Chapter 19: Code: V171250
"What?" Rocky gasped out bewildered. "You've got to be fucking kidding me."
Aisha looked up at him, her eyes haunted and confused. "Rocky, what is he saying?"
They all turned sharply as a loud clamoring suddenly thudded from the other side of the steel doors, forcing them all to their feet and to attention.
Tommy stepped back and extended his arm. "Guys, be quiet," he hushed them.
Rocky fixed his gaze on the evil IBI dictator, his nerves building and churning at the manner in which the man's eyes rested on the main door out. He wasn't just looking in that direction out of fear or out of curiosity on what was approaching from the other side- but as though he was looking for that perfect moment to escape...
"Tommy!" Rocky barked out as Agent Johns broke into a dash for the doors.
Tommy and Jason both sprinted after the agent, but halted quickly as he ripped the door open, and a collection of metallic-clad mutants greeted him on the other side.
"Tommy!" Kimberly screamed out.
Rocky hurried over to the side of the room and picked up a piece of steel, tossing it over to Jason.
"Johns," Tommy yelled out after him, keeping a distance. "Don't be a fool!"
The agent glanced over his shoulder, his eyes empty of any emotion, before he forced his way through the door and delivered himself to the crazed clones on the other side.
Tommy hurried over and forced the door closed again. Rocky and Adam moved for a nearby cabinet and dragged it over, grunting and forcing it up against the door.
Rocky tried to steady his breath and grabbed his forehead between his hands, as screams of pure agony pierced through the doors from the other side .
"Damn it!" Rocky snapped, throwing an angry fist against the wall. "He got away!"
He shook his head and looked over at Tommy, watching as their leader crouched to the ground and buried his face in his hands. Rocky sighed. He could feel his vision almost blur, as his conscious fought off extreme fatigue and the fact that he'd just been told they were killed in a government disaster five years earlier.
"Billy," Jason was breathing hard. "Tell me they planted that footage in there..."
Billy's face was empty of all natural color. "That file partition can't be tampered with, Jason...it is what it is- that was direct footage from the battle..."
Rocky rubbed at his face. "So you're trying to tell us that what that murdering asshole told us is the truth- that a bunch of government planes flew into our battle, killing us all and leaving them with no choice but to cover their worthless asses by creating clones of us..." he flung his hands in a wide gesture, before he pointed at himself. "That WE are clones!"
Tommy stood up and walked over to the other side of the room, before he swiped his arm out without warning and pushed a pile of papers and reports off the top of a cabinet. He rattled his hands around a small collection of stationary and pulled loose a pair of scissors.
"Tommy, what are you doing?" Kimberly asked him cautiously, moving toward him.
He didn't reply, and instead moved the scissors to his pony tail, before cutting it off with several, strained snips.
Jason moved over toward him, as both Rocky and Kimberly gasped out in bewilderment at Tommy's actions. "What are you doing, Tommy?"
Tommy stopped and lowered the scissors slightly, as he turned to look at them all. "When we were speaking to the clone of Kimberly upstairs, she told us she couldn't see our marker," he started numbly, his eyes unfocused. "We were listening, but we didn't hear what she was saying- she knew we were clones. We have to find the markers..."
Rocky sighed. There was no way in hell that he could believe any of it, but his teammates were literally faltering and falling to bits before him. Just as Tommy was trying to prove that they were clones, Rocky had just as much motivation to prove otherwise- and he walked over to Tommy and grabbed the scissors from him.
"Let me do it," Rocky told him, before he grabbed the shortened strands of Tommy's dark hair and began to cut them away.
Rocky looked over to the side as Kimberly and Billy moved over to Jason and began to untie the back of his hospital gown.
"What exactly are we looking for?" Kimberly asked out loud, as she let her fingers crawl over Jason's bare back.
Tommy went to move his head to look at her, but Rocky held it steady. "The clone we saw upstairs had a very small marker on her arm. She said it read V-three-something- it was a combination of numbers- it was supposed to tell them what number prototype they were."
Rocky continued to snip at Tommy's hair, frustrated at how long it was taking.
"Can you see anything?" Tommy asked.
Rocky licked his arid lips. "Not yet..."
"There's nothing here," Kimberly announced as she straightened herself up behind Jason.
Rocky ran the blades against Tommy's scalp and literally pried the hair from the back of his head. He could feel Tommy's body jolt sharply in response and hear him curse under his breath, and Rocky apologized fleetingly.
Aisha stepped up beside him and twisted her face. "Rocky, you're making him bleed," she pointed out. "For God's sake take it easy."
Rocky flicked her a dirty look. "It's not as easy at it looks," he told her coldly.
She sighed and placed a gentle hand on his, her brown eyes looking at his with so much sorrow that it took him back too many years. These were the people he had admired and loved for so many years and look where they were now. Look what had become of them.
