Unholy Alliance
by: April Michelle Richards

"Hey, Kimberly!" shouted Aisha Campbell, waving at her best friend. "Know what today is?"

"Yeah!" said Kimberly, shutting her locker gently and joining Aisha. "The Angel Grove Beauty Boutique is having its big sale after school! I'm so excited!"

"Well, there is that." said Aisha. "But today is also the day before the field trip to the chocolate factory!"

"_Hai,_ it sounds like fun." said Akiko, the newest Ranger, as she joined them.

"Yeah." said Kim. "Finally, I get to spend some _quality_ time with Tommy."

"Uh... actually-" said Akiko, as the subject of discussion walked toward the three female Power Rangers.

"Hi, Tommy!" Kimberly greeted him. "Lookin' forward to the field trip tomorrow?"

"Uh... actually, Kim, I'm not going." Tommy said.

"Not going?" Kimberly asked. "But why?"

"Lemme guess." said Aisha. "A big karate match."

Tommy sighed. "Hey, uh, Aisha, Akiko." he said. "Wouldja mind letting me talk to Kim alone?"

"Sure." shrugged Akiko.

"Have fun at the sale, Kim!" said Aisha as she and Akiko walked off.

"Another karate match?" complained Kim. "We were gonna have so much fun tomorrow!"

"I know, and I'm sorry." said Tommy. "But the Silver Fist Exhibition starts right after school and you know the field trip won't get back till late... come on, Kim. You know these matches are important to me."

"But we never have any time for just us!" Kim complained.

"Well... what about today? After school today?" suggested Tommy. "We could-"

"Can't." said Kimberly flatly. "The Beauty Boutique is having its biggest sale of the year."

"A sale is more important than a date?" said Tommy impatiently.

Kim's jaw dropped. "I didn't say that!" she said.

"Well, that's what it sounded like." said Tommy, crossing his arms.

Kim stamped her foot. "Tommy Oliver, you-" She was cut off as the bell rang for class.

Tommy sighed. "Look... we'll talk later." he said.

"Oh yeah? When?" Kimberly turned on her heel and stomped off in the opposite direction.

The Rangers ate lunch together at the Juice Bar, as they always did... but Kim and Tommy sat at opposite ends of the table, which was very unusual. Kim talked only to Aisha, about subjects the boys found incomprehensible, and Tommy looked half-hurt, half-angry, not even trying to talk to Kim.

Akiko scowled through the whole meal, only smiling when Adam said something, which he rarely did.

The only person unaffected by the tension seemed to be Rocky, who simply ate everything in sight and didn't bother with conversation.

It was almost a relief when Tommy's communicator beeped and Zordon informed them that Goldar had invaded the Angel Grove Museum of Antiquities.

"All right, guys..." Tommy said in a low tone.

"E, esu shinai to yabai ze!" said Akiko cheerfully. "Butt kicking... my favorite part of the day!"

The Rangers spilled into the hall, Rocky grabbing a handful of cookies. As they were about to teleport, Tommy hesitated.

"Tommy?" Billy asked.

"Let's go!" said Aisha.

"What's wrong?" asked Akiko.

Tommy turned to Kimberly. "Kim- are we clear?" he asked softly.

Kim looked left and right, and nodded. "Yeah... we're clear. C'mon, Tommy." she smiled. Tommy smiled in relief. The Rangers teleported in a blaze of multicolored light.

* * *

They reappeared in the museum just in time to see Goldar pull a dull metal object from a shattered display case. "Hey! Put that back!" Billy shouted.

"Mmmh fmhch mm hmmm mm!" Rocky threatened, brandishing a cookie threateningly.

"Oh yeah, make me!" retorted Goldar, retreating. "Putties! Get them!" he shouted. A crowd of claybrains leaped out and surrounded the Rangers.

"Kuso!" muttered Tommy, taking a putty down. "Akiko, Adam, Rocky, get Goldar! We'll take care of these putties!"

"Right!" called Akiko as she, Rocky and Adam hurried after Goldar, dodging putties.

"Mmph!!" said Rocky as a putty hit him in stomach. He clutched his throat and made choking noises.

"Rocky!" Adam shouted. "Akiko, Rocky's choking!"

"Hang on!" shouted Akiko, turning back. "Rocky, relax!" She turned back to help Rocky, quickly pulling him upright and performing the Heimlich maneuver while Adam defended the pair from putties. Rocky gagged, but started breathing again. "Morph! Go after Goldar!" Akiko urged Adam.

"Uh, right!" said Adam. "MASTODON!" He morphed into a dark, slim figure, and raced down the hall to block Goldar's way. "Hand it over, Goldar!" he ordered, motioning toward the box Goldar carried.

"Never!" shouted Goldar, swinging his sword. "Huh?" He turned to see Tommy, Akiko, Billy, Kimberly, Aisha and a staggering Rocky ganged up behind him. The Black Ranger took advantage of Goldar's confusion to snatch the ornate metal box from his paws and toss it to Aisha.

"Grr... This is not the end!" shouted Goldar as he disappeared in a fiery haze.

"All right!" shouted Aisha. "We rock! Hmm... I wonder what's in this thing?" She handed the box to Tommy.

"Maybe we should take it back to the Command Center for analysis." Billy suggested.

"In here!" they heard a shout. "The monster went this way!"

"Uh oh- the cops!" said Kimberly.

"Adam, you explain." said Tommy, handing the artifact to the masked Black Ranger. "We'll meet you back at school. See what they know about the box!"

"Right." said the Black Ranger, turning to face the museum guards.

* * *

The Rangers teleported into school just in time to hear the bell ring for class. They scattered to their individual lockers, all except for Tommy.

"Hey... Kim?"

"Yeah?" Kimberly asked, turning to face him.

"Have a nice time shopping after school."

"Oh... Thanks for understanding, Tommy." said Kimberly, kissing his cheek. "See you later!"

Tommy watched her go, then bumped into Adam. "Better hurry, man!" he said as he opened his locker.

"Yeah." said Adam. "Uh, wanna hear what I found out?"

"Sure." said Tommy.

"Okay." said Adam. "The museum director said that the box is a primitive bronze alloy. The patterns are believed to be an early attempt at Mayan pictograph writing."

"Mayan, huh?" Tommy mused. The mention of the Mayans brought a half forgotten memory surging forward into Tommy's mind. Before he could clearly remember it, it retreated back to the depths of his mind. "What's inside?"

"Well, opening the box would probably destroy it; they x-rayed the box when they found it, but there wasn't anything inside."

"Huh." said Tommy. "Wonder what Zedd and Rita want with it..." He dashed off.

Adam smiled at his departing leader and closed his locker for him. Then he went to class

* * *

The day wore on. School got out without further incident and Tommy went straight home to practice. Kimberly headed for the Beauty Boutique and spent the rest of the day shopping.

Night fell gently on Angel Grove, bringing rest to the weary and dreams to the unaware.

* * *

It was a dark morning.

The sun had not yet risen, but a jazzed-up Tommy Oliver had. He needed all the practice he could get. He was still recovering from a nasty sword cut... or, as he'd told everyone, a spill on his dirtbike.

Stealthily, Tommy tiptoed down the oaken staircase of his 19th-century home. Suddenly, he gasped. "Nana!"

"Tommy!" scolded his childhood nurse, clutching her bathrobe with nervous hands. "What are you doing out of your bed at four in the morning?"

"I was just gonna go outside and work out, Nana." said Tommy. "I need to practice-"

"Practice my foot!" Nana frowned. "You were up until midnight practicing! You go and get yourself some rest, lamb. And don't show your face till it's light outside!"

Tommy knew it was useless to argue with Nana "All right." he sighed, and went back upstairs. He reset his alarm for five-thirty... then six-o'clock.

As he climbed into bed, he gazed up at the moon outside his window. It shone unusually brightly and he wondered what its evil denizens were up to.

Soon, he fell into a deep sleep.

* * *

Majestically, Lord Zedd entered his Chamber of Command. "Goldar!" he shouted.

"Yes, my Lord?" his subservient henchman answered. Something about Goldar's whining growl irritated Lord Zedd. Actually, everything about Goldar's whining growl irritated Lord Zedd. But today it irritated him more than usual.

"Goldar, take another platoon of Putties and go to Angel Grove. There's a-"

"But it's dark, My Lord." interrupted Goldar.

"Then go when it's lighter, you insufferable fool!" shouted Zedd. "Honestly..."

"Yeah, what a geek!" Rita laughed, sweeping into the throne room. She waved to Lord Zedd. "Terrible morning, dread husband."

"Is that all I get? A wave?" Zedd gestured suggestively. "Come here, honeyslime, and give me a proper greeting."

"Uh... sorry, mold muffin!" Rita sputtered as Zedd advanced. "I have morning breath! I just sharpened my teeth! You don't want a kiss!"

"Oh yes I do!" said Zedd.

"Nooooo!" said Rita, running out of the room.

"She's so playful in the morning!" Zedd said happily to Goldar as he followed.

* * *

Quickly, Rita ran into Finster's workshop. "Finster! You don't know where I am! You haven't seen me!" Rita gasped. Quickly, she scrambled behind his putty-baking oven.

"Oh Finster..." called Lord Zedd. "Have you seen Rita?"

"No!" shouted Rita.

"Oh." said Zedd. "Well, if you see her, tell her I'm looking for her!"

"Yes, my lord." said Finster, nodding. "I will inform her."

"Whew!" said Rita. "That was close!" She emerged from her hiding place. "Things are bad, Finster..." she said. "It's time for me to get rid of Radiator Face and that traitor Goldar!"

"But how, my evil queen?" Finster asked.

"I have a brilliant plan..." said Rita. "Not only will I succeed in destroying Goldar and Zedd, but the Power Rangers too!" She laughed, a dark and purely evil sound.

* * *

Hours passed, and a new day dawned in Angel Grove, bright and sunny as always.

But in Switzerland, it was a dark and stormy night. Gray clouds hung heavy over the heads of two very special young people. After a long day of peace, equality, and environmentalism, Trini Kwan and Zack Taylor were both bushed.

