Herewith follows my disclaimer: You all know the drill... I fully realize that these characters with the exception of Morag are the property of the all powerful Saban. Yadda, yadda, yadda. What this really means is that I've managed to write another Power Ranger story! Miracle of miracles. It's sort of a prequel to my other stories and contemplates the mysticism of the Ninjetti way. I have sort of blended the television Ninja stuff with my own Ninjetti thoughts. They call their spirits the movie way but they possess some of the powers demonstrated in the show. This story was something I started a long time ago but somewhere along the way, I lost my muse and it was never finished. (I've got a lot of those hanging around.) Then suddenly things came together through no fault of my own and violia here it is. Also, I am no doctor, nor do I play one on tv. What first aide is administered in this story is just a guess and is not to be taken as a guide in reality. Hope you enjoy the story. As always, feedback is most welcome.
Ernie's Juice Bar was crowded as usual on a weekday afternoon. Classes were just ending and those that had studyhall for last period had been excused early. The sound of the various juciers behind the bar whirred busily to fill the numerous orders as Tommy Oliver entered the establishment. His tall lean frame paused by the door while he scanned the crowd. It didn't take him long before he spotted the corner table filled to the brim with his colorful friends.
Rocky De Santos saw Tommy enter and waved him over, pushing his chair into Billy's who looked up from his reading in surprise. "Move it over, Billy. Tommy's here."
Billy Cranston saw Tommy approaching and willingly shifted his chair closer to Aisha Campbell. Then he buried his nose in his book again.
Tommy garnered a spare chair from another table, spun it around and straddled his long legs around its frame. "God, I am so glad this day is over with and that the holiday weekend's here."
Kimberly Hart nodded her head emphatically. "I'm with you. But I'm in no rush to get home. My mother is gonna have a conniption when she sees this grade." She poked a carefully manicured nail at a piece of paper protruding from her binder. Red ink could be seen scrawled profusely about its surface.
Adam Park leaned back in his chair. "Man, Ms. Appleby was cutthroat in her grading. I barely managed a C+ this time. What's gotten into her anyway? She's been practically evil all week. Two pop quizzes and an exam."
Tommy whipped out his own test paper. "You're the lucky one Adam. I'm in Kimberly's boat and we're sinking fast. My father's going to hit the roof. I've never failed a test this badly before."
"Maybe Ms. Appleby is having romance problems," Rocky noted after taking a long sip from his Jolt. "Wasn't she and Mr. Wilton dating a month or two ago? I think they've broken up. That's got to be the reason for me failing." Everyone rolled their eyes at that amidst some friendly snickering.
"Say, he's right though," Kimberly said. "I saw Mr. Wilton behaving very tenderly to Miss Leigh in Kaplan's office this morning. Ms. Appleby walked in and witnessed the whole thing."
"No wonder we're taking a beating," Aisha exhaled with a disgusted sigh. "There's nothing worse than teachers in love, or in this case, out of love." Aisha slipped her own test results from her notebook. "Anybody have the answer to problem seven? I could have sworn I had that one right."
Everyone shook their heads except for Billy who merely obscured his face deeper behind his textbook. They all slowly turned to look at him. He could feel their eyes burning into the top of his head. He knew what was coming and he hated it.
"Come on Billy. You're being awfully quiet." Rocky nudged him from under the table.
"Yeah Billy," Kimberly said with a knowing grin. "What did you get on the exam?"
Adam winced. He felt sorry for Billy. He knew Billy hated parading his grades in front of everyone. But he also knew without a doubt that Billy had passed the exam. He only suspected by exactly how much, but it was definitely more than all of them. In Adam's opinion, Billy didn't flaunt his intelligence. He never rushed in shouting he made an A. Everyone just knew he'd pass anything the school system threw at him. He couldn't help it that he knew all the answers. That was just Billy.
The young, blond teen slowly raised his eyes to encounter his friend's curious gazes. He swallowed with difficulty. "The answer is 30.5 times 10 to the negative three or 30.5m." He bent his head quickly back down.
Kimberly reached over and closed Billy's book and smiled sweetly at him. "You answered Aisha's question but you didn't answer mine."
A grimace of near pain creased Billy's face but he didn't meet her eyes. "Igotana," he mumbled.
Kimberly's eyebrows rose. "What was that?"
Rocky leaned over to peer at Billy's askew binder. "We didn't hear you, Billy?"
Billy quickly leaned over his pile of books. "I got an A. Alright?" His voice was low and embarrassed.
Aisha grinned at Billy and patted his back. "You got the bonus questions right too, didn't you?" Billy frowned and nodded slowly.
Rocky flung himself back in his chair almost tipping it over. "Man, I can't believe it! How do you do it?!"
"He studies," Adam said throwing a wad of paper at Rocky's head. It careened off his temple after which the red-clad boy caught it in mid-air and threw it back at his friend.
"I studied!" he insisted as Adam ducked under the projectile. "I just should have studied with Billy," he admitted with a grin.
Billy shrugged sheepishly. "I'm sorry guys."
There was an explosion of sympathetic cries. They each reached over and shoved the blue clad boy playfully.
"There's no reason to apologize Billy," Tommy emphasized. "You're just incredibly smart. And we are oh so grateful for that."
Rocky quickly agreed. "You've got that right, man. Without you we'd never have learned how to build that subatomic reatomizing thingamajig to defeat the monster last week." He laughed which was quickly joined by everyone at the table. It was interrupted by a familiar chime.
Adam scowled at Rocky. "Aw, you had to go and mention the word monster."
"Time to go to work, people." Tommy stood quickly and the rest followed him from the juice bar to a secluded alcove. An instant later they vanished.
The teens materialized in the Command Center, their secret headquarters, their home away from home. Zordon and his faithful companion, Alpha 5, were waiting for their appearance. Alpha immediately began speaking, too excited to remain silent a moment longer.
"Rangers! Thank goodness you're here. Ay-yi-yi!"
Tommy, all-business, demanded a report. "What's the matter Alpha?"
Zordon answered him. "PHAEDOS IS IN DANGER."
It brought a chill to everyone present. It had been months since the incident with Ivan Ooze when their Ninjetti spirits had been born. But the distant planet and it's lone defender were often on the young people's mind.
Adam spoke up first. "What kind of danger?"
"UNKNOWN. DULCEA MANAGED TO SEND A CRYPTIC MESSAGE," Zordon answered. The viewing globe became illuminated with a replay of the Master Warrior's last transmission. The image of the beautiful Amazon-like woman was distorted, fading in and out of focus, the screen filled with static.
"Rangers ... Phaedos ... must help! The Great Power ... danger ... evil seeks to gain ... must not...!" The transmission faded and then began to repeat. Alpha hit the mute button.
The Rangers all turned to Zordon while Billy moved to the controls. After a moment, he confirmed his suspicions. "The massive interference is originating at the source."
"But what's generating it?" Tommy wanted to know.
"Undeterminable," Billy answered shaking his head. "But whatever it is, it's blanketing the entire planet."
"Can we still teleport there?" Kimberly asked anxiously. She hated teleporting and doing so under adverse conditions did little to help calm her nerves.
Billy manipulated the complex machine before him. "We'll be able to teleport in but it'll be risky. The minute we hit the interference our signals will be scrambled."
Rocky paled. "Does that mean we'll be scrambled too?"
Zordon assured them. "NO BUT THE DANGER LIES IN THE FACT THAT THERE WILL BE NO WAY TO RETRIEVE YOU ONCE YOU MAKE PLANETFALL. WE WILL LOSE THE LOCK ON YOUR SIGNALS THE MINUTE YOU ARRIVE ON PHAEDOS."
"Meaning we're stuck there until we can knock out whatever's causing the interference." Adam's jaw clenched with that realization.
"Exactly," Billy said. "I'll take some equipment with me. There may be a way to boost our signal strength from Phaedos."
