's shirt. "Hi. Yes, I'm Sheena. It's an honor to meet you."
"Well, I'm honored to meet you." Kim did all she could to put the young woman at ease. "It's not everyone who goes through what you did."
"I had help." Sheena managed to sit somehow. "Oh, Goddess, do you know how awkward this is!! It was bad enough seeing Billy in person, but you -,"
Billy sat next to her. "Calm down, Sheena. Breathe."
Kim was glad Jason had explained everything about Sheena's origins to her in his letter, otherwise she would have been very confused. Finally, Sheena looked at her again. "Let's start this over." Her voice was much calmer this time around. "Hi, I'm Sheena."
"Hi, I'm Kim." They both broke apart laughing, it was obvious that these two would be good friends.
"How long are you down for?" Tanya asked. This was really the first time she'd met Kim as well, though she'd heard about her from the other Rangers.
"A week," Kim replied. "You must be Tanya."
"If I must, I must," Tanya grinned. Suddenly, their communicators beeped.
"Oh, great," Kim groaned. "I remember what that means."
They went to the usual spot, and Tommy answered the call. "What is it, Zordon?"
THE DECHARGER HAS APPEARED AGAIN, THIS TIME IN DOWNTOWN ANGEL GROVE. YOU MUST MORPH AND BATTLE IT AGAIN. KIMBERLY, WELCOME BACK. IT IS GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN. WE WILL TELEPORT YOU TO THE POWER CHAMBER DURING THIS ATTACK, IN CASE MONDO HAS ANY IDEAS WHILE THE RANGERS ARE AWAY.
"Thanks, Zordon." That thought had crossed Kim's mind when she'd decided to visit. She felt the familiar grip of teleporting, then was in a place unlike anything she'd ever seen before. Alpha was there, and Zordon. They were a welcome sight indeed.
WELCOME TO THE POWER CHAMBER, KIMBERLY, Zordon smiled. YOU MAY WATCH THE RANGERS ON THE VIEWING GLOBE.
She looked around for it, then Alpha pointed to the new one on the wall. "Much more convenient, but it does give you a sore neck after a while."
She laughed, then watched as the Rangers fought the Decharger. It had grabbed hold of Adam this time, and Rocky was busy trying to get him out of its grip. Billy and Tanya were keeping it occupied, to give Rocky more of a chance to get Adam out of there. The others were busy fighting Cogs that had come along with the monster. Just when Rocky managed to pry Adam loose, the Decharger vanished, as did the Cogs.
"Any signs of it this time, Zordon?" Tommy wondered.
NO, TOMMY. RETURN TO THE POWER CHAMBER FOR DEBRIEFING. Zordon told them.
With Rocky supporting Adam, they teleported back home. In the Power Chamber, Kim turned to welcome them back. Billy went to Adam's side at once, guiding him to an examining table. "I'll be all right," the Green Ranger assured them.
YOU SIMPLY MUST REST, ADAM. RANGERS, THIS CONCERNS ME. IT APPEARS THE DECHARGER COULD BE PLANNING TO USE YOUR OWN ENERGY AGAINST YOU AT SOME POINT.
THAT IS WHY HE IS TAKING IT FROM YOU DURING YOUR BATTLES, AND NOT FROM THE PEOPLE SURROUNDING YOU.
"You're probably right, Zordon," Sheena nodded. "What gets me is he keeps vanishing and reappearing. Like he's trying to draw us out. He knows we can't just let him tear up the city."
"Right," Tommy nodded. "So we'd better be careful."
* * *
In the Skybase, the Decharger stood with Mondo, Machina, and Sprocket. "Excellent, Decharger. You're wearing them down and confusing them. Keep up the hit and run attacks for a few more days. They won't know what hit them!!"
"As you wish, my lord," the Decharger bowed. "They will soon fall before your might!"
"You are a fine warrior, Decharger," Mondo approved of him. "The Rangers will soon be no more!"
* * *
"Does the Decharger have to touch someone to drain their energy from them?" Tanya asked.
FROM ALL OUR REPORTS, YES. Zordon told them.
"Maybe if we can avoid getting caught, or tie his arms up so he couldn't touch us," Sheena suggested.
Tommy nodded. "But we can't do anything till the Decharger comes back."
Kim looked at him suddenly. "Tommy, we need to talk. Now."
Tommy looked almost like a trapped animal. "I think you're right, Kim," Kat nodded.
"Teleport us to the park, please, Alpha," Kim suggested. Alpha flipped a switch at the console, and they vanished in red and white light.
* * *
She hoped it was mere coincidence. After all, surely Zordon and Alpha hadn't seen every place she and Tommy had ever gone, back when they were dating.
But it made Kim a little uneasy that she and Tommy had just happened to appear in the same area of the park where Tommy had first worked up the nerve to kiss her. That was so long ago....
"So, um, you said we need to talk?" Tommy was fidgeting like someone who was trying to quit cigarettes, but there was a pack being waved in front of him, tempting him. It would be so easy to just take Kim in his arms again, tell her to come back to him and try to forget how cold her letter had been over a year ago.
No. It wouldn't be that easy, it had hurt too much. And he had fallen head over heels for Katherine now. No. It could never be the same between Kim and him again. But he still loved her. And would till the end of time.
That was what was making this so weird, he loved Kim, but he wasn't in love with her, and that wasn't a feeling he was used to having when she was right there in front of him, in living color. Just what he needed, something else to turn his emotions all topsy-turvy. He sighed, and sat down by the pond.
He hoped that whatever Kim wanted to talk about, that she would just go ahead and do it.
Then she kissed him.
Tommy couldn't tell if only seconds passed before he found his voice, or an eternity. That was not what he had expected! He stared at her, wondering how she could have done it, what in the world had come over her, did she expect to pick things up right where they had left off before she went to Florida?
She didn't. "That offended you, didn't it? It didn't wake up any desire to be with me again." Kim sighed, then sat beside Tommy. "I didn't think it would. It didn't do anything for me either, I was pretty sure it wouldn't. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have done that, that's not how I had wanted to handle this."
Tommy went from shock to anger to wanting to comfort his ex-flame in the space of a heartbeat. He'd been so wrapped up in how he felt, he hadn't stopped to think about how hard it must have been for Kim to come back to Angel Grove, to revisit her past. Their past. "It's okay. I can think of worse things that can happen to a guy."
Kim shook her head and turned Tommy to face her. "No, it's not okay! I shouldn't have written you like I did, I should've called, or at least been more sensitive in the letter. I should've handled this differently from the very beginning." Kim stopped, willing herself not to cry. She had to do this, she had to get things set right between them.
"When I left for Florida, I thought that everything would stay the same, that nothing could ever change. But I was wrong. The more we spent time apart, the more I realized that the love I had for you was strong, it was just as deep as it ever was, but it wasn't the love that two people who want to spend the rest of their lives together have for each other. It was the love that is between two friends, a love that never ends. And it's the kind of love that makes it so easy to hurt the ones you love. Because you take it for granted. You know that it will always be there, no matter what, and you take it for granted. And that's when you lose the most." Kim paused, not sure how to go on. "Am I making any sense?" Tommy didn't answer, so Kim pressed on. "I'm not good at this, I don't know if I'm making sense or not.
Tommy, I should've told you, talked to you, the very first time I realized that my feelings had changed, I should've talked things out with you." Kim got up, and walked a few steps away. Part of her absently noted she was standing in the exact same spot where Tommy had first kissed her. She would have to talk to Alpha about how he picked teleportation spots. "I will always love you Tommy, don't ever doubt that, but it isn't the kind of love that I thought it was. I love you as a friend, a former teammate, a brother.
It's the same kind of love I have for all the Rangers, but it's different with you, it touches a different level. The last thing I ever wanted to do was hurt you, but it seems that's all I managed to do. You can't even say a complete sentence around me and look at me in the eye at the same time."
The wail of a distant police siren floated through the park, mingling with the singing of birds and the laughter of children just out of sight on the playground. "Tommy, if you can't, I understand, but I need to tell you I'm so sorry for what I did to you. And ask that maybe one day, if you ever can, to forgive me." Tommy was so quiet that Kim thought for a moment he had left. His arms draping about her shoulders a second later told her he hadn't.
"I love you too. And you're more than forgiven. I just hope you can forgive me."
Kim looked over her shoulder at Tommy, puzzled. "Forgive you? For what?"
