It was a beautiful day in Angel Grove, California, but most of the inhabitants didn't notice. A record number of people were gathered in Angel's Rest Cemetery for one of the best-attended funerals in living memory. Next to the grave, David Trueheart stood, looking down at the coffin, barely listening to the minister's words. He could barely believe that he was standing there, that it wasn't just some sort of crazy dream. Unfortunately, the events of the past few days were all too real.
"Ashes to ashes," the minister intoned, "dust to dust." As the service concluded and the people started to leave, David remained by the grave, watching as the coffin was lowered silently into the earth. Then, turning away, he put an arm around the woman who had been like a mother to him, even though she was not.
"Mrs. Oliver, you don't know how sorry I am, how sorry we all are for your loss," he told her seriously.
"Thank you, David," she smiled up at him, the tears still in her eyes. "You've been a great help this past week. Tommy couldn't have had a better brother than you."
David couldn't answer, remembering how short a time ago he and Tommy had found each other. Tommy had risked life and limb to save him from King Mondo's goons. Now he was gone, fallen in battle, dying at the hands of the enemies he had battled for so long.
Up ahead, he saw Tommy's closest friends, who were, in reality, the Power Rangers, defenders of Earth. Rocky De Santos, in a dark blue suit and tie, seemed distant and disconnected from everything. David couldn't imagine how hard this was for him, having lost his girlfriend such a short time ago and now Tommy. Adam Park was impeccably neat, as usual, in a black suit with a green tie. Only up close could you see how red and puffy his eyes were from nights of crying.
Next to Adam stood Tanya Sloan, dressed in a yellow spring frock that made her look very young and innocent. Of all of them, Tanya was dealing with this the best, perhaps because she had lost her parents at a very young age. Although they had simply been missing, and recently had been found, she had still grieved for them, and so had some experience with what she was feeling.
Last of all was Katherine Hilliard, Tommy's girlfriend. She was beautiful as always, even though now she was crying on Tanya's shoulder. Her pink dress seemed out of place in the somber graveyard, and David felt a sudden urge to take her in his arms and comfort her, to hold her until her tears ceased. Immediately he squashed it, as he had squashed all such feelings for the past week. Now was not the time for her to find out how he felt about her.
Adjusting his crimson tie, David went to join them, marveling at how quickly they had accepted him as one of their own. Of course, he was one of them now, in more ways than just friendship. Absently he rubbed his wrist, where his communicator rested. With Tommy's death, he had become the Red Ranger, heir to Tommy's powers and position. He still wasn't certain he was up to it, but he would try, for Tommy's sake.
- * *
Adam had managed to keep a lid on his emotions throughout the funeral, but now he couldn't stand it anymore. Breaking away from the others, he ran, ignoring Tanya's surprise, ignoring his parents' calls behind him. He ran blindly, in no particular direction, seeking only to escape from the pain.
When he raised his head, he realized that he was in the park. Fresh tears blinded him as memories came rolling back. He and Tommy had met for the first time in this park, had sparred here, and played here. This was where they had talked about so many things. Sinking down beneath a tree, heedless of the grass stains his suit would incur, Adam began to sob in earnest as the events of that day came flashing back to him.
- * *
He and Tommy had been sparring in the juice bar when their communicators had toned. "Rangers! Goldar has kidnapped Katherine and Rocky and is holding them in a cave outside of Angel Grove!" Zordon boomed.
"We're on it, Zordon," Tommy returned. He checked both ways for onlookers and then cried, "It's morphin time!"
In a flash, Red and Green Rangers were instantly transported to the hills outside the city, which were riddled with caves. Just outside one, Goldar could be seen standing guard. Gold and Yellow Rangers were already there, hiding behind a small hillock.
"Did I miss anything?" Red Ranger asked, coming up behind the other two.
"About a million Tengas hustling Rocky and Kat inside," Yellow Ranger replied, keeping her eyes on the cave mouth.
"I'd say twenty," Gold Ranger translated.
"All right, then. You three slip into that cave and rescue the others while I keep Goldar distracted."
"Tommy, it's too dangerous!" Green Ranger hissed. "You can't take that goon on by yourself!"
"Sure I can, at least for a while. You'll need three Rangers to deal with twenty Tengas. Then you can all come back and help me. Besides, if anything happens, I'm only one Ranger. Better to lose one than at least three."
"Not if that one is you," Yellow Ranger shot back.
"I'm not that special, Tanya. Now get ready! Here I go!" He leaped out from his hiding place with a well-executed flip and a loud "sie-kyuh!" Goldar turned around slowly, almost insolently, raising his sword in mock salute.
"Well, Tommy, you've finally arrived. It's good to see you again. Too bad we're on opposite sides of the battlefield."
"What do you want, Goldar?" Red Ranger asked, his tone bored. "I seriously doubt that you brought me here just to reminisce about old times."
"Not exactly. Actually, I brought you here to make you an offer. Lord Zedd wants you back in his service. Rejoin the dark side, and you can have anything that you want."
Red Ranger laughed in disbelief. "Give me a break, Goldar! I've turned Zedd down a hundred times. I'll never return to the dark side."
"Not even if Zedd offers you- Kimberly Hart?" Red Ranger's head snapped up, and Goldar could see that he had struck a nerve. "Ah, yes, Tommy. Teleporting to Florida is no problem for my master."
"We broke up," Red Ranger replied, his voice wooden. "She doesn't love me anymore."
"You don't really believe that, do you, Tommy? Your feelings for her are far from gone, and I doubt hers were any less powerful. Besides, I'm sure that one of Rita's spells could change her mind, if all else failed."
Red Ranger's voice grew thick with anger. "You bastard! If you even think for one minute I'd do something like that to Kim-"
"Perhaps not," Goldar mused, dismissing that suggestion with a wave of his hand. "But even if she didn't love you, you could spare her life- the lives of all your friends. They would live only as captives, but they would live. And you, you would be the most powerful human on earth. What do you say, Tommy?"
"What do I say? I say you're out of your mind! My friends would rather die than live as Zedd's captives! And all the power in the world is no good without my friends to share it! Take Zedd's offer and stick it in your ear!"
"Your only alternative is death," Goldar warned.
"Bring it on! I'm not afraid of you. I stopped being afraid of you a long time ago."
"As you wish." The two began to circle, swords at the ready. "It's fitting, isn't it, Tommy, that it should end like this? You and I started this journey together, and one of us shall move to the next world at the other's hand." Without warning, Goldar threw himself to the attack, launching a series of cuts and thrusts that Red Ranger barely managed to block.
"You know, it wasn't supposed to be like this. You and I were supposed to be allies. Should you live through this, go back and ask Zordon about the prophecy. You were supposed to be facing Jason at the end of everything."
"Who says this is the end?" Red Ranger grunted, trying a few moves of his own.
"Look into your heart, Tommy, and you know. One of us will not leave this place."
The truth of Goldar's words hit Red Ranger like a bolt. Deep within himself he could feel the certainty that this feud between them would end today, here. "Then so be it. Prophecy or not, I will never serve Zedd."
In total silence, now, the two attacked each other, the quiet broken only by their grunts and the sounds of their swords clashing. Suddenly, one of Goldar's powerful strikes slipped through Red Ranger's guard, making contact with his helmet and shattering it. As the broken pieces fell away, Goldar became able to see the fierce light in his opponent's eyes. It was an image that would haunt the alien warrior for some time to come.
- * *
Having defeated the Tengas and rescued Rocky and Kat, the other Rangers came running out of the cave at top speed, just in time to see Goldar knock Tommy's sword out of his hand. Smiling evilly, the monster then ran his sword through Tommy's stomach. Goldar was looking into Tommy's face as the blade went home, and saw the boy's eyes widen and fill with pain. Withdrawing his sword, he watched impassively as Tommy fell to the ground.
"This isn't- over yet, Goldar," Tommy managed, covering the grievous wound in his abdomen with one fist. To Goldar's astonishment, he began trying to rise, despite his condition.
"For you, it is, Tommy," Goldar replied, something like sorrow in his eyes. "You were a worthy adversary. I'm almost sorry to see you go."
"You'll see me again, Goldar," the boy declared weakly, "before this life is over. Count on it."
