So uh...hey. Long time no post?
I'm very sorry for the delay with this fic and sort of...dropping off the face of the Earth. I've been having a really terrible year and needed some me time. Things have finally calmed down, however, and I'm back. I'll try to update more regularly.
So without further delay, here is Chapter 9!
The Lunar Palace
Local time, Unknown
Tommy scratched irritably at the stubble along his jaw as he stepped off of Serpentera onto the boarding dock of the Lunar Palace. It felt strange to be back after everything that happened, and he pulled tighter on his sweatshirt.
A cool metallic hand rested on his shoulder. "You have a break, Thomas. Rygog is currently away on Earth but will report back in two hours for a debriefing."
The teen said nothing as he watched the emperor walk away. It wasn't until he heard the familiar clicks of Anebris behind him did he realize he wasn't alone.
"Would Commander like Anebris to take Zyltran to the holding area?"
Tommy frowned in confusion. "Zyltran? Who – shit." He completely forgot about the gnarlyth he was gifted by the leaders of the KAX Union. What the hell was he supposed to do with the beast now?
"Um, yeah, thank you, Anebris. Take him to the cells in the West Wing while I get settled back into my quarters."
The fishlike creature clicked loudly before turning back to retrieve the beast.
The green ranger made the trek to his room in silence, body feeling heavier with each step he took. He felt off-balance now that he was back, unsure of the time or day due to the constant space travel. The halls were empty save for the few Tengu slinking around.
'Everyone must be out for battle.' He paused at that thought. 'Where the hell are we fighting now anyway?'
Lord Zedd always had him running around on KO-35 or rifling through the many books on Intergalactic Law that he only received small updates on the status of things on Earth, not that the updates were very informative anyway.
He took a detour, heading towards the throne room in search of Finster. The creature knew jack shit about war, but he was in charge of weapons and transportation. There had to be a log of where the soldiers and artillery had been sent in the three weeks they were gone.
Tommy's eyes narrowed when he caught sight of the large stone table sitting in the middle of the throne room. The largest chair there – the Commander's chair – had one of Rygog's capes draped over the back in what Tommy could only consider the most pretentious way of displaying his authority.
Slight ruffling from behind caught the teen's ear, and he whistled loudly to stop the feathered passerby. "Hey! Featherface! Tengu…come here…"
The human-sized bird turned to him with stupid eyes, head cocked to the side. The green ranger held out his bags. "Take this to my room. The Commander's quarters in the Upper East Wing? Can you do that, Big Bird?"
The Tengu squawked loudly. "Yes, sir."
"Good," said Tommy with a forced smile. "Don't break any of my shit."
The warrior gave a soft caw before turning. Tommy waited until the bird was gone before heading to Finster's lab, stopping along the way to yank Rygog's cape from the chair onto the floor and stomping on it. It was a childish move, but he didn't care.
The green ranger knocked three times on Finster's door before opening the door. The Clayoidian engineer was nowhere to be found, and his lab was an absolute mess.
Tommy shut the door behind him quickly, not wanting to alert anyone to his whereabouts. He moved to the center table in the lab, which was covered with canvas fabric that had a somewhat crude map of the Earth drawn on it. Several pushpins of various colors were sticking out, along with miniature tanks, soldiers and spaceships. Tommy knew the color code for the pins – red meant the area had been invaded, green meant the invasion was currently happening, and blue indicated an impending invasion.
He was startled to see how much of Western Europe was covered in red pushpins, as well as South America and a good portion of Southeast Asia. Several spots in Africa were covered in blue and green, most likely due to Finster still working on a way to get the soldiers adjusted to the heat and humidity of the region.
His gaze traveled over to the U.S., eyes widening at the large number of blue pushpins in the North and Southeast areas. Some places in the west were covered in red, albeit areas with low populations.
'How the fuck did he get all of this done while I was away?' Tommy wondered incredulously.
'Is Rygog that much better than me?' He choked down the feeling of inadequacy that question brought to the surface.
His eyes froze when his gaze landed where he knew California was on the map. There were five red pushpins in the area, three of which were clustered together near the base of the state. He knew one was Los Angeles and another was San Francisco, given that he was the one that led the attacks.
"But what the hell is the third one?" he wondered aloud.
The green ranger ran through a mental list of what cities were there. There was Anaheim, Long Beach, Santa Ana… Rygog could've gone for Riverside, but that would provide no tactical advantage if he already took out L.A. and San Diego.
'Unless…' The green ranger felt a sickening hollowness in his stomach.
"He wouldn't," Tommy whispered. "I told him not to. I ordered it."
But the longer he stared at the map, the less he could deny what he knew to be true. Angel Grove was also one of the cities between Los Angeles and San Diego, and the only one that made sense to attack from a strategic standpoint.
His mouth felt dry as he forced himself away from the table, dragging his feet as he moved to stand before Finster's computer.
"Computer," he rasped. "Commander Thomas Oliver of the Dark Empire speaking. Access code 90183."
There was a steady beeping sound as it matched his voice and number in its system. "HELLO COMMANDER."
"Requesting a log of transports to and from Angel Grove dating back to my departure to the KAX Union."
Another series of beeps. "PROCESSING…"
Tommy didn't even bother looking at the screen as a long list began to form. He flinched internally at every beep of a new log entry's appearance, heart suddenly very heavy.
"THERE ARE SEVENTY-EIGHT RECORDED TRANSPORTS IN OUR DATABASE TO ANGEL GROVE. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO NEXT, COMMANDER?"
A response never came from the green ranger as he teleported out in a flash of green light, fists clenched at his sides.
Angel Grove, CA
Local time, 3:37 PM
Tommy materialized in the backyard of his parents' home, and the heaviness in his chest grew tenfold.
The teen was hit with a coughing spell mere seconds after landing, lungs burning from the ash and smell of smoke still in the air.
He nearly gagged at the familiar nauseating smell of blood and burnt flesh.
The grass beneath his feet was no longer rich and green, but was now a mix of brown, orange and black. It crunched beneath his feet with every step he took towards the house.
