Note: This story takes place somewhere after the episode "Master
Vile and the Metallic Armor."
Rocky looked warily around the command center, it always looked eerie powered down like this, like a shell. He shivered and, careful not to disturb the deactivated Alpha, diverted power to the Zero-G gymnasium, a good workout always helped him go to sleep. As the small screen flashed through a status check before returning to standby mode, Rocky noticed something odd. "Computer, current status of Zord storage bay seventeen."
Lights flickered on as computers began consulting their own sensors, momentarily the answer flashed back, ZSB17, ZORD STORAGE, CURRENT STATUS: MINIMAL POWER.
Rocky blinked. He'd thought he'd seen something funny in the down cycle power consumption readings, Billy would have recognized it immediately, but he was barely able to pick it out. "Life readings?"
Was there an intruder in the Command Center? "Identify."
THOMAS OLIVER, CURRENT WHITE RANGER, FORMER GREEN RANGER, ref. RITA REPULSA, ref. LOSS OF THE DRAGON COIN, ref. SHOGUN RANGERS c. 13,086 B.C.E., ref. AQUATIAN FIRST CONT-
Rocky shut it off. If he let it go on, it would keep listing references until the end of eternity. He'd long ago accepted that the history of the Power Rangers stretched back thousands of years, that he'd never be able to learn it all. So he'd given up trying and made due with what he knew, the rest tended to sort itself out.
What worried him more was Tommy, what was he doing up at this hour? And in one of the old storage bays? Absently, Rocky ordered the gymnasium powered down and entered the utility elevator that would take him to Zord storage bay seventeen. What was in seventeen? It sounded familiar....
Let's see, Titanus was in bay three, the Dinozord wreckage in bay nine, the Shogunzords occupied bays six and seven, Tor and the remains of the Thunderzords were in bay thirteen, and Bays one and eleven were reserved for the Ninjazords when they weren't at Ninjor's temple....
As he spoke the words, the lift doors swung open revealing a dimly lit collection of catwalks crisscrossing the surface of a natural underground lake. But what took his breath away was not the huge dead of the Dragonzord rearing above the surface, it was the pale green luminescence from the lake he was sure hadn't been here when he'd toured the underground bays a few months ago.
Warily, he stepped forward, his steps echoing off the stony walls some sixty feet above his head. The sound of dripping water seemed to be everywhere, it surrounded him, beating down on him. He made his way to the nexus of the interconnecting catwalks. The dragonzord's cockpit loomed some twenty feet above the surface of the water, most of it's massive bulk supported be the water it was submerged in.
Rocky shuddered, he'd always thought the Dragonzord was the most intimidating, he still had nightmares about fighting Tommy's clone in the Thunder Megazord. Now, underlit by that eerie green light that seemed to emanate from the very lake itself, those nightmares returned in force. He checked the status board on the railing next to him. The dragonzord's capacitors were drained, it's mighty fusion batteries had been bled for Kimberly's repowerment, it's armament stripped to provide ammunition for the falconzord, and it's final battle against the tigerzord had rendered it fully operational.
Rocky blinked. _Fully operational?_ He checked again. Yes, all the damage to the dragonzord had been repaired, the repair logs showed the work had been done slowly over the last few months. Rocky looked again up into the blank red eyes of the dragonzord, an icy knot of fear forming in his stomach. He repeated to himself, _it's completely depowered, there's nothing it can do, just because it's operational doesn't mean it can reach out and grab you._ But another voice whispered in the back of his mind that a power coin could bring the zord back to operational levels in under ten minutes. A fusion reaction couldn't hold a candle to the raw power of a powercoin. Where was Tommy?
"Tommy?" Rocky's voice mocked him as it echoed off the walls of the chamber. "Tommy!"
No response. Rocky began to lean over the railing, scanning the depths of the water, if Tommy'd fallen in.... "Tommy! To-"
Rocky's cry was cut off as something wet gripped his ankles, He felt himself losing his footing- his sneakers slid over the edge of the catwalk. His head slammed into the catwalk as he slid over the edge, Rocky saw stars before the water swallowed his vision.
Rocky became aware of the light at the edged of his vision, green light. His eyes fluttered open to find himself under the surface of the lake. Panicking, he struggled, becoming aware of someone towing him by the collar of his shirt. Rocky struck blindly, landing a number of poor blows on whoever had attacked him. Then a vicious blow to his stomach, he wasn't sure if it had been delivered by hand or by foot, left him gasping for air, but sucking water. Before the darkness closed around his vision, he saw the great shadow of the Dragonzord looming above him.
_You know, other than that recurring nightmare of the Dragonzord, drowning is about the only other thing that really scares me._
Then the darkness was complete.