"I'll help you get what you need Billy," Alpha said and together they disappeared quickly through the main door.
Tommy stepped forward and faced the rest. "Regardless, we're there till the Great Power is safe and the evil knocked back to whatever black hole it crawled out of." The Rangers all agreed.
Billy and Alpha returned quickly from the storage room with the items they might need. Billy settled the rucksack on his shoulders. "Thanks Alpha."
"No problem Billy." The little robot was plainly nervous but covered it well.
Alpha made some final computations. "We're set, Tommy," he announced.
Tommy looked at the others. "Hold tight guys. It's gonna be a rough ride." He nodded to Alpha who stood by ready to hit the teleport switch.
"FAREWELL RANGERS," Zordon told them. "AND MAY THE POWER PROTECT YOU."
The Rangers took their places and held their breaths as the teleportation grid grabbed them and sent them speeding through the depths of space.
The journey was longer than any of them remembered. Interplanetary teleportation had always been arduous and now it was worse, much worse.
Billy knew the minute they hit the interference around Phaedos for every nerve inflamed with agony but he couldn't scream. The bright blue of his own energy faded to the color of midnight. It felt like he was blacking out and utter helplessness coursed through him. He prayed Alpha was still monitoring their flight though he wasn't sure what could be done at this late stage.
Then just as suddenly it was over and bright yellow light flooded Billy. He instantly became aware of other sensations. He was falling! He opened his eyes to see the ground rushing up towards him. He heard the other Rangers' cries as well while he twisted his body around in an attempt to land correctly and cushion the moment of impact. Coming out of a smooth double pike, Billy connected jarringly with the ground and immediately dropped and rolled, allowing his body to go limp as it forcefully compressed. He grunted at the jolt, his spine threatening to come out the top of his head.
He scrambled to his feet and checked on the others. They were in similar conditions scattered around the field.
Adam groaned as he shakily stood. "The word planetfall just took on a whole new meaning."
"That last step was a doozy," Rocky complained with a hand pressed to the small of his back. "Somebody's got to teach Alpha to drive."
"Well at least he thought to set us down on this grassy field rather than where we landed the last time we were here," Aisha noted. Her nose wrinkled in irritation. The air smelled of brimstone and smoke.
Kimberly grimaced and took Tommy's outstretched hand, unfolding gracefully to her feet. "Unngh. We'd be little more than smears on those rocks right about now."
"Cut the chatter people," Tommy ordered. Something didn't feel right. "I want to know what we're up against before they know we're here. With any luck we came in undetected." The group of six teenagers quickly set off for some cover.
They never made it.
Rocky spotted them first though it was almost too late. "We've got company!"
Three huge, black creatures dropped from the sky above them while three more, possibly sentries, flowed from the trees in front. Half human, half demon, they rushed at the Rangers.
Aisha stifled a cry of horror as one landed right in front of her. It was like looking into the maw of hell itself, flame red eyes and sharp, fetid teeth. Its leather-like skin appeared to have been burned in a charnel pit. She back pedaled for some room.
Billy was closest to her and slammed a powerful kick to the creature's head. It was like hitting solid stone but it did bring the abomination to its knees. Aisha quickly followed through with two blows of her own and the creature shattered. Aisha cradled her near numb hand close to her body. Billy rubbed at his throbbing leg.
"These guys are rock solid!" Aisha warned, a grimace of pain twisting her features.
"That's not all!" Adam shouted as he flung himself full length to the ground as the demon he fought spewed forth a torrent of flame at him. The heat scorched his back as it barely missed him.
"Whoa!" Rocky dodged a similar discovery. He spun back around the line of fire and used a piston driven leg combination to slam his opponent to the ground. Miraculously it stayed there. An exclamation of pain escaped Rocky's lips as his own leg nearly shattered with the impact.
"We need Ninjetti Powers now!" Tommy shouted as he and Kimberly took out another of the demons. They were being overwhelmed. With each strike they did almost as much damage to themselves as to their enemy. As one their hands began their intricate motions and prepared to call their animal spirits.
So intent on this act no one saw the demon barreling towards Billy. It slammed full tilt into the young man just as the powerful words were about to be spoken. It was the last thing Billy remembered before he was struck down under the weight of the stone demon. His head impacted viciously against the demon's chest and then his body bounced bonelessly into the ground, sliding several feet away from the others. He didn't move again as his morpher flew from his belt.
There was no time for anyone else to react as the transformations took effect. The other five rangers morphed and it wasn't till they were clad in their Ninjetti suits did Kimberly see what had happened.
"Billy," she screamed.
"Cover him!" Tommy shouted at her and then he was attacked by a demon.
Kimberly ran for Billy as the demon who had struck him down now towered over his defenseless body, its arms raised for a final blow. The Pink Ranger leapt into the air with the beautiful grace of her Ninjetti namesake, the Crane, and came down on the demon with the fury of a thunderbolt. The impact flung the beast away, cutting a deep long furrow into the ground.
"Keep away from him!" she cried. She stood over her friend's lifeless body but didn't have the time to check his condition. The demon regained its feet and fired a firebolt which Kimberly dodged, luckily Billy's prone body was low enough to avoid the blast as well. It lumbered towards them and she attacked it, striking where she thought it was most vulnerable. Her strategy paid off. It exploded, spewing molten lava from inside. She threw herself over Billy, protecting him from most of the projectiles. Her suit shielded her from any damage.
Adam and Rocky doubled teamed and brought down one. Fragments of its shattered stone husk showered the two of them.
"Yuck!" Rocky exclaimed wiping off the ash. "That is disgusting!"
Tommy and Aisha connected with solid hits on the last remaining demon. It screamed and then took to the air. "Bring it down," Tommy ordered. Aisha ran at Rocky who caught her foot and propelled her towards the target. She tucked her spinning body only to roll out of it just as she was over the demon's back! With a well placed kick, it exploded just like Kimberly's and they all covered their heads from the flaming debris which rained down around them. Aisha alighted between Rocky and Adam.
It was a hard won battle but not without it's price. They gathered quickly around Billy, his motionless figure filling them all with dread. Kimberly and Adam gently eased Billy over onto his back. Billy's face was streaked with a spider web of blood.
Aisha gasped. "Is he...?"
"No," Kimberly snapped. "He's fine. He's going to be just fine." She said it almost as if it was a mantra. She wiped the blood from his face, staining her own gloves.
"We're out in the open." Tommy said uneasily. "Let's get under some cover. We can examine him then."
"There's a cave around here somewhere," Adam spoke up,
Tommy nodded, his sharp eyes scanning the terrain quickly. "I remember seeing it too the last time we were here." He saw a faint dark patch against a nearby hillside. He pointed it out to the others. "There. Let's go."
Tommy picked up Billy easily. The boneless way Billy slumped in his arms made his stomach twist. _You'll be okay, Billy. Please be okay,_ he spoke silently to his friend not wanting the others to hear his fear.
As they entered the darkened cave, Aisha checked around the interior not wanting to be surprised by an unwelcome and usually dangerous resident of Phaedos. They had enough to worry about. Thankfully the cave was empty.
Tommy placed Billy gently on the floor, noting that Billy's morpher was missing. "We need some more light, a fire if we can get away with it to stop him from slipping into shock." _If it isn't too late already,_ he thought. He shook those fears away and regarded the anxious Rangers gathered around him. "Adam, find Billy's morpher and whatever wood you can find. Rocky, Aisha, scout around a little. Make sure the area's clean. Don't engage anything unless provoked."
The three of them balked, not wanting to leave without knowing Billy's condition but they also knew Tommy was right. They were completely clueless about what they were up against. Reconnaissance was vital and of the utmost priority as was getting a fire started. They left without an argument.
