Chapter 13: Buried
Darkness could be deceiving. Fear of the dark was irrational, but it was what stood in the dark that was the pillar of all of Kimberly's worst nightmares.
It couldn't be. Her mind must have been playing games with her- He was dead. She saw it- she was seeing things!
Her lips parted, but nothing came out.
Tears blurred any clarity.
"You…" her voice quivered. "You can't be, we killed you-."
His shadows crept along the nearby wall, a low growl sounding through the thick air separating them.
Kimberly stepped back. "We destroyed you, we uh," she paused as she continued back, but found herself against the wall. "You and Rita, and Serpentera-."
The low light glistened off the sharp blades on his fingers. She watched him with growing apprehension, the uneasiness of his silence unnerving her as much as his mutated appearance.
Lord Zedd, in his days of "un-found glory", had always stood tall, his solid body covered in a fleshy, crimson skin. He had always been ghastly by any account- the metal armor that wrapped around his torso, and the plate that shielded his face were the only parts that distinguished him from being confused with someone who had had their skin completely turned inside out.
For a teenage girl who couldn't stand dissecting a fish, Kimberly certainly never found the emperor of Zhept exactly easy to look at.
But the solid mass that wheezed only a few steps before her was nothing short of deathly in comparison to her distant memories as a ranger. It was as though the blood that illuminated Zedd's skin had been drained, his flesh almost as dark as tar.
He seemed to pause, his eyes glowing from the dull light that drifted from Kimberly's entranceway above. Kimberly shared her frightened gaze between the light and the dark, thinking through her chances of getting back above ground.
Even with a trampoline right now, I'd never make it, she realized with dread. I certainly don't want to give him the opportunity to get a hold of me with those fingers of his...
He growled again, the sound of crunching bones making Kimberly shiver as he rolled his head around, and focused it back on her.
"Don't you have anything to say?" she managed to get out, faking the bravery behind her words with a forced smugness.
The mutated emperor didn't respond, instead flexing his hands before him, as though to show-off their impressive tips. Kimberly crouched down slightly, carefully shuffling along the wall behind her in hope of discovering some kind of escape hole. It was as though she had literally stepped back in time.
She could remember it like it was yesterday.
Her capture during a weekend visit from Jason, had found both of them in the clutches of Zedd and Rita Repulsa, their bodies bruised and shattered as they spent three and a half weeks in the very depths of their moon base as helpless prisoners. It had been worse than all their previous experiences combined- the time Zedd had tried to make her his queen; her comatose abduction during Katherine's stint as their feline spy.
Kimberly and Jason were both taken off guard when they'd found themselves face-to-face with a foe they'd thought they'd both left far behind, but they'd also been confident. Zedd and Rita had never been anything more than wannabes and Kimberly and Jason both had no doubt in their former teammates who had run up an impressive winning streak over the years. They had both assumed it would be like all the other missions...they'd suffer for a little while, but the rangers would come to their rescue, before fending off one of Zedd's inapt monsters, leaving both sides walking away in one piece.
But the last mission for the power rangers had been the one to break all previous trends. Zedd had attempted to use Kimberly and Jason's lives to bargain with the rangers for their coins- which were the only access the evil couple had to an untapped power source on a deserted Earth island dubbed Seréshis. With three failed attempts at their rescue, Kimberly's certainty and faith had been ultimately damaged when hours turned into days and she was punished by the gleeful clutches of Zedd and his gang of misfits.
Kimberly had paid a dear price that final mission. Both she and Jason had been beaten until their skin was so bruised that it no longer held any sensitivity between the inflictions of pain and the pauses in between. Her last memory before waking in the Command Center was of his eyes- and Zedd's face still haunted her every day since, despite the ranger's defeating he and his wicked partner in spectacular fashion that day.
Zedd had been destroyed; she saw it, on the footage- from the accounts from her high school friends; from Zordon- even the news paraded the ranger's victory for weeks following that very date. Five years of peace following that treacherous victory meant that none of them could even suspect anything otherwise.
Could humans really have locked the alien emperor in a basement for all of these years?
Another growl made Kimberly flinch a little, and she slowly stood up, as she watched Zedd step toward her once more. He took another step, and then another, the water collected in the uneven floor giving his sudden movement away.