~*~Rocky awoke to the stinging sensation of a slap on his face, followed by another. As the water drained from his ears, he was able to make out, "Wake up grasshopper, it's your auntie Em, you must snatch the ranger from the catwalk before you can return to Oz."
Rocky groaned, coughed, and spat up water. Another groan as he flipped onto his knees and elbows and began to retch the oily-tasting water from his lungs. By the time he was finished, his mouth tasted like an old shoe. He began to take stock of his surroundings.
He was on his hands and knees in about four inches of water. Looking up he made out the fuzzy shape of the dragonzord's head above him. He was resting on the shoulder plate, just a few inches below the water. He swung his head around to get a view of his assailant.
Tommy sat there, sopping wet, dressed in his standard white muscle shirt and faded stonewasheds. The expression on Rocky's face must have been comical because Tommy was grinning from ear to ear.
Rocky couldn't decide weather to laugh or cry. He compromised by flopping on his back with a small splash and letting out a low groan that seemed to emanate from the very tips of his toes and work its way up and out of his mouth.
Tommy crawled over with a concerned look on his face, "Hey man, are you all right? How many fingers am I holding up?"
Rocky considered returning the rude gesture but decided on a more offensive tactic instead. The uppercut caught Tommy completely by surprise. _Striking an unprepared opponent, a dishonorable move,_ his sensai would have said. (Hell, Tommy was his sensai!) Rocky didn't much care. He forced his aching body in a forward flip, landing on top of Tommy's undefended form and pressed his right forearm against his friend's windpipe. His action sent them both skidding about six feet over the slick surface of the Dragonzord's armor. "No goddamnit I am not all right! I'm tired, I have a splitting headache, I was attacked by some idiot, AND I'M SOPPING WET! So no Tommy, I'm not all right! All right doesn't begin to describe my emotional state. What does? In a word, PISSED!"
Rocky drove the last word home with a swift smack to the the side of his friend's head.He was pissed, he'd come here hoping to work off some steam and now look at him! Tommy's reaction wasn't helping matters.
Tommy was laughing hysterically. Somewhere between fits of laughter Tommy managed to choke out, "Rocky," he was overcome by a fit of giggles, "you have... an Adam... on your shoulder!"
Rocky blinked, looked at his shoulder, a small black lake frog stared back. "Ribbit." It flicked out its tongue, tracing a line across Rocky's right cheek before removing a small black speck of something and swallowing it.
"You did not just lick me." That set Tommy off again. The frog looked back innocently.
Rocky reached up with one finger and wiped off his cheek, it was covered with a thin trail of slime. He stared darkly at the frog. Tommy was laughing again. With a flick of his hand, Rocky sent the frog-slime sailing in the general direction of Tommy's face. Tommy's laughter was cut off immediately, replaced with what sounded like gagging. Rocky turned his attention back to the frog. "You frog, are sooo dead... just hold still for one second more-"
As if sensing the imminent danger to life and limb, the frog launched itself from Rocky's shoulder into the air. "Oh no you don't!" Completely forgetting about Tommy, Rocky launched himself in pursuit of the frog. As he splashed down a few feet a way, he felt the creature skitter away from his hands. Using what traction his soaked sneakers would give, he gave chase. There it was, swimming just below the surface of the water.... Rocky launched himself forward on his stomach, his hands gripped triumphantly around the small amphibian he gave a shout of triumph immediately followed by a shout of dismay as he slid completely off the Dragonzord's shoulder plate and under the surface of the lake.
Tommy, having recovered from the unpleasant experience of swallowing frog goo, made his way to the place where Rocky had vanished. "Rocky?"
Rocky's head broke water about ten feet away. And in his right hand, held triumphantly overhead, was a very disgruntled looking lake frog. "Yeah! Who's the man? Don't see you looking' so confident now do I?" Rocky brought the frog right in front of his face. "What're you looking' at?"
The frog stared back blankly, then seemed to swell up, the bubble of it throat grew in size... and sent a stream of warm water into Rocky's face. Rocky, in a daze felt the frog slip out of his grasp and return to the lake. "He spit on me."
Tommy was laughing again.
Shaking his head, Rocky dove and swam back to where Tommy was waiting. As Rocky lifted himself back onto the shoulder plate, Tommy distinctly heard him mutter, "He spit on me."
Rocky glared at Tommy again, but couldn't summon the anger, something about the frog encounter had defused the situation.
Rocky hung his head in his hands and massaged his temples, all he'd wanted was a workout.... "Tommy, what are you doing here?" He sounded very tired.
Tommy looked around at the zord they were standing on. "Fixing stuff."
