Always a Ranger - Part 21
By Jeannine Trevizo
“Come on Dr. O… you gotta see this,” Ethan said, grabbing my hand and pulling me along the corridors of the mostly empty school.
“Why do I need to see this again?” I asked, sighing as I plant my feet and break Ethan’s grip on me.
“Because it’s cool and funny and you’ll get a kick out of it,” Kira says, coming behind me and pushing me forward.
“Yeah, with everything going on with you-know-who and the end of school, you need a break,” offered Conner, and I groaned.
“Fine, fine, I’ll come. I have to tell Hayley this is a bad use of her money anyway.”
Resigned, I stop fighting and follow Ethan, Kira and Conner. After negotiating the now empty hallways, we make our way to the parking lot. The teacher’s cars are at one end, the empty student’s lot is at the other. I start towards my car when I hear Ethan’s voice again.
“No skipping out!”
I nod my head and move to the jeep. I climb into the driver’s seat as the rest of the team gets in Conner’s mustang and we pull out of the school parking lot. For a second there I consider not following, but know I will never hear the end of it if I don’t show. It’s only a few minutes from the school to Hayley’s Cyberspace, and we’re parking in the lot there before I know it. Again, I’m surrounded by my students and they usher me into the café.
“Hey Tom,” calls Hayley from the counter as she sees us come in.
“Hayley,” I reply, moving from the kids and over to a clear spot at the counter.
“They told you about the TV show, didn’t they?” she says with a grin, and I shake my head.
“More like they couldn’t stop talking about it. You’d think that they didn’t know they were famous or anything.”
“Give them a break. It’s not everyday that you’re a TV star.”
“More like the rangers are,” I say in a low voice, reminding her that anyone could overhear.
“Yeah, yeah… you’ve been the subject of hero worship before, what with the whole first team and all. But for them this is big. They’re famous, important…” she replies, and I shrug.
“And still teenagers with too much time to watch television on their hands.”
“Like you weren’t anything like them in your day…”
I start to fire off a snappy comeback, but know that whatever I say will probably be a lie. Instead I shake my head from side to side and order a round of drinks for the team. It’s the least I can do, considering they’ve had a tough few weeks, what with Trent and Zeltrax and…
Shit, what am I thinking. *I’ve* had a tough few weeks.
Hayley hands me a tray with the drinks, and I negotiate to the sofa where Kira, Conner and Ethan had already staked out the television. Carefully I set the tray down, and three smiling faces look up to me, then hands fly for the drinks.
“Refreshments! Thanks Dr. O!” Conner says happily, and then focuses back on the TV.
Cool, but you gotta sit down now! The next episode is starting!” Ethan says, scooting over more so the space between him and Conner is wide enough for me to sit.
Sighing again, I turn and plop down between them, reaching forward for my own café latte and focus on the screen.
“What episode is this?” Kira asks Ethan.
“I don’t know. It’s weird enough that they’ve shown like ten episodes since yesterday.”
“Shush, it’s starting,” Conner whispers, and the four of us get quiet as the show begins.
“Ooh, it’s a new one!” Kira tries to whisper before taking a sip of her smoothie.
As I stare at the screen with the episode plays, I have to wonder at just how ironic this is… that there’s a TV show about rangers. There haven’t been a lot of things that have surprised me over the years, but this one is one of them. Here I am, watching actors portraying our team, wearing our suits and… oh shit, using our morphing call.
Where the hell did they get that?
I have to hope that they just made it up and that it’s just a coincidence, but…
The rangers on the TV screen go into battle with a monster, created by this scary child evil thing and her henchmen. I have to admit that I’m glad that they don’t know anything about Mesogog. That alone means that whoever did their research didn’t get too far into the reality of the rangers.
Still, it’s surreal. Like reality TV without some of the reality.
Yet watching the black ranger show up to save the day, I have to question just how much of this really isn’t too close to reality. I mean, I’ve seen my uniform in action before – the green ranger duplicate that we left in the past, and T.J in the Turbo armor are prime examples. But to see my armor on an actor in a television series is just strange.
I never thought that I’d be part of an international phenomenon.
Sighing, I can’t help but run a hand through my hair. This isn’t what being a ranger is about. This whole commercial thing. It’s supposed to be about more than just this. About being better than egomaniacs; being selfless in our protecting others, saving the world. Instead, it’s become about if we’re famous enough to be on “60 Minutes”.
Beside me, Kira, Ethan and Conner are laughing and joking as the episode wraps up, and I realize that maybe the problem is just that they forgot for a moment what we do this for…
“What did you think?” Ethan asks, clicking off the television set.
“Okay, that was just…”
“Awesome?” Conner offers, and I glance at him with a tough glare.
“Oh come on Dr. O… you’ve got to admit that it was cool!” Ethan remarked.
“Yeah, we’re like international stars, except for its other people but…” Kira tossed in, and I took in a deep breath before I opened my mouth.