"Hey, Trini," said Zack. "You seen Jas lately? The man's been kinda scarce."

"I don't know." said Trini. "He was supposed to be at the diversity committee's meeting but he never showed." The delicate Asian's full mouth pursed. "Zack... do you think he's been acting kind of strange lately?"

"Ah, I think he's just homesick. You know he was really into the..." Zack lowered his voice, "the you-know-who's... and he misses it, that's all."

"I suppose." said Trini. She yawned. "Will you talk to him in the morning?"

"Yeah, sure." said Zack. "Goodnight, Trini."

"'Night, Zack."

Emerging from the shadows, an angry Jason Lee Scott glared after his friends. "So what if I miss the Rangers?" he asked with a vehemence that surprised even himself. "I was forced to give up my command!" He shook his head. "And I _never_ expected my best friend to stab me in the back by accepting my position!" He slammed his fist against a wall.

"Your anger serves you well." said Rita, placing a hand on the former Red Ranger's shoulder.

The young warrior leaped into a karate stance. "Rita!?" Instinctively, he brought his wrist up to his face... but his communicator was missing.

Rita laughed. "You forget that you are not the Red Ranger anymore!"

"And what of it?" Jason challenged.

"Oh, don't hide your true feelings!" Rita said. "You want to lead the Rangers again... and I can show you how!"

"I don't want your help!" said Jason. "You're my enemy."

"Don't be ridiculous!" said Rita. "You're not a Ranger, why should I be your enemy? Oh, Jason, it's quite the opposite... I could be a very good friend to you."

Jason shook his head disgustedly and turned to leave.

"Oh, I understand why you consider me your enemy!" Rita called after him. "All our old battles... Yes, mighty warrior! How I longed to destroy you, and how I rejoiced on the day my hand-picked Green Ranger replaced you!" Jason flinched. Rita grinned. "Ah, Jason... some of the things I get away with these days, you never would have stood for!" She stepped closer. "Listen to me, Jason! I have a proposition for you..."

"Yeah? Like what?" Jason asked.

"It's simple." said Rita. "You help me get rid of Zedd and Goldar... and I'll help you get rid of that upstart White Ranger!"

"No way!" said Jason. "I'd never do anything to hurt Tommy!"

"Hurt Tommy?" said Rita. "Whoever said anything about hurting Tommy? All I want to do is put an end to the White Ranger... and perhaps see a new one put in his place!" She looked at Jason appraisingly.

"Me?" said Jason.

"Why not?" said the Dread Empress. And after you help me destroy Tommy, I'll destroy all the Power Rangers... you included! she thought.

"Why not?" repeated Jason. After I help her get rid of Zedd and Goldar, it'll be easy to defeat her once and for all! he thought. _And of course I would never hurt Tommy... even if he did take my place._

* * *

It was still not quite light in Angel Grove. Kimberly Harte had also risen before the sun, to return to the Beauty Boutique for just one more bargain before school started. Laden with shopping bags and humming cheerfully, Kim strolled to her car. Suddenly, she dropped her bags and stifled a scream. Goldar stood before her in the half-light of the parking lot.

"Pink Ranger, do not be alarmed!" Goldar growled.

"Who's alarmed, ya big gold monkey?" Kim said spunkily. "Back off, or I'll call the other Rangers!"

"Don't do that-" said Goldar, "You and I have much to talk about... like the fact that your sweetheart-" he leered. "-is Lord Zedd's son!"

"Ohmigosh..." said Kimberly. "How did you find out?"

"The fool..." said Goldar. "He told me himself! I was listening to your conversations that day in the Juice Bar when he ordered a Scotch." Goldar laughed. "Takes after his father that way!"

"So?" said Kimberly. "Why don't you just tell Lord Zedd about the innocent little kid YOU murdered!"

"You must be a fool!" Goldar laughed. "He'd probably kill me!"

"Uh-huh." said Kim. "Not like he could do any worse for a henchman."

"Ouch, I'm hurt..." said Goldar. "Did you ever consider the reason you Rangers have been winning so much lately?"

"All right Alex..." drawled Kimberly. "I'll take, "We're better than you are!" for one thousand..."

"Uh-uh, wrong answer!" shouted Goldar. "The truth is... I let you win!"

"What? Why?" asked Kimberly.

"Grrr..." Goldar growled. "I did it because of this." He handed Kimberly a sheet of white paper. Red and gold embossed letters spelled out: 'Dear Goldar. You will let the Rangers win in every battle and do me other favors or else Lord Zedd will find out who killed his son... Signed, a Concerned Friend.'

"Whoa..." said Kimberly. "But what does this have to do with me?"

"You will help me find this blackmailer!"

"Why would I do that?" asked Kim.

"Don't you see?" said Goldar. "If the blackmailer knows that Tommy is Zedd's son- he'll be next!"

"Oh no!" said Kimberly.

"Oh yes..." said Goldar. "I can see it now. 'You will give me the Power Ranger's secrets or else Lord Zedd will find out that you are his son...' A truly diabolical scheme, I wish I'd thought of it first!" Goldar laughed and handed Kimberly the letter. "You find the blackmailer... and I will put him out of commission!"

"All right..." said Kimberly. "But I'm only doing this for Tommy!"

Goldar grinned and disappeared in a rush of flame.

Suddenly, a voice said "Kim!"

"Huh?" said Kimberly. She put her communicator up to her mouth. "Tommy?"

"Are you all right? Zordon said Goldar was near. But I don't see him."

"What? Oh, can you see me in the viewing globe?" She waved.

"Yeah." said Tommy from the Command Center. "But we couldn't get anything until just a second ago."

"Uh, yeah." said Kimberly. "Goldar had some kind of machine- maybe a signal scrambler? Y'know, like the Cone of Silence in GET SMART? I kicked it out of his hands and it broke, and he, y'know, left." She hated lying to Tommy, but she didn't know what else to do.

"Weird." said Tommy.

"Totally." said Kim. "Well, I'll see you at school, okay?"

"Uh, no... there's the field trip, remember?" asked Tommy. "And the match."

"Oh." said Kim. "Well... see you whenever, then."

"All right... bye." said Tommy.

Kimberly picked up her bags and began walking to her car. "What am I gonna do?" she muttered aloud, glancing down into her shopping bag at the blackmail letter. "I'm no detective!" She paused. "Hey... that's not a bad idea!"

Quickly, Kimberly ducked into a phone booth at the edge of the parking lot. "Hello? Hawaii Directory Assistance? Do you have a number for a Hazama Itsuro?"

* * *

The cordless cell phone rang. A man in his middle twenties with shaggy dark hair and brown eyes sighed. He reached over the worn table; it was just like the rest of his house, despite Sachiko's best efforts, worn and shabby. _Like me,_ Hazama thought fuzzily. He had never been the same since his partner- no, more like a part of his family- left for Angel Grove. Hazama quickly banished any thoughts of Tommy Oliver from his mind. He couldn't afford to lose it while talking to a potential customer. He took deep drag of his cigarette and answered the phone.

"Hello?" He was pleased that his voice didn't shake.


"Speaking... who's this?"

"Hazama!" Kimberly said. "It's me, Kim. You gotta help me!"

"Kim? Kimberly Harte? _Doo sh'tan des ka,_ what's up?" asked Hazama. "Has something happened to Tommy?"

"No, no, Tommy's fine..." Kimberly hastily reassured him. "For now."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Hazama asked.

"I can't talk about it on the phone." said Kim. "Can you fly up to Angel Grove without letting anyone know you're coming? Not even Tommy?" Kimberly paused. "Please, Hazuma..."

"All right." said Hazama. "Tell you what. You ever been to a bar called the Nanda Devi?"

"Yeah... Tommy took me there," Kim said. "Once."

"Yeah, great. See you there." said Hazama. He hung up.

Kim stood, staring at the phone in her hand. "What have I gotten myself into?"

She headed back to her car.

* * *

Ten minutes later, Kimberly pulled up to the shabby East Side dive. Hazama was already sitting at the bar with a half-empty drink in his hand and a completely empty glass at his elbow. He looked fully contented, chatting up the girl sitting next to him. Kim walked up, grabbed the lapel of his trenchcoat, and spun him around on his bar stool."I tell you Tommy's in trouble and the first thing you do when you get here is start drinking and flirting?" she hissed.

"Ouch!" said Hazama. He peered at her over his dark sunglasses. "This is really serious, isn't it?"

"Yes!" said Kimberly fiercely.

"All right." said Hazama. "Come on... let's find a booth."

* * *

Reassured that Kimberly was all right, Tommy had returned to his early-morning workout. He really needed the practice, since he had been forced to rest ever since he had been severely wounded by Goldar during the Cyberputty incident. It felt good to be working himself back into shape, despite the fact that his muscles protested every time he moved. Maybe he should wait a little longer for the injury to heal. Maybe even wait until the stitches came out. No, that wasn't Tommy's style. The White Ranger tried to focus on his katas, but he couldn't get Kimberly out of his mind. He had a strange feeling that there was something wrong- maybe something she wasn't telling him. Maybe she was under a spell! Quickly, Tommy teleported to the Command Center.


"I'm not sure." said Tommy. "Zordon, can you find Kimberly on the viewing globe for me?"

"We have been monitoring Angel Grove very closely." said Alpha. "So far, no monsters, no Goldar... not even a single putty!"

"But I just want to check." said Tommy. "What if Goldar put Kim under a spell?"


"But..." Tommy said. "I have a really bad feeling about this... Just find her."

"Oh, all right." said Alpha. "Location... Angel Grove, East Side."

"The East Side?" Tommy asked. Images of crime and drug deals gone bad filled his mind. "Now why would Kimberly go there?" He turned to the viewing globe, which showed the exterior of the bar. "That's the Nanda Devi!" he said, puzzled. "I took Kimberly there once, and she hated it!"


