Here's the fifth story in my series of one-shots. This story is about Tommy, and is told from his point of view. A curious thing happened while I was writing this story. Tommy's not my favourite character, no, although I do see him as a valuable member of the team. But writing the story allowed me to actually get into the guy's head, and explore him as a person, and I admit, I like the character a little bit more now since I took the effort to figure out what he's thinking. It was a good exercise.
Anyway, this story takes place only a few months after "Vigilante", so it's quite early. The Rangers are now fighting Lord Zedd, and Tommy has just recently become the White Ranger (in events very similar to how it happened in the show). Enjoy :).
Beware the evil Green Ranger. That's what they still say.
Imagine a team of champions, a force for good brought together to fight evil, throw light into the darkness and change the world for the better. Now imagine joining that team under the worst possible circumstances. Being wound up like a tin soldier and set loose to hurt and kill the people who were trying to help you. My friends triumphed that day, rescuing me from the curse I'd fallen under, and offered me an invitation to join them. I accepted, and spent every minute of every day since fighting to clear my name. But in the last few months, everything has changed. The green suit is gone forever. I have a new costume, a mighty tigerzord to summon at will, and a talking sabre named Saba at my side.
My name is Tommy Oliver. And I'm the White Ranger.
The Rangers and I had just returned home to the Command Centre after a mission on the other side of the galaxy. We'd thwarted another of Zedd's schemes, and hopefully it would be a while before we heard from him again. You couldn't bet on it, though. Zedd had an annoying habit of bouncing back quickly. And this had been a close one. I'd nearly lost my cool a couple of times. Around me, the other Rangers were celebrating the victory or teleporting back into the city to see their friends and family. I was just about to join them when Zordon's eyes fell on me from his vantage point high above the room.
"Tommy," he boomed, in that voice you can both hear and feel inside your head at the same time. "Before you leave, if I could have a minute or two of your time?"
"Of course," I said, and made my way around the central chamber towards him. "What did I do wrong?"
Zordon smiled. "No, nothing," he said quickly. "My apologies. That's not what I meant at all. Alpha and I were just wondering, when was the last time you sat out on a mission? We seem to be seeing you far more regularly than any of the other Rangers."
I paused. "Sorry?" I said after a moment. "I'm not… following you."
"It's just, one of the benefits of the expanded team," Zordon began, "was that, if anyone had a family or school commitment, I would have other Rangers to call on. Like last month when Billy missed one of Zedd's monsters because he was at the patent office for one of his inventions. Or when Ian missed a trip to the planet Horath because of family members who were visiting at the time. So we were wondering, what was the last mission you missed?"
I leaned back against the counter, and cast my mind back. "Well, none," I replied. "Since I came back, I've tried not to miss any. I want you… no, I want everyone to know that I'm committed to being a Ranger. Twenty-four seven."
Zordon nodded. "The fire of youth," he said wistfully, and smiled kindly. "Time off is good for the soul, Thomas. Everyone needs a break occasionally, and I worry that you're pushing yourself too hard. So consider this a personal mission, just for you to carry out. I want you to find a way to not be a Power Ranger, over the course of the next week. See what the other Rangers do in their off-time."
My expression fell. "Like their hobbies, you mean?" I asked.
"Perhaps. But possibly more than that," Zordon replied. "Every one of your team-mates has a way of stepping back. Taking the burden of the fate of the world off their shoulders, for however long they need to recharge. That's your goal. With luck, we'll have a quiet few days. I'll check back with you this time next week." Zordon paused, and nodded. "Good luck Tommy."
Demorphing in a flash of white light, I teleported back into Caloundra. It was a quiet Saturday afternoon, both my parents were out of town, and I had the house to myself. Zordon's words were still ringing in my ears, and I replayed the conversation in my head a few times to make sure I'd understood him. He wanted me to not be the White Ranger for the week? But that's who I was. Don't get me wrong, I could definitely see the sense in taking some time to unwind, particularly given how crazy our lives normally were. But I'd never had to actively try to forget before.
