Categories > TV > Power Rangers > The Bond2 Reviews
How could Wes have matched Alex's DNA well enough to use his morpher? Alex's search for the answer leads him onto a path lined with secrets, some of which might be better left alone...
A/N: Rated PG. Some mature concepts.
This is not part of any of my Time Force series. It's a one-shot standalone, taking place a few months after 'Reinforcements From the Future'.
Based on a story suggestion by MuÃ±eca Brava, but changed quite a bit.
Alex frowned at the monitor. It didn't make sense. Not that many things about Jen's and her teammates' mission in 2001 made much sense - especially Jen and Wes, a suppressed part of his mind muttered resentfully - but this made less sense than all the rest. It seemed impossible. Strange that he had never really wondered about it before, but he had been unconscious in the hospital when it happened, and afterwards... There had been so much else to think about. Now a review of his final report of the mission to recover Ransik had brought it to his attention again. And this time, he had the time and the desire to find an answer.
"Is Trip here today?" he asked.
The computer's voice answered, sounding almost human, down to the appropriate emotional overtones. Research had indicated people were more comfortable dealing with machines that mimicked human behavior. Alex had always found it a little unsettling. "Officer Regis is in his office," it confirmed.
"Trip, it's Alex," he said, knowing the comm system would switch his voice to the correct location.
Not exactly a regulation greeting for a superior officer, but it brought a faint smile to Alex's lips. "Hello, Trip," he said, and paused. How to ask the question? Maybe it would be easier face-to-face. He touched a control on his desk, and the documentation on his monitor was replaced by the image of Trip's face, wide-eyed, framed by bright green hair and wearing his usual eager-to-please expression, fading a bit into caution as he saw Alex.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"It's not exactly anything wrong. I just have a question." Alex hesitated again. "When you and the others arrived in 2001, you needed someone with my genetic code to activate my morpher before the rest of you could use yours."
"You found Wes."
"Yes, we only tried him because he looked so much like you." Trip seemed a little uncomfortable with that statement, probably because he had some idea of how much Alex disliked being reminded of his resemblance to the man who had taken his morpher.
And my fiancÃ©e... He blocked the thought quickly. "And it worked."
"Right. He was able to use the morpher."
"But each morpher is locked to a specific person by their DNA. He would have had to be an exact match to me. That should be impossible. What are the odds of two people having identical genetic codes?"
"Unless they're identical twins, the odds are astronomical." Trip's expression had become more cautious, even wary.
"Even if I'm descended from him, we would only share a fraction of our genes. A small fraction, after so many generations."
"How do you explain it?"
Trip shrugged helplessly. "I can't, Alex. Not any more than I can explain why you and Wes look alike."
"Identical, except for hair color. Sometimes people do look alike, it happens. But the DNA, it still would have been different..." He shook his head. "There's got to be an explanation. And I intend to find it." He reached to cut off the visual link.
"Alex..." Trip's voice stopped his hand above the button.
"Are you sure you want to know?"
"Why? What is it?"
"I..." The green-haired alien's face was troubled now. "I don't know. I just have the feeling that - some things are better left alone."
Alex sat in silence for a while after disconnecting. Trip's hunches were worth listening to; he could sense things most humans couldn't. But in this case it didn't matter. He and Wes had a bond - beyond the fact that we both love the same woman, that rebellious part of his mind chimed in - and whatever it was, he had to find out the truth.
The Time Force lunchroom was more crowded than usual. Alex scouted for a place to sit, wondering why they could travel across lightyears of space and even through time, but still couldn't solve the eternal problem of lunchtime seating. Every table was taken by small groups of chattering, laughing officers and civilian employees, none of whom he wished to socialize with at the moment. Except... he paused as he caught Katie's eye from her seat a few meters away, with Lucas and Nadira. She nodded, smiled, and waved him over. Lucas didn't seem quite so eager when he looked up, but he beckoned, and Nadira waved enthusiastically, almost bouncing in her seat.
Alex took the invitation, pulling a chair up to the table. The usual greetings and the business of ordering food from the small cater console took up a few minutes, as he tried to think of a way to approach the topic he wanted to discuss with them. With Katie and Lucas, anyway; it still seemed very odd indeed to see Nadira at Time Force, socializing with the very officers who had pursued her and her father into the past - even dating one of them. No point in holding old grudges, though, now that Ransik was no longer a threat and had made such an effort to make amends for his crimes.
