The next morning, Tommy woke Hayley up at 7:00 and gently settled her into her wheelchair after he was finished getting her ready. Though she had only had it for less than a day, she was already very skilled at operating it. However, he knew that once this was over, she still wouldn't be able to live alone anymore.
"We're ready," Conner and Kira proclaimed as they stepped into the room, dressed and armed with their Dino Morphers and Gems. Ethan and Trent came a few minutes later, also dressed and armed. Mike had said to meet at the lab, so Kira drove them there and they waited tensely near the entrance for the kids. Mike was going to be driven by his big sister Nancy. Tommy was seriously contemplating getting back in the car and driving Hayley away from danger, but he knew this was the only way and besides, who could ever stop Hayley? She was willing to sacrifice herself to stop Arnold, but he really hoped it wouldn't come to that.
"So..." Kira raised an eyebrow. "Are we really going to kill him?"
"Let's first get him pinned so we can get info out of him for why he's trying so badly to hurt Hayley," Tommy replied. "If we have to kill him, it'll be only as a last resort."
"But how will we get inside?" Ethan pointed out. "Remember, Kira did get caught at the entrance the first time."
"But not if you can get in through the secret entrance," Lucas exclaimed, stepping between all of them. Kira and Conner shrank back for a moment, surprised by his sudden appearance.
"What secret entrance?" Trent snapped.
"It's near the back of the lab and no scientists really ever use it," Max put in as she appeared at his side. "It has a stairway that leads up to where Arnold works."
"How do you know that?" Ethan put in.
Mike, Will, Dustin, and a teenage girl with wavy brown hair who must have been Nancy walked up beside them and Nancy responded for them, "Because we've been here before."
From Will's wince, Tommy could see that it wasn't appropriate to ask why they had been there, so he continued to talk like he hadn't seen it. "So can we go in the back door?"
"Wait..." Conner stopped them. "How is Hayley supposed to get up the stairs? If we leave her wheelchair behind..."
"We won't," Tommy retorted. "I will carry her and one of us can carry it. But we have to be as quiet as possible. You and Kira and Ethan and Trent and I will be waiting when we let her go in so we can protect her at a moment's notice."
"Hayley, do you really think you can handle this?" Mike questioned. "You just met us, but I don't want you to be hurt from this."
"I'll be fine." Hayley was trying not to let it show, but she was really scared. She had never done something this dangerous and now, without being able to use her legs, she could be killed for this mission. "Let's go."
The group headed in single file back to a door at the rear of the lab building. As soon as they went through, they could see that they really were standing on a landing next to the stairs. Tommy took Hayley out of her wheelchair and carried her up as Kira and Trent carried it behind him. Once they were up and Hayley was back where she was supposed to, everyone looked toward the only door they could see. Kira cautiously peeked inside, then withdrew herself.
"It looks empty," she whispered quietly, "but the room is a lot longer than I can see and I can tell that it might just be him, but he's definitely in there." She turned to Mike. "And your friend- El, isn't it?- is likely in there now. I don't know how, but I have a hunch that she is."
Tommy knelt down next to Hayley. "Are you ready for this? We'll be there in a millisecond if we see you being hurt."
"It'll be okay." She reached out and opened the door, then maneuvered into the center of the room. Conner closed the door behind her so that they could still at least see through a crack.
Hayley took a deep breath. "You wanted to see me, Arnold?" she yelled, with a touch of contempt in her voice. No answer. She opened her mouth to call again, but then, all of a sudden, six green bolts of energy came shooting through the air and struck the side of her wheelchair, knocking it over and sending her crashing into the wall. She gasped, blood trickling from the side of her mouth. The pain had begun to fill her body completely at the impact and she could barely lift her head to look over at her advancing attacker. She winced as she spotted the gleaming tip of a knife sticking out of his pocket.
"I see you haven't lost your touch, Ziktor," Arnold laughed as he walked up beside her and forcefully slammed a hand onto her neck, cutting off her air.
"GET AWAY FROM HER!" Tommy roared as he ran in from the door and attempted to get Arnold away from his girlfriend, but not before he was able to cut her side. Kira followed, dragging Hayley away while Tommy wrestled with Arnold. However, Arnold was able to break away and with a growl, he sprang at Hayley. Kira sprang to meet him.
