Chapter 5: Breakdown in Communication
The next morning brought with it a strange calm. Tommy had fallen asleep surprisingly easy the night beforehand, blocking out Katherine and Aisha's late night conversation. The floor wasn't comfortable, but neither was trying to sleep sitting up in a chair. Tommy had given most of the chairs to the others, and had instead stretched out on the floor in front of the door.
He wanted to know the minute it opened.
Yet, as he opened his sore eyes, and sluggishly tried to sit up, he quickly realized he wasn't resting where he'd been five hours earlier. He carefully ran his eyes over the sleeping bodies of his former teammates and exhaled sharply as he counted another head amongst them, her body draped unflatteringly in a white hospital gown.
"Kim?" Tommy whispered with surprise, standing up a little quickly.
He could tell she wasn't asleep, and her eyes met his almost immediately.
"Tommy…" she whispered back, accepting his quick embrace, before slowly pulling back.
He kept his hands rested on her arms, unconsciously running his fingertips over the lines of her well-toned limbs. She didn't stop him at first, but then gently intercepted and grabbed his hand in her hers.
"I'm glowing pink," she finally pointed out. "I'm glowing pink…"
Tommy frowned. He had thought he'd seen it, but assumed he'd been imagining it. The flush to her skin was sickly, in particular the way that it circulated around the dark centers of her eyes. Tommy hadn't seen Kimberly look so weak since her power coin had fallen into the hands of evil.
"When did you get here?" he asked her, as they sat down side by side.
Kimberly bit her lip. "An hour ago, I think," she admitted quietly. "I wanted to wake you, but you looked so exhausted." She looked back at him. "Jason's sick, Tommy, something's wrong…on the plane, he was glowing red."
Tommy's face fell. He suddenly felt like she had shoved her hand down his throat and clamped her fist around his stomach.
Kimberly saw it straight away. "Tommy, what's going on? Why did these men come and take us?"
God, she doesn't know…I can't tell her, she'll be devastated…
She continued to talk, oblivious to his internal struggle. "No one should have even known where I was…I can't afford for this to happen, I start intensive training for the World's in a week-."
He slid his elbows to his knees, and rested his heavy head in his hands. Her touch on his back was almost enough to strengthen him, but still the words didn't come. He didn't want the responsibility.
"Tell me, Tommy, for God's sake." She sounded hurt.
Tommy straightened himself up and stared intently at her. Why was he still trying to protect her, after all these years? It's not as though the horrible truth wouldn't come out soon enough. He couldn't shelter her this time, but he could try to soften the blow.
"Billy seems to know the most about it, but from what I've learnt, he believes our ranger powers have somehow exhausted our bodies…making us…sicker; weaker."
Kimberly frowned. "I gathered this had something to do with our powers, Tommy, but that doesn't make any sense to me- we haven't been rangers for years…and Jason, Trini, Zack and I gave our powers to other people."
Tommy nodded. "That doesn't seem to matter," he replied. "Once a ranger, always a ranger…after all this time, he thinks our bodies have been over extended."
Her eyes flicked away from his, and she glanced over the room of sleeping adults, before she looked back questionably.
"Where are Rocky and Zack?" she asked.
Tommy knew he didn't have a right, but he reached over and grabbed her hand, turning his body so he was directly facing her. Her eyes grew wide with trepidation, her lower lip falling softly. She didn't resist his advancement, and for that he was silently grateful.
"Zack's dead, Kim," he said, the words so quiet he wasn't sure if she'd heard him. "He died on Thursday night, from what Billy said were affects from his powers."
Kimberly blinked, eyes watery. Her lips moved, but no words sounded.
"Tommy, I…please tell me this isn't-."
"God." She looked away, taking her hand with her, before she gazed back at him with such anger in her eyes. "This is bullshit, absolute-."
"We have to get you help," Tommy cut her off gently, a little off guard by her reaction. "We need to get you help straight away."
Kimberly lowered her head, soft tresses of dark hair hiding her anguish from him. Tommy tried to gently sooth her, but she brushed him off with a painful request to be left alone. With her plea repeated three times, he finally gave up and slumped against the wall, in time to watch the others slowly stir to the sound of Kimberly's strangled tears'.
