Disclaimer: We all know the drill, they all belong to Saban,
not to me, I'm not making money on this, just having some fun.
Notes and Timeline: Well, gee, the timeline is pretty obvious since I'm using dates this time. Historical note: This fic is being written during the fall/winter 1998, as of this time there have been 18 Rangers, Zhane being the newest. Obviously I don't know if there will be any more Rangers, but this story is assuming there will not be. I am cheerfully ignoring Zordon's death, in this timeline he is rescued and the forces of evil destroyed. As for rating, well, I reckon it is maybe a PG, mature themes (not necessarily sexual) from time to time. Enjoy.
Friday, June 1, 2001
"Adam! Would you hurry up! You aren't the only one who needs to get ready for class," Billy's voice was impatient as he pounded again on the bathroom door.
"Okay, Okay, It's yours already!" Adam emerged swathed in a towel and headed for his room.
"Thanks!" Billy called after him as he stepped into the bathroom.
It was another typical morning in the Park/Cranston residence. Both young men were graduating seniors at Angel Grove University, both were already accepted to graduate school, after which Adam was planning on a career in education, preferably at the university level, and Billy in nuclear physics.
They had been roommates for three and a half years, since the second semester of their freshman year, when Billy returned from Aquitar and decided to enroll in school in Angel Grove. Adam had been living on campus, and had already had four different roommates. Disgusted with the situation, he had decided to look for something off campus, when he heard Billy had come back and was also looking for living quarters. They pooled their resources and found they could afford to rent a small two-bedroom house in a slightly rundown neighborhood near the school. They furnished it with second (and sometimes third or fourth) hand furniture, their families' cast off linens, crockery, and other necessary items, and called it home.
They were perfectly matched as roommates-both had a somewhat hit-and-miss attitude about housework, and the less said about their cooking abilities the better. They kept the house clean enough to keep the health inspectors at bay, ate take-out frequently, and formally entertained never. That is not to say they never had company. On any given day, at just about any time, you could find as many as three or four friends at the house. They had a reputation of being willing to put up anyone who needed a place to crash for a couple of days. The couch in the living room made into a lumpy bed, that had at various different times been occupied by, among others, Tommy, Jason, Rocky, Katherine, and Aisha. Even Skull had spent a couple of days there when he had found himself with nowhere else to go. The only rule they had was that the two bedrooms were off limits, unless expressly invited.
To earn extra money, they designed computer games. They had fallen into this occupation accidentally. Adam got an idea for a game, then asked Billy if it could be done on a computer. Billy had been intrigued by the idea, and went to work programming it. They had actually only intended it for their own entertainment, but once a few of their friends had had a chance to play it, they encouraged the two to try to sell the game. To their delight and surprise, their game found a market, and they were paid very well for it. They ended up designing two more games, and the royalties they received paid their education expenses, housing and food, and allowed them to put some aside for the future.
They had both purchased cars with the first royalty check. Billy bought a sensible Chevrolet four door, which for whatever reason rarely worked. Adam bought what most of his friends claimed was "the ugliest car in Angel Grove". The small Toyota had a bright orange body, with a lime green roof. It was dented and scarred, with rust showing along the lower rim of the body. The ripped seats were covered with blue fake-fur seat covers, and rust colored shag carpet covered the floor. Ugly it may have been, but it never broke down.
Adam had finished getting dressed and was fishing around in the refrigerator looking for something that would do for breakfast when Billy wandered in.
"Are we out of food again?" he asked.
"Depends on your definition of 'food'," was Adam's reply. "We have maraschino cherries, liverwurst, salad dressing, salsa, and baking soda. And three biology projects."
"Guess we better go to the store today," Billy sighed.
"It's either that, or we will end up having a dissected cat for dinner. Complete with formaldehyde sauce and little flags to identify the organs."
"Ugh! Thanks so much, but if we have to do that I'd rather have the pig."
"Gross! We might want to remind our friends we still have these things. It's finals next week, they should be done with them," Adam suggested.
"Good idea. Whose projects are those?"
Adam looked at Billy blankly. "Damned if I know. Don't you?"
"Nope. Oh well, I guess we'll keep them until the end of next week then dump them. Like we usually do."
"Yeah. You have a date tonight?" Adam asked.
"Oh, yeah. And tomorrow. And Sunday."
"Me, too, I think," Billy replied. "Then, the party for Emily and Jason on Wednesday."
"Just a couple of wild men, aren't we?" Adam said with a grin. "Want a ride to school?"
"Good deal, ready when you are."
They headed out to school, thoughts of the upcoming weekend making both young men smile. They piled into Adam's ugly little car and headed to the University.
"Billy, why do we even have maraschino cherries?"
"Dunno. I think they came with the refrigerator."
All of the former Morphin, Ninjetti, and Zeo Power Rangers were currently living in Angel Grove. Katherine had returned home and started classes at the University at the same time Billy did. Aisha came back from Africa to begin classes at the same time Rocky and Adam started, as did Kimberly, Zack and Trini. Consequently, in addition to Billy and Adam, Katherine, Aisha, Zack, Trini, and Rocky were also graduating. Jason, Kimberly, and Tanya had taken the two year program, focusing on business and communications as those were the classes that suited their career goals.
Jason had bought the Youth Center from Jerome Stone two years before, about the same time he married Emily. They ran the business together, Jason managing the gym portion, Emily the restaurant portion. That was about to change though. Jason was going to have to manage the entire operation for a while, as Emily was eight months pregnant. Their baby was due at the end of June-the party being held on June 5 was going to be a baby shower.
Tommy had spent two years on the race circuit, learning everything he could about racecars and mechanics. But a high-speed crash ended his dreams of racing glory when he suffered a spinal injury. He was okay, but the risk of doing permanent damage deterred him from pursuing driving as a career. He instead turned to mechanics, specializing in racecar maintenance and repair. He opened his own shop and quickly developed a reputation for quality service. He also reconciled with Kimberly-they were engaged to be married in August.
