Chapter 20: Crestfallen
So this is what it felt like.
To be so distraught, that you don't realize you've been crying. To feel so lost, that you don't bother worrying about where you are or trying to find out where to go next. Secrets ruined and changed lives every day. But this…this was incomprehensible.
Tommy actually couldn't fathom crying at this point. It's not that he wasn't devastated by what they had just learnt, but it was too hard for him to honestly comprehend. He wasn't real. They weren't real people.
He guessed he was in shock.
He felt Kimberly brush against his leg every so often, as she continued through a cycle of sobbing, catching her breath and then silence. He'd done so much as to stretch his arm low and sit it on her shoulder, but apart from that he'd remained mostly still, watching the others go through the turbulent motions.
Her voice came out so softly, like a breath of a whisper and Tommy almost didn't hear her, until she pulled his attention with her large, watery gaze staring up at him.
He swallowed and used the wall behind him to slide down beside her. It was the moment he went to speak to her that he realized he had actually been crying, and he sniffed suddenly, clearing his throat half a dozen times.
"I don't know why, but it's like I always knew something terrible happened that day," she began to speak. "It was always so painful for me to think about it, that I never did, except for the dreams…"
She leaned her head back against the wall and looked at him. "Maybe this is a dream too, huh?" she tried a fleeting smile, but it was short lived as her face fell just as quickly.
Tommy sighed and brushed her face with his hand. "I don't think so, Kim…" he replied sadly. "Somehow I think the nightmare is only just starting…"
"What do we do now?"
What do we do now? sigh I don't know…
At his silence, she began to sob again and he merely leaned his head against the wall behind them and covered his own display of emotions with his hands. A small part of his head was kicking, ringing in his ears and telling him that they didn't have time for this- there was too much at stake.
But the bigger part of him just crushed his common sense. He could only question their motivations now; the direction which they needed to go. What they were actually fighting for.
He sighed and allowed his hands to slip from his face, before he pulled his legs to his chest and looked back over at Kimberly. Seeing her cry like that was killing him.
"Hey," he gently slid his arm around her shoulders. "You're going to make yourself sick crying like that..."
At his comment she seemed to choke a little on her emotions and cough. He rubbed her back as he caught Jason's image heading toward them, stopping short and standing tall.
"Guys?" Jason's voice was directed at all of them in a deep voice.
Tommy watched as the remainder of his teammates looked over at Jason, faces resting somewhere between devastation, madness and confusion.
"I know we're all in shock right now and I..." Jason paused. "We have to get it together. No matter what, we are who we are and I don't give a shit about this cloning stuff, because we don't know any different."
To Tommy's surprise, Katherine verbalized her own disagreement, releasing a somewhat bitter and unstable sigh. "They murdered us...we're not even real people," she reminded him numbly.
"We were created for the purpose of carrying on, Kat," Jason countered. "We could have gone through our whole damn lives without knowing any different."
"But doesn't this mean then that we're no different from all the other clones here at the facility?" Aisha stated. "We're all clones..."
Billy slowly stood up from where we was sitting beside Adam. "In essence, that's true Aisha, but given what Kimberly's clone told us upstairs and using that to decipher the tags we've located on both Adam and Tommy, then we're the original clones. We're as close to the real thing as you could get."
"Why though do you think they would extend that to making multiple copies of everyone, and even copies of Zedd...of putties?" Adam questioned. "Johns said they wanted to cover up the disaster, but none of that fits in or makes sense."
Tommy looked over at Rocky, wondering why he was being so withdrawn and silent.
"Are you all right, Rocky?" Tommy asked up.
Rocky nodded his head once or twice, but avoided Tommy's gaze. "Rockin' on," he replied dryly.
"Whatever we choose to do, I don't want to die here," Kimberly spoke up softly.
Tommy watched Rocky shuffle loudly.
"We're not going to die because of this, not again," Tommy decided. "We need to find out what we can about the cloning project and as much as we can about ourselves. Billy, do you think any of the computer systems or paperwork back out in the laboratory will have any of that kind of information?"
Billy's mouth remained still. "I wouldn't really know where to start, Tommy," he finally admitted in a small voice. "This is beyond...everything."
Jason stepped forward and looked quickly at Tommy, before returning his steeled eyes to Billy. "We just have to start from the beginning," he decided. "And as cliched and hopeless as it seems now, we need to stick together...let's cry about this when we find a way out of this place."
Unbeknown to the rangers, the very heart of Angel Grove was being ripped apart and annihilated.
Smoke effortlessly escalated through shattered windows, as buildings burnt and struggled to stand tall above the weight of their broken foundations. Cars had been mostly abandoned on the streets, as people took to fleeing on foot but in such trying times, it was almost as though everyone were running in circles.
