The boy had no known living relatives, the state said. When the fire destroyed his home, it killed the only other Graysons that the police could trace his family to. Little Carter Grayson was an orphan—the closest thing he had to a family now was the firefighter who risked his life to get him out of the blaze. And Bill Mitchell felt horrible about it. He contemplated adopting the boy himself, but the pain of losing Ryan was still too fresh, and Dana wouldn't want a new boy coming in to replace her brother. When he finally built up the courage to do it, Carter was gone, adopted by a childless couple in Reefside. So he did the next best thing—he watched over the boy for the next ten or so years. Carter grew to be a fine young man: determined, courageous, and full of a strong sense of integrity. When the government and military approved Mitchell's Operation: Lightspeed and he had to present his picks for Rangers, Carter's file was the first one General Eisling saw, marked under Red Ranger.
But there was one thing everyone missed: the state, the police, Bill—everyone. Carter was not the last living Grayson. There was one other, living on the other side of the country.
Written by Akino Ame
Disclaimer: I own neither Power Rangers nor the DCAU.
Notes: Part of the JLAC, which includes Dirty Little Secret by Shaun
Garin and my Twenty Truths. Set in-between Secret and This is
Mariner Bay was still cleaning up from the worldwide attack by Darkseid. Like everywhere else in the world, it too had suffered, though thankfully not as bad as cities such as Metropolis. When Darkseid's parademons attacked, Mariner Bay—along with her sister cities Reefside, Blue Bay, Turtle Cove, Briarwood, Silver Hills, and Angel Grove—had the Power Rangers ready, willing, and able to fight them off. Those whose defenders were sparse or had lost their powers got backup from Angel Grove's many Rangers: the original Rangers stayed in their city while the Astro, Turbo, and Zeo Rangers split up to aid Reefside, Silver Hills, and Turtle Cove. Briarwood had her fresh Mystic Force Rangers, Blue Bay with her Ninja Rangers, and Mariner Bay with her Lightspeed Rangers. Once the battle was over, most of the Rangers settled back into retirement, handing back their recharged powers for various reasons, while the others stayed to help clean up the mess. Lightspeed was able to do this the easiest; with the military backing them, they were more organized and able to rebuild their city.
Amanda Waller, while not with the military, was chosen to supervise the Lightspeed reconstruction project. She presumed it was the President's way of making her repent for the mess her Cadmus project had caused; Lightspeed was a Cadmus-sponsored operation before the demons nearly destroyed Mariner Bay and funding was cut. But the Rangers had done well under Captain Mitchell, and she was impressed. The Justice League was the only organization she knew of that could work that well—and she only counted the original seven. And like the original Leaguers, the Lightspeed Rangers had started out as five complete strangers who quickly banded together to save the world. And when Ryan Mitchell turned away from the demons' side to join as the Titanium Ranger—a decision Generals Eisling and Hardcastle had been furious over—they quickly accepted him as part of the team. These six men and women were very impressive indeed.
Field Commander: Red Ranger Carter Grayson, she read. The name struck her immediately, and she didn't bother looking at the other five files. She turned to her computer and pulled up her old Cadmus files on the Justice League and their allies. And just as she expected, a Grayson was listed as one of the original Teen Titans: Richard Grayson, known then as Robin and now as Nightwing.
"Both orphans with no living relatives," she noticed. She didn't buy into coincidences. She started scanning through their family trees, trying to find a connection. It took her nearly an hour, but she found it. Richard and Carter were related on their fathers' side of the family, as distant cousins. She pressed the button on her intercom.
"Bring me Bill Mitchell," she said. If anyone was going to tell Carter, it had to be his mentor.
Carter was helping rebuild some houses in the suburban part of town when Captain Mitchell came over. Immediately, he and the other Lightspeed Rangers stopped what they were doing and sprang to a salute.
"At ease," Mitchell ordered. "Carter, can I talk to you for a minute?"
