Always a Ranger - Part 26
The High Price of Fame
By Jeannine Trevizo
It was a simple thing for Tommy Oliver to walk upstairs from the basement command center, leaving Hayley alone to work on a new project. The rest of the team was off at Kira’s video shoot, and he really didn’t want to try and explain to Hayley what he’d just done.
He hit the redial on the phone, and it quickly called Kim’s number. He hadn’t called anyone besides her since calling to talk with David and Sam. The phone rang three times before he heard the voice he longed to hear in the mornings when he woke up.
“Kim,” he started, his voice cracking at the simple word.
“Tommy? Are you okay?” she asked quickly, wondering what had happened.
“I killed him.”
“Who? Tommy, you’re scaring me. What’s going on?”
“Zeltrax, Kim. I killed Zeltrax… Smitty, I don’t know what I should call him. I made a decision and I killed him.”
“Whoa, wait a minute. You killed Zeltrax? But I thought…” Kim stumbled, confused.
When he’d called her to tell about Zeltrax’s identity, it had seemed like he was torn about what had happened, and Zeltrax’s belief that the accident had been Tommy’s fault. But they had talked through it and Kim had done her best to assure him that there wasn’t anything he could have done, couldn’t have known how Mesogog would twist Smitty into Zeltrax.
They had both hoped though that in the end that once Mesogog was destroyed, maybe Smitty could be saved.
Now Tommy was saying he’d destroyed that hope?
“I didn’t want to do it Kim… but I just couldn’t see an other answer,” Tommy explained, running a hand through his hair in his standard nervous habit and continued pacing the floor of the living room.
“What happened that forced you into it?” she asked, realizing that something serious had to have happened to make him kill the being who had been his friend.
“We got Conner the Triassic powers, I mentioned that last time we talked, right?”
“Yes, we talked about that already…”
“Well, Kira and Ethan can’t stay morphed when Conner’s in Triassic mode. He was fighting with Zeltrax’s scorpion vehicle, and I realized that I had to stop him. Once and for all time. So I jumped to his ship and gave him an ultimatum. Stand down or be destroyed,” he explained mechanically.
“Which of course he didn’t,” Kim guessed knowingly.
“No. So we went at it. There was a point when I tried… God I tried to get through to whatever was left of Smitty in him Kim, but he refused to listen. So… I did it.”
There was silence on the line as Kim tried to process the information he’d given her. He’d escalated the battle. Something that Zordon had preached time and again against. He’d chosen to stop Zeltrax permanently, even if he possibly could have let him retreat. Instead, he’d killed Zeltrax and stopped this attack and future ones.
Years ago, she might have tried to condemn him for abusing the power; for not trying to find another way. But the reality of the world had made both of them wiser. Sometimes you had to make the hard choices. If he hadn’t done what he had, maybe Zeltrax could have beaten him, then crushed the other rangers, paving the path for Mesogog taking over. If he hadn’t made that agonizing decision to use deadly force to stop Zeltrax then, one of the team could have been killed.
It was a brutal thought… and Kim wondered for what probably was the millionth time since she had met Zordon and been offered the ranger powers if the main reason that teenagers were rangers was because they could still see the limitless possibilities that older, more world-weary men and women couldn’t see any longer.
“You killed him? You’re sure?” Kim asked finally.
“I… I just barely made it out of his ship before it blew up. I had really hurt him badly. I can’t see how he could have survived,” stated Tommy darkly.
“Then you need to make peace with it.”
“How?” he nearly cried, the weight of what he’d done crashing down on him fully. “I *killed* him Kim. I didn’t stop. I finally let myself be as evil as I ever was when I was under Rita’s power. I didn’t back off, I didn’t try more than once to bring him back to his old self. I cold bloodedly murdered him!”
“No! You aren’t capable of that,” Kim yelled, and Tommy cringed slightly on his end of the line. “You told me yourself that you tried to get Smitty back, several times before this confrontation. And all of them were unsuccessful. There was a moment when you had to make a choice handsome. And you made the only one you could.”
“Tommy, don’t. Did you not just say that Kira and Ethan were unmorphed?”
“And that Conner was on his own against Zeltrax’s monster?”
“And you realized that you needed to stop Zeltrax to protect them, make sure that they could win. You tried to stop Zeltrax, and when he pushed you, refusing to stand down, you killed him,” Kim stated, using his own words to paint the picture of what had happened for him.
“I couldn’t think of another way to stop him. We’ve just been going around in circles for months now. We battle, we do damage and he retreats to come back. I just couldn’t let him do that again with everything…” Tommy murmured, starting to understand what Kim was implying.
“You did what you had to. You protected the team. You were a leader and made the tough decision.”
“But I don’t know how I deal with this Kim. Someone’s dead because of me. And I wasn’t evil at the time. I was me.”
“Did Zeltrax back down? Did Smitty break free of whatever Mesogog did to him before you killed him? Did he not escalate the fight as well?” Kim questioned rapid fire at him, forcing him to reflect on what had happened.
“He was the bad guy Tommy. You did what you had to do. If he had attacked the kids outright, and you had to choose to kill him or lose one of them…”
As Kim trailed her thought off, Tommy had to ponder. No, if Zeltrax had directly attacked the team, and there was a thought that if he didn’t kill him that he’d kill one of the team, he wouldn’t have hesitated in killing him. But what Kim was suggesting was this was the same…
“It’s not the same,” Tommy argued, though less fiercely than he had fought before.
“It is. There was no guarantee that Conner could defeat Zeltrax’s machine. You had to make sure that they were about not only survive but to win. And that’s what you did by stopping Zeltrax. I know you’re not proud of the decision you made, but you have to know that I respect you for making it.”