"Mr. De Santos?"
A moan, and then a groan; he swore he would have pushed the noise away if he had the strength to move his arms from under the suffocating blanket cocooning him.
Damn, it was the best sleep he'd had in weeks.
So while Rocky feebly attempted to open his heavy eyes, it was the realization of waking that brought the memories flashing back to him.
The agony in his car; the strange visitors to his door offering him answers that buckled Rocky's knees but offered him some form of bitter hope.
He released a quick breath, his eyes snapping open.
The man beside his bed glanced down on him with a peculiar look that Rocky could only catch over the thick mask that covered his mouth and nose, and the protective clothing that ballooned around the man's limbs'.
"Mr. De Santos, how are you feeling?"
He had to think about it for a moment. "Good," he nodded in surprise. "The pain has gone."
The older man turned his back on him and approached a nearby bed, scribbling something down on what looked to be a pad of paper.
Rocky gulped. "Am I dying?" he asked, valiantly keeping his voice even.
The man turned around, but once again, the expression creases in his face revealed nothing. "You have a stomach ulcer, Mr. De Santos," he replied. "You're in the infirmary. Get changed, and you can be escorted to your companions."
The stranger walked out of a metal door and disappeared without another word. Rocky scrunched his face up, unsure of how to feel about all the events that had led to that moment. He sure as hell felt a relief he couldn't express about the fact that he wasn't dying as first thought, but now he was feeling nothing short of embarrassed.
Damn it, I wonder where the others are?
It took him a good few minutes to rip the heavy blankets out of the bed so he could pry his body free. There was a moment or two he felt unnerved by the fact that someone had managed to undress him while he lay unconscious in bed, but he pushed the thoughts away and gladly put his designer suit back on.
Thank God he'd worn his woolen suit to work, or else he would have been frozen by now. The air in the tiny room was almost thick, the chill in it enough to force him to rub his arms briskly across his torso to get warm.
He buttoned his jacket and moved eagerly toward the door, but pulled up suddenly as he heard what sounded like a heated conversation from the side of the nearby wall. Unable to contain his curiosity, Rocky walked toward the gray wall, and pushed his ear toward it with hope of achieving some sort of clarity.
"I just want to see them- where the hell is Kim?"
"Mr. Scott, I suggest you calm your anger at this time, or else you won't be able to see anyone," another voice replied. "You are under strict orders. Such a rise in emotions could have a serious effort on your lagging health."
Rocky stepped back and frowned. Jason Scott- his predecessor- the original red ranger. Was something wrong with him? With Kimberly?
A loud whoosh startled Rocky as the exit behind him suddenly swung open. He immediately spun around and concealed his guilt, but forgot it quickly as he noticed one of the people on the other side.
"Mr. De Santos, follow me please."
Rocky blinked, but quickly hurried through the door, brushing up against Jason as they followed the man slowly down a narrow corridor.
Rocky quickly looked over his shoulder and noticed another uniformed man behind them. He looked back at Jason, trying to speak as low as possible. "What the hell is going on?"
Jason's eyes' were plastered on the concrete ground beneath them and only managed to flick in Rocky's direction.
Rocky frowned, shocked at the eerie redness that flushed on Jason's skin. "Are you okay, man?"
"What did they tell you?" Jason finally spoke in a low voice.
Rocky's face drew thoughtfully. "They told me all the guys are here…that our powers are making us sick," he admitted. "I've been having stomach problems for awhile and thought…" he stopped, feeling embarrassed. "I overheard you next door."
Jason nodded ever so fleetingly. "When they left my room, I tried to break the lock on one of the doors…needless to say, when someone's got something to hide…"
Rocky blinked. "What do you think they're hiding? I thought they said they were going to help us."
Jason's eyes' darkened. "I don't trust them. They forced me to come to this living hell and separated me from Kim. I haven't seen her since. Instead of telling me where they took her, they locked me up in this room and tell me I'm dying and that Zack's dead-."
"What?" Rocky cut him off, stopping suddenly on the spot.