Kimberly had taken business classes so she would be prepared to open her own specialty clothing shop in the mall. She was in the process of purchasing an existing shop, with the intention of converting it to a more specialized line of clothing, including some she had designed herself.
Zack came back from Switzerland determined to pursue a career in entertainment. He had no delusions as to the difficulty facing him-he knew he would have to prove himself over and over again. With this in mind, he decided that he should have a good education as the base for his future. He took every class he could that he figured would be useful to a director or producer. He was also extremely active in the theatre group on campus. He had finally succeeded in getting Angela to go out with him, and much to her surprise (not his) they quickly developed a strong relationship. They were planning on getting married in December.
Trini was determined to have a career in international diplomacy. Toward that end, she had decided she would need a law degree first. She had taken all the pre-law classes she could, and would be transferring to law school the next year. When Billy returned to Angel Grove, he and Trini started dating. After three months they mutually and gratefully decided to stop. While they remained the best of friends, they both realized there was no spark of passion between them, and no amount of trying on their parts would ignite one. Trini dated several others before accepting a date with Adam late the previous year. There was an instant chemistry between the two, and the casual dating quickly turned into a serious affair. They had been lovers since December, and neither of them doubted they would spend the rest of their lives together. Billy was very happy for both of them.
Tanya had taken all the communications classes offered at the university, while still working full time as a DJ at the radio station. She had quickly advanced, and currently had a very popular show of her own, there had even been talk about syndicating it. She had dated several young men, but nothing permanent had developed yet.
Rocky was taking pre-med courses, of all things. The formerly uninspired student was determined to become an orthopedic surgeon. He had worked incredibly hard, hiring tutors whenever he felt he needed extra help. The others had been amazed at the sudden difference in the young man's attitude, their admiration grew as he was slated to graduate near the top of the class. He had already been accepted into medical school.
Aisha was also determined to have a career in medicine-veterinary medicine. She wanted to get her degree and qualifications, then return to Africa to continue her work there. She was glad to be back in Angel Grove, but knew her real future was in Africa, working with the endangered animals there.
Katherine returned to Angel Grove, having decided the Royal Academy was not for her after all. She took general education classes, until she discovered what she wanted to do with her life. She had befriended a classmate who seemed to be on the surface a perfectly happy person, but she ended up attempting suicide by overdose during her sophomore year. Katherine was shocked and devastated by what happened. She spoke at length with the therapist assigned to help her friend, and came to realize she would like to be able to help others in the same way. She changed her major, and was well on her way to becoming a licensed therapist. She had been slow to start dating again after the breakup with Tommy, but she did eventually start back in the dating scene, with little success. Then in January, she accepted Billy's invitation to attend a school function with him. He had asked mostly in desperation, as he needed a date on short notice and figured Katherine go with him as a favor. They ended up having such a good time they decided to try another date. They had been seeing each other exclusively since then and had become lovers two months ago. They had already discussed the possibility of Katherine going with Billy when he left for graduate school. She could finish her qualifications for her license there.
It was doubtful there could be found eleven young people with brighter futures.
Sunday, June 3, 2001
Billy hurried to the kitchen in his bare feet, an old robe pulled around him. He rummaged in the cupboard, looking for the coffee that was supposed to be there. He finally found it in the refrigerator and quickly set up the coffee maker to brew a strong batch.
He was staring blearily out the window when he was startled by a feminine voice behind him.
"'Morning, Trini. If you want coffee it will be just a minute."
"Your coffee? At this time of the morning? No thank you, I don't have a death wish," she smiled.
"Hey, I like it strong. What's the point of drinking coffee if it isn't strong?"
"Does Kat like it that strong?"
"She said she does. You can ask her later, if you are so curious," he said with a grin.
She watched him pour two cups of perfectly vile looking coffee. "Ugh. Even love would not make her say she liked that brew unless she truly does. Guess you're a lucky man, Billy."
"So is Adam," he said, planting a chaste kiss on her cheek as he headed back to his room.
Trini strolled back to Adam's room and rejoined him in his comfortable bed. He was just starting to wake up and he turned to her with a sleepy smile.
She smiled at his appearance. "Good morning to you, too. Sleep well?"
"Okay. There is coffee if you want any."
"Yours or Billy's?"
"I'll pass. Last time I made the mistake of drinking his coffee I didn't sleep for two days."
Trini giggled softly. "It looked pretty nasty, but he claims Kat likes it. Are we all still going to the crafts fair today?"
"So far as I know. Kim is running a booth as a sort of preview to her new shop. We need to at the very least go by to see her. I think it opens at noon today," he smiled at her. "We have plenty of time."
"We do, do we? Time for what?" she asked with a suggestive smile of her own.
"We'll think of something," he murmured as he reached up to pull her down to him.
"I'm sure we will."
Kat and Billy were in the kitchen, having showered and dressed. Adam and Trini were in the process of getting cleaned up, then they would be heading out for breakfast together. Kat was sitting on the stove kissing Billy who was standing in front of her. Her legs were wrapped around his waist as the kiss intensified. They were so engrossed in what they were doing they didn't hear the front door open, consequently they were startled by the voice from the doorway.
"That gives a whole new meaning to 'home cooking'," Tommy said with a laugh.
"Sheesh! A guy can't even kiss his girlfriend in the kitchen without her ex coming in and giving him static. What a state of affairs this is!" Billy commented with a grin, refusing to move from his position.
"Well, if you're going to make out on major appliances in the kitchen you might at least lock the front door," Kim replied with a twinkle in her eyes.
"I'll remember that next time. What brings you two to this neighborhood?"
"Just wanted to remind you about the crafts fair today. And to ask if you had gotten a gift for Jason and Emily yet. And to say 'hi'," Kim said.