The back door was off its hinges, no doubt ripped off in a soldier's haste to get inside. Tommy gingerly stepped over the fallen door as he walked inside, glass crunching beneath his feet. The formerly white walls were now covered in soot, scorch marks decorating the surface every few feet.
The green ranger used his shirt to cover his mouth and nose to breathe easier, though his eyes burned something fierce.
He raced forward, clumsily making his way through the house to his parents' bedroom. The door was ajar when he reached it, and Tommy gingerly pushed it open, afraid of what he'd find. Bile rose in his throat when he caught sight of their bedroom, which was little more than a pile of ashes now.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw something lying on the floor of his parents' bathroom. It was a severely charred arm resting on the cracked tile, undoubtedly connected to an equally burned body. Tommy knew without question that the arm belonged to his father.
He stumbled back, suddenly winded by the confirmation of what he knew in his heart to be true. His back hit the doorframe hard, but he didn't feel the pain as he slid slowly to the floor.
'He was trapped,' Tommy thought somberly. 'He was trapped in the bathroom when they set everything on fire.' His stomach lurched at the thought.
Tommy wasn't quite sure what he was feeling in that moment as he stared at his father's lifeless arm. He had spent so long hating him for cheating on his mother and abandoning their family for his own selfish needs that the green ranger had often thought of killing the man himself. The knowledge of his father's affair had tainted the love the teenager once felt for the older man beyond recognition, to where he didn't think he could ever love his father again. But even now… he felt something.
And he wasn't sure he liked it.
Tommy tore his eyes away from his dad, focusing instead on the piles of ash in the room. It was strange to see the room looking this way, a stark contrast to its normally meticulous state. Nothing was left untouched from the fire it seemed.
An image from the fire he dreamt about nights ago on Serpentera flashed in his mind. He shuddered, disturbed by how eerily similar his dream was to what actually happened.
And then a thought made his blood run cold. 'Mom.'
"No," he rasped as he climbed to his feet. "No, no, no, no, no…"
He knew in the back of his mind that the likelihood of his mother being alive after an attack led by Rygog was slim to none, but he couldn't stop himself from hoping against hope.
As Tommy made his way through what remained of his living room, he let out a choked sob of car in his parents' driveway. It was a small sedan, turned upside down with a crushed roof. Three of its tires were missing and all of the windows were blown out, glass scattered along the driveway.
The teen slowly made his way over, crouching down to get on his hands and knees. He barely noticed the sting from the jagged pieces of glass cutting into his skin. Tommy grabbed the door to the driver's side of the car, ripping it off and tossing it carelessly behind him on the grass.
The green ranger could make out the shape of a skeleton sitting in the driver's seat, its mouth open as if mid-scream. Part of it appeared to be attached to the car, most likely fused together from the intense heat of the fire His eyes traveled down to the person's neck, where what looked like a broken chain hang from their collarbone; it was covered in ash. Tommy reached out a hand, wiping away the dirt before letting out a shaky sigh and closing his eyes.
It was cracked, chipped away in some spots and even melted, but he knew his mother's necklace when he saw it.
Tommy was able to turn his head away at the last second before dry heaving.
He fell back against the car once it passed, limbs shaking from the emotions coursing through him.
His mind raced a mile a minute. 'How long was she in the car before she died? Did she think about him before everything ended? Did she feel any pain?'
"This wasn't supposed to happen," he whispered, hand toying with the broken necklace. "The invasion was never meant to touch Angel Grove."
"Did you really think that would happen?" T asked in disgust, appearing suddenly on top of the car, legs crossed. "You can't protect someone if you're the reason they're in danger in the first place. That's stupid."
Tommy shook his head rapidly. "I did what I could. I kept them away from Angel Grove as long as I could. I did my part."
T laughed. "Right, because agreeing to invade your home planet, murdering people all over the world, and then leaving behind the people you claim to care for when they need you the most is certainly doing your part. Admit it, Tommy – you did nothing."
He shoved his mother's necklace into his pocket before closing his eyes from the sting of tears. "This wasn't my fault," he whispered fiercely.
"No, it wasn't." The green ranger looked up to see Tom standing over him, arms crossed over his chest.
T jumped off the car in disbelief. "Are you serious?" The younger boy turned around in a full circle, arms flailing about. "Then whose fault is it?"
"For starters? The Power Rangers…Jason," Tom offered with a snarl. "They're the ones who are supposed to protect this city, this planet, not Tommy. Where were they when Angel Grove was being burned down? Where were they when Sandra was trapped in this car screaming for help?"
T rolled his eyes. "Gee, I don't know, Admiral…maybe trying to protect the rest of the world's population from his invasion! Mom was his responsibility and he blew it. Don't try to make him feel better about it."
It scared Tommy how much he wanted to believe what Tom was saying, how much he needed that to ease the pain of his mother's death, but he just couldn't ignore T's words. Not fully.
"Tommy, listen to me." Tom kneeled down to be eyelevel with the now openly crying green ranger. "You always intended on keeping this invasion peaceful. That's why you left for KAX – to make sure this didn't get any worse, right?"
The green ranger nodded numbly, even though he wasn't entirely sure why he went to KAX himself. Not anymore.
"What happened here was necessary, but how it happened was beyond your control."
T stood behind Tom with a disgusted frown, head shaking rapidly from side to side. "I can't believe this shit…"
"What is in your control is the fallout," Tom said, voice rising to talk over T's background commentary. "You couldn't prevent your mother's death but you can make sure those responsible pay for it." His eyes shined brighter. "Jason has failed you twice now, Tommy. You almost died the first time, and this time your mother is dead."
The matter of fact way the older man said it made Tommy flinch.
"And what about Rygog, hmm?" Tom asked curiously. "He's been challenging your authority ever since the Emperor made you his Commander. He waited until you were gone to take your power away, to undermine everything you worked so hard for…and look what happened."
The green ranger's fists clenched tightly, knuckles white from the pressure. The anger was drowning out the pain, and he embraced it freely. Anger was something he could handle.
