Happy freaking New Year everyone! Let's hope 2008 is just as awesome, if not better than 2007. And with that, onto the story...
It was December 28th and the year 2007 was on its' last leg, finally coming to a close after what had been one of the craziest years that both Tommy and Kimberly had experienced. Not only had Tommy changed jobs but Kimberly had moved back to Angel Grove, she and Tommy had gotten back together on Halloween then engaged on Christmas and now Kimberly was pregnant with their first child.
Even though it was still somewhere between six and seven months before she was set to give birth to their first child, Kimberly was walking out of the Angel Grove Mall at closing time with almost a dozen bags filled with everything from clothes and toys to diapers and pacifiers.
Sure it may have been a tad overboard considering that she wasn't due until Summer 2008 but she was just too damn excited to not buy as many baby items as she could find. Since she and Tommy had already agreed to keep the baby's gender a surprise, everything in the bag was neutral-sex.
In any town other than Angel Grove, she wouldn't have thought twice about asking for some type of security escort to her car considering that it was almost ten o'clock at night. But Angel Grove had always been home and home had always been safe when not under attack by crazy, rampaging monsters. There was rarely any crime and when something did happen, it was always petty things like shoplifting, never the more serious atrocities that occurred in bigger cities.
Having that knowledge, knowing that the town she lived in was safe, had always been a comfort to her that was only amplified when she thought about her future with Tommy in Angel Grove. Every once in a while, she'd subconsciously look down at her stomach and rub it, smiling at what she was carrying inside of her.
Almost as soon as she had told Tommy that she was pregnant, Tommy had gotten in contact with some old college professors, looking for a teaching position at Angel Grove University the day after Christmas. And that, along with the new life growing inside of her body, made the future seem only that much brighter. Being able to raise a family in a place where she never had to worry about the safety of their child was just icing on top of the cake.
After setting her multitude of bags on the black asphalt, she had just inserted her key into the lock on the trunk of her silver Dodge Charger when a familiar growl sounded throughout the parking lot. There was no need for her to turn and look; she knew who it was the moment that she heard the noise.
Shivers went up and down her spine as her whole body seemed to tense up all at once. She could feel hot breathing against her neck accompanied by a low growl with each and every breath that was taken by the figure standing directly behind her.
She tried to move, to run or do something but, try as she might, her legs simply would not allow her to do anything. It wasn't until a pair of hands landed on her shoulders and spun her around that she regained control of her body. All at once she went into fight-or-flight mode, opting for the latter after so many years spent running away from her problems.
Spinning around, her hair whipping through the wind like Tommy's used to, and without bothering to identify her target first, she delivered a fierce spin kick to the figure behind her. Her foot connected with heavy gold plated armor, sending her assailant staggering back a few feet.
"You again, Goldilocks?" Kimberly questioned sarcastically, rolling her eyes at her one-time nemesis. "You've got to be kidding me. Aren't you supposed to be like, space dust or something?"
"Fool! Clearly that is not the case!" Goldar the Titan roared, drawing his sword from its' sheath. He pointed it directly at Kimberly, stepping towards her as she backed up in the direction of her car. The moment her back hit the passenger side door, she knew that it had been a bad move on her part. She should have known better than that but years without fighting had rusted her skills somewhat. "My emperor and empress have ordered me to capture you and capture you I will!"
"Yeah right, Goldar," Kim muttered sarcastically, biting back her tongue so as not to stick it out at him and anger the Titan further. "Do you have any idea just how many times I've heard that one before? What makes you think that this time will be any different than all the others?"
"As I recall, we never had any trouble capturing you in the past," Goldar snarled, inching ever closer towards Kimberly.
His words hit he hard for she knew that he was, unfortunately, right. Kimberly was not a weak fighter by any stretch of the imagination, that much was certain but she had been quite susceptible to random kidnappings in her days as the Pink Ranger.
Slowly, she started sliding along the side of her car, trying to find a way out but Goldar continuously stayed in front of her, preventing her attempts at finding an exit.
If only I still had my powers I could get out of here. Or at least give him a good fight. I don't stand a chance without my powers. I'm not even going to get to say good-
Suddenly, Goldar sprang forward, surprising Kim and pinning her against the side of her car. His sword came up to her neck and she felt all the color drain out of her face. For the briefest of moments she thought about yelling for Tommy but then quickly remembered that he was back home in Reefside.
Looking around, she realized that the parking lot was almost completely empty outside of a few cars that were placed sparingly throughout the area. She was all alone with no one around to help her.
With a deep and sad sigh, she closed her eyes and prepared to accept her fate. Goldar had never seemed so overjoyed than when he drew back his sword and shot a beam of yellow energy at her, enveloping her entire body. In a blinding flash of light, they were both gone from the mall parking lot, leaving Kim's unlocked car and the bags filled with random baby items as the only evidence that she had been there.
Back during the summer, five former Power Rangers along with the most current team, Operation Overdrive, had dealt the decisive blow in defeating an enemy named Thrax, the son of longtime Ranger enemies Lord Zedd and Rita Repulsa. It was a battle that had been both tough yet far too easy at the same time.
Thrax had shown up and completely severed the Overdrive team's connection to the universal Morphing Grid, relieving them of their Ranger Powers in the process. An ally of the Overdrive Rangers, the Sentinel Knight, recruited five veteran Rangers to aid the current, and then powerless, team against Thrax and they had succeeded in defeating him. Or at least, they thought that they had succeeded.
The way Thrax went down, three kicks courtesy of the Sentinel Knight, never sat well with the veteran Rangers, especially Tommy Oliver who had heard the stories about Thrax from two of his old teammates, Adam Park and Kira Ford. It just seemed fishy that, when he first presented himself, Thrax had appeared to be unbeatable only to be destroyed by a few simple kicks.
His long and storied tenure as a Power Ranger gave Tommy an insight that not many others who had donned the brightly colored spandex after him had. After hearing the stories from Adam and Kira, years spent fighting Lord Zedd and Rita Repulsa made Tommy realize one thing; if Thrax was anything like his parents than there had to be some sort of a contingency plan in the works.
Ever since the mission to the Moon where Tommy and nine other Red Rangers had defeated the remains of the Machine Empire, there had been quarterly meetings between the group of ten. The meetings were nothing formal, just enough to keep everyone updated on what was happening throughout the country or, in the case of Leo Corbett and Aurico, Mirinoi and Aquitar respectively.
Eventually, when the Wild Force team hung up their Morphers for good and the Ninja Storm team had appeared in Blue Bay Harbor, Shane Clarke and Hunter Bradley, the Red Wind and Crimson Thunder Rangers respectively, started to attend the meetings. This set up a tradition of inviting every new Red Ranger to their gatherings until sixteen different Red Rangers had joined. Even Rocky DeSantos who had been living in Philadelphia with his now ex-girlfriend and was unreachable for the first Red Ranger mission, was in attendance for all of their quarterly get-togethers.
While the meetings were designed to be informal, no one was forced to attend, they were still extremely important to the safety of the planet and it was generally accepted that no one missed a meeting when the time for one came around. If it wasn't for the meetings, this particular one having taken place at the beginning of October, Tommy would have never heard from Andros that his theory about Thrax was true and that there was indeed a contingency plan.
Like Andros destroying Zordon's energy tube, the Sentinel Knight's destruction of Thrax had sent a shockwave of energy ripping throughout the entire galaxy. The only difference was that, where Zordon's sacrifice had destroyed the evil inside of Lord Zedd and Rita, turning them into humans, Thrax's destruction reversed their fates.
Evil like that could have only come from the offspring of such a despicably malevolent pair as Lord Zedd and Rita. Now, they were coming soon, headed for Earth and with only one thing on their minds.
Somewhere in the depths of space, a sinister looking craft was making its way through the star speckled blackness, quickly approaching the blue-green marble that, at one point, had seemed so very far away. The ship was as dark a black as you could imagine, with symbols representing each of the two-hundred planets, and still counting, that its occupants had captured etched into the cold metal.
Inside the ship, an equally evil sight was taking place. Two figures stood in the cockpit, staring out the window as Earth grew nearer. There was a coldness about them, an evil aura that stretched far beyond anything that Earth had seen in recent years.
Emperor Gruum? Please. That guy was nothing compared to them. Scorpius and Trakeena? Yeah, right. The two in the ship could have destroyed them with their bare hands. Divatox? Give me a break. That reject pirate in spandex couldn't hold a candle to the evil deeds that they had committed over the years.
The only one who had even come close in comparison to their own evil was Mesogog. He had done things to the Power Rangers, specifically Dr. Tommy Oliver, that were equally as wicked, if not worse than the things they had done. Mesogog, like them, had come so close to succeeding in destroying the Power Rangers and conquering Earth only to be upended by the disgusting, self-sacrificing nature of the greatest Power Ranger to ever live.
That blasted Green and White Ranger had been a thorn in their sides since the moment Jason Scott, Earth's first Red Ranger, had destroyed the Sword of Darkness and freed Tommy from Rita Repulsa's evil spell. Since then, they had done everything in their power to make his life a living hell, failing at almost every turn…except for one.
The petite little brunette currently being held down in the prison cells on the ship's lower deck made quite a nice addition to their cargo. She was the bait that they were going to use to lure Tommy to his death.
It was a brilliant plan if you really sat down and thought about it. Capture the thing that is most important to someone and watch how they crumble and mold perfectly into the palm of your hand. She was that thing to him and they knew it.
Kimberly Hart was Tommy's ultimate endgame, the one thing that he would always fight for, give up his life for if he knew that she was in danger and that it would help her. It was why he had kept pictures of them together in a photo album next to his bed for years before they got back together. It was why hearing certain songs made him cry at the most random of times, in the most random of places, and it was why Kira Ford, the only female Ranger on the Dino Thunder team, had been the Yellow Ranger and not the Pink Ranger. He couldn't bear the sight of pink on anyone else but Kimberly.
Years of hiding out on the Moon, watching the destruction of her relationship with Tommy had been like a miniature victory in its own right; to them at least. Having never been able to destroy Tommy like they wanted, seeing the one person that he loved more than anything break up with him had turned out to be a pretty damn good consolation prize for the sinister couple that had spent years trying to both ruin and end his life.
However, the two evil beings had also been around just in time to have seen the couple's recent reconciliation and even more recent engagement, along with Kimberly's announcement that she was carrying Tommy's baby. It made them sick. So sick, in fact, that the evil pair had agreed to turn back from the Kerovian system to pay Earth one final visit.
The moment that Tommy found out that they had captured Kimberly, they knew that there would be a flurry of resistance to greet them. They were prepared for that. Earth was not their ultimate prize anymore; if, when everything was done, they ended up with it somehow, the planet would have merely been another consolation prize.
This time, they wanted one thing and one thing only; the ending of Tommy Oliver's life; nothing more and nothing less. His destruction was going to be an amazing thing to watch happen for them and that little girl Kimberly Hart was the start of it all.
"It's going to work this time. We're going to get them, Zeddykins," Rita Repulsa cackled.
Zedd simply grunted and nodded his head at her. Being around Rita was something that he definitely didn't enjoy. He only tolerated her presence because he needed her skills in the realm of dark magic to aid him in his galactic conquests. Thankfully, those skills had been passed down to their son. If not, they wouldn't have even been alive.
Standing behind the bar of a makeshift Tiki hut, cleaning a glass with a dish towel in his hand, Farkas "Bulk" Bulkmeier looked down at his oldest friend and shook his head, letting out a small chuckle as they prepared to close down for the evening. Eugene "Skull" Skullovitch was sitting on the other side of the bar, staring out over the top of his sunglasses at a Power Rangers chess board.
There they were, in the same position that they had been in a few years ago except on a much larger scale this time around. Bulkmeier's was no longer just a small, tropical themed restaurant in Angel Grove with a pool and a patio area, no. Now, it was much more than that.