"No way, man!" said Tommy. "Something's wrong!" He crossed to the console and directed the viewing globe to show him the inside of the bar. "Hazama?" he said curiously. "What's Hazama doing in Angel Grove... why didn't he- Oh, my- _Dekinai!_" he gasped as he realized what was going on. The evidence appeared to be quite damning. Kimberly and Hazama's heads were close together as Kimberly whispered, and Hazama had placed his hand comfortingly on Kim's as she spilled out her tale of woe. "No!" said Tommy. "NO! Kim... why?" He slammed his fist onto the console. The picture of Kim and Hazama dissolved in static.

"Calm down, Tommy." said Alpha.

"Calm down?" Tommy asked furiously. Memories of bar fights with Hazama and himself against gangs of punks washed over him. The pain, the adrenaline rush. The taste of scotch and blood afterwards. Then, he remembered Kimberly. The only other person, other than Hazama, who could break through the shell he hid himself in. The two people in world who meant more to him than his own life were now betraying him.

"I'm sure Kim and your friend have a good reason for meeting!" said Alpha. But the little robot sounded lame even to himself.

"Yeah, right." said Tommy. "Why didn't Hazama tell me he was in town?" He didn't wait for an answer. "Because he's sneaking around behind my back with Kimberly!"

TOMMY. said Zordon. DO YOU REALLY THINK THAT YOUR TWO FRIENDS... WHO OWE YOU THEIR LIVES AND ARE BONDED TO YOU BY GREAT SECRETS... WOULD BETRAY YOU IN THIS MANNER? he asked admonishingly. At least he meant it admonishingly... Zordon too had been betrayed by a woman he both loved and trusted. He could not keep the honest doubt out of his voice.

"I don't know, Zordon." said Tommy. He looked up. "I'm going home-" he said. "I have to think."


But as soon as Tommy reached his garage, he grabbed a coat and hat, keyed in a new set of co-ordinates to his communicator, and transported again, arriving in the alley outside the Nanda Devi.

* * *

"Then he gave me the letter." said Kimberly. "And disappeared." "The blackmailer's gotta be crazy." said Hazama. "I mean, messing with invading aliens-"

"Crazy like a fox." said Kimberly. "Goldar has access to Zedd's treasure vaults! For some of the stuff in there, I'd do some pretty _crazy_ stuff myself." She shook her head. "Someone must've overheard about Tommy's secret, and just saw his chance."

"But why'd he tell Goldar to let you win all the battles?" Hazama asked.

"Treasure won't help him if the Earth is destroyed, will it?" Kimberly answered. "So... do you think you can you help?"

"I can try." said Hazama. "I mean... it's not like-" Hazama leaned in close to Kimberly. He didn't notice Tommy enter the bar, a gray fedora pulled low over his face. "It's not like 8-Man can show up to scare the truth out of anyone."

"No. We have to keep this quiet." said Kimberly. "Is there anything I can do?"

"No, not really." said Hazama. Tommy slipped into the booth next to them and leaned his head back against the partition, straining to hear. "The best thing you can do right now is just act _nanige-nai,_ casual." he heard his old friend advise. "Take Tommy out on a date... the works."

"Okay!" said Kimberly. "He has a big exhibition tomorrow after school... maybe I'll surprise him with something romantic afterwards."

"A big match?" asked Hazama. "I hate to miss that."

"But Tommy can't find out you're in town." said Kimberly. "If he knew- Hazama- Be careful, okay?"

"Don't worry!" said Hazama, standing and tossing down the last of his drink. "Tommy'll never suspect a thing. Look, I'll contact you later, tell you where we can meet. Okay?"

"Okay." said Kimberly. "Bye, Hazama. Take care."

"Bye, Harte." said Hazama, leaning down to give her a big-brotherly kiss on the cheek. "No worries, remember?"

"Thanks, Hazama." said Kimberly. She watched him leave, teary-eyed. How could she have ever thought Hazama was a bad influence on Tommy? He might be a little rough around the edges, but he was a true friend.

She got up to leave, noticing as she turned the mysterious figure in the next booth. He had his head down on the table as if he were sleeping, but as she picked up her purse, she noticed his shoulders shaking with sobs. Gotta be the only person in Angel Grove with bigger problems than me, she thought as she hurried out of the Nanda Devi.

* * *

Suddenly, her communicator beeped. Kim looked left and right, then ducked into a garbage-ridden alley. "Tommy?" she asked.


"Okay." said Kim. She teleported. "Zordon, what's wrong?" she asked. "Where are the others?"


"You know?" asked Kimberly. "About how we're-"

YES, said Zordon.

"Did you tell Tommy?" Kim asked.


"You're not going to, are you?" asked Kimberly. "Zordon, you sure nothing's wrong? You sound strange."


"I care about him too." said Kimberly softly. "You know I do."


"I will." nodded Kimberly. "Uh... I have to go, I'm gonna be late for dinner."

THEN GO. said Zordon.

"Uh... okay." said Kim. "See ya..." Puzzled as to Zordon's strange words, she teleported out. R* * *

Soon Tommy rose from his booth and went to the bar. "Scotch." he said softly. The man behind the bar had owned the Nanda Devi for eight years. In that time, he had never seen anyone before who was so calm on the surface, and yet so obviously despairing. Something about the eyes... something dying.

He gave Tommy his drink and watched him gulp it down. Blank-faced and glassy-eyed, he tapped on the bar for another. Zombie's eyes, reflected the bartender. They scared him, a little, but the walking dead were usually good business and so he continued to serve Tommy Scotch.

In four hours, he would see that decision for the bad choice that it had been, when the young Mirandian made his midnight decision to instigate a bar fight with twelve skinheads that would rip apart the Nanda Devi, spill into the streets, and eventually require a squad of riot police to contain.

* * *

The next morning, Kimberly rose bright and early. She decided to wear an outfit she knew Tommy liked... a pale pink blouse and extremely short denim shorts. She spritzed herself lightly with rosebud-scented perfume and feathered her bangs, humming a cheerful tune as she headed off to school. She had a nagging feeling she'd forgotten something, but decided to put it out of her head and think of something nice, like the special evening she had planned for her beloved.

When she got to school, she saw Aisha standing outside in the parking lot. "Hi, Aisha! Where's your books?" Kimberly asked.

"Why would I need books?" Aisha asked. "Today's the field trip, remember? Uh, you did remember, didn't you?"

"Oh, man..." Kim moaned.

"Hey, what seems to be the problem?" asked Billy as he, Rocky and Adam walked up.

"I forgot my permission slip and I'm going to miss the field trip!" Kimberly wailed.

"Well, at least you won't be alone." said Adam.

"Yeah. Bulk and Skull don't have their permission slips either." said Rocky. "They skipped class yesterday, remember? They never got them."

"We've been gypped!" shouted Bulk, storming out into the parking lot.

"Nuts and bolts!" chanted Skull. "Nuts and bolts! We- Got-"

Ms. Applebee covered Skull's mouth with her hand. "I'm sorry, boys. If you don't have your permission slips, you can't come."

"But-" said Bulk. "All those free samples..."

"Mmm." said Skull. "We must experience chocolate..."

"No!" said Ms. Applebee. Bulk and Skull slumped, then stumbled away.

"I have to spend all day with them?" Kim whined.

"Don't worry-" Aisha whispered. "Tommy's not going either, remember? It'll just be you and him!" She winked.

"Oh..." said Kim. Sudden visions of the boiler room and its many non-official uses came to mind. "Well, I wanted time with him... Guess I got my wish!" She headed over to where Tommy stood in the shadows.

"Hey!" she said. "Guess who forgot her permission slip! Pretty ditzy huh?" She gasped as Tommy stepped into the light. A faint bruise marred his cheek and a Band-Aid was stuck haphazardly on his chin. His hair was unbrushed, he hadn't shaved, and his clothes were wrinkled, but his eyes were the worst. His eyes held midnight horrors and broken dreams. "Tommy!? Where'd you get that bruise?" Kimberly gasped.

Tommy seemed to know that his gaze held things most sane people wold rather not see, and averted his eyes from Kimberly's. "Just an accident." he said. "I was practicing and I slipped."

"What about the Band-Aid?" Kimberly asked.

"Cut myself shaving." lied Tommy.

_But he hasn't shaved._ thought Kimberly. _Why's he lying?_ "Did you hear me?" she said. "I get to spend all day with just you!"

"Too bad." said Tommy. "I mean... you were really looking forward to the field trip, right?"

"Well, sorta." shrugged Kimberly. "But, there's always next year."

"Yeah... I guess." said Tommy. "Look... I don't really feel like sitting in study hall. I'm gonna go down to the gym and practice instead."

"Oh. Okay." said Kimberly. "Yeah, today's the big meet, huh!"

"Yeah." said Tommy, and smiled for the first time.

"And hey- afterwards? Let's go out!" Kim said, and was surprised to see Tommy's smile freeze on his face. "I made plans for everything- Tommy, is something wrong?"

"No... I- I don't know- I'll see you later." he said, turning away.

"What's with Tommy?" Aisha asked, startling Kimberly.

"I dunno." said Kim. "He's probably just nervous about the match."

* * *

Quickly, Tommy ducked into the boys' locker room. It was true. Kim was doing just what she'd told Hazama she would do. But why were they being so secretive? He would have liked to think that Kim could tell him anything... even this... and it just wasn't Hazama's style to sneak around. It didn't make sense... yet there was no other explanation.

Questions whirling in his brain, Tommy went to his P.E. locker. His hands were shaking so badly that he had to try the combination twice. When he finally opened it, underneath his workout clothes he found an envelope with his name on it.

"How did that get in there?" Tommy muttered, and ripped it open.

What he read made his blood run cold.

Dear Shirochi-

What would your father say if he knew you were alive? If you think he and Rita keep you busy now...

"Kuso!" Tommy exploded, stuffing the letter in his pocket and exiting the locker room.

Akiko was waiting outside the door. "Tommy?" she asked.

"Nani?" said Tommy. "Akiko, you should be on the bus for the field trip!"

"Something's wrong an' I wanna know what it is." Akiko pouted. "Have you been in a fight? Do you wanna talk to me about it?"

Tommy sighed. "Akiko, lookit what I just found in my locker." He handed her the note.

