7/3/2011

All disclaimers, spoilers, ratings, pairings etc are in the previous chapters.

Chapter/Updated Summary: With new allies and new armor, the rangers have to make a decision regarding their plan to stop Blood – and is it the right one?

Hi all. Well, here's the next chapter… much earlier than I expected, but since the story right now is flowing, I'm gonna go with it. While I'm here, I just wanted to thank those of you that have been loyal readers of my work since way back before Always a Ranger posted… It's been 8 year since I posted my first PR fic and after 19 stories and over 1,500 reviews hundreds of thousands of hits, I wanted to let you all know how much I have appreciated my reader's support – past, present and future. Now let's get to the story…

Answering the Call – Chapter 13: Making Tough Decisions

By Jeannine Trevizo

-x-

"So, that's good! We have new armor and the Space team is on its way… now what?" Aisha asked.

"We find a way to take Blood's forces down before the deadline," replied Tommy, matter of factly," and then deal with him once and for all."

Everyone looked at Tommy as the muscles of his face grew taut and his eyes hardened, nearly blazing with intensity. There had been something in the way he'd said 'deal with him once and for all' that had sounded… different from any of their experience with Tommy as a leader. It almost sounded… vengeful?

"Tommy, you aren't suggesting…" Jason began before Tommy turned to look at him, eyes blazing.

"Killing Blood? Yes. Him, Misery, Pain, all of them."

"But Zordon's code…" interrupted Kim, stunned at Tommy's sudden vehemence.

"Zordon's gone," Tommy reminded Kim almost harshly. "We're here and we're the last thing between Blood and the people of Earth ending up ashes, just like every other planet he's crushed."

"We don't have to kill him. Even with Zedd we let him accept defeat and leave," Jason noted, wanting his friend and the team's leader to think things out.

"We don't have that luxury anymore."

The others stood and watched as their leader argued with Kim and Jason, surprised by the conflict between the three of them. Jason was Tommy's best friend and Kim his girlfriend; they were the two people that had been closest to him for years and watched him deal with everything from his evil green ranger days to Zedd's arrival through Prince Gasket's kidnapping and brainwashing. Yet the fact was that they were at odds as to how to deal with Blood. None of them could believe what they were hearing… that Tommy was advocating killing his enemies?

It was Kim that put the pieces together finally, and frowned slightly before she moved to clutch Tommy's upper left arm with her right hand, her left hanging from the sling. At her touch, his eyes swung to her face and some of his anger seemed to dissipate.

"Just because we lost Katherine and Rocky and I got hurt does not justify killing another living being," Kim reminded him softly, her eyes searching his for the spark of pain she knew was there, buried under his words.

He closed his eyes and left his right hand scrub through his short hair. It was no surprise that she could cut through all his anger and get to the heart of his pain. He did want Blood and his people dead for what they had done to her, to Rocky and Kat. But there was more t o it, and he needed to make her understand that.

"Kimberly," he replied, moving his hands up to capture her face as he gazed at her, his pain and love evident to her within his dark eyes, "I can't allow him to kill or maim anyone else."

"So you're gonna take it on yourself to be judge and jury?" asked Jason, laying a hand on Tommy's shoulder, causing his friend to turn and regard him seriously.

"If I have to, yes," he replied, pulling a hand from Kim's face to lie on Jason's shoulder. "You know I don't relish this idea, but I have to protect the people I love, as well as the people on this planet. And to do that, Blood needs to be destroyed."

"What about how the rest of us feel about this?" asked Tanya, still concerned about Tommy's willingness to use deadly force on Blood, even if Kim and Jason seemed to have tempered his desire for vengeance. "We're part of the team. You're making a decision for all of us."

"It's one I support," murmured Adam, causing Tanya to whip her gaze to him.

"What?" she asked her former boyfriend, unsure she'd heard him right.

"We've played by good guy rules ever since we first became rangers," he clarified, his gaze lighting briefly on every person there before meeting Tommy's eyes. "We don't escalate, we don't start things and we let the bad guys retreat only to come back. In the old days, when no one really got hurt and the casualties were minimal… the stakes minimal, it was okay, but now…"

"Adam and Tommy… they're right," added Billy, frowning slightly at the realization that with Kat's death things had irrevocably changed.

"Of course they are," Rocky interjected angrily, his hand moving unconsciously to his stomach where the single slice from Misery's claw was healing. "We got slaughtered out there, and Blood's goons would have happily killed us all before they started massacring the civilian population."

