Always a Ranger - Part 14
Déjà Evil Part 3: Black as Despair
“Well, that was like the worst day ever,” Conner nearly groaned as the team sat in the corner of the basement command center where Dr. O seemed to be excavating a new dinosaur skeleton imbedded in the wall.
“Brutal,” Ethan agreed, his shoulders slumped as he sat there, looking at his teammate.
“There’s gonna be a lot of days like this guys,” Tommy stated matter of factly as he walked through the gathered teens, and then turned to watch them all with a look of grim determination and nervous tension.
Kira looked up at where he’d passed her, he mouth falling open.
“Uh, whatever happened to the glass is half full?” she questioned, knowing their usually supportive teacher and fellow ranger wasn’t the type to get discouraged easily, but rather focus on the positive.
“Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s empty,” he said stoically, and then turned more controlled, “but that’s when you gotta dig deep. That’s when the qualities that made you rangers become most important.”
“You’re right,” Conner stated, straightening up a little. “What can we do?”
“Go have a little fun. Ethan, isn’t there a new video game you want to check out?” Tommy asked, looking at the young black man.
Ethan stared off towards the floor sullenly. Dr. O’s question had made him consider just what this white ranger business was doing to him…
“I never thought I’d hear myself say this, but I have no desire to go near a computer,” he remarked, and then looked at Kira, who had turned her head to watch him
“I know what you mean. I haven’t picked up my guitar in days,” she said, swiveling her head to look at Dr. O.
“Go on. Teacher’s orders,” Tommy stated, looking at each of his ‘charges’ in turn.
Kira, Ethan and Conner simply stared at their teacher, mentor and teammate. He was telling them to not worry about the white ranger and have fun? They all seemed stunned by the request.
With some reluctance, the group got up and started for the door. As they left, Tommy turned and watched them leave, his own emotional well being hanging by the proverbial thread.
“Enjoy yourselves now, because this is only going to get worse,” he stated to the empty chamber.
As he turned around again, he stared at the exposed dinosaur protruding from the wall. It had ruled the Earth for centuries, and now it was a fossil in his basement. If he, Hayley and the rest of the team didn’t find some way of stopping the white ranger, and soon, they might just end up going the same way as their dino predecessors.
He had spent the last confrontation trying to heed Kim’s words from his last call with her. That he wasn’t responsible for either the white ranger’s situation or the team having to face an evil ranger. But Ethan’s words had cut him. Since when were there bad rangers?
Since he’d been a ranger, thank you very much.
And still, knowing what he knew, having been a ranger for so damn long now, he’d underestimated the white ranger. Again.
And his team had paid the price for it.
Without thinking, he moved to the folding ladder and sat on it, settling his elbows on his knees and letting his head drop to his hands.
It hurt. God it hurt. And he didn’t want to share it with Kim. God knew it had torn him apart to hear the pain in her voice the last time he’d called. Memories of the past haunted them both, he’d found out. He couldn’t pour more salt in her wounds if he could keep her away from this.
All he had to do was not call her, not tell her what was going on.
For as long as he could hold it together without hearing her voice wash over him and heal him.
Except that he wasn’t sure if he could do it on his own.
Kira, Ethan and Conner walked up to the main area of Dr. O’s house and out the front door to Conner’s car in silence. Each of them lost in their own thoughts, they slowly winded their way from the front porch to the sports car.
For Conner, it seemed that he never could live up to the mantle of his color. He glanced at his friends and wondered if one of them should have been the red ranger, rather than him. He’d felt better after he’d decided to stay the red ranger when he’d had the opportunity to play soccer professionally. Then when Jason had come through town, he’d felt that maybe he could do this. Maybe he could be a good leader. Now he wasn’t so sure.
With Ethan, it was more of a fear that even all his knowledge and abilities, he and the rest of the team just couldn’t beat this guy. And he and Hayley had worked with Dr. O to try and figure out who this evil ranger dude was, to no avail. Neither science or smarts had succeeded in anything, and it was starting to scare him.
Kira however was feeling a different concern. After her talk with Kim the night before, she was starting to see the cracks that the previous pink ranger mentioned she was worried about with Dr. O. The whole thing was taking on epic proportions, and she couldn’t see a way to stop it.
“Do you really think we should leave him here alone?” Kira suddenly asked, her hand resting on the roof of Conner’s car as Ethan started to open the passenger door for her to get in the back seat.
“He told us to leave, go have fun,” Conner argued.
“Yeah, but, shouldn’t we be sticking together, just in case?” Ethan questioned, now wondering if taking the time to ‘go have fun’ was really what they needed; what Dr. O needed.
“Please, like you care,” Kira said icily to the blue ranger.
“What do you mean by that?” he snapped, backing up to stare the yellow ranger in the face.
“I mean you and your dumb ass remarks about ‘since when are their bad rangers’ today. And the one about evil power rangers the last time we went up against the white ranger.”
“Kira…” Conner started, beginning to move around the car towards the two.
“Are you really that insensitive? That wrapped up in yourself. Or are you just stupid?” she demanded.
