Disclaimer: I do not own the Power Rangers, Zordon, Alpha or
Angel Grove, Saban does. I am using them without his permission or knowledge.
I am not earning any money for this.
Notes and Timeline: Zeo Ranger period, with Jason and Billy. Set after my stories "Strangers with Familiar Faces" and "24 Hours". This story is a pseudo-sequel to "24 Hours" and it would help to read that story first.
"So my parents grounded me for an entire month, and I had to baby-sit the rugrats every weekend. Believe me, after that I did not ever lose a younger sibling again!" Rocky concluded his story to a round of laughter.
"You got off lightly, man. My parents would kill me if I lost Adrian," Adam declared."I could just see your face trying to explain to your parents how you managed to lose two kids in a laundromat. Geez, Rocky, the messes you manage to get yourself into!" Katherine giggled.
Rocky, Adam, Katherine, Jason, Tanya and Tommy were all in Rocky's basement bedroom/den. They had gotten together to spend a pleasant evening watching the newest Jackie Chan movie on tape, and were just killing time waiting for Billy to arrive so they could start the movie.
"Okay, Jason, it's your turn at last. What is the most trouble you ever got into when you were a kid?" Rocky asked. The others had already shared their stories, Jason was the last one.
Before Jason could reply there was a knock at the door. Rocky tilted his head back and shouted, "Enter!"
They turned to see Rocky's youngest sister, six-year-old Maria, at the head of the stairs. The excited expression on the child's face left no doubt as to her message.
"Billy's here!" she announced breathlessly.
"Well, send him on down and get on out," Rocky replied.
Billy slid past the little girl and started down the first couple of steps. Then he turned to her and smiled, "Thank you, Maria." He leaned toward her and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek.
The effect on Maria was immediate. She spun around and ran toward the living room shouting "Theresa!" at the top of her lungs. This elicited more laughter from the teens as Billy closed the door and came on down into the room.
"Oh great! Do you know what you have done? I'm going to hear of nothing else for the next week except how 'Billy kissed me!'" Rocky groaned. "And watch out Adam, Theresa is going to be jealous and she'll try to trick you into kissing her, too." The others were all aware of the fact that Rocky's two youngest sisters were nursing crushes on Adam and Billy. They all found the competition between the two youngsters regarding the objects of their affection to be very entertaining.
"Sorry I'm late, guys. Alpha shorted out at the last minute and I had to fix him," Billy explained.
Tommy snorted more laughter at that. "I'll say this for you Billy. You do have interesting excuses for being late."
"What excuse? It's the truth. He got excited once too often and overloaded his circuits. Ay-yi-yi-yi-yi!" Billy did a dead on imitation of the excitable robot, generating more laughter.
"Well, guys, we ready for the movie?" Jason asked after the laughter had died down.
"Not so fast, mister. You got to hear our embarrassing stories, you are not getting out of telling yours," Rocky declared. "We'll let Billy off since he wasn't here earlier, but you owe us one."
"What are you talking about?" Billy asked, as Jason looked a bit uncomfortable.
"We all told stories about when we got in the most trouble as kids. It's Jason's turn," Tanya explained.
"Come on, Jason, confess," Tommy used his best leader tones, but he was also trying not to laugh.
"Oh, fine. The most trouble I ever remember getting in is when I stole a car," he admitted.
"Jason, isn't your dad on the police force?" Tanya asked in astonishment.
"Jason Scott! You mean to tell me you hot-wired a car?" Rocky looked frankly amazed, as did the others.
Jason rubbed his hand over his mouth, obviously reluctant to say more. "Well, not exactly."
"What do you mean 'not exactly'?" Adam asked.
"What he means is: I hot-wired it," Billy contributed dryly.
The others turned to Billy with astonished expressions.
"You hot-wired it! Why in the world did you two steal a car?" Tommy asked, looking from one to the other in surprise.
"We didn't want to steal it, we just wanted to hot-wire it. Jason said I couldn't and I said I could. I was right," Billy explained with a shrug.
"You're kidding, right? Jason, I can't believe you would doubt Billy could do that," Tommy said. A thought occurred to him. "How old were you two when you did this?"
At that question Jason and Billy traded sheepish looks.
"Ten," Jason mumbled.
"Almost eleven," Billy added.
"Oh, my gosh. You two must have been in so much trouble. What exactly did you do?" Katherine asked.
"We were arguing about how hard it would be to hot-wire a car. We had seen it done on a TV show the night before and Billy kept insisting it was really easy. I said it wasn't. So we decided to see just how hard it was. We were a few blocks from my house, near the home of one of my Mom's friends. I knew she and her husband should both be at work, and that they had a car they weren't using because they wanted to sell it. So we decided to use that car to settle our argument," Jason explained.
"It turned out to be as easy to do as I had thought. Within minutes I had the engine running. I don't really know how we did it, exactly, but in our argument and messing around we put the car in reverse. I was the one in the driver's seat, I panicked and hit the gas instead of the brake," Billy contributed.
"We shot across the street, over a mailbox and into the neighbor's car. Fortunately the car stalled then. Unfortunately, the neighbor was at home and called the police. More unfortunately, it was my dad who answered the call," Jason continued. "To say he was upset would be putting it mildly. We spent an hour in the police car, two hours at the police station. When he took us home he was steaming."
"My Dad was out of town, I was staying with the Scotts that week," Billy added.
"Dad had this belt he kept in his closet especially for those special occasions when I messed up big time. We both got a good dose of it that afternoon. Believe me, we have never hot-wired another car," Jason concluded.
"He strapped you both?" Rocky asked.
"Yeah. Though he contacted my father first and made me tell him what I had done. He told me that Mr. Scott was to punish me the same as he would Jason. Dad came back to town later that day and took me home. I have never before or since seen my dad that angry. He took his own belt to me later. Only time I was ever subjected to corporal punishment and it was twice in the same day for the same offense. Any thoughts I entertained of a career in car theft were effectively quashed," Billy replied.
"Huh, I never knew your dad punished you for that, too. No wonder you never bragged of your hot-wiring skills again," Jason said.
"Well, you haven't questioned them since then, either."
"You two definitely win the prize for the worst escapade among us. None of the rest of us has committed a felony. Yet. Want to get on with the movie now?" Rocky inquired.
"Yes!" came the enthusiastic response.
Later that evening Jason and Billy were walking together toward the Scott residence. Wallace Cranston was out of town again, and Jason had invited Billy to spend a few days with him. Though Billy was certainly old enough to stay at home alone, he enjoyed spending time with the Scotts, so had eagerly accepted. They walked along in a companionable silence, each lost in his own thoughts.