Tommy hugged her tightly, he really wasn't good at this, but he had to talk about it. "Kim, don't take this wrong, but after I got your letter, I just shut myself off. I didn't want to feel anything, for anybody. Billy had just gotten back from Aquitar, Mondo nearly killed him, trying to catch him that time -," he caught her confused look, "I'll tell you about that later.
It felt like everything was going to get back to normal for a while, as normal as Angel Grove ever gets, anyway, then your letter came. Everybody tried so hard to cheer me up, they all thought I was hurting so much. Billy and Kat took me skiing, Kat set me up with Heather Thompson, to get my mind off things, everybody was trying so hard to make me feel better. But the truth was, I didn't feel anything. I didn't want to. I thought if I just ignored my feelings, that the emptiness would go away. I denied myself one of the best things that had ever happened in my life: my love for you."
Tommy rested his chin on her shoulder. "Oh, man, Kat tried so hard to make me feel better, everybody did. After a while, I think maybe they all thought I was okay, but I just wasn't letting myself feel anything. Then I started feeling something for Kat, and I felt so guilty about it, like I didn't have the right to love anybody else. But I ignored that too, and we started dating, I tricked myself into thinking I had handled everything so well. But when I saw you in the Juice Bar today, I knew I hadn't. I haven't handled anything." Tommy turned Kim to face him. "I need to ask you to forgive me.
I should've called more, written more often, something. I shouldn't have shut you out. I still love you too, Kim. But it's like you said, it's not the love I thought it was. It's there, but it's different from what being in love is." They just smiled at each other for the longest time, finally connecting after so long apart. Kim kissed Tommy again, this time on his cheek. And this time, neither one of them felt weird about it. Kim laughed as they finally broke their embrace and started to walk along the edge of the pond.
"Well, I must say one thing."
"Kat has done the one thing I never could. She has gotten you to the point where you can actually talk for more than two sentences at a time." Tommy laughed, he felt like so much of the weight he'd been carrying had been lifted from his heart.
"Don't sell yourself short, you laid in all the groundwork." Tommy took a deep breath, then continued. "She's really great. I don't know what I ever did to deserve having her in my life. Or you. I'm really lucky, how many guys get to have such a special woman in their life, much less two of them?"
"Have you told her?"
"Told her what?"
"That you love her, you crazy lunk!" Kim punched him lightly in the arm. Tommy pretended that it hurt.
"Ow, you're going to break my arm girl!" Tommy smiled, then stopped walking. "No, I haven't actually said 'I love you', but -,"
"But nothing! Tell her!"
Tommy cleared his throat and suddenly found the ground around his sneakers very interesting. "I'm scared to," he mumbled.
"If you weren't a little scared, then I'd be worried! Tommy, nobody ever knows for sure how someone else feels exactly, in something like this, until the words are said. And nobody ever knows how much time they have left to say the words. Love is a risk worth taking, to never take the chance is to deny yourself all over again. Tell her. Look at Billy and Sheena. I've only been here for a few hours and I can see half a world away how much they love each other. Can you imagine what it would be like if they never found the courage to tell each other? Love like that doesn't come around every day, and you have to take the chance while you can. Tell her."
"You sure you... I mean...," his voice trailed off.
"Now there's the Tommy I remember. When it comes to his heart, he stumbles over the words. Kat and I talked things out over the phone a long time ago, I'm the one who told her to go ahead and act on her feelings for you, if she really thought she loved you. And she does. But as much as she needs to say the words to you, you need to say them to her. You guys especially need to say it, you're still Power Rangers. You know the risks and responsibilities that brings. Mondo could be defeated five minutes from now, or one of you could be lost...," Kim was having trouble finding the words now, to voice her fears. "No one knows how much time they have, and being a Power Ranger makes the stakes even higher. I'm not saying that the two of you need to get married right on the spot like Billy and Sheena did, but you need to tell each other how you feel. And don't worry about me, it's all right with me. I couldn't pick a better couple." Kim laughed as they started to walk again. "Though you guys have quite a ways to go before you're as 'nauseatingly in love', to quote Jason, as Billy and Sheena." Tommy smiled and nodded.
"Yeah, who would ever have guessed that Billy would be the first of us to get married?" Tommy face clouded for a moment. He tried to hide it, but Kim spotted the change.
"There is something else bothering you, I thought there were some weird vibes. What's wrong? There isn't anything wrong between Sheena and Billy, is there?"
"No, no, it's nothing like that...," Tommy looked around, as if to make sure that no one else was around, especially no other Rangers. He pulled Kimberly over to a large shade tree to sit down, where they were completely out of sight. "Promise you won't say anything to anybody. Anybody." Kim started to protest, but nodded reluctantly.
"I promise. On one condition."
"That whatever this is, you talk it out with the other Rangers later. It does have something to do with the team, doesn't it? What, is Sheena making waves or something? She seems really nice, a real team player. I've only talked to her for a short time and I feel like I've known her forever."
"No, Sheena's fine, great, wonderful, fantastic."
"Then I don't understand. You're not falling in love with her, are you?"
"No!!" Tommy yelped, a bit louder than he'd intended. "No, I mean, I like her, I love her as a friend, and according to what we've learned about our ancestors, she and I are kind of distant cousins, in a way. Sheena's a wonderful addition to the team."
"Then I'm really confused." Tommy took a deep breath and charged ahead, if he didn't tell somebody about what he'd been thinking, feeling, he'd go crazy.
"How much do you know about the first Power Rangers?" Kim shook her head, and Tommy quickly gave her a basic rundown of how that first team of defenders lined up.
"So, originally, the Silver Ranger was the leader of the Power Rangers. She -, Kahva, you say? She was the most powerful of the Rangers, and a great leader. So what does that have to do with Sheena and the Rangers now?" Kim was confused, why would the lineup of the Rangers over fifteen thousand years ago have an effect on the here and now?
Tommy paused, afraid to go on. But he had to. "Sheena is the most powerful Ranger on the team, that can't be denied. She comes up with great ideas, and she's saved all of us several times over. She's a natural leader, I've found myself depending more and more upon her to do things... I feel sometimes... like maybe the Rangers would be better off with her as the leader. I've been wondering if I should step down."
"What?!" Kim had a hard time imagining anyone other than Tommy, or maybe Jason, as leader of the Rangers. Jason had been their first leader, and even after Zordon had made Tommy 'the leader' after he got his White Ranger powers, Jason had still been the unspoken leader. It was only after Jason, Trini and Zack had left for the Peace Conference in Switzerland that Tommy had really stepped up into the leadership role, and he had filled it splendidly. "Tommy, what makes you think that? Being the strongest member doesn't make you a rightful leader. If that were true, we'd have dictators like Mondo in charge all over the world. Not that Sheena would be a dictator, I mean, but there's more to being a leader than sheer strength."
"I know. And that's why I'm so confused. I'm not thinking of handing over leadership because she's simply the strongest, it's because she has so many qualities that would make her a good leader. I've had so much on my mind the past year or so, and I haven't handled most of it well. It's even flowed over into my Ranger duties, there have been times where I've been so distracted that I could've put the team at risk. My friends at risk. In fact, I think I did. A good leader also knows when to step down, and let somebody else take over. When Jason first came back, he made it clear to me that he didn't want to be leader again, he felt he'd been out of the loop too long. He also didn't want anyone to think he was trying to make things the way they used to be. If Sheena wasn't here though, he'd be the first one I'd consider. He and Billy. Kim, Billy got us through so much after Master Vile turned time back, and when Zedd and Rita took over again he risked so much, without powers to protect him, he could've been crippled, killed, imprisoned forever... I don't want to think about what would've happened to us without him. I don't want to think about what it would be like to lose him. He's like a brother to me, to all of us."
Tommy plucked blades of grass, trying to put his thoughts together. "I want to do what's best for the team, but I don't want to hurt anyone. I don't want to slight Jason, he's deserving of leadership, so is Billy. But Sheena is so good. And I don't want to make it seem like I would be handing over the reins to her just for the sake of tradition, or because she's older than the rest of us, or because she's married to Billy. And to put anyone else in the position of leadership puts them at a great risk. Jason knows that, he was Rita and Zedd's target so many times while he was leader. I've been the target more times than I can count. Billy just automatically stepped up to take charge when I couldn't, when the rest of us were still affected by the time warp, and Zedd and Rita went after him, trying to keep him from putting the crystal back together. He knows the risk too. But Sheena hasn't been on the team long enough to know how much she would be targeted if she were leader. It isn't fair to put her in the middle of the bull's eye like that."