"Sure," Carter answered, amidst Dana and Ryan's confusion. They walked several feet away, away from any potential eavesdroppers—Joel was definitely trying to listen in, though his wife Angela slapped him on the shoulder for it. "What is it?"
"You know Amanda Waller, right?" Mitchell checked.
"Of course," Carter replied. "She's supervising the cleanup here. Why? Is something wrong?"
"No," Mitchell assured him. "But she managed to find something about your family."
Immediately thinking about his adoptive parents in Reefside, he asked, "Did something happen to them?" When he'd last checked in with Tommy, he said that the death toll in Reefside was very low—since any city with Rangers had excellent evacuation plans—and his parents were fine.
"Not your adoptive family," Mitchell explained. "It's about the Graysons."
Now, confusion replaced concern in Carter's mind. He had only been ten when the fire happened, so he didn't know anything about his real family. He hadn't had a reason to know before then.
"What did she find?" he asked.
Mitchell handed him a folder. "There's one more Grayson out there. Mrs. Waller managed to get this information back when she was working on projects related to the Justice League."
"The Justice League?" Carter asked in surprise, looking at the family tree Waller had mapped out.
"Yes," Mitchell answered. "You have a distant cousin who used to be in an offshoot of the League called the Teen Titans. He lives in Blüdhaven now, but he still helps out in Jump City from time to time to mentor the new Titans—much like Dr. Oliver does with his Dino Rangers."
Carter looked at the information. "Nightwing."
"Yes. Keep that information under wraps, all right? The League and the Titans are very sensitive about their identities, and Mrs. Waller only managed to find this from her work in the government."
"You can count on me," Carter said, somewhat less strongly than usual. Mitchell clapped him on the shoulder and walked off while the Red Ranger continued to search through the folder.
At Titans Tower in Jump City, Tim Drake—otherwise known as Robin—was bored out of his mind. He'd already gone on patrol with Dick, and the city was fairly quiet. When Control Freak ran back blubbering about Sephiroth in Metropolis, most of the Jump's villains didn't take him seriously until they saw the news of the battle, when they promptly kept quiet. Nobody wanted to risk the General coming to Jump. Most of the Titans were off-duty because of this, so Tim didn't really have anyone to hang around with. And when he called Virgil, Mr. Hawkins had picked up to tell him that Static was grounded for the next month, at Superman's request, and Richie was on a mission. Tim could try going to Gotham, but that would mean risking the wrath of Barbara, who had been the only one in the city during Darkseid's invasion. She'd forgiven Bruce because he was on the frontlines with the League, but Tim and Dick had no such excuse and thus were on The List. So Tim had to sit on the couch, flipping through the channels on the big screen TV, bored.
The doorbell rang, and Tim literally leapt off the couch in a back-flip before running to the elevator. The doorbell was a weird thing Beast Boy had apparently talked Cyborg into installing in the Tower (Cyborg argued that it made no sense because they were on an island in the bay, but Beast Boy said that was the fun of it), but it came in handy when they ordered pizza. Muttering curses about the elevator's slowness, Tim ran to the door as the bell kept ringing. Funny, none of the others were any help, and they weren't on the top floor. Hoping for lunch, Tim opened the door and instead saw a Power Ranger.
"Hello," the Ranger said. "I'm Carter Grayson, Red Lightspeed Ranger…"
Tim tried to wrap his mind on why a Red Ranger would be standing at the door, and came to only one conclusion: "If Cyborg did something to one of your Zords, I'm sorry. He kind of goes crazy when he finds high-end technology."
"Nothing happened," Red Ranger explained. "I just need to speak with Nightwing, if he's here."
"Sure, no problem," Tim answered, pulling out his communicator. He hoped Dick had his earphone plugged in; that'd show him to leave Tim to go from the top floor to the bottom just to get the dumb door. "Nightwing!" After a few minutes, Dick arrived, cursing about the elevator and about the ringing in his ears. "Red Ranger wants to talk to you."
