Legacy Of Power: At World's End
Part 5 – Battling
Chapter 22 – Precious Moments
Written By Pink-Green-White-4ever
Story Ideas By: Pink-Green-White-4ever and Marcus
Last Revised: June 20, 2015
Summary: The rangers take some hard hits over the span of a few days that leave them cherishing those last few precious moments before all hell breaks loose
Genre: Action, Adventure, Romance
Rating: T for now
AN: This has not been edited by anyone other than myself. If you see something that needs to be fixed, please let me know.
Dedication: For my family, both the one I was born with and the one I chose, I love you and thank you for everything. For John who is the Tommy to my Kim, the Sky to my Syd, and the Dillon to my Summer. I love you endlessly.
For all the fans of Legacy Of Power – much love and thanks for the years of support. It's been almost a decade since I started this story, but I promise, I refuse to abandon it no matter what happens! ;)
Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have - life itself. - Walter Anderson
March 19, 2007
He felt the strain on his muscles even as the entrance to Rootcore came into view. Udonna, Lianbow, Clare and Jenji stood waiting for him, not a one of them dried eyed since he'd called them via his communicator. Udonna rushed forward when he stumbled to one knee, his body protesting the burden of carrying his precious cargo. She pressed her lips together as she reached for his face, noting the haunted look in his eyes. "Are you injured?" she murmured, trying not to look at the body lying on the ground at their feet.
"Only my heart," he responded as they both looked down, Udonna's body shaking as he swallowed hard. "She died with honor."
More tears rushed to the White Witch's eyes. "Then we will honor her sacrifice and her life," she quietly told him. "Bring her inside, Clare and I will clean her up before we tell the Rangers. They should be back momentarily."
"Are they okay?" he all but demanded, needing to know his charges had survived whatever befell them.
"Three separate battles just this evening; they're tired but alive. The others are still recouping from this morning."
Daggeron moved to lift Itassis' body only to have Lianbow and Jenji stop him. "Let us," Lianbow spoke as he and Jenji lifted her and carried her inside the Dragon's mouth. Clare and Udonna each took one of Daggeron's arms ad helped him up and inside as well. Mutambo was waiting for them when they entered and let out a heartbreaking moan when he caught sight of Itassis' lifeless body.
"Mutambo…" Daggeron started, his voice cracking with the pain he felt.
"She knew; even then, she knew. It will not be long before I follow her."
"Don't say that!" Clare cried out, angry tears springing to life in her eyes.
The former Terror took her hand and gently squeezed. "It's inevitable, young Sorceress. I have accepted my fate, the same as Itassis did. But I will not go quietly, that I can promise."
"Come, let's get to work," Udonna urged them further into the great tree.
Anubis, Ninjor, and Kanoi, quickly moved toward the teams as they arrived. The big blue dog sighed in relief when he saw Sydney, safe and secure in Sky's arms. The others were limping slightly as they settled into the library. Lightspeed was not far away, everyone on that team surrounding Dana and Carter. Both Tori and Leelee were awake and recovering from their injuries. The Blue Wind Ninja was on Blake's lap and Leelee sat between Phineas and Aisha, who was whispering quietly to her as she glowed a soft yellow, obviously healing Leelee's injuries. Udonna and Clare entered, both looking solemn.
"Mom?" Nick worriedly called to her, seeing the look on her face.
"We suffered another loss today," Udonna quietly spoke, tears welling in her eyes. Gasps were heard from several of the Rangers while others muttered curses. "During the fight between Imperious and Daggeron, Itassis was killed." She refused to explain how, because Daggeron was already feeling enough guilt
All eyes immediately went to the Mystic Rangers, who were in shock as they stared at their mentor. "No…" Maddy choked, tears rushing to her eyes and flowing down her face as her head shook back and forth.
"Mutambo?" Vida demanded, her voice barely above a whisper. Rare tears gathered in the Pink Ranger's eyes, but her righteous anger refused to let them fall.
"He and Lianbow are prepping her for burial at midnight," Clare answered, her voice shaking. "We'd like all of you to be there. Jenji's already gone to Woodland Village to spread the word."
"The five of you should go with Udonna," Kanoi told the Mystic Rangers, his eyes conveying his sadness over their loss. "We'll take care of the injuries and join you here before midnight."
The Mystic team numbly stood and followed Clare and Udonna while Shayla joined the other mentors to begin talking about their plans for what was to come. The rest of the Rangers began to take stock of their injuries before dispersing.
Aisha smiled sadly while she took care of Syd's injuries. The Pink Ranger was cuddled in Sky's lap, fighting sleep as Sky whispered in her ear. The bruises were already starting to fade, thanks to Syd's Ranger powers and a healthy dose of Aisha's healing powers. The emotional scars, however, would remain. They always did after an experience like the one the Pink Ranger had had. The Yellow Ninja knew as long as the two younger Rangers were together, they'd be just fine. She saw in them the same bond she saw in all the other Ranger couples, but for some reason, these two most reminded her of Tommy and Kim. She couldn't quite figure out why as she stared at them but then it came to her. It might have been Sky's extreme over-protectiveness towards the petite blond that echoed Tommy's for Kim during her abuse at the hands of Zedd and Rita toward the end of her Ranger career, or the way that Syd seemed to understand her boyfriend needed the reassurance of touch to remind him she was okay and in his arms, the same way that Kim had all those years ago with Tommy. "Sha?" Syd yawned, drawing Aisha from her thoughts.
"You're good to go. I want you to rest until we have to leave for the funeral," the elder woman told the young blond, patting her gently on the shoulder.
Sky looked torn and upset. "Is there anything I can do?" he asked. Aisha sensed his guilt and wondered if it was just something about the Reds that caused it, because even though he was wearing blue for this war, he was in reality, a red. It just made her shake her head at him and swallow the chuckle that wanted to escape.
"Just lay down with her and get her comfortable," she assured him. Turning to Syd, Aisha sighed. "You're gonna be sore, so don't panic. Between your Ranger powers and my healing abilities, you should be physically fine in about 48 hours." Syd nodded and held Sky's neck as he lifted her and tucked her into bed. Aisha made a quick stop at the other bed to check on Bridge, Z, and Jack who was on the floor, before she left them to nap.
Her next stop was the room that currently housed the Lightspeed team. Kelsey and Chad were curled together, asleep, while Joel and Ryan were talking quietly with Dana and the recovering Carter. "Aisha?" Dana asked, shooting up from her prone position.
"Relax girlfriend, its okay," the Yellow Ranger motioned for her to stop. She fought to not roll her eyes at Dana's need to take care of everyone; despite some of the vastly different personalities, that one was strong among all the Pinks. "I'm just coming to see if you need anything. I just checked on Syd, Sky and the others."
"Is she okay?" Carter quietly asked, knowing the Pink Ranger had been through hell earlier in the evening.
Aisha nodded. "Banged and bruised, but Sky's babying her, so she'll be fine. Z's quiet but dealing with what happened to her, and you know trying to get Sky to talk about what he's feeling is like pulling teeth. His focus is solely on Syd."
Ryan and Joel chuckled. "Typical," Dana muttered, glaring at her brother and Joel. Ranger men were smart in that they understood their female counterparts could handle what was thrown at them, but still, they worried.
"We're dealing in our own ways. I'm going to go check on Kat and then grab Rocky and head back to the rental to grab a shower and some food. Everyone's meeting downstairs at eleven thirty for the funeral, right?"
The four nodded before the Morphin Ranger took her leave of them. She headed down the stairs and found Rocky, Jason and Kat were in the spare room where the Pink Ranger had been resting. Tanya and Adam, she knew, had forced the others immediately back to the rental to rest and get ready. While the boys acknowledged her presence and continued to talk quietly, Aisha checked on Kat. The Pink Ranger's injuries were visibly gone, so she was merely sleeping off the strain. "Jason?"
"I'm gonna steal Rocky and head back to the house. We'll be back in a bit; do you want a change of clothes?"
The Red Ranger shook his head as he reached out to squeeze his sister's hand. "She's not going to want to miss the funeral, and I think we're going to head back to the house afterward. Is everyone else okay?"
"As best as can be expected given the circumstances." Rocky clapped Jason on the shoulder before following Aisha out of the room.
Jason sat, staring at Kat as the two left. Rocky truly had no idea how right he was about that. It had been an eventful few days, and the only thing the Rangers found they could do was push back what was happening, and cope with everything later.
Ally felt helpless as she and Nadira huddled near Ransik. The former villain's injuries were fatal, that much they knew, but they didn't know how much longer he had before he succumbed to them. His breathing was already growing more and more shallow by the minute and there was a scary rattling sound coming from his chest.
The blond looked up at her pink haired friend and saw a host of emotions – fear, love, regret, anger, sadness, but most of all, acceptance. "Yeah?"
Lips trembling, eyes carefully on her father's face, Nadira dared to ask, "Do you believe in heaven?"
Startled, the blond chose her words carefully as she looked back and forth from Nadira's face to Ransik's. "I believe in an after life, I don't know as I'd call it heaven. Why?"