Tommy stopped pulling the grass; he'd already cleared a small patch of ground. "But to have her be the leader feels - so right, like it's what I need to do. I don't know, I'm all mixed up. I can't think straight, everything is all turned and twisted inside. And I know that whatever I decide, unless it threatens the safety of the team, that the others won't say anything openly against it. I don't know what to do, I have no clue," he finished helplessly.
Kim was quiet for a long time, thinking over what had been said. "Tommy, you have to do what your heart tells you is the right thing to do. Trust in your feelings. You're the leader of the Power Rangers, and unless you're completely incompetent, they aren't going to challenge you. And you are not incompetent. Zordon would never have chosen you if you were. This is a decision you have to make on your own."
"But I'm so mixed up right now, I can't! I can't think straight about it, my mind and heart get all jumbled up. I've tried workouts, sparring, long hot showers and longer walks alone to try and clear my mind, to calm myself, but nothing's working." Kim searched for the right words to say, but couldn't find them. The beep of Tommy's communicator kept her from getting any closer.
MONDO HAS SENT DOWN THE DECHARGER AND SQUAD OF COGS AGAIN, ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE PARK FROM YOU AND KIMBERLY. THIS TIME IT SEEMS TO BE TRYING TO ATTACK CIVILIANS, NOT JUST SCARE THEM AND DESTROY PROPERTY. KIMBERLY, PREPARE FOR TRANSPORTATION BACK TO THE POWER CHAMBER.
Kimberly and Tommy got up, but before Kim stepped away, she whispered to Tommy, "You will make the right decision, I know you will. When your mind is clear and calm, you'll find the answers you need. In the meantime, don't forget. Tell Kat you love her." In her normal voice Kim spoke into Tommy's communicator. "We're clear Zordon, I'm ready. Be careful," she said to Tommy, just before she disappeared in a swirl of white.
Tommy exhaled, trying to calm himself. "Thanks for listening, Kim. It's Morphin' Time!!"
"Zeo Ranger V, Red!" Tommy found himself in the midst of a sheer panic, there were several civilians here, a church group had been having a picnic, evidently. The other Rangers arrived a second after he did. "Silver! You and Sapphire get these people out of here! Blue, Yellow, Pink, get the Cogs!
Gold, you're with me, we've got to keep the Decharger from grabbing anyone else!" Everyone automatically went into action, doing what they did best: defending the Earth and her people. "How's Green doing?" Tommy asked Jason as they ran over to the Decharger.
"He'll be okay, but he's too weak to fight right now. Zordon wouldn't let him leave. Neither would we," Jason grinned under his helmet. The slight humor went out of his voice as he saw who the Decharger was holding. It was Emily. "Let her go!!"
"Gladly, 'Brass Ranger'," the monster sneered. "She doesn't have as much energy as one of you anyway." He dropped Emily, she collapsed like a sack of potatoes. Jason rushed over and gathered her up.
"She's unconscious, but ok, I think."
"Get her to the hospital and get back here as soon as you can!" Tommy ordered. Jason teleported away with Emily as Tommy faced the Decharger alone. Sheena and Billy had evacuated the civilians, now they were helping the other Rangers fight off the Cogs. "Don't you know when to quit?"
"On the contrary, Red Ranger, I know exactly when to quit. Do you?"
"What?" Tommy was frozen in his tracks. Had Mondo been listening to his talk with Kim? The thought was literally knocked out of his mind as the monster threw him back with a single swipe of a tentacle, then started after the others, his target: Billy. "Billy, watch out!!" Tommy screamed, but Decharger had already shot out a tentacle and grabbed Billy from behind.
This was the first time that the monster had grabbed one of the three Rangers whose power didn't come directly from the Zeo Crystal, and it showed.
The monster glowed a dark blue as Billy screamed and writhed in pain, the monster draining him just as it had Tommy, Kat and Adam before him. Tommy struggled to his feet, he had to get that thing away from Billy. He'd just been telling Kim how Billy was like a brother, now that brother was in danger. Tommy cursed himself mentally for being so slow to react.
"Tanya, Rocky, distract him, Kat, you're with - Tommy! Are you okay?" It was Sheena.
Tommy nodded, then shook his head to clear the cobwebs. "Just a little dizzy, he sent me flying. Didn't try to drain me though. Weird. Jason should be back soon, he had to get Emily to the hospital."
"Ok. Kat, you and Tommy be ready to pull Billy away, I'm going to try and loosen Decharger's grip." Sheena started in on Decharger's blind side, then pulled out the Silver Sword. She charged the monster, landing a blow on the monster's 'shoulder' of the tentacle that held Billy. Her sword bit into metal, went part of the way into it, then stopped. But that blow had been enough, the monster's grip on the now unconscious Billy slipped just enough for Kat and Tommy to pull him to safety. The monster pulled away from Sheena's sword, then managed to swing another tentacle at her. She dodged it easily with a flip, but it had served Decharger's purpose. Just as Jason teleported back to the battle, Decharger wrapped one of its other tentacles around Tanya and started to drain her.
"Tanya!" Sheena yelled. "Jason, hit it in the shoulder with your staff, that's a weak point!"
"Right!!" Jason replied. "Power Staff!" His weapon appeared and he struck the monster in the shoulder all in one movement. He didn't cause as much damage as Sheena had with her sword, but he did dent its shoulder. The monster turned and laughed at the Rangers.
"You can't stop me, puny humans!" Tanya continued to struggle in its grip.
"Want to bet?" Jason leapt again at the monster striking its shoulder again. This time, the monster loosened its grip on Tanya, and Rocky and Sheena could pull her away. "Call me 'Brass Ranger' will you?"
"Your time will come," the monster answered with a laugh, looking at Jason, Rocky and Sheena. "For all of you." Before anyone could move, the monster and the Cogs vanished.
* * *
"I'm really getting tired of the hit and runs, you know," Jason sighed as they all demorphed back at the Power Chamber. Kat and Rocky were helping Alpha settle Billy and Tanya on the other two examining tables. "I mean, just what is with that? And why did he go after regular people and drain them? Emily's going to be in the hospital for the rest of the week. We can recover more quickly, we've got our powers to protect us and help us to heal faster, but nobody else has that protection. Why did he do it?"
Sheena turned from watching Billy on the table and moved to Jason, trying to comfort him. "I wish I had answers for you Jason." Sheena looked at Tommy for a sign of confirmation, then continued, "Why don't you go to the hospital and stay with Emily for a while? We'll call if Decharger shows up again."
Jason looked at all the Rangers, three of them lying on examination tables, his gaze stopping on Billy, the first one of them that had been rendered unconscious by Decharger's attack. First Emily, now Billy. He wanted to rip apart that monster with his bare hands. Sheena put her hands on his shoulders, looking him straight in the eyes. "Blind anger won't help anyone, not Emily, not Billy, not you. It will only blind us to what he's up to."
Jason looked at Billy again, then Sheena. "That's the first lesson ki-see teaches. Never let your emotions interfere with your job."
"You're right." He hugged her and then moved away, preparing to teleport. "Call me the moment anything happens."
"Will do." Jason teleported away, and Sheena moved back to Billy, holding his hand. "C'mon Billy, wake up." After a few minutes, Billy finally revived and smiled weakly at Sheena. Kat and Rocky were with Tanya, Adam had insisted on going to her, though he still needed to rest himself. They brought him up to speed on what had happened, and after Sheena tenderly kissed Billy before he fell into a deep sleep, she joined them to check on Tanya. They were all discussing this recent attack, puzzled over why the attack had gone the way it had. Tanya wasn't in as bad a shape as Adam, Kat or Tommy had been, the only reason anyone could come up with was that the monster had already absorbed what energy from Emily she had, then a tremendous amount from Billy, which was why he was so weak. They continued to puzzle over everything while Kimberly applied salve to Tommy's back, which was cut and bruised from where the monster had knocked him aside. He spoke softly to Kim for the first time since teleporting back after the fight.
"See what I mean? She took charge out there, like she was born to it. I was too slow, if I had warned Billy sooner, he-," Kimberly shushed him, then walked around to face him.
"It's not your fault. I watched the fight on the viewing globe, that monster seemed to know exactly who he wanted to go after the whole time. I've got a feeling that he would've gotten Billy and Tanya, even if they had eyes in the back of their helmets. There's nothing anyone could have done."
