Disclaimer: I do not own the Power Rangers, they belong to the respective copyright owners. Large sections of this story were originally written by Ellen Brand and featured in her series Personality Conflicts. They are used with permission and I thank Ellen for allowing me to do this. Lillian, Jamie, Christina and Katarina are COE versions of Lillian O'Neil, Jamie Zedden, Christina Collins and Katarina Petronov from Personality Conflicts. The original names and their characters are the property of either Ellen Brand or Jennifer Bigley.
Ties the Bind Part 1 - Old Friends, New Friends
In a deserted warehouse outside the city two figures watched from a distance, as a third person walked into the open.
"Bulky, I'm bored," Skull complained from their hiding place behind some storage cans. "We've been watching this Ryan guy for hours. When are we going to go home?"
"Quiet Skull," Bulk hissed. "You know the boss said this guy is dangerous. Do you want to end up dead? "
Bulk and Skull had been in Spy Training ever since coming to France. To start with their training had been mostly physical training with a lot of paperwork. Both had benefited from the training. Skull had developed a sporting physique with good definition, built for speed and strength. Bulk on the other hand had lost most of his weight and replaced it was muscle. He now resembled a football player Angel Grove High would have killed for.
In addition both had been taught to defend themselves and Skull's Swordsmanship training had improved on the previous lessons his uncle had given him.
Both men had matured since being away from Angel Grove. They'd met new friends and colleagues and stopped fooling around. Both now bore a greater responsibility since they were able to carry guns.
Unfortunately patience was one of the things neither boy had learnt yet. Both were still eager to please Inspector Klauseau, so when he had given them their first assignment they had jumped at the chance. A number of disappearances had taken place over the last few months and two names had been constant in each report: Richard Ryan and William Kincaid.
"Hey look!" Skull said.
Looking over towards the man they had been sent to trail they noticed a tall black man standing in front of him. From their position Bulk and Skull could see the two men were trash talking and it looked as though Ryan was winning the war of words.
"Whoa!" Bulk exclaimed as he saw the larger man produce a cutlass and swipe at the youth known as Richard Ryan. "That's Kincaid."
"The other guy's got one too!" Skull added noting that Ryan had drawn a military sabre.
A brief battle followed, neither opponent afraid to use under handed tactics to win. After what seemed like hours, Ryan drove his sword into his opponent's stomach.
"He killed him," Bulk whispered.
Skull didn't reply. For some reason he felt compelled to watch what was happening. Ryan was standing over his opponent sword raised over his head.
"THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!" Ryan cried as he brought the sword down slicing through skin, muscle, blood vessels, bone, arteries, muscles and skin.
Bulk and Skull were speechless having just witnessed their first murder. Sure they had seen monsters in Angel Grove and had live with a winged monkey and living skeleton for a few months, but nothing prepared them for what they had just seen.
A strange mist seemed to float from the decapitated body and enter Ryan's body. The head and body disappeared into the smoke.
"We need to go Bulky," Skull said urgently. Something told him what was about to occur. "Run!"
Lightning struck the building as the left, shattering the windows and exploding light bulbs contained inside. A stray bolt hit the canisters that Bulk and Skull had been using for cover igniting the chemicals inside. As the canisters exploded Bulk threw his body in the way to protect his friend.
"Bulk?" Skull asked when the lightning had subsided and Ryan had left.
There was no answer from his larger friend. Pulling himself up, Skull checked to see if his friend was injured, but Bulk was not there. He looked around trying to find him before calling the authorities. Farkus Bulkmier, known to the world as Bulk was gone.
A plane over the Atlantic
It had taken time to sort out Bulk's affairs, to put his own in order and to serve out his notice period. And though events had conspired against him, it was his own grief that had prevented him from returning to Angel Grove sooner. In all honesty it was more a case of cowardice. Returning to Angel Grove meant facing those he had failed, namely Bulk's parents.
And now, Eugene Skullovitch was relaxing in a seat, eating his complimentary bag of peanuts, and flirting with the stewardesses. Amazingly enough, some of them were flirting back. He remembered a time when they would have shot him down immediately. He really had grown up.
