Chapter 4: Deception
His friends' reactions' to the terrible news was as awful as Billy had anticipated. He hadn't thought the feeling possibly could have surpassed the lead in his stomach he'd experienced the entire day in preparation of his delivery, but now he literally felt dead.
There was no way to soften the blow, nor work around it or ignore it. Their worlds were changed forever and Zack's catalytic death was something no one could have prepared for. Billy should have already seen that before he even walked into the room, but for the first time in his life, or at least in a long time, the considered genius had been nothing short of ignorant.
He had hurt them so much more than he thought possible.
Billy retreated to his own personal sorrow after he watched Tommy slump blindly on a chair behind him. Aisha had thrown her arms immediately around the former leader, but she couldn't squeeze the pain out of his verbal flood of emotion.
"Billy?" Adam had his hand back on his shoulder, but as much as the former blue ranger wanted to acknowledge his display of concern, he couldn't muster the courage. He felt like a traitor enough for keeping such devastating news from them for so long. How he could even manage to look at them again was too difficult for him to consider.
And, somewhere in the back of his mind, Billy considered the fact that they would all look at his face and see the horror in his eyes. The image of his childhood friend lifeless, but not just dead; something that brought a hidden terror to light.
Another lie. Something else Billy hadn't told them.
It was bad enough that Billy had the responsibility to deliver to them news of Zack's sudden death, but how would his oldest friends look at him when they found out he had known all along that it could happen?
That their powers were that and the opposite- a way of death?
He wiped a stubborn tear from his cheek and turned from Adam, trying to gather the next words that would come from his mouth. Billy had to tell them the truth. Even if they despised him for it, they had to know what he knew.
"H-how…" Aisha's voice was sullen and lacking all her usual spirit. "How did he die?"
Please don't ask me that…
"I don't know for sure," Billy finally admitted, turning around to face his seated friends, but still avoiding their faces. "When paramedics arrived at the scene, they believed he'd died of heart failure…but word leaked. I don't know how they found out, but the IBI knew something wasn't right. Instead of taking him to the morgue, they brought his body here- where they…tested him."
"Tested him how?" Tommy finally asked, his voice foggy.
"I wasn't there," Billy told him. "But when my father told me about Zack dying, and that the IBI had brought it on themselves to personally investigate his death, I asked him something that gave it away." He looked Tommy carefully in the eyes, afraid to go on.
Aisha's face twisted at his words. "Are you saying you knew how Zack died?"
Adam stood up, running a stray hand over his hair. "Billy," he put his hands out in gesture. "Whatever you're trying to tell us, it's okay..."
Billy's eyes' clamped shut, devastation folding across his forehead and tensing in his shoulders.
"I knew there would be consequences," he finally let out, his voice cracking and pitchy. "Our powers- they completely raged havoc with our internal organs and manipulated our own DNA. They made us stronger all those years ago, but now, it's as though they put too much stress on our internal systems to the point where our bodies can no longer handle it."
They all stared at him in shock. Horror. Anger. Sadness.
No one spoke.
Tommy's eyes' were starting to burn as the seconds ticked over and he slowly leveled their piercing centers on Billy.
"Zordon wouldn't do that to us," he stated in a low voice. "How could you, of all people, say that Zordon would deliberately do anything to harm us?"
Billy stood his ground. "I don't think that Zordon knew," he said sadly.
"It can't be true," Aisha suddenly spoke up. "I feel fine- I haven't felt sick and I certainly don't feel like my organs are failing me."
"I agree with Aisha, Billy. I haven't even had the flu in years," Adam told him gently.
"I don't know how it works," Billy stated defensively. "All I know, is that what happened to Zack, will happen to us all…" he looked at Tommy. "I believe the longer the power's been connected to you, the more immediate danger you're in-."
"Then you better find Jason, Trini and Kimberly as soon as possible," Tommy snapped at him, standing up only inches away from his face. The anger was no longer in his eyes; only pain remained. "You knew about this and you better help them before anything happens."
Billy blinked, as though it were the only way he could promise his friend. His friend…they wouldn't see him as their friend after this, would they?
"Where did they take Rocky?" Aisha asked. "I saw him through the window."
Billy nodded. "They took him to the infirmary…apparently he's been complaining of paralyzing stomach pains."
Her eyes fell, squinting sharply, before a thin stream of tears trickled from behind them.
"I'm really sorry, guys," Billy said hopelessly. "I know what I did has hurt you all, and that was never my intention. As much as I feared this day could come, I never truly believed that it would."
He turned resignedly and reached for the doorknob, his heart stopping as he realized it was locked. As he glanced out, his mind desperate for air, he spotted two familiar figures in the distance.