"Stay away," she warned in jittery voice, as she carefully quickened her pace, the shadows around her deepening as she made her way further from the only source of light. "I'm not interested in hurting you now, in fact, there are people right now that I hate more in this universe than you-."
Kimberly didn't even get a chance to finish her rambling, before the ghastly alien threw his head back and let out a glass-shattering roar. She flicked her hands blindly in front of her, but she felt herself lose her balance and cried out just as loudly as he clamped his solid hands around her wrists.
"NO! No-ooo!" Kimberly yelled, as she felt his metallic fingers pierce through her bare skin. "Please! Please!"
The blades released her suddenly and Kimberly dropped to the ground like a rag doll, as he suddenly moved from her. Leaping in bounds toward the hatch entrance in the roof, Kimberly could only stare in numbed disbelief as his mass of muscle sliced through the narrow exit, gracefully disappearing into the outside world above.
Billy's hands floated effortlessly over the keyboard before him. He didn't know what he was searching for, nor if he'd even find anything. But it was at the very least a distraction, and one that he needed now that he was officially starting to lose his mind.
Behind him, his former teammates were swapping useless questions that no one in the room possibly had any answers for. Who? Why? Who? Why? Who? How?
He was pretty sure they wanted him to answer some of their questions, or at least he thought they expected him to. Maybe they didn't trust him anymore? Then again, it seemed the lies he had hidden from them weren't really lies either, nor the truth.
He was as innocent in all of this as they were.
"Have you found anything, Billy?" Aisha asked up, as she hunched over his shoulder. It was the first time anyone had spoken to him since he'd sat down.
Billy sighed a little dismally. "Negative," he replied almost robotically. "I don't think they kept any data on these systems in here…"
Aisha seemed to squeeze him on the shoulder, before Jason once again brought up the subject of the clones they had found.
All Billy could think of was his father. How much had he known about all of it before he's been gunned down?
Billy swerved around on his chair, deciding to at least contribute to the group discussion, instead of seemingly alienating himself because of his weariness to speak.
"If what you guys have said about the clones is true, then it's clear that the IBI, or an underground group working under its badge, were conducting an extremely classified experiment…if what the clone of Kimberly said is indeed a fact, then one can only assume they were trying to create their own rangers, most especially if they had replicated multiple editions."
"But how could they get the ability to perform such a procedure? They would have needed more than just surveillance and five years worth of our photos…"
Billy shrugged at Rocky's question.
"And why would they want to create their own rangers?" Tommy thought out loud. "It's not as though Earth was under attack- we'd completely wiped out all remnants of the evil puke that ever existed."
Billy pursed his lips, thinking about Tommy's point. "I'm really not sure," he admitted. "I guess it took someone or multiple individuals to become fascinated and obsessed with the unknown…" was all he could offer.
"Guys, sorry to interrupt," Adam spoke up from Trini's bedside. "But we really need to focus on getting Trini to medical attention. The longer we wait, the more we risk her health."
They all immediately looked to Tommy.
"What are we going to do?" Jason asked him.
Billy could see the pressure written all over Tommy's face. "Don't ask me."
"Well, I hate to remind you, but you're the leader, big boy," Rocky commented dryly.
Tommy sighed. "Maybe a group of us should go and try and get help, while the rest of us look around for as much information as we can find on this situation?"
Billy heard an odd beeping combination drift from the computer system, and he flinched, his eyes widening as a new set of footage filled the screen before him.
His lips parted. He couldn't believe what he was seeing.
Kimberly and Jason. Guns in hands; showering the lobby of the Angel Grove police station with round after round of deadly bullets.
"U-uh guys," Billy stammered, glancing over his shoulder. "I wouldn't be going anywhere just yet…"
Angel Grove Police Station
Officer Ford leaned over, his weight pushing on his bent elbows. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong with this picture.
He looked down at the pages spread out on the table before him and then returned his gaze to stare at the two offenders before him.
Then he looked back at the pages. And back up.
He was trying to convince himself, or at least make sense of the fact that it was indeed Jason Scott and Kimberly Hart sitting across from him, but somehow it didn't look right. They were both wearing white gowns as Kimberly had been wearing when they'd obtained her the first time, but they didn't look right.
