Duty & Honor – Part 9

Even With All This Power

By Jeannine Trevizo

 

 

 

The team had hopped their bikes, Kim riding double with Tommy as usual as they sped towards the site of the latest Xondar attack. As the bikes peeled around a corner of the industrial business complex on the outskirts of town, everyone was greeted with the scene of carnage.

 

Symax had directed his troops of wraiths to cut a path through several buildings, destroying cars and property. Paper fluttered through the air and smoke rose from the fires that burned from the electrical and gas line damage. It was an escalation in property damage. But they had one thing going for them… it was a weekend, and the businesses were empty. The loss of life, not monetary damage was what kept Tommy and Kim up at night.

 

People who died because they couldn’t save them.

 

“Time to see if we’ve learned anything new,” Tommy announced over the helmet mikes to everyone, as he drove his ATV through the mass of wraiths, firing the lasers as Kim held on tightly to him with one arm, her other hand firing with her pistol. Conner, Kira, Ethan and Trent all followed suit, buzzing through the mass of Xondar’s soldiers, splitting them in two.

 

Some blasts hit their targets, sparks flying and the smell of charred bodies cutting through the air. Others simply passed right through the wraiths as the realized the attack for what it was and misted through the beams.

 

As the team pulled their vehicles up and swung them around, they saw the gap they’d created starting to close, and Conner immediately recognized the advantage they were beginning to lose.

 

“Cut through them again… we need to keep their forces split,” he barked out, revving the engine on his Raptor Cycle and speeding into the center of the gap between Symax’s forces. Behind him Kira and Ethan followed, maneuvering their bikes to back up the troops to the left hand side, knowing that Dr. O, Kim and Trent would take the other side.

 

Synchronized, the team split the forces, Tommy, Kim and Trent facing off with Symax and a smaller force of wraiths while Conner’s group had a larger force, but no leader. Quickly jumping from their bikes, they decided it was time to take on their opponents hand to hand.

 

“You rangers have made a serious mistake,” threatened Symax, his golden sword coming fro over his back, the tip leveling parallel with the ranger’s chests. “My lord Xondar has destroyed dozens of your kind. And you think suddenly that you can defeat his finest forces with divide and conquer tactics?”

 

His evil laugh rang through the smoke and debris and the rangers facing him dug the heels of their boots into the pavement, ready for anything.

 

Which was what they got.

 

On both sides, Symax’s call for attack rang out, and the wraiths swarmed forward, their uniforms going dark as they swung the staffs they carried over their heads, making for deadly arcs of electrical energy. Quickly calling on their own weapons, the team jumped into the fray, parrying and clashing with the staffs and limbs of their opponents.

 

“You know, I would have thought this would have gotten easier,” grunted Ethan as he blocked a strike with his shield, twisting to slam a boot into the startled side of a wraith.

 

“Please… when is it ever easy,” Kira threw back as she used her terra grips to parry the attack of two wraiths before her, stumbling a bit when she nearly fell through one when it evaporated in front of her.

 

“It is when we work together,” reminded Conner as he swept the feet out from underneath his opponent with his tyrano staff, and moved to Kira, his gem glowing brightly with a focused burst of his concentration. “It takes two, remember?”

 

With that, Ethan and Kira both moved to create a triangle, their backs to one another as they focused their dino gem energy outwards. The wraiths around them were startled at the change in tactics, and some scrambled away. But not before nearly a dozen of the wraiths crystallized before the three ranger front. With hidden smiles, Conner, Ethan and Kira took in a deep breath and leapt forward, using their weapons to smash the statue-like soldiers before heading across the divide to where Dr. O, Kim and Trent had been working their way towards Symax in a steady motion.

 

Tommy and Kim had been working with Trent in a similar way, the three of them switching places as one would take the lead, blocking and attacking while the other two would focus their dino gem power on the surrounding wraiths. It had worked so far, but it was starting to slow them down. As Kim had asked before, the limit for how many times they could use their powers like this seemed to be coming closer to reality.

 

As Conner’s group arrived around Tommy’s, the six rangers focused their attention at the general of Xondar’s forces. The remaining wraiths had rallied around the hulking golden armored warrior, their own uniforms taking on the golden color. Almost as if they were being re-infused with power…

 

“You wish to end this now?” called out Symax, his face covered with an ugly smile. “My master would be more than happy to see you die today.”

 

“Not even,” Kim spat out, her bow gripped tightly in her hand.

 

“You can stand down and have Xondar leave, or you can stay here and fall first,” Conner demanded authoritatively.

 

Beside him, Tommy and Kira both grimaced behind their helmets. They both knew that Conner was impulsive and often rash. And a boast like this was sure to come back to haunt them.

