"And we all know how that turned out," the Dark Lady muttered blackly, her tale completed. She glowered at her captive. "One stupid, powerless ex-Power Brat and the most feared killers in the universe can’t off you. If I hadn’t stopped them, those idiots would have killed Tommy and ruined everything."
Kimberly had wondered who had stopped the Mercytes moments before the Turbo Rangers had sealed the time portal. She could scarcely believe everything that Katherine had endured. With all that had befallen her, how could she have kept her sanity, and with all the lies Rita had fed her, it was no wonder her friend hated her. Kim knew she had to think fast. Fortunately for her, Kat wasn’t wanting her dead simply out of revenge; she wanted her dead in order to keep from becoming the Dark Lady. That gave her a glimmer of hope. The question was, could she convince her one-time friend that there was another way to prevent it from happening?
"It’s taken me a long time to recoup from that fiasco," the woman who used to be Katherine Hillard continued.
So that explains the reprieve.
"And now I’m going to do what I should have done from the start --kill you myself." The sorceress laughed mockingly. "Poor Kimberly. Tommy will miss you, but I’m sure he’ll get over it."
"You’re not a killer, Kat," Kimberly claimed with conviction, praying that she could stay calm and focused. She hoped she could remember everything Trini had taught her, and she prayed that the old Kat was still inside the sorceress somewhere.
"Oh? ‘Kat’ may not be a killer, but the Dark Lady…. Weren’t you paying attention, Kimmie? The floor of this throne room is stained with the blood of my enemies," the sorceress asserted.
"But even the Dark Lady never killed anyone in cold blood. It was always self-defense. They attacked you first; you’ve never gone out and waged war on anyone out of sheer spite and greed. When you hunted folks down, it was never with the intent to murder; you always had something in mind first.
"And even if you were a killer, you care for Tommy too much to deliberately hurt him. He’d be devastated if I died now that we’re back together and going to be married. Could you do that to him? Could you rip his heart out? Could you live with yourself?"
"I wouldn’t have to. If Kat marries Tommy in the past, I will cease to exist."
"Not right away, you won’t. Remember what Nortimra said? And I remember what Zordon told me after my trip back to the 1880s. You’d create something called a paradox. Your present won’t change until the events in the past that led to it are changed. That means, until Tommy gets together with your younger self, you’ll have to watch him grieve for me. Pain and grief you caused."
"It’ll be worth it," the enchantress asserted, but there was the slightest of catches in her voice.
"Will it? Killing me won’t banish me from Tommy’s heart, you know. Your scrying proved that. He’ll always have a place for me even if he marries someone else; you’ll always have to share him with me, and the memory of a dead rival can be more powerful than the presence of a living one. Would you ever feel really secure in Tommy’s love? Would you never worry about competing with a ghost? Would you ever wonder if the only reason Tommy was with you was because I was dead? All Rita would have to do is make you doubt your relationship with Tommy, and she’d have you just like she did before."
"But what if he never fell in love with you?" the Dark Lady challenged, her eyes gleaming with sudden inspiration, and Kim had to wonder if Rita was whispering in her ear. "I can go back and fix things so that he never even met you. Then he’d be free!"
"But would he be the Tommy you fell in love with?" Kimberly countered. "We’re shaped by all the people in our lives. Sure, Tommy could have met the others and became a Ranger without me being around, but he’s told me that I was one of the reasons he never got down on himself when he lost his powers, why he never gave up and kept on hoping he’d get them back some day. It wasn’t easy fighting the depression, anger, hurt and envy, and if he hadn’t fought, then there’s a good chance Rita could have gotten her hooks into him and made him evil again.
"What if he never became the White Ranger? Would you have even met him? If you had, would you have still fallen for him. Would he still be the man you love? He’d still be cute, but he’d be a different person inside --where it really matters.
"You once said you’d really love to have a relationship like he and I had. You told me that what impressed you most was that a guy could care so much and show it openly. How could you have seen that if Tommy and I never had our relationship?
"And if not me, then he might have fallen for whoever the Pink Ranger was at the time...."
Be silent!" the Dark Lady hissed sharply, not liking the turn of the conversation, but Kim pressed home her advantage.
"Do you really love Tommy? You’re not doing this for his happiness... in fact, you’re trying to destroy his happiness. You’re doing this for your own selfish reasons!"
The sorceress let out a shriek. Energy flew wildly from her fingertips, smashing into walls, columns and Kimberly’s containment field. The trapped woman tried not to flinch as energy flared around her. Then, a wayward burst hit the platform. The field shorted out, and Kim was thrown from the base, landing hard amid the debris.
