Disclaimer: I do not own the Power Rangers; they belong to their respective copyright owners and are used here without permission. No money is being made from this fic.
Authors Note: This is an alternate universe from the television show with an alternate timeline. This part marks the end of the current storyline and should be considered as this series version of Good as Gold. Warning character deaths ahead.
The Day of the Luddites
Jennifer was in trouble. She had a problem that she couldn't share with her friends. Not only was she worried about how they would react; she was also physically unable to tell them. It had started the day the Rangers had fought against one of the odd villains who drifted into Angel Grove from time to time only to vanish afterwards.
During the confrontation she had been a noncombatant who had been targeted out of cruelty. She had been hit with a curse that was supposed to kill, yet she had survived without injury; later she had discovered that her forearm had been burnt by the spell. It was then that she had discovered a terrifying fact.
Since then she had tried to avoid the Rangers, even her boyfriend Rocky. She was confused and scared, yet unable to ask for the help that she so desperately needed. Recently previously unknown memories, which she was certain were not her own had started to surface. She needed time to think and to come to terms with what she had discovered in a short period of time.
She looked down at her right wrist where the burn was still covered with a simple bandage, knowing there was only one way to discover if she had imagined what lay beneath, and whether her life until now had been a lie. She felt like a normal teenager. Was it possible that she had only been brought to life a few months before?
According to the knowledge she now possessed, Jennifer Belle had died earlier in the year, before she ever learnt the identities of the Power Rangers. She had been a victim of Gasket's attempt to steal the Pulse device. A backup plan in case the attempt failed. The Jen that Rocky and the Zeo Rangers had come to know since that time was a creation of Gasket's, physically and mentally identical with all the memories and emotions Gasket had extracted from the human Jen before disposing of her.
This Jennifer, the android as she had come to refer to herself in the past few minutes, was an example of Gasket's strategic genius at work. She was manufactured from a special alloy that remained semi-liquid when exposed to temperatures above zero Celsius. It had the durability of hardened metals but a relatively low density allowing her the freedom of movement a human would enjoy. Electrodes carried by wires throughout her body fire impulses that caused the liquid metal to move like human body; instead of blood, chemicals were pumped around her body to regulate the heat of the metal and to carry miniature machines to maintain her body functions. Gasket had even given her the means to consume food and water, which merely passed through her system and removed in an organic way.
And then he had used the same miniature machines that inhabited her body to replicate human skin and hair. The most obvious places such as the arms, legs and head were covered with this quality synthetic while the remainder had been allowed to grow artificially. Pigmenting agents had been introduced to give her the skin tone, eye and hair colour of the original.
Finally before being unleashed, Gasket had in a masterstroke hidden from her the knowledge that she was a machine. As far as Jennifer was concerned she was human and really had befriended the Rangers. A trigger in her mind would grant her the true information only when Gasket wished to spring his trap or if she was somehow damaged, which to Gasket meant her true origin had been discovered. Those memories had been restored when the blast had damaged her arm.
Jen was not alive, which was why the attack had failed. But when the energy had hit and the damage had been caused, the girl Rocky had fallen for, had ceased to exist in her eyes. Gasket's programming had tried to take control the moment it had entered her memory, but robot or human, Jen possessed a strong will and was able to fight the alien control. It was a losing battle though and in a few more minutes she knew that the evil programming would erase what remained of her humanity. A few minutes and the core of her programming would be firmly in place, compelling her to betray her friends.
She turned around, filled with electronically enhanced rage.
"Get away," she warned, laying eyes on Rocky. He had been trying to speak to her all morning, but she was sure she had left him behind at the Juice Bar. "Why did you follow me?"
"I was worried," he told her apologetically. "Your sister asked me to find out what's bothering you, since you managed to scare her when she asked."
Tears were running down her face now as she fought back the urge to harm him.
"Jen, what's wrong?" he asked.
"Please, I don't want to hurt you," she begged.
Rocky just looked confused and took a step towards her.
"Don't," she said firmly. "Don't touch me, Rocky. Just stay away!"
"Jen please, I just want to help," her boyfriend insisted.
"I can't have a boyfriend, I can't love; I'm a machine!" came the reply. "Look!"
She held up her forearm revealing the wiring and circuitry she had become aware of moments before.
"Jennifer's dead," she clarified. "I'm just meant to look like her, think like her and believe that I am her."
"You're a machine?" Rocky asked dumbly, confused by her actions. "How?"
This was the girl he had fallen for in computer class, the one who had unknowingly aided Mondo by designing a program he later used in his Silo monster. She had aided the Rangers several times along with her sister. How could she be a machine?
"Foolish organic," Mondo boomed as he appeared through a Cog portal. "That she fooled you is proof of how superior our technology has become. The girl you knew is dead. My son killed her months ago. This" he gestured to Jennifer "is a machine built to resemble her in every way; an impersonation so perfect, even she believed she was the real Jennifer Belle."
"What do you want Mondo?" Rocky demanded.
"I want to fulfil my son's plan," Mondo answered. "Despite his impertinence and treachery, it is an inspired scheme. Now Jennifer, destroy the Blue Zeo Ranger."
Jennifer's eyes had glazed over, the once warm windows to her soul now cold orbs focussed upon death and carnage. The programming Gasket had implanted now took over from her previous personality, uploading the skills possessed by his Cyber Spy. The command had been given, the methods of exterminating the two humans raced before her eyes.
"No, I won't," she finally answered defiantly. Living as a human had had a strange effect on her. She had evolved without noticing until she the time when she not only imitated Jennifer Belle, she became Jennifer Belle.
"You will obey me," Mondo ordered, knowing that a command from a member of the Royal House of Gadgetry could override any other programming. "Now, summon a weapon and kill him."
This time Jen did obey, summoning a powerful whip that crackled as she flicked it through the air. She turned toward her supposed victim with an unreadable face. In response to a silent command from Mondo, Cogs appeared, preventing Rocky from leaving the area.
"Don't do this Jen," Rocky begged. "This isn't you, you know that." He added quietly: "I love you."
Jennifer didn't hear him though and continued advancing, the whip trailing sparks as she flicked it gently on the ground.
"Snap out of it Jenny," Rocky cried as the droid closed in on him.
The whip sliced through the air, cutting Rocky across the cheek and drawing a small amount of blood. She backhanded him before repeating the motion. Rocky grabbed her leg and she spun around, kicking him in the chin. She looped the whip around his neck, one pull away from ending her boyfriend's life. She came to an abrupt halt when she looked into his eyes.
