4 - Five Becomes Six
It was an absolute mess.
The Rangers arrived, morphed, at the park to absolute chaos. Apparently Rita's monster, Goldar, and some putties had crashed an elementary school picnic. Children and parents were separated; some kids had taken off, leaving adults calling for them.
'We really need to set up some sort of public service announcement on how to handle attacks,' Jason made a mental note. He went to issue orders before realizing that the Pink and Yellow Rangers had rushed to protect the children from the putties. The Blue Ranger had his lance out and was creating a path through the mess for the adults, to get all the victims in one spot. The Black Ranger had engaged the monster – was that a giant, walking, talking cookie? Sometimes, Jason was convinced Rita was on drugs – and was pulling it away from the nucleus of the battle to keep the innocents out of it.
It was good to see his team working together so well.
The Red Ranger was incredibly chagrined, however, to realize his heart jumped when he saw the Tommy facing off against Goldar. It wasn't concern for a member of his team… it was fear. The Green Ranger had been a terror for just long enough for Jason to regard him as an enemy, despite the Power's soothing 'teammate' feeling.
He'd learned to fight that feeling when Tommy was under Rita's spell. Getting acquainted to it being truth was going to take a few fights, more than likely.
'And this might have been one of the reasons Zack thought you acted a bit too quickly,' that little voice in his head chided.
Ignoring the thought – it was too late now, anyway – he grabbed his Power Sword and joined Tommy's side after checking to be sure Zack was holding his own. The monster didn't seem all that strong or smart… just more of Rita's normal fare. Goldar was a bit more of a threat, and usually chasing the monkey away meant getting rid of the putties, too.
"Hey, go help Billy," he ordered. "We have to get the citizens out of here."
The Green Ranger nodded, ignoring Goldar's parting verbal shot, and sheathed his dagger.
"Why, Red Ranger, I thought you'd let your new lackey do the work for you," the titan mocked.
Jason gritted his teeth. "The Green Ranger is one of us, Goldar! Too bad for you that Rita's spell just couldn't hold up! He's working for the right side now."
"Really?" the creature asked with a grin. "Because it looks like nobody told them that."
Jason spun, dropping his guard for a moment at the screams coming from the few remaining bystanders when Tommy grew near.
'Son of a-'
Goldar cackled as he slashed his sword from Jason's shoulder to hip, throwing sparks from the magically-powered suit and drawing a cry from his lips. The Red Ranger tightened his grip on his sword and fought back harshly, taking out every bit of frustration from the last week out on Rita's right-hand "man." Within minutes, Goldar teleported out, leaving Jason to figure out his next move.
While they'd been fighting, apparently the Black Ranger had switched with the Green, both getting Tommy away from the frightened civilians and giving them a demonstration that the Ranger who once rampaged through Angel Grove with his zord was on the right side now.
At least, that's what Jason thought Zack had done. Either way, it was a smart move on his part, and could only help in the future.
With a bit of teamwork, the putties were taken down and the civilians were able to flee. The five converged on where Tommy was easily holding his own against the monster.
"Guys, let's bring them together," Jason ordered, watching as the other rangers pulled out their weaponry. Before they could form the Power Blaster, though, Rita sent her wand to the Earth, and the cookie grew to the size of a skyscraper.
"There's not enough milk in the world for that thing," Zack joked, though it sounded forced. "Whaddaya say we turn this thing into crumbs?"
"Good idea," Tommy agreed. "Zord time?"
Jason nodded in confirmation and led the team in their summoning cry of, "We need Dinozord Power, now!"
The Green Ranger twirled his Dragon Dagger in his hands. "Uh, I'll hold off for this battle, unless…" he trailed off, as the Dinozords made their way to the Rangers.
"That's probably for the best," the Yellow Ranger commented. "It might make the citizens panic."
"Stay where you can hear and see us," Jason ordered Tommy. "If things go downhill, we'll have you call him in."
With that, the Red Ranger led the group in leaping to the cockpits of their zords, choosing to bring them together quickly rather than fight on their own.
The monster swiped at them once they'd formed (Jason always wondered why the monsters waited until the transformation was complete - maybe they had a monster code they had to follow?); they countered with a powerful punch. Zack began laughing uncontrollably as the warm hand of the Megazord smooshed into the giant cookie, sending crumbs tumbling to the ground.
"This is going to be one of the more delicious monsters to help clean up after," he joked.
Jason rolled his eyes behind his visor, though Trini and Kim giggled along. "All of Angel Grove will totally be buying clothes a size larger," Kim agreed.
"Guys," the Green Ranger broke in, sounding like he was holding back a chuckle, "you may want to finish this fight quickly. The giant crumbs are pretty nuts."