Tommy didn't look convinced as Sheena and Kat came over. "Tommy, you okay? You've been awful quiet." Sheena frowned, she was worried about their leader. Kat moved behind Tommy to check his back for herself.
"I'm okay, just going to be sore for a while. Good job out there, Sheena."
"That's what I wanted to talk to you about. I'm sorry for jumping in like that, I didn't mean to try and take over out there."
"It's okay, you did the right thing. Thanks to you, we know a weak point on the Decharger now, his shoulders. The joints are not as well protected as the rest of him. If we just knew what he was up to...," Tommy's voice trailed off as Kat hugged him, trying to reassure him. What do I do now, he wondered. The monster was slowly wearing them down, and he didn't know how much more they could take.
* * *
Mondo congratulated his latest creation. "Excellent work Decharger! Five of the Rangers have fallen, the others will fall soon!"
"I am glad you are pleased, my Master. Did you see how uncertain the Red Ranger was? It was child's play to get past him to go after the Sapphire Ranger," the monster gloated.
"Yes, I did. I don't know what is going on with that human, but I intend to keep an eye on him. We may find something we can use for our purposes there." Mondo turned to stare greedily at the Earth, visible through one of the Skybase's portals. "Keep them guessing Decharger. The fall of the Rangers will happen soon, it's only a matter of time."
* * *
The rest of the week went just like it had started. Cogs would come down for a hit and run, the Rangers would fight them off, only to have Decharger show up, as usual. He drained Rocky, Jason, then Sheena in the final battle.
And just like he had with Billy, the Decharger drained more power from Jason and Sheena than he had the others. Zordon agreed with the Rangers, since Jason, Billy and Sheena's powers had slightly different sources than the other Rangers, and were older powers that hadn't been used as much over thousands of years, the Decharger was draining them more. But with each Ranger, they had been rendered weak for only a day, no more. After that, each one was pretty much back to normal, if a bit sore. And everyone was getting tired from the hit and runs. It seemed the week had only started when it was over and Kimberly had to fly back to Florida. All the Rangers went to the airport bright and early in the morning to see her off. She was about to head down the hallway to go to her flight, when Sheena stopped her, to talk to her alone for a quick minute.
"Kim, it's been so nice to get to know you this week, I feel like I've known you forever. And not because of a TV show." She glanced over her shoulder at Tommy, but he and the other Rangers were already moving to a place where they could watch Kim's plane take off. "Is everything okay between you and Tommy? He's been acting a little weird this week."
"We're fine, we got everything talked out that first day. He's just got a lot on his mind. Give him some time, he'll be okay." Kim hated not saying more, but it was not her place, Tommy was the one who would have to talk to the Rangers when the time came. "I think I've maybe got an idea that will help him. I'm going to have something sent to him. Tell everybody that it will be here later today, I think I'll have it sent to the Juice Bar."
"Okay. What is it?"
Kim laughed. "That's for Tommy to find out first, I'll call him after I make the arrangements. That and I haven't completely decided what I'm going to do just yet, but I've got a general idea."
Sheena looked like she was about to burst.
"What? What is it?"
"Will you be one of my bridesmaids at our wedding?" the words rushed out. "I'm sorry, I meant to do that with a little more control. But I'd really like for you to be one of the bridesmaids, if you can."
Kimberly blushed. "I'd be honored, Sheena. I have to admit, I'm surprised, but I'm honored. When will the wedding be? Your 'real one', that is."
"In six months. We're planning on telling Billy's parents soon, but all the battles recently have kind of thrown us for a loop. We want to wait for things to settle a bit, so we can concentrate on how to tell them we want to be married. Oh, Kim, thanks so much, you don't know how much this means to me!" The girls hugged happily.
"Who is going to be your maid of honor?"
"I haven't decided yet, it's a hard choice. I don't -,"
"Flight 315 for Miami, Florida, last call at Gate 12."
"That's me, I've got to go. Take care, Sheena!" Kim waved and ran down the hall to her plane. Sheena joined the others at the observation window, and they could all see Kim a few minutes later, waving to them through her window on the plane. Sheena smiled, she and Kim had become fast friends. She had agreed to be a bridesmaid, just like Sheena had hoped. If only picking a maid of honor could be so easy....
* * *
Kimberly rushed to her room as soon as she could, anxious to call the nursery in Angel Grove. She had just the thing to help Tommy calm down and focus, she'd made up her mind on the plane. She was going to get Tommy a bonsai tree, something that he would have to have patience to work on.
Patience and calm that would hopefully rub off into other areas of his life. Patience and calm that would hopefully help him decide what to do about the leadership of the Rangers. She called the nursery and told them to deliver the tree to the Juice Bar, already potted and ready to go. She picked a Joshua Tree, she felt it would do the best in Angel Grove's climate, and should hold up to Tommy's lack of a green thumb. "I hope this works," she thought as she hung up the phone, then called Tommy to let him know what she had done.
* * *
Mondo watched Kimberly as she called from Florida to place her order with the Angel Grove nursery. "So she's going to try and turn Tommy into a gardener, is she? When I'm through with him, he'll be so calm and still, he won't be able to do anything! Klank!!"
Make a poison that we can put into Kimberly's little gift for Tommy. Something that will dull his responses and his mind. I don't want him to be able to lift a finger, much less lead the Rangers!! As a matter of fact, if this works, I'll use it on every human on the planet! With their minds dulled, they won't be able to resist my orders, no matter how hard they try!"
"I can make the poison, milord, but since the tree is organic, it will kill the tree."
"I don't care what happens to a stupid tree, Klank!"
"Yes, I know my liege, but if the tree dies, then Tommy will suspect something and not handle the tree, which will be necessary for the poison to get into his body." Mondo considered this problem.
"Make a phony tree, one that looks just like the real one. After Tommy gets the tree, we'll send down a platoon of Cogs to distract him and switch the trees. Get to work on it now, Klank!"
"And Klank? Don't mess up this time!!!"
* * *
Tommy had just walked into the Juice Bar when Ernie called him over. "Got a package for you here Tommy!" Ernie placed a cardboard box on the counter, not more than two feet tall.
"So what is it?" Rocky asked. "Just what did Kim send you?"
"A bonsai tree."
"You mean like in the movies?"
"Something like that." Tommy frowned. He knew that Kim was trying to help him focus, but he wasn't a gardener. Why was she sending a tree of all things? Billy walked in just as Tommy took the tree out of the box and heard Rocky's question.
"Kat said I'd find you guys here, that Kim's gift had arrived. Which species did she send, Tommy?"
"What do you mean, which species? A bonsai tree is a bonsai tree, right?" Rocky was confused now. "I mean, that's what they call them, so that's what they are right?"
Billy laughed as he got a closer look at the small tree, already potted properly. Kim must have told the nursery to deliver it ready to go. Ernie had already taken the box to the recycling bin. "There are several kinds of trees that can be used for bonsai. Bonsai is more the art of tending, pruning and caring for the trees. It deals with harmony...," Billy continued his explanation as the guys left and headed for Billy's lab.
As he listened, Tommy realized just why Kim had sent the tree. The art of bonsai did have to deal with the harmony of nature, and man trying to mold it, without looking like he was molding it. It seemed like contradiction in terms, but the spiritual side was what Kim was aiming for in sending her gift. Just as one tried to find the balance and harmony in bonsai, he needed to find the balance and harmony in his mind, heart and soul. He needed to be calm and focused, so he could find the answers he needed. But how could he be calm with the Decharger around? How could he be calm not knowing what to do about the Rangers? Rocky's hand on his arm broke his thoughts.
"Cogs!" Tommy looked around to find that they were surrounded.
"Great. Now what?" he muttered.
* * *
Mondo watched, he had waited until the Rangers were out in the open. "Klank!! Hurry up with my tree!!!"
"It is ready milord. I shall teleport down now." Klank vanished with the poisonous copy of Tommy's bonsai. Mondo actually laughed as he continued to watch the battle on Earth.
"Oh, you'll have plenty of time to think about things now, Red Ranger. All the time in the world, trapped inside your own body."
* * *
Tommy put down the tree just as three Cogs leapt at him, knocking him down. "Morph guys!"
"Right!" Billy and Rocky called, but they never got the chance. Each boy was promptly tackled by three Cogs each, and had to fight them off before they could even try to morph. None of the guys saw Klank teleport down by Tommy's tree and exchange it with the fake one. He was there and gone in a few seconds and shortly after, so were the Cogs. The guys picked themselves up off of the ground, shaking off leaves and dirt. Rocky's jeans were torn from where the Cogs had shoved him onto the sidewalk.
