Existence

Chapter 2: Reminiscing

Angel Grove University, Dorm 3E

Friday, December 12th, 2000 – Present Day

8:12AM

There wasn't much to be said about the whole college philosophy of late nights, late mornings and adapting to relying on yourself to make sure you eat and clean your clothes. A lot of the time, the last two points were especially shaky, being that the standard diet usually consisted of take-out, and clothes were usually worn a good four or five times until they sat in a pile for a further two weeks.

Yet as intoxicating as many found the college lifestyle, especially breaking out of the constraints of parented life, Tommy Oliver was still one of the few who didn't usually conform to the naturals of young adulthood. He was usually responsible and even withdrawn to the point where some considered him anti-social. Education just didn't come naturally to him, however, and he wasn't about to risk failing his biology exam to down 20 beers with people he didn't really know.

So, he had done what he usually did most Thursday nights. He studied. Watched a little television and finished off the cold pizza in the fridge, before turning in for a respectable bedtime of eleven thirty. Even with the music blaring from the dorm next door, he swore he'd still make it up seven hours later for his usual morning jog.

The jog at dawn didn't happen, though. He remembered waking up to his alarm, but fell back asleep, only to wake to some crazy dream he usually had whenever he was overtired.

What a great way to start the day. Weren't Fridays supposed to be the best day of the week?

He groaned at himself a little as his sleepy eyes fell on the clock in the small living area, but his exhausted body was too persuasive and he slumped rather hopelessly on the worn couch in front of the television. It was Friday morning, but it was his only day off for nearly two weeks – surely, he deserved an opportunity to lounge around with no purpose.

The television illuminated immediately, and he kicked his feet onto the coffee table, hoping that his dorm mate would bring him breakfast that morning after work.

Now I really am starting to sound like a college student, he thought wryly, thinking of the look of displeasure his mother would give him if she discovered just how many days a week he had McDonalds for breakfast.

The news around the city of Angel Grove changed little week-to-week. For a city that boasted a population of well over 300,000, they were almost a national laughing-stock when it came to delivering 'gritty' news. They were dubbed the city of Perfection, welcoming anyone who wanted the big city feel, minus the crime, homelessness and general weariness that was the hype of other cities such as New York or sister-city Los Angeles.

Tommy found that whole idea a bit of a joke himself, considering the rather unusual history of the city's invasion by an alien empire and its honorary homage to a group of masked superheroes only a mere four years earlier. Now that the dust had more than settled since those days, scientists from around the world had flocked to Angel Grove and it was considered the hub for all astronomy and extraterrestrial research. The millions such exploration brought to the local economy was incomprehensible, and it was the primary reason the city was capable in upholding its now untarnished way of life.

Tommy watched with fleeting interest as the weather report drew to a close, and then smiled almost stupidly as the camera focused back on the guest news anchor. The African-American woman showed not even a hint of nervousness, and Tommy turned the volume up, suddenly glad he'd awoken in time to see Aisha Campbell that morning. His old high-school friend smiled effortlessly into the camera, before her face drew serious and she began delivering the most important news that morning.

The first report was about a mysterious death, the victim's name undisclosed, yet the situation seemingly disturbing. He could see it in Aisha's eyes' as she carefully presented the report; this was something big, something very un-Angel Grove like.

Suspicious deaths were about as non-existent nowadays, as Tommy's love life.

There was a knock on the door and Tommy only managed a glance in that direction, before it opened swiftly and a familiar face strolled in. Adam Park was looking as un-pretentious as always, his frame hugged in a well-worn uniform and his short hair sitting in its usually messy pile.

Apparently the look was in at the moment, or so Aisha had told him. Tommy had tried to tell him otherwise, but Adam would always swiftly counter that any twenty-one year old who still had the same hairstyle from their sophomore year was not a person to give advice.

"Got you some breakfast," the Korean-American announced, before he tossed the paper bag at him.

Tommy almost yelped as the hot item landed on his bare stomach, but he quickly sat up and swallowed his reaction with a "Thanks, man."

Adam dropped down on the cushion beside him, and smiled almost devilishly at the television. "How's Aisha doing?" he asked.

Tommy nodded, food in his mouth. "Really good," he mumbled, before swallowing. "There was something about a death in Stone Canyon. You hear anything about that at work?"

"That young guy found in his house? Yeah, I didn't get to that one, but Barney told me the guy apparently died in suspicious circumstances."

