Reality Check

by Jeff Morris

Foreword One and Two Three, Four, Five Interlude I and Six
Interlude II, Seven and Eight Nine, Interlude III, and Ten Eleven and Twelve Thirteen, Fourteen and Fifteen



It was amazing what a difference a bit of preparation made, Janine noted to herself as she looked around Scorpina’s pocket dimension. There was now a ceiling above her head, a floor beneath her feet, and walls surrounding her. The room in which she, Egon and the Rangers had been transported to was huge but comfortably so; torches lined the stone walls, and a huge fireplace was blazing comfortably not too far away.  Surrounding the hearth were several huge piles of pillows, and a plush, immense fur-lined carpet lay stretched out over the stone floor.  Nice digs if you could get them. The Ghostbuster’s secretary nodded in approval.

“Welcome to my home,” Scorpina announced. She and Billy had somehow gotten back into those beautiful silk kimonos, looking every bit the lord and lady of the house ...which, Janine reflected, they probably were. “I have prepared rooms for everyone; you are invited to rest and refresh yourselves. Later, we will convene in here to discuss the situation and determine our future course of action.”

“And we’re supposed to just trust you?” Adam said dubiously, remembering the other Scorpina who’d played on his emotions and subsequently betrayed him. “I mean, you and Rita were the bad guys just a little while ago, you know. And now we’re all one big happy family?”

“An interesting way to put it, young Adam,” Rita smiled. “You’re very perceptive, more than you give yourself credit for. Yes, you can trust us. And yes, in a strange way you are brothers and sisters of a sort.”  She walked up to where the young man stood, pretending to ignore the slight flinch her proximity caused. “Let me put it this way, if you’re still uneasy. You’re at our mercy right now. Your morphing powers won’t work here. You can’t summon your weapons or Zords. You can’t leave unless my daughter or myself allows it. So you might as well relax and play along, hmmm?”

Adam gulped. “Well, put that way...”

“Thought you’d agree.” Rita motioned with her wand toward a nearby hallway that hadn’t been there a moment ago ...or had it? “Your rooms are that way. You’ll know which one is yours when you reach it. Go and rest until I summon you. There’s much to be said and done before we’re through.”  The Rangers reluctantly obeyed, heading for the hallway and casting uneasy glances back at Rita.  She smiled and waved playfully at them in reply. Only when she was certain they could no longer see her did she let her confident facade slip; her shoulders slumped and she leaned against the wall with a heavy sigh.

Scorpina was there in a heartbeat. “Mother, you need to rest,” she chided gently. “You’ve done too much too soon.”

“I know, I know,” Rita replied, patting her daughter’s hand. “I’ll be fine. I just need to tap into a few magical sources and get myself charged up again.” She smiled crookedly. “If I know my Green Ranger, there’ll soon be quite the torrent of tantric magic to refresh myself with.”

“You noticed how he and Kimberly were glancing at one another,” Scorpina said with a smile.

“And don’t forget Jason,” Rita added. “Add him to the mix, and I’ll be glowing!”

“I don’t think that’ll happen,” her daughter said, shaking her head.

“It’s his destiny, daughter. Sooner or later, he’ll go to them. It’s where he belongs.” She glanced up at Scorpina. “Now, don’t you think you ought to be with your beloved, rather than gossiping with me?”

“He is waiting,” Scorpina smiled. “I wanted to be sure you were all right.”

“Oh, I’m fine now,” Rita said, waving her hands. “Shoo. Go. Get busy making grandchildren. I’m not getting any younger, and now that I’m finally free, I want a chance to spoil this bunch rotten.”

“We’ll see what we can do,” Scorpina called as she headed for her bedroom.

* * * * *

“This is it,” Janine declared; she and Egon had felt a sudden urge to pause before one particular door. “And don’t you even begin to tell me that you’re not getting the same vibes. I know better!”

“I wasn’t going to say a thing,” he replied, opening the door and peering inside. To call the place ritzy was an understatement; on one side of the room was a bed that was far beyond king-sized, complete with huge pillows and satin sheets neatly pulled back; a fireplace blazed softly nearby. On the other side was something that resembled a wading pool more than a bath. In between was a table set for two, with all kinds of food simmering in silver bowls and plates.

“Fascinating,” Egon breathed.

“Beats the Holiday Inn, huh?” Janine grinned. She shut the door behind them and hurried over to the bed. “Oh, Egon, look at these!” She held up a pair of kimonos, much like the ones Billy and Scorpina had been wearing, but one was bright pink and the other powder blue, and each had the Ghostbuster logo exquisitely stitched over the left breast.  “Oh, they’re beautiful!” the redhead cooed, delightedly. “These are better than Hilton Head! I wonder if we can keep them! Oh Egon, this is just the way I always hoped our honeymoon would be!” She looked up from her kimono examination and frowned. “Egon? Egon, where are you?”

“Mmmph.” The Ghostbuster was standing over the table, stuffing himself with everything he could find. The fork was a blur as he sampled this, tasted that, grabbed seconds on another....

“Hmmph,” she snorted softly to herself. “Men. Food over romance, every time.”

* * * * *

Rita closed her eyes and leaned back in her chair. Her breathing grew slower and deeper; she felt the steady throbbing of her blood as it rushed through her body. She took a deep breath and extended her senses, caressing the lines of mystical power that pulsed and vibrated all around her. Tantric energy seethed and crackled from several sources, waiting impatiently to be fed and freed. She smiled and withdrew, returning to her body. Soon, she would have all the power she needed. She could wait. Waiting was something she’d learned over ten thousand years.

Meanwhile, it was going to be some time before the Rangers would be ready to learn the truth of things, and for all her claims of eternal patience, Rita was bored silly. The world had changed in so many wondrous ways during her imprisonment. She wanted to see it all, learn everything she could as quickly as she could. But how?

A stray thought from Dr. Spengler caught her attention, and Rita smiled. She cast a quick spell and suddenly the Ghostbuster’s laptop was sitting in her lap. A second spell allowed her to tap into his mind and quickly absorb the rudimentary skills needed to operate the machine. A wonderful device; she’d never need viewing globes or oracles ever again with one of these.

She aimed the arrow at the Internet connection, then hesitated. A second icon caught her attention. She frowned and considered it for a moment, then two, then aimed the arrow at it and clicked.

The world could surely wait a moment or two while she played a quick game of Solitaire.