"Thanks, yes, and hi," Kat responded. "We are waiting for Trini and Adam to finish getting themselves together, then we are going to get some breakfast. Care to join us?"
"No thanks, we have to finish setting up my booth. You will be by later, right?"
"Absolutely. I can't wait to see it," Kat said.
"Then we will see you there," Tommy said. "Carry on."
"Oh, we will!"
Trini, Kat, Adam and Billy were wandering through the crafts fair, looking at everything, joking about some of the odder displays, and thoroughly enjoying themselves. They had stopped by Kimberly's booth first and had been glad to see her doing a booming business. Her original line of designer tops was selling quickly, and orders were being placed for more. Everyone was telling her how anxious they were to visit her new shop, which she was planning on opening at the end of the month. Tommy was helping her in the booth and looked proud enough to burst.
"Oh, look at this!" Kat exclaimed, dragging Billy over to a booth displaying an odd assortment of items.
The object of her attention was a ceramic gnome, about three inches tall. It was wearing a cocked green hat, and was about the ugliest thing Billy had ever seen.
"Isn't it cute?" Kat cried, picking it up to show to him.
"No, he isn't," Billy declared, looking at Kat trying to decide if she was kidding or not.
"I think he's adorable. You just have no taste," she scolded him.
"Sorry, I just don't see it."
"Humph! Men!" she grumped, with an exaggerated roll of her eyes.
Trini and Adam were giggling softly at their friends, when Billy turned to them with a pleading look. "Do you guys think it's cute?"
Adam held up both hands in surrender. "I have no opinion." While Trini simply turned away with a smile.
Kat put the gnome down with a disgusted look. "Geez, just wait until you think something is cute!"
"Well, I think you're cute. Gonna argue with me about that?" he replied.
"Aw, okay, you win this time. I won't argue," she decided, giving him a quick kiss and putting the gnome back down.
"But I still think he's cute."
Wednesday, June 6, 2001
Trini and Kat arrived at the Youth Center at four o'clock as planned. They were going to help Kimberly, Aisha, Angela, and Tanya decorate for the evening's festivities, which were scheduled to start at six. The six women spent the two hours giggling, visiting and gossiping, as well as decorating and cooking.
"I guess next we will be doing a wedding shower for you, huh, Kim?" Aisha commented with a happy look.
"Looks like it. I can't believe all the stuff I need to do to get ready for that. I get panicked every time I think about it," Kim declared.
"Oh, you know it will be perfect. And if not, who cares. You are marrying the man you love. The man you have loved for a very long time now," Trini noted.
"True, very true. Have you and Adam discussed the possibility of making it legal?" Kim asked.
"Not yet. He still gets a stressed look when the 'm' word comes up. We are content to take it slow," Trini replied.
"What about you and Billy?" Tanya turned her attention to Kat.
"We are taking it slow also," Kat demurred.
"Didn't look like it Sunday morning!" Kim said with a giggle.
Kat blushed, but didn't argue.
"What were you doing Sunday morning?" Angela wondered.
When Kat didn't reply, Kim spoke up. "She and Billy were making out on the stove. Not something you encounter in every household you visit."
"On the stove?" Aisha turned to Kat with an incredulous look.
Kat shrugged. "Seemed like a good idea at the time."
That generated a round of laughter. They were all glad to see Trini and Katherine so happy, to say nothing of Adam and Billy. For the four who had always seemed the most reserved of the former Rangers, they had turned out to be very passionate, and openly affectionate, couples.
"So it looks like after Kimberly, you are next, Angela," Aisha continued. The former Rangers had unquestioningly accepted Angela, as they had Emily. Both knew of the former lives the others had led as Power Rangers, and had agreed to keep that knowledge to themselves.
"Yes, though sometimes I wonder if we can wait until December."
"Getting anxious, are you?" Trini asked.
"Sort of. I just dread the thought of a formal wedding. But my parents insist that is what I must have. There are times I seriously think about eloping. But Zack doesn't want to make my folks angry," Angela sighed.
"Hey, at least you are in love. You have found someone. Believe me, I envy you all," Tanya said, just slightly joking.
Aisha put a comforting arm around her friend. "I know you will find someone soon. Just like I know I will when I return to Africa. I do not believe either of us is destined to be alone. We just have to be patient."
Tanya gave her a grateful look. "Thanks, I guess the longer the wait, the sweeter the joy, right?"
By 6:30 the party was in full swing. The guests of honor had arrived, Jason with his arm proudly around his very pregnant wife.
Emily sank gratefully into the recliner Tommy and Zack had brought in expressly for her use. "Thanks. I just can't sit in those little, hard chairs right now."
"Hey, moms-to-be get special treatment. And frankly, if I could have fit another chair into the back of my truck I would have brought one for me. I never did think those chairs were all that comfortable," Zack declared, smiling at Jason's mock frown.
"Looks like everyone is here except Adam and Billy. Wonder what is keeping them?"
"Billy's car probably broke down again. He really needs to get a new one," Kat commented.
"I'll give them a call just to be sure they didn't forget," Trini decided.
The others started piling the gifts near Emily's chair, while Kimberly and Aisha passed out the necessary supplies for a game. The guys all grumbled in a good-natured way about having to play a baby shower game.
"There was no answer, so they must be on their way. Let's go ahead and start without them. I'm sure they won't mind."
With that they started the game, which consisted of trying to make as many words as possible from the letters in "bassinet", "carriage", etc. The building rang with laughter at the inappropriate words the guys tended to make. They barely heard the knocking at the outer door, but when they did Jason went to answer it, Rocky and Tommy on his heels.
Standing outside was Bulk, now a full-fledged police officer. He barely lived up to his old nickname anymore as he had been required to lose almost 80 pounds in order to be accepted into the police academy three years ago.
"Bulk, it's good to see you, but we are closed right now for a private party," Jason told him.
