Chapter 28: The Smoking Gun
Katherine stumbled awkwardly, her feet scattering quickly as she cast her eyes upon their hated foe – the man of pure evil – the creator of every single horror they'd endured since their abduction.
She clenched her teeth and looked over for Tommy, watching as he stalked transfixed toward the agent-in-charge.
"No one can know!" Johns yelled out, as he abruptly waved the smoking torch gun in the air. "No one can know!"
Katherine watched Tommy's eyes' darken. "See this suit I'm wearing? See the zord land in the distance? Checkmate, asshole...you're going down!"
Johns remained still, his lips curling slightly. Katherine could literally see the anger pumping through Tommy's limbs, pushing him toward the edge...
"Tommy, stop it!" Katherine pleaded with him, as she quickly dodged in front of him and put her hands to his chest. "There is too much at stake."
She could feel the hot breaths expelling from between his clenched teeth on her forehead and cowered inside as his eyes fleetingly gazed down at her with a crazed hatred she'd never seen from Tommy Oliver.
"Move away, Kat," he breathed down at her. "This is between me and Johns."
Katherine was about to protest, but Johns' unnerving cackling suddenly sliced through the heated moment, pulling her around in confusion.
His jovial display diminished slightly and he settled into a grin. "Why of course, Mr Oliver, I know you so well; the bold, fierce white ranger...leader, the man in charge always out to steal the limelight. What a surprise to find that even as a carbon copy, you still haven't lost that selfish edge you were so famous for-."
They all flinched and gazed out toward the facility as a distant, but familiar scream called out for help.
"Oh my God, Tommy, it's Kim!" Katherine stammered, before she broke free from his side and hurried toward the flaming building. "Kimberly!" she called out desperately. "We're here; where are you?"
She waited for a moment, the ravenous flames roaring so piercingly that she could scarcely hear a single thing over the beating of her heart. A hurried glance to the left; to the right- She didn't know what to do or how to get inside!
"Tommy!" Katherine cried out, as she spun her head around for his help.
She swallowed as she noticed Tommy only steps away from Johns and started for them. "Tommy, don't do this!" she called out.
"Katherine, stay back!" Tommy snapped, lashing an arm out in a wild gesture.
Katherine sighed incredulously and winced as a burst of wind pushed the heat from behind toward them.
"YOU caused this!" Tommy growled, as he took another step toward him. "And mark my words I am going to kill you a hundred times over for what you did to us!"
"You're so quick to blame the project Mr. Oliver, but had you been a better leader all those years ago then we wouldn't be standing here having this conversation- we wouldn't be standing around here listening as the fire consumes those you failed to protect before."
Katherine blinked and caught Tommy's sudden gaze as he looked toward the building, his eyes widening as though his mind only just registered the destruction happening around him. She could feel the tears slip off her cheek as another round of strangled cries for help sounded out from behind the flames.
"Kim!" Katherine called out again, before she spun around and began running blindly back toward the facility's high walls. "Kimberly, we're here!"
Her eyes locked in on a metal plate some one hundred yards away in the ground and she quickened her pace, ignoring the amber light that showered the skin of her face and arms with an increasingly unbearable heat. Smoke pillowed around her and as she sucked in a mouthful of it, she felt herself drop to the ground like a stone, coughing uncontrollably.
"Kim!" Katherine cried out sporadically, as she began to drag herself along the dirt, her eyes fixed on the hatch door. "Kimberly, I'm here! KIM!"
Her heavy head fell against the earth and she grasped the trapdoor's only handle with a painful, but frantic clasp. Folding her legs beneath her, she used her leveraged weight as she pulled and pulled at the door, but it only resisted her efforts and merely whined with her jerking motion.
"Come on!" she pleaded to herself, as beads of sweat crawled along her forehead. "Come on, open please!"
Katherine threw her head around as she heard her name echo out from behind her.
"Tommy?" she called back. "Tommy, I'm over here!"
