Always a Ranger - Part 20
How Blue is My Valley?
By Jeannine Trevizo
“So, could you do that for me?” Conner asked as he, Ethan and Kira headed off the school grounds.
“What? Use technology to improve your game?” Ethan inquired.
“It’s not like you really need it,” Kira stated, glancing at Conner with a tight grin.
“You’re really good Conner. You know it, you just get insecure about it. Just like I do with my singing.”
“Thanks,” Conner replied, realizing the complement for what it was.
“Now that we’re all done with the big bad bully guy, can we concentrate on Zeltrax showing up on the school grounds,” Ethan questioned, moving towards Conner’s car.
“You were here before anyone else was. Did Zeltrax say anything else besides that he was going to turn the Termitetron on the school?” asked Kira as she opened the car door and got in.
“He said he was going to unleash him on the city too… and there was this one thing, he said something about where Dr. O was most vulnerable…” Ethan remarked, getting into the front seat as Conner got into the driver’s side.
As Conner turned over the engine, the three suddenly realized what else that could mean.
“Shit!” Conner nearly yelled, and quickly turned the car onto the road to Dr. O’s.
Kira and Ethan were smart enough to just hold on as Conner wove his way across town. Even without running any stoplights or stop signs they made their way to 1992 Valencia Road. With a barely controlled skid, Conner parked next to the black jeep and cut the engine. The three rangers piled out of the car and hurried for the front door.
“Dr. O!” Conner yelled as he pounded on the front door of their team mate and mentor’s house.
The door swung open, revealing their teacher with a look of concern on his face.
“Conner, what’s wrong?” Tommy asked as he opened the door wide enough to admit the three youths.
“We were just talking about Zeltrax showing up earlier,” Conner continued, “and we rushed over to tell you what we think he might do…”
“Look guys, I know all about who Zeltrax is now,” Tommy explained, moving from them and turning towards the boxes of discarded materials and his hard box with his pictures and things he was saving.
“He said he was going to attack you where you’re most vulnerable,” Ethan stated quickly, moving to intercept his teacher. “He mentioned the school, the city…”
“And if Mesogog or Zeltrax know anything about your real life, they’ll know about Kim,” Kira warned, reaching into the box she’d been sorting pictures into and pulled out the group shot of the original ranger team and thrust it out at him.
“She wasn’t around when I was working with Mercer or Smitty… Mesagog and Zeltrax wouldn’t know to use her against me,” Tommy tried to rationalize as the
“She’s been here since then. You both got attacked by Tyrano-drones when she came out that first time to visit,” Conner pointed out.
Kira, Conner and Ethan watched as the realization that Kim might be in danger washed over Dr. O. His jaw tightened, and they watched as his skin’s tone took on a nasty chalk like pallor.
“Oh God,” Tommy said quietly and moved to the phone, dialing her number and waiting anxiously as the phone rang on the other end.
“Hello?” said Kim’s voice through the line after three rings.
“Kim?” Tommy said with trepidation in his voice.
“Hey there handsome, what’s with the early call?”
“I need you to do something for me…” he said solemnly, his tone foreboding.
“Tommy, you’re scaring me here,” she said,
Tommy looked to his students and fellow rangers and watched them stare at him as he fought to reign in his concern.
“Look Kim, some things have happened here…”
“What’s going on? Come on Tommy, talk to me here.”
“We found out who Zeltrax is,” he explained, moving to the couch and sitting down heavily as the others huddled around. “He’s a friend of mine from grad school that was working with Mercer and I on a dig together. He’d been in an accident… I thought he was dead.”
“I’m sorry,” Kim said softly.
“It’s okay. It threw me for a loop, but after Mercer showed up, it’s not that big of a surprise.”
“Then what’s the problem?”
Tommy glanced around at the worried faces of his students and realized there wasn’t any time to put this off.
“Zeltrax told Ethan something that has us all worried… that he’s focusing on where I’m vulnerable…” Tommy explained, and then trailed off, leaving the last part unsaid.
There was silence in the room with the rangers and in Kim’s apartment in Boston. Finally, Kim was the one to break it.
“You think that he’d come after me here, don’t you?”
“It had crossed all our minds.”