* * * * *

Kim couldn’t believe her eyes. There was a huge bed with pink satin sheets, a dresser with everything she could possibly need and more ...there was even a Godiva mint sitting on the pillow. “Like, I have died and gone to heaven,” she breathed.

The pink kimono slid through her fingers as she picked it up, and suddenly her clothes felt grungy and coarse in comparison. Come to think of it, her skin felt that way, too. Scorpina had mentioned a bath, but where ...Kim spotted a door across the room and smiled.  She peeled off her clothes in a quick series of motions, grabbed the kimono, and hurried over to the door. The thick shag carpet tickled the soles of her feet as she walked.

“Oooooh...” This wasn’t a bathroom, not by any stretch of the imagination. It looked like an underground pool, lit just enough to make things visible. The walls were rocky, almost cave like; Kim let her fingers brush against the nearest one, and she could feel cool dampness against her skin. But it was warm in here, pleasantly comfortable, and Kim could feel her skin begging to get into that water as soon as possible.  She walked over to the edge of the pool and dipped a foot in...

“Definitely died,” she sighed. She set the kimono neatly nearby and stepped into the pool...

“Wow!” came Tommy’s voice from nearby. Kim froze momentarily, then lunged for the kimono and slipped into it as fast as she could. She turned around and found him standing in a doorway that she was pretty sure hadn’t been there a second ago.

“Our rooms connect!” Tommy grinned excitedly. “Neat hot tub, huh? What’s the water like?”

“Do you mind?” Kim asked pointedly. “I was about to find out, okay?”

“Oh. Sorry.” He suddenly noticed Kim’s robe and beamed. “Hey, I’ve got one of those, too,” Tommy said, noticing that Kim was giving him intense dirty looks but not sure why. He held up a bright green kimono and grinned. “I guess Rita’s kind of set in her thinking about me, huh?”

Kim’s shoulders stiffened, and her hands tightened around the fabric of her kimono, pulling it tighter around her.

“Kim?” Tommy asked, coming closer to the pool. She abruptly found the vanity near her own door more interesting and left the warm waters to study it in more detail. “Kim, what’s wrong?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” she growled. “Maybe it’s just that I thought you loved me, and now I find out you and Rita were, like, doing the wild thing behind my back!” She turned around to face him, her face red with anger. “Damn it, Tommy, I thought I meant something to you!”

“Kim...” Tommy rolled his eyes and sighed, two actions that didn’t help his cause. “Kim, that stuff happened before we even started going out! Before I even knew you!” He tried to put his hands on her shoulders, but she angrily shoved him away. “Kim, I don’t care what she said--yeah, maybe some of that stuff was my idea, but I was under that spell of hers the entire time! Kim ...Kim, it’s you I love, not her. You gotta believe me...”

Kim’s glare intensified, then softened somewhat, and finally she wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tightly. “God, Tommy, I don’t know why. It just pissed me off something bad, knowing that she’d gotten to you first, and we’ve never so much as...” She looked up into his eyes, and without warning pulled his face down to hers. It was a kiss that started slow but quickly sizzled, growing longer and deeper with every passing second. His arms pulled her close to him. His hands pressed her body against him. Her fingers slid through his long black hair. Her mouth opened against his lips and without warning her tongue slid into his mouth; after a moment of stunned amazement, he reciprocated with ever increasing enthusiasm.

Their bodies were trying to reduce the space between them into atoms. Kim felt an aching need grow inside her, one that only he could fill. She felt something hard pressing against her leg, and instinctively she knew that it was the key to what she wanted with all her heart and soul. She broke free of the kiss to moan, “Tommy...” and he took advantage of the freedom to kiss her neck and ears.  “Oh, God, Tommy...” she breathed, feeling every inch of body on fire, “Oh, God, Tommy...”

“Kim...” Somehow their robes slipped away from their bodies as they sank down to their knees, then to the floor, but neither of them really cared. Lost in passion, they never heard the soft creak of a third door opening, then shutting.

* * * * *

Jason let go of the doorknob and closed his eyes. “God,” he breathed, feeling his blood roaring through his body, one area in particular. “God,” he repeated. He had wondered why, for all its furnishings, his room didn’t have a shower. He had an uncomfortable feeling that it hadn’t been an oversight.

Tugging at his bright red kimono, Jason hurried out the front door and down the hallway. He paused at the entry to the central chamber; Rita was sitting comfortably in a huge oversized recliner, idly fiddling with a laptop computer. The incongruity of the sight somehow struck him as hilarious, and he snickered before he could stop himself.

Rita appeared not to have heard him; her eyes were locked on the laptop screen. “Why aren’t you with them?” she asked without looking up.

“I think that’s kind of private,” he said, struggling to keep his voice level. He walked over to where she sat and peered over her shoulder. “Put the three of hearts on the four of clubs,” he suggested.

Rita glared up at him and shut the game down. “Just as well,” she grumbled as she set the computer aside. “Seven games, and I hadn’t won once. Now...” she continued, her eyes boring into his. “Why aren’t you with them?”


“Indeed they are,” she replied amiably. “You really should be with them, you know. You want to be.”

He shook his head rapidly. “No. They’re...that’s the way it should be. I’m not going to screw things up for them. I mean, mess things up. I mean...” He sighed and closed his eyes. “I don’t know what I mean.”

Rita sighed and leaned back in her chair. “They’d welcome you. Both of them.”

“How would you know?” he declared angrily.

She shrugged. “I’m a witch. I read karma as easily as you read comic books ...or, in your case, Black Belt Monthly.” Her eyes suddenly widened, and her mouth made a small “o”. “Oh dear. Kimberly...”

“What?” Jason demanded. “Is Kim all right?”

“Oh, yes....” Rita shuddered slightly. “So is Tommy. Oh my yes. They’re quite all right...” She turned to Jason and smiled. “Where were we? Oh yes ability to read karma. Child’s play, really.”

“Yeah, right,” he snorted angrily. “Says the witch who liked to make giant monsters for fun.”

Rita smiled and shook her head. “We’re talking about you, not me. And I know that you want to be in there with them ...or, one of them at the very least ...more than you know.”

“No,” he whispered, looking away. “I can’t. It isn’t right.”

“There’s no right or wrong about it, Jason. You cannot deny the way you feel. It’s part of you.”

He whirled around angrily. “I never asked to feel this way! Why? What did I do to deserve this? You’re so damned smart, Rita, you tell me!”

“All right,” she nodded. “How about this--in your previous life, you killed them in a fit of angry jealousy, and then yourself, and this is the payback to restore the karmic balance.”