Jason was remembering that day, so long ago, when he and Billy had hot-wired the car. It was not a memory he examined very often. Looking back with the insights gained over the last few years, he knew they had probably scared their parents half to death, to say nothing of having embarrassed his dad in front of his colleagues. Nothing like being the police lieutenant and having your ten-year-old son and his friend arrested for grand theft auto. His dad had controlled his anger very well under the circumstances.
The worst part of the whole thing, though, was something Jason had never mentioned to anyone....
.....That night, after Wallace had come and collected Billy, Jason's mom came into his room to find the boy crying inconsolably. She knew it was not from the earlier punishment, Jack had not punished either boy that severely. She sat on the edge of Jason's bed and gathered her solid son in her arms.
"What is it, Jason? What are these tears for?" she asked gently.
"I'm sorry! Please let him come back! I promise we won't ever do anything like this again, please!" he sobbed.
"What are you talking about? Do you mean Billy?" She felt him nod his head in her arms. "Oh, sweetie, do you think we sent him away for good? Oh, no, we would never do that to you. Or to him. I know what good friends you are. His dad was due home tonight, he would have been going home anyway. You are not being separated as a punishment." She rocked Jason in her arms, soothing him as well as she could. The physical and emotional events of the day finally took their toll on the child, and he fell asleep in his mother's arms.
Later that evening she called Wallace, just to assure herself that what she had told Jason was indeed true. Wallace listened to her account of Jason's reaction to Billy being taken home, and reported that Billy had had a similar response. They agreed that separating the two boys would not be used as a punishment in this case.
The next morning Marjorie told Jason to go ahead and call Billy to see if everything was okay. Jason would have to do chores that morning, as he would for a long time as he needed to raise enough money to pay for his half of the damage they did. But if he finished in time, and if Mr. Cranston said it was okay, they could get together to play for a while that afternoon.......
"Hey, Jase, you with me here?" Jason looked up to see Billy looking at him intently.
"Just checking to see if you were still on this planet. You give the term 'lost in thought' a whole new meaning. You okay?" Billy asked.
"Yeah, just thinking. About when we were kids. We sure had a lot of fun."
"That we did. It bothered you remembering that 'grand theft auto' incident, didn't it?" Billy commented.
"Yeah. You know, at first, I thought my folks were going to forbid me to ever play with you again."
"I thought my dad was going to do the same thing. I've always been grateful he didn't."
"Same here," Jason said softly.
They continued on to the Scott house without speaking, simply taking pleasure in each other's company.
The next morning found Jason and Billy in the Scott backyard doing a kata Jason had recently taught Billy. They moved in perfect unison, graceful and controlled. Marjorie Scott stood in the doorway, watching the two with a combination of pride and amazement. It seemed only yesterday that they were just children. When had they grown so tall and strong? She remembered so clearly when they first met. Some bigger kids had beaten up Billy in an alley, and Jason had stopped to help him. From that beginning had sprung a friendship that she was sure would endure a lifetime. About that same time Billy's father, Wallace, had been named head of the audit department in the accounting firm where he worked. His new position required him to travel to various locations to perform on-site audit work. Whenever he was out of town, Billy stayed with the Scotts. It was a situation that worked very well for all concerned. Wallace didn't worry about who was taking care of his son, and Marjorie had another child to take care of, something she had always wanted. Two only children had the chance to experience what it was like to have a sibling, and for motherless Billy it was a chance to have some maternal care. Everyone benefited from the situation.
Marjorie stepped out onto the back porch and called out to the two boys. "Breakfast in five minutes."
"Okay, Mom, we'll be right in!"
But as they started toward the house Jason spotted a hacky sack lying in the grass. With a gleam in his eye he managed to use the side of his foot to launch it in the general direction of Billy's head. At one time in Billy's life the missile would have hit him square in the side of the face before he could even begin to react. But his reflexes and control over his body had improved immensely. With almost casual ease he swatted the hacky sack downward, then kicked it with the side of his own foot right back at Jason. Grinning happily Jason backtracked far enough to handle Billy's return kick with his foot.
The game was on.
Engrossed in their game, which was taking them all over the spacious yard, they didn't notice at first when a portal opened behind them and five large bipedal beings appeared. The beings reached out and grabbed Billy, who immediately began to struggle, and to shout at Jason.
"Jase, get out of here! Go! Get!"
Jason saw that Billy appeared to know who his attackers were. He ignored Billy's shouts and threw himself at the closest ones.
"Jason, no! Don't! Get out of here! Ahhhh!" With a cry of pain, Billy collapsed.
Jason hit and kicked at the beings for all he was worth, but it didn't seem to bother them in the least. He felt a pinching sensation at the base of his neck, and dimly heard his mother scream as the world faded to black.
Marjorie Scott stood on her back porch screaming as she saw five large beings take the two unconscious teenagers through some sort of portal and disappear. Jack Scott hurried from the house to find out what was wrong with his wife just as the Power Rangers appeared in his backyard.
"Marjorie, what has happened? What's going on?" he put a steadying arm around his wife as two of the Power Rangers approached.
"Are you okay, ma'am?" the Red Ranger asked.
"Those things took the boys!" she cried, shaking in her husband's arms.
"Easy, Marjorie, calm down. Come on, it will be okay. What 'things' are you talking about?" Jack's police training kicked in, allowing him to deal calmly with his wife.
Marjorie forced herself to take a couple of deep breaths. "I don't know what they were. They were about six feet tall, two arms and legs, but their faces were almost simian, or maybe more like a Cro-Magnon man. They were powerful, Jason fought hard but they easily subdued him."
"They took Jason with them?" the Blue Ranger asked.
"Yes. Jason is our son. They also took his friend, Billy. I think maybe Billy knew what they were. He tried to keep Jason away. But Jason wouldn't leave," tears choked her voice at that point.
"What do you mean, they took them? Took them how?" Jack asked.
"There was a p-p-portal or something and...and..and they just...just disap-p-peared into it. Both Jason and Billy were..were...uncons...." Marjorie's voice devolved into tears.
Marjorie nodded miserably. She looked at the Red Ranger. "Can you help us?"
"We are going to try, ma'am. Our sensors alerted us that there was an intruder, which is why we came here. We are going to go back to the Power Chamber now and see if we can trace them. We will be in touch as soon as we know anything."
"Please do. We are going to need to contact Billy's father, and I would prefer to be able to give him a complete answer," Jack said.
"I understand. We will be in touch." With that the Red and Blue Rangers joined their three companions who had remained near the area where Jason and Billy had disappeared. All five teleported away in colorful streaks of light.
