Chapter 5: Vigil

by juniperphoenix

It was evening, and Aisha, Trini, Zack, and Jason were back in camp. The four friends were sitting in the research clinic, where Billy had been brought several hours earlier.

Still unconscious, Billy lay on the clinic's exam table, which Rachel and Aisha had converted into a makeshift bed. He was breathing more easily now, but he still seemed pale against the dark blankets, and the limp hand Trini held was still cold to the touch.

"I wish he would wake up," she said, worry evident on her face. "Rachel said it might be a while," Aisha reminded her gently. "Just give him some time."

"Speaking of Rachel," Zack interrupted, "where is she, anyway?"

"She was up practically all last night," replied Aisha, "so I told her to go get some sleep. She was going to stay, but I said we could handle it."

Jason nodded. "We need time to work out a plan, anyway," he said.

"What do you mean?" asked Aisha as she and Trini came to sit with the guys.

"A way to contact the others back in Angel Grove," he replied. "We've got to let them know where Billy is."

"How are we supposed to contact them?" Zack responded. "There aren't any phones around here."

"What about communicators?" Jason asked, looking around at his three friends. "Could we use Billy's?"

Trini shook her head. "He's modified it somehow. I found it wired inside the pod, like some kind of control switch."

"Can you fix it?" Zack asked hopefully.

"I'm not even sure what he did to it. Besides, the cold probably ruined it, anyway. I don't think it would work, even if I could fix it."

Jason glanced at Aisha. "Do you still have yours?"

"Yeah, but it won't do us much good."

"Why not?"

"I'm not a Ranger anymore," Aisha replied, as if it were self-explanatory.

"What does that have to do with it?" Trini asked with a baffled expression.

"The communicators are tied to our powers," the other girl explained. "They're useless without a Power Coin or Zeo Crystal."

Trini looked doubtful. "Who told you that?"

"Billy did. When the earth was sent back in time, our communicators stopped working, and he said that was why. They were linked in to our Power Coins."

"Well, the teleporter won't work," replied Trini, "but the communicator should be fine. It doesn't really take much power at all."

"If they don't need much power, then why did Billy link them to the coins?" Zack wondered.

"He didn't at first," replied Trini. "Alpha changed it that way because the Power Coins were a more reliable energy source."

Aisha choked back a laugh. "The Power Coins? Reliable?" Jason, Trini, and Zack looked at her strangely. "Never mind," Aisha said quickly.

"Anyway," said Trini, returning to the subject, "I should be able to get your communicator working in no time. I just have to hook it up to a new power source."

"Like what?" asked Jason.

Trini shrugged. "A couple of batteries should do it."

"I'll get the ones from my camera," Zack offered, and hurried out of the clinic. Aisha went with him to get her communicator.

When they had gone, Trini walked across the packed dirt floor to stand at Billy's side. For a long time, she said nothing, but simply stood there, studying his tranquil features. "He's missing his glasses," she observed at last, a bit wistfully.

"Maybe he finally got rid of them," suggested Jason, coming to stand next to her. "Remember how they were always getting in his way in battles?"

Trini laughed softly and nodded, despite the fact that her eyes were brimming with tears. "Remember the very first time we fought the Putties?" she reminded him. "Billy stopped to take his glasses off first, and then he couldn't even see them coming. They tossed him on the ground in about ten seconds flat."

"Guess that taught him to leave them on." Jason smiled at the memory. "God, that seems like a long time ago."

"It's been nearly three years. Two, since we left Angel Grove. We didn't even keep in touch, not really." The tears finally came, glistening on her face like diamonds in the light of the clinic's Coleman lantern. "I wish we had. Now… we might not get the chance."

"Trini." Shaking his head, Jason put his arms around her reassuringly, and she rested her head on his chest. "Don't say that. He'll be okay."

"I hope so."

They said no more, but stood together silently in the lanternlight, holding each other close as they kept vigil over their friend.

Mornings at the Angel Grove Youth Center were usually cheerful. This particular morning was no exception: the Youth Center's outdoor cafe was filled with teenagers enjoying the sunshine, juice, and friendly atmosphere. One table, however, didn't share the pleasant mood.

"I still can't believe it," Tommy sighed, shaking his head sadly. "I… I just never thought something like this could happen."

Tanya nodded. "I never really thought about the danger," she remarked. "It's like, 'I'm a Power Ranger, so I'm invincible,' you know? You think you're protected somehow… and then you realize how risky it really is."

"And Billy was even less protected than the rest of us," added Rocky. "Without the Power, he was defenseless out there." Rocky felt anger beginning to bubble up inside him, and he let it. Anger was easier than the hollow, aching sense of failure and loss that had haunted him since Billy's death.

"I never dreamed King Mondo would attack someone who wasn't even a Ranger," said Kat quietly, her blue eyes troubled.

"It's been done before," Kimberly pointed out.

"I know," replied Kat, "but never like this. Not targeting a specific person and then… then…" Her pale face crumbled with grief, and she couldn't finish the sentence.

"Mondo's gonna pay," Rocky promised her, his expression fierce. "Someday, he'll pay for this."

"What's the point?" asked Adam suddenly. The others nearly jumped at his voice — Adam had hardly spoken all morning, just sat there between Tanya and Kat with a look of utter desolation on his face.