"What are you waiting for?" Mondo demanded. "Kill him!"
"No!" she shouted defiantly, overcoming her programming. "I won't do it."
"I am Mondo, you will obey," the metal monarch boomed. She remained still, refusing to move. "Fine, I will have Orbus remove this glitch in your programming. Cogs, take her and then dispose of the Ranger."
As their king departed, the Cogs moved in and the fight was on. Jennifer was putting her newly discovered robotic strength to good use by tearing holes in Cog armour and leaving the robotic foot soldiers on the ground. Rocky struggled to keep up, unable to take the time to morph as he was outnumbered.
Eventually though the Cogs gained the upper hand. Jen despite her new strength was unable to attack when her boyfriend's life was threatened. The Cogs forced both the Ranger and his girlfriend to stop while a few of their number grabbed Jennifer by the arms and dragged her through a Cog portal. Then before Rocky could recover, the battle resumed and this time it was very one-sided.
Rocky tried to summon his Zeonisers, but before he could do so the Cogs had pulled his arms apart.
A faint burning sensation across the gash Jennifer had made in his cheek was all that greeted Rocky when he awoke. His eyes squinted open and as they grew used to the light he was relieved to see Alpha moving a medical device over his cheek. He tried to sit up, wincing at the aching muscles at various points across his body.
"Easy Rocky," Tommy warned. "Those Cogs did a really good job. You're lucky we arrived before they could finish the job."
"What happened?" Rocky asked as with the help of Tanya and Adam, who had appeared behind him, he managed to sit up.
"Mondo took Jennifer, and left the Cogs to turn you into a corpse," Tanya answered as Alpha continued to check him for signs of permanent injury.
"Jen!" Rocky started. "She's..." He couldn't bring himself to say that she had turned on him or accept that he had lost her, permanently at least; that she was just a machine, a trick to gain the trust of the Rangers and then deliver them to Gasket. He knew somewhere in his heart that was because he had not fallen in love with the original Jennifer Belle. Certainly there had been an attraction, but they had never gotten to know each other properly until the incident with the Pulse Bomb. Only when he had come to know her had physical attraction turned to love. And the person he loved was the machine that had replaced her, a being that had had no knowledge of what she was before today and who when ordered to kill had refused.
"We know, she's one of Gasket's creations," Adam said quietly. "Zordon showed us."
"I need to get her back," Rocky said, his voice determined.
The others exchanged glances, unsure how they should respond. The idea that their ranks had been infiltrated by one of Gasket's creations had terrified them to the point where even now Jason was busy double-checking every room of the Power Chamber in case Jen had left any surprises. Still it seemed that Rocky had yet to accept what he had learnt and the consequences of such a discovery.
"What?" he asked, irritated by their reluctance.
"Rocky, we don't know for certain which side she'll be on when we rescue her or if there's a chance we can remove Gasket's programming," Adam told him quietly.
"We're not going to leave her there," Tommy added, "but you need to know that if he has done anything to her, she might not be the Jen you knew."
Neither of them suggested that they should abandon her. Jen was their friend and in their eyes had done nothing wrong. She had never asked to be a robot. At the same time though they knew that should Mondo manage to gain control of her as he had almost done before, they would need to decide between their friend and their need to protect innocents.
For Tommy the need to get her out of there was almost overwhelming. He remembered his time as a 'guest' of the Machine Empire and the attempts made to turn him into a mindless slave. He would not allow that to happen to anyone else.
"We need to be cautious," Kat told him. "Just in case. If he knows how much we care about her, he could use her to draw us into a trap."
"I won't give up on her," Rocky whispered.
"Rocky, we're not asking you to," Tommy said firmly. "But we need to do this as a team."
"At least we know where he took her," Adam commented. They gave him a questioning look and he pointed to a monitor. "She's still wearing her communicator. We can't lock on to teleport her out, but the signal is coming from the Sky Base."
The alarm sounded and the Rangers groaned. "What now?" Tanya demanded.
Adam shrugged in return.
The image appeared on the Viewing Screen, relayed by a combination of different satellites within the Earth's orbit. In the Command Center, Zordon had used a crystal ball based Viewing Globe to show the cause of any alerts. In the days of Zeo though magic had been replaced with technology. The Rangers stared at the structure, standing on a field of ice somewhere, no doubt a drilling rig given the shape. A large crane had been positioned, created from four Quadra-fighters that had been wielded together.
"What are they doing?" Adam asked.
"Aw man, they're trying to fish Grommet out of the water," Tommy commented as he saw the battered and corroded frame of the Zeo Jet Megazord lifted from the ice field, Grommet's hand still wrapped around its legs.
"That thing is rusty," Tanya commented.
"It's the high levels of salt in the water," Adam told her.
"They'll be lucky if Grommet is in any better shape," was the reply.
They could see the machines struggling to haul the remains of Prince Grommet into the air, carrying it back to a more hospitable climate. A Cog portal appeared before them and the transport vanished.
Time passed, a few seconds at most and then the alarms sounded again, this time focussing on a steel mill somewhere in Angel Grove.
"Ai-yi-yi, Mondo has transported the Megazord and Grommet to the Sky Base."
"You know, I just had a really, really bad thought," Adam said. "What if Mondo can access Jen's memories? He might learn how to repair the Zords or worse, make her repair Grommet."
"I believe Grommet will prove beyond Jennifer's capabilities," Zordon said. "However, should Mondo learn a way to repair the Megazord or activate the Zeo Jet Zords' individual combat modes, they would pose a terrible threat."
"Just one more reason to get her back," Jason said.
"Alpha and I will begin working on a way to penetrate the Sky Base's shielding," Zordon told them. "In the meantime, I suggest somebody tells the Belles what has happened."
The Rangers nodded and teleported away, trusting their mentor to come up with something.
It was late night when the black clad figure reached the bottom of the mountain, using one of Zordon's satellites to find his exact position in relation to the Power Chamber's lower service point. He approached cautiously, avoiding the camera as it made a sweep of the area and punched in a quick numeric code. He waited for the click and then pushed the door open. He looked around and sneaked inside.
As quietly as he could, he ascended the stairs to the Zordon Storage Bay and the Zord Launch Cannon. It was a long climb and he could have teleported up, but he didn't want to disturb any of Zordon's energy detection devices. He didn't want anyone trying to stop him; this was something he had to do. He reached the console and after using the limited knowledge he had gleaned from watching Adam working, he disconnected the status feed to the Power Chamber's main computer. As quietly as he could, he pressed a couple of buttons preparing the cannon for firing as soon as it emerged from the mountainside. He was so busy, he jumped when he heard a quiet voice from behind him.