"Watch out!" Hayley called. "He has a weapon and you're unarmed!"
It was too late. As they met in midair, Arnold pivoted and retrieved his dagger from his pocket as he charged back at her... and slashed the knife through Kira's chest.
"NO!" Trent shouted as he sped over to her and got down on his knees, pressing his hands against the gash. Tommy managed to stop Arnold before he could hit Trent too and Hayley was laying flat on her back on the floor, quickly gulping air.
Arnold shoved Tommy away, his eyes wild. He ran over to Hayley, slamming a foot onto her stomach. A loud crack echoed through the air and she screamed in pain. Her legs might have been paralyzed, but she could still feel pain anywhere else.
"THAT'S ENOUGH!" Tommy thundered. He could see Mike, Max, Lucas, Dustin and Will sneaking into the room where their friend Eleven was held and watched Conner being rammed into the wall and he sighed. Hayley was injured, Conner was hurt as well, and Kira was dying. He narrowed his eyes. He had to stop this.
Tommy rushed toward Arnold and managed to catch him off guard, pinning him against the floor and ripping the knife from his hand.
"Why?" he growled.
"What do you mean?"
"Why do you want to kill Hayley?" When Arnold didn't answer, he yelled it louder. "WHY DO YOU WANT TO KILL HAYLEY?!"
Arnold's eyes narrowed as well, a red glint in them. "I lost my brother to the Upside Down because of her."
"A previous team of Power Rangers she worked with came to Hawkins Lab and they didn't try to save him when he went in there. They escaped, but then I chased Hayley away too. She was the one who held them back. I vowed to kill her if she ever came back."
"But Arnold, if they had gone, they would have been taken too. Your brother probably knew the risks and you can't blame Hayley for his mistake."
Arnold's gaze swept over the Rangers as Hayley tried to get over to Kira and eventually failed as her hands slipped on the floor. Tommy got up and went over to Hayley. Her face was twisted with great pain.
"Trent will help Kira," he sighed to her. "You really need help right now."
Hayley's eyes had closed. When Tommy felt her chest, he noticed with a pang that it was no longer rising and falling.
"HAYLEY!" he gasped in shock. Leaning over his girlfriend, he attempted to administer CPR to her. After about 10 minutes, Hayley coughed a few times and opened her eyes again.
"Oh god..." Tommy gently ran a hand over her body, standing up shakily as she took in great, heaving breaths. He turned back to Arnold. "You cannot kill her. And Kira..." His gaze ran over her and Trent, who was clutching her body in his arms, tears slipping from her eyes. "Why did you have to do that to her?"
Arnold gave no answer, just stared up at him with eyes glinting with hatred.
"Tommy..." Hayley sat up slowly, still gasping for air. "Please... go... help... Kira. I'll be fine."
Fortunately, the kids and they had met before and Nancy had just rushed out of another room with their friend El. At Tommy's signal, the seven of them went over to him and surrounded Hayley. Soon, Ethan joined them. His heart pounding, he charged over to Trent and Kira.
"You need to get her out of here," Tommy told Trent. "She won't survive otherwise. Now go!"
Caressing Kira's bloodstained body in his arms, Trent stood up with her and dashed out of the room. Armold's eyes followed them, seeming to narrow even more. With them safe, Tommy ran back over to Hayley. He hated knowing that she couldn't fight back. That Arnold's corruption had crippled her so badly she would never be the same again.
"Arnold..." Hayley groaned as she sat up. "I'm sorry about your brother. But you must understand that the more people that thing takes in, the more it will spread out. If it gets out of containment, the whole city is lost."
"He didn't know the risks when he went in though," Arnold retorted. "You could have stopped him."
"Oh, he did know. He was even a more experienced scientist than you and was killed because of his desire to learn more about it. Trust me, I knew him better than you."
"You think I'm supposed to believe you?"
"I know there's a part of you that only wanted to do this because you felt like you were avenging your brother. But you're not. He died on his own terms and I was protecting Hawkins when I kept the Rangers back from becoming their prey as well."
