Disclaimer: Don't own the Power Rangers. Anybody you never
heard of before is probably mine, but it doesn't matter because there's
no money involved anyway.
Note: This is completely AU. Zordon never died. The originals are all in their early to mid-twenties. You'll recognize the other stuff I changed.
Part OneFamily Ties
"I gotta admit, this was a great idea of yours, Bill," Jason Scott sighed happily as he scanned the scenery around him. "This is a beautiful place, and I can sure use the time off."
His friend laughed. "You and me both, Jase. You holding up okay?" William Cranston, better known to his friends as Billy, gave his dark haired friend an assessing look from his intelligent blue eyes. "You look a bit ragged."
Jason shrugged. "I'm a little tired, I guess. Alpha says I'm not likely to ever feel the way I used to, so I guess I have to find a new standard to judge by. But I'm okay."
Billy watched him for a while, then smiled. "Keep me posted, then. Which room do you want this time?"
"The loft, man, the loft. I want that skylight," Jason cheerfully shouldered his backpack and jogged up the short flight of steps to the cabin porch.
Billy chuckled to himself and followed his friend. This had been a good idea, bringing Jason up to "Uncle" Jack's resort as a part of his recuperation from his recent debilitation. He knew how Jason felt, having given up so much for the greater good. In fact, nobody knew better.
At first, when Billy himself had tried and failed to receive the Gold Ranger powers from Trey, he'd thought nothing would be worse than the isolation he'd felt. No longer a member of the team, not really; and when Jason, an original Ranger like himself, took the powers instead, it had been worse in a way. He hadn't resented Jason, not personally. That wasn't it at all. It was just that... Jason had willingly given up his powers, had moved on, while Billy had chosen to stay with the team, in whatever capacity he could. Then to see Jase take almost reluctantly something he, Billy, would have given his right arm for, something he'd thought he'd earned...well, to put it simply, it just wasn't fair. That was one of the reasons he'd gone to Aquitar. Running away. Cestria had made him see that, and so he'd returned, again to fight for good however he could. And it had been good to be back, to rekindle his friendship with Jason, one that had spanned most of their lives.
And then Trey had returned; and it had cost more than any of them had dreamed for Jason to give up the Gold powers. He had so nearly died; Billy suppressed a shiver at the memory, thanking God that his friend was still with them, that Billy'd been here instead of on a distant planet when one of his oldest friends had faced the ultimate enemy and won. But at a price. The muscular, energetic martial artist with the ready smile and the ladykilling ways had been replaced. Jason had become introspective, almost melancholy. Physically he was weaker, smaller, paler; a shadow of his former self, and not likely to ever recover, not fully. So Billy took it as his personal mission to see that Jason understood the debt his friends owed him, to believe in his value, to see that he was loved, and honored for his sacrifice. All things Billy had not felt with his own loss. All things he vowed his friend would always know.
So here they were, at his uncle's rustic resort in the mountains, occupying the best cabin for the weekend. A piercing whistle interrupted Billy's reverie.
"Bring the groceries in, bro, the ice cream's bound to be melting!"
Billy chuckled again as he complied, glad to see Jason in such high spirits.
Jason loved how dark the nights became in the mountains. Dark enough to rival deep space itself, and with nearly as many stars. He folded his arms behind his head and lay back on the futon mattress, enjoying his view of the night through the skylight. He'd been lucky enough to visit some of those worlds out there; Billy could probably point out which ones.
Billy. He grinned to himself at the thought of his friend. Who would have predicted the closeness between them, the jock and the brain? And who would have believed the depth of the intellectual's compassion for the has-been hero?
Jason gritted his teeth. He would not become maudlin, he would NOT. Every choice he had made freely, knowing the consequences. Well, almost all of the consequences...but the truth was that even had he known that taking on the Gold powers would debilitate him, would ultimately kill him, he still would have done so. There had been a void left in him when he'd given up his Red Ranger powers and gone to Switzerland; to fill that void, even for a short while, he would gladly have sacrificed more. To truly feel a hero once again, to know, in the depths of his soul, that he stood strong against the powers of darkness... to be back in the fight, one more time...
Ah, well. He would miss it. Every day for the rest of his life. But he had known the Gold powers were never his to keep. He was just thankful he'd had them at all.
And Billy understood. Out of all of them, Billy knew. Tommy was still fighting, still the incarnation of Sir Lancelot he'd wanted to be, the new team by his side. Kim, Trini, Zack, Aisha...each had moved on, found happiness elsewhere, outside the confines of Angel Grove. Only Billy and Jason had somehow been left behind, were still struggling to make a place for themselves. Because only they had so completely defined themselves as Rangers, that when it was gone, they didn't know what was left.
But they would find out, Jason thought confidently. They would find out. Together.
He stretched painfully and rolled over, not seeing the streak of light that arced across the night sky.
"I deny you! I refuse you! Do you hear me? I WILL NOT DIE LIKE THIS!"