"Going somewhere?" Rocky turned around to see Adam leaning against the doorway.
"I didn't think anyone would be here," he admitted.
Adam smiled. "The others haven't known you as long as I have. They've never seen just how far you would go for someone you cared about. I have."
Rocky sighed. "I don't suppose I could persuade you to go back to your home and go to sleep?" he offered weakly.
"Obviously you don't know me very well," was the reply.
Rocky laughed humourlessly. "I think I do, you wouldn't let me go alone any more than I would let Jen stay there longer than I had to."
"I suppose you wouldn't let me call the others?"
"No!" said Rocky, "If you call the others up here Zordon will detect us and you know he wouldn't sanction this."
Adam looked at his communicator and nodded. "Fine, then just the two of us will go."
"Umm Adam, you don't have to..." Rocky looked at Adam's face. There was a look of grim determination and Rocky knew that nothing he said would keep his friend from aiding him. "Fine, help me load the launch protocols."
Adam grinned; they always worked better as a team. He quickly caught onto what Rocky had in mind and after shifting the aim to a less obvious point, he pressed the activation button and waited for the cannon to extend to maximum height.
"What are you planning to use?" he asked, needing to load the appropriate Zord.
"Billy's database called it the Mole," Rocky replied, handing his friend a data pad.
Adam read the details, surprised that Billy had decided to build a machine based upon a mole machine. While three times the size of a convention machine, it was certainly not a Zord.
"Where did he get the idea?" he wondered aloud.
"He didn't," Rocky replied. "Zordon's been in communication with the government for almost four decades. This is some sort of leftover from a failed venture during the sixties; some ex-astronaut tried to design his own range of aircraft. He was declared bankrupt for tax evasion and Zordon claimed some of the equipment and a tropical island that had served as a research area."
"And they just gave it to him?"
"The government was more interested in nuclear warheads than the possibility of long range space travel. Zordon gave them the basics they need to develop safer technology and in return they gave him the things he considered too dangerous for them to handle. And of course, when they discovered a crashed space craft in Oregon ten years ago, he convinced them to hand over the contents in return for more technology. I don't know why he kept some pieces and dumped the rest, but Billy said they were natural Zords."
"And he didn't think maybe that would be unfair?"
Rocky grinned. "Of course he did, but seeing as he came to the same deal with Japan, China and Russia, nobody noticed."
"We'll need to add some sort of propulsion," Adam said. "Although if this doesn't work the first time, we're dead."
"Then let's make sure it works," Rocky urged.
After loading the machine, they boarded and Adam triggered the launch sequence. They were relying on the cannon to launch them beyond the Earth's atmosphere and into space.
"Go!" Adam cried.
"Rangers in SPACE!" Rocky joked as they left the Earth behind, his personality showing through in spite of his concern for Jen.
As the cannon fired, both Alpha and Zordon were alerted.
"Ai-yi-yi, what happened?" Alpha asked as he shuffled over to a console. He pushed a few buttons as Zordon appeared through the dimensional link of his Plasma Tube.
"What has happened Alpha?"
"Somebody has accessed the Zord Launch Cannon and stolen the Mole."
Zordon was silent, piecing together what he knew and trying to deduce the reasoning behind such a theft.
"Alpha, analyse the trajectory of the Mole."
Alpha clicked a few controls while scribbling numbers on a sheet of paper. "They're heading for the Machine Sky Base."
"Very well Alpha, I believe you will find that one of the intruders was Rocky, his feelings for Jennifer have led him to take a foolish risk. The other is no doubt Adam."
Alpha was replaying the camera feeds as Zordon was talking. Sure enough he saw the two Rangers working in the launch area.
"You're right Zordon."
Zordon sighed, not at all happy with this situation. Today had been trying enough without the fear of losing two more humans to the maniacal Mondo and his twisted family.
"Alpha contact the others at once."
The flight had been rapid and the Mole was soon approaching the Sky Base. As they drew near, Adam started the Mole's nosecone drill, ripping its way in like a missile. As it tore into one of the lesser service corridors, a small energy field helped to trap a small atmosphere around the breach.
"Ready?" Adam asked.
His friend nodded. "It's Morphin Time; Zeo Ranger III - Blue!"
"Zeo Ranger IV - Green!"
As soon as the other Rangers, Jason and Josie entered the main room the questions began flowing.
"Have you found a way to get to Jen?"
"Is she okay?"
"... And Adam?"
"Rangers please, be quiet." As the Rangers quieted down Zordon continued. "Adam and Rocky have stolen the Mole and used it to attack the fortress. They did so in such a fashion as to break in undetected and without triggering the shields."
"So what do we do?" asked Jason.
"There is nothing we can do until Alpha finds a way to teleport through the shields. I believe Adam and Rocky will need your assistance."
"Why can't we go through the same way they did?" Tommy was practically bouncing on his toes. The others looked at him questioningly and he explained. "We can use one of the Megazords in the same way as they used the Mole."
"What you are suggesting would be too dangerous," Zordon answered. "Mondo will have set his base's weapons to recognise a Zord and fire immediately."
"But Zordon --" started Kat.
"Enough! I will not put the rest of you into this kind of danger unless absolutely necessary. I may have just lost two Rangers and Jennifer, I will not lose more!" Kat jumped back, and the others were all startled at the anger in Zordon's voice. Sighing he looked down at his warriors, his children in every way but name. "We will monitor the two, if they are in serious danger we will use Tommy's suggestion. Alpha, begin working on a way to transfer the power of the Zeo Zords to the Super Zeo Zords. I believe that the increase in power will allow them to breach the shields."
The superheated plating of the Sky Base's inner bulkhead slowly disappeared from view as a green helmeted head peered out, checking both ways before disappearing again. There was a shuffling noise and then two figures emerged, one in green, one in blue.
"Looks clear," said Green Zeo.
"Keep alert," replied Blue Zeo, glancing both ways. "Which way do you think we ought to go?"
"Your guess is as good as mine, if we can find a computer room or something we can probably find out where Jen is."
Blue Zeo nodded. "We'll need to find the docking bay as well if we want a way out."
"Just mind you don't set off any alarms," Green Zeo warned as they started down the corridor. They ran off down the hall, looking for either a prison or a computer.
"There's some sort of communication station ahead," Adam commented as his helmet picked up on various transmissions.
"Hey, I think we've hit the jackpot!" exclaimed Rocky as he saw the computer console mounted to the wall outside the room.
