Author's Notes: Dun dun dun! The last chapter. I was hoping to build up dramatic effect by waiting to post this-or at least, that's what I'd like to believe, and not so much that work got the best of me this last week or so. At any rate, I wanted to take the time to thank you all for your interest in the story! If you made it this far, keep an eye out for the final piece of this trilogy that will be posted sometime this week. I just couldn't get enough of Rocky and Adam, so I had to continue their story.
Everyone, please enjoy!
"Stick close by, all right? We'll find him, together."
Adam heeded Tommy's command. He knew they were in a hotbed of dangerous villain activity; there was no way he would go running off, even if he saw Rocky right there. At the very least, he told himself, he'd drag Tommy right alongside him.
They had teleported into the lower levels of the palace. All around them were strange sounds: whirring, cranking, hissing. From the looks of it, not a single organic thing was in sight. Coming from a planet full of them, Adam couldn't help but feel incredibly uncomfortable. Synthetics and robotics had always left a sour taste in his mouth. The Machine Empire was only serving to further that distaste.
"Since we don't have any lock in on where he is in here, we'll have to explore," Tommy explained.
He gestured for Adam to come along with him down a thin corridor that seemed to lead into a larger, warehouse-like scene. Once they slipped inside, the sight before them was terrifying. It was similar to a production plant, complete with assembly lines, moving conveyor belts and large vats of what smelled like oil and molten metal. Adam found it incredibly difficult to breathe. He supposed that made sense; why would machines need oxygen to function?
"We can't stay in here long," he told Tommy.
"I know, I can feel it, too. Come on, this way."
Adam followed after his friend, taking the long way around the room. They used the large crates of scrap metal as a means of hiding themselves. Cogs were everywhere, but thankfully kept to their own devices. Whatever they were making, Adam couldn't tell. New monsters? More Cogs? Quadrafighters? There was an endless list of possibilities, which made the empire seem that much more frightening. Rita and Zedd had been dubious and evil, but their method had never seemed so cold, so calculating—so soulless.
He shivered a little as they snuck into yet another corridor. He stopped immediately, however, when he realized that it held a strange sense of familiarity.
He pulled his friend aside and hid them in the shadowy corner produced by a set of twin columns against the wall, upon which lights glimmered in strange patterns.
"I don't mean to sound strange, but…I recognize this place."
Tommy sounded confused. "Wait, how?"
"I—I had this dream last night, it was really intense. Anyway, it felt like more than just a dream. I think this may have been what it was foretelling."
Adam could only hope that it simply foretold the location and not the eventually scenario he'd seen the night before. Whatever the case turned out to be, however, the important thing was that they now had some kind of lead—some kind of way to tell where they were going.
"Well, let's cross our fingers and hope for the best, man, all right?" Tommy clasped Adam's shoulder. "We're gonna get him back. You lead the way."
"Right. Let's do this."
Adam peered out from the column. With the coast clear he gestured for Tommy to follow him. The corridor was longer than he could remember from his dream, but sure enough, as he came to the end of it, the path forked in two different directions. Which way had he gone? He worried his lip, looking from left to right.
"Which way?" Tommy whispered.
His heart told him left. Adam knew to trust his instincts. "We go left."
As they stepped carefully down the pathway, the reddish hue he recalled from his vision suddenly filled the space around them. It grew gradually brighter until he came across the very room he'd seen in his dream.
And there he was.
Adam had to stop himself from bolting forward and rushing to Rocky's side. Much like his dream, Rocky was connected to some kind of strange machine, something with multiple flashing lights and a very ominous feel to it. Aside from the metal chair upon which he sat and the large machine, there was nothing in the room.
Rocky's voice sounded so weak, so delirious, that Adam found himself stepping forward without realizing it. He stopped only because Tommy gripped his arm firmly, helping to bring him back into focus.
"Hold on, man. It's too easy. Remember. We gotta be careful."
Rocky gave a dry, weak, almost wheezing cough. He lifted his head and stared over at them, eyes bleary and gaunt. He looked far worse than he had in the viewing globe, which made Adam ball his fists in anger.