“You always have been stars,” I say simply and look at each of them in turn. “Just because there’s a TV show based on us doesn’t mean anything. What’s most important is how you’re perceived everyday. *That’s* how you know you’re famous. Conner, the time you saved that little girl when you were thinking about leaving the team, was that better than seeing someone wearing your armor on a television show?”
There’s silence, and I think that what I’m saying might have hit home. But I can’t stop there, I need it to sink in and stick.
“And Ethan, it’s not like you haven’t seen the pictures the elementary school kids sent to the local TV station for their art contest showing the brave blue ranger. Kira, you most of all know that the buzz you get performing for people on stage isn’t ten times as great as the feeling you get from rescuing someone who needs your help,” I state, knowing she’ll think of how she’s tried to help Trent.
“You’re heroes, no matter if there’s a TV show, or magazine covers or movies made about you. Because what you do inspires others. Makes them believe that they can be better, want to be better. And that’s the *real* cool thing about being a ranger.”
That said, I set my coffee cup back down, stand up and start for the door. Ethan, Conner and Kira are up in a flash and catch up with me, the three of them speaking at once.
“Dr. O, hey, we didn’t think…”
“We just thought…”
It’s Conner that wins out, giving the other two a look that holds them back. He stands a little straighter, and I can almost look him in the eye. In that moment, I see a parade of red rangers in him that makes me proud to have him on my team, and that he’s part of the legacy of rangers.
“We got wrapped up in the hype of it all. I mean, even I was all seeing this as a culture thing, but it isn’t even that. It’s about what gives people hope that things can be better, isn’t it? That because we’re here, making the world a safer place, people need heroes… ”
I nod, and then clasp my hand on his shoulder. I guess maybe they are starting to get this.
“It’s all about that,” I explain, and smile at the kids as I see the understanding finally hit them down deep. “I’ll see you all later.”
With that, I head back to my jeep and head for home. It’s been a few days since Kim and I talked by phone, instead trading e-mails, and I really want to hear her voice today. I park the car and jump out of the jeep, reaching back to get my briefcase. Walking into the house, I toss my jacket and briefcase on the couch as I move into the kitchen to grab a glass of water.
After a few gulps, I set the glass aside and head for the phone. The number is indelibly ingrained in my memory – one thing that I’m not forgetting anytime soon. Just like the sound of Kim’s voice, or the smell of her skin… Okay, not the time for reminiscing. I need to call her.
I dial the number and hear the phone ring as I wander around the living room. Just before I get ready to hang up, I hear the phone pick up.
“Hey Kim,” I say across the phone line as I run my free hand through my hair.
“Tommy... I can’t tell you how glad I am to hear your voice. I miss you. How was your day?”
“I miss you too Beautiful.”
“So, what’s news?”
“Well,” I began, and then paused.
“Tommy?” Kim asks, her voice a little concerned at my hesitation.
“Sorry. No, I was just thinking. The kids had me watch this show on Japanese television, and I was wondering if I should even mention it.”
“It’s a Japanese television series based on the dino thunder ranger team.”
“Excuse me, I think my hearing is failing. It sounded like you said there was a TV show about your ranger team.”
“That’s what I said.”
“Okay, how is that possible? I mean, did you just wake up one day and decide to tell everyone you were power rangers?”
“No,” I said with a sigh. “They’re not really us. I can’t really explain it…”
“Okay, they’re using our uniforms and powers…” I started, and Kim cut me off.
“Is Hayley asking for royalties?” Kim asked jokingly.
“Very funny. So besides the uniforms and zords and such, none of the rest is real. The actors are all Japanese and the show only airs on Japanese television.”
“So, how the hell did you find out about this?”
“Hayley bought a satellite dish, and Ethan found it on the programming…” I explained, hearing Kim laugh on the other end.
“Why am I not surprised. So the kids got you to sit and watch it?”
“Under duress. Still, it allowed me to emphasize the reality of being a ranger.”
There’s a pause, and I realize that Kim’s waiting for me to explain what I mean by that statement.
“Just that being a TV show or having their picture on the cover of newspapers, or even having a huge thank you celebration in the middle of town declaring it ‘Power Ranger Day’ isn’t the gauge of being a ranger,” I say, knowing Kim will remember that day in Angel Grove.
“I remember… You weren’t a ranger then,”
“And while I wasn’t in uniform, I felt the same as you guys did… But we weren’t rangers for the gratitude of others. We did it to help people, not for the glory. Because down deep we were heroes, with or without the uniform or the powers.”
“And the kids got this?” Kim asked, and I could hear the smile in her voice, reminding me that I still remembered in the core of my being why I was a ranger.
“Yeah, I think they did.”
“Good. I would have thought that they’d have figured it out with all the old team coming through town and espousing the ranger way anyhow,” Kim joked, and I remembered I hadn’t spoken to her since Billy had shown up, and had forgot to mention his visit to her in my e-mails.
“By the way, Billy was here…”
“Really?” Kim asked excitedly.
