Chapter 4: Vital Signs

by juniperphoenix

The four friends had walked about twenty yards when they saw something glinting in the hot afternoon sun.

"That's no meteor," Trini said.

"But what is it?" breathed Aisha.

It was an oblong metallic pod, lying on a patch of bare, blackened ground where the grass had been burned away. Good thing it rained last night, Aisha thought. That could have started the entire grassland on fire.

The pod's silvery surface was covered with scorch marks, as if it had gone through incredible heat. Attached to it was a large white parachute, its collapsed folds rippling in the breeze. As the four teenagers got closer, they saw a puddle of thick greenish fluid around the base of the pod. The puddle bubbled and steamed in the hot sun, and the air around it seemed much cooler than normal.

"What's that green stuff?" wondered Jason, leaning over the quickly evaporating puddle.

"I wouldn't touch it," advised Trini, keeping her distance. "It's probably cold enough to burn your hand off."

"It looks like those robot guys were messing around with this thing," Zack remarked as he looked around. "Maybe that's why it's leaking."

"Which means," Jason realized, "that there's probably something in here that they want to destroy. Something that needs to be kept cold."

"And we stopped them from taking it, so they just settled for thawing it out," Aisha finished.

The four friends exchanged glances, each of them thinking the same thing: But what is it?

"Let's open it," Trini said softly.

Jason nodded and stepped carefully around the green puddle to stand beside the pod. He located a locking mechanism on the pod's side and fumbled with it for a moment. Finally managing to undo the lock, he tried pushing the door open, to no avail.

"Zack, take the other side," he instructed, walking around the pod to join him. "Let's try pulling it open."

"Right," Zack replied, taking up position next to Jason. "On three," Jason ordered. "One… two… three!" The boys pulled with all their strength, breaking into sweat as the top of the pod began to slowly slide towards them. Trini and Aisha went to the other side and began pushing, adding their strength to that of their friends.

Thick clouds of cold white vapor poured out of the pod as the door was forced farther and farther back. Trini fanned the vapor away with her arm and peered inside the pod.

"Oh, my God!" Every bit of color suddenly drained from her face.

"What?" Jason asked. "What is it?"

Trini was speechless. Looking down into the pod, Aisha realized why. "It's Billy!"

King Mondo was furious.

"Those good-for-nothing piles of scrap!" he raved. "They can't do anything right!"

"I'm sure they would have succeeded, Yer Majesty," Klank said diplomatically, "if it hadna been fer those four teenagers."

"They weren't even Power Rangers!" Mondo exclaimed. "They destroyed my Cogs without any powers at all!"

"I told you we needed a monster," Prince Sprocket jeered.

"Hsssh! Don't sass your father!" Queen Machina scolded. "He's upset enough as it is!"

"Hmph!" The stomping of Sprocket's metallic feet clanged loudly on the floor, and his purple cape rustled behind him as he left the room, pouting.

"Those Cogs are completely worthless!" the king ranted on. "Not only did they not manage to capture Billy, they led those meddling teenagers straight to him! Now everything is ruined!"

"Darling, don't carry on so," said Machina soothingly. "It's bad for your oil pressure."

"But now that brat is going to survive!"

"Perhaps not," said the queen, twirling her fan slyly. "The Cogs did manage to drain all the coolant from his escape pod."

"And without that," Orbus chimed in from Klank's shoulder, "he'll need oxygen again!"

"Those frail humans are so dependent on oxygen!" remarked Klank. "He cannae survive fer more than a few minutes without it. We've won!"

But the Machine King was inconsolable. He stormed off as Sprocket had, muttering despairingly to himself.

"Back to the drawing board! By the time I conquer this planet, I'll be so old and rusted…"

Queen Machina watched him go, and absently fanned herself. "He doesn't cope well with stress, does he?"

Jason, Trini, Zack, and Aisha stood transfixed in horror, staring down into the open pod. Inside, Billy lay motionless and silent… whether unconscious or dead, no one knew. His skin was very pale, with a slight bluish cast to it, and his dark blond hair was damp with condensed moisture. The curve of his mouth and the lines around his closed eyes seemed frozen in an expression of pain.

"Billy!" Jason said urgently. "Billy, can you hear me? Come on, man, wake up!"

"Something's really wrong, guys," said Aisha fearfully.

Trini reached into the pod to check Billy's vital signs, but she had barely even touched him when she pulled back in surprise. "He's freezing!" she exclaimed, astonished.

"Just like that green stuff," puzzled Zack. "I wonder what happened?"

I have no idea was on the tip of Jason's tongue, but he had hardly opened his mouth to say it when Trini interrupted.

"Guys," she said, looking up with fear shining in her dark eyes, "I can't find a pulse."

"Oh, no," Aisha reacted, shaking her head in frightened disbelief. "Please, no…"

"Give me a hand, Zack," Jason ordered, his instincts kicking into emergency mode. The pair easily lifted Billy from the pod and laid him down on the scorched ground, away from the puddle of coolant.

"I can't believe this," Aisha began. "He can't be…"

"There's still a chance," Jason insisted firmly. "Somebody has to go and get help!"

"I'll go," replied Zack, leaping instantly to his feet.

"Get Rachel from the clinic!" Aisha told him. "She'll know what to do! Hurry!"

Zack nodded in acknowledgement and sprinted off toward the village. "Remember scuba training?" Jason said to Trini as he pulled Billy's shirt open. "You breathe, I'll do the compressions."

Trini nodded.

"Okay, then. Let's do it."