In the past five years since opening the establishment, Bulk and Skull had practically turned the place into a full on resort. They had two pools now, one indoor and one outdoor, a small water park, a miniature golf course, a driving range, two dance clubs, batting cages, basketball courts and a huge gym complete with all the workout equipment that one could ever imagine. In fact, Bulkmeier's hadexpanded so much that Angel Grove couldn't even handle the place any longer.
A year ago, Bulkmeier's had moved to Stone Canyon, a nearby town with a lot less people but quite a bit more space than Angel Grove had to offer. The Tiki hut, having been a part of their business from the start, had made the trip with them to Stone Canyon.
While Skull spent his typical five minutes contemplating his next move that Bulk would invariably conquer, Bulk continued cleaning the glasses. Even owning a resort that was brining in tens of millions of dollars a year, they still liked to be there, working on a daily basis. Sometimes that meant showing up in a suit and tie for a business meeting with investors. Other times that meant lounging around the pool area in Hawaiian shirts, flip-flops, and sunglasses, serving drinks and chatting with customers. Today had been one of those days.
"Skull," Bulk started, staring off into space. "Who do you think they really were?"
"Bulkie, we were there, remember? It was T.J. and his friends," Skull replied, moving his Rook. Bulk immediately took it with a Pawn, much to Skull's bewilderment. "How-how did you do that? That's not fair!"
"Sorry, Skull. Ya just gotta pay better attention, buddy," Bulk answered, patting him compassionately on the head. "And I'm not talking about the Space Rangers. I'm talking about the original team, the one that first made us want to discover their secret identities."
"Well, I can think of a few names," Skull mused, taking one of Bulk's pawns. Bulk made a move without thinking, not even realizing that he had just played right into Skull's plan. One mention of the Power Rangers' secret identities and playing chess with Bulk became like shooting fish in a barrel. "Billy Cranston, Kimberly Hart, Trini Kwan, Tommy Oliver, Jason Scott and Zack Taylor. In alphabetical order by last name, I might add."
"Skull, that is by far the stupidest idea that I have ever heard and I've been a part of a lot of stupid ideas. There is no way that those guys were the Power Rangers," Bulk returned. He looked down to see Skull take his King, saw the sly grin on his friend's face and immediately recognized the trap. "You don't think it's them. You just set me up so you could win, didn't you?"
"Of course I did! What'd you expect, Bulkie!" Skull replied in his high-pitched squeal. Bulk started to form a retort when the phone rang. They looked at each other and both took off for the phone. "I'll get it!"
As they ran to the phone, Skull saw that he was on a collision course with Bulk and felt an instant sense of déjà vu. He could see five years earlier, flying into the pool when the call came for Tommy. Since they were nowhere near the pool, surrounded by nothing but concrete, he didn't want to risk a similar result.
In a moment of surprising intelligence, Skull came to a stop. Bulk saw this and did the same thing, ignoring the ringing of the telephone resting on the table a few feet away from them.
"You get it, Bulkie. I don't really wanna get it anyways," Skull muttered sheepishly. While Bulk basked in his sense of supremacy, Skull was looking for an opening and he had just found one. "Sike!"
Skull dropped into a squat and grabbed the waist of Bulk's pants, tugging them to down to his feet. He ran off to get the phone, leaving Bulk to stand their with his pants around his ankles and a look of surprise on his face.
"Skullovitch's, Skull speaking," Skull answered, annoyingly smacking the gum that he was chewing on.
"I'm sorry. I must have the wrong number," a male answered. "I'm looking for a place called Bulkmeier's. Do you know of it?"
"Yeah, yeah, this is the place," Skull grumbled, angrily kicking at the pebble in front of him only to miss and stub his toe on a bigger rock. He muttered a few choice curse words as the man on the other end started talking about calling back another time. "No, no! Thisis Bulkmeier's! What can we do for you today, sir?"
Bulk looked at Skull in familiar fashion. It was the look he gave Skull every time he came close to messing up one of their plans back in high school. There were reasons why he didn't let him answer the phone, dammit!
"I'm looking for…" the man started, lowering his voice to a barely audible whisper as Skull's eyes went wide. He turned to look at Bulk with visible fear as the man kept talking. "He told me that I could find him here. Do you know if he's there?"
"I-uh, I-uh," Skull stammered. He wanted to find the words but he just couldn't do it no matter how hard he tried. Letting out a depressed sigh, he tossed the phone to Bulk. "He's looking for the boss."
Skull started back towards the Tiki hut, Bulk's eyes going wide when he heard that. It was nerve racking news indeed but he had already dealt with this once before. Looking over to the driving range, he pointed to a tall, muscular man swinging a golf club, told Skull to go get him, put the phone up to his ear and took a deep breath.
"This is Farkas Bulkmeier, owner of Bulkmeier's," Bulk told him, emphasis on the word owner. "My associate just left to retrieve your client and he'll be here in just a few short moments."
Years spent turning a small business into a multi-million dollar establishment had taught Bulk well when it was okay to be relaxed and when the utmost professionalism was needed. Knowing who this man was looking for, he assumed professionalism was in order so he laid it on quite thick.
In the five minutes it took Skull to walk to the driving range and retrieve the man whose presence Bulk had requested, Bulk did something he didn't usually do; think. He thought long and hard about a lot of things that had happened in his life; things that, starting with high school, seemed more than just a little bit coincidental.
When Skull finally returned with a man about six-feet tall with spiked brown hair and deep brown eyes, Bulk had come to a realization. It was with great admiration and respect visible in his eyes that he handed off the phone to the man. He took it and thanked Bulk politely before stepping away into a more private area.
"Hello," he started, leaning against the side of the Tiki hut.
"Tommy, it's Andros. Something…"the Kerovian started only to pause, unable to finish. Tommy heard him take a few deep breaths and felt his heart drop. A sudden surge had ran through his body that made him feel as if something terrible had happened. "Tommy, I don't know how to tell you this, but something terrible has happened."
"What happened, Andros?" Tommy asked in a voice somewhere between leader-like and monotone.
At the name Andros, Bulk and Skull exchanged sideways glances. The identities of the Space Rangers was public knowledge. Hearing Tommy speak that name confirmed Bulk's recent suspicions that Tommy had indeed been a Power Ranger. The portly proprietor of the successful resort nodded at Skull, confirming it for him as well.
From a safe distance, they observed Tommy with curiosity, watching as his emotions fluctuated from angry and enraged to fearful and panicked. Every ounce of color left his face as he hit the power button and dropped the phone onto the concrete. Without warning, he dropped to his knees and started to dry heave right there on the ground.
"Tommy!" Bulk called out, he and Skull rushing to his side. In an act of compassion that was rarely seen from either of them, they both lowered themselves to his level as Bulk placed a hand on his back. "Tommy, what's going on man?"
"K-K-Kimberly," he managed to sputter in between heaves. Eyes widened as Bulk and Skull looked back and forth between each other and the longest serving Power Ranger in history. "She-she's gone."
"Gone?" Skull queried, raising his eyebrows. "You mean like dead?"
"Shut up you idiot," Bulk chastised, glaring angrily at his business partner. Skull immediately looked embarrassed as Tommy began to push himself off the ground and onto his feet.
Tommy looked at Skull and his eyes opened up in a way that reminded the pair of one of their first encounters with the man, in the alley behind Angel Grove High. A flurry of rage started to build inside Tommy's body as he stared daggers at the skinny ex-bully. When he finally blinked, something no one ever expected to see again happened.
Tommy's eyes suddenly flashed but it was not green like their meeting in the ally. This time it was a deep shade of crimson. He shrugged their hands off his shoulders and started walking towards the parking lot without a word, leaving his bag of golf clubs by the driving range as he extracted his cell phone from his pocket.
His brisk walk turned into a full on sprint as he dialed his best friend's number and brought the phone up to his ear. He was halfway into his Jeep when Jason picked up on the other end of the line.
"Talk to me, baby," Jason laughed, knowing that it was Tommy. When no words came from the other end, the original Red Ranger immediately sensed that something was out of order with his friend. "You there, bro?" He waited a few seconds and got nothing until the sound of muffled sobs reached his ears. "Tommy, what's going on man?"
"J-Jay-Jason," Tommy tried through tears. His voice cracked and Jason instantly knew that something had happened with Kimberly. "Z-Zedd…R-Rita…Kim…she's gone."
"Gone!?"Jason roared. The surprise and anger was evident in his voice. "What the hell do you mean, she's gone?"
"Andros just called me," Tommy sputtered, trying desperately to levy his emotions. "He said Goldar captured Kim at the mall. All they found was her car and a bunch of stuff for the baby."
"Baby? What baby?"Jason asked. There had been no mention of a baby since Christmas. Truth be told, neither Tommy or Kimberly had had time enough to tell anyone but their immediate families. "Tommy! What baby!?"
"My baby! Our baby!" Tommy yelled, beating his hands against the steering wheel. "Dammit, Jason! Kimberly's pregnant with our baby and they got her! What am I going to do!?"
This was all news to Jason and it took a few moments for everything to register with him before he could come up with something to say to Tommy. He took a deep breath before answering the question.
"The same thing we always do when things like this happen, bro," Jason muttered. "We gotta round up the cavalry and give them all hell."
Alone in her cell, Kimberly shivered at the general coldness offered by Zedd and Rita's space craft. The only thing going through her mind was fear; fear for both herself and for Tommy but more importantly for their unborn child.
Finding out that she was pregnant with Tommy's baby had been a feeling unlike anything Kimberly had ever experienced before. Not even Morphing gave her the rush of excitement she got when thinking about the baby. He or she, whatever it turned out to be, was now the most important thing in her life outside of her new fiancée.
More than anything in the world right now, she wanted to be at home in Angel Grove, curled up on the couch under a blanket with Tommy holding her, stroking her hair while whispering sweet nothings into her ear. She yearned for his touch, to feel him gently tracing his fingers along her arms, sending shivers up and down her spine in a way that only Tommy could.
But with every hour that she spent in Zedd and Rita's captivity, her confidence in being rescued started to fade away. She wanted to believe that Tommy would come crashing in at any moment, ever her White Knight. But the odds that Tommy even knew where she was were astronomical.
She knew he'd be worried when she didn't answer her cell phone, unfortunately The Network didn't extend to the depths of outer space, but how would he even know where to look? It wasn't like she left a note telling him where she'd be.
"I'm so sorry, Tommy," she muttered, curling herself into a ball. "I really thought we were going to have our happily ever after this time. After everything we've been through I truly believed that we deserved it. I guess I was wrong."
"Fear not, Kimberly," a voice came from outside her cell. She raised her eyes and found herself staring at Finster, one of Rita's oldest minions. "I despise what Lord Zedd and Rita have done to you and Tommy but do not be afraid. True love will always survive."
With that, he continued on his way into the darkness, leaving Kimberly alone to ponder the few words of comfort he had offered to her. Coming from one of Rita's henchmen, his words shouldn't have meant much to her but, surprisingly, they did. Hearing it from Finster gave her a little beacon of hope that Tommy was out there trying to find a way to rescue her.
I've been gone less than a day and I bet he's looking all over for me. He's probably running Jason and the others ragged, too. Tommy loves me. There's no way he won't come to rescue me.
And she believed it, too. She had hope, something to hold onto. There were no more shivers, no more doubt in her mind. It was no longer a matter of if Tommy came but when he came and who he brought with him when he did.
Tommy was out there and come Hell or high water, he was going to find her. There was nothing more to it than that.
Looking out the small window into the darkness of space, a shooting star passed by in the distance and she allowed a small smile to creep across her face. Tommy was coming and when he arrived, Zedd and Rita were going to have Hell to pay.
Like Jason suggested, rounding up the cavalry was what they did. All across the country and into the outer reaches of space, the call went out that an emergency Red Ranger meeting was in order. Jason, Rocky and Conner were all at Tommy's house in Reefside within a few hours after Tommy had gotten the news from Andros.