“The team too?” Kim asked, surprised.
“They care about you, and they know what it would do to me if something happened to you,” he replied seriously.
“Tommy, I appreciate the concern, but I think it’s really misplaced. First, Mesogog and his bad guys haven’t moved past the city limits, just like all the bad guys do – they’re focusing on beating the rangers first so they can dominate the planet easily. And second, they have no idea where I am.”
“No, no buts,” Kim insisted, continuing quickly. “Besides that, I’m continually around one of the most highly visible events in the world. The security is pretty damn good, you know.”
“Okay, so you’re probably right. Still, I worry about you,” Tommy said in a tone that made the three eavesdroppers blush and find elsewhere to look.
“If you didn’t, I’d wonder what happened to the man I love. You have always tried to protect me, but you forget sometimes that I can take care of myself if I need to. You don’t need to worry.”
“Fine, just promise me you’ll keep an eye out and be careful.”
“You know I will.”
“Look, I’d love to chat but the team’s here and we should discuss what we’re going to do next,” Tommy explained with a frown.
“I understand. Tell them to stay out of trouble and I’ll talk to you soon, alright?” Kim replied.
“I’ll call tomorrow.”
“Love you,” Kim said brightly.
“Me too Kim,” Tommy replied, and heard Kim’s laugh.
“You’re gonna have to get used to saying the words in front of them someday handsome.”
“I know… just not today, okay?”
Kim’s laugh crossed the phone line and made Tommy feel better just hearing it. No, she was right. He’d have to learn to tell her he loved her in front of everyone… especially if he was going to make a life with her.
“Bye,” she said, and then hung up the line.
Tommy turned off his phone and looked at his students. Kira was blushing, but had a knowing smile on her face. Ethan and Conner were studiously avoiding his gaze by studying the floor, ceiling and any other flat surface that didn’t look like their teacher.
“Alright, so Kim’s been warned,” Tommy said, taking control of the situation. “Still, I don’t trust Zeltrax. He may have been my friend, but after what Mesagog had to have done to him, he’s not himself any longer.”
“So, what can we do to make sure he doesn’t go after Kim anyway?” Kira asked, getting up from her seat and rubbing her arms with her hands.
“I’m calling Hayley,” Tommy stated, “I want to find a way to make sure that Zeltrax can’t follow up on his threat.”
Everyone nodded in agreement and as Tommy dialed Hayley’s number, the team headed for the trap door for the basement command center.
The rangers had been discussing for half an hour once Hayley had shown up what they could do to protect Kim from Smitty/Zeltrax when an alarm pierced the air, sending several of the team into frantic motion, thinking they were under attack. What they didn’t realize was the sound wasn’t the alarm from the ranger’s console for attacking monsters, but rather an alarm that Tommy had installed in his house since Kim left, so he’d know if someone broke into the place. Since it was going off, something was obviously upstairs.
“Could it be Zeltrax?” Kira asked, looking to Dr. O as Hayley shut down the alarm.
“I don’t know,” Tommy answered, and then stated for the stairs, “you guys stay here and I’ll check it out.”
“If it could be dangerous, shouldn’t we all go?” Conner queried, trying to be tough.
“And if it’s not a bad guy and someone from the school, I’m supposed to explain all of you being in my basement on a school night how?” Tommy asked.
“Study group?” Ethan suggested, and the others smothered laughs.
“Just stay put for right now, okay?”
Climbing the stairs, Tommy pushed open the trap door slightly, glancing into his living room. He saw a person standing near the front door, and his side table knocked over, the lamp usually on it smashed on the floor. Without that light, the room was darker than he would have liked. Still, he had to find out who was prowling around his home. While he doubted it was Zeltrax, his heart rate refused to listen to him, speeding up as his adrenaline pumped.
Climbing out of the trap door space, Tommy walked stealthily to the light switch in the living room and quickly turned it on, surprising the intruder. Only when the person turned, blinking at the sudden light did Tommy find his mouth dropping open in shock.
Not Zeltrax, but someone else from his past just as unexpected…
“Affirmative Tommy,” Billy replied, a sheepish grin appearing on his face.
Tommy shook off the frozen stance he was in and ran to hug the former blue ranger. His brilliant friend’s timing couldn’t have been better.