How dare they do this to him, he thought. How dare they think they would get away with it.
He turned his head to glance down the corridor; the coast was clear. From the looks of it, they were standing in the only entrance to and from the room, which made things a little easier.
"You watch the corridor, all right?" Adam ordered. "I'm gonna go help him."
Tommy nodded. "All right. Be careful."
Slowly at first, Adam walked deeper into the room. He could hear his heart thudding in his chest, reminding him of just how much was on the line. Being so deeply entrenched in enemy territory wasn't the smartest move, but without the ability to teleport Rocky out, what other option did they have?
Rocky called out for him again, making his chest ache. The closer he got to his partner, he easier it was to see his discomfort and pain. He looked ill. Righteous indignation began bubbling up inside of the Asian boy, but he kept himself under control. He needed to be strong for Rocky.
"Hey, handsome, it's your prince charming, here to save you…"
He smiled, even though Rocky couldn't see it behind his helmet. With a gentle touch he let his fingers explore the shackles that kept the other trapped in the chair. From the discoloration around Rocky's wrists, Adam could tell that it wasn't very giving. He must have been stuck in this spot for a while.
"We're gonna get you out," Adam said reassuringly. "Just hang on, all right?"
Rocky nodded weakly, his eyes going in and out of focus. The sight of it enraged Adam to no end, but he tried to keep from showing it. He put all of that anger into trying to undo Rocky's binds. There didn't seem to be any way to get them open without the key, and since Adam didn't have that, he went with the next best thing. He pulled out his Zeo Pistol, situating himself at such an angle that any reflected blast would shoot toward the opposite side of the room and not at Rocky.
"Watch out," he warned just the same. "Three…two…one…"
A well-aimed blast undid one of the bindings. Beneath Adam could see Rocky's bruised joint, shining purple and blue. He did the same for the other, which finally released the other ranger from his bondage.
"Here, come on, let me help you up."
"Not so fast, ranger!"
Adam started at the sound of Mondo's voice. He looked around for him, but the fat machine was nowhere in sight.
Tommy turned his attention quickly toward the entryway. "Did you hear that?"
"You didn't think I was going to let you leave without a little bit of a challenge, did you?"
"I don't see him!" Adam said with a growl. He eased Rocky up and out of the chair, supporting the other's weight when he stumbled forward. "He could be anywhere!"
From far in the distance Adam could hear the sound of sirens blaring. His vantage point in the back of the room let him see further down the corridor. A large mass of bronze and silver was coming at them—Cogs. And lots of them.
"Alpha, can you read me?" Tommy asked. "Alpha, it's Tommy, we need you!"
A garbled, incomprehensible reply came through their communicators. Adam felt Rocky clinging to him, trying to keep himself steady, and the rage within him continued to grow.
Another jumbled response came through, however it was cut off by the sound of Tanya, triumphant and gleeful.
"Guys, we got Rocky's Zeonizers! Queen Machina was holding them but we got them! Do you have Rocky? We need to go, now!"
Tommy lifted his wrist to his helmet to speak. "Awesome! We've got Rocky, but Mondo has us under attack! Get out safely! We'll meet you at the Power Chamber!"
"Affirmative! Get out alive!"
Adam started to step closer to the center of the room. By the time he and Tommy regrouped, the Cogs had effectively blocked off the exit. There were at least a dozen, all standing in three organized rows. Behind them Adam could see a large, blue object—Mondo.
"Attack, my servants!" Mondo ordered.
"Keep Rocky safe, I'll fight them off until we get teleported out!"
Adam nodded, but he prepared his Zeo Pistol nonetheless. As Tommy danced around the floor, knocking Cogs over left and right, he made sure to zap them and keep them from getting up. By the time they'd incapacitated several, Mondo had arrived. The boiling blood inside Adam peaked at the sight of him.
"You're gonna die for this!" he shouted at Mondo. He nudged Rocky upward, trying to shift the other's weight; it was beginning to fatigue him.
"Correction: I do believe it will be you two rangers who fall in step with his fate! You can't escape!"
"Oh yeah? We'll just see about that."