Billy shot out of bed, the panicked voice from his dream still echoing in his mind. He was drenched in sweat. Even his blond hair was stuck damply to his scalp. The bedclothes were everywhere but on the bed, testifying mutely to his unconscious thrashing.
He rubbed both hands over his face, trying to remember what had terrified him so. There had been someone...someone he knew, and yet didn't know...and...she?...was in darkness, and alone...
"I AM GUARDIAN, AND I WILL NOT BE DEFEATED!" Billy nearly jumped out of his skin. That hadn't come from his mind, it was coming from... Jason! He raced for the ladder to the loft and scrambled up to his friend.
The former Red Ranger was huddled in the corner of the room in a fetal position, tears streaming from unseeing eyes, shivering. Billy quickly flipped on the lights and ran to Jason, grabbing his shoulders and shaking him, hard. "Jase! Wake up! Jason!"
Dark eyes slowly raised to meet his, and then, unbelievably, Billy felt himself pulled back into the oppressive blackness of what he suddenly recognized as the same nightmare he'd just awoken from.
Someone lay huddled in the darkness; he could hear muffled sobbing, and fingers scrabbling futilely on the floor. Instinctively he ran toward the sound and pulled the person... woman?... toward his body, cradling her, murmuring words of comfort. "I'm here, it'll be okay. You're not alone anymore..." and then he was back in the loft, staring at Jason's face.
"Billy? What... ?" Confused, Jason looked around the room and back at his friend. "Man, that was one heavy nightmare...I'm sorry I woke you up, bro."
"You... you didn't." Shaken, Billy stood. "What the hell just happened here?"
"What do you mean?" Jason shook his head as though to clear it. "I feel like I've been through a couple rounds with one of Mondo's monsters." He looked more closely at his friend. "Bill? You okay?"
"Something weird is going on, Jase." Billy's intelligent blue eyes narrowed. "Do you remember anything about your nightmare?"
"Yeah, some. It was dark, I mean beyond dark, and someone was trapped there...and then somehow it was me, and I couldn't move, couldn't breathe, and I knew I was going to die there, alone..." his voice drifted off as he shivered, pulling the blanket closer. "Man, I'll tell you, I do not want to feel like that ever again." He glanced up at Billy. "What? What is it?"
"I had the same nightmare, Jase, only it wasn't me trapped. It was someone I wanted to help, but I couldn't get to them, and they were screaming...and then I woke up, and heard you, so I came up here. You were huddled here in the corner, like a lost soul, and I grabbed you to try and wake you up, and then...then it got really weird."
"I felt like...I don't know, like I got sucked into the nightmare. Suddenly it was dark again, like in my dream, and like you described, and there was someone trapped, but I couldn't see them, but I could hear them. So I ran to her... I think it was a woman... and I tried to help, but then suddenly I was back. Something's wrong here."
Jason stood and tossed the blanket to the futon. "You think this means something?"
The blond man gave a short nod, deep in thought. "Unless this sort of psychic phenomenon happens to you regularly and you forgot to mention it."
Jason made a quick decision and began stuffing his clothes in his backpack. Billy raised his eyebrows.
"Jason?" Their eyes met briefly, and Billy nodded again, this time in agreement. "Zordon."
Minutes later Billy's car sped away from the cabin. After a time Jason broke the silence. "You think this is a side effect of giving up the Gold powers?"
"Truthfully I don't know what the hell it is, but it's weird, and Zordon is our local authority on all things weird, so..." Billy shrugged. "Maybe somebody is really in trouble."
"Or I'm predicting the future..."
"Or you ate too much pizza." Billy laughed, shattering the building tension. "In any case, we'll know soon enough. I'm just sorry I didn't bring my old communicator; we could have just teleported."
"Man, I always hated that. Made me sick to my stomach." Jason chuckled.
Billy shot a side glance at his friend. "You look awful, Jase. Catch some Z's; I'll let you know when we're there."
The hours seemed to drag by, but finally Billy caught sight of a familiar bluff, deep in the desert, and flipped on his radio, tuning it to a frequency far below normal. "Zordon? Alpha? It's Billy."
"Billy? Ay-yi-yi!" came the familiar voice of the small robot. "What are you doing here?"
"Alpha, Jason and I experienced an extraordinary phenomenon last night, and I need to discuss it with Zordon. Can you drop the shield?"
"Dropping the shield now, Billy. Come on ahead; but you may have to wait a bit to see Zordon. He's occupied at the moment."
Jason woke in time to catch the end of the transmission. "It's okay, we'll wait."
Before them, where there had been only arid desert, now rose the Command Center in all its technological majesty; the former Rangers smiled involuntarily and glanced at each other.
"Gotta admit, it is cool," sighed Jason as they pulled into the docking bay.
"Billy! Jason! It is good to see you," said Alpha as he hurried to greet them. "I have told Zordon you are here. He may yet be awhile. Did you drive all night?"
"Most of it," Billy admitted. "Jason got some sleep, though."
Alpha beeped thoughtfully. "Perhaps the best thing to do is to show you to the guest quarters and let you nap for a few hours. I don't know when Zordon will be available."