While Tommy's three former teammates did their best to offer some sort of comfort, there was nothing any of them could say or do to make him feel better. Long into the night, after Jason, Rocky and Conner had passed out in various places throughout Tommy's house, he was still awake. He wouldn't rest until Kimberly was back home, safe and in his arms.
For hours on end he paced back and forth between the basement and the main area of the house until finally he could take it no longer. Some time between five and six a.m. Tommy had fallen asleep leaning against his kitchen counter. A little more than an hour of uncomfortable sleep was all he managed before the sound of his doorbell snapped him wide awake.
Running through the house to get the door, Tommy nearly tripped over the sleeping lump of Rocky who was out cold on his living room floor. He must have looked rather ragged because both Eric Myers, the Quantum Ranger, and Wesley Collins, the Red Time Force Ranger, had to suppress chuckles at his disheveled appearance.
"Looks like someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning," Eric commented from the front porch.
Tommy thought about firing back with something to display how serious this meeting was but decided that he was too tired and that it was too early for him to get mad. He just stepped back and allowed Eric and Wes entrance into his home before moving to shut the door behind them. The sight of a red Corvette made him stop, though.
Looking down his driveway at the sports car, Tommy gave an appreciative nod to his successor of the Red Turbo powers as Theodore Jay Jarvis Johnson, better known as T.J., stepped out of the vehicle. Tommy was surprised but relieved when he saw Carter Grayson, the Red Lightspeed Ranger, exit from the passenger side and join T.J. on the walk up the gravel driveway to his front door.
"Thanks for coming guys," Tommy muttered, yawning as he vigorously tried to wipe the sleep out of his eyes. He shook hands with both men as he let them into the house. "It means a lot to me that you came."
"We get call. We come. We fight," T.J. grunted ala Tarzan.
Regardless of the depression he was feeling inside, it was hard not to at least give a small chuckle towards T.J.'s attempt at levity. Tommy did just that and, surprisingly, he felt a little bit relieved when he allowed the tiny laugh to escape from his lips.
"Looks like someone's feeling a little better," Rocky interjected, rolling onto his back only to Kip-up onto his feet. Still a bit drowsy, he staggered over to the four newly arrived Rangers to shake hands. "Good to see you all, fellas. Just wish it was under better circumstances."
"That's about what I gathered from Andros' message when he told us to meet here," Carter replied, gripping Rocky's hand tightly. "What seems to be the problem?"
"You mean Tommy didn't tell you already?" a voice came from above them.
Everyone turned to see Jason walking down the stairs towards the group with an extremely groggy Conner just a few short steps behind him. Like Rocky and Tommy before him, both Jason and Conner exchanged greetings and handshakes with the other Reds.
"So what's really going on here, Tommy?" Wes asked, eyeing the Red Zeo Ranger cautiously. The usually calm Tommy was fidgeting back and forth. It was obvious by his demeanor that something was troubling him greatly. "Andros' call sounded pretty urgent."
"It is," Tommy replied, exhaling loudly as he rubbed the back of his neck. "But I don't want to tell the story more than once. Actually, I don't even think I can. Once everyone is here we'll go down to the basement and talk. For now, just make yourselves at home."
Tommy gave Rocky a look which the second Red Ranger took as his cue to take the others, sans Jason, as far away from Tommy as possible. He directed Carter, Conner, Eric, T.J., and Wes to the kitchen, leaving Tommy to brood in the company of the only male he didn't call dad or Zordon that truly understood him.
"Why me, bro? Why does this shit always have to happen to me?" Tommy asked in a murmur, tears threatening once again. "It's like they pick on me for no reason other than to fuck with me."
"That's not all it is, man, and you know that. They go after you because, without you, there's nothing," Jason answered, moving to sit on the couch next to Tommy. He placed his hand on Tommy's shoulder and gave it a tight squeeze. "You've saved the world more than any of us. You've done things the rest of us couldn't even dream of. You've built Morphers and mentored your own team of Rangers. Unlike us, your duty didn't end when you passed on your powers to the next person. You're a Ranger through-and-through. Always have been, always will be. It's part of who you are."
"I know and that's the problem," Tommy muttered, nervously playing with his hands. "I'm sick of always being the one everyone turns to when something happens. I hate that I have to be the one to organize everything when there are almost a hundred other Rangers out there who are just as capable as me."
"Just as capable? Tommy, that's bullshit and you know it," Jason replied. "There is no Ranger out there more capable than you. You have done everything. I can't stress that enough to you. This house, this city, this world, none of it would be here if it wasn't for you. You're the one connection all of us have to the teams that came before and after our own teams. If it wasn't for you leading us, Venjixx would have gotten Serpentera and we'd all be dead. So put your damn chin up and do what you're destined to do. Lead this mismatched group of crazy ass Red Rangers and get your goddamn girlfriend back."
"Fiancée," Tommy corrected. Jason opened his mouth to reply but Tommy put up his hand to stop him and he fell silent. Tommy had to pause for a moment before continuing. He hadn't expected the hand to have the same effect on Jason that it had on his younger protégés. "I asked her right after you and Kat left on Christmas night. That's when I found out she was pregnant."
Jason gave Tommy a sympathetic look along with another tight shoulder squeeze. While he hadn't been in Tommy's exact position before, he knew what it felt like to feel like he was going to lose everything important to him. Dealing with that was as much a part of being a Power Ranger as fighting crazy monsters and saving the world.
When the doorbell rang again, Tommy was off the couch and at the door almost before Jason could even blink his eyes. Tommy practically yanked the door off the hinges as Jason turned his attention to the door and saw Shane Clarke, the Red Wind Ranger, standing there with Hunter Bradley, the Crimson Thunder Ranger.
"The others are in the kitchen," Tommy murmured, quickly shaking hands. "Once everyone's here we're gonna meet down in the basement. I don't mean to sound like an asshole, but until then, just go."
Shane and Hunter both seemed taken aback but the look that Jason gave them told them to just go along with it and not ask questions. The pair just nodded their heads and drifted towards the kitchen, leaving Tommy and Jason alone once more.
In the next hour and a half that followed, the rest of the Red Rangers arrived either alone or in pairs and all of them, after being greeted by Tommy and Jason, were immediately directed to the kitchen. After Shane and Hunter arrived, Nick Russell showed up alone, followed by Leo Corbett from Mirinoi who was accompanied by Aurico from Aquitar. Bridge Carson came next and, aside from Andros, Cole Evans was the last to arrive.
"Way to be the last one here, Rookie," Jason teased. Though Cole was no longer a rookie like he had been for the first Red Ranger mission, the nickname still stuck. Considering Jason never referred to any of the newer Rangers as "Rookie," Cole took it more as a compliment than a dig.
Andros teleported into Tommy's basement from the Megaship just as the fifteen of them were making their way down the steps into the Command Center. The Red Space Ranger wore a somber expression on his face when his eyes met Tommy. Though they had never fought together outside of the Moon mission, Tommy and Andros embraced each other like old friends.
Having almost lost his sister Karone, Andros fully understood what Tommy was going through better than anyone in the room, probably even Jason. When they broke the hug, Tommy made sure that everyone was seated before addressing the group. He stood tall in the center of the half-circle that they had formed around him, his exterior displaying that of a calm and collected leader though his insides trembled with both fear and curiosity for the fate of Kimberly and their unborn child.
"First off, before we go any further and I tell you what happened, I want to do two things. To start, I want to thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart for coming today. It means more to me than you'll ever know," Tommy started, eyeing his brothers in Red. They remained silent but nodded their heads in confirmation and understanding. "Secondly, I'm going to give you all a choice, just like I did before. I can't make you go with me so if you don't want to fight, now is the time to leave."
"I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm not going anywhere," Cole answered, turning to look at everyone just as Tommy had done before turning his attention to Tommy. "Just like you said before, I'll say it again; I will go wherever I must to protect the Earth."
Tommy sighed. "I appreciate the sentiment Cole, but this time it's not the Earth that's in danger. At least, Andros and I don't think that it is."
"What do you mean, Tommy?" Nick piped up, addressing Tommy for the first time since greeting each other at the door. "Why would you have called us if Earth wasn't in danger."
Tears filled Tommy's eyes before he could reply. No one in the room but Jason and Rocky had ever seen him look so distraught. When the first tear slipped down his cheek, they all realized that whatever was happening was something that rang far deeper with Tommy than just defending the Earth from evil.
With shaking hands, he moved to one of the many computers held in the Command Center and turned one on, bringing up a picture of the original six Rangers in uniform but helmetless. He pointed to the one in pink and felt an intense pain in his heart.
"This woman you see is Kimberly Hart. She was Earth's first Pink Ranger. She's also my fiancée," Tommy explained. Eyes went wide at the notion that something had happened to an inactive Ranger as he used the sleeve of his red hooded sweatshirt to wipe the tears away. He hadn't worn red since the last Red Ranger mission but now that they were all together again, it just felt right to throw on his old color. "Yesterday night right around ten o'clockm Goldar, one of Lord Zedd and Rita Repulsa's generals, kidnapped her in the parking lot of the Angel Grove Mall. I called you all here because…God, I'm going to sound like such a selfish prick…"
Tommy's voice trailed off and Jason took that as an opportunity to speak on the behalf of his brother in everything but blood. He got up from his seat and stood firmly by Tommy's side, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder.
"Kimberly is a huge part of the legacy the original Power Rangers built. She's been in more fights than everyone in this room but Tommy, including myself and Rocky," Jason elaborated. "Like Tommy said, Goldar captured her last night. You're all here because it's going to take all of us to get her back."
"Jason, I don't understand," Hunter interjected, looking to his old teammate Shane for answers that the Red Wind Ranger didn't have. "I thought when Andros destroyed Zordon's energy tube that it wiped out all the evil that existed on Earth."
Andros stood up now and moved to stand next to Tommy on the side opposite of Jason. He too placed a hand on Tommy's shoulder before addressing the group.
"It did. Unfortunately, things don't always work out the way we think they will," Andros started to explain. "When Thrax arrived on Earth, he placed one of Rita's spells on himself. After the Sentinel Knight defeated him, his evil energy rippled throughout the galaxy and the evil inside of Zedd and Rita resurfaced."
"Okay, that explains Zedd and Rita, I guess," Shane replied. "But if that's the case, why didn't this release of evil energy restore the bad guys we," he gestured to the Rangers that came after Zordon's sacrifice "come back too? Shouldn't Lothor and Mesogog and Gruum and Ransik and everyone else be back with them?"
"That's what I thought too. Truthfully, when I heard what happened, I feared my sister would be turned back into Astronema again," Andros answered. He felt selfish for worrying about Karone when Kimberly's life was at stake but when he offered an apology to Tommy, the Red Zeo Ranger would have none of it so he continued to speak. "Apparently, the spell was only designed to resurrect those in his immediate family. Goldar is here strictly by Rita and Zedd's doing, not Thrax's spell."
"So basically what you're saying is that your fiancée has been kidnapped and you want our help in getting her back?" Leo asked. Tommy simply looked at the Red Galaxy Ranger and nodded his head slowly. "Okay, I'm in."
"R-really?" Tommy sputtered, almost in disbelief.
"Definitely. We're Rangers, Tommy. Helping people is what we do," Leo replied. Through tears, Tommy smiled brightly back at Leo who got up from his seat to stand by Tommy. "Besides, I'd like to think that you would all be there to help me if anything were ever to happen to Kendrix."
"That's me, Andros, Tommy, Rocky, and Leo that are in so far," Jason started, directing his gaze to the remaining members of the group. "What about the rest of you? Can we count on you to help, too?"
"Yeah. Count me in," Eric answered, getting up to stand with Tommy as well. He and Leo could have confirmed their involvement from their seats, but standing with Tommy in his time of strife was the ultimate show of support. "I know you'd help if it was Taylor in Kimberly's shoes."
"Absolutely, man. Thank you so much," Tommy murmured, embracing Eric tightly then turning to look at the others. "What about you guys? Conner?"