The officer behind the two former rangers stared coolly at Rocky, and he reluctantly picked up his pace.
"Jason, man, tell me-."
"I don't want to say too much in front of them," Jason whispered back, flicking his eyes in a motioning gesture.
Rocky sighed and nodded, trusting the man's judgment.
The rest of the walk to their destination was one of the longest Rocky had ever experienced. He tried to catch Jason's glance on more than a few occasions, but he never moved his anchored eyes, which were bleeding with an undisguised weariness and sadness. Rocky knew how close the original red and black ranger's were- If what Jason told him was true, than Rocky could only imagine the pain that he was experiencing.
All Rocky knew was that he had to see his former teammates. Whatever horror was going down, Rocky anticipated he only knew the half of it.
It was only half an hour later and everyone glanced down at the plate on their laps. The neatly made sandwiches looked as harmless as any others, yet it was funny what being locked up in a government facility did to your mind. One minute you were so hungry you felt like throwing your own stomach acids up and then next, you didn't want to put the food to your lips, fearing its consumption would kill you.
Jason prodded the white bread several times, trying his best to conceal his own concern as he watched his friends begin to slowly nibble on their meal. After watching them all take several bites, he sighed and slowly took his first.
He didn't feel like eating. But then again, he knew he needed the energy. After a reunion of dramatic exchanges with the eight remaining former rangers, Jason was clearly feeling the affects to his body.
Kimberly suddenly lowered her sandwich dramatically to her plate and let out a sour noise. "Ewe. Yuck."
Jason's heart started to race. "What's wrong?" he asked her, hoping that they hadn't all eaten something poisonous.
She scrunched her face up. "I can't stand jelly…it reminds me of the way my dad used to make it for me."
Jason tried not to roll his eyes, wishing he could strangle her for making him so worried. He took another bite, watching with strange curiosity as Rocky downed his sandwich in as little as five bites. At least someone in the room was feeling better.
"So, did they say anything to you guys about our condition?" Aisha asked up, leveling her gaze toward the two former red rangers.
Rocky shrugged, his mouth still busily chewing.
"They gave me some aspirin for my headache," Jason replied, deciding to lie about the doctor's warning to him. There was no way he would bring the rest of his friends down, especially if most of them weren't sick at all.
"What about the glowing?" Tommy pressured, unable to let it go. "You and Kim are both still glowing."
Kimberly straightened herself up, almost as if the news was new to her. Jason tried to appear non-worried.
"They observed me for a while and stuff, but uh, they said that I'm fine and that with treatment Kim and I will stop glowing."
"So when do you think they're going to tell us more about what treatment they plan to give us?" Katherine asked.
Adam calmly spoke up. "Well, the last time that Agent Johns came and spoke to us, he told us that they were pretty sure they had an antidote that would eliminate the degenerative affect that our powers could have on us. Maybe they needed to make sure that we were all in good enough health to undergo therapy?"
Jason nodded, agreeing with Adam's reasoning. Over the year or so he'd gotten to know the training paramedic well, he always saw a great maturity in thinking that the others lacked at times.
The silence returned as everyone returned to their eating, but a painful reminder soon took any appetite Jason had away from him.
Zack. Why did Kimberly have to bring Zack up?
"When do you think they will let us have a funeral for Zack?" she suddenly asked quietly, her eyes plastered on the ground.
The mood plummeted. No one wanted to talk.
"Do you think his parents know how he died?"
Adam glanced softly at Kimberly. "I'm sure they'll release the details of his death in a respectable way, without risking the secret of his past. I'm sure they don't want to risk causing any alarm in the public."
Kimberly looked unconvinced. Beside her, Trini swiftly stood up and walked to the other side of the room, turning her back on them all as she sat down in a lone seat in the corner.
Jason's heart broke at the sight, but he didn't follow her. As much as wanted to consol his lifelong friend, he knew they were both similar in the way they handled grief- they needed time, and most importantly, they needed space.
"Guys, if something's wrong with our powers, then why don't we just go to Zordon?" Rocky suddenly questioned, as though to change the subject.