Part of it, of course, was his appearance. In his khakis, yellow button-down shirt, and suspenders, he didn't look like the punk he had been for so many years. He was also far more relaxed than he had ever been in his police uniform or the suit he mentally referred to as "spy wear". Life as a detective had agreed with him immensely.
His thoughts turned back to Angel Grove, and like clockwork, he began to think about her, Kimberly Hart. He had fallen for her the first day he had seen her, when she had first come to Angel Grove from Seattle. Her beauty, brains, and strength had grown on him, and at some point, his hopeless crush had metamorphosed into real, true love. Unfortunately, he hadn't known anyway to get her attention except by being obnoxious. That had only made her dislike him more, and he had very soon lost any chance of gaining her affections when she had begun dating Tommy. After she had left for Florida and broken up with Tommy, he had sadly bid farewell to his feelings and waited for them to go away. They hadn't. He wasn't sure he was up to seeing her again, especially since she would probably be trying to patch things up with Tommy. Oh, well. It wasn't as if he was a stranger to the game of "love her from afar".
Sighing, he closed his eyes and tried to get some sleep. He wasn't sure what was going to happen when he got home, and he wanted to be ready for anything. Yawning, Skull slipped off to sleep, and into dreams of Kimberly.
When his plane arrived at Angel Grove International, Skull was not surprised that there was not a large crowd waiting for him. He hadn't been very popular. What did surprise him was that standing next to his parents was Detective Stone. He had not expected the older man to come meet the plane. ~Maybe he missed me.~ Skull chuckled to himself at how unlikely that was.
After hugging his parents, he turned and shook Detective Stone's hand.
"Good to see you again, Skullovitch." Skull smiled. The smile turned sad as he embraced the young man in a hug and whispered: "I'm sorry."
Skull returned the look. Not many people had been there to help Skull through the loss of his best friend. Lieutenant Stone had been one of those few. He had even flown out to France and spent several days clearing out Bulk's apartment.
"Sir, now that I am back, do you think the agency might have room in it for a kid who just got his detective's license?"
"I think we could work something out," Detective Stone nodded.
The small group made its way out of the airport and to Skull's parent's car. On his ride home, Skull could not stop looking out the window. He had missed Angel Grove immensely in his time away, and now he was drinking in its sights like a man fresh out of the desert drinks water. Noticing some scorch marks on a building, he guessed that the Zeo Rangers were still in business. That brought back a host of interesting memories, especially of the time that he and Bulk were trapped in the Machine Empire's dungeons, waiting to fight a monster.
He sighed. Hard to believe that he and Bulk could no longer engage in their zany adventures. They'd been friends since before kindergarten, sometimes the only two in their group. As kids, Jason and Trini had drawn all the attention, leaving Bulk and Skull in the background. As a result, they had resorted to the usual attention-getting devices that young children use, and had just never grown out of them. There had never been a reason to. Jason Scott and his friends had always been in the spotlight, and no one had ever had a chance of stealing it away. As time had passed, he had fallen so far into the routines and thought processes of being a punk that he had almost forgotten that he was ever anything else. Only when he played his music did he break out of his shell.
"No more," he whispered. "I'm not going back to that. I've got a chance to be somebody, and this time, I'm not going to waste it."
Jason had been working out in the gym when he met her. She had walked over, taking her time to study him and his movements before reaching a decision.
"Do you mind if I join you?" she asked, taking a moment to ensure she was warmed up.
"Sure," he replied, glad for the company. The Rangers, his best friends were all out doing their own things and he had been left with little to pass the time. "I don't remember seeing you around here before."
She shook her head, moving to copy his stance. "No, I just moved to town a few days ago. I start school on Monday."
Jason couldn't help looking at her. She was striking, but not conventionally pretty. Her features were far too strong for that, but they were certainly pleasant, especially the curve of her mouth. Her hair was a brilliant red, the colour of autumn leaves, and her eyes were a smoky hazel. Most startling of all was her height. When she stood next to him, he realised that she was almost an inch shorter than Kimberly, standing only about five foot one.