"Do you even have to ask, Dr. O? You've done more for me than anyone else in my life, even my parents. And like these guys, I know you'd be there if something happened to Kira" Conner answered, hands on his knees as he pushed himself out of his chair and onto his feet. "I couldn't say no to you even if I wanted to. I'll fight. With Triassic Power, those 90's rejects don't stand a chance."
Tommy chuckled and hugged his most prized charge tightly. Though Tommy loved and appreciated all of the Dino Rangers, they had all evolved and matured right in front of his eyes, none had had more of an effect on him than Conner. He had gone from a cocky teenager with no confidence in leading a team of Power Rangers to a mature young adult who carried himself with poise, putting the needs of the world in front of himself and his own dreams and aspirations when all he wanted was to be a normal kid.
In a nutshell, Conner reminded Tommy of himself when he had been a teenaged Power Ranger, struggling with balancing duty and wanting to have a normal life. Both had started out unsure of themselves and both had become not only tremendous leaders and Rangers, but outstanding people as well.
"I'm in too," Wes spoke up, following the others to stand near Tommy. "I don't know what I'd do if it was Jen, but I do know that you would do anything you could to help me get her back. I'm here for you, for Kimberly."
"As am I, Tommy," Aurico added. Aurico's voice sounded less like a Ninja Turtle and more like it had when they first met, as if he was gurgling water while speaking. How that had happened, Tommy wasn't sure but it was unimportant. "Delphine is all that I have ever desired. I take solace in knowing you would aid me should I ever need it."
Tommy nodded and gave both Wes and Aurico quick hugs as, slowly but surely, every Ranger agreed to fight and stood firmly next to Tommy. Each one cited their own significant others as a reason for fighting but truthfully, Tommy heard no explanations, only confirmations.
"Umm, can I ask a question, Tommy?" Bridge queried after everyone had agreed to fight. Tommy looked to the eccentric Red S.P.D. Ranger and nodded his head. "From what I've heard of the first Red Ranger mission, the Machine Empire had a base on the Moon where you guys went to fight. Where exactly are we going?"
"That's a good question, Bridge. Unfortunately, it's one I don't have the answer to," Tommy replied with a deflated shoulder shrug then looked to Andros. "You're the one who found out and you're the one with all the space knowledge. Maybe you should answer that question."
Andros nodded. "Unfortunately, I'm not quite sure either. From the Megaship, I've been able to track the vessel Lord Zedd and Rita are approaching Earth in. I think if we get the Megaship close enough, we should be able to teleport ourselves in but someone would have to stay in the ship to make sure that we can teleport back in."
"I'll do it," Rocky volunteered. "Jason is the real Red Ranger between the two of us. Besides, he's known Kimberly longer than all of us, even Tommy. He should be there for the fight."
"No way, man. I mean, I want to be there but not at your expense," Jason replied, shaking his head back and forth. "You didn't get to fight the first time. I'll stay behind."
Tommy was floored not only by the willingness of everyone to help but by the self-sacrificing nature in which they went about it. Looking between Rocky and Jason, there were no words he could come up with to express his gratitude. Thankfully, he didn't have to.
"No. Neither of you will do it," a new voice came from the top of the stairs. Sixteen heads all turned at once to see Mackenzie "Mack" Hartford, Operation Overdrive's Red Ranger walking towards them. Everyone looked at him in surprise and he laughed lightheartedly. "You guys weren't gonna do this without the newest Red Ranger, were you?"
"Bastard. He stole my late entrance and butchered my lines," Jason muttered under his breath. Tommy couldn't help laughing at that and he playfully slapped Jason on the shoulder. "Bastard," he repeated once more for good measure than shook hands with Mack. "Good to see you, man."
"You too, Jason," Mack replied. He hadn't heard Jason's comment but even if he had, there would have been no issues between them.
"Well look what the cat dragged in," Eric laughed, moving to shake hands with Mack. "If it isn't Pinocchio himself. You didn't bring Geppetto or that stupid talking cat, did you?"
"Pinocchio?" Mack questioned. "I don't get it."
Technically, though Mack looked to be in his late teens or early twenties, he was really just about three Earth years old. It wasn't until his tenure with the Overdrive team was coming to an end that he discovered he wasn't a human being but an android. In the end, he had been turned into a human thanks to the Sentinel Knight and the Corona Aurora but in his few short years on Earth, he hadn't been exposed to the wonders of old Disney cartoons just yet.
"Forget about it, Mack. Just ignore Eric," Wes laughed, offering his hand to Mack. "He's got a cynical side based solely on childhood shortcomings and his need to make himself seem edgy and cool."
"Can it, Collins," Eric interjected, trying to remain serious though he ended up laughing just the same. Mack now turned to address Tommy with a need to help littered across his face.
"I know I don't have the experience that all you have," Mack started, motioning towards the sixteen veterans standing around him "but I'd still like to help. I'll stay on the ship and make sure everyone can get back safely."
Tommy nodded. "Thank you, Mack. I appreciate it. We all do," Tommy answered, moving to direct his attention to the whole group. "I can't thank you all enough for this. Words will never be able to do justice to how grateful I am to have such an amazing group of friends fighting by my side."
It was the first time throughout all of their many meetings together that Tommy had addressed the entire lot of them as "friends" and not just fellow "Rangers." The use of the word "friends" said everything to the sixteen other Red Rangers that Tommy physically couldn't. It was a sign that even though they all hadn't served on the same team, the bond that they all shared was one that ran far deeper than their duties as Rangers.
"Wait," Nick spoke up suddenly. "If we have to have Mack teleport us from Zedd and Rita's ship back to the Megaship, how are we even supposed to get to the Megaship now?"
"With this," Andros replied, reaching into the inner pocket on his jacket. He pulled out a small device that looked like an electronic clicker to lock and unlock a car. After showing it to the other Rangers, he pushed the only button on it.
"What now?" Hunter asked.
"Now," Andros answered "we wait."
"For what?" Wes questioned.
Kimberly heard the clicking sound of fingers snapping and the bars on her cell door were gone, evaporated into thin air. She got up from the cold metal bench, the only thing in the cell besides herself, and thought about making a run for it. A dozen or so Putties followed closely behind by Goldar instantly made her rethink that strategy.
"What do you want with me, Goldar?" Kimberly hissed, staring daggers at Lord Zedd and Rita's longest serving general.
"Only what my emperor and empress desire, little Kimmie. The destruction of that pathetic human you care so much about!" Goldar growled loudly, letting go a maniacal laugh that made Kimberly cringe. "Putties, seize her!"
Her thoughts went to Tommy as the Putties closed the gap between themselves and her, their clay hands going around her body. She felt herself being hoisted high into the air as they started to carry her out of the prison cell.
"Let me go you clay freaks!" Kimberly screeched, trying desperately to break free of their grip on her. She moved her body back and forth but the hold of a dozen Putties was too much even for a former Power Ranger to break. "Come on, Goldar! Why don't you man up and fight me yourself!?"
"Haha, I don't need to fight you, Kimberly! Your death would be pointless now," Goldar roared, following the Putties down the dark hallway. "Lord Zedd and Rita want you alive to see your precious Tommy meet his end!"
"You don't know what you've gotten yourself into, Goldie," Kimberly muttered bitterly. "Tommy's going to come with more firepower than you could ever imagine. You will die today, Goldar."
"You are foolish, human! No one will be able to stop Lord Zedd and Rita now!" Goldar replied. They reached a set of double doors and Goldar called for the Putties to stop. "Would you like to see the place where Tommy is going to die, Kimberly!?"
Images of Tommy dying brutally at the hands of Zedd and Rita flooded her brain as Goldar slowly pushed the doors open. The Putties tossed her in and she landed with a crash on the hard floor.
"See you soon, Kimmie," Goldar laughed, waving goodbye as the Putties slammed the door shut behind her.
After being flung to the ground, Kimberly jumped back on the seat of her pants at the sound of the doors being closed in such an aggressive fashion. Tears filled her eyes as she pulled herself into a standing position.
"You didn't have to slam it, you know!" she yelled, laughing and crying at the same time. "God, I must be losing my mind. I'm going crazy, I know it. Next stop on the Kimberly-Is-Crazy-Train, the loony bin! Now I know what Ozzy Osbourne meant in that song."
A few minutes passed before Kimberly regained enough of her composure to do something of an observational walkthrough of the room Goldar had described as the place Tommy would die. What she found surprised the holy Hell out of her.
Standing together in Tommy's backyard, those who had never seen the Astro Megaship Mark II, once described by Andros as the fastest space ship in the galaxy, marveled at both the size and beauty of the vessel. It really was just like something out of a movie.
"Umm, question again?" Bridge asked, raising his hand this time.
"Go ahead, Bridge," Tommy answered but continued speaking before Bridge could reply. "And don't ask if you can ask a question every time you have a question. Asking if you can ask a question kind of defeats the purpose of having a question in the first place."
"Are you always so long winded, Tommy?" Bridge questioned. Tommy's mouth dropped open as Bridge let out a soft laugh. Oh, the irony. "Just kidding. My question, err, my real question is, aren't the neighbors going to think a big space ship flying into your backyard is just a little bit on the weird side? Not that there's anything wrong with weird. I mean, I'm kinda weird but still…"
Bridge's voice trailed off as Jason smacked himself in the forehead, shaking his head back and forth at the same time. S.P.D.'s third Red Ranger never ceased to surprise him, or any of them for that matter. That much was obvious by the looks of disbelief and confusion on everyone's faces, along with quite a few half-smiles and eye rolls as well.
Under normal circumstances, being around a bunch of younger people like this would make Jason feel old but it was times like these when he was thankful that he had been around the block more than a few times. His experience made him realize that, when it came to how things were done in the Ranger world, answers to questions asked, more often that not, only lead to more questions.
Luckily, Tommy and Andros had much more patience than he did when it came to answering questions from the younger Rangers. Tommy calmly told Bridge that he didn't have any neighbors and Andros explained that the Megaship came with a cloaking device, making it invisible to anyone without a connection to the Morphing Grid. Thank God for those two or Jason might have throttled someone by now!
All throughout their meeting in Tommy's basement, Jason gritted his teeth when the newer Rangers piped up with a seemingly never ending supply of questions. Ninety-nine percent of the time, when something like this happened, someone would eventually explain everything to them. If they didn't, than the question obviously wasn't that important in the first place. At least, that's how Jason saw it.
The only time Jason remembered hearing so many questions was when he, Zack, Billy, Kimberly and Trini had first gotten their powers. He had had a slew of questions for the floating head in a tube he would grow to look at as a second father but he had also trusted Zordon's knowledge that things would be explained when the time came.
These young kids just didn't understand how easily they had it. Well, as easily as it could be for a Power Ranger. Every one of them but him, even Tommy, had someone that came before them that they could get their answers from without verbally asking questions. All that it took was for them to believe in the Power, knowing that it had never, and would never, steer a Ranger in the wrong direction.
"Man I wish Zordon was still here," Jason muttered quietly so that only Tommy and Rocky could hear him. Tommy and Rocky both silently nodded their heads in agreement with him. Zordon had been gone for almost ten years but that didn't mean that his Rangers missed him any less.
At the opposite end of Tommy's backyard, a few Rangers from the newer generations were having a conversation of their own. Shane, Hunter and Nick all stood near a large oak tree, discussing the mission at hand.
"So what do you guys think about all of this?" Shane asked.
Hunter shrugged. "I'm not sure, man. It just seems like too much has to happen perfectly for us to get her back. It's like, even if we get on Zedd's ship, what do we do from there, you know? Do we just barge in and tear the place up or do we go in all stealthy and stuff and try to get her back quietly?"
"I don't know, Hunter," Nick replied, slowly shaking his head. "I don't think Tommy or Andros would ask us to do something they didn't think we could do. It took a lot of guts for Tommy to ask us to help. And after what he's done as a Power Ranger, I really don't want to fail and disappoint him."
