Duty & Honor – Part 13

Finding Strength

By Jeannine Trevizo

 

 

 

 

“This is Cassidy Cornell for Reefside news…” announced the perky blond haired girl from behind the corner of the news desk. “The city has been under a full scale attack for the last hour, with no sign of the power rangers. The golden colored ghost like soldiers of this unknown being have focused on the downtown, but the police and emergency services have issued evacuation order for most of the nearby urban residential and business districts. With massive destruction in the heart of the city, there seems to be little doubt that the spaceship overhead and the troops on the ground intend for this invasion to be permanent. City officials have called in the National Guard in the hopes of setting up a perimeter, but the government and residents of Reefside are imploring the power rangers, wherever they are to come to the aid of the city as quickly as possible.”

 

Billy and Hayley watched the news reporter and Reefside high student on the monitor, the pictures of the devastation she was describing shown in picture beside her. They’d refused to move from their spots in the command center, except for bathroom breaks and food. After Zordon had explained what the team was up against, they had decided that they wanted to be there as soon as everyone got back. As it was, the news they were going to impart to the returning rangers was bad, and right now the police and National Guard had no way to slowing down Xondar.

 

It was all hanging on Tommy, Kim and the others to come back with the new powers Zordon promised them so they could stop this insanity. But it still was hard for them to watch, knowing what they knew… for Hayley especially, since she had never really been through this before.

 

“Are you sure that there isn’t anyone left to call? Some ranger group that could slow Xondar down? The Time Force team, maybe Lightspeed Rescue?” Hayley asked desperately, her eyes flitting from the screen and to her beloved Bill’s face.

 

“I wish there were. Any team who isn’t destroyed has either injured or deceased members and they’re doing their best to take care of things in their own part of the galaxy. We can’t just ask them to leave their worlds unprotected to come and help us.”

 

“I understand that, it just seems…”

 

“Like we’re on our own?” said Billy in a serious tone that masked his love for the woman beside him and showed instead his concern for his friends searching for an answer to this problem in another dimension.

 

“Yeah,” she replied, frowning slightly at the realization that this time there wasn’t a handy ranger army to save the day… if they called in the inactive rangers, they’d be just as ineffectual as the current team and it would put them all into unnecessary danger.

 

They just had to wait for Tommy, Kim and the others to get back.

 

And Bill knew that already.

 

He saw the moment it hit her, and smiled sadly as he reached over and took her hand tightly in his.

 

“Welcome to the life of being a ranger.”

 

-x-

 

Trent laid on the ground, barely noting that the vast landscape where bodies had lain was now pure white, with nothing for miles. It was the ultimate reflection of his fear.

 

He was alone.

 

How had this happened, he thought as he slowly and hesitantly pushed himself to his feet. Everything was gone! They were there, he saw them… he had friends, family… yet it had ended with his losing them all. And it frightened him more than he could say. The idea that no matter what he did, he would never be guaranteed the ability to be happy…

 

As soon as that thought hit him, Trent instantly understood what was going on.

 

It was the test.

 

His fear was being alone. Without friends, family… it had been triggered when he lost his parents, made more acute after his father’s death, and the run in with Conner over Kira had jumpstarted all of this. But he knew that he had to accept his fear, embrace it before he could pass the test. So many people said you had to overcome your fears, but the truth was that you really had to understand them, accept them so you could embrace what they meant, make you a better person… or at least a more self-aware person.

 

So he had to accept the fact that he might end up alone.

 

He didn’t know of any other family, that was why Anton had adopted him, but he knew that now, after his father’s death that Kim and Dr. O were there for him; that Kira did care for him as a friend, as did Hayley and Ethan… even Conner, when he wasn’t being challenged by Trent’s attempts to kill him, betray the rangers of steal his girlfriend.

 

And he knew that even if he lost them, grew apart from them that he could be okay. That he was strong enough to rely on himself… make new friends…

 

And once that realization hit, he was gone.

 

-x-

 

Conner stood with mouth agape for a minute more before racing outside. He couldn’t be there anymore, couldn’t see his girlfriend, his best friend, his team mates and mentors stare at him as if he was a stranger. As he stood outside, he tried to piece together what was going on…

 

No one knew him.

 

Not a soul.

 

And it made him afraid.

 

He’d never realized just how important to him his public persona was. The popularity, the athletic skill, the ranger life. Only by losing them all had he recognized just how bound he was by that identity. How integral a part of him this was. And now he understood what the goal of the test really was.

 

To show them their biggest flaw. The part of them that made them weak.

 

Or… could make them stronger.