Tommy was pacing the Power Chamber anxiously. They had just watched the abduction on the viewing globe, and Zordon did not recognize the creatures that had taken Jason and Billy. But it had been evident that Billy was the one they had been after, they had ignored Jason until Jason attacked them. Alpha and Adam were frantically running traces, trying to locate the two missing teens.
"I'm afraid I don't have any good news, guys. I located both their communicators and Jason's zeonizer. They are inside Jason's house. We can't find a trace of the craft that brought those beings to Earth. Guys, I don't know what else we can do at this time," Adam sounded defeated.
"Adam, try to raise the Aquitian Rangers please. Perhaps they can identify the kidnappers," Zordon requested.
A few moments later they saw Delphine's serene countenance on the viewing globe.
"How may I be of service, Rangers of Earth?"
"Delphine, intruders came to Earth this morning and kidnapped Jason and Billy. We were hoping you could possibly identify them," Zordon said.
"Billy had been kidnapped? I am so sorry to hear that. And about Jason as well. Billy spoke often, and with great affection, of a friend named Jason. Do you have an image of their abductors?"
"Yes, I am transmitting it now," Adam answered.
They all saw the expression of horror on Delphine's face when she saw what Adam sent her. Delphine looked down for a moment, gathering her thoughts before addressing the Rangers.
"They are Briardians," she said softly.
"Briardians. Why does that sound so familiar?" Tommy mused.
"Those are the ones who launched the Hydro Contaminators on Aquitar. Billy helped destroy a Briardian ship during that battle. Remember, we listened to him tell the story to Jason when Billy had that head injury," Tanya replied.
"Oh, man, you're right. That means they WERE after Billy," Tommy groaned.
"Yeah, and Jason got caught up in it," Katherine added.
"But at least now we know where they are being taken, right?" Rocky contributed.
They all turned hopefully toward Delphine. "I am truly sorry, we do not know where Briard is. However, we will get in touch with all the other planets we have contact with and see if we can find out anything. As soon as we learn something we will contact you," Delphine offered.
"Thanks, Delphine, we would appreciate that," Tommy replied as they ended the transmission.
"Rangers, I will also send out messages to all planets and beings I know, asking for the location of Briard, and sending out the word to be on the lookout our two missing friends. I am afraid at this point it is all we can do," Zordon announced.
"I'm going to have to go back to the Scotts and tell them we have no idea where the Briardians may have taken Jason and Billy. I am not looking forward to this," Tommy muttered. "I wish I could offer them something, some hope."
"You can tell them quite truthfully every effort is being taken to find them. Consider this Rangers, that for every planet Aquitar and I contact, we will request they contact others on our behalf. In time most of the known galaxy will likely know that Earth is looking for a couple of missing Rangers. Also, if you wish to, you could give Jason and Billy's families a modified communicator. One they can use to contact us if need be. It has been my experience it makes others feel better if they can contact us in a time of crisis. Alpha has a couple of hand held communicators that can be modified accordingly," Zordon suggested.
"Thanks, Zordon. That should help," Tommy said. A few minutes later he and Katherine teleported out to give the bad news to Jason's folks.
Jack Scott turned from the front door, closing it reflexively behind him. Marjorie stood there white faced and teary eyed, reaching for her husband as a source of comfort. The Red and Pink Power Rangers had just told them that they did not know where Jason and Billy had been taken. Only that the beings who took them were Briardians, but no one knew where their home planet was.
Jack looked at the communicators the two Rangers had left for them. "At least we can contact them if we need to. Speaking of contact, I guess I had better call Wallace. He needs to know what happened to his son."
That evening Wallace arrived on the Scotts front porch. Jack and Marjorie explained again to the distraught man what had happened. Jack gave him one of the communicators the Red Ranger had left, and Wallace activated it. The Red and Green Rangers arrived five minutes later.
The two Rangers explained to Wallace what they knew, leaving out the part about the Briardians seeking revenge for what Billy had done on Aquitar. Though they knew Wallace was aware Billy had gone to Aquitar, they did not think he knew exactly what his son had done while there. And they doubted the Scotts even knew Billy had been to Aquitar at all. So they had decided to omit any mention of it.
The unpleasant truth for the Rangers, for Jack and Marjorie Scott, and for Wallace Cranston was this:
There was nothing they could do but wait.
Jason opened his eyes with a groan. He hurt all over, and for the life of him could not figure out why. What in the heck had he and Billy been doing? Awareness and memory slowly seeped back in. The ugly guys who had grabbed Billy, his inability to fight them off, the pain at the base of his neck, his mother's screams. He tried to move and found his arms and legs were both bound, however he was not gagged nor was he blindfolded. Gradually his eyes adjusted to the dim lighting and he looked around, discovering he was also bound to a pipe in what appeared to be some sort of utility room. Billy was similarly bound a few feet away, still unconscious.
Jason waited quietly, trying to get a sense of his surroundings. There was no sensation of movement, he heard no sounds except a very faint hum which he assumed was from engines of some sort. His observations were interrupted by a groan from Billy, indicating his companion was regaining consciousness.
"Billy, come on, wake up. Easy there, bro, don't try to move too much, you are pretty well tied up at the moment." Jason kept his voice calm, trying to help Billy ease back to reality, such as it was.
When Billy realized he was bound he seemed to panic, he jerked at the bindings, eyes opening wide with terror. Jason kept speaking reassuringly until Billy became aware of his presence and calmed down.
"Feeling a little better now?" Jason asked at last.
"I don't know if 'better' is the right word, but, yeah, I guess so."
"You startled me some, panicking like that."
"Sorry, I still have nightmares about being tied to the wall in Mondo's prison, waking up bound is not something that is likely to engender a positive response in me," Billy replied.
Jason flinched at that. He knew a few details of what had been done to Billy and Tommy when Mondo had captured them. Both had come out of the experience with considerable emotional scarring, and he could understand Billy's terror at finding himself kidnapped again.
"Understandable. Do you know who these guys are?" Jason asked.
"Yeah, they are Briardians."
Jason paled a little with that news. "Guess they are a little ticked off at you, huh?"
"I guess. Dammit, Jason, why didn't you back off? It was me they wanted, they might have left you alone if you hadn't attacked them."
"There is no way I can watch some big, ugly thugs grab you and not interfere. How could I just step back and say, 'Okay, have at him guys, he's all yours'? Could you have just stood aside if our roles had been reversed?" Jason asked with some heat.
Billy sighed. "No, I couldn't. But , Jason, you don't know how much trouble we are in. I read the information the Aquitian Rangers had on these guys. They are brutal. They are not planning to take us on a vacation to Briard. I don't know what they may do to you, but I do know what they are likely to do to me. Death by torture is not something I have had a desire to experience."