Before he could attempt to access it though, Green Zeo placed a hand on his shoulder, shaking his head, he gestured to a small droid the size of a remote-controlled car. As they watched, more of the little machines whizzed in different directions.
"Service droids," Adam mouthed.
Rocky nodded, realising that if one of the small machines noticed them, they would be caught easily.
Adam nodded and drew his Zeo Pistol. Using a low power setting, he fired at the bulkhead at the end of another corridor. Sure enough as the droids became aware of the damage, they sped off to repair it.
"Good thing there weren't any where we made our entrance or we would have been caught by now."
Rocky silently agreed as the made their way to the computer and accessed the Sky Base's schematics.
"She's in a detention block," Adam said as he looked up the route. "Uh oh." He saw Rocky cock his head questioningly and pointed to a warning light. "The main computer has sounded an alert, too many event flags for it to ignore."
"So we're as good as dead?" Rocky half-asked. His teammate nodded. "Fine, then we don't need to worry about making a noise."
"Good thing too, because we've been found." Green Zeo looked down the hallway to see a platoon of Cogs headed their way. "You find Jen, I'll hold them off." At Rocky's nod Green Zeo pulled his laser pistol and fired at the now charging Cogs. A loud alarm began to sound.
"We are ready Sire," Klank promised.
"Very good Klank, perhaps you are not as useless as I thought," Mondo replied.
Father -- is that you? the disembodied voice asked.
"Yes Grommet," Mondo answered. "We have retrieved you from your frozen prison."
...I cannot -- detect any hardware father... Grommet stated.
"Your body was damaged beyond repair," Klank explained.
As he spoke, he silently instructed Orbus to reconnect the junior prince's optical sensors. It had taken careful cutting to salvage the prince's cranial unit from the remains of his body. As part of the work to prevent further deterioration of the internal components, a clear tank filled with a mixture of antifreeze and de-ionised water served as his temporary accommodation.
"Klank and Orbus are already working on a new body for you," Mondo assured his son. "Then we can discuss your new role in the Royal House of Gadgetry, a post that makes greater use of your planning capabilities."
...Thank you... Father...
Klank flicked the switch, powering down the prince's circuits before he could overload.
"I will begin work immediately Sire," he promised.
"There is no rush, you have other duties to fulfil. Grommet will not know how much time has passed." Mondo walked from the room, not seeing the faint glow of his son's eyes narrow behind him. "Now, onto more important issues, has she been prepared?"
"Aye Sire, we just finished the conversion," Klank advised as they walked towards a detention cell.
Mondo snorted and stepped inside, stopping when he saw the room's occupant had indeed been prepared to his specifications. If he had been capable of doing so, Mondo would have smiled.
Jennifer had been stripped of all traces of humanity, a fitting punishment for a droid who had allowed herself to become human. Her skin and hair had been stripped away by a corrosive mixture of boiling Cog Oil and bacteria. Her features once so expressive were now similar to Archerina's, and while retaining the hints of femininity there was no doubt that she was a product of the Royal House of Gadgetry. Even so, the process had not dampened her spirit. She strained angrily against her restraints and the piercing glare she gave Mondo as he entered could be considered loathing if she had still resembled her former self.
"Now perhaps you will remember your place," Mondo practically bellowed as he shuffled into the cell.
Her bonds had vanished when he entered and she wasted no time in attacking him. It was a lazy backhand from Mondo that sent her sprawling back into the wall.
"You will learn some respect," Mondo told her, gesturing to Klank. "If she does not become servile in the next few hours, begin the memory wipe."
Just then the alarm sounded. The cell slammed shut as Mondo and Klank exited, leaving her trapped inside. A small contingent of Cogs stomped into the holding area, but it was the remote for the door that Mondo placed on a table, which caught her eye.
"The way out is so close my little slave," Mondo mocked. "But you won't get out until Klank has finished with you."
"I'll never fight for you Mondo," Jen snarled, hardly recognising her voice.
"Not willingly of course. Do you really believe I don't know that? I have ways of ensuring your obedience. Those foolish Rangers who are on their way to rescue you for example."
"You'll regret this Mondo," Jen whispered. With all traces of humanity gone she was starting to think like a machine. And that in turn meant she had access to options previously hidden from her. "Oh you will regret it," she repeated as her self-repair functions highlighted a new weapon. The alarm continued to sound throughout the fortress.
"She's in detention cell thirteen, low security." Green Zeo stepped away from the computer and joined in the fight, adding his own fire to Blue Zeo's. Rocky had barely made it to the door when the Cogs had moved in. Now they had to fight them off before moving further.
"Great," said Blue Zeo while Adam continued hacking at Cogs left and right with his hatchets. "How do we get there?"
"Follow me." Green Zeo fired a barrage at the remaining Cogs' legs.
Turning he ran the opposite direction down the corridor with Blue Zeo close behind him. They ran up metal grate stairs and down metal-floored hallways for about ten minutes.
"You know," said Green Zeo, "we haven't run into a Cog since we started running. This could be a trap."
"Yeah," replied Blue Zeo, "We always seem to be walking into someone's traps. But we haven't any choice."
"However since we suspect that it is a trap, we can be prepared for it."
The Blue Ranger nodded and slowed as they neared a door. "This is the door to the detention center."
Green Zeo reached out to the panel that opened the door and pushed it. With a whisper of machinery the door slid upward and the two warriors entered the room carefully. There was a main room and about seven Cogs were working on various consoles.
Immediately the two Rangers drew their Zeo Pistols and opened fire on the clueless Cogs. Looking up Green Zeo blasted a few surveillance cameras. As soon as the Cogs were down, Rocky rushed into the hall opposite the entrance, where the cells were.
Green Zeo was about to follow when he heard a voice coming from one of the control panels. "What's goin' on down the'? Someone repurt." It was Klank, Mondo's Scottish accented footman.
"Everything's fine, we're okay, how are you?" Adam winced, "that's not how a Cog would have responded."
"We've had repurt of a disturbance, whut's going on? Have the intruders arrived?"
"No, no... We've uh... had a slight weapons malfunction."
"I'm sending a troop of Cogs," Klank informed him.
"No! There's a reactor leak, very dangerous, give us some time to lock it down."
"Whe are ya'?" Klank was beginning to grow suspicious. "What's your serial number?"
"Eh..." Unable to come up with a satisfactory answer Adam drew his blaster and fired at the communications panel. "Boring conversation anyway. Rocky! We're gonna' have company!" Turning Green Zeo followed his friend down the cell hall.