"Threats from the grave don't scare me, Ranger. And it's to your grave you go!" Lashing out once again with his sword, he cut Tommy deeply across the chest. "Not even Zordon can save you now, boy." With these words, Goldar disappeared in a flash of golden flame.
"Tommy!" Pink Ranger cried, rushing to his side. She ripped off her helmet and took him in her arms.
"Kat, I'm sorry," he coughed.
"I've got to get you back to the Power Chamber. Zordon and Alpha-"
"Can't save me. I'm dying, Kat. I just want you to know that I love you. You've- meant so much to me, all of you guys. I love- you all." The light behind Tommy's eyes faded out, leaving them flat and empty. Kat began to cry in earnest then, holding him tightly and begging him not to leave her. The other four stood around her in shocked silence, trying fruitlessly to understand.
- * *
Stunned, the Rangers had returned with Tommy's body to the Power Chamber. After a cursory examination, Alpha shook his head. "I am sorry, Rangers. Tommy is dead. There is nothing I can do."
Kat burst into tears once again, while the other Rangers simply looked shocked. Then, Adam, bowing his head, force-demorphed Tommy's body, removing the Zeonizers from his wrists. In a flat, emotionless tone, he spoke. "We need a Red Ranger."
"You are correct, Adam. Fortunately, Tommy prepared for this eventuality. Alpha, teleport David here immediately."
"Yes, Zordon." Alpha pushed a few buttons, and in a flicker of white light, David Trueheart appeared.
"Zordon? Rangers? What am I doing here?" the young man asked, puzzled. Then his eyes caught on Tommy's motionless body lying on a table. "No. Oh, no, please. Not Tommy."
"I'm sorry, David." Adam put a hand on the other boy's shoulder. "We all loved him."
"David," Zordon intoned quietly. "I am sorry to intrude on your time of grief, but Tommy left specific instructions that if he were to die, you were to be the next Red Ranger. Will you accept the Powers?"
David looked up, disbelief written across his features. "Me? What about Jason? He's had more experience than I have."
"Jason is far too weak to assume the powers of the Red Ranger. You were Tommy's choice, and we must honor his wishes."
"Tommy believed in you," Tanya told him quietly. "Now you need to believe in yourself."
David looked again at his brother's lifeless form and sighed. "All right. I'll do it."
Alpha handed him Tommy's Zeonizers. Turning to the table where Tommy lay, David bowed his head. "I swear to you, Tommy, I will carry on the fight you started. I will uphold your code and defend the people of Earth as you did. I will carry your memory with me and you will never be forgotten. I swear it!" Strapping on the Zeonizers, he cried. "Zeo Ranger V, Red!" In a brilliant flash of Red light, David transformed into the Red Ranger. So much did he resemble his brother that no one could tell that they were not the same person.
"We'll take him to the youth center," Red Ranger said dully.
Gold Ranger stepped forward. "I- would like to come with you, if I may. I owe him the greatest respect."
Red Ranger nodded. Gently, the Rangers loaded Tommy's body into a blanket provided by Alpha and teleported out.
- * *
"Ernie, come quick! You've got to see this!" Emily cried from outside the youth center. Ernie and Jason, to whom he had been talking, hurried out the door. Despite his girth, the older man moved at a speed which surprised Jason immensely.
Outside, the Power Rangers stood, holding a blanket with something inside it. Ernie noticed how they held it, three on a side, like pallbearers, and instantly realized that something was wrong. Gently, they set the blanket down, and their burden was exposed for all to see. The assembled teens gasped at the sight of Tommy Oliver lying motionless on the ground.
Ernie bowed his head at the sight of the wounds on Tommy's body. It was obvious that, whatever had killed him, he met it head on.
Next to Ernie, Jason was making a heroic effort not to get sick at the sight of his best friend's body. Taking refuge in the anger that burned inside him, he laid a hand on Red Ranger's shoulder. "What- who did this?" he managed, fighting back tears.
"The space alien called Goldar. He attacked some kids hiking out in the hills. They scattered, and this boy distracted Goldar, giving his friends time to get away. By the time we arrived, there was nothing we could do."
His lips tight, Jason sank to one knee beside Tommy's corpse. "Always had to be the hero, didn't you, man? God, Tommy, why?" His face was impassive, but his voice showed how near to tears he was.
"I'm sorry." Red Ranger bowed his head. "You can't possibly know how sorry I am."
- * *
After a long discussion with Zordon, the Rangers decided to tell the Olivers the truth about what had happened to their son. The body had been taken by the police, but David wanted to be the one to inform the family of Tommy's death. Adam, who insisted on going with him, thought sadly that David was already beginning to resemble his brother. It was a somewhat frightening thought.
Outside the door to Tommy's house, Red Ranger had to stop for a moment and compose himself. Otherwise he would burst into tears. Raising his fist, he knocked hesitantly on the door. It opened slowly, revealing a very puzzled Sarah Oliver. "Power Rangers? May I help you?" Tommy's mother asked hesitantly.
"May we come in, Mrs. Oliver? We have something to tell you- about your son," Red Ranger told her softly.
Sarah's hand flew to her mouth, and she stepped away from the door quickly. "Please, come in. Daniel! Chelsea! Teddy! Get down here!" she called. As the rest of the Oliver clan filed into the living room, Red and Green Rangers exchanged a glance, then demorphed.
"Adam! David!" Daniel Oliver exclaimed. "You're the Power Rangers?"
"Yes- and no. Please, sit down," David requested haltingly. "I've only been a Power Ranger for an hour or so. Before that, the position of Red Ranger was filled by your son, Tommy. Today, we went into battle against an alien called Goldar, and in the fight, Tommy- was killed." The expressions on the faces of Tommy's family were almost more than David could bear. Mr. and Mrs. Oliver were shocked, with shadings of grief around the edges. Teddy, Tommy's ten year-old brother, simply looked stunned, as if someone had just hit him over the head. Strangely enough, there was very little surprise on Chelsea's face. Instead, Tommy's "twin's" expression was almost totally grief-stricken.
"Tommy's-dead?" Mrs. Oliver asked, dazed. "There- must be some mistake. Not Tommy. He's only seventeen."
"What do you want us to do?" Daniel Oliver. He too felt like collapsing into a daze, but there were more important things to do.
"We told the police that Goldar attacked a group of kids who were hiking, and Tommy distracted Goldar so that the rest could get away. That's the story that you have to spread around. Tanya and Rocky are telling our story to the police right now. I'm so sorry. I wish I could do something more."
"What exactly happened?" Sarah asked, fighting to stay coherent. "Why did this Goldar person go after Tommy?"
"I think I can answer that," Chelsea replied, startling all of them. Noticing David and Adam's puzzled looks, she smiled ruefully. "Right after we moved here, Tommy started acting really strange. I wanted to know what was wrong, and since he wouldn't talk to me, I read his diary. His next entry was right after the whole business with Rita's spell, so I just kept reading. That way, I'd know what was going on, and I could treat him accordingly. He never knew how many times I covered for him with Mom and Dad-" she broke off, close to tears. "Well, anyway, I've known all along that he was a Ranger, and I practically lived what he went through. He's- he was a pretty descriptive writer." Taking a deep breath, she began her tale.
"The grudge match between Tommy and Goldar began when Tommy became Rita's evil Green Ranger, under her spell. He began to replace Goldar in the hierarchy of Rita's minions, and Goldar didn't like that. As a result, he taunted and tormented Tommy to no end. Things got worse when Tommy joined the Rangers. Goldar might not have liked having Tommy as a teammate, but having him as a traitor was even worse. He began to focus on Tommy more than the other Rangers.
"The episode with the Green Candle only strengthened Tommy's hatred for Goldar. He blamed Goldar for the loss of his powers, because, even though the candle was Rita's creation, Goldar kidnapped Tommy and kept him and Jason from retrieving the candle.
"Things came to a head on that plain in the Otherworld. Tommy's refusal to break under Goldar's taunting infuriated Goldar, and of course, the taunting did nothing to improve my brother's opinion of Goldar. When Tommy became White Ranger, it served as a reminder that Rita's betrayer was not only alive, but the leader of those who would oppose her master. Zordon's trust in Tommy was the worst. Goldar couldn't stand it.
"Things just progressed from there, the hatred becoming more and more bitter as time went on. I know, you're thinking 'How does she know what Goldar felt?' Well, Tommy was pretty good at psychoanalysis, and these were his opinions. I'd trust his insights."
