Disclaimer: The usual. Don't own anything you recognize.
KINGS AND VAGABONDS
By Etcetera Kit
Epilogue: Fly Away
Bridge glanced out at the setting sun, cradling his baby brother, Jordan, against his chest. The baby was dead asleep, sucking on his thumb and looking peaceful. Mirinoi really was beautiful. His parents hadn't ended up staying on Earth – and he wanted them to be happy. They were happy on Mirinoi, especially his mother. So he wrote to them and called them, visiting for a weekend when he could until they had finally pushed back the Troovian forces. Now, Doctor Oliver had allowed the B-Squad an extended vacation. He was spending a month on Mirinoi with his family – Z and her family was visiting for the week before they headed back to Earth.
"I see why Dad loves it here so much," Bridge whispered. "There's something about it that feels untouched."
Jordan slept on, unaware and not seeming to care. Bridge smiled. He had received the news of his mother's pregnancy with mixed emotions. It had only been about a month since their reunion – and a galaxy separated them. Was this the final replacement? But he soon learned that his mother's health had been so bad that they hadn't been able to have more children and, now that it had improved in leaps and bounds, they always had wanted a big family. After Jordan, however, the doctor had told her no more.
"You're lucky," he whispered to Jordan. "You never have to be afraid." The sun was sinking behind the trees. "But I'll always be around to protect you."
"Of course he doesn't have to be afraid – he's got the world's best big brother."
Bridge smiled as Z came out onto the porch, sitting on the swing next to him. She wrapped one arm around his shoulders, stroking Jordan's downy soft hair with her free hand. "I'm not used to being the big brother," he replied, wrinkling his nose. "Sky's my older brother, so I'm used to being the baby."
"You'll do fine," Z replied. She smiled at Jordan. "I think you're lucky. My parents aren't having any more children."
"Think we'll ever have children?"
"Oh – when we're about twenty-five." She paused. "I mean you want your brother to be old enough to understand that he's an uncle."
They fell silent listening to the evening sounds. It had been a year full of ups and downs, but he felt content. It made all the difference knowing that there was someone out there that loved him no matter what. And there was so much more out there that he wanted to see…
"What are you thinking about?"
"Us," he replied, meeting her gaze and smiling. "Sky called earlier today – he said that Cruger lost the last appeal trial."
Z nodded. "I know that I should be angry at him, but all I can think about is how glad I am to have my family back."
"Me too," he whispered.
She leaned her head on his shoulder. "And in two weeks we have to go back to the academy – break in all the new cadets."
"Let Sky scare them half to death?"
Z laughed. "That – and we get the new distribution of the A and B squads."
Bridge just smiled. Paris and Austin had come back from their mission with decisive evidence of the original A-Squad's demise. Out of respect, Doctor Oliver was waiting until the new year at the academy to reassign the ten-person B-Squad into the two squads. Each of them knew that the former Dino Rangers would be on the A-Squad, but no one was sure who would be promoted as the fifth member of the squad.
His mother came out on the porch. "Dinner's ready," she said softly. Bridge handed Jordan to her and he and Z followed her into the house.
It was night. Z shivered in the evening breeze, wrapping her arms around herself. The beach looked even more beautiful in the darkness. The stars studded the ink black sky and the ocean gently rolled in and out over the white sand. She didn't recognize any of the star constellations in the sky. It was disconcerting in a way. The sky had always been something constant when she'd been living on the streets.
She smiled as Bridge joined her on the beach. This had been the first place he showed her on the grand tour of Terra Venture – it now encompassed a few of the native villages and a handful of houses the colonists had built. She had seen the City Dome – which after wandering through the village, had seemed foreign. The villagers were what she had loved the most. Some of them were Bridge's family, while he had an aunt and uncle in the City Dome. It was odd being around both worlds, but it seemed natural for Bridge.
"Where's Earth?" she asked softly.
Bridge glanced up to the sky. "There," he said, pointing to a cluster of three tiny stars. The stars shone brighter than others. "Earth is beyond those three stars."