"Move!" Phillip Hart barked, as he pushed a younger man out of the way in frustration.
He sidestepped random piles of smashed glass and store goods looters had assumably abandoned in the street in order to save their lives. Slowing as he watched the approaching intersection, he turned and looked back over his shoulder.
The noise; the screaming and the destruction almost blew his ear drums.
He could see four, five- no wait, there was more of them back up there now.
Over fifteen of the gray things he remembered the Angel Grove Gazette used to call "putties" back in the good old days. They seemed to be multiplying with every street corner Phillip turned, or maybe he was just imagining it.
Phillip swallowed and turned back around, jogging for the quickly approaching corner. He followed the brick wall closely and turned, but pulled back suddenly as he collided with a pair of haunting eyes.
He could hear a woman scream wildly only a few feet behind him.
The mutated creature swiped toward Phillip, and he flinched, pulling his body away, but still collecting the very tip of the monster's claws across his torso.
Phillip winced and scurried his feet backward, but the creature just menacingly followed, mimicking every attempt in movement with an unearthly ease.
"Stay back!" Phillip yelled.
He blindly grabbed onto a wooden pale at his feet and threw it at the putty, before he spun around and attempted to run off. The soles of his shoes frequently went to lose their grip; threatened to turn him onto his back, but he pushed on, squeezing his eyes shut as he passed too many people calling out for his help.
His only thoughts turned to his children and that moment he'd last spoken to their mother.
Where was Caroline now? Yes, he'd been stupid to come into the eye of disaster to look for her. Was she amongst those screaming out for help? Buried somewhere beneath the building rubble?
And Kimberly...they had her there at the station, so she must have been safe, right?
"Help me, please!"
Phillip stumbled and collided with the side of an abandoned car, his eyes reluctantly moving for the anguished voice. The woman looked to be in her forties- her weight being supported by her hands, but her legs clearly lost under what belonged to a now fallen bus shelter.
He felt his throat tighten. "I-I..." he swallowed and looked back at the trail he had just stumbled along, before he slowly fixed his gaze on her.
She just squeezed her eyes closed, rocking and crying out incoherently.
There was nothing he could do for her.
A sharp, sudden noise sliced through the sounds of death and desperation. Phillip couldn't pinpoint its initial direction, but as he pried his attention away from the severely injured woman, he could see a short swarm of dark figures hurry into the main street in the short distance. With their bodies bulky and large, rigid firing weapons cocked before each of them, they quickly dispersed, blazing through the carnage and dispensing shot after shot.
Phillip watched, motionless. He felt his throat tighten as one of the officers sprinted in his direction, dispensing a round of well-aimed ammunition through a pack of swarming putties.
He focused his eyes on the familiar emblem perched on the man's uniform.
"Sir, you have to evacuate the area immediately!" the officer barked out, pulling up before him.
Phillip's eyes darted about with a crazed sense of frustration. "I'm looking for the mother of my children," he explained, gesturing with his hands. "I promised my son I would come for her-."
The officer pushed him aside and jerked his gun back up before him, before sending another bullet off.
"Sir! I will arrest you if you refuse to follow my orders!"
Everything was so loud! Phillip looked about helplessly, before he nodded his head with defeat and started in a weary jog. He would run a few steps; flinch, stop. Start again. Then stop. There was so much screaming, so much gunfire, so much roaring and he didn't know where he was going...
Phillip stopped again, as he approached another street corner, and a young man rushed out from the other side, shoving past him in a frenzy. Phillip collided with a nearby street bench, falling heavily on his side and only just saving himself from colliding with the pavement below.
He swallowed his saliva, his eyes anchored to the ground. Shadows moved along it. But then...a larger shadow.
Phillip threw his head up in time to watch a flesh-covered mutant throw its strong arms out wide, before slicing them down and crushing his skull.
Everything went black and silent.
Adam carefully switched the pages in his hands, his eyes falling on another, almost child-like drawing. Bright colors, boldly scribbled beyond the subject's outer edges and a strange uncanniness to the pictures his five year-old cousin used to draw for him.
Except for the subject manner.
"Billy?" Adam looked over at the former blue ranger who was still hunched over the cabinet nearby. "What do you think these are?"
Billy straightened up and walked gingerly over, taking the yellowed page from his weakened grip.
"I'm not much of an art critic, but these pictures look like really bad drawings of Zordon," Adam added, as he watched Billy study it for a moment.
Billy released a long, steady sigh. "I don't think a child did these, but perhaps a person with a lower than normal mental capacity."
"Like a clone?"
Billy nodded, and then cocked his head back over to where he was sitting earlier. Adam glanced over at the remainder of their friends on the other side of the laboratory, all of them still immersed in scouring the cabinets and cupboards in an almost eerie silence.
"What have you found?" Adam whispered as he reached his friend's side.