"I'm afraid for him," Nadira spoke, her eyes drifting up to Ally before going back to her father's face. "I'm afraid…he did so many things wrong…"
Ally took Nadira's free hand, squeezing it tight. "Nadira, your dad has spent the last six years atoning for what he did, by helping the Rangers in any way he could," she reminded her of what Nadira and Ransik had shared with her of how they came to know the Time Force Rangers. "I think his soul will be fine. We all have things we've done that blacken our souls a little – it's called being human."
Tears fell from both women's eyes. Nadira shakily leaned down and kissed her father's forehead; he already felt so cold. "I love you, Daddy. Be at peace."
"Thank you for protecting us," Ally whispered as she took one of his big hands in hers. He was so cold to the touch that she knew it wouldn't be long now. Watching Nadira stroke her father's face and murmur quiet memories to him, Ally thought of her own father, felt the ache inside. When she got home, she silently vowed, she'd tell her father just how much she loved and appreciated him.
While the two women sat with him in the dingy, dimly lit cell in God knows where, Ranisk, the once fierce enemy of the Time Force Rangers, quietly passed from the world.
He couldn't help but run his hand up and down her back as he watched her sleep off her ordeal. His heart still trembled, painfully, for every moment of terror and pain she'd been put through because of him. Lifting his hand, he carefully brushed the tangle of blond curls from her bruised face. In her sleep, she was cuddled close, murmuring unintelligible words. Her face relaxed even more at his touch. He found he wanted nothing more than to wake up, day after day, to her beautiful face. They hadn't been together long, but they'd been friends for what seemed like forever, and he knew he loved her, endlessly. For once in his life, he wasn't going to over analyze and pick apart his decision. When this was all over, he was going to ask her to marry him.
"Why aren't you sleeping?" a soft voice drew him from his thoughts. Looking down, he saw her eyes wide open and staring up into his face.
"Mind won't quiet down," he sheepishly explained.
"You know none of this was your fault, right?" she pleaded with him, looking into his face.
"He took you because of me," he growled, guilt shinning through in every word. "Every second of every minute he had you, was because of me. Every injury, every bruise…" he spat.
"Was because of him!" she fiercely responded. "Sky, he did this to me; he kidnapped me and beat me, not you. He was trying to hurt me as much as he was you. And he took the coward's way out instead of facing justice for his crimes," she fervently told him, sitting up to look at him better. "Can you accept that? He took the coward's way out instead of letting you lock him back up in a containment card."
Sky's eyes filled for the first time in a long, long time. Syd watched him reach for her, pulling her to his chest. She felt his tears on her forehead after she nestled her face against his neck. His shoulders shook slightly as he bit back the sobs that bubbled up from his chest. "It's finally over," he croaked, hugging her tightly, needing the physical comfort as much as the emotional. He was finally able to let go of the hurts inflicted on him as a child. The most profound of losses for a child – the death of a parent – he was, at long last, able to put it to rest.
"This battle, but there are more to come," she quietly reminded him, aware that he was finding himself free in a way he never had before. "As long as we're together, there isn't anything we can't face."
He nodded, kissing her forehead and reassuring himself that she was in his arms, safe and sound. "I love you." A year ago, he'd have stuttered his way through such a declaration, now it was easy to say.
They were cherished words if she ever heard them. That he felt comfortable and free enough to say them made her hold them even closer to her heart. "I know; I love you too."
"You two make me sick," Jack growled from the air mattress on the floor between the beds. He hadn't wanted to be separated from his teammates, not when his sisters were so banged up and his best friend was in obvious need of emotional support. Luckily enough, there had been an extra mattress for him to drag into the room to sleep on.
"Awww…Jack…we wuv you too!" Sky teased, causing Syd to giggle and the Red Ranger to chuck his pillow at Sky.
"Hey! Some of us are trying to sleep!" Z finally grouched.
Sky grabbed Jack's pillow and chucked it at the Yellow Ranger, only it hit Bridge instead. "HEY!" the disgruntled Green Ranger growled. His response sent the others into a fit of laughter, which was just what they needed.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
They gathered in the woods outside of Rootcore, solemn faces and somber moods. The teams had decided against dress clothes and instead stood in their Ranger uniforms, helmets tucked under their arms. Though they hadn't known her long or well, Itassis was a member of the Ranger family and they wanted to honor her.
The villagers and some of Briarwood's citizens were scattered among them. Fireheart stood to one side of the funeral pyre while the Mystic Force Rangers stood opposite him. Udonna stood nearest the pyre, chanting quietly as magic built around the clearing. As the White Witch built her power, the other Mystics added theirs to it – the earth shook at Xander's call, wind blew with the force of Vida's emotions, lightning streaked across the sky in accordance with Chip's command, rain fell in sheets but did not soak them as was Madison's wish, and the torches they carried leapt to life with Nick's anger and sorrow. Even as Daggeron called the power of the sun, moonlight shimmered down, bathing Clare in its ethereal glow. Matumbo knelt, praying, and Lianbow stepped forward to speak to those gathered.
"She was not always on the side of good, but when we needed her most, she threw aside that which was wrong for a chance to do what was right. She was more than a friend, more than mentor, teacher and counselor; she became family. We mourn her loss, but celebrate her life. She died with the same honor each of us would like to – she was trying to protect our world and every world in this universe."
His gaze moved around the crowd gathered. Those Itassis had worked with from both the magical and human realms looked so sad. The Rangers' sorrow and anger was slowly turning to a dark, hard determination to make sure Itassis hadn't died in vain, that her sacrifice was for a good, solid reason.
"We return her body to the elements and wish her soul wings to fly. We pray she finds the peace she's earned."
Itassis' body began to shimmer with the power of the Mystic Force team – deep, dark green for Xander, bright, spirited pink for Vida, flashing yellow for Chip, calming blue for Madison, purest white for Udonna, fiery red for Nick and Lianbow, warm, bold gold for Daggeron, and otherworldly purple for Clare. Those gathered gasped when a tornado of power whirled up from the former Terror's body as it began to dissolve. When the light show died down, all that was left was ash. Vida quickly scooped it up into a container of ice Udonna had conjured and handed it to Daggeron. The Solaris Knight mounted Fireheart and let the dragon take him aloft, where he scattered her remains to the world below.
She stood in the shadows, watching him rage against Necrolai, Sculpin, and Morticon for letting Imperious destroy Itassis before Daggeron killed him. He used his powers to torture Gruumm and Broodwing for Morganna and Mirloc's failures. And then he turned toward her, obviously irritated about losing Divatox. His power zinged and sparked around him in a brilliant but unimpressive show. "Don't even think about it," she spoke calmly, her own power sizzling at her fingertips.
"Ransik is dead."
"I'm aware of that. You should take that up with Dark Spector, he's the one who put a fucking flaming sword through Ransik's chest," she hissed, her eyes wavering between black and pink in a show of her own power. "Not my fault you picked inferior warriors to do your dirty work."
Those gathered remained silent as Kimberly lashed out at The First. Rito and Goldar were smirking while Zedd chuckled insanely. "What are you three laughing about?" The First hissed, rounding on them.
"Now you see what we put up with for nearly three years," Goldar quipped. "She's got a smart mouth."
Raging at his words, Kimberly fairly flew across the cavern, her fist making a cracking sound as it connected with Goldar's jaw. The titan roared in pain even as everyone jumped back and away from the Pink Ranger. "Maybe you want to watch your own smart mouth or I'll finish your sorry ass before the Rangers do," she threatened.
With that said, she strode from the room. No one saw the blackness fade from her eyes, replaced with the incandescent pink of her powers. When she reached her rooms, she slammed the door shut and stalked to the bed. Quickly, she stripped off her clothes, flinging them away from her. Naked, she crawled under the black covers of her bed and tried to sleep. She was running on fumes and she felt her body finally shutting down. The only problem was sleep wasn't forth coming.
The second she entered the realm of dreams, she was faced with beings of great power – one in white, one in black and one in red – and six animals – a bear, an ape, a frog, a wolf, a falcon, and a tiger.
"How did you get here?" she asked. "But better question, how did I?"
"Do you not know where you are, Kimberly?" the one in white, obviously a woman, asked.
Looking around, Kim saw the small, white temple and pool she'd apparently emerged from. She looked forward to the temple where the beings stood and the animals lounged. It was the Temple of the Morphin Grid, and they were Tribunal Of Magic. "Yes."
"Do you know why you were brought here, human?" the one in black asked.
"No, but I'm sure you're going to tell me," she dead panned. Her eyes were inexplicably drawn to where the falcon was perched on the tiger's shoulder. The bird of prey's piercing gaze was locked on her own, a look of disappointment reflecting back at her in such a depth and intensity that it broke her heart and sent shivers down her spine, forcing her to look away.
"You have betrayed your teammates, the other Rangers, and Zordon's legacy," the one in red accused. "Tell us why we shouldn't strip the power from you."
"The Ranger powers you have every right to take; the Ninjetti power is mine alone; you know that as well as I do. To take it would be to destroy my soul. Is that to be my sentence, to be the price for him infecting me with his power, for tainting my heart and mind against my will?"
