Chapter 10: Tears at Daylight
Her eyes were squeezed shut. Her breathing was painful, holding her breath until she could no longer bare and then she'd let it out.
And breathe in again.
God, just please let me get out of here...
The anticipation was almost as bad as the throbbing in her foot. Kimberly felt like a helpless victim in a sniper video game, waiting for it. They had to know she was there- after all, her careless clambering was only drawing more and more attention to her the further she weaved her way through the labyrinth of the facility.
She didn't have a choice but to run, to make a racket. There was no doubt in her mind that the seedy government officials that lurked in the building were more than capable with weaponry. Tiptoeing around would only make their aim for her easier.
But, every door she passed seemed to be open, giving off that feeling of emptiness. The gun that Jason had practically shoveled in her hand before she'd left him was still sweltering in her clasp. She didn't want to use it, but she was almost certain she would have to at some point.
"Ow, shit!" Kimberly barely managed to get out, before her foot gave up and she literally tripped over herself.
She found herself on all fours, the gun from her hand scattering across the floor away from her as she suddenly realized she'd hit the end of the corridor.
A window...Oh God!
There was a light from its place in the solid door, but it wasn't artificial and Kimberly knew she'd stumbled across an exit.
Reaching out to run her hand up the nearby wall, she slowly stood up, her disbelieving eyes carefully scoping around. The shadows from where she'd traveled were all that stared back at her, no slight sounds or movements to show anything otherwise.
She hadn't thought this far through.
She took a deep breath.
"Jason?" she suddenly called out, her effort so much weaker than she'd wanted.
Where is he? she thought, her panic growing as she suddenly considered the possibility of escaping the literal prison without the others. Everything had been so crazy and surreal that they'd never had a chance to talk about a plan.
Jason had been just there. What if they'd found him?
I can't wait here...I can't, he would want me to go for it...I have to try and get help.
Kimberly carefully lent down and picked her stray weapon off the ground before she carefully pulled down the handle of the door. It clicked before she could worry about the possibility of it being locked, and pushed open slowly.
She let out a strange groan, her eyes slamming shut again as the daylight overwhelmed her. Reaching to shield their painful centers with her free hand, she cocked the gun before her and stepped out into it.
Where are the guards?
Her heart began to race like crazy as she continued to walk, trying to find any signs of a threat. She couldn't possibly just walk away from it, could she?
The air outside was probably more freezing than she could feel. The sky was so overcast, but the tiny pin-point of the lone sun was still basking above her in all its glory. The wilderness was all that greeted her; dirt in her toes and mist on her arms.
She was crying before she knew it, and picked up her pace, jogging ungracefully toward the fence that lined the perimeter. The interweaving barrier was as tall as the building it surrounded and although she knew she'd probably never make it over, she knew she couldn't stop now.
The gun dropped to the dirt below, as Kimberly grasped the wire with her tired fingers and began to climb.
Tommy paused, his hand resting on the door handle, as he glanced over his shoulder. Ensuring they were all as huddled as possible, he carefully lowered the handle as quietly as possible.
It clicked. Just that movement alone sounded like a gunshot.
"Stay close," he whispered back at them, before he slid his body through the opening.
Another corridor. More gray walls. More concrete. More doors.
Not a person in sight.
He merely stared at the emptiness as he felt a body stumble slightly into his, and he glanced at her.
"There's no one here," he stated to Katherine rather obviously. "Not a body in sight."
"Where did they all go?" Adam wondered, as they all slowly began up the corridor. "Either this place is bigger than we thought, or we're walking up the same corridor over and over."
"Do you remember where you left Trini?" Tommy asked Jason, as he waited for his friend to catch up.
Jason's face seemed to squirm out of place and Tommy frowned.
"I don't know," Jason cleared his throat. "All these rooms look the same."
"She can't be too far, I mean, you managed to find your way back to us, right?" Katherine pointed out with a glimmer of hope.
Jason's face remained anchored at the ground. "There were men everywhere," he said lowly. "They were all over the place...we can't be in the right area."
"There's no other way to go," Tommy pointed out. "How many doors do you remember-."
"Guys!" Rocky suddenly let out, his voice causing them all to spin around in a knot of fluster.
The former red ranger seemed to curse under his breath, before he motioned to a nearby door with his head. "Take a look at this," he whispered.