David nodded. "I would too. Please understand that I will be here for you if you need anything."
"We all will," Adam agreed, standing up. "It may not help, but I think you should know that of all of us, Tommy was the one who most deserved the term hero. He always kept going, no matter what the cost to himself, and he died fighting for what he believed in. You should be very proud of him."
Daniel Oliver nodded. "We are. Thank you." Heads hung, David and Adam left the Oliver family to their grief.
- * *
Down at police headquarters, the pathologist was performing an autopsy of Tommy's body, standard procedure in cases of violent death. Suddenly he straightened up, a puzzled frown on his face. "What the hell?" Picking up a phone, he put in a call to Detective Trevor Park, the investigating officer for the case. "Trev? It's Mike. I'm doing the autopsy on the Oliver kid, and I think there's something you ought to see. Yeah, it's weird, very weird. Get down here, now."
When Trevor arrived at the morgue, the pathologist was waiting for him. "Get this," Mike said, not even bothering to greet his friend. "There's something very weird about the wounds on the kid's body."
"What, no hello?" Trevor cracked, following the pathologist over to where Tommy's corpse lay. "This has got to be interesting."
"It is. Look at the wound where the sword went through the stomach. It's a fairly large wound, and I'm not surprised it killed him. Now, look at the kid's tank top." Mike pointed to a bloodstained hole in the stomach of the tank top.
"I don't see it, Mike."
"What you don't see is that the wound in the tank top is significantly smaller than the wound in the body. It's almost as if the clothes healed somewhat."
"Or somebody changed the body's clothes and tried to make it look like that's what the kid was wearing at the time of death?"
"Yeah, that could be the case. Same with the chest wound. And get this. There's nowhere near enough blood on the kid's shirt."
"Look at these wounds! They both severed major arteries, they should have been gushing! Instead, there's barely an inch thick ring of blood around the holes."
"What does that mean?"
"It means that somehow, someone put the shirt on the kid after the wounds had almost stopped bleeding, in other words, after the kid was dead."
"But why? And who?"
"That's what they pay you for, Trev. The wounds are consistent with a serrated sword, like Goldar has been known to carry, though."
"Hmm," Trevor mused, not responding. Mike knew that look. Trevor Park was a bulldog when he got his teeth into something, and he was obviously interested now. No matter what, come hell or high water, Trevor would not rest until the truth of Tommy Oliver's death was known.
- * *
Stepping off of her plane, Kimberly Hart tried once again to tell herself that it was all some horrible nightmare. Tommy couldn't be dead; he was a Power Ranger. Power Rangers didn't die. Most especially not Tommy, who had survived more than all the rest of them put together. But waiting for her at the gate were all her friends, even the ones who had left Angel Grove for other things, like Zack and Trini. Noticeably absent was Tommy's tall, dark form. Then she saw him coming through the crowd and her breath caught in her throat. Could they have made a mistake? Could it really be him after all? Then he came closer and she realized there was a subtle difference in the approaching man's features, and fresh tears standing in his eyes. "I'm David Trueheart, Tommy's brother. He- he told me a lot about you, Kimberly. I'm sorry I had to meet you this way."
Kimberly stared at David for a long moment, then threw her arms around his neck. He was hurting just as badly as the rest of them, and in that instant, she knew that he was one of them, a part of the circle of friends.
They broke apart then, and the rest of the Rangers came to greet Kimberly. Almost instantly, she noticed that Jason was in charge again, as he had been during all their time as Rangers. Even the ones who had never had him as leader deferred to him. "Kim, it's good to see you again," Jason told her quietly. "It's good to have you back."
"It's good to be here, with my friends," she responded, trying not to cry. "Adam, what's wrong? You seem angry," she frowned.
Adam sighed. "It's my dad. The police routinely do an autopsy in a case of violent death, and Tommy's autopsy turned up a few discrepancies. The wounds on his shirt are too small. That's because the Ranger suit had partially healed before we morphed him back, but to the pathologist, it looks like someone changed the clothes and made the wounds in them after Tommy- died. Plus, there's not enough blood on his clothing, again, because most of it was destroyed when the suit went back to being clothes. I was one of the last people to see Tommy alive, so my dad's on my case something fierce."
"I wouldn't think they'd assign your dad to this case, Adam," Billy remarked, puzzled. "Conflict of interest, since the deceased is one of your friends."
"They wouldn't have, but the murder rate in Angel Grove is so low that there are only five cops in the Homicide department! Everyone else is busy, so the case fell to my dad. Besides, they know he'd never do anything that was wrong. He's so dedicated to his job, more than he is to his family. I'm the one who has something to worry about, not the AGPD." Adam's voice was just a little bitter.
"When's the funeral?" Kimberly asked, praying that she wouldn't start to cry.
"Two days from now. The police are releasing the body tomorrow. There'll be a visitation at the funeral home first," David managed. His eyes were sunken, and he looked as if he had not slept in a long time.
"I think we all need some time to ourselves," Jason declared softly. "Kim, would you like me to drive you home?"
"Yes, Jason," she smiled wistfully. "Thanks."
- * *
Chelsea Oliver woke up to the sounds of karate coming from Tommy's room. She had heard it often enough when something had been eating at him, and he had taken his frustrations out on his punching bag. Tommy was dead, though, she reminded herself. The thought sent a fresh wave of pain through her. Levering herself out of bed, she headed down the hall, muttering "I do not believe in ghosts," under her breath.
In Tommy's room, she found Teddy beating up on the bag that Tommy had installed in one corner. His face was set into a mask, and in the moonlight, he looked more like his brother than ever. _He's going to grow up just like Tommy,_ Chelsea thought, and felt another pain near her heart. "Teddy, what are you doing?" she asked in a low tone.
The ten year-old whirled, relaxing when he saw who it was. "I was practicing," he replied listlessly. "I couldn't sleep, so I thought I'd practice. It always works for Tommy."
"Oh, Teddy," Chelsea sighed, opening her arms. Running to her, he threw her arms around her.
"It's not fair!" he sobbed. "We weren't ready! We didn't even get to say goodbye!"
"I know, Ted. I know. We said "I love you" all we could, though. That'll have to be enough."
- * *
Rocky De Santos had been unable to sleep, and at two in the morning had risen from his bed to go running. He was not afraid of the night; between his black belt and his powers, there was little in Angel Grove he had to fear. Besides, the dangers that the darkness might hold were child's play next to the terrors that haunted his sleep.
Ever since his girlfriend, Jennifer, had died at the hands of Prince Sprocket, he had been plagued by a dream in which she told him, over and over, that it was his fault. He might have saved her, if he'd been faster, if he'd called for back-up, if he had shoved her out of the way. A thousand ifs ran through his mind, torturing him with his failure. Now Tommy had joined her, adding a new litany to the one which constantly filled his mind.
_If I hadn't let myself get captured, if I'd defeated those Tengas faster, if I'd attacked Goldar the minute I saw him, maybe he wouldn't have died. It's my fault, all my fault. They died because of me, because I couldn't save them! _
"Please, stop haunting me," he whispered to no one in particular. "I know it was my fault, but there's nothing I can do about it now."
_Oh no?_ a voice whispered in the back of his mind.
So deep was he in his thoughts that he didn't realize what part of town he had entered until a footstep behind him made him whirl. In the glow of the street lamps, he could see two forms, men not much bigger than he was.
"Kind of late to be out, kid. You're a little out of your element," one told him menacingly.
"Look, I don't want any trouble," Rocky protested out of habit. Then he realized that he did. A fight would suit his mood perfectly.
"Too bad. Tell you what, give us your money and we'll go easy on you."
Rocky shrugged. "I don't have any money. Sorry."
"That's a real shame." There was a soft "snick!" sound, and light glimmered off something the man held in his hand.
_A switchblade,_ Rocky thought to himself, falling into a defensive position. _This should be interesting._ The first man came towards him, switchblade extended. Rocky knocked the blade away with a crescent kick and moved in, punching the man twice in the stomach. The other one grabbed him from behind, and Rocky flipped him over his shoulders to land hard on the concrete. The first man had recovered his knife by that time, throwing himself at the teen. Rocky dodged, but not quite fast enough. A lick of fire ran down his side, not serious, but quite painful. With a quick block, Rocky snapped the man's forearm, sending him to the ground in a heap. As the other one rose, Rocky launched a spinning kick to his head, knocking him to the pavement again. This time, he did not rise. Rocky stood there panting for a moment, astounded at his own savagery. Then the pain in his side caught his attention, and he ran off into the night once again.