"Failing won't disappoint him but not trying will," a fourth voice interjected. Hunter, Nick and Shane all turned around to see Conner standing behind them. "Dr. O doesn't expect perfection. Hell, he doesn't even expect us to do anything other than our best. As long as we do that, than we should have no regrets."
"No regrets," Shane echoed, extending his arm out with a closed fist. "We do this and we do this right, dammit! For Tommy."
"For Tommy," Hunter murmured, touching his fist to Shane's.
"For Tommy," Nick supplied, he too adding his fist to the group.
"No. Not just for Dr. O," Conner continued, the last to join. With the confidence of a supreme leader, he too added his fist, connecting the four of them. "This is for him, for Kimberly and for everyone that ever came before us. Their legacy is why we are all standing here today. This is for them."
When the group of four broke fists and they started to walk back towards the main group, Jason looked at Conner, beaming at the young man with quiet admiration. He didn't need to hear their conversation, he could tell just by observing their movements that Conner had said whatever needed to be said to inject some much needed confidence into the newer generation of Rangers.
Tommy had one hell of a Red Ranger. The kid definitely knows what he's doing, Jason silently mused, watching them until they came to a stop next to Andros and T.J. Then, with somber eyes, he turned to Tommy and laid a hand on his shoulder. "We should probably get going, bro. We wouldn't want to keep our little pink princess waiting, would we? You know how she gets when you're late."
"Jason, if we get her back, I'm never going to be late for anything ever again," Tommy muttered, almost in a whisper. Jason just nodded as Tommy walked towards the boarding ramp of the Megaship and stood tall to address the group. "This is it, guys. This is your last chance to turn around and walk away. Once you get on that ship, you're in it until the end."
Hunter, Nick and Shane were the first three to step forward, surprising not only Tommy but Jason and most of the others as well. Each one walked past him, saying nothing as they walked up the ramp, only pausing momentarily to pat Tommy gently on the shoulder.
After that, each and every Ranger followed the Ninja Storm and Mystic Force Reds up the ramp and onto the ship, offering Tommy the same silent gesture until it was just he, Jason and Rocky left outside. Tommy ran his hand through his hair and took a deep breath.
"You two," Tommy half-chuckled, shaking his head with eyes on the ground. Slowly, he raised his head to look at them. "You two have been there for me through thick and thin. Whatever happens up there, I want you both to know…" he rubbed the back of his neck absentmindedly. "You're my brothers. I love you both."
"Tommy, the only thing that's going to happen is that we're going to go up there, kick the crap out of Zedd and Rita, and get Kimberly back," Rocky supplied with confidence in his friends and the other Rangers.
"Rocky's right, man. We will get her back," Jason added. Tommy nodded his head but it was clear that he was doubtful of their ability to rescue Kimberly and get her back safely. "Tommy, we will save her. There's nothing to it other than that."
"Thank you. I just can't say that enough, guys," Tommy murmured, Jason and Rocky nodding their heads towards him. "It's time, fellas. Let's do this."
As they started to board the Megaship, Tommy felt something burning inside of him, like a fire trying to erupt from his body. For reasons he couldn't explain, he felt stronger than he ever had before, including the times when he got new powers. The moment his feet touched the base of the boarding ramp and he started to walk onto the ship, this new feeling building up inside of him told him that Kimberly was indeed going to make it out of there alive.
Now, it was just a matter of getting there.
With Lord Zedd and Rita's ship growing closer to Earth, the Megaship streaked through space at blazing speeds to intercept it. Instead of sitting in the briefing room like they had done before, the Rangers stood in the control room with Andros, Aurico and T.J. at the controls. Having little to no knowledge of space travel, the others simply congregated throughout the control room with the ones they were closest to.
Tommy, Jason, Rocky and Conner had set up shop in a corner of the room away from everyone else and were talking quietly amongst themselves. Nick, Hunter, and Shane, had found their own corner and had adopted Mack and Bridge into their little circle as well. The Silver Guardians, Wes and Eric, were together, seated at a small table on the main floor leaving Carter, Leo, and Cole on their own.
"DECA!" Andros called out, punching away at a larger-than-life keyboard. "Give us some coordinates! How far away are we from Zedd and Rita's ship!?"
Andros, the current distance between the two ships is approximately fifteen parsecs and closing. Time until the Megaship is within teleportation range is eighteen minutes and forty-seven seconds.
Fifteen parsecs, the equivalent to almost forty-nine light years, was a distance that, in any other space craft, would have taken them exponentially longer to close than the almost-nineteen-minute estimate that DECA had given them. That's why they weren't flying in any other space craft. Andros hadn't been exaggerating when he had said that the Mark II was the fastest space shuttle in the galaxy.
"Alright guys, we're getting close. Let's head down to the briefing room," Andros called out to the group. "DECA, engage autopilot mode. I want a five minute heads-up before we're within range to teleport."
DECA, the Megaship's onboard computer, confirmed Andros' request as the seventeen Red Rangers joined back up to make their way to the briefing room. They walked in silence until they reached the large round table, seven more chairs having been added around it since the last time the group had been there.
While the others took the seats designated to them via their respective team logos, Tommy and Andros stayed standing around the table's perimeter. Andros leaned across the table and gently tapped the center point on a small circle carved into the middle of the table. A hole in the table opened up and a projection of Zedd and Rita's ship came into view.
"This is Zedd and Rita's ship," Tommy explained, most of the group staring in awe at the ship that was bigger than anything they had ever seen before, including the Megaship. "Kimberly's in there somewhere. It's just a matter of where exactly she is."
"I had DECA run some scans on their ship," Andros added. This news came as a surprise to Tommy. "The tests aren't a hundred-percent accurate but DECA detected only one human life force inside. From the most recent scan, it seems as if the life force is coming from the bottommost level of the ship."
"Kimberly," Jason murmured softly, looking to Tommy and Andros who just nodded their heads in quiet confirmation. "So what's the plan here, guys? We can't just go in there with all guns a-blazing like we did on the Moon."
"Why not?" Hunter questioned.
Jason had to bite his tongue for a moment before answering. "The Machine Empire was strong but Zedd and Rita are strong and smart. Even though they didn't always show it, they knew what they were doing every step of the way. We just always managed to stop them."
Tommy nodded. "We have to assume that Zedd and Rita know that at least a few Rangers are coming for Kimberly. There's no way in hell that we can just storm in there and expect to get her, and ourselves, out of there in one piece."
"Well then what are we going to do?" Leo queried.
For the next ten minutes, Tommy and Andros alternated back and forth, explaining their plan to the other Rangers. The plan, intricate in its' own right, was also quiet simple as well.
Since the Megaship had a cloaking device, they could get close enough to teleport onto the other ship without worrying about being spotted before they arrived. The plan was to go in as quietly as possible, obviously, systematically picking off any adversaries that might be there to greet them.
The bulk of the group was going to be dealing with any monsters or foot soldiers that Tommy and Andros were expecting Zedd and Rita to have waiting for them onboard the ship. While they did that, Tommy, Jason, and Rocky were going to go to the lower level of the ship in search of Kimberly and hopefully, at least to Tommy, Zedd and Rita.
Andros, DECA's voice came over the loudspeaker five minutes until the Megaship is within teleportation range.
"Alright guys, this is it. We're almost there," Tommy said with both anxiousness and fear in his voice. "Once we're on the ship, don't hesitate to Morph if you feel the need to, okay? I don't want anyone to take any unnecessary chances with this one."
Looking around the room, Tommy watched as everyone nodded their heads in both agreement and understanding. With that, he took a deep breath and prepared to give his final speech/pep talk to the group.
"We've all been put in this position before. Every single one of us has fought and struggled to save someone that we care about. Today is no different. For every single person who has ever touched the Power, it is because of those who came before us," Tommy started, eyeing his team with pride. They looked both mentally and physically prepared for their looming confrontation. "Kimberly fought hard for two-and-a-half years. Not many Rangers can say that. We owe it to the legacy of the first Power Team to make sure she gets out of there alive."
At this point, quite a few of the Rangers were struggling to keep dry eyes. No one could even look at Tommy in fear of betraying their doubts about the mission. It was hard not to be doubtful at the prospect of invading a space craft with enemies most of them knew nothing or very little about. Tommy sensed their doubt and, though he would have liked to have left his monologue at that, continued to speak.
"Listen guys, regardless of what happens out there, I want you to know something alright? This life we all live, being Rangers, it's not just about fighting monsters and saving the world. It's easy to be confident when you have touched the Power," Tommy continued, looking to each Ranger individually. "It's very, very difficult to keep that confidence when you have to take whatever strange bounces that life throws your way. Don't be careless out there, but don't be too careful either."
"You," he spoke softly, pointing to Jason and addressing him by his whole name then doing the same to Rocky, T.J., Andros and the others until he had made his way through all of them. "All of you. You cannot be afraid to lose! That's how you gain the confidence to fight back when things like this happen. That's how you attack life," he paused, a single tear sliding down his cheek as he dropped his voice to a barely audible whisper. "Even when you think that you don't have any control."
Silently, Jason stood up and extended his fist. All at once, those who weren't already standing did so, following Jason's lead. Tommy and Andros offered their hands to the pile as well as Jason whispered a few departing words that injected enough confidence in the group to last them a lifetime.
"Let's show them what we're made of guys. Let's make them regret the day that they decided to come back and mess with the Power Rangers. Let's give 'em Red Hell."
Sixteen glowing and crackling columns of red light touched down all at once in a dark hallway somewhere on the upper level of Zedd and Rita's space ship. After checking to make sure that everyone had arrived safely, Andros raised his left wrist to his lips and spoke.
"Mack, we're in," he murmured softly.
"Okay. I've got a lock on all your energy readings but…" Mack started then stopped for a moment as he stared at the computer screen on the Megaship. "Tommy's reading is off the charts. Is he okay?"
Andros looked to Tommy who looked surprised but nodded his head nonetheless. "He says he is. Keep an eye on that though, okay?"
"You got it, Andros. Mack out."
"Good kid," Andros muttered to no one in particular.
"Alright guys. Let's go," Tommy spoke in a near whisper. "And remember what I said; not cocky but not too careful. I expect eighteen bodies on that ship when it gets back to Earth. Anything less than that is unacceptable."
With that, the Rangers started their journey through the massive, five-leveled ship to rescue Earth's first Pink Ranger. For the longest time they navigated their way through the hallways in silent search of stairs or an elevator, anything to get them off the top floor but found nothing except empty rooms and more hallways.
"Guys. I'm getting something over here," Mack's voice came through via Andros' communicator. The group came to a stop as Andros raised his wrist towards his mouth once again.
"What is it, Mack?"
"I can't tell for sure but it looks like there's a stairwell through the door at the end of the hallway on your right. Unfortunately, I'm getting a reading saying that there's at least three-hundred of the same or similar energy signatures coming from the other side of the same door."
"Putties," Jason, Rocky and Tommy all muttered in unison.
"Okay, Mack. We'll keep an eye out. Thanks," Andros replied, ending the transmission with Mack and the Megaship.
Tommy raised a finger to his lips to keep everyone quiet as he began to lead them down the hallway towards the door that Mack had just identified. When they reached the door, Tommy held up his hand and everyone stopped where they stood.
"You guys ready?" he asked in a whisper. Fifteen heads all nodded at once. "Okay then. Red Hell it is."
Taking a few steps back, Tommy launched his leg forward into a high snap kick that knocked the door off its hinges, sending it flying towards a cluster of gray-colored figures, taking out several Putties in the process. For the first time ever, Tommy, Jason, and Rocky came face-to-face with both Zedd and Rita's version of the clay foot soldiers.
The sight at hand looked something like the many film depictions of the ancient Greek and Roman battles. With Tommy's battle cry as a signal to converge, sixteen blurs of red and almost three-hundred gray bodies charged at each other, meeting head on in the center of the large, empty room.
Those with special powers like Nick, Shane, Bridge and Conner used those abilities to their advantage while Carter, Wes and Eric all drew weapons; a blaster for Carter and staves for Wes and Eric.
