Semper Fi

Disclaimer: Power Rangers does not belong to me, the use of the characters, and original ideas all belong to Saban and there respective partners. The plot and substories for this belong to both of the authors.

Summary: Intent on capturing all of the Rangers, an old evil has returned and Jason and Kim must face their own nightmares as they race to protect the plant one last time…

Chapter Nine: Contentions and Obligations

Written By: Chrisangelo and Jade-Max

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When morning broke ten hours later, Kimberly was still sitting on the edge of the plateau, watching the sun rise. Behind her, Tommy was curled in a blanket they'd found, Katherine and Jason having migrated towards one another in their sleep and cocooned together like peas in a pod under another pair of blankets. A fourth blanket - unused and untouched - sat apart from where they slept and was a clear indication of where Kimberly had spent her night.

Using her time wisely, she considered everything Kat had told her about the alternate reality and its Jason. Guilt gnawed at her by the time the sky began to light up with the glorious rays from the sun; she wondered if she was selfish in keeping Jason beside her. Yes, she needed him - of everyone on the planet she trusted him alone - but Kat needed him too. Katherine, who'd searched for ten years for the man she loved like no other.

The thought was as humbling as it was guilty. The Katherine Kimberly remembered from her own reality would never have considered going to those lengths for Jason. And with that thought, brought about another more disturbing one; what had happened to this reality's Katherine?

A sudden crunch of gravel behind her was the only warning she was no longer alone.

"Feeling better?"

Her muscles had tensed with the intrusion, but slowly began to relax with the sound of his voice. "Should I be?"

Jason shrugged, easing into a crouch beside her. "You got quite a bit off your chest last night, I figure it might have helped."

"Nothing helps, Jase." She'd meant the words to come out bitter, but instead they were resigned. "Not even tearing strips off Tommy."

"Not even a little?" Wheedling carefully, he nudged her shoulder gently. "Not even a little, tiny, itty bitty bit?

A half smile tugged at her lips with Jason's childish remark and tone. "Alright, maybe a smidgen - telling him off after all these years felt good. Real good."

"But?"

Stubbornly, Kimberly refused to respond to the gentle prompt and continued to stare into the sunrise. Despite how good it had felt to grasp that tiny bit of control, it had hurt too. Hurting Tommy wasn't an easy thing to do and while she didn't look forward to it, winning against him was like an addiction. She'd had a taste and she already craved more, and it made her wonder if she was no better than Zedd because of it. The addiction to inflict hurt and pain onto someone else, especially someone so close to her, had she learned that from Zedd?

A shudder ripped through her torso and Jason's arm slid about her shoulders. "Guess I shouldn't have asked, huh??

"When does that ever stop you?" Slanting a look at him, she nodded back to the camp. "You two were awful cozy."

"Instinct," but Jason couldn't meet her gaze. The new surroundings which included Katherine made the guilt continue to rush over him. For as long as he could remember, it had been just Kim and him; and for him to have found another in Katherine, it was almost unthinkable. At times like these, when the world seemed so dark, did he deserve to have any feelings of warmth? "I guess we were both colder than we thought."

"And you explain he of the multi-colors being off by himself by...?"

"The guy's a veritable furnace," Jason's tone was dry. "Besides, he needed some space after last night."

Kimberly's half smile faded and died. "Didn't we all?"

Silence descended for a long moment before Jason awkwardly broke it. "So... what are you going to do?"

"I'm going home." It was clear what she wanted, but the hesitance in her voice was questionable.

"Even if it-"

The flap of wings interrupted Jason's question and both of their gazes were drawn to the owl which had appeared and was alighting on the cliff's edge nearby. In the blink of an eye, Dulcea stood before them once more. "Home indeed, Crane - and if I told you the home you wish to return to will cease to exist should you refuse this quest?"