"I'm Jamie, Jamie Zedden. What's your name?"
"Oh, I should've known it was you, nice to meet you." Noticing his curious look, she explained. "I made a few enquiries and discovered that you were one of the people who teach martial arts. Ernie said I needed to see you before he would allow me to use the gym for some private practice. So, what style are you?"
Jason grinned. Ernie had no such rule that he knew of, although it did make sense to ensure people knew what they were doing before allowing them to practice unsupervised. It seemed the portly bar tender was trying to make sure that Jamie made a few friends.
The time passed quicker than he had expected, but then of all the ways he had envisioned his morning, discussing martial arts with a beautiful redhead had not one of them. He wasn't going to complain, though. "I have a fourth degree black belt in American Style Karate," he informed her.
"American Style, huh? That's pretty interesting. I just earned my fourth in Shotokan."
Now Jason was impressed. "Shotokan? That's a tough style."
"Yeah, but I love it. Besides, where I come from, you have to be tough."
"Where are you from?" he asked. It wasn't just innocent curiosity that caused him to ask the question. He remembered Tommy telling him of the time when Scorpina had disguised herself to entrap Adam.
"Just moved up here from one of Los Angeles's 'finer neighbourhoods,'" she grimaced.
Jason and Jamie spent a long time after their workout was done, discussing everything they could think of. Jason was completely enthralled. Jamie was one of the most interesting people he had ever talked to and certainly the most interesting person he had met in a long time; he really enjoyed being with her.
They talked about other things for a while, but all too soon, the real world intruded, and she had to go home.
High school life has a definite rhythm all its own. The days are carefully measured out into semesters, quarters, weeks and periods. Appearing with stunning regularity are the dances. You can almost set your watch by them. Angel Grove high was no different. Like everywhere else, they had a dance for every major occasion, and a few for no occasion at all.
Tonight was the Start of Year Ball and despite other demands on their time, such as a busy class schedule, defending the world and spending time with their families all the Rangers had been able to attend. One by one, the Rangers paired off, leaving Tommy and Kimberly standing by the punch bowl.
They watched as their friends circled the floor. Angela had claimed Zack almost the minute he had walked in the door, and his friends hadn't seen him for more than two minutes of the whole night. David and Kat were lost in each other, barely noticing anyone else. Rocky was dancing with Katarina, a girl he had been getting to know after another of his failed relationships although she wasn't a student at Angel Grove; the pair had dated briefly but decided it wouldn't work. Their relationship was now a strong friendship rather than a boyfriend/girlfriend deal. They were much happier. Adam and Tanya seemed attached at the hip, they hadn't been apart for the entire evening. Trey and Chelsea were enjoying themselves as well, dancing close together in the center of the floor.
Trini and Billy had finished their dance and made their way over to the table, Trini was approached by a nervous looking Richie and the two engaged in small talk for a while before she asked. "Well, Richie, do you want to dance?"
He chuckled and nodded after receiving a permissive nod from Billy. She smiled at how he was still the same shy young man she had almost dated. Nothing had come of it, though, and now the two were just good friends. They headed for the dance floor, leaving Tommy and Kimberly alone as Billy was drawn onto the floor again by Marge, each suddenly unable to meet the other's eyes. They had attended so many dances like this one, but all of them as boyfriend and girlfriend. Now that that phase of their lives was behind them, they were unsure how to react in this development. The uncomfortable situation was broken by a young man, who popped up out of nowhere.
"Miss Hart, how about a turn around the floor?" Skull asked.
"Sure. Let's go." The two of them headed out onto the floor, leaving Tommy alone with the punch.
"Looks like it's just you and I," he told the soda-and-fruit-juice concoction, pouring himself another cup.
"Can I have one?" a voice behind him asked. Tommy turned to see a girl in a knee-length black dress holding a paper cup out to him.
"Yeah, sure," he responded, filling the cup. As he handed it back to her, he took a better look. Her hair was sandy brown, and her eyes were an odd tawny gold colour. She was rather tall, as well, easily reaching the height of his chin.