"It's not all his doing," the black one argued.
"There, at least, we agree," Kimberly responded. Her arms were crossed over her chest in a sign of fear of the unknown and fear of feeling empty again should she lose the protection of the power she was entrusted with. "I am a human being, imperfect in all things. If you wanted perfection in a power holder, you chose wrong."
The one in white chuckled as her companions grumbled and stewed, not wanting to admit that Kimberly spoke the truth. "You have your Ranger powers, why have you not used them against the other Rangers?"
"SHE hasn't used them because I cut off her access to them," Kim pointed out. "I'm still weak from his power assault, but all he's managed to access is the side of me that is still a hurt, confused teenager that made a personal mistake and transferred the blame of the consequences of her decisions to everyone but herself."
"Your loss of power and your choice to leave the team were two separate things," the white one spoke.
"If I hadn't had my powers stolen, I'd have never gone," Kimberly spoke, trying to put into words what she'd felt without letting them know how deeply those two events had hurt her. "Yes, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity, but being a Ranger meant more. Being a member of the team meant everything! Even though Katherine gave me back my coin, thus giving me back my powers, my confidence was already shot to hell. I was in no shape to remain a Ranger, not when I would have been putting the team at risk. And really, Kat needed her shot at redemption, to prove something to herself. How could I not give her that chance when I had the choice in the palm of my hands?"
The three remained silent before the one in black spoke. "The core of it all was you giving her the same chance Zordon had given you long ago."
Kim looked uncomfortable. "It was time to go, and we all knew it. The part of me that still hurts for being betrayed by someone I considered a friend isn't mature enough to realize it was my choice to leave, in the end."
The three cocked their heads while the animals protested, loudly, at her words. "Be truthful, Pink Ranger," the Black one commanded.
"I saved my planet!" she hissed at them. "I did the duty entrusted to me. I left my mark. What more do you want? A pound of flesh for everything I did wrong?"
"Being a Ranger meant THE WORLD to me!" finally, as passionately as she could, she emptied her soul. "Losing my place as I did damn near killed me. It was like having my heart and soul simultaneously ripped from my body. IT HURT."
The three nodded. "And yet you came back, and have been protecting them all in the most painful way possible, have you not?" the White being asked.
"I couldn't stop him, but I can damn well stop HER."
To Kimberly's amazement, the animals began to morph into her friends – Aisha, Rocky, Adam, Billy, Tommy and Katherine. "Guys!" she choked, tears springing to her eyes. "I miss you…"
"Come home, Kim," Katherine's blue eyes welled over as well, her tears running heedlessly down her face. "I understand you're still mad at me; we need to talk about it, but please, come home."
"I wish I could. It's not that easy…" she trailed off.
"We miss you," Rocky, Aisha, Billy and Adam spoke up.
"Come back to me, Beautiful. I can't fly without you," Tommy softly told her. "I love you."
"TOMMY!" she screamed as she sat up in bed. She found Astronema standing in a shadowed corner of her room. "What the hell do you want?"
"To see if you were experiencing what I have been," Astronema responded before she turned to stride from the room, only to stop at the door and throw a look over her shoulder. "The time to decide is coming, my Lady; which side will you choose?"
"A new kata?" a voice called out as Cam moved his body through the exercise he was creating to give to his students when he returned to the academy.
"Yes. I'm hoping to teach it when we return home, at least to some of the more advanced students," the Green Samurai responded, halting his motions to turn and stare at his father. "Dad, did you need something?"
The elder Ninja shook his head. "No, I was just watching. I haven't had much of a chance the last few months to simply sit and watch you."
The Green Ranger looked confused and then remembered the words Mariah and Kapri had uttered at their arrival; those words haunted him. They'd mentioned his doctor had called, not the academy doctor but an outsider. "Dad, can I ask you something?"
With wisdom far beyond his years, Cameron Watanabe realized what his father hadn't told them. "How bad is it?"
Kanoi was tempted, for a split second, to lie to his son, but felt he could not do it in good conscience. Cam had already lost his mother unexpectedly; perhaps preparing him for what was to come would help some, though in his heart, he knew nothing could prepare anyone to lose someone they loved. "There is no cure."
For the first time in years beyond his memory, Cam's eyes filled with tears. He was not, as a rule, an emotional man. Unless it came to his father. The confirmation that something was wrong was a blow to his heart that he felt he might never recover from. "Dad?"
"I have a few months yet, as far as we know. Enough time to get my affairs in order, if you will, and enjoy my family. The doctors and I have already discussed treatment options but with the way it's spreading so rapidly, all the treatments will do is slow it down a bit, if at all," Kanoi informed him, watching Cam close his eyes and try to hold back the pain. He'd always wanted to spare his son the loss of another parent, as well as spare himself the loss of his only remaining link to his beloved, hence why they both took the utmost care of themselves. Sometimes, even the healthiest people grew sick for no reason. "And before you ask, I've already consulted with Dana about it as well. She wanted me to ask Aisha, Udonna, Alyssa and Shayla to see if they could use magical healing to slow the process."
Cam swallowed, feeling a surge of hope. "What did they say?"
"I have not asked them, nor will I." Kanoi sighed at the incredulous look his son gave him. "And the reason I have not done so is because it was my decision. They must be focused on ending this war, on recovering Kimberly and Karone. Without the two of them, I fear none of us will survive this war. I do not want them worrying about me on top of it."
"Dad, you know how the Ranger women react to things," he pointed out with a wry smile. If the other female Rangers were anything like Tori, there was going to be a lot of angry, disappointed women soon. "They find out you hid it from them, they're going to be angry."
"Then they won't be told, will they." It was more order than statement, and Kanoi watched Cam sigh wearily. "The only thing I'm asking of you, Cameron, is that you abide by my wishes. I wanted to spare you the pain as long as possible, but the longer this goes on…"
"The sicker you're going to get," Cam finished, clearing his throat. "Have you told the others?"
Kanoi took a deep breath and shook his head. "No."
"They deserve to know. They love you too."
Kanoi's eyes welled at his son's words. While Cam may be his only biological child, he was by no means his only child – he had seven others who were going to be devastated by the news as well. "I'm aware of that."
"Doggie, are you sure you're alright?" her soft voice asked as they spoke via the com-link she'd sent with him. He'd already spent a half hour speaking to Isinia, and now the two of them were taking care of Ranger business.
"Worried, but otherwise okay; how are things there?" he questioned, hoping to avoid further discussion.
Kat sighed, knowing he wasn't going to really tell her, not unless something was wrong with the team. "The Nova and Omega morphers are finished. They're ready for trial testing."
Anubis sighed and stared out the window. He'd been thinking for months now how they were going to test those. "I want you to give Boom Omega for now, and I want you to take Nova."
"I'll be happy to give Omega to Boom, but I don't think it's wise for me to take the Nova morpher."
Kat smiled and sighed, knowing she'd have to tell him sooner or later. "Alex gave me back my morpher, fully charged." The feline scientist's laughter could be heard coming through the device even as Doggie's eyebrow rose up in a classic expression. "Stop glaring. It'll be a good thing, it means we have an extra morpher, and I have a good idea of how we should use it."
"When Boom and I get there, we will."
"Isinia and C Squad are more than capable of getting the zords to us if need be, but truth be told, you need us more there then they do here; the more Rangers in this war, the more the outcome ends up in our favor."
He sighed into the device. He didn't want to leave the base completely deserted of command personnel but she was right, as usual. "I hate it when you're right."
"I know. We'll see you soon."
"We await your arrival, be careful."
"We will. Take care. Kat out."
Turning, Doggie's eyes landed on Princess Shayla standing not far behind him, knowing she'd been listening in. "It seems we have reinforcements coming," he grinned at her.
"We'll take all the help we can get," she smiled back. "Was she serious about having an extra morpher?"
Anubis nodded. "Ever since Omega Ranger showed up to help us from the future, she's been earnestly working with Boom and Bridge to perfect the technology Omega and Nova used. These morphers are merely prototypes, but Kat's also one of the people who created my Rangers' morpher technology…"
"So if she says they're ready, they're ready," Shayla finished for him as he nodded once. "Who do you think she'll give the morpher to?"
The big blue dog looked thoughtful before a wide grin crossed his face. "Someone we know who's going to feel the need for redemption when this comes to a head." Shayla's eyes widened at the comment but didn't say anything.
Time Force Rental House
She stood leaning against the corner railing of the deck, her eyes on the bright ball that was rising in the distance, heralding the start of the day. It had turned the sky a brilliant array of colors – blue, yellow, orange, pink and purple. The air was still cool, but would heat as the sun rose to its daily home in the sky. She thanked every higher power she knew of for letting her wake up one more day beside her beloved. After having slept a few fitful hours, she'd lain awake in bed next to Wes and watched him sleep. As it always did, the calm and quiet and Wes at her side had calmed her racing mind considerably.