He blinked once, twice, three times. “Huh?”

Rita sighed. “Sit down. You’re making me nervous.”  A chair suddenly appeared beside him; when he’d complied, she gently pressed her hand on his and smiled. “You, Kim and Tommy have always been bound together in your past lives. You’re drawn to each other. I don’t know why, you simply are. Anyway, in your past life, you were a very handsome, wealthy and powerful young man. Kimberly was your wife, and Tommy was your best friend. The problem was that you and Kim had tried for many years to have a child, but nothing happened. It caused a rift in your relationship; you blamed Kim for her barrenness and stopped sleeping with her. In anger she turned to the arms of another man ...Tommy ...and conceived.”

Jason stared at the witch. “You’re kidding.”

“No,” Rita replied, shaking her head. “At any rate, she made no effort to hide her condition from you, nor did she hide the identity of the father. She taunted you with the knowledge that your best friend had done what you could not. And finally, one day you arrived home unexpectedly and found them locked in passion, and you snapped.  You took your sword and with one stroke pierced both their hearts.” She took a deep breath.  “And then you did the same thing to yourself.”

Jason’s eyes were tightly shut.  Rita squeezed his hand tenderly.  “That was then. In this life, they are your closest friends, and nothing can ever change that. Even Zordon’s treachery couldn’t--at some basic level, they knew you couldn’t have betrayed them, and you knew better too. That’s why you were driven to contact Dr. Spengler. You three have been brought together to restore the balance ...and I promise you this, Jason: no matter how many times you run away from the way you feel, you will always return to them. None of you will ever be truly happy unless you are together.”

Without warning Jason exploded in tears; Rita drew him to her and held him in her arms, rocking him gently. “Help me,” he sobbed. “I don’t want to feel like this, I can’t feel like this. Change it. Please...”

“I can’t, dear boy,” she said softly. “I can’t. This is part of who you are. You must learn to accept it.” She lifted his face up so that his eyes met hers. “Go to them,” she repeated. “They won’t turn you away. Accept it and you’ll finally know peace. I promise you.”

He shook his head. “I can’t,” he said brokenly, wiping away his tears.

“All right,” Rita said quietly.  “Then sleep.” She pressed her fingertips against his forehead, and Jason slumped over in his chair. She conjured up a blanket and tenderly wrapped it around him, then bent down and kissed him gently on the cheek.

Then she returned her attention to the laptop.

* * * * *

Overall, Aisha was satisfied with her room; it had the basic amenities and the bed was pretty comfortable. Unfortunately, her roommate was finding them less than desirable. Aisha rolled her eyes and tried to ignore Trini’s relentless pacing across the room. It was a losing battle.

“Will you just sit down and eat something?” she finally demanded.

Trini froze in mid-stride. “I’m not hungry,” she declared sharply.

The dark-skinned Ranger stared at her predecessor. “Girl, what is your problem?”

“I don’t have a problem.”

Aisha sat up on her bed and stared at the thin Oriental teen. “You are skinny as a rail, you had to be all but threatened to eat at the command center, and your stomach sounds like the 1812 Overture. I think you’ve got a problem, even if you don’t.”

Trini’s eyes flashed angrily. “I don’t know why Rita insisted on putting us together,” she declared haughtily.

“Maybe it’s because I’m the only one of us who’ll tell you the truth.” Aisha sighed and shook her head. Her hair had been bothering her ever since they’d arrived in this crazy place; for some reason, it no longer looked or felt right. She wanted to do something with it, but didn’t know quite what. But that could wait. “How long have you been this way?” she asked.

Trini folded her arms around herself. “Since Germany,” she admitted. “Every time I looked in the mirror, I saw how fat I’d gotten. I exercised. I watched what I ate. It didn’t matter. I was still fat.”

“You ought to talk to someone,” Aisha softly suggested. “You need help.”

“Maybe.” Trini closed her eyes tightly. “I wish...I wish Rita would wave that magic wand of hers and make everything right again. We would all be friends, we’d all be happy, and things would be so simple and clear again.”

“Can’t go back to fantasy land, girl,” Aisha said, shaking her head sadly. “This is reality.”

“I know,” Trini agreed. “But frankly...I think I preferred the fantasy.”

* * * * *

Adam belched.

“Good tone. Needs a bit more bass, though,” Zack suggested from across the table. Between them lay the remains of a once considerable spread, laid to waste through the considerable efforts of two hungry teenagers.  Adam was sitting opposite his predecessor, finishing off the last bites of a giant chicken leg.

“I needed that,” he sighed contentedly.  He looked around. “What’s for dessert?”

“You have got to be kidding,” Rocky said angrily. He had declined to join the feast, stating curtly that eating in the house of their enemies was utter stupidity. He sat sprawled in a nearby sofa, glaring at his roommates and wondering what he could possibly do. From all indications, all of his fellow Rangers were under Rita’s spell. And damn it all, his stomach was growling more loudly by the minute. “How can you guys just sit there and act like everything’s okay?” he snapped.

“I’m hungry,” Adam replied, looking a little hurt by his friend’s attitude.

Zack shook his head. “Look, man,” he said soothingly. “Like Rita said, if she wanted us dead, we’d be dead. We aren’t. So why not play along and see what happens?” He waved a chicken leg in the air. “Your eyes say ‘no’, but your stomach says ‘oh yes’.” Adam bit off a snicker and looked away; Rocky’s expression darkened, then he relented and held up a hand. Zack tossed the meat over to him with a smile.

“I still don’t like this,” Rocky said between bites.

Zack shrugged. “Can’t say I do either, but under the circumstances...” He looked over at Adam, who was rummaging about the table. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s not a complete dinner without something for dessert, preferably chocolate,” Adam replied.  His face brightened as he spotted a plate of brownies at the other end of the table, which hadn’t been there a moment ago.  “Hey, Zack, pass those things over, will you?”

“One Black Ranger to another.”  Before he handed the plate over, though, Zack claimed a few for himself. “Y’know, it’s funny...”

“What?” Rocky asked, getting up and walking over to grab a few before Adam managed to devour them all.

“Oh, nothing. Just stupid. I was wondering why Adam was the Black Ranger, that’s all.” Zack grinned. “I mean, to my thinking, it would have made more sense for him to be Yellow, and Aisha Black. Keeping the traditions going and all.”

“Isn’t that kind of racist?” Adam demanded, his eyes narrowing.