"Aw, man, not again! My mom must think I'm the clumsiest guy in the world! That's the third pair of jeans this month! She's gonna kill me." Billy helped Tommy up as Rocky lamented about his jeans, then they all looked for the bonsai tree, which was just where Tommy had placed it, amazingly enough.
"What was that all about anyway? It's not like the Cogs to do a hit and run. I mean, without the Decharger showing up, or them stealing something. They must have wanted something." Rocky brushed the last of the dirt off his jeans. "I've got to get home and try to patch these up before Mom sees them. I'll meet up with you guys at Billy's later, okay?"
"See ya, Roc. And don't worry too much about your mom. Mine has finally gotten used to the rips in my jeans." Tommy watched as Rocky jogged off in the direction of his house. He was right, it wasn't like the Cogs to hit and run without the Decharger showing up. What had they wanted?
"You okay, Tommy?"
"Huh? Yeah, I'm okay. I'll be better if we can figure out just what Mondo is up to, though. Let's get over to your place before anything else happens." Billy and Tommy continued on the way to Billy's lab, not noticing that the tree was glinting slightly in the sun.
* * *
Mondo was giggling with glee now, something that Klank had never thought he would ever see. "I take it you're pleased, sire?"
"Oh yes, Klank, for once you've done something perfectly. They won't know what hit them until it's too late!" Mondo would've scowled at the real tree Klank was holding if he could. "Get that stupid tree out of here, I hate real plants!"
"Yes sire. At once sire." Klank went to the nearby furnace and tossed the tree in. It was incinerated instantly. Klank could feel his pride swelling. He had outdone himself this time. He had created the tree so precisely, mimicked every line and curve. And had put a little surprise of his own into it, to insure it carried out its mission: the poisoning of the Red Ranger.
* * *
After calling Kim to thank her for her gift, but not telling her about the Cog attack, Tommy sat down at the table with a pair of pruning shears that Billy had found for him and stared at the little tree. He was amazed that it hadn't been damaged in the fight. But now that he had it here, safe in Billy's lab, he had no idea what to do with it.
"It won't get pruned by itself, you know," Billy teased. He was busying himself with the carcass of what was going to be a china cabinet for the house that his Uncle John had announced he was thinking about renting. He had planned for the cabinet to be for Sheena and himself, but they hadn't announced their 'engagement' to his parents yet, so when John had seen all the wood and the frame, he asked Billy if he could make a china cabinet for the house. Billy agreed, to say no to Uncle John was unthinkable. And if he had, then he would've had to explain to his uncle that he and Sheena were 'engaged', and to do that before even telling his parents... Billy didn't even want to think about what that little scene would've been like. Billy walked over to Tommy, placing his hand on his friend's shoulder. "Just let the tree 'tell' you where to start. Follow its form and let it guide you. Clear your mind, center yourself."
"Easy for you to say. What do you think the Cogs were up to?"
"I don't know, Rocky's right, it was weird. But everything Mondo has done lately has been weird, even for him. And you're stalling. Working on the tree will help calm you, and maybe you'll find some answers."
Tommy's hand stopped just above the tree. Did Billy know what was bothering him? That he was wondering whether or not to hand over leadership of the Rangers to his friend's wife? "Answers?"
'Yeah, maybe you'll get an idea about what Mondo is up too." Billy looked closely at Tommy. "You really do need to do something to calm yourself, your hand is shaking. Are you all right?"
Tommy stilled his hand with effort, he hoped it didn't show too much. "Yeah, I'm fine." He laughed nervously and tried to throw Billy off. "I guess I'm just afraid this thing is going to bite me or something." Billy laughed and shook his head, turning back to the china cabinet. Tommy exhaled in relief, Billy didn't suspect anything, or if he did, he wasn't saying.
Either way, Tommy was glad. He steeled himself, and started for the closest branch on the tree. "All right, here goes nothing." He closed the shears on the branch - and nothing happened. The branch didn't cut. He pulled the shears away and looked closely at the branch. There wasn't even a scratch.
"That's weird," he muttered. Tommy tried again, putting more pressure on the shears. "Hey Billy, this thing won't cut the branches."
"You're kidding. Mom just sharpened those things yesterday."
"I'm telling you, it won't cut - ow!!" Tommy dropped the shears in pain, the branch he'd been trying to cut had wrapped itself around his finger.
Blood slowly trickled from where the 'leaves' were biting into his flesh. "Billy! Get this thing off me!"
"What?!" Billy rushed over, grabbing the shears that Tommy had dropped. "Hold still." Billy tried to cut the branch with the shears, but had no better luck than Tommy.
"Be careful, it might stick you too." Tommy warned. Billy searched through his toolbox and pulled out a pair of wire cutters.
"Sorry, didn't schedule getting bitten by a plant today. Perhaps tomorrow?" he joked, then frowned. Tommy was turning a bit pale. "These should do it, hang in there." Billy put as much pressure as he could on the wire cutters, and finally the branch was cut with a metallic sounding snap. Billy put on a pair of gardening gloves and carefully unwrapped the rest of the branch from Tommy's finger, a piece about two inches long. A greenish liquid was oozing from it, and from the tree at the cut. Tommy's finger was angry and red where the branch had punctured him. "We need to get you to the Power Chamber, and the tree. Something's not right, trees don't act like Venus Flytraps."
"That's what Mondo was up to, has to be. He's done something to the tree." Tommy shook his hand, there was a weird numb feeling in it, starting from where he'd been pricked. "But why? He's got the Decharger running around loose, why mess with a tree?"
"Remember, the Decharger has drained each one of us once each. He hasn't attacked since. Maybe Mondo's trying a new tactic, by going after you."
Billy had grabbed his first aid kit and was applying a quick bandage to Tommy's injury.
Billy gave a dry laugh. "You have to ask? You're the leader of the Power Rangers. Might as well paint a bull's eye on your back." Tommy stared at Billy, he had said the exact same thing to Kim that first day. "That's the only thing I can think of. Come on, we need to go."
* * *
Up in the Skybase, Mondo laughed with delight. "Can't figure it out, can you Rangers? Klank!! Send down a squad of Cogs to attack Tommy and Billy immediately! I don't want them to find out my tree's secret just yet. They'll know soon enough."
* * *
Billy was just closing his first aid kit when Tommy pointed behind him. "Cogs! Billy look out!!"
"What? Hey!" Three Cogs had already grabbed Billy from behind, holding his arms to prevent him from fighting them off, a fourth was closing in. "Sapphire -mmph!" The fourth Cog roughly shoved a gag into Billy's mouth before he could call on his power.
They had learned long ago that though the other Rangers needed their Zeonizers to morph, Sheena and Billy only needed to call on their powers verbally. So their tactics in dealing with them had changed, they usually tried to keep Billy and Sheena so busy that they didn't have time to morph. The gag was a new trick however, and one that disturbed Tommy as he made himself move in to try and help his friend. Were they trying to kidnap Billy now? Tommy was intercepted by a couple of Cogs before he could reach Billy. As Tommy struggled, he found himself noticing two things. He was having more trouble with two Cogs than he should be. He was the more experienced fighter of the two, he'd had more training than Billy, but Billy was putting up more of a struggle than he himself seemed to be able to. And there were a few other Cogs trashing Billy's lab. Why was that?
Tommy concentrated his efforts and finally broke free of his attackers. "Zeo Ranger V, Red!" As soon as he morphed, Tommy felt better, or at least back to normal. He felt his body responding the way it should in a fight, not slowed down like it had moments before. The Cogs seemed to notice the change as well, they renewed their efforts to subdue Tommy. The four Cogs that had been holding Billy had him tied up in a net now, his arms firmly bound, keeping him from removing the gag while they started to drag him away.
Tommy fought his way to him as best he could, the Cogs seemed intent on taking Billy with them. "Let him go, metal heads!!"
"You heard the man, let him go!" Rocky had just arrived and had promptly morphed when he spotted the Cogs, tackling the nearest one. The Cogs that had been taking Billy away threw the helpless Ranger at his teammates, sending all three of them to the ground, then teleported away. Tommy and Rocky untangled themselves from Billy, powered down and worked on freeing him from the net. It took a few minutes, but finally Billy was free and pulling the gag out of his mouth.
"Thanks guys. That's something they haven't tried before. Not sure I like being trussed up like that." Billy winced as he turned his head, and started to rub his neck.