 

“You’re a fool little red ranger. I have killed personally half a dozen like you. How you could have been chosen to wear the red armor is inconceivable. My master laughs as he watches you, trying to be a leader when one already exists within your group,” Symax taunted, his soldiers slowly circling the rangers, forcing them to close ranks as they quickly realized that their advantage had slipped away like water.

 

“Don’t let him get to you,” Kira said under her breath, her terra grips held at arm’s length, waiting for the rush of the wraiths.

 

“What, little yellow ranger? Should he not hear the truth?”

 

“You don’t know any truths,” Ethan fired back.

 

Side by side, Kim and Tommy glanced to one another. Neither of them could remember Symax being this talkative. Or verbally decisive. It was almost as if he’d been replaced mentally by a bigger strategist…

 

“Xondar!” called out Tommy, his brachio staff held at the ready. “We hear Symax’s voice, but your words. And you can forget about it. We won’t turn on each other and let you destroy us. We are true rangers, in all senses of the word!”

 

There was a sudden crack of lightening from the sky, and above them the clouds that had seemed to coalesce with the smoke opened to show the hulking ship that Xondar had arrived over a month ago. The power pulsing off the glowing ship seemed to increase, and where Symax stood, a golden light formed a cylinder.

 

And from within, and image appeared.

 

One that Kim and Tommy nearly gasped at.

 

Xondar had finally decided to appear.

 

The golden light image of the tall man, bald and in his strict high collared uniform, cloak trailing him menaced before them ten feet high. He looked down at the rangers, finally focusing on the two that seemed to be focused on him especially. The leader and his second. Not the one who thought he lead, but the one with the aura of power.

 

One who seemed to understand the power of a ranger. Even if he wasn’t worthy of it.

 

None of them were…

 

“There has not been a team of rangers who were what they were meant to be in eons black ranger,” spoke the heavy tome of Xondar’s projected voice. “You are a child playing at a game you know nothing about. You do disservice to the uniform, the name of ranger.”

 

“Liar!” Kim yelled, moving forward a step as Tommy’s hand fell swiftly on her arm. “Zordon would never have trusted us if we weren’t worthy!”

 

The reaction to Zordon’s name was instantaneous. Xondar’s image almost paled, but he was visibly taken aback. Then anger replaced it.

 

“Blasphemer! How dare you! Now I shall not only destroy you, you will all suffer for your heresy!”

 

A startling blast of wind hit them with the force of a gale, lightening accompanying it with more force and power than they’d seen before, throwing the rangers backwards, their uniforms sizzling with the energy strikes they’d absorbed. Then a loud crack of thunder, like an atomic explosion rattled the ground, and when the rangers were finally able to look up, Symax, the wraiths and Xondar’s projection were gone, along with his ship.

 

He’d retreated. But the battle was far from over… because they’d finally seen their enemy, had heard his voice and seen his abilities.

 

And he was now wanting more than simple revenge.

 

“Wow,” said Trent, his mind still trying to wrap around what had happened.

 

“At least we’ve finally seen him,” remarked Conner, looking to Kira as she moved closer to him.

 

“Yeah. He didn’t do more than talk though,” Kira responded, wondering if they’d gotten lucky of it Xondar was just the mastermind behind the power.

 

“Don’t trivialize what just happened guys. He’s more dangerous than you all realize,” Tommy finally broke in, his hand tightly gripping Kim’s.

 

“How’s that?” Ethan asked, noting the way Kim and Dr. O were staying so close, the near death grip on each other’s hands.

 

“I made a mistake,” Kim said softly, glad that her helmet hid her distressed reaction to Zordon’s brother and her anger at herself. “I made him mad… He’s like his brother was, except evil. He’s realized that brute force isn’t going to destroy us, so he’s trying to figure us out. And I just gave him another reason to hate us.”

 

“You had no idea Kim…” Tommy began, trying to console his team mate and wife.

 

“But I should have known better. I just looked at him, heard what he was saying about us, how he was undermining his own brother’s decisions and I just snapped. If he figures out what I meant…”

 

“What do you mean?” Kira asked, confused along with everyone else.

 

“He killed the space ranger team for murdering his brother. But Kim and I… we were his brother’s chosen rangers. And that means we’re the most to blame,” Tommy answered simply, his chest expanding sharply with a sudden deep intake of air. “Which means that we all are in serious danger from him. And we need to find a way to end this soon.”

 

The team around them looked at the black ranger in bewilderment, and Kim and Tommy gravitated closer to one another, embracing even in their uniforms.

 

“This is an escalation everyone. And the next time Xondar comes after us might be the last.”

 

-x-

 

The rest of the weekend had occurred without incident, but the shadow of Xondar still was hanging over them like a sword ready to fall. Still, there was nothing that could be done about it.