Refusing the quest would undoubtedly destroy the world? The Pink Powers were never one to be dealt with lightly, like the rest of the powers, but why now of all times did the fate of the world have to rest in her hands? Kimberly had followed through with her duty, a duty that stretched over the past ten years, warning all current and former Power Rangers of the immediate threat looming out to destroy them. She had been through enough; what more would she have to do to save the Earth now? What else could they possible expect her to do?

She'd lost her idealism, her faith, her innocence - all things that had been key to her ability to be a Ranger. She had nothing more to give.

"You've got to be kidding me. I've done my job - the rangers can still defeat...him without a Pink Ranger."

Dulcea looked more amused than alarmed. "Indeed? And how does the body function without it's heart? You would doom your friends to failure for your own selfish fears?"

"Don't talk about my selfish fears! You have no idea what I went through. You purposely showed my darkest reality...my emotions, putting them into full screen view for everyone." Kimberly glanced down at her uncomfortable crossed arms - an defensive reaction. "And I was never the heart of or for anyone. I was a part of a team, not the center of it."

The Ninjetti Warrior Queen remained silent, as if judging her and her words.

"I've never let my friends down - but I can't do this, Dulcea." Tears found their way back to her trembling eyes and she bit her bottom lip trying to stop them as her voice took on an almost desperate edge. "Can't you see that?"

"Do you truly wish to know what I see Crane?" Looking at Kimberly intently, Dulcea stepped closer, her expression stern. "Choose your answer carefully, for I will not lie to you or spare your feelings as your companions have chosen to do; I will not coddle you, nor will I condone the others to do so. Your answer - yes or no?"

"Dulcea, I don't think..."

Placing a hand up to silence Jason's comment, Kimberly stepped forward and wiped the trembling tear that found it's way down her cheek. Silently sniffing her emotions away, she looked at Dulcea more determined than before - challenging her question. "No Jason, I want to hear what the Ninjetti Queen has to say. After everything that's happened, I highly doubt it could be any worse. Tell me Dulcea, what do you think you see."

The hesitant and unsure reply had turned stern and determined, almost mocking the Queen as Kimberly awaited the answer with more confidence than she had shown in years. This fake-confidence was driven by that same addiction that she experienced beforehand with Tommy. The challenge, the retort - the want to make Dulcea seem incompetent brought out that confidence.

"As you wish." Inclining her head, Dulcea's eyes met Kimberly's - and wouldn't let her look away with the force of her gaze. "I see a broken spirit, lacking in luster and confidence. Crippled by circumstance, sheltered by good intentions and afraid to fight for what is rightfully theirs. I see a shattered heart that has never mended; a bird with broken wings."

She paused for a moment to let the words seep into both Jason and Kimberly's consciousness, peripherally aware that Jason was staring at her in mute horror. Despite it, Dulcea continued. Her friends had tried to reach her and failed and the Crane needed to know that - without her cooperation - this entire endeavor would fail.

"I see two individuals trapped within the same flesh; one frozen in the moment of lost innocence, unable and unwilling to move beyond the traumatizing event. In the shadows I see another being smothered, slowly withering under the force of that terror as it is forced to be dormant - your will to fight lost and suppressed within self pity. The selfless child Zordon chose to be his Pink Ranger has been locked away, punished for her outlook. This is not who you are, but what you have chosen to become in an effort to protect yourself - when all you have done is transfer that responsibility to another for fear of being responsible yourself."

Jason seemed like he was ready to go into convulsions from her words, but Dulcea continued relentlessly, as if Kimberly were the only person before her, seemingly unaware that Katherine and Tommy were now wirness to her words.

"I see a Crane afraid to fly, terrified of reaching for what is rightfully hers - and I see that same Crane unwilling to share the skies with the Falcon for fear of stealing the wind beneath his winds and dragging him down with her. Lastly, I see that same flightless bird hiding behind the Wolverine, unaware that her wings have begun to heal and flight is no longer a distant dream but one she can reach out and grasp. Fear. Disillusionment. Dependency. These are the things I see."