"Home," she whispered. "You know, I never thought I would call anywhere home. I thought that I would live on the streets until I got killed."
"Z – that's past."
She turned to Bridge, a smile on her face. "You know, I'm kind of glad that I got arrested initially. I wouldn't have met you guys otherwise." Or Cruger might not have been able to find a way to bring her to SPD like the others. It didn't matter – she had people who she knew would die for her here.
She thought to her parents. Each of them expressed their love for her in a different way, but it was their love nonetheless. Her father would hug her and dry her tears, while her mother would listen to all her problems, no matter how trivial. But neither of them knew the extent of the things that had happened to her on the streets. Bridge didn't even know all that happened, albeit he had a better idea than her parents. It would take time… she had all the time in the world now to tell them everything. And there was always her kitten – Inkwell – who she shared a lot of secrets with. He was staying with Sky until she got back from Mirinoi. Aside from Inkwell, her family had three dogs, seven cats, a huge aquarium full of fish and, for some reason, a lizard. It was always entertaining to watch the cats lurk around the fish tank.
It was different, going home on weekends to a regular menagerie, but it was home. Her mom blamed all the animals on her dad. It made sense to Z, since her father was a vet. They had gotten her graduation certificate from SPD framed along with formal pictures from graduation. In May, Doctor Oliver had graduated the members of the B-Squad that hadn't graduated previously – herself, Bridge, Sky, Syd and Austin.
Bridge wrapped an arm around her waist. She leaned into his embrace. It had been overwhelming to meet her parents and her maternal grandfather – the only relatives she had. But Bridge… he had family all over the place. She couldn't imagine the reunion…
"How do you deal with all this family?" she asked.
"How do you deal with all those animals?" he countered. She just laughed and shook her head. Bridge grinned. "It's easy dealing with the relatives," he replied. "You just let your parents deal with all the dinner and lunch invitations they issue."
She smiled. "And this is why I love you – you have a simple answer for everything."
"Things get too complicated," he replied with a shrug. "It's nice to have a simple answer sometimes."
That was true. All their emotions concerning Cruger and SPD had been so complicated since the truth had been uncovered. None of them knew what to think or feel – whether or not to leave SPD. But they were Power Rangers. Their parents had been Power Rangers. All of them knew that there was no greater legacy than that.
Z glanced to the three stars that Bridge had pointed out.
Sky walked down the street, glancing at the newsstand in the heart of Newtech. He remembered coming here as a kid, when he and his dad would go to the park or walk down to one of the little novelty shops. The small town mentality was still there and it was part of the reason he preferred Newtech to Silver Hills. He liked being in a place where most everyone knew each other, could identify who was part of SPD. He had grown up with these people. Going to the large town of Silver Hills never felt right.
Gingersnap, Taylor's dog, whined at him. He glanced at the fluffy terrier. The dog was the world's biggest marshmallow – Taylor had found her on the street as an abandoned puppy and had taken her in. Six years later, the dog was still a coward and shied away from strangers. He wrapped the leash more securely around his hand as Gingersnap pressed herself against his legs.
Picking up a newspaper, he glanced at the headline. Former Head of SPD Receives Life Behind Bars. Skimming the article, a smile floated over his face as he learned that Cruger had lost the last appeal trial and was going to be spending life in prison with no chance for parole. Abduction had become a serious offense since the alien immigration laws, almost akin to murder – and Cruger also had a lot of more petty charges surrounding the legal documents and with five counts of abduction, his fate was sealed. Kat had gotten twenty years, but was also up for parole with community service hours.
Handing the salesman a few dollars, he tucked the newspaper under his arm, untangled Gingersnap's leash from his legs and headed home. The dog was more than happy to comply, trotting ahead of him as they entered the neighborhood.
Once in the house, Gingersnap flopped down on the couch – her normal action after going on a walk of any kind. Taylor had some kind of conference out of state, so Gingersnap was staying with he and his dad. Sky put the leash on the table and went into the kitchen. His parents were coming over for dinner that night, so it would probably be a good idea to have something planned.
