Chapter 18: Unspeakable
Tommy didn't know much about the meaning behind dreams. It just wasn't the sort of reading that tickled his interest; did he really care if being chased around in his dreams meant that he was procrastinating in his conscious life?
It was maybe two years earlier that Tommy was helping Adam during a psychology paper he was working on for his course at AGU- Tommy wasn't particularly enthralled, but Adam made him read the god-damned paper thirty or forty times. Even so, Tommy didn't exactly retain much of it five minutes after reading it, but one sentence stood out to him; even now, bad memory and years later he could still remember it word for word.
"Dreams are metaphorical translations of waking experiences or expectations"
Tommy dreaming about his days as the white ranger supported that theory. His mind had been stretched and ravaged by countless stressful situations that were literally etched in his conscious and subconscious mind for eternity. All the blood, the sweat, the tears; the private guilt over their final battle- it had all been such a colossal month that Tommy had convinced himself that even five years after the fact, it wasn't wrong that he still dreamed about it almost every second night.
But now that he looked directly into the pair of brown eyes that had haunted part of those dreams- the same pair of eyes that he'd loved, cherished and trusted for so long, he realized he had been just as naive about those dreams as he had been with leaving his ranger duty behind without a second glance.
Now that they'd seen all that they had since bring brought to the government facility, it would be down-right stupid of them to not see that somehow, everything meant something in the overall schemes of things.
That maybe the dreams meant something in the crazy jigsaw that was the IBI ranger conspiracy.
"Maybe it's just a coincidence..." Kimberly whispered quietly, her eyes staring at him intently. "Maybe, uh, maybe- maybe you're just suffering like me."
"You said it yourself, Kim- you saw it all go wrong," he countered, his eyes moving about as his thoughts continued to swirl. "I know it doesn't make sense because we're here; we all are- but why would we dream the same dream? Why would we both dream that we lost the final battle?"
Kimberly's chin shivered slightly, and Tommy moved to his feet, reaching down and helping her shaking legs to stand. He glanced around the room and feeling momentarily regretful about it, he proceeded to gently shuffle and tug at his former teammates' shoulders and arms, stirring them all to a rather abrupt and lethargic awakening.
"It's all right, we're in no danger," he assured them a handful of times as he watched them seemingly sigh in unison.
Rocky grunted. "Tommy, we're gonna die of sleep deprivation before we die because of this prison camp."
Aisha reached over and grabbed Rocky's wrist, peering at the watch wrapped around it with a bitter look. "It hasn't even been an hour," she added sourly.
Tommy pulled up in front of them, licking at his lips. "There's something we all need to talk about and it can't wait," he announced, glancing over at Kimberly.
She looked back at him with soft eyes and slowly moved over to his side, turning around and brushing her arm against his.
Jason leaned back against his hands, giving Tommy his full attention. "What have you guys found?"
"I need to know if any of you ever dream about our time as rangers, in particular about the final mission to the island of Seréshis?"
His friends all stared at him for a moment, a mixture of general uncertainty and clear confusion written on each of their faces.
Adam drew a serious look. "Tommy, I'm not sure what you're actually asking."
"I know what he's asking, but I don't know why he's asking it- what does that have to do with our life or death situation?" Rocky queried.
Tommy ignored the chip in Rocky's tone and nodded his head as though to acknowledge that he'd explain himself further. "Kimberly had a dream just before…" he looked down at her. "Kim, tell them what you dreamt about," he asked her softly.
She fidgeted nervously. "I had a dream about Seréshis …about the final battle. Jason and I were at the bottom of the ridge, watching as you guys were fighting Serpentera in the Megazord," she explained before hesitating. "But then out of nowhere, everything kinda blacked out. I don't remember how it happened, or why, but I saw myself waking up-."
"…and all you could see is smoke, fire and rubble," Jason finished her sentence, as he slowly stood up and gazed at her empathetically. "Kim, you shouldn't do this here."
"Jason, you don't understand, okay- Tommy's been dreaming it too- it's not just you and I," Kimberly argued.
Jason's eyes flicked questionably to Tommy.