Shocked was an understatement for Kimberly's reaction was to her mentor's response. The forcefulness of her comment holding nothing back but the deadly piercing truth, cutting straight into her inner core.

"You what?" Biting her lip once more, Kimberly held back further tears as the wind brushed back her hair and the cold sensation in her body furthered, her mind feeling like an open void that would never close. Confrontation and conflict had ceased the moment Jason helped her escape from the clutches of Lord Zedd. Not even Tommy had hit her so low. "You really think that?"

Jason moved in, as if to offer protection, but Dulcea turned a look on him that warned him off. If he went to Kimberly now, assisted her in any way, he'd be dealing with Dulcea personally... it was her way of warning him not to interfere.

Confident Jason had received her message she returned her stoic gaze to the dumbfounded Crane. "It is not what I think - it is what I see. You cannot hide from me, my Crane. Until you once again learn to stand on your own two feet, instead of leaning on the Wolverine, you will never be whole. He cannot heal you; he would rather coddle and protect you than allow you to feel the pain of your injuries. He is your shield from the world - a shield you will need to surrender if you wish to find yourself once more. Never have I seen anyone so lost as you. You and only you can move beyond his shadow to stand once again on your own."

"Tell me something I don't already know..." Kimberly never admitted it aloud, never wanted to, but she knew the moment she'd felt Zedd's hands against her, she would never be the same.

For so long she tried to remain numb, not feeling anything. Her heart ached more with each day, but she'd continued to force herself into other things, just to avoid her feelings. It's what gave her the initiative to embark on the original mission with Jason, warning the rangers. How could she reclaim what was already long lost? Turing her chin against her shoulder as her head tilted to look at Dulcea, the gaze still too powerful to penetrate, the words escaped before she could consciously stop them "I want to find myself... How do I know if I can even reclaim my spirit?"

"You cannot reclaim something that was never lost." Dulcea's tone had softened fractionally. "Perhaps it would be more accurate to infer you must reawaken the part of you that lies dormant - the part you leave hidden in the shadows. My intention in sharing your memories was not to inflict pain, but to begin the healing process. You had to be ready for them to know - even if you did not yet know it yourself - and without your unconscious cooperation, I would never have been able to show the others what you suffered. You are ready to move beyond it, but to do so you must release your protector and learn to fly once more where you belong."

Finally able to break the gaze, Kimberly saw Katherine beyond Jason - silently watching them, but Tommy was no where to be found. Not within her line of vision, anyway. "Is there...some reason my quest has to be tied to..." The words were difficult to say, her lips to burning with every utterance, but the mere thought of him struck her far worse. Saying his name was like acknowledging a part of her pain in of itself; thinking of him was reliving it. "Why do I have to go with... with Tommy?"

The question seemed to amuse Dulcea. "Your powers have always been intertwined. Once cannot be whole without the other; had you not noticed that you are the strength behind the mighty Falcon, Crane? You are afraid to let him fall, but without you he cannot fly at all."

"I should go with Kim."

"And leave your own partner to face her fears alone?" Dulcea laughed softly, shaking her head at Jason's insistance. "I think not."

"Kat's not a Ranger-"

"Not yet."

The statement would have been almost ominous coming from anyone but the Ninjetti Queen - but that didn't stop Tommy from stepping forward from his position behind Kim. He side-stepped her, avoiding her touch completely as he faced Dulcea with a dark expression on his face. "You can't just arbitrarily decide that Kat's going with Jason and I'm with Kim," no matter how much it was killing him to get her alone, Tommy didn't want to force the issue. She needed to come around in her own time and enforced isolation was not the answer. "Katherine shouldn't even be going on a quest - she's not one of the original six."

"Regretfully, I believe she will need the power for her own protection."

"What power?" Tommy waved his hand, as if to dismiss it as unimportant. "Regardless of what it is, you can't know that. Besides, Kim wants nothing to do with me!"

