Chapter 22: Whispers in Parting
An Unmarked Building, California USA
"Who is it?"
"Agent Robert Johns, the current person-in-charge of the Intergalactic Bureau of Investigation..."
"Bring him in."
Robert Johns offered a courteous nod to the man, before he quickly adjusted his tie and strolled confidently through the entrance, pulling up gently as the older man locked onto him with a steeled gaze.
"Good Afternoon, Mr. President," Johns greeted, stepping forward with an extended hand. "I am very grateful that you had an opportunity to meet with me."
President Gerald Holsworthy clasped his hand and shook it abruptly before he pulled back and motioned for Johns to take a seat.
"What is happening as we speak in California right now, Agent Johns?"
Johns moved more comfortably in the chair. "Angel Grove is under attack, Mr. President, by varying species of dangerous extraterrestrials," he responded.
"Are these the same extraterrestrials that were responsible for the attacks in the mid 1990's? I've received various reports indicating that these creatures are considerably deadlier..." the president looked up from his desk. "How many casualties are we dealing with?"
"I am unable to confirm any numerical figures at this point of time, however the IBI has dispatched all available officers to key areas of concern to assist with eliminating these monsters...I am confident that with time, we will have the situation under control."
Johns paused and watched as a well dressed man approached the president and knelt toward the older man, whispering away in his ear. The distraction was good and welcomed at a time where he had his work more than cut out for him if he was going to convince the president of the United States that he was the required power figure here.
If only they all knew; knew just how much Johns really knew about the attacks. About the mutants. About the whole damn situation. But alas for them, they would never know any of it, not even over his dead body...
Agent Johns felt the corner of his lips twist up at the thought.
Tommy was rendered speechless at the name breathed from the other side of the steel door.
Agent Robert Johns...
All he could think of was NO; that it was impossible because the murderous mastermind chose death at the hands of mutated clones, over owning up to the ranger conspiracy. They had all heard his agonizing regrets hollered over the swarming sound of Goldar clones seemingly eating him alive.
But then it hit him.
No way...he created clones of himself, too?
Tommy let out a sharp breath and looked at each of his teammates as they huddled tightly together and waited for him to speak up again.
He swallowed. "Who's in there?" Tommy asked again, not trusting his own mind anymore or what he was hearing.
"My name is Agent Robert Johns...I know who you are, and I am telling you that I am the real Robert Johns-."
Tommy scoffed loudly- the sound just poured out of his mouth with pure disgust. "Like your word means a whole of a lot right now."
"If you're the real Robert Johns, then why are you locked up here?" Billy quizzed.
I preferred the son-of-a-bitch dead...
"The others, they are clones," the man's voice pleaded. "I am not a clone."
"Well, I'm thinking there isn't anyone here who more deserves to be locked up like an animal. You created this-."
"It was them!" Agent John's voice viciously exclaimed. Another moment of silence, before a calmer tone confessed, "I admit that I created him, but it was purely for the purpose of creating the most effective clones of the power rangers as I possibly could...I don't know what went wrong...my clone had a ravenous strength that I couldn't have predicted and he overpowered me- locked me away where he couldn't be stopped."
Tommy frowned, and looked down at his friends as they all huddled tighter together.
"Who was responsible for all of this, then?" Tommy asked him, unable to tame the chip in his tone. "You said 'they'...who is they?"
Silence for a moment. "There are three clones of myself that I know of...the original clone I created was strong willing, but he didn't display the manic tendency's that were seemingly inbuilt in the clones that he created of himself- cells, memories, bodies mutated. They were responsible for bringing back to life your enemies...I couldn't have prevented it if I tried..."
Tommy released a sharp, staggered breath.
"You could have left the job to the experts, instead of sticking your fucking noses where they didn't belong," Rocky muttered in disgust. "That might have gone somewhere towards not putting the planet back in danger again."
"Why are all the clones so faded and sick looking?" Kimberly's words came out loudly, but muted at the end, as she licked her lips.
Tommy turned his attention back to the door as Johns replied lowly. "The cloning project was a success on the original copies, I will give you that much. You were all a greater accomplishment then you dare to realize..." he seemed to laugh, almost as though forgetting he were talking.
"He's a fucking loony-toon," Rocky let out bitterly, feebly whacking the door with his hand. "Isn't it good to know the safety of the American public lies in such capable hands..."
"He's most likely suffered physiological harm after being confined for such an extended period of time," Adam observed.
Jason fidgeted beside Tommy, before he he rested his own hand against the door and spoke up loudly. "You didn't tell us why the clones all look like this."