Trini and Kat…
Katherine stood nervously beside Trini, using the concrete wall to leverage the weight off her tired legs. It had only seemed like an hour since she'd been floating across the stage for her recital practice, yet here she was more than 5,000 miles away, standing in some eerie facility with her life hanging over her head.
They were the words that the mysterious men used, right? They had said her life was in danger; that her former ranger teammates were all at risk of dying. She didn't consider herself to be a genius, but surely that meant that another form of evil had decided to attack earth again. Maybe, the Intergalactic investigative force had intelligence that such a nemesis was interested in getting revenge on the teenagers who had successfully vanquished Zedd and Rita all those years ago?
But then, why would they need to be put in protective custody? That was the big catch Katherine didn't remotely understand.
She didn't know Trini intimately, yet the Australian had felt more at ease when she'd finally met her at the Angel Grove airport. Trini had been long gone to the other side of the world when Katherine had turned up on the scene back all those years earlier, and all she'd ever known of the original yellow ranger was the praised words from her childhood friends.
The meeting was awkward, and they were both clearly tired from long flights. Katherine had tried to make the pretty Asian comfortable, at least enough so they could talk about the strange situation they'd both found themselves in, but Trini had remained mostly tight lipped on the drive from the airport.
Katherine needed someone to bounce her thoughts off.
Billy…she needed Billy's mind and Tommy's words' of courage.
Katherine glanced around the narrow hallway, listening to the whispered murmurs of three agents standing in front of her. Her blue eyes trickled away from them in frustration as they lowered their voices, but as they did, she spotted just what she needed ahead.
"Billy!" Katherine called out, before she suddenly shot her hand to her mouth. The three male officers turned to stare at her and Trini looked at her as though she had declared she were insane.
"You can follow me, Miss. Hillard and Miss. Kwan," the youngest of the agents announced, extending his arm and motioning to the winnowed door that Katherine could see Billy behind.
She waited anxiously as he undid the door, and quickly moved through the doorway first.
Then, it was as though she crashed right into a brick wall. She was emotionally crushed; slammed and slapped. This wasn't what she'd been expecting.
What's wrong? Why has Tommy been crying?
"Tommy?" Katherine managed to whisper, moving toward the clearly crestfallen man with an extended hand.
She rested it tenderly on his shoulder, and looked over her own exasperatedly as nobody said a word.
"What happened here? How long have you guys been here?"
"They came and picked us up this morning," Adam replied. "We've been locked up in this room all day. It's good to see you guys are okay."
Katherine frowned, her azure gaze meeting Billy's. Why did he look so terrified? His cheeks were shiny, like Tommy's. Aisha, a girl who Katherine had cherished in High School for a personality as bright as her favorite color, had profound ruby circles around her dreary eyes.
"Where are the others?" Trini asked, as the door closed behind her, leaving the six former rangers alone.
"We don't know," Tommy practically mumbled. "They told us this morning they couldn't find them."
Katherine stood up from Tommy and glanced down at him in surprise. "Why aren't you doing something? If earth is under threat, then sitting around and feeling sorry for ourselves is not the answer-."
Aisha looked up at her with almost hopeful eyes. "Who told you earth was under attack?"
Katherine blinked. "The IBI agents did…they said our lives were in danger-."
"This isn't to do with fending off evil dictators," Billy spoke up from behind her. "I just finished attempting to explain to Tommy, Aisha and Adam that the real reason we're here, is because it seems our powers have left a devastating after-affect in our bodies which we may not be able to fend off. The IBI discovered this mutation, and they're doing what they can to keep it under wraps."
"Billy," she said, stepping toward him. "I don't understand…if what you're saying is true, how could they know? How could anyone-."
"Zack's dead," Aisha sobbed out, running a shaky finger under her eye to catch the tears. "His powers killed him-."
"What?" Trini gasped out, shaking her head. "No. No, don't say that!"
"Trini…" Billy whispered.
The original yellow ranger stared at him, but swiped his caring hand away. "Why didn't anyone tell me? Does being in another country exclude you from knowing these things?"
"We only just found out ourselves, Trini," Tommy argued, although his voice lacked any real defense. "It only happened Thursday night."
Katherine watched as Trini's almond eyes' welled with tears, and she swung around, pacing into the furthest corner. The air in the room suddenly swelled uncomfortably, but Katherine knew it had nothing to do with the weather.
This was horrible. Was she really hearing this right?
Katherine leant against the wall and carefully glanced at the people she still considered friends. Sure, after living in another continent for three years, it was true she'd barely been in contact with them, but as much as she feared coming back, Katherine had been excited about it. She'd heard such wonderful things. But now, everything had taken a vicious u-turn.