Look what had become of him.
Rocky handed her the scissors and rubbed Tommy's head gently with his sleeve at the small spots of blood. He really couldn't see anything that stood out. The whiteness of Tommy's scalp against the short, jagged remains of his hair was a complete contrast, but even still there was no tattoo of numbers, no intricate marking...
"Rocky," Aisha reached up to grab his arm, as she pulled on him to look lower.
"What have you guys found?" Katherine asked up from behind.
Rocky moved his eyes on where Aisha's pointed finger rested not far from Tommy's left ear. From afar it looked like a dark line, but as Rocky focused in even more the line quickly separated into small, distinguished digits.
Tommy sighed loudly. "You've found it, haven't you?" he asked.
Rocky look away for a moment, feeling as though someone had kicked him in the stomach. "V-1-7-1-0-1-0," Rocky read out loud.
"Are you sure?" Adam asked.
Rocky nodded his head sullenly and stepped back. "Clear as day...Jesus..."
Tommy turned around before he motioned to Aisha to pass him the scissors. Adam stepped forward and cocked his head slightly.
"Do me next," he volunteered.
And so Tommy began to hack as gently, but as quickly as possible at the back of Adam's head. They all gathered around in a circle, watching quietly as short clots of black hair floated to the floor at Adam's feet.
Tommy pulled back. "I've found it," he cleared his throat, as he lowered the scissors to his side. " V-1-7-0-8-2-0."
Rocky looked at the ground. "This can't be happening," he whispered to himself.
Another round of loud scurrying from outside of the room momentarily stole the moment, before Rocky forced himself to block it out.
"What if they get through?" Kimberly breathed out.
"Yeah, we could worry about being eaten by mutated putties or we can worry about the fact that we're clones," Rocky muttered, but he swiftly shook his head at himself the moment his sentence finished and Tommy leveled a stony gaze at him.
"I'm sorry Kim," Rocky apologized with a dismal sigh.
Jason began to cough, and hunched over, the sound of phlegm choking him up as he began to dry wrench.
"Jason?" Kimberly knelt over him, moving her arm over his shoulders. "Are you okay?"
Adam moved over to his other side. "He needs water...we're all dehydrated."
Jason straightened himself up and gently shrugged Kimberly off. "I'm fine..."
Then the silence came. There was too much to say, but no words to communicate it.
"Is that why I don't have a scar on my back anymore?" Kimberly randomly questioned, as she looked over at Tommy. "Because we're not real?"
"That's the most plausible explanation," Billy replied quietly. "I can't say I know much about such technology, but from what I do know they would create exact replicas- the same age as the original prototype, but based almost entirely on genetics with little inclusion of environmental impacts such as whether or not the prototype had freckles from the sun or say a scar from being injured..."
Rocky looked at the ground. He was in no mood for the science lesson, nor was he interested in accepting this twist thrown at them. The markers meant nothing- a poignant coincidence maybe, or perhaps a very smart plant by Agent Johns.
"If we died, then tell me this- how is it that we were at the Command Center after the battle and Zordon was there and everything was fine...what, did they clone Zordon too?" Rocky quizzed.
"They must have planted those memories in our minds somehow," Aisha reasoned, but Rocky shook his head.
"How can you all be so willing to believe the words of that spineless creep?"
Adam sighed. "Rocky, to be shocked about this is understandable and we all feel it; but to be in denial about it is not going to make the situation go away- the simple fact is, is that both Tommy and I have markers that fit in with what that clone told us upstairs. There is footage from the Command Center's own audiovisual system which showed the Megazord being wiped out and has Tommy saying that we were hit and killed..."
"Guys," Billy called out, and they all turned around to notice as his hand rested on the handle of an ajar door. "There's something I think you should all see."
Walking into the newly discovered room was like walking into a cold freezer, but Billy was too overcome to notice how dangerous it was for them to be in such an icy temperature.
The damage before him now was too clear, instantly filling Billy's nostrils with the pungent odors of rust and mold, illuminating from the abandoned skeletons of their prided pasts. The once polished and sleek shells were disjointed, completely unrecognizable; A heap of pick-up sticks existing of only scrap metal and scattered memories.
He had never seen the Megazord in such light before, despite expecting it and mentally preparing for such an event more times than he could remember. Working for tireless hours on the mystical technology, Billy could distinctly remember how intimate he'd become with Zordon's machinery. How he'd felt a sense of himself go into them each time he'd serviced them alongside Alpha 5 or proudly diagnosed faults before they implicated their numerous battles.
And now, as he stared at the scattered remains of what he knew was the rangers' collection of indestructible Shogun zords, he felt pain. It hurt so terribly bad.
No one was speaking. What could they say? The expressions of numbness; the wetness in everyone's eyes' was more than anything they could express verbally. They were all mourning such a realization, the cruel joke and incomprehensible stuff-up driving further into their hearts.