Dick jumped to the same conclusion Tim did. "I'm sorry if Cyborg destroyed anything of yours…"
"Our equipment's in good condition," Red Ranger reassured him. "I just need to talk to you in private."
"Why?" Dick asked, a little suspicious.
"Power down," Red Ranger ordered, and in a flash of red light, his costume disappeared. "My name's Carter Grayson, and I think we might be related."
Tim stared at Carter and then at Dick. Carter's expression was completely serious, and Dick's was as blank as he could make it—which Tim knew was desperately hiding his shock.
Well, I'm not bored anymore, he decided.
Nearly an hour later, Dick and Carter walked around the city in their civilian clothes, though Carter kept on his Lightspeed jacket. A couple people gave them second looks because of his jacket, but since he explained he was off-duty when asked, people mostly left them alone.
"Pizza?" Dick suggested.
"Okay," Carter agreed.
They sat at the restaurant, locked in an awkward silence. The last thing they said to each other was agreeing over the topping. Finally, Dick couldn't take it anymore.
"So, how did you find out?"
"Government agent tracked it down," Carter explained. "She noticed my name and thought it sounded familiar, so she looked up something she used to need when she was working on some kind of Justice League related project."
"The government?" Dick repeated.
"Yeah. Amanda Waller. You know her?"
Dick groaned. "Yeah. She gave my old mentor a hard time. Figures she'd have my name too."
"So I'm guessing that this isn't a good thing," Carter said.
"The League says she's on our side now, and from everything I've seen, I've got to believe it."
"So, what happened to your family?" Carter asked. "When I was adopted, nobody could find any trace of my family."
"Yeah, it looks like we're in the same boat," Dick agreed. "I was in the circus when I was a kid, the Flying Graysons. But when I was nine, a hitman named Tony Zucco killed my parents. I guess our parents were too distantly related for the police to find you, so Commissioner Gordon sent me to Bruce Wayne."
"And your story?"
"A fire killed my parents when I was ten," Carter explained. "And like with you, the police couldn't find anything. So I was put up for adoption and wound up moving to Reefside." He smiled. "It turns out I had someone watching out for me the whole time. Captain Mitchell was a firefighter who got me out of there, and he recruited me for Lightspeed and moved me back to Mariner Bay."
"Heh," Dick laughed. "It always comes back to you, doesn't it?"
Suddenly, the skies darkened and both men got calls on their communicators. In unison, they asked, "What is it?"
"Nightwing," Tim called, "there's some kind of monster in the city. It's huge!"
"Carter," Angela said, "there's a demon right over you. The Astro Rangers are transporting the Lightspeed Megazord as we speak."
"Cutting straight to the giant monster battle?" Dick guessed.
"They know I'm cut off from the Zords," Carter explained. Into his communicator, he added, "We'll try and hold it off as long as we can." Turning to his cousin, he asked, "Ever held off a thirty-story demon before?"
"You'd be surprised," Dick answered. "Give me a minute to get out of here and get changed."
"Trust me, I've got a good diversion," Carter said, standing up. "Lightspeed Rescue!"
He jumped off the side of the building, and suddenly everyone turned in shock—including Dick. He had just about pulled out a grappling launcher when a red-and-white shield appeared in midair. Carter thrust his arms out in front of it, and as he fell through it, his Ranger costume formed on his body. Completely morphed, the Red Ranger landed on his feet, ready for battle. Dick sat back and breathed a massive sigh of relief. No doubt about it—Carter was definitely related to him. He had the same Grayson reckless streak.
He did say he had a good diversion, Dick realized, running off to change. A minute later, he was on the street with his cousin. "Nice diversion. You don't have to worry about secret identities at Lightspeed?"
"Nope," Red Ranger answered. "The first time the other Rangers and I fought, we stood out in the middle of Mariner Bay telling the demons that they'd have to go through us if they wanted to destroy the city. Then we morphed. Other Rangers keep their identities secret, but we know them all from meeting each other."