 

Turning his head towards the school again, he straightened his back and let himself smile slightly. He didn’t need to fear anonymity. He simply had to be himself. It was all right to be anonymous. As long as he was true to himself.

 

Then the school disappeared, and he soon followed it.

 

-x-

 

There was a hole in her soul that Kira hadn’t realized could be there. She saw the fear manifested before her in 3-D, Technicolor and surround sound. She had sold out – was singing other people’s songs, wearing things she would never have touched under normal circumstances, and her friends were gone, replaced by hangers-on, lawyers, lackeys and image-brokers.

 

As the song died off, she forced herself to think about what she was dealing with here, because none of this was real… she’d been on the path with Conner and Trent when wham!, she showed up here, facing her fear…

 

It was the test!

 

Instantly relieved, she felt the hold of the illusion slip, and she found herself outside of it, watching herself performing, the audience swaying with her lyrics in rapt devotion. Carefully she focused on the reason she was here. This was her fear, losing herself in favor of her dream of stardom. And in the process, losing everything else around her.

 

Yet, she was performing, the crowd loved her. The fear that she would lose herself like Kylee had was just that… fear. And as long as she understood that fear, it could serve her as a reminder to walk the line between letting others take control of her life, and letting herself give a little to get what she wanted.

 

It didn’t have to be one or the other…

 

And when she smiled that the thought, she felt herself fade from the scene of her other self’s performance.

 

-x-

 

He’d let his head hit the console, not caring about the dent it would probably put in his head. What mattered was that what he was good at, his skill, his contribution… his smarts were gone.

 

And because of it, people… his friends would die.

 

Except…

 

Weren’t they in Olin?

 

Ethan lifted his head, his brain pushing at him to recognize the illusion for what it was, a designed trigger for his fear. To lose his ability to be valuable to the team, to be average, to not cut it. It was funny. He’d been afraid when he’d first gotten his ranger powers that he was just a smart kid; he didn’t know anything about fighting or being a hero. In those first weeks, he’d been deathly afraid that he’d screw up.

 

Yet he’d found out that his intelligence had helped them more times than not. And now his fear was that he couldn’t cut it, as a ranger or in the world without it.

 

But he had learned a lot of lessons since that first day. From Dr. O, Kim, Conner and Kira… that everyone had something to contribute. That whatever you were, whatever you could be was good enough, was respected. So he could accept the fact that his fear could come true; that sometimes he might not be smart enough.

 

Because most of the time he would be… and that was okay too.

 

And once he let that understanding, that acceptance of all of his strengths and weaknesses take hold, he felt himself fade out.

 

-x-

 

Kim felt the heated tears spill from her eyes, her hands gritty with the sand of the riverbed. Her knees dug into the ground and she fought her emotional storm. What she’d seen…

 

Yet the past was just that, she reminded herself with a mental push.

 

Yes, she’d made a lot of mistakes, and some of them had consequences that she was still paying for now. But if she hadn’t gone through them…

 

There were no guarantees in life. Trini’s death had hammered that fact home with her. Her best friend should have lived a long, happy life after leaving the ranger lifestyle; out of danger and living a normal life. But instead she’d been killed in a senseless act. And that catalyst had put Kim on her path back to Tommy.

 

There had been other mistakes since then, but that was part of living. You tried not to make them, but you had to make choices… sometimes they were the wrong ones though. You just had to live with them and deal with them the best you could.

 

And the last year had reinforced that in spades.

 

Standing slowly, Kim wiped her hands on her pants and then smeared her tear-stained cheeks with the backs of her hands. She hadn’t realized just what the priests had meant about her and Tommy having a harder time than the others, but she understood now. The older you got, the more you experienced and the more those fears weighed on you, became a part that you wanted to hide from.

 

When what was necessary was to accept the fear.

 

And as Kim took a deep breath, she looked down at the river that had held her possible choices and smiled. Whatever the consequences, she could accept the bad decisions with the good ones.

 

The river shimmered and faded away.

 

Then Kim disappeared as well.

 

-x-

 

Tommy closed his eyes and willed himself to slow his breathing, choke back the tears and rage that threatened to consume him. He knew what the job of this test was – to show him his fear.

 

And they’d done that in spades.

 

But what was different from the times before, what he realized now was that he and the others couldn’t just happily say, ‘Oh, I can be more than that or I won’t be like that anymore.’ This time they had to accept the fear as part of themselves. He had to admit that he was human. That he made mistakes.

 

That he could fail.

 

And that wasn’t something he could do better at. It was something he had to accept and deal with.

 

I’m a man, and I can screw up… people can die… and I can’t control it. I have to live with the fact that there’s sometimes nothing I can do except my best and hope I did the right thing.