"Uh, Jason, I'm here on official business, sort of. I'm off duty right now, but when I was driving home I passed the scene of an accident. I think it was Adam Park's car that was involved," Bulk's voice was very subdued.
Jason felt a chill. "Are you sure?"
"It's pretty hard to miss that orange and green car."
Jason shared an unhappy look with Tommy and Rocky. "We better go check it out. Thanks, Bulk. I appreciate you making the effort to let us know."
"I wish I didn't have to give you such news. But maybe it isn't too bad," his expression belied that last part. It was bad, all right. He turned and walked slump-shouldered back to his car.
Rocky spoke softly. "What are we going to tell the others?"
"The truth. We have to, Trini and Kat will need to know." Tommy said.
The three of them turned back toward where the party was continuing. Kimberly looked up with a smile to ask about the caller, when she caught sight of their expressions.
Tommy walked over to her and put a comforting arm around her. "That was Bulk at the door. He said there was an accident up the road a ways. He thinks Adam's car was one of the ones involved."
There was a collective gasp, and a barrage of questions. Tommy slipped naturally into his old role of leader. "Guys, we don't know anymore than we said. We need to go check it out. If you want, a couple of us can drive back there and report back on what happened," he offered.
"No way, I have to go," Trini declared, looking very pale but composed. Kat stood beside her and nodded gravely.
Tanya looked around the room, "I have a feeling we will all go," she said.
They ended up piling into three cars and driving back toward the area where Adam and Billy lived. The street was a busy four-lane road with a 50mph speed limit. They had only gone three miles when they saw the flashing lights of the police cars and ambulance. They pulled their vehicles off the road and approached by foot.
Tommy, Jason, Rocky and Zack ran up ahead, the rest close behind, each praying fervently that Bulk had been mistaken.
He hadn't been.
The four young men stopped as one and looked on in despair. Near the center of the road was a crumpled orange and green mass of metal that bore only the slightest resemblance to a car. Glass was scattered everywhere, the doors appeared to have been pried open, and gas and other fluids were pooled around the wreckage. But that was not the sight that brought them all to a dead halt in the middle of the street, their faces frozen in expressions of shock and grief, a scream of pain sounding from the one of others who had arrived behind them.
It was the sight of the two white draped bodies lying just behind the wreck.
Monday, June 11, 2001
Tommy Oliver tugged impatiently on his tie. "Damn, I can't get this thing tied right!"
"Here, let me," Kimberly said quietly, pushing his hands aside. He looked down at her as she knotted the tie, noticing how pale she looked. Her usually luminous eyes were dulled with grief, even her hair lacked its usual vitality. Tommy couldn't blame her, he knew he looked the same way. They all did.
"There, don't pull on it and you'll be okay," Kim advised, turning back to finish fixing her hair. Without warning tears were again pouring down her cheeks. Tommy gently took her in his arms to offer what little comfort he could. He was not terribly surprised to find he was also crying.
"It will be okay, Kim, it will be okay," he murmured in a soft voice.
"Will it, Tommy? I'm not too sure of that. We lost two of our best friends in a stupid, senseless accident. How can it be okay?" she sobbed into his chest.
He just held her quietly. The past few days had taken on a nightmare quality, Tommy wasn't sure how they all got through them. He and Kimberly had spent the days since the accident trying to help Adam and Billy's families make the necessary arrangements and offering support to Trini and Katherine, as well as trying to cope with their own grief.
His thoughts drifted back to Saturday.......
He and Kimberly had gone over the see Wallace Cranston, Billy's father. In many ways Wallace was the most tragic situation of all-thirteen years before he had lost his beloved wife, Marie, in a head on collision with a drunk driver. Now he had lost his only child in the same manner. Wallace had greeted them at the door with a lost look, then turned and wandered back into the house, seeming to forget they were even there. Kim and Tommy followed him inside, and Kimberly went up to him, put her arms around him in a hug and asked how he was doing. That started a flood of tears and grief that seemed to come from deep within the man's soul. They stayed until the worst of his outbreak of grief had passed, wanting to be sure he would be okay. He told him his brother was going to be coming down to stay with him until after the funeral, for which they were grateful. He should not be alone at this time. Tommy and Kimberly were about to take their leave when Wallace suddenly seemed to think of something.
"Will either of you be seeing Katherine?"
"We were going to go over there later this afternoon," Kimberly told him. "Do you have a message for her, or something?"
Wallace's eyes filled with tears again, it was obvious he was struggling to keep it under control. "They, the police, they gave me Billy's stuff, you know, what he had on his person when he....when he...when the accident happened. There is something I think he intended for Katherine. I can't imagine he had it for himself. Would you please give it to her? He loved her so much, I wish I could give it to her myself, but I just can't," he was fumbling in a desk drawer as he spoke. He finally found what he was seeking and came toward Kimberly holding out a small white box, the sort jewelry would come in.
"What is it?" Kimberly asked cautiously. She was desperately afraid it was an engagement ring-that would be too cruel to give to Katherine under these circumstances.
"It's not jewelry, it's some sort of knickknack or something of that sort," Wallace assured her, well aware of her fears. That had been his first thought upon seeing the box.
"We'll be sure she gets it," Tommy assured Wallace as he and Kim took their leave of him and headed to the Hillard residence.
For the first couple of days after the accident Tommy had been particularly worried about Katherine. She had gone into a shock-like state that she didn't seem to want to come out of, not that Tommy could blame her. Her always fair complexion had taken on a waxy cast, her eyes were dull blue marbles, she looked unkempt and exhausted. She was incapable of carrying on a coherent conversation. But she didn't cry at all, she simply ceased to function.
She was staying with her parents, and they were deeply worried about her. It simply wasn't like their daughter to withdraw so deeply. The Hillards greeted Tommy and Kimberly warmly, and ushered them up to Katherine's room, hoping they could help her since they had been unable to.