“I…” began Tommy, finding himself unable to gather his thoughts. If Kim understood why he did it, didn’t think him weak for not being able to find another way, maybe he hadn’t crossed the line. “Thank you Beautiful.”
“So, any news on…” he started to say when a herd of elephants pounded up the stairs and through the trap door in the kitchen. He turned to watch Trent, Conner, Ethan and Kira all pour through the opening in the floor.
“Dr. O it was so cool, Kira was great!” enthused Trent, not noticing Tommy on the phone.
The others recognized the halted pacing behavior, and noted the phone stuck to his ear. Conner and Ethan glanced at each other with a knowing look and Kira rushed forward, placing a hand on Tommy’s arm.
“Is that Kim?” Kira asked quietly, excitement in her voice.
Tommy nodded, and she gave him a pitiful look. Behind her, Trent looked confused while Conner and Ethan rolled their eyes.
“Can I talk to her?”
“Kim, Kira’s here and wants to talk to you…” Tommy said, and Kim smiled on her end.
“Put her on.”
With that, Tommy reluctantly handed the phone to Kira. As Kira stepped away, he noted Trent looking at him strangely, and headed over to stand with the men as Kira spoke with Kim.
“Kim, hey! I am so glad to talk to you. How is Boston? I have such cool news to tell you,” Kira said rapid fire, not even breaking to breathe.
“Hi Kira. Things are good. So, what’s so important that you broke in and stole the phone from Tommy?” Kim asked, smiling at her young friend’s enthusiasm.
“I recorded a music video. It was great!”
“That’s wonderful. Is it good? Do I have to wait for it to air on MTV or are you going to send me a copy?”
As Kira explained to Kim how they’d shot the video, with the team’s help of course, Tommy continued to note Trent’s gaze on him. Finally, he decided to ask what the problem was.
“Trent, is there something on you mind?”
“Who’s Kim? And how does Kira know her?” Trent questioned, and everyone realized just how out of the loop Trent was.
“Kim is Dr. O’s girlfriend,” Conner explained simply, bringing a frown to Tommy’s face.
“And she’s the original pink ranger too. They used to be an item back in the day, and now they’re together again,” added Ethan.
“Whoa, wait a minute… I’m lost. She’s a former ranger? And she and Dr. O are dating? You guys need to fill me in,” Trent told Ethan and Conner.
“Guys,” Tommy warned in a tone that said he really wasn’t happy with the turn of events, but knew he had little control over the situation.
“Don’t worry Dr. O, we’ll be good,” Ethan promised as he and Conner led Trent to the couch to dish the ranger romance dirt.
Tommy turned back to where Kira was leaning against the wall, talking to Kim. He hadn’t been listening to her end of the conversation, but her sudden change in posture made him focus on what she was saying, and wondered what Kim was telling her.
“Kira, I know you’re talented, and I’m glad the second video was a better experience for you, but I want you to remember something very important,” Kim said, her voice full of significance.
“What’s that?” Kira asked, looking up to see Dr. O watching her with a concerned look on his face.
“That sometimes the dream we have isn’t quite what we thought it was. Be careful that you don’t loose what you have now in pursuit of it.”
“Like you did?” Kira asked quietly, understanding what Kim was suggesting.
“Sort of. But I got lucky. I got back some of what I lost.”
“So I noticed. Speaking of which, Dr. O is staring a hole into me, so I will talk to you later, and send you a copy of the video when it’s done.”
With that, Kira held the phone out to Tommy, and he gave her a half smile and quickly grabbed the phone. He watched as Kira went and sat by Conner and joined the conversation about his love life and sighed.
“So, you and Kira have a good chat?” he asked.
“Yeah. She’s really hoping that the moron from the record company will like the new video.”
“Did she tell you about her other video.”
“Yeah,” Kim laughed, and then quickly smothered it. “I told her that she should be very glad that at least Conner cares enough about her to tell her the truth.”
“Hey! We wanted to spare her feelings.”
“You just didn’t want her to yell at you. I know how you are Thomas Oliver. You can face down evil monsters and travel through space and time without blinking, but having a slip of a girl tell you off terrifies you.”
“Well, I spent a lot of years in fear of you, so…”
Kim giggled, remembering one of the more choice moments of their teen dating days when she’d chewed him out for getting them caught in the rain with his jeep’s soft top packed in his parent’s garage.
“Still, you need to be honest. With all of them. That’s what keeps you a team, remember?”
“Anyway, it’s late. I should let you go, and I’ll talk to you tomorrow?”
“Okay Kim. Love you.”
“I love you too. Night.”
Once the words were out, she hung up the phone, and Tommy hung up as well. It was then that he knew he didn’t have a buffer between him and the questions that he was sure were coming. But as he looked at the young faces before him, he realized that there weren’t any immediately coming.
Then he saw the looks from one to another, and realized it was a momentary reprieve.
“Well Dr. O. we came over to tell you about Kira’s video, but…” Ethan began, and his eyebrows rose a bit in implication.
“We think you’ve had a busy enough day. So we’re just gonna go and talk to you later,” added Conner, getting up from the couch and reaching over to haul Trent up.
“Yeah. And we’ll get Hayley out of here too,” Trent stated, as they all started towards the trap door.
The guys were halfway down when Kira stopped and spun around to look at their mentor and teacher.
“I’ll bring you a copy of the video too Dr. O,” Kira said simply, with a sly smile. “I think you’ll really appreciate it.”
With that, she hurried down into the kitchen, leaving Dr. O standing in the living room, his mind now turning back to Zeltrax and Kim.
He hoped that Kim really was right… that he had made the right decision and that his soul wasn’t damned by his destroying the thing that had once been his friend.
Still, he had done what he had to to protect the team, protect the world and, in the long run, make sure that what mattered most to him was safe… Kim.
And at the end of the day, he could live with that.
To be continued…
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