"Faded? Psychotic? Sick? Try taking something and remolding it, before taking a little bit from the new creation, to create something else...every consecutive replication was less stable and less human. There is...nothing...human about them..."
"I wanna know why they pulled apart the Command Center and where Zordon is," Aisha whispered up behind Rocky and they all nodded numbly.
"Why did the IBI pull apart our headquarters?" Tommy asked, his voice tripping over the words. Images pulsated behind his eyes. Zordon. It's all he could see.
"Why didn't you tell the world your identities?" Johns quickly countered.
Tommy pulled a face. He was losing his patience. "I tell you what- I'm gonna step away from this door and look for a key and when I find it, I'm gonna unlock this door that you're cowering behind and I am gonna kill you," he warned evenly.
"Tommy..." Katherine sounded softly, but they all looked up as the orange lights above flickered and a lowly, mechanical noise was heard crunching in the distance.
"What was that?" Kimberly whispered.
"The facility has a timed, automatic lock down function in place...On the building report it states it was built to be used in the event of a fire, to preserve all that's inside," Johns explained. "But it also works in the opposite manner."
Tommy's forehead creased. "What happens in a lock down?"
"It's supposed to be a safety mechanism," Billy responded knowingly.
"It will lock everything and everyone inside...it's what He wants. Then it will buy him enough time for this all to be lost forever- no one will ever know the truth," the agent's voice was numb.
Tommy cursed under his breath and licked his lips. "We've got to get out of here and stop it...Billy, where do we go?"
The blue ranger's eyes were strained. "I don't," he shook his head and then seemed to regain himself once more. "Perhaps if we find the main electricity box for the facility, we might have a way of stopping the lock down. But there's a substantial possibility that the mechanism is controlled by a more advanced function-."
Tommy nodded swiftly. "Let's do it," he stated, brushing past them all and starting for the exit out of the room.
"Tommy?" Kimberly called out and he stopped, sighing heavily.
He looked over his shoulder and watched as his former girlfriend motioned to the door silently.
Fuck him... "He stays there," Tommy ordered them, looking down at the ground. "He should consider himself lucky," was all he added, before he turned around and continued off, fighting away any lingering guilt.
Questions couldn't be distinguished from one and other, and it was beginning to annoy him as he tried to discreetly as possible to swat the endless selection of microphones from his face. He was certain there was a camera honing on him from every angle so he resisted verbalizing his frustration, if only finding enough tact to smile closed lip and pretend like he didn't mean to push them away.
"Up this way, Agent Johns," one of the uniformed men reached for his shoulder, and guided him toward the stairs.
Cameras flashed in seeming unison. Every God-damned news channel in the country was there plus more.
Johns reached the top of the podium and resisted a cheesy grin, instead giving them all what they wanted- the grim expression of a man in power who knew they were all nearly fucked, but not completely. He was the man who would save the day.
Resting his chin near the microphone, he cleared his voice. "The current situation in Angel Grove and surrounding area is grim and indeed unexpected and tragic, but the Intergalactic Bureau of Investigation has responded to the immediate threat and I am pleased to assure all Americans that we should have this situation under control as soon as practicable," he looked in the distance.
Damn it, he hated press conferences. Bloody leeches wanted their show and tell time, didn't they?
"I uh-...I welcome any questions you may have," he added reluctantly, watching as a well known female news anchor raised her hand sharply in the air.
"Agent Johns, can you please confirm that it is indeed extraterrestrials launching an attack on the city of Angel Grove?"
Johns nodded promptly. "Yes, as reported they are indeed extraterrestrials."
"Where did these creatures come from? Witnesses have reported sightings of these aliens as far away as the north-eastern outskirts and no one has reported any air sightings or witnessed the use of any space craft," another reporter succinctly asked.
"Uh, we have been unable to ascertain where they originated from at this time," he brushed the questions off as simply as possible.
A male reporter stood up and waved his hand in the air. "In his earlier national statement, President Holsworthy indicated that these monsters are the same aliens that were responsible for the attacks in the mid-1990's; how is this possible, after footage released by the power rangers in 1997 showed the destruction of the so-called 'Zedd Empire'?"
"And where on earth are the power rangers?" a woman beside him promptly asked.
Johns almost laughed nervously. Almost. He hoped his twisted smile didn't surface. Where are the power rangers? I'll tell you where the power rangers are...they're dead...and as for their 'successors', they're also dead and if they're not, they will be soon...
"Our facility has been unable to locate any sightings of the power rangers since 1997," Johns responded. "It is our belief that they have severed all ties with both the city of Angel Grove and indeed the planet as a whole."