I spent the rest of the day cleaning up around the house, but the morning's battle was still fresh in my head. No matter what I did, I could still hear the sounds of war, and see monsters and giant robots clashing on a giant rocky plain ringed by a river of molten lava. Even washing up, I was replaying tactics and manoeuvres in my head. I had a modern history assignment due, and gave it a heroic effort. But nobody in the history of the Universe has ever used homework as a means of stress relief, and I soon admitted defeat.
I tried a mid-afternoon nap, but that didn't work either. Every time I shut my eyes, I kept picturing monsters to fight, things to do and places to protect. In the soft light of sunset, I tried some martial arts moves in the backyard, but knew before I started that it was a lost cause. These days, preparing for battle doesn't slow my heart-rate, it just fires me up. After making myself a sandwich for dinner, I even sat down in front of the TV for half an hour, before quickly figuring out exactly what the phrase 'idiot box' means.
No, sitting on my couch that night, tossing the remote control from hand to hand, I realised pretty quickly that I might not be able to manage this by myself. But had Zordon anticipated that, and already tried to point me in the right direction?
Tomorrow morning, I'd check in with the others. It couldn't hurt, right?
Staggering back through ankle-deep snow, I fought to catch my breath as the horde of putties closed in around us.
"This is what you do to relax?" I shouted.
A few metres away across the windswept Siberian plateau we were standing on, Jason struck away a putty and glanced back over to me. From his voice, I knew he was grinning beneath his helmet.
"I don't know what to say," he called, ducking a right jab and dodging a low kick, before launching two opponents into the air with a flying roundhouse kick. "When I fight, I don't have to think, you know? It's just automatic." He paused to catch a blow and smash the putty back, before spinning around and throwing a second attacker away. "My body just knows what to do."
The sun was hidden behind thick grey cloud, but if the Siberian cold was having any effect on the jabbering grey warriors, it didn't show. As they moved to attack, I sent one crashing with a high kick, blocked a low punch and elbowed the second putty aside before slamming a third back off his feet. He crashed to the ground in a cloud of white powder, and I looked back to the Red Ranger. "You mean, you can disconnect from what you're doing?" I asked.
Jason launched another putty backwards with a jump kick. "Exactly," he said.
"Still, my goal this week was to not be the White Ranger," I murmured, and glanced down to my chest shield. "This isn't exactly a great start."
Jason shook his head. "Take all the fun out of it," he said. Raising his arm, his Power Sword appeared in a flash of red light, and he launched himself forward. I watched as he struck putties aside with every swing, the silver blade flashing through the air. Jason gained ground with each step forward, easily carving his way through the crowd. In those first dark days, I still remember when Rita gave me the Sword of Darkness. I wasn't really in control of myself, but I can vaguely recall marvelling at how badass I was. A kid with a magic sword who thinks he's unstoppable.
But the first time I saw Jason wield that blade, I crashed to Earth fast.
With a trail of defeated putties behind him, Jason stepped up to the shrine jutting out of the snow, and reached for the diamond pendant hanging from a rocky outcropping. "The lost diamond of Anastasia," the Red Ranger nodded, and turned back to me. "Once we remove the curse Rasputin placed on the thing, Zedd won't want it anymore, and the Moscow Museum of Antiquities will get an anonymous donation in the morning."
"Good to know," I said. "But do you wanna get out of here and go somewhere warm? I lost feeling in my feet about five minutes ago."
"It was so weird," I said the next day, as Billy, Trini and I stepped off the bus and made our way up towards the convention centre. "It's like Jason doesn't even know how to switch off."
Billy nodded. "That does sound likely," he said. "As long as we've all known him, Jason's drive has been fairly remarkable."
"Do you think he'd benefit from a holiday as well?" Trini asked, as we joined the crowd of people lined up outside the building.
"We definitely need to keep an eye on him," I said. "I can see the poor guy having a heart attack by the time he's twenty."