He watched Billy sift through manila folders. "These files contain hand written notes on observations unnamed individuals made on so-called 'subjects'…" he pulled a sheet out and handed it over to Adam. "That sheet is dated the twenty-forth of June 1997…three days after the battle on Seréshis."
Adam ran his eyes over the messy scrawling, his attention honing in on the same words over and over again… the subject…it…they…successful…successful…it…
"What were they observing?" Adam wondered.
Billy sighed a little and took the paper back from him. "I can't be one hundred percent certain, but given it was so close to the time of the explosion, I can only assume these observations were of us," he seemed to gulp on the 'us'.
His words held even Adam in a reflective silence.
"From all accounts, everything seemed to go quiet successfully," Billy continued. "I haven't been able to find any official documentation on the cloning project, but in this report here on subject V170820, the observer wrote how the clone had verbalized and displayed a substantial grasp on the original prototype's background and history pre-creation, and that they deemed the dubbed 'brain download' a success…"
"That's the number that I have on my head, isn't it?" Adam asked, despite already knowing the answer.
Billy nodded. "Aisha's theory earlier that they must have downloaded our memories from our actual bodies appears to be accurate," he admitted. "The technology they would have required to do that..." Billy shook his head to himself, his words trailing off.
Adam licked his lips and reached for the pile of folders, quickly scouring through them for nothing in particular. The handwritten reports all had different identification numbers scribbled on the top of them, but it wasn't difficult for Adam to match descriptions with the ominous tags.
Everything from speaking first words, taking first steps and being toilet trained, to acting in a socially acceptable manner; Their creation and 'training' was all documented, step for step. Adam scanned through the dates...maybe two weeks...that's all it took; a couple of weeks to produce an almost fully developed human being capable of carrying on in another's life without so much as a hitch.
He lowered the files to the cabinet, his eyes looking about aimlessly. "There's only six files here," he mentioned to Billy.
Billy looked up from another batch of papers he was feverishly scouring through. "There doesn't seem to be files there on Jason, Kim,Trini or Zack," he confirmed. "However, if you look at this computer print out I've found..." Billy slid the page over the counter and the two men huddled together to study it.
"What am I looking at?" Adam queried, seeing nothing initially more that an elaborate grid filled with numbers.
"I believe this is some kind of overview of the actual project, from a time and date standpoint. The first columns are main and sub categories showing a break down of the original subject and the number of versions created..." Billy ran his index finger along the page. "And these are dates...I'm guessing this is a time line of the cloning experiment."
Adam skimmed his eyes down the list. "Billy, look at the dates- they created six clones only a few days following the final battle, followed by another two a few days later...but then, look at the figures- almost two weeks later, they suddenly started making clones like crazy- I wonder what would possess them so much to suddenly start mass producing like that?"
Billy shrugged a little. Adam could tell his friend was struggling to maintain his composure. "Johns mentioned that he started the project to cover up the accident...but I can only imagine the feeling of knowing you created what could be potentially the first group of successfully developed human clones in the history of science...I believe the initial success fueled an unquenchable desire to push boundaries. I believe obsession got the best of them-."
Adam almost jumped as he felt a body press up against them both. "I think there's something you might want to take a look at, Billy," Rocky flicked a look at them both.
Adam frowned and turned around, taken aback by his childhood friend's expression, gripped by an uneasy confusion.
"What is it?"
The shock was written all over Rocky's face. "It looks like a giant fighting robot to me...and one I've never seen before."
The former red ranger passed Billy the page in his hand and Adam waited anxiously for Billy's response.
"Where did you find this?" Billy wondered.
"It was in one of those cabinets over there," Rocky confirmed. "What do you think it is?"
Billy shuffled uncomfortably and Adam felt rather put off by his friend's strange discomfort. "This is a plan for a Megazord," he finally conceded and Adam watched Rocky's expression become rather impatient. Billy handed Rocky back the page. "I know this, because I was the one who created it."
Rocky's face flinched. "What do you mean, you created it?"
Billy shrugged. "They were never more than drawings and I certainly never intended for them to fall into anyone else's hands. It was the only way I could fill the void which remained after we retired...They must have somehow found them after-."
He stopped and they all turned to stare as a solid thud rattled from the other side of the main exit from the laboratory. Adam watched as the others all stopped their own, quiet conversations and stood to a stand in time to watch the door rattle again.
The sound of metal against metal was like nails against a chalk board.
Adam watched Rocky curse under his breath, as they all quietly moved together, bodies tense and waiting...
The door rattled again and Kimberly let out a shriek from behind Adam.
"We have to get out of here..." Adam whispered, looking to Tommy.
The door exploded open, and a pack of a metallic-clad clones thrashed their limbs out wildly, before settling their glowing red eyes on the defenseless former rangers...