Kimberly immediately moved to Billy's side removing her cowl. She scrounged through Billy's rucksack, offering up a swift prayer of thanks to Alpha and Billy who had the foresight to pack some first aid equipment. She found some gauze and placed it over Billy's cut and ordered Tommy to keep pressure on it while she reached for the portable scanner.
It told her what she already knew. Billy had taken a horrific blow to the head and that he was in shock. Thankfully there were no further debilitating injuries beneath the surface other than some bruises and scrapes. She drew out the emergency medical blanket and ripped it from its compact packaging. She placed in snugly around Billy. Then she cleaned the gash which wasn't as deep as the amount of blood indicated. Scalp wounds always bled profusely her first aid coach had told her. The one thing that alarmed her was the lack of reaction in Billy's pupils when she shined the flashlight in his eyes.
Tommy watched Kimberly work with silent pride. The young woman may give the impression that she was materialistic and prissy but Tommy knew otherwise. He was witness to her strength, her calm, and her fortitude in the face of dispiriting odds almost everyday.
He also knew that they were all distressed about Billy. It was terrifying when one of them fell in battle. The world seemed to capsize. Tommy suspected that the team would be distracted now during a fight, himself included.
He rubbed his forehead tiredly trying to put his own emotions behind him. They needed information badly and the one person that could give it to them had yet to appear. Dulcea had the answers if they could just get to her. He looked at Kimberly who worked methodically on Billy.
For twenty minutes she worked silently. Finally he couldn't stand it anymore. "How is he?" he asked. She turned to him. He wasn't prepared for the despair in her wide glistening eyes. Tommy's muscles clenched as he braced for the bad news.
"He has a concussion. I'm not sure the extent of it." She bit her lip as a tremor coursed through it. "What are we going to do, Tommy?"
Kneading a cramping muscle in his neck, his mind raced through his options. Finally, he drew a deep breath. "We wait here. I don't think we should move him yet." He adjusted Billy's blanket almost paternally. "Dulcea somehow knew we were here last time we came. Maybe she'll send help."
Surprised, Kimberly glanced up from her ministrations. "What kind of help?"
"I don't know but how can one lone woman defend an entire planet?"
"She only has to defend the Great Power," Kimberly pointed out.
"How? She can't even go near it!" According to Dulcea, she would start to age if she went towards the monolith though she never explained why.
Kimberly shrugged as she placed a heavy bandage over the wound on Billy's pale forehead. "Here, help me with this." Together they gently lifted the fallen Ranger's head to wind the rest of the gauze around.
A few minutes later, Tommy glanced at the entrance. "Adam should have been back by now."
Adam blended into the darkness of the forest watching the hulking form of the demon pass him by. It was searching for them that was obvious. He fingered Billy's morpher clutched firmly in his hand. He had retrieved it without incident. It wasn't until he began his search for more firewood that he noticed more of the creatures about.
So far none of them had strayed too close to the cave. It was well hidden and Adam doubted the stupid beasts would find it unless they stumbled upon it by accident. From everything he observed about them, their actions did not indicate any intelligence.
The demon finally moved on but still Adam waited a few minutes before stirring. Eventually, he collected his pile of wood and stealthily made his way back to the cave. He was desperate to know how Billy was. Adam hated the fact that he had been chosen to get the wood, but he also knew it was important. He had been through enough injuries to know the dangers of shock. Perhaps this meant that Tommy had decided to spend the night where they were. It was already dark and Adam was grateful for it only made it far easier for him to move about the shadows thanks to the ebony color of his suit.
He entered the cave expecting to find Billy conscious. When he saw his friend's pale, limp form still laid out on the floor he turned with alarm to Tommy and Kimberly. They were already demorphed and Adam quickly followed suit depositing his load of firewood near the stone circle Tommy was constructing.
"Why isn't he awake yet?" he asked anxiously laying Billy's morpher beside him. He had been gone for at least an hour already.
Tommy laid a comforting hand on Adam's shoulder. "It could be hours Adam. A concussion is a funny thing. We're staying here for the night. I need you to help me set up a holo-camouflage around the cave's entrance. I found the equipment in Billy's pack but you know more about it than I do."
Kimberly picked up some of the wood Adam had brought intent on building the fire. "Go on. Just make sure the shield covers the whole opening. The light from this fire could be seen for miles if we're not careful." She glanced up at the numerous askew shafts in the roof of the cave. They would disperse the smoke enough to avoid being detected from the outside. There was so much smoke in the outside air currently for it blend in unobtrusively.
Adam picked up the equipment. Billy had shown him how to operate the device before. It would effectively project a replica of the rock surface making the hill appear solid. It wasn't really a shield as Kimberly called it. People could come and go through it as they pleased, so long as they knew the location of the opening.
A half hour later the machine was up and running; Kimberly had a strong fire going as Rocky and Aisha returned. They demorphed, their faces both red from their exertions.
"We could see the temple." Aisha's voice was hoarse and dry. She coughed to clear it. "It didn't look good." She breathed deeply trying to ease her tortured lungs. There had been a great deal of ash and smoke in the air near the temple.
Rocky rested a hand on her back as she bent over to cough again. He took over the explanation. "There's this huge black cloud swirling above it."
"What about the monolith?" Kimberly inquired from where she sat next to the fire with Billy's head resting in her lap.
Aisha shook her head. "Couldn't see it. Too far away."
"Was the temple under attack?" Tommy stepped forward, offering them a drink which they gratefully accepted.
Rocky let Aisha drink first while he finished his report. "Didn't look like it but I was still too far away to tell. There were torches burning up there though."
Aisha handed the bottle to Rocky. "I thought I saw Dulcea but I couldn't be sure. We encountered four or five of those demon things but we hid and they missed us. It was kinda odd."
"What do you mean odd?" Adam asked.
Rocky crouched down next to the fire. "As we were watching them they just suddenly beelined for the temple, like they had just received instructions or something."
"But we didn't hear or see anything," Aisha broke in.
Tommy listened intently to the rest of their tale while he paced the small width of the cave.
"What are we going to do, Tommy?" Adam asked.
The team leader stopped at the cave's entrance. He looked back towards the still unconscious Billy. "We wait for now. In the morning we'll head for the temple. If it's still free of the enemy and if Dulcea is there, we'll hook up with her."
"And if the temple's been compromised?" Adam insisted.
Tommy's face locked with determination. "Then we take it back."
The first thing Billy observed was a kind of numbness. He didn't want to move. He wanted to just lie here in this soft cocoon of warmth and oblivion. A small voice kept telling him that pain would come if he moved. But if he didn't something horrible would happen. He just couldn't remember what.
He slowly opened his eyes but it was too dark to see anything. He lay there distantly noting the softness beneath his head. Finally recognizing it for what it was, he turned towards the person beside him.
Suddenly his head exploded in a resounding agony and he remembered the attack on the field. He groaned, lifting the half dead weight of his arm to his head. Someone caught it.
His muddled mind tried to place the voice. "Trini?"
"No, it's Kim. Thank God, you're awake." She eased Billy off her as she shifted. When he tried to sit up Kimberly prevented him. "Don't move around yet. I want to have another look at you."
"It's dark outside," he commented. "How long have I been out?" He raised himself carefully on an elbow and felt ill as another wave of pain washed over him.
"About six hours," Adam informed him from the other side. He had been keeping watch over the entrance as the others slept and had rushed over as soon as he saw Billy was awake.
Billy tried to make out his friend but failed. Instead he shivered as a chill rushed over his skin in the pitch blackness. "A rest of sorts."
"Put some more wood on the fire, Rocky. I need more light." Kim rustled around the contents of Billy's pack.
Rocky's sleepy acknowledgment came a short distance away. Billy could hear somebody moving around near him but couldn't see anything. Then Billy made the connection.
"There's a fire?" he inquired hesitatingly.
"Yeah, why?" Adam asked putting his arms under Billy's and easing him to a sitting position. Billy could hear the fire being stoked and the embers crackling, but still the room remained in darkness.