"You're upset? Good, you should be. But to sit here and wallow in self-loathing is unacceptable."
Tom rose to his feet, stretching out a hand to the boy on the ground. The sight reminded Tommy strongly of Lord Zedd.
"Do something about it."
The Lunar Palace
Upper West Wing Corridor
Local time, Unknown
Blood pounded thunderously in Tommy's veins as he stormed through the Lunar Palace, his mother's charred necklace heavy in his pocket.
"WHERE IS HE?!" the teen roared.
Scuffling was heard before several Piranhatron made their way over to him. "Sir?"
"Rygog. Where is he?" Tommy's eyes burned bright green with anger.
"General Oliver, he's in a – " Tommy grabbed the soldier by his armor, slamming him roughly into the wall.
"Don't you dare call me General," the green ranger hissed. "My title is and always will be Commander, do you understand?"
The Piranhatron nodded. "I did not mean any disrespect, sir. It is only that in your absence, the title of Commander was – "
The soldier wheezed when Tommy's hand wrapped around his throat, trachea collapsing under the teen's hand. "I don't give a fuck what that bug-eyed freak thinks he is. I'm the Commander. I call the shots." He leaned closer. "Now, where is he?"
The green ranger turned to face Scorpina who looked at him with a mixture of concern and disappointment.
"Let him go. Now."
Tommy turned back to the soldier he had pinned to the wall, growling low in his throat before dropping him abruptly to the ground.
"Leave us," he hissed to the remaining Piranhatrons. They shuffled quickly, picking up their fallen friend along the way as they hurried out.
"What is wrong with you?" she asked angrily. "You can't go around choking soldiers because you're upset."
"Do you know where he is?"
"Of course I do, but I'm not telling you. Not while you're like this and liable to do something stupid."
Tommy narrowed his eyes. "You knew." His eyes flashed green when she looked away. "You knew he was attacking Angel Grove and didn't say anything."
"I…suspected," she corrected him. "Just like you. The attack was inevitable, Tommy. You knew it was only a matter of time. Are you upset because he disobeyed you?" She eyed him warily. "Or because of…other reasons?"
The green ranger tensed. "I'm only going to ask you one more time, Scorpina. Where is he?"
Scorpina sighed. "His whereabouts aren't important right now, Tommy. There's something else you need to know." Her eyes softened. "It's about – "
Tommy's attention shifted when he caught a flash of metallic blue in his peripheral. Rygog appeared from around the corner.
"You," Tommy hissed, fists clenched tightly.
Rygog let out an irritated scoff. "Oliver. What do you want, boy?"
"Did I not make it clear that Angel Grove was to remain untouched before I left?"
Rygog frowned. "You said there was no reason to attack Angel Grove at the time when there were more important cities to attack. We've covered the entire map, boy. Surely you didn't think Angel Grove would be spared."
Rygog gave a wry grin. "But from how tense you are, I'm guessing you really were that naïve."
Tommy moved to run at him but was stopped by Scorpina grabbing the back of his hoodie.
"Calm down," she whispered urgently, nails digging into his arm.
"It's no surprise to see you so angry, so weak. It's obvious whatever emotional attachment you had to that wretched city is what kept you from doing your job." He shrugged nonchalantly. "Someone had to pick up the slack."
Tommy's eyes burned from the effort to keep from crying. "Emotional attachment had nothing to do with my decision not to attack Angel Grove."
"Didn't it?" Rygog challenged, beady eyes focused intently on the green ranger. "You had no problem with every other city we've hit, but when Angel Grove is under attack, a city you yourself said was inconsequential to the invasion, you're bothered. Why is that?"
By now a crowd had gathered around them and all eyes were focused on the green ranger. Tommy swallowed uncomfortably under their scrutiny.
Rygog sneered as he moved closer to the teen. "Did I hit a little too close to home?" he whispered.
Tommy barely felt the heat coursing through his veins as he shot a bolt of green energy directly into Rygog's chest. The creature howled in pain, tripping over his own feet before he crashed onto the floor.
The green ranger felt Scorpina's grip on his hoodie loosen and he pounced on the fallen general, fists slamming repeatedly into his face. Tommy felt numb with rage, eyes only seeing his parents' bodies engulfed in flames as Rygog stood laughing. Time slowed down as he listened to her scream for help, to his father begging for mercy on the bathroom floor…
The green ranger was shaken from his reverie by the booming voice of Lord Zedd, and his eyes snapped to the now horribly disfigured face of Rygog. Blood covered the teen's hands, face and the front of his hoodie. He barely noticed when two Piranhatrons dragged him off of Rygog's crumpled form.
"I…" The green ranger stared at his hands in confusion.
"Be quiet," Lord Zedd hissed menacingly. Tommy's cheeks flushed from embarrassment from being scolded.
"You two," the emperor said pointing at two Tengu. "Take Commander Rygog down to the Medical Bay. Now."
The feathered soldiers rushed to Rygog's aid.
"Everyone clear the area…except you two." The emperor pointed at Tommy and Scorpina.
Lord Zedd waited for the others to leave before roughly grabbing Tommy and slamming him into the wall. The teen wheezed at the impact.
"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't have you thrown in the holding cells for your attack on Rygog."
Tommy's mouth opened and closed several times as he tried to come up with an answer.
"He disobeyed my orders to attack Angel Grove."
Lord Zedd's arm shot up to the teen's throat, pressing hard against his Adam's apple. "And since when do your orders override mine, Thomas?" The emperor leaned closer to the green ranger. "Rygog attacked Angel Grove on my orders. Do you have a problem with that?"
The angry red glow of Lord Zedd's visor caused Tommy's heart to race. "I just -" he rasped.
"Master, if I may?" Scorpina interrupted.
There was a pause before Zedd gave a slight nod in her direction.
"From my conversations with him on Serpentera, I believe Tommy simply wanted to be the one to attack Angel Grove, in hopes of a personal confrontation with the Power Rangers."
The green ranger's eyes narrowed. 'What?'