He watched their faces fall. More hands quickly shot into the air, but Johns rolled his eyes inwardly. "That will be all, folks, I apologize but I must be elsewhere," he quickly announced, before turning around and skipping down the stairs of the podium.
He could hear their protests and objections, but quickly moved for cover, ensuring that no one was following. God knew he was close. So very close. They all were.
"That was a close one," the other man commented, running a quick hand over his hair.
Johns smiled at his own image- his own clone- and reached into his pocket, handing the other man a key.
"Take my car from around the back and get back to the facility the quickest God-damned way you can find, without drawing attention to yourself," Johns told his clone. "In the trunk you'll find a fire torch. From the timer on my watch, lock down should have been initiated by the time you get there. I want you to use that torch to set fire to all of the main exits and make sure that you get all of them...we can't have any of them escape the facility."
His clone bounced the key off his palm a little. "What if they've somehow managed to locate the power?"
John's eyes darkened. The thought had crossed his mind, but still, he refused to indulge it. "They won't find it...I'm sure the mutants have taken care of the clones, anyhow...and the remaining two originals, they'll be bled out before the sun sets today and that will be the end of them...I don't care what you have to do, but you kill every single one of them and destroy the evidence...no one can ever know."
They probably could have walked quicker than the speed of their clumsy running and logically, they were fools to be pushing their depleted energy stores, but that didn't stop them all from rushing through the darkness with little sense of direction. Even Rocky himself, didn't have much common sense left.
They all wanted to live, right?
They all wanted to get out of the facility and return to their normal lives and catch up again for whoevers birthday it was next. They could talk about this funny little period of time they'd spent together and maybe even laugh about it. Right?
Yep, Rocky was definitely going through the motions, but he wasn't laughing about it. He wasn't even trying to be brave about it anymore. Every time his feet touched the ground, he would grimace loudly. They were all doing it.
Tommy should have unquestionably verbalized permission that it was okay for them to stop. That they didn't have to keep on running if it meant the difference between finding their way through the maze and collapsing in a heap. Katherine's breathing was staggered and she looked weak. Jason was trying to stay to the back, but even then Rocky could hear just how uneven his gait was. Everyone was God-damned dying.
And to make matters worse, they were lost.
Rocky's head was pounding, but he quickened his legs a little before settling beside Tommy. He tried to catch Tommy's attention with his eyes, but it was pointless. All that anger burning in the former white ranger's eyes was far too distracting.
"You made the right choice back there," Rocky offered in a low voice.
Tommy remained silent, his pace slowing slightly.
"He deserves to die for what he did," Rocky continued.
"Maybe I do, too..."
Rocky frowned and went to respond quickly, but he struggled to speak over his heavy breathing. "We didn't choose this, man," he finally got out, his stride wavering a little.
Rocky stopped and grabbed onto Tommy, pulling him to a halt, before turning around. Kimberly's hand was running circles over Jason's hunched over back, her eyes looking to Rocky with an unhidden fear.
Tommy sighed and moved for his best friend, his face softening. "What's wrong?"
"I don't think we can run anymore," Kimberly admitted, her voice cracking. "Jason's weak."
Kimberly sighed exasperatedly. "You practically passed out just a moment ago," she argued. "Something's wrong with him."
Rocky waited for Jason to argue her point, to fight off the seven sets of eyes now resting on him questionably, but instead the original leader remained silent, looking up at Tommy with defeat.
Tommy's face fell. "We're running out of time," he reminded him quietly. He looked at Kimberly as though searching her eyes for the magical solution.
"Does anybody know where we are?" Aisha asked them all quietly.
Rocky rolled his tongue in his mouth. "All these tunnels look the same..."
Tommy looked to the floor, before he looked back up. "We're not going to have enough time...Jason, do you think that you and Kim can manage to find your way back to the hatch beneath the infirmary and find Trini?"
Kimberly and Jason looked at each other.
"Shouldn't we stay together?" Katherine questioned.
Tommy nodded. "Normally, yes; but if Jason and Kimberly go for Trini now, it means the rest of us can head directly to stop the facility from locking down," he explained to them all.
Jason straightened up. "Are you sure about this bro?"
"Stay together," Tommy told him, motioning to Kimberly. "Wait in the infirmary and we'll come for you as soon as we've stopped the lock down."
Kimberly nodded obediently, before she moved for Tommy and took his hand. "Be careful..." she mouthed to him.
Tommy squeezed her hand back and Rocky turned away. He didn't want to invade the moment, whatever it was and whatever it meant.
"We'll see you soon," Tommy promised loudly, before he pulled away and motioned to the others to follow him, leaving two of their own in the darkness behind them.