“Who, me? Nah. I’m the last one who should be basing uniform on skin color.”  Zack slowly stood up and stretched. “Well, I think I’m stuffed. What else is there to do around here? Any Nintendo?”

“There is now,” Adam commented, staring at the huge television materializing against the far wall.

* * * * *

Scorpina sighed happily and snuggled closer to Billy. The warmth of his body, the gentle pounding of his heart, the slow, steady rise and fall of his chest: there was no greater pleasure than these things, to have them again after so long without.

Billy sighed and gently caressed her back. “It’s so strange...”

“Beloved?” she murmured sleepily.

“Holding you, loving you’s like we’ve done this so many times before, it’s so familiar ...and yet, it’s like the first time.”

She smiled and, raising her head from his chest, kissed his chin. “That’s because it is both, my love.”

He smiled. “It’s just going to take some time, sorting out the old memories from the new.”

Scorpina scooted up so that she could look into his eyes. “You and I will make many new memories together, beloved. I promise you that.” And with that she pressed her lips against his in a long, passionate kiss.

* * * * *

Rita closed her eyes and let her soul drift free from her body. Smiling, she slipped through the walls of Scorpina’s dimension and let herself return to Earth. It was time to perform a little reconnaissance.

The Command Center was dark and silent; Alpha’s body still lay unmoving on the floor. Zordon’s interface screen was black. Rita smiled to herself and ascended through the ceiling, then headed for Angel Grove.  On her way out, she felt the malevolent presence of Lord Zedd; no doubt he was trying to figure out where his foes had gone and why his opponent’s place of power was left undefended. Rita hurried away, unwilling to risk a confrontation so soon.

As she passed the city limits of Angel Grove, she felt the tingle of Zordon’s spell ripple through her, but she laughed at its feeble attempts to control her. It was no more than the sting of a mosquito to her now.

Everything seemed in order. Life was continuing at its normal, serene pace, just as it had for years. Part of Rita was saddened, knowing that this too-perfect facade was going to be shattered before all was said and done, but she was also angered that this artificial lifestyle had been forced upon the residents of the city, all for the pleasure of a madman’s fancy.  Rita grimaced and continued her inspection until every inch of the city had been checked.

He was up to something. She was sure of it. But for the moment all was secure; she could return to her body, summon the Rangers, and prepare them for the battle to come. They would need everything she could give them; she prayed that her all would be enough.




Lord Zedd paced impatiently from one end of his throne room to the other. As he walked, he called upon his various agents, who over time had been carefully scattered all over Angel Grove, and searched for any sign of the despicable Power Rangers. But time and again his efforts met in failure. They were nowhere to be found.

Goldar opened his mouth, as if to suggest something, but one look from his master and the simian warrior kept his silence. Zedd rubbed what would have been his chin had he any skin and took a deep breath, then carefully stretched out his power toward the center of his foe’s might--the Command Center. As he closed in on the citadel, he sensed a second entity nearby, but ignored it. It wasn’t anywhere near as powerful as he, so should it cause him any grief, he would simply blast it into oblivion. It left a moment later without a challenge.

Zedd frowned; the shields that normally surrounded the Center were down. A trap? He considered sending Goldar to reconnoiter, then shook his head angrily and dismissed the idea. This was too tempting a target to pass up. His essence stormed forward, charging through its walls.

The place was abandoned. Even Zordon’s toy lay crumpled on the floor. There was no trace of his most hated enemy, nor of his agents. Zedd carefully probed every inch of the place before concluding that there was nothing worth investigating, then started back toward his body.

“GREETINGS, ZEDD.” Zordon’s spirit appeared out of nowhere. The evil emperor stopped in mid-flight and summoned his considerable powers; while more vulnerable than he’d be in his physical form, Zedd still had more than enough strength to defend himself and give Zordon a good battle.


Zedd froze for a moment, startled, then laughed uproariously. “You? Allied with me? What possible reason would you have to suggest such a ridiculous notion? Why would I even begin to consider it?”

‘WE NOW HAVE A COMMON FOE. BEHOLD.” How Zordon managed to flood Zedd’s mind with the images now racing through it, the dark villain would never know, but he saw Rita Repulsa and the Power Rangers standing together in the command center, squared off against their former mentor.

“So, your little puppets have cut their strings. How sad for you, Zordon!” Zedd’s laughter was dark and brittle. “What has that to do with me?”


Zedd frowned; the fool was obviously telling only part of the truth, hiding the rest. But his words were true enough, and such an alliance between Rita and the Rangers could prove dangerous to his ultimate plans. “All right, Zordon. Let’s assume for the moment you speak the truth. What would you suggest we do about it?”


“You would destroy your own creations?” Zedd was impressed; he’d never considered Zordon capable of such a heinous act.


Zedd pretended to consider; in reality, this was far too good an offer to refuse. With the Rangers and that meddling witch destroyed, nothing could stand in the way of total conquest. First Angel Grove, then the rest of the planet! And Zordon would be unable to do anything about it!

“Very well,” he said with forced calm. “Allies, then, for the moment. Now, what is our plan of action?”


Zedd nodded happily. “You know, Zordon, I like your way of thinking. I always felt we had a great deal in common.”





Egon Spengler’s eyes snapped open as his mind instantly switched from sleep mode to active status. He blinked rapidly, trying to clear the fog that enveloped his vision, then remembered he wasn’t wearing his glasses. But in attempting to reach over toward the nightstand for them, he discovered a pleasant obstacle in the form of a warm, snuggly Janine Melnitz. Reluctant to wake her, Egon slowly, carefully slid his arm out from under her and gently moved away, despite her muttered protests.

Once his spectacles were once again resting on their accustomed perch, Egon quietly pulled on a pair of silk pajamas and wrapped his powder-blue kimono around his lanky frame. Padding softly over to the doorway, he carefully slipped out of the room, grateful that the hinges emitted nary a squeak as he pulled the door shut. Sighing, he scratched his head absently and looked around.

Egon had a tendency to take an immediate visual inventory whenever he was in an unfamiliar setting. Before his fingers had left his scalp, he’d noted that the walls held eight torches for illumination. A pair of torches framed each of the seven doorways. Interesting, too, how the marble floor was warm against his feet, not cool as he’d expected. He really should have remembered to locate a pair of slippers before leaving the room.