They seemed lifeless, distant. Their skin bounded tightly around their bony bodies, their eyes empty and blood shot. At first he'd suspected drug use, but his previous years work in the drugs squad meant he knew better.
He sighed and rubbed a hand over his weary face, glancing down at his watch. Time was getting away from him. He knew he'd only have so much time with them.
Joseph glanced over his shoulder and stretched out his arm, as his partner approached him and handed him another file.
"Medical records," she whispered into his ear, before she sat down in the chair beside him. "They talking yet?"
Joseph flicked his gaze carefully at the two in question, before he gently shook his head. "All they've said is 'the power' over and over again…I don't know what they hell shit they're taking, but they're both completely incapacitated."
Jessie Moore shuffled a little in her seat. "Their medical records indicate they're both being treated for clinical depression by the same practitioner in Manhattan. Insomnia, depression, the works- both are being treated by an experimental drug called Laherial. Possible side effects include disturbance of sleep, mood swings and possible hallucinations and in rare cases, the inability to distinguish between reality and fantasy."
"Jesus Christ," Officer Ford whispered under his breath at the revelation. "I guess that explains why the girl was trying to convince us she was a power ranger…" he sighed. "I want you to contact this Dr. Paul Stanley and-."
Joseph snapped his head to gaze at the young criminal and brought his fist heavily against the table. "We can't- we can't God damned help you if you don't-."
"Ford, for God's sake, just drop it and arrange some lawyers for them, okay?" Jessie grabbed him by the shoulder. "Come on."
"It makes no sense, Jessie – the girl was talking with perfect sense just hours earlier. There is some crazy shit going on."
His partner just stared at him with pursed lips, her eyes reluctantly gazing at the two people sitting opposite them.
"Try speaking to their parents again. The media is going to be all over this when they work out that one of them is America's ice skating princess…I'll call their doctor and see if we get him in here as soon as possible."
The footage of Kimberly and Jason, blood stained eyes and wielding deadly weapons in all hands was sickeningly transfixing. Like the scene of a car accident where you know it's not right to look, Tommy couldn't peel his eyes away as he watched two of his high school friends numbly take part in the massacre.
The cement was just lodged in his stomach. Jesus Christ, he could only imagine how Jason was feeling at this very moment…
Tommy glanced to his left, his focus removed from the screen as he heard Katherine inhale sharply, her whispered words of disbelief muffled by her hands that covered her mouth.
"We are so fucked…" Rocky murmured.
Tommy sighed. "If the police manage to get those clones into custody, our cover is blown…"
"They're gonna think that I did that," Jason's voice was unnervingly quiet, his eyes squeezed closed.
Tommy moved around Adam and put a hand on Jason's shoulder. "We'll sort all that out, man, don't worry about that right now," he assured him.
"Why do you think they would go to the police station and just start shooting at random officers?" Aisha asked, still watching the footage that was now playing over and over on the computer screen.
"The clone of Kimberly said that they were after revenge," Adam reminded them. "Maybe they confused the uniformed police with the officers that were working here?"
Tommy squeezed Jason's shoulder one more time, before he moved around him and walked up to where Billy was sitting quietly in the corner. He could hear the former blue ranger's fingers typing over the keyboard frantically and Tommy cleared his throat, not wanting to startle him.
Billy flicked a glance over his shoulder to acknowledge Tommy, before he turned his head back to the small monitor before him.
"What is that?" Tommy asked him, as he knelt down beside him and motioned to the screen.
Billy's fingers continued to type. "They appear to be personal records. So far I've found them on Katherine, myself, Kimberly and Jason."
Tommy immediately began to scroll his eyes over the lines of writing, raising his eyebrows slightly as certain words began to jump out at him.
"Whoa, whoa," Tommy put his hand out to stop Billy from scrolling down the page. "Go back, what did that say about Kimberly?"
Billy seemed to squirm a little, but didn't move the screen back. "It appears that Kimberly has been treated for insomnia and depression over the last five years…I don't know how, but they have full medical records here on her treatment," he paused. "Why do you look so surprised?"