"I have to do this!" the mage screamed, on her knees, weakened by the power expenditure. However, to Kimberly’s ears, her voice sounded different. It wasn’t as cold and haughty as before. If she wasn’t mistaken, a little bit of Kat’s inflection was in her tones. She had been purposely addressing the sorceress by her name in an effort to reach the former Ranger within. Had she gotten through to her somehow?
"I don’t want to be the Dark Lady," she continued to rage. "I want to be Katherine Hillard again! I want to be happy; I don’t want Rita’s powers to make me evil!"
"Kat, you’re not evil, even if you have Rita’s dark magic inside you," Kim asserted, overjoyed to see that her friend had managed to regain a tiny bit of control over her alter ego.
"If I’m not evil, then why did the Morphin’ Grid reject me when I touched it? Why did you guys turn me away?" the enchantress demanded, referring to the time she’d touched the Grid while retrieving Tyler’s Power Coin.
"Think, Kat. If you’d joined the Morphin’ Grid at that time, what would have happened to Tyler? Who would have saved him? Who would have given him the key to defeating Malus? What would have happened to the earth and the moon if you hadn’t absorbed Rita’s powers? The Grid rejected you because it wasn’t your time yet. You had a mission to fulfill, Pink Ranger!"
"That means I’m doomed to be the Dark Lady always!" the woman who was once Katherine sobbed.
"Not necessarily," Kimberly said quietly, coming over to embrace her devastated friend. "The timelord told you that the bigger the change in the timestream, the longer it takes to correct. Did it ever occur to you that maybe your life as the Dark Lady was the screw up? That maybe you weren’t meant to be the Dark Lady and Rita messed up time again?"
The sorceress glared up at her; however, to Kim’s surprise, when she spoke, the voice did not belong to the Dark Lady.
"Don’t listen to her! She’s desperate to save her life; she’ll say anything! She’s the reason Tommy doesn’t love you. Kill her, and you’ll have everything you ever wanted."
The Dark Lady put her hands over her ears as if to shut the voice out. "Shut up and leave me alone, Witch!"
"Rita?" the gymnast queried softly.
Her companion nodded. "If I kill you, I’ll have everything I ever wanted."
"No, you won’t. Kill me, and you really will become evil. You’ll have killed an innocent in cold blood."
"You’re no innocent, Kimmie," Rita sneered through Kat. "You did this to her!"
"So you say, but we both know who’s really at fault," Kim answered her old nemesis. To Kat, she said, "Even if you believe that I am responsible for what’s happened to you, my baby has done nothing."
"Yes, Kat, I’m pregnant," she sighed, praying she’d done the right thing by mentioning it.
"Y-you can’t be! You’re not even married... Rose isn’t supposed to be born...."
"That’s your past, not mine. You changed all that by sending the Mercytes. You may not give a damn about me, but can you kill Tommy’s baby? After all, you cared for Tyler because he was a part of Tommy.
"Kat, if you love Tommy, don’t listen to Rita. When has she ever told the truth to anyone? She’s been going on about how this is all my fault, but she’s the one who kidnapped you and put you under her spells. She’s the one who took your life away. Why? Because she’s hated Tommy ever since she lost her evil Green Ranger. This isn’t about you and me, Kat. It’s about Rita trying to get revenge on Tommy and using you to do it, just like she did when you first came to Angel Grove. Don’t let her use you any more."
"But how? I can’t...."
"Yes, you can," Kim insisted, grabbing the shaken sorceress by the shoulders and looking her squarely in the eyes. "Listen to me. You don’t need me or Tommy or anyone else to defeat Rita. You have the strength inside you. You’re the only Ranger who has ever thrown off Rita’s control without a counter spell or something. Remember how you shook her off when I fell off the balance beam? Your goodness broke her hold on you. If you want to change what happened to you, it has to be something inside you that makes the difference --not Tommy’s love or the lack thereof-- otherwise Rita will be able to undermine anything you do.
"Send me home, Kat. Killing me won’t make Tommy love you any more than he already does --and he does love you. You see, even though Tommy and I are going to be getting married, I still have to share him with you. With Jason. With all our friends. He has room in his heart for all of us, and you know what? I don’t mind at all. If he didn’t care so much about everybody, he wouldn’t be Tommy."
The Dark Lady paused, considering her words. The anxious mother-to-be regarded her captor; she could almost hear their old foe railing at her host.
"If I send you back to when I took you, you won’t remember any of this," the sorceress cautioned.
"That’s all right. If I knew about this, I’d be tempted to do something to influence the outcome."
