Duty & Honor – Part 3
“Let’s head back to the base and see if we can’t figure out what this is all about,” Tommy said, and the team hurriedly mounted back up on their vehicles and sped back to the forest entry of the command center.
As they rode into the back entrance of the cave in the fading light, they parked their vehicles and headed into the main meeting area. Inside they found Hayley already at the console, her red hair flowing over her shoulders in a riot, looking as if she’d run all the way from the café. She turned and regarded them seriously as they came in, giving them a tight grin.
“Looks like you guys are back in business.”
“Glad you noticed,” remarked Tommy as he reached to his wrist and unmorphed.
Everyone followed suit, and soon the room was filled with ordinary teenagers, one high school science teacher, a gymnastics coach and a small business entrepreneur again. Except that those appearances were deceiving… they were rangers, no matter what they looked like out of uniform. And that simple fact that they were back in the game was difficult for all of them.
Silence ruled the large cave for long moments as Tommy moved away from the teens that were his students and team mates as he tried to figure out what to do next. Running his hand through his hair, Tommy paced slightly until Kim put a hand on his other arm to stop him. His eyes met hers, and he sighed. They had all believed that after Mesogog’s defeat that they could leave this life behind, and here they were, being attacked by an unknown source and they were getting sucked right back into the ranger life.
While Kim and Tommy seemed to be in their own world, the others decided to sit and wait the black and pink rangers out. Falling into their familiar patterns of seating, they found the slabs of rock and other scattered wooden work areas and sat down. The only difference was where they sat and how close they sat…
“So, what exactly do you think we’re dealing with Dr. O?” Conner asked Tommy abruptly, Kira sitting at his side more now from their relationship than their previous seating arrangement.
“I don’t know… should I?” Tommy questioned as he turned back towards the others.
“Just figuring, what with you being the greatest living ranger ever you might have come in contact with them in your day…” suggested Ethan, sounding just as lost as everyone else, but trying to put a positive spin on things.
Unfortunately his comments made Tommy pause in a long moment of recall. His mind flashed back to the old questions, all the old wounds of his time as a ranger – feeling like he wasn’t good enough, getting captured and used by the bad guys, fighting against his friends… those were the memories that popped up, rather than ones of his being the leader that got the team through. Under his calm facade, his temper was starting to unravel at the sudden appearance of this new foe and the way the team had seemed to unravel after the months out of uniform. Only Kim could see the turmoil in his eyes, the uncertainty that the questions and the new unknown were causing in Tommy, and took up her role to support him as she always did.
“Alright, let’s all just stop and back the truck up here, okay,” Kim said softly, bringing the others to a halt in their questions as she stood up and placed her hands on his chest, forcing him to look at her. “I don’t think any of us, even us old rangers have any idea of what we’re facing.”
The moment her hands pressed against him, Tommy found his mind clearing and his heart thudding in his chest. Looking down, he found himself caught once again in Kim’s doe brown eyes, and felt his soul reconnect with hers, the calm that she gave him seeping through his veins. He gave her a small smile, and she returned it, knowing that the moment had passed and that they could focus again on the problem, rather than its affects on her husband’s psyche.
“No guesses?” Kira asked Kim and Tommy, her lips curving into a frown.
“Not a one. Sorry,” remarked Tommy as he pulled Kim into his side and facing the others.
“You know, I could put in a call to Bill… he might know something…” suggested Hayley out of the blue, shocking Tommy and Kim.
Kim looked to Tommy, wondering if they wanted to bring their friend into this. But their options were limited. They only knew about the aliens that they’d met over the years. This new ship and new army of soldiers was outside of their scope of knowledge. And without knowing who the new threat was, why they were after the rangers and how to beat them, they were in for a long series of battles.
“Go ahead. Maybe he’s heard of something.”
“How about the other rangers?” asked Trent. “I mean they’ve been other places, seen other worlds, right? At least TJ claimed they had.”
“No, they have… that’s probably a good idea. Hayley, maybe you could contact Cam and some of the other ranger teams.”
“Okay, so we’re finding out what they are. But in the meantime, how do we fight those… wraiths, I guess for lack of a better name?” Kira posed.
“The dino gem power helped make them solid so we could break them,” Conner said simply, running his hand over Kira’s in a calming manner.
“But we don’t know if that’s permanent or if they regenerate. And we only were able to destroy a half dozen like that before they disappeared. What happens when we start to run out of energy?” Ethan offered up, still worried about their new foe.