"I don't think I've seen you around here before," he told her, extending his hand. "I'm Tommy Oliver. Are you new to the school?"
"Lillian O'Neil," she replied, transferring her cup into her left hand and shaking his. "No, I'm not new here. I've attended Angel Grove High for four years. You've just probably never noticed me. We're not in any of the same classes, and I don't get into the spotlight that much. I've seen you all the time, though."
"Oh. So, why aren't you dancing? Your date stand you up?"
She shook her head, amused. "No, I didn't have a date. I came with some of my friends."
"Where are they?"
"Out dancing, same place yours are, I'd expect."
He looked over at her. "You want to dance?"
"Hmm," she mused, regarding him for a moment. "Sure. I'd love to."
They walked out to the floor just as a slow song came on. Tommy swallowed hard. He hadn't been thinking of a slow dance when he'd asked her. Seeming to sense his discomfort, Lillian looked over at him, challenge and amusement visible in her odd eyes. Tommy smiled, his unease evaporating. It was just a dance, after all, even if it was a slow one. It wasn't like he'd asked her to marry him or anything.
Lillian slipped her arms around Tommy's neck, and he put his around her back. As the two swayed in time to the music, Tommy thought about how good it felt to have someone in his arms. He had missed Kim and Kat, but Lillian didn't feel like simply a substitute for either of them. For the first time since his breakups, Tommy felt interest in someone again. He already knew that Lillian was far different from either Kat or Kimberly. She seemed darker, older. Something about her drew him in a way neither of his two previous girlfriends had done. Suddenly she looked up at him and smiled mysteriously.
"I hear you're a bit of a Romeo, Tommy. You change girlfriends like most people change socks. Should I be worried?" she asked in her slightly husky voice.
"I don't think so," he replied. "When something interests me, I stick with it for a good long time."
She raised an eyebrow. "Until you get bored with it?"
"Sure. But I don't get bored very easily. I like mysteries and puzzles, and there's almost always something new for me to figure out." At the sight of her one-sided smile, a realization hit Tommy square between the eyes. They were flirting! He hadn't flirted with a woman since the first days of his relationship with Kimberly.
"Well, then, I'll attempt to keep things mysterious. Do you like to hike?"
"I love it. You do a lot of hiking?"
"Yes. I really love photography, especially nature shots. I'm very handy with a camera."
Just then, the DJ announced the final song of the night, to Tommy's shock. How long had they been dancing, anyway? After the last dance was finished, Tommy and Lillian said their goodbyes and headed back to their respective groups of friends. Both were greeted by knowing grins and an army of questions.
"Guys, it was just a couple dances," Tommy told his friends. "That's all. Come on, let's go. I'll tell you all about her on the way home."
"Lil, that was Tommy Oliver, the handsomest boy in our entire school! He's cute, he's nice, he's smart, he's currently available, and he spent the entire night dancing with you!" Randi gushed, tossing her short red hair. Lillian shook her head, amused at her friend's bubbliness.
"Randi, we're seniors in high school. Next year, we'll all be going our separate ways, off to different colleges. I'm not in the market for a great romance, and I doubt he is either." Still, Lillian had to admit that Tommy had a definite effect on her. ~He is cute,~ she thought to herself. When they'd been dancing, she'd been acutely aware of what martial arts had done to and for his body. ~Hard biceps, flat stomach, nice chest, defined back, and a very tight butt.~ Mentally she smacked herself in the head. ~Stop thinking about it! You'll never get to sleep tonight if you keep this up!~
"He's so dreamy," Randi went on, unaware of the direction of her friend's thoughts. The two were currently walking down the street that led from the school to their homes. Streetlights gave the whole area a comforting glow, and like most Angel Grove girls, they knew a great deal of self-defence. Lillian also had her black belt in Tiger Kung Fu, so they felt fairly safe walking home by themselves.
"Randi, come on. He just broke up with Kimberly Hart. He's probably not interested in a relationship right now, and if he is, he's on the rebound. Who wants that?"
