"You do know I shouldn't really be here, right?"
Warp smiled at the hulking robot standing outside his door. "I know. But thanks for coming anyway, XR." He ushered him in.
XR stooped as he passed under the doorway, going in sideways to get his broad shoulders through. "I love what you've done with the place, by the way."
"This just a temporary arrangement," Warp shrugged. "Besides, it's not too bad. Well, by Trade World standards, anyway."
"By most standards these days." XR sighed. "I suppose those of us who still have homes—or planets, for that matter—should count ourselves lucky."
The silence dragged on. XR sat down on the mouldy-looking sofa and twiddled his thumbs. "So, what did you call me here for exactly? I'm supposed to be on duty. Star Command—what's left of it—is going to be pretty busy from now on."
Taking the chair opposite him, Warp looked at the robot with a sad grin. "I called you 'cause I figured you were the only one who would come. Nebula has never forgiven me for quitting the Rangers, and Nova... well, Nova and I never really saw eye to eye."
"Can you blame her? You were best friends with the guy who killed her father, you know."
"I know." He shut his eyes, trying to recall those days when he and Buzz had been able to call each other friends. The memories seemed to grow dimmer and dimmer as time went on, but he could never shake them altogether, no matter how much he'd tried. "She probably hates me for quitting too, but I just couldn't— I couldn't be a Ranger anymore, not when it meant fighting... him." He looked at XR again. "But you don't hate me, do you?"
"Hey, you've always seemed like a cool guy to me, Warpster. And, well, y'know, what's there to hate you for that I haven't done myself? Or have you forgotten XL?"
The pain was all too evident in XR's voice. Warp nodded, wondering if Star Command could have found another way—a better way—to take down XR's evil brother. But that was all in the past now. "I knew you'd understand, tin toy." The name was said with affection. He took a deep breath. "That's why I had to hear it from you. Look, I know something happened. Something big. People are saying that we're free—that Buzz is gone. What I want to know is... well, is it true?"
The sadness changed instantly to relief. "Oh, yes sir, it's true! We finally did it, Warp—we beat the bad guys and we're free!" Then XR paused. "You want to know what happened to Lightyear, don't you?"
"Yeah." Warp wasn't sure how to react to the news. He was happy, of course; he'd fought for freedom for years before he finally ran out on the Rangers. It was what he and everyone else in the galaxy had been wanting for so long. And yet...
"He's gone alright." XR was matter-of-fact. "We were all on an exploding ship, and he was offered a chance to escape, but... well, you know better than anyone what ol' Buzz Lightyear is like. We searched the debris afterwards, of course, but a blast like that doesn't leave survivors."
Warp nodded slowly. So this was it—Buzz was finally dead. Millions of people across the galaxy were probably celebrating this fact. He just felt numb. A memory came back to him, this time unbidden, of his first training mission with Buzz. He'd been a reckless idiot and gotten hurt, and Buzz had carried him through several miles of swamp to get him back to the cruiser, and then he'd spent the rest of the mission looking after him while the other rookies had all the fun. It was funny the difference a couple of decades could have on a person.
"Thanks for telling me," he said at last. "At least... at least it's over, I suppose. Galaxy's never going to be the same again, but maybe those of us who are left can try to get on with our lives now." He frowned. "Tell me, who was it who gave Buzz that final chance? Was it you? I can't believe it was Nova, that's for sure."
XR shook his head. "Nope, not me, buddy—it was Buzz."
Warp blinked. "Uh... what?"
"Oh, right! You don't know about the whole alternate universe deal, do you?"
"The what?" Warp listened in astonishment as XR related the events leading up the destruction of the Dreadnought.
"And so here's the part you're not going to believe," continued XR. "Not only was that weird burger guy trying to conquer the galaxy in his universe, but Buzz was still a Space Ranger—the greatest Space Ranger ever, apparently! And I was short! Can you believe that? Me, short! Man, it was weird."
XR's rambling stopped registering as Warp pondered the implications of what he'd been told. "Are you saying... are you saying this Buzz was good?"
"Yep, he was the one who saved us! Saves the galaxy every other week in his own universe, according to the other Commander Nebula. Seemed like a real nice guy too. Even Mira grew to like him, which I for one didn't see coming."
Warp listened with something almost like a smile forming on his face. He knew the loss and betrayal he felt would never go away, but maybe... maybe there really was hope out there. He'd never believed in much, but if there was one thing he did want to believe in, it was a universe where Buzz Lightyear was a good man.
He looked at the Academy graduation picture sitting on a scuffed table at the far end of the room. I used to live in a universe like that...