"So I guess we are going to have to find a way to escape."
Billy leaned his head back and chuckled softly. "Right. I have to admit, Jason, I do like your attitude."
Before either could say anything else, the door banged open and one of their captors entered. Ignoring Jason, he stepped over to Billy, towering over the bound young man.
"You will pay for what you did on Aquitar, you young fool," he growled. "Our spy on that planet identified you, the ship transmitted the data before it was destroyed. Our code of honor prohibits us from attacking a planet that has handed us a defeat for a period of one hundred years, but you do not fall under that protection. You alone will be made to pay for what the Aquitians did to Drephon and his crew." With that he kicked out viciously at the helpless former Ranger, hitting him with a violent blow to his left thigh. Billy grunted in pain, but didn't cry out.
"Oh, so the little human is trying to be brave. It won't do you any good in the long run," he growled, grabbing Billy by the hair and forcing his head backwards. "You will scream until your voice is gone by the time we are finished with you." He roughly released Billy's head and started to leave.
"Pretty brave when your victim is tied up, aren't you, you pusillanimous bastard," Billy snarled. The Briardian turned and dealt Billy two more hard kicks, one to his hip and the other to his shoulder. Billy gasped in pain as their captor left.
Jason looked at Billy with concern. "That really wasn't too bright, was it?" he asked.
Billy snorted. "Probably not, but I couldn't let him walk out without at least trying to appear tough. I read enough about them to know they are particularly vicious with those they perceive to be cowards."
"Hmm. Please don't over do it. Any plan we make for an escape will most likely require you to be somewhat healthy. And what kind of bastard did you call him?"
"A pusillanimous one."
"And what does that mean?"
"When we get home, look it up in the dictionary," Billy said with a wicked grin.
"Damn, I hate when you say that," Jason smiled at Billy, heartened by the old joke between them. As kids Billy would tease Jason by using words his friend had little chance of understanding. When Jason would ask what the word meant, Billy more often than not would tell him to look the word up. Part of the fun was the few times Jason caught Billy using a word incorrectly, giving Jason a chance to tease his friend mercilessly.
The two settled back, making themselves as comfortable as possible, waiting for a chance to make good their escape.
The passage of time is hard to measure without external clues. For Billy and Jason, bound in a dim room, denied any outside contact, the difference between minutes and days was hard to distinguish. Their bodies told them significant time had passed. They were hungry, they were thirsty, they needed to relieve themselves, and they were sleepy. Their arms, bound behind their backs, and their legs, bound together, were numb. Their shoulders were on fire and their butts were sore from being unable to shift their position. In addition, Billy's thigh, hip and shoulder that had been subject to their captor's wrath, sent out their own separate messages of pain.
Despair was overwhelming them as they realized that even if they were released from their bonds, they would be barely able to move.
"Are you still flexing your muscles like I told you to?" Jason asked.
"Yeah, every now and again at least," Billy answered.
"Try this. Close your eyes and imagine yourself doing a kata. The one we did in my yard would be a good one. Now picture which muscles you use for each movement, and flex just those muscles. Like doing the kata without moving anything except the muscles. Try it, Billy. It will help the pain some," Jason told him.
Billy obediently closed his eyes and tried to do as Jason told him. The attempts to flex his arm muscles worsened the pain in his shoulders, especially the injured one. He worked through it as well as he could, finding he could almost reach the meditative state the kata helped induce when done properly. He did notice an improvement in his legs and hips.
Jason had watched closely, making sure Billy did it correctly. He was pleased to see the stress in Billy's expression ease as he did the kata.
"Good job! Did that help?" Jason asked.
"Yeah, it did. Thanks. How did you know I needed that?"
"I could tell you were in a bit of pain, and that you needed to get your mind more settled," Jason replied easily.
"Sheesh, I can't hide anything from you, can I?"
"Probably not. Let's do another, you need to loosen up more, as do I," Jason suggested.
They were halfway through when the door opened again. The huge Briardian entered the room and suddenly bent over Jason with a lethal looking knife. Before Jason could react the Briardian lashed out and cut the ropes binding Jason to the pipe. His arms fell free as the knife slashed out again cutting his legs loose. The Briardian repeated the procedure on Billy, 'accidentally' cutting his leg in the process. The big alien then dropped a bucket-like container on the floor and left.
"Guess they decided to feed us. I think. Smells like it could be food, if we are hungry enough. Here, let me help with that," Jason said, going to Billy's side and helping him use part of his shirt to bind the new wound on his leg.
"I expect I am going to experience a lot of 'accidents' like this if we stay here long enough," Billy muttered.
"Let's eat, then see if we can find a way to get us out of here. I'd just as soon not let them tie me up again. It isn't really very pleasant," Jason decided.
"Jase, we may be well advised not to eat that food. They may have drugged it for all we know," Billy suggested.
"Good point. Let's see if there is some way out of here."
The two did a thorough search of the small room without finding anything that looked like an alternate way out. The door opened from the outside only, there was no vent opening they could find. They were growing frustrated when Billy suddenly realized something.
"Jason, look up," he said excitedly.
Jason peered at the ceiling without a clue what Billy was talking about. "What?"
"That type of ceiling. I think those panels can be pushed up, and we could access some sort of crawlway there. We need to check it out."
"How to you propose to get up there?" Jason asked.
"Shimmy up the pipes," Billy said, suiting action to words. Jason watched from the floor as Billy reached the ceiling and pushed against one of the ceiling panels. He was able to push the panel up and over, creating a two-foot square opening. Moving carefully Billy maneuvered his way into the ceiling crawlspace and looked back down at Jason.
"Come on up, the view is terrific," he invited.
"Oh, I just bet," Jason mumbled, but he quickly made his way up by the same method Billy had used. Once Jason was up, Billy very carefully replaced the ceiling panel.
They found there were catwalks capable of supporting their weight above the ceilings. They started out with no idea where they were going, but grateful to be out of that small room.
"We are going to need to find a way to get off this ship safely. They should have some small utility craft they use to go to planet surfaces. We need to find one of those and liberate it," Billy whispered.
"Any guesses as to how much crew there is?" Jason whispered back.
"Maybe a dozen or so. A lot of the ship is automated."
"Any idea where one of those utility craft would be found on a ship like this?"
Billy didn't reply for a long spell, but Jason knew it was because he was thinking.
"Down. We have to go down. The schematics I saw on Aquitar showed those sort of craft were kept near the bottom of the ship."
"Okay, then, let's get down!"