"You know what, Lillian? You are too serious and cynical for your own good. If Prince Charming rode up on a white charger to save you from the dragon, you'd ask to see some ID."
Lillian chuckled. "Of course I would. I'd have already killed the dragon."
"Oh, you!" Randi shoved her friend playfully.
The sun beat down on downtown Angel Grove, despite the fact that summer was almost over. Temperatures were in the mid-60's, and the streets of the shopping district were clogged with people. The festive atmosphere of that Saturday morning was infectious, and Jason felt good to be alive. Part of it had to be attributed to being a Ranger once more. The Power had an invigorating effect.
He had continued to meet with Jamie and the two had become good friends. Jamie had also formed a friendship with Emily, Jason's girlfriend. Today Jamie had 'borrowed' him for the day as she wanted to go antique shopping, something he had never before endured. Emily was not the type to take him shopping and for that he was grateful. Somehow he couldn't imagine himself doing this on a regular basis for any woman. Jamie was looking for antique weapons, however, which was something Jason had always been interested in. Besides, her excitement made everything worthwhile.
Jason watched as Jamie looked over the man's collection of antique knives, swords, and other weapons.
A flash of light on steel drew her eye. Crossing to the case, Jamie saw a beautiful, strangely crafted sword lying on the velvet inside. "Could I take a look at this one?" she asked.
"Ah," Mr Hill commented in his Maine drawl, slowly coming over to the case. "A good choice. No one really knows where this sword came from. I inherited it from my grandfather, but how he came by it, I never found out. He never wanted to discuss it any. I've had it examined by every expert in the area, but not one of them can tell me where this sword is from."
Jamie listened and watched impatiently as the old man lifted the sword from its case and handed it to her. When she took it, she felt a slight shock, as if the blade had a small static charge, then nothing. Taking it in one hand, she tested the heft, raising her eyebrows at its lightweight. "Steel?" she asked, swinging it.
Mr Hill shook his head. "Nope. They don't know what it is. It seems to be plumb old, but just how old, no one can say."
She examined it closely. "You're right, it's very odd. Look, the blade is shaped like an English broadsword, but there's no blooding channel, and it has these funny runes etched on the blade. I'd almost say they were Norse, but the Norse never made swords like this. The pommel stone's like nothing I've ever seen. It could be milk quartz, or a moonstone, but it's huge, almost the size of a quarter." She suddenly came to a decision. She had to have that sword. "How much?"
Mr Hill looked at the girl in front of him for a long moment. A sword like that usually cost upwards of a thousand dollars, but the girl and the sword seemed made for each other. "Well, I like you. And that sword doesn't have a past, and doesn't have no identifying marks, so it's almost worthless to a collector. I think it's time to unload the thing. Twenty dollars and it's yours."
Jamie nearly fell over. "Twenty dollars? Sir, are you sure?"
"Course I'm sure," Hill snapped. "Twenty dollars, take it or leave it."
"I'll take it!" Jamie handed the man a twenty-dollar bill, and he put it into the cash register.
"Oops, almost forgot." Hill cackled. Reaching behind the counter, he drew out a scabbard made of something dark and two small rings, each with a small coloured gem. "These were given to me at the same time as the sword. The scabbard is part of the purchase price. The rings, nothing valuable, perhaps a party favour. You'll want to keep the sword sheathed in town, of course. And before you ask, no, that scabbard ain't leather. Nobody knows what it is, either."
"Thank you very much, sir," Jamie replied wholeheartedly, slipping the sword into its scabbard and going out into the sun, placing the rings in her pocket as she did so. Jason rose to go, and Hill suddenly put a hand on his shoulder.
"Young man, is she your girlfriend?" the old man asked, seriously.
"No sir, just a friend," Jason responded, wondering what this was about.
"You keep an eye on her. There's something funny about that blade. It almost seems like it was made for her. I don't reckon there's anything dangerous about it-- I wouldn't have sold it to her if I did, but..." He trailed off, but Jason caught his meaning.
"I'll keep my eyes open, sir." He then followed Jamie out into the sunshine.
To be continued