“Yeah. He got an energy reading on the dino gems and came from Aquitar to make sure they weren’t anything evil.”
“Which, since their in your hands…”
“Except for the white one…”
“I know love, but the others are in good hands,” she reminds me, and I let myself push down the guilt about Trent once more. “Is he staying?”
“No, but he promised to be back soon. I mentioned you moving out to Reefside, and he thought he’d come back and see both of us…” I don’t mention my telling him about getting married. I figure Kim will figure it out after the fact. Still… “but I think he has other interests in town that will bring him back.”
“Like what?” Kim asked with curiosity in her voice.
“I think he and Hayley hit it off.”
A long moment passed as Kim and I wondered what she was thinking. If maybe Hayley wouldn’t be in the picture if Trini was still alive…
“That sounds like a good match. Between the two of them, they could probably cure cancer or something.”
“Anyway, he had to head back, but he sent his love and I gave him a glare, so he knows that it better be friend love.”
“Tommy, please! You’d think every guy who ever had a crush on me was your sworn enemy.”
“And you think they shouldn’t be? Billy gets a pass since he’s our team mate, but don’t think that if I ever run across any of your previous crushes that I won’t set them straight. You’re my girl… always have been.”
Kim laughs and I have to join her. The thought of my lining up every boy who ever found Kim attractive since she was born would probably be a mile long. And in the end, no matter where our lives took us, Kim found her way to me, the first and second time.
“You know that I am,” Kim reassured him again. “I love you. And I’ll be there soon enough so you can be a perfect cave man and follow me around to make sure none of my former boyfriends take one step towards me.”
“Good, I will.”
“Tommy,” she says with an admonishing tone, and I feel a bit guilty at my possessive nature. Besides, Kim has never gotten on me about Kat…
“Fine,” I say with a grin. “I’ll cut them some slack because I love you. And by the way, I saw the gymnastic Olympic trials on ESPN the other day. They caught a nice close up of you.”
“Please, I probably looked like warmed over crap. That was a really long day.”
“You could never look anything but beautiful to me,” I state, and can almost feel her start to argue, so I change the subject. “So, you’ve got the team narrowed down now?”
“Yeah. The games are coming up fast now. I’ve got to start boxing stuff up soon. What about you? Isn’t school out yet?” Kim asks.
“Next week. I got the grades done and everybody passed, with a couple of exceptions. Devin just barely passed, thanks to some extra credit.”
“Any plans for the summer?”
“I was thinking of selling everything I own and renting an apartment in Athens for a few weeks,” I suggest with a leer in my voice.
“I know… no, really I’m just going to be here. Hopefully first and foremost putting your stuff away,” I remind her, and she giggles a little, setting my heart on fire. Just two more months… “anyway, it’s probably just going to be studying and working with the team, keeping Reefside safe…”
“And there’s still unfinished business,” she states and I an reminded of just how close to home for her that unfinished business is.
“We’re still trying to find a way to help him,” I explain soberly.
“And there’s that Zeltrax guy you mentioned…”
The moment she brings him up, I feel the fear and guilt over that revelation rise up again. Smitty is gone. I know that, just like I know I had nothing to do with what happened to him. But the fact that he might hurt Kim is enough to make me feel scared beyond all comprehension.
“Are you sure that I can’t send you a remote alarm? A personal shield or something?” I asked again for what felt like the hundredth time since the team and I started to ponder just how much Zeltrax knew about me and where my weak spots *really* were. “I know that when Billy was here that he’s got the focused scan on your location that will let us know if Zeltrax gets within a mile of you, but I’d feel better…”
“No. Billy and Hayley have done enough. Besides, I’ll be leaving at the end of next moth for Athens. And with the amount of security at the games, no one, even evil henchmen is getting near any of the athletes or coaches. I’m probably going to be safer than you…”
“Good,” I say quickly, and feel her tense up on the other end.
“You just have to be careful so when I get off the plane from Athens that you’re there to meet me.”
“Mesogog and his entire army couldn’t keep me from picking you up and bringing you home.”
“I’m glad. I’m looking forward to it.”
“I love you Tommy,” Kim says, and I close my eyes as the feelings wash over me, the part of me that needs her like rain or air growing stronger with the declaration.
“I love you too Beautiful,” I return.
“You know I would love to chat longer…” she begins, and I look at the clock, seeing that we’ve been on for half an hour already.
“Okay, I still need to make some dinner myself.”
“Call me soon, alright?”
“I will. Take care Kim.”
“You too Tommy. Night.”
I hang up and set the phone back in its charger. Glancing around, I wonder if all the changes Kim being here will make this place feel more like a home than it does right now. As I move towards the bedroom and stare at the empty bed I am reminded just how empty this place is right now, the reality of my life outside of the excitement of being a ranger.
It’s not as glamorous as the TV show makes it out to be. But I wouldn’t trade their life for mine for anything. Because unlike how it always seems to be on those television series, I’m going to get the girl in the end.
God, I can’t wait until September…
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