Tommy shared a quick glance with them all, before he pushed through first, brushing past Rocky as he stepped into the dimly lit room.
What...the...hell? What is this?
Aisha let out a loud breath behind him in clear disbelief. "How did they get all these?" she asked.
"Billy," Tommy said, glancing over his shoulder quickly. He paused as he noticed how blood-shot Billy's eyes were, before he swallowed the saliva in his mouth and continued.
"What sort of computers are these?"
"They've clearly been monitoring us," Billy responded calmly. He stopped, and pointed to one of the walls, his hand gesturing over the countless images that covered every space of concrete like continuous wallpaper.
"Some of those photos date back to our second battle," he added. "Jason, any of these photos look familiar to you?"
"Yeah," Jason seemed to choke out, as he stepped up close to the wall. "This photo is from our battle against 'Bones'."
Tommy blinked and approached one of the walls, too many emotions and realities colliding all at once. The room was literally blanketed with years of his life- of all of their lives. The eight spaced out computer systems each seemed stuck on the same blurry footage, as hundreds of photos hung above them, like the ultimate montage to the group of teenage superheroes.
Someone had been watching them for a very, very long time.
"Guys," Aisha suddenly spoke up, as she waited for them all to look her way. She motioned to one of the photos, the image blurry, but clearly a shot of her outside her apartment. "They've been watching us up until recently. I only bought that suit two weeks ago..."
"Why would they be watching us like this?" Tommy wondered out loud, as he continued to skim the numerous images.
The others were talking behind him, but as he noticed each new photo, his hearing seemed to drain away and all he could concentrate on was what he was seeing.
They had been watching them all. The earlier photos were almost too hard to distinguish, contained to indistinct, distant shots of them all in the mist of battle. There was nothing too remarkable about them, nor anything that made them different from the photos that bombarded the pages of local, national and international headlines for so many years.
Tommy peered closely at the shot, taken through dense foliage. It was like an illusion- the illusion that was what morphing was all about.
No one could have ever determined that it was them, but Tommy couldn't believe that someone out there had got the shot - They had actually caught them morphing in plain view.
Then, there were so many photos of recent times. He could see countless images of him simply wondering the grounds of the Angel Grove University. There were photos of Rocky that looked like him having lunch at some sort of cafe; Adam jogging with Aisha in the park.
Billy driving his car. Zack eating takeout. Trini walking out of a drugstore and Katherine holding hands with her ex-boyfriend, Alex.
There were countless photos of Jason. Some of him before he returned to the States. A couple of him with Kimberly in what looked to be a busy street of some kind.
Images and images of Kimberly.
Their lives were all carefully depicted. But it wasn't just the creepiness it gave him, the knowledge that somehow he'd never sensed the eyes that had clearly been following him for over half a decade. They wanted to know something about them.
But what? What were these photos supposed to show anyone?
"Uh-yeah," he quickly cleared his throat. "This is blowing my mind."
"I can't believe someone was watching that!" Rocky suddenly burst out, his face twisted in disbelief. "Rachel would have a fit!"
Katherine had stopped beside the former red ranger and seemed frozen herself. "They watched us having sex?" she wheezed out.
She spun around. "What is this supposed to show anyone?"
No one replied, and they all glanced up as the dull lights above began to flicker and the computer screens that offered the most amount of lighting dulled away.
Tommy swallowed and grabbed one of the monitors, banging on it with his hand in the hope to rouse it back to life. The screen rolled over several times and seemed to protest at his act of violence, until it finally leveled out.
He squinted at the footage. The room it depicted was more than familiar to Tommy's eyes, too many memories enough to ensure he could never forget the place, but somehow it only sent a kick to his groin.
They were watching the Command Center. No photos, no old newspaper clippings.
This footage was live.
Kimberly was slowing down. Her feet were still spinning in a crazed, desperate manner, but she'd fallen over almost five times in a matter of a few minutes, and she could barely move as a result, let alone run.
She had started to grab onto passing trees and almost propel herself from them, trying to leverage her weight in an effort to push on. The harsh bark splintered into her palms at times; the dry grass felt almost razor sharp against the bare skin of her shins. There was the occasional sound of birds passing overhead, but the world seemed so far away as she became almost lost in her own delusions.