"I think we can agree that you and your sister would be in grave danger if Zedd ever found out that you were alive," Akiko read. "And he will find out, unless you surrender your White Power Coin to Zordon and resign your position as White Ranger. Do not tell anyone about this note. Hmm, too late." Akiko muttered, and kept reading. "You have until sunset tomorrow to make your decision... no signature." Akiko looked up at her half-brother. "You can't do it." she said.

"Akiko, don't you understand?" Tommy asked. "If Zedd found out that I'm his son... alive..."

"I don't think he'd wanna take you to the Angel Grove Father/Son Barbecue." Akiko said, folding up the note. She sighed. "Let's think about this logically." said Akiko. "Who knows? I mean, who knows that you're- "

"Well... you, me, and Nana." said Tommy. "Zordon and Alpha..."

"The rest of the Rangers, of course, and your friend Hazama." said Akiko thoughtfully. "Tommy? What's the matter?"

"Kim... and Hazama..." he answered her. "That's why they're being so secretive. They..."

"Tommy, what're you talking about!?" Akiko exclaimed. "What does Hazama have to do with-"

Tommy groaned. "You'll miss the bus."

"I don't freakin' care."

He told her everything. Hazama, Kim, the bar fight, everything.

"No way. " said Akiko. "Kim... loves you!"

"I know what I saw." said Tommy.

"I think we should talk to Nana." Akiko decided. "C'mon, I'll call and get us signed out of school."

Meanwhile, in study hall, Kimberly was lovingly etching, 'Kimberly Harte Oliver' on a handy pink PeeChee folder. "I miss Tommy." the lonely Pink Ranger muttered as she doodled a heart underneath it. "I wish he didn't have to practice..." Carefully, Kim added a pair of initials, K.H. and T.O., inside the heart. "I wonder where Bulk and Skull are?" she wondered. "Good grief, I'm so miserable, I even miss Bulk and Skull," she sighed. But she would have laughed if she could have seen the predicament that the pair was currently in.

* * *

"Shaddup!" muttered Bulk. "They'll hear us!" He and Skull, determined to go to the chocolate factory if it killed them, had sneaked into the bus and hidden in the back seats. Luckily, when the Rangers and their friends boarded the bus, they only filled up the front half. "See, I told you this would work!" Bulk whispered.

"Yeah, but how are we going to get into the factory without a visitor's badge?" whined Skull.

"I'll think of something." said Bulk.

"Oh, big relief." muttered Skull. "Ow!"

* * *

"All right, lamb." said Nana slowly. Akiko and Tommy sat before her in the old-fashioned kitchen of Tommy's house. "But even if what you're saying about Kimmie and Mr. Itsuro is true.. that still doesn't mean they're the blackmailers."

"Yeah!" said Akiko. "'Cause... why would they blackmail you when it would be so much easier just to sneak around? I mean... what do Hazama and Kim have to gain from you not being a Power Ranger any more?"

"Look at it this way." said Tommy. "Suppose I didn't know... any of this. And I decided to resign. Who would I call as my temporary replacement? Probably Hazama."

"Hazama? Why not Billy?" Akiko protested. "He's practically your second-in-command anyway."

"No. Billy has his own Power Coin." Tommy answered. "That wouldn't solve anything."

"But, what about..." Nana suggested. "That boy, Jackson?"

"Jason." said Tommy. "I couldn't... I... he's busy with the Peace Conference."

"Maybe you should give him a call anyway." said Akiko softly.

"I'm not gonna resign!" said Tommy angrily. "It's just- I'm trying to figure out Hazama and Kim's... plan." He stared at his feet. "I..." Tommy glanced at his watch. "I gotta get goin'... I have a tournament, y'know."

"Sha right!" Akiko laughed, then grew serious. "Tommy, you're in no condition to-"

"I can do it." Tommy said quietly.

"No!" Akiko insisted. "Tommy-"

"Akiko!" Tommy cut her off with a sharp gesture. "I'm gonna fight. You can come or not, but this tournament is important."

"You're loco, boy." Akiko pouted, picking up her school bag. "Well... let's go, then."

"You be careful now, boy." said Nana.

"Yeah... I will." said Tommy.

* * *

The evening breeze chilled Jason Lee Scott to the bone, and the setting sun cast a gloomy red shade over the canyon where he waited for Rita. But the physical cold and the eerie lighting seemed fitting, a match for the ice spreading throughout his soul and the new way he was seeing things-

Coming home again had been a bittersweet experience. The newspaper stories about the Rangers, the school and Juice Bar crowded with semifamiliar faces, none of it was different. It was Jason who had changed.

He struggled to pin down exactly how it felt. It was like losing your sense of direction when you needed it most. It was like being completely outside the rules. It was waking up from a dream and realizing that you really couldn't fly or walk through walls or ever be really happy.

It was the sudden realization that without the Rangers, nothing made sense in Jason's life. He was seeing his whole life through the eyes of an outsider, someone who didn't belong to any one or any thing any more. It was a crazy, scary feeling-

A sizzle of electricity behind him-

He turned to face Rita.

"My plan is working perfectly!" Rita cheered. "Zedd and Goldar don't suspect a thing!"

Jason looked at her. "Rita. Are you sure that once you get rid of Tommy, I'll become the White Ranger?" I'm only saying it so she'll still believe I'm with her, he promised himself.

"Without a doubt!" Rita proclaimed. "Unless of course..."

"What?" Jason asked, suddenly apprehensive.

"You've studied the girl I pointed out to you? The new Green Ranger?"

"Yes... Akio, or something like that." Jason grinned. "Not bad looking. But Zordon wouldn't pick her. She has no experience-"

"But she is Zordon's daughter!" shouted Rita.

"Zordon's... daughter?" said Jason disbelievingly. "How could she be-"

"It is a long story, my young friend." said Rita, gesturing. "Be silent, and I will tell the tale. Many years ago, before Zordon, Zedd or I had ever heard of your miserable planet, we lived on the world of Miranda. When the time came to emigrate to Earth, Zordon was a young man, just coming of the age to take a wife. In his land, arranged marriages were the custom and Zordon's parents chose for him a young and beautiful maiden named Meigetsu. She was from a poor family, but exceptionally lovely and skilled."

"What does this have to do with me?" Jason asked.

"Be still, and I will tell you." Rita answered. "What no one knew was that Meigetsu's heart already belonged to another. Yes, to a lord's son by the name of Zedd. Their love was secret, for the young lovers knew that Zedd's rich and powerful family would never consent to his marrying a peasant girl. And when she was betrothed to Zordon..." Rita smiled evilly and paused.

"What happened?" asked Jason.

"Zedd continued to see Meigetsu in secret. She became pregnant by him and soon bore a son. In time, she grew close to her new husband... but with affection more like that of a sister than that of a wife. Eventually she bore him a child also. Zordon's daughter is the girl now known as Akiko, the Green Ranger."

"But that was thousands of years ago!" protested Jason.

"Ah, I'm coming to that part." said Rita. "As Zedd journeyed to Earth, he met a traitorous scumbag who would later come to work for me..."

"Goldar?" said Jason.

"Yes..." said Rita. "At the time, I was settled on the moon."

"You mean Zordon imprisoned you there." Jason laughed harshly.

"That was later." Rita growled. "My story concerns the day I detected a jerry-rigged spaceship rising out of Earth orbit. Escaping the Mirandian enforcers of the law... or his own guilt? If he had any, which I doubt. The fool was much too busy being terrified. And Goldar was a fool. No one suspected him of his crime, yet he fled anyway, seeking sanctuary with one whom he had heard had sympathies toward the dark side of the power."

"You." Jason said. "But-"

"Me." Rita smiled. "I should have burned Goldar's ship to ash and let his blood boil into space! But instead, I took him in. The nature of his crime intrigued me... the possibilities were..." Rita stared up into space for a moment.

Jason grew impatient. "But what does this have to do with..."

"Tommy? Akiko? The son and daughter of Zordon's faithless wife, who Goldar murdered along with their mother?"

"Tommy... is Zedd's son?" Jason asked incredulously.

"Yes... with great potential for evil, like his father." said Rita. "I turned Zedd to evil by... but that is a story for another time. Zedd was always a slave of the dark side anyway, just like Tommy."

Jason accepted this without a word, still stunned. "But... but why would Zordon give the Power to someone truly evil?"

"You must understand, Zordon raised him, and still thinks of him as his own son." Rita stood. "That is why he was chosen over you, the most worthy candidate and true leader. Zordon hoped that if his 'son' could become a Ranger, he would triumph over his dark side. But it didn't work, of course. Tommy _is_ evil."

"Hell..." Jason muttered. "He's not even human... he's a lying alien clone!"

"Yes. I sensed the dark power in him when I first saw him." Rita continued. "Of course, I never suspected him to be a Mirandian like myself. But I knew that I would have him for my dark servant, or destroy him... and that is why you must destroy him now!"

"Yes..." said Jason. "And I will destroy him." He felt giving him a new direction to follow, a perfect purpose to fulfill. Dedicated himself to...

* * *

"This way!" said the chocolate factory tour guide, pointing Ms. Appleby's class past the huge mixing vats of cocoa and the other ingredients.

"Hey, what was that?" asked Adam.

"Wha?" asked Aisha.

"I thought I heard a noise." said Adam. "Up there."

"It's probably just one of the machines." said Billy.

"Hey, come on, guys!" said Rocky. "We're going on!"

"Coming!" said Aisha. And in an air vent high above her head...

"Bulky, it's hot in here!" Skull complained as he and Bulk crawled along inside the air conditioning system.

"Quit complaining!" Bulk ordered. "We're almost there..."

* * *

Kimberly had spent the longest, most boring day of her life alone in study hall. As soon as the three-o'clock bell rang, she ran to the gym to find Tommy, only to learn that he and Akiko had signed out of school early. She arrived at the Silver Fist exhibition just in time to see Tommy getting thoroughly beaten by a lower-level contender. Tommy's opponent also broke open the stitches that was holding his still-healing injuries closed, effectively taking him out of the contest and several others in the near future.