My voice drifted off as Xena the Warrior Princess, Captain Picard and a small squadron of Imperial Soldiers casually strolled past. Behind them were superheroes, cyborgs, and even a few Power Rangers dotted throughout the crowd. Some of the costumes were pretty good. The people wearing them had put in a lot of effort.
Trini noticed me watching the crowd. "Every year, more people come," she said. "It's such a wonderful thing to be a part of."
I shook my head. "I have to say, I kind of expected you guys to do something with not so much… science on your days off. Like knitting, or bowling or something."
"On the contrary, knitting involves geometric coordination, while bowling is pure physics," Billy replied matter-of-factly. "Velocity, impact force, tangential angles; most sports are, when you consider it." I laughed, and he continued. "But this exhibition happens annually, and we never miss the opportunity to attend." With that, he dropped the backpack he'd been carrying, and Trini knelt down to open it. "Science fiction has always been a wonderful escape of mine," he continued. "The point of the genre is to theorise possible outcomes from current advances in scientific fields. Some of the greatest scientific minds in history used fiction to explore and teach."
I glanced over to a group of costumed Justice League fans, busy fighting the Avengers. "But it's people pretending to be special," I murmured. "We already are special, I don't see why…"
I looked back to my friends. Trini had pinned her hair into two buns on either side of her head, while Billy was suddenly wearing a bowler cap and a multi-coloured scarf that looked at least ten feet long.
"Princess?" Billy asked, extending his hand.
"Doctor," Trini smiled, taking it.
I watched them follow the crowd into the building. "Right behind you," I called weakly.
"So the convention was a bust?" Zac asked, balancing three fishing poles as we made our way through the scrub. Beside him, Brendan carried a tackle box under his arm.
"Oh Billy and Trini had a great time," I said. "I just felt completely out of place. And being around that many monsters and supervillains? As we were leaving I nearly beat up a troop of Cybermen, just on instinct."
Zac laughed as the trees parted ahead of us and we finally reached the shoreline of Currimundi Lake. It was a great afternoon. The sky was blue, with a couple of lazy clouds drifting in front of the sun. There were canoes and swimmers in the water, while the air was filled with the sound of seagulls and the smell of the ocean a short distance away. I looked down to my friends as Zac and Brendan settled down onto the edges of the lake and dipped their toes in the water.
"You know, I wouldn't have picked you guys for fishermen," I said. "Zac, I always thought you danced…"
"I do," Zac replied, reaching for the tackle box. "But the thing about dancing is that it gets you moving faster. When I want to chill, there's nothing better than coming to the lake. My uncle taught me to fish when I was a kid, and I've loved it ever since."
"And I used to go fishing with my granddad," Brendan added. "It's just you and the fish. It gives you time to settle your head. I sometimes practice punch lines."
Zac nodded, and handed me one of the poles. "Give it a try man."
I sat down, baited the hook like Zac and Brendan had done, and cast the line in the water. "What now?"
"No, this is it," Zac said.
"Just sitting here?"
Brendan turned to Zac. "I don't think we explained it properly," Brendan shrugged.
Seeing a shadow close to the surface, I dropped the rod and dived into the water with an almighty splash. When my head resurfaced a few seconds later, I turned to the guys and grinned, holding up the fish I'd caught in my hand. "I got one!"
Zac shook his head. "Only Tommy Oliver could turn fishing into a contact sport," he said.
"Well at least you know for certain you're not a fisherman," Scott said, a few steps behind his sister Teresa as the three of us climbed to the top of the ridge, a parade of one Blue and two White Rangers.
"You're not wrong there," I murmured.
"Brendan mentioned it yesterday," Scott continued uncertainly. "I hope that's okay."
I waved my hand. Don't worry about it," I said.
We reached the crest of the hill, and the landscape opened out in front of us. Down below on the other side of the ridge, rolling green hills led down to a wide, blue ocean, dotted with sailing boats and passenger ferries. Between us and the sea was the sprawling alien metropolis of Aranoth. In the centre of the bustling city, two shimmering crystal towers of silver and purple rose high into the clouds. But directly before us was an enormous crowd of people. There were hundreds, maybe thousands of them. Families, couples and young children all stood behind their chief priest who was dressed in flowing silver robes.
