Disclaimer: If they were mine, I'd be waaaay richer than this.
Special thanks and lots of love to Rach, who valiantly subjected herself to my efforts as they were a-borning. Anything you guys liked, it's purely due to her willingness to keep me going and keep me in line. And a big wahoo to Carrie for letting me bounce feeble plots off her until they were strong enough to stand on their own. Dagmar, ScarletDeva, Cheryl, TK Styles, and all the rest of you who IM'd and emailed me through this: my gratitude knows no bounds. Thanks.
Legacy, part 33
"Is it me, or did everything just take a left turn into surreal?" Rocky asked. He shot Taia a look as if to say 'it's your planet'. Kat poked at the ground with a toe, where a formation of mushrooms grew that looked oddly like an arrow pointing into the forest.
Taia shrugged. "I have no explanation. Couldn't it be a natural formation?" As though in answer another mushroom arrow sprang into being immediately in front of the first.
Kat and Rocky stared at each other. "I would guess that means no," said Kat, rubbing her nose.
"Do we go?" Rocky asked, slipping an arm around his girlfriend.
She sighed and shook her head sadly. "Why not? After everything that's happened, how much worse could it get?"
Tommy, Billy, Jason and Aji came into a large, green clearing, surrounded by impossibly tall trees that filtered the light of the early dawn. Dew hung heavy on the leaves and in the ankle-high grass. Atop a small knoll in the center of the clearing was a table, laden with food, and behind it sat a small, robed figure.
"Thought so," said Tommy woodenly as the figure came forward to greet them. "I suppose you felt this was more subtle than a flash flood."
Billy's blue eyes narrowed. So this was the Watcher. Aji and Tom had described him well. He was deceptively graceful for one so obviously ancient, his bald pate shining, his mismatched eyes sparkling. His hands extended, clawlike, from the voluminous sleeves of his black and white robe in a gesture of welcome. "Come," he said rustily, a happy grin on his wrinkled face. "Refresh yourselves while we wait."
They looked at each other uncertainly. Tommy shook his head. "No thanks. Not hungry."
The Watcher looked from one to the other of them, clearly disappointed. "Ah," he said. "Perhaps later."
Through the trees came three more figures. Billy met Taia halfway, holding her tight. "I knew you were okay," he murmured into her hair, "but I am damn glad to see you." He gave her a quick kiss, aware of the Watcher's benevolent gaze.
Rocky goggled, looking around. "Shut my mouth and call me Alice," he said slowly. His dark gaze rested on his friends. "Everyone okay?"
For answer the last four came through the trees, looking just as bemused as the rest. Trini and Deorth were holding hands. Billy was deeply relieved to see Adam walking upright next to his wife, completely healed, presumably, by the same energy wave that had restored Billy's leg. Rocky smiled hugely and crossed to his friend, pulling him and Tanya into a bear hug.
"Here's one thing that's gone right, anyway," Billy heard Rocky say. The brilliant scientist hunched his shoulders, glad his friends could find anything to be glad about in this mess. He felt Taia's fingers creep into his in sympathy as another pang of black remorse washed over him and he fought to hide it, though he couldn't help glancing at Tommy.
Who was looking at him, and who clearly knew what he was thinking. Tommy shook his head, a wry smile twisting his lips, and went forward to join the others surrounding Adam.
"He's right, you know," whispered Taia. "It wasn't your fault. And Adam's return to health is a good thing."
"I know," said Billy. "I do know. I just don't feel it."
"Well now," said the Watcher, gaining their attention, briskly rubbing his gnarled hands together, "as we are all here – " He left off there and began to count them, a frown creasing his forehead. "A moment," he said, "there are two missing." He snapped his fingers and two surprised people popped into being.
Peter and Iannos stared about themselves in abject astonishment.
"S – son?" Peter began, as Jason and Taia embraced their father. "How –? What just happened?" The older man scanned the group, then returned to Billy. "Where are – "
"Dead," his son replied flatly.
"Zack and Kim gave their lives to save us all," interposed Taia gently. "All Xerya owes them a debt that can never be repaid."
Peter's expression was disbelieving; then it crumpled into a mask of sorrow. "My God, I've known them both since they were kids," he said harshly, wiping his eyes. Iannos put a sympathetic hand on his friend's shoulder.
"Many have died today, P'Tyr," he reminded him softly. "Xerya has many heroes this day." Peter nodded, not speaking.
The brawny former Paladin crossed to Aji, lifting her chin. "You are well, little one?"
"Bowed by sorrow, Pahpian, but well enough."
"I am relieved to hear it." Iannos cleared his throat and looked at his son. "But what happened? The battle raged, and then without warning So'Vran's warships fell from the sky."
Jason tugged Aji close. "Frid Resgro happened, Father." Iannos stared. "Aji saw him, at the palace. Everything he did, everything we thought he did, was all to get into So'Vran's inner circle, to sabotage him from inside. If it hadn't been for him, I doubt we'd have survived."
"Ah." Iannos digested that for a moment, then smiled sadly. "I am glad to know I had not misjudged him after all." He kissed Aji on the cheek. "And how did P'Tyr and I come here?"