Once home, he bandaged up his side and tried to analyze his own behavior. Why on earth had he gone into that part of town? It wasn't on his usual route, so he couldn't attribute it to routine. And why had he gone out of his way to pick a fight with those two? It wasn't like him at all. Suddenly, however, he was tired, so much so that he didn't want to think about it anymore. He staggered into his bedroom and collapsed onto the bed in an exhausted, dreamless sleep.
- * *
"Adam," Trevor called up the stairs, "I want to have a talk with you." Adam sighed. He had been dreading this moment ever since he had learned that his dad was the investigating officer in Tommy's death.
"Can't it wait, Dad? The visitation is in," he looked at his watch, "fifteen minutes."
"This won't take long, I promise." Sighing, Adam picked up his things and headed down the stairs.
"What do you want to talk about?"
"Adam, you were one of the last people to see Tommy alive. I want to hear your version of events."
"My version of events?" Adam asked viciously. "I went hiking with one of my best friends in the world. We got into the area near the big cave complex and suddenly this flying monkey in gold armor swoops down out of nowhere. Tommy yells at us to scatter. We did, thinking he was right behind us. I looked back, and he was distracting the damn thing. I went to go back and help him, but I was too late. It skewered him through the gut, slashed him across the chest, and disappeared. The Power Rangers showed up and disappeared with Tommy. We decided to go back to the Youth Center, which was when we found out what had happened."
"Why did the Power Rangers take Tommy?"
"I don't know! Maybe they were trying to help him. Just because you don't believe they're heroes doesn't mean they might not try to help."
"You know, that was almost exactly what Tanya and Rocky told me," Trevor mused.
"Jesus Christ, Dad!" Adam swore, startling his father. Adam's language was always impeccable, and this was beyond any of the few curses that he had heard from his son. "It's the same fucking story! We all saw the same thing, and you know as well as I do that, while five people who saw the same thing will give you five different stories, they won't be that different! Now do you mind? I have to go look at my best friend occupying a coffin." With that, Adam turned on his heel and walked out of the house. Trevor's eyes narrowed. There was something- not quite right about Adam's reaction, but he couldn't put his finger on it. It still nagged at him, though, nibbling at the back of his mind.
- * *
The day of the funeral came, dawning bright and clear, in direct contrast to the moods of most of the people. David looked around him, a little surprised at all the people who had come to the church to attend Tommy's funeral. No doubt about it, Tommy had been well loved.
Many people had risen to speak, and David was privately wondering if the ceremony would ever end, when Kimberly walked to the front of the church. "I- I wrote this song for Tommy, a while ago, when he was having some problems. I thought it would be appropriate to sing it now." Swinging her guitar into position, she began to strum it and then to sing.
Down the road we never know, What life may have in store, Winds of change may rearrange, Our lives more than before. But you'll never stand alone, my friend. Memories never die. And in our hearts they'll always live And never say goodbye. Listening to the song, Trini Kwan felt tears begin to well up in her eyes. That day in the youth center, the six of them had been together, looking forward to their futures, believing that nothing could come between them. Then, losing a Ranger's Powers was the worst thing that could happen. Now, Tommy was not just powerless, but dead.
Suddenly she leapt to her feet and ran out of the church, desperate to get outside before she began sobbing. As she ran out into the sunshine, she leaned against the wall of the church, letting her sobs rack her body. Out of nowhere, a pair of strong arms came out and enfolded her, pulling her tight against a solid form.
"I know, Trini, I know," Jason's deep voice whispered in her ear. "I miss him too."
Sobbing into Jason's shoulder, Trini couldn't help but feel the massive sobs shaking Jason's frame as well. They held each other, crying for a long time.
- * *
When the mourners began to file past the casket, paying their respects to the deceased, Trevor Park was first in line. As he laid a flower on the coffin, he made a silent promise to the boy who lay within. _I will find out what happened to you. No matter what, no matter how far I have to chase the truth, I will know._
Stepping back he watched the parade of people pass by, each saying a final farewell to their friend. Although Tommy had many mourners at his funeral, Trevor knew almost all of them by sight. One man, however, was totally unfamiliar, with sandy hair and hazel eyes. Trevor's own eyes narrowed. Who was he? Certainly he didn't seem to be the parent of one of Tommy's students; he was unaccompanied by either wife or child. His suspicions raised, Trevor decided to follow the man as he left.
Once outside the church, the sandy-haired man headed for an alleyway, Trevor following him as closely as he dared. Inside the alley, the man quickly looked around himself. Seeing no one, he raised a hand, and in a flash of red light, he became a figure known all to well to the citizens of Angel Grove- Lord Zedd!
Keeping a sharp reign on his surprise, Trevor watched as Zedd teleported out in another flash of red. Turning on his heels, he hurried home. He had a number of questions to ask Adam. Foremost among them was why Lord Zedd would have been paying his last respects to Tommy Oliver.
- * *
On the Moon, the atmosphere (so to speak) was one of jubilant celebration for everyone except Zedd. The Lord of Evil seemed melancholy, unwilling to join in the party. "What on earth's wrong with you, Zeddy?" Rita asked at last. "Tommy Oliver is dead! The head of the Rangers has finally been cut off! Why do you look so gloomy?"
"I wanted him evil, not dead, Rita! He would have made such a wonderful warrior. Instead, he's dead and gone, no use to anyone."
Exasperated, Rita waved him away, returning to the celebration. Zedd, wishing to escape from the noise, finally rose and left, taking a long walk on the surface of the moon.
_It's almost like those summer nights back on Earth,_ he mused. _Of course, back then, I had Leslie with me, and I would have heard crickets chirping, not discordant music and an old witch's screeching._ Thinking of the wife he had lost so long ago, Zedd sighed.
"A lovely night, is it not, my lord?" Finster's voice came from behind him.
"Finster, what are you doing out here?" Zedd asked wearily.
"I came to look at the stars. If you want to talk, we can, but I'll not push." They walked in silence for a while, then Finster spoke again. "Between the two of us, I'm sorry that he's gone."
"What?" Zedd asked, astonished.
"Just what I said. He was a very kind, intelligent, noble young man. Any man would have been proud to have him as a son. In some ways, he reminds me very much of my own son."
"You had a son, Finster?"
"Eons ago, but he died. I still think of him often. I suppose wherever they are, he and Tommy will find much to talk about."
"Yes, and they'll probably meet my wife and daughter there," Zedd sighed.
"You were married before?"
"Yes, twenty years ago, to a lovely human woman named Leslie. I was in my natural form then, so she thought I was human. We had a daughter, a beautiful child we named Jamie. She'd be seventeen now, just Tommy's age. In fact, I often thought the boy was what my Jamie would have grown up to be. She was fearless, humorous, happy, and ever so strong. They would have gotten on well together."
"What happened?" Finster asked tentatively.
"They died, the day I was brought back to my duties as Lord Zedd. A gas explosion. I still miss them, Finster. Perhaps I was trying to fill the ache by bringing Tommy Oliver to my service."
"Hmm," Finster mused. "Well, I suppose he's happier now, wherever he may be."
"Yes, I would imagine he is. For the first time since Rita laid that spell on him, he is truly free." In silence, the two stared up at the stars for a long while, remembering loved ones lost.
- * *
Chelsea Oliver walked through the park in a daze. She could hardly believe that Tommy had been buried today. How could Tommy be dead? So much had happened so quickly. Suddenly a presence behind her made her turn. Standing beneath some trees was the Gold Ranger.
"What's the matter?" she asked curiously. "Why are you here?"
"I- I watched the funeral from my pyramid. I saw you leaving, and I wanted to talk to you," he sighed.
"I didn't really know Tommy all that well, despite the fact that we both served on the Rangers. He mentioned your name a few times, though. I'd like to know more about him. Do you think we could talk?"
"Yes, but you'll have to turn back to normal first. If anyone sees me talking to a Power Ranger, I'm going to have a lot of questions to answer."