After numerous wrong turns and back tracks they finally found what they were looking for. They opened a ceiling panel directly over the small craft and dropped down on its roof. They quickly scrambled into the craft and Billy began to study the controls, trying to figure out which button did what.
"Okay, Billy, anytime now would be a good time for us to get the hell out of here, before they figure out we aren't where we are supposed to be," Jason said.
"Just a couple more minutes, this is a bit more complicated than a car." Billy let out a huff of disgust. "However, this stupid thing actually needs a key to start. I don't believe it." Kneeling by the seat he had been using he released a panel from the console and looked at the wires within. He reached inside and pulled some of the wires outside to look more closely at them, then used the edge of the control panel to cut a few of the wires. He took a couple of them and twisted them together. Jason heard the engines suddenly fire.
Billy then began to flip switches, listening as the engines smoothed out, watching the instruments show the rise to normal working temperatures and pressures. He threw the control switch for the hatch to release the small spacecraft. Moments later they cleared the doors and were outside the ship.
"Um, Billy, you do know how to fly this thing, right?"
"Yeah, I think so. Guess we are going to find out."
"Oh, great." Jason sank back in his seat and allowed Billy to concentrate. Suddenly a thought occurred to him. "You realize you are going to be in big trouble when we get home. Consider the punishment for hot-wiring a car. What will our fathers say when they find out you hot-wired a space ship?"
"Oh, shut up."
Jason snickered and settled back to enjoy the ride.
His enjoyment was short-lived when the Briardian ship fired on their small spacecraft. Billy mumbled curses and maneuvered the in an evasive pattern. He frantically punched buttons on the control panel, trying to get some idea of where they were. They needed to get to a planet surface as soon as possible. He finally got a display showing nearby planets with information about each. He scanned quickly for one that could support human life, letting out a sigh of relief when he found one fairly close to their present location. He set long-range scanners to give him a preliminary idea of whether or not the planet was inhabited, and set a course for it at maximum velocity.
"Let's hope our luck holds, I found a planet for us. We are going to go in fast, maybe we can lose them when we enter the atmosphere," Billy told Jason.
They were silent as Billy piloted the craft on a random course, ultimately heading toward the planet he had found. The pursuing ship was closing fast, the only advantage they really had was their ability to duck and weave faster and tighter than the large ship. Billy was taking full advantage of that slight edge.
"The long-range scan shows the planet is populated, pretty densely in places. We are going to aim for an unpopulated area, I don't want to hurt anyone when we come in. Strap yourself in, Jason, this could get bumpy. Probably not the best time to tell you this, but I don't really know how to land this thing."
"Thanks for sharing that with me, Billy. Your timing is excellent."
"Sorry, just didn't come up before. We will be entering the atmosphere in about ten seconds, it could give us a good jolt."
They discovered Billy had understated that a bit. The small spacecraft bucked wildly as it entered the planet's atmosphere. Anything not tied down was tossed around the small area, and Billy and Jason both collected a few bruises from flying equipment and tools. Smoothing out, they started a steep, fast descent. Billy kept one eye on the scanners, trying to be sure they did not land in a populated area, and hoping he could find a fairly open area to set it down. He didn't have as much choice as he would have liked, and it soon became apparent they would land in a woodland area, approximately fifteen miles from the nearest settlement. As the ground hurried up to meet them Billy fired the reverse thrusters and tried to set down as gently as possible. He was not very successful, the craft skidded then rolled, finally crashing into a stand of trees and coming to rest on its side. Jason and Billy, bruised but otherwise miraculously unhurt, hurried from the ruined craft.
"You okay, Jason?" Billy asked breathlessly.
"Yeah, I think so. You did a pretty good job for someone who didn't know what he was doing. Are they still pursuing us? Won't they come to the surface and look for us here?"
"Probably. I have an idea that may get them off our backs. I could blow up the spacecraft," Billy proposed.
"Why? Oh, so they will think we crashed and burned, killing us both, right?"
"Good idea, let's do it," Jason agreed.
They quickly went back into the craft, where Billy rigged the engine to overload. They ducked behind an outcropping of rocks just before the craft exploded in a burst of flame and smoke.
"That should convince them. Unless of course they can distinguish our life readings from the natives," Jason commented.
"I do not believe their sensors are that accurate. At least the ones on the craft we were using were not. It's a little late to worry about that now. We better get going toward the settlement and see if we can find out how much trouble we are in now. I have no idea if the natives of this planet are friendly or not," Billy said.
"You are so much fun to travel with," Jason joked as they set out to find civilization.
The commander of the Briardian ship was furious. How was he going to explain how a couple of humans, young humans, were able to escape from a commander. He had to retrieve those two before they resulted in his dishonorable discharge from the military, possibly his execution for disgracing the uniform of the Briardian Empire.
"Sir," the sensor tech spoke crisply, "we have sensed an explosion on the planet surface. It appears the craft exploded upon impact. The two humans would have been killed instantly."
"Send a team down in the other craft to verify it. There must be no mistake."
Within an hour the landing party had returned to declare the stolen craft was indeed what had exploded on the surface of the planet. The two humans were presumed dead, their bodies incinerated.
The commander sent a communication to Briard reporting the death of the two human prisoners. The Emperor was not pleased, he had wanted the human known as Billy Cranston alive so he could be executed in the traditional fourteen day ceremony. He ordered the commander to report back to Briard, to take Cranston's place. The second-in-command immediately arrested the commander and placed him in the room that had so recently held the human captives, and headed back to Briard.
The matter of revenge against Billy Cranston for his part in the Aquitar fiasco was now considered closed.
The transmission between the ship and Briard was overheard by a Dilentian transport ship, which relayed a copy of the transmission to Triforia, who forwarded it to Aquitar, who forwarded it to Zordon on Earth.
In the eerie stillness of the Power Chamber, the five Zeo Rangers heard the transmission that told of the death of two of their closest friends.
They all agreed that the Scotts and Wallace Cranston would have to be told. With a heavy heart Tommy carried out the duty he had hoped he would never have to perform. He played a copy of the transmission for the three parents, watching hope fade in their eyes, being replaced by irrefutable sadness. With no bodies to bury, no official report of their abduction, and no evidence that could be made public, there was no funeral for either young man. Only their parents knew their fate. Their grief was denied any outlet.
Even their closest friends could not be told.
On an unknown planet, far from their home, Jason and Billy trudged through the thick woods in what they hoped was the direction of the settlement Billy had seen. They were in desperate need of food, water, and sleep, not necessarily in that order. Billy was limping due to the cut on the same leg that had been kicked twice, Jason was nursing some bruised ribs from the crash.