While they did that, the Rangers without added powers or weapons relied on their skills as fighters and martial artists to combat the influx of both Rita's regular Putties and Zedd's enhanced Z-Putties.
The battle within the room waged for nearly twenty minutes with neither side being able to gain any sort of an advantage over the other. Unable to leave his fellow Rangers when they were so heavily outnumbered, Tommy felt the fire residing inside of him, as well as his frustration towards the situation, start to grow. He let out a fierce yell and violently kicked one Putty in the face, ducking the oncoming blow of another and spinning behind it, snapping its neck in the process.
It was a terribly violent maneuver, one that none of the Rangers had ever even given thought to executing before but, apparently, desperate times called for desperate measures. This fight was turning into a no-holds barred free-for-all with Tommy using every ounce of strength in his body to eliminate as many Putties as one man could.
Eventually, the Rangers managed to rid themselves of enough Putties to where Tommy, Jason and Rocky could finally get away to go after Kimberly. It was simply bad luck that Zedd and Rita had other plans for them.
The Putties disappeared in flashes of yellow light and, for a moment, the Rangers thought that they had been granted a reprieve. Unfortunately, this was not the case. The door to the stairwell opened up and Goldar entered the room, leading a group of Zedd and Rita's oldest and strongest monsters.
Shellshock, Knasty Knight, Samurai Fan Man, King Sphinx and a slew of others started towards the Rangers under the leadership of the Titan general. Tommy looked to Jason, Rocky and then down the line, nodding his head to each of the Rangers.
"I think it's that time, guys!" Tommy called out as they backed up towards the way they had come in. Jason nodded in agreement.
"It's Morphin' Time!" Jason yelled, pointing his Power Morpher towards the group of monsters. "Tyrannosaurus!" Tommy nodded approvingly as he morphed. "Mighty Morphin' Red Ranger!"
The others watched on as the original Red Ranger morphed into the familiar spandex, his helmet clicking shut over his head. Rocky stepped up next in a moment Tommy had secretly been anticipating since the second Red Ranger had started attending their meetings. He wanted to see what would happen when Rocky, who shared the same powers as Jason, morphed.
"It's Morphin' Time!" Rocky followed, mimicking Jason's arm movements. "Red Ranger Power!"
As Rocky morphed, Tommy and Jason smiled at the both the similarities and differences between the two uniforms. Where Jason's had three blank, white diamonds across the chest, Rocky's armor had only one diamond in the center of his uniform with an image of the ape emblazoned on it.
"Nice, Rocky. Now it's my turn. It's Morphin' Time!" Tommy yelled, clicking his Zeonizers together. "Zeo Ranger Five, Red!"
"It's Morphin' Time! Red Aquitar Ranger Power!" Aurico added. "Red Alien Ranger!"
"Shift Into Turbo!" T.J. continued, turning an invisible steering wheel then entering his key into the Turbo Morpher. "Red Lightning Turbo Power!"
"Let's Rocket!" Andros called out, entering the 3-3-5 sequence on his Astro Morpher. "Red Space Ranger."
"Go! Galactic!" Leo yelled, basking in the familiar rush of power as he pushed the button on his Transmorpher. "Red Galaxy Ranger!"
"Lightspeed! Rescue!" Carter came next, opening his Rescue Morpher in the process. "Red Lightspeed Ranger!"
"Time For, Time Force!" Wes summoned, bringing his arms across his chest before swinging them to the side of his head, pressing a single key on his Chronomorpher. "Red Time Force Ranger!"
Eric then raised his Quantum Morpher to his lips. "Quantum Power!"
"Wild Access, hiya!" Cole followed, using his Growl Phone to summon his power. "Blazing Lion! Red Wild Force Ranger!"
"Ninja Storm, Ranger Form!" Shane bellowed, spinning the Power Disc on his Wind Morpher. "Power of Air! Red Wind Ranger!"
"Thunder Storm, Ranger Form!" Hunter continued, pushing the button on his Thunder Morpher to spin his own Power Disc. "Power of Thunder! Crimson Thunder Ranger!"
"Dino Thunder, Power Up! Ha!" Conner opened the Tyrannosaurus Dino Plate on his Dino Morpher. "Tyranno Power! Red Dino Thunder Ranger!"
"S.P. D., Emergency!" Bridge shouted, thrusting out and flipping open his Delta Morpher at the same time as he morphed. "S.P.D. Red Ranger!"
"Magical Source, Mystic Force!" Nick finished after entering the proper sequence on his Mystic Morpher and pointing it towards the sky. "Fearsome as fire! Red Mystic Ranger!"
The group of old monsters took a few precautionary steps backwards as the room began to glow brightly in various shades of red. Individual weapons drawn, Tommy nodded to his teammates and they went full speed towards the monsters.
Zeo and Power Swords in hand, Tommy, Rocky, and Jason went to work on fighting a trio of monsters, specifically those who had given them particular trouble in the past. Rocky went after Pachinko Head while Tommy and Jason took on Goldar and King Sphinx respectively.
Wes and Eric had taken to teaming up against Shellshock, narrowly avoiding a flurry of blasts coming from the columned stoplight on top of the oversized snapping turtle's head. With Wes using his Chrono Saber to deflect more of Shellshock's energy projectiles, after rolling out of a somersault Eric withdrew his Quantum Defender from its holster, firing a single shot to Shellshock's chest that sent the monster reeling.
"Nice shot, Eric," Wes called out.
"I know it was," Eric fired back, smiling under his helmet. Wes just rolled his eyes as they continued to go after Shellshock.
Across the room, Carter had summoned his V-Lancer, using the spear-like staff to parry attack after attack from the Knasty Knight's sword. Carter dropped to a knee, using his weapon to sweep at the Knasty Knight's legs, knocking him to the ground.
While this was happening, T.J. with his Turbo Lightning Sword and Andros brandishing his Spiral Saber were fighting monsters of their own. T.J. was taking on Samurai Fan Man and Andros was busy combating Grumble Bee.
With his Magna Talon, Leo took swing after powerful swing at Eye Guy dismembering a chunk of eyeballs from the monster's clustered exterior. Having flipped backwards to avoid a blast, Leo dove towards Eye Guy and slashed again, sparks flying as the creature went stumbling into a wall.
Cole, holding onto his Red Lion Fang, was in pursuit of the Pumpkin Rapper who was skipping around the room, avoiding Cole's attacks while taunting the Red Wild Force Ranger with its incessant need to rhyme whenever it spoke. Growing frustrated, Cole launched into a flurry of attacks that were simply too powerful for the Pumpkin Rapper to avoid.
"I hate rap," Cole grumbled as the monster fell to the floor.
Flapping its wings, Polluticorn sent the Red Dino and Red Wind Rangers flying into a wall. After pushing themselves onto their feet, spinning his Tyranno Staff high above his head, Conner created a heavy gust that Shane added to with his ability to control the air, giving Polluticorn a taste of its own medicine.
Energy beams erupted from the barrels of Bridge's Delta Blasters, sparks erupting from Stag Beetle's chest as the monster collapsed in a heap. Thinking Stag Beetle was done, Bridge turned to aid Nick and Hunter against Cannontop only to be caught by the beetle's pincers.
Bridge writhed in pain as electrical shocks charged their way through the pincers and into his body. It took an intense and powerful swing from Conner's Tyranno Staff to get Stag Beetle to release Bridge from his captivity.
"Thanks, Conner," Bridge muttered, slow to stand and tightly gripping at his side from where the Stag Beetle's charges had electrocuted him. If not for the protection offered by the Power, Bridge would have been, ironically, toast.
"Don't mention it, man," Conner replied, laying a hand on Bridge's shoulder. "You gonna be okay?"
"Yeah. I'll make it."
Conner nodded his head and then left Bridge with the stumbling and shaking Stag Beetle to return his attention to helping Shane with Polluticorn.
Cannontop fired a stunning blast that connected with Nick's chest, sending the Red Mystic Ranger flying across the room. Pulling his Thunder Staff from its sheath behind his back, Hunter swung it in uppercut fashion, connecting with Cannontop's chin.
As Nick got back onto his feet, the monsters and Goldar began to regroup at the far end of the room. Tommy called for the Rangers to do the same and they did, converging opposite Goldar and his team but, at the same time, Tommy also noticed an opening to the stairwell, an opening to get Kimberly.
More than anything, he wanted to take that opening, to throw caution to the wind and go straight for the woman he loved more than anything in the world but he had a duty to his fellow Rangers as well. He had reached the proverbial crossroads; stay and fight like he knew he should or leave and try to save his fiancée. It was a choice that he wanted no part in having to make. Thankfully for him, he didn't have to do anything.
"Tommy, take Jason and Rocky and get out of here," Andros whispered. "We can handle Goldar and the goons."
"A-are you sure?" Tommy asked hesitantly.
"Positive," Andros replied. Tommy nodded his head which Andros reciprocated and they gripped hands tightly. "Go now while you still have an opening." Tommy started to move towards Rocky and Jason but Andros stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. He turned around to look at his Kerovian friend. "Remember, anything less than eighteen is unacceptable."
Underneath his helmet, Tommy smiled at Andros and nodded one last time before rounding up Jason and Rocky. On Andros' command, the Rangers charged Goldar and the monsters once more while Tommy, Jason and Rocky made a mad dash for the door.
Goldar saw this and began to run towards them in an attempt to cut the trio off only to be met with Andros' Spiral Saber and Leo's Magna Talon slashing across his chest. Tommy breathed a deep sigh of relief as they hit the stairs, heading for the lower level and, hopefully, Kimberly.
With all the years of experience that existed between the trio, they should have known that it wouldn't be as easy as just bursting into a room, grabbing Kimberly and teleporting out. The adrenaline Tommy was running on clouded his vision and he wasn't thinking when they went plowing through the double doors.
Now, two of Tommy's best friends were laid out on the ground under individual barred cells that had fallen from the ceiling the moment that they entered the room. The cells had no lock, no door and therefore no visible way for Tommy to release them from their imprisonment.
Jason and Rocky had both instinctively grabbed at the bars upon being captured and were met with electrical currents that flung them backwards into the other end of the cell, zapping them for a second time, de-morphing and knocking them both out in the process. They were, at least until Tommy could find a way to free them, stuck.
To make matters worse, Kimberly was nowhere in sight. And if that wasn't bad enough, there was a crucifix laying on the floor in the center of the room painted in white, green, red and black. Obviously, it wasn't intended for Kimberly.
"Just hang tight, guys," Tommy murmured, ripping his eyes from the crucifix to address his imprisoned and unconscious friends. "I'm gonna find a way to get you guys out of here. I promise."
"Is that so? And just what is it that the great Tommy Oliver plans to do to save his friends from their death?" a familiarly evil male voice echoed throughout the room.
Tommy spun around on his heels to see Lord Zedd and Rita walking out of the shadows towards him, Zedd dragging a bound and gagged Kimberly across the floor. Her arms were cut up from being thrown to the floor by Goldar earlier and when he saw that Kimberly was hurt, he immediately felt fear not just for her but for the new life that was now growing inside of her as well.
"Kimberly!" Tommy yelled, running towards her.
Rita let out an evil cackle and pointed her staff right at Tommy, blasting him in the chest with pulse after pulse of evil energy. He dropped to the floor as Kimberly tired to let out a scream that was muffled by the gag in her mouth.
"Idiotic human!" Zedd spat, leaving Kimberly with Rita to approach him. Zedd stood over the top of Tommy's collapsed body and aimed his own staff at Tommy's helmet-covered head. "What do you have to say for yourself now!? After years of you interfering with my plans, there will be no more interference. It's time to say goodbye, Tommy."
Kimberly winced as Zedd let out a blast of red energy from his staff, exhaling with relief when it did no damage. The beam had simply bound Tommy with an energy rope that flashed deep shades of crimson, Zedd's signature color. Zedd turned to look at his wife, saw the look of surprise on Kimberly's face and let loose a maniacal laugh.