He was still surveying the contents of the refrigerator when his father came in. Eric dropped his stuff on the coffee table, which startled the dog and joined him in the kitchen. "So what are we eating tonight?"
Sky shrugged. "Can we order a pizza?"
"I'm sure Jen wouldn't object to that."
Sky shook his head. His mother was six months pregnant. When she had said that her and Wes would work something out so she could stay in the present, he hadn't imagined that it would mean a sibling. Time Force had granted her another extension, letting her stay in this time until the current baby turned twenty-one. One facet of the pregnancy was that he was being asked his opinion for baby names.
"How's the family vacation going?" his father asked as he pulled some pizza coupons off the miniscule bulletin board in the kitchen and handed them to Sky.
He grinned. Syd and her family had taken a long overdue family vacation to Disney World, complete with her Uncle Ryan and Granpa Mitchell. If the pictures, postcards and phone calls were anything to go by, the Grayson siblings were having an awesome time.
"Paris and their Uncle Ryan managed to bribe someone into letting them on the set of movie and they think they got in a shot."
"What'd you do today?"
"Spent some quality time with the cowardly dog."
Eric shot a glance to Gingersnap. The dog was cautiously sniffing his briefcase. Upon deciding it was safe, she settled back onto the couch. "At least she doesn't run from us anymore," his father muttered.
Sky nodded as his father disappeared into his bedroom. The Blue Ranger looked to the black kitten curled up on the counter. He was Z's kitten and was the other pet-sitting venture. The kitten had learned that he could snarl at Gingersnap and the dog would run.
"What do you think?" he asked Inkwell.
The cat opened one large green eye, looking annoyed. It didn't reply. "I agree," he said to the cat.
Syd let out a long breath, glancing at the long shelves of merchandise in the store. She wanted to get gifts for everyone back in Newtech, since no one else had been to Disney World. However, she was having trouble deciding what to get. Conner's daughters she had taken care of with some princess stuff, but no one else was forthcoming.
She glanced out the window of the store. Austin was out front taking pictures of something. Their parents were near him. Paris and Uncle Ryan were in the store next door to the one she was in – Syd wasn't sure what they were looking for, but she had a feeling, since the movie escapade, that she didn't want to know.
The vacation was a little odd – or at least to the people observing them. Most couples did not bring their grown children here and extended relatives didn't tag along. Syd found that she didn't care what others thought. She was happy to be surrounded by people that loved her and cared about her. Her and Bridge's breaks with their adopted families – neither of which had been talked to in years – had been as clean as possible.
"What are you looking for?"
She turned as her mother came into the store. "Stuff for the others," she replied. Dana nodded, knowing which others she was talking about. "I know that Z and Bridge wouldn't mind something outrageous, but Sky's kind of conservative. He's not going to appreciate something really loud."
Her mother looked thoughtful. "You said Sky writes a lot?"
Syd frowned. "Yeah – but he's convinced that no one knows about it, not even me."
"Still," Dana motioned her over to a shelf that held leather bound journals. The leather was all kinds of colors. She picked up one that had a dark blue cover. It smelt of new leather and the pages were blank, a creamy color. Opening the journal, she ran a hand over the first page.
"This is perfect," she breathed.
"And if Bridge and Z want something outrageous," her mother pointed to a bin that held small teddy bears in ridiculous Hawaiian clothing.
"Thanks," she said with a grin. She wasn't too worried about getting something for Conner, since he had said he would be happy with a keychain. And the others – Kira, Ethan and Trent – she didn't know well and didn't feel comfortable getting them souvenirs. Her mother was watching her go through the journals with a smile. "Is it weird having us back?" Syd asked.
"No," Dana replied, smiling softly. "It was like I was living some kind of nightmare for fourteen years and I've just woken up from it."