Still, she grieved in private as she hadn't in public; losing a friend or ally, no matter how close or distant, left a scar on her heart. She tried not to show it, especially since she knew her husband would worry about her, and she didn't want him to worry. While the woman mourned, the warrior knew, with a gut-deep instinct, that more casualties would come. It was inevitable in their line of work. And she had a feeling that the losses this time were going to run much deeper than before.
"Still an early riser I see." At the sound of his voice, Jen turned to see Alex creep out onto the deck, two mugs in his hands. "Hope you still like it black."
She blinked at him for a few seconds, and then down at the mug he held out to her. With a nod, she reached out and accepted the peace offering for what it was. "It's the only way to drink it."
He chuckled at that, sipping his own as he moved to lean against the railing not far from where she did. "How are you this morning?"
She looked toward him, caught somewhere between wanting to answer him and not sure if she should. Ever since she'd made the choice between him and Wes, he'd done nothing but scorn her and refuse to see where she was coming from. On some level, she understood why; they'd been engaged, after all, and they'd been in love once. While she had changed because of her time away from the future and because of his supposed death, he was still very much the same.
"Are we forever going to be at odds?" he suddenly asked, his stance showing just how tired he was.
"I didn't start us down this path, if you'll remember," she pointed out, her voice taking on a defensive quality. He'd been the one to start in on her after everything, most importantly her, had changed. "I wanted to be friends with you, even after everything, and I tried to give you some time and space because I knew you needed time to get over being angry that my feelings had changed. You were the one who never gave our friendship a chance."
"I loved you."
"And I loved you," her voice was passionate as she sat her mug on the railing and crossed her arms over her chest. "But you forget I spent almost a year mourning your death. You let me think you were dead! How the hell did you expect me to react, even if I hadn't fallen in love with Wes during that time? To just accept you back with open arms?"
"In sickness and in health…" he muttered around the rim of his coffee cup.
"Yes, but when one person blatantly lies to another person like that, how can you expect the feelings to still be there? Nothing could be normal again after that. If I had known you were still alive… but you were dead, you let me think you were dead, and my heart was frozen solid! I thought you were my one chance, Alex, my one reason for living; and then I found Wes."
She could see how much it hurt him to hear her say it out loud. When she had first learned that he was still alive, it had hurt her just as much to come to realize that it was Wes she wanted, not the man she had thought she was going to marry. Her future, her life, it had all been planned out at one time. When she fell in love with Alex, it was as if everything she'd secretly wanted was finally within her reach. And then he'd 'died' and that image, that life, had shattered, and she was forced to pick up the pieces. The person she had been after she thought he was gone was not the same person who had fallen in love with him, or the woman who was standing on the deck with him.
"I'm sorry I hurt you," she told him, hugging herself tightly. "But whatever hurts I inflicted hold no candle to what you did to me, Alex. I thought you were DEAD! I would wake up in a cold sweat having dreamed of making love to you only to remember you were dead! That you took what I thought were your last breaths in my arms. I'm done letting you be angry at me for loving Wes, when you're the one who drove me into his arms in the first place."
Both their heads snapped toward the sliding glass door where Katie stood, still dressed in her pajamas. "Lucas and Trip are making breakfast, it'll be done in a few minutes," she told them before shutting the door.
She turned her attention back to her former teammate and fiancé. His face showed so many emotions that she felt her heart start to break all over again. Part of that, she knew, was not only because he'd held her heart once, but because he looked so much like Wes as well. Take away their outlooks on life and their different attitudes and they were remarkably similar, and not just physically. "I understand I have no one to blame, really, but myself. Just like I've learned that you can't change who you fall in love with; your heart does what it wants. At this point, I just want you back as my best friend."
She blinked a couple of times before a slow, easy smile settled itself on her face. "I'd like that too. I do miss you, Alex, more than you'll ever know."
"Same goes. Now if I can just get passed your guard dog," he complained, and she narrowed her eyes at him while attempting to figure out who he was talking about. He must have seen her look, because he laughed. "Eric…"
She laughed outright then, bent over to catch her breath. "Oh!" she tittered, leaning back as she attempted to breath. "He's Wes' best friend, after all. Can you blame him after what you tried to do the last time you came back to this time?"
"You have his utmost respect, it's not just because you're married to Wes," Alex pointed out.
"I earned that respect, yes. And I refused to let him continue to be by himself after he became a Ranger," she pointed out, reaching over to take a sip of her coffee. "Other than Taylor, I guarantee he'll tell you I'm the most stubborn woman he's ever met. That, and we mutually like each other; which is surprising given our personalities."
When they heard the door slide open a second time, they both turned and smiled when Wes walked onto the deck in a pair of sweats. "Good morning," he uttered, making a b-line for where she stood, her eyes latching onto his.
"Your wife and I were just discussing her and Eric's mutual admiration society," Alex teased, causing Wes to stop mid-step before he broke out in a smile.
Wrapping his arms around her, Wes snuggled in. "Surprising, isn't it?"
"He's like a damn guard dog around her," Alex grumbled, which caused the couple to start laughing. "I apologize if my sudden appearance has caused you any ill feelings, Wes. That wasn't my intention at all. I came back to help, and hopefully what I've done will trickle down and cause more help to be on the way."
"What do you mean?" she heard her husband ask, obviously as curious as she was.
Alex just smiled at the picture they made, and she could tell his heart was breaking again. "I've given Doctor Manx her morpher back," he spoke, causing her and Wes to startle. "Hopefully it's all the encouragement she and Boom need to come back here, to help out. The more Rangers we have, the better off we'll be."
"They have the Nova morpher as well," she murmured, remembering the accounts from the logs she'd read. One extra morpher, to be given to someone in dire need of redemption…
"Who would that morpher go to?" Wes asked as she and Alex shared a look, a nod of understanding between them.
"That'll be revealed in due time, as neither the morpher nor the ranger are currently present," Alex supplied, causing her to smile. It was a ray of hope for her, something she could hold onto after the heartache they'd dealt with the night before. Not all was as lost as it seemed. "So, shall we head in, eat, and then go see how the others are doing?"
"Let's go," Wes laughed as the three of them moved inside to eat the food Lucas and Trip had been preparing.
One good thing about the entire town knowing their secret was that when they had to take time out from school, no one asked them why. The downside to that was they didn't get out of having to do homework and turning it in on time. And considering who their current "home school" teacher was there would be no getting out of the homework period, despite what was going on around them.
Cassie was bent over a geography book with Chip while Vida and Madison worked on their English papers and Xander was in the midst of studying his horticulture book. Nick, meanwhile, was going over Chip's math problems and correcting the ones the yellow ranger had gotten wrong. They had suffered a significant personal loss the night before, and while their mentors and friends wanted them to grieve, they also knew that doing normal, everyday things would help ease some of that grief.
"Chip, you're very good at this," Cassie grinned, patting his shoulder while he nodded and smiled up at her. The elder Ranger could see the shadows in his eyes and the dark circles under them. The effects of the last few days were visible on all of their faces. The Pink Ranger felt her heart squeeze in her chest, and her mind wondered if her team had ever looked so young and vulnerable. Yes, they had lost their powers to Divatox, had been forced to flee into space to find new powers, and had even lost Zordon; but somehow Cassie didn't think they'd ever looked quite like the Mystic Force team was sitting around the table in Rootcore. Itassis had been an important part of their team's success the year before, to lose her as they had weighed heavily on them. And, Cassie surmised, the fact that they were old enough to understand more casualties were coming, was a difficult burden to bear.
"Why don't you guys take a break, you've been at it for nearly an hour," the elder Pink Ranger suggested, trying to be upbeat for them.
The five young warriors looked too tired and drained to be excited for a break. "Come on guys, let's go get some fresh air," Madison murmured, watching Cassie nod in agreement before the team shut their books and headed out the door. The second they were out of sight, the Pink Ranger let the tears come. She worried about them, couldn't help but be worried. Like all the other teams, they had come to mean a great deal to her in the short time they'd been working together. With a heavy sigh, she sank down on the steps and buried her face in her hands. She was so occupied by her thoughts, that she never heard the footsteps. It wasn't until a familiar arm was wrapped around her and her body was being leaned against someone's shoulder that she began paying attention.
"You okay?" T.J.'s soft voice asked as he leaned his head against hers.
"Yeah, just worried," she murmured, wiggling her arm around his waist and leaning against him a little more. "The Mystics look tired."
T.J. made a noise in the back of his throat; one she knew was his agreement noise. "We all are, and until this is over with, there's nothing we can do."
"Our battles were never this bad, were they?" she asked, rubbing her cheek against his shoulder.
"No, but then, there's more at stake this time, and we're more emotionally invested knowing what the outcome will be if we don't win."
She nodded. "And the sucky part is we know there's a possibility we won't win."
Just the way he said it caused her to start laughing, her arm tightening around him. "Oh T.J., some days…"
He grinned at her before leaning over and kissing the side of her head. "I know. Come on, let's go get some fresh air ourselves."
Near The Rockporium
"I don't think this is what Cassie had in mind when she said 'take a break'," Nick pointed out as the group of Rangers entered the park. Conner and Ethan were leading the pack, with the Tyranno Ranger bouncing a bright red soccer ball off every part of his body.