"What's the matter, Kimmie? Did you really think I was going to kill him so soon?" Zedd roared, tiny flickers of lightning crackling at his silver-tipped fingers. "No, no. First I'm going to make him watch the death of his friends. Then I'm going to make him watch your death. Only then will I show mercy and end his suffering."
Reaching out towards Tommy's head, Zedd unclipped Tommy's helmet and yanked it off, tossing it across the floor. He grabbed what little hair Tommy had and jerked his head up, forcing him to look at a small glass ball that he was holding.
Tommy stared at the sight with horror on his face. The Rangers were still fighting on the top floor but now Goldar and the monsters had the upper hand. Even with their Battlizers activated, and Bridge and Nick in S.W.A.T. and Legend Modes, they were no match for the group of monsters that was consistently growing in numbers.
And the fire inside Tommy began to burn once again.
"Look at them with their pathetic Battlizers. They don't stand a chance," Zedd laughed. "Just think, Tommy. If you had a Battlizer of your own, you might be able to put up a decent fight. Instead, you're just going to die."
"Stupid son of a bitch," Tommy muttered, spitting at Zedd's feet. He jerked his head from Zedd's grip and looked him right in the eyes. "I don't need a Battlizer. I AM A BATTLIZER!"
His voice erupted throughout the room with such a powerful force that parts of the walls and ceiling actually started to crack at the mere sound of it. Still bound by Zedd's energy rope, he dove forward and connected with a headbutt to Zedd's midsection that sent the evil emperor staggering backwards.
Rolling onto his back, Tommy launched himself into a Kip-up, landing on his feet. He pushed his arms and shoulders outwards, the ropes that bound him immediately snapping without any significant physical exertion on his part.
"You're gonna die, Zedd. You're gonna die and I'm gonna enjoy every minute of it," Tommy laughed evilly, his eyes flashing green then white then red and finally black. Both Zedd and Rita fired blasts at him but he deflected them with his forearm as if they were nothing. "It's my time. I call upon the Power of all those combined!"
"Dragonzord!" Tommy bellowed, the room starting to glow with green tinting. "Tigerzord!" he yelled, the background color changing from green to white. "Red Zeo Ranger!" he continued, the room going red now. "Black Brachio!" he finished.
There was a loud explosion, and then the room went completely dark.
For what seemed like an eternity, the only sound in the room was Tommy's evil laugh, a laugh that Kimberly had hated for so long but had never been so happy to hear in all her life than at that very moment. When the lights came back on, Tommy was standing there fully morphed in a uniform that no one had ever seen before.
The explosion that had occurred upon Tommy's morph had completely obliterated the cells imprisoning Jason and Rocky. They were slow to regain consciousness but when they did, they could barely believe what they saw.
"Holy shit," Jason muttered.
"Oh my God," Rocky added, wiping at his eyes. "Is that Tommy?"
"Yeah," Jason breathed. "At least, I think it is."
The bulk of the suit was that of the ones first worn by the original Power Team. His helmet visor retained the traditional look from when he had controlled the Dragonzord but that was where the comparisons stopped. Red was now his uniform's color and the shield that covered the upper half of his body was the one he had worn as the White Ranger, only the Japanese kanji at the center had been replaced by the Dino Thunder team's logo.
With Saba in one hand and his Brachio Staff in the other, Tommy charged at Zedd and Rita as Rita tossed Kimberly to the side so that she could defend herself. In the process, Kimberly's head connected with the hard floor and she blacked out but not before seeing Rita swing at Tommy with her staff which Tommy easily deflected then spun back around to deliver a kick to Zedd's chest after the block.
He dropped to his knees and punched Rita right in the stomach, knocking her down and then attacked Zedd with a swing from Saba. Blood started to pour from the wound in Zedd's shoulder, steaming when it trickled to the ground.
"Jason! Rocky!" Tommy yelled, only briefly looking back at them. "Get Kimberly out of here, now!"
"No way, man!" Jason shouted back. "We're stay-"
"NO!" Tommy bellowed, his attention now back to Zedd and Rita who were on their feet again. He dropped them both with snap kicks and then looked towards Jason. "I said get her out of here! Get the others and get back to the Megaship! Now! I can handle this from here!"
Jason wanted to argue but Tommy was right. It was obvious that he could hold his own against both Zedd and Rita, especially with the added power that had seemingly come from out of nowhere.
With Tommy keeping Zedd and Rita busy, Jason ran to Kimberly and lifted her off the ground, hoisting her over his shoulder. Giving Tommy a fleeting glance, Jason and Rocky ran out of the room the same way that they had come in.
Tommy swung high with his Brachio Staff, connecting with a blow to the side of Rita's head that, in a move of pure gore the likes of which Tommy hadn't ever seen, completely severed her head from her neck. She went down with a thud, never to get back up again.
Zedd erupted with anger, firing blasts at Tommy which he continued to deflect without any real effort. He didn't know how he was doing the things he was doing. It was like his body had gone into autopilot under control of the Power.
"Look at you," Tommy whispered, kicking Zedd in the chest. Zedd went down and Tommy stood tall over him. He drove Saba right into Zedd's other shoulder, drawing more blood. "You bleed just like a human and now, you're going to die just like a human."
In all his years as a Power Ranger, never had Tommy, or any other Ranger for that matter, referred to the impending demise of a monster or villain as death. The evil that they fought had always been "eliminated" or "destroyed" but never killed.
This wasn't like other battles, though. Tommy wasn't a teenager anymore. He knew exactly what would happen if he gave Zedd a chance to recuperate and it wasn't a prospect that he wanted to deal with.
Tommy tossed his Brachio Staff aside, sending it skittering across the floor. Then, he raised Saba high above his head with both hands, and prepared to drive it through Zedd's heart, if he even had one.
"Never!" Zedd hissed, elevating his own staff and plunging it into Tommy's stomach, impaling him on the tip of the "Z."
Screaming in agony from the wound, the evil energy from Zedd's staff coursed through Tommy's body as it began to shake violently. Somehow, as blood started to seep through the wound in his stomach, Tommy managed to use the last of his energy to sink Saba right into Zedd's chest.
Saba stood straight up in Zedd's breast as the body of one of the Power Ranger's oldest adversaries started to convulse on the ground. Falling to the floor, Tommy gripped his midsection and slowly felt his whole world start to go black.
"Goodbye, Kimberly. I love you," he whispered, closing his eyes for the last time.
A blinding flash of white light erupted throughout the entire ship just as fifteen columns of red and one of pink flew through the darkness of space, heading towards the safety of the Megaship.
All across the universe, humans and aliens alike, everyone whose life Tommy had touched, and those who knew him only by his legacy and reputation, wept for the loss of the greatest Power Ranger that had ever lived.
As Zedd and Rita's ship began to implode, a new voice spoke.
Soothing in its own right, the voice offered a comforting feeling to Tommy that he had not experienced before.
"TOMMY!" Jason yelled, watching as the ship they had so narrowly escaped blew up.
Tears filled his eyes as he collapsed onto the floor. Curling himself into a tight ball, he began to openly weep in front of the other Rangers, disregarding whatever chauvinistic inhibitions he may have had at the time.
His best friend-No, his brother, was gone. Just like that, after years of fighting and surviving whatever hardships life had thrown his way, Tommy was dead.
Sixteen heads, all but Jason's, remained bowed in silent mourning for their fallen friend and leader. Kimberly was still unconscious, now resting on a bed in the medical wing. They were all dreading the moment that she woke up. No one knew if they would have the emotional and physical strength to deliver the news when she came out of her unconscious state.
"I shouldn't have left. I should have stayed and helped him," Jason sobbed, hugging himself tightly around his midsection. "It's all my fault. I could have helped him. He'd be here with us if I hadn't listened to him."
"No, Jason. He wouldn't. You'd be right there with him."
Shane spoke softly, his words not intended to be harsh. Jason simply mistook them as such and lashed out at the Red Wind Ranger with a fiery burst of uncontrollable emotions.
"Go to Hell, you bastard!" Jason growled. It took the combined strength of Wes, Andros, Eric, Carter and Leo to prevent him from ripping Shane limb from limb. "My brother just died out there and you have the audacity to speak to me like that!? Who the hell do you think you are!?"
"Jason, I didn't-" Shane started, only to be interrupted.
Everything suddenly stopped and sixteen heads whipped around to see Kimberly standing at the entrance to the briefing room, rubbing the back of her head gingerly. She did a quick head count, saw that Tommy wasn't there and fell to her knees.
"Oh god. Kimberly," Jason whispered. Those restraining him let go as he rushed to his little sister's side. He too went to his knees and pulled Kimberly into a bone crushing hug, allowing her to cry into his shoulders. "Kimberly, I'm so sorry."
"No! I don't believe it!" she cried out, pulling back to beat her fists against Jason's chest. He just stayed in the same position, allowing Kimberly to take out all her emotions on him. After all, in his mind it was his fault that Tommy wasn't there with them. "Say it's not true, Jason! Say it's not true!"
"I'm sorry, Kim. Tommy didn't make it," Jason whispered as her fists dropped and she fell forward against him.
He held onto her closely, refusing to let her go. Her face was now buried against the chest she had just used for a punching bag. For what seemed like hours, the two most important people in Tommy's life stayed on the floor, seeking comfort in the embrace of one another.
Only when the sobs subsided did Jason let go of his hold on her, standing up and helping her onto her feet. Wiping the tears from her eyes and off of her face, she looked to Jason, her eyes pleading for answers that he didn't have.
"Tommy was a great man, Kimberly. The best I've ever met," Andros muttered, fighting back tears of his own. Even though he and Kimberly had never actually met before, he felt no hesitation in speaking to her about Tommy. "He died making sure we all got to live. He made the ultimate sacrifice for us. I know it doesn't make things any easier to deal with, but Tommy died a hero."
"He loved you more than anything in the world, Kimberly," Eric added, laying a soft hand on her shoulder. "He brought us all together from different corners of Earth and space because he loved you. I'm honored that I got to fight by his side."
"I barely knew the man. But I know there's no one I would have rather fought side-by-side with than him," Nick spoke softly, replacing Eric's hand with his own. "Words will never do justice for the respect I have for him."
"Dr. O did more for me than words can say. Whenever I felt down, like my wings had been clipped, he was there to pull me up and help me fly again," Conner murmured, giving Kimberly a warm hug. "I loved him like a father but the love I felt for him is nothing compared to what he felt for you."
Continuing the pattern, each Ranger offered up some kind words to say about Tommy. She cried the whole time, nodding whenever one of them spoke to her but not really hearing what they were saying.
The rest of the flight back to Earth took less than an hour to complete but it felt like it had been days when the Megaship finally touched down in Tommy's backyard. Kimberly fled into the inner sanctum of Tommy's house as soon as the boarding ramp hit the ground.
Slow to exit, the sixteen Rangers stood solemnly in the backyard, staring at each other as if no one knew exactly what they were supposed to do now. It was Jason who took it upon himself to invite them inside, knowing that Tommy would have wanted them to celebrate his life, not mourn his death.
As they all made their way into Tommy's house, Jason heard the piercing cry of a falcon and looked to the sky to see one soaring gracefully overhead. He smiled up at his best friend and brother, gently closing the door behind him.
Tommy lay facedown on a floor that was surprisingly comfortable in a place that he had never seen before. His eyes made no movements to open but he could instinctively sense that he was not alone. There was someone, or something there, he just didn't know what it was. Nor did he have any real desire to find out.
It could have been a long time, or not long at all when his eyes finally opened. The last thing he could remember after being impaled on Lord Zedd's staff was using his final breath to tell Kimberly that he loved her.
He was so sure that he was dead. He had felt Zedd's staff go through him, had felt all the life drain out of his body. Yet, here he was, laying on the floor, no longer wearing the uniform of all his combined powers.
Where that had come from, he still did not know. It had just happened, unbelievable as that may be. One as experienced as he did not ask questions when it came to the way the Power injected itself into one's life.