As soon as the doctors released Tommy from the Emergency Room, with several admonishments to rest and take it easy for a few weeks, Kimberly offered to take him, her treat, to a Bruce Lee Film Festival, but Tommy coldly turned her down.

Disheartened, Kimberly made her way to Angel Grove Park where she met Hazama under a spreading willow tree.

"Hazama, am I glad to see you!" said Kimberly. She frowned. "I think the blackmailer's made his move on Tommy. He's been acting weird."

"Weird how?" asked Hazuma.

"Well, he just looks really bad. I think he lied to me once. And he lost the match."

"Tough." said Hazama. "But, he's still not recovered from his injuries, is he? Maybe he should have listened to the doctor, for a change."

"But, it was like his mind wasn't even on what he was doing." said Kimberly. "And then he didn't even want to go out!"

"Ah... he probably just wanted to go home and practice." said Hazama reassuringly. "I know Tommy. He's _katai,_ pushing himself to be the best, that's all" "

Hazama, it's not just that. He's... he's keeping me at a distance." Kimberly sniffled, then started to cry. "He won't talk to me! I don't know why... I mean, we've been through a lot of tougher stuff that this!" She gestured in disgust. "Maybe he just doesn't love me any more!" She started to cry.

"Uh... hey." said Hazama uncomfortably. "Don't cry..." Warily, he enfolded her in a comforting hug. She was _tiny,_ he realized with shock. She barely came up to his collarbone. "It'll be okay... Come on." he said sternly. "Toughen up, Harte. You know Tommy loves you."

Slowly, Kimberly stopped crying.

"I know..." said Kim, stepping back. She sighed, composing herself. "I know... it's just... We have to shut down the blackmailer. So did you find any clues?"

"Hitotsu mo." said Hazama disgustedly, and Kimberly didn't need a translation. The depressed detective started walking, and Kim followed. "But if Goldar was telling the truth when he said the blackmailer would go for Tommy next... that narrows down our options." said Hazama.

"It does?" asked Kim.

"Sure." said Hazama. "Think about it. Who wants Goldar to lose every battle he fights, but also doesn't mind putting the squeeze on the White Ranger?"

"Of course!" said Kimberly, suddenly stopping. She whacked herself in the head. "It's not that she wanted _us_ to win, it's that she wanted Goldar to lose- and discredit himself with Zedd!"

"Exactly what I was thinking." said Hazama.

"Rita." they said in unison.

"I have a feeling Goldar's not going to take this too well." Hazama said grimly.

"The hell with him if he can't take a joke." snapped Kimberly.

Hazama looked at her admiringly. "Nice..."

"That's my tough side." said Kimberly perkily. "Don't blink, you'll miss it." She laughed self-deprecatingly, looking up at the sky. "Aah!" She stumbled and fell.

"Whoa!" Hazama bent to catch her, but tripped over her legs. They went rolling down the hill, Kim giggling like the schoolgirl that she was, Hazama clutching at the slick grass for a handhold.

"Uh oh!" said Kimberly, digging in with her heavy hiking boots. "Hazama! Watch out!"

"Nani?" said Hazama. SPLASH! He tumbled into a duckpond.

"Ew!" Kim cried. "Slimee... Hazama?"

Spluttering, Hazama surfaced. "Yuck! This is disgusting!" he said.

"Uh, sorry." said Kimberly.

"Great. Just great." said Hazama. He shook his head hard, spraying water on Kim.

"Hey, cut it out!" said Kim, dipping her hand into the water to splash him.

Hazama glared. "Why you little-" he said, lurching out of the water and reaching for her shoulders.

"Oh no!" said Kimberly, backpedaling frantically. "Don't you dare, Hazam-Aaah!" Over the bank she went, to emerge gasping, seaweed draped over one eye. "My hair! Ooh!"

And Hazama laughed till the tears ran down his face.

* * *

Still laughing, Hazama put his hands around Kimberly's waist and lifted her out of the water. "I haven't laughed like that in a long time." he said, looking at Kimberly in astonished admiration. "No _wonder_ Tommy is so much happier than he used to be!"

"Huh! Don't even talk to me about Tommy..." said Kim, wringing the water out of her hair.

"Here, take my coat." said Hazuma. "It's not _completely_ soaked."

"Thank you." said Kim, toweling off with the corner of Hazama's trenchcoat. "Tommy, ohmigosh." she continued. "He is going to be, like, totally surprised when I tell him everything..."

"Oh, yeah." said Hazama in a passable valley girl drawl. "Like, totally."

"I don't sound like that!" said Kim, tossing Hazama's coat back at him playfully. Suddenly, she gasped. "Look- there's Tommy! Sheesh, Hazuma, we just got home from the hospital! He said he was going home to be alone! He promised me he'd rest!" she wailed.

"He doesn't have to be alone." said Hazama. "He has us." He grasped Kimberly's hand, then waved at Tommy. "Hey! Old friend!" he called. Tommy spun around. "Tommy, wait up!" Kimberly called worriedly.

"Tommy!" shouted Hazama, as they approached. Casually, Hazama brushed the wet hair out of his eyes. "Good to see you, _tomadachi,_" he grinned, and stuck his hand out in greeting. Stone-faced, Tommy took it and squeezed. Hazama chuckled, then blinked at Tommy and grew serious, gripping Tommy's hand tighter.

"You boys, cut it out!" said Kim, chopping her hand down on the two competitors. "Honestly..." She slid her arm into Tommy's and leaned her head on his shoulder, blinking up at him.

"Uh... surprised to see me, buddy?" said Hazama.

"I don't know if surprised is the word." said Tommy, shaking Kim roughly off his arm.

"Uh, then what would it be, Tommy?" asked Kimberly.

"Kim, would you run along for a moment?" asked Tommy coldly. "I want to talk to Hazama."

"Tommy... I know about the blackmail." said Kimberly, wide-eyed.

"You do?" said Tommy, shocked, looking at her. _Is Kimberly in this with Hazama all the way?_ He refused to believe it.

"Yeah." said Kim. "Tommy- are you all right?"

"I said I wanted to talk to Hazama alone!" said Tommy. He pushed her aside and turned his back on her. "So, go!"

"Well, if that's what you want!" wailed Kimberly, in tears. She turned and ran down the path.

"What did you do that for?" Hazama asked angrily. "She was only trying to help! If it's because she went behind your back a little, I-"

"Behind my back a little!" Tommy snarled. "Is that what you call it?"

"Tommy, what's wrong with you?" Hazuma asked angrily.

"Damare!" shouted Tommy. "I know-"

"Don't tell me to shut up!" retorted Hazama. "I don't think you understand- Kim and I have been trying to find the blackmailers for you!"

"Yeah, right!" said Tommy. "Did you find any clues at the Nanda Devi? Or in the duckpond?"

"Wait a minute, Tommy-" said Hazama, grabbing Tommy's arm. "Let me explain."

"No!" shouted the White Ranger. "No more lies!" Tommy pushed Hazama out of his way, knocking his dark glasses off his face. Then he stormed off into the woods, stepping on Hazama's glasses on the way.

"Baka yaroo!" growled Hazama, brushing himself off.

"Hazama?" called Kim, rushing up. "What happened? What did Tommy say?" She helped him stand. "You're kinda clumsy today," she said, and added a half-hearted laugh. It probably would have cheered up one of her fellow Power Rangers, but not Hazama Itsuro. He was mad.

"Joodan ja nai wa yo!" he growled. "It's not funny!"

"Well, you don't have to bite my head off!" said Kimberly. "Hazama... what's wrong with Tommy? Did he tell you? Why's he acting so weird?"

"I... I think he has the wrong idea about us, Harte." said Hazama.

"What are you talking about?" said Kimberly.

"I know it sounds ridiculous, but..." Hazama glanced meaningfully at Kimberly's wet blouse and lifted his eyebrows. "Y'know?"

Kim's eyes went wide and a muscle in her jaw jumped. She looked as though she couldn't decide whether to blush or faint. "Oh, God..." said Kim. "We gotta find him." She thought for a moment. "Iiwa, zurakare. I have an idea."

All Hazama heard was "okay, let's split-" then he turned to stare at Kimberly. "Hey... that was Japanese! You study Japanese?"

"Just enough to know what Tommy's saying when he gets _really_ mad." said Kimberly modestly. "He... always switches to Japanese. Kinda like you."

"Huh." said Hazama. "I didn't know they taught those kinds of words in school."

"They don't." said Kimberly. "I had to ask Akiko." She looked at Hazuma. "I think we should go talk to her now."

Hazama nodded, picking up the pieces of his broken sunglasses. "I think that's a good idea." he said.

* * *

"This is it!" Bulk called. "We're almost in!"

"Mmm..." Skull hummed. "I can smell the chocolate..."

Bulk grinned and licked his lips. "I can taste the chocolate..."

"I can hear the chocolate..." said Skull.

"I can feel the chocolate..." said Bulk.

"I AM THE CHOCOLATE!!!" shouted Skull, leaping to his feet and stamping his foot on the floor... which gave way beneath them, dumping them into a huge vat of liquid chocolate.

"I am...the chocolate?" mumbled Skull, surfacing.

* * *

Tommy ran through the woods. He knew he should have stayed. Taken it like a man... it was Kim's choice, after all. But he could not imagine life without Kimberly. Would it even be worthy of the name 'life?' More like a torturous walking death. It was better to prolong the illusion of love by running, even if just for a moment.

He looked around at the brilliant white sky, and decided to head for the whispering canyons to the south of Angel Grove Park. Whenever Tommy wanted to be alone, he went there and listened to the wind. He didn't know why he liked it. It was barren and rocky, choked with weeds and trash. But when he needed time alone to think, he always found himself drawn to it. In his final weeks as the Green Ranger, when he'd been too weak to help his friends on many occasions, Tommy had gone to the canyon. Later, when he'd wanted peace and quiet to dream about Kimberly, he'd gone to the canyon.

Suddenly, Tommy realized that all of his happy memories of his life in Angel Grove, centered on Kim or the Rangers. The Rangers and Kim. The two most important things in his life- both being taken away...