"Nick, we need a break, school work or not," Madison pointed out. "Last night was hell, for all of us."
The pall over the group was nearly visible as they all remembered what they'd been doing just hours before – their friend was dead, others had been injured. "Come on, physical activity will take our minds off the bad stuff for a while," Conner informed them, kneeing the soccer ball in Trent's direction. The pair was still at odds over what had happened, but the White Ranger was at least receptive to Conner's efforts to engage him.
"Conner's right, as much as it pains me to admit that," Trent chuckled slightly at the pouting look Conner shot in his direction. The pair of them shared a look over Kira's head, noting how quiet their yellow teammate was being. Conner motioned for the ball and nodded his head in Kira's direction. Trent tossed the ball back and then reached down and took Kira's hand. The Yellow Ranger laid her head on his shoulder and Conner nodded, smiling. Things were a little screwed up, mostly his fault he admitted to himself, but they were fixable.
"Are you sure Syd should be playing ball?" Xander quipped, pointing to the Pink Ranger who was bringing up the end of their group. She was supported by Sky on one side and Jack on the other.
"I can play, besides, I need to stretch my muscles or I'll get too stiff to even fight," the blonde argued, shooting a look at Xander that had him grinning at her cheekily.
The sudden clearing of someone's throat brought all their attentions to Tori. "Can we please, not mention fighting for the rest of the afternoon?"
"No kidding," Chip quipped, the others nodding agreement. "Normal, everyday afternoon?"
With a shared look, the group nodded and headed deeper into the park to play ball.
She moved gingerly from their bedroom to where Jason stood in the doorway of the room across the hall. Her body was still incredibly sore, but luckily healed. Kimberly's attack had done a number on her. Taking a deep breath, she moved to lean against his shoulder as he stared into the open door of what had been Tommy and Kim's room. The White Ranger was sprawled across the bed, face buried in a pillow and feet hanging off the side. For a second, it was like a flashback to their high school days when she and Jason had gone to wake him up. "Are we going to let him sleep?" she softly asked, reaching for Jason's hand. Their fingers locked together and she felt herself settle.
"He needs to, it's his way of dealing with what's going on," came Jason's reply. She smiled when she felt him lean over to kiss her temple. "How are you feeling?"
"Achy, tired, and incredibly sad mixed with a healthy dose of pissed off," she told him, knowing she didn't have to hold back. "I always figured Kim and I were square when it came to what happened back then; I didn't realize she was still so angry at me."
Shaking his head and closing his eyes, Jason drew her against his body. "Honey, it's not you she's pissed at, not really," he murmured.
"Herself," she responded, remembering an earlier conversation between Tommy and Jason that she shouldn't have heard. "But…"
Jason smiled sadly. "She's learned to hide her insecurities, because her parents used their own, and the few that she and Kenny shared about the split, against each other in the divorce proceedings. When she left, Kim didn't know how to be just Kim; she immersed herself so deeply in the group and taking care of the rest of us, that she never got to know and be secure in her own skin."
"Being the Pink Ranger was more than just a duty to her," Kat surmised, perhaps for the first time since high school realizing just how much the Pink power had become part of Kimberly. The petite gymnast hadn't known how to go on afterwards without that part of herself.
"Of all of us, she's the one that's still growing, still finding her way. We all were comfortable when we left the team, to pursue our other dreams and our lives. Kim left for a number of reasons, but I don't think she's gotten passed the fact that she ultimately made the decision to cut herself off from that part of her."
Kat wrapped her arms around him and held on. "We're going to get her back, Jason. I refuse to believe otherwise, but don't think I'm gonna forget her trying to kick my ass," she quipped.
The Red Ranger laughed and leaned his head against hers. "Honey, hate to say it, she did kick your ass, royally."
Arching an eyebrow, she reached over and pinched his butt, causing him to yelp and glare at her. "You're supposed to be on my side."
"I am, but I'm also the one who taught her just about everything she knows."
"Do I detect a note of pride in that comment?" she teased. She wasn't mad at him, she understood the pride he held in his sister.
"Who? Me? Never," he tried not to grin as he leaned forward and shut the door, before turning her toward the stairs. "I'm hungry, let's go eat."
"Way to change the subject," she muttered, pushing on his back as she followed him. "Lead the way."
Near The Rockporium
She couldn't help but smirk as she felt Conner tremble while he held her. She knew without a doubt that Sky was glaring at the Red Ranger, and yet, Conner wasn't outwardly showing his fear at Sky's blatant display. "Relax, he's not going to kill you," she giggled as Conner nodded and swallowed. "Besides, it was his idea to play this game in the first place."
That made the Red Ranger chuckle. "Your boyfriend is kinda scary, just so you know." The usually goofy jock had taken a backseat for a second, giving Sydney a glimpse of the young man beneath. Conner didn't show it often, but underneath the need to constantly joke and goof off was a sensitive, smart, and courageous young man.
"Oh, I know. And it only gets worse if he knows you're terrified of him," she pointed out, squeezing Conner's hand back as he blinked and then grinned at her as he made to move his ear closer to her to hear her. She knew he was doing it for the pure teasing factor that it would drive Sky absolutely insane, something the Blue Ranger had a hard time with. He wasn't generally the jealous type, and in fact put up with a lot of her flirting, but after everything they'd gone through recently...of course, Conner's personality was a lot like hers, and neither could resist needling Sky just a little.
The four Ranger teams – Ninja Storm, Dino Thunder, SPD, and Mystic Force - were in the middle of playing two-person team tag. It had been Sky's suggestion that they split up from their normal smaller teams to build their teamwork skills with one another; Sky was paired with Dustin, Kira with Blake, Shane with Ethan, Bridge with Hunter, Z with Trent and Jack with Tori.
With Conner chuckling in her left ear, Syd's eyes took in each of the other teams. Her eyes immediately landed on Sky and Dustin. Her boyfriend had certainly loosened up a bit since they'd left home, because now that he was done glaring at Conner, he was talking and joking with Dustin as if the pair had known each other for years. She attributed that to Dustin's ability to naturally get people to talk to him, to be comfortable with him.
That ability reminded her of Bridge, who she turned her gaze on next as he stood with Hunter, the pair locked in what seemed to be a serious conversation. She watched as the Crimson Ranger gestured to the leather gloves on Bridge's hands. The Green Ranger tugged one glove off and waved his hand in front of himself, all the while explaining to Hunter what he was doing. She was surprised to see Hunter's patience as Bridge babbled, and his genuine interest in Bridge's words. Too often, the man she called her baby brother was scorned by people who didn't care for his babbling nor tried to understand why he did. She was glad that Hunter was taking the time to try and understand what Bridge was telling him.
When her gaze shifted again, she realized where Hunter probably got his patience – from having a younger brother of his own. Blake was currently snickering at something with Kira, who was shaking her head and laughing uncontrollably at Sky and Dustin. They pair were obviously close friends and were enjoying a few minutes to catch up. She'd met Kira before, twice. While Cruger assumed they didn't remember the second time, Syd was well aware that all of B Squad remembered meeting the Dino Thunder Rangers when they'd traveled back in time to save Reefside, despite the device that had been used on them to forget.
"HELP!" Ethan's voice rang out as he flew past where Syd was standing, Shane chasing after him. The Blue Tricera Ranger was laughing as Shane tried to make a grab for him, only to have Ethan duck behind Kira and Blake. It was quite amazing as she watched the four, noting the difference in opinions and personalities and yet a common desire and duty between them tied them together. She knew the story behind both teams, intimately, and even though it was not new to her, it still amazed her that they could get along well enough together to appear as if they were a family.
Speaking of family, she turned and looked at the other brother sister duo from her own team. Jack was chatting up Tori while Z and Trent grinned at Ethan and Shane. She could tell her older brother was flirting outrageously with Tori while subtly asking her questions about the past. She couldn't help but grin as Trent suddenly blended in with his surroundings and then was briefly assaulted by six Z's.
It took her a few minutes to realize it, but watching the teams, they were finally ready – Sky's suggestion to work on teamwork was already a success. The weeks they'd been together already had given them the ability to break apart from their normal teams and function well with the others. Their unity was what was going to help them defeat The First and his minions.
"What the hell is it?" Eric tersely asked as the gathered group stared at the computer screen. Andros and Jen stood between Udonna, Princess Shayla and Commander Cruger. Wes, Carter, Leo and Alex weren't far away. Taylor and Cole were next to the Quantum Ranger, and none of them were looking happy.
"It's a satellite," Trip's snarky reply echoed out as he, Kai, Cam and Kendrix moved back and forth between each other's computers. Billy had been called away minutes before by Aisha, but it would be inevitable they'd need to call him back.
The Quantum Ranger gave his green teammate a look of amusement and a grin. "Really, Trip, I couldn't tell."
It was Cam who spun around in his chair, eyes narrowed, face pinched in anger. "It's pumping off enough evil energy to worry us," the Green Samurai hissed.
"Cam, please explain," Doggie asked, hoping to divert the Green Ninja's attention.