“My apologies for arriving on your doorstep unannounced.”
“Don’t worry about it. What are you doing here?”
“We had an energy reading spike in the Aquitar relay sensor array. I thought that there was some kind of power flux, so I came down to check it out. Of course, the time it took me to get here was considerable, so it may have moved...”
Tommy studied his friend for a while. Gone were the blue jean overhauls and glasses that he seemed to always associate with Billy. The man that stood before him was dressed immaculately in what seemed to be a jumpsuit; most definitely not of human construction in a gun metal gray that shimmered. His trademark glasses were gone. Either he was still wearing the contacts he used to sport, or somehow his eyesight had been improved during his years off planet.
Finally putting aside his surprise at seeing his long missed friend, he focused on Billy’s reason for being there. He thought for a moment what kind of power could have registered that would have brought him here, and then made the connection.
“Power flux like a power coin?” Tommy asked, trying not to grin outright.
“Similar. The symphonic and resonating harmonics of the signature are such to denote great power to be harnessed.”
“Power like this,” Tommy suggested as he pulled back his sleeve to expose the silver cuff communicator and morpher combination, the black inset gem sparkling.
“Amazing,” Billy stated as he leaned forward and appraised the workmanship, twisting Tommy’s arm as he looked over the gem and the gauntlet.
Tommy fought not to laugh at his technologically minded friend as he studied the wrist band, and was reminded again why Ethan reminded him in some ways of this former ranger.
“This is the power source?” Billy asked, tapping lightly on the black gemstone embedded in the metal and Tommy nodded.
“I hadn’t really thought that if we could find them as well as Mesogog that someone else might notice,” Tommy started, and then looked his friend in the eye. “I never realized that you’d been able to keep tabs on Earth.”
“Officially I’m Aquatair’s liaison with Earth, so I check out any potential threats Earth might pose them. Unofficially, ever since Zordon was destroyed by the space rangers, I’ve kept my sensors looking for energy signatures that might be rangers or the source of power for new rangers. Just in case.”
“Well, that’s what we are.”
“Who’s their mentor? Not Dimertia again…” he asked curiously.
Tommy dropped his gaze and his hand from his friend. He still hated this, no matter that the new team was now finally getting comfortable with their roles as heroes.
“I made them Billy.”
“I’m at a loss to comprehend how you could create power rangers,” Billy stated, tilting his head to one side to stare at his friend and former commander.
“It’s a long story. Say, you want to see the place? God knows I used to think what you would have done in my place. You can meet the team…”
“I still have 1.3 solar days before I have to return. I wanted to make sure I set my return calculations with plenty of time to do whatever research might be needed. Of course, now that I know that the source of the energy is benign, I have multitudes of time to see what advances you have been able to make to ranger technology.”
Billyspeak… Tommy had missed that. With a grin, Tommy clasped Billy’s shoulder with an arm, leading him back towards the kitchen. Only once they stood before the trap door did Tommy let his much missed friend loose so he could open the door.
Climbing down first, Tommy was able to turn and take a good long look at his accomplishments – the fact that he’d had help not withstanding, it was still a surprise to him that he’d done any of it. Maybe his need to feel the power again had fueled it, maybe not, but now it was a moot issue.
Tommy moved aside as Billy came down the stairs and circled to see the expanse of technology and artifacts interspersed in the large cavern.
“Impressive,” Billy said quietly.
“Tom?” called out Hayley as she heard voices from the stairway.
Since Hayley didn’t turn from the computer, and the tone of her voice sounded worrisome, Tommy moved quickly forward, nearly forgetting Billy in his concern that Zeltrax had already made his move. When Tommy got to the console, Ethan, Kira, Conner, and Hayley all faced the view screen, where a large colored map of Reefside in relief was displayed, a bright white dot appearing over a set of coordinates.
“What’s up?” Tommy asked as he stopped behind the group, looking at the screen. He breathed a small sigh of relief knowing that it wasn’t an alert for Kim’s location in Boston.
“We had an alarm. Seems that there was an unidentified landing of something within the Reefside forest,” Hayley said, not turning around.
“Could be a monster from Mesogog,” Ethan suggested just before he turned to see Dr. O’s reaction.