At the end of the hall Blue Zeo was finishing two Cogs who had been guarding a cell. Adam looked around. There was a small metal table, and sitting on it was a small black device he guessed was a key to the cells.
There was a crash and Adam looked up to see that Rock had smashed open the lock to the cell with his Arm Blades.
"Not stupid, arrogant," Adam corrected as his friend helped Jennifer to her feet, hardly noticing her now purely robotic appearance. "Well, now to get out of here."
Jen looked up, shocked out of her thoughts. "You shouldn't have come, I'm not worth it."
"Of course you're worth it," Rocky assured her. "I love you."
"Rocky, I'm a machine."
"Well nobody's perfect," Rocky quipped, adding quickly: "but you're as close as I want. I fell in love with who you are, not what you are."
"You don't understand," she told him. She really wanted to cry, but Klank had disabled all her human functions. "Gasket built me to destroy the Rangers, it's part of my programming. There's a bomb inside me, set to explode the next time I'm in the Power Chamber."
"Then we won't take you to the Power Chamber," Rocky reasoned.
There was a mechanical sigh. "The Power Chamber will teleport me there. Gasket already found a way to bypass the computer and have it do so without someone activating it."
"We'll find a way," Rocky promised.
An electrical field activated as Mondo spoke, shocking Adam who was stood in the doorway and preventing the Rangers' escape.
"Kill them," he ordered, looking at Jen.
"I won't," she replied, Rocky's words had strengthened her resistance.
"You will obey," Mondo insisted. Jen convulsed as her circuits exploded with pain. "A result of the neural feedback generator Gasket designed. I had Klank install a remote receiver while he removed that ridiculous flesh. Since you want to be human to the point of treason, you can suffer like a human. I believe that given enough pain, you will come to understand who is the king around here and that your function should be absolute obedience."
"Leave her alone, Mondo!" Rocky growled, bringing his Zeo Pistol to firing position.
"Whut d' you think yoor doin' Ranger?" Klank asked.
"Yes Rocky, what are you going to do... without your powers."
The barrier across the door grew brighter and both Rocky and the still stunned Adam were demorphed.
"You didn't think I would allow you to break into my Space Base unless I had a brilliant scheme to neutralise you, did you? My computations and the information downloaded by my virus monster allowed me to download Zordon's schematics for your powers. A jamming field designed to block the energy of the Zeo Crystal protects this entire station. I surmise your bracelets carry some form of backup charge in case of temporary loss, but now that too, has ended."
"Zeo Ranger III - Blue!" Rocky called.
"This force field operates on a frequency of three-six-zero-zero hertz," Mondo told the boy. "The exact frequency needed to deactivate your powers."
Rocky had given up trying to morph and was instead trying to protect both Adam and Jen.
"Now all you have to do is wait for your friends to show up, or for my slave to come to her senses and destroy you both. Either way I compute a one-hundred percent chance of victory."
He walked off regally, allowing the Ranger to ponder his fate.
"We have to go, Zordon," Kat insisted when the computer lost contact with Rocky and Adam.
"I agree, Katherine, but I cannot allow you to teleport onto the Space Base," Zordon boomed.
"If Mondo detects you he could scatter the teleportation beam," Alpha explained.
"How about the Mole?" Tanya asked. "Couldn't we use the same idea."
"Mondo would be ready for you this time," Jason answered.
There was a column of white light as Josie teleported into the Power Chamber.
"Have you found her?" she demanded, to which Tommy nodded.
"Mondo has her on his Sky Base, but we can't get to her. He has Adam and Rocky too."
Her anger dissipated when she heard her sister was not the only one in danger.
"Hey, what if we teleport into the Mole?" Tommy asked, looking at Zordon.
"Mondo has not shielded the machine," Zordon agreed. "Although I suspect that the only reason he has not done so, is to draw you into his trap."
The Rangers nodded. It was too easy and machines of Mondo's quality did not make such obvious mistakes without a good reason. Still he was providing them with an opportunity, and the Rangers could not afford to pass up the chance.
"I'm coming with you," Josie said. Tommy appeared to want to argue, but she cut him off quickly. "Look, that's my sister and I'm not waiting here while you attempt to rescue her. I'm going to make sure you succeed. Besides, I have better control of my emotions than you and I know how machines work. Who better than me to tell you what Mondo has planned than I?"
There was silence and then Tommy nodded. "I don't like it, but if Mondo can affect our powers, we need all the help we can get."
"Alpha, prepare some of the Survival Packs," Zordon instructed.
After the Rangers had lost their powers due to Master Vile, Zordon had taken the initiative of preparing a way for them to fight without their powers or more importantly, survive in hostile environments long enough to seek out new powers. The result was a small backpack containing a range of useful gadgets and tools along with protective suits that while not providing protection from broken bones could prevent small cuts.
"I have the teleport booster ready Zordon," Alpha announced.
"Switch that off," Josie told him. "If Mondo planned ahead, he'd have calculated the chance we found some means of boosting the teleport and will be scanning for the frequency."
"Just like he did with Rocky and Adam's powers," Tanya said quietly.
"Ai-yi-yi, she's right!" Alpha realised.
"Now, tell me what we're going to do and I'll tell you how Mondo will have prepared for it. Then you can come up with a way around it."
There were five of them in their party and they all arrived safely aboard the Mole. Jason, Tommy, Tanya and Kat were wearing their backpacks, the boys armed with some old Blade Blasters that Alpha had found, set in blade mode; Tanya and Kat held similar weapons but had decided the blast function suited them better. Josie was not armed since she had never fired such a weapon before, had no combat skills and had proven unable to lift the backpack, let alone wear it. Alpha had given her a small scanner and a pouch filled with bits and pieces. Not enough to make a weapon, but he had assured her the contents would prove useful.
"We've been detected," Tanya said. She was in direct contact with Alpha and Zordon. "Mondo has teleported the Mole to a docking bay."
"Face masks," Tommy ordered as Cogs fired smoke pellets into the large drilling machine.
"Josie?" Kat asked after a while.
"Mondo just ordered all Cogs to take up positions surrounding the Mole, but not to attack."
"See if you can get a schematic of this place," Tommy told her. "Tanya, find out if the Mole is still operational."
Meanwhile Jason had shifted towards the back of the vehicle, where its low base should have been in contact with the floor of the hangar; from the exterior view it had become evident that the hangars were above and below more vital areas of the Machine Base. Tommy and Jason were hoping they had ended up in one of the top bays.
"Hey, we have power" Tanya proclaimed.