"Um? Oh, sorry, Katie, I wasn't listening."
She smiled, a little teasingly. "I said you're very quiet today."
"Sorry," he said again.
"Not really. But I did want to ask you and Lucas about something."
"Go on. Ask us about what?" Lucas prompted after a moment of waiting.
"About Wes. About what happened in 2001." All of them were looking at him now, as he paused. "How could he have been able to pass the genetic lock and use my morpher? It should have been impossible."
Katie and Lucas exchanged a glance. Lucas shrugged. "We wondered too. I guess we assumed it was just incredible luck that we bumped into someone who was close enough to you genetically to be accepted by the morpher."
"But it takes more than being close to the same DNA. It has to be identical."
Katie shook her head. "At the time, we didn't question it. We were just happy to have the morphers working."
"Daddy didn't seem surprised," Nadira said, joining the conversation, "just mad. I heard him yelling something about how he might have known you would find him and make him the Red Ranger."
Alex frowned slightly as Lucas took her hand. Nadira seemed completely unashamed of her relationship to the man who had been one of Earth's most dangerous criminals. He couldn't quite decide if it was out of insensitivity, foolishness, or a loyalty deeper than he himself would have been capable of.
"I guess we'll never know," Lucas said.
"No," Alex answered. "There's an answer out there, and there must be some way to find it."
Her office door was open, her head bent over some report she was reading, brown hair a little shorter now but still catching the light in a chocolate gleam. He watched her, seeing her shoulders rise and fall in a gentle sigh before she apparently sensed his presence and looked up.
She straightened in her chair and smiled, a little uncertainly. "Do you need something?"
"Just to talk."
"Is that so surprising?"
She met his eyes. "We haven't talked for months, since I came back from my last mission. Yes, it's surprising."
"If you're busy..." He shifted slightly as if to go, not even sure why he felt so hurt.
"No, I'm not busy. Come on in and sit down. I'm glad to see you."
He obeyed, taking the chair next to her desk and fidgeting as she waited, a brow lifting. Finally he asked, "How have you been?"
"Fine." She smiled faintly. "Took a while to get back into the routine. But I'm okay."
"Pretty boring after all that excitement, I guess."
"Too much excitement isn't good, either. I'm just glad it's over."
He hesitated again, as she watched. "Jen, if I'm being too personal or you don't want to talk about it, just tell me to leave. I'll understand."
"Sounds serious. What's this about?" Her face was still smiling slightly, but her eyes had become guarded.
"It's about Wes." He looked up to find no change in her expression. She had probably been expecting it.
"I was going over my records of your first mission into the past. When Wes used my morpher." He looked again, but Jen didn't react. "How could that have been possible?"
She had relaxed slightly, and was looking thoughtful now. "I really don't know. We had no time to worry about it then. Later... well, it didn't seem important. I assumed we'd just never know."
"You and Wes... were close. Did he ever say anything? Anything at all that might explain it?"
Jen shook her head. "Sorry. No."
"Nothing about his past, his parents, his family background that struck you as odd?"
"Not really. You already know his mother died when he was only a few years old. The only other thing was - he told me once that he was adopted." She smiled softly. "It was back when he was so angry with his father. I think he usually doesn't even think of Mr. Collins as not being his biological father."
"Adopted. That's strange; I was adopted too." Coincidence? Or did it mean something? But he didn't see how it made any difference, considering they had been born a thousand years apart.
"I know." Jen lowered her eyes, perhaps because of the reminder of how intimate they had once been.
And then despite his promise to himself not to get into this, it slipped out. "Do you still miss him?" Alex could feel his cheeks flush.
But to his relief, Jen didn't seem angry, in fact she didn't seem to mind. "Yes, I still think about him sometimes. I'm glad I saw him again, on the Mutorg mission. Glad we had the chance to talk things out." Her eyes seemed to lose focus, looking beyond him, perhaps at another face, so like his own... "It took a little time, but we both realized we can't be together, and there's no use in..." And then she was back with him, smiling again. "Life goes on. I've accepted that it's over."