It's not as though she thought they would just morph again and kick ass. But, she hadn't been expecting that the one thing that had been their strength, would now risk their lives. It had never been mentioned; never even discussed.
She glanced at Billy with growing tension, watching as he stared down at his shoes. Had he known about his all along?
Possibly since the beginning?
"What are they going to do to help us?" Katherine asked aimlessly after minutes had passed in silence.
Tommy looked at her. "I don't even know if that's really why they brought us here," he admitted. "They've done nothing to even hint at caring about our situation."
"Surely they'll have to do something soon?" Aisha managed to get out. "People outside will be wondering where we are- I'm supposed to be on air tomorrow morning."
Tommy stood up, rolling his head quickly to release the tension in his neck. "If they don't let us out of here or tell us what the hell is going on, I say there's enough of us here now to help change their minds," he said in a stern voice.
Kimberly tried to shuffle in her seat. She was fairly tiny in comparison to a standard size air seat, yet somehow it didn't feel anywhere big enough. Time was ticking by terribly slowly. She needed fresh air.
Damn, she hated flying these days.
She'd forgotten how long the flight was to Angel Grove. She hadn't been 'home' for over two years. Promises to visit family, her father, friends always had dissolved and been replaced by plans Kimberly always decided were more important at the time. But now, being forced to fly there was something different altogether. Being dragged onto a plane was the last thing she thought she'd be doing on her only break from life in two years.
Kimberly went to stretch her arm out, but quickly pulled it back as she thoughtlessly hit Jason beside her. She offered him a fleeting apology, but in his innate chivalrous way, he swiftly offered her the armrest between them.
She leant toward him, the space between their faces closer than normal. Although she couldn't see their faces, she was more than weary of the five IBI agents overhearing her words. It was bad enough they had the surrounding chairs on the flight to 'monitor' them and she was certain their primary concern wasn't their comfort or well-being.
"I really need a glass of water," she whispered to Jason, failing at her attempt to push the baggy sleeves of her sweater up. "The heater is too much."
Jason leaned forward, tapping Agent Myers on the shoulder. "Can you get her some water, please?" he asked sternly.
The man dressed in black seemed to narrow his eyes, but swiftly pushed the service button.
"You should try and get some sleep," Jason suggested, as he leant back against his seat. "I'll stay awake…even though there's another forty people on this flight, I don't trust these guys one bit."
Kimberly studied his face. "You look like you need the sleep," she said honestly. "Is your headache still bad?"
He shook his head softly, but they both looked up as a woman on her way to the restroom, suddenly stopped up beside them. Kimberly watched as the agents' all tensed up in their chairs, but she ignored them and instead offered the middle-aged woman her best attempt at a sunny smile.
"Kimberly Hart?" the woman asked with wide eyes.
Kimberly furthered her smile. "Yes?"
"Oh wow," the woman laughed a little nervously, and then quickly fumbled in her tiny handbag.
She pulled out a pen, but quickly drew a thoughtful face. "I was wondering if I could get your autograph? My daughter is a huge fan and she'll be over the moon when I give it to her back home. I haven't seen her in nearly a month."
Kimberly gently took the pen. "I'm sorry, I don't have anything with me to sign," she told the woman honestly. Kimberly wasn't used to being chased for autographs every minute of every day, but she'd always carried promotional photos to sign when the need aroused.
The woman's eyes' suddenly lit up. "I'll go and grab my magazine from my chair…one of your advertisements is on the back cover."
The woman seemed to walk a few steps excitedly toward her chair, until Agent Myers stood up and carelessly addressed her with a rude, clearing of the throat.
"Mamn, we have no time for autographs tonight. Miss. Hart needs her rest."
"Oh, oh okay…"
"No," Kimberly stood up, glaring at the agent. "I can-."
He stared at her with dark eyes and she quickly sat down, not wanting to draw attention to the situation. The last thing she wanted was her horrid flight adventure leaking into the papers.
Jason stretched out an arm, and gently placed it around her shoulder, as though silently coaxing her to lean her head against his chest. The whole situation felt a little uncomfortable, as though over stepping the line that usually was in place between two adult friends, but she didn't resist or pull away, either.
As she rested her head against him, Kimberly felt his lips brush against her ear. "Kim, you're going to have to stay close…I don't want to scare you, but you're glowing pink…"
Kimberly frowned inwardly, but as his words sunk in, she quickly dismissed them and pulled away from him. He shot a finger to her mouth to keep her quiet, but as her eyes met his, her words disappeared and were replaced only by shock.
"You're glowing, too," she murmured numbly, reaching out to run a hand over his chest that was slightly exposed at the top of his collar. "You're glowing red."