"Do you know who it was?"

"Nuh, they won't release the name," Adam explained. "All they mentioned was it was a local guy in his early twenties."

Tommy downed half his coffee in one gulp. "Guess we'll have to ask Aisha after work," he suggested, stopping suddenly as there was another knock at the door.

Man, I probably should get that, but I really couldn't be-.

"I'll get that for you," Adam finally conceded sarcastically, before he made his way the short distance to the door.

Tommy watched as the door opened, but found himself standing at Adam's side within one moment of seeing who was on the other side.

Four uniformed men were staring back at them, the emblem on their badges familiar to Tommy, yet the fog in his mind stopped him from registering it immediately. Their dark suits were almost too tight and completely identical.

All they were missing were the dark shades.

"Uh…can we help you?" Adam asked a little confused.

"Adam Park; Thomas Oliver. You are required to accompany us immediately-."

"Wait a minute," Tommy interrupted. "But, do you guys mind telling us who you are and what this is about?"

"We are agents with the IBI," the officer replied evenly, "and we have reasons to believe your lives are in danger."

"The IBI?" Adam asked, eyeing Tommy privately.

Tommy frowned. "Why would the space police think that our lives are in danger?"

One of the other officers pulled two photographs from a file in his hand, and extended them toward the two former rangers as he replied. "We have been asked to obtain the individuals in these images immediately. We have intelligence that proves you, and your fellow classmates were the power rangers."

Tommy could almost feel his eyes pop out of his skull at the statement. How could they know- how could anyone? He had never even hinted to anybody outside the circle that he or any of the others had been rangers. It was a promise they had all made.

"How…" Adam was looking as shocked as Tommy felt. "How do you know who the power rangers are?"

"We need you to come with us now," the larger officer replied bluntly. "We can assure you all will be explained to you once we get you into protective custody."

Tommy stared back at him dubiously. Everything in his head was telling him that to go with four strangers to somewhere he didn't know went against everything he would normally do. Even common sense wouldn't agree with it.

The officer with the file seemed less aggressive and knew exactly what to say. "Remaining here may put your other friends at risk," he stated. "We understand your confusion, but you must comply with our request."

Tommy released a silent breath, before he glanced at Adam, hoping he would voice his opinion. The former black ranger remained quiet and Tommy nodded his head, as if to privately tell him that he knew what he was doing.

"Just let me get changed," Tommy finally said.


Central Los Angeles

5:59PM

Amongst the intricate windings of peak-hour traffic, Rocky DeSantos sat impatiently in his car, pounding the steering wheel with his fingers. He'd changed the radio dial more times than he cared, and all he wanted was to hear something that would take his mind off the time.

Why did it always take him three times longer to get home on a Friday afternoon, than it did any other day of the week?

He cursed to himself as traffic dribbled only a few feet before stopping again, and sighed impatiently as the familiar ring of his cell phone rattled from his belt. He grabbed it and eyed the number display unfavorably, before he quickly dropped it in the center consol. The last thing he wanted to do was talk to his mother at a time like this.

Rocky knew what she would say. She would remind him what a hellhole Los Angeles was, and how he should move back to Angel Grove. The feisty fifty year-old would be sure to add that he could easily get a job back home and could live there happily ever after.

Cut to reality, and that was the one reason why Rocky spent most of his time avoiding his mother's phone calls. He loved her to death, but at twenty-one years of age he needed to start living his own life. Just because his parents chose to have seven kids, didn't mean Rocky had to put his life on hold to help them raise them.

Traffic began rolling and Rocky perked up, moving his car toward the strangled mouth of the intersection. He put his brakes on and slowed beside a sporty car, eyeing the female occupant with a cheeky look. The good-looking brunette flicked her sunglasses a little and smiled back, before she moved on.

Rocky huffed a little as his cell rang again, and he quickly moved it to his ear.

"Hey babe," he greeted, trying his best to sound interested and excited to hear from her.

"Baby, where are you? I've been trying to call you at home for the past hour…"

No shit, Rocky thought.

"Yeah, well I had to leave work late. Rob wanted to do some last minute prep on our presentation for next week, and now I'm stuck in peak hour." Rocky pounded his horn as an elderly man awkwardly shifted his car in front of his, before he continued. "Everything okay?"