Adam shot at Mondo, but the machine king's armor deflected it and sent it at an unsuspecting Cog, which collapsed on the ground in a sparking heap of metal.
"Alpha, Billy, please, if you can hear me, we need to be teleported out!" he said hurriedly into his communicator.
Rocky mumbled something incoherent—or maybe it made sense, Adam couldn't tell. His blood rushed into his ears, his cheeks, his chest. So focused was he on trying to defend Tommy and keep Rocky safe that he couldn't hear the response that came through his communicator. A Cog came close to him and tried to tear his partner away; Adam kicked it square in the chest, nearly sending himself backward from the force.
Just as he prepared to load his pistol once more, he heard Mondo say, "He's broken, ranger! Broken! See if he's worth anything ever again!"
Adam nearly yelled as he loaded up a powerful blast in his pistol. He fired it off, watching the intensely focused beam of light head right for Mondo's face. But just before it connected he found himself now staring at the large, mystical tube that stored Zordon's time-warped face.
Was this a trick?
He called out in surprise, looking around him.
No, it wasn't a trick. Tommy was there, and Kat, as well as Tanya. Standing beside the teleportation console was Alpha. Watching over as he always did was Zordon, a look of relief upon his face.
Had they really made it back safely?
Adam didn't have time to think about it. Before he knew it, Kat and Tanya were approaching him, easing Rocky off of him and guiding him toward the medical bay. They helped him onto the table, where he groaned and coughed. Stunned, Adam stood there, brain still trying to wrap around what had happened to them all.
Alpha gave a cheer of joy. "You did it! Oh, rangers, I knew you could!"
It had all happened so fast. Tommy came near and clasped Adam's shoulder. "Great job, man. You saved him!"
"I guess I did," Adam replied, removing his helmet and setting it atop the command station.
After taking a moment to gather himself, the Green Ranger stepped over toward Rocky. Alpha was already running a diagnostic on him, which came back with information that dampened his spirits some.
"He is dehydrated and malnourished," Alpha said. "I will make sure he gets what he needs here very shortly."
Despite his situation, Rocky smiled. Adam's heart warmed from the inside out at the sight of it. He reached for the other's hand, gripping it between his own two.
Rocky surprised him by saying, "Thank God you're alive."
"Of course I am, Rock. And you're safe. We've got you here in the Power Chamber. Alpha's gonna take care of you, and I'll be right here beside him."
Tanya, Kat, Billy and Tommy all wore relieved smiles. The team was whole again. Adam had proven Mondo wrong. He had saved Rocky.
For the first time in a week, he felt like he was going to get a good night's sleep.
"We're so glad you're okay, Rocky," Kat said with a smile on her face. She cupped the side of his face with her hand. "Just relax. You're in good hands again."
After a few moments, Kat, Tanya, Tommy and Billy pulled away to discuss Rocky's Zeonizers and to check into their status to make sure they were still functioning all right. When Adam attempted to pull away to join them, he found Rocky still holding on to his hand. He took that as an obvious sign to stay put.
"Take me home tonight, huh?" Rocky asked. "My parents are probably…freaking out…"
"I just told your mom you were staying at my house. She didn't push the issue, but it's been nearly a week…" He let it go there, just nodding afterward.
Rocky closed his eyes. Adam finally pulled away, and when he did, he watched as Alpha reenergized his partner with a few healing pulses from the medical bed. The color returned to Rocky's cheeks, the bruises faded from his wrists and the darkness around his eyes lightened considerably. The fact that their machine was able to do all that was a testament to Zordon and Alpha's abilities.
"He'll be just fine," Alpha said. "But he still needs a good night sleep."
"His Zeonizers seem to be in good condition," Billy commented. "Whatever Mondo was doing, it didn't seem to work too well for him."
"Here, give 'em to me. I'm taking him back home with me here in a few minutes."
"Are you sure you're okay to do it alone?" Tanya asked. "You look exhausted."
Adam didn't realize it, but with wave after wave of adrenaline hitting him, combined with the poor sleep, lack of focus and overall physical exhaustion, he looked about as worse for wear as Rocky did. However, teleporting Rocky home with him was going to take about as much energy as lifting his arm, which at the moment, he thankfully could still do.