"Good idea," Jason confirmed. He called upon the Power Sword quickly, charging it and letting loose a vicious swipe. With that, the monster crumbled before exploding outward. Jason groaned, knowing it would be raining bits of chocolate chip cookie everywhere.
Kim sighed. "Better than bug guts, I guess," she sighed.
"There won't be any power-related effects of the crumbs that we should warn people about, right?" the Yellow Ranger asked Billy. "If so, we should contact the news to pass it on."
"I don't believe the energy from the Morphin' Grid will cause adverse reactions in average humans," the Blue Ranger said after a moment. "Rita's magic does not tend to linger and in all of my studies, I have never taken note of residual traces of Morphin' Power after a Zord battle. I would suspect the same will hold true this time."
"That's a 'no', right?" Jason confirmed. Billy nodded; good enough for him.
"Let's break up the zords and try and break up some of the largest pieces," Zack suggested. "And use the Triceratops' chains for the parts large enough to be dragged away. I can freeze some of them with the Mastodon."
Plan in place, the zords disengaged. As everybody else got to work, Jason jumped down and sent his zord back into the Earth. "Let's lead the ground crews," he suggested. "We sometimes team up with firefighters and police officers with the worst damage; this will give us a chance to show you working with us."
Tommy nodded, and Jason wished he could see past the Green Ranger's helmet.
After making sure that the threat was gone, and that the emergency officials had clean-up underway, Zordon ordered them back to the Command Center for a debriefing.
Jason sighed once they arrived. If all battles were going to be like this, he was seriously going to consider moving halfway around the world.
Sore, tired, and feeling just a bit guilty, Zack teleported outside his house and wandered inside. "I'm home!"
"Dinner will be ready in an hour, honey," his mom told him. "How was your day? Did you get stuck in the monster attack?"
'You could say that,' Zack thought ruefully, thinking about his poor chocolate-smudged zord. "Yeah. The guys and I stayed safe until the Power Rangers saved the day."
Zack thought ruefully, thinking about his poor chocolate-smudged zord. "Yeah. The guys and I stayed safe until the Power Rangers saved the day."
Mrs. Taylor narrowed her eyes. "You looked tired."
"Did a lot of running," he offered. "Those gray things showed up and the park where we were at. They were near kids, so we helped chase them away."
His mother shook her head, frustrated. "You're so reckless, Zackary! They could have really hurt you!"
"We left when the Rangers got there," he lied. "But like I said, I'm really tired and could use a nap. Mind if I crash before dinner?"
His mother wandered over and ran a loving hand over his shoulder. "Go ahead. If you nap through dinner, I'll set a plate aside for you." She kissed him lightly on the cheek. "You may have made a dangerous decision... but I'm proud of you. You do such good things for people."
"Thanks, mom." Zack forced a small smile. 'You have no idea.'
With a groan, he made his way up the stairs, flopping onto his bed. The day felt like it had just dragged on - from classes to Trini's and Kimberly's knowing looks and prodding, to Jason's avoidance and then the battle...
Zack winced, remembering how everybody had reacted to seeing Tommy on the battlefield. Fighting with him had been difficult; like the others, he was sure, he had subconsciously trained himself to be on his guard against the Green Ranger. He'd rushed the monster rather than fighting alongside Tommy... it looked good, yeah, but the fact of the matter was that it was earlier to ignore his presence while battling a giant cookie.
'A giant cookie. What's next, a huge hot dog? A s'more monster?' Chuckling over Rita's random choices was easier than facing the nagging voice in the back of his head... the voice that said he'd been wrong.
Tommy had thrown himself wholeheartedly into the fight, even when the citizens had been terrified. He hadn't argued with any of Jason's orders and had even listened to Zack when he'd intervened, sending the Green Ranger to fight the monster and get some distance from spectators.
To be honest, he felt bad for Tommy. He'd been under a spell and now had to deal with the aftereffects: both his own, and those of the people around him. Really, it wasn't his fault people were on edge… and yet it might have been, come to think of it… 'Maybe if he hadn't been so awesome against Jase-'
But that was a weak argument at best, he acknowledged. There was no way to know why Rita had chosen Tommy, just like he and his friends would never really know why Zordon chose them of all people to save the planet. Considering they'd walked out on the mentor when first approached (well, first snatched out of the Youth Center, at least), it hadn't been the wizard's greatest decision. Yet they fought well as a team and rallied against everything Rita threw at them.
Perhaps there was a place for Tommy, after all.
Zack felt a bit better as he slowly came to that realization, and wondered why he wasn't more pleased. Tommy was an asset on the battlefield and he handled the citizens' terror with as much ease as he could; he didn't show how much it hurt (and it had to have, of that Zack was certain) and didn't let it affect his fighting in the least.
So why was he still feeling a bit... off?