"It's true, Jase," Tommy confirmed. "I never thought much about the fact that I kept on dreaming about the final mission until I realized that Kimberly and I have been dreaming the exact same thing as each other- not about what happened, but what didn't. For years we've been dreaming that something went very wrong in our battle against Serpentera."
"I've had a dream like that before, too," Katherine spoke up hesitantly. She hugged her knees and looked at Adam. "Adam, you mentioned you dreamed about Seréshis before as well, remember we were talking about it on the phone before Billy's birthday?"
Adam looked thoughtfully for a moment. "I have definitely had a few weird dreams in the past about Seréshis, but I never thought much about them," he admitted.
Tommy could feel his heart rate quicken a little in anticipation. "Who has had these dreams before? Where we're battling against Zedd and some sort of explosion happens?"
Aisha's mouth opened slightly, before she slowly raised her hand in the air as Adam followed suit. Katherine held her hand high, staring intently at Rocky and Billy who both remained still.
Rocky sighed and raised his arm rather hesitantly. "I don't want to state the obvious, Tommy and I'm sure as hell not trying to argue during what seems to be the only honest and open conversation we've had since being here- but Kimberly and Jason both nearly died on that mission. We were forced to choose between two of our own and the rest of the world- the stress of that month alone would have been bound to fuck around with our heads a little."
Tommy sighed with almost resignation, but flinched a little as Billy scampered to his feet and moved quickly toward one of the computer systems sitting to the side of the room.
"Billy, what is it?" Tommy asked him, following after him.
Billy remained with his face toward the system, but flung up a free hand, gesturing nearby.
"Guys, take a look at the viewing globe," he murmured, his hands floating effortlessly over the keyboard.
Tommy exchanged a look with Jason. "What are we looking at on the viewing globe?" Jason asked him.
"Does it even work for that matter?" Aisha wondered doubtfully.
Billy peered over his shoulder as the ball of insight suddenly illuminated. "There's a file partition on here that contains footage of every single battle and confrontation that we ever had during our time as rangers," he explained. "We never could have predicted the assistance that such cataloging could have provided us with future advancements to the zords technological systems, to simple things such as strategy-."
"What footage are you trying to find?" Kimberly queried.
"Footage of the final battle," Tommy guessed.
Billy nodded and walked over to join the others as the footage came into focus...
"Tell me what will make your pathetic power pals hand over their coins?" Goldar sneered, his jagged teeth rattling as he let out a snarl and shoved his face before her.
Kimberly's eyes squeezed closed, before their centers revealed again and wondered hopelessly for Jason's aid.
"Goldar, back off and leave her alone," Jason offered feebly; weakly.
Kimberly's whole body shook, as though Jason's lack of steel was enough to sign her death certificate. For she had just witnessed what the golden mandrill had produced from the original ranger leader after the power rangers- their former teammates- failed to deliver on Zedd's bargaining for their cherished power coins.
The footage drove into Jason's eyes as though he were there in the dark dimension all over again. It wasn't hard to remember what day out of that month of hell the footage was taken from- it had been the first official day of bargaining between the Zordon and Zedd and things had not gone so well.
The terms had been simple- the outcomes had been clear
If the power rangers were to hand over their coins and allow Lord Zedd and Rita Repulsa unobstructed access into the core of the island of Seréshis to gain ownership of an uncontainable power force, than Kimberly and Jason would be set free.
The catch though? Zedd and Rita would then use this new power asset to destroy the entire planet, in which case no one would live very long anyway.
There had been an option two, however and that had been the one the rangers had so dramatically chosen, whether intentionally or through lack of control. No coins for Zedd meant no power boost for his ailing empire- and that led to a tower of flesh and bitterness, keen to punish those who were not turning out to be the trump cards he was hoping for.
It had started off verbally- taunts, snide exchanges and at the most food and sleep deprivation as they forced him and Kimberly to the corner of a dirty and desolate cell in their Dark Dimension for the first few days. Then it seemed that Zedd and Goldar grew tired of the small talk. So they chose to beat the living hell out of Jason first, which was probably a smart choice given that he would have tried to kill them if they'd touched Kimberly before breaking both his arms.