 

Tommy had informed them in no uncertain terms that they needed to focus on non-ranger stuff. Such as their finals. He and Kim had regaled them all with tales of when they had been in their shoes, that they had still had to pass their finals, and that they expected no less from them. So the rest of the weekend had been devoted to studying for their tests while Tommy and Kim had worked with Hayley to come up with some kind of plan to deal with Xondar when they next met.

 

So Monday morning had arrived leaving Kira, Conner, Ethan and Trent to arrive at school without any excuses of time that they could have used for studying were used defending themselves from bad guys. They had already been through two finals and were on their way to their third. The foursome walked the halls between second and third periods, discussion the last final that they’d been in. For Trent and Ethan, it had been World history. For Conner and Kira, it had been Senior English.

 

“I can’t believe how hard that English final was. I mean, how could I have so many problems with conjugating verbs in a language that I use everyday?” Conner complained bitterly as they walked through the halls.

 

Kira started to snicker first, earning her a look from her boyfriend, but it wasn’t long before Trent and Ethan joined her, the three laughing at the utter incomprehensible remark by the erstwhile red ranger.

 

“You speak American slang, not English,” Ethan jibbed as they turned the corridor. “And yes, it wasn’t easy, but if you’d studied…”

 

“I was busy…”

 

“Doing what? We didn’t have any fights with Symax or the wraiths most of last week,” Trent countered, and then saw Kira blush along with Conner’s guilty look.

 

Not wanting to hear any details of how Conner and Kira probably got sidetracked from studying by each other, Trent quickly dropped the subject, with Ethan rolling his eyes and smiling. There were days that he wondered if his friends and team mates realized just how closely they resembled their elders.

 

They took another turn in silence now, heading down the corridor towards the class they all were looking forward to but dreading at the same time.

 

Dr. O’s geology final.

 

Before them a rush of people were filing into the room, and they all looked up to see the time on the clock in the hall. The bell would ring in a minute, and then the test would start. Hurriedly they scooted into Dr. O’s class with moments to spare and quickly took their seats. Closing the door as the period buzzer rang, echoing in the room and the halls, Dr. O turned slowly to the students of his senior class and adjusted his glasses with one hand while he juggled the tests in the other.

 

“Alright everyone, this is it. Final time,” he stated as he walked through the room, handing out the tests and their accompanying electronic answer forms… scantrons. “If you paid attention all year, did relatively well in the tests and made sure to brush up on the stuff you might have forgotten, you’ll pass. You have until five minutes before the end of class. You can begin… now.”

 

At his word, the students flipped the questionnaire books open, number two pencils in hand and started the test. Tommy walked among them briefly before turning back to go to the area in the corner where his desk was. He reviewed the results from his earlier classes tests, occasionally looking up to note the current status of his senior’s course. They had their heads down, and everyone had pencil to scantron, rapidly or thoughtfully answering the questions in the workbook.

 

The time ticked away, and at the ten minute mark, he gave them a warning. Five minutes left. There was a mad scramble of pencils and page flipping before he made the final announcement.

 

“Okay, time’s up. Make sure your name is on your test and pass them up.”

 

A flurry of paper started making its way forward. The sound of discussion about how everyone thought they did filed the room as Dr. O moved across the room towards the front row of desks to collect the tests. There was a slight popping sound where the loudspeaker was, prompting the class to focus on the wall at the front of the class. Dr. O turned with his hands full of tests as the system came to life, and Principal Ramsey’s voice echoed through the halls and the room.

 

“If I could have the attention of all students and faculty. It’s my sad duty to inform you all that one of our own has passed away. I received a call this morning that Anthony James, a junior here was found dead this morning. The school will have councilors on site tomorrow, and any student wishing to leave classes today should feel free to do so. Finals will be postponed until Wednesday. Thank you.”

 

As his voice disappeared, Kira, Conner, Trent and Ethan all looked to one another in utter shock. It was one thing to see people die or get injured when they were being attacked by monsters. But this… it was just…

 

Behind them, a girl who had been friends with Tony’s sister started crying, her closest classmate wrapping her arms around her in a consoling fashion. Others who didn’t know the guy still seemed to be stunned. In the front of the room, Tommy stared at the speaker for a long minute, and then turned his eyes on his class. He’d learned a lot about dealing with death in his years as a ranger. But not like this.

 

“Class is dismissed,” he called out quickly, and the students scooped up their things and filed out, almost in a daze.

 

Except for his team.

 

“You guys okay?” Tommy asked, concern etched across his face and in his voice.

 

“Uh… I’m not sure,” Kira said softly, her hand gripped tightly by Conner.

 

And the reason she wasn’t sure was because she knew Anthony James better than the rest of the team.