"But what if it doesn’t work?"
"You have nothing to lose by trying it this way instead of Rita’s. If it doesn’t work, you have the power to try again. What could it hurt?"
She stared deep into the jewel-blue eyes. She could see the conflict raging inside her friend. Kimberly didn’t want to push her luck, but she couldn’t let Rita get a solid hold on Katherine again.
"Trust yourself, Kat. Believe in yourself. I do."
She didn’t look away as Katherine studied her. Kim held her breath, waiting as the sorceress tried to determine the veracity of her words.
"Very well," the Dark Lady said at last.
Kim could not hold back her sigh of relief.
"Stand over by the balcony," the enchantress instructed.
Kimberly took her place and smiled encouragingly. "Don’t worry, Kat; you can beat Rita. I know you can."
The Dark Lady said nothing, and with a wave of Kat’s slender hand, the young woman saw her world begin to swirl about itself like a whirlpool, slowly dissolving, sweeping her away.
* * *
Kim found a nearby bench and slowly sank into the seat, her knees feeling suddenly weak. The doctor put it at just about twelve weeks... Tommy’s surprise visit at the end of February.
Now what? she wondered. What were they going to do? She was supposed to work and start school at AGU in the Fall. Tommy wouldn’t be home for good until late November/early December. They weren’t supposed to be married until just before Christmas!
Kim buried her face in her hands, feeling lightheaded. She was going to have a baby! The thought didn’t scare her as it once would have. She and Tommy were only nineteen --pretty young to be parents-- but there were times when Kim’s spirit felt as old as Zordon! There was so much to consider... to do.... How was she going to tell their folks? Well, Tommy’s parents wouldn’t be a problem; Jan had figured out she was pregnant before she had any inkling. She had even made the doctor’s appointment for the pregnancy test. Besides, his folks had been so great already; they’d do whatever they could to help out, but her mother... ooh, that was one phone call Kim wasn’t looking forward to. On the one hand, her mom would be thrilled to be a grandmother; on the other, she’d be worried about how it looked for her daughter to have a child out of wedlock. Sometimes her mom could be so old fashioned....
Kim felt another wave of dizziness hit her. She shook her head, trying to clear it; that only made her nauseous.
Oh, tell me this isn’t morning sickness!
Kim finally pinpointed her greatest anxiety as what to tell Tommy. He’d be thrilled, without a doubt --he’d talked often enough about having his own family. But what would knowing he was going to be a father do to his racing career? He’d want to come and be with her --watch the baby grow. He’d probably want to get married right away, but they really needed the money from his driving --now more than ever. If he gave that up, he’d never be able to start his own school. She didn’t want Tommy to sacrifice his dream.
We should have been more careful.
Unable to sit still any longer, Kimberly hopped up and meandered over to the water’s edge. She stooped down to pick up a couple of stones and idly tossed them into the water, watching the ripples surge then slowly melt away. There was no sense worrying about what could have been.
Tommy, I wish you were here right now. I’m so happy and scared and....
Kim’s head shot up to find her fiancé coming down the path towards her. How had he known where she was? She hadn’t called Jan or anything upon leaving the clinic. She hurriedly dashed away the moisture that had gathered in the corners of her eyes.
"How’d you know I’d be here?" she wondered. This was almost too good to be true, and yet, here she stood, awash in his tender gaze and warm smile.
"Mom said that you had a doctor’s appointment and that you’d had a lot on your mind lately. I just figured you’d eventually show up here; you and I have done some pretty heavy-duty thinking on this spot," he elaborated. Then he became serious. "Is something wrong, Kim?"
"Not really... oh, I’m just so happy you’re here!" With a joyful squeak, she threw herself into his arms, hugging him as tightly as she could.
"I didn’t mean to be away so long," he apologized, tilting her head up to give her a heartfelt kiss. When their lips parted, Kim caught Tommy’s hands in hers and beamed up at him, flashes of liquid silver glimmering in her eyes.
"Tommy, I’ve got something to tell you...."
* * *
Ice blue eyes watched as first shock, then happiness passed over Tommy’s handsome features. With a whoop of joy, he picked up his fiancée and whirled her about. The parents-to-be laughed, chattering excitedly between exuberant kisses. The watchful eyes narrowed.
You’d better be right about me, Kimberly, for all our sakes.
* * *
After making her good-byes and declining the offer of a ride back to the dojo, Kat stepped onto the front porch and drew in a calming breath. Her hand shook as she grasped the railing.
This wasn’t quite the homecoming she had expected.