Alex smiled. "Well. I'm glad I came to see you," he added, feeling slightly awkward.
"So am I."
"I guess I'd better be getting back to work." He got up and turned to the door.
"Alex, if you find what you're looking for, will you tell me?" Her voice came from behind him, stopping him in the doorway.
"Sure. If you really want to know."
"Of course I do. We're still friends, aren't we?"
That smile, as she sat at her desk, the light once more gleaming on her chocolate hair... The same smile he had fallen in love with a lifetime ago, before time, and Wes, had driven them apart. "Of course," he said, and added very softly, "Forever."
It was gnawing at the back of his mind for the rest of the evening. The answer was there, somewhere, he was sure of it somehow. Somewhere in the assorted facts he knew, the things Trip, Lucas, Katie, and Jen had told him. If he could only put it together in the right way... Alex sighed. He had gone home, but had found no rest. Instead he was hunched over the small desk in his study, lights dimmed except for the glow of the monitor. Something in the mission records. Something about Wes. Something Nadira had said. Something...
It was just an obscure fact in Ransik's record, a crime he was strongly suspected of, but which had never been proven. A kidnapping. A tall, black-haired man had been seen in the act. A man whose description matched Ransik. The children had never been found. But why... and there it was. The father had been the first Time Force officer to arrest Ransik, a man who had pursued the mutant relentlessly until he put him in jail. Unfortunately, he had escaped soon after, and perhaps had found a way to take revenge.
It didn't explain things. Didn't even come close, only raised more questions. But there was one question he could answer right away. If he had the resolve to do it. /'Some things are better left alone...' /Trip's words mocked him as he tried to keep his hands steady, as he entered the codes which would override the privacy protections of Time Force medical records. Sometimes rank had its privileges. Maybe too much privilege. The answer was there now, or part of it, on his screen, as he stared, numbly aware of his heart pounding.
"It's after hours."
"I know that. I want to see Ransik /now/. In private."
"But Commander Drake..."
"Just do it!"
It didn't take long before they were face to face across a table in a Time Force prison visiting room. The man who had tried to kill him, and come damn close to succeeding. The man who had been the cause of his separation from Jen, the separation which had ended with her falling in love with Wes and breaking their engagement. Ransik. He had been the cause of so much trouble in Alex's life, and the lives of those he cared for. What else had he been the cause of?
Not quite the same man he remembered, though. Ransik appeared fully human now, the outward effects of his mutant genetics gone, as was the hideous scarring on his face and flesh. How many people had turned away from him; despised, feared, and hated him, because of his appearance? Despite all their new-found genetic perfections, human nature remained the same. Ransik had had some reason for his bitterness. Not enough to justify his actions, but some. But now, he had been cured on the inside as well as out; his eyes no longer contained the light of hatred.
"Commander. To what do I owe the pleasure?" Ransik asked now.
"Sorry to disturb you so late."
"It's worth it to see a fresh face." Ransik smiled.
Alex glanced around the room. Cured or not, the former mutant leader was still imprisoned in a maximum security Time Force prison, allowed an increasing number of privileges and opportunities to do something useful with his life, but still locked up. This comfortable but bare and gray visiting room must be a welcome change of scene for him.
"I have some questions for you. And I want the truth."
"Of course. Whatever I can do to help."
"Twenty-nine years ago, Lieutenant Martin Hamill and his wife took their kids out to Silver Memorial Park for the afternoon. Three babies, triplets, six months old." He watched Ransik closely, seeing his eyes widen, his skin pale slightly. "Something happened that day. Someone took those children. A tall, dark man, seen only from the back."
"Yes." The word was very quiet, and held a tone of sadness.
"You hated Hamill for arresting you and putting you in prison."
"So you kidnapped his children. They were never seen again."
Black eyes raised to Alex's, silently.
Alex took a deep breath. "I've never known who my biological parents were. I was found in a raid on an underground genetic modification lab on Mars, when I was about seven months old. Efforts to identify me were unsuccessful. Eventually I was adopted by a couple working on a hydration project. The Drakes. When the project ended, they returned to Earth, and brought me with them." He waited, but Ransik still said nothing. "The Hamills had another child a few years later, a girl. She entered Time Force, like her father, and applied for the Ranger program. Had her genetic code recorded as part of the process. Tonight, I ran my DNA against hers. There was a partial match. That means we're closely related."