"You okay, Billy?" Tommy was worried, he hadn't been able to warn Billy as quickly as he'd tried to, and it had nearly gotten him kidnapped. If it hadn't been for Rocky showing up when he did... Tommy shoved the thought from his mind as he and Rocky helped Billy to stand.
"I think I'll be okay, but when they gagged me, they wrenched my neck pretty bad. It really hurts right now. I guess that's two of us that need to get checked out at the Power Chamber."
"Two?" Rocky asked. "What's wrong Tommy? Are you okay?"
"Billy's the one who's really been hurt, don't worry about me, I'll be fine. I just got bitten or something by that bonsai tree - where is it?" Tommy walked into the mess of Billy's lab. Everything was smashed or on the floor, the china cabinet Billy had been working on was kindling now. But the tree was nowhere to be found. "That's why they attacked, they wanted to get the tree back. I guess they tried for Billy too, so he couldn't figure out what made it prick me like it did."
"Or they were using me as a distraction, so you wouldn't see them taking the tree and stop them. Either way, they've got at least one thing they were after, the tree. We've got to get to the Power Chamber guys. I don't like this one bit." The three Rangers teleported to the Power Chamber and were greeted by a worried Alpha. Zordon was not visible in his warp.
"Ai-yi-yi-yi-yi! Are you all right Rangers? Zordon and I have been searching for more information on the Decharger, so I didn't see the attack until it was over. I'm sorry, I should've kept a closer eye on all of you," the little robot fretted.
"Billy's neck was wrenched in the fight, and Tommy was pricked by his bonsai tree, but other than that, we're all okay, Alpha, don't worry. You can't be watching all of us all of the time, even though you are a robot." Rocky patted Alpha's shoulder reassuringly.
"Let's get Billy's neck checked Alpha, they might have pulled a muscle or something when they grabbed him." Tommy felt a little silly, Billy had been in the most danger, all he had was a few little pricks on his finger, it wasn't even bleeding now. The other Rangers teleported in, all clamoring for answers. After Rocky filled everybody in on what had happened after they had left the Juice Bar, Alpha determined that Billy did have a strained muscle in his neck.
"It's going to be stiff and sore for a while, Billy, but nothing too serious. Be sure to take some ibuprofen every four to six hours, that will take the edge off the pain."
"Yes sir, Doctor Alpha," Billy stiffly saluted his metallic friend, then immediately wished he hadn't. The pain had started to travel into his shoulder.
"Sit still, I think I can take care of that," Sheena ordered. She gently started to massage Billy's neck and shoulders for a few minutes and as everyone watched, Billy's face showed the difference as the pain started to ease. "How's that?"
"Thanks sweetie, that does help."
"A friend of mine from back home taught me. The only person I've ever known who can massage even some of the worst pain and headaches away."
"Really? Which one?"
"Umm, well -," Sheena suddenly found herself stumbling for words. She hadn't talked much about her friends, about her best friend, very much since she'd met the Rangers, and couldn't bring herself to talk about them just then. Tommy's paling face caught her eye, and all thoughts of home were banished. "Tommy? Tommy, what's wrong, you're as white as a sheet!"
It took a few seconds before Tommy could answer, long enough for Rocky and Kat to make him lie down on one of the examining tables. "I'm okay, really, I just got pricked by that stupid tree. It's nothing."
LET US BE THE JUDGE OF THAT, TOMMY. Zordon was back in his warp again, Tommy wondered how long he had been listening to them. ALPHA, BEGIN A SCAN OF TOMMY'S VITAL SIGNS IMMEDIATELY. BILLY, WHAT HAPPENED WITH THE TREE? DO YOU STILL HAVE IT? Billy quickly explained what had happened in the lab, and that the Cogs had apparently taken the tree with them during the attack.
"But what could Mondo want with a tree?" Tanya wondered.
"I still think that he's been after Tommy this whole time, from the moment he got the tree. I touched the branches myself while Tommy was talking to Kim on the phone after we got to my lab. They didn't prick me." Tommy looked at Billy, curiously. "You didn't see me, and I didn't think anything of it till now. If the tree was to poison the first Ranger who touched it, or any Ranger, then it would've pricked me. But it only pricked Tommy. It didn't try to prick me when I was cutting the branch off, either."
"The question remains, what is Mondo up to?"
"I don't know Sheena. I wish I did. Alpha, do your scans show anything?"
"No, not exactly, Billy."
"What do you mean, 'not exactly', Alpha? What do they show?"
"Tommy's perfectly fine except for the pricks on his fingers. But his pulse rate is a bit slower than normal, considering he's just been in a fight."
"I feel like I'm slower, mentally and physically, The only time I felt up to normal speed was after I morphed," Tommy finally admitted. "I tried to warn you about the Cogs behind you, but it was like I couldn't get the words out for a second or so."
ALPHA, WE NEED TO RUN SOME TESTS ON TOMMY'S BLOOD. I FEAR THAT THE TREE MAY HAVE POISONED HIM. TOMMY, IT WOULD BE SAFER FOR YOU TO REMAIN HERE FOR NOW.
"Won't get any arguments from me, some sleep right now sounds pretty good." Tommy settled down on the table as Alpha prepared to draw some blood for testing. "Hey, Jase, how's Emily? Did she get out of the hospital today?"
"She's okay, Ernie has told her not to come in to work for another week though. Physically she's almost up to speed, but she's still a little spooked." Jason hit the table Billy was sitting on with his fist, jarring it. The vibration made Billy wince and rub his neck. "I'd really like to get a hold of Mondo and - oh man, I'm sorry Billy. I wasn't thinking."
"Don't worry, it was an accident. Mondo's attacks have got us all on edge."
RANGERS, ALL OF YOU NEED TO TRY AND REST. MONDO'S ATTACKS HAVE WORN ON ALL OF YOU, MENTALLY AND PHYSICALLY. YOU NEED TO BE AS RESTED AS POSSIBLE, FOR I FEAR THAT HIS WORST IS YET TO COME. WE WILL CALL YOU THE MOMENT WE KNOW MORE.
Reluctantly, the Rangers all left except for Tommy, Billy and Sheena.
Billy only laid down to rest after Alpha promised to wake him if Tommy's condition changed, and Sheena only agreed to go to her quarters and rest after Alpha made her the same promise about Billy and Tommy. Tommy caught her hand as she walked by.
"Tommy? Something I can get for you? Anything at all?" she asked.
He shook his head. He was finding it a little harder to concentrate, and tried to hide the little mental battle he was fighting to simply talk to her. "Make me a promise, Sheena."
"If whatever that's going on with me slows me down too much, I want you to take over the Rangers. I want you to be the leader." Sheena started to protest, but Tommy managed to cut her off somehow. "Face it, I'm having trouble just talking, much less giving orders. Promise me Sheena. If you have to, take over." She was quiet, solemn. For a moment, Tommy feared she would say no.
Sheena nodded. "I promise." She patted Tommy's hand, he was already drifting off to sleep. Billy's breathing had slowed a bit, he was finally asleep too. Sheena went to her quarters and tried to relax, but couldn't.
She pulled a small photo album out of her purse and automatically opened it to two pictures. The first was the one she had been looking at on that fateful day when the Cogs had captured her and taken her to King Mondo. But it was the second one that held her attention now, it was one of her and her best friend. "What do I do now?" she asked the photographic image of her friend. "I'm not a leader." The image didn't answer, it couldn't of course.
Sheena finally drifted off to a fitful sleep, still clutching the album tightly.
* * *
Klank heard an odd noise coming from the throne room, he thought that perhaps some piece of hardware had started to malfunction. Much to his surprise, the noise was coming from King Mondo himself! "Sire, I dinna want to bother you... sire? I say, Your Nastiness, are you feeling all right?"
Mondo continued to make the odd sound and Klank wondered if he should call Queen Machina. "Sire? Are you... humming, sire?"
"Yes I am Klank, thanks to you! You've done splendidly this time! Tell me, what made you think of using the Sapphire Ranger as a distraction while the Cogs retrieved my poison bonsai? Tommy and Rocky were so worried the Cogs were kidnapping him, they never saw us take the tree!"