Katherine greeted them listlessly, responding to their words only when prompted to do so.
Kimberly finally reached into her purse and pulled out the small box Wallace had given her. She and Tommy had not looked at the contents of the box, they had taken the man's word it did not contain jewelry.
"Wallace Cranston gave us this to give to you," Kimberly said. "He believes it was intended as a gift to you."
Katherine took the box in trembling hands and opened it slowly. When she saw the contents the slight color left in her face drained away. She began to shake and clutched herself as if in pain, doubling over. Kimberly anxiously put her arms around her friend, as Tommy hovered over them both.
"What is it Kat? What's wrong?" she asked, knowing it sounded foolish under the circumstances, but unable to help herself.
Katherine started to say something, but instead of any words a cry of such pain came from her that Kimberly almost stepped back in fear. She recovered quickly and enfolded Katherine in her arms as her grief finally found an outlet. Once she started, Kat gave into her grief completely, sobbing and crying in a completely unrestrained manner. She and Kimberly sank to the floor where Kimberly continued to cradle her and offer what comfort she could. Tommy sat beside them, a comforting hand on each shoulder, wishing there was something else he could do.
It was a long time before Kat's tears tapered off to the point where she could speak. She still sat on the floor, between Kimberly and Tommy, feeling too weak and drained to even get up. In her hand was the item from the box-the gnome with a green hat.
"I saw this at the crafts fair last Sunday, I thought it was so cute, but Billy said it was ugly so I teased him about having no taste. He must have gone back and gotten it for me later," her voice became so soft it was hard to hear what she was saying. "He could be so sweet that way."
It seemed to hit her again that he was gone from her life forever, and her tears fell softly onto the gnome she held cupped in her hands....
Tommy forced his thoughts back to the present, to his weeping fiancee, to the upcoming funeral, to the last duty he would perform for his two friends. "Come on, Beautiful, we have to get going," he said gently, reluctantly releasing Kimberly from his embrace so he could shrug into the rest of his suit.
'I just want this day to be over,' he thought to himself.
Outside the church where the funeral was to be held, the former Power Rangers found themselves forming their own separate group. Even the last group of Rangers, Andros, Zhane, Carlos, Ashley, Cassie, and T.J., joined them for a while, despite the fact they had known Adam only briefly, and Billy barely at all. It was the fact that they were all united by their past service to mankind as Power Rangers-service that had ended in ultimate success over a year before, when the last group freed Zordon and destroyed the final threat to Earth. Despite their alien heritage, Andros and Zhane had opted to meet their future on Earth. So it was that the sixteen surviving former Power Rangers reunited briefly to say goodbye to two who had fallen, not to an evil threat to humanity, but to human error and misjudgment.
And that was the hardest thing of all.
If they had died defending their home, their families, or friends, it would have been bad enough. But for them to have died in such a senseless, wasteful manner was infinitely worse. All they could have been, all they hoped to be, all they wanted to accomplish was lost due to one person's erroneous belief that they were sober enough to drive. Several of their friends and family members were struggling with anger and hatred, as well as grief. The driver of the other vehicle had escaped with minor injuries, the winner in the simple physics that decrees that in a head-on collision between a one ton pickup and a compact car, the car will lose.
Jason was one of the ones struggling with hatred for the other driver. Hatred was not an emotion that came naturally to Jason, he had little experience with it. But every time he thought of the man who took his friends' lives, when he saw their shattered families, and devastated friends, he wanted to hurt the man as much as he had hurt them. He didn't like feeling this way, he didn't want his child born to a person who had this much hatred inside, but he didn't know what to do about it.
He put his arm around Emily, drawing a sense of saneness from her. She, and the child she was carrying, were his future, his hope, and they helped dissipate the pain and anger. He saw Bulk and Skull approaching, and turned to greet them.
"I'm glad you two could make it," he said quietly to the two former bullies, who had turned their own lives around when they became involved in the police force.
"When Mr. Cranston called, well, we were honored he asked us to be pallbearers," Bulk said solemnly. "I was surprised Billy had mentioned us as being friends."
"In the last few years, you have been friends," Jason replied.
"Yeah, I guess so. I'm just sorry for all the misery we gave him years ago," Skull said.
"Billy never held it against you. He was just glad to see you both find something to give you direction in your lives," Jason said. He would have said more, but he noticed the tears in the other two men's eyes. He realized they were as affected as the rest of them.
"Guess we're going to head on inside, see you there," Bulk said as he and Skull wandered toward the building.
The group of former Rangers separated somewhat as the time for the funeral approached. Some headed on in to take seats, others to speak quietly to the families. Jason, Tommy, Zack, Rocky, and Justin would all be sitting in front as they had been asked to be pallbearers, along with Bulk, Skull and Jerome Stone, the former owner of the Juice Bar.
Tommy put his arm around Kimberly, and started slowly toward the entrance to the church. Jason and Emily, Zack and Angela, and Trini, Tanya, Rocky, Justin, Katherine, and Aisha all followed. Trini and Katherine found it easier to deal with the situation when they were around their friends, Rocky lent support to Trini, while Tanya looked after Katherine. They entered as a group, and stopped just inside, their grip on their emotions slipping some as they looked toward the front of the large building.
There on the raised stage were two caskets, covered with floral arrangements. Between the two caskets was an easel with a picture of Adam and Billy. It was the picture that tore at their hearts. The families were well aware of the strong friendship that existed between the two, so instead of two portraits, they decided on a picture of the two together. It had been taken in March, when they had competed in a state karate championship. They were dressed in their karate uniforms, matching white robes with black belts. They looked relaxed, healthy, and incredibly happy. Their friends remembered that weekend clearly. They had done far better than they had expected in the competition, finishing second overall. Their respective relationships with Trini and Katherine were going very well. Basically, everything in their lives was going better than they had ever imagined it could. The look of happiness on their faces was completely genuine.