"Considering the fact that the only clothes I brought with me are black and gold tunics, you'd have a lot of questions to answer anyway," he chuckled.
"Maybe I can loan you something of Tommy's. Come back to the house with me and we'll see." She turned and started to walk home, but he stopped her.
"Wait. I have an easier way to get there. Picture where you want to go." She did so, and was startled when he slid an arm around her waist. The Golden Power staff appeared in his other hand, and in a flash of light, the two were teleported to Chelsea's room.
"That was interesting," she managed. "Come on." Leading him into Tommy's room, she searched through some of his drawers until she found a pair of black jeans and a black and yellow plaid flannel shirt. "Go into the bathroom and put these on. We can talk when you get out," she told him, throwing the clothes at him."
"Will anyone mind if I borrow these?" he asked hesitantly.
"No, those jeans are a dime a dozen, and Tommy hasn't- hadn't worn that shirt in years. You'll be fine."
Gold Ranger went into the bathroom and shut the door. After a few minutes, Trey came out, dressed in Tommy's clothes. Chelsea's jaw dropped. She'd known from Tommy's journal entries that Trey was humanoid, but she had had no idea that he was handsome.
"Do I look all right?" he asked.
"You look great. Come on downstairs. We can talk. Hell, I'll even drag out the photo album."
Once ensconced on the couch, Chelsea began to talk, telling Trey every story about her brother that she could remember. He listened, rapt, occasionally breaking in to ask questions on something he didn't understand.
Chelsea suddenly realized that her throat was sore and that night was falling. "Oh my gosh! We've been talking for hours!" she cried. "My parents will be home soon."
"I suppose I should leave," he sighed, rising to his feet. "I wish I could stay longer, Chelsea. I've really enjoyed talking to you."
"Wait." He looked at her, confused. "Maybe you could stay for dinner? The food shouldn't be too weird for you; after all, we're both carbon-based life forms. Mom and Dad know that Tommy was a Ranger, so we can tell them the truth about that. If you wanted to hear more stories, they have some good ones too."
Trey thought about her offer for a long moment. _Dinner with the Oliver family, or spending the evening alone in Pyramidas. Not much of a choice._ "If it would not make your parents uncomfortable, I would love to stay."
She smiled radiantly at him. "It'll be good to have someone here. This isn't a very good time to be alone." He sat back down, and they resumed their conversation.
- * *
The Power Chamber was never the most lively of places, but now it was even more silent than usual. Zordon and Alpha had watched Tommy's funeral on the viewing globe, and when the service had ended, the little android had bustled off, saying something about work to do. Zordon had noticed, as Alpha left the main room, that the little android's optical sensors were unusually moist. Now the ancient sage was alone with his thoughts.
_I cannot believe that Tommy is gone,_ Zordon thought to himself, staring out at the Power Chamber with unseeing eyes. _He was always so unsinkable, even when he lost his powers. I suppose I thought they were all immortal, Tommy especially._
Zordon had always regarded the Power Rangers as his children, the only children he would ever have, thanks to his incarceration in Rita's time warp. It was hard for any parent to bury a child, most especially one like Tommy. _He was always strong. I will not dishonor his memory with excessive grief. I will miss you, Tommy, as will your friends. Fly free, young falcon. May the Power protect you on your path._
- * *
Tanya and Aisha were digging furiously at the weeds in Tanya's garden when Zack walked up. "Can I give you two lovely ladies a hand here?" the ex-Black Ranger asked.
Tanya smiled. "Sure, Zack. Grab a trowel, a pair of gloves, and join in." Zack did as she asked, and the three worked in companionable silence for a while.
"So you do this a lot?" Zack finally asked.
Tanya sighed. "Work always makes me feel better. When my parents disappeared, I went out and hoed the plants 'til I almost couldn't stand up. I don't know, I guess the sweat just kind of helps. How are you dealing with it?"
Zack chuckled. "Just memories. I was remembering earlier today, how he was always better than me, but one time I threw him every match. He was thinking about Kimberly, asking her to the dance that weekend, and his concentration was shot."
Aisha grinned, throwing a weed into the trash bag. "That reminds me of the time that Zedd stole her Power Coin and then kidnapped her. I thought he wasn't going to be able to think about anything until he got her back."
Tanya shrugged. "I never knew him when he was dating Kim, but I remember right after she broke up with him, Kat did her best to cheer him up. She got him to go out with Heather Thompson, and it helped, in a way. After that letter came, Tommy couldn't seem to think about anything. Getting dumped by Heather brought him back to semi-normal."
"Do you realize," Zack sighed, sitting back on his heels, "that we all knew a different version of Tommy? By the time he settled into being the White Ranger, I was gone. Aisha, you never knew the Green Ranger, and Tanya, you only knew him as Red. Strange, isn't it?"
The two girls nodded. The three continued to dig and swap stories, and Tanya noticed that Zack spent as much time as possible close to Aisha. She grinned to herself. Those two would certainly make a good couple.
- * *
In his lab, Billy Cranston was tinkering with a number of his inventions, not really thinking about any of them. Instead, his mind kept returning to Tommy, who had been one of his greatest friends. Together they had watched the Rangers morph into something completely different from what they had started as. Only Tommy understood, truly understood, the pain that Billy had felt when he had given up his Zeo Crystal to Tanya. It had been the right thing to do, but the pain of losing the power, the chance to make a difference, had been no less severe.
Even though Billy had known the other four original Rangers longer, he often felt closer to Tommy than any of them. They had shared so much, from the pain of isolation to a love for the same woman. Kimberly.
Billy had always had a crush on Kim, from the moment he had met her. As they had grown, it had only strengthened. When Tommy had appeared, Billy had sadly written off a relationship with Kimberly as yet another of those things that he would never experience. Then she had left, and the two of them had been left to form a stronger bond, the only two Rangers who remembered the old team.
Now Tommy was dead, and Kimberly had returned to Angel Grove. All of the feelings that Billy had thought buried were beginning to come to the surface. _Stop thinking about it,_ he ordered himself mentally. _She's grieving, idiot. She doesn't need you declaring your undying love for her right now._
_Doesn't she?_ a familiar voice whispered in the back of his mind. Billy straightened, frowning.
"Tommy?" he asked, then shook his head. "Get over it, Billy. Now you're hearing things," he sighed aloud.
_Zordon always said that you had some telepathic gifts,_ the voice continued. _Didn't the Aquitians teach you to use them?_
Now Billy knew that he was hearing Tommy's voice. "Tommy, I thought you were dead!"
_Not completely,_ Tommy replied, his customary warm humor seeping through. _Just- bodiless. And you don't have to talk to me. Your dad might think you're going nuts._
_So you're a ghost?_ Billy sent skeptically.
_Call it what you like,_ Tommy replied with a mental shrug. _I'm just finishing up my unfinished business._
_Getting me and Kim together?_
_Making sure you're happy. I know you two love each other. You're perfect for each other, and she needs someone to be there._
_I would hate to take advantage of the fact that she's grieving._
Tommy chuckled mentally. _I don't thing you could, Billy. Besides, she's loved you for a long time. I was just- exciting. Besides, I needed her, and she needed someone to mother. Her feelings for you are different. But if you don't tell her how you feel, you're going to lose her. Time is short, buddy. Better take the opportunity when it knocks, because it'll never come again._
_Carpe diem, huh?_ Billy sighed.
_You've got it, man. Be happy for me. Remember, you were one of the best friends I ever had._ With that, Tommy's mind-touch was gone, leaving Billy alone.
- * *
Adam had just changed from his suit to a green T-shirt and jeans when his father entered his room. "Geez, Dad, don't you ever knock?" he asked tiredly.
"Adam, we need to talk about something."
"What is it now? Do you want to ask about Tommy's death again?"
"No, I want to know why Lord Zedd would be attending Tommy's funeral."
Adam's jaw dropped. "What?"
"Just what I said. I noticed someone I didn't recognize at the funeral, I tailed him, and he turned into Lord Zedd. Now, why would a super-villain be attending the funeral of an Angel Grove teenager?"
"I have no idea," Adam replied honestly, his mind whirling. Why would Zedd attend Tommy's funeral? Nothing had attacked them, so he wasn't planning anything evil for the moment. "I suppose that it was kind of his fault. Maybe he's sorry."