Klank gulped, then hurried to cover his nervousness. Actually, he had told the Cogs to kidnap Billy also, but they had panicked when Rocky had shown up, and left Billy behind instead. Klank hadn't wanted to take the chance that Billy could find an antidote to the poison. But he wasn't about to let Mondo know any differently. "Uh, it was... a sudden inspiration sire! I, uh, knew that Tommy would be so worried about Billy that he wouldn't see us recovering the tree. The Blue Ranger was distracted also, when he showed up. I thought you would be pleased, milord."
"Oh, I am, Klank. Tell me, how long before Tommy is completely overwhelmed by my poison?"
"Well, sire, if he had stayed in his Red Ranger form, the poison wouldn't have really started to slow him down until about twenty-four hours after the tree pricked him. After that, if he stayed morphed the entire time, the poison would permanently incapacitate him in three days."
"Yes, sire, in the dose he received, the poison's effects would be irreversible after three full days. He would be in a waking coma for the rest of his life. You see, sire, the poison is designed to interfere with a human's nervous system, slowly blocking the synapses until only just enough information is getting through to keep their body alive. Just as you requested, sire, he'll be trapped inside his body, unable to even whimper, must less lead the Rangers. Since he powered down after the Cog attack, and is most likely still powered down, the poison is traveling through his system faster, though he may not be able to tell a difference at the moment. Even if he powers up again, I estimate that now he only has a day and a half before he's done for."
"Yes!! Well done, Klank! But tell me, will I still be able to use the poison to enslave all of mankind?"
"Oh yes, sire! All we have to do is make the tree the size of a normal tree, and plant it near Angel Grove's water plant. Its roots will start to slowly travel through the earth, undetected, and make their way into the water supply. Once they reach it, they will release the poison into the water. The poison will be diluted, and each person who drinks the water will receive enough to have their senses dulled, and leave them vulnerable to say, a hypnotic suggestion that you could broadcast. They will be aware of everything, but unable to resist. And the humans will know that the Power Rangers have been defeated and can't save them. We can poison the entire Earth's water supply in a matter of days."
"I like this, Klank! But we must make sure that the Rangers aren't able to stop us from planting the tree. Decharger! Decharger, come here at once!"
Mondo's monster appeared, ready for battle.
"Tomorrow morning, I will send down a squad of Cogs to draw the Rangers out into battle. When they least expect it, you will go down and fight them, but don't drain them. You've stolen enough energy for our purposes. Keep them busy while Klank plants my tree. And try to battle the Red Ranger one last time. I want his last moments of movement to be the most sorrowful moments of his life! I want him to collapse, knowing that he can't fight, he can't lead, his Ranger friends will be defeated, and there's nothing he can do about it!" Decharger bowed and left the throne room, he was ready to serve his master. Mondo turned back to Klank. "Klank, there's one thing that worries me. What if the Rangers try to destroy my tree? You can't let that happen, Klank!"
Klank was thoughtful for a moment, if the Rangers ever got a sample of the poison, then that interfering Billy might be able to make an antidote for Tommy in time. Klank couldn't let that happen, not when everything was going so well... "Yer Majesty, I've got it. I programmed the tree to attack only Tommy, to make sure he was the one who was poisoned, I can reprogram it to attack anyone who gets too close. If it is an ordinary human, they will be instantly killed, of course, the strength of the poison is increased with the dosage, the dosage is increased with the size of the tree -,"
"Klank, don't patronize me, do you think I'm stupid?! Of course the tree puts out more poison if it is bigger!! What about if a Ranger gets too close?"
"If they are not using their Ranger powers when the tree attacks them, then they will only have a few hours before they are in the same shape as their leader. If they are using their Ranger powers, then they will have a day at the most. But if they power down during that time, then their time will run out faster. The Rangers will be unable to stop us sire, I promise. You will be victorious!"
"I had better be Klank. Or else, you are the one who will have to explain why you failed me."
* * *
Tommy was a bit confused when he woke up, where was he? Then he remembered: the tree, the Cog attack, the Cogs taking Billy... "Billy?"
The Sapphire Ranger turned from the microscope he'd been hunched over for three hours already, though it was only seven in the morning. "Hey Tommy, how are you feeling?" Billy was cautiously straightening up and turning his head, his neck was still bothering him a bit. Tommy slowly got up off of the examining table he'd slept on and went to his friend.
"Other than a few cobwebs, I feel okay, I guess. Oh, man, I didn't call my parents, they're gonna freak!" Billy put a hand on Tommy's shoulder to calm him.
"Don't worry, the others took care of that. Alpha told me that Adam and Rocky called David after they left and told him what happened. Mr.Trueheart is out of town, so David called your folks and mine and told them that we were staying over with him at the reservation, 'to keep him company'. Adam contacted Alpha and let him know that everything was covered. Don't worry, we shouldn't get skinned alive by our folks." Billy grinned at Tommy, the leader of the Rangers couldn't have looked more relieved. "Your brother knowing who we are comes in handy."
"Knowing who we are or not, I'm just glad I found him." As Billy turned back to the microscope, Tommy's face clouded. That was another thing he hadn't dealt with as well as he had first thought. It had only been a few years ago that his parents had told him he was adopted, and in the last days before Master Vile had turned time back, Tommy's parents had found out that Tommy had a twin brother. It had taken a while, but they had finally found where David was, only to discover that he had been looking for Tommy with Mr. Trueheart's help. Tommy shuddered, remembering taking David to the Juice Bar after their first meeting and the sparring match that David lost. He had stormed out, feeling bad, only to be kidnapped by Cogs. Mondo had wanted the Power Rangers to surrender to him as ransom. They managed to save David after he had teleported out of the cave with the monster that Mondo's evil had awakened, but David was so frantic about Tommy, that maybe something had happened to him, that Tommy had no choice but to reveal his identity to his brother. By so doing, he'd ended up revealing the other Rangers identities, and Billy's as a former Ranger. So much happened, so fast. He and David both wore arrowhead necklaces, they had been given to them by their adoptive parents, the Olivers and Mr. Trueheart, when they were young. After David's kidnapping and rescue, they found out that the necklaces had actually been with them when they were given up for adoption, they were from their real parents.
_No, birth parents,_ Tommy corrected himself. That was something he'd shoved to the back of his mind, trying to bury the thoughts and emotions. They had not been able to learn just why they had been given up for adoption, and it had continued to bother Tommy. How did David manage to have such peace with it? Tommy shook his head, his heritage was something else that was turning him inside out, and he didn't know where to begin to deal with it, or anything else in his life. Billy's voice broke his thoughts.
"I don't understand this, Zordon. We've checked for every known kind of poison or virus in Tommy's blood, but there's nothing there! That tree had to have done something, but what? Where are the traces?"
IT IS POSSIBLE THAT TOMMY HASN'T BEEN POISONED AT ALL BILLY, THOUGH I FIND THAT HIGHLY UNLIKELY. BUT UNTIL WE CAN GET A SAMPLE OF WHATEVER WAS IN THE TREE, WE WILL NOT BE ABLE TO FIND OUT ANYTHING FOR SURE. TOMMY, DO YOU FEEL ANY DIFFERENTLY FROM YESTERDAY?
"Not really, Zordon. I just kinda feel like I'm not quite awake yet, like I'm slow getting started this morning. Then again, I've never been an early riser," Tommy laughed, trying to make light of the situation. "Really, other than feeling like I'm a little sluggish right now, I feel fine. How's your neck this morning, Billy?"
"Stiff, but better than yesterday. Just have to be careful turning my head."
"Well, that's good to hear," Sheena's voice floated into the main chamber. She was up and dressed, and immediately went to Billy and started to massage his neck and shoulders. "Did you sleep well?"
"Not really. I've been up since about four, I think. This thing with the tree has got me bugged. There should be something in Tommy's blood, but we can't find it. Anything yet, Alpha?" The little robot had been checking another sample, but hadn't had any better luck than Billy. Billy sighed and rubbed his eyes. "This is going nowhere, and it's driving me crazy."
"Then you need to take a short break from it, clear your mind. Sit still, breathe deeply, clear your mind. Think of a calm, peaceful meadow. There's a small pond there, and all sorts of animals are there. Everything is serene, still, safe. Nothing can disturb this place." Tommy watched in wonder as Billy began to relax, Sheena's voice was even and smooth, her hands slowly working away the tension and stiffness in Billy's shoulders and neck.