"Oh, God," Kimberly muttered, leaning suddenly against Tommy. Tears were again running down her face. She heard Katherine draw in a pained breath, and choke back a soft sob. Trini made no sound, but tears streamed down her cheeks. Aisha and Rocky, who had been friends with Adam long before they became Power Rangers, and Tanya who had dated Adam for a while, all came close to losing it when they looked at that picture. Zack and Jason, who, along with Kimberly and Trini, both could date their friendship with Billy back twelve years, let the tears flow unashamedly. It simply hurt too much to try to keep it in.
They made their way to seats and settled in to wait for the service to begin. The large building was rapidly filling-by the time the service started all the seats were taken and people were standing along the walls. The families sat at the front, to the left of the stage. Adam's parents, Don and Valerie Park, his younger brother, Adrian, and several aunts and uncles sat stiffly, emotions firmly in check. Beside them sat Wallace Cranston, who was joined by his brother and sister-in-law. Wallace still had the shell-shocked appearance of a man who truly didn't understand quite what had happened.
Reverend Kevin Duffy officiated. He spoke of the two young men's past, their interests, and their accomplishments. Their families' love for them, their brilliant futures cut short. And of God's place in all of this. It was a comforting service, without rancor or bitterness, focusing on the good memories, encouraging the survivors to take comfort in those memories and the thought that they were now in a better place. When he was finished, he asked if anyone had anything to say.
Tommy rose to his feet. As a former leader of the Power Rangers, he was the one elected to speak. They all had things they had wanted to say but realized that it would be too difficult for each to have a chance to speak. They compromised by all contributing to a eulogy, which Tommy would read. He stepped up to the podium and looked out over the crowded room.
"There's a group of us here who were close friends of both Billy and Adam. We got together and wrote a eulogy, which we wanted to share with everyone. Please bear with me, I'm not that good at public speaking.
"Billy's intellectual powers have always been well known, what was less known was the natural sense of curiosity and wonder he possessed. You simply couldn't be around him without being affected by it. There was no cynicism in him, he truly found everything fascinating, and wanted to share it with whoever was around him. If you didn't understand something he told you, he would explain it until you understood, without ever making you feel inferior. He genuinely wanted others to understand and appreciate what he saw. Many teenagers and young adults affect an attitude of apathy, disinterest, being "too cool" to care. Not Billy. He would probably not appreciate me saying this, but he was the only person I ever met who maintained an almost childlike wonder at the world into adulthood. That sense of wonder and curiosity made Billy quick to accept others. He never prejudged anyone or anything. He accepted new ideas, new acquaintances, and new concepts without prejudice. That is something we will all miss, it is a rare commodity in the world today.
"At first glance Adam seemed like he would be easy to overlook. He hung back some, letting others take center stage. But his attempts to stay in the background were doomed to failure, because sooner or later others noticed the depth of character, the dignity, the grace of his soul. Adam absorbed everything he encountered, he interpreted it with a poet's heart, and found beauty in the least likely of places. 'Right' and 'wrong' weren't abstract ideas to Adam-they were absolutes. And he had the courage to stand up for what he believed was right. He acknowledged and respected other's opinions and beliefs, but stood firm by his own. In a day and age where more and more people are reluctant to say 'that is wrong'; he stood out as a beacon of how things should be.
"To Don and Valerie Park, and to Wallace Cranston, we extend our deepest heartfelt sympathy. And our thanks, for bringing two exceptional people into the world, and allowing us the privilege of knowing them. If we were given the choice of never knowing them, and not having to face the pain of losing them, or knowing them and losing them, we would still choose the pain. Some things are worth it. Billy and Adam were worth it."
Tommy's voice broke at the last, and he quickly made his way back to his seat. Soft sobs and sniffling were heard throughout the building.
Reverend Duffy took the podium to offer a final prayer, then the service was to be moved to the graveside. As the mourners filed out the eight pallbearers stepped up onto the stage to carry their friends to the hearse for the ride to the graveside. Jason, Zack, Bulk, and Skull took Billy's casket, while Tommy, Rocky, Justin, and Jerome Stone took Adam's.
The graveside service was mercifully brief, after which the mourners gradually drifted away, back to take up their everyday lives.
That evening five vehicles approached a distant spot in the California desert. Oddly shaped rubble was strewn about, there were no signs of life anywhere in the immediate vicinity. But once this had been the location of what many of the arriving people had considered to be their second home.
It was where the Command Center, later Power Chamber, once stood.
It had been decided when the group of former Rangers had gotten together before the funeral earlier that day, they would meet at this location to have a private ceremony. Earlier they had said goodbye to Billy Cranston and Adam Park: friends, college students, sons, brothers, lovers. Tonight they would say goodbye to Billy Cranston and Adam Park: former Blue and Black/Green Power Rangers. Maintaining, as always, the secrecy that was by now almost second nature to them.
The day after the accident Tommy had contacted Justin. The youngest Ranger had always reminded Tommy, and the other older Rangers, of Billy-the quick intelligence, the thirst for knowledge, and the ability to find a solution to almost any technical/scientific question posed. Justin had 'inherited' Billy's garage lab when Billy left home. Mr. Cranston had taken an instant liking to the youngster, he had made the boy welcome anytime. Billy had also taken an immediate liking to Justin, they had developed a fast friendship. So it was Justin Tommy contacted when he had the idea they needed to let the Aquatian Rangers know what had happened. Tommy felt he owed them that courtesy at least, they had been important in Billy's life, and had assisted the Power Rangers in their time of need.
After the Power Chamber was destroyed, and the remaining Power Rangers had taken to space, Justin had developed a powerful transmitter in case he ever needed to contact them. This is what he used to contact Aquitar after the accident. Delphine, the leader of the Aquatian Rangers took the news stoically, but they saw tears sparkling in her eyes. She promised she would contact Zordon, whose home planet was beyond the range of Justin's transmitter.