"Everything's fine…I just thought I'd tell you that I'm going away for a few weeks, to get away-."

Rocky frowned. "Why? Where are you going?" he asked her, unable to mask his annoyance.

She was quiet and didn't respond immediately. Rocky knew that was a bad sign and he could smell it a mile away.

"I thought we were supposed to go to the Pier Lounge for some drinks tonight?" he reminded her, when she remained quiet.

His girlfriend sighed. "Rocky…I need a break. I need…time…"

He was about two seconds from hanging up on her. "If you wanna break this off, Rachel, just tell me, okay? Don't play your little teary games on me about how you're so hard done by."

"Yeah, that's perfect coming from you, Mr. Big shot. All I ever hear about it that stupid presentation of yours-."

"You know how important it is to me!" Rocky raised his voice. "This could be the start of my life for God's sake."

"I can't wait for you," she stated bitterly. The pause hung on the line for nearly a minute. "I'm sorry, okay?"

Rocky sniggered resentfully. "Whatever." He sighed. "Have a great trip," he added quietly, before he hung up and tossed the phone in the back seat.

He clenched his hands around the steering wheel and did his best not to crash the car into the first tree as he weaved his way rather foolishly through traffic. Angry horns blared in his direction, but he brushed them off with his own, frustrated ignorance. He didn't often get angry- there had been occasions where he'd felt annoyed, but to be dumped by his girlfriend of two months because he was committed to earning big bucks and making a good name for himself just blew his mind.

What the hell did women want these days, anyway? Maybe his mother was right; maybe Los Angeles was just full of stuck-up, psychologically distorted wannabes.

The buildings and streets passed in a state of haze as his car powered along the winding motorway. A familiar song blared through the speakers, but his ears didn't hear it. As his car pulled into the familiar street and tall buildings towered over his car, Rocky suddenly let out an awkward breath.

His stomach pained. Rocky let out a moan and awkwardly flung his car to the side of the road, wrapping his free arm around his stomach while he fumbled to turn the ignition off. Another bolt of pain shot through his abdomen and he rested his forehead on the steering wheel, gasping sharp breaths while he waited for the pain to subside.

Rocky found the energy to rest against his chair, and fumbled blindly on the backseat, grabbing his cell, before he quickly pressed the speed dial number. He counted the rings in his head, grimacing as the answering machine picked up:

"This is Adam, leave a message and your number and I'll call you as soon as I can."

Rocky cleared his throat, trying his best not to sound like a baby. "Man, if you're home, can you give me a call? I've got that pain again and it's real bad."


Intergalactic Bureau of Investigation Headquarters, Angel Grove

A few hours later…

Tommy knew there was a reason why he never napped during the day. Some people could do it; others couldn't live without a nap to boost their flagging energy. But, the former white ranger only found it made him feel like shit, and definitely loathed how sleeping out of the ordinary hours seemed to drain him more than refuel him.

But, boredom was more tiring than his regular routine and he was slipping off to sleep uncomfortably as he sat in the rigid chair. Beside him, Adam had been sleeping for a good two hours straight, his body more than needing sleep after his busy night at the hospital. The scene wasn't at all comfortable. Sterile, was the word Tommy would use and he was growing uneasier as the hours passed.

When are these agents going to tell us what is going on?

"Why do you think no one else has shown yet?" Aisha suddenly asked up, her voice tense, but sounding more of concern for their friends than for them.

Tommy rubbed his hand over his face and tried to appear alert. "Maybe they're having trouble finding them…or maybe they don't believe them?"

Aisha fixed the hem of her skirt. "I wish someone would at least come and talk to us."

Tommy nodded and allowed his eyes to wonder once more around the tiny room. The gray concrete walls were windowless, lined by uncomfortable chairs that were also a barren shade of steel. A table sat in the center of the room, photographs scattered around the surface and a telephone resting to one side. Tommy had tried to use the phone half a dozen times since they'd been escorted to the depths of the IBI headquarters, but he couldn't even get a dial tone.

It was all starting to feel like one of those movies.

The door opened only five minutes later, and a man walked in, eyes fixed on the table, before he sat across from them. Aisha gently roused Adam from his uncomfortable sleep, and Tommy watched the officer in black begin to tap a pen against the metallic surface of the table.

Finally…

"My apologies for the way this situation was handled," he began.

Tommy didn't think he sounded very sincere, but then again he couldn't imagine any of the employees who worked for such an organisation to be of the emotional type.