Billy grabbed Adam's arm in a vice grip, his voice low but strained. "I can't see it. It's too dark. Why can't I see the fire?" He clamped down on the panic which threatened to engulf him.
Adam winced as Billy's fingers dug into his arm but his own fear swelled at Billy's words. "Easy Billy."
"I can't see you," Billy hissed emphasizing the point.
Kimberly reached out and grabbed his face turning him gently towards her. The cave was dark but the growing flames from the fire still enabled her to see everyone distinctly. "Turn this way," she guided. She could feel the ridge of tension in Billy's jaw beneath her light fingers. She shined the flashlight in his eyes and again the pupils were unresponsive. They remained wide and dilated. All her fears of a few hours ago settled on her once again.
"I'm blind," Billy nearly shouted, his voice climbing the scales in his near terror. His grip on Adam tightened even more but the Black Ranger didn't complain, willingly offering his friend what support he could. His own hand clutched Billy's shoulder. Billy flailed out searching for something, anything. Kimberly grabbed his searching arm tightly.
"Oh god Billy," she whispered.
Billy's head dropped down, his body wracked by heaving breaths, his limbs trembling with the effort to come to grips with this frightening, new reality. Adam and Kimberly could feel the shudders as they held him.
The other Rangers approached the small group. Kimberly's tear streaked face rose to look at Tommy and again Tommy's stomach knotted. She had no idea what that expression did to him. He wanted to take her in his arms and comfort her, shield her from such pain forever.
Instead he knelt beside Billy placing his hand on the tortured Ranger's shoulder. He squeezed it gently. Billy stiffened, recognizing the touch. He straightened, drawing deep, calming breaths but when he brought his head up, Tommy could see what it cost his teammate. The young man's cheeks were wet but his face had hardened into stone.
"We'll get through this Billy," Tommy offered.
Billy shut his eyes tightly as another wave of despair hit him. "I'm sorry Tommy." His voice was shaking with bitterness.
"Don't Billy," Tommy ordered. "It was no one's fault. Just bad luck."
"We don't need this!" Billy shouted, anger displacing his anguish. "The battle's barely begun and already I'm a liability!"
Adam spoke up. "You may not be able to see, Billy but I wouldn't call you a liability. Your mind's still as sharp as ever."
"What? Is he permanently blind?" Rocky asked staring down at Billy with dread.
Billy felt the huge knot beneath his bandage, his fingers gently probing. He forced himself to analyze the situation as he would any other. "The s-swelling could be p-putting pressure on the optic nerve."
"So there's a chance your sight could come back Billy," Aisha said, making an almost desperate grab for hope.
Billy just nodded rotely, pressing his fingers deeply into his eyes. It could be hours, weeks or possibly never but he didn't say that.
"Headache?" Kimberly asked, knowing the answer full well. She reached for a bottle of pills.
"I bet it's a dilly," Rocky commented eyeing the huge bruise visible under the bandage. Even Billy's left eye was swollen and turning an ugly shade of black and purple.
Kimberly placed some pills in Billy's hand. "Take these." Adam procured the water bottle and guided Billy's hand towards it.
"What are they?" Billy queried feeling the pills between his fingers.
"Anti-inflammatories. They should help."
"The rest of you go back to sleep," Tommy suggested. "We have a long day tomorrow." The young teenagers complied moving to their makeshift beds.
Tommy looked over at Billy and into lifeless eyes. He shivered in the suddenly icy cave. "Yeah Billy?"
Billy swallowed his fear and tried to sound brave. "Leave me here Tommy. I won't be any good to you like this. I'll just be in the way."
Outrage flared in Tommy. "Stop it Billy! You're coming with us."
Billy's own anger rose to meet his friend's. "I'm a liability now. You'll have to spare someone to babysit me all the time. It would be foolish, Tommy. Leave me here and come back for me later."
"I'm not leaving anyone behind. It's only a matter of time before those creatures find this cave. You'd be defenseless. You're coming and that's final." Tommy stood furiously and took Adam's place on guard.
Billy strained to hear where Tommy went but failed. Frustration and fear welled up inside him so much that he couldn't tell which caused the most trembling. Suddenly he felt soft, strong arms encircle him from behind.
"Lay back Billy." It was Kimberly.
He resisted for a moment and then relented, easing himself against her. The pain in his head was overwhelming which was making it very difficult to think straight.
"You're asking too much of him, you know," she whispered faintly in his ear after a few moments. "We're a team. He wouldn't leave any of us behind no matter what."
"That isn't the point." Billy knew how difficult it was going to be navigating unknown terrain completely blind. He would only slow them down, making everyone a target. "Doesn't he realize..." Billy began, his own voice quietly matching hers.
"Of course he does, Billy. Trust me, Tommy knows full well the consequences of his decisions." Her voice suddenly sounded far away, almost sad. "They consume him sometimes."
Billy finally just let himself relax, relishing the solace she offered. His eyes tried to slip close and he jerked awake terrified of the inability to distinguish sleep from reality.
Kim tightened her hold and spoke again in her soft dulcet tone. "Don't ask this of him. He won't... he can't do it. None of us could, not even you. Now just rest. Close your eyes and sleep. I'll wake you every so often just in case."
Billy did as he was told and minutes later his slow even breathing indicated that he had slipped into sleep or unconscious. Kim leaned back and got comfortable against the stone wall. She met Tommy's eyes from across the cave. She offered him a small smile which he couldn't return, the weight of his anguish too heavy right now. He turned back to the entrance, continuing his vigil, occasionally catching glimpses of dark shapes moving in the distance.
Regardless of what tomorrow would bring, they were all walking out of here come first light. He understood Billy's concerns but he wasn't that kind of commander. Hell, he wasn't even a commander. He was a teamleader which was different. Commanders sometimes didn't care about those under him, but Tommy did. God help him, he did. He tiredly scrubbed at the dust in his long even hair, sighing heavily. He didn't want to think about it anymore so he occupied his mind with possible scenarios for tomorrow's long hike to the temple. It passed the time.
Tommy woke everyone early before first light. He wanted to cover as much ground as possible in the semi-darkness. They didn't know the area well enough to navigate without having some light to guide their way. Unfortunately their bright colors would give them away once the sun was fully out and they were in the open. Yesterday's battle had layered them with enough dust, ash and dirt to obscure themselves from first glance but eventually they would be spotted. The sleeping Rangers all rose without complaint, probably too tired to even do so.
Billy blinked into the pitch darkness as he woke. His condition hadn't changed but he had anticipated little else. Every time Kim roused him there flared the faintest hope of seeing her face but after the third time that hope waned.
He sat up wincing as bones and muscles cried out in protest. His arm and shoulder burned probably due to the impact on the demon. His whole left side felt like one massive bruise. He heard someone move beside him.
Tommy touched him lightly on the leg. "How you doing this morning?"
"Still blind, if that's what you're asking." Billy tried to keep the bitterness from his voice but Tommy heard it anyway and ignored it understanding the strain his friend was under.
"Doesn't matter. Your sight will return. Let's just give it some time."
"Time we don't have, Tommy," Billy reminded him quietly.
Tommy shrugged and then realized Billy couldn't see it. "Don't worry about it. We're just gonna pack up and then we'll get going."
Billy was tempted to persuade Tommy one last time about leaving him but then remembered what Kim had said last night. He let it go. Tommy was team leader and Billy would never challenge it. He tried to imagine how he would feel if it had been someone else who had been hurt. Billy knew he wouldn't leave them behind either. In a way he was relieved. The thought of staying here alone in the dark terrified him.
Billy gave Tommy a ghost of a smile and nodded. "I'll be waiting Tommy."
Tommy grinned broadly at his friend. "We'll get through this together Billy. Always have, always will." He patted Billy's leg and then rose to help the others.
Twenty minutes later the group moved out. Billy nestled between Adam and Aisha, his hand firmly gripping Adam's shoulder.