"You seem to have figured it all out."
"Not quite. When Jen and her team followed you to 2001, Wes Collins was able to use my morpher. That would have only been possible if his DNA matched mine. A complete match. That happens only in identical twins, or clones." Again Ransik was watching, his face now completely controlled, giving nothing away. "I happened to be discussing it with Katie and Lucas today, and Nadira was there." Something flickered in Ransik's eyes at the mention of his daughter's name. "She said she overheard you saying that you should have known they'd find Wes to be the Red Ranger. Why? Why should you have known - and why were you not surprised he could use the morpher?"
"Perhaps it was just - a casual remark, with no meaning."
Alex shook his head. "No. You knew exactly what you were saying. After everything you've done to destroy my life, I think you owe me the truth now."
"Are you sure you want to know?" Ransik asked, seeming to echo Trip's words.
"I already know some of it. Yes, I want the rest."
"Very well. I suppose you're right, I owe you that much." Ransik stared at him for a moment, seeming to collect his thoughts. Then he began to speak, in a low but steady voice.
"I was about your age then, perhaps a couple of years younger, and much more foolish. The hardships of my life had made me bitter, and angry. I hated all humans; for rejecting me, for creating me, for making me the monster I was then. Most of all, I hated Martin Hamill, the man - the human - who had pursued and beaten me, and sent me to a Time Force prison for two long years. When I escaped, I vowed revenge.
"When I followed Hamill and his family to the park that day, my intention was to kill him. Perhaps that would have been kinder. But as I watched them, it occurred to me that once he was dead, he would no longer suffer, as I continued to suffer, and that my revenge would be at an end. That was not what I wanted. As I hesitated, wondering what I could do that would be worse than simply ending his life, my gaze fell on the children he obviously took such pride in.
"Those perfect children. So sweet, so pure, so perfected by the same genetic manipulation that had produced a creature like me. I would never have beautiful children like that. I would never see a smiling young face raised to mine adoringly, never clasp a small, trusting hand in mine. Even if I ever found a woman who would have me, how could I bring a child into the sort of life I led?
"A deep wave of envy, jealousy, and hatred overcame me. Hamill had gone for a few minutes on some errand. His wife was engrossed in a book, the children dozing in their triple carrier a meter or so away. By the time she saw me, it was much too late.
"So I found myself in hiding, with three small babies. Yes, I admit, my first impulse was to kill them. But I wasn't quite that much of a monster, even back then. The problem remained of what to do with them; until it came to me that I had the perfect revenge within my grasp. Hamill would never know what had become of his children. They would live, but they would never know their true parents, or even each other. I determined to leave them in widely separated places, never to be reunited with any part of their family.
"But first, there was one detail. The two boys were identical twins. I wanted to remove any possibility that they would one day recognize each other. So I traveled to Mars. Yes, I was well connected to the mutant underground, and had the resources to do it, and to have what I wanted done at an illegal genetics lab. I intended to change one boy's appearance, starting with a localized modification of his hair follicles. A simple manipulation. It wouldn't change his DNA in general; I didn't have the money for that, it would just change his hair from dark blond to near-black. Permanently.
"But before I could retrieve the child after the procedure, the lab was raided. I was not caught, and the lab operators never gave me away, probably more from fear than loyalty, but the baby was taken by the authorities. I reassured myself that this was what I had wanted, although I would have liked to make more changes to the boy's appearance. No choice in the matter anyway. I returned to Earth with the other children."
Alex broke a brief silence. "/I/ was that boy, wasn't I?"
"Yes. I kept track of you through my contacts. You were still the son of my most hated enemy. Ironic, I suppose, that you grew up to join Time Force and fight me yourself."
"And Wes - he must have been the other twin. But how...?"
"After what had happened, I decided to play safe and leave the other one someplace where there was no chance of interference from Time Force, and where he would never, ever come into contact with his brother or their parents." He hesitated, lips lifting slightly in a half-smile. "Perhaps I'm giving away secrets, but they are old ones, and as you said, I owe you the truth. We mutants had certain access to stolen time travel technology even then. It was a crude, and still experimental, device. I pulled strings and called in favors, and maybe the group who had taken it wanted someone foolish enough to test it for them. I used it, and took the other boy with me.