That look hadn't changed. Adam's face was still flatly expressionless, and his normally lively dark eyes seemed dull and empty. Losing his best friend was simply too much to deal with. Billy had been like a big brother to him… and to even contemplate the fact that he was gone…

"There's no point in getting revenge," he continued dully. "No matter what we do to Mondo, it won't bring Billy back."

Tanya put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "I know it hurts, Adam, but it really would help to talk about it. Billy wouldn't have wanted you to be like this."

A long moment passed, in which there was no response from Adam. Finally, Kat said, "Adam is right about one thing. There's nothing we can do to change this… and we can't keep it to ourselves forever."

"Katherine's right." Kimberly hesitated for a moment before continuing, "We're going to have to tell his father."

Tommy looked away quickly, tears stinging the corners of his eyes. "I know," he whispered.

Kimberly put her arm around him comfortingly. "I'll talk to him, if you want," she offered. "I can tell it bothers you, and I've known him longer than anyone."

"No." Tommy shook his head and wiped the tears away stubbornly. He'd done his crying already. The night before, he'd gone down to the docks at Angel Grove Harbor, where his Dragonzord slept beneath the waves. He always went there when he needed to work through something, and it always made him feel better… as if the little things he worried about could never compare to the horrors he'd gone through as the Green Ranger. This time, it hadn't really helped. It had been a relief, though, to finally let go of the tears he'd been hiding. He could cry at the harbor, alone with the old friend who had shared in so many of his sorrows. There, he was just Tommy. Here, with the others, he was Zeo Ranger V again… and he couldn't cry anymore.

"I'll do it," he said finally, when he was sure he had control of his voice. "I just… I just need a little more time."

Kimberly smiled at him, an awkward smile considering that she, too, was on the verge of tears. "I understand, Tommy. We all miss him." She kissed him lightly on the cheek, and the two stared at each other for a long moment.

Tanya and Rocky actually smiled at the sight, although Adam was still beyond noticing. Kat watched the couple for only a second, and then looked away with a strangely uncomfortable expression. Tommy and Kimberly didn't notice.

Suddenly, the Rangers' communicators went off. Kimberly grabbed for her wrist reflexively, and was mildly surprised to find it bare. Adam didn't react at all, but the others started slightly and glanced around themselves. A moment later, Tommy stood. "I'll go see what's up," he said softly, and left the table. He walked quickly around a corner, out of sight of prying eyes.

"I wonder what Zordon wants," commented Rocky, sounding as though he couldn't have cared less.

"He's probably just checking up on us," Kimberly replied. "I know he's worried about us."

At least, I hope that's it, she thought. If there was a monster attack right now, I don't think these guys could handle it.

She surveyed her friends' faces. Adam was almost completely out of it, Tanya was on the verge of crying again, and Rocky looked ready to kill something. Katherine's expression was the most puzzling. Her teary, red-rimmed eyes contrasted strangely with the tight, uncomfortable line of her mouth, and she refused to look at Kimberly.

I wonder what's wrong with her? Kimberly thought, and then dismissed the question. Billy's death had affected them all strangely, and Kimberly supposed Kat's mood swing was just as normal a reaction as Adam's withdrawal.

She abandoned her speculations a moment later as Tommy returned to the table, bright-eyed and excited.

"What is it?" she asked him.

"Yeah," Tanya chimed in. "What did Zordon want?"

"It wasn't Zordon," Tommy replied, looking as if he were about to burst with some huge secret. "It was Jason."

"Jason?!" Kim and Rocky repeated, surprised and puzzled. Even Adam seemed to show a bit of interest.

Kat and Tanya glanced at each other, confused. "You mean that guy you told me about?" asked Kat. "From Switzerland?"

Tommy nodded, but didn't elaborate. Instead, he took a deep breath and continued, "They've found Billy."

Kimberly was on her feet in an instant. "Billy?!" she repeated in disbelief. "They've found… Billy?!"

Tommy nodded and broke into a wide grin. "He's alive."

"YES!" Rocky whooped, jumping up from his seat. He hugged Tanya, who had been sitting next to him, and then leaned over the table to Adam. "Did you hear that, man? Billy's alive! They found him!"

Adam's jaw had dropped practically to the tabletop. "He's not dead?" he said, confused. "But… the ship. I saw it. I saw it blow up."

"He wasn't on it," explained Tommy breathlessly. "They found him in an escape pod out in the middle of nowhere."

"And he's alive," Kimberly whispered, not quite believing it. Tommy quite literally swept her off her feet and whirled her joyously through the air. Her pink flowered dress swirled around her knees as he set her back down and hugged her tightly. Tears of joy ran freely down their faces, and both of their souls seemed to shine out of their hazel-brown eyes as they shared the ecstatic moment.

"He's alive," Tommy half-laughed, half-sobbed. "He's really alive."

Other Juice Bar patrons were beginning to cast odd looks in the Rangers' direction, but none of them noticed or cared. Even Kat, who had appeared so sullen a moment ago, was crying in relief. She hugged Tanya and then Tommy. The second hug was more of a threesome, since Kim was still clinging to Tommy's shoulders, but Kat barely noticed.

Billy's alive, she thought. For that moment, nothing else mattered.

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