He could see Billy's face start to relax just as it had the day before, as his pain and soreness started to fade. Sheena was amazing, Tommy wondered just how she was able to be so calm, and so calming. Then Tommy saw the ugly, dark purple bruise on the back of Billy's neck for the first time, from where the Cog had grabbed him and wrenched his neck, cruelly stuffing the gag into his mouth... Tommy shuddered at the memory. If Rocky hadn't shown up when he had, they would've lost Billy, he just knew it. Every instinct told him that the Cogs had been after Billy as much as the tree. But why? _Because it has done something to me,_ Tommy thought. _Mondo didn't want Billy to figure out what..._ He realized that Sheena was staring at him. Her face showed her question, he shook his head at her. Her eyes narrowed, her gaze speaking volumes, saying that she knew he was hiding something, but she would talk to him later. If she only knew...
"Sheena? If I ever meet the friend who taught you how to do this, I'm going to give him my undying gratitude, 'cause I'll never have enough money to pay him properly. I feel so much better, thanks sweetie." Billy took her hands in his and they turned to face Tommy.
"I heard you say that you were feeling like you were slow getting started this morning?" Sheena was plainly worried about Tommy, he tried to put her at ease.
"Yeah, but I'll be fine. Just need to do something to get the blood flowing." Alarms blared throughout the Power Chamber.
"You were saying?" Billy smiled humorlessly.
"Not what I had in mind, Billy. What's up, Zordon?"
MONDO IS GETTING AN EARLY START TODAY, HE HAS SENT A SQUAD OF COGS TO THE PARK. ALPHA, NOTIFY THE OTHER RANGERS TO MEET BILLY AND SHEENA THERE.
"Right away, Zordon." Alpha started to a console as Tommy protested.
"Wait a minute! Zordon, I'm fine, really. I'm going, there's no telling what Mondo is up to." He looked at Billy. "You said you couldn't find anything in my blood, right?"
"Not yet, anyway," Billy admitted.
"Then I'm going." Everyone in the Power Chamber stared at Tommy, they didn't like the idea of him going into a fight when he might be ill. "Look, if I start not feeling right, I'll teleport out immediately, okay? But right now, I feel fine, and I'm going out there." _While I can still do something,_ he thought. Zordon reluctantly nodded his permission.
THIS GOES AGAINST WHAT I FEEL IS BEST FOR YOU, TOMMY, BUT YOU ARE RIGHT IN THAT WE DON'T KNOW WHAT MONDO HAS IN STORE. ALPHA, KEEP A LOCK ON TOMMY AT ALL TIMES AND MONITOR HIS VITAL SIGNS CONTINUOUSLY. AT THE FIRST SIGN OF ANYTHING WRONG, BRING HIM BACK HERE IMMEDIATELY. TOMMY, DO NOT TAKE ANY UNNECESSARY RISKS, AND IF YOU FEEL ILL AT ALL, PULL OUT OF THE FIGHT. YOU MUST BE CAUTIOUS UNTIL WE DETERMINE JUST WHAT, IF ANYTHING, THE TREE DID TO YOU.
"I promise, Zordon. It's Morphin' Time!"
"Zeo Ranger V, Red!"
"Sapphire Ranger Power!"
"Silver Ranger Power!"
The three Rangers appeared in the midst of the Cogs and immediately started to take them out. The other Rangers joined them moments later, and more Cogs appeared to fight them. The Rangers all found themselves being slowly separated from each other as the battle continued, more and more Cogs showing up as each previous group was defeated. Tommy was the furthest away from any of the Rangers, and had been holding his own, but he could feel his responses starting to slow. "Not now," he muttered as he dispatched another Cog, then spotted five more heading his way. About twenty yards away, he saw Sheena trying to make her way to him. She was kicking and punching her way to him, but Tommy knew that even Sheena couldn't get to him just yet. "C'mon, Tommy, wake up," he told himself. "You've got to fight this." But as cold metallic eyes watched from the Machine Empire, Tommy's movements slowed even more.
* * *
"Decharger, come here!" Mondo summoned his monster. "It is time! Go down to Earth and keep the Rangers occupied while Klank starts transplanting my tree at the water plant. Start with the Red Ranger, I want the other Rangers to be devastated by the sight of their leader falling on the field of battle!"
"Yes, milord." The Decharger teleported away, and Mondo could hear Klank bossing around the Cogs assigned to help him with the tree. Mondo chuckled, pleased with himself. "Yes, Zordon, your pathetic attempts to stop me with those teenagers will all end in vain. Today is the last day Tommy will lead your pitiful group. And soon after, there won't be any Rangers left."
* * *
"Feeling a little slow, Red Ranger?"
Tommy whirled at the sound of the now familiar voice. "Decharger!" he managed to shout. What is wrong with me?? Tommy was finding it harder to move, to think.
"What's the matter, Tommy, can't fight anymore? Maybe I should find somebody more challenging then, like maybe, oh, let's say your precious Pink Ranger?" Decharger laughed, making Tommy angrier. He ignored his promise to Zordon to teleport back if he felt ill, he wasn't going to let Decharger hurt Kat or any of his friends. Not while he could still fight.
"I'm a challenge enough for you, do you dare to face me, Decharger?" Tommy launched himself at Decharger, but his motions were too slow, the monster easily knocked him aside. Tommy struggled to his feet, his arms felt like lead. He tried to rush Decharger again, but the monster picked him up and threw him like a rag doll. Tommy tried vainly to get up once more, but he couldn't even manage to sit, much less stand.
"Tommy! Tommy, are you all right?" Sheena had made her way to him, and was cradling him in her arms. "Tommy! Speak to me!" Tommy was breathing heavily and struggling to talk. "Guys! Tommy's down!!" Sheena yelled to the Rangers. As they all ran over to them, Tommy put a hand on Sheena's arm to get her attention.
"Remember, you promised." Tommy's voice was barely audible. "Be careful."
"Tommy? Tommy!" Sheena couldn't get a response out of him, Tommy wasn't able to talk anymore. "Alpha, lock on to Tommy and teleport him back, something's wrong! We'll keep fighting Decharger," the Rangers could hear her say as they reached them. Tommy disappeared in a flash of red, then Sheena took a deep breath and stood to face the Rangers. "I don't know if the Decharger did something to Tommy or if this is because of the plant, but he can't even talk now. It's up to us, guys."
"And you will do no better without your leader, Rangers! Your end is at hand!" Decharger sent seven energy bolts at the Rangers, sending them all to the ground. He laughed as they lay stunned for a few seconds. "My master, King Mondo, will rule this pitiful planet, and its people will be his slaves!
And you can't stop him!!"
* * *
Tommy materialized in the Power Chamber on the same examining table he'd been lying on just an hour or so earlier. "Tommy? Tommy, are you all right? Can you talk?" Alpha was frantically trying to get a response, any response from Tommy.
_I can't move Alpha,_ Tommy heard his mind say, but his mouth couldn't form the words, his voice couldn't make the sounds. _What's wrong with me?_
"He's unresponsive, Zordon! Ai-yi-yi-yi-yi!" The viewing globe crackled, shifting away from the battle in the park to King Mondo's throne room.
"Something wrong, Zordon?" Mondo's metallic voice broke in.
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO TOMMY, MONDO? YOU MUST REALIZE THAT YOU WILL NOT GET AWAY WITH IT.
Mondo laughed, then leaned in closer, as if trying to get a closer look at Tommy through the globe. "I'm not going to get away with it? Ha! I already have gotten away with it! How does it feel, Zordon, to have one of your Rangers trapped inside of his own body for the rest of his life, and you can't do anything about it? You might as well give up now, but I hope you don't, I want to see my monster defeat your leaderless Rangers. You are finished, Zordon!" Mondo's image faded from the viewing globe, his cruel laughter echoing through the Power Chamber for a few seconds longer. Zordon sighed, then looked at Alpha.
DRAW ANOTHER SAMPLE OF TOMMY'S BLOOD, ALPHA. WE MUST FIND OUT WHAT MONDO HAS DONE, AND REVERSE IT.
Tommy could feel Alpha drawing some more blood for testing, but his instincts told him that they wouldn't find anything this time either. He would've kicked himself if he could have moved. Zordon had been right, he shouldn't have gone into battle. Tommy cursed himself for letting his pride get in the way of his better judgment. He thought about what Mondo had just said, and took comfort from one thing. _The Rangers aren't leaderless, Mondo. And that's the one thing you haven't thought about._
Tommy concentrated on trying to move his hand, a finger, tried to open his eyes as Alpha removed his helmet. Guess I'm going to be here for a while.
He stopped trying to move and listened to the sounds of the battle coming through the viewing globe. _Hang in there guys._