Note: This story takes place shortly after the episode "The Power Transfer."
Rocky hadn't been sure what to think when Jason had asked him to go flying. Still, he'd met him where he asked, the zord storage chamber beneath the command center. After a brief delay, Jason had arrived. "Let's go, I have something I want to show you."
Silently, Rocky took the Red Dragon Thunderzord out, cruising above the clouds. Suddenly, the cloud cover broke and Rocky could see the vastness of Angel Grove laid out before him. The sight took his breath away, everything seemed so tiny, so fragile.... "You feel it?"
Rocky was almost startled by Jason's voice at his side, he hadn't noticed when Jason had unbuckled from the passenger seat and moved forward. "Feel what?" he croaked out.
Jason smiled. "You feel it. When you look out there," Jason gestured out the canopy to the vista of Angel Grove unfolding beneath them. Involuntary, Rocky shivered. "You feel the responsibility." Jason's voice lowered, almost a whisper in Rocky's ear. "The fate of all those people, more, the entire earth, it's in your hands. You have been appointed their protector, they look at you, they feel safe, secure. They trust you to see them through." Rocky closed his eyes, Jason's words were ringing deep, how could he hope to live up to all that? He felt a vertigo like he was standing on the brink of some great precipice, scrabbling desperately not to fall in. "Almost a covenant. You will lay down you life before you let the least of them come to harm. You are their only hope."
Rocky turned to Jason, their faces almost touching, his face ashen. He felt sick. "Please, stop." It was a whimper.
"You are their champion, of all humanity, they have chosen you."
Rocky was beginning to curl into a ball, it was all just to much!
Rocky breath was coming in shuddering breaths, almost sobs, but he couldn't stop! It just came back to him, all those people..! He'd played this, like it was a game! He couldn't
He was suddenly aware of Jason's presence near him, holding him, "It's all right, it's all right. You didn't know, you couldn't know...."
Rocky's voice was a whisper, "I should have known"
"No!" Jason grabbed Rocky by his shoulders, forcing him to look Jason in the eye. "Look at me. Look at me! It's not your fault. You had no way of knowing. And more importantly, even if you didn't know, you didn't screw up! It's all still there!"
Rocky was babbling, "No, no, one mistake and it would have been" Jason slugged him. Rocky blazed back, one gasping intake of breath, his eyes full of fury.
And he found none mirrored in Jason's eyes. "Are you over yourself?" Jason's eyes twinkled, it could have been a joke.
Rocky felt his fury drain away, in its absence he felt bitter cold. Jason guided his hands over the controls before Rocky could slip into another self-indulgent bout of recrimination. "Here, I want to show you something."
The zord changed course, accelerating north. In the distance, the sun began to creep below the horizon. Rocky was silent for most of the flight. Twice, he almost spoke up but changed his mind. Finally he steeled up his nerve. "Jason?"
Jason looked up, he'd been reading a magazine of all things, he quickly tucked it away. "Yeah man?"
Rocky was flustered but went on, "You... you jerked me around pretty heavily back there."
Jason sat back in his seat, he seemed to be studying Rocky. "I know."
For a moment Jason's passive response angered Rocky. "You're not going to make this easy are you?" He asked angrily. Almost immediately he was ashamed, he'd let his emotions get the better of him again.
But Jason's face showed no displeasure. He remained dispassionate, maybe a bit of grudging approval around the eyes. "No man, it's not supposed to be easy. It's hard. And you're gonna have to realize that real quick if you're gonna make it."
Again Rocky felt shame, why was Jason doing this to him? He knew that it wasn't supposed to be easy, it'd just come out wrong like always....
But instead of commenting further Jason reached forward and triggered a switch somewhere above Rocky's head. "We're here."
Rocky blinked. The Zord was metamorphosing into warrior mode, and descending! Desperately he studied at the controls, why hadn't he been paying attention earlier? Damn! The GPS was grayed out, they'd landed and he didn't even know where they were! "Where's here?"
He turned around only to see Jason shrugging on a windbreaker before exiting out the external hatch. His head popped back down, "Come on!"
Scrambling, he grabbed his own windbreaker from the Zord's survival pack and headed topside. Some job he was doing, was there anything he could do to make Jason any less impressed with him before this trip was through? Pulling himself through the outer hatch, he spotted Jason sitting cross legged on the Zord's left shoulder. Rocky tentatively made his way over, careful the wind didn't sweep him off the zord. When he caught up with Jason, Rocky saw that his eyes were closed. Had he made the entire walk out with his eyes closed? In this wind? His eyes trailing back along the path Jason must have followed to this perch, he picked out the nonskid gripping laid out over the armor leading from the hatch to this very spot. It was tinted the same red as the slick armor, he'd never have seen it if he hadn't been looking for it.
While Rocky had scrambled his way over at fear for his life, Jason had walked calmly. Again Rocky felt inadequate for the task ahead of him, Jason knew this Zord like the back of his hand, how could he ever hope to compete? But for some reason, he was now a Power Ranger and Jason wasn't. Feeling very, very alone, Rocky reached out for Jason's shoulder, "Jason...."
