Aqua Base- Conference Room
Captain Mitchell sat in the conference room watching the monitors as the rangers fought a giant demon in the city. It didn't appear to be anything special. The demons, it seemed, were still venting their anger, not actually making planned attacks.
Every few minutes he would glance at the monitor showing the feed from Ryan's holding cell. Ryan was still on his knees. He hadn't moved in the last 30 minutes. He seemed to be meditating but… something just didn't seem quite right and it kept him from shutting off the feed.
The sudden explosion of the demon drew his attention back to the rangers. He let his body relax. Another battle won. He ordered the rangers back to the base. They were going to be exhausted. The demons were hardly giving them time to sleep. Joel was the only one to complain openly about it, the others kept their worries either to themselves or within the team. William sighed and looked down at the paperwork in front of him. There would be more coming. With each attack came a new stack of papers to sign. Property damage, reports on ranger suit and zord battle performance, the list went on. A small smile lit his face; he would feel bad for the amount of Ms. Fairweather's paperwork except for the fact that they all needed his signature as well. He walked over to turn off the monitors but stopped short, a gasp escaping his lips, as his eyes locked onto the monitor showing Ryan's cell.
Ryan was no longer on his knees. Instead he lay, convulsing violently, on the ground, his hands pressed against the sides of his head.
"Mitchell!" he called as he ran out of the conference room. People looked up from their stations as he ran by. He rounded a corner and nearly collided with his assistant.
"Captain?" Mitchell asked, alarm evident on his face, as William gripped his shoulders.
"Contact Ms. Fairweather and tell her to meet me at the cell block on level four!"
Looking confused, Mitchell opened his mouth to reply but was cut off as William pushed past him, calling back, urgently, "Now!"
William raced through the corridors and into the turbolift. He had seen Ryan shaking like this before but not nearly as extreme. He remembered the moment when the rangers reached his mother's cabin; it had been displayed on the monitors from the helmet cameras. At first he thought Diabolico was shaking Ryan, then he realized that he was convulsing. Was this normal for Ryan? Was there something wrong with him that they didn't know about? He felt his anger rise at the other possibility; the demons were doing this to him.
The lift came to a stop and the doors were barely open before he was, again, running down the hall.
Ms. Fairweather was running toward him from the opposite direction. Her lab was much closer to this area of the base. "Captain, what's going on? What's wrong?"
"Human!" "Slave!" A thousand different voices tore through Ryan's mind from all directions. "They're attacking!" "Nooooo!" "Weak!" "Traitor!" "You will pay!"
He needed to get to the water. He was deafened by screams of pain, agony, sorrow. Flesh was ripped, burned; he choked on its' stench. This was all from Diabolico's mind. It was breaking him down, but he couldn't let it. Through the pain he tried to will himself to the water. If he could get there he might have a chance.
Ignoring Ms. Fairweather's protests William opened the cell door and rushed in. Ms. Fairweather paused only a second at the entrance, her eyes wide, then her instincts kicked in and she rushed forward. It wasn't just that Ryan was lying on the ground, his hands gripping his head as he thrashed back and forth; it was the sound. Ryan's face was contorted in pain, his mouth was open wide in an almost silent, chocking scream that came to life in short bursts with each jerk of his body; as if he was being whipped.
William put his arms around Ryan and tried to hold him still. "Ryan? Ryan!" He became aware of Ms. Fairweather at his side.
She pressed his head back and forced an eye open but was met with nothing but white.
"What's wrong with him, Angela? What's happening?" William asked, trying to keep his panic from taking over.
"He's seizing, but I don't know…" She stopped when she noticed blood beginning to drip from Ryan's nose. "His brain is hemorrhaging, Captain, we need to get him to the Medbay." She got up and hurried to the door to call the officer in when Ryan let out a final cry and suddenly his body relaxed in his father's arms.
He felt the dim lights even before he realized that he was in his cell. He heard himself moan as he held his head. His mind felt slow but as everything began to come back to him, the unseen world around him spun, his body began heaving, trying to expel the wrongness within him. He felt himself being moved across the floor but gave it little thought as the contents of his stomach came up. His body continued to heave even after it was empty. Hearing the echo of his voice, he slowly opened his eyes and found himself leaning against the toilet in his cell. How had he gotten here? Feeling a hand on his back he slowly turned his head and locked eyes with his father.