Jason could feel the muscles in his throat constrict just watching it all over again:
"You're in no chance to be bargaining with me!" Goldar declared.
Jason tried to open his mouth, but he couldn't even manage to move his head from the cement where it had landed. "It's not…a compromise- it's a promise."
Goldar erupted into a fit of laughter. "That promise means nothing now- Tommy has decided you and Kimberly are not worth the air you breathe. You belong to Lord Zedd now!"
Jason blinked and glanced away from the viewing globe, almost looking away embarrassed as he caught Kimberly's own disturbed eyes. Around them, their teammates were watching the footage with an intense mesmerisation, but for he and Kimberly it was a poignant reminder of what was almost their final weeks alive and breathing.
What were Billy and Tommy trying to find out by watching this footage? Jason was frustrated, feeling as though they were stalling and wasting precious time that they couldn't afford to simply throw away on some bizarre idea.
"You all right, man?" Tommy whispered and Jason nodded, glancing back at the footage reluctantly:
The rangers were huddled together in the safety net of the Command Center, yet they'd never appeared so fragmented and divided at the same time.
"Sunset is less than two hours away," Tommy reminded everyone in a tone that failed to conceal all the dread that came along with such realization. "If anyone has something to say, then now is the time to do it."
No one spoke up.
"Billy; Alpha- any luck with securing our live feed on Kimberly and Jason again?"
Billy shook his head, gnawing at his eyes with his fingers. "It's clear that the energy from the power source on the island is playing havoc with our sensors, almost as though throwing our scanners off- the only thing that is clear is that Zedd has taken Kimberly and Jason's bodies with him in Serpentera to Seréshis-."
"What do you mean 'their bodies'?" Rocky asked, his arms crossed over his chest. "We saw them alive- they're both strong, they'll hold on."
"For God's sake, Rocky, the last time we saw them alive was over five days ago," Aisha dismissed him. "This wouldn't have happened if we would have just handed over our coins originally like Zedd asked- we made a dirty deal that's cost us our friends!"
"Aisha, enough with that!" Rocky snapped back at her. "Tommy made the right decision- if we handed those coins to Zedd then it would have been handing him a grenade with the promise to wipe out the whole planet. Jason told us that he and Kimberly would hold on long enough for us to come up with a plan."
"They're not dead," was all that Tommy said. "Alpha, get the zords on standby...we leave for Seréshis in exactly one hour's time..."
"Tommy, I'm so sorry for those things I said to you," Aisha blurted out, breaking everyone's concentration on the footage before them. "I never meant to question your leadership, I was just scared out of my mind- you made the right choice."
Tommy leaned over and patted her tenderly on the arm. "Don't worry about that now, Aisha," he told her genuinely, before he looked over at Billy. "Billy, is there any way you can fast forward through this footage to the end of the battle- the moment where we sent off the winning shot that took out Zedd, Rita and Serpentera."
Billy moved back over to the computer system and hesitantly tapped on a few keys. They all watched as the footage on the sphere globe began to speed dizzyingly through the beginning of what looked to be the zord battle in Seréshis against Zedd's prided war zord. Jason could hear Billy once again tap away, bringing the electric footage to real-time pace again:
"Goldar!" Zedd's voice thundered, his solid weight practically stampeding down the center passage inside Serpentera. "Where are Kimberly and Jason?"
Jason coughed on the metallic taste that covered his tongue, his broken hand no longer feeling any sensation as he feebly attempted to scoop Kimberly's limp body beneath his own.
Zedd stopped above them, his crimson gaze tilting and a disgusted little laugh creeping from behind his face plate.
"I thought I told Goldar to snap your neck after he was done playing with poor little Kim-mee'?" he sneered.
Jason tried to speak, but only a strange moan seemed to escape, saliva mixed blood sliding down the corner of his lip.
"You better...get back...in the...pilot seat, asshole...you're about to be served your just-deserts..."
Jason looked away for a moment, before turning around and walking slowly away, not heading anywhere in particular except for away from the viewing globe.