"Really?" Arnold suddenly pulled a gun out of his pocket and held it at his side as he moved toward the group. "Well, soon, you'll be their prey." Quick as a flash of lightning, he knocked the kids out of the way one by one, then advanced on Nancy, hitting her with the butt of the gun and leaving her winded. Ethan wasn't fast enough to stop him as he fired.
But Tommy was. Using a special wind power he had, he changed the direction of the bullet right before it could pierce through Hayley's heart. It ricocheted back toward Arnold and went right through his chest. It hadn't hit his heart though, which was why right before he died, he was able to fire again, aiming toward Hayley.
"NO!" Hayley screamed as it grazed her shoulder. It might have been only a graze, but with the sensitivity of her body at that point, it hurt like hell to her.
"Shh, you're okay," Tommy breathed as he examined the shallow wound. "It's okay now... he's dead..." He quickly fetched Hayley's wheelchair and got her settled into it. "Yeah... I think I need to take you to the hospital too."
El glanced at them with large eyes. "What is that moving chair?" she asked innocently.
Mike whispered something into her ear and her face hardened. "I'm sorry, Hayley."
"It's... okay..." Hayley groaned, leaning back in her wheelchair and closing her eyes.
"We need to go. NOW!" Tommy took Hayley's body in his arms and rushed out of the room with her. The kids stayed behind to help El, and Ethan and Connor went to help Nancy get to the hospital as well since it seemed like she had a concussion.
"It's all over," he said quietly as he skipped the stairs three at a time with astounding speed. "He's dead, Hayley... you'll be fine.."
Two weeks later...
Tommy sat restlessly in the Hawkins Hospital waiting room with Mike and Trent at his side. Nancy was getting discharged on that day after her painful concussion and he and Trent had insisted on driving Mike so they could also check on Hayley and Kira.
At last, a nurse came into the room with Nancy walking by her and Mike went to meet her. Tommy and Trent followed.
"You okay?" he asked her.
"Yeah, I'm fine, Mike. But why are you-?" Mike cut her off and whispered something in her ear and her face softened.
"Excuse me," Tommy called to the receptionist as he and Trent moved over to the counter. "May we ask to see a couple of patients here?"
"Depends on who they are."
"Hayley Ziktor and Kira Ford."
"Let's see..." She tapped a few keys on her computer and bit her lip. "Kira is currently in heart surgery. You cannot see her."
Trent sighed in defeat.
"What about Hayley?"
Another few clicks. "In emergency recovery, since her previous spinal condition did not react well with her new injuries."
"When will they both be released?"
Many more taps. "Kira, about two weeks. Hayley, about two and a half. And this is all unless something bad comes up."
"Well, thank you very much."
Four weeks later...
Hayley trembled slightly as she gently pushed her wheelchair across the floor of her boyfriend's house. Tommy nodded in approval and she smiled.
"You're getting much better at that," he commented.
"Thanks," she replied shyly. "But I wasn't entirely asleep earlier, so where'd you go?"
He raised his eyebrows. "Just something I needed to do."
"Tommy, you're sweating. What is it?"
He rolled his eyes nervously. "It was something I'd wanted to do before you were hurt... but I don't really know..."
"Hey, you can tell me anything. If it has to be quick though because the others are coming over soon. I left the door unlocked."
"But it's really serious," he pointed out.
"I can take it. Come on, hit me."
"Come on, I don't care what environment you needed for it, just hit me."
Tommy sighed as he took a small black box out of his pocket and opened it, revealing... a diamond ring.
He knelt in front of her as both their smiles widened.
And Mike, El, Lucas, Dustin, Nancy, Connor, Kira, and Ethan walked through the unlocked door... just as the life-changing words left Tommy's mouth.
"Hayley Ziktor... will you marry me?"
She didn't even see everyone watching her as tears came to her eyes and she whispered, "I'd want nothing more."
Hayley's and Tommy's wedding will arrive in the next chapter! I really wanted to write that, so it will come out soon! Stay tuned for the most visually beautiful Power Rangers chapter I've ever written! (I hope.)