"Nice," Nightwing said again before pulling out his communicator. "Robin, where are you? I could use backup!"
"Beast Boy, Cyborg, and I are on the way," he answered.
"That's it?" Nightwing asked.
"That's all I can do," Robin replied. "The rest are on leave or are helping other areas with the League."
"Great," Nightwing groaned.
"No, that's good," Red Ranger answered. "We'll only need five."
"You better have a miracle coming then," Nightwing declared.
The demon was your standard Mariner Bay fare: big, ugly, and totally bent on crushing everything in sight. It honestly looked like a brown, scaly clone of Trigon, but with more horns. Carter accessed his V-Lancer and started firing while Dick tried to tangle its legs up with birdarangs and wire. A few minutes later, Cyborg drove up with Beast Boy and Robin, who jumped into action immediately. Cyborg joined Red Ranger, firing his sonic cannon alongside the V-Lancer, while Robin helped Nightwing tie up the demon's legs. Once they managed to get enough wire around its ankles, Beast Boy took on the form of a rhino and knocked it to the ground, taking out a half-destroyed building in the process. Switching back to human form, Beast Boy winced.
"Okay, definitely hope they got insurance," he commented.
"I just hope the people got out of there when they saw the demon," Robin commented worriedly.
Red Ranger looked up to the sky, where the Astro Megaship was carting pieces of the Lightspeed Megazord. "Better hope they get out of here now, 'cause now we've got a way of fighting."
"Hey, that your robot?" Cyborg asked.
"Yep. The Lightspeed Megazord, once it gets pulled together."
"You mean we get to put it together?" Beast Boy questioned.
"Yep," Carter replied.
"Sweet!" both men cried.
Carter laughed before activating his communicator. "Andros, can you teleport the civilians out of the battle area?"
The Kerovan's voice came out on the other end, asking, "How far away?"
"A mile should be good," Carter answered. "No more than that."
"Teleporting now," Andros informed. There were several flashes of light all over town as people disappeared from the battle radius. "Need anything else? We can get the Astro Megazord ready in five minutes."
"No," Carter answered. "We're good."
"All right," Andros agreed. "I'm teleporting you inside the Zords." With four flashes of white light and one flash of red, the Titans and Red Ranger entered the Zords.
"Thanks, Andros!" Carter called, and the Megaship returned to orbit. "All right, everyone, initiating Megazord formation sequence. Just follow the directions on screen."
It took a few minutes longer than usual because of the Titans' inexperience with the Zords, but they managed to form the Megazord. Looking around (and completely forgetting the fact that he'd gotten stuck with the pink Zord-leg), Robin stated, "This is so cool!"
"Aww man, Nightwing, why couldn't we have a giant robot?" Cyborg asked.
"Remember what happened when you and Fixit made one?" Nightwing reminded him. "You got in that arms race with Gizmo."
"But still," Robin insisted, "this is more fun than we usually have!"
"I'm with Robin," Beast Boy added, nearly drooling as he looked at the controls. "This is great!"
Picturing the look on his face, Nightwing grimaced and closed the radio frequency to all but the Red Ranger. "Carter, you do have the main controls up there, right?"
"Yeah, don't worry," he assured. "Beast Boy won't be able to crash this."
"Good," Nightwing answered in relief.
The demon, finally back on its feet, blasted a stream of fire at the Megazord, which was quickly countered with a hydro blast from Nightwing in Hydro-Rescue Two. Then, using its ladder arms, the Megazord punched the demon farther back.
"Our demons hate water," Carter informed, "so try and get it into the bay, where it'll lose its power."
"Easier said than done," Cyborg muttered. The demon started firing its horns out as spikes, trying to impale the Megazord in several places. He pressed a few buttons and managed to activate the spinning kick, flipping them repeatedly with a blast of Aero-Rescue Three's jets. "Boo-ya!"