 

Tony had been begging Kira to teach him to play guitar for the last year, claiming that she was the best and that he could be a rock star if he learned from her, even if his parents wanted him to focus on his schoolwork and not dream about being a performer. She’d laughed and said it was sweet, but that she didn’t have the time. That he should listen to his parents and take a safer route to success.

 

And now he was dead.

 

“I just can’t believe it,” Conner whispered, remembering the nice guy that so wanted Kira to be his mentor.

 

“Could this be a big joke? You know, funny, ha ha, break the finals tension?” Ethan hoped out loud.

 

“Principal Ramsey doesn’t have that kind of sense of humor. It would be in poor taste regardless,” Dr. O said simply, knowing the principal well from the time he’d been working with him.

 

“I need to find out what happened,” Kira suddenly said, getting up from her chair and nearly pulling Conner with her.

 

The group hurried into the halls, leaving Dr. O behind as they waded through the silent halls. People milled around lockers in groups while some students had left the school altogether. Finally Kira, Conner, Ethan and Trent made it to the nearly packed school office, where Principal Ramsey was trying his best to settle down the questions he was being barraged with.

 

“Principal, what happened?” someone asked from the crowd, giving voice to the question on all of their minds.

 

Kira, her hand balled in Conner’s shirt waited for the answer. She wondered if it was a car accident. That was fairly common. It couldn’t have been something like Cancer or anything. He would have said something, someone would have known. And they’d all just seen Anthony at the Cyberspace less than a week ago and he looked healthy…

 

“Well, it will come out eventually, I guess telling you all now won’t hurt. He killed himself.”

 

The teens eyes bulged at that news.

 

Suicide?

 

“Oh my God,” said one guy who had been Tony’s friend since sixth grade.

 

The atmosphere in the room had changed with that simple announcement. Their friend, their fellow student had committed suicide the week of finals.

 

And that once fact brought the world as they knew it crashing down around them.

 

Taking a deep breath, Conner pulled Kira close to him and physically escorted her out of the room, and then out of the building. Behind him, Ethan and Trent looked at one another, sharing a look that spoke volumes.

 

Nothing was going to be the same at Reefside High again.

 

-x-

 

“Why would he do that?” Kira murmured as she wiped away another series of silent tears that streaked down her face.

 

Conner had driven them to the Cyberspace, knowing that Hayley would let them in, and it would give them somewhere to talk. Because right now he was needing to talk about the fact that Tony James was dead. And no one had realized he was going to kill himself.

 

“I don’t know. I heard from some of his close friends that his parents had been pushing him to get better grades, ace his finals so he could apply for better collages,” offered Ethan as some kind of reasoning for Tony’s actions.

 

“But now he’s dead!”

 

“We know that Kira,” Conner said soothingly, running his hand up and down her arm. “No one saw it coming. He didn’t let anyone know he was thinking of suicide.”

 

“The difference between an A and a B shouldn’t be the reason someone hangs themselves in their garage. Parents are supposed to protect their kids, not push them to suicide because they want them to be super educated,” she complained angrily.

 

“I’m sure they didn’t know the pressure they were putting on him,” Trent remarked, sighing into his glass as he pushed away thoughts of his own father’s quest for him to do better.

 

“Why didn’t he go to someone for help?”

 

“Maybe he didn’t know how,” supplied Conner. “It’s a tough world out there. So many people think they have to be perfect to succeed. Maybe he got too caught up in it to realize he was pushing himself too hard.”

 

“It’s not fair!” Kira nearly yelled, and Conner pulled her into his chest.

 

“No, it’s not.”

 

And with that, Conner and his team mates realized exactly what Dr. O and Kim had meant all this time about how they didn’t always have control over everything. That even with all their powers, they were still human.

 

And that bad things happened, no matter what they could achieve.

 

-x-

 

That afternoon, Kim came home, swinging the door open to find Tommy sitting in the living room, his head in his hands and every light and appliance off.

 

“Tommy?” she said nervously, dropping her bag and closing the door swiftly behind her.

 

She moved to the couch and sat beside him where he quickly enveloped her in his embrace.

 

“I’ll tell you later Beautiful. Right now, just let me hold you.”

 

And she did.

 

-End-

 

First,  I know this is a difficult subject, but I hope I gave it the proper attention in the context of ranger’s having control over life and death. As well, I would love to say we’re back on track with the posting schedule, but I can’t. So… hopefully the next chapter will be done in a week or two… but if not… just keep an eye out in your mailboxes for my post or an FF.net chapter update notice. Thank you ALL for sticking with me. I greatly appreciate it. I hope that the conclusion chapters of D&H will be worthy of your patience and loyalty. Jeannine

 

 

 

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