There was a heavy silence. "Scorpina, it is not your job to come to the aid of General Oliver when he can very clearly speak for himself."
She nodded. "I understand, sir, but in this case I feel it is necessary. Although Tommy is very bright, he is also young, and with youth comes the inability to control certain impulses. Even though it was incredibly brash of him to attack Rygog like that, his value and his loyalty to this empire shouldn't be questioned."
Her eyes cut to the green ranger. "I'm sure that with some…discipline, this won't be happening again."
Tommy looked between the two in confusion, unable to read either of their facial expressions.
The teen let out a grunt when Zedd suddenly released him, and he rubbed his throat warily as he watched the emperor walk over to Scorpina. The two of them whispered fiercely at each other for some time.
Lord Zedd stepped back. "Am I understood?"
Scorpina spared a glance in Tommy's direction before nodding.
"Good." The emperor looked over his shoulder at the green ranger quickly before turning back to Scorpina.
"How you decide to go about it is your call, but I want it taken care of."
Scorpina's jaw clenched slightly. "Yes, sir. His probation will be effective immediately."
Tommy opened his mouth to protest, but the warning glare Scorpina sent his way kept him silent.
"I'm leaving him in your charge," Zedd stated tersely before walking off.
Tommy waited until the emperor was out of sight before turning on Scorpina. "What the fuck? Why am I on probation?"
"I'm sorry, would you rather be dead?" she sneered before heading down the hallway.
His eyes widened. "Dead? For that? Rygog wasn't even hurt that badly."
"You almost crushed his skull in, Tommy. I'm thinking that means his injuries are serious."
"Well if you feel that way, why did you even defend me in the first place?" he asked angrily.
She looked away. "It's…complicated."
"What the hell does that even mean? And what was with the secretive whispers with Zedd?" He narrowed his eyes when she refused to look at him. "And why do I get the feeling that something else is going on here?"
"Because there is," she said bluntly before grabbing his arm. "Not here. Come with me."
Tommy allowed her to drag him to her quarters, raising an eyebrow in surprise as she forcefully closed it. He had never seen her so agitated before. Something was definitely wrong.
"Scorpina?" His voice cracked a bit with worry. Her pacing was making him nervous.
"You're off-duty from this moment forth. Two months mandatory probation. You will report to the lower levels of the Moon Base and tend to the creatures in the cells. All of your access privileges have been downgraded to Level 5."
The green ranger's eyes widened. "Are you serious? Rygog's not even dead! Why do I - "
"This isn't about Rygog. It's about you!" she yelled at him.
Tommy blinked in confusion, stomach tightening uncomfortably. "What do you mean it's about me? What's going on?"
She stared at him intently before mumbling under her breath.
"Scorpina, what do you – "
"How did you find out Angel Grove was attacked?" she asked cutting him off.
"I used the computer in Finster's lab," he said nonchalantly. "Why won't you –"
"Did you find anything else?"
Tommy shook his head. "I was only interested in Angel Grove."
The green ranger wasn't sure, but a look of what could only be described as remorse crossed her features.
"A lot happened while we were away, a lot that wasn't disclosed to you. Things that if the emperor knew you were asking about could probably end up getting you killed." She walked past him to her desk, typing rapidly on the keyboard to bring up the logs of the Dark Empire's recent attacks.
"In one hour, I will ask Finster to restrict your access to the computer's database. Until then, I'm going to leave this room and whatever you choose to do while I'm gone, I won't be aware of."
Tommy looked from the computer screen to her in confusion. He knew what she was doing, but he didn't understand why.
"Scorpina," he called out as she opened the door. "Hypothetically speaking, if I wanted to catch up on what's been happening since we left for KAX, where would be a good place to start?"
She gave him a sad smile. "Nairobi."
Angel Grove Park
Angel Grove, CA
The green ranger materialized in the center of Angel Grove Park. Normally he would try to be more discreet, but given that the town was pretty much abandoned ever since the attack, there was no point in trying to be inconspicuous.
Surprisingly, the park was relatively unscathed. Aside from the sporadic spots of burned land and complete lack of any living creatures, it was just as he remembered.
'That's because no one would be dumb enough to stay out in the open when lasers and bullets are flying everywhere,' he thought bitterly.
Tommy made his way over to the lake, mind racing to catch up on the day's events. Just thinking about everything he'd learned in the last few hours was giving him a headache.
"Well it should. It's your fault."
Tommy rolled his eyes before taking a seat on the large rock nearby. "And just when this day couldn't possibly get worse, you show up."
T snorted. "Am I wrong?" he asked while rolling up his jeans to his knees.
The younger teen plopped down on the ground, stretching his long legs so that his feet dangled in the water.
Tommy chose to ignore his question. "What am I supposed to do now?"
"Wouldn't the better question be why does this suddenly change your plans?" T shrugged. "You obviously didn't care enough about your parents or Kim or that baby you put in her in the first place since you joined the wrong team. Now that they're all dead, shouldn't that make things easier for you?"
Tommy's eyes flashed green. "I never wanted them to die."
T arched an eyebrow in amusement. "Right. That's why you did everything in your power to help them. Silly me."
The green ranger tugged his jacket closer to his body, suddenly very cold. "Where's Tom?" he asked softly.
T laughed. "You tell me. We're a part of you, remember? You're the reason I'm here and why he isn't."
The older teen said nothing, effectively ignoring T's existence as he was lost in his thoughts.
It was hard enough dealing with the death of his parents, but now he had to add Kimberly and their unborn child to the list.
The way it was written in the report was so sterile, so matter-of-fact that it made him want to hurl.
To think that she had lived through so much as a ranger and all it took was an axe to her spine for her to go down and a single shot to the skull for it to end.
It just didn't make any sense.
"Maybe she would have had an easier time protecting herself if she wasn't lugging around that extra weight in her stomach," T said as he swirled his feet in the water.
He turned to meet Tommy's heated gaze. "Too soon?"