Keeping her head down, her gaze on the tips of her boots, her eyes were hidden by shadows from where she was standing and her arms remained motionless at her side. But it was the underlying pain in Tommy's words that spurred Kim into action, something about it striking a chord within her soul. Despite the fact she'd fought with him the night before, she never had any desire to see him hurt. "That's not... exactly true, Tommy."

The soft words were ones that not even Jason had heard in well over a decade. She couldn't look at him just yet, but the impact of her words was unmistakable. The utter silence through the clearing was like a benediction as her soul seemed to slowly reopen, unfurling hesitantly as if uncertain of its reception. It was a step in the right direction, but one of many.

Unable to stand the silence, Kim turned her gaze to the Ninjetti Queen. "Is this how it's meant to be, Dulcea?" If it could not happen any other way, Kim would accept it. She felt the pain begin its slow release, and seeping out with every passing second as it burnt nerve endings that had long ago forgotten to feel. But refused to crawl back into her shell - it had taken so much just to get this far out.

Beyond the circle, Katherine made her way over, drawn by Jason but at the same time hoping that things were looking better for her friends. She smoothly laced her arms around Jason's stronger right and looked up at him. "Me, a Ranger?" She wondered if it would come with similar consequences as what happened to her other self, but fought off the thought and became quiet as Tommy spoke.

Before Dulcea could respond, Tommy rounded on Kimberly disbelievingly, his own actions driven by her words. "Excuse me? This from the woman who was calling me no better than Zedd last night?" Even as the words left his lips, he knew they were a bad idea. Kim wasn't trying to pick a fight with him, but he couldn't stop himself - it was as bad as Connor's 'speak-first-and-think-later' habit.

And, honestly, a part of him didn't believe her - not after the ugly things she'd said to him the night before.

The agony ripping through Kimberly's chest seemed fresh and almost natural, like a harbinger of things to come. She refused to look at him but knew his words were true; she couldn't face him, couldn't stand being near him - but maybe that was the point of the quest. The pain was something she hadn't experienced in some time, so numb had she forced herself to become as she'd allowed the shelter that was Jason to deflect anything that even remotely resembled hurt. Unable to address him, she did the next best thing. "Dulcea?"

"Do you remember Zordon's farewell to you as the Pink Ranger, Crane?"

Kimberly stood in her own thoughts for a moment, struggling to recall what exactly had been said... and a small warm smile graced her lips as the memory surfaced from somewhere deep within her. Her mentor and father figure, Zordon, had said words that had warmed her at the time, but not completely understood. It had been as if Zordon had known she was destined to resume the mantle of Power Ranger. Voice shaking, she repeated the memory. "He said... 'Someday when you return, you will be an even more effective...power ranger.' I didn't believe..."

"Correct. Do you still think I am mistaken? That Zordon himself was mistaken about your abilities?"

"Dulcea - you can't force her to go along with this."

"The choice is hers, Falcon; it has always been hers. It is simply not a choice you like. She can go on a quest with you and face her fears to save humanity, or she can return home and doom countless young women and the world to the fate she has already suffered."

"That's blackmail!" Tommy's tone was venemous."

"No, Falcon," Dulcea corrected him gently. "That is life. That is how it is; that is what will be."

The words echoing in her mind, Kimberly's conflicting emotions began to rise not only on her facial features but her thoughts as well. Would she be able to live up to them, to accomplish her duty as a better Power Ranger? If she didn't do this, Lord Zedd would destroy innocent women and more around the entire Universe searching for her. It was more than her obligation and duty - it was her responsibility. She had the opportunity to stop Zedd, and if she turned it down it would haunt her beyond death. Kimberly had only one option - one choice. It was now clear as day. The choice was not only right but it was the only one she would be able to live with.

"I'll go." Seeing their confused faces and postures, she rephrased her sentence giving the true perspective of her choice. "I choose to go on the spirit quest, to find the Crane - to find myself. To reclaim what I've lost."