“Or Zeltrax is moving on the house,” Conner suggested, thinking perhaps that was what the cyborg had meant when he’d mentioned going after Dr. O where he was ‘most vulnerable’.
“That’s most likely my ship Tommy,” Billy stated after moving towards the group of people as he looked around the room in wonder. “This is impressive Tommy. I never would have thought…”
“Dr. O, who is that?” Conner blurted out as he, Ethan and Kira looked up from the screen to see the tall, sandy haired man moving towards them who had just spoken.
“The picture…” Kira commented, her features turning up as she recognized the older version of the man from Dr. O’s team photo.
Tommy glanced at his students and then moved to place a hand on Billy’s shoulder.
“Oh wow! It’s the first blue ranger!” shouted Ethan as he recognized Billy from the video and the photo Kira had handed Dr. O just an hour ago.
“What happened Dr. O, did you send out a flyer saying all old rangers should come through Reefside?” Conner asked curiously. First Adam and Zack, now Billy in less than two weeks?
“Doctor?” Billy asked, puzzled.
“Long story,” Tommy said quickly then focused on the introductions. “This is Billy Cranston, the first blue ranger, one of my best friends and probably the smartest person I’ve ever known.”
Hayley’s glare at Tommy made him amend his statement, “Uh, smartest *man* I’ve known.”
“Billy, this is Conner, Kira and the new blue ranger, Ethan,” Tommy stated as he introduced the rangers.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Conner said, shaking the former blue ranger’s hand.
“Same here,” remarked Kira, following suit.
“Wow, the *first* blue ranger… now I’m not the only one of the group who hasn’t met the first ranger who wore my color.”
“And was a triceratops ranger too,” Tommy added for effect, making the younger man grin even bigger.
“It’s good to meet all of you,” Billy stated, shaking Ethan’s hand last. “Blue ranger?”
“Yeah… I hear that the requirements are a big brain and stunning good looks,” Ethan joked.
“He’s our resident computer geek,” Tommy explained to Billy, and he and Ethan both turned to look at the black ranger.
“I guess that the word geek probably isn’t the best choice, huh?” Tommy stated, backpedaling.
“Considering Derek at school thought that was all there was to Ethan, I’d have thought you wouldn’t do the same thing Dr. O,” Conner remarked.
“You mean the moron that was itching for a fight? You didn’t?”
“No,” Ethan remarked quickly, and then glanced at the former blue ranger. “I just used my mind and made him and offer he couldn’t refuse rather than him wasting time trying to pound on me.”
“A wise course of action,” Billy remarked with a half grin, shooting a look at Tommy.
“Alright, you brainy guys have it all over the jocks. I get it. I’m not seventeen anymore.”
“No, you obviously aren’t,” Billy stated, taking into account the marvels that surrounded him, his eyes drawn back to the technology amassed in the underground chamber.
A loud clearing of someone’s throat brought everyone’s attention to the forgotten person in the room, and Tommy found himself wincing at the glare he was getting from the woman mostly responsible for all the technology that Billy was being so impressed with.
“Sorry, one last introduction. This is Hayley,” Tommy finally stated, introducing the two brilliant minds who were partially responsible for his survival – past and present as a ranger.
“Nice place,” Billy stated as he shook the red-headed woman’s hand, feeling an instant spark at her touch.
“Glad you like my work,” Hayley said as she took his hand and stared into the ice blue eyes looking at her as if they’d never seen something so fascinating in all their life.
“Considering the fact you have never been a ranger, this is quite impressive,” Billy replied, smiling.
“I get by. Besides, Tom has been helpful in giving me whatever pointers he can from the old days. Probably stuff he learned from you,” she demurred, averting her gaze.
Billy’s eyebrows raised, and he turned to look at the man in question. Had Tommy actually learned something from him? The former ranger leader shrugged his shoulders.
“So, what else have I missed besides you building an entire new group of rangers?” Billy asked generally.
“He and Kim are back together,” Kira offered cheerfully, gaining a series of groans from her male team mates as she dished the gossip. “And when you arrived we were discussing ways of trying to make sure that Zeltrax doesn’t try and jump her.”