The younger boy held up his hands defensively. "All right, all right, look. I'm sorry. I know how much Kim and the baby meant to you…"
"Thanks," Tommy mumbled.
"…I said to Tommy, with obvious sarcasm…"
Tommy shot a bolt of energy into the water next to T's feet. "You think this shit is funny?"
T reared back as if offended. "Do I think the death of a woman who wanted nothing more than to protect her baby and be free of you is funny? Why, no, Tommy, I don't think that's funny at all. I think it's disgusting."
The younger teen climbed to his feet. "You're too busy sitting here throwing yourself a pity party that you can't even admit that all of this is your fault. Kim and your baby are dead because of you. Your parents are dead because of you. This whole fucking planet is going to shit because of you. Get over yourself, Tommy.
"Kim warned you from the beginning that this would happen. She told you this was dangerous. That this invasion was putting everything at risk, and all you did was lie to her face and say you were protecting her." His face was flushed with anger. "Where the hell were you when she needed you, Tommy?"
A blast of green energy hit T in the chest, sending him flying into the lake.
"Back off, T. Now." Tom stood a few feet away, green wisps of smoke emanating from his hand.
T broke the surface of the water, sputtering indignantly as he made his way back to the pier.
"And right on time, you show up to make sure no one's hurting poor Tommy's wittle feelings. How chivalrous of you." He climbed out of the water, squeezing the excess water from his clothes.
"He can't think if you're berating him with your nonsense, boy," Tom sneered. "He needs the opportunity to regroup and think of a new strategy, not listen to your drivel about the pink ranger."
T's eyes narrowed. "A new strategy? For what?"
Tom rolled his eyes. "Were you not paying attention to his conversation with Scorpina?"
T blinked twice. "Oh, wow. You're serious."
He laughed loudly as he squeezed the water out of his hair. "And you call me stupid? Dude, no one is robotic like you, especially not this guy." He pointed at Tommy. "Contrary to what you think and what he wants to believe, he's nowhere near ready to move past anything, much less Kim."
Tom raised an eyebrow.
"Take a look around you, bro." The younger Tommy shrugged off his hoodie, tossing it carelessly onto the ground next to his shoes. "Why do you think we're here of all places?"
"Am I standing correctly?"
Tommy squinted against the sunlight in his eyes as he watched his petite friend get into position.
"Almost. Your feet need to be a bit wider."
Kim did as instructed, feet now shoulder-width apart.
"Okay, good. Now remember the motions. Your hands and feet need to act in unison for this to work properly."
She nodded briefly before scrunching her face up in concentration. Tommy thought she looked adorable.
"All right… get ready!" he shouted before charging at her full speed.
The world became a swirl of colors as Tommy found himself flipped in the air and on his back. He winced slightly in pain when his back connected with the ground.
"Shit, Tommy, are you okay?" the pink ranger asked worriedly. She bit her lip anxiously.
"No," he groaned. "I think you broke my back, Kim."
Her eyes widened. "Are you serious? Tommy, I thought you said you'd done this a million times? Now you're telling me your back is broken?"
Tommy watched her pace frantically as she ranted, and he couldn't stop the laugh that erupted from his throat.
Kim shot him an accusatory glare. "You asshole. That wasn't funny!"
"I don't know. Seemed quite humorous from down here."
She moved to kick him in the ribs but he was too quick for her, grabbing onto her ankle tightly and causing her to lose her balance. She fell in a heap on top of him.
"Damn, that one really fucking hurt," he wheezed. "But it was so worth it."
Kim pushed herself up with her hands, hair falling into her face. "Jerk. I don't know why I bother with you sometimes."
Tommy bit his lip as he stared up at her, hand pushing her hair behind her ear.
"Because of how you feel about me."
The air around them grew heavy with Tommy's admission. It was the first time either of them had ever spoken about what was growing between them aloud.
Kim swallowed nervously. "Tommy… I – "
Beep. Beep. Beep. Ba-beep. Beep.
She let out a frustrated sigh before climbing to her feet. Tommy let out a groan as he covered his face with his arms.
"I have to go," she said, tone apologetic. "I have – "
"I know, I know. Something with the others. I know the drill by now."
He couldn't hide the bitterness in his voice. It annoyed him that they all had these not-so-secret meetings with each other all the time and constantly excluded him.
"Hey," she said softly while nudging him with her foot. "We're going to finish this conversation, okay?"
Tommy nodded, and she gave a soft smile in return. He watched her run off towards the Youth Center with a longing expression.
Tom scowled with disgust. "Stop it."
Tommy turned to see Tom glaring down at him angrily. "What?"
"Stop thinking about her. Isn't that what got you into this mess in the first place?"
The green ranger stood up from the rock with a scowl. "Hey, you know what? Fuck you, man."
Tom rolled his eyes. "No, fuck you. You're here moping around over some damn girl when you should be thinking about yourself. This is good news."
The green ranger shifted uncomfortably under the older man's gaze.
"The pink ranger is dead. That baby she was carrying is gone. Get over it. Death happens in battle – you should know that better than anyone given how many people you've killed. Why does it suddenly matter to you now?"
Tommy could see T watching them with an anxious expression, as if he were waiting for something to happen.
"I-I don't know." T's loud groan could be heard clearly, even from a distance.
"You don't know," Tom repeated irritably. "Well then let's talk about what you do know, hmm? You know that Rygog has effectively taken over your role in this invasion. You know that you basically handed it over to him on a silver platter because you decided to throw a temper tantrum at not getting your way. You know that the emperor wanted you dead because you decided to be an embarrassment not only to him but to the entire empire."
Tommy flinched as Tom moved closer to him, green eyes blazing.
"You know that Scorpina saved your life because you were too goddamn stupid to do it yourself. And now what? You're on probation, relegated to the rank of a mere soldier, all because you couldn't handle something that was going to happen anyway."
The green ranger blinked rapidly against the sting in his eyes.
"You aren't able to see it now, but Rygog unknowingly did you a favor. Emotional attachments make you weak, careless. He got rid of those for you." Tom smiled, though to Tommy it looked menacing. "The bastard doesn't even realize it, but he's made you stronger by allowing you to focus on what needs to be done."