The Watcher clapped his hands together, causing his sleeves to billow uncontrollably. "It was my privilege to bring you here, Iannos K'Vlir, P'Tyr Krann. You may call me the Watcher." He laced his fingers together over his stomach. "It falls to me to give the epilogue to this adventure of a thousand years," he continued pompously.
"But is he really gone?" burst out Kat. "We've lost so much. Is So'Vran truly gone?"
He blinked at her owlishly. "Please, all of you, sit. Refresh yourselves, if you wish, or do not; and I will begin my discourse." The little Watcher waited until everyone had arranged themselves around the groaning table and took his place at the head, beaming benevolently. "Now, to answer you, my dear. Is So'Vran truly gone?" He raised his hands, palms up. "The being that created So'Vran has returned to the fold of those whom I serve, to receive justice there for his crimes against them and against you. The vessel he inhabited died many centuries ago, and has been destroyed."
"You have succeeded, my friends, in ending So'Vran's reign of destruction, in restoring balance and harmony to Xerya after centuries of torment and death. The cost was great," the Watcher glanced at Tommy, not unsympathetically, "but the reward greater still."
"And all this," Tanya gestured to the lush vegetation surrounding them. "Is this what Xerya was supposed to be, until So'Vran got his hands on it?"
"Excellent!" The Watcher all but patted the chocolate-skinned beauty on the head. "Balance has returned; Xerya is as she should be. All that is required now is careful stewardship."
"That healing wave," Billy ventured to ask, "was that the return of balance as well?"
The Watcher grew grave. "No. That was a surprise to me, a last gift from your valiant friends." Silence descended on the group, lasting until the Watcher got to his feet and folded his hands into his sleeves. "And now I must go, and bid you all farewell."
Aji frowned at him. "That sounds final."
The little man smiled sadly. "My masters seek to sever all ties with this plane; of which, unfortunately, I am one. So the Watcher will cease to watch." He sighed. "But I shall miss you. I should have liked to see what came from all this." The Watcher stepped to the top of the knoll, settling his robes around him with a finicky gesture. "I am sorry I did not have the opportunity to meet your friends Zachary and Kimberly. They were indeed heroes, sacrificing themselves for love of their friends. And such sacrifice deserves its own reward. Be well, my friends." With that the little man faded from view, leaving sparkling air in his wake.
Abruptly his head reappeared. "One last piece of advice, my friends. Always return what you borrow." And with an audible pop, he was gone.
Rocky scratched his head. "Oooooookaaaaay."
The sparkles left behind him still hung in the air, darting about like tiny fireflies. "What are these?" Tanya asked as several swirled about her head and body.
Adam got the same treatment. A group of the tiny lights hovered at his chest, then darted away to weave through Trini's hair and around Kat's head and shoulders.
Pink Zeo smiled, running her fingers through the cluster of glowing pinpoints. "They don't hurt," she said softly.
They seemed to multiply, as well, surrounding Tommy, his hair flying as the sparks caused a minor whirlwind. He simply stood woodenly, waiting until they moved on.
Billy was caught in the center of a small tornado as they wound their way over him; for his part, he tried not to flinch. It was clear these weren't incendiary, but who knew what they could be?
Each of them received some small attention from the tiny lights before they wound their way back to the top of the knoll, hanging there, almost expectantly.
Billy watched them and realized he was chewing on a piece of cheese. Glancing down, he discovered he was slowly working his way through a plate of food without knowing it. Moreover, they were all eating, even Tommy. Which was something of a surprise, given that they'd all felt too stricken to eat only moments before.
He took mental inventory, and realized… he felt better. And immediately felt swamped in guilt for it. Billy pushed the plate away.
Up on the knoll, the tiny lights had multiplied further, a veritable cloud of glowing points, swirling and weaving. Billy thought he could discern two distinct groups, though they were pretty closely meshed. And then they separated farther, and he was sure. Definitely two distinct groups.
Faster they spun, darting around and around, a pair of shapes emerging.
Suddenly, the clearing in which they sat erupted in mirth. Two voices, laughing together, one pitched low and hearty, the other higher. Tommy leapt to his feet, galvanized. Billy, Trini and Jason did the same.
Legs, arms, torsos emerged from the whirl of light; finally faces, the faces they were waiting for. The pinpoints of light dropped away, leaving two figures standing on the knoll. The Rangers sat, staring, frozen in place.
"Well, this is a hell of an anticlimax," said Zack with a grin. Kim, next to him, chuckled.
Pandemonium ensued. Trini, Kat, Tanya and Aji dove at Zack, who spread his arms wide and hugged them all. "Yeah, uh huh, that's right. You missed me, I know. What is life without the Zack-man?" Jason, Rocky, Deorth, and Adam stood around pounding each other on the back delightedly.
Trini punched him in the arm. "Don't you EVER do anything like that again, Superman, or I will kill you myself!"
Billy, for his part, merely turned and buried his face in Taia's neck with a broken "Thank God."