The sounds of battle drifted from behind him. The sounds of metal against metal. Tommy's orders over the zord's internal speaker system. The others obliging and barking out 'yes!' and 'right!' every handful of seconds. He could hear the fire cry from Serpentera as succinct fire attacks could be heard from its fuming nostrils.
The sound of sparks. The sound of the Shogun zords fighting back.
Jason guessed that by this stage, they were well within the battle and it was safe for him to watch again. He walked back over and stood beside Tommy, folding his arms over his chest.
Tommy let out a muffled noise. "Guys, what is that?" he murmured aimlessly.
"What?" Jason asked, his eyes scoping the battle footage for something out of the ordinary.
Rocky stepped forward and pointed toward the top of the screen. "What is that flying from the distance?" he asked. "I don't remember Zedd and Rita having a fleet of zords that look like miniature planes."
Billy stepped up beside Rocky. "They didn't...those look like some kind of unmarked, light carriage fighter jets..."
Jason frowned, strange noises and gasps sounding from everyone as the unidentified planes seemed to come in even closer to the battle.
"Why would they be coming in so close?" Jason asked, looking over at Tommy.
Tommy's words trailed off and Jason just stared, simply stunned beyond comparison as the footage began to swing all over the place making it almost impossible to follow any logical order of events. It kept moving between the cockpit of the Megazord, back to wide view of the battle before them...
And then slam! The footage seemed to combust into static and snow-like flickering, the video's audio component hanging on long enough for them all to hear words clearly spoken from the voice of their leader:
"Zor-don...(heavy breath)...I don't...we've been hit...Oh God..." the sound of crying- of Tommy's crying, almost screamed from the viewing globe, the sphere still showing nothing but static.
"Rangers," Zordon's voice sounded severely distorted. "We've lost all video communications. Our sensors are picking up a severe level of damage to the Megazord, please respond immediately."
Jason felt the color drain from his face as the audio from Tommy continued:
"Rocky?...no (shaky breathing)...guys, speak; say something...Zordon...Zor-don this is Tommy...send help...do something, please...oh god...(more crying)...God, no! No! ...they're dead...they're..."
A loud bang from outside the laboratory forced them all to tear their desperate and disbelieving attentions from the viewing globe. Jason spun around and threw a protective arm in front of his friends as the door suddenly flung open and a bloody and injured Agent Johns clung to the door frame, breathing heavily.
Tommy was still dazed, unable to respond immediately as Jason literally leapt for the door and clamped his hands around the IBI officer's shoulders. Rocky and Adam quickly moved after Jason, but the original red ranger threw out a free hand and pushed them away, before he forced the injured agent to the ground and stuck the heel of his foot to his throat.
"Are you the one that killed Zack?" Tommy could hear Jason spit the words out venomously, his fists clenched at the side of his hospital gown. "Cause you picked a really fucked time to come in here and twist your little mind games."
Tommy glanced down at Kimberly, surprised to find her arms clinging around his. He gently pried them away and hurried over to Jason, grabbing onto his shoulders and pulling him off Agent Johns.
"Jason, stop it!"
Jason reacted almost as though in a daze and he shoved Tommy back, stopping only when Tommy countered and then crouched down over the IBI agent.
Images of Hank Cranston's weeping eyes before he was blown away flashed in Tommy's mind.
"What the hell is going on?" Tommy growled at him.
Johns seemed unable to find his voice, blood and saliva foaming from between his parched lips. Tommy grabbed hold of the man's collar and abruptly lifted and then slammed the back of head back against the ground.
"You better start talking," Tommy warned him.
The agent spluttered uncontrollably, his face twisting in discomfort, before he looked up at Tommy.
"You were all part of a cloning experiment," he finally said, before his eyes practically rolled back into his head.
Tommy tightened his grip on Johns' shirt and grunted loudly as he pulled him to standing, shoving him up against the nearby wall.
"You had better keep talking."
Johns seemed to smirk, but his deteriorating state seemed to dwindle his ability to regain his composure. "You're all the center of a cloning experiment..."
Rocky snickered loudly. "Yeah, we've already met some of our evil twins," he stated dryly.