They were startled out of their thoughts by a voice coming from behind them. The voice was almost mechanical sounding, though the person standing there certainly appeared to be organic in nature.
"Who are you and what are you doing on my property?" he demanded.
Billy and Jason exchanged looks. "We are lost. Can you tell us where we are, please?" Billy asked.
The being came closer. Standing just over six feet tall, with waxy pale skin, a large, almost equine nose, and tiny mouth with an nearly nonexistent chin, the man was quite intimidating looking.
"You're on my property, that is where you are. You are not welcome here."
"We apologize for our error, but as I said, we are lost. Perhaps you could point out the direction we need to go to get to the nearest town, and off your property?" Billy asked, keeping his voice carefully neutral.
"Where do you come from? You aren't of Primeria."
"We are humans, from the planet Earth," Jason said.
Suddenly the large man leapt forward and grabbed both of them by the arm. They struggled, but to no avail. The man was possessed of an unnatural strength they could not overcome. He dragged them toward a building they had not noticed beyond the trees. Ignoring their protests and explanations, he threw them both inside a low stone building with no windows and an extremely solid wood door which was bolted from the outside. He left them there with no explanation.
"Okay, that was unusual. I'm guessing we can figure the natives are not particularly friendly. Wonder what he is going to do with us," Jason commented, picking himself up off the floor.
"I have no idea, but I'm betting we are not going to like it," Billy replied.
"It's no bet. Guess we are on Primeria, ever heard of it?"
"No, I've not come across the name in any of Zordon's files. I couldn't really say if that is a good thing or not."
Jason sighed heavily. "I suppose we should get some rest, the next move is basically up to our host. I don't' see any way to get out of here."
They two stretched out on the dirt floor and tried to rest. Their exhausted bodies gave in to the demand for sleep, and soon both were slumbering peacefully.
Jason awakened to a burst of light and a hard pull on his arm. He found himself unceremoniously jerked to his feet and dragged out the door. He saw Billy being treated in a similar manner. They were forced toward what appeared to be a cage on wheels, being drawn by animals that looked to be a cross between an ox and a horse. Both were pushed inside the cage and locked inside. It looked like the driver of the cart gave some sort of currency to their captor.
Up to that point, neither teen had spoken, being too startled to protest their treatment. As their captor walked away Billy finally found his voice.
"Excuse me, but where are you taking us?"
The driver of the cart wheeled and lashed at the cage with the whip he had been carrying. "Shut up, human scum!"
Billy jerked away from the attack in a panic. Seeing the whip, having it lash out at him, transported him in his memory to Mondo's prison, and the nightmare he had endured there. Jason realized at once what was happening and tried to calm his friend down.
"Easy. Easy, bro. You're okay. It isn't going to happen again, okay? We are okay," he placed a calming hand on Billy's shoulder, then gave into his instinct to give his friend a hug. The hell with what their captor might think. Billy gradually settled down, his breathing and heart rate slowing toward normal.
"Thanks, Jason. Sorry I keep losing it on you."
"Nothing to apologize for, Billy. I'm in awe of how well you and Tommy recovered from what happened to you there. About the last thing you needed was to find yourself back in a situation where you are restrained and abused. If it were me I'd probably be going nuts," Jason said.
"Hate to tell you this, but I think I am going nuts," Billy mumbled. "Looks like asking questions is a bad idea at this point, so I guess we should just enjoy the ride."
The cart entered the city Billy had noticed on the scans just before they had crashed. The streets were dirt, the buildings clay and stone. There were no plants or trees in the city, the impression it gave was of dirt and poverty. They saw no overt signs of technology; the place seemed primitive.
As the cart made its slow way through the streets, Billy and Jason found themselves the object of considerable scrutiny. Kids in particular would run up and jab at the captives through the bars, then run off making a sound they could only figure was laughter.
"Jason, did you notice how big everyone is? The guy who caught us yesterday was actually pretty small if these folks are the norm. Except for young kids, I haven't seen anyone I would estimate to be under 6 feet tall," Billy said softly.
"I noticed. I also noticed we can understand what they say, how could that be? Do they really speak English?"
"I don't think so. While I was on Aquitar Cestro showed me a device they had that allowed people of two species to communicate easily. It translated the words from whatever language the speaker used to the language the listener understood. Given the circumstances surrounding my time on Aquitar, I did not have a good chance to examine it or how it worked, but it fascinated me."
"Figures. You know, I don't get it. I don't see any sign of technological advances, yet they have that kind of translator?"
"I don't know Jason. It makes no sense. I wonder where he is taking us."
"We may not want to know. Is it my imagination, or do you see other species among these folks?"
"Now that you mention it, yeah. But if this is some sort of 'melting pot' society, why are they reacting so negatively to us? I don't think humans have that bad a reputation."
"Maybe it's personal. You are looking a bit grody," Jason commented.
"You don't exactly resemble a model for GQ yourself," Billy shot back at him.
As they chuckled quietly, they noticed they were leaving the city. About two miles beyond the city limit they turned off the road they had been following and followed a narrow track into a wooded area. After going through perhaps two hundred feet of thick forest, they found themselves in a huge clearing. Taking up most of the clearing was a structure that looked like an old fashioned fort, surrounded by a fence made of logs twenty feet high and spiked at the top. The gate was huge and heavy, operated from the outside by a series of pulleys. The gate swung open at the cart's approach. It stopped in the middle of a dirt 'yard' and another huge man greeted the driver.
"Armos, what do you have for me today?"
"Just a couple of puny humans. Garlock found them on his property and turned them over to me. Only paid half the usual bounty as they are remarkably insignificant looking."
"Ah, but humans are quite rare. Get them out of there and let me see what we have."
The back door of the cart opened and the two teens found th emselves standing in front of a man who stood at least 6'7", and probably weighed 300 pounds, with no fat on his frame at all. Shoved to a position standing directly in front of him, Jason and Billy had to crane their necks upward to look at him.
"By the Priests, you are right. They are insignificant. I wager they won't last too long here. However, I will try to sell them at the next market. Get some money for the expense they have caused before they are so damaged they are worthless. Guards! Take them and put them in the bunkhouse." He turned directly to the two young men standing before him. "You two are my property now, you will obey me without question. Do as you are told and you may survive, defy me and you will pay dearly. My name is Sarlas, but you will never call me that. You will call me 'your lordship' if you address me at all."
"We landed on your planet by accident, we have committed no crime. You have no right to lock us up as if we were animals," Jason's temper finally snapped.
He never saw the blow coming. The guard behind Jason hit him in his already bruised ribs, breaking three of them with one blow, and kicked his knee at an angle. As Jason fell to his knees in pain, Billy rushed to help him.
