Duty & Honor – Part 15
“Oh God, we still have to get our grades…” whined Conner as they walked into Reefside high for the first day following the defeat of Xondar and their first day back into semi-retirement.
They’d ended up back at the basement command center only briefly before Dr. O had sent everyone home, the danger finally averted and said he’d see them in class. Now it was Monday and everything was still up in the air: his grades, graduation, being rangers and him and Kira…
“What? You can’t tell me you’re worried?” asked Ethan, clasping his friend’s shoulder with a hearty grasp. “We all know you’re smarter than you let on. All you have to do is pass.”
“I just wonder if I studied enough…”
“Stop worrying,” Ethan pushed, his eyes coming up to see where Kira was standing in front of Dr. O’s classroom door. He grinned and gave Conner a little shove. “Besides, seems to me that brains aren’t everything.”
Startled, Conner stumbled and caught himself just as his head raised up to see Kira before him. Instantly his face broke into a smile, and he watched a matching one bloom on her face as well.
“Hey,” she said with a soft breathy tone.
“Hey yourself,” he replied similarly, finding himself gravitating towards her like a moth to a flame. “Why aren’t you inside yet?”
“Waiting for you…”
“Ah, I’ll take that as my cue to leave. See you inside,” remarked Ethan, slipping in the door.
“So…” began Conner, his hand snaking up to wrap around his neck in a nervous gesture.
Before he could say anything more, Kira leaned up and kissed him, her mouth slanting over his, pressing insistently on his. Not that this was the first time they’d kissed, it was the first time since he and Trent had fought… and Conner found his mind numbed by it for a split second before he grasped her in his embrace and kissed her deeply in return. It wasn’t until a whistle from a fellow student passing by the public display of affection pulled them up short and they broke away.
“What was that for?”
“Just… we haven’t had any time to talk since… Olin, and Trent and I wanted to make sure you understood that I meant what I said,” Kira explained, her eyes dipping slightly before returning to meet Conner’s gaze.
“You mean about… us.”
“Yeah… I love you Conner. I picked you. And I want what we talked about. Us together, at the community college and beyond. I want you in my life.”
“You are mine you know,” Conner replied solemnly, prompting a shocked look to appear on her face. “Its not about being a ranger and I don’t care if I ever get signed to a soccer playing deal. What matters to me is being able to be with you. I love you Kira. Always… because you challenge me, you push me, and you make me want to be worthy of you.”
“But you already are,” she replied, catching his hands with hers and closing the space between them.
Smiling at her, Conner nodded and pulled her into his embrace. They stood there beside Dr. O’s classroom door as the other students entered, before being forced inside by the ringing of the bell.
“So, we’re all graduating,”
“Looks like. Even passed English,” remarked Conner, his hands wrapped around Kira’s.
“You know, I’m gonna miss this… being together and all,” commented Ethan, reaching for the drink that Randi had just placed before him.
And she’d smiled at him too… interesting. What was up with that?
“We still have the summer,” Kira offered up, looking at her friends and then to Conner, her eyes settling on his face, the love evident in her expression.
“But after that? I’m
“And we still have to figure out what we’re gonna do about our ‘jobs’,” Conner added, getting a knowing look from the others at the table.
They had all been wondering how they were going to keep being rangers when they were in different time zones, but this was the first time they’d had the chance to speak about it. There was going to have to be a decision made, and soon.
“Do you think Dr. O and Kim are thinking the same thing?” asked Kira.
“Probably. I mean they both had to deal with the whole cross country thing when Kim left the team way back when. So they have to know that we have to figure something out…” Ethan reminded everyone.
“Look, we still have the rest of the week before graduation. How about we wait until then to worry about this?” suggested Conner.
“Okay then… after graduation.”
Tommy sat with the other teachers in the section closest the podium, his fingers dying to pull at the collar of his gown and shawl. His eyes glanced to the podium where Principal Preston Ramsey was giving the traditional “the future is yours” speech that every graduating class heard. It reminded them that while they had achieved the success of graduating high school, there was a whole lot left out there. As he thought of what these kids had yet to accomplish, he turned his head to see Kira, Conner, Ethan and Trent in the seats, waiting for their names to be called, to get their diplomas and take the next step in their lives. They were ahead of the game, having done so much more than anyone else would accomplish… they’d saved the world.
He frowned slightly, remembering a day, years past when it was him in that seat; having saved the world countless times and yet facing an unknown future. He had seen a lot since then, had suffered through more than his fair share of losses and heartache, but now he was here, sending these young people, his rangers off into the world… and when they left, he still had his work and he had Kim.
It was a better deal than when it had been him graduating.