Tommy continually scanned the sky for any sign of the enemy while Rocky took point. Phaedos' twin crescent moons could be seen distinctly in the brightening sky. An hour later the sun rose higher in the sky, bathing the planet in golden light. Particles of soot and ash could be seen through the rays of sunlight that filtered through the trees. It was oppressive, clogging their lungs and eyes.
Adam turned to see how Billy was holding up. A thin sheen of dusty sweat covered the Blue Ranger, his listless eyes stared vacantly at nothing, his waxen face pinched with pain. Adam choked back his anguish for his friend. "We're almost there, Billy," he quietly reassured him. The air was getting thicker with smoke the closer they came to the temple. Breathing was almost a chore.
"Geez," Rocky complained waving a hand in front of his face. "You'd think Rita sent the Smog Monster after us again." It elicited a few low chuckles from the group which was what Rocky intended all along.
Aisha frowned suddenly and pulled up short. "Do you guys hear something?" The group paused and in the distance could be heard deep booms and crashing thunder.
"Is that a storm?" Kimberly asked.
A sense of dread came over Tommy. He picked up the pace. "Come on."
As soon as they came out of the cover of the trees and into a small glen, Kimberly gasped and pointed. The temple was before them atop a rocky craig. The dark cloud was clearly visible now. It was not comprised of smoke as they had first thought but hundreds of flying demons circling above it.
Fiery bolts rained down upon the temple each blast sending shock waves that could be felt even by the Rangers.
"The temple! It's under attack!" Kimberly cried out.
"They'll destroy it," Rocky shouted.
"Not if we can help it! Let's go!" Tommy turned to run and then paused, swinging back to Billy. "Adam, you stay with Billy."
"You got it," Adam said watching the rest sprint up the hill for the temple. But as they crossed the open ground they were spotted and a flock of demons veered off from the main pack and descended on the Rangers.
Tommy didn't waste a beat, shouting, "Ninjetti Powers Now!" With the single call of each of their animal spirits, the transformations began.
They all morphed including Billy. He hadn't meant to but it had been instinctive. Tommy noticed and at first wondered what the hell Billy was doing. He couldn't fight. But then Tommy realized that Billy was safer in the suit than without it. It would afford him some protection if the demons got through Adam.
Then the winged monsters were on top of them at least three per Ranger. The odds rapidly shifted against them
Knowing full well they couldn't waste any time, the Rangers prepared to use all the Ninjetti powers at their disposal which had far more affect than anything else they had tried so far. Unfortunately four demons stalked towards Adam and Billy, but there was little the other Rangers could do for their own hands were full. The demons seemed everywhere.
"Stay put Billy!" Adam shouted expelling fireballs at the closest demons. Two of them were flung back, their flesh smoldering. The other two rushed at Adam. He managed to dodge one but caught a glancing blow from the other and was sent spinning to the ground.
Billy heard Adam's cry, terror seizing him in its icy grip. He couldn't even help his friend. "Adam!"
One of the demons turned towards an oblivious Billy. Tommy saw Adam go down but he was barely holding his own against his three opponents. He checked the rest of the team and found them all in similar situations.
"Damn!" He tried to get away to help Billy but the demons cut him off. "Billy," he shouted. "Incoming! Three o'clock!"
The sounds of battle assaulted the Blue Ninjetti Warrior but he didn't know where or who is enemy was. *Stay calm,* he hissed at himself, but it was difficult. Then he heard Tommy's voice direct him. Without thinking, he spun a kick in the air, praying his timing was right. His foot collided with something hard, the shock of it more painful than the impact. He quickly followed through with some lightening punches but this time only hit empty air. Panic seized him again.
"Where is it?!" he shouted, crouching low and putting blind hands out in front of him. Suddenly a withering blow struck his chest, flinging him down to the ground, his breath rushing out of his lungs as if it didn't belong there.
"No!" Adam screamed, running for the demon towering over a gasping Billy. He called on his Ninjetti spirit and felt his form grow until he towered over the demon. He raised a finger and hit the chest of the demon as it turned toward him. It exploded in a fury of stone fragments. Quickly Adam resumed his original shape.
Billy stood unsteadily and found a heavy stick lying on the ground which reminded him of his power lance. It wouldn't do any damage but it would give him some additional reach, enabling him to pinpoint his opponents. He spun the long pole, a mere blur in his hands. A glimmer of confidence rose in Billy. Some things you just didn't need eyes for. He slammed the pole under his arm and waited, listening for any movement around him. Unfortunately, there was too much noise for him to discern anything and that terrified Billy.
Adam approached Billy and barely ducked under a panicked swipe from the Ninjetti Warrior's new 'lance.' "Whoa! It's me! It's Adam."
Billy stood there, the barest hint of a tremor coursing down to the ends of the pole. "Sorry Adam."
Adam placed a reassuring hand on Billy's shoulder. "That's alright. If I was a demon, you would have taken my head off."
Adam caught a glimpse of the three demons regrouping. "Here they come again. Get behind me."
Billy stood his ground. "Give me their positions."
"Are you crazy, Billy?"
"Maybe. But I'll be just as vulnerable behind you. You won't be able to keep all of them off me."
Adam relented realizing Billy was right. "They're at eleven, one and three."
"I'll take the one on the left. At least I know where one of them is."
"Yeah for the first hit. Then what?"
Billy swallowed hard and took a fighting stance. "We'll find out."
Adam shook his head.
Then the demons rushed them. "Now!" Adam shouted firing a sweeping barrage at the demons. One of them fell, its leg shattered. The others charged towards the two Rangers. "Billy, jump!"
Billy leapt into the air and somersaulted up and over the demon. Adam did the same slamming a kick into the monster as it passed beneath him. It howled in pain.
Billy landed badly and tried to stand back up but the demon he had avoided quickly spun back around. Billy swung the pole in a desperate attempt to relocated his opponent. The wood connected solidly in back of him. He kicked out staggering the demon which recovered quickly enough to grab him in its stony grip. He shouted in surprise and then in pain as it tightened it's hold. He tried swiping the pole at the monster's legs in order to trip him but the mammoth thing seemed rooted to the spot.
Tommy saw the danger and immediately utilized his Ninjetti powers to teleport. An exact duplicate of his costume remained and the demon tore into it not realizing his prey was no longer there. The White Ranger appeared beside Billy and the demon. "Let him go!" he shouted.
"Tommy!" Billy cried.
The demon threw Billy aside with tremendous force and the Blue Ninjetti Warrior flew through the air to smash into the trees. He fell heavily but was surprisingly still conscious.
Tommy flew into a rage and attacked the demon with a flurry of complicated movements almost too fast to follow. The demon shattered.
Billy staggered to his feet, the pole gone. He searched for it futilely, blind hands groping and then gave up. Two more demons shambled down the hill, their arms raised for a final blow on the unsuspecting Ranger.
Suddenly a howl erupted from the above, echoing around the glen. A flash of blue streaked across the field of battle, striking demons like a pinball as it zigzagged down the hill moving too fast for the eye to follow. The demons splintered apart in dramatic eruptions of dust and debris.
It beelined for Billy and then there was an explosion of blue light as it enveloped the blind Ranger. Billy's body arched backward and hung almost suspended in the air, his arms splayed out.
"BILLY!" Kimberly cried watching the whole thing since the blue light had taken out her final demon. The others all had one remaining.
When the light faded, Billy dropped like a rock to the ground and lay still. Kim ran towards him intent on protecting him from the two demons which were now almost upon him. Then miraculously she saw Billy stir.
He rose to his feet and turned towards his attackers, pinpointing their positions as if he could actually see them. He ducked easily under their seemingly clumsy attempts to hit him. Billy, who had never really been a graceful fighter, suddenly moved with fluidity and symmetry.