"It's broadcasting a signal, well, two signals," Kai started, drawing their gazes. "One of them is an actual broadcast signal, as in, television signal. The other, it's radiating evil energy, much like everyone's favorite villains put out when we get them on the scanners."
Each and every Ranger and mentor in the room pondered that as Kendrix motioned for Hayley to join her as soon as the Black Ranger materialized in the room. "What is it?"
"The satellite, and for some reason, we can't get passed the security protocols to find out what it's doing."
"You don't need to," Lucas announced as he, Katie, Kelsey and Ryan rushed into the room. "Turn the television on."
Trip grabbed the remote and flipped on the television. They watched in shock as, on every channel, was a picture of The First. "People of Earth, the time for your destruction has come!" the image repeated, over and over again.
He had no clue where he was. A vague memory of hearing Kat and Jason talking about the current situation outside his door skittered across his mind. He remembered he'd been drifting in and out of sleep since they'd arrived back from the funeral. And now he found himself in a nearly pitch black hallway of sorts. Barely able to make out the walls, he was only able to tell they were made of stone. His eyes were slowly adjusting to the darkness, and with a bit of the impatience of his youth, his sight improved drastically thanks to his call on his powers.
He was quietly debating which way to go when he felt the tug on his soul; one that was so strong and deep that it stole his breath away. Turning to the right, he instinctively followed the source of the pull until it became unbearably painful. As the end of the hall approached, he found a thick, wooden door blocking his way. Cautiously, he pushed it open.
The White Ninja's senses seemed almost super sensitized as he entered the door, and his acute hearing picked up the voices from within. One a familiar husky groaning, the other a shrill cry; whether that cry was in pain or pleasure he couldn't determine. Curiosity got the better of him, making him slink further into the room. His heart clenched when he heard the unmistakable, pleasure-filled gasps that could only be coming from one person – the woman he loved. He turned a corner and stopped dead in his tracks when he saw the bed that took up dominance in the room. Kimberly was sprawled upon it, her slim, strong thighs clasping the hips of the man who was so obviously imbedded deeply in her body. His heart froze and shattered as he watched the pair.
Kim's head was thrown back, her companion's face buried against her throat while his hips repeatedly thrust against hers. When her wild keening began, Tommy could do nothing but close his eyes and try to back away. The only problem was he was rooted to the spot. His ears throbbed with the sound of his Beautiful's betrayal all the while tears scorched the back of his eyes. He felt her traitorous shift was fully complete; he'd never be able to forgive her this grievous crime.
'Is your love so weak, so fickle, to not see this for what it is?' a sorrow tinged voice asked with startling calmness. It took only seconds for Tommy to realize the loud sex noises had ceased and the air around him was unnaturally still.
Cautiously, he opened his eyes and found himself face to face with none other than a glowing pink bird. 'You have no faith if you believe everything you see here.'
"She betrayed us!" he argued out loud, his face a riot of grief and anger.
'If that were true, I would not be here and you would already be dead.'
The White Ranger swallowed with such difficulty he couldn't find the words let alone his voice to argue back. "She left me."
Beautiful as always, the bird cocked its head, eyes unblinking as it stared at him. 'Do you remember, after the Red Ranger freed you all those years ago? Do you remember the guilt, despair and unworthiness you felt?'
'Then you of all have no room to judge one who is trying to fight their own mistakes; to find redemption for the choices that were made in haste that have hurt those most beloved. You two are two halves of a much larger whole.'
"She could have found redemption with me by her side," he argued weakly.
'Did you find yours with her initially?' the counter question startled him. The gorgeous crane had a point – he'd left the Rangers, especially Kim, to come to terms with his choices, and those forced on him, when he'd lost his powers. No matter the good done after Rita's spell had been broken, he'd still struggled with what had happened.
'She who is my physical embodiment does not give up so easily' the Crane cryptically told him as the scene changed and he suddenly found himself in another room. Kimberly slept, but not so peacefully this time, on a bed. On the chair in the corner, a large white falcon kept watch.
'He sends you dreams to weaken a link that nothing - not time, not distance, not other loves or horrible mistakes - has been able to sever. Will you let him damage the partnership that is powerful enough to save them all?' the falcon fiercely questioned Tommy, who's breath caught as he stared down at his Beautiful.
His resolve was strong, his heart yelling at him not to give up, not on her, not on them. "No."
'She fights his magic and power, and yes, she is physically away from you, but her soul and heart have always been yours. Trust that you have given her the strength to survive and the wind she needs to fly.'
This Kimberly moaned in heart-breaking pain. "TOMMY!" she screamed in her sleep, tears sliding down her face and into the black sheets as her body bowed up, her back arched off the bed.
Tommy's heart ached with wanting to gather her in his arms and soothe away the pain he knew she was experiencing. "I need her; I'm lost without her."
'She needs you more,' the falcon, HIS falcon, told him. Their eyes were locked in an eerie battle for understanding and acceptance.
'Let your soul, your heart, be her light in the darkness she's drowning in. You let her guide you once, White Ranger. It's time to return the favor.'
Tommy opened his mouth to speak and the world around him blurred and disappeared. A growl of frustration sounded as he woke to hands shaking him and power, warm and comforting, filled his entire being.
Aisha and Billy sat on either side of the bed, Rocky and Adam at the foot, and all of them feeding him power. "He may have her physically, but Kim wouldn't betray you, not like that."
The Ranger leader blinked and looked up into Billy's angry eyes. The normal blue-gray depths were sparking with the Blue Ranger's summoned power and his anger at what Tommy knew was a lack of faith in their Pink teammate. "Billy…"
"I can't believe you," the Blue Ranger spat at him, only backing off when Rocky put a hand on his shoulder and Aisha shot him a look that said being pissed off wasn't going to help.
"How much of that did you guys see?"
It was Adam's quiet voice that silenced them all. "All of it." The Black Ranger was obviously just as upset as the others, and Tommy felt ashamed just from the tone alone. How could their friends have more faith in her than he did? How could he have doubted?
"She didn't hurt us the way she hurt you once," Rocky finally spoke up, silencing anything Aisha was about to say. "She betrayed everything you two were once, and the pain and doubt from that still lingers. We understand that, but the woman she is right now, the one she's made herself into, isn't the same young sixteen year old who didn't know how to tell you she needed her space. You can't compare now to then."
The White Ranger let out the breath he'd been holding and lay back on the bed. He squeezed Aisha's hand when she threaded her fingers through his. He felt her calmness, her desire to make him feel better, and he could sense her unasked question. "I'm exhausted, Sha," he murmured to her, closing his eyes as she rubbed the back of his hand and poured her power into him.
They all knew that Aisha's power wouldn't comfort him the way Kim's always seem to, but when the others linked with the Yellow Ranger, their four colors melded together and coalesced inside of Tommy, almost giving him a sense of Kim being with him. They all felt the soft sweep of delicate feathers, the sense of comfort and love, and the depth of longing. In that moment, Kimberly's spirit touched theirs, the power of the Ninjetti mingling together.
It was Billy who managed, somewhat clumsily, to coil their power and punch it through their link to Kim, all of them feeling the sharp edge of shock as if she was right there with them. They all gave a gasp of surprise when they realized the move had seemingly put another crack in the magical armor that cut her off from them.
"What just happened?" Rocky shakily asked as he and Adam sunk down on the bed next to Aisha and Billy.
No one had time to answer as the alarms started to sound from their communicators, alerting them to the fact that another attack was taking place. Jason, Zack, Kat, Tanya and Justin burst through Tommy's bedroom door, startled looks on all their faces. "Cam's ready to teleport us to Rootcore," Jason spoke.
"Let's go," Tommy ordered. The five scrambled off the bed, Tommy quickly pulling his shoes on, before they all disappeared from the room in a burst of multi-color light.
"Kira! Over here!" Z called out, laughing as the Dino Yellow Ranger planted her feet and threw Conner's soccer ball, which they were now using as a dodge ball, to where Z was standing by a tree.
As the ball soared through the air, a sudden burst of red energy knocked it from the sky in an explosion, drawing the Rangers' attentions. All four teams spun around to see what was up. Standing before them with squads of Kelzacks and Tyrannodrones, were Zurgane and Zeltrax.
"Look, party crashers," Hunter grumbled as the four teams moved closer to each other.
"We're gonna do more than party crash!" Zurgane announced.
Zeltrax shot him a look and nodded before he raised his sword. "Prepare to die!"
"Now where have I heard THAT before!" Ethan quipped, rolling his eyes as Conner, Kira and Trent chuckled. "You couldn't do it last time you faced us, what makes you think you're gonna do it now?"
Without another word, Zeltrax raised his sword to the sky, drawing down a bolt of energy which he flung out at the Rangers. While most of the group dove for cover, Blake, Hunter and Chip instinctively stepped forward. Using their elemental powers, the trio absorbed most of the blast before deflecting it away harmlessly.
It gave the rest of the team time to regroup before they surged forward. The SPD team joined Dino Thunder against Zeltrax and the Tyrannodrones while Mystic Force followed Ninja Storm to take out the Kelzacks while the ninja Rangers attacked as one against Zurgane.