"I'm just glad we're together again. I mean I've looked at Sky and the way him and his dad are so close and I've wanted that for as long as I've known him." Syd paused. "Now, that's what I've got."
"We were close when you guys were little." She paused. "Paris gets into every fight and you still want to be in the spotlight."
Syd grinned. "Call it being the only normal one for a long time. Austin was at the Nebula Academy and Paris was busy trying to start a revolution."
Dana just smiled and pulled her in for a hug. Syd gladly returned the hug, glad that her real parents weren't afraid to touch her. Their adopted parents had been afraid of them – their real parents just accepted them, powers and all. Dana released her and waited as she selected a smaller journal that was dark blue. Syd went to the bear bin and found one bear wearing a neon yellow hula skirt and another wearing a lime green shirt.
Syd was just going to the counter to pay for her purchases, when Paris popped up out of nowhere, wearing sunglasses that had palm trees on them.
"What do you think?" Paris paused. "Not me?" She put them back on the display rack on the counter, picking up another pair that were a metallic purple. She glanced at her reflection in the mirror. "Now, this I like."
Syd paid for her items and waited while Paris bought the purple sunglasses. They left the shop and joined their family. Austin took one look at Paris in the sunglasses.
"Please tell me you don't plan on wearing those in public!"
Syd laughed as Paris kicked him in the shin.
Conner shifted in bed as Kira snuggled closer to him. They were engaged. He could scarcely believe it. He should have been asleep by now, but he was in a strange state where he was physically exhausted, but couldn't shut his mind off. A year ago, he would have never imagined that he could be happy again, but here it was. He loved Kira and Madeline and Christina viewed her as their mother.
Red Ranger… that was another thing that he hadn't believed would happen again. Doctor Oliver had been a ranger off and on for years, but he hadn't believed that he would be the one to take up that legacy after the former Black Ranger became the director CTU. The year had brought its ups and downs, but one thing was sure – Sky, Syd, Z and Bridge had become a strange mix of siblings, friends and children he never had. The five of them were so completely different, yet had so much in common. Then there were the twins, Ethan, Trent and Kira – all of whom had been added to the B-Squad and given ranger status in the past year.
And SPD was thriving from when he and Tommy had initially predicted its collapse. He supposed that Tommy being able to get tech support from Lightspeed, equipment from Bio-Lab and funding from Wes Collins helped things. Captain Mitchell and Mr. Collins trusted Tommy, where neither of them had trusted Cruger. It was also nice that the Silver Guardians did training seminars once a month for the new cadets.
He smiled to himself, thinking of the graduation ceremony for Sky, Syd, Z, Bridge and Austin. Tommy had asked Paris to be the caller and present the diplomas. He and the other former Dino Thunder Rangers had been the color guard – an important part of the ceremony. All of them in dress uniforms with extended families present… it had to be the best graduation ceremony of any kind that Conner had ever attended. Then there was that awesome party that the Collins' threw for everyone.
The part of the ceremony that stuck with him, though, was Paris calling the names of the graduating cadets. Schuyler Alan Collins… Bridge Jara Corbett… Elizabeth Taylor Evans… Sydney Kendrix Grayson… Austin Ryan Grayson… Conner knew that, although Paris would never admit to it, she had been ecstatic to be asked to call the ceremony. The officers were given badges with their name and official nametags. Each of the rangers would continue in ranger status, but that didn't lessen the ceremony.
"You're not asleep?"
Conner grinned at the sound of Kira's sleepy voice. "No," he replied.
"What are you thinking about?"
"Someone should put Paris in charge of flag etiquette training."
Kira laughed. "She did lay into us during the graduation rehearsal."
Traditionally, the highest ranking officer at SPD called the ceremony – technically, that had been Conner, but Tommy was bound and determined to change things around here. It was kind of nice, being at SPD during a stage where new traditions were being forged. Literally, they were watching history in the making.