Just as he noticed the pair of footwear that had appeared by his doorway, Egon realized that something wasn’t quite right. He counted the doors a second time and once again reached a total of seven. But there were nine Rangers present, not to mention himself, Janine, and Scorpina. That made an even dozen present. Accounting for two couples (himself and Janine, Billy and Scorpina...he still wasn’t quite comfortable about that, but it was a little late in the game to be dictating morality to his nephew, especially given his own personal situation with Janine), that left five doors ...and eight Rangers.

Egon walked over to the door opposite his room. The symbols for the Black and Red Rangers were magnificently etched into the woodwork. The door to the immediate right of his room had Billy’s symbol and what appeared to be a scorpion.  Opposite their room was a door with a saber-toothed tiger. And the three doors framing the back of the corridor bore the icons of the Pink, Green (Rita was remarkably stubborn about some things) and...Red Rangers.

Egon rubbed his chin in contemplation. It would be logical to assume, based on the evidence, that Trini and Aisha were sharing a room. Given the presence of two separate tyrannosaurus symbols, one could surmise that Rocky was with Zack and Adam, while Jason was down here with Kim and Tommy…

Egon recalled how Rita had sucked a considerable amount of PKE from the containment without a moment’s thought. She had, however, expended quite a bit of power storming Zordon’s command center and freeing the Rangers from their entrancement. Rita had looked quite tired when they’d arrived here to rest. She probably needed to recharge her magical batteries somehow, and given the situation they were facing, the sooner the better.

Given the wholesome atmosphere of Angel Grove, it was a logical assumption that all of the Rangers, save Billy, were virgins. Of all the Rangers, Kimberly and Tommy were the closest emotionally. Proximity, freedom from paranormal restraints, teenage hormones storming to the forefront...

“Tantric energy.” Egon’s mouth twisted into a frown as he whirled around and hurried down the hallway in search of Rita.

* * * * *

Rita was sitting in her recliner, a familiar-looking device sitting in her lap. Nearby, Jason lay sleeping in a similar chair, huddled up tightly beneath a blanket.  She looked up at Egon and smiled. “This is a wonderful device, Dr. Spengler. I hope you don’t mind my borrowing it. I didn’t think you’d be needing it.”

Egon ignored the remark. “I don’t approve of what you’ve done here.”

Rita’s eyes were wide and innocent. “Why, Dr. Spengler, I don’t know what you mean.”

“You’re manipulating these kids to your own ends. Is what you’ve done any better than what he did to them?”

She laughed softly. “I must protest, sir. I’ve done nothing save provide them with accommodations. What they do during their free time is their business.”

“You’re feeding off Kimberly and Tommy’s tantric energy. You knew what would happen, and you encouraged it. And I’d hate to think what the others are doing...”

Rita sighed. “Aisha and Trini are arguing about food. Adam and Rocky are playing video games, with Zack watching. Jason is here. As for Tommy and Kimberly...” Her voice trailed off and a gentle smile spread across her lips. “They’re doing what teenagers have been doing for centuries before them, and will be doing for centuries after.” She spread her hands out in resignation. “And if the release of all that pent-up energy just happens to come my way, that’s hardly my fault, now is it?”

“I still don’t like it,” Egon repeated, trying to look stern even though he knew there was little he could do about the situation.

“No one is asking you to like it,” the witch replied placidly. She shut off the laptop and handed it back to Egon. “Fascinating device. I’ll have to get one when this is over.”

“You’re rather confident of the outcome.”

She smiled. “Despite his madness and his faults, Zordon always had an eye for talent. These children will prevail. I’m sure of it.” She closed her eyes. “It’s time to bring them in and tell them what’s really been going on, all this time. Please wake Jason up, if you wouldn’t mind. I think he’d rather not be found this way.”

Egon conceded defeat (for this round, anyway) and moved to obey while Rita summoned the Rangers.

* * * * *

“Sit down. Make yourselves comfortable,” Rita urged as the Rangers filed into the huge living area. Kim and Tommy were arm-in-arm, lost in their own private world and looking heartbreakingly happy. Nearby, Billy and Scorpina were similarly engaged. Jason looked tired but wary, ignoring Zack’s quiet questioning; Trini for her part had managed to slip back on her mask of placid calm. Aisha, Adam and Rocky were sitting together, nodding toward the two couples, whispering to one another and snickering. Rita silenced them with a simple upturned eyebrow.

 Rita’s eyes focused on her daughter, as if searching for something unseen, then she smiled knowingly. “ didn’t waste any time, did you?”

Scorpina smiled proudly but said nothing; Billy shook his head blankly until his lover whispered something in his ear; whatever the message was, it had a profound impact on him, for his eyes widened and he paled for a moment before smiling stupidly.

“What’s going on?” Aisha demanded.

“Nothing you need to know about right now,” Rita assured her. “Now then,” she continued briskly with a clap of her hands. “We have much to discuss, and I suspect our time is limited, so...”

“Like, just a second,” Kim interrupted. “I mean, Billy’s uncle says we’ve been bamboozled by Zordon, and, like, okay, so Scorpina did bring us here and all and nothing’s happened so far, but...” She shrugged and shook her head. “Why should we trust you any more than Zordon?”

“Yeah,” Adam declared. “You tried to trash the Rangers and Angel Grove long before Rocky, Aisha and I came on the scene. Why should I listen to you--just because you say you’re really on our side?” The other Rangers began to mutter similar feelings amongst themselves; Billy wrapped a protective arm around Scorpina and whispered gentle assurances to her, while Egon and Janine watched the situation deteriorate and waited for Rita--or someone--to restore order.

Jason cleared his throat. “I trust her.”

The other Rangers stared at him for a long moment, then at Rita, then sat down and shut up.

“Thank you, my dear,” Rita said, smiling at Jason maternally. “But Kimberly raises a good point. You have all been under a great deception for some time now. It’s only logical for you to be suspicious, and especially of me. So I offer this: simply sit here and listen to me, and then decide whether I tell the truth or not. If you choose to leave, I will understand and send you home immediately. Do we have an agreement?”

Kim hesitated, then sighed. “Well...okay.”

“Excellent. Well, I’d best start my tale at the beginning. Let me see ...I’ve already told you that Zordon was my husband, back at the Command Center. That seems an appropriate place. Well, I was very young and naive at the time, and Zordon was very, very handsome and dashing, especially in his Green Ranger costume...”

“What?” Kim gasped. “Like, Zordon was the Green Ranger?”

