Love Amongst the Ruins: Chapter One

Rating: PG-13

Author's Note: This can be seen as a continuation from Someone Else (even though I started writing this first, the storyline fits both), or taken on its own. Please read and review, or send feedback to flyingchopstick@hotmail.com.

The fic begins in third person then switches to Kim's viewpoint. In consequent chapters it will return to third person.

*****

'it's a life not made for reliving'

*****

Never in their wildest dreams did they think a situation such as this would face them again. Why would they, when so much time had passed?

They had entertained ideas about being called back into action. Hardly surprising, given the amount of time and energy they had devoted to saving the world. When they dreamt about being asked to defend the planet once more, the end of the fantasy was always a good one. They survived, even triumphed.

None of them ever thought that they would face a losing battle, and lose. Whenever they had been surrounded by despair, they had overcome it. Sometimes at terrible cost, but they had won.

Not one of them knew that they would be facing an unknown foe, with no hope of a solution, almost ten years after the first among them had been asked to save the world.

Even Billy, with his extensive knowledge, could not pinpoint the identity of the monster who was threatening to wipe out six billion lives as though it were blowing out the candles on a birthday cake.

*****

That's how we ended up lounging around Billy's kitchen. Maybe lounging is the wrong word to use in such a situation. Perhaps 'slumping' or 'collapsing' would be more appropriate.

"How many more hours before the deadline runs out?" Tommy asks dejectedly. No-one points out that this is the sixth time in two minutes that someone has asked that very question. We've all been thinking it, if not putting our query into words.

Billy checks his watch. A futile exercise, really, seeing as it's obvious he already knows the answer. "Three hours and fifty-six minutes."

"We've been at this for seventeen hours, and we're still no closer to finding anything that will help us stop this guy?" Jason asks us frustratedly. Once again, he jumps up and begins to pace the length of the room. Trini follows his lead, and does her best to try to soothe his anxieties, knowing that her comforting words will do much to help us all.

"The details of the Zyferon monster could correspond with him, even if the image we have of him doesn't fit. The reference to the blackmail and deadlines means it's pretty similar."

Adam shakes his head. "It's a pretty big hurdle though, the fact that the picture of Zyferon looks nothing like our monster. Our guy can shape- shift, but don't you think that would have been mentioned in the details we have of Zyferon? It makes no mention of it."

The tension that was already palpable in the room chooses that moment to slide up a few more notches. As if it weren't already getting hard to concentrate, or even to breathe, for thinking of the task that awaited us.

Sorry. You must be getting confused. Let me take you back almost twenty- four hours ago, to when this whole mess started...

*****

'funny how I know it's harder, it's harder now, young girl in my younger days, thinking I could live for always'

The day did not begin as though it were the penultimate day of my life. It was the same as the day before, and the day before that. Wake up twenty- five minutes before I am supposed to leave the house. Quick shower, get dressed, take something to eat that vaguely resembles breakfast and barrel out of my front door, stopping only on the way out of the building to collect my mail.

I thought that living across the street from where I work would make things easier. It only makes it easier to convince myself I can make myself ready for the day in twenty-five minutes. That could never happen.

The point where I began to think this day could be different from the one before was when I noticed a handwritten envelope in amongst the bills, circulars, and adverts that make up the bulk of my correspondence. I wasn't about to wait until my coffee break to find out who had decided to write to me, so I opened it straight away, and was immediately confused.

It was a greetings card, with no poems or jokes on the front, just a watercolour picture of flowers. When I opened the card, I expected there to be words inside. That's generally what you hope to read on the inside of a card, but it was blank.

No mention of who it was from, or even that it was intended for me.

On any other day, I would have hoped it was from a secret admirer. Maybe one of the cute doctors who worked in the same hospital as I did, although they tended to look down on the nurses. Maybe the very goodlooking guy who worked in the Starbucks where I got my daily dose of caffeine, although I had no idea how he knew my name, or my address.

I didn't even get a chance to consider the possibilities then. It's not very often that you get an anonymous card, followed by an urgent call from an old friend, ordering you to high-tail it back to Angel Grove as soon as you possibly could, and preferably sooner.

That's irony for you. The first romantic development I've had in ages, and it coincides with our latest saving-the-world mission.