"What's the deal?" Zack asked as the Morphin and Zeo teams materialized inside of what had become the Command Center inside of Rootcore.
"Zurgane and Zeltrax," Cam uttered, his fingers flying over the keys of the computer. "And now that Billy's here, I'm heading out."
All eyes took in the Green Samurai Ranger and nodded. Cam had done less fighting and more behind the scenes work during all of the past several weeks.
"Cam?" Shayla asked softly, her eyes worried.
"I need to be with my team…my brothers and sister, Princess," Cam firmly told her. "I can't sit on the sidelines all the time."
"Be careful," Jen reminded him while Billy took his seat and began to power up the teleporter. "If you guys need help, we're here."
Cam gave her a nod to let her know he heard her before he dematerialized out of the room, leaving the others to watch him show up at the battle on screen.
While they were focused on the screen in front of Billy, Kendrix and Kai were typing away at another console before the Pink Galaxy Ranger started chirping in alarm. "GUYS!"
All eyes snapped over to Kai's screen, where a pink haired, black leather clad Astronema had shown up in what looked like Angel Grove Harbor. "We've got a secondary problem."
Andros, TJ and Cassie sighed while Ashley lifted her wrist to contact Carlos and Zhane. "Guys, Astronema's been spotted in Angel Grove. Prepare for teleport."
The static crackled for a second before two voices answered. "Acknowledged."
"Teleporting now," Billy responded seconds later as four flashes of light announced the departure of the Space Rangers. "Kendrix, Kai, keep track of the Space Rangers' progress in the event that we need to send back up."
The Pink and Blue Rangers nodded and turned back to their monitors while the others broke apart to start planning.
He refused to be beaten by a bunch of pathetic teenagers. He knew he could have beaten them before, had Mesogog and Dr. Oliver not interfered. They were, after all, merely children. And he was a warrior of the darkness, fighting to extinguish the light. He had his chance to prove to not only Mesogog, but to the First and the Master that he was worthy.
Spinning to his left, he swung out his sword, connecting with the armored skin of the Blue Dino Ranger. His eyebrow lifted under his helmet when Ethan held his ground, managing to deflect the blow that would have broken the arms of a normal human. The moment of surprise left him open to the attack of the tiny, blonde haired Pink Ranger from the future who slid into his personal space and with a swift uppercut, knocked him backwards. He landed on his back a few feet away, and refused to admit he was actually seeing stars after the little wench's punch. "You'll pay for that Pink Ranger!" he roared as he rolled to his feet, dodging an attack by the White Dino Ranger.
"Bring it, you tin can!" she hissed at him, hands up and her body in a defensive position.
"Now now, Syd, don't tease him like that," the White Dino Ranger quipped back as he and the Red Ranger from the future stood on either side of her.
"I'm going to enjoy killing you all!" he roared, whipping his sword around his head and unleashing a rope of energy that slammed into all the Rangers, thrusting them back away from him.
"Not in this lifetime!" he heard, turning to face the obviously idiotic Red Dino Ranger. He pointed his sword in the Red Ranger's direction and fired a blast, only to step back when the boy was nowhere to be seen. It took him approximately two seconds to realize his mistake as he was kicked in the chest from the side with such force that it slammed him backwards and right into a tree.
On the other side of the battle, Zurgane found himself facing twice the power of the elements. He'd never imagined that the cursed Ninja Rangers would ever be able to work with one another so well, let alone with another team of Rangers. But they were proving him wrong. The Red Ninja was moving practically in perfect unison with the wretched Pink Mystic, the two hanging back and using their wind powers to help sweep a path through the Kelzacks. Then there was the Thunder Ninjas and the Yellow Mysitc, who were using his foot soldiers as target practice with their power over lightning.
Of course, while the Kelzacks were being thoroughly demolished, he himself was trying to avoid the threat before him – the two blue Rangers were using every bit of energy they could muster to distract him with powerful jets of water while the Yellow Ninja and Green Mystic wrecked havoc on the ground he stood upon. More than once he found himself tumbling to the ground as it shook and shuddered. And then he had to face the powerfully hot blasts of fire from the Red Mystic. Zeltrax was lucky, he grumbled to himself. The walking tin can didn't have to face the elemental powers of the brats as well as the fact that they were Rangers and got super power from that too. "I've had enough!" he yelled, thrusting his sword straight into the sky. He drew down bolts of energy himself and sent the Rangers scattering as he stood amidst them.
Unfortunately for him, he never saw the flash of green light announce someone's arrival, nor did he ever contemplate the fact that there was one Ninja Ranger missing from the group. At least, he didn't until he was knocked forward by a foot planting itself in the middle of his back. When he rolled to his knees, he looked up and found the Green Samurai in a ready position, eyes narrowed and a smirk lighting the Green Ranger's face. "Miss me?"
"Not especially," Zurgane smoothly replied, and then taking a page from Zeltrax's book, decided to taunt the Green Ranger. "I totally forgot you were still a Ranger."
Dustin and Xander halted their next attack, both of them standing to their full heights and shaking their heads. "Did he really just say that?" Xander demanded, crossing his arms over his chest as he turned his eyes in Dustin's direction.
"Dude, I always figured Lothor's goons were dumb, but I think that comment just moved Zurgane passed Choobo on the stupid scale," Dustin's frown turned to a grin. "I for one would not want to piss Cam of all people off."
"We've got company!" Jack hollered across the park, alerting the Rangers to more squads of Kelzacks and Tyrannodrones as well as two new but familiar fighters – Anton and Elise.
Trent let out a growl before rushing over to the pair. "Dad! Elise! What are you doing here?"
"We were in town for a conference and wanted to come see you," Elise responded before she kicked a drone away from her. "We weren't expecting to run into trouble."
"Elise and I will stay out of the way, promise," Anton assured his son as the pair decided to hightail it out of harm's way while the Rangers took care of Zeltrax and Zurgane.
That was the plan, anyways. When Zeltrax caught sight of them, he began ignoring the Rangers firing shots at his former ally and her fiancé. On instinct, Elise pushed Anton out of the way and took the full brunt of Zeltrax's attack. The Dino Thunder team let out shrieks of dismay as Anton twisted and caught Elise's falling body as the two landed on the pavement.
"Trent! Help your dad! Kira, Ethan, you're with me!" Conner ordered, the trio spinning toward Zeltrax. "DINO THUNDER, POWER UP! HA!"
"Dino Thunder, Power Up! HA!" the Blue and Yellow Rangers' morphing call was mere seconds behind their leader's, the three instantly donning their suits.
"SPD EMERGENCY!" the team shouted.
"Dana!" Billy yelled out in alarm as he watched Elise collapse in Anton's arms. The Pink Ranger rushed from one of the other rooms to join him at the console.
"How bad?" she asked, her eyes focusing on the family near the pavement.
The Blue Ranger shook his head, his fingers flying over the keys. He was hoping to use Trent's morpher and communicator so he could scan Elise. "Bad. She took a direct hit to the back from Zeltrax."
"Carter, I'm going to need you!" the blonde shouted to her husband as he broke away from the other Red Rangers. "Billy, teleport us in as close as you can to the battle, we'll take it from there."
"Let me know if you need me to teleport you into Briarwood General," he responded, fingertips flying as Dana grabbed her medical kit. In a matter of moments the Pink and Red Lightspeed Rangers were appearing on the screen to assist Trent and his father.
"Elise!" Anton choked out as he cradled her against his body. He'd brought one hand up to stroke her forehead and it had come away from her back covered in blood.
Trent was on his knees next to him, stripping off the t-shirt he'd been wearing, and pressing it to Elise's back. "Dad…" he gasped, eyes locking on the red coated hand that Anton held against his fiancee's face. "This is bad."
Both men were shocked when the former villainess groaned and her eyes fluttered open. "Anton…" she uttered, turning her face toward his chest.
"Just lay still, help's on it's way," he reassured her.
She grimaced as shook her head. "I'm sorry."
"What for?" he asked, brushing his hand across her face.
The former villain bit down on his lip while Trent blinked back tears. In the two years since Elise had come into their lives, the White Ranger had accepted her in the role of mother. He could barely remember his own, she'd been gone for so long as had his father, but Anton and Elise had filled the role, easing the hole a little bit. And now, here he was again, losing a parent. "You haven't ruined a thing, beloved," Anton whispered to her.
Two flashes of light signaled Dana and Carter's arrival. "Dana," Trent choked as the Pink Ranger knelt and opened her bag.
"Anton, turn her over on her side, toward you," Dana instructed, snapping gloves on as he did what he was told. She tried to stifle the gasp that bubbled up when she saw Elise's back – the bolt from Zeltrax had cut right down to the bone in several spots – but she couldn't.
"Day?" Carter asked, kneeling next to her. "Oh man."
"She's losing too much blood," the Pink Ranger growled, wetting some guaze before pressing it to Elise's back. She flinched when the injured woman screamed. "I'm sorry, Elise…"
Eyelids fluttered as Carter reached out to take a pulse. "Elise?" Carter firmly asked, trying to get her attention. "Dana, she's going into shock."