"I'll be fine, guys," he told everyone, though he focused on Tanya. "Thanks for the concern, though."
"If you say so," Tanya replied.
Zordon said, "Congratulations, rangers, on a job very well done. Rocky is safe, his crystal is intact and Mondo has once again lost. Hopefully soon he will realize what a force he is up against."
Tommy let out a triumphant laugh. "He can't keep us down!"
Adam would worry about Mondo later. Right now, as he stared down at Rocky, the only one that mattered was the one staring right back at him.
. . . . .
"Oh…this bed…I could lie here for hours…"
Adam looked over at Rocky as he rolled around atop his bed. He couldn't blame him for finding it so comfortable. After being trapped in the cold and unyielding palace of the Machine Empire for as long as he was, any sort of creature comfort would be incredibly appealing to him.
After stripping down to a tank top and his boxer briefs, Adam wandered over to his bed, climbing on top of it. He was still smiling. It was hard not to, really—not when Rocky was right here with him.
"It's such a relief to see you here, you have no idea."
"You're tellin' me," Rocky replied. He rolled onto his back, closed his eyes and sighed. "Everything about that place was terrible, Adam. I wish there was some way to get rid of the memories in my head from it."
The Asian boy laid his hand atop Rocky's bare chest, tracing nonsensical shapes across his skin. From the looks of it, Rocky had been more or less untouched. That normally would have made him feel better, but something in the other's words made him wonder what had happened.
"Wanna talk about it?" Adam asked lightly.
Rocky remained quiet for a while. Adam continued to draw on him, eventually laying his hand to rest right over his heart. He rested his head on the pillow not too far from Rocky's.
"They didn't feed me much…gave me maybe half a glass of water once or twice. They're robots, so of course they don't eat what I do. It was terrible."
Adam knitted his brow at the thought. His fingers curled instinctively over Rocky's heart. He continued to listen.
"Mondo hooked me up to some machine…made me see some terrible things."
Rocky opened his eyes finally, shifting onto his side so he could see Adam. The intensity of emotion in the brunette's moist eyes was surprising. Adam returned the stare, his hand still in place.
"You died in one of them, Adam. I don't—it was…"
"Shh." Adam leaned in and caught Rocky's lips in a soft kiss. He didn't need to hear any more than that. "Don't think on that anymore. We're here. I'm fine."
"I know. It was just…bad. We were losing a battle, and my family found out I was a Power Ranger, and…" Rocky sighed. "I don't know what the machine could have done to me if I had been stuck with it for longer than I was."
"Not something we have to worry about now," Adam offered, with the faint hint of a smile tugging at his lips.
"No. But I realized something the other day. I never got to tell you."
Adam blinked. "What?"
The intensity in Rocky's eyes had yet to disappear. As he moved in closer, he kissed Adam passionately, cupping the back of his head with his hand. Upon pulling back, their gazes met, and Rocky said:
"I love you, Adam Park."
Adam let out a breathless sound. Rocky's words left him speechless. Something within him stirred, and warmth spread from his chest outward. The feeling was indescribable, but Adam knew exactly what it was. He gripped Rocky's chest somewhat tighter, moving in for another kiss. The electric spark that shot through him, coupled with the rush of blood to his head, made him smile.
"This is the part where you say it back," Rocky joked, his fingers fiddling with the strap of Adam's tank top.
"Rocky DeSantos," Adam said, deliberately slow, "I…love…"
Adam paused. He watched his partner's face, eager with anticipation.
"You," he finished.
Rocky grinned wide, almost like he'd won an award. He kissed Adam again. "Yeah, that's what I thought." He pinched Adam's nipple suddenly.
"And that's what you get for making me wait to hear it."
"Jeez, I save your life and you give me a purple nurple…how is that love?"
"Tough love, baby." Rocky smirked. "Better get used to it."
Adam laughed. "Do I have a choice?"
"Nope." Rocky smiled, and Adam's whole being warmed from the inside out. "You're stuck with me."
"Until the end?"
"Until the very end."