*****

Through some twist of fate, I got a seat on the next flight out to California, if only by the skin of my teeth. All the way through the journey I ignored the in-flight magazine and complementary peanuts, thinking only of Zack's words.

"Billy got a message yesterday, it said all of us were under threat from a new invasion. We all thought it was Rocky, then there was a report on the news about twenty minutes ago saying something had been sighted in Angel Grove. No idea what it is, but the news channel's staying on until we do.

"We've managed to get hold of everyone in the first two teams. I'll be there to pick you and Tanya up, just hang tight and we'll come find you.

"From the reactions of the people they interviewed, it was unlike anything we've ever seen before..."

*****

On the happier side, it was great to see everyone again, although the reason why we were all there made it slightly awkward. I'd hardly seen anyone since beginning my new job as a nurse three years ago, and it was strange to note all the changes and tensions that had not been there the last time I had attended a gathering.

There were eleven of us gathered in Billy's house in Angel Grove, all of the originals, plus Zeo. And at least three pairs of 'friends' were doing their best to avoid or ignore each other.

Adam and Rocky, once the best of friends, had apparently had a blazing argument a few months ago and barely spoken since. No-one knew the slightest detail about why they had fought, whenever Trini had tried to mediate she met with hostility.

Zack and Aisha were skirting around each other, although the general consensus was this had more to do with mutual appreciation than loathing.

And I have to lower my own maturity levels for this point, to confess that Tommy and I were the third couple who weren't on the best of terms.

It's not as bad as you may think. We've spoken to each other, and while things aren't completely settled, neither of us have asked for them to be. There are times when I think I haven't moved on, but the irrefutable fact is that we have both grown up.

We aren't the same people we once were. But that doesn't explain why neither of us have tried to heal the awkwardness that still exists.

Zack had done as he promised, and driven Tanya and I from the airport to Billy's house, filling us in on the details that he had not had time to expand upon earlier.

"According to witnesses on the last news broadcast, the thing's about ten feet tall, stands upright, two arms, two legs, claws, and an extra eye in the middle of the normal two."

"What the hell is he doing in Angel Grove?" Tanya asked, leaning forward from the back seat so as to hear Zack better.

Zack shrugged. "He wasn't roaming the streets of Angel Grove shouting 'give me the blood of an ex-Ranger or give me death' if that's what you're getting at. But that can't be very far from the truth."

"Out of all the towns and cities in the world, choosing this one has to suggest he knows the connections," I mused aloud.

"Billy said he'd record the news report on the hour for you guys to watch. I don't think Kat or Aisha will have watched it either, and the area will still be shocked enough to make it the main item on the mid-morning news."

*****

We were the last people to arrive at our gathering point. After hurried greetings Billy pressed the play button on his VCR in the den, and those of us who hadn't seen it prepared ourselves for the worst.

It didn't look as bad as some of the monsters we'd been pitted against in the past. It wasn't revoltingly slimy, a samurai gone extremely wrong, or covered in thousands of tiny eyes. Then again, it didn't look as though brandishing feathers would knock it to the ground, either.

"Those scales don't look as though they'll be penetrated easily," Kat murmured under her breath. "Anything we care to throw at him will most likely bounce off him and rebound back onto us."

The news report only showed a few seconds of a clip shot earlier that day in the park, recently bought from a tourist who had been filming an idyllic, typical day in Angel Grove park. The rest of the section about the latest monster attack was taken up with witnesses describing their traumatic experiences on-camera, and nervous speculation by the local news anchors.

"It was huge! I was so frightened, me and my children ran straight away."

"I wanted to stay and fight this thing, but it disappeared before I had the chance."

"Where are the Power Rangers when we need them? Our children need to be safe!"

"That dude should be referred to as Cubatron. That sounds invincible," Rocky remarked once the segment ended and the toothy woman and suave male presenters started discussing the latest arson attack in Stone Canyon.

"We can't just march in and start attacking this... thing. Not like we're used to," Aisha pointed out. "We don't have any weapons, any uniforms, any Zords to protect us."

"We don't even know if this thing is out to get us, or to conquer an old foe, no matter if any Rangers still live here or not," Zack chimed in. "If a motley crew of eleven twenty-somethings walk up to a ten foot monster and start pelting it with stones and boulders, some people may get suspicious."