Tom placed a hand on the green ranger's shoulder. "That mess about the baby is over now – Rygog got rid of your mistakes. The path is clear for you to take what is yours. Embrace it."
Tommy stared at Tom for several seconds, unable to allow himself to feed off the encouragement the older man was trying to give him. His stomach was in knots, and his head was throbbing with pain. Nothing felt right.
"I need to be alone," he said lowly, shrugging off Tom's hand before he walked away.
The green ranger headed deeper into the park, walking aimlessly as his thoughts ran wild in his mind.
Kim was dead. His baby was dead. His parents were dead.
For a moment, Tommy was relieved to be unable to feel any guilt. He was sure that if he could, there would be no escape from the drowning pain he'd feel.
Too bad it didn't stop him from knowing he was still to blame.
Tommy blinked out of his haze when he realized he was at their spot, the place they used to go to talk whenever things were bothering them.
He rested his back against the nearby tree, sliding down its trunk until he was sitting on the ground. He had never felt so…lost before.
What the hell was he supposed to do now?
He kicked at the large rock next to him in frustration, forcing it to roll over several times before coming to a stop.
The green ranger's face scrunched in confusion when he noticed the white piece of paper partially buried in the dirt where the rock used to be.
Curiously, he crawled over, pulling the paper out of the ground and knocking off the clumps of dirt. His eyes widened as he read the familiar scrawl.
SCML East 24
It was Kimberly's handwriting.
They had agreed at the start of the invasion to use the rock as a way to send messages to each other, but Kim had never seemed responsive to the idea.
Until now apparently.
The green ranger climbed to his feet as he stared at her note. 'She tried to contact me, but I wasn't here. What if she wanted my help?'
The thought made him feel sick.
"What the hell is SCML East 24?" he wondered aloud. "What were you trying to tell me, Kim?"
'Not that it matters,' he thought morosely. 'She's dead.'
Still, his eyes remained fixed on the letters, trying to understand their hidden meaning.
"SCML…S-C-M-L… It has to be something I know, otherwise she wouldn't…"
He gasped in realization. 'Could it?'
Tommy shoved the note into his pocket before leaving in a flash of green light.
Stone Canyon Mountain Lodge
East Side, Cabin #24
The paper with Kim's message was squished between his fingers; he didn't even realize he was clenching his fist until the biting sting of his nails finally registered. Tommy eyed the cabin warily. It didn't appear to be damaged or anything.
Clearing his throat awkwardly, Tommy knocked steadily on the wooden door, pale hand shaking slightly. Every second that passed caused his heart to beat faster, and he swallowed thickly before knocking again, harder this time.
And he was still met with no response.
The slip of paper in his hand was fisted tightly as Tommy felt a wave of nausea hit him, back now turned to the door. She wasn't there. The teen ran a hand over his face, pinching the bridge of his nose hard to ward off the images of a blooded and broken Kimberly, the one that haunted his dreams these last few weeks. He closed his eyes to dampen the pounding in his head.
'The report said very clearly she was killed in battle. Why I even doubted it to be –'
"Can I help you?" asked a soft voice.
Brown eyes snapped open in shock and the green ranger suddenly found it quite difficult to breathe.
"Look, if you don't answer me, I'm going to call the cops…"
He let out a strangled laugh before turning to look at her.
"Kim...I thought you were…" He couldn't finish his sentence.
Doe eyes widened almost comically through the cracked door.
"Tommy?" she breathed.
He smiled ruefully.
All the time he spent thinking about her couldn't prepare him for the moment he saw her. And now that she was in front of him, he didn't know what to do.
What exactly was the correct thing to do when you saw someone you thought was dead but turned out to be alive? A hug? A handshake?
Kimberly's mouth opened and closed several times before snapping shut. She closed the door with a soft click, removing the latch quickly before opening the door all the way.
"Kim, I thought you – whoa!"
Now it was Tommy's turn to gape as he took in her form. She was still petite, wearing sweatpants and a worn t-shirt beneath an old AGHS varsity cheerleading jacket. Her hair was longer, down to the middle of her back and with blonde streaks. She looked almost like she did before he left.
He was just having a hard time figuring out what happened to her stomach. 'What the fuck?'
She watched him guardedly, eyes travelling to the paper in his hands before her eyes softened. Wordlessly, she moved out of the doorway. Tommy walked inside, shrugging off his camouflage jacket and hanging it up on the nearby coat rack as she shut the door behind him softly. He turned to her with still wide eyes.
"Kim, you – shit!"
She was on him in an instant, hands connecting to any part of him that was unprotected as she proceeded to beat the shit out of him. It wasn't so much that the blows hurt as it was that so many were coming so quickly. A hard smack to the side of his head caused Tommy to bite his tongue and he shouted in pain, reaching out blindly to grab her flailing hands. He carefully pinned her against the wall, mindful of her protruding stomach. Kim kicked at his shin in frustration, causing both of them to wince in pain when her foot connected with bone.
"Dammit, will you stop?" he yelled. "You're going to hurt yourself." He put some distance between their bodies. "And why are you hitting me?"
"I'm hitting you because you're a piece of shit." Tommy dodged another half-hearted kick at his legs. "First you knock me up and then you abandon me…not like you were ever really there in the first place."
He ignored her biting remark, willing to take the verbal abuse so long as she was alive to dish it out.
"I didn't abandon you – I came right back. I didn't know you'd be…" He paused, hands waving at her form. "What the hell happened to you?"
She glared, blowing a stray strand of hair out of her face. "What do you mean what happened to me? Did you fail biology along with future parenting?"
He furrowed his brow. "I leave for three weeks and you look like you ate a basketball. Why are you so…you know? Does it have something to do with your powers? Did it accelerate the pregnancy?" His throat tightened. "Is the baby okay?"
It was Kimberly's turn to look confused. "Three weeks? Tommy, you've been gone for three months."