"My name is Agent Robert Johns and I'm heading this current case."

Aisha sat forward, sassy eyes widening as she spoke. "How long are you going to keep us locked up in this room?" she accused. "Isn't there some sort of procedures that have to be followed?"

Tommy cleared the fog in his throat. "Where are the others?" he asked up quietly.

"We currently have five teams of officers out to bring your teammates in. Katherine Hillard is already on a flight from London. Trini Kwan was located in Switzerland, and she is also on her way to Angel Grove."

"Have you told Billy about any of this?" Adam asked, forgoing the formal speech that the officer was using. "He lives only like ten minutes from us."

"William Cranston has already arrived at the facility-."

"Well, can we see him?" Aisha urged.

"You will be reacquainted with him shortly," Agent Johns responded. "But for now, our focus is on locating the last three individuals." He leaned across the table and laid out three familiar images, Tommy recognizing the photos from their junior yearbook. "We are currently having difficulty locating Jason Scott, Rocky DeSantos and Kimberly Hart. We have an address for Mr. DeSantos, but were unsuccessful in locating him."

"He's been kinda busy with work," Aisha admitted. "He has an important campaign in which he's second in charge…it's big. It could be the real starting point for his career."

Agent Johns appeared disinterested in her revelation. "We have yet to secure Mr. Scott, either. We managed to make contact with him via phone, but he was uncooperative with our request and refused to comply with our needs. We are in the process of tracking the signal from his cell phone so we can meet with him in person."

Tommy pursed his lips. He wasn't the least bit surprised that Jason would be suspicious of such an altercation. After all, the former white ranger still didn't understand how he went along with it in the first place. Tommy had been in close contact with his best friend since his return to the States after his Peace Conference commitments, but Jason seemed rather rigid whenever the subject of their ranger pasts came into conversation.

And Tommy understood why. Jason was by far the most committed, he thought, to the ranger code. In his own mind he believed Jason felt a sense of guilt and maybe even disappointment that he hadn't been part of the fighting team when they had finally destroyed Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd for good.

Standing by the sidelines and watching was never a role the original leader liked to play.

"…and she has a residence in Manhattan…" Agent Johns contined, "but, we have been unable to find her at either residences. Inquiries to neighbors have us believe she is vacationing somewhere at this time."

Tommy blinked, suddenly realizing he had missed most of the agent's speech, but Aisha filled in the gaps almost immediately.

"Kim's up north," the former yellow ranger stated. "It was all over the papers…"

Tommy didn't add anything further. Kimberly Hart. What could he say about the former pink ranger, a girl who had left him behind in his fragile teenage years to pursue her rainbow strip of dreams? He wouldn't be able to add anything that everyone didn't already know.

She was famous, after all. The only one of the group of high school friends that had in all seriousness achieved sporting celebrity status. Kimberly's success at the Pan Global games in gymnastics was just the catalyst, but her movement into the land of world-class figure skating had catapulted her into the international headlines. She was beautiful; she was young and most importantly, she was a role model, loved and appreciated.

Nowadays, Tommy was acquainted with the image on sporting commercials and advertising campaigns. Although awkward at times, he and Kimberly had something resembling a friendship, which had amounted to a stray phone call every few months over three years. It wasn't what they'd had five years earlier, but it was also a hell of a lot more than what could have been.

Tommy was again oblivious and lost in his reminiscing as the agent continued to ramble on, but the moment he noticed, the former ranger quickly cut him off.

"So why are we here, again?"

Agent Johns looked at him, a hint of impatience in his gaze, yet enough understanding that he didn't brush the question away like everyone else.

"We have reason to believe that the powers which you possessed as rangers have remained a part of your physiology long after your final battle. Through our research into your years as rangers, we have concerns that such 'extraterrestrial' powers could lead to a concerning mutation. This intervention is purely in concern for your well beings, especially in consideration of the dedicated service you offered in protecting Earth for many years."

'Through our research'? What research? I thought nobody knew who we were…

He began to stand up and Tommy's reflexes' instantly kicked in.

"Hey," he shot out an arm. "Can we at least contact people at home to let them know we're okay?"

Agent Johns hesitated. "We've taken care of your absence for now. I'll have one of my colleagues bring you something to eat, and in the meantime, I thank you for your patience while we locate the remainder of your friends."


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