He never loved you. He saw his father smiling back at him from the front seat. He was weak. He felt his father's fear as he held onto the root, the wood tearing into his hand, but he wouldn't let go. He let you fall to save himself. He heard his father yelling for help, desperately pleading with his son to hold on. All of your pain is his fault. Diabolico flew beside the car, a look of anticipation on his face. A horn blared. All of his pain is your fault.
"No!" Ryan pulled away from his father, pushing himself backward across the floor, a hand still holding his head, as his vision blurred in and out. "No." He looked across the room at Ms. Fairweather, who stood silently at the door looking between him and his father.
"We need to get him to the Medbay, Captain."
Ryan shook his head but stopped as the room began to spin. "What are you doing here?" Just let me be alone.
William inched closer to his son, his hands beginning to reach toward him. "Ryan, you're bleeding, you need to come with us."
Ryan slowly looked himself over, "Bleeding?" he asked, groggily. The burning pain in his mind had finally begun to dull to a scald. His mind. He raised his hand to his nose and brought it back with a streak of blood across it. He closed his eyes and pressed his palm to his forehead. It had been close.
William tried again, "Ryan…"
Ryan's face twitched, his jaw clenched, "I'm not going anywhere!" Why are they even here? "Just leave! I don't want you here!" His voice broke as he yelled. "Please."
William took a deep breath and nodded at Ms. Fairweather, who gave him a worried look and left the room, closing the door behind her.
The room was still; the only sound was Ryan's deep, controlled breaths as he tried to calm his mind. Pushing against the wall, he attempted to stand. Before his father could try to stop him, the color drained from his face and he dropped back to the ground with a frustrated sigh.
William watched his son. He doesn't want to be seen like this but he can't hide the pain he's in. It hurt to be so close to him after all this time and yet still be unable to touch him.
Ryan's head stayed down, his palms on either side of his head. Finally he spoke. "I… I'm sorry."
William grew even more concerned. A day and a half ago Ryan was still openly hostile and defiant when around others. What could change his behavior so dramatically? He wasn't apologizing for yelling, it seemed to be about something else, he might not have even been talking to him.
Ryan struggled within himself and finally he let his hands fall and gave into the side seeking help. "I thought the crash was a dream, at first," he said, staring off at nothing. "I… was alone. He said that you didn't love me; that you let me go because you didn't love me. It was one of the first things he said to me when I was brought to the tomb."
William felt his jaw tighten. "Diabolico." He knew that the demons were deceitful, that they had twisted Ryan's loyalty and, from what he had seen, his mind as well, but it sickened him to hear how soon the manipulation had begun and how heartless it was. "It was a lie."
"I know," Ryan said. He closed his eyes as a look of disgust crossed his face. "I survived for the wrong reasons."
William ached to hold his son but he dared not move any closer for fear of breaking Ryan's trance and losing this chance to talk to him. "What do you mean?"
Ryan shook his head, "I hated you so much." He looked at his father then at the floor in front of him, unable to hold the gaze. "You and Dana. It was how I survived; knowing that someday the tomb would be opened and I would get revenge; that I would make you pay for letting me fall. But everything was a lie."
"Ryan, what happened to you? It looked like you were having a seizure."
Ryan nodded his head, "I probably was. Diabolico said I was gifted, but even then, there is only so much a human mind can take." Seeing the confusion on his father's face he continued. "I betrayed him. I wanted to know the truth, so I went into his mind without his consent. I'm lucky to be alive."
William continued to stare at Ryan. "I don't… you can read minds?"
"Look into them," Ryan corrected, "Apparently, that's the only reason Diabolico saved me."
William felt sick, "He told you that?"
"No, but his memories don't lie."
William's mind reeled as he tried to process everything he was being told. "That's what you were doing a moment ago, looking through Diabolico's memories?"
"Can you do that with anyone?"
Ryan paused, and then, shook his head. "No." But now he knew why.
"You said you were looking for the truth," William asked, "Did you find it?"
Ryan gave a short, humorless laugh but his face quickly changed to a frown as he nodded. "I guess next time I go looking for the truth I should probably make sure I can handle it first."
William didn't speak but his silent question hung in the air. A minute passed before Ryan was able to build the courage to continue. "The crash wasn't an accident."
William felt his heartbeat quicken.
"Diabolico wanted to know when they would be released so he used a spell card; it brought him to… our family, that night. He saw that Dana and I were going to be rangers in the future, so he…tried to kill us."
William's entire body was tense.