Kim slowed, hypnotized by his dance-like display. He wasn't even looking at the demons yet he deflected their blows so easily as if he knew what they were thinking before they did it. In seconds the battle was over, the creatures mere bits of ash and stone.
The winded Rangers removed their cowls, all staring at Billy who walked towards them, stepping over the remaining piece's of the creatures without even looking at the ground.
Kim ran breathlessly towards him. "Billy! You can see!" The rest came over as well.
He turned towards them. "Not exactly," he answered. The Rangers gasped for his eyes were glowing with a blue light.
Tommy grabbed his shoulders, "What happened?"
A slow smile crossed Billy's flushed face, peaceful and relaxed. "The Spirit of the Wolf," he whispered almost in a dream state, "is inside me."
"You can see?" Rocky asked in shock, waving a hand in front of Billy.
Billy shook his head but then snatched Rocky's hand before the surprised Ranger could yank it out of reach. "I don't know, but it's as if all my other senses are heightened. I can hear the compression of air as your hand moves through it. I could hear exactly where the demon's stones hit the ground. I can sense some sort of thermal aura around you guys. It's weird." His voice was low and distant. He gently released Rocky's hand.
"You're telling me," Rocky said. He couldn't take his eyes off Billy's strange orbs.
Another blast hit the temple and the ground shook sending the Rangers staggering.
"Dulcea," Billy said staring with those luminous eyes in the direction of the temple, his expression filled with dread. "We have to hurry."
Tommy tore his gaze away from Billy and then nodded for the team to sprint up the hill towards the besieged temple. He hesitated again briefly looking at Billy and then ran after them. It was Adam who turned around and spotted Billy stumbling across the uneven terrain. Puzzled, he paused grabbing Billy's elbow.
"Thanks Adam," Billy said. "The ground's a bit rocky."
"How did you know it was me?" Adam asked in surprise.
"Your soap. You use Ivory."
"But I haven't showered in two days."
Billy shrugged. "There's still enough to recognize by smell."
"That's freaky, Billy!" Adam's eyes widened.
"It is, isn't it?" Billy agreed with a twisted grin, grateful for Adam's directing hand. "I'm a little new at this. Wish these older rocks would give me a sign where they are." He bumped into another stationary boulder and Adam steadied him. "They're not giving anything off but I can feel him inside me, trying to guide me. I'm just not quite used to it yet." Billy swung his head towards the temple again as if listening to something far away. "He wants us to hurry."
"Let's go then." Together they rushed for the high ground. The sight that greeted them above made their blood run cold. Dulcea, wounded and haggard, was holding off eight of the demons while surrounding her were hundreds of spirit animals all except the wolf. Their ghostly forms moving in soft muted blurs. Monsters descended and exploded as soon as the spirit animals attacked, but they were being overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of the demons that swirled above them.
Tommy quickly took stock of the situation and directed the Rangers to shore up the weakest of the defenses. Rocky and Aisha leapt forward to fight side by side with the panther and a dragon-like creature. Billy and Adam stood beside an eagle and a wolverine.
Dulcea caught Adam's eye and a grin broke over her weary face. Renewed in strength she attacked her foes. They stood little chance against the Master Warrior of Phaedos, wounded or otherwise.
The tide slowly began to turn and for the first time the demons hesitated. Suddenly as if a silent signal was given, the demons whirled aside as they flew away towards the monolith. The sun slowly emerged through the fading, dark clouds and flickered onto the temple's floor. Leaning heavily on her stick, Dulcea's face turned towards the sunlight as if it was a long lost friend. Then exhausted, she crumpled towards the ground, her pole sliding through her weak hands.
Adam was there in an instant, catching her before she hit the ground. "Dulcea!" Adam held the suddenly frail woman.
Dulcea smiled bravely at her young prince. Knowing how frightening it must be for them, she gathered strength from somewhere and straightened. It took a tremendous effort. She had been under siege for almost two days. The spirit animals had joined her in battle for the protection of the sacred temple of the Ninjetti. It was their renewing strength that had held off the demons until the Rangers' arrival.
Tommy and Rocky quickly moved to follow the demons to prevent them from reaching the Great Power but Dulcea stopped them.
"Let them go," she said.
The two men returned to her side silently questioning her order but obeying none the less. They trusted Dulcea implicitly. The team powered down to conserve energy.
"Thank the Spirits you are here," she whispered gathering her resolve. Her limbs trembled against her staff. "I knew you would come, no matter the risks."
"Of course we would, Dulcea," Tommy answered her. "We are Ninjetti."
Her eyes shone at that taking in all of the Rangers in turn. Finally her eyes fell on a seated Billy and her joy fled. "Something is wrong," she said simply walking slowly over to him using the pole for support, Adam remaining by her side. "What has happened?"
"We were attacked the minute we landed," Rocky explained.
"It's the reason we were delayed," Tommy added.
"Billy was hurt." Kim's voice was strained, her eyes locked on Billy. "He's lost his sightor at least he did."
A despairing tremor coursed through Dulcea then she nodded. "Of course. I should have realized it when the Wolf Spirit left the battle so suddenly." She knelt beside the blue warrior. "I'm sorry Billy."
Billy tried a weak smile. "It's a subdural hematoma. Hopefully my sight will return once the swelling lessons."
"Let us hope so. In the meantime the Spirit of the Wolf will guide you."
"And for that I am grateful," he told her with much sincerity. He no longer felt so helpless.
She squeezed his knee gently as she tried to rise, faltered, and then Adam was there to help her to a stone to rest upon. She had some frightful cuts along her arms and shoulders. While he administered to her wounds, Tommy questioned her.
"Dulcea, who is it that we're fighting?"
Aisha came to stand beside him. "They look like demons from hell," she observed with a barely suppressed shudder.
"That is a close enough assumption. I believe they are from a distant planet named Oscone IV. They have traveled this way before perhaps spawning your own earth legends."
"Are they after the Great Power?" Rocky asked.
Dulcea shook her head tiredly. She barely reacted to Adam's ministrations though he knew it must hurt. "No. They are but the minions of something far more evil. Someone else is directing them. Of that I am sure." She grew quiet but Adam could feel the tension in her neck and shoulders. The cords of muscle could be seen tightening even more. The Rangers all waited with great patience. "However, whomever is controlling these demons has yet to show himself."
"You said The Great Power was in danger, but the attacks are centered here at the temple. I fail to see the logic in that," Billy noted, his mind troubled by the complexity of the situation.
Dulcea nodded. "I'm sorry to say that the evil force has already taken the monolith." Amid gasps of astonishment and horror from the Rangers, Dulcea quieted them with a raise of her hand. "However, no harm has been done yet. It is not a force easily obtained as you well know."
Billy stepped forward a question already burning on his lips. They had gained the Great Power by being valiant in battle and being found worthy to receive the sacred animal spirits. Surely no villain would be worthy of it so how was he intending to achieve it. "How exactly does this villain intend to gain the Great Power?"
"The Great Power can be possessed regardless of your stature so long as you are willing to defeat its guardians." Disgust creased her features. "But this new threat is a coward. He or she does not wish to do so."
"Then how do they expect to gain access to it?" Kimberly asked. If the bad guy wasn't willing to fight to get his new powers than all this was a moot point.
"Every Master Warrior is entrusted with a secret way into the monolith through their animal spirit." The Rangers' faces showed their surprise. "Whoever is orchestrating these attacks knows that if I can be captured the secret can be ripped from me and they will receive the Great Power without having to deal with the monolith's defenses."
"Oh no, Dulcea!" Aisha was horrified. She looked at her teammates. "We can't let that happen!"
Tommy slammed a fist into his hand. "We won't!" To Dulcea, he said, "We're here as long as it is necessary Dulcea. We are Ninjetti and we swear allegiance to protect that legacy and all those who uphold it, especially you." This was quickly backed up by all the other Rangers.
"We won't let anything happen to you Dulcea," Adam insisted.