Was she running in circles? Which way was the road from the facility? Her drive in with Jason played over and over again in her head, but all she could remember was the darkness of that overcast morning. All she could bring to mind was driving through a seemingly never-ending bush land-.
She yelped, suddenly crashing to the ground. Her jaw slammed bluntly into the dry dirt and her entire head pounded as the impact caused her to bite sharply on her tongue.
Tears were in her eyes, the moisture almost stinging their tired centers. Dragging each arm slowly beneath her torso, she hopelessly tried to leverage herself to her knees, but in a moment of weakness she gave up and dropped her head back to the unforgiving earth below.
I can't do this…shit!
Now she was angry. That was good. Maybe if she were angry, then it would encourage her to stand up and not give up. She was never a quitter…even when faced with so many difficult situations in her ranger days she still never gave up. She usually had help, but her spirit always clung onto the possibility that nothing was impossible.
Those days were long gone, though. She almost laughed bitterly as she realized since she'd left Angel Grove five years earlier, she'd left behind so many of the qualities that had made her worthy of being a ranger.
And as she continued to lie, limbs sprawled around her; she quickly realized that she was a quitter nowadays. Her gymnastics career, relationships with men, realism…she had given up so many times, because she felt she could.
Because, she didn't have the weight of the world on her shoulders.
She released another sharp breath.
No, this time was different.
She had the responsibility of saving her friends, and no matter how tired she was, she couldn't give up. Just as she knew Tommy, Jason or any of them would push on for her, it was her turn to clear her head and focus.
Every inch of her body seemed to scream as she slowly plodded to a standing position. She initially rested her weight against the thick trunk of a pine tree, but as her eyes slowly focused on her path, she realized the ground was sloping upward.
Was that the sound of a car?
"Oh my God," she trembled hysterically, as she clumsily scurried up the short ascent.
As she reached the top, the ground below clearing into a desolate gully, she almost fell to her knees in happiness as she noticed the snaked, empty road in front of her.
The tears started again as she raced toward its edge, falling and rolling down the grassy hill, yet so determined that she didn't pause even a moment to catch her breath. As her tired feet felt the heat emitting from the tar below her, she finally lowered herself to her knees, though and allowed herself a moment to take it in.
"Oh my God!" she whispered.
The vehicle came into the clearing and was plodding toward her rather casually, until she suddenly leapt to her feet and flung her arms desperately above her.
"Please! Please help me!" she screamed.
The driver's face caved as soon as his eyes met hers, and his vehicle came to a grinding halt. Kimberly did her best to compose herself, but the moment he began to unwind his window, tears showered down her cheeks as her chin began to quiver.
"Miss…oh my goodness, what in the-."
"I-I need help."
She clumsily fell into the car, dropping her face into her hands until she felt a tentative hand on her back.
"Miss…what happened to you?"
Kimberly slowly raised her head, grabbing onto the dashboard for support.
"My friends need help," she sobbed, swallowing the saliva that choked her as she tried to speak. "Please take me to the police station."
The middle-aged man looked awfully frightened, but swiftly started the ignition and sent the car into movement without a moment's hesitation. The seemingly tranquil scenery that engulphed them was soon racing past their windows at a dazzling speed, and Kimberly knew that everything would be all right.
Everyone would be fine now. They were still a good distance from even the outskirts of her hometown, but she had no doubt now that she could make it to safety.
After a few minutes had passed, and Kimberly had finished using her dirtied gown to nervously wipe some of the dirt from her face, she finally found the courage to speak to the man beside her.
"Is there uh, a faster way to the police station?" she asked, blinking as each spoken word felt like fire against her ravaged throat.
"I'm from New Jersey," he replied. "I don't know Angel Grove very well…but we can stop at a gas station-."
"No," she breathed. "No. I can't risk it…they might be listening-."
The car suddenly twisted awkwardly on the straight stretch of road and Kimberly instantly felt the hairs on her neck stick up.
"Sorry," the driver apologized, as he shakingly pulled the car to a stop. "They came out of nowhere."
Kimberly quickly fumbled her hands to the passenger door and heaved it open, practically throwing herself out onto her feet. She couldn't manage to run; her injured ankle refusing her own desperation, but her voice came to her immediately.
"Please help me! My friends are back there!"
"GET DOWN ON YOUR KNEES AND PUT YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR!"