Billy looked up at Sarlas, opening his mouth to speak when he reconsidered. It would do no good to get himself injured as well. He helped Jason to his feet and steadied him carefully.
Sarlas gave one last glare at the prisoners. "As you see, punishment is swift and sure. Take them to the bunkhouse now," he ordered the guards.
The guard unlocked to door to the large square structure and shoved the two captives roughly inside. With the door closed and locked behind them, Billy got to his feet and turned to assist Jason up. As they straightened they noticed they were the center of attention for a large group of large, rough looking males of various species. Exchanging a quick look they decided the best tactic would be to ignore the others and find some place to sit down and think this new problem out. Billy started to help Jason toward the back wall when he found a particularly large being blocking his way.
"What are you?" the man demanded.
"Humans," Billy replied in a steady voice.
"Humans do not turn up in this quadrant very often. Why are you here?" He was well over six feet tall and was trying to use his superior height to intimidate Billy.
"It wasn't our idea. Some Briardians kidnapped us from Earth, we escaped en route and ended up here." As the big man loomed over him Billy refused to give an inch.
"What would Briardians want with a human," he growled.
"I helped defeat one of their ships while on Aquitar. They apparently are honor bound not to attack Aquitar for a hundred years, so they contented themselves by going after me."
"Why is he here?" the man indicated Jason.
"He tried to help me."
"That was stupid of him."
"He is my friend, it is what humans do when a friend is threatened. He is injured, we would like to find a place to rest for a while. Why don't we make it easy for all concerned. There must be some place in this room where there is space for us. Why don't you point it out?" Billy continued to keep his voice as authoritative as possible, knowing a show of weakness in this group could prove fatal. He found himself in a staring contest with the other man, it was a battle of wills Billy was determined to win.
"You can settle over there," he finally said, indicating a dim corner, far away from the fireplace that provided the only heat in the room. "My name is Tarlop."
"I'm called Billy, this is Jason," Billy kept it short as he helped Jason to the corner they had been allotted.
Ignored for now, Billy eased Jason to the ground and carefully probed his side. "Damn, Jase, you have three broken ribs. This is not good, I have no way to bind it." He looked at what he and Jason were wearing. It had been a warm morning in Angel Grove when they were kidnapped, so both were wearing shorts and tank tops. They were going to be pretty darn cold by the time night fell. "It also looks like you have damaged the ligaments your knee. Just rest for now. Once I have had a chance to evaluate this situation, perhaps I can find a way to acquire some material to bandage your ribs."
"Thanks. Guess I should have kept my mouth shut. You know, this would be a good time to send that postcard."
"What are you talking about?"
"When I asked you if you would ever go back to Aquitar and you said yes, I requested you at least keep in touch. You said you would send a postcard with the message 'having a great time, wish you were here' on it. Now would be a good time to send that to our friends back home," Jason explained.
"Yeah, I suppose it would," Billy agreed with an odd look.
"What do you mean 'what'?" Billy asked.
"What was that expression? I didn't like that look you got when I mentioned sending the postcard. So: what?"
"Jase, I have worked with Zordon a lot recently. I know what he is likely to do in this situation. He would have sent out messages regarding our kidnapping to all his sources, telling them to be on the lookout for the Briardians, and for us. His sources would contact their sources, and so on. After we crashed here the main ship very likely contacted Briard reporting what had happened. If one of those sources heard any of that transmission, they would forward it to Zordon. There is a good chance they will end up thinking we did not survive. I'm sorry."
"If Zordon thinks that, the Rangers will think that, and our parents...."
"Yeah, them too. You said your mom witnessed our kidnapping. The Rangers would have contacted them. They would feel duty bound to tell our parents what they learn."
"Oh, God." Anguished brown eyes met blue.
"So basically, our friends and families think we are dead, and no one is looking for us?"
"IF someone overheard a transmission between Briard and the ship. And IF that someone knew Zordon was seeking information regarding two humans. It is a worst case scenario, but it is very possible," Billy said.
"Gee, this just keeps getting better and better," Jason muttered disconsolately. He leaned back and closed his eyes. Billy sat beside him silently, lost in his own thoughts.
They stayed that way until a commotion caught their attention. Everyone was rushing toward the front of the building, pushing and shoving. As some of the front ones made their way out Billy saw they were carrying some sort of loaf and a container of liquid.
"Looks like feeding time, I'll try and get us something," he said getting to his feet and moving toward the group.
Billy shoved his way in, finding it was made easier by the fact a lot of the others had gotten their food and moved away. Billy found the remaining loaves pretty well smashed, but took one each for him and Jason, as well as two containers of liquid. Billy was actually pretty surprised by the fact he found any food left at all. And the big loaves looked, and smelled, fairly good. He hurried back to Jason's side, handing his friend his half the food and drink. Billy was about to start eating when he noticed a sick looking man sitting a few feet away. Like Jason, this fellow appeared to be injured and unable to get up to fetch his own meal. There was no one by the trays that had held the food, so Billy could clearly see they were empty. This fellow sufferer would end up going hungry unless they shared. Billy sighed softly, got up and went over to the man.
"I see you didn't get anything. Here, take mine, I'm not that hungry," so saying he held out his loaf and drink. The man took them without a word and began to eat voraciously. Billy went back to Jason's side.
"Here," Jason said, offering Billy half his loaf with a slight smile. "As you well know, my mom taught me to share. And don't look like that. If you hadn't done it, I would have."
"I figured as much. Thanks."
They were almost done when they saw two large feet approach and stop directly in front of them. They looked up at the large man looming above them.
"Did you feed him?" the deep voice rumbled with power as the man pointed to the injured fellow Billy had given his food to.
"Yes, he didn't have anything," Billy answered.
They were distinctly uncomfortable sitting as the guy stood over them. >From this perspective he appeared to be giant, an angry looking one at that. They exchanged a quick look, then Billy pushed himself to his feet.
"Is that a problem?" Even standing up Billy had to tilt his head back to look at this guy.
"Here. I normally get him his food, but was distracted by some of the others. The general rule is they send out exactly enough for the number of prisoners they have in here. No one ever takes more than their allotment. My name is Tarkanas; he's Zilox. We are from Hattuno." With that Tarkanas handed Billy a loaf and drink.
"Thanks. I'm Billy; this is Jason. From Earth. You referred to us as prisoners, so this is a prison?"
"Of course, what else would it be?"
"Good point. We were never told where we were being taken, or why. How long do they keep prisoners? We are completely unfamiliar with the customs on this planet."