His eyes strained to find Kim, sitting with the parents behind the graduates. Finally a flash of pink sun dress caught his eye along the outside row and he caught her eyes watching him. She winked when she realized he’d caught her staring.
She had been staring at
him throughout the ceremony. It hurt every once in a while that she’d missed
this. Instead of being with the man she knew she would always love and their
friends, graduating from Angel Grove, she had been in
Still, they had now.
Tommy grinned at her, and she felt her fingers and toes tingle and the blood in her veins heat at the sight of it. After all this time, all the lost years and now, being married for just a few months shy of a year, she loved him more than ever. She was damn lucky.
Their attention was dragged away by Ramsey announcing the next part of the ceremony, the speech by the graduating class valedictorian. The class watched as the young man moved from his seat in the front row, up the steps and behind the podium, a fistful of paper in his hands.
“I still think it sucks that you didn’t get valedictorian,” whispered Conner to Ethan, Kira and Trent nodding in agreement.
“Not enough extra curricular activities. Besides, I think saving the planet and ourselves is a fair trade-off.”
Shrugging, the four teens watched and listened to the member of their graduation class who had been given the honor, Marcus White as he extolled the virtues of believing in one’s self as they went on to different, new futures.
Finally, he finished and went to sit as Ramsey and vice principal moved to start the diploma ceremony. The first row stood up and moved to walk up the stairs to create a line, waiting for their name to be read so they could get their diploma and move back to their seat.
Kira, Conner, Ethan and Trent sat there, waiting for their turn to stand and walk to the stage. After the first four rows had gone, it was their turn, and they stood, heading for the stairs. Walking up the steps, they crept closer to the completion of their high school day, and the beginning of the next phase of their lives.
Then it was there turns, and Principal called their names in turn, the vice principal handing them their diplomas as they came forward.
Diplomas in hand, they walked back to their seats and together, they watched with new eyes the others step across the stage. They’d done it… they’d survived high school, and now they were moving on to college and new experiences. When the final person stepped from the makeshift stage and sat, they knew it was almost over.
“Congratulations graduates of Reefside High!” said Principal Ramsey.
Then the whole assembly broke into applause, some of the students taking off their caps and tossing them in the air as people hugged one another, celebrating the end of the ceremony.
“Congratulations!” said Kim as the team came over, Kira in her black cap and gown catching her in a swift hug, threatening to overwhelm the pink ranger with her enthusiasm.
“This is… wow,” commented Ethan, his mind still trying to wrap around the thought that it was over before Kim hugged him as well, Conner and Trent waiting their turn.
“Well, you guys have done phenomenally,” spoke Billy suddenly, his arm possessively wrapped around Hayley as they moved to join the group.
“Thanks Billy,” said Trent, grinning at his former boss and her boyfriend.
“Your parents and families are probably looking for you all. How about we meet up tomorrow at the house and catch up then?” said Tommy, arriving finally from the teacher’s seats as he moved to Kim’s side with a melancholy smile.
There was a silence as the four newly graduated teens looked at their mentor. They knew that Dr. O had transferred his Turbo powers when he graduated high school. There was a good chance that they were going to have to do the same… and all of them were still unsure how they felt about that prospect.
“Okay Dr. O… we’ll be there,” Conner finally said for all of them.
“Then you better get moving, I see you parents Ethan,” said Hayley, her expression a mixture of concern and hope.
“Come on Trent, you’re coming with me,” said Ethan, grabbing Trent by the arm and turning towards the horde of James family members converging on the group.
Conner and Kira followed suit, the two of them going together to find their families to share the moment knowing that the rest of it… their futures as rangers would wait.
When Trent arrived at Dr. O and Kim’s early after having been asked by Ethan’s family to stay for the party they were throwing, he wondered if he was *too* early. But after a tentative knock, Kim opened the door and greeted him with a smile.
“Hey there. How was Ethan’s party?” she asked before escorting the young man inside.
“Fine. I… I was glad to be somewhere, you know?”
Kim nodded. They’d thought they might need to have Trent come home with them after graduation, by Ethan’s offer to have him join his family had allowed them the freedom not to worry about the young orphan going home alone.
“Was Ethan behind you?” asked Tommy, coming up from the basement stairs.
“Conner said he was going to swing by and get us, but…”
“I thought you two had resolved things.”
“Yes, but I’m trying to give them some space… make sure that they’re okay.”
“That’s very considerate of you Trent,” Kim said with a smile as she hugged him.
Tommy stood there and looked at his wife and the young man that was in a sense their ward. In the months since Anton’s death, Trent had gotten closer to them, and he knew that they’d miss the white ranger when he left in the fall for art school in New York City. But it was for the best; it would be a new place and he would have no past there. Something that Tommy thought would do the young man a world of good.