"Even if it means being stuck with the man who embodies your fears?" Tommy's soft question was almost toneless but there was an underlying emotion that was difficult to comprehend.

"Bro - you're an idiot."

Katherine silently scolded Tommy with a look as she moved one of her hands to rest on Jason's chest. "I completely agree." She leaned her head on Jason's shoulder, her eyes looking away from Tommy back towards her fiancé.

"Jason..."

Seeing him look down at her, she lightly tugged on his arm to follow her. It wasn't their fight to witness, and Jason couldn't keep trying to intervene. A crystal materialized in Jason's hand, glowing a vibrant crimson color - indicating Dulcea sensed the time to leave as well. Their eyes meeting, their bodies turned into translucent red and orange lights as they were teleported to another location on the mysterious planet.

Completed oblivious to the fact that Jason had just been spirited away with Kathering, Kimberly faced off against Tommy for the second time in as many days.

Her scathing tone sliced through his heart in a way nothing else ever could. "One would think it would make those fears easier to overcome!"

The glare she leveled on him was eyes showing the same hate they had for Zedd; but they were also haunted from having seen Tommy die once already. Fear underlay it all; fear for herself, fear for him - the fear of losing him once more. Sure she was horrible to him, darn right evil with every word, but he was the one that provoked her, and in his provoking, he had unlocked the Kimberly that everyone knew and loved.

Tommy couldn't let it go. The devil in him that hurt from her rejections - both a long time past and recent - refused to let her off the hook. "Sure... just like screaming at me to stay away from you is good for your vocal chords." Shaking his head, he obviously didn't buy it and the agony in his voice was evident. "You don't trust me, Kim."

"I don't trust anyone!"

"Jason will be thrilled to know he's nobody."

"Jason isn't just anyone," her eyes spat gold fire, pinning him with an accusatory look. "He's the one who saved me from Zedd, who took me away from that awful place. He's the only one who's stood by me through this nightmare that's become my life!"

"I would have stood by you, dammit!" Tommy returned angrily. "All you had to do was ask!"

"You've been dead to me for ten years, Tommy," Kimberly's words were embittered by her experienced. "Ten years! Jason's the only person I've been able to trust and even now there are times when I know I can't trust him entierly - and I know that hurts him. He's the only family I have - the only person in my corner. He's the only one who cares what happens to me." Her tone was agonized and it told the true depth of her psycological wounds. "I may not trust you, Tommy, but this is bigger than my trust for you."

"So you think, Crane," Dulcea said softly, breaking into the conversation. "But you are mistaken. Without trust, the battle is lost. Until you can trust the Falcon... until you can trust yourself once more, you will never be able to achieve that which you seek."

A dismayed look crossed Kimberly's features before she could stop it, the reality of the situation striking her like a fist to the chest and rendering her breathless. Trust. Everything revolved around trust - the trust she had for Tommy and the trust she had in her own abilities. Understanding dawned that her trust for Tommy was more critical than she initially thought.

It was what compelled her to speak, albiet slowly, as she struggled with the notion, mentally wrestling with it and her own fears. "Isn't that the point of the quest, Dulcea? I can't see any other way I can learn to trust him." She turned around afraid to show her emotions, specifically to Tommy. "Tommy was my perfect enemy in the beginning...he nearly destroyed the Power Rangers - but once we saved him, he was my best friend; more so than even Trini. I've never not been able to trust him when it comes to battle, and even now that stands." Turning to face Tommy, she lifted her trembling gaze to his. "I may not be able to trust you completely Tommy, but when it comes to fighting, I'll always fight by your side - no matter what."

Dulcea made to answer Kimberly's question - about the point of the quest - but Tommy cut her off.

"You were never much of a liar Kim, and I see that hasn't changed." A ghost of a smile crossed his lips but it was mirthless. "Manipulation you're good at, but even now you can't lie to me."

Indignation and anger flashed across Kimberly's face as he continued.