She had wondered if Tommy might have found someone else --maybe even settled down if he wasn’t still driving for his uncle, but she had hoped that he hadn’t… that there would be a chance for them to try again. That he and Kimberly had gotten back together (and that had been some tale!) and had a sweet little daughter was a turn of events she hadn’t been prepared for. It surprised her that it hurt so much; she hadn’t realized just how much the possibility of getting back together with Tommy had meant to her.
"Kat, are you okay?" David queried. Tommy’s brother had joined them for dinner once he had finished with the classes at the dojo. She hadn’t realized he had followed her outside.
"The mush get a little too thick for you?" he pursued knowingly. His words gave her a moment’s pause; had she been that obvious? David chuckled and shook his head. "You’d think that after six months of marriage and a kid, the lovey-dovey stuff would have worn off, but noooo, they’re as bad as ever."
"They’ve always been pretty mushy," Kat agreed with a smile.
"You will be by for breakfast, won’t you?" David continued. "Hey, it’s worth the price of admission to see the former leader of the Power Rangers with baby food in his hair."
This time, Kat laughed softly.
"We’ll see how late I sleep in."
"Are you sure you don’t want a ride back to your car?"
"I’m sure. It’s only a couple of blocks, and it’s such a nice evening.... A walk will do me good, but thank you."
"All right, I’ll see you then."
Kat gave him a friendly peck on the cheek then headed down the drive without a backward glance. She had never felt so lonely in her entire life.
She tried to hold back her tears of disappointment as she idly kicked at the pebbles in her path while she meandered down the sidewalk. She had tried so hard not to get her hopes up, so what happened...?
It’s not fair! she raged inwardly. It wasn’t fair that Tommy had given Kim a second chance and hadn’t even given her a first. I loved you as much as Kim did... I’d never have broken your heart....
But Kim had broken his heart to save his life. Could she have done what Kimberly had: sacrifice everything she ever loved to keep this one man alive? As a Power Ranger, she’d risked her life often enough for her teammates, but this had gone beyond the call of duty.
Could she begrudge her friends their happiness? They certainly paid a high enough price for it. When she had first reached out to Tommy in the wake of Kimberly’s letter, her only intent had been to ease his pain... to make him happy again. Tommy was happier now than he had been in a very long time. She wanted to be happy for her friends --she really did. She just wished it didn’t have to hurt so much.
From the first time she’d laid eyes on Tommy while under Rita’s spell, she’d been attracted to him. As she watched him and the Pink Ranger together, she’d been envious of what they shared because she wanted that for herself. Once Rita’s spell had worn off, she’d thought her feelings would change… that they’d been brought about by the magic, but they hadn’t been. They were truly hers. All she had ever wanted was a chance to be happy like that; was that so much to ask for?
Let it go. If their relationship could survive all it has, then maybe Tommy and Kim were meant to be together. They’ve earned their happiness; don’t spoil it for them by being jealous.
Kat paused at the corner; she hadn’t realized she’d come so far. She looked back at the cozy little house. David was still on the porch, watching. Did he really know how troubled she was? Kat dredged up a cheerful smile and waved. She supposed she could turn around and go back --accept their invitation to stay.
Why don’t you? You came home because you were tired of being alone. Your friends opened their home and their hearts to you. They want to share their joy with you --just like they’ve always done. You don’t have to be alone.
Katherine suddenly tossed her head back and laughed at herself. She was being ridiculous! These were her friends. She didn’t need to be envious of them. They had proven time and again that she’d always have a place in their hearts, that she’d never be truly alone. She had wanted to be some place where she was loved and appreciated... she had wanted to be with someone who loved her. That place was just down the block. And that person...
They say there’s someone for everyone. Tommy and Kimberly had found each other long before I came along. There’s someone out there for me, too; I just haven’t found him yet....
Before she realized what she was doing, Kat was striding quickly back towards the Oliver house. David came forward to meet her.
"Change your mind?" he asked, his tone hopeful.
"I’m not certain if I’m up to the day bed in the baby’s room, but if that sleeper sofa is still available, I think I’ll take you up on it," she said. "I’d rather spend time with my friends that sit in a motel room all by myself."
"I’m glad," David replied. "As for the sofa... it’s pretty lumpy, so I’ll take it and you can have my room."
"I wouldn’t want to put you out...."
...or maybe I have met him and just haven’t realized it.
"It worked! I --she-- did it!" The Dark Lady gasped, momentarily fumbling over the pronouns as she watched her younger self walk back towards the Oliver house with David.
"If it worked, then why are you still here?" Rita demanded smugly.