"Why did you start the experiment in the first place?" Billy asked up, surprising Tommy with how level his voice remained on speaking to the monster that had killed his father.
"You saw the footage-."
"What footage?" Tommy cut him off.
Johns breathed loudly. "The footage from your final battle..."
Tommy shoved his weight abruptly against him. "That was nothing but crap," he spat at him. "What we saw on that viewing globe is not what happened in Seréshis."
Johns turned his head around and began to chuckle. Tommy grabbed his head and slammed it against the wall, before shoving him to the ground. With anger and confusion pulsating in his weary head, he turned away and tried to collect himself, before focusing once more on the IBI officer.
"You and your mob of twisted sickos must have planted that footage," Tommy reasoned. "We were all there to see Zedd and Rita destroyed...we all saw the footage back at the Command Center."
"It wasn't supposed to happen the way it did," Johns explained. "I had led a team force with the objective of uncovering your identities. We had our suspicions and knew everything about you, but at the very same time knew shit all about who you were. But how happy was I when I finally got the clue to link up who you all were- seems you should have told your girlfriend not to discuss ranger gossip on the phone," he added looking over at Kimberly.
Tommy glanced over at her, watching as her face fell with guilt.
"No one could hear our conversations," Tommy shook his head dismissively. "We had access to technology that prevented anyone from tapping into our phone lines."
Johns feebly tried to straighten himself up. "And who made that technology? There was a reason that Hank Cranston was appointed head of our data and developments unit- like father, like son, I guess."
Billy stepped up beside Tommy. "Are you saying that my father helped you discover our identities?"
"Indirectly," Johns confirmed. "His motives were pure, just as mine were-."
Jason let out a sharp, bitter breath. "You're a piece of work."
"You still haven't explained how you came up with that footage and audio," Tommy reminded the agent.
"After working out who you all were, we were able to follow your every movement- tapped into phone conversations and eventually into what we learned was your internal communications system. And we were there when both Kimberly Hart and Jason Scott were abducted from Barlings Beach, Florida by your ranger enemy- we did not intervene as that would have been a risk to their safety and to our mission to learn as much about you as possible."
His words stopped, and his head rolled slightly.
Tommy kicked into his leg, stirring him roughly. "Then what?"
"Well it took you nearly four weeks to come up with a plan, didn't it?" he murmured. "I spent almost twenty-four-seven tapping into your rather desperate deliberations over whether it was in your best interests to save two of your own or the rest of the world...we got a time and place for your planned strike against Lord Zedd and Rita Repulsa at the island you named Seréshis...I then ordered a team of forty agents to stake out the location."
"The planes in the footage?" Aisha guessed.
"There were no planes there," Jason practically snarled, inching toward the agent. "I was there watching it front, center row- you're nothing but a dirty liar."
Johns cleared this throat, his voice responding in a raspy manner. "Those planes were ordered by me to keep their distance from your battle- they weren't ever supposed to become involved..." he looked at each of them with cold eyes. "I can't explain what it's like to be that close to one of history's potentially greatest moments. It seems the power source that your enemy was after had more than a detrimental effect on each of those planes- the energy acted as a magnet, grabbing hold of every single jet and bringing it on a collision course with the island. I watched it happen before me on the monitors..."
He shook his head and looked down. "As each of the planes headed on a direct path for the ground, they intercepted a succinct attack from both your fighting zord and Lord Zedd's zord. The two extraordinary attacks at such close range, combined with those planes was a fatal mixture- the explosion alone was so detrimental that it literally took months for us salvage the footage but when we arrived there, there was no denying what had happened-."
Tommy crouched down before him, his eyes widening with desperation; his head screaming out in disbelief.
"No!" Kimberly let out, shaking her head sharply. "That didn't happen!"
Johns locked his gaze on Tommy. "I'm very sorry Mr. Oliver but you're not who you think you are- none of you are. That final battle became one of the greatest disasters in government history. It spelled the end of all- the end of Lord Zedd and the end of the power rangers. And it left me with no choice but to cover up the truth...no one can ever know the truth...ever..."