That wasn't to say that it had been easy – nothing had been easy for them. Each of them had to find a place at SPD and a place within the B-Squad – and for Trent and Ethan especially, that hadn't come naturally. But they persevered, between new siblings and squad members, saving the world and their sanity and just about everything else in between. He and Kira's wedding was planned for September, after their leave time was over. It was mostly so that the rest of the B-Squad could participate. Syd, Z and Paris were going to be the bridesmaids, while Ethan, Bridge and Sky were the ushers. Tommy, by virtue of being commander of a large government organization, was performing the ceremony.
Life went on as usual – nothing was constant, but he hoped that this time would always remain in their minds as the best days of their lives.
"I love you," Kira muttered, pressing a kiss to his cheek.
"I love you too," he replied with a goofy grin.Nothing – nothing could take away that, at this moment, life was perfect.
It's enough for this restless warrior just to be with you...
Author's Note: What can I say about this piece? It truly came from being bored to tears in Modern British Lit last semester and it survived my summer job! First and foremost, I'd like to thank Jepoliant for beta reading the early chapters and helping me decide on the ultimate placement of Cruger's chapter in Truth and Consequences and the Precious Possessions chapters. Next, I'd like to thank Kaidence Ledger for beta reading the later chapters. To both of you, thanks for giving your time and support to this piece and for being general cheerleaders!
Next, special thanks to everyone who took the time to read or review this piece. Your comments and criticisms were great and I appreciate everyone's honesty in their feelings on the piece, since even I felt I was going out on a limb. So, to those who reviewed: alexis, Anastasia Athene, angel, angelbaby03usa, AnknaraSkysurfer, AnnoyingGenius, Anonymous, aquarius12285, Arrowned, Blake-Tori88, BloomingViolets, Brandon B, Broken Part of Me, Cestria, cheerleader chic, Crimson Mystery, Cristina Gomez, Feline-Feral, fenestrae, Frog1, Funky In Fishnet, garnetred, Gear's Girl, Giannola, Iniora Nackatori, Jackie, Jason Barnett, jedi4jesus19, Jenna Summers, Jepoliant, Jojo Momo, juzblue, Kiko Kamia, Kit, kris, KSchmidt, lgbabyblue, Liz, lkwREADer, LucyE, Mae, MagCat, Mandee1, Mandolin, masterranger3, melody, Moi, Mystic Red, Neo Aquni, Nicki, NightMistCrystal, Peanutbutterluver1399, Phantom Ranger, Quilliam Fyre, redandblack 4eva, Rob, Ruby08, Samurai-Nashie, Satori Blackthorn, Serina Kat, Silver Warrior, sky's girl forever, skyblue266, Slshadowfox, Syd Tate, syd-n-sky-fan, sydnskyfan, Tera Earth, texaswookie, the real vampire, Titanium Gold, Ultimuus, Weesta, White Time Ranger and Zen'Aku Lati: Thank you so much for taking the time to offer your comments, criticisms, concerns etc. Since this piece was AU and I took a lot of liberties with the characters, I appreciate it all the more!
I'd also like to give a shout-out to Anastasia Athene, BloomingViolets and Weesta: I always enjoyed getting reviews from you guys because you always had awesome things to say and great comments! Keep plugging with your own fics, you guys are great writers!
As to what the future will bring with my writing, I'm torn between overhauling Bond Enforcement and doing a sequel to this. The latter would be ten or fifteen chapters of pure frivolity on my part (including a company play, date sabotage, undercover work and, of course, people getting used to constant parental concern.) An overhaul of Bond Enforcement would keep a lot of base that's already there, but redo the character work with a revised timeline of events (it would include all the same characters, just not to the same degree and as quickly.) I'm even willing to take a vote from my awesome readers on that.
So, as per usual, this has been a wild ride from start to finish. Hugs and cookies to everyone who supported this endeavor and I shall see all of you around Cheers! - Etcetera Kit
PS You know, I must have been really bored in Modern British Lit, because I distinctly remember sitting in that class and thinking about which former rangers the SPD rangers most resembled... and I have no clue what we were discussing in that particular class.