Unsure what to do, I followed Scott's lead, hanging back as Teresa stepped forward. In her hands was a gleaming silver sword, easily ten feet long. It would've been impossible to carry were it not for our Ranger-augmented strength. As Teresa greeted the priest, a revered hush fell over the crowd.
"It's amazing, isn't it?" Scott whispered.
"The crystal spires of Aranoth," Scott replied, and pointed to the city in the distance. "The spires are a sacred site. Every year, people from all over Phaedos travel to the city to see them. Millions of people, all coming to worship."
"But why's the sword so important?" I asked.
"It's a holy relic," Scott explained. "The Phaedosians believe that their deity used the sword to pierce the night sky and let the sun shine. It's a good thing we rescued the sword before those pirates got too far with it. Zordon said that this is one of the most significant religious festivals in the galaxy."
As I watched, Scott dropped down to the ground, pulled a small notebook out of the pack he was carrying, and began writing in it. Seeing that Teresa was still talking to the priest, I sat down beside him.
"What's that?" I asked.
Scott glanced up, surprised. "Uh, my journal," he said. "Everything we see, every city on every faraway world that we visit, I like to record the things that happen to us. Peter writes too, and Teresa adds her sketches. I keep it in the Command Centre between missions."
I let out a low whistle as I ran my eyes over the thick book. "You do this for fun?"
Scott shrugged. "Maybe in a hundred years, it'll be a traveller's guide to the galaxy or something," he said. "I get that what we do is important. But it's nice to be able to take the world off our shoulders for a little while, and just enjoy the experiences that we get to see. It's okay. I don't expect you to understand."
I smiled. "You know, I think I understand that a lot more than you think," I said. "Can I have a look?"
Ian stepped up to the front door and rang the bell. "How was your trip to Aranoth?" he asked.
"Pretty interesting," I replied. "Most of the time I have trouble remembering what planet I'm on. But the crystal spires were pretty cool. Plus, Scott showed me his journal."
"I love that he keeps that," Ian said. "I joined the team after everybody else, so it was a great thing to have. I had a look one day and I felt caught-up."
The door opened and Sarah stood before us, wearing a maroon and gold scarf. "You're late, the game's about to start," she said, and beckoned us inside. "Come in!"
"Thanks for the invite," I said quickly. "So who's playing today?"
"The South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Brisbane Broncos," Ian replied, as we followed Sarah around into her living room.
"I'm on the school rugby league team with Jason and Zac, but I've never really gotten into it much," I said.
"It's much better live," Sarah said, as she sat down. I joined Ian on the opposite couch. "The atmosphere is just amazing."
"Still, a house to ourselves and a big-screen TV," Ian said. "Go the Bunnies."
Sarah rolled her eyes, and I laughed. "They a Sydney team," I said. "And aren't we in Queensland?"
"Well, yeah," Ian replied sheepishly. "And I'm a Maroons fan when it counts! But I had an uncle who played for the Bunnies before I was born, and the whole family's cheered for them ever since."
"I tell you, Brisbane aren't gonna lose this one," Sarah said. "So bring it on!"
"No chance," Ian laughed.
I grinned, and settled in. This looked like it was going to be an interesting couple of hours.
After the match ended with the Broncos victorious, I wished Sarah and Ian good afternoon, and made my way over to the Youth Centre. I don't think I'll ever be a full-time sports fan. The game was fun, and kind of exciting. But it was the exact opposite of relaxing. My heart was pounding, and I was laughing and cheering the whole time. Plus, I just couldn't get the Rangers out of my mind. I'd spent so much time with the others this week, seeing what everybody did when the world didn't need saving, but I still felt as far away from finding something for me as I'd ever been.