"We may not need to resort to that. Hostile aliens can sometimes be defeated solely by psychological pressure," Billy said quietly, more to himself than to share with the group. Tommy overheard, and asked

"Shouldn't the scales he's covered with mean he's more suited to physical combat, though?"

"It could mean anything. The fact is, we don't know, and the only way we're going to find anything out about him is to try. Which would be insane, to say the least, given what little we know about him."

Tanya's eyes lit up, and she jumped from her seat in an armchair nestled into a corner of the cosy den. "What about the Command Centre archives? Zordon was an intergalactic being, sure, but he never had any problems in identifying the aliens we fought against while we were Rangers. He must have had some sort of recording system to know the monsters so well, surely it's worth travelling down to the site to at least see if there are any discs we could search through?"

Jason nodded, and also stood. "It's the best idea we've had so far, it's certainly worth a shot."

Billy coughed embarrassedly, and everyone turned to look at him, wondering what he had to say. "I may have something here that could help in our quest to discover the identity of our foe. Before I left for Aquitar, Zordon gave me a disc that contained short descriptions and images of all the enemy creatures he had knowledge of, for some light reading when I had spare time. I could continue surveying the contents to see if I can pinpoint this thing, however some of us need to go to the Command Centre site as well. I have no doubt that Zordon must have been made aware of the existence of other opponents after my departure."

Although I had barely seen Billy in the past three years, whenever I had spoken to him his speech patterns had been easy and relaxed. His revertion to the extended vocabulary of old told me - and everyone else - that Billy was extremely perturbed by the situation at hand. And that served to make the rest of us even more nervous.

"How long will it take you to go through the disc?" Jason asked as he and Tanya both sat back down. Billy reached from his desk chair to underneath his computer, and found an unmarked disc which had been hidden beneath others.

"I have spent a long time going through its contents, and haven't reached the halfway point. It's fair to say the Earth will never be short of enemies."

"Is there any search criteria that you could use to shorten the time period?" I asked. The slight glimmer of hope in me vanished when Billy shook his head.

"I don't know if I'm looking in the wrong part of the disc or not, but I've never found anything resembling a search facility. This will take quite a while."

"As long as you quickly dismiss anything that is smaller or significantly larger than the guy we're looking for, it shouldn't take too long, should it?" Aisha asked, and Billy raised one eyebrow, in an infuriating gesture that suggested he didn't have a clue.

"From the way I see it, I think we'll need to divide into three groups," Trini spoke up, with a thoughtful expression on her face. I recognised that expression - god knows how many times I'd seen it - and I knew there was no thinking about it. We needed to divide into three groups and do whatever Trini told us. "One group should stay here and go through this disc that Billy has. One group needs to go to the Command Centre site and search through whatever debris remains, to see if there's anything there that can be salvaged and may be of some use. The last group should patrol Angel Grove, not necessarily taking any action, but being of guard, and seeing if they can find anything or speak to anyone who can help."

Everyone nodded, realising the sense of Trini's plan.

"There are eleven of us, so that makes two groups of four and one of three," Tommy declared, having no problem slipping back into the old 'leader mode' that I recognised so well. "Billy, you'd better stay and go through the disc as you're the only one who knows how to access and move through its contents. Who do you want to help you?"

"As long as they don't object, Trini and Adam. Both of them were familiar with the operation of the Command Centre and the technology Zordon used in recording data, and that would help greatly."

Trini and Adam nodded their acquiesence to the plan.

"I'll patrol Angel Grove, and you take a group up to the mountains?" Jason suggested, and Tommy nodded. "I'll take Aisha, Kat and Rocky."

Although I didn't notice it at the time, Trini assures me that at that moment in time Tommy glared ferociously at Jason's plan to include me in the group going to the mountains.

Despite the - alleged - glare, Tommy nodded, and stood up. "Fine by me. We've got no time to lose, so let's get things moving. Shall we say to return here in two hours time? That is to say..." he consulted his watch, "Midday?"

Jason nodded. "Midday it is. Everybody, if you have your cell phone with you, keep it on. We'll need to keep in contact frequently, and phone another team if you run into trouble."

How nice it was to be under the orders of leader figures again, instead of making our own decisions.

And if you can't notice the sarcasm....

*****

Next chapter should follow before the end of the week. Don't forget to review!