Rocky counted to ten very slowly. "Why?"
Tommy bit his lower lip, he wasn't quite sure of the answers himself. "I'm not quite sure."
Rocky was silent, studying Tommy's eyes. They seemed to have this desperate, pleading quality to them, they almost screamed 'please tell me why I'm doing this!' Then Tommy blinked, and the moment was lost.
Tommy turned away from Rocky and started pacing. "Will you look at me? I've spent the last four months restoring a seventy-five ton wreck, and I don't know why!" Tommy kicked the base of the Dragonzord's neck. He was almost screaming at the ancient machine. "Goddamn you! Why won't you leave me the hell alone? You haunt my dreams, why do I never find you, why are you always hiding? Will I have no peace?"
Tommy turned to Rocky, "You see this?" He gestured expansively at the
eerily glowing lake. "I know you've been here before, it wasn't glowing
then." Tommy was angry now, "I've never seen it that way! Whenever I'm
here, it glows green! Billy can't explain it! I can't explain it! Once,
just once, I'd like to see it normal, but nooo, I have to put up with
this mystery bullshit!" Tommy punctuated this last statement with a vicious
punch to the Dragonzord's armor. He sat down heavily nursing his hurting
Rocky, not knowing quite what to say, walked over to his best friend and sat down beside him. "You want to talk about it man?"
Tommy was sullen, "How can I talk about it? It's just important somehow. The Dragonzord's all I have left-" He paused mid sentence. "All I have left? No why did I say that? I have the Falconzord, my Shogunzord, why would the Dragonzord be all I have left?"
Rocky wasn't sure how to respond, "I don't now, why is it all you have left?"
"Because-" Tommy went quiet as realization dawned. "Because it's all that Zedd and Rita weren't able to take from me." He turned to Rocky, "You weren't here man, you don't know what it was like when Zed was slowly draining the Green powers."
Actually Rocky had gotten most of the story out of Billy and Kimberly before she'd left, but it was more important for Tommy to work this out for himself. "They stole them from you."
"Yeah! And in the end, there wasn't anything left except the zord."
Rocky turned to Tommy, time to ask the real question, "Why didn't you just give up the Green Ranger powers? Towards the end they were barely functional anyway."
Tommy looked Rocky deep in the eyes, "Because, as painful as it was to have them stolen from me, it would have hurt so much more to give them up. Can you imagine how it was for me? Zordon chose his people based on emotional stability, social conscious and fighting ability. Rita just chose someone who could fight. I once asked Zordon, if it hadn't been for Rita choosing me, would I ever have made the cut?"
Rocky was silent, he knew the coming answer.
"He told me no. Sure, he followed it up with a lot of BS about how much I've grown as an individual in the last few years and would probably have made it today, but when it came right down to it, the answer's still the same. I shouldn't have been here."
Now Rocky was getting irritated, "Look at yourselfman! What do you have to be depressed about? Look at me!"
Tommy looked at him.
"Cut it out! I'm serious!"
Tommy grinned sheepishly, "Come on man, what do you have to be depressed about?"
"What don't I? Do you realize that red is supposed to be the command color? What have I done as a commander? I was never comfortable in the Red Dragon Thunderzord, How often did I take the Red ape Ninjazord into battle? Once? Even when we're in the Shogunzords you take point."
"Hey, go easy on yourself, there's more to command than just-"
"Like what? Fighting ability? We both know you, Adam and Kat have me beat there. Tactics? I couldn't think my way out of a paper bag. Charisma? Tommy, look at me! I don't inspire that kind of confidence." Rocky seemed to collapse. "I'm stupid."
Now Tommy railed back, "Hey, you can't say that about yourself! I've seen you in battle, you are not stupid."
"No! No maybe about it! You think anyone can do what you do? I started out with the Dragonzord remember? Remote control. It takes a lot of skill to pilot a humanoid zord, I found that out when I switched to the Tigerzord. You took to it like a fish to water. Notice how it takes five people to pilot a Megazord? So what if I take command in the Shogunzords? You're always the one leading the charge, even with Kat helping me you're better at maneuvering, you practically wear your zord. That's raw ability."
Rocky was quiet for a moment before responding, "You really think so?"
"I know so."
Rocky started chuckling, pretty soon he was laughing out loud.
Tommy was confused, "What's so funny?"
"Do you realize we've been sitting here arguing about who's life is more screwed up?"
Now Tommy was laughing too. "You win."
"Just kidding. Hey, what say we get out of here, it's getting way to late for me."
Rocky nodded agreement and they began making their way up the Dragonzord's neck so they could jump back onto the catwalks.
"He spit on me."
Tommy just smiled.