They had assumed Mondo would disconnect the vehicle's power source when they had realised he would use it to trap them. Obviously he had not considered that a logical course of attack.
"Okay, program it to run drill through the hangars and take out as many Quadra-fighters as possible," Tommy told her, then wait here for our signal.
"Right," the Yellow Zeo Ranger agreed.
"Mind your eyes," the former Gold Ranger warned as he flicked a switch on the modified Blade Blaster, causing the blade to become super heated. He plunged the blade into the base of the Mole, quickly cutting away a section to reveal the floor of the hangar. After a quick check around, he started to cut into the floor.
"Remember to angle it," Tanya called back to her friend. "Even Klank would notice a whole in the ceiling."
Jason grunted a response and continued his work.
Meanwhile Kat and Tommy had rigged up a pulley and clamp to lift the heavy decking up. As soon as Jason was through, they did so.
Supported by her ankles, Kat hung down into the corridor and fired at one of the surveillance cameras that were fortunately facing away from her. She was also grateful that her weapon had been adapted to use high frequency energy and not the noisy laser fire they normally possessed.
"We're clear," she told them as she flipped into to the ground and moved to the nearest corner, watching out for patrols.
"Let's go," Tommy whispered as Jason sat on the still warm metal and lowered himself into the corridor below.
Tommy followed and then he and Jason helped Josie down.
"There's a control room up ahead," Josie whispered as Tommy led the way.
"How many Cogs?"
Tommy nodded and made his way to a position where he could almost see in.
"Kat, can you pick off the two immediately beyond the door?"
Kat nodded and fired, frying the machines instantly. Jason and Tommy used the distraction to get close to the doors and as the remaining Cogs moved into range, they slashed them with their blades. After ensuring the cranial links had been severed, they gestured for Josie to move forward.
"I can get us into the computer from here," she announced.
"Good, shut down security between here and the cells."
"She can't," Kat interrupted. "If she does, she'll set off the alarms."
"Okay, find a way to synchronise them so they turn away as we approach and back again as we pass," Jason suggested.
"Can't" Josie told them after typing numerous commands. "Some of the cameras are fixed, others are heat sensing. There's no way to change their programming en mass."
"Okay," Tommy said after thinking for a while. "Are there any recycling centers between here and the cells?"
"You've been watching too many Star Wars films Bro," Jason teased.
"There's one not far from here, comes out two blocks away from the cells you need, but those cells are empty." She continued typing. "No cameras are operating inside the cells."
"So we could break through," Tommy realised. "Okay, Josie stay here and work on the machinery. Jason, you're her guard."
With that said he headed down the corridor with Kat in pursuit. Avoiding the few Cogs patrolling the next corridor, they opened the door to the trash compactor and moved inside. As the door closed, they heard the series of clicks from the stepper motor as it started the compression cycle. Even Mondo recycled to some extent; even machines created waste.
"I hope she times this right," Kat muttered as the walls started to close in and they made their way to the top of the pile. If Josie didn't get this right, Tommy and Kat would be crushed.
They waited as the walls closed in. Two meters ... one and a half ... one metre...
Then they came to an abrupt halt as Josie's programming kicked in.
"Ready?" Tommy asked.
Kat nodded and with his help, climbed onto Tommy's shoulders. Then using the dented walls for grips, she started climbing. Within a couple of minutes she reached the top of the compactor and taking a moment to catch her breath, converted her Blade Blaster to blade mode and drove it into the wall. She attached a small winch to the handle and lower a rope to her boyfriend.
Tommy gripped the rope and let the winch pull him up as Kat found her way into the maintenance shaft. She pulled herself along the shaft to the grill at the end where she could watch the comings and goings.
"Hurry up," she called back, startled when she heard the machinery moving once more.
"Oh no!" Josie cried as the screen went blank.
"What happened?" Jason asked.
"Somebody took notice of the change in routine," she answered. She looked down at her scanner. "We have Cogs incoming!"
Jason moved to the doorway, taking down the first Cog as it approached, severing it across the waist. He switched over to blaster rapidly, using the weapon to shoot out the floor so attackers could only approach from one direction. Then he crouched down and continued to fire, knowing that he could hit his opponents before they could get too close.
There was a crash at the back of the room and he heard Josie cry out a warning. He turned, as Cogs started to pour in from the back of the room. Josie was at his side and he shielded her from the onrushing forces. He blasted one, noting his blaster's battery was running low, converted it to blade mode and chopped another Cog's head off. He turned to stop attackers from the other side as a sharp blow caught him across the back of head. He looked up into the cold metallic face as a sharp boot rendered him unconscious and he was dragged away with Josie being dragged close behind.
Tommy was three quarters of the way up when the walls started moving again. He turned his body as the walls started to squeeze. The room was starting to turn black and there was a loud grating in his head. Then the walls stopped again, a loud hissing as the pressure was released and he continued his assent. He pulled the Blade Blaster from the wall and tossed it to Kat.
"What happened?" he asked.
Kat smiled and pointed to the machinery she had destroyed.
"Aw man, I guess they know we're here," Tommy realised.
Sure enough in the cell he could see the shadows of waiting Cogs.
"Well, no point in being subtle, right?" she asked.
Tommy nodded. "It's Morphin Time!"
"Zeo Ranger I - Pink!"
"Zeo Ranger V - Red!"
When they had discovered the truth about Mondo's ability to jam the Zeo Crystal, Tommy and the others had altered the frequency on their Zeonisers. But to prevent him knowing they had the advantage, the Rangers had decided not to morph until they needed to. Now seemed like a good time.
"Tanya, Plan C!" Kat ordered as the two Rangers burst from the maintenance shaft Zeo Pistols drawn and firing.
"Zeo Power Punch!" Tommy cried as he started punching his way through the metal walls while Kat blasted anything that came too near. Doing things this way was risky because they were outnumbered, but with the element of surprise gone, they had nothing to lose.
"Jason, Josie?" Kat called.
There was no response.
"Tommy, I can't reach them," she told her leader.
"Keep trying," Tommy told her as he impaled a Cog on the end of his Zeo V Power Sword. "We're almost there!"
He broke down the final wall and into the wide control center containing the doorway to Jen, Adam and Rocky's cell. It also contained a semiconscious Jason, a petrified Josie and a contingent of Mondo's Cogs.
"Jase!" Tommy exclaimed at the sight of his friend.
"Tommy, she betrayed us," Jason managed.
Tommy turned to the cell containing Jen, just as his uniform vanished and a laughing Mondo walked in.
"Seize them!" Mondo ordered.