Tommy was not a religious man but faith was something he had a lot of: faith in himself, faith in his friends, faith in the Power. He trusted the Power to guide him when he needed it to do so, to help him when he needed aid, to grant him strength when he felt weak and to give him guidance when he was lost.
The Power wasn't something that could be explained. You either embraced it or you didn't. Tommy had tried to disregard the Power quite a few times as a teenager but his life never felt more complete than when he was in touch with it.
"The Power does many amazing things, my friend," the same voice from earlier spoke.
Tommy struggled with the invisible weight on his neck to raise his eyes and meet those of whoever it was that had just spoken to him. When he saw a tall figure with floor-length blonde air and calm blue eyes walking towards him, body covered in a flowing white cloak, he had to rub his eyes to make sure that he wasn't seeing things.
"Z-Zordon?" Tommy stammered. "Is that you?"
"Indeed it is," Zordon replied, offering his hand to help Tommy off the ground.
"Where are we?" Tommy asked.
"We are in the place where all those who have touched the Power go in passing," Zordon answered. Everything around them was white. There were no walls or ceilings, just pure whiteness. "Welcome to the Morphing Grid, Tommy."
"The Morphing Grid? In passing? Does that mean that-does that mean that I'm…you know, dead? Am I dead, Zordon?"
"Do you feel dead?"
"I-I don't think so but I don't really know what being dead is supposed to feel like. I feel alive though. More alive than I've ever felt before. It's like this amazing feeling like no evil can ever touch me again."
"In the Morphing Grid, Tommy, no evil exists, only goodness. This place is filled with all the souls and memories of those who came before us; those who, like you, myself, and the other Rangers, are pure of heart."
"So this is like Heaven then?"
"Essentially, yes. But not really," Zordon chuckled as he and Tommy walked along with no real destination awaiting them. "Traditionally speaking, anyone who believes in God can get into Heaven but one cannot gain entrance into the Morphing Grid without being completely pure of heart."
"So I'm dead then?"
"Do you want to be dead?"
"I want you to be Zordon and not Dimitria. That's what I really want."
Zordon covered his mouth with his hand and pushed back a small laugh. "In that case, Tommy, you are not dead. But in that essence you are not necessarily alive either. In the Morphing Grid, there is no life or death. Only existence."
A short while later their walk came to a stop in front of six statues made of solid gold. Each of the statues depicted one of the six original Power Rangers in morphed form. Tommy had to chuckle at how the Pink Ranger stood to the left of the Green Ranger and the Red Ranger stood to his right.
It seemed fitting at that moment that he had his best friend and the woman he would always love by his side. Even though he couldn't physically reach out to them, touch them or speak to them, he knew that they would always be there for him and he for them.
"May I ask you a personal question, Tommy?" Zordon queried, breaking their momentary silence.
"Yeah, sure," Tommy answered, nodding to his mentor.
"What is it that you desire most? What is the one thing that you want above all else? If a magical genie were to appear at this very moment and grant you only one wish, what is it that you would wish for?"
"Kimber-" Tommy started, then hesitated. Zordon smiled at him knowingly as Tommy gave deeper thought to the question. "I would say Kimberly but then I'd only have her. I wouldn't have the child I helped create with her. I wouldn't have Jason or any of the others. I wouldn't have my family. If all I had was Kimberly, I wouldn't have my life."
"You are so very wise. You never cease to amaze me and make me proud, my friend," Zordon murmured, beaming at Tommy. "What if I told you that you could have your life back but at a cost? Would you take me up on that offer, Tommy?"
"I-I don't really know. I guess it would depend on what the cost was. I'd rather stay here than risk hurting someone else or disrupting someone's life. Why do you ask?"
"I see that you have not forgotten the virtues I tried to instill in you all when you were teenagers. You still think for the greater good instead of only yourself. You are wise beyond your years, my young friend," Zordon answered. "I ask this of you, Tommy, because I can give you your life back."
"What? How?" Tommy sputtered in disbelief. Had he heard Zordon right? Did his mentor really just say that he could have his life back? "What are you talking about, Zordon?"
"As I said, I can give you your life back…at a cost."
"The life of your unborn child."
Tommy's eyes went wide. Now he really wasn't sure if he had heard Zordon correctly. Never in his wildest dreams could Tommy imagine Zordon giving him such an ultimatum as to choose his own life or that of his child.
"No! No way!" Tommy replied sternly and without hesitation, shaking his head back and forth vehemently. "I've destroyed a lot of bad guys in my life but I could never take the life of someone as innocent as an unborn baby. And to be honest, I can't believe you would even try to make me make that choice."
Zordon looked at Tommy with nothing in his eyes but the utmost pride and respect for the man which only helped to further fuel the confusion Tommy was experiencing.
"Tommy, I couldn't have made you make any choice that you did not want to make. Once again, you were faced with a decision; your own life or someone else's. As I hoped you would, as you have done so many times in the past, you have placed the life of someone you do not even know above your own. One day Tommy, when you and the other Rangers have completed the lives that you were destined to live, we will see each other again. Until then, I want you to enjoy your life with Kimberly and your baby. Goodbye, my friend."
Looking up at the house on 1992 Valencia Road in Reefside, California, a man stood on the gravel driveway with a smile on his face and looked down on his wristwatch. According to the device, it was 11:07 p.m. on December 31, 2007, fifty-three minutes before it officially became the new year.
The silver Dodge Charger parked next to a black Jeep in the driveway let him know that somebody was home. With a smile on his face, he walked up to the front door and tested the handle. He was pleasantly surprised to find it unlocked so he let himself in.
Inside the house, Kimberly was asleep in Tommy's bed, curled under the covers and clinging desperately to the old stuffed dragon she had found in Tommy's closet. The dragon was a gift from her to him on his sixteenth birthday, right before he lost his Green Ranger Powers permanently. The fact that he still had it after all these years only made his death that much harder to cope with.
It had been two whole days since Tommy had died on Lord Zedd and Rita's ship but it still hadn't fully sunk in for her yet. She had gone to wearing Tommy's clothes just so she could feel him even if only by the lingering scent that clung to the items.
The old and oversized Angel Grove Lions t-shirt hung well past her knees. She had to roll up the hem on his pajama bottoms a dozen times just so she didn't step on them when she walked. His socks were far too big for her tiny feet but she didn't care. They were Tommy's things and that was all that mattered to her.
With him no longer there, aside from years of wonderful memories that would never leave her, his personal items were all that she had to remember him by. Things had been so hectic since getting back to Earth that she hadn't even thought of what would happen to his house when word got out that he had passed away. The basement held things that could destroy the lives of countless people who had served as Power Rangers.
It was rather ironic that the basement was the first place that the intruder had gone to. He spent nearly half-an-hour on the computers inputting new pieces of data pertinent to Power Ranger history.
When he had finished with that he went back upstairs into the kitchen, made himself a roast beef sandwich with all the trimmings and poured a tall glass of iced tea from the pitcher in the refrigerator as if the house he was in was his own.
He quickly tore through the sandwich and downed the glass of tea in a fashion that would have made even Rocky blush. Ignoring the crumbs he had left all over the linoleum floor and kitchen counter, he finished what was left of his iced tea and let out a loud belch before heading for the stairs.
Instinctively, he went to the master bedroom and quietly pushed the door open. Seeing the hump of petite brunette lying in the king sized bed brought a huge smile to his face. She looked so peaceful in her slumber that he almost regretted having to wake her up.
Giving his watch one last look, he realized that he only had five minutes before the year 2007 came to a close and the calendar turned to 2008. His steps to the side of the bed were quiet so as not to wake her before he intended to.
Looming over her, he lowered himself to one knee and placed a tender kiss on Kimberly's forehead. She stirred a bit but didn't wake up so he did it again to the same result. He thought about just pushing her shoulder to wake her but that wasn't exactly the romantic greeting that he was going for.
He put his thumb under her chin and kissed her again with a little more passion than before, this time on the lips. Her eyes started to flutter and, giving her one more kiss, took that as his cue to officially announce his presence.
"Happy New Year, Beautiful," he whispered into her ear after pulling back a few loose strands of hair.
"Mmm. Happy New Year, Tommy," she murmured, her eyes not fully open just yet. After saying his name though, they went wide with surprise. "TOMMY!" she screamed, bolting upright in the bed. She stared at him as if she had just seen a ghost. "I must be dreaming. Is it really you?"
"Haha, in the flesh princess," Tommy replied as Kim's eyes filled with tears and she threw her arms around his neck, holding onto him for dear life. "You have no idea how much I missed you, Beautiful."
"Not nearly as much as I missed you. Oh God, Tommy," Kim cried into his shoulder. "I was so scared that I had lost you. I thought you were gone for good."
"Yeah, right. And leave you all alone to raise our baby?" Tommy asked, his voice dripping with sarcasm. He had a smile on his face and a visible twinkle in his eyes. "I know I'm forgetful but I'd like to think that you know me a little bit better than that."
"Oh, you," Kimberly blushed. She pulled back out of the embrace just enough to cup his cheeks and kiss him. "But how are you here? Jason said you were still on the ship when it exploded. No one could have survived that."
"Let's just say I went on a little trip to a strange place with an old friend," Tommy answered. He wasn't planning to elaborate, at least not at that moment but Kim's face looked too confused for him not to. "When Zedd stabbed me with his staff, I thought I had died too. My world went black and the last thing I remember was saying that I loved you," he explained as Kimberly bit back more tears. Even though Tommy hadn't really died, knowing that she was the last thing on his mind before he kinda-sorta-died made her feel rather emotional. "Anyway, I woke up in this weird place. It was all white and Zordon was there."
"Zordon?" Kimberly interrupted. Tommy merely smiled at her and nodded his head.
"We went for a little walk and he told me that we were in the Morphing Grid and that it was the place where all people who had been touched by the Power went to when they passed on."
"That's what I thought at first, too. I don't really remember all the specifics of what Zordon told me but it's kinda the same but still different in its own way. After that, he told me he could give me my life back but that it had to come at a cost."
"A cost?" Kimberly asked hesitantly. "What cost."
Tommy winced. He really didn't want to go that far into his explanation but he knew that, at the very least, he owed it to Kimberly to tell her the truth. The whole truth.
"He said…he said I'd have to give up our baby," Tommy muttered, wincing at the scared and surprised look on Kimberly's face. But before she had a chance to ask a bunch of questions and potentially get angry with him, he continued to tell the story. "I told him no. I told him that there was no way I could take an innocent life just to live my own. He said that because of that, because of my willingness to let someone live their life at the cost of mine, that he would see us all again when we had finished the lives that we were all destined to live. Apparently, it wasn't my destiny to die yet."
"So, our baby…it's not…I mean, I'm still…" Kimberly whispered, her hands resting on her stomach. "I'm still pregnant?"
"As far as I know, Beautiful," Tommy replied, gently stroking her cheek with the back of his hand. "But you did take a couple nasty falls on that ship. You should probably make an appointment with your obstetrician just to be on the safe side, though."
Kimberly nodded. "I will. First thing tomorrow morning I'll call Dr. Matthews and make an appointment. But for now," Kimberly started. She grabbed him by the shirt collar and yanked him towards her, their lips meeting in a crushing kiss. "I want to celebrate the New Year and all the miracles in my life with the man that I love."
She winked at Tommy and kissed him over and over again until both of them were sitting there on the bed completely breathless. Wearing a huge smile on his face, he started to kiss his way down her neck.
"Mmm. I think I'd like that very much."
Hot damn this thing took me forever to write. I really wanted to get this up before it officially became 2008 but proofreading 46 pages takes a whole hell of a lot of time. Hopefully it wasn't too long. I thought about dividing this up into two chapters because I didn't want anyone to lose interest midway through, but whatever. LOL. Anyways, I think 46 pages is worthy of a review or two. What do you think? Haha. So click that little button to leave one, okay? Thanks! Talk to you soon.