He and Trini began CPR as Aisha scooted back to give them room. "One, two, three, four, five!" Jason counted as he repeatedly pressed down on Billy's chest. "Breathe! One, two, three, four, five! Breathe!" After every fifth compression, Trini administered a breath. The pair worked side by side for several minutes as Aisha looked on.

"Come on, Billy," Trini coaxed between breaths. "Come on, breathe!"

"One, two, three, four, five!" Jason continued, pausing to let Trini deliver a breath. "Come on, Billy! One, two, three, four, five! Breathe!"

"Nothing's happening!" Aisha exclaimed despairingly.

"He's gonna make it!" insisted Jason. "Don't give up!"

Fighting back tears, Aisha took Billy's cold, pale hand in her own. "Come on, Billy, please! You've got to fight back! Come on!"

"One, two, three, four, five!" Jason continued doggedly. His arms were beginning to ache, and the merciless sun wasn't helping much, either. Sweat trickled into his eyes, but he couldn't pause to wipe it away. He couldn't afford to miss a single compression, not when Billy's life hung in the balance… and it was a precarious balance indeed. Jason couldn't help wondering how long it had been since Billy stopped breathing. Were his and Trini's efforts too little, too late?

"One, two, three, four, five!" He wouldn't let himself think about it. Billy was not going to die, not if Jason Lee Scott had any say in the matter. "One, two, three, four, five!"

"Jason, it's not working." Trini fought back tears. "It's been over five minutes." There was hardly a chance left that Billy could be revived; even less that he would survive without some sort of brain damage.

The grim knowledge only served to increase Jason's determination. "Fight, Billy!" he shouted, in as commanding a tone as he had ever used as the Red Ranger. "You've got to fight! Don't give up, fight! Come on! You're gonna make it!" With renewed strength, he continued the compressions, shouting encouragements the whole time.

"One, two, three, four, five! Breathe! Come on, Billy, now!"

"Please, Billy, fight!" Aisha joined in. "Come on, you can do it! Be strong, Billy! Breathe!"

Suddenly, a tremor went through Billy's body, and he drew a long, ragged breath.

"Something's happening!" Aisha said, leaning forward excitedly. "He's starting to breathe!"

"Yes!" Jason exclaimed. He sank to a sitting position in exhausted relief.

"Did it really work?" Trini looked anxiously at Billy, as if to confirm for herself what Aisha had said. He was indeed breathing again, albeit shallowly and with a halting, ragged sound.

"He's got a pulse," Jason announced, rather unnecessarily. His wide smile showed the relief all three of them were feeling. "We did it, Trini."

They hugged, Trini breaking into joyful tears as Jason barely restrained tears of his own.

"You guys were great," Aisha told them, smiling broadly as tears streamed down her face. She leaned across Billy to join in the hug. "He's gonna be okay."

"We need to get him warmed up, though," said Jason after a moment, and pulled off his sleeveless red shirt. He draped it over Billy's unconscious form, simultaneously realizing that a sleeveless shirt wasn't going to be much good to someone that cold.

"How will we get him back to camp?" Aisha wondered.

The three friends looked around for a moment until Trini suggested, "The parachute! We can hold it up, you know, kind of like a hammock."

"Speaking of the parachute, what are we going to do about that pod thing?" Jason asked. "Zack's gonna be back any minute with Rachel, and she'll want to know…"

Just then, Zack appeared, dashing toward them along with Rachel McCormick. Out of breath, the two nearly collapsed when they reached the scorched area, but Rachel managed to sit down next to Billy and open the medical bag she had brought. "What have we got?" she panted.

"His name's Billy," Jason told her. "He didn't have a pulse or anything when we found him. We did CPR for five or six minutes."

Rachel nodded. "Good job. I'm glad you knew what to do. Six minutes is a heck of a long time without oxygen." She rooted around in her bag and finally came up with a stethoscope.

"Hey, wait a second!" Trini interrupted. "Aren't you the veterinarian?"

"Yeah," Rachel replied as she put on the stethoscope. Pushing Jason's shirt aside, she positioned the instrument on Billy's chest and listened silently for a moment. Then she looked back up at Trini and explained, "I trained as an EMT before I came over here. It comes in handy from time to time."

She paused to listen again, then took Billy's pulse and blood pressure. "He's pretty much stabilized," she concluded, "at least until we can get him to the clinic for a full exam. But how did he get so cold? It's at least ninety degrees out here, and he feels like an ice cube."

Jason, Trini, Aisha, and Zack exchanged glances. Zordon had drilled the need for secrecy into them time and time again. Keep your identities secret, he had said. No one may know that you are the Power Rangers.

"She has to know what happened if she's going to help him," Trini pointed out. She and the others gazed at Jason. Powers or no, he was still the Red Ranger, and the decision would be his.

Jason's dark eyes met theirs, and then he looked down at the unconscious body of a friend whom he hadn't seen in two years. We'll get you through this, Billy, he promised silently. I promise you'll be all right. Rules or no, they had to do whatever it took. But that doesn't mean she has to know everything…

Jason gestured toward the escape pod, then looked at Rachel. "We found him in there…"

In the darkness, four lights burned steadily. Their colors were familiar: red, black, and two yellows. The blue flame glowed warmly in their presence.


There was a fifth light as well, a pale flame of silvery-white that was like the others, yet somehow different at the same time. It was unfamiliar, but friendly, and the blue flame clung to it as it did the others. The lights were warmth and safety and love, and whatever they had done had caused the blue flame to flare brilliantly again, with renewed strength and hope.

As it basked in the warmth of the colored lights, the blue flame reached out around itself, whispering a triumphant message to the sleeping mind it sustained.

It worked.

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