She released a shaky breath of relief as she watched his form clear through the building smoke, running toward her.
"I can't get it open!" she rushed out, as he dropped to her side, his hands fumbling for the handle on the hatch.
Kimberly continued to scream from somewhere.
Tommy heaved, pulling on the door and growling angrily. "Something's holding it shut on the other side!" he stammered, before he sucked in a heavy breath. "There has to be another way in!"
Katherine flung her head around in desperation, images of Kimberly burning in the inferno stealing her torrid imagination away.
Adam took a rigid step, his body stiffening as the dry leaves crunched beneath his weight, snapping through the unsettling silence like a whip against taunt flesh.
He flicked his uncovered head to the right and then to the left, before he waited. Exposed.
Satisfied, he shook his head, throwing a glance over his shoulder at his remaining friends who were all huddled near the half open entrance into the zord. "I can't see anything," he admitted. "Maybe they've all-."
His sentence stopped, as he heard the sound of raised and serrated voices screaming away in the distance.
His heart quickened and he stepped back quickly. "That sounded like Tommy and Katherine," Adam told them. "They sound like they're in trouble."
"Maybe they've found the Zedd clones?" Billy suggested. "By any account, we need to ensure we have ample protection before attempting an ambush."
Adam nodded, as he followed them back into the zord's cockpit, his lips stiffening as Rocky mumbled away about Tommy and Katherine's foolish decision to flee the group in pursuit of the facility.
And pretty soon, everyone had some sort of verbal vendetta against their absent leader.
"See, this is exactly the reason why I told Tommy we should have gone and morphed before getting onto this thing," Aisha was speaking to Rocky. "I know we were in a rush, but he should have known to be more careful."
"Okay, okay," Adam raised a hand, not bothering to hide his intolerance. "Bring it up with Tommy after we help him and everyone's okay, but for now let's deal with this matter, please."
Billy was ignoring everyone entirely, instead pulling at various panels at the back of the cockpit until finally he pulled up and let out a "There they are."
"What have you found?" Adam asked him hopefully, brushing past Rocky.
"Here, hand them around," Billy passed Adam an oversized gun of some kind, before removing more from the hidden shelf.
Adam passed one to Aisha and his childhood friend's face instantly flared with panic. "I don't know how to use one of these," she insisted firmly.
Adam tried to smile at her. "Hopefully you won't have to use it," he assured her,
Rocky inspected his own weapon, before Billy flung his upwards, holding it close to his chest. "Adam, you should lead the group," he suggested. "I'll follow second, Aisha will stay in the middle," he looked over at Rocky. "Are you going to be right to keep guard from the back?"
"No worries," Rocky replied with quiet confidence. "You guys ready?"
Adam nodded. "Let's go."
And they ran- literally raced, as though to indulge the idea that if the scenery blazed by too fast to fix on, then nothing could hurt them. Adam pushed through the line of bushes he'd watched Katherine disappear into, and hurriedly led his friends around the twisted makeshift path, pulling swiftly around a thick trunk before-.
"Adam- watch out!"
Aisha's piercing scream made Adam twist too soon, and he actually fell, crawling toward them quickly. Rocky pushed in front of Aisha and raised his gun, barking at Adam to stay down, before he pulled the trigger.
Adam reached for Billy's extended hands and stood up, turning around in time to watch the bullets slice through the cloned mutant's shoulder, sending it off into an agonizing howl.
"Guys, get your guns up and ready!" Rocky rushed at them from in front, as they all stared transfixed at the injured clone of their old foe.
Adam huddled Aisha against him for protection. "Why? Are you out of bullets?"
Rocky gestured with a flick of his weapon toward the nearby shadows and Adam felt his insides sink as he noticed the four sets of glowing red visors staring back at them, ready for the kill.
Tommy was overwhelmed. Physically, mentally, spiritually, in every God-damned way imaginable he was losing the plot. He'd lost the plot. He didn't know what to do, it was all too much! All the death, all the blood, all the absolute mess that he'd tried so desperately to see through, but he couldn't...God...