His blood ran cold at that revelation, and he released her instantly. "No," he said slowly. "I was gone for three weeks, Kim. I left three weeks ago from Earth to negotiate with the leaders of KAX."
She narrowed her eyes. "I'm five months pregnant, Tommy. I was a little over two months when you left." She gestured to her stomach. "The proof's right here."
Tommy blinked rapidly as shock overcame him, the elation of finding her alive fading at the news of how long he'd been gone.
She eyed him as he clumsily made his way to the nearby loveseat, falling heavily into the cushions. Kim rested her hands on her lower back as she waddled to the sofa, lowering herself easily.
An uncomfortable silence hung between them. "Was that your first time going into space for a mission?"
Tommy stared blankly at the wall across from him. "Yeah."
She watched him for several seconds before sighing heavily. "I thought Lord Zedd would have reminded you that time passes differently on other planets." She smiled wistfully. "First time I went to Neptune, I freaked out when I realized I missed three days back here."
Tommy only grunted in response before licking his lips. "Kim, this probably means nothing to you, but I hope you know I wouldn't have gone if I knew it would be this long."
The pink ranger maintained eye contact for a beat before laughing softly. "You're right…it means nothing to me."
The sinking feeling in Tommy's chest doubled, and he took a shallow breath to control the feeling. He pressed his fingers into the sides of his head as he tried to manage his thoughts. He was vaguely aware of Kimberly getting off of the couch, feet barely making a sound as she walked around the cabin.
"I see you cut your hair," she mentioned softly. "Thought you were in love with it or whatever."
"Zedd's orders," he murmured, hand running over his hair self-consciously. "The KAX Union and the negotiations…" Tommy trailed off. "I can't – don't wanna talk about that right now."
More shuffling in the distance hit his ears, and Tommy gritted his teeth against the pain in his chest and head. He felt like he was drowning.
A tap on his shoulder broke his concentration, and he found a glass of water and two Aleve tablets in front of him. He took them with a weak smile.
"You look like you're going to throw up," she offered. "Don't want you doing it all over my furniture."
He shoved the capsules into his mouth, grimacing against the chalky taste before gulping down the water greedily. He coughed slightly when some of it went down the wrong pipe, slamming the glass onto the coffee table.
"Slow down," she warned. "You're going to make yourself sick."
Tommy ignored her; he doubted he could feel worse than he did now.
"What happened?" he rasped.
At her questioning glance, he gestured around him. "Why are you here? Alone? I was told you were dead."
Kim's eyes narrowed. "You really don't know anything, do you?" He shook his head.
The pink ranger took a deep breath. "Fun fact about morning sickness? It should really be called 'all day sickness.' A few days after you left, I kept getting sick during battle. The smell of blood and sweat and those disgusting aliens from your army were making my situation more apparent. I passed it off as a stomach bug in order to keep Billy from investigating." She looked down at her hands. "I managed to keep it hidden until I fainted during one of the battles. Lisbon. I woke up in the Command Center hooked up to all those machines. I didn't even have to ask – I could tell everyone knew from the looks on their faces."
From the pained expression on her face, Tommy could tell who she was thinking of as she recalled that memory.
Jason. 'Of course.'
"I was taken off-duty immediately, out of fear of harming the baby. They moved me to this safe house so I was kept off of Rygog's radar. They faked my death in Nairobi so I could be moved in secret. I wasn't showing at the time." She gave a sad smile. "It was Jason's idea to put me in his uncle's cabin. A hospital's right up the road that I can go to when the baby comes, and Billy set it up so that I can travel to and from the Command Center if I need to without endangering the baby from teleporting." She licked her lips nervously. "No one knows where I am except the rangers, Zordon and Alpha 5."
"And me," corrected Tommy. "All of them and me." Kimberly looked away.
"Do they know the baby is mine?" he asked softly.
She shook her head. "No one except my team knows. The others…" She bit her lip.
Kim cleared her throat. "Jason told them the baby is his."
The silence in the room was deafening, and the heaviness Tommy felt before was back in full force. "He did what?"
The pink ranger glared. "It's not like I can just announce that one of the enemy's top generals is the father of my child, Tommy. Jason did it to protect me, to protect my son from the backlash of having you as his father."
The unnatural weight in the green ranger's chest was fighting against unexpected warmth that came from Kimberly's words. "Son?" he repeated hoarsely.
Kim gave a small smile. "Yeah. I got an ultrasound done a few weeks ago. It's a boy."
Conflicting emotions arose in the green ranger at the admission. Part of him was sort of excited and even a little proud at the thought of having a son. But a larger part of him was absolutely terrified. Between Scorpina's heartfelt 'Your child is fucked' chitchat back on Serpentera and the disturbing nightmares, the idea of fatherhood was making him increasingly anxious.
Tommy pressed the heel of his hand against his temple. "And you've been okay here?"
She nodded. "Gets boring after a while, but I understand it's for the best. After the attack happened, I – " Tommy blanched. "What?" she asked.
"When did it happen?"
"About two weeks ago…why?"
Tommy ran his hands over his face, a choked laugh rising from his throat. "Before I came here, I went to Angel Grove. I wanted to check on my mother. Not to visit or anything but I just…I needed to see her."
"How is she?"
Tommy could feel the bile rise in his throat as he thought back to when he found her; her necklace felt like lead in his pocket.
He swallowed thickly. "She's dead."
He could feel the weight of her stare and hear the unspoken words.
This is all your fault.
He could see a question dancing in her eyes, like she wanted to ask if he was okay, but it disappeared. "Billy's father was killed," she told him after a long pause. "Gunned down in his living room. They weren't able to get to him in time."
That hollow feeling in Tommy's chest threatened to consume him.
"It's not healthy how he burns himself out every day in the lab, but I think it's his way of dealing," she continued, eyes sad. "The guilt is killing him."
Her glare was now angry, and Tommy could feel the accusation heavy in the air. You did this.
"Just say it," he said, partly in annoyance but mostly out of anxiety. "You've been holding back this entire time – I know you have something to say."