“Can we run out of energy?” Kim wondered aloud, bringing everyone’s attention to her.
“Kira and Ethan have both been in that situation. Sort of like when you passed on some of your energy when they’ve transferred energy to the Shield of Triumph when…” Tommy trailed off before he mentioned Mesogog’s island, and looked quickly to where Trent sat.
The moment Dr. O’s eyes met his, Trent quickly looked away. While Trent had talked about Anton’s death with him and Kim, it was still a lingering cloud over the young man. He’d spent more than a few evenings in the last eight months showing up, having dinner with the Olivers and sitting on the floor, watching TV with them for some sense of normalcy. But the ghost of his father continued to trouble him.
“So, what do we do in the meantime?” questioned Conner, more than a little ill at ease with this new development.
“Stay alert, keep pushing them back and go about business as usual, I would think,” Kim suggested, glancing from Kira, Ethan, Conner and Trent to Tommy.
“And that means finals,” finished Tommy, staring at the four youths who had their whole lives still ahead of them, outside of their duties as rangers.
“Ugh,” said four voices in near unison, realizing that their return to being superheroes came with the added bonus of the end of high school as well.
“Everyone head home, we’ll discuss this when we have more to discuss. That means you too Hayley.”
Reluctantly nodding, Hayley sent the last of the messages out and turned to guide Trent and Ethan towards the stairs, Conner and Kira ahead of them and Kim and Tommy behind. Climbing the stairs they all moved through the living room and made their goodbyes as everyone finally left. Once the door closed, Kim and Tommy turned to one another, Kim moving into his instantly open arms as they took comfort in one another, their thoughts churning almost as one.
They were back in uniform, and the situation was dire. The old adage about always being a ranger looked like it was true in their case more than they’d believed.
“We’ll get through it. We always do,” she murmured into his chest as she leaned into him, his hands rubbing circles against her back.
“That’s because I have you, watching my back,” replied Tommy, smiling down on her before placing a soft kiss on her head.
“Yeah, but that still doesn’t explain how you got though before…”
That simple remark clouded over Tommy’s dark eyes and Kim pulled away slightly and looked up at him with a frown. The years of their separation were long over, yet the pain that marked them both seemed destined to continue to intrude on their lives.
“I’m sorry,” Kim intoned, her voice thick with emotion as she laid a hand on his cheek.
“There’s nothing for you to be sorry for.”
“I shouldn’t have left…”
“And I didn’t push you to go?” he reminded her softly, turning his face to press a soft kiss into the palm of her hand. “It doesn’t matter now Beautiful. Really, it doesn’t. I have you now, and for the rest of our lives, and that’s what counts.”
“For as long as this new bad guy lets us live that is, right?” Kim remarked, a tinge of fear in her voice.
“Hey, weren’t you the one that was just saying that we were gonna be fine?”
“Kim, we always win, remember? We’ll get the team through this,” he chided with a grin and she couldn’t help but return it.
“You win,” she sighed slightly, moving back into his embrace. “I don’t know about you, but I’m wiped out…”
“Then let’s go to bed.”
“Of course,” he answered quickly, his tone mockingly offended, even if his eyes were glittering in the light in a manner that said he’d rather not sleep.
But the day was catching up with him too, and they both had classes in the morning. Letting out a stifled yawn, Tommy wrapped his arm loosely around Kim’s waist and ushered them into the bedroom. There they shrugged off their clothes, donning pajamas before climbing under the covers of their bed.
Curling up in the sheets, Tommy held Kim tightly, her arms wrapped around his waist, her head on his chest as they fought to put aside the day’s events, finding comfort and sleep in each other’s arms.
The inner doors to the Cyberspace opened, revealing Trent, Kira and Ethan, trudging in after a long day of class with school books, laptops and book bags in hand and making a bee line to the table that had been theirs for the last year. Hayley looked across the room and smiled at them as she took a round of sodas to a group of teens by the TV set.
“God, I hate trig,” complained Trent as he laid out the text book on the table in front of him, staring hard at the pages.
“It could be worse,” remarked Kira, and Ethan and Trent looked up to wait for her to continue. “On top of school, I never thought I’d have to go through this.”
“Go through what?” asked Ethan, closing up his laptop.
“Being a ranger and being with Conner.”
“How’s that an issue?” he asked quickly, concerned at his friend’s dejected attitude.
“It’s not as easy as it looks.”
“Kim makes it look easy,” remarked Trent.
“Please. Do you remember Dr. O when Kim got kidnapped?”