The sixteen young people who were gathered in this remote spot formed a rough circle around a fire pit they had dug. Lighted only by the flickering illumination provided by the flames, they sat for a time in companionable silence. They had no formal plan for this farewell, they were acting only on instinct.
Tommy finally broke the silence. "I haven't been out here in at least two years, I still find it hard to believe the Command Center is gone."
"But it is nice to know it is no longer needed," Rocky added thoughtfully.
"Amen," was heard from several voices at that.
"I still remember the first time I saw it, and Zordon. I couldn't believe any of it was happening, being chosen as a 'Power Ranger', morphing, saving the world. All I wanted to do was get the heck out of there. Remember?" Kimberly turned to Jason.
"Oh, yeah, it was pretty surreal. Billy sure dug Alpha though, didn't he? Right from the first he was completely captivated by the technology the Command Center offered," Jason said with a slight smile.
"Like a kid in a candy shop," Zack added with a smile of his own.
"It must have been so weird for you guys. I mean, at least the rest of us knew there were such things as the Power Rangers, the Zords, Rita, Zedd and/or Mondo. You guys had no knowledge such things existed. Right?" Ashley asked.
"Right. We thought Zordon was out of his mind. Until we were attacked by Putties. That changed our minds pretty quickly," Jason replied.
Zack started to laugh a little. "We sure didn't do any good in that first fight. But the best was when Billy made the Putties stop for a second so he could take off his glasses. Then they just grabbed him and tossed him away. He quit taking off his glasses in fights after that first one. I guess it was enough of a challenge being unable to fight without being unable to see as well." That caused a round of quiet chuckles.
So it started. The sharing of stories about their two friends. Stories >from before they were Rangers, while they were Rangers, after they retired as Rangers. Sad stories, funny stories, scary stories. Kim told of the body-switching incident, causing the others to laugh so hard they could barely catch their breath. Rocky told of the time Adam became obsessed with the "mysterious pianist", only to find out it was Skull. They all contributed stories, weaving a tapestry of memories so that they all could feel they knew both Billy and Adam. Creating and reinforcing a bond between all sixteen of them. Those who had come after Billy and Adam's time on the team now felt a connection to those earlier teams. They were now one team.
There was a pause in the conversation as they all sat for a bit, lost in thought. Suddenly, a flash of light to the side caused them to all spring to their feet, in a ready stance, old instincts coming to the fore. The light dissipated to reveal Delphine and Cestro, two of the Aquitian Rangers.
"Greetings, Rangers of Earth," Delphine intoned. "We have come to offer our sympathies for your loss in person, as is proper. We of Aquitar knew and had affection for Billy. He left behind many friends on our planet. We regret we did not have the chance to get to know Adam, except through the stories Billy told of him. Those stories told of a young man worth knowing. Our hearts go out to you in this time of sorrow." Both she and Cestro made a gesture with their hands that conveyed their message.
"We also bring a message from another," Cestro added, setting down an odd device he had been holding. He touched a switch and stepped back.
The device emitted a burst of light that quickly coalesced into a hologram of Zordon in his tube. Zordon's voice issued forth with its usual strength.
"Greetings Rangers. I regret I am unable to convey this message in person, but it is impossible at this time. Delphine has informed me of what happened to Billy and Adam. Words cannot express my sorrow at hearing the news. When I recruited the first team of Rangers, I had some doubts about including Billy, as his fighting ability when unmorphed was meager at best. But he soon proved that fighting ability was not the only measure of a Power Ranger's worth. I hate to think what it would have been like without his incredible intelligence and dedication. Adam's calming influence was critical during all the times of change and flux on the team. Always accepting, always willing to meet change without a murmur, he was a quiet, steadying influence for everyone. Throughout countless millenium of assembling and assisting Power Ranger teams, I have always considered the members as children. Today I mourn the loss of two exceptional children. They will be remembered, and missed, forever. Though I know this is of little comfort to any of you at this time.
I can only encourage the rest of you to go on in your lives, to be as happy and successful as possible. As two of the most selfless Rangers I have ever had the privilege to work with, I know this is what Billy and Adam would have wanted for you."
The transmission ended with Zordon's sorrowful visage fading slowly away.
Delphine spoke quietly. "We must return to Aquitar now, but if you are ever in need, please know we will be there to assist in any way we can."
"Thank you, Delphine. The same goes for you." Tommy replied solemnly.
"May we meet again under better circumstances," Cestro said as he and Delphine activated their teleportation devices and streaked into the night sky, heading home.
Shortly thereafter, the former Rangers headed home. There was really nothing more to say or do.
Friday, June 15, 2001
During an emotional four-hour ceremony, 521 students graduated from Angel Grove University. Among that number were Rockwell DeSantos, Katherine Hillard, Trini Kwan, Zackary Taylor, Aisha Campbell, William Cranston (posthumously), and Adam Park (posthumously). Don Park accepted his son's diploma, while Jason Scott accepted Billy's, as Wallace Cranston had been unable to attend the ceremony.
Sunday, June 17, 2001
Three pickups pulled up in front of the small house last occupied by Billy and Adam. In response to a request by the surviving family members, a group of friends would clear out the house. It was something their families were unable to face.
Zack got out of his truck, watching Jason, Tommy, and Rocky emerge from the others. They stood in an unhappy group on the sidewalk outside the house, looking with dread at the small structure.
"Oh, man, I really am not looking forward to this," Tommy said with a deep sigh.
No one spoke for a moment, then Jason said suddenly, "Let's do it, no sense trying to put it off."