Tommy blinked. "Jason had the same problems," he revealed, lowering his voice to be sure that the others couldn't overhear. "He's spent the past five years trying to find a doctor that could treat him. He told me that it ran in his family, that his mother had the same thing, but I always had a hard time believing that…"
Billy looked at him thoughtfully, as Tommy continued. "What if their depression or whatever it is, was caused by what happened to them in Seréshis?"
Billy seemed to smile tightly, as though to reassure him. "I believe your theory is correct, Tommy, although we do have more pressing issues that require our attention now. We have to learn as much about this conspiracy, before we try and leave the facility."
Tommy frowned slightly, wondering what the motivation behind Billy’s tone was. "Are you saying that the police aren't going to believe us?"
"I'm saying that we have to have our bases covered…we have to prepare for the possibility that the police and government are either not going to believe us, or worse, that they're behind this as much as the IBI is…maybe the government has even endorsed it."
Tommy sighed and rubbed his forehead with his hand. He couldn't believe that they probably had a chance of escaping the IBI facility, and yet here they were choosing not to leave.
And where did all the IBI officers go, anyway? And what if they came back for them, just as Kimberly's clone had warned them?
Tommy flinched as he felt a hand on his shoulder and he slowly stood up as he noticed the others were now standing around he and Billy.
"What have you guys found?" Adam wondered.
Tommy's eyes dropped to the ground as Billy responded evenly. "I'm going through various files and records that I've found on here," he turned around back to the computer and he returned to typing, stopping only as the screen flicked to something else and he let out a "What the?"
Tommy frowned, as the others seemed to shuffle anxiously. "What is it Billy?" Katherine asked.
Billy didn't reply straight away, and instead scrolled through the endless lines of what looked to Tommy to be some kind of report.
"Agent Johns wrote this report," Billy finally stated, his tone cold and almost detached. "According to this report, a clone escaped from the facility only a matter of days before they brought us all here. He escaped through an unmarked exit gate on the boundary fencing and after guards couldn't locate him after a 12 hours search of the surrounding state reserve, agents were dispatched to Angel Grove and surrounding areas to locate him and escort him back to the facility…"
"And?" Aisha coaxed him, after he stopped speaking.
Billy shrugged and flopped back in his chair a little. "That's all it says," he admitted.
"Does it say who the clone was of?" Rocky asked.
Billy exchanged an almost private glance with Tommy. "It was a clone of Zack-."
"What was that?" Jason swiftly cut him off, throwing an outstretched hand in front of the group.
Tommy's eyes immediately darkened with dread. "What did you hear?"
Jason's eyes were searching away in the direction behind them. "I could have sworn I heard someone screaming."
Aisha's eyes widened. "I just heard it again," she announced breathlessly.
"Help! Help me please! HELP!"
Tommy almost tripped over Katherine, as he quickly moved around her and rushed after Jason as the former red ranger moved to what looked to be a hatch door in the center of the floor.
Tommy put his ear to the cold concrete.
"Help!" he heard the eerily familiar voice scream. "Please!"
"Shit!" Jason practically gasped, as he began to pull at grate. "Help me get this up, someone's down there."
Tommy immediately moved his own fingers to pull at the cold metal of the hatch door, but it was almost impossible to get a strong enough grip to leverage any weight on it. Even as Adam and Rocky both squeezed in their help to the task, it took a whole lot of grunting and cursing, until finally they pried it loose and pulled it open, exposing a dark hole to whatever was down below.
"Is someone down there?" Tommy called out, as he pushed his head through the opening and tried to peer through the darkness.
"Tommy? Oh my God, Tommy get me out of here!" Kimberly's high pitched shrieking could be heard from somewhere below, her voice becoming closer by the time she'd finished her frantic plea.
Tommy said a silent prayer to himself, before he lowered his arms and felt Rocky and Adam both get a sold grip around his legs to keep him from falling in. He felt a pair of cold, sticky hands brush his from below, and he clasped around her forearms and pulled her through the opening.
"Close the door!" Kimberly immediately began shrieking as Tommy fell back with exhaustion, momentarily taken aback by her frenzied manner.
"Hey, hey, hey, it's okay Kim," Rocky tried to calm her down.
"Zedd's down there!" she practically screamed. "Zedd's down there!"