"Whoa!" Beast Boy said, sounding nauseous. "Think you can warn us next time? Robin and I are the legs here, so we get it worse!"
"No kidding," Robin agreed, sounding a little sick himself. "Carter, what else can this thing do?"
"We can get the demon into the water with the spinning punch," he advised. "It uses the ladder arms, so it's stronger."
"More spinning?" Beast Boy whined.
"At least this one doesn't go upside down," Red Ranger replied. "Then, once it's in the water, we can use the saber."
"And that should finish it off?" Nightwing checked.
"Yep. That's pretty much it."
"Just an ordinary Ranger battle, eh?" Nightwing joked.
"Yeah," Red Ranger agreed. "Except for the Titans. Nightwing, blast it with another stream of water before we go. It'll make the street slicker, and we'll stand a better chance of getting it in the water."
"All right," Nightwing agreed. "Robin, Beast Boy, keep this thing steady."
"On it," Robin answered, as he and Beast Boy tried to keep the Haz-Rescue Four and Med-Rescue Five from slipping underneath the other Zord pieces.
Nightwing blasted the demon with more water, simultaneously soaking the ground to make it slippery. Once that was done, Red Ranger activated the spinning punch, knocking the monster straight into the bay. Energy currents ran over its body as its strength was sapped.
"It's just like Static," Robin noticed.
"Lightspeed Megazord Saber!" Red Ranger shouted, and from the Megazord's Lightspeed insignia, a massive sword formed. The Megazord took hold of it and slashed at the demon. The demon fell back into the water, but even as it started to get up, the Megazord rotated the saber in a flaming circle and sent out a final finishing move that destroyed the monster completely.
"Boo-ya!" Cyborg yelled in unison with Beast Boy's "Whoo-hoo!"
"Excellent work, guys," Carter congratulated.
"Hey, just one quick question," Robin interrupted. "Why do I have to get stuck with pink?"
After calling Andros to ferry the Zords back to Mariner Bay, the Titans and Carter returned to Titans Tower to unwind for a bit. Cyborg, Beast Boy, and Robin gawked and drooled over the Lightspeed technology—well, Cyborg and Beast Boy drooled. Robin examined everything with interest while trying to keep the senior Titans from blowing something up. Meanwhile, Nightwing and Carter relaxed in the rec room.
"We have to keep in touch," Dick said.
"Aren't you a little worried about your identity?" Carter checked. "Everyone saw you there when I morphed."
Dick shrugged. "I can always play down my role—say that I just found out you were with Lightspeed when I hadn't seen you in a long time. Besides, us superheroes are bound to team up someday anyway."
Carter laughed, remembering how often different Ranger teams were forced to work together. "Good point."
"I've got time off coming up in a few weeks," Dick mentioned. "We could always get together for a movie."
"In which city?" Carter asked.
Dick frowned. "Blüdhaven's too crime-ridden for us to avoid hero stuff. And in either Jump or Mariner Bay, we'd get stuck fighting too."
"We could try Angel Grove," Carter suggested.
"Isn't that the Monster Capital of the World?" Dick asked.
"Yeah, but it's got three or four groups of Rangers there," he answered. "They can take care of it."
"Sounds good," Dick agreed. "Plus movies in Angel Grove are probably cheaper than in Blüdhaven too."
Just then, the elevator doors burst open, and Tim ran in panting.
"Beast Boy and Cyborg," he gasped. "The V-Lancer…"
Dick and Carter stared at each other for a split second before rushing downstairs to avert catastrophe. In that instant, they both decided that the next time they got together, they'd leave the Lightspeed tech as far away from the other Titans as possible.
This is part of the Justice League Advent Children universe—a set of crossovers, fusions, and all-around silliness by Shaun Garin and me. Some events mentioned in this come from the different Justice League fics, or happened in DCAU canon.