Funnily enough, Jason hadn't even thought about Zordon since they'd arrived. He'd been too consumed in Zack's death and concern for the well-beings of his friends to think rationally about the situation.
Tommy straightened himself up. "I think that's the first thing we need to do when they release us from here," he suggested. "To be honest, whatever intelligence the IBI has on us, I don't think they're capable in handling this. These powers are from another world- the only person we should be consulting over this is Zordon."
"Then why don't we just tell them that?" Aisha spoke up. "I mean, why are we all sitting around in this creepy place, when we could be getting help from the person who knows us best?"
"I agree with Aisha," Kimberly added swiftly. "Zordon would want to know about this…besides, these weird guys in suits don't seem to doing anything fast about this. They made it seem like we were all about to die, and now we're here they haven't done a thing for us."
Jason lowered his plate to the floor. "When was the last time you guys spoke to Zordon?"
Everyone exchanged an almost guilty glance. Jason shared the same shame, but he was surprised to see that the more recent rangers hadn't kept in some sort of touch with their mentor.
"After the last battle…a couple of weeks after that," Tommy paused, as though he were picturing the memory in his mind as he spoke. "That was when we handed our morphers and coins over for safe keeping."
Jason rocked back a little in his chair. He hadn't realized everything had been finalized in such a concrete way. It was never really discussed.
"You guys handed your morphers back in?"
Katherine glanced at Tommy before replying. "We agreed it would be the safest thing to do. I guess it was too risky keeping them in our rooms or our belongings where somebody could find them."
"He said he'd contact us if anything ever came up," Adam admitted.
"So you guys still have your communicators on you?" Jason asked hopefully. Despite giving his powers up what seemed like lifetime ago, Jason had never strayed far from his communicator.
If only I'd remembered to put it on before I came here…
Tommy pursed his lips. That was enough of a response.
"Mine's in my bedroom," he finally admitted.
"So is mine," Adam backed him up.
"Does anyone have their communicator?" Jason asked, eyeing the others with sinking faith.
"Yeah, well it always did go so well with everything I wore," Kimberly commented with a hint of jaded sarcasm.
Jason eyed her disparagingly and she blinked apologetically. "I haven't worn mine since I left Angel Grove…there haven't been any attacks for nearly five years, so why would we even think to wear them?"
Damn it…who knows if Zordon hasn't tried to contact us? He could be trying to contact us right now, and we wouldn't even know it.
Tommy stood up, and walked over to the door, knocking on the tiny glass window. They all watched for a moment, before a familiar face poked through from the other side of the glass.
"What is it?" Agent Johns asked, his voice muffled by the door that remained between them.
"We'd like it if someone came and told us what was going on…if you don't mind, we thought this situation was an emergency?" Tommy said flatly.
"It is, Mr. Oliver," the agent responded without emotion. "One of your teammates is already dead, choked by his own powers…I suggest you sit back down in your chair and let us do what we need to do."
Jason frowned, as Tommy spoke back up, the frustration clearly in his tone. "What is it that you need to do? You said you knew what was wrong with us and that you knew how to fix us, so why don't you just do it?"
"We do know all about you, Mr. Oliver," Agent Johns conceded, "but no one else can know about you. Your lives depend on me now. I'm afraid that this isn't as simple as first relayed to you."
Jason quickly sat up, pacing furiously toward the door. "What do you guys want from us?"
The man's face remained steady, but the corner of his mouth curled up ever so slightly, infuriating Jason at the same time.
"You don't plan to help us, do you?" Jason pressured, slamming his palm against the door. "Is this some sort of experiment; do you get off from watching us squirm in this box?"
"I'd rest easy, Mr. Scott…I'd hate for you to cause any trouble for your friends…" as his sentence drained out, Agent Johns casually turned away and started up the hall, away from their room.
"Damn it!" Jason angrily slammed his palm against the door again, uncaring of the pain that shot through his arm.
He rested his forehead against the wooden surface, not responding as he felt Tommy's hand on his shoulder.
I can't believe it…we stuffed up…what the hell were we thinking coming to this place?
"They're not going to help us, are they?" Kimberly's tiny voice quivered in Jason's direction.
We've gotta reach Zordon…somehow…