"It’s the turn of the 22nd century; that happened back at the turn of the 21st. It’s going to take some time for the effect to catch up to us."
"And maybe nothing really changed in the past after all. Maybe it’s your destiny to be the Dark Lady!"
However, instead of invoking despair, the witch’s words brought a sense of calm to the fair-haired sorceress.
"Maybe you’re right," the Dark Lady said at last, smiling as if she knew some secret the other woman did not. "Although, considering how much you’ve wanted me to change the past and not become the Dark Lady, I’m beginning to believe otherwise. However, even if I didn’t change the past, I know I changed the present."
"Katherine throwing off your hold in the past showed me that I don’t have to be your slave… that I’m stronger than you are. I don’t have to be the Dark Lady any longer."
The words were uttered with conviction, and the enchantress felt the tumult within that her statement had created, but for a change, she was not at the eye of the chaos.
"Stupid twit! As long as you hold my powers, you’ll be the Dark Lady!"
But she knew better. She could feel it… with each passing moment, Katherine’s hold grew stronger over the fragmented personalities. However, Rita did have a point. As long as she existed in her mind, there was always a chance that she would regain control.
"Then perhaps it’s time I let them go," she answered, and she winced as laughter erupted in her head.
"Without my magic, you’ll die."
"I should have died a long time ago," the sorceress/Kat asserted. "I’m not afraid of dying, Rita. I know my friends are waiting for me."
"You can’t let go of my powers!" the would-be empress of evil gasped, desperation settling in. She could feel her hold over her host slipping like sand through her fingers. "If you let them go, they’ll destroy everything! Do you want to blow up your precious Earth?"
"As long as the magic is dormant, nothing will happen. I’ve had lots of time to read up on this. All I need to do is will them back to the cosmos from whence they came."
"You wouldn’t... you can’t... you’re too much of a wimp to...."
The former Dark Lady crossed the ancient chamber to stand on the balcony. Finding a large slab of fallen debris to sit on, she faced her home planet. Closing her eyes and looking inward, she examined the arcane energies permeating her being. Most of the powers at her command were simply stored within, waiting to be called up, but some of it was tied directly to her life energy.
"What are you doing?" Rita shrieked.
The one-time sorceress smiled.
The words were uttered, and Kat could feel the magic flowing form her like water draining from a bathtub. She could see it washing out to rejoin the fabric of the universe where it belonged.
"What have you done?" Rita raged, but her voice and presence were much fainter than before.
"I’ve released the powers. It will take them a long time to fully leave me, but I’ll be long gone by the time the process is finished."
"What do you mean?"
"I want nothing from you. Not even my life."
In her mind’s eye, Kat tore through thread after dark thread that ensnared and supported her life energy.
"I’ve wiped out all your spells...."
Already she felt the press of the centuries weighing down on her. She watched as her body seemed to shrivel up, her skin shrunken, wrinkled and darkened with immense age. She saw her fingers constrict into gnarled knots. She felt the weight of her hair... until it became brittle, the strands snapping.
Yet, for all the changes, there was no pain. The blue orb before her blurred as her vision dimmed. She closed her eyes, a sense of serenity sweeping her along. She wasn’t afraid of the darkness. She wasn’t afraid of the cold that seemed to have settled deep within her bones. She wasn’t afraid of anything. There was something familiar about the state in which she was suspended... like she’d experienced this before. She was waiting for something....
Then came the light.
She reached out to it and found herself a part of it --a multi-hued web of energy strands. Red. Yellow. Blue. Black. Pink. Green. White. The Morphin’ Grid. She herself shimmered pink, and though she knew she had no body, she yet seemed to have physical form --that of the young woman she had been the day Rita had abducted her. Overjoyed, she cast about, searching.... She felt their presences before she saw them.
"Welcome home, Kat!"
"It’s good to see you again."
"I’ve missed you all so much," Kat gushed as she felt herself surrounded by all those that she loved. Greetings poured in from all sides: Billy, Aisha, Jason, Justin, and Rangers she had never known.
"I’m sorry we had to send you away when you were here before," Tommy apologized, and Kat felt how much that refusal had cost him.
"I know; I had a job to do," she assured him with a smile.
"Thank you for what you did for Tyler... for all of us," Kimberly added, giving her old friend a warm hug.
"You’d have done the same for me," Kat said, knowing it to be the truth. She looked around at all her friends... her family. "Is Tyler here?"
"Junior’s around here somewhere," someone snorted, and everyone burst into peals of merriment.
Surrounded by laughter, friendship and love, Katherine Hillard knew she was home at last.