The blonde Pink Ranger said nothing as she set about administering a shot of pain killers. She hated to admit it to herself, or anyone else, but by the amount of blood on the ground and by the way dark haired woman was responding, they didn't have much time.
"Dana…s'okay…" Elise murmured, causing Dana's eyes to well.
Both Anton and Trent shuddered, finally realizing what was happening. "Elise, my love…" Anton murmured to her, leaning down and whispering in her ear. He let out a shaky breath when she squeezed his hand before reaching for Trent's.
"Proud…" she sighed when Anton turned her back over so she could look up into Trent's face. He took her hand and brought it to his cheek, holding it tightly. "Made me…so proud…"
"…Mom…" he let out the tortured whisper, his tears finally getting the better of him as they dripped down his face and onto her skin. "Please…"
"Love you…both…" she gasped softly, her body trembling as she tried to hang on.
Anton leaned down and kissed her softly. "We love you too."
Her body shook lightly as her chest rose very slowly and then descended one final time. Dana and Carter's heads dropped to their chests while Anton cradled Elise's lifeless body to his chest.
"MOM!" Trent's strangled, pain-filled voice screamed out, catching the attention of all the other Rangers in the vicinity.
Conner, Kira and Ethan spun around, heads snapping up as they looked at their friend and teammate. The pool of blood on the cement of the park pathway was unmistakable, as was the rocking of Anton's body. They watched briefly as Dana leaned over and wrapped her arms around their White Ranger, each of them knowing and having to accept the harsh reality that their friend, their former Principal, was dead.
With the Kelzacks and Tyrannodrones taken care of, the Rangers either rallied around their fallen friend, or in Cam's case continued to take on Zurgane. "I think it's time for me to retreat," Zurgane murmured, winking out of the battle, leaving Cam breathing heavily and shaking his head as he looked across the park to see Conner, Kira and Ethan facing Zeltrax.
The Green Samurai grimly noticed that the three fought with a desperation that left him aching, even at a distance. Elise had been an important part of their lives – she'd been a former enemy who had spent the last year and a half making sure they were able to grow and learn, not only as Rangers but as people. She was one of the reasons they had succeeded as Rangers, and more importantly, she'd become part of their family. It was in that moment that Cam knew, he and his teammates were going to face something similar when his father finally passed away. He noted the three let Trent grieve while they took it upon themselves to destroy Zeltrax before he hurt anyone else. It startled him to realize that in the moment of his thinking the trio had gone Super Dino Mode without a word.
Ethan and Kira doubled teamed their opponent, using their weapons, their armor and the training that Tommy had provided over the last few years. When they had Zeltrax off his game, Conner would use his super speed to slide in and land crippling blows that sent the robot reeling backwards. This allowed Kira and Ethan to start on him almost as soon as Conner stepped away. Cam was proud to watch them work as a team, even though they were missing two teammates; the core three of the Dino Thunder Rangers was a solid, steady, and completely in sync unit in the moment of their greatest misery.
"You will not win! Insolate, insignificant humans!" Zeltrax shouted over the sounds of battle as he flung bolts of power from his weapon. The other Rangers were still ringed around their civilian friends, hoping to shield them. When Cam rolled to his feet near them, he saw the Dino Rangers front and center. The trio formed a pyramid – Conner at the front, Ethan and Kira flanking him. The Green Ranger blinked, noting Conner had transformed into the Triassic Ranger, his sword and shield combo at the ready.
"I'm finished with you," Conner hissed angrily. "You terrorized our teacher, the people of our city, and now you've inflicted a horror so heinous on our friends that you are not going to see the next hour!" the Red Ranger promised.
"You can't defeat me!"
"I'm going to send you to hell, my promise to Zordon," Conner uttered, so calmly the other Rangers wondered who had replaced their goofy Red Tyranno Ranger.
They all watched as Kira and Ethan fed so much power into Conner that they demorphed and collapsed, unconscious, at his feet. Conner took the power, coiling it into a ball on his sword. Swinging his arm in an arcing motion, Conner released the energy of his friends at Zeltrax. While the former paleontologist tried to block the energy, Conner rushed forward, weapon ready and supercharged with his own power. He slashed repeatedly at Zeltrax, darting in and out with his speed powers. When he'd exhausted himself, he collapsed to his hands and knees, chest heaving, back to his opponent.
All of the other Rangers watched as Zeltrax began to glow seconds before exploding in a shower of sparks. Once he was gone, Conner let his morph go and pushed himself to his feet. He staggered across the park, falling down next to Trent's shaking form, not once heeding the blood pooled on the ground. Trent's head came up and their eyes met. "Thank you," the White Ranger murmured, his voice hoarse.
"She mattered to us too," the Red Ranger responded, his voice choked, eyes blinking back tears that he found he just could not stop. Elise was on the ground, looking peaceful and asleep. "I'm sorry we couldn't save her."
Trent looked up at him, staring into his eyes, and nodded. "You avenged her."
Conner swallowed and put a hand on Trent's shoulder. "We're not going to lose. She's not going to have died in vain."
When the six of them landed, Andros and Zhane remained fairly quiet while T.J. took the lead. "Cassie and I will head to the right. Ashley and Carlos, I want you two to take the left," the Blue Ranger issued, waiting for the rest of his team to nod in agreement.
"I guess that means we take the middle," Zhane quipped at Andros, who nodded. When the team split up, the pair began making their way forward, looking for signs of Astronema. Zhane felt a shiver run up and down his spine as they continued their journey.
"You know, normally, I'd say I'm a very patient man. But right now, not so much," Andros muttered, making Zhane chuckle just slightly. They both knew how frustrated the other was over what was happening with Karone.
"Ditto," the Silver Ranger finally commented before his eyes caught a flash of pink hair. "Andros."
The Red Ranger looked up, his eyes zeroing in on what his brother-in-law saw. "How do you want to play this?" he asked.
"I think I can get through to her, by staying out of my suit. Can you keep her minions busy?"
Andros nodded, a grim look on his face. "Consider it done."
"The Rangers are still alive, what are you doing here?" his voice was just above a whisper, causing Zurgane to stop and shudder. Lothor's former general closed his eyes and took a deep breath before slowly turning toward the entrance to the hallway he was in. He strove not to tremble when he didn't see the First anywhere in the hallway.
"I decided on a strategic retreat. Zeltrax has them well in hand."
"Zeltrax is dead."
Glancing over his left shoulder, Zurgane barely had time to gasp before the bolt of greenish-black power shot out of the corner and connected with him. He flew across the corridor and slammed into the wall with a sickening thud. When he didn't move, a lone dark figured emerged from the shadows, standing over him. Raising one hand, the power inside of Zurgane was sucked up into thin air. Kicking the lifeless body, the figure remerged with the shadows, a sickening echo of sinister chuckling echoing off the walls as it slithered away.
Watching the Red Ranger rush off, Zhane began approaching his wife. He sincerely hoped he'd be able to put a dent in, if not break, the magic surrounding her.
"Where are you imbeciles going!" she screamed as the piranhatrons disappeared, following what Zhane assumed was Andros. Quietly, he stepped out into a direct path behind her, watching her back stiffen before she whirled around to face him "Silver Ranger."
"Not at the moment," he corrected her. Her eyes narrowed at him even has her tongue peeked out to lick her lips. She took several steps toward him, waiting for him to flinch. He never moved.
Shrugging, he responded. "Not really. It's called trust. You're my wife, I trust you with my life." His voice carried a slight bite to it as he stared at her, his eyes watching with an odd satisfaction as she flinched. 'You're still there, Babe, I can see it' he thought to himself.
"How many times do I have to tell you, your wife is DEAD!" she screamed, her face flushed and body trembling.
Zhane stared at her, taking in her reaction. He could still hear Andros fighting in the background but his brain, however, had quickly processed what was going on in front of him. Somehow, Astronema wasn't as in control as she claimed. "The lady doth protest too much," he murmured to himself. Swiftly and with purpose, he walked toward her until he was less than a foot from her.
"You have a death wish," she hissed, moving to bring her weapon to hand. She never got the chance because Zhane reached out, cupping her face, startling her into paralysis. Eyes wide, she gasped softly when he leaned closer, their lips almost touching.
"For you, I would gladly give my life at any moment," he whispered. Of their own violation, her eyes fluttered closed, her lips moving tentatively against his. Behind her closed lids, scenes – memories – began to flash.
The first time he'd kissed her.
The first time he'd saved her.
Him cradling her as a child before she'd been taken.
Piggy back rides through the village with Andros at their side.
He and Andros defending her as a child.
The first time they'd made love.
"I love you," he breathed after pulling back. "I love you, and I miss you."
The memory of the first time he'd uttered those words hit her, knocking the breathless. She remembered her heart soaring, remembered the defiant look he'd aimed at her brother, daring him to deny what he saw as truth. "Zhane…" she mumbled, eyes glazing over.
"Beloved," he gave back, his thumbs soothing across her cheek bones. He let out a strangled gasp when she collapsed, his instincts kicking in so he caught her automatically.
"