Billy grabbed his forehead in his hand and squeezed with everything he had.
The sobbing started shortly after. The break in silence was almost permission to speak up, and Tommy's voice filtered through surprising clear and level.
"What does this mean, Billy?"
The former blue ranger felt his head pain from his own force and reluctantly looked back toward the wreckage. "It's difficult to determine the exact causes, but its clear the Shogun zords were at some stage severely decimated. Its clear from the rust and other external symptoms that this damage occurred quite some time ago…"
"How did it get here though?" Rocky wondered out numbly.
"Johns said they were trying to cover the evidence," Jason mentioned. "But…" his sentence trailed off, as he slowly ran a hand over what appeared to belong to the once commanding red Shogun zord.
"I knew it," Kimberly started whispering in a frenzied manner. "I knew it."
"Man!" Rocky slammed his foot against the ground, before running a hand through his hair. "This is completely fucked-up!"
"I can't believe they would do this to us," Katherine shared in a shaky voice. "This is just sick."
Rocky spun around, gesturing with his right hand. "I don't care what that son-of-a-bitch said back there, but this doesn't mean shit- they've done nothing but lie through their teeth the whole damn time. There is no way I'm gonna believe that I am not me."
"You saw the clones," Aisha argued, stepping toward him. "That clone of Kimberly could talk and everything-."
"Just stop it, okay?" Jason broke in sternly. "We don't need to be doing this right now."
Kimberly crouched to the ground and lowered her face in her lap, her jittery tears muffled by her hair. As Aisha dropped to console her, Billy managed to step toward the wreckage, carefully following its perimeter as his mind swelled with question after question.
He could remember the exact moment when Rito Revolta had destroyed their Thunderzords in plain sight. At the time, the anguish had been almost too much, as though realizing they could actually lose. But like so many times that proceeded that day and eventually followed it, hope had come through. They had won and moved on to become even more powerful.
It had been over a year later that they had claimed the biggest victory they had ever hoped to achieve. The inexpressible pride from Zordon had made their years of sacrifice worth it- knowing they freed the world from Rita and Zedd's clutches was so unbelievable at the time, but it had given them what they'd dreamed of: A normal life and the opportunity to hold their memories of being rangers as just that.
But now it was confirmed that not only did they lose a fight, but they had lost everything. Zordon; themselves.
Billy paused as he came to a large piece of shrapnel blocking his path, and clumsily rolled over it. He watched as the nearby wall changed shape, and his blue eyes followed the cold surface until they rested on several cold storage freezers along the back wall.
Casket chambers? Why would they have those in here? Billy cautiously approached the first one.
He slowly moved his hand to stroke the cold surface of the chamber, but the ice in the air seemed to cling to the thick glass, blocking any view of the contents. He pressed down harder and quickened his pressure, and the obscured glass began to reveal an even more chilling content...
"Oh God..." Billy felt his knees weaken. "Oh God it can't be us."
He could have been sick, but it didn't feel real; it couldn't be real. It was like looking at his reflection in a mirror, but instead he was looking at himself. A real body, lying deathly stiff inside the glass casket.
Billy bent his knees and slowly lowered into a crouching position, dropping his forehead into his hand.
Billy squeezed his eyes shut, before he slowly lifted his head to acknowledge Katherine. His head was screaming at him- tell her to stay back! Tell her not to come any closer!
But it didn't matter anymore.
Katherine halted awkwardly only a few feet away, her eyes wide. They trickled over the row of chambers, before finding Billy again as though begging for an answer.
Noise sounded slightly from her lips.
Billy stood up and turned away from her as he heard the approaching footsteps head in their direction.
Billy turned his solemn gaze on his leader and waited as the others joined his side.
"What are those?" Aisha asked him, pointing toward the casket at Billy's side.
Billy swallowed, the lack of moisture in his mouth burning his throat. "These are cold chambers," he began. "They're similar in composition to what you would find in a morgue or to what we found Zack's body in..." he sighed, watching each of their faces falter; their eyes die before him.
Tommy walked over to him and lowered his gaze into the only exposed casket. "You were wearing those clothes on the day of the final battle," he noticed with a murmur.
Billy nodded, and reached up to place a hand on his shoulder as though to console him somehow as the others walked over to the casket to join them in sorrowed contemplation.
"Agent Johns was telling the truth," Billy quietly spoke up. "I can't explain it, I'm sorry..."
The silence was deathly. Billy looked away and rubbed a hand at his eyes, before he valiantly glanced back at his teammates. It was as though every single one of them was subconsciously sorting through the past five years. Where were the clues? Where were the signs?
How the hell couldn't they know?
"What are we going to do now?" Kimberly asked miserably.
Billy looked at Tommy and Jason before he meekly shrugged and turned away.