Somewhere between that God-forsaken spot in the desert and the 'Hold, Tommy pieced together the fragmented bits of what had happened. He hadn't meant to; it happened almost of its own accord.
Jason and the other Rangers had stumbled upon a group of slave traders transporting their human cargo across the desert. Tommy could not know for certain, because he had not had an opportunity to meet any of the airship's new passengers, but somehow he knew that none of the slave traders had been taken prisoner. They were all dead, and it was Jason that had done the deed. He didn't like to think about it, but it would explain everything he'd seen and heard so far.
The Jason he knew from back home would never have killed another human being, no matter what kind of scum that human being was. He would have let the proper authorities deal with the situation. Tommy wondered who the proper authorities were out here in the wastelands. Glancing over toward Jason, he had a feeling he knew.
By the time they reached the 'Hold, Tommy was in a daze. Kimberly returned to the cockpit about twenty minutes before their arrival to radio the 'Hold a warning and to instruct him on the proper landing procedure, but she was gone before the ship had been fully moored. When Jason got silently up from the co-pilot's chair and stalked out, Tommy followed at a safe distance.
Most of the elders, as well as Trini, Billy, and a crew that was hard at work securing the airship, were in attendance. All together, they had rescued eight people from the slavers. Every one of them looked hungry and dirty and terrified, but there were gratitude and admiration on their faces, too. They were glad to be alive and free.
Jason gave a brief report of what had happened, confirming Tommy's fears, and then disappeared into the 'Hold. Feeling suddenly conscious of how much about this place he didn't know, Tommy fell in with Zack, Aisha, and Kimberly to help escort the refugees to the mess hall. There, Kimberly informed him in a whisper, they would be given much-needed food, water, and medical attention - and would be kept where they could do no harm until the elders figured out what to do with them. Tommy remembered that process well, though he guessed it would be easier for these newcomers because nobody thought they were spies or slave traders.
A few hours later, after everything was settled and he'd scrounged up a meal, Tommy went in search of Kimberly. It took some doing, but he finally found her on the roof, seated at the very western edge with her legs dangling over the side. She held a mug of hot herbal tea in both hands and was watching the sun sink below the horizon.
For a moment he just stood there and watched her and breathed in the pleasant scent of her tea.
"Hey," he said quietly after a while, just to let her know he was there.
She twisted to look at him. "Hey."
Taking that to mean he should join her, he took a seat beside her. "You're a hard woman to find," he told her.
She raised a brow and took a defiant sip of her tea before answering. "Really," she murmured.
"I was hoping you could let me know how I did today," he said, and that was at least partly true. "This was my first time flying that bird."
She smiled weakly. "You're a natural, Tommy. You fly like you've been doing it your whole life. There aren't many first-timers that could do what you did today. At least not as well as you did it."
"You say that like it's a bad thing," he muttered.
She did not rise to the bait. Instead, she asked, "Where are you really from, Tommy?"
Suddenly he understood why his piloting skill bothered her: it made him look suspicious all over again, at least so far as the elders were concerned. He didn't for a moment doubt Kimberly's faith in him, not really.
He sighed. "I don't think anybody would believe me if I told," he admitted. "But it's... very different from here."
She seemed to accept that, so he changed the subject. "This kind of thing, with the slave traders, does it happen often?"
"No. Most of them have learned our routes by now and know to avoid them. And the ones that don't, well, you heard what happened."
He had, but he still didn't quite believe it. Even thinking all the way back to the dark days when he'd been Rita's evil Green Ranger, he'd never seriously considered the idea that Jason could be a real threat to, well, anything. The guy was just too good at heart, a big softy, a shining example of all that Zordon and the Power Rangers stood for.
But that was a different Jason, as he'd been forcibly reminded today. This Jason was a product of another world. This one fought dirty when he had to and killed his enemies when he could, because in this world it was the only way to be sure of victory.
Tommy wondered if this Earth had once had a Zordon, if it had had Power Rangers. Somehow he knew it did not have those things now.
Since he could not ask her the questions he really wanted to ask, he asked, "Where were they taking those people?"
"They have their own strongholds, out there. I don't know how they survive, but they do. I guess it's because slavery's been illegal since the End, so they come out here because they can't get away with it anywhere else." She sighed and set down her mug. "We destroy their 'holds when we find them, but it never seems like enough. There're always people we can't save, and there's always more scum to keep the trade going." Another sigh. "Jason's going to be hell to deal with after this. He doesn't handle it well when he has to..." she trailed off sadly.
Tommy almost resisted the automatic urge to wrap an arm around her shoulders and pull her close, but she really looked in need of a friend so he did it anyway. She leaned into him, resting her head against his shoulder, and he tried not to think about how natural it felt to sit together like that. It reminded him too much of another time, another place, another Kimberly, and that threatened to give him a headache.
Not for the first time, he found himself wondering about this mysterious End that she sometimes mentioned. Nobody else spoke of it at all, and if he asked all he could get out of anyone was that it was something that had happened nearly 150 years before his arrival. And no one at all talked about how it had come to have that name, or what had existed before the End. It seemed very odd to him to begin with the ending like that, but no one in the 'Hold seemed willing to question it, not even Billy. It was simply the way things were, and there was nothing he could do about that.
So he let that bit of curiosity go for now. And he let go, too, of the shock and pain of knowing that in this world, Jason Lee Scott was a man who killed his enemies and could only dream of a better path. He would have time to deal with all of that later - and he realized suddenly that he would take care of it. But right now, Kimberly needed a friend, so he would content himself with giving her a shoulder to lean on and watching the day come to an end.
The rest could wait.