Tommy and Kat ran to where Jason and Josie were being held, hoping to break their friends free. Their reward was Josie knocking them to the ground and walking to stand next to her master.
"Did it never occur to you Rangers, that my son would plant a second agent in case Jen's programming failed? He replaced the entire family. As you can see Josie was not activated by chance and is extremely loyal."
Josie stood proudly beside her master, ripping off the mask of fake flesh to expose her robotic self.
"And now I have all of you." He paused, counting silently. "Where's yellow?"
"She's in the hangar," Josie told him. "You'll find a hole in the bottom of their machine. Send some Cogs in there and you'll have her."
"Josie, how could you? They're our friends!" Jen was confused.
"Friends? Humans are not our friends, you little traitor. I was programmed to betray the Rangers. I can't help it if I enjoyed it."
"And now, I'll give you one more chance," Mondo said to Jennifer as he opened her cell door. "Destroy your enemies."
Jennifer looked at Rocky, then at her sister. She loved them both, but while Rocky was her boyfriend, she was a machine. She had mere seconds to decide where to place her loyalty. She freely gave it to the Earth.
"With pleasure," she said, her voice growing cold. "But first I want to kiss him."
She grabbed Rocky by the neck and pulled him into a hug, kissing him on the cheek as she whispered: "I'm sorry."
Then she lashed out at the nearest Cog, smashing it with her fist before charging her sister. The others took the opportunity and started fighting, Kat and Tommy using their Blade Blasters while Rocky, Adam and Jason fought hand to hand. In the background Jen and Josie were fighting, the two machines that had once been sisters were now bitter enemies.
Josie delivered a strong chop to Jen's chest. Jen responded with a punch to her sister's chin. They traded blows for a while until Jen in a move she had learnt from Rocky, rolled back and threw Josie over her. The momentum carried the machine into a waiting computer bank. Sparks flew as Josie was fried.
Before Jen could recover, she was overcome by pain. She fell to her knees and looked up to see Mondo hovering over her.
"I gave you a chance," he told her. "But you couldn't obey. So now I'll deactivate you and start again."
"Jen!" Rocky cried as Mondo blasted his girlfriend before shuffling out across the room. In an instant Rocky was at her side, cradling her battered form in his arms.
"It's too late," she told him.
"We can fix you," he answered, tears filling his eyes.
"Too late," she repeated, her eyes glowing brightly. "He destr..."
The light dimmed and went out.
"Jen!" Rocky practically howled.
Across the chamber Mondo laughed. "One down and more to go."
Rocky was angry now, but more and more Cogs were flooding into the cellblock. He wanted to destroy the metal monarch with his bare hands, but Jason and Tommy held him back.
"Kill them!" Mondo ordered.
"I wouldn't if I were you," Yellow Zeo said, as the picture of the Mole appeared on the screen as it tore through the hangars.
"You think I care about a few fighter craft?" Mondo laughed. "They can be replaced."
The camera angle widened, now showing Machina and Sprocket on the tip of the drill. "Can they?"
Mondo paused as if considering his options. "Let them go Ranger. I'll lower the forcefield."
Tanya seemed to agree and backed the Mole up, knowing Mondo would not dare to double-cross them now. Sure enough the shield came down and their powers were reactivated.
"Go, quickly!" Tommy shouted at the others as he and Jason grabbed a still struggling Rocky and teleported. Kat followed not far behind, Jen held firmly in her grip.
In the hangar bay Tanya took a final look around, noticing the Cogs as they attempted to gain access through the rear of the Mole. She wasn't having any of it though and after reactivating the drill to cause as much damage as possible, she too teleported away
The Rangers didn't stop moving once they appeared in the Power Chamber. Alpha had taken Jennifer from Kat and teleported to another chamber; neither he nor Zordon had the heart to tell the Rangers that this was more to do with the threat of the bomb in Jen's body than any hope of reviving her. The others had barely uttered a word, teleporting straight to the Zord holding bays as the alarms sounded.
"Let me see," Jason ordered, his grief pushed to the background as he focussed on this new threat.
The Viewing Screen showed the Jet Megazord fully formed and heading towards the Power Chamber, a move the Rangers had been expecting; they had known that Mondo would not pass up the opportunity to follow up after delivering such a blow. Mondo besides being heartless was also well versed in the art of kicking an opponent when they were down. Even as the Mole tore through his launch bays, he was planning to send all his Quadra-fighters to Earth for one glorious strike.
"Zeo Zords deploy!" Tommy ordered, allowing the machines to move on remote control. Their task was simply to strike as many of Mondo's machines from the air before they caused damage to Angel Grove. "Super Zeo Zord power!"
The arrival of the Zeo Jet Megazord was heralded by hundreds of Cogs suddenly appearing in the desert beneath the Power Chamber. The Rangers' Zords tore down the mountainside, Zordon's protests about escalating the battle falling on deaf ears; as far as the Rangers were concerned, the Machine Empire had escalated the battle to the point where the events of the next few hours were perfectly justified.
The Zords stomped and blasted their way through the legions of Cogs, not even stopping until every Cog had been levelled. Super Zeo Zord I and II fired energy blasts from their chests, turning the rocky ground into a pool of molten metal.
And then they faced their own Zords. If Mondo had expected them to be reluctant to damage their own equipment, he was badly mistaken. The Super Zeo Zords ganged up on the Megazord, striking where they knew the weak spots to be and never ceasing until Super Zeo Zord V's sword sliced through its neck. Rocky used his Zord's arm blades to puncture the chest plates, drawing them downward until they hit the secondary cockpit. As the Rangers withdrew, the Massive machine collapsed, squashing a few straggling Cogs.
But the Rangers and especially Rocky were far from done. They were angry, driven by grief and a desire for justice as they directed their machines towards orbit. In space they their Zords combined to form the Super Zeo Megazord.
Mondo had apparently worked out what the Rangers intended as he recalled his Quadra-fighters to defend the Sky Base, but that didn't stop the Rangers. In fact it only spurred them onwards. The Zord bashed its way into the fortress, ripping through the hull with its might fists and then stomping down the corridors. The Zord was too big and too heavy to fit in a single compartment ad as they moved forward; they destroyed another four compartments in the process.
Mondo turned his base's defences against the behemoth Zord, but until now the Sky Base had never faced a direct assault where the intention was its destruction. The weapons failed to make an impact on the Super Zeo Megazord as it summoned its twin swords and started severing the junctions between the sections of machinery.