Jason didn't even open his eyes. "Do you see it?"
For the first time, Rocky looked at his surroundings. The zord had set down on a beach. Behind it, giant pines dwarfed the fighting machine, and in front if it... "My God."
As he watched, he felt the battering winds about him die, a sudden stillness gripped the air and he Saw. The lake stretched out almost to the horizon, and as the wind halted it's surface became almost like a mirror. He saw the moon, the stars.... Rocky looked up, straight up. The stars were everywhere... all he could see was the stars from horizon to horizon, his knees began to buckle....
He felt Jason's hand on his wrist, steady. Rocky sat down, hard. "Where are we," he asked, his voice filled with wonderment.
Jason laughed. "Northern Canada. You've never seen stars like that before have you?" Rocky shook his head mutely. "It's the city lights. They dim out the stars. The effect isn't even noticeable until you're out in the middle of nowhere."
Rocky suddenly realized that Jason hadn't taken him out here to make him feel bad. He'd had an entirely different purpose in mind. "Jason, why are we here?"
Jason gestured expansively over the lake, "Why do you think?"
And Rocky knew this was why. Jason was going to leave, nothing could change that, but before he left he wanted to know if Rocky could carry on. Rocky looked out over the lake, "I think it's...." He hesitated.
Jason smiled, "Rocky, there are no wrong answers."
Rocky smiled back weakly. How could Jason could be so damn intimidating and so at ease at the same time? "You want me to appreciate what I'm fighting for."
"And?" A raised eyebrow, half the answer?
Rocky struggled, "And...." Suddenly he knew. Not just thought he knew, he knew. "You want me to understand that this is why I'm fighting for."
Jason cocked his head, "That sounds like the same answer." But the recrimination was empty, he knew Rocky had it.
"No! The first one is my goal, I have to protect the earth. The second one is why I fight. I can't afford to see this as just something I do. I can't fight just to fight. Whenever I go into battle, I have to see this as a battle for the earth, not against Zedd or Rita. Because...." Here he struggled before getting the rest of it out, "a battle won for the wrong reasons is a battle lost?"
Now Jason nodded. "You've got it. That single realization, the difference between what you fight for and why you're fighting is the toughest to understand. Some of the greatest warriors go their entire lives without it."
Rocky was struck by another realization, "Tommy doesn't get it does he, that's why you think it's so important that I do. He doesn't understand the difference."
Now Jason closed his eyes, "Tommy is... a special case. You know he was chosen by Rita? She chose a warrior spirit, someone who could keep fighting when anyone else would have given up, should have given up maybe."
Rocky leaned back on his palms, "And he doesn't see this as a fight for the earth. He sees it as a fight against Rita and Zedd." He turned to Jason, "Is that a failure?"
Jason bit his lip, it was obvious he hadn't planned on the conversation going this far, hadn't counted on Rocky seeing this deeply. But he'd never started something he didn't intend to finish and he'd be damned if he was going to start now. "You have to understand... Tommy was traumatized by his treatment at Rita's hands. Further hurt by Zedd's slow draining of his powers. He has a lot of anger inside him, a lot of resentment. Of all of us, he has suffered the most and been the least prepared for it."
Rocky digested that, "So he is fighting for the wrong reasons, but it doesn't make a difference?"
"I didn't say that."
Rocky was silent for a moment. It was obvious Jason wanted him to come to the next conclusion himself. His gaze wandered to the lake again, to the moon. He looked up. Rita and Zedd were there somewhere. "He thinks like they do, doesn't he?"
Jason just closed his eyes. "That's was the fight for the green powers was for wasn't it? It wasn't for the earth's defense, in the end they were too drained to do any good. It was to keep Rita and Zedd from taking that from him too."
"He should have given them up, when Zedd first began his campaign against Tommy, but if he'd done that, Zedd would have taken them from him just the same, but it would have hurt more." Jason opened his eyes. "It was much easier for him to just keep fighting until Zedd won that battle. But he kept on fighting beyond the point any sane person would have given up."
"It didn't make a difference did it?"
"Not that time."
They sat in silence. Somewhere a lake fowl called its mate. "You had this talk with him when he got the tiger coin didn't you?"
Jason sighed deep in his chest. "I took him out here, talked to him about power and responsibility, he admired the landscape."
Rocky closed his eyes, a silent ouch forming on his lips. "And you wanted me to know because...."
"Someone has to know. I think Billy understands it emotionally, and Adam's well-centered enough to feel something's wrong. But I think at least one person has to understand the difference intellectually."
Rocky's eyebrows crinkled and a smile formed on his face, "You're saying I understand something intellectually that Billy doesn't?"
Now Jason's smiling, "It's an intellectual argument about an emotional process, but yeah, that's the long and short of it."
Now Rocky was grinning from ear to ear. "Cool."
The moon rose high in the night sky.
Jason stood so suddenly that he startled Rocky, "C'mon, the wind's picking up, we should be heading back."
"Yeah." Rocky spared one glance at the lake as it's mirrored surface dissolved into a thousand shattered pieces. The moon still shone overhead. "I think we should."