He jogged down into the canyon, silence washing over him like a wave.

Suddenly, Tommy heard a low sound. Laughter? Sometimes the wind and the rocks sounded like voices or singing... but not like this. Slowly, he edged along the canyon wall, nearing the source of the noise. Suddenly, he recognized the voice... Rita!

"Haha! Yes, that sounds like stupid little Tommy... suspecting his two best friends of betrayal!"

"You should have seen it." said a muffled, yet oddly familiar voice. Tommy edged closer. "He's completely clueless. Even if he did suspect that we were blackmailing him, he'd never be able to defeat us!"

Tommy gasped. Was that... Jason? "No!" he said as he crept closer, closer. He rounded a corner and there they were... his former commander and the Empress of Evil, seated on two convenient rocks.

"All right..." said Rita. "And you don't think we have to worry about Kimberly and that detective finding us out?"

"Don't be silly." said Jason. "They're as brainless as the White Ranger... and Zedd?"

"Oh, he'll lose patience with Goldar any day now!" said Rita. "You should see him glow red, defeated yet again in an oh so brilliant plan! I wouldn't be surprised if he had a heart attack before you get a chance to finish him off!"

"Oh, I hope not." said Jason. "...and speaking of my part of the deal, let's get down to business. Where is the weapon you said you would bring me?"

"It is here." said Rita. "The Collar of Wrath. It will transform your most powerful emotions of anger into raw power."

"Yes!" said Jason. "Sounds good... I'll defeat Zedd easily."

"Ah, but it must be tested first." said Rita. "Before you try it on the father... why not defeat the son?"

Tommy gasped to hear his secret so casually discussed.

"What was that?" Jason asked, turning. As he rose, Rita stood and snapped the thick brass collar around his neck. Grinning at Tommy, she disappeared in a rush of shadows.

* * *

"Bulk, Skull, get out of that chocolate!" Ms. Appleby yelled.

"We're trying..." Bulk called as he scrambled for a hold.

"Yeah, uh, right." said Skull as he slipped into the pool of liquid chocolate again.

"Well, it looks like they're experiencing chocolate all right." said Aisha.

"Somethin' like that." laughed Rocky.

"I think I'll pass on a sample from this vat..." said Billy.

"Celery?" said Adam, passing some out.

* * *

"Jason!" Tommy cried. "Is that really you?"

"This is too perfect..." gloated Jason. "I was planning to kidnap Kimberly in order to lure you here... but you've stuck your own head in the noose and I didn't have to lift a finger!" He laughed.

"Come back to the Command Center with me." said Tommy desperately. "Zordon will-"

"Yeah, right." laughed Jason. "Zordon failed to concern me long ago... the day he chose you to become the leader of the Power Rangers."

"Man, if you felt that way why didn't you speak up?" said Tommy.

"I couldn't!" said Jason. "Oh, I pretended everything was fine... but inside, I tormented myself. For some reason, Zordon picked you instead of me. What had I done wrong? How had I failed him?"

"Jas-" said Tommy. "I-"

"Shut up!" shouted Jason. "I'm not finished yet! It took Rita to finally shed some light on the subject." he said. "Zordon chose you because he still feels for you as his son!"

"He didn't even know!" said Tommy. "Jason, what's the matter with you?"

"Yeah, sure he didn't know!" said Jason. "I was replaced by the son of Lord Zedd and you expect me to take it lying down? I think not!" He advanced toward Tommy, growling... and a red glow began to appear around the tips of his fingers.

* * *

"Akiko?" called Kimberly, rapping on her house's screen door. The slim Green Ranger stepped out onto the porch, wearing a green lace teddy.

"Hazama..." she nodded coldly, then turned to Kim. "What are you doing here?"

"We want to know if you've seen Tommy." said Kimberly.

Akiko frowned. "Kim, I am not going to tell you that dumping Tommy was a heartless, rotten, slimy, cold and underhanded thing to do. That's your own personal business and none of mine."

"WHAT?" said Kimberly. Her jaw dropped. "Oh, Akiko, not you too-"

"But you could at least have told him," continued Akiko, "instead of sneaking around with Hazama... and Hazama, Tommy is your friend! And-"

"Akiko!" whispered Hazama. "What are you talking about?"

"You know what I'm talking about!" said Akiko angrily. "Don't bother to lie- Tommy knows all about you two, and he told me!"

"Oh no..." wailed Kimberly.

"So that's what he was so angry about!" said Hazama.

Akiko snorted in disgust and turned to leave. Hazama caught her arm. "Akiko, you've got it all wrong." he insisted. "Listen to me- did Tommy also tell you he was being blackmailed?"

"Yes..." said Akiko. "He showed me the letter. It said for Tommy to quit the Power Rangers or Lord Zedd would learn about him being... you know." Akiko stared at Hazama defiantly. "He thinks you did it."

"Look, Akiko." said Kimberly. "First of all... I love Tommy and I would never do anything to hurt him."

"But-" said Akiko.

"Akiko... before school today, I went shopping." Kimberly began her story... "And then Tommy ran off into the trees, and then we came here." She finished.

"Oh... Kimberly, I'm so sorry." said Akiko. "I can't believe I mistrusted you... I guess I got a little overprotective... Shirochi, oops, I mean Tommy, is my brother after all. Kuso... how can I ever make it up to you?"

"That's okay..." said Kimberly, hugging Akiko.

"Actually, there is one thing you can do for us." said Hazama, breaking in on the sweetness and light. "Do you know where Tommy is now?"

"Have you tried your communicator?" Akiko asked Kim.

"Oh my gosh, I totally forgot." said Kimberly. She spoke into the tiny receiver. "Tommy? Tommy are you there?"

There was no answer.

"I have a bad feeling about this." said Hazama. "Akiko, any ideas about where Tommy might be?"

"Did you try the canyons to the south?" Akiko asked.

"We were just about to." said Kimberly. "Okay... Hazama and I will go there. You have to get to the Command Center and tell Zordon what's going on."

"Right." said Akiko. Disregarding a forest-green terrycloth bathrobe close at hand, she teleported in a haze of green light.

"Wow." said Hazuma.

"No time for that now..." said Kimberly. She gripped Hazama's arm tightly and they materialized at the canyons in a blaze of pink light.

"Tommy?" called Kimberly. "Tommmeeeeee!"

"Over here!" cried Hazama, dashing around a corner. Kim followed, slipping on the loose stones. As Kim rounded the corner, she saw Tommy engulfed in battle with a red glowing being who was beating him unmercifully.

"It's Morphin Time!" cried Kimberly, reaching for her morpher. Nothing happened. "Ohno... Hazama, do something!" she cried. But Hazama had already transformed into the mighty cyborg 8-Man. He leaped on the red attacker and held him at bay. Kim rushed to Tommy and pulled him to his feet.

"Kim... I'm so sorry." Tommy muttered, blood dripping from the corner of his mouth. "Tell Hazama I'm sorry..."

"It's okay,Tommy, it's okay." said Kimberly. "Everything's going to be all right..."

"Hey, settle down, monster!" Hazama was saying as he forced Tommy's mysterious attacker into submission, twisting his arms behind his back.

"I'm no monster!" shouted the glowing energy being in a horrifyingly familiar voice. "I'm the one true leader of the Power Rangers!"

"What!?" said Kimberly.

"His neck..." said Tommy weakly. "Get the collar..."

Slowly, Kimberly approached the being and reached around its neck, where the energy glowed most brightly. The energy creature thrashed and howled as Kim's fingers closed on a cold metal ring.

"Be careful!" said 8-Man as Kimberly unlatched the collar and tossed it away into the bushes.

"NOOOOO!" shouted the entity as the red energy drained from his body, revealing him to be...

"YOU?" gasped Kimberly.

"You know this guy!" asked the cyborg 8-Man. He transformed back into Hazama, but still held the snarling ex-Ranger's arms.

"No! It's gotta be a trick!" protested Kimberly.

"No." groaned Tommy. "It's Jason. He was blackmailing me."

"We thought it was Rita!" said Hazama.

"They were working together," said Tommy. "and, Hazuma- about you and Kim- I was a complete idiot." he managed to gasp out. "I never should have doubted either of you for a second."

Hazama shrugged. "Just don't let it happen again."

"Kimberly?" moaned Tommy. "Can you- can you ever forgive me?"

"Oh, Tommy!" said Kimberly. She answered him with a kiss.

Jason spat, a look of disgust planted firmly on his face. Hazama twisted his arm a little harder and the ex-Ranger cried out.

"Hazama, stop it!" cried Kimberly.

"How can you stand to touch him?" Jason snapped. "He's not even human!"

Tommy shook his head. "His mind is twisted with jealousy and hate." he said. "He believes he should be the leader of the Power Rangers... and Rita offered to help him get rid of me- if he would help her get rid of Zedd and Goldar."

"So we failed." said Jason. "But what are you going to do about it? Send me back to that double-damned Peace Conference?" He laughed, a fearsome sound.

"Tommy... what are we going to do?" asked Kimberly.

"I don't know." he said wearily. "We'll have to let Zordon decide. Come on, old friend." He nodded to Hazama.

They teleported to the Command Center.

"Oh, my goodness!" said Alpha. "Jason?"

"This is Jason?" asked Akiko. "Tommy, are you all right?"

"Nothin' another batch of stitches won't cure." said Tommy.

"Uh, Kim, I explained everything to Zordon." Akiko whispered.


"We were just down in the canyon." said Kimberly.

"Oh, that explains it!" said Alpha. "The canyons to the south block all transmitted signals due to the frequency of the winds."


"You're freaks!" Jason shouted, wriggling free of Hazuma's grip. Tommy held up his hands warningly, but Jason stood his ground. "Genetic misfits, soulless creations!" he shouted. "Your whole life is a lie, traitor!" Jason hissed.

"You're crazy!" said Tommy. "I was never-"

"You were always rebellious! Always challenging my authority in front of the others! I _always_ hated you. I knew you'd try to take my place! By turning the other Rangers against me. Or by treachery in battle." Jason laughed harshly. "I _never_ thought it would be because you were Zordon's son in spirit and Zedd's by blood!"