A loud knock sounded at the door, and Conner strode in seconds later, followed by Kira and Ethan.
“Hey! Why didn’t you wait for us?” asked Kira, looking at where Trent stood by Kim.
“Just figured to see Dr. O and Kim for a bit before we got to the heavy meeting stuff.”
“Speaking of which, we all figured we’re here to talk about giving up our powers,” said Conner stiffly. “Which we didn’t think was possible…”
“Exactly! I mean, you told us we can’t break the gem’s connections to us,” said Ethan with a worried look.
Tommy sighed as Kim moved from Trent’s side to come and curl her hand around his. He had felt so different than these young people when Dimitria had come to the Turbo team and informed them of the passing of the power. He’d been reluctant… more than slightly to give it up, but it had been easy for the powers to be transferred.
Now he was facing that same thing with this team, except their powers had been bonded to them. His statement about the power of the dino gem being part of them had been true. However, they didn’t know that things had changed…
“What if you could?” Tommy asked them, moving Kim to stand before him, wrapping his arms around her as he prepared to drop the biggest bombshell on *his* rangers.
“What?” yelped the four teens in near unison.
“While Billy, Hayley and Zordon were all here together, they took on a few tasks that I… well, that Kim and I had discussed once it was obvious that graduation was coming up.”
“Like what?” Kira asked, looking to Kim for an explanation.
“You can choose to give up your powers,” Kimberly announced, knowing Kira trusted her to answer her honestly, and knowing that Tommy was still a little uncomfortable with making these young people make a choice that both of them had made years before.
Four sets of mouths gaped open.
“But how?” asked Ethan quickly, his mind trying to understand what Kim and Dr. O were saying.
“It’s all very technical, but Hayley and Billy figured out a way to unweave the DNA strands from the strands of dino gem power. You can be normal…” stated Tommy thickly, his mouth going dry as he held Kim tighter to him.
This was it… the moment when he was going to lose another team…
“But what if we don’t want to?” Conner asked, frowning.
“This is your opportunity Conner… if you want to be able to be without the power, live a normal life, this is the moment,” Tommy said.
“I don’t want that… not any more.”
“What about the rest of you? Do you want to try and be rangers, even on the other side of the country?” asked Kim, her face looking fearful of the answer.
“Hey, we have teleportation,” Ethan announced suddenly, as if finally realizing they’d had the answer all along.
“You mean…” Trent started, looking to Ethan to confirm what he and the others were just starting to grasp.
“That we could be back here in a blink of an eye if we were needed, yeah…”
“So then, you all want to keep them, stay rangers, no matter what it might do to your school, your social lives… even with the time zone differences?” asked Tommy, slightly stunned.
“I’m with them.”
“Come on Dr. O… what was the first lesson we learned from you guys… once a ranger, always a ranger,” Conner said with a smile.
Kim fought off tears and behind her Tommy leaned his head down, resting his forehead on her crown. Here they were, so many years since their days with the first ranger team, and the values that had become a part of them; duty, honor, dedication… they had translated to these new rangers who stood before them. Who had chosen again to be rangers, even when they didn’t have to.
“What about you guys?” Kira asked suddenly, curious if their mentors and friends were going to hang up their helmets again and settle down for good.
There was a long pause as Kim looked up over her shoulder at her husband. They’d talked long and hard over the days following them learning that Billy and Hayley had come up with the solution to the dino gems bonding to the rangers. It had ended up with only one possible conclusion…
“We’re rangers Kira… that’s what we are,” remarked Kim, her hands laid over Tommy’s, where they rested around her waist.
“But… what about…” Conner began, and then fell silent, not knowing how to bring up what was still a sad subject for the team, let alone Kim and Dr. O.
“Kids? Stability? Not worrying about getting our asses handed to us by alien bad guys? No, we know what we’re sacrificing, and until another power team is called, we’ll be here. And there’s more than enough time for kids and retirement,” Tommy explained simply.
“So, for now… we’re still
power rangers? All of us?”
“For now. But unless something happens where you’re needed… you’re retired. It’s time for you to start living your lives, go to school plan your lives. Because it all goes by too fast.”
“The same goes for you too Dr. O…” replied Conner, taking Kira’s hand in his.
“We know. Trust us… we learned the hard way how precious the time is,” commented Kim, recalling the years away from Tommy.
Nodding, Kira held Conner’s hand tighter, looking at Kim and Dr. O and realized that they’d made the right decision. They’d kept to the ideals of being a ranger.
They were going to be rangers until another team rose up to take their place, and they could lay their armor down.
Because that was what being a ranger was about.
Next chapter – the epilogue!
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