"Adam, you and I both know that's bullshit. Now, I want the truth from you, or I may very well run you in for obstruction of justice!"
Adam's eyes flashed. "You want the truth? Fine. Zeo Ranger IV, Green!" In a flash of light, Adam Park became the Green Ranger. "This is the truth," he said savagely. "I am a Power Ranger, one of those people you despise. So was Tommy. This is why he died. The Ranger suit healed after the wounds were made, and the blood was vaporized when the suit went back to being clothes. Tommy died in battle fighting to protect you, and all the other people in this city. You want to put that in your report, fine! You don't give a damn anyway! You never cared about Mom, or me, or Franklin, or anything but your work!" Green Ranger was screaming at his father now, and Trevor could hear the tears in his son's voice.
"I- I-" Trevor couldn't manage to say anything more.
"Forget it. Just forget it." Demorphing, Adam pushed past his father, running down the stairs and out of the house. He had to get away before he really did something he'd regret.
- * *
Rocky had been walking in a daze ever since the funeral had ended. When he finally looked up, he was not surprised to see that he had come back to the churchyard where Tommy had been laid to rest. A square of brown soil, extremely visible against the green grass, showed where the coffin had been lowered into the ground not long before. Sighing, he walked over to it and looked at his friend's tombstone. The words graven into the gray granite caught his eye, and he winced when he saw the date of death. The only epitaph upon the stone was a small quote from Shakespeare.
"Nor steel nor poison, malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing can touch him further," Rocky read aloud. Into his mind sprang another quote, this one from Robert Louis Stevenson's Requiem.
"This be the verse you grave for me: Here he lies where he longed to be; home is the sailor, home from the sea, and the hunter home from the hill," he whispered. Suddenly the quiet of the graveyard struck him, and he was nearly overwhelmed with the desire to be laid there beside his friend.
_What's the use of living?_ he thought hopelessly. _I've lost so many people. I'm tired of living. Who would miss me? And I could see Tommy again, and Dad, and Jennifer._ Thoughts and memories of the woman he loved swept over him, and he began to cry in earnest.
"Rocky?" a voice behind him asked. Rocky turned to see Justin, one of the twelve year-olds that he and Tommy had taught in karate class.
"Oh, hi, Justin. What are you doing here? Won't the people from the shelter be looking for you?" Rocky greeted the younger boy, wiping tears from his eyes.
Justin shrugged. "Let 'em. They couldn't find me with a milk carton and a pack of bloodhounds, even if I were right in back of them. They wouldn't let me come see the graveyard, so I ditched them."
"Well, here it is," Rocky sighed. "I don't know what you were expecting to see, though."
Justin didn't answer, just walked across to Tommy's grave. Laying his hand on the stone, he sighed. "You know, when my mom died, no one would let me go to the grave. My dad dropped me at the shelter, and the shelter people thought it would be 'psychologically damaging.'" He snorted. "What was damaging was not going to see my mom. I couldn't accept that she was dead. I didn't want to do anything except sit around and wait for her to come back. Finally, I sneaked out of the shelter and went to the churchyard. I sat by her grave for a long time, and I finally fell asleep there. Lucky for me that Angel Grove has a mild climate. Anyway, I dreamed I was talking to my mom. I told her that I wanted to go with her, that Dad had left me and nobody wanted me anymore. She said that that wasn't true, and that I had to live. I remember what she said like it was yesterday. She said, 'You have to go on living, Justin. Your father needs you, even if he doesn't know it, and besides, there are people you haven't even met yet that need you. I know you don't understand me now, but you will, someday. You have something to accomplish that only you can do. There's so much for you to live for, and I'd hate to see you miss out on what's planned for you.' I remember, she also told me that I had to go on living for her sake. She said that the best monument the dead can have is for the living to love and remember them, and live for them as best they can. I woke up there in the morning, and got back to the shelter just before wake-up. Nobody missed me, as usual. Funny, after that, it got easier and easier to go on living. I still miss my mom, and I always will. I owe it to her to live, though. I can't let her down."
Listening to Justin's story, fresh tears had come to Rocky's eyes. "I guess we've got a lot in common, Justin. I lost my dad at about the same age that you lost your mom, and it was pretty hard for me. It's still hard. I just seem to keep losing people I care about."
"Yeah, I heard about Jennifer. You gotta remember, though, that it's not your fault. People do die. There are a thousand what-ifs, but they're over and done with, and you can't think of everything. As long as you love them, you keep them alive."
"If I had gone back, if I hadn't let him take that thing on alone-" Rocky began helplessly.
"Tommy made his choice. He chose to stand, and protect all of you. Are you going to make his sacrifice worthless?"
Rocky smiled at the younger boy. "Where did you learn all of this stuff?"
"Hey," Justin grinned back, "my dad's a martial arts instructor. He got me hooked on philosophy before I could walk. I don't sleep much, either, so I read a lot of books on the subject. You ought to try it. It kills a lot of the pain."
Rocky nodded thoughtfully. "I'll do that."
- * *
Daniel Oliver woke up to the sounds of crying. Throwing on a robe, he walked downstairs to find his wife, Sarah, weeping over a photo album.
"Sarah? What are you looking at?" Daniel asked, coming up behind her.
"I found some pictures of Tommy at his first karate competition, see?" She scooted over on the sofa to allow him to sit down. "Here we are with that huge trophy."
Daniel chuckled. "I remember. He insisted that we put it in his room, but we couldn't find any place to put it. On the floor, it cluttered up the room too much, and it wouldn't fit on a table!"
"Oh, God, Dan, it's like some nightmare! I keep praying I'll wake up," Sarah sobbed, resting her head on Daniel's shoulder.
"I know, Sarah, I know. We can't forget, though, that we have two other children to take care of. Chelsea and Teddy need us, too."
Sarah smiled wanly. "Could you believe it? Chelsea asked the Gold Ranger to stay for dinner."
"What I couldn't believe is that the prince of an alien planet was giving our daughter the eye."
"Daniel! He was not!"
"Come on, Sarah. He didn't take his eyes off her for the whole dinner!"
Sarah actually chuckled. "You may be right. What a match."
"Yes, he does seem to be a nice young man. I can see why Tommy liked him so much."
She nodded. "Some days, I wonder if Tommy was really adopted. He seemed so much like our own child."
"We loved him like he was our own, and he always knew that, Sarah. We'll always love him." Daniel put his arms around his wife, pulling her closer. She rested her head on his shoulder, and they stayed that way for a long time.
- * *
David Trueheart tossed and turned in his sleep. In his dreams he was running, fighting monsters, searching for someone he could never quite identify. Sometimes it looked like Kat, sometimes Tommy. He couldn't stop running, even though he desperately needed a break. Suddenly, turning a corner, he found himself standing atop the cliffs of Angel Cove, looking down at the ocean. The day was bright and clear, and the ocean was a beautiful sparkling green.
"Gorgeous day, isn't it?" a familiar voice asked. Turning, David saw Tommy leaning against a rock, staring out over the water.
"Tommy? What are you doing here?" David asked in astonishment. "Am I dreaming?"
Tommy chuckled. "Yes and no. By the way, may I observe that your imagination can come up with some pretty nasty goons?"
"Tell me about it," David sighed, sitting next to his brother. "Why are we here?"
"We need to talk, Dave," Tommy sighed. "First of all, I want you to know that I think you'll make a great Red Ranger. That's why I picked you. You've done a really good job so far, and I'm really proud of you."
"Thanks, but if it had been up to me, you would still have the job."
Tommy laughed and nodded. "Me too. The second thing I want to mention to you is Katherine. What are you waiting for, man, an early snow? You're not going to get one. The Bookala's gone." At David's uncomprehending look, Tommy shook his head. "Ask Billy. Anyway, why don't you ask Kat out? I know she likes you."
"She's just lost you! I'm not going to move in on her now!"
"Why not? She's hurting and she needs someone."
"You just died!"
"Exactly. I'm dead. You don't have to worry about hurting my feelings, and besides," he shrugged, "she's not my property. It's her decision. All I'm saying is you should tell her how you feel. Time on Earth is limited, and there's a lot of things that need to get said while you're here. Don't make the same mistakes I did and wait too long."