Rita nodded. “That’s right. And it has a great deal to do with subsequent events, but I don’t wish to get ahead of myself and confuse you further. At any rate, my mother was greatly displeased that I had chosen Zordon as a paramour--a virgin contains a great deal of magical energy...” here she glanced over at Egon and flashed him a wicked smile, which made the usually-unflappable scientist blush slightly, “...and a virgin witch is extremely powerful--but I had decided that he was to be my mate, so one night we consummated our union.” She turned to Scorpina. “That produced you.”

“You never told me,” Scorpina said, looking slightly hurt.

“I was caged for ten thousand years, my dear, and when we were reunited, I wasn’t myself. If this has caused you pain, I am terribly sorry...”

The warrior shrugged in an “oh well” gesture. “We can discuss this further at a later date.”

Kimberly snorted in equal parts amazement and disbelief. “Like, you and Zordon did the wild thing? Get outta town!”

Rita regarded her with a haughty glance. “I’ll have you know I was very beautiful in my day, young lady. And very lusty, too.” She flashed a wicked smile. “Still am, too, on both parts. Ask Tommy.” That remark earned the White Ranger a scathing glare from Kimberly, which also served to shut her up.

“At any rate, when Mother discovered I was pregnant, she flew into a terrible rage and attacked Zordon. He fought back, using all his powers and his Zord, but there is nothing more dangerous than a witch whose fury blinds her to her self-imposed limitations. When the battle was over, Zordon lay on the ground, dying in my arms.  With his last breath he gave me the only token of his love he had left...”

“His power coin,” Jason said. Rita nodded.

“But Zordon’s not dead!” Adam exclaimed. “He told us you’d banished him to that weird dimension at the same time you were imprisoned...”

Rita rolled her eyes and sighed. “I asked you to listen to my side of the story. Are you going to listen, or parrot all his lies back to me whenever contradictions come up?”

“Put a sock in it, Adam,” Aisha growled. “Let her talk.” Chastened, the Black Ranger hunched over slightly and found an intricate pattern on the floor to study.

“I understand your confusion, Adam,” Rita said kindly. “I know you have questions, and I know it’s extremely difficult to see what is truth and what is lies. What Zordon told you is the worst kind of lie--one mixed with enough truth to be perfectly plausible. Just bear with me, that’s all I ask.” He looked up to find her smiling brightly at him, and he grinned in return, nodding for her to continue.

“Adam’s got a point, though. If your mother killed Zordon...” Zack began.

“I was getting to that,” Rita nodded. “As I said, I was very young and very foolish. While I remembered Mother’s warning about the consequences of losing my maidenhood, I didn’t realize just how it would affect me. And my grief blinded me to rational thought.” She paused and frowned, as if reviewing memories she’d have preferred to forget. “I held my beloved Ranger in my arms, crying and screaming my fury at my mother ...and then I began to weave the most powerful spell I’d ever tried in my brief life. A spell of resurrection. And I succeeded ...and failed.

“I revived his body and his spirit, but...” She closed her eyes tightly. “I was pregnant. I was out of my mind with grief and fury. I wasn’t in control. The spell was too much for me; I was unable to complete it correctly.” She shook her head sadly. “I revived his body and his spirit ...but was unable to bind them back together.”

Kim shivered and snuggled in closer to Tommy. The other Rangers looked stunned. Only Egon understood the implications. “Zedd,” he said softly.

Rita nodded. “The soul became Zordon,” she answered. “The body ...such as it was ...became Lord Zedd.” She slowly opened her eyes. “The process ...the pain of separation ...drove both of them mad, caused some sort of split personality. As for me ...I lay in a delirium for months, unable to even feed myself. Mother had her servants tend to me ...they even handled my giving birth.” She shook her head tiredly. “I ...don’t really remember things clearly at this point. The spell had destroyed my sanity as well.

“Mother ordered the servants to dispose of the child; they took her to a temple here on Earth, where the monks raised her and trained her. Then she tried to heal my mind and soul, but I ...resisted. If she had tried to help me resolve my grief and pain, instead of trying to make me forget Zordon child...” Rita bowed her head. “I was out of control. I ...killed her.”

Scorpina rose to her feet, walked to where her mother sat, knelt and embraced her tightly. The Rangers remained where they were, each lost in his or her thoughts. Tommy hugged Kim tightly, whispering something in her ear.

“I’m sorry,” Rita said a moment later, sniffling and wiping a stray tear from her eye. “We don’t have time for this. Anyway,” she continued briskly, “word of Zordon’s death reached the other Rangers, and they came looking for him. They found me instead. I attacked them and actually held my own for a time, but eventually they were able to overwhelm me and imprison me in a dimensional cell. And there I sat for ten thousand years.”

“During that time,” Scorpina jumped in, “I grew up and learned the ways of the warrior. Eventually I met my beloved,” and she smiled tenderly at Billy, “who fashioned my first set of armor. The fittings were most enjoyable,” she said with a wistful sigh.  “As the centuries passed, I kept watch for Mother and the return of my beloved...”

“Return?” Rocky asked skeptically.

“Reincarnation,” Egon supplied.

“Oh yeah, right,” the Ranger snorted. He shot the Blue Ranger a disdainful look. “You get around, huh, Billy?”

“Seven or eight times, by my count so far,” Billy answered calmly.

“Oh, come on!” Rocky shot to his feet and looked around at the other Rangers. “Are you people really buying this stuff? Magic spells splitting people in two? Reincarnation? Come on!” He pointed angrily at Scorpina. “She’s claiming to be ten thousand years old! You tell me how she can look like that and be that old!”

Scorpina shrugged nonchalantly. “I take care of myself.”

“So, like, what’s your secret?” Kimberly asked her. “Milk baths?”

“With rose and lotus petals, twice a week. Does wonders for the skin.”

Rocky slapped his foreheads. “Come ON! We are STUCK here, God knows where, with two of our enemies, and you’re sitting around just eating all this up and willing to side with them just like that! Have any of you thought that maybe, just maybe, she’s put a spell on all of you, just like she claims Zordon did to us?”

Aisha snorted and stood up to confront Rocky. “And have you considered that if she wanted to, Rita could turn you to toast in an instant for talking like this?” She turned around and looked at Egon pleadingly. “Dr. Spengler, what do you think? I mean, weirdness is your specialty. Should we trust her?”

Egon took a deep breath; he’d been dreading this moment. Janine gave him a hand squeeze for encouragement. So what do I tell them? he wondered. I’m sorry that you’re caught between two ancient powers that have been feuding for no sane reason? I’m sorry that I never got a chance to do any follow up research on Bandora and possibly find some way of corroborating her story? What do I tell them?