"Why don't we sit down, and I will tell you what you need to know to survive here," Tarkanas offered.
Billy split the loaf with Jason and the three of them sat together while Tarkanas told them what to expect. By the time he was done talking both humans were in despair.
The planet they had landed on, Primera, was an odd combination of primitive and advanced. In almost every settlement, including the one they had gone through when in the cart, was a spaceport where transport, and occasionally fighter, craft landed on a daily basis. Primera was ensconced in such a location that they acted as a sort of 'way station' to deep space vessels. That was the planet's main source of revenue. Yet the homes and lives of the people were far from advanced. A lot of homes had no electricity, some no indoor plumbing. They were mostly made of rock and mud, a few of wood, and even some that were literally grass huts. Agriculture was the secondary source of revenue and slavery was commonly practiced on Primera.
Jason and Billy had in effect been arrested on Garlock's property and sent directly to prison. Because they were not escaped slaves, nor had they really committed a crime, they were to be sold at the next open slave market, due to be held in about a week's time. Once sold into slavery they would remain slaves until their death. The bulk of slave owners on the planet were harsh and cruel, accustomed to dealing with slaves who were large and strong. Most of the slaves on the Primera were imported from other planets where the citizens were large in stature, such as Hattuno. Some of the imported slaves were simply unfortunate folks who had been kidnapped, others were petty criminals their governments wanted to banish.
The prison population was partially made up of escaped slaves, partially of actual criminals-murderers, rapists, those who had committed assaults (usually slaves who assaulted their owners). Each time the open slave market was held those prisoners who had served their time were sold.
Tarkanas pointed out some prisoners the two humans should avoid at all costs. Most of the prisoners were like he was, not necessarily friendly, but not vicious. However, there was the minority who enjoyed antagonizing the other prisoners, and given their small stature the two humans would be tempting targets.
"Just steer clear of them and you should be all right. They know the penalty if they are caught fighting, the punishment is hardly worth the fun of fighting."
"Should I ask what the punishment is?" Billy asked.
"No. Hope you do not have to witness one, let alone be subjected to one. I will say this for Primarians-they are good at inflicting pain without permanently damaging the goods," Tarkanas noted.
"Nice. Thank you Tarkanas, for telling us what to expect," Jason said.
"You're welcome. Thank you for taking care of my friend." With that the big man went to join his friend a few feet away.
The next few days found Jason and Billy simply doing all they could to survive the life they found themselves in. They kept to themselves, bothering no one. They stayed together everywhere, Billy helping Jason to and from the filthy room that did duty as a bathroom, and outside for the one brief period the prisoners were allowed in the yard each day. The only time Billy left Jason's side was when he went to get their food. The prisoners were only fed once a day, so if they did not get their food then, they went hungry. It was on one of his trips to get the food that Billy's luck ran out.
He had just picked up his and Jason's food when another prisoner pushed him to the side. He stumbled into a big, perpetually angry fellow who was one of the ones Tarkanas had warned him about. With a growl of anger the man attacked Billy.
Billy's adversary was nearly a foot taller and easily double his weight, mostly in muscle. But he was also slow, and a bit clumsy. Billy was not. As the big man rushed him, Billy stepped easily aside, reaching out to grab his assailant's arm and use his momentum against him. It was a slick move that made it look for all the world like Billy had thrown the big man over his shoulder. The other prisoners were suitably impressed. Billy stepped back, more than happy to call it over, but the other was not. He rushed again, not quite as haphazardly this time. Billy easily evaded the blow the man aimed at him and managed to land a blow to the man's midsection. The blow had little effect except to infuriate his opponent. With a bellow of rage the man attacked again, determined to destroy this puny human. Just as the man got close Billy went low and swept his legs out from under him. The big one went down to the amusement of the observers. Just then the guards and Sarlas entered.
The assembled prisoners immediately headed to their respective places, leaving Billy and his opponent to face the warden.
Sarlas wasted no time with unnecessary words. Turning to the guards he said simply, "Punish them."
Along the far wall Jason struggled to his feet, determined to go to Billy's aid. Tarkanas and Zilox both went to restrain him.
"No! You will only make it worse for him. No matter what it sounds like, remember this: He will survive." Tarkanas looked deeply into Jason's worried eyes. "He will survive," he reiterated.
The guards took the bigger man and forced him onto his back on the huge table in the middle of the room. Restraints had been bolted to the four corners, these were used to hold the man spread eagle on the table. One of the guards took a device that resembled a small flashlight out of his belt and held it against the prisoner's groin. Immediately the room was filled with the man's screams of pain. They continued for a five full minutes. When he was released from the table the prisoner could only curl up on himself in agony. Three of his companions carried him to a corner, as the guards placed Billy on the table.
The restraints were designed to hold a much larger prisoner. It took a lot of adjusting to release them far enough to reach for the shorter teen, and even then he was stretched out painfully. His reaction to the device was the same as the larger man's. His screams of pain continued for the full five minutes, then he was immobile with pain when released. Tarkanas and Zilox had to physically restrain Jason the entire time. As soon as Billy was released Tarkanas rushed forward and carried him back to Jason's side.
Jason gently ran his hands over Billy, trying to soothe him in some way. Billy had clenched his body into a fetal position and was making a steady low moan of pain. Jason looked up at Tarkanas desperately.
"How long do the effects usually last?"
"Hours. And that is for someone my size. Billy is pretty small, it may take longer, maybe not. I have never seen it done to a human."
"Is there anything I can do for him?"
"Not that I know of. Just be there with him, I suppose. Jason, he will be okay, really he will. Like I said-they are good at inflicting non-damaging pain."
"You call this 'non-damaging'? He can't move, he is in agony."
"He will recover in a day or so. I have seen much worse, and something about Billy tells me he has too."
"Yeah, I suppose he has."
Jason carefully laid down, reaching out to place one arm around Billy's shoulders. It was not a very comfortable position, but it enabled Jason to offer Billy comfort without moving him. The hours passed with agonizing slowness. Jason saw Billy's opponent finally stagger to his feet, moving with obvious pain toward the bathroom. Billy was gradually uncurling, his moans had stopped some time before. His eyes opened and Jason saw he was aware of his surroundings again.
"You are okay, Billy. That thing is not designed to do permanent damage, just cause excruciating pain. Tarkanas says the pain wears off completely in a day or so."
"Oh, great. Only a couple of days feeling like this," Billy groaned, closing his eyes.
"Got a question to take your mind off your troubles."
"Oh, yeah? What's the question?"
"What does pusillanimous mean?"
Billy opened his eyes and looked directly at Jason. "When we get home look it up in the dictionary."
Jason chuckled in relief.