He turned to Katherine, shaking the fog in his mind. He moved to grab her on the shoulders and she looked at him with confusion, almost moving to push him away.
"Kat? Kat, listen to me-." he got back down on his knees beside her, trying to pry her hands from the handle. "Kat, you have to get out of here-."
"I'm not going!"
"Kat!" Tommy snapped, grabbing her forcibly by the shoulders. He shook her roughly, unable to control himself. "You have to get out of here; I don't want anything to happen to you!"
Tears welled in her eyes as she whimpered, "But Kim-."
"Just go!" Tommy cut her off, motioning sharply with his head. "Please!"
He watched her run off through the smoke, its thick skin quickly engulfing her and stealing her from his view. Flames licked at the nearby wall only a matter of feet away, but he merely winced through the agony of his bare cheeks.
"Kimberly!" he called out aimlessly, pulling on the handle once again. "KIMBERLY!"
Again, her screams were heard from somewhere, from some direction. He grabbed his head, squeezing the heat from his eyes. God only knew where he had left his helmet. Maybe he was just hearing her in his head. Maybe her screams were his conscious paying him back and making him suffer for all the stupid decisions he'd ever made- for all the times he'd abandoned her and let her pay a price because he was a terrible leader, a shitty lover and an even lousier friend.
"Oh God, Kim," he clawed at his eyes, his heavy head falling for his lap. "I'm so sorry..."
But she just screamed and kept on screaming. He had no doubt in his mind that this time, he'd truly lost her. They'd truly lost.
He heard Kimberly call out again. And again. And then he heard her call his name. Again and again.
Tommy swung his head around in a daze, his sight blurred by his tears but watching with disbelief as her form appeared in the far distance, stumbling through the destructive fumes.
"Kimberly!" Tommy yelled out, scampering to his feet. "Kimberly, we're here!"
Her limbs flailed in desperation as she sprinted for him, her eyes and lips wide open. "Tommy, it's not what you think!" she suddenly screamed out. "There's more-."
Her sentence never completed, she never made it into his awaiting arms. Tommy couldn't see what happened at first, but her body just seemed to crumple so shockingly fast that he knew she hadn't merely tripped over her feet. Her head slammed against the dusty dirt, arms sprawled above her body and no movement. Nothing.
"Kim?" Tommy started for her, but then he saw it.
His stomach rolled, lurching uncontrollably as he watched the magenta liquid spread across the top of her hospital gown, crawling across it insatiably as it oozed from the wound on her chest.
"No...No, oh God..." Tommy moved his hand to his mouth, before a figure moved into the corner of his sight and his hand fell back limply to his side.
Agent Johns stared back at him, the smoking gun hanging down from his hand.
Tommy could practically smell his own skin beginning to burn as the inferno continued nearby, but still he stumbled toward her, trying to stop himself from crying as he stared down her murderer. His blue eyes were steeled, but it was hard to tell if the agent was amused by the scene or oddly shocked.
"Tommy!" Rocky was suddenly behind him, pulling sharply on his shoulders.
Tommy was too exhausted to fight off his friend, and instead fell to his knees, slamming his fists against the ground.
"Kimberly!" Katherine was crying out from somewhere else, Aisha's own exclamation of horror quickly following in suit.
Rocky lowered to Tommy's side, moving his face to his. "Tommy, what the fuck is going on?"
"He killed her," Tommy was practically sobbing, but his tears dried up quickly as he spotted the agent slowly stalking toward their fallen friend.
"Stay away from her!" Tommy snapped viscously, leaping to his feet. "Where are the others?" he demanded.
Where the hell is Jason?
Tommy moved for Kimberly, ignoring Billy's objection.
"No one can know!" Johns suddenly exclaimed, standing his ground. "The world can never know about this- the truth of his mistakes- the horrors of Seréshis!"