“Kimberly? Zeltrax?” Billy asked stunned. The last thing he’d known, Kat and Tommy had been moving towards dating. And now Kim was back in the picture? And who was this Zeltrax, and why was he after Kim? God, he *had* been out of the loop for *too* long.
Tommy sort of blushed, and everyone stood watching. Still, his concern over making sure Kim was protected was enough to override his embarrassment.
“I’ll explain everything to you, I promise. Right now, how about I catch you up on current events as I show you around the place,” Tommy suggested, looking at the team. “As for you three, you have homework and finals… so head home. I’ll see you in school I the morning.”
The three rangers looked dejected at the idea. Still, what Dr. O had said was true… they did have work to do. Seeing the internal struggle, it was Billy that put them on the path back to their homework.
“You can’t be a ranger without learning. And that doesn’t mean just how to work your zord or use your powers. You need to be smart to survive.”
“So says the former blue ninja ranger – cunning and swift,” Tommy joked, and the two smiled in remembrance of their animal spirits.
“Alright, we’ll go,” Conner said, giving a look to Kira and Ethan.
“It was nice meeting you,” stated Kira as she headed for the stairs, Conner following her.
“You’ll be back, right?” Ethan asked hopefully.
“I think I’ll be checking in with the new ranger team in the future, yes.”
Ethan grinned, and flashed Dr. O a thumbs up as he raced to catch up with Conner and Kira to catch a ride home. Once the teens were gone, Tommy turned to his friend again.
“How about that tour now?”
Tommy steered Billy around the basement, showing him the raptor cycles Hayley had designed and the system of tunnels and computer equipment. Billy asked questions, but for the most part, Tommy always deferred to him asking Hayley. When they’d made the entire lap around, they sat down and Billy shot his friend with a stare.
“So, are you going to provide me with the information that your team wanted me to know?” Billy asked, still shocked by what he’d seen so far, and expecting nothing short of more with Tommy’s explanations of what had been happening recently.
“Billy…” Tommy began, feeling a bit uncomfortable trying to fill in his friend on everything that had been happening.
“You and Kim?”
“Yeah. It took us a while, but we finally got things settled between us after…”
“After what?” Billy asked curiously.
“Billy, you know about Trini, don’t you?”
Billy’s face clouded over, and he nodded simply.
“We were friends, nothing more…”
“I heard about it a few months afterwards, and I made my peace with it.”
Tommy nodded, understanding that no matter how much time had past, Trini was a difficult subject for all the former rangers that had served with her.
“So you and Kim are together?”
“We’ve been doing the long distance thing, but Kim plans to move in with me in the fall. We’re taking about getting married…”
“I’m… wow,” Billy responded, truly surprised, “that’s awesome Tommy. I’m so happy for you both. I knew you really never wanted Kim out of your life, even right after the letter.”
“I know. You and Kat tried. But it just wasn’t what was supposed to happen.”
“And you did all this as well. I’m stunned.”
“Well, I do have a PhD now,” Tommy smirked, and watched his friend’s eyebrows rise for third time that evening.
“Ah yes, Dr. Oliver,” Billy started, still looking somewhat doubtful. His friend was a great leader, but his mind sometimes seemed like a European dairy product… Swiss cheese.
“Don’t panic. I had a lot of help. Hayley did almost all of it. She’s in your class man. She double majored in grad school and ended up with a PhD at UCLA while she attended long distance classes in MIT. Next to you, she’s the brainiest person I know. If she hadn’t been here, I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this.”
Billy nodded and a slight grin crossed his face that Tommy looked at questioningly before Billy focused on the situation at hand again.
“So, what’s with this guy Mesogog and Zeltrax?” Billy questioned, still feeling confused.
“They’re the bad guys. Mesogog wants the dino gems…”
“What evil overlord doesn’t?” Billy joked, and Tommy fought to smile.
“And he’s used some of the technology I was building during my PhD studies to create monsters. He’s set on making the Earth a paradise for dinosaurs again.”
“Ah… I see. Do you ever miss the days of Lord Zedd?”
Tommy did smile at that.
“And this Zeltrax, the rangers mentioned he might be after Kimberly?”
“He’s another story. Short version is that he and I ended up on opposite sides, and now he’s threatened to hit me where I’m vulnerable,” Tommy said sullenly.