"Rangers, whut are you doing?" Klank demanded as the mighty machine summoned its double blades and ripped whole sections apart. It punched, kicked, sliced and blasted its way through girders ad support beams, raining wreckage down upon the Moon. Tommy summoned the Warrior Wheel and they threw it repeatedly against the rapidly diminishing base, for once not caring about the rules of the Power.
"Separate!" Rocky instructed. He was in charge of this; the other didn't have any objection to that.
They obeyed, summoning the Super Power Weapons and attacking in all directions. They tore down the mighty gears and laid waste to the workshops. Blue Zeo's machine ripped into Grommet's life support system, causing the prince's operating system to crash. Then from five angles they blasted the crumbling space base, pummelling it until it broke apart, the remains drifting into orbit around the Moon. They continued to fire until they were certain there was nothing salvageable, failing to notice as Sprocket, Machina and Mondo picked their way through the scattered remains as Klank and Orbus pulled their battered bodies free of the wreckage.
Finally it was over, but the Rangers didn't celebrate, there had been no real victory here. They teleported home.
The calm breeze blew the few leaves that had fallen in his path, but he didn't notice. His attention was as it had always been in this place, focussed on his destination and not on anything that might cause a distraction. He looked uncomfortable in the tailored blue suit that seemed too tight or too warm for the normally free spirit trapped within. In his hand he held a bunch of roses he hoped the recipient would appreciate, not that he would know if she liked them or not.
He took a deep breath as he approached, fighting as he always did the urge to flee and deny the truth mark so clearly on the stone cold face. Around him others bore the flowers of their loved ones making the place seem brighter than it would otherwise. Previous time when he had come to visit her he had given in to his urges and fled, leaving her there alone. But not this time. After almost six months it was time to face her.
Jennifer Sarah Belle
Taken from us
Missed by Mother, Father
Rest In Peace
The words on the black gravestone didn't say enough in Rocky's opinion. How would people feel if they knew that she had died because she had dared to disobey Mondo? In his mind, Rocky could still see the pained expression as she fell to the floor. There had been no blood or burning, no outwardly physical sign of the pain she had felt. Mondo had stripped away her human appearance and yet she had shown more humanity than anyone he had ever met. And her eyes.... The memory was still too strong for him to dwell on them, so he didn't. His fellow Rangers had helped him, but the pain was still a part of him. It didn't get much easier with time.
At first there had been anger. Rocky and his fellow Rangers had destroyed the Machine Empire that day. They had devastated the Machine Sky Base with their Zords and although Mondo had survived and was even now trying to rebuild, his forces were a joke among Galactic Society.
Zordon had been disappointed in them that day although he told them long before he expressed his feelings that he had never been prouder of them. They had done what others had never dreamed of and had triumphed. But it had been a hollow victory.
In hindsight he had done Rita and Zedd a favour when he had almost obliterated Mondo and his family. But Rocky had not been a killer and revenge was not a reason to kill. Even when he discovered that Mondo had survived he had managed to restrain himself from going off and trying again. A few days later Mondo and Machina had tried to counterattack by growing to giant size and marching through Angel Grove. The Rangers had been there and thanks to an old wand of Rita's, which they had managed to find in the Power Chamber's vast storage locker, they had grown to meet both the Machine army and Rita and Zedd's forces in combat. The Rangers had triumphed and just hours later Mondo and his family had been blown up by a booby-trapped present.
And then just like that the crutch he had been using to control his emotions had crumbled. Jennifer had been buried after Zordon and Alpha had confirmed that her memory had been wiped during the power loss. Her sister Josie had still been in the service of the Machine Empire when Rita had blown them up. Her grave was empty. Their parents had returned overseas after the Rangers had ensured they were not machines using a bio magnetic scanner that Alpha had rigged.
It had been a downhill slide from there, a mixture of self-loathing and a need to escape. He had shut his friends out, even Adam. After a few weeks he had stopped even responding to Zordon when Rita or Zedd attacked. The Rangers had managed as a group of four, despite Rita and Zedd's best attempts to take advantage of their loss. Jason had helped out when they needed a Zord, but without a permanent power source he was unsuitable to small-scale battles. Nobody had even suggested Jason take over as Blue Zeo. It was Rocky's post and one they had decided to relieve him of only if he asked or he proved dangerous.
Rocky had turned to drink. It had been unnoticeable at first, but the Rangers had soon realised that something other than grief was causing his strange behaviour. Then his mother had found him drunk and he had received a real wake-up call. Mrs DeSantos had made him promise never to turn to the bottle again and he had given his word. Because he had only been drunk a few times, the habit had been easier to break with the help of these around him. He had been sent to see Lita Kino, the psychologist who had helped Tommy after his experience at the hands of Mondo. She had been there for the rest of the team too.
She had helped him with his feelings and for a time had concentrated purely on getting back on his feet. Surprisingly the hurt did not seem so unbearable.
And now he was back on active duty, facing down Rita and Zedd whenever they attacked, but so far the Machine Empire had not dared to show its face. And with the aid of his friends, Rocky had finally come to terms with his grief. That had been three months ago and even though the memory hurt, it no longer consumed him. Now he had one more hurdle to face.
"Hi Jenny," Rocky said as he pulled the few weeds of the otherwise empty gravestone. "Sorry I haven't been here for a while, things... I'm sorry Jen, I couldn't face this place knowing what happened."
He placed the flowers in the vase and removed the dead ones that had dried up in the sun. Jennifer's parents had placed them there before they had left and they had not been back since.
"I know you can hear me Jennifer," Rocky said. "Somehow I know you're watching over us from a better place. I'm sorry you got caught up in the fight, that Mondo chose to use you as his pawn. I promise it won't happen to anybody else."
Overhead the clouds parted just enough for the sun to reflect off the gravestone and into Rocky's eyes. A feeling of great calm filled him and for the first time since entering the cemetery he felt at ease. He couldn't hear the words but he was certain he could feel their meaning. Rocky had always been sensitive in the ways of the spirit. He was realistic enough to understand he was probably reading too much into a natural event, but he was certain it was Jennifer's way of saying: "I love you."
A tear rolled down his cheek as the sun continued to shine and the breeze dropped. The cemetery was filled with silence as Rocky allowed his emotions to flow. He took his time, telling Jen the things that had happened in his life since he had last seen her, about his friends and his life. Throughout his very one-way conversation, the sun continued to shine on the gravestone. When he was done, he stood and took a final look at the grave.
"I'll come back soon Jennifer, I promise."
As he walked away, he knew that he would be back soon. He owed it to Jennifer to go on with his life. He wouldn't let her down again.