“Hey, I didn’t do anything. All I said was what is the truth. We’re all good guys. Rangers have always been the good guys,” Ethan defended, getting in Kira’s face.
“So, that’s why Dr. O spent his first days as a power ranger trying to kill Kim and the rest of the original team?” she threw back bitterly.
Suddenly, Ethan froze, his face paling. He’d forgotten. Conner had made his way over to where Ethan stood and had his own epiphany at Kira’s words. They’d been so caught up in dealing with an evil ranger, none of them had remembered that while the shock they were feeling was bad, what their teacher must be going through must be ten times worse.
Except Kira had realized it.
“How…” Conner started to say, and Kira bowed her head in shame.
“I didn’t remember either,” she admitted quietly, and then slowly raised her head to meet her teammate’s eyes. “Kim called last night. She was worried about Dr. O.”
“She called you?” Ethan asked, now feeling drained as he slumped against the side of the car.
“Yeah. You know she and I got close while she was here last month. You know, ranger women needing to stick together and all. So, after you got her e-mail address, I’ve been keeping her up to date with everything.”
“Did you tell her about Principal Randall’s flirting with Dr. O?” Conner asked suddenly, his face breaking into a half smirk, despite the dire circumstances they were dealing with.
“Huh?” Ethan blurted out, looking from Conner to Kira.
“Uh, yeah…”she remarked, flushing and bowing her head.
“I thought something was up,” Conner laughed. “That oral presentation that Dr. O had you do on the Triassic period seemed out of the blue. And none of the class had to do one.”
“Kim sort of freaked about it and she and Dr. O must have gotten into it. She e-mailed me that they’d sorted it out and to be warned he wasn’t happy about my ‘meddling’. When he assigned the project to me, he told me I needed to spend some time doing some real research rather than using ‘unsubstantiated thought’ in making my decisions. Hence the report.”
“Ouch,” Ethan remarked, then refocused on the subject at hand. “But that doesn’t explain how you’re all concerned for Dr. O now. What did Kim tell you?”
“She mentioned how Dr. O went through a lot of guilt at what he’d done as an evil ranger. And how the team suffered for not being able to find out who the green ranger was. I know she feels a lot of pain herself at not having helped stop Dr. O earlier back in the day. She seemed to feel responsible for some of the guilt he has at hurting his friends, her and the people of the city while he was under the dark sorceress’ spell.”
The three rangers looked at one another with concern. They’d been so preoccupied with destroying the white ranger they’d never considered that he might be ensorcelled like Dr. O had been. And if that was the case, they’d wanted to destroy an innocent.
“Oh shit,” Conner said as he slumped next to Ethan against the car.
“Yeah,” Kira said, joining them.
“So what do we do?” Ethan asked, totally at a loss.
“I don’t know. Should we go back down there?” Kira suggested.
Silence surrounded them as they thought about it. Could they really do something for their teacher’s spirits when they’re own were just as crestfallen.
“Look, let’s give him some time. Maybe he’ll call Kim and get his head on straight,” Conner said, pushing away from the car. “Come on, I’m gonna drop you guys off, and then try to find a pick-up soccer game in the park. I need the break. We *all* do.”
Ethan nodded and moved to open the car door. Kira turned and stared at the others, feeling torn. She’d promised Kim she’d keep an eye on Dr. O for her. But she couldn’t do that if she left.
Bust she couldn’t do that if Dr. O wouldn’t let her.
“Alright. But I’m calling Kim once I get home. Maybe she can get him to talk to her.”
Shrugging, Conner got into the car and turned over the ignition as Ethan and Kira got in. It was a familiar drive, and it didn’t take long before both Kira and Ethan were home, and Conner headed for the park, trying to not think about the mistakes he’d made, and how he vowed mentally that he wouldn’t let his legacy down again.
Kim paced in
her apartment in the suburbs of
After the second hour, she’d called his house and gotten the answering machine. She’d left a message, just asking him to call, and then hung up to sit on the couch.
When hour three passed, she couldn’t stand the worry that had seeped into her soul. He should have called. Someone should have called. With reluctance born of fear, Kim grabbed the phone and called Kira’s house. After six rings, she hung up and nearly threw the phone across the room.
“Damn it!” she yelled in her empty apartment.
When she’d talked to Tommy last, she knew something was seriously wrong. She’d fought her fears and assured herself that just telling him that things would be fine was enough. Yet she’d still been concerned enough to e-mail and then call Kira.
That call had ended up opening more of her own hidden secrets than she’d planned. Kira seemed to understand Kim’s fears, and had promised to keep an eye on Tommy.
But no one, *no one* was better at taking care of him than she was.
If he didn’t call before she left for work the next morning, she was asking for a leave of absence and flying to Reefside. To hell with everything if he needed her now.
With that, she moved to the computer and fired off an e-mail to Tommy, copying the rest of the rangers, informing them that she had tried to reach them, and would be waiting on a call, or else she’d be out on the first plane she could get the following day.
After clicking send, she thought of her lover, her soul, and the black ranger and felt the despair start to creep up on her.
Just hold on Tommy, she silently thought.
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