"Guest quarters?" said Jason in surprise. "There are guest quarters?"
"Don't look at me," shrugged Billy. "I'm sure there are all kinds of areas of the Command Center we know nothing about. And I could use a nap, Alpha."
The little robot led the way through a maze of corridors and finally stopped at a pair of unfamiliar doors. "There is a communicator beside each door; call me when you awaken. Sleep well, Rangers."
"Alpha?" Jason's deep voice stopped the drone as he bustled away. "We're not Rangers anymore."
"You are to me," came the cheery electronic reply. "Good night."
A low, but insistent, beeping noise woke Billy from a sound sleep. "Yeah," he croaked, clearing his throat. "I'm up." The door slid open as he swung his long legs to the floor and sat up, nodding at the agitated little robot standing there. "Is Zordon able to talk to us now?"
"He asked me to come get you," said Alpha. "I've already awakened Jason and... oh, good," as the original Red Ranger joined them, shrugging on a shirt. "Sorry to wake you so soon. I've never seen Zordon quite like this and... " he fell silent, and refused to elaborate. Billy and Jason exchanged a look.
"Curiouser and curiouser," muttered Billy under his breath as they entered the main chamber.
"Billy, Jason, it is good to see you. Alpha tells me you have had some sort of experience that needs my attention?" boomed Zordon from his time warp.
"I'm not sure, Zordon; but it was pretty disturbing, and we thought you might have some ideas about it," began Billy, and he took turns with Jason describing their shared dream and the ensuing incident in the loft.
Zordon was silent for a time after they had finished, then he spoke in the deliberate tone that always made Billy feel as though the Eltaran was hiding something.
"You were right to think I might know something of this," he began. "But it is not my place to enlighten you." The two former Rangers began to protest, but Zordon shook his head slowly. "No. You need to hear the answers you seek from another."
"Who? Who else can we talk to?" Billy asked angrily. "Why won't you help us? If there's something wrong with Jason, or with me... "
"It is time for you to know the truth. What has been done has been for your protection. And time runs short."
"What are you talking about?" Jason clenched his fists, fighting to keep his temper. "Stop talking in riddles, Zordon."
Zordon sighed, heavily, closing his eyes. "I can put this off no longer." He opened them again and fixed the two men before him with an intense gaze. A white light bathed the chamber, and from it stepped a familiar figure.
"D-dad?" Billy stuttered. "I don't... "
"Mr. Cranston, how did you... " Jason was as stunned as his friend.
Peter Cranston inclined his head toward the time warp, where Zordon regarded him worriedly. "Zordon...I saw the pod. I wondered if you might be contacting me tonight. Have you told them?"
"I have said nothing. It is your story to tell, P'tyr. But the Guardian has little time, and if that flame is snuffed out..."
Billy's father turned and looked at the two young men, smiling sadly. "You're not boys anymore, are you? It's time for you to know the truth." He sighed and pulled an unfamiliar device from his pocket and consulted it. "And to face your destiny."
"Dad, you're scaring me," Billy said, his voice reflecting his bewilderment. "What's this all about? Why did Zordon call you P'tyr? And how long have you known about... " his gesture included the Power Chamber, Zordon, and Alpha, "all this?"
"That the two of you were Power Rangers? From the beginning."
Jason cleared his throat. "Why didn't you ever mention it? And how did you know?"
The older man gave a smile that was the image of his son's. "I'll answer the second question first. Who do you think maintained this place before you arrived on the scene?"
"Alpha?" Billy's voice was a croak.
His father chuckled. "And who do you think built him?"
"Oh, man," Jason breathed. "You did."
Peter nodded. "Yep. I kept those Zords in fighting trim, too, for nine years, from when we first arrived until your mother died, Billy."
"A-arrived? Do I even want to know what you mean?" Blue eyes stared into their mirror image. "Dad, you're not going to tell me we're... "
"I am sorry to interrupt, P'tyr, but Guardian's vital signs grow weaker. There is no time left. You must act now or the girl will die, and Guardian will be destroyed."
"Sorry, Jason, Billy. I'll explain everything later; right now I need you to come with me." Peter Cranston shepherded the two younger men into the infirmary, where they stood stock still in surprise.
On one of the examination tables in the center of the room lay an exquisite young woman. Her features were delicately drawn, yet there was a strength to the line of her jaw that was unexpectedly appealing. Full lips, slightly parted as she breathed gently; fine cheekbones; her eyes were closed, an abundance of dusky lashes laying gently against her cheeks. Her face reminded the friends of someone, but neither was able to put their finger on whom. Her hair was thick and long beyond belief, falling in night-dark waves from the table to brush the floor. She was dressed in some kind of silvery, form-fitting garment, covering her from the neck to her feet.
"Who is she?" Jason whispered. "Is this the Guardian you mentioned?"
Peter Cranston nodded, gravely surveying the girl's still form. "She is Guardian, yes; but she is more than that, Jason. She is your sister."
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