"Can we stop discussing my love life?" David asked pleadingly. "I seriously doubt that's why you're hanging around my dreams."
Tommy nodded, his face becoming very serious. "I have some unfinished business before I can leave this plane of existence. Goldar. The enmity between us is still very much alive. I can't move on until the match between us is finally finished, once and for all."
"Same old Tommy," David chuckled. "You never could accept defeat. What can I do?"
"David, we're very close, because we're twins, we both have the Red Power, and we both love the same woman, just in different ways. I need you to do something for me." Tommy proceeded to outline the favor he needed from David. David nodded, listening carefully to everything Tommy said, and after considerable thought, agreed. However, when he awoke, he could not remember exactly what Tommy had asked of him, only that it would be revealed in time. Sighing, David turned over and dropped back into a sleep peppered with peaceful dreams of Katherine.
- * *
On the other side of town, Kimberly Hart slept more quietly, but no better. In her dreams, she was wandering on a strange gray plain, strewn with bodies all dressed in the uniforms of the Green and White Rangers. "Tommy!" she called ceaselessly, only to be met with the whipping cries of the wind.
"I have to hand it to you, beautiful," a warm voice said behind her, "this is seriously depressing. Maybe you should get a job as a set designer."
Whirling, Kimberly threw herself at the tall familiar figure which leaned against a rock. The rock had not been there a second ago, she thought absently as Tommy caught her in his arms, pulling her closer.
"Shh, shh, beautiful," he whispered. "It's all right. Why don't we take this conversation somewhere a little nicer?" Their surroundings faded out, to be replaced with the inside of the juice bar. "Better?" he asked. Kim stared around her in astonishment.
"Tommy, how did you do that?"
"You're dreaming, Kimberly. Anything can happen in a dream."
Her face fell. "You really are dead, aren't you?" she asked dully.
He shrugged. "I don't know. I'm not alive in the traditional sense, but I'm not sure you could really say I'm dead. I can't leave this plane of existence yet." True to Tommy's slightly warped sense of humor, the sound of a propeller could suddenly be heard in the background.
"Tommmmyyyyy," Kim groaned warningly. The propeller faded out.
"Sorry, I just couldn't resist."
"So why are you here?" she sighed.
"The Juice Bar? It's one of my favorite places. Here I feel almost alive."
"I mean, why are you in my dream?"
"Of all the Rangers, you and I share the deepest bond, Kim. I can only appear to people I'm extremely close to. I already visited David tonight, and I wouldn't think of intruding on Jason."
Kim raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean, intrude?" Tommy just grinned wickedly and sipped the soda that had appeared on the bar before him.
"Besides, I doubt he'll be getting much sleep," he chuckled.
Kim's jaw dropped and she blushed bright red. "Why come at all?"
"I'm lonely. I wanted to see you again. I really missed you."
"Oh, Tommy. I missed you too, but it was the right thing to do."
He nodded. "Yeah, I guess you're right. Now at least you'll have someone to take care of you with me gone."
"Who?" she asked, puzzled.
"Oh. Tommy, I- um, I made him up."
"What?" Now it was Tommy's turn to drop his jaw.
"I made him up. I knew you'd be all alone, and that I was going to go to France, and Kat was there, and you two would make such a good couple, and I didn't want you to think you had to stay with me, especially since we were so far apart, and-" Tommy raised a hand to cut her off, and Kim shut up, aware that she had been babbling.
"Oh, Kimberly. I would have done anything for you. As for Kat, it was never like that with us. I just used her to forget about how much I missed you. I would have gone to Florida to be with you, I would have followed you to France, I would have done anything. But that's all in the past now. I guess I really came by to say goodbye."
"Very soon, Kim. I have to go. My time here won't be much longer. There's just one thing I have to do. I want you to remember something, though. I love you, and I will always love you, no matter how many worlds I cross. You need to find someone else, though. Don't spend your life waiting for me. We'll always be together here." He touched his heart, then pulled her close and kissed her gently. Then the dream dissolved, dropping her into a welcome, dreamless darkness.
- * *
"I can't believe this is happening," Trini sighed, snuggling closer to Jason.
"I can't believe this happened," he replied, slipping his arms around her. The two were in Jason's room, comfortably ensconced in his bed. Smiling to himself, Jason looked around the room at the discarded clothes, proof of how badly they had needed each other. "I'd been dreaming about this for almost four years, you know that?"
"Really?" Trini raised an eyebrow. "Why didn't you ever ask me out?"
Jason blushed. "I was scared. You were always my best friend. I didn't want to put that in jeopardy for something that might not work out anyway. Then Richie showed up, and I figured my chances went poof!"
Trini smiled. "Richie was just a surrogate, I'm afraid. You always had a blonde, buxom cheerleader on your arm, and I figured that was what you wanted. What chance did I have?"
Shaking his head, Jason chuckled wryly. "What a pair we are. What made you change your mind?"
"What made you change yours? After all, you were the one who started that kiss."
"I was?" Jason looked startled. In truth, he couldn't remember how they had begun kissing. All he had known was that they were in his room, talking about Tommy, when suddenly they were in each other's arms. Things had progressed from there.
"I guess I did start it," he admitted. "I just realized how short and uncertain life is. I didn't want something to happen before I could tell you about my feelings for you. I love you, Trini Kwan. I think I might have said that once or twice this evening, but I wanted to tell you when both our minds were clear. I've loved you for a long time, and I'll love you for the rest of my life."
"I love you, too, Jason," Trini smiled, hauling his head down to hers for another kiss.
- * *
Adam had been running until it was too dark to see, and then had come home, going directly up to his room. Now he staggered downstairs, only to see his father sitting at the kitchen table sipping on a cup of coffee. "Dad?" he frowned, puzzled. "What are you still doing here? Shouldn't you be at work?" This last was asked with some bitterness.
"Sit down, Adam. We need to talk." Warily, Adam sat across from his father. "First off, I want to apologize. I've been so wrapped up in my work that I didn't even notice that things had changed for you. That was inexcusable, and I'm sorry. I also want to apologize for my rather pigheaded opinions about the Power Rangers. I know all of you too well to continue to hold them once I know who you are."
"What about your report?" Adam asked, still cautious.
"I informed the captain that the discrepancies in the autopsy were caused by the treatment attempts made by the Power Rangers, and that there was no indication of anything more to the story than what had already been told. That's all the truth they need to know."
Adam's jaw dropped. In seventeen years, his father's single-minded devotion to his job had never wavered. Trevor Park had been so involved in his position as an upholder of the law that he sometimes ignored his wife and children. Now he was helping cover something up?
Seeing Adam's expression, Trevor continued. "There's no crime here. I really don't have anything to report."
Adam smiled. "Thanks, Dad. This is really important."
"I can see that, Adam," Trevor nodded. Just then, Adam's communicator and Trevor's beeper went off at the same time. Their eyes met, and both began to laugh.
"Like father, like son," Trevor sighed, wiping his eyes. "Go on, I'll talk to you later. By the way, Adam, I'm very proud of you."
Adam grinned at his father. "I'm proud of you, too, Dad." In a shimmer of green light, he teleported out.
- * *
"Rangers," Zordon boomed, looking at the six assembled teens, "Goldar has returned to Earth. He does not seem to be doing anything, just standing and waiting outside the city, calling for the Power Rangers to come to him."
"Well, if he wants us, he's going to get us," David said quietly.
"Rangers, I understand your desire for revenge. Do not let it blind you to the dangers of the situation, however. Be very careful. I do not know what Goldar has in store for you."
"We'll be ready. It's morphin time!" In six colored flashes, the Rangers were outside the city, facing Goldar.
"What do you want, murderer?" Red Ranger asked coldly.
"I want you, Red Ranger. Come and test your mettle against me, if you dare. I will end this here and now!"
Red Ranger suddenly stiffened. "Yes. It ends here," he agreed. The Rangers instantly noticed a difference in his speech and manner. Reaching up, he removed his helmet. The others gasped. Though the face underneath was David's, the cocked head, set jaw and blazing eyes were unmistakably Tommy's.
"I told you you'd see me again, Goldar," Tommy said quietly. "This is the last time we fight."
Goldar stepped back, his face turning pale. "You- you're dead! It's not possible!"
"Anything's possible," Tommy replied. "Come on, Goldar. Let's end this."