The two young men sat stunned for a minute and then nodded their heads. They hadn’t thought about their mentor and his wife in the same context as Kira and Conner. Kim and Dr. O were just… well, Kim and Dr. O. Nothing seemed to shake them.
“Well, it isn’t all simple to be romantically involved with your team mate. Even Kim’s had her problems.”
“You’re kidding…” both Trent and Ethan responded in surprise.
“No, I’m not. But she supports Dr. O, and he supports her. I just don’t know if I can do that for Conner and keep him from going caveman on me… I mean, I can pull my own weight…”
“Of course you can!” Trent barked out, causing Kira and Ethan to look around nervously to see if anyone had been attracted to their conversation following Trent’s outburst. “I’m serious… you can take care of yourself. If Conner’s stupid enough to be distracted by your well being when we’re out there… then he doesn’t respect your abilities enough.”
“Uhh…” stammered Ethan, unsure if he should support Trent’s support of Kira’s abilities, even at the detriment of his best friend. He knew that Conner admired Kira’s skill in the field. He just wondered if Kira knew that, or if she was so insecure of it that Trent’s remarks could make her doubt it…
Looking at Trent, Ethan had to question his friend’s motives in his choice in words… and if there was something deeper behind it.
“Thanks Trent,” replied Kira, giving the white ranger a smile even as Ethan frowned slightly.
“Okay, well, how about we put the shop talk aside for the time being and get back to the studying… because we’re not gonna get any slack on our finals,” Ethan insisted, bringing their attention back to their schoolwork.
As he typed away on his English paper, Ethan couldn’t help but worry that Trent was about to cause more problems to his friends in an already stressful situation. And he could only hope that Kira and Conner were solid enough to deal with all of it.
“Hey! How was school?” Kim called out as she heard the front door open as Tommy walked into the house, the sound of his bag and jacket falling to a heap on the floor by the door.
“Fine. All my finals have been approved,” he answered with a wide grin as he walked into where she was folding laundry on the bed, turning her to kiss her hello.
“Good,” she finally got out after having kissed her love into a near stupor before they pulled apart. “And just in time too… aren’t finals Friday?”
“Yeah,” he replied, moving to her side as she moved back to sorting his underwear from hers. The simple, normal behavior of her doing this sparked his memory, and he laid a hand on hers, stilling her movements. “Kim, are you feeling okay?”
“Yeah…Why do you ask?”
“I noticed you were here when I left this morning for class. Usually you’re out first in the morning, and… I thought maybe you weren’t feeling well and that you’d cancelled your morning class.”
“Oh… I was just late to training today. My stomach was upset this morning…”
“Flu bug?” he asked with a touch of worry coloring his tone as he moved his hand to her face.
“Nah… it’s probably nothing that a few cooking lessons for you couldn’t fix,” she remarked with a smirk.
“Hey! You liked my pancakes before we got married. You said so!”
“I was being nice. Your idea of good meals is take out Chinese and frozen pizza love.”
“Okay, so maybe my culinary skills are lacking.”
“And you wonder why I offer to cook as often as I do…” Kim tossed out, bringing a flush to Tommy’s face.
“It’s no big deal. Besides, you more than compensate for your poor cooking with other skills.”
“Oh really Mrs. Oliver?”
“Oh yes Mr. Oliver.”
“Maybe we could put the laundry back in the basket and I could work on showing you some of those skills?” he asked with a smile, his arm already moving to shove the clothes off the bed as he eased Kim’s body closed to the edge of the bed.
“As long as you promise to help clean up later,” she replied before wrapping her arms around his neck and leaning up to kiss him deeply before letting him ease her back onto the bed.
His dark eyes had watched the recording of these rangers as they fought his warriors for the tenth time. The strength of the older rangers, the black and the pink rangers was obvious to him. It would have been even to a blind man. They way they stood together… they had been together for a long time. Perhaps long enough to be one of the original team.
That would be perfect irony he thought darkly.
The red ranger was also strong, as was the white. Yet each had their own obvious weakness. For the red, who seemed like a leader, he seemed as if he was overly attached to the yellow ranger. For the white, he seemed to be outside them all, as if he was unwanted or unworthy of his station.
Of course, he knew that they *all* were unworthy.
There never would be a worthy ranger again. They all were destined to pay for their crimes, and he was the one chosen to see to that.
It was simply a matter of time before he loosed his generals on them and ground their bodies to dust.