"And who's to say that it would stop there?" Tommy reminded them all. "Blood has turned worlds to ashes, committed genocide… and we're the only ones that can stop him now, before Earth joins the ranks. And if we don't, there are more worlds still out there…"

"So this is about saving other planets from Blood?" asked Aisha, now realizing that being caught up in their own struggles with Blood, she and some of the others had forgotten what else was at stake if they lost… not only would Earth die but Blood could continue to subjugate and murder other beings, other worlds…

"Yes, but there's more to it than that; we have to protect ourselves too…" Tommy stated sighing as he recalled all the thoughts that had filled his head as he had seriously considered the implications of his plan to eliminate Blood permanently.

There was a long pause as everyone considered his words. Besides saving Earth and saving other planets from Blood's wrath, what else…

"Protecting us, that's it, isn't it Tommy?" asked Trini softly, realizing that at the core their leader's decision wasn't about revenge or bloodlust but about practicality and security. "If we don't put Blood down for good, if we let him leave, not only are we risking him coming back but we leave Earth open for future attacks."

Those members of the team that had been arguing against Tommy's plan for destroying Blood and his forces had already been wavering in their conviction against the idea, but as Trini spoke, Jason, Kim and Tanya all realized the other benefit Tommy was trying to provide with his plan.

"You think if we kill Blood, disband his army…" Jason breathed, still stunned at the realization that had come to him like lightning.

"No one's coming back to Earth then," Tommy answered simply, as if this was the most logical thing in the world.

"If we… the rangers have a reputation…" Tanya added, finally seeing where Tommy was coming from as well.

"We won't have to defend the planet, yeah."

Everyone seemed to consider that; the idea that by killing Blood that no other would-be conqueror would dare come to Earth for fear of ending up like Blood. It was a stunningly simple plan…

"You can't believe killing Blood will mean we'd be safe…" Kim argued, even if she was not as sure of her argument as she had been minutes earlier.

"Why not? Blood has a reputation that makes worlds fear him. If we kill him, why can't evil fear us?"

"Because it won't work," declared Kim, her eyes tearing as she thought of what Zordon would say if he could see this. "There will always be a villain that wants to conquer planets, Earth included. That's why the rangers have been here…"

"And where were they when Blood turned his sights on Earth?" he reminded her forcefully, shocking her into stunned silence. "Billy spent a year looking to get the old Turbo team back from space and instead ended up building all this himself and getting us back in uniform. Unless you plan on them staying or us continuing to be rangers we need to end this once and for all."

"So if we don't kill Blood we're stuck as the Earth's guardians?" Trini questioned, not sure if this was a good or bad thing.

"Look everyone let's table the debate regarding the future of power rangers for now. What we need to do is focus on Blood. While I would prefer to have Blood just leave, defeated, I have to agree that Tommy may be right… we may need to kill him to stop him. Is there anyone here that can't accept that fact?" Billy questioned simply, hoping to end the dispute.

No one raised their hands.

-x-

After deciding that everyone needed a break to cool off and let calmer heads prevail and knowing that the next battle could be the most difficult and significant, Billy suggested everyone relax and take some down time. Rocky, Adam, Tanya and Aisha had decided to take a walk along the Embarcadero and Trini had insisted on staying and keeping Billy company as he headed into the command center. Kim and Tommy had stayed in the common area for a while; talking with Jason some more before the new blue ranger stood and sighed.

"I get it bro, I do…" he said, his face twisted with a grimace as he rubbed the back of his neck with his right hand. "I had just hoped it wouldn't come to this."

"Me too Jase. But we need to be smart about this, and stopping Blood once and for all is the best thing we can do," Tommy insisted, hoping that he'd finally gotten his best friend on his side; that he understood where Tommy was coming from.

"Understood. I… I'm gonna go check in with Billy and Trini. I'll see you both later."

As Jason walked away, Kimberly turned to the man she loved so desperately and stood as well. She got why he wanted to kill Blood. What sane person wouldn't?

"Let's go upstairs…"

Nodding, he stood and Kim turned and then moved to climb the stairs, Tommy following her. She headed to his room in the hopes of talking further and resolving the rift that seemed to have settled between then that his need to protect the planet and rid the universe of Blood and his henchmen had caused. Once she was inside, she waited for him to enter and then closed the door.

"That was pretty harsh out there," Kimberly said as she moved past Tommy to sit on his bed, her back pressed against the pillows and wall.

"I just… we can't play this game with kid gloves anymore," he stated again, moving to sit before her and taking hold of her hands, gripping them tightly.

"I know handsome. But killing… even a bad guy is something new for us all."

"So is losing a ranger."

"But Tommy…"

"Kim, I don't know what I would have done if that had been you on the ground. I don't think I… " Tommy started, his voice faltering for a moment at the emotions choking him even as he raised one hand to cup her face. "And if I can make sure that nothing ever happens to you… to Jason and the others, to our families and friends, hell the whole planet, then I'm gonna do everything in my power to it."