With that they entered the house, unconsciously surveying the crammed rooms, figuring out what to do with the contents. Billy and Adam had hardly been "starving students", but they had not been wealthy either. The furnishings were mostly secondhand, and very worn. The cookware, linens, and other small housewares were cheap, mismatched, or somewhat damaged. The families had told them to get rid of everything. To give it all to charity, take it to the dump, whatever they felt was most appropriate. Between themselves, the four volunteers had decided to put anything they deemed of sentimental value in boxes to be delivered to the families, for them to open when they felt they could deal with it. Otherwise, they planned to give the best of the stuff to the Hospice Thrift Store, and the rest to the dump. Even with a firm plan, it was still a daunting task.
They started with the living room, perhaps the most impersonal of the rooms. The furniture, knickknacks, television, VCR, stereo, etc., was separated into that which was good enough to be used again, and that which was beyond reuse. Then they moved on to the kitchen. Here the boxes they had brought were put to good use as they packed up all the sundry small items found in any kitchen. The food was bagged for transport to the dump. The refrigerator was the last thing they tackled.
"Ugh! What the hell were they doing with these things!?" Zack exclaimed, pulling out the three biology experiments Billy and Adam had never gotten around to throwing out. "This is too gross!" He quickly sealed them in a doubled trash bag.
Jason took Zack's place pulling stuff out of the refrigerator. "Maraschino cherries? What in the world did they have these for?" he wondered as he quickly dumped the rest of the contents in a trash bag.
Soon they had all but two rooms stripped. After taking the three trucks to be emptied, two at the Thrift Shop, and one at the dump, they met back at the house. The part they dreaded the most was all that was left to be done.
By unspoken agreement, Jason and Zack headed toward Billy's room, while Tommy and Rocky entered Adam's.
Rocky looked around, fighting a sudden nausea. As if he needed another reminder, it hit him again with the force of a Tenga's kick. Adam was dead. Really and truly dead. He would never again need anything he had in this room. He would never go on to marry Trini, father children, become a tenured professor of literature. He would never again tease Rocky about his appetite, help him with a difficult math concept, or laugh at one of his stupid jokes. Rocky felt a sense of sorrow, loss, and loneliness wash over him. He turned with an inarticulate sound and sprinted to the bathroom, where he violently lost his lunch.
Tommy was having his own fight with his emotions. He had been teammates with Adam the longest, through five different powers, yet looking around this room he realized he really hadn't known Adam all that well. Now it was too late, and Tommy was feeling the regret of a missed opportunity. He swore he would never make the same mistake again. He would never forget that there were no guarantees about tomorrow.
He looked up as a pale Rocky reentered the room. "Can you do this?" he asked gently.
"Yeah, I have to, I think," Rocky replied. "For Adam."
"Yeah, for Adam."
Zack had the weirdest feeling looking around Billy's room. The bed was only partially made, clothes were thrown carelessly on top of it. The computer was still on, the "alarm activated" light was lit on the bedside alarm clock. It seemed like Billy should come bounding in, smiling and asking them just what the heck they were doing in his bedroom. For all intents and purposes it appeared that the occupant had just stepped out for a minute and would be back shortly. He noticed one area of the far wall was covered with photographs and stepped closer to look at them. They were pictures that covered the last fifteen years or so. Pictures of all the various Ranger teams (unmorphed, of course), family pictures, including, in a place of honor near the middle of the grouping, a picture of his mother. Zack's attention was caught by one picture in particular. It showed Jason, Zack, and Billy in the back yard at Zack's childhood home. They were standing together, holding a rocket and smiling without a care in the world. They were all ten years old. The picture was taken by Zack's father about a week after Jason rescued Billy from a beating in an alley and introduced him to Zack. The summer they all became friends almost twelve years ago. 'And twelve years was all we are going to get,' Zack thought with a sinking heart. 'It just isn't fair."
Jason's anger had resurfaced. He wanted to be anywhere but where he was at this moment. He found himself surprised at just how angry he got when he thought about what had happened, he had never really considered himself an angry person before. He looked around the room, setting down the boxes he had carried in, determined to get started so they could finish this as quickly as possible. He was desperate to get out of this room that reminded him so strongly of the friend he had lost. His gaze fell on a book sitting on the bedside table and he picked it up curiously. It was a book of Psalms, quite worn. He looked at the inside cover and recognized his own mother's handwriting.
"Billy-I know you are going through a very difficult time, when you question
why this has happened, what did you do to deserve it, how will you ever
get through it. I don't have all the answers, I don't believe any person
does. That is God's job. When you are feeling low, and want answers no
one can give you, try looking in this book. I have faith you will find
something to help you. And, please always remember you will never be alone.
Love, Marjorie Scott 11/12/1992"
November 12, 1992-the winter Billy's father had been diagnosed with cancer. For six months no one was sure how it would turn out, and Billy had spent the time worried almost sick about him. Billy had lived with the Scotts during that bleak period in his life, visiting his father every other weekend. From the time they first met him, Jason's parents had semi-adopted Billy, treating him as a second son. That suited Jason fine, he had always wanted a brother, and Billy had fit the bill perfectly. He made a great 'little bro', as Jason sometimes called him, despite the fact Billy was a couple of months older.
He looked again at the note from his mother, and opened the book randomly. It was obvious Billy had consulted the small book frequently. The pages were a little dog-eared, there were a lot of smudges. Funny, but Jason felt a sense of peace just holding the book, as if the spirit of the previous owner still clung to it. The anger he had been feeling disappeared.
Wallace Cranston had said they could keep anything they wanted of his son's possessions. Jason decided he would keep this book, something told him it would be of value to him in times to come. Feeling a little more settled he started methodically going through the dresser drawers, putting the clothing in bags for the thrift shop.
The four friends worked quickly, and for the most part, silently. When at last the final box was loaded on a truck they turned one last time to look around the now vacant house. It no longer bore any reminders of the previous occupants-it would be rented to new people who had no idea who had lived there before. In effect, it would get on with its 'life'.
It was time for the others to do so as well.