Kimberly was already on all fours and merely stared speechless as almost fifteen uniformed officers filled out of the roadblock of four squad cars. They all had their guns directed at her; their voices spat at her- it was as though she was the enemy.
"Please! I need help!" she begged. "You need to go and help my friends!"
Three of them finally broke their intimidating stance and started for her, sweeping her uncaringly under the arms and dragging her toward the squad cars.
"What's going on?" as asked desperately, her eyes flying around the scene as though searching for some kind of answer.
"You are under arrest for the murder of two US government officers," one of them practically barked at her. "Anything you do or say may be used against you in the court of law…"
Everyone was talking at once.
Well, it had started by a few random comments of disbelief, followed by small gestures that had grown into much more pronounced expressions of almost madness. Now it was all becoming too much, and Jason was becoming too pissed off to bother with it all.
They were all royally dead. The IBI had the Command Center and Jason didn't even want to think about where that left them now. They had no cards to deal, nothing of value left to bargain for their lives.
Only God knew what had become of Zordon. Through the snowy, black-and-white footage on the screens, it was too hard to distinguish, but Jason had a sickening idea that their former mentor's tube of life was desolate and empty.
He squirmed, squinting his eyes sharply as he felt a wave of light headiness wash over him and felt compelled to finally tell his teammates to shut the hell up.
"Guys!" he half grunted, throwing the group an almost dark stare. "Just quit it, okay? This crap is not doing anything!"
Rocky was in the middle of a lengthy rant and stopped mid sentence, his eyes giving away the fear that had suddenly taken over.
Jason inhaled a long, shaky breath, as he gently pushed Tommy's outreached hand away. "We have to get Trini and Kimberly and get the hell out of here- I don't give a shit what we see here, if we don't get out of here while we have the chance, then we're all dead and no one will ever find us."
"What about Zordon?" Adam asked. "We can't just leave him, knowing everything that we know now."
Billy's gaze moved from the monitor and acknowledged them all as he replied "We need to find an exit- we might be able to find a jeep or we might have to escape on foot- my understanding of this area, is that it's become increasingly overgrown by dense foliage over the years, but to the east lies the Nerandra hills- and the Command Center."
"So let's go, then- Zordon might need us," Tommy stated with force.
"Zordon's probably dead," Jason spoke up without thought.
He blinked, his tongue catching his teeth as he added. "We're not going to do ourselves any favors by getting out of here and handing ourselves back to the IBI- I doubt it that these scumbags don't have the Command Center under complete guard."
Katherine rested against the bench behind her, her soft eyes drenched with sadness. "We can't let them just do this to Zordon and Alpha," she said. "There must be something we can do."
"Yeah, we need a shit load of ammunition and back-up," Rocky stated almost dryly. "Even if we have to tell the country what the government wastes their tax money on- that should get a few farmers with pitch forks and disgruntled workers hunting the Command Center down for us..."
Jason shook his head seriously. "We can't tell anyone about this- if these guys are the government then who knows how far it goes? But for now, let's just find Kim and Trini and get somewhere safe so we can get some sort of plan together."
Tommy nodded. "Maybe we should split up then? I know that numbers are our strength, but it may allow us to find the others quicker." He looked at Billy. "Jason mentioned before that they had them locked up in some sort of infirmary- maybe you and Adam should take a look around and see if you find where Trini is?"
Billy and Adam nodded. "I'll take a look around for any supplies I can find," the former black ranger said.
"And grab any weapons you come across," Jason suggested. "We need anything we can get our hands on."
The two men nodded, before they headed out, leaving the other five in a momentary silence.
Aisha sighed. "What door do we even start with?" she asked wearily.
Jason was about to respond, when his eyes caught a strange reflection in one of the monitors. He spun around and noticed another door off the smallish room, and for a moment felt a sense of dejavu. The room looked very much like the one he'd originally been escorted to when he had first arrived- down to the damaged door.
"What is it?" Tommy asked him wearily, as Jason slowly moved toward the door.
He could see it was slightly ajar, its heavy frame leaning slightly from its top broken hinge. Dim light crept out from between then gap, and as Jason's hand pressed against the cold surface of the door, a foul scent flared inside his nostrils.
The door opened with a clichéd creak and he didn't have to take another step, before the horrors of what laid before him hit him hard.
Jason grabbed onto the doorframe for support, his eyes disbelieving in what he was seeing...