He cleared his throat. “I believe you owe it to Rita and Scorpina to hear them out. After all, as you pointed out, Aisha, if they truly wanted you dead, you wouldn’t be here now, would you?”

“Oh, great.” Rocky groaned in despair. “Dr. Spook gives her an endorsement now. Great.”

Janine’s eyes narrowed and she rose to her feet. “Young man, you sit down and pipe down this instant, or I’ll turn you over my knee and make you wish you’d never been born! Don’t you dare treat Egon this way! He’s saved the world--the real world, not just your town--more times than you can count! He’s seen things that would send you all cowering in your closets! If Egon says to hear her out, then you’d better do it!”

“Let’s leave closets out of it,” Egon softly pleaded.

“Sorry.” Janine fixed Rocky with a cold, hard stare, after several seconds, the young man sat down quietly. “Come up to New York and read our case files sometime. You might learn something,” she suggested curtly before turning back to Scorpina.  “You were saying...?”

“Thank you, Miss Melnitz,” she said with a polite nod. “In the course of my life, I encountered each of you at various times ...sometimes,” she looked at Jason, Kim and Tommy, “together, other times separately. After my beloved’s last departure, though, I found myself growing tired and decided to sleep until his next incarnation.”

“But, like, how did you know when Billy showed up?” Kim asked. “I mean, he was born awhile back; why didn’t you wake up then?”

“He wasn’t ready to remember me until now,” Scorpina replied. “And the fates have always managed to bring us together. I had faith that somehow, we would find each other again. As we did.”

“So what were Zedd and Zordon doing all this time?” Aisha asked, bored with the current discussion.

Rita shrugged. “Oh, I suppose Zedd was roaming the universe causing trouble. As for Zordon ...the original Rangers must have made contact with him somehow--most likely he found them--and over time, as each Ranger died and the mantle passed to another, his influence and control over the team knew. He was always able to provide them with information, as he could be anywhere instantly ...but they didn’t realize he was insane, and that the information he gave them might not always be the complete truth. He’s a most accomplished liar.

“At some point the Rangers came to Earth and set up the Command Center. This time, however, he didn’t bother to replace the ones who died. That idiotic robot must have been built before the last one expired so that Zordon could be reached and the machinery taken care of.” Rita shook her head. “In his own way, Zordon was as much a prisoner as I.

“At some point Zordon’s boredom must have reached its limits. He searched for some sort of diversion, but naturally he couldn’t find an opponent that challenged him sufficiently.” Rita smiled. “I must have come immediately to mind. So he freed me from my prison, taking advantage of my disorientation and vulnerability to force me to play by his rules. Next, he extended his influence over Angel Grove, forcing everyone within it to conform to his desires. At the same time, he didn’t want any outside interference, so the spell he used also kept people from entering the town. Where he developed such power and abilities, I don’t know. I doubt I ever will.” She shrugged. “He certainly had plenty of time on his hands to study.

“At any rate, once free I created my minions, which to my new memories had been there all along, set up my base and prepared to conquer Earth--starting with Angel Grove.” Rita smiled and shook her head. “I must have truly been out of my mind, not to see the sheer stupidity of that action.”

“It’s not much, but we call it home,” Zack said with a grin.

“Point taken,” Rita conceded with a chuckle. “I attacked the town ...he summoned you original five Rangers ...and the rest you know.”  She spread her hands. “Questions?”

Kim raised a hand. “So, like, why did you make Tommy the Green Ranger?”

Rita took a deep breath. “Well, perhaps on some basic level I sensed that the Rangers were one short. And at some point I discovered I still held the Green Ranger power coin, so once I found an excellent candidate...” She smiled brightly at Tommy, who blushed and looked away sheepishly, “ ...I gave him the coin--after, of course, bending his will to mine.”

“But why did you take his powers away?” Jason asked.

“I didn’t.” Rita shook her head firmly. “Those powers were mine to give ...not take. Tommy was worthy, even after he’d been freed from my influence.”

“But the candle . . .” Trini pointed out, confused. “Goldar told us that you had the green candle, and as it melted, Tommy’s powers would fade away.”

Rita scowled. “The entire business with that candle was planted in my head by Zordon. You should ask him why Tommy lost his powers ...though I’ve an idea.”

“Well?” Kim demanded.

Jealousy.” Rita’s smile was almost feral. “Think about it. Zordon had been the Green Ranger, won my heart, fought well. Now here comes Tommy, who proves himself to be every bit his predecessor’s equal, and who has won my ...admiration well.” She gazed intently at the Rangers. “If it were you, wouldn’t you be slightly peeved? Jason? Trini? Zack? How did you feel about your replacements filling your shoes so well?”

“I didn’t mind,” Jason said a bit too quickly. Rita stared steadily at him, and he finally cracked a grin. “Well, maybe a little,” he conceded.

“It sure bugged me, and more than a bit,” Zack conceded with a laugh. Trini nodded.

“And remember who controls the Morphing Grid,” Rita reminded. “So ...Zordon tweaked the Grid every so often, causing Tommy’s powers to diminish, then surge, then diminish again. And when that failed to stop my brave Ranger ...he performed the most horrible, heinous act of all. He made Tommy the White Ranger.” Her expression darkened. “And I will never forgive him for that.”

“Why?” Kim asked, puzzled. “What’s the big deal?”

“Yeah,” Tommy added. “I mean, it was a little uncomfortable, but Zordon told me that after this, my powers could never be taken away. I figured it was worth it--being a Ranger and all. You know.”

Rita trembled slightly. “Oh yes. He told you enough truth to make it plausible. Once you gained the powers of the White Ranger, you could never lose them. It’s part of the cost.”

“I don’t get it,” Tommy said, bewildered.

“There have been other White Rangers ...but very few,” Rita said solemnly. “It’s an action only taken in times of dire need as a last resort. The process is long ...painful ...and fatal for the chosen candidate.”

The Rangers jumped with shock. “Fatal?” Jason cried.

“But Tommy’s here!” Kim protested, grabbing her lover’s arm tightly.

“I don’t remember anything like that!” Tommy burst out.

“Be forever grateful you don’t,” Rita hissed. She sighed heavily and shook her head. “The process used to create a White Ranger is full of dark, forbidden spells. Zordon killed Tommy during the course of the “conversion” and locked his soul inside his precious little ‘morphing grid’ while he performed the rituals on the body. And when he finished, he brought the body back to life, locked Tommy’s soul inside and wiped the memory of the procedure from his mind.” She closed her eyes and bit her lip. “Didn’t any of you see? Didn’t you understand? White is the color of resurrection!”