With an evil smile that was as cold as his heart, he turned to look at one of those same generals. He was humanoid in appearance, bald as all of them were, yet his physique was bulky, his arms, chest and legs bulging with muscle all encased in the golden steel armor that his most senior staff wore.
Symax was a brute, but an effectively deadly one. And he followed his orders without question.
“Go,” he said simply as he signaled to his first general, and motioned for him to lead another attack.
“As you wish my Lord.”
Closing his eyes, he growled under his breath. Snapping his eyes open, he stared at the screen before him, the steel of his gauntlet tapping on the arm rest of the chair as he awaited the next battle.
The piercing alarm from the basement pulled Kim and Tommy from their post-coital bliss, and they quickly threw on their clothes before racing downstairs to find the monitor already on, and the scene playing out: the wraiths were back, but this time they had someone new with them. The man seemed a bulked-up version of the wraith soldiers, but he was covered from neck to toe in gleaming golden armor.
“Wow, looks like he stole Goldar’s uniform,” Kim tried to joke, even as the new leader directed the wraiths into the port area of Reefside’s business district, sending civilians running for their lives as boxes, cars and buildings were fired on by the electric staffs the wraiths carried.
“If only we were up against Goldar… that would mean Rita or Zedd was around somewhere. At least them we know,” Tommy complained as he hit the button on the control panel, calling the other rangers.
At their individual locations, Trent, Kira Ethan and Conner all got the chime call on their gauntlets, and answered the call.
“We’ve got trouble again,” Tommy told them all simply. “Head to the port, in uniform.”
Acknowledging the order, everyone, including Tommy and Kim morphed and hurried to the scene of the chaos. As soon as the rangers had arrived, the man who obviously was in charge of the wraiths turned and smiled a dark grin their direction as he called to his men to hold and form up around him.
The guy had to be seven feet tall, if Conner estimated it right. All of the rangers, except for Kim and Tommy were taken aback by this pro-wrestler looking guy in the super-bright gold armor. For the older rangers, having dealt with the likes of Goldar and Zedd, this guy wasn’t all that frightening. The wraiths circled around their leader, ready for his command, and Tommy knew that they would be attacking as soon as this new guy gave the word.
“You… Rangers… immoral fools! My lord commands your deaths and I, Symax, first of his generals will be honored to bring your heads to him on my sword,” he bellowed, reaching for the four foot long blade that had been slung across his back.
“Everyone take positions,” Tommy called quickly, pulling his Brachiostaff up to a guarded position, as the others called on their own weapons.
“You think that you can defeat me? Defeat my master? You’re mistaken black ranger. All your wicked kind will find if you fight will be a slow death,” Symax growled, and slashed the black and gold sword down and pointed it towards the rangers. “Attack!”
Quickly the wraiths swarmed forward, staffs in hand as they rushed to engage the rangers. Conner’s T-Rex staff came up to block the first swing, then he twisted, twirling the staff in his hands to clash against another metal staff from a second soldier. Beside him, Kira’s Terra-grips scissored with her quick movements, blocking the blows of her attacker and allowing her to get underneath him and slicing at his stomach and legs before launching him and two of his buddies backwards with a Terrascream.
“Come on, bring it on!” Kira yelled as she felt energized at fighting back to back with Conner… her boyfriend and her team mate. She’d make sure that he knew she was his equal and an asset in the field…
As Conner and Kira took on one group of wraiths, Tommy had chosen to go invisible, Trent beside him in his camouflage more so they could make their way to Symax without any resistance. Once they’d bypassed the rush of wraiths, both brought their cloaking down and faced Syamx directly.
“This is your only warning Symax,” Tommy intoned, his voice that of a leader that had dispatched more than his fair share of evil.
“Or what? Are you a killer, ranger?”
“How about you try us?” spoke Trent, his face twisting up under his helmet as he swiped his Drago Saber before him, and send with a flick of his wrist a barrage of laser arrows straight for Symax.
They bounced of his armor as if they’d been made of air. As they shorted out, Symax laughed coldly.
“So, the white ranger is the kind of ranger that kills. I’m not surprised. But are all of your colorful team so bloodthirsty black ranger? And do any of you have anything that can hurt me?”
“I don’t know… how about I find out?” Tommy answered, circling his Brachiostaff in the air before slamming it down to the ground, sending forth the earth strike, cracking the ground beneath them in a blurring line until the force of an earthquake slammed into Symax’s chest, making him sway and fall to his knees.
As the impact staggered the gold-plated figure, he growled deep in his chest as he used his sword to leverage himself back up to stand before them.