Stepping into the Youth Centre, I saw Jason and Zac teaching a class, but couldn't see the person I was looking for. I did spot Peter though, up in the corner, his full attention captured by the book he was reading. Pete and I haven't always seen eye-to-eye, but I like to think that, in the last few weeks, we've achieved a kind of détente. We seem to be working a lot better as team-mates. Plus, he was about the only Ranger I hadn't spoken to yet.
"Hey," I called, making my way past the juice bar towards him.
Peter looked up. "Oh, hey Tommy," he said, reaching for a bookmark. "What do you need?"
"Nothing, no, I was just passing through."
"I heard you spent the afternoon with Sarah and Ian," he continued. "Still trying not to be a Ranger? It's okay, Jason told me."
I nodded, and pulled out the seat opposite. "So this is your escape huh?" I asked, nodding to the pile of books.
"There was a book-fair yesterday at school," he said. "Ever since I was a kid, you know, I've loved stories. Reading or writing them. It's like, no matter what else is going on, you've got somewhere safe to retreat to. And I think sometimes it's good to…"
"…get out of your own head?"
"And into somebody else's," he finished. "Yeah. If you don't mind me saying, you look like you could use an adventure or two," and he tapped the pile. "You wanna borrow a couple? Narnia? Middle Earth? Jason raids my bookshelf all the time."
I shook my head. "I don't think I'm much of a reader," I replied. "But thanks for the offer. You might be able to help me, though. Have you seen Kim around?"
Kimberly was in the park when I caught up to her, sitting at one of the benches near the basketball courts and working on her own modern history assignment. Things had been a little tense between us recently, and I worried about whether she'd be happy to see me. But when she looked up and spotted me approaching, she waved, slid her books back into her backpack, and jogged over.
"It's good to see you," I said, as we met up and continued walking.
"You too," Kim smiled. "So how's your week gone? Everyone's been talking about your secret mission."
I lowered my voice. "Not so great," I admitted. "It's been fun seeing what everybody does to switch off for a little while. Zac's a fisherman, and Trini's a Star Wars fan. Who knew?" and Kimberly laughed. "But I think tomorrow I'm just going to have to tell Zordon that I couldn't do it. I tried so hard, you know, to find something to do. But at no point these last seven days have I ever not felt like the White Ranger." I looked away. "I really thought I could do this. I guess taking a break is harder than it looks."
Hearing the tone in my voice, Kim frowned. Reaching up, she put a hand on my shoulder. "Maybe you just haven't found your thing yet?" she said. "You'll get there, I promise."
"I hope you're right," I said. We stopped as a couple of kids ran past, playing a game of tag. A few metres away, an elderly couple were walking their poodles through the park, while the sounds from the basketball courts drifted over towards us. Above our heads, birds madly darted through the trees in flashes of bright feathers.
"I'll tell you a secret," Kim began, and pointed to the trunk of the closest tree. "When I'm stuck for ideas, I like to find a nice spot, sit on the grass, and totally just think about what I want. Why don't you give it a try?"
I wasn't convinced. "You think it'll help?" I asked.
"Trust me," she said, and smiled. "I'll catch you later," and she gave me a final hug before jogging away. Wandering over to the tree Kim had pointed to, I dropped down onto the grass, kicked off my shoes and rested my back against the trunk. All around, teenagers in love were lying beside each other on the grass, joggers were doing laps of the park, and kids were playing on the swing sets. I shut my eyes, getting comfortable against the tree. I focussed in on feeling the patches of sun on my skin, and the grass beneath my feet. Keeping perfectly still, I listened to the birds, the people around me, and felt my heart beating in my chest, when I suddenly realised that I was thinking about… nothing. Nothing at all.
Just like Kim knew I would.
I laughed to myself, and shook my head. No mistake, Kim was good. And I realised then that all week, I'd been trying to actively do something. But I think, what I needed all along was to figure out how not to do anything. To just sit on the grass and do nothing at all.
And for the first time that week, hell, the first time in a very long while, I took the advice of some good friends, forgot about the White Ranger, and dozed peacefully in the shade.
Just for now, the world could wait.