Dulcea nodded, her moist eyes dancing in the faint light of day. She drew in a deep breath and stood suddenly all business again as if the slight show of emotion had embarrassed her. "The demons will return soon. They haven't given up yet. I suggest we get some rest while we can. I'll get some food for us." She moved off towards one of the huge solid stones in the vast temple and before their very eyes disappeared into it.
"Whoa," Rocky exclaimed. "Did you see that?"
Tommy and Rocky ran up to the stone. Emblazoned on its surface was the sign of the Owl. "Isn't that Dulcea's totem?" Rocky asked.
"Yeah." Tommy put out a hesitant hand and pressed against the stone. His hand vanished into it. He jerked it back out quickly, his hand actually tingling.
"What is it?" Kimberly asked coming up behind them.
Tommy turned to her. "It looks like there's more to this temple than meets the eye."
"There is." They all looked at Billy who had quietly come up behind them.
Tommy's brow creased with concern. "What do you mean?"
Billy smiled in that all knowing way of his. "This whole temple is built on a maze of underground tunnels and passages. Each Ninjetti animal spirit has a section of the temple dedicated in its honor. The Wolf's temple is over there." He pointed to the right of the Owl temple.
"How do you know?" Aisha inquired almost fearfully. This was all so strange.
"His name is Canis. He has been the spirit guide for the Wolf for over a millennia. And it is his knowledge I share with you now."
Dulcea emerged startling them. Her arms were laden with baskets of fruit and vegetables. She smiled as the Rangers sheepishly gathered some of them from her. They moved off hesitantly to the fire pit and gathered together.
Dulcea had heard their voices as she came up from the tunnel. She smiled at their incredulous faces. "You were here so short a time Rangers that there is much you don't know about Phaedos. The planet has a long history and perhaps there will be time to tell you these things."
"I hope so Dulcea," Tommy told her. "In the meantime, we can use the tunnels as protection during the night."
"Of course. They are the safest part of the temple now. However, if the stone markers are defaced in any way the tunnel will be sealed forever."
Tommy grimaced. "Great. Dulcea this whole temple is one big open target. It's defense will be extremely difficult."
Billy spoke up. "I brought along some equipment that might help us in that regard."
"Good," Tommy said. "You and Adam get to work on it. I want it ready before nightfall." He turned to Dulcea. "I want to look over the rest of the temple grounds if possible."
She nodded and the two of them fell into discussing upcoming battle plans through the remaining daylight hours, looking for possible breaches in their defense.
Two hours later Kimberly watched them as they passed by her again on their rounds. She smiled. Tommy seemed tense but comfortable. Here finally was someone he could relate to in terms of tactics which he usually kept to himself. Kimberly was his main confidant on such matters on earth but she never could really critique or assist in his strategies. She merely listened and offered her support.
Aisha sidled up to Kimberly noting the direction of her gaze. "You jealous?"
Kimberly squeaked and spun around. "You scared me! Don't do that!"
"Of course, I'm not jealous. Tommy's just talking shop with her. Lord knows I can't."
"I bet you do just fine. I was only teasing anyway. How's the equipment check going?"
"Fine but I wish Billy would get back here soon. I need his help on this last connection." She glanced around. "Where did he go anyway?"
"I saw him heading towards the far side of the temple."
Kimberly became alarmed. "Was anybody with him?"
"Not that I saw. Though he didn't look like he needed anyone's help. It's really bizarre the way he can do things now. I was walking past him to get some wood and he said 'Hello Aisha.' I never even said anything to him."
"How did he know it was you then?"
Aisha shrugged. "He said he knew the sound of my footfalls, the way I walked." She inclined her head to Kim. "It's weird."
Kimberly rose. "Still, I better go check on him."
Aisha smiled. Kimberly was such a mother at times. She added more wood to the fire as Kimberly moved off in search of her wayward teammate.
Kimberly found him standing beside the temple of the Wolf. It's rough hewn surface gave little indication of its importance yet it had a majesty to it. She could make out the figures of wolves etched deeply overhead. Billy was running his bare hands over the designs on the stone. He cocked his head to one side. "Hello Kimberly."
She yelped in surprise. "How do you do that?"
Billy laughed softly. "Each of you have a particular attribute that sets you apart from the others. With you it's the delicate way you walk and your perfume. Aqua De Gio, I believe."
Kimberly's eyes widened in surprise. "Yes but I didn't bring any with me."
She studied him. He wasn't even looking at her just lightly gliding his fingers over the stone's rough surface. "What are you doing?"
Billy took one of her hands in his and placed it against the stone. "There are slight indentations in the stone. It's some sort of ancient inscription."
Kimberly peered at the stone seeing nothing. "It must be worn down to nothing because I can't see it." She could feel some slight ridges against her fingers but how the heck was Billy reading it?
"It is very faint. Think of it like Braille" He picked up a bottle of water and ran some over his fingers. Then he began to trace the indentations filling the small etchings with moisture. Slowly Kimberly could begin to see what Billy was talking about.
"You're right!" She squinted, not recognizing the language. "What does it say?"
"It says the "Touch not the Wolf."
"What does that mean?" She could just barely make out a few of the faded letters.
Billy shrugged. "Who knows. It sounds sort of like a crest, a family motto." He shivered slightly. "What time is it Kimberly? It's getting cold."
"Yeah, the sun is going down. It's almost beneath the horizon." She wrapped an arm around his shoulder. "Come on, let's head back to the fire. I want you to explain where the green wire needs to be connected and what's the deal with the terminal thingee before we lose all our light."
"It's called a terminal block and the green wire is ground. That's very important Kim."
She laughed weakly. "I was only kidding. I knew that."
Billy smiled. "Oh."
Kimberly winced. She had actually forgotten that but she didn't want to tell Billy. She was grateful he couldn't see her pained expression.
An hour later, darkness fell across Phaedos. Most of the Rangers were resting around the fire thinking about tomorrow. The faint glimmer of a force field sparkled above them. Tommy was taking a last stroll around the temple grounds when he noticed a figure moving in the shadows. He tensed and then relaxed recognizing the low blue glow. It was Billy. Suddenly he realized that Billy was walking towards the cliff's edge. Alarmed, he quickly ran over and grabbed him.
"Billy! You're too close to the edge!"
Billy just smiled. "I know."
Frustration surged through the White Ranger. "Billy you can't see. How could you possibly know where the cliff is?" He couldn't understand why Billy wasn't facing up to the fact that he was blind. The rest of the team was more than capable of handling any problems. Billy should just rest and recover from his injuries.
"Tommy, I may not be able to see in the conventional way anymore but trust me I notice more now than I ever have before. I may not be able to see who you are but I can tell your height by where your voice is. I can tell how far away you're standing from me, just from the heat your body is giving off." Billy gestured to the cliff beside him. "I can hear the wind as it rushes up and I can smell every scent it brings up from the bottom." He turned back to his friend. "Believe me, Tommy, I'm not blind anymore. Not really." His face saddened slightly. "At least for as long as he's with me." Billy's hand brushed over his heart.
Tommy wasn't convinced. "I saw you stumble out there on the field this morning. That's the only reason I want you to stay out of the fight."
"Well, I still hadn't adjusted to Canis' senses then. Now I understand how they work. Besides, regular rocks don't give off a great deal of heat in the morning hours. My 'vision' seems to be thermally sensitive. The more heat something gives off the easier it is for me to locate it."
"The demons give off heat like a volcano. I can sense them coming miles away."
"I don't know Billy," Tommy said apprehensively.
"Then try us."
That took Tommy by surprise. "What?"
Billy began to glow a brighter blue. "Try us in a fight," he said his voice deepening. "Let us show you what we can do."
"We?" Concern for his friend began to creep in. He shook his head. "No, I still want you to stay out of the battle when it hits."