"Very well!" Launching himself at Tommy, Goldar raised his sword high, hoping to cleave the young man in half. Tommy swept the Zeo V Power Sword up, blocking Goldar's swing, and the fight was on.
Swinging, thrusting, parrying, the two warriors hacked around each other, blades moving too fast to be visible. Slowly, Tommy began to gain the upper hand. Swinging his sword around in a complicated maneuver, he knocked Goldar's blade to one side. Stepping in, he drove his own sword through Goldar's armor-clad stomach.
The monster dropped to his knees, clutching at his abdomen. "Well- done, Red Ranger. You have triumphed at last." Goldar looked up at Tommy with pain-filled eyes. "Perhaps in the next world, we- need not be enemies. I would have liked- to have you as an ally."
"Anything's possible," Tommy said quietly, raising his sword once again. "May you find peace, Goldar." His sword scythed down again, and Goldar's pain was ended. His lips tight, Tommy turned back to his friends.
"Don't worry, guys. David's fine. He just loaned me his body for a while so that I could take care of the last of my unfinished business. I'm going to do that now." Striding over to Pink Ranger, Tommy removed her helmet.
"If I wait for him to do this on his own, we'll be here until we're forty," Tommy chuckled. "This is from David, Kat." Taking her in his arms, he kissed her soundly. When he released her, she was speechless.
"Dave's going to want to kill me for that once he gets his body back, but lucky for me, that's no longer an option." Turning to the rest of his friends, he smiled. "I love you all, guys. Don't grieve for me. I know you'll miss me, but you're all strong. You'll deal with it. I'm moving on, and I can't do that if there are tears holding me back. Look behind the fish tank in my room. Take the letter you find there up to the Overlook by Angel Cove, and read it. You'll understand then. Remember, I'm always with you in your hearts." With a final smile, Tommy's eyes dropped shut. When they opened again, David Trueheart was looking out at the world.
"I can't believe he did that," David blushed. "Kat, I'm sorry, I didn't know he was going to-" She laid a finger over his lips, cutting him off.
"Do you really feel that way about me?" she asked quietly. He nodded, speechless. Grabbing his head, she pulled it down to hers for a kiss. When they finally broke apart, he was breathless.
"Wow. Okay, Tommy, you were right. Thanks."
- * *
That evening, all of the Rangers, past and present, met on top of the Overlook as the sun was setting. Also present were Chelsea and Teddy Oliver. As soon as everyone had arrived, Chelsea began to speak.
"The letter behind Sherman's tank-" She was suddenly interrupted by groans from the others at the awful pun in the name of Tommy's fish. Only Trey looked puzzled. "I'll explain later," she told him. "Anyway, the letter behind Sherman's tank was addressed to me, so I opened it. Apparently Tommy wanted me to read the letter he had left behind, so here it is."
Dear guys, If you're hearing this, I must be dead. I'm sorry; that's the first thing I have to say. I never meant to leave all of you behind like this. I always thought that we'd all go, rather than just one of us. Still, I wanted to say goodbye to you all, and I have a feeling I didn't get the time. I've loved being a Ranger with you, all of you, and I want you to know that I don't regret any of it, and never will. If I died in battle, then I'm just glad I went out doing something important. I've already told you who gets what, so this isn't exactly a will. It's more a final goodbye. I have a few things I want to say to each of you, and my darling sister will, I hope, oblige me by reading the letter I've left. Jason, you were the best friend a guy could have. You risked your life for me hundreds of times. If I know you, right now you're beating yourself up over whether or not you could have saved me. Well, I've got news for you. You couldn't have. I chose this path of my own free will, and goodness knows I had enough chances to turn it down. I'm going to miss you, buddy, but I know we'll meet again. By the way, if you and Trini don't get together soon, you can expect to wind up with a family ghost. Both Jason and Trini blushed.
Trini, same goes for you. You were always my balance. If it hadn't been for you, there were times as the Green Ranger that I might well have killed myself. You and your gentle concern gave me the strength to go on. Zack, you were one of the most fun people I've ever known. I had a tendency to be all doom and gloom, but you were always able to cheer me up. Forget about Angela, buddy. You and Aisha need to get together. Now it was Zack's turn to blush.
Billy. Man, what can I say to you? Of all the Rangers, you and I were there the longest. I know this is going to hurt you pretty badly, and for that, I'm sorry. You'll make it though. You're strong. Not to play matchmaker from beyond the grave, but when are you going to ask Kim out? You know you were made for each other. "God, Tommy, you are such a nag," Billy grinned, tears beginning to show in his eyes.
Kim, you were my light, my life. I love you more than anyone I have ever loved before. And yet- maybe I could never have really been IN love with you. It just wasn't that way, no matter how many times we both told ourselves it was. Maybe you and your new boyfriend will do better, but probably only if he's Billy. Rocky, so help me, if you even look at a bottle of Scotch, I'll haunt you unto the tenth generation. Think about it, someday my ghost will be popping up to tell your children how YOU behaved as a teenager. Rocky went dead white. "I think I just went on the wagon for life," he muttered.
Don't blame yourself, either for my death or Jen's. There's a time for everything, and ours just came. Don't ever think that you could have saved us. There was nothing that you could have done. Adam. I can't nag you about getting together with Tanya, so I'll just tell you to live a good life, and remember me with fondness once in a while. Tanya, take care of him. He has a tendency to be a martyr. Aisha. You brightened up my days. Without you, I'm not sure I could have gotten through the loss of our Thunder Powers. I wanted to curl up in a corner and give up, but you kept me going. I'll always be grateful for that. Trey, you and I hardly ever got to know each other, for which I'm sorry. I hope you're here listening to this. Try to spend some time with my friends. Everyone needs friends, and I'd hate to think of you on our planet alone. Kat, you were a wonderful friend. For the first time, there was another Ranger that really understood me. I care about you, and I love you as a friend, but I'm afraid that's all. Try to keep my brother out of trouble. I have a feeling he's going to need you in the future. Dave, you've learned by now that you're the Red Ranger. I always knew you'd be up for the job, just like I always knew how you felt about Kat. Don't look so surprised. We're very alike, and I'm very good at reading people. Take care of her, and yourself. I love you, and I'm glad I got to know you, even for such a short time. Teddy, I'm sorry to leave you so early. I had hoped to be there for you as you grew up, but it doesn't look like it's going to be that way. Listen to Chelsea and David. They love you just as much as I do, and they'll help you. By the way, I want you to have something. Open the little envelope with your name on it. Teddy did so, and something gold fell into his palm. Everyone gasped. It was the Green Power Coin.
I found that in our attic. Apparently, my clone is the ancestor of Dad, so we really are related, in a strange kind of way. I want you to take care of it for me. I have a feeling that it's going to be really important in the future. Guard it carefully. I love you, little brother. Chelsea, did you really think I didn't know you read my diary? Thanks for covering for me, though. I love you a lot. Take care of yourself, and see if you can get a date, now that Dave's hanging around. And you thought I was bad. One last request, guys. Could someone take my Green and White communicators and throw them out to sea? That's where the Dragonzord is, and I'd like to think that a little bit of myself is resting out there with it. Well, I guess that's really all I have to say. Just remember, I love you all, and I'll always be with you, watching over you.
Your friend, Tommy. "Tanya, do you want to do the honors?" Chelsea asked, passing the girl the rock to which the communicators had been tied. Taking them, Tanya wound up and threw, sending the rock hurtling out over the waves, where it made a tiny splash far from shore. After a few more minutes, the Rangers began to leave, breaking up into little groups. Chelsea noticed with a smile that each of the couples that Tommy had mentioned in his letter were together. No doubt about it, Tommy had been very good at reading people.
"What do you think will happen now?" Trey asked, coming up behind her.
"Not one of them is going away," she sighed. "Angel Grove still calls to them. Now that this has happened, I think they're going to re-evaluate themselves and their lives. I don't know what will happen after that." Almost instinctively, Chelsea leaned back into his warmth and solidity. She didn't really realize what she was doing until his arms came around her.
"I hope you don't mind," he said in her ear. "I don't think I've ever known anyone like you. I'd like to see more of you, if you don't mind."
She smiled. "You're lucky. My parents like you." They stayed like that for a long time, watching as the red sun sank into the sea.