"I let you down; I deserted you in the hardest battle of your life and failed to rescue you when you needed me most. You said it yourself - you blame me for your attack, and for not protecting you from it. You don't trust me with your life anymore - and after the last twenty four hours," had it really only been a day? It felt like years. "I don't know if you'll ever be able to again."

"Somebody please call the pity police. Poor poor Tommy, his ex-girlfriend can't seem to trust him for reasons beyond his comprehension!" There was scornful laughter in her voice that forced the came from the new rising confrontation - she rose to the challenge, relishing the idea of another fight even as a part of her shied from it.

Taking the first step - towards him - she chose to stand on her own two feet and fight back. "I'm not the liar Tommy - you are. You break promises like they mean nothing." She pointed at him and looked dericively towards the sky. "Get off your pedestal Tommy because I don't hold you that high anymore. I needed you to protect me - no, I needed you to stop pushing me further and further away! I wanted to stay, you were my dream Tommy, not this - not the competition. You forced the hands of fate and of course I blame you. I blame you for giving me up!"

"You blame me? Excuse me, but who broke up with whom - and didn't even have the decency to do it to my face?" He glared at her, refusing to back down and a part of him was secretly please she was fighting back even if she did go for the jugular. A night's rest had left him better equipped to deal with this type of confrontation. "You're the one who broke your promise Kim; even after that awful letter I'd still have been there for you. But you didn't call, you didn't write - it was like you dropped off the face of the planet and I was forced to move on. This isn't about that though - this isn't about me, it's never been about me. It's always been about you. Your dreams; your choices; I didn't push you away, you chose to leave. You could have said no, but instead you disappeared without as much as a second thought!"

The temptation to reach for her was strong, but something in her aggressive posture warned him she wasn't ready for physical confrontation no matter how much she seemed to be. He settled for curling his fingers inwards and clenching his fists tightly at his sides. "All I ever wanted was to give you the chance to follow your dream - how was I to know you really didn't want to go to Florida when that was all you ever talked about? I didn't read minds then and I sure as hell don't read them now!"

"You could have asked!"

"I did; you're the one who insisted you wanted to leave!"

Shaking with the force of her emotions, her eyes began to fill with moisture faster than they could create and the droplets fell like rain drops from clouds against Kimberly's pale and weary face. "You..." A cry came from her throat and she brought her arms around herself trying to regain her composure but it didn't work. Her shoulders quaked with each passing tear. "I...I was raped! He...you..."

This was one of the hardest things she had ever come across since it had happened. Actually admitting it had happened. "He touched me like you would have - for weeks... he continued to drain my life and my friends, still showing me your face. I watched you die, Tommy! I was..I was a ... I'd never been with anyone and he took that away from me - stole it! - in front of my best friends."

"He had everything about you down to the core...even...your r-ring." Mentioning it made her cradle her hand to her chest, daring only to look down at it, but not really seeing it. "You were suppose to be there for me. You never even called...you never even wrote; you took my letter and didn't even bother questioning it. Tommy you were suppose to protect me, to love me, but all you did was find the perfect opening to move on!" Her legs failed her and she dropped to her knees, hiding her tears now as her long wavy hair covered her face, her hand shaking as they dropped to the ground and clutched at the sod. "You were never there!"

Tommy felt like a heel. Like the lowest of the low; a belly crawling, swamp living, filth ridden thing that didn't deserve to live in the sunlight - except in this case he'd been living in the darkness since her letter anyway and couldn't remember what it felt like to see the sun. That didn't change the fact he'd just made her cry.

"Kim…"

Everything within him was screaming at him to kneel, pull her into his arms like he'd used to, but he didn't know if she'd accept comfort from him; if she'd be able to stand his touch. Jason was nowhere to be seen and Tommy had a sneaky suspicion Dulcea had intended it that way. It made his chest hurt to think that she needed someone and the only someone around was him - and he didn't dare touch her for fear of her reaction.