Billy's face hardened, an odd thing for Tommy to witness. "Don't discount us without giving us a chance." Billy's voice was low and angry.
"Stop it Billy. Why are you talking like that? What's with this us business?"
"It's nothing to be worried about."
"My ruling still stands." He wasn't sure about what was happening to Billy and even less sure he liked it. He turned and walked away. He heard Billy follow him. When he was far enough away from the cliff's edge, Tommy made a decision. He spun back and aimed a kick at Billy's midsection expecting to catch Billy off guard and put a quick end to the discussion.
But Billy dropped down under the kick and struck out with a blow of his own. Tommy leaped aside just barely missing Billy's tag. The glow around Billy flared brightly as he came after Tommy with lightening fast fists each one aimed dead on for Tommy's face who barely leaned back out of the range of the rain of fury. He missed one. It connected solidly and Tommy went flying towards the fire. He landed among the other Rangers who stood up with cries of alarm. They were even more shocked when they saw who Tommy's assailant was.
"Tommy!" Adam cried. "What's going on?"
"Stay out of this," Tommy said waving a hand at them as a glowing Billy strode out of the darkness towards Tommy.
"Yes, do not interfere," Billy snarled, his eyes disturbingly illuminated, wisps of blue flame escaping from the corners.
Tommy stanced and wiped at the corner of his mouth. A drop of black blood smeared his hand. Billy, or whoever he was at the moment, definitely fought with more skill and more aggression than the friend Tommy knew.
"Tommy doesn't believe we can see," Billy told the others. "We're proving him wrong." He somersaulted into the circle.
Tommy lashed out at Billy, his arms driving like pistons but Billy easily deflected all of them and then struck out with a precision kick. Tommy barely avoided it and he felt the force of it as it passed within a few millimeters of his face.
"This is getting way too serious," Rocky shouted stepping forward to get between them.
"Stay back!" Billy's head snapped towards him. He was crouched low and his lips curled back baring his teeth. Rocky halted in horror.
"Get Dulcea," Adam whispered to Aisha who rushed quickly towards the owl's monument.
Tommy used the momentary distraction to get nearer the fire. Billy had said that he saw by thermal energy. Maybe Tommy could blend into the heat generated by the fire.
Billy's head twisted back around searching for his target. He cocked his head and straightened, turning slowly past each of the Rangers . They soon realized he couldn't see Tommy.
Billy's eyes closed as he drew in a deep breath through his nose. A moment later he smiled in triumph.
He leaped straight at Tommy bearing him across the flames of the fire and onto the other side, rolling in the soft dirt. Tommy was so taken by surprise that he landed poorly. Billy was on top of him in an instant, his face no longer resembling Billy but a twisted version of his friend, his arm raised and fingers spread like claws ready to strike.
"BILLY! NO!" Kimberly screamed.
Billy wavered as the blue glow about him faded. His arm sank to his side and his face slackened into anguished horror. He slipped off Tommy. "Oh god. I'm sorry, Tommy." He backed away, his entire body shaking. Dulcea stepped forward out of the darkness behind Billy and helped the young Ranger to his feet. He was trembling all over.
"It's alright," she soothed.
Tommy stood slowly unable to say anything. He wasn't angry, more in shock really. He knew Billy long enough to know that what he had just happened was not his friend's fault.
"I'm sorry, Tommy," Billy almost sobbed, distraught by the fact he had almost hurt someone he cared about.
"Don't worry about it, Billy," Tommy said hesitatingly, his own voice not to be trusted. He was determined to ease Billy's mind. It wasn't his fault, he kept repeating. He tried a smile. "Hey, that was the first time you ever had me on the ropes. Not bad." They were both breathing heavily.
Billy wouldn't let it go, horrified by what he had been about to do. "I could have I could have "
Tommy pierced him with an intense gaze. "But you didn't and that's what matters."
"You need to rest," Dulcea told Billy. She regarded all the Rangers. "You all do. I'll take the first watch. The rest of you sleep."
"I can't ," Billy began his voice still wavering, his thoughts consumed.
Dulcea turned him to face her. "Yes, you can," she said softly. Her emerald eyes locked onto his blue ones. "I want you to sleep." Her voice changed into a low baritone and after a few seconds Billy visibly relaxed. He nodded mutely at her. Dulcea motioned Kimberly towards her. "Take him."
Wide-eyed, Kimberly obeyed and helped Billy over to where he was to sleep tonight. He half stumbled against her. Adam quickly came over to help.
Tommy stepped up to Dulcea. "What just happened?"
"It is one of the after affects of having two souls in one body."
"You mean Billy has a split personality," Rocky exclaimed finding the matter at once fascinating and yet also kind of freaky.
"In a way," Dulcea explained. "The Wolf spirit is lending Billy his strength as well as his senses. What you witnessed was a manifestation of that strength."
"That was not Billy!" Tommy nearly shouted. "Billy would have never done that."
"You must remember, the Wolf spirit is an alpha male," Dulcea tried to explain. She regarded the two Rangers. "How much do you know about wolf behavior?"
Rocky shrugged. "Not much."
She gestured towards Tommy. "In your team, Tommy is the Alpha, the leader.
"There can be only one Alpha," Dulcea told him.
Tommy didn't like this turn of events. "So what now? Are we going to have to fight to see who leads the team?"
Dulcea smiled slightly. "No, but there might be times when Billy will speak his mind and question your commands."
"Great! Just what we need. We're a team, Dulcea. A well balanced machine. If we no longer have that balance we're at a disadvantage especially in battle."
"The Wolf's aggresion can be held in check depending on the strength and will of the host."
Tommy shook his head in dismay. "Yeah, and we know who will win that battle." Billy had never demonstrated strong will.
Dulcea frowned at Tommy. "I would not be so sure of that fact. What you just saw was partially Billy."
"What do you mean?"
"Billy does not want to be left behind, Tomm,y especially because of what someone perceives as a handicap. He has lived with such rejection most of his life. The Wolf merely gave Billy the strength to fight for what he believed in."
"Well, he certainly made his point," Tommy said bitterly. "He could've killed me."
Dulcea sighed. "It was Billy's respect and love for you that made him pause. The will of the Wolf is a powerful thing to deny but Billy did so." She paused observing Tommy's reaction to what she just told him. "The Wolf is an immense ally in battle Tommy, but the final verdict is of course yours." She walked away leaving Tommy weighted down with another command decision.
Rocky regarded Tommy, knowing the conflict within his friend and he didn't envy him in the least. He patted him good naturedly on the back. "Good luck getting some sleep tonight, bro."
Tommy breathed deeply. "Too bad Dulcea didn't work her sleep magic on me too."
Rocky grinned. "Go to bed. Things will work out. The team's been in worse situations."
Tommy looked at him. "Name one."
Rocky laughed. "I can't quite think of one at the moment." Then he winked. "But I'll let you know in the morning."
"Right," Tommy said dubiously but smiled none-the-less.
"'Night Tommy." Rocky moved to his makeshift bedroll near his temple.
"Goodnight Rocky," Tommy said then walked over to the wolf's temple and found Adam still with Billy. He glanced up at his approach. "How is he?" Tommy asked.
Adam looked at Billy's quiet form. "Asleep," he responded in amazement.
Tommy nodded and moved off to his own bed. Kimberly waited for him. She bit her lip in apprehension. "Is he going to be alright?"
Tommy shrugged. "Dulcea doesn't seem to be sweating it."
That relieved Kimberly. "Then you shouldn't either." As much as the tall Amazon woman freaked Kimberly out sometimes, she respected Dulcea's wisdom.
Tommy rubbed his aching jaw. "Easier said than done," he whispered.
Kimberly rose gracefully to her feet and kissed him. "Follow your heart. It's never steered you wrong before." Pulling her bedroll closer to his, they laid down side by side, their arms outstretched towards one another, their fingers entwined. Slowly they drifted off to sleep.