“That hurt black ranger. So I will make you hurt.”
Lunging forward, he swung his sword down towards Tommy’s head. The movement for a man of his bulk surprised Tommy, and he barely got his staff up in time to block the swing, but it still jarred his limbs with the impact.
As Tommy and Trent took on Symax, Conner and Kira still fought on with the wraiths around them, and Kim had ended up teaming up with Ethan. The two had been able to help each other; Kim’s long range Stegabow and Ethan’s close range Tricera Shield had been a good compliment.
Still, there were a lot of wraiths, and Kim couldn’t hit them all. Before either of them realized it, one had slipped past both of them and had engaged Ethan directly, swinging his staff towards the blue ranger’s blind side.
Ethan felt his head ring as the electricity from one of the wraith’s staffs hit him suddenly, sending him flying back into the harbor office’s cement wall. As he fell heavily to the ground, he looked up to see Kim above him, her bow’s yoke deflecting a blow that he was sure could have cracked his helmet open, if not his head.
“Naughty, naughty… you shouldn’t beat up people when their down. It’s unsportsmanlike,” she said, hurriedly using her gem’s power to freeze the wraith in place before jumping up to land a kick to the crystalline structure of her opponent, shattering him. “You okay?”
“Yeah, I’m good. Let’s get back to action, huh?” he said flippantly and Kim laughed inwardly.
Catching Ethan by the hand, Kim launched herself up off the ground, using her levitation skill to lift not just her, but Ethan as well. They walked over the staffs being flung in their direction until Kim felt herself begin to tire. Slowly they started to drift, and she pushed herself a bit more to bring them to Kira and Conner’s side.
“Nice trick there,” Conner said as he struck another wraith with his staff, noting Kim’s latest stretch of her powers.
“You okay?” asked Kira, seeing how Kim slumped a bit as she landed, Ethan fending off a few wraiths that had tried to take advantage of the pink ranger’s sudden weakness.
“Yeah, just a bit drained. Never did it before, you know…”
“Well, I think now would be a good time to see about getting rid of these guys and helping send this Symax guy packing,” announced Conner.
Nodding, the four of them focused their gem energy on the wraiths closest to them, and within moments, they were crystallized. With a few kicks and chops, they broke into pieces as the others stepped back, misting into their intangible forms, seemingly retreating to their leader.
Moving quickly, the four rangers ran to Tommy and Trent’s side, creating a united front before the evil henchman that seemed unwilling to go without giving them some more bruises.
“How about we try something different?” Conner suggested, gesturing to his staff and the rest of their weapons.
“Good idea. Let’s put them all together and see if we can get them to take a hike,” Dr. O announced as they quickly threw their weapons together to create the newest combination of their individual weapons… The ZX-Rex Blaster.
“Time for you to go bye-bye,” Kira remarked with a tight laugh as Conner pulled the trigger, firing off a multi-colored blast of power straight into Symax’s chest, scorching the gold metal, turning it black, then a slowly glowing red.
“No!” screamed Symax, lowering the point of his sword between him and the beam, disrupting it long enough for him to break away and run a few steps to the golden beam that had suddenly appeared from the hovering ship, allowing him and the remaining wraiths to make a quick get away as the ship fled into the atmosphere again.
The rangers watched their adversary’s ship retreat, leaving them standing in the remains of the area that had just been a battle zone, looking as if not much had just happened there, unless you counted the small black and gold crystal fragments that had been wraiths minutes earlier.
“Damn, this is getting harder,” swore Conner under his breath, prompting several of the team to look at him in surprise.
“It’s true. This new metal guy was hard core,” Ethan agreed, shaking off some of the ache left over from having been slammed into the wall of the harbor office.
“Yeah, did you hear that whole ‘rangers are evil’ riff? Wow, he’s been to one too many evil brainwashing conventions,” Kira tossed out, making everyone smile behind their helmets and lighten the mood.
“Well, it looks like the place is clear. I think it’s safe enough to power down,” Tommy remarked having checked around and verified the area was empty of civilians or other kinds of prying eyes.
As they unmorphed, their civilian clothing fluidly and swiftly took the place of armor.
However, as the rush of power that signaled the powering down of her ranger powers flowed through Kimberly, the energy whipped through cells and she felt everything shift as if on a tilt-o-whirl. Her eyes rolled back in her head and she collapsed to the ground, unconscious.
Just so we’re all clear here, you might want to start getting used to the cliffhangers… they’re gonna be around a lot more through the mini-series.
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