"I'm not-" said Tommy.

"And speaking of blood..." Jason grinned."Nothing can save you now."

"What the hell?" said Akiko as Jason reached into his pocket and palmed a glowing red opal.

"The collar wasn't the only thing my Empress gave me." Jason laughed. Hazama and Tommy lunged for him, but were deflected by bolts of blood red electricity that left them sprawled unmoving on the floor.

"No!" cried Kimberly. "Tommy!"


"Shut up!" Jason snarled. "I've heard enough of your manipulative lies." He looked at Kimberly. "Come, Kimberly. Let's leave this place."

"Why would I want to go with you?" Kimberly wailed, leaning over Tommy.

"Because you're human! You don't belong with this company of monsters! Join me!" Jason urged.


"Don't you get it? I'm not taking orders from you anymore!" shouted Jason. He aimed the crystal at Zordon. "And neither is anyone else!"

"Dete ike, kono shiri-nuke-me!" Akiko screeched. "Get away from my father!"

JASON, DO NOT DO THIS. said Zordon.

"You used me!" snarled Jason. "And you threw me away." The red jewel began to glow. "It's payback time. Now!" A massive bolt of energy rocked the Command Center.

Jason laughed. Kimberly screamed. Zordon was gone, his tube cracked in two. Shards of glass littered the floor. Alpha was unconscious, all systems temporarily overloaded by the energy discharge.

"NO!" Akiko screamed. "You freak, you killed my FATHER!"

"I wouldn't be complaining, clone." Jason grinned. "I saved you for last, after all." Akiko shrank back, suddenly aware that all she was wearing was a green teddy.

"No!" Kimberly screamed, clutching Jason's arm.

"Quiet!" shouted Jason, aiming the red jewel at Kimberly, who found herself encased in a force field of sparkling red light. She tried to struggle, but could only watch in horror as Jason, leering, stepped across Tommy's body toward Akiko.

"Back off..." warned Akiko, but Jason still advanced. "All right-" said Akiko, reaching for her morpher. _Chikushoo, I left it in the shower!_ she realized in horror. She glanced over at Kimberly. _Can't teleport out and leave Kim with this madman... gotta take him down!_

"Die!" Akiko shrieked as she lunged at Jason, long hair flying as she scratched at his eyes. Jason grinned. His free hand moved faster her eyes could follow and the sudden grip around her wrist was shocking in its strength. "Bitch!" he snarled.

"-kill you!" Akiko screamed and punched Jason with all her might in the face, with no effect. Grinning, Jason forced Akiko to her knees. Akiko struggled frantically, screaming, "Tommy, help! Damn you, let me go!"

Kimberly closed her eyes in horror, gathered her strength, and screamed, "Jason, I'll go with you!"

For a moment, Jason paused. "Of course you will." he said, breathing heavily. "After I'm done here."

"No!" Kimberly begged. "No, Jason, please. Let her go. You want Tommy, just take me and he'll come for me!" she sobbed.

"All right." said Jason, releasing Akiko. She slumped against a control panel. "Give your 'brother' my regards." he said, laughing. He put his arms around the Pink Ranger and the two former teammates disappeared in a rush of red flame.

* * *

Alone in the Command Center with the bodies of Alpha, Hazama, and her half-brother, Akiko shivered. "Papa-san..." she murmured and stood, uncertainly placing her hand on the shattered warp tube. _I'm scared, Papa! Help me!_ she cried silently.

From somewhere deep inside, she heard a calm voice. BE STRONG, MY CHILD. CALL THE OTHERS. it said... then faded away.

"_Hai_..." said Akiko.

* * *

Billy, Rocky and Adam were in the boys' restroom of the chocolate factory, helping Bulk and Skull clean off. "You know, that stunt you pulled was really dumb." said Rocky. "You could've gotten hurt... or in big trouble."

"We still might be in big trouble." growled Skull, sticking his head under the faucet.

"Don't worry." said Adam. "Aisha's talking to the guide... and if she can't convince him to let you off, no one can."

"Well, let's hope so." muttered Bulk glumly.

"But why'd you do it?" asked Rocky. "It's just a field trip."

"It isn't just a field trip!" Skull snapped. "I mean... You tell 'em."

"I'm not tellin' 'em! You tell 'em." Bulk answered.

"Me?" said Skull.

"Guys!" said Billy.

"We wanted to be part of the group." admitted Skull, toweling his hair dry. "I mean... we don't usually get a chance to hang out with you guys."

"Well... We know how you feel." said Adam.

"We do?" said Rocky. Billy whacked him on the back of the head. "I mean, yeah. Sure we do."

Suddenly Rocky's communicator beeped. The Rangers ignored it, but Bulk pointed and said, "Hey, Rockman. Your watch is beeping."

"Oh. Guess I forgot to turn off the alarm." said Rocky. "Uh, I'll go see how Aisha's doing..."

* * *

Slowly, Tommy regained consciousness. As he sat up and looked around the Command Center, he saw the rest of the Rangers in postures of despair. Rocky was sitting cross-legged on the floor, his face hidden in his hands. Aisha leaned against the Viewing Globe, crying softly. Adam stared up at the ceiling as he gently held a sobbing Akiko. Billy's back was to Tommy. He was bending over Hazuma.

"Guys? What happened?" Tommy asked. "Akiko? Where's- Where's Zordon?"

"He killed him!" Akiko wept. "Jason killed him!"

"No!" breathed Tommy. He scrambled to his feet and looked at Billy, panicked. "What's wrong with Hazuma?" he asked softly. As Billy looked up from his kneeling position at the fallen cyborg's side, sorrow etched in his face, Tommy cried out in denial. "He's not-" Billy blinked away from Tommy's gaze and reached to close Hazama's eyes with a brush of his hand. "No!" Tommy said. "Haz- Hazama!" He dropped to his knees by his friend's body.

"His cyborg circuitry-" Billy choked and started over. "It... overloaded." Billy put his hand on Tommy's shoulder and waited until Tommy met his eyes. "It was over quickly." he said softly.

"Akiko, where's Kimberly?" Tommy demanded.

"He took her." said Akiko. "I couldn't do anything! He was gonna... but Kim went with him- I should have-"

"Alpha, do you know where they've gone?" Tommy barked. "No, never mind... I _know_ where he is."

"Then let's go." said Billy, tilting his head unemotionally. It hurt Tommy to see his friends broken like this, but he knew that fighting Jason would only hurt them more.

"No. Guys, Akiko... stay here."

"No way! We're going with you!" said Rocky.

"Tommy, you can't just-" said Billy.

"Please." said Tommy. "Billy, please stay here." He hugged his friend quickly. "I don't want any more death!" he pleaded.

"I understand." said Billy softly as Tommy moved away.

"Take care of them." said Tommy.

"I will." said Billy. Tommy moved to teleport, but Akiko caught his arm.

"That was my father!" she said fiercely. "At least tell me where you're going!"

"The canyon." said Tommy. "Jason said that if I hadn't've found him, he'd have kidnapped Kim. To lure me here."

"He is completely evil." said Akiko reflectively.

"No!" Tommy said, then shook his head confusedly. "Akiko, you just don't understand..."

"What? I don't understand that this Jason freak just tried to kill you? That he just killed Hazama and Papa-san?" Akiko's face contorted in pain.

"I know... I know it hurts!" said Tommy. "Akiko, Jason was the one who destroyed the Sword of Darkness. Jason freed me from Rita's evil spell. Jason invited me to become a Power Ranger. How... how could he turn on me like that?" He looked around the Command Center, but no one had an answer for him.

He could think of nothing more to say to them, not even goodbye.

* * *

He teleported back to the canyon.

"Tommy!" he heard Kimberly cry. "Tommy, where are you?"

"Kimberly, over here!" he cried, not caring if Jason heard. The two young lovers followed the sound of each other's cries until they met, falling into each other's arms. "I thought I'd lost you." sobbed Kimberly.

"The night's not over yet." said Tommy.

Kimberly shivered. "Tommy don't say that... God, this is such a nightmare!"

"Where's Jason?" Tommy asked quietly.

"I don't know." said Kimberly. "We teleported together but when I got here, I was alone."

"Kuso." Tommy swore. He held Kimberly close, crushing her lips with a passionate kiss. "Kimberly, I'll rip him apart before he ever lays a hand on you- or Akiko- ever again."

"Is that a promise?" Jason asked mockingly.

"Huh?" Tommy gasped, whirling to face his former leader. "Kimberly, run!"

"No way!"

"Please!" Tommy pleaded. "Kimberly, go!"

"C'mere, Kim." said Jason, aiming the red jewel at Kimberly, enveloping her in a fist of red lightning. He motioned and it pulled her across the canyon, stumbling and tripping, to stand at his side. "Stand by the victor."

"Let her go!" Tommy shouted. "Your fight is with me!"

"Tommy, look out!" wailed Kim. "He's got the collar again- unhh!" She moaned as Jason turned and cracked her across the face with the red jewel. As Kimberly slumped to the ground, blood spurting from her nose, Tommy Oliver thought his heart would explode with rage and grief, and then his head exploded in a world of pain.

Jason had donned the collar again and struck him a powerful blow. "Get up and fight!" he called to Tommy. The red energy crackled outwards once again, this time faster than before, enveloping the ex-Red Ranger in a shroud of crimson hate. He whirled to catch Tommy in the side with a bonecracking kick. Tommy felt the last of his stitches give in a sickening rip and a wash of blood spilled over his hands. He bent over, moaning, struggling to stay upright.

Slowly, Jason approached. Tommy looked at his former friend, almost unrecognizable now. Time seemed to freeze. Superimposed over Jason's face was an individual of pure evil fighting a winged, white tiger. Then, Tommy saw four women in battle suits of some kind. Then he saw Jason again. Only this time, Jason seemed more mechanical than Hazama. Finally Tommy saw himself firing a large gun...