Her eyes flashed in annoyance before her focus shifted to her fingernails, idly picking at them. "The things I want to say to you could fill so many books," she hissed. "But what I've realized since you've been gone is that being angry at you solves nothing. You're never going to change and stressing myself out over what you do or don't do isn't good for the baby."
His head began to throb. "So that's it? You're writing me off just like that?"
She narrowed her eyes. "Are you kidding me right now? Tommy…" Kim pressed a hand to her forehead. "You've done almost nothing for me and our son. Hell, Jason has stepped up and claimed the child of the person I cheated on him with to protect us. You haven't given me a single reason to allow you into our lives." She rolled her eyes. "Three months have obviously done nothing for your inability to see beyond yourself."
Tommy's nostrils flared. "You think this is easy for me?"
She shrugged. "Seems like it. You're off having adventures in other galaxies, blowing people up and making only God knows what kind of deals with the scum of the universe. Meanwhile, I'm here, removed from duty because I made the mistake of sleeping with you and getting pregnant. I'm trapped in this fucking cabin while you get to murder, steal and terrify innocent people. Forgive me for thinking you got the better end of the – "
"Shut up," he hissed, cutting her off.
"Excuse me?" she asked, eyebrow raised.
"I get it was hard for you, okay, but you have no idea what I'm going through, Kim." He pressed his hands against the sides of his head. "The whole time I was out there – I was losing my mind."
'Literally,' T chimed in.
"I was away from home, paranoid as fuck about Rygog taking over. I couldn't protect you or the baby or my mom anymore because I was gone. I had the weight of the whole fucking Dark Empire on my shoulders with those negotiations. And at the same time I was expected to handle KO-35 which was going to Hell in a handbasket." He sighed heavily. "Not to mention the run in with Karone – "
"What?" Kim interrupted. "Who's – "
"And don't even get me started on the nonstop shit show in my head. Fucking T and Tom and their mind games about the future and dying and Christmas…little shits th – "
"Tommy!" she shouted, breaking his stream of consciousness. "I don't know who these people are or what you're talking about."
He blinked hard, licking his lips as he moved to take a seat across from her on the coffee table, their legs brushing together. "Look, when I was out there – and I know you're going to think I'm full of shit – but something happened to me."
"Oh God, I hope you're not going to tell me you were probed…" she said warily.
He glared before continuing. "Something's happening to me – I don't know how to explain it or really understand it all myself, but it's happening to me. And ever since it started, I've only been able to think about you."
There was a pregnant pause before Kimberly let out a loud snort, covering her mouth with her hand as her shoulders shook. "Do you seriously expect me to believe that?"
"It's the truth," he insisted. "I mean…yeah, I also had the negotiations with the KAX Union and the whole KO-35 thing going on …"
"Of course you did," she interjected dryly.
"But you were always on my mind. You and the baby."
"Really?" she asked, voice dripping with sarcasm. "And what exactly were you thinking about, Tommy?"
"I was thinking…" He cleared his throat awkwardly. "I was thinking about how upset I would be if anything happened to you or our child."
An unreadable expression crossed her face then. "And why would you be upset about that? Before you left, it seemed like we were nothing more than inconveniences to you; roadblocks in your little quest to be Zeddy's number one lapdog. Why do we matter now?"
Tommy didn't know how to answer that question, but he could hear the words from the revealing conversation in Scorpina's quarters ringing in his ears.
I'm not in love with her…
I never said you were…
"You've always mattered."
Kim shook her head, laughing mirthlessly. "So you leave Earth a complete jackass, and what? Three weeks on KAX has given you some food for thought? After some mysterious process that you can't explain and don't understand happened to you?" She eyed him. "Are you sure you weren't probed?"
She held up her hands. "I'm sorry, I'm just finding this a little unbelievable. Scratch that, a lot."
Tommy sighed heavily as he tiredly ran his hands over his face. He should've known it was pointless trying to talk to her about this.
"Oh god, what the hell happened to your hands?"
The green ranger's face was a mask of confusion at both the sudden change in subject and the horrified tone in the pink ranger's voice. He checked his hands, grimacing at the torn, bloodied skin there.
"Got into a fight."
She raised an eyebrow. "With a brick wall?"
"With Rygog." Tommy rubbed at his knuckles. "You should see how he looks."
"I can imagine Zedd didn't take too kindly to you attacking one of your own," she murmured, eyes filled with what looked like concern.
"You would be correct. Apparently, I hurt him bad enough to warrant being put on probation."
Kim watched him curiously. "Why'd you attack him?"
"I had just found out about my parents' deaths." The green ranger looked away. "I didn't take it well."
Their eyes connected, and for a moment, Tommy could have sworn he saw sympathy in her brown eyes before she shifted her gaze.
"Kim, look, I came here to – "
"You should leave," she said suddenly as she rose to her feet. "Billy and Trini will be stopping by soon to check on me. The last thing they need is to find you here."
The green ranger watched her walk past him. "Can I see you again?"
He wasn't even sure why he asked her that.
"We both know that's not a good idea, but I can't really stop you, can I?"
"It's interesting you feel that way since you're the one that let me know where to find you," he countered.
She glared at him as she headed to the back of the cabin, not bothering to respond to his statement.
"Make sure you don't teleport until you're a good distance away from here. I don't want them knowing I'm alive or my location," she called out to him from what Tommy believed to be the master bedroom.
"Yeah," he replied. "I guess I'll just…" She slammed the bedroom door. "…walk myself out."
The green ranger shrugged on his jacket as he headed for the door. A small part of him couldn't help hoping Kim would come back out to see him before he left the cabin for good.
There are two more chapters left of this part of the trilogy. I know Tommy and Kim's relationship frustrates people, but I love it. :)
I will say this... a conversation will be happening between those two that is both long overdue and will shed some light on their relationship, both past and present, and explains many of their actions in part I and II of the trilogy. Despite their arguments, Tommy and Kimberly can still talk and care about each other, even though they really don't want to.
All will be revealed by the end of this part of the trilogy