Billy removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes. “I...witnessed part of the process,” he slowly admitted. Scorpina slid an arm around his shoulders and pressed her head against his. “I didn’t know what was going on. The entire operation was unlike anything I’d seen before.”

“So...why can’t Tommy ever lose his powers?” Trini asked, dreading the answer.

“His powers are uniquely tied into his body. While the rest of you are connected to the Grid through your coins, Tommy himself is directly tied into it. While the Grid is active, Tommy can access his powers any time. The coin is a sham for Tommy’s benefit. Zordon didn’t want his new toy to accidentally learn the truth behind his powers...and by extension, the rest of the story.”

Tommy slowly rose to his feet and walked over to where Rita sat. He knelt down and put his hand on hers. “Thank you,” he said softly. “Thanks for telling me the truth.”

“Oh, my Green Ranger,” she said tenderly, a tear slowly drifting down her face. “I will never forgive him for what he did to you. Never.” She leaned over and kissed his cheek gently. Everyone, even Egon, had to look away for a moment.

Jason suddenly felt the need to change the subject. “So how does Zedd fit into the picture?”

“Hmmm? Oh. Yes. Zedd.  I suspect that Zordon summoned him. I was no longer a sufficient opponent. The game was becoming one-sided. Zedd evened the odds for a time, but soon it became obvious to Zordon that something drastic had to be done, or else the game would come to an end, and he wasn’t ready for that.”

“Huh?” Jason shook his head; the other Rangers were similarly puzzled.

“You were winning,” Rita informed them. “You took the worst I could dish out, given my circumstances, and came out on top every time. Zedd gave you a bit more trouble, but the second generation Zords--the ones Zordon created--made the playing field level again. But soon Zordon realized the problem lay within his players, not his opponent.

“You original five--Jason, Kim, Trini, Zack, and Billy--were extremely formidable from the start. You meshed from the opening round. When Tommy was added to the mix, you were unstoppable, even against Zedd. If Zordon was to keep the game going, some of you had to go. Hence, when the ‘peace conference’ opportunity came up, he took advantage of it and sent you three packing.”

“So, you’re saying the only reason we’re Rangers is because we’re losers,” Rocky said ruefully.

“No, that is not what I am saying,” Rita said, shaking her head. “You three have certainly held your own, and you work well with Kim, Tommy and Billy. But...” She sighed and shook her head. “There were karmic forces at work with the original team that made them unstoppable. It’s not a poor reflection of your abilities at all. Don’t take it as an insult.”

“Well ...okay,” Rocky said slowly; Aisha and Adam looked even less mollified, but said nothing.

“Once Zordon got rid of you,” Rita continued, looking at Jason, Trini and Zack, “he wanted to be sure you’d stay away from the Rangers. The spell of influence might not keep you from returning--as you saw, it didn’t. But your minds were clear of his lies now, and you would see the truth ...and tell the others about it, and possibly free them as well. So he intercepted your letters to one another and rewrote them to hurt you and keep you all apart.” She glanced over at Egon and Janine and smiled. “Fortunately, you had the good sense to contact Dr. Spengler and talk to him about Billy. And that,” she said with a sigh, “is my story. It’s up to you to determine who is telling the truth.”

The Rangers glanced at one another uneasily, save Rocky, who refused to meet the gazes of his friends. “I believe her,” he finally mumbled.

“I think we all do,” Aisha agreed.

“So, like, what now?” Kim asked. “We’re free, we sure won’t listen to him any more. Game over, right?”

“I’m afraid not.” Rita’s eyes narrowed. “Think of Zordon as a child. He’s done playing his game. What’s the next logical step?”

Egon cleared his throat. “To clean up after himself. Put the pieces in the box and put the game board away.”

The witch nodded glumly. “And it gets worse. There has always been a duality to the relationship between Zordon and Zedd. Each hates the other, but each needs the other in order to survive. Don’t think it hasn’t entered Zordon’s mind that you might rebel against him and try to destroy him before he hurts someone else. Alone, he can do nothing. But with Zedd...”

Suddenly Rita’s went wide and the color drained from her face. A hoarse little scream squeaked past her lips as she crumpled into a heap. The Rangers moved as one to her aid, but Scorpina was there first. “Mother!” she cried, cradling the trembling woman in her arms. “Mother, what’s wrong?”

Rita extended a shaking finger toward a sphere that hadn’t been there a moment ago.  “Look...” The Rangers turned as one and gasped at the sight shown all too clearly within the globe.

Angel Grove was under attack by putties. But something had changed--instead of wandering aimlessly and gibbering to themselves, the strange creatures were assaulting anything that stood in their way, be it cars, buildings or people, until it was gone. The citizens of Angel Grove were screaming and running for their lives as the gray masses surged forward.

Goldar hovered above his army, dispatching orders and laughing nastily as he watched his forces lay waste to the city. His sword was stained with blood.

“Oh my God,” Kim breathed. “I mean, gosh.”

The globe shimmered; Angel Grove grew mercifully out of focus and a new image slowly formed. From all appearances, the scene was from outer space. The Rangers could see Earth hovering peacefully in the darkness. Then ...something floated along the left side of the image. Something dark, metallic, incredibly large and radiating evil.

It undulated wildly as it moved. As it finally passed the unseen camera, its full shape came into view.  It was something the Rangers had seen before and had hoped they’d never see again.

“Serpentera,” Jason whispered.

“Oh shit,” Rocky muttered; Aisha shot him an angry glare, and he quickly put his hand to his mouth, wondering where that had come from.

“Rangers,” Rita commanded as Scorpina helped her to her feet. “Zedd and Zordon are both within Serpentera. They intend to wipe out first Angel Grove, then the rest of your planet. You’re the only ones who have any hope of stopping them. I will aid you as best I can, but the battle must be yours to fight. What do you say?”

Tommy slowly looked at each of his friends: Rocky, Aisha, Billy, Adam ...Kimberly. They each nodded fiercely. Then he glanced up at Jason, who gave him a thumbs-up. He took a deep breath and stepped forward.

“Let’s do it,” he said quietly.


Foreword One and Two Three, Four, Five Interlude I and Six
Interlude II, Seven and Eight Nine, Interlude III, and Ten Eleven and Twelve Thirteen, Fourteen and Fifteen