“Kim,” Billy stated, knowing that his friend’s greatest strength and greatest weakness had always been the former pink ranger.
“Yeah. We thought that we could give her a personal shield, or an alarm or something to make sure he doesn’t come after her without us knowing about it or at least being able to protect her.”
“She knows about this then?”
“I called her earlier. She, of course, said that I was worrying too much and that she could take care of herself,” Tommy replied.
“She can you know. Even without the power she is a formidable opponent,” Billy remarked seriously.
“I know, but I worry, you know?”
Billy smiled at his friend. Yes, he knew that Tommy worried about Kim. He’d *always* worried about her. It was part of him, and the love that he felt towards her. And Billy knew that no matter what, Tommy would do anything in his power to make sure Kim was safe.
Still, that seemed to be only part of what he and the new ranger team were up against.
“Are you guys going to be okay?”
“We will. You know how it goes Billy… rangers get through anything the bad guy throws at them,” Tommy replied, leaning over to place his hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Come on. Let’s see if Hayley came up with any ideas.
Getting up, Tommy led Billy back to the main chamber where he found Hayley diligently working on the problem of keeping tabs on Zeltrax and keeping Kim out of the fire. As they came in, she turned in her chair.
“I don’t know what will work Tom. There’s a lot to consider,” she stated, looking at the black ranger and the former blue ranger.
“Maybe I can help?” offered Billy as he looked to Tommy for any concern, and finding none took the seat next to Hayley.
“Sure,” she replied, giving him a long appraising once over.
“I think that your best bet is to monitor the general vicinity of Kim’s location. If anything that is a monster comes into that area, your sensors will alert you to it.”
“So, I need to modify the sensor array for the Boston area? But how can I pinpoint Kimberly’s location within that area?”
“You could use her bio-signature.”
“I… I don’t know what that is.”
“I can help. It shouldn’t have changed much,” Billy replied. “May I?”
Hayley waved to the keyboard, and Billy went to work. Behind them, Tommy stayed out of it. He might have his PhD, but the real geniuses were way out of his league. As Billy worked his magic, Tommy stared at one of his oldest friends and his college friend. They looked good together.
“Tommy, I think Billy and I’ve got it,” Hayley announced, and turned to where Tommy still stood behind them.
“Good…” he replied, his body language showing some of the concern he had about Kim’s well being evaporating at the announcement.
“I think we can take it from here,” Billy stated, looking from his seat to Tommy and then settled his gaze on Hayley.
Tommy was slightly taken aback, but realized it made a lot of sense… It was funny. For as long as he’d known Hayley, he’d had the feeling that he just needed to hook her up with one of his friends. Maybe he just hadn’t introduced her to the right one.
“I have some papers to grade… How about you make sure you check in with me before you leave,” Tommy said to Billy, and then looked at Hayley with a hint of a grin. With that, he turned and headed to the stairs, leaving the two alone.
“So…” Hayley started, staring at the handsome and very smart former blue ranger. It wasn’t often she was impressed, but damn he was brilliant. “You’re heading back off planet soon, to wherever it is that you live now?”
“Affirmative, I mean yes. I have a while before I go though. Maybe we could get a cup of coffee? I miss coffee.”
Billy smiled at her, and Hayley found herself thinking that maybe she’d finally found a ranger that was worth her time and wasn’t preoccupied with his ex.
“You know, I just happen to own a café,” she remarked with a grin, and watched as Billy’s smile turned up even higher. “How about we have that coffee now?”
“Well that sounds perfect.”
With that, Billy got up and offered Hayley a hand. Taking it, she let him guide her to her feet, and she escorted him towards the back entrance, their conversation taking a technical turn as they followed the path past the raptorcycles.
“So, did you make the morphers using super conductive polymers to allow the gems to bond with the metal?” Billy asked as they walked.
“It was the only way I could figure out how to do it without incorporating technology that I didn’t have full access to,” she replied, smiling at the former blue ranger.
Yes, Hayley thought as they left the command center, maybe with some help from Billy, she’d be able to do some of the things wanted to do with the technology she had, and maybe she’d finally found a ranger that she could relate to.
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