Kim looked down and away. She couldn't fathom what seeing Katherine's body had been like for him. She knew if it had been Tommy… and then on top of that she'd been hurt too; she remembered the ragged sound of his voice as he'd called out after she's been impaled on Misery's claws. It had sounded… anguished at a level she didn't think she'd ever heard from him before.

Even through there had been nothing he could do to stop any of it, the fact that she and Rocky had suffered and Kat had died at Pain and Misery's hands wasn't something Tommy 'the leader' or her boyfriend would ever begin to get past and an experience he never wanted to repeat.

And looking at it from that perspective Kim had to admit that it was a powerful motivation for killing Blood… for killing them all.

She finally sighed and nodded slightly, accepting the fact that to save everyone they might have to take lives. Then she let him pull her towards him as he settled her against his chest, one arm around her back as his head tipped forward to rest on hers as they simply appreciated the fact that they were both alive and were with one another.

-x-

Trini had been visiting with Billy, doing her best to keep him from becoming overly obsessed with getting the team prepared for their next engagement before remembering she needed to take care of one crucial piece of business and had wandered into the warehouse section of the building, leaving Billy alone until Jason joined him.

"So you're okay with this?" Jason asked Billy, and the other man nodded.

"We need to stop Blood… and making sure he can't escape and annihilate any other worlds is a good thing in my opinion. If you knew he'd only go to another planet and wipe out the beings there if we let him retreat, how would you sleep at night?"

Jason scowled at Billy's flawless logic. They were engaged with Blood now; if they let him go and he killed anyone else, if would be their fault… thinking like that made Tommy's concerns even more reasonable than before.

"Where'd you wander off to?" asked Jason as Trini suddenly appeared from the warehouse door.

"I just called the SFPD about Kat and the car. They didn't have the car or Kat reported located yet," Trini said, Jason and Billy frowning at the news.

"I thought you said the car would be found there without much problem," queried Jason, growing apprehensive.

"I did. Maybe they have but the report isn't in the system yet."

"Are you concerned at all about your car being involved in an accidental death?" Billy questioned, his concern for her tangible.

"Jason asked about that earlier. It had to be done and since I live here and Katherine was visiting me, it makes the most amount of sense."

"I… we just don't want you in trouble if things go…" Billy continued making Trini smile softy at him before she laid a hand on his right cheek before kissing the opposite one.

"No worries. I think the only thing I would be worried about is if they looked closer to identify time of death…"

"Because we had her here for twelve hours after the fight with Blood's people?" questioned Jason.

"Yeah."

"We set it up pretty well…"

"I really don't think they'll look too far. More than anything I just hope that we can finish this all in time to be able to go to whatever funeral her parents set up."

At that, Billy and Jason looked at Trini with stunned expressions. They had forgotten about a formal funeral… a chance to pay their last respects properly.

"So do I. I know we all will want to go," Jason acknowledged.

"We just have to survive Blood to do it," said Billy, reminding all of them of their more urgent concern.

-x-

"Tommy can't be serious, can he?" asked Tanya as she sat with Aisha, Adam and Rocky at an outdoor table at a coffee shop where they'd stopped along the pedestrian walkway of The Embarcadero roadway.

"Why not? It's a reasonable decision," Adam stated, as he set his coffee down to reach over and catch Tanya's had with his, reminding his ex girlfriend that he was there for her as they all went through this experience.

"But we have never…"

"And that's the point, I think," Aisha noted, looking from Tanya to her boyfriend and her best friend, who she knew were both on board with the idea of finishing Blood permanently.

"How many times did we have to do the same thing over again?" Rocky noted, intentionally not saying exactly what he meant since they had civilians passing them at intermittent intervals.

"A lot. Different groups over and over. So I get Tommy not wanting to have us deal with that anymore," Tanya admitted reluctantly.

"So this is really about finishing this once and for all," Rocky intoned before he took another sip of his coffee.

"I just… it's so strange to be talking like this. We never even considered something like this before…"

"And like Tommy said, things have changed," Adam replied, his smile tempered with a hint of nostalgia at simpler days.

"Still, if we want to see this through, once and for all, I think we're going to have to take the hard line…" Aisha expressed honestly, reaching her free hand to catch Rocky's and squeezing it tight for a moment.

Around the table three sets of eyes looked to Aisha and expressed their acknowledgement that maybe things really had changed forever, and that the power rangers would do whatever it took to win the day and save the world.

-x-

Several hours later, and still around eight hours before the deadline, everyone had gathered once again in the common living area, the TV news running in the background as it continued to count down the 48 hour demand from Emperor Blood. And as each minute slipped away, coming closer to the 6 hour deadline Tommy had given the UN without any word or action by Blood, the Photon team still didn't know how they could draw Blood out and take him down.