 

In his chest, he felt a sudden heat, and it nearly took his breath away. It swept through his limbs and made him feel light. As if his thoughts, his acceptance had removed a burden he hadn’t realized had weighed him down.

 

Slowly he opened his eyes and was surprised to see the plateau instead of Mesogog’s island lair. Before him hovered the Olin priests, and he quickly looked around him.

 

Everyone was there.

 

They’d survived.

 

“Black ranger,” said one of the priests, though the sound echoed as if they had all spoken, “you and your team have accomplished your tasks. It is now time for your prize.”

 

There was a crack of what sounded like lightning, and the ground beneath them shook. The power was being called by the priests, who stood before them with eyes closed and mouths open in silent speech. Suddenly the rangers felt the power, like flames beneath their skin as it wound through them. It seeped into their muscles, into their bone… into the fabric of their being, to the very atomic level, altering their previous dino thunder powers with this new ability.

 

They could pass through to the place where the wraiths were solid.

 

The molecular level of their bodies continued to hum as the power solidified itself through their gems and throughout their bodies. They’d come searching augmented powers, and they’d passed their tests to gain them.

 

Slowly the flames within them flickered and died, signaling the end of the power transfer. The team looked to where the priests stood to find them fading away, their glow diminished slightly.

 

“Wait! How do we get back!” Tommy asked, fearful that they’d become stuck, even through they’d passed the test and received the powers they’d come looking for.

 

“You may teleport back now,” spoke one of the priests, nodding his approval at the leader of the ranger team as he graced them all with a slight smile.

 

“What? We didn’t have that ability before,” said Ethan, jazzed at the idea of no longer having to run from fight to fight.

 

“It was always a part of your powers, yet untapped. Now it is available to you.”

 

“Cool,” remarked Conner, moving to where Kira stood and looking to her instead of at the three fading priests.

 

“So, time to go home?” Kira questioned, reaching for Conner’s hand as she said it, her actions saying what she couldn’t verbalize in front of everyone.

 

“Yeah, can we get back and thrash some bad guys, because I think we owe them,” Trent commented with some force as he moved towards the steadily huddling team. As he did so, he noted Kira and Conner, and found himself accepting this truth as well.

 

As long as they both were happy…

 

“We probably need to get going,” Kim stated simply, looking to Tommy and feeling that connection shoot through them, the one that had survived through separation and pain and would live as long as they did.

 

Nodding, Tommy smiled at his team mate and wife, his eyes telling her what he knew she already knew before looking up to everyone else.

 

“Let’s go!” he said, raising his gauntlet to illustrate their way back… just like in the old days.

 

They’d done what they’d come here for… they’d accepted their fears and gained their new power.

 

Now it was time for them to use it.

 

-x-

 

Bright light flashed in the basement command center, colored in columns that Billy recognized instantly. They had teleported back.

 

As the light diminished, Hayley and Billy noted six intact yet fairly exhausted looking rangers and friends. Kim and Kira almost wobbled on their feet, and the guys looked somewhat worse for wear.

 

It made Billy all the more anguished about what they had to tell them.

 

“Wow, that was a ride,” remarked Ethan, placing a hand to his head as he blinked a few times to clear what he thought was his malfunctioning eyesight.

 

But everyone else was what he saw too.

 

“Welcome back,” said Billy simply, moving from his chair to meet them.

 

“Billy!” called out Kim as she hurried forward and happily wrapped her arms around one of her oldest friends.

 

“What? How…” Tommy stumbled, moving to join his wife in greeting their friend as she slapped the shoulder of the former first blue ranger.

 

“He was supposed to wait another two weeks before leaving Aquitar for Earth permanently, but I guess he decided we could use the extra help now,” explained Hayley as she moved to Bill’s side.

 

“Hey Billy, we got new powers!” Ethan announced, his enthusiasm shared by most of the younger members of the team as they all huddled around the two older couples.

 

“That’s great Ethan. Because it looks like you’ll need to use them sooner rather than later,” Billy remarked, pointing to the view screen.

 

Everyone turned to see the constantly streaming image of Xondar’s ship hovering over the downtown, and the smoke, flames and disaster around it. Kim’s mouth fell open, a slight gasp escaping as Tommy’s hands came down hard on her shoulder, holding her tightly to him. Conner and Kira moved closer together, similarly to how their older counterparts were standing. Ethan and Trent stood in frozen silence as they all watched the carnage going on.

 

It looked like they’d returned just in time.

 

-End-

 

tbc…

GO TO CHAPTER 14

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