Tommy locked a careful eye on the agent, before he dropped to his knees and crawled helplessly toward Kimberly's motionless body.
"Why the hell did you kill her?" Katherine cried out, before she started to run for him. Billy latched onto her quickly, holding her back as she screamed out. "You didn't have to kill her!"
"She would have been dead in a matter of hours, anyway," Johns dismissed her, gesturing widely with the gun his hand. "She was the last one...I had no choice but to clean up the project, to dispose of all the evidence-."
"You put the entire world in jeopardy- you took away our lives for God's sake!" Rocky cut him off, clenching his fists.
Tommy looked away, lowering his head to Kimberly's, whimpering out as he felt a breath against his aching cheek.
"Tommy..." she whispered.
He dragged his hands to her chest and squeezed at her wound, bunching the material in his fingers.
"Please don't talk," he told her.
He looked up, managing to somehow find Johns through his distorted view. The older man began to extend his arm, leveling his gun slowly in Tommy's direction.
Tommy snickered bitterly, and then looked back down at Kimberly. Her lips were moving, her eyes were open, but he wouldn't look into them.
"Don't you dare!" Rocky suddenly yelled out, and Tommy snapped his head up in time to watch the agent rest the gun point to the side of his own temple.
"Don't be a coward, Johns!" Tommy snarled.
The agent's face remained stony, before he flicked the hammer and pulled the trigger.
"NO!" They all yelled and cried out in disbelief, as the close impact forced Tommy to look away.
He flung a quick look around as his teammates rushed for his side, but Tommy didn't move. Fresh blood dirtied the dusty ground a short distance nearby, and it took everything in him to resist leaping up and kicking the dead agent over and over again.
"Quick, we've got to get Jason and Trini!" Aisha gasped loudly.
Tommy moved one of his bloodied gloves to Kimberly's forehead, brushing her wispy bangs from her eyes. The others were fighting each other and arguing behind him, but it didn't matter anymore.
Tommy tried to push away Billy's intrusive voice.
"Tommy, we've got to get out of here, the facility could explode at any moment!" Billy pulled on his arm. "Come on!"
"The others are inside!" Katherine pleaded desperately. "What about Zordon? He could be in there, we can't just leave them-."
"There's no time!" Billy cut her off.
Aisha stared at him, her face as maddened and disgusted as Tommy had ever seen it. "I can't believe you're just giving up- for God's sake, Tommy was right!" she spat at him.
She spun around and began to pace toward the facility, but Rocky sprinted quickly after her, grabbing her on the shoulders and shoving her roughly around.
Tommy looked away, looked back at Kimberly. If this was hell, then they'd certainly died together, gone in a way Tommy never could have imagined, at a time he had certainly never predicted. Back in the days of ranger glory, he'd always seen them as invincible, always. Even at the very worst times when they'd fought, prayed and cried together, they could have stood through it all. To lose now, to lose everything now, was such an incredible injustice.
He sniffed, letting the world around them fall away. "Come on Kim, you're going to be okay...remember, you always said we'd make it through anything..."
Her lips moved, but he didn't hear her and so he lowered his ear against her rough lips. "Trini's dead..."
Tommy held his breath, but didn't move. "Kim-."
Tommy's eyes welled sharply and he moved away from her, staring at the ground. "He can't, I mean he couldn't have-."
"Jase...we never did...Don't trust any...they are- are...they're all..."
"Tommy, we need to get Kim to the hospital," Rocky started pulling on Tommy, his body moving limply with his efforts.
"Wait," Tommy pushed his hand away, settling his teary expression on Kimberly. "Kim, what are you saying?" he asked her softly.
Her lips rested ajar, her fuchsia colored eyes fluttering sporadically.
"No...please," Tommy whimpered, scooping her into his arms. "Kim, come on, I'm going to take you to get help."If he could have cried her back to life he would have. But it wasn't enough and she released her last breath, dying right there in his arms, as the sound of helicopters hummed toward them in the sky.