"We're running out of time. We need to do something to prompt Blood…" remarked Tommy, getting frustrated with his inability to find a way to tempt Blood and his generals into jumping the gun and engaging them. "If we don't…"

"The Earth governments will take action," Jason finished for him, feeling the weight his best friend and the team's leader was experiencing, if only marginally. "They didn't say they were giving us the time, but since there hasn't been anything on the news about them suggesting firing their nukes…"

"You know they probably have been already working on their plans for a while, but they just haven't let it out to the press," remarked Adam as he leaned forward in his seat

"Please, don't say that…" said Aisha, now more nervous than before. "We don't need to fight two sides at once."

"Maybe we don't fight both sides. Maybe we should get the governments to help…" Billy suddenly suggested, his eyes widening as the idea formed in his head.

"What are you thinking?" Tanya quickly questioned, Billy's expression giving her unexpected hope.

"What if we go back to the UN and provide them a plan? Say that we want to lure Blood and his people into a trap… that we'll surrender but under our terms. And when Blood gets there to sign the 'surrender'…" offered Billy, his eyes turning to Tommy as he waited for his friend and the team leader to catch on.

"We'd show up and blow the heck out of them?" Tommy finished, his mouth lifting into a grin. "That's not a bad idea."

"But will the world governments go for it?" Kim questioned, not sure if they could convince all the government leaders of the idea.

"Why not? They don't have anything to lose," Jason insisted as he nodded slightly in approval of the idea.

"Will they accept us running the operation?" Tanya queried, thinking that more than a few military leaders wouldn't like taking 'orders' from power rangers, no matter that they were the good guys and had saved the world more than once.

"We can work with them…" Billy started, glancing around at the team as they all pondered the situation.

"The first time we approached them, it was just Tommy asking them for more time. This is a lot different," Trini pointed out.

"Of course it is," Adam agreed but continued to push in favor of the plan, "we're walking back in and asking them to trust us more than last time, but we have the credibility. For God's sake, we're the power rangers… they should be more than willing to help us save the Earth,"

"But if we go back in with this plan, asking more from them, who's to say they won't want more from us? What if they want our assurance… and our identities? We can't reveal ourselves, and there are only five of us with uniforms," Rocky stated worriedly.

There was a long pause. They didn't want their identities known… there was no way to know what danger it would put them and their families in, but the world was at stake…

"We will just have to be clear that we can't let them know our identities… that we are in uniform for a reason, to protect ourselves and our families. But we need to decide now, before we go any further… if the only way to get their cooperation is to agree to revealing ourselves…" began Tommy, looking to Jason, Trini, Adam and Tanya for agreement.

"If we don't have a choice," Jason answered and Tanya, Trini and Adam nodded in agreement.

"But only if it's our last option," Tommy confirmed, and then remembered they had other rangers on their way. "Any word on when the Space team will arrive?"

"No," replied Billy. "Do you want to do this now… before the 6 hour limit expires, even without knowing when the Space team will get here… if we'll have any backup?"

"Yes. We're on our own… if they get here in time, great, but if not, it is still up to us to stop Blood. Rangers, let's get suited up."

With that Tommy strode to the command center and pressed the button to open the chamber where the new metallic uniforms waited for them. He reached up and pulled down his red armor, glancing to his right to see Jason grab the blue and Adam his black, and to his left Tanya taking the pink and Trini the yellow.

Once they had their gear they headed to their rooms, hurriedly changing into the uniforms marking them as Photon Rangers. While they changed the others moved into the command center to wait. Rocky and Kim watched as their armor strode into the command center with a sense of melancholy. Tommy, helmet under his arm came to Kim's side and caught her hand with his, looking at her seriously.

"We'll be okay," he stated before leaning down to kiss her lips briefly. "Billy, ready to send us?"

"Affirmative. As soon as you are ready to come back, just say the word… we'll monitor you from here."

Nodding, Tommy clicked his helmet into place and headed for the transport pad, Jason, Trini, Tanya and Adam following behind. Once in place, helmets on and looking every bit the ranger team, Billy flipped the switch to transport them to the UN headquarters. As soon as they were gone Kim, Aisha, Rocky and Billy turned to focus their attention to the communications panel and view screen, Billy and Trini having hacked into the closed television frequency after the last time Tommy had been there so they could monitor the arrival and progress of the team.

And as they watched the brilliant light appear in the center of the UN Security Council room they all breathlessly hoped that Tommy was as persuasive with the world leaders regarding the plan as he had been before.

-end ch 13 –

Note: Again, another little borrow from Whole New World, because this PR team is dealing with the realities of the world, and isn't treating the fight against galactic evil like a children's TV show. ;-) . So we're moving along here; I have the outline much clearer in my head, thanks to some momentum. And, as always, I appreciate the patience you are showing me. Thanks – Ms. J.