Tommy gasped in shock and pain and collapsed face down in the sand. It seemed an eternity of agony before Jason reached down to Tommy and put a hand on his back. Pulling Tommy upright, he spun him around and gripped him by both shoulders, squeezing tightly. Tommy could do nothing but cry out



Tommy sat upright in bed.

Nana had been shaking him. "Lamb, wake up!" she cried. "You're having a bad dream!"

"Oh, my God!" Tommy exploded. The midmorning sun shone brightly through his window. "Nana!"

"Who else?" asked his childhood nurse. "Lamb, you've overslept!"

"It wasn't real!" Tommy said.

"Honestly..." Nana said amusedly. "First I have to tell you to go back to bed, then I gotta shake you half to death to wake you up!" She shook her head and left the room with only one parting shot: "It's nine-o'clock and you're late for school!"

"Right!" said Tommy distractedly as he slid out of bed, wiping the beads of sweat from his face. "It was all a dream..." he muttered. "Today is... Hey, Nana, wait!"

"What is it?" Nana asked, ducking back into Tommy's room to see him frantically digging through his bookbag. "Yes! Here it is!" he said, handing it to her along with a pen.

"Permission slip for the field trip to the chocolate factory?" Nana frowned. "Tommy boy, today is your exhibition!"

"So, I'll leave early and go to the exhibition." said Tommy. "No problem!"

"All right..." said Nana, signing the paper. "You have a good time then!"

"Yes!" said Tommy, pocketing the paper. "Yes, ma'am! And... remind me to call Hazama when I get home, alright?"

"Alright, lamb." said Nana as the White Ranger scrambled into his civilian clothes.

But the memory of his nightmare still bothered Tommy... He felt the need to reassure himself that Zordon was all right. Quickly, he picked up his communicator and teleported to the command center.

GOOD MORNING, TOMMY. Zordon greeted him.

"Hi, guys." said Tommy. "Boy, it's good to see you..."


"Actually, Zordon, I came because I just... I had a really freaky nightmare. It kinda shook me."

WHAT WAS IT ABOUT? Zordon asked.

Tommy hesitated, then looked into Zordon's eyes. "It started with Goldar. He'd found out about-" The White Ranger braced himself. "My father." He blinked. For the first time, he'd managed to acknowledge his parentage without flinching. "Anyway." Tommy continued. "Rita and Jason were blackmailing Goldar, I think. Rita was trying to destroy Zedd and me- and Jason worked with her. Kim and Hazuma tried to help me but-" He shivered. "Jason killed Hazuma... and you. And he was going to kill me. I guess it sounds pretty ridiculous, huh?" He looked up at Zordon, praying that his father-figure would dismiss his dream as just that... only a dream.

But Zordon looked grim. He stared hard at the young Mirandian warrior.


"I don't know." said Tommy reluctantly. "Some of it seemed so real... Zordon, about me replacing Jason. I-" But Zordon had turned his head away, not meeting Tommy's gaze.


"Nani?" Tommy protested, "I mean- Jason had the ability, he had the character-"


"Jason was often ruled by his anger." said Alpha sadly. "And the responsibility he took upon himself wore him down, physically, mentally, and spiritually."


"But you must remember that Zedd was far more aggressive than Rita." Alpha added. "The strain on Jason was immense. No matter how important being a leader was to him, it must have been a welcome prospect to hand the duties that came with leadership over to you... for a while."

"For a while?" Tommy asked. "What does that mean?"

"Uh, nothing. Nothing." Alpha said hurriedly. "I mean... of course Jason has had second thoughts about leaving the Rangers, but it was such a monumental decision to make..."

"This is... I don't know what to believe." Tommy muttered. "I mean, I know there was some friction, but..."


"All right." said Tommy. "Maybe I sensed some of that. But Zordon... do Mirandians... we don't see the future, do we? I mean, my dream won't come true, will it?" he asked almost pleadingly.


Tommy thought for a moment, remembering the story that his nightmare-Rita had told to Jason. "Zordon... what was my mother's name?" he asked.

For a moment , Zordon looked old and sad. HER NAME WAS MEIGETSU.

"No! NO! It can't be true!" Tommy looked around, panicked. "No! I must've remembered her name. Like I knew it all along in my subconscious. And it got mixed up in my dream. That's all." He relaxed.


Tommy looked up. "Zordon... Papa-san... I know this must be hard for you, but... do you know _why_ Goldar killed Mother?"


"Well, at least that's different." said Tommy, ignoring the larger meaning of the words for now. "And Rita. Is she Mirandian?"


"Huh." said Tommy, smiling in relief. "That's different too. Maybe... maybe it was just a dream, after all. Except... there was one part, at the end, that seemed more real than anything. It only lasted a moment but..."

"What did you see, Tommy?" Alpha asked worriedly.

"Well... These women. I can't remember much but... then I think I saw Jason... but he was changed." Tommy concentrated, but the dream faded from his mind like a blown-out-candle. "It's not clear... but the image that stands out is the _tora,_ the tiger," he answered. "A _white_ tiger. Fighting... evil? It was strange because it wasn't like the Tigerzord," he tried to explain. "It was different, and... the thing... the person he was fighting... It was dark, dark evil. I couldn't..." He shook his head. "I can't remember any more."


"Huh?" said Tommy. "Zordon, what do you-"

"Tommy, aren't you late for school?" Alpha asked.

"Oh man!" Tommy exclaimed. "I forgot. All right... catch you guys later, then." He teleported out.


"No problem, big Z." said Alpha. "Any time."

There was a pause in the Command Center.

"Zordon..." asked Alpha quietly. "The white tiger that Tommy saw- and the being of pure evil- do you think it means..."

I HOPE NOT. said Zordon gravely. FOR TOMMY'S SAKE... I HOPE NOT.

* * *

And in Switzerland, the day dawned bright and clear. Representatives from across the Earth rose early to eat their morning meal in a quiet outdoor cafe. "Mmm... sweet!" Zack Taylor exclaimed, taking a huge bite of his chocolate pancakes.

"Y'know what this reminds me of?" Jason Lee Scott asked reflectively, indicating breakfast. "The annual field trip."

"To the chocolate factory?" asked Trini.

"Yah." Jason said. "Bet the guys are havin' fun..."

Zack shrugged. "What, like we're not?" Playfully, he lobbed an apple across the table at Jason.

Jason caught it one-handedly. A mischievous gleam came into his eye. "So... ya wanna play it rough, do ya?"

"Guys..." said Trini as Jason hefted a handful of fruit. "Zack..." she said as the former Black Ranger held up an empty tray as a shield.

"FOOD FIGHT!" Jason and Zack roared.

The rest of the Peace Conference delegates stared. "Er... food discussion!" Zack corrected himself hastily.

"Yah!" said Jason. "We're working through a nonviolent group therapy maneuver in order for us to share our feelings."

Trini stuck her head out from under the table. "Jeez, Jason... sounds like this peace conference stuff is really beginning to rub off on you!"

"Could be." said Jason, picking up Trini's banana shake and loosening the lid. "But I wouldn't bet on it..."

"Don't you dare, Jason.." Trini protested. "Jason Lee Scott I'm warning you..."


"Trini..." said Jason, dripping wet, clutching the shake. "I wasn't... really... gonna... do it!"

"You weren't?" said Trini, dropping her empty glass of water. "Uh oh..."

"Not till now!" Jason exploded.


* **

Tommy had teleported from the Command Center to a spot just outside the school doors. As he entered the high school, he bumped into Bulk and Skull, inadvertently jarring his still-tender injury. "Watch it, jerks!" he snapped. Then he stopped suddenly. "I mean... sorry." he apologized. "My fault. I wasn't looking where I was going, uh... OK?"

Bulk and Skull exchanged puzzled looks. "Um... OK." said Bulk. Skull nodded and the two moved on, but Tommy caught Skull's shoulder. "Hey- did you guys remember your permission slips?"

"Are you kidding?" Skull asked incredulously. "We may be stupid, but we're not that stupid!" Bulk shrugged agreement.

"Hey, I don't think you're stupid." said Tommy.

Bulk and Skull exchanged puzzled looks again. "Huh?"

"Really!" Tommy insisted.

"Oookay..." said Bulk. "Uh... see you later, Tommy."

"Later!" said Tommy happily, moving on.

"I wonder what's up with him?" Bulk asked Skull, confused.

"Martial arts." Skull suggested. "Probably got hit in the _head_ this time." He mimed getting conked in the head and grinned.

"Must be." Bulk shrugged.

* * *

"Hey Tommy!" squealed Kimberly. "What're you doing here?"

"Kimberly!" Tommy cheered. He swept the bouncing beauty into his arms and gave her the most passionate kiss of his life.

"Hey guys." said Rocky from across the hall. "Lookit Kim and Tommy."

"Hmm. Rather an effusive display." said Billy, grinning.

"Yowza!" Aisha called. "To-tal PDA alert!"

"PDA?" Akiko asked.

"Public Display of Affection." Adam explained shyly.

"Oh." said Akiko.

"I gotta ask Tommy how he goes without breathing for so long." Rocky exclaimed.

"I think it has something to do with the excess lung power of the average Mirandian." mused Billy. "Of course, with only Tommy and Kimberly to judge by, this is only a hypothesis."

Akiko smiled slyly and winked at Adam. Adam blushed.

Aisha smirked. "Well, I'm timing them." She looked at her wrist. "Dang, I forgot! No watch!"

"Kimberly and Tommy!" Mrs. Appleby exclaimed.

"Wha-oh!" exclaimed Kim and Tommy, rapidly disengaging and patting down their clothes. "Uh, sorry Mrs. Appleby." said Kimberly, blushing. She turned to her boyfriend happily. "Tommy, what're you doing here?"

"I'm coming to the chocolate factory, of course." grinned Tommy.

"You ARE?" Kimberly gasped. "But whatabout the Silver Fist?"

"Well, I can skip the end of the field trip." Tommy explained. "But at least I get to spend part of the day with you!" As he spoke, the back of his neck tingled and he looked down at Kimberly, suddenly apprehensive.

"Did you say something?" he asked her.

"No." said Kimberly, laughing. "I was just gonna say- it sounds like a dream come true."