The anger drained out of him. "I... I thought you were happy; you said as much in your letter and... I did love you - enough to let you go. I loved you so much I only wanted you to be happy even if... if you weren't with me. God Kim!" His throat closed, his hands clenching and unclenching at his sides as he fought the need to go to her.

Kimberly heard his words and they ringed in her head but only made her feel worse. Her knuckles turned white where they dug into the ground and her head came up, searching for the one person who hadn't yet failed her - only to come up with nothing.

Jason was gone.

Fear bore down on her with the realization, the need to retreat back in herself and closed up - to forget the progress she had made - becoming a burning need. She needed Jason! "Please..bring him back Dulcea...I need him. He's all I have..." She coughed out as her crying turned into trembling, the high pitch in her voice seeming thready and pathetic all at once. In front of Dulcea's implacable visage, Kimberly swallowed her pride and lifted her gaze to the Queen's. "I can't do this alone."

Dulcea was silent. Despite the plea turned her way, she had no intention of interfering when the Crane and Falcon were making such progress. For, despite the sharp words, it was progress.

Tommy seemed oblivious to the fact that Dulcea was even around and surrendered to his need to try and comfort Kim - even though it had been his words that had made her cry. Crouching, he extended his hand hesitantly and then pulled back, leaving it open - palm up - on the ground between them. "You're not alone, Kim. You've never been alone. If you'll let me, I'll be here for you just like I've always been."

Painfully and uncontrollably still coughing, Kimberly wrapped her arms about herself in a protective self-hug, tipping her head up to try and plea with Dulcea - again. She didn't appear to have heard Tommy. "I...I need Jason - please! Bring him back..."

The stoic mask Dulcea wore showed no signs of cracking, no pity. Jason's return was not an option.

Unable to hold the gaze of the Queen, Kimberly's gaze dropped to the ground once more, hiccuping loudly as her tears ran into her mouth. The hand resting by her caught her attention and she stared at it.

His palm was etched with familiar lines - lines she'd traced once upon a time with soft finger tips. They were strong hands; hands built for doing great deeds. And they had accomplished great deeds - few knew just how great. Slowly reached but pulled back - those hands hadn't been able to save her.

Her fingers curled back in on themselves as she looked up at their mentor - the woman who seemed hell bent on tormenting her. "I want to get this over with! I said I'll do my part in all of this and go on the quest. What more do you want?"

"You cannot count on his strength to see you through this trial, Crane," Dulcea told her, finally breaking her silence. "You will have only your own; that of the Falcon can support you, but it will not carry you. Only together can you take to the skies once more."

Kim wasn't sure how much more she could take before she gave up on the quest and doomed herself to be hunted for the rest of her life. "I..I could care less about flying in the skies! I've done everything you asked, I agreed to the quest, to save Earth; please can we just get this over with." Belatedly realizing that she was screaming at Dulcea, Kim looked slowly up at her whispered. "Please, Dulcea..."

"Escaping this conversation will only be momentary Crane - you will be alone with the Falcon until your quest succeeds." Seeming to take pity on the soon to be Pink Ranger, Dulcea released the last of the crystals, not at all surprised by Tommy's silence. He was a born Ranger and would do his duty - there was never any question of that. Kneeling beside Kimberly, Dulcea did something completely unexpected.

With gentle fingers, she brushed the tips over Kimberly's face, tilting the young woman's face up to meet her gaze. "This journey is one of understanding and healing. Pride and fear have no place here, my Crane; if you cannot put them aside, you will be incapable of completing your task." The faintest of smiles crossed Dulcea's lips. "Where you have always been the Falcon's strength, so too is he yours. I look forward to seeing you upon the completion of your quest, I suspect you will not be the same as you are now."

Blinding light engulfed them both before they could respond. With a smile, Dulcea stood and lifted her arms to the heavens, closing her eyes. Silently she wished them luck in the truest of the Power Ranger traditions; may the Power protect you my friends.