After a while he heard Zack announce in a disgusted tone of voice, "Oh, geez, look at 'em. This is what I had to put up with, the whole time we were together: 'Tommy, Tommy, Tommy.'" He put on a falsetto voice, pretending to imitate Kim. " 'Oh, I love Tommy. Oh, he's so wonderful.' Cripes, get a room, you guys!" Billy chuckled and wiped his eyes, looking around.
A baleful brown eye was peeking out from the other side of Tommy, staring at Zack. Kim pulled her mouth away from Tommy's. "Oh, right, like the inside of your mind is so pure!" She grabbed a piece of unrecognizable fruit from the table and lobbed it at Zack, who ducked.
"Food fight!" hollered the irrepressible Rocky, winging what looked like a deep-fried baby grat'lest at Jason. His target laughed and returned the favor in kind with a spoonful of greenish custard. Mayhem ensued. Even Peter and Iannos got into it, surprising their younger counterparts with a spirited, whipped-goo pie offense.
Billy stood apart, not yet willing to forget his part in their sorrow, his arm looped loosely around Taia's waist. A small, food-covered person came up to him. He looked down at her gravely.
"Thanks," Kim said.
"For letting you die?"
"For trusting me, and loving me enough to let me go."
He quirked half a smile. "Won't do it twice, you know."
She leaned up and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. "Won't ask you to."
"In that case…" Billy scooped up a big handful of something gelatinous and glopped it on her head. "I missed you. Uh oh," he added as Kim grabbed a plateful of bluish brownie-like things, fire in her eye. Billy dove under the table, laughing, as he was pelted with unidentifiable foodstuffs.
"Are you sure, Trini?" A week had passed since So'Vran's defeat. The huge silver pod was ready and waiting to return to Earth. The only catch was, not everyone was going.
Trini chuckled and hugged Kim again. "Yes, I'm sure, for the hundredth time. Deorth wants to start a school, to train Rangers and others in the ways of the ethrull. There's a lot I can teach them too, and a lot I want to learn. Besides, we belong together."
Kim sighed. "I know, but I'm going to miss you something awful."
"Oh, I'll be there for the wedding, don't you worry." Trini grinned and turned to Tanya. "And as soon as we can when my little nephew or niece there makes an appearance." She embraced the Yellow Zeo Ranger, then someone caught her attention. "There's Jason. Excuse me, you guys; I have something to give him."
Jason was flabbergasted. "Are you sure? What about Tommy?"
"Tommy has other plans. Come on, Jase, you never should have given it up, and you know it." Trini held out the Red Zeonizers, and after a pause, Jason took them with a grin. Trini nodded, satisfied. "Now that's the way things ought to be."
The redhead looked up from where she was stowing her bag in the pod's hold. "Hi, Tanya. Need a hand?"
"Yeah." Tanya smiled. "Would you carry these for me for a while?" She dropped the Yellow Zeonizers into Aji's outstretched hand.
Aji stared at her, bewildered. "I don't understand."
Tanya shrugged. "I need to give it up sooner or later, with the baby coming and all. I just figured sooner was better, especially after all this."
"But – Kim?"
"Just wants to get married and have a normal life. And I can't say I blame her." Tanya fisted her hands on her hips. "So. You game?"
Aji gave her a brilliant smile. "Yep."
"We're going to miss you back home, Zordon. You too, Alpha." Adam patted the little robot on the transistor. "What did you say the new mentor's name was?"
"Dimitria of Inquiris, Adam. And Alpha and I will miss you as well." The Eltaran looked benevolently down from his new time warp tube, freshly installed in the science bay of the old rebel base. "But Eltar has a vested interest in Xerya, and I have been appointed to represent Eltar on the new governmental Council. With Iannos at the head, and P'Tyr by his side, I have little fear that Xerya will become a force for good in the universe. But at the moment she is still finding her place." His attention shifted to the new arrivals in the bay. "And with the two of you representing her as ambassadors, Xerya's future is bright indeed."
"Thanks, man," said Zack, preening in his new uniform.
Taia, by his side and similarly dressed, nodded, then turned to Adam. "I came to find you, Adam. Billy wanted to show you his new facilities before you go."
"Oh, okay. Take care, Zordon, Alpha."
"You as well, Adam. May the power protect you."
The door to the bay swished open to admit yet another familiar face. "Hey, Bulk," said Adam with a smile. "You gonna be okay out here?"
The former bully grinned happily. "Are you kidding? This is the adventure of a lifetime! Safe trip, okay guys?" They shook hands, and Bulk bustled off.
Kat looked out the porthole of the pod. "I hate goodbyes."
Rocky joined her, sliding his arms around her waist. "I know what you mean. But it's not forever."
"I hope not," she agreed.
Jason and Aji, Adam and Tanya, Tommy and Kim came into the cabin. "You guys ready to go home?"
Together they looked out of the porthole at the beloved faces in the launch bay below. Deorth and Trini; Billy and Taia and their fathers; Zack, Bulk, Alpha and even Zordon, brought there courtesy of a vidscreen.
"Yeah," said Rocky finally, and the others nodded. "Yeah, home sounds pretty good."
Well, that's it. Thanks to all of you who came for the ride.