"But," Ryan took a breath to calm his emotions, "he saw something in me," he shook his head, his anger building, "he just wanted a tool; someone to use against you. Someone he knew you would never fight. I was never anything more than a pawn to him."
At the last statement, William drew his attention back to Ryan and studied his face. Seeing the pain, the sadness, he felt the bile build in the back of his throat as he realized what Diabolico could have meant to Ryan, what Ryan had wanted him to be, and how much he had hurt his son. He was alone, he had said it himself, and had nothing but a hope; that if he became strong enough, the demons would finally become the family he had lost. For Ryan, Diabolico had been some kind of twisted father figure. To believe, all these years, that Diabolico had actually cared about him only to discover that it had meant absolutely nothing, William felt for his son.
They sat in silence for a few minutes, both caught in their own thoughts, and then Ryan took a deep breath and began, again, to use the wall to stand.
William came forward to help him but stopped, his heart dropping, when he saw that the closer he got, the more rigid Ryan became.
Ryan was able to make it to his feet and, as the room came back into focus, he finally asked the question he had been wondering since he had been brought to the underwater base. "What are you going to do with me?"
William thought carefully about what to say, "That depends a lot on you, Ryan." Knowing that he was probably going off wishful thinking, he continued. "The Rangers could use your help."
Ryan thought over his father's statement. "I could teach them some techniques to use when fighting demons, but would you really let me help train them?"
William couldn't help but give a small smile at Ryan's interpretation of what he had said, "The training is a good idea, and, yes, I would, but that's not what I had in mind."
"Besides my inside knowledge, I'm not much help to anyone anymore."
William looked at Ryan intently, "What if you had your morpher?"
Ryan gave a bitter laugh, "Don't you mean your morpher?"
William raised his eyebrows expectantly.
Suddenly Ryan had no desire to laugh, "You're serious."
Ryan tried not to appear shaken. "Why would you do that?"
"As you pointed out to Dana, the demons are only going to get stronger, and you've already proven yourself to be a skilled fighter."
"By attacking humans," he pointed out. Ryan could hardly believe what he was hearing. His father was letting his feelings cloud his judgment. "I've given you no reason to trust me. I could end up taking the morpher and rejoining the demons."
William already knew the answer but paused before asking, "Would you?"
Ryan gazed down for moment, and then shook his head. "No. I would never go back now; not after this."
"Then you can have the morpher back." William said, simply.
Ryan shook his head, "You can't do that."
"I'm in command of this base, Ryan, I have the authority to…"
Ryan cut him off, "I don't want it!" Silence. He sighed, "I don't deserve it. You want to trust me. You want to care about me, but you shouldn't. I'm not the son you lost, I'm nothing like him."
William tried to put his hand on Ryan's shoulder but he jerked away.
"You see what you want to when you look at me. If you saw what I really am you would leave me in this cell to rot."
"Never, Ryan." William's heart ached to hear his son talk like this. "You may not be able to see it, but I can. I can see the goodness inside of you, just waiting to break free."
"You're wrong. Any goodness I might have had died," Ryan's eyes grew sad, as if he were remembering the exact moment, "a long time ago. Only the darkness survived the tomb."
William wouldn't give up. "I don't believe that."
"You would, if you knew the things I've done."
William took another step forward and Ryan, likewise, took a step back and hit the wall. As he realized that he had literally worked himself into a corner he felt fear crawl up into his throat. He kept his gaze down, refusing to look at his father as he came closer.
"I don't care, Ryan." William said as he slowly brought his hands up and grasped Ryan's shoulders.
Ryan flinched at his touch but didn't pull away; he had nowhere to go.
"I love you," William said, as he pulled Ryan forward and finished wrapping his arms around him in a tight embrace, "and nothing will ever change that." He felt Ryan's body tense but he didn't see the panicked shock on his face.
Ryan stood frozen, not knowing how to react. The last time he had been this close to his father was when he had tackled him over the cliff's edge. He wanted to push him away, to hide from him, but at the same time he yearned to hold him back. As he took a strangled gasp, he breathed in his father's scent and was suddenly caught up in a hundred different memories of being in his father's arms. A sob he didn't know he had been holding escaped his lips as he dropped his head on his father's shoulder.
After the first break William thought Ryan's shield would crumble but he could feel him shudder as he held his emotions back. William opened his mouth, unsure of what to say, but stopped, his worry forgotten for the moment, as he felt his son's arms come up around him, returning his embrace.