"We arrived safely in the past, I believe in 1975. Not having my later ambitions of world conquest, I simply took the child to the nearest charitable institution - a church, I believe - and left him there. I stayed only long enough to be sure he was taken inside. Afterwards, I imagine he was quickly adopted. I might have known fate would arrange for me to return to that time, and for him to battle me, as his father and brother had done. Ironic that by placing him there, to become so instrumental in my defeat years later, I planted the seed of my own downfall. Fitting punishment, perhaps." Ransik's voice was still strong, but filled with self-recrimination. "And now - I believe I have answered your questions."
Silence descended again, as Alex struggled to absorb it. Yesterday he had had no blood relations that he knew of. Now - parents, a sister in Time Force. And Wes. His brother. More than his brother; his identical twin. The man he had hated, who had taken Jen from him. Who had taken his morpher, and his role as the Red Ranger. And yet - and yet, there had always been something between them, he could see it now. Some bond, not of affection exactly, but something that had made him save Wes's father, and made him want them to be - not friends, but not enemies either.
"Why didn't you tell Wes when you were all back in the past?" he asked. "It would have been a sure way to demoralize him. It might have caused problems between him and Jen. And why didn't you tell me, when we fought, for the same reasons? I would think you would have said it just for the shock value. Or just to gloat."
"I deserve that, I know. Yes, I probably would have told. If I could have."
"What do you mean?"
Ransik stared down at his hands for what felt like a long time. Alex was starting to wonder if he was going to answer when he began to speak again. "There was a third baby, remember? A girl."
"That's right. What happened to her?"
"I returned from the past. Took the child. For the next few weeks, I tried to think of a safe place to put her. A place where she could have a decent life, but never know her family. I took care of her. Fed her, changed her, washed her, found myself worrying every time she coughed or sneezed, pleased when she smiled and laughed. One day, I was playing with her, listening to her babblings, when I thought I heard her say, 'Daddy...'"
"Oh my God. Nadira."
"Yes, Nadira. I found another genetics lab. Had her hair color changed, and a few other modifications; enough to make her a mutant like myself, at least outwardly, but not enough to make her the same sort of monster I was. That's why I never told any of you. If I had, she would have known what I did to her. Stolen her from her parents, raised her as a despised mutant, turned her against her own brothers."
"I... I..." Alex lurched to his feet. It was all too much, too much revelation, too fast. He retreated to the door, and pressed the button to summon a guard.
"Are you going to tell her?" He turned back to find Ransik watching him, his expression compounded of both anxiety and resignation.
"I don't know. Have to think about this."
"If it means anything to you, I'm sorry, more than I can say."
"I know." Strangely enough, he did know, beyond any doubt. He tried to think. Should he tell Wes he didn't belong in his own time? But he had grown up there. It was his home; he had become a part of it and made important contributions to it; in a more important sense he did belong there. 'Some things are better left alone...' "No purpose in telling Wes," he said. "It might be interfering with the past, anyway. But maybe it's time for Nadira to know the truth. I'm sure she'd forgive you."
"You're her brother." It sounded so strange... "Whatever you decide, I'm ready to face the consequences."
Faint footsteps announced the guard approaching. He looked back at Ransik again as the key began to turn in the lock. The mutant was staring down at the table, his now-handsome face impassive, but his black eyes looking into some unknowable well of loneliness and guilt. The same loneliness that had led him to love his enemy's daughter and raise her as his own. The same guilt that had made him reveal the truth tonight, despite the risk.
"Thank you," he said, before the door closed between them.
She was waiting outside, in the cool night, the breeze lifting strands of brown hair as they gleamed like chocolate in the moonlight. "Jen?" he asked. "What are you doing here?"
"You seemed upset this afternoon. I was a little worried, so I had the network locate you. Why did you come to see Ransik?"
"I wanted to ask him about something."
"The same thing you asked me about?"
Strange how, despite everything, it all suddenly seemed easier with her there... Alex smiled, and took her arm as they started back towards the residential buildings. "I just realized I skipped dinner. How about we get something to eat, and I'll tell you all about it? Maybe you can even help me make some decisions."