Zack cast back to after the battle. While he'd been stomping around Angel Grove in his zord freezing the larger chocolate bits (the last thing they needed was a giant chocolate chip melting in the California sun and covering everything in sticky, sugary goo), Jason and Tommy had been dealing with the ground crews. Partway through the clean-up, the two had begun talking about teaming up for a martial arts competition.
The sort of thing he'd do with Jason, if Tommy hadn't come along.
Was that it? Zack sat up, burying his face in his hands. Was he jealous? He and Jason had been friends since he'd moved to Angel Grove in second grade. They'd done so much together... was he intimidated by Tommy, who shared so many more interests with Jason?
That was silly. It was stupid. It was irrational - but then again, most feelings like that were. Jason wouldn't just abandon a friend because another person came along. In fact, all of his actions (outside of dismissing Zack's point-of-view outright) had been to bring Tommy into the group of friends - emphasis on "group".
Zack sighed and decided to take a shower before hitting his sheets...
He had a feeling he'd have trouble sleeping.
Tommy sighed, raking his hands through his damp hair as he tried to focus on what little left-over homework remained from his stint working for Rita. He tried to focus, but the words on the page blurred together… and it was hard to think over the echoing screams of people in his head.
'Why'd it have to be me?' he wondered, not for the first time. Hearing the people he pledged to protect run in fear and beg for mercy – from him! – had tied his stomach up in knots. At that moment, Tommy had wished to teleport straight out of there; to leave his coin at the Command Center and never look back.
But he couldn't. He had so much to make up for… he needed to set things as right as he could. And, damn him for being selfish, but he really enjoyed having friends. He didn't want that to end, and it might if he wasn't a part of the team.
That, and he was pretty sure Jason and Trini wouldn't let him walk away at this point.
'I wonder what Kimberly would think…'
He closed his eyes for a moment, trying to wrench his thoughts back to the English book in front of him. Instead, a child's terrified face flashed through his head, and he shoved his chair backward, cursing softly.
'Well, really, what did I think was going to happen?' The people of Angel Grove had a remarkable resilience to things like monsters, giant robots and spandex-clad people (though his parents believed the Rangers to be aliens, which amused him greatly). Other than a few minor panicked moments, they seemed to go about their day, pitching in with donations and assistance when a house was trampled or when crumbs from a giant cookie monster rained down on the city.
But the Power Rangers hadn't been around for long, and it was probably a shock for a person who was once grown to skyscraper-sized proportions as an evil minion to suddenly be fighting alongside the heroes he had tried to kill.
Tommy quickly changed into a spare gi, deciding to try a kata to clear his mind before attempting schoolwork again. As he went down the stairs, though, he was distracted by a conversation from his parents' room…
"See? I told you everything would work out. There was no reason to worry." His dad sounded pleased.
'Worry about what?'
"Don't tell me that!" His mother huffed. "We moved here and in the span of a few days he became more silent than ever! One day he looked like he could float-" Tommy blushed, remembering how happy he'd been after the karate competition. "-and the next, he was so grouchy and sullen… don't tell me not to worry!"
"Well, whatever happened, it looks like things are back to normal now… better, actually. He went to meet some friends over the weekend, remember? He's settling in a lot better here."
Tommy shook his head and kept walking, making his way to the back yard.
He began stretching out, focusing his mind on absolutely nothing. 'Peace.' No Rangers, no civilians, no Rita. No Angel Grove, no redemption… just peace, calm and quiet.
Tommy moved smoothly through one of the more simple katas he knew, focusing on his balance. Finally relaxing, he allowed himself to think about the karate tournament Jason had suggested they sign up for.
'A team competition?' He'd never done anything like it, but it sounded like a blast. Jason was his equal on the mats; he was sure they'd work together well. It's be nice to show his skills to somebody who seemed as into it as he was. Although it was a little strange that Jason asked him to compete, rather than Zack. Weren't the two best friends?
That gave him pause. Zack had been nothing but nice to him… well, maybe a bit silent, actually. While it didn't seem like the Black Ranger was going out of his way to avoid Tommy, it felt as though he would prefer to keep his distance. It was a disappointment, actually. Zack seemed like a better person to talk to about Kim (if he could ever get the nerve!); Jason had a nearly frightening big-brother attitude about him, and Trini seemed amused by the whole thing. Also, there was his Hip Hop Kido – Tommy knew he'd love to learn a bit more of it. It was always good to learn a new style, especially one that hadn't been popularized.
'Maybe I should try to be better friends with him,' Tommy decided. It was weird; approaching other people wasn't really his style. But Zack was a teammate, and a potential friend… and for once, Tommy felt himself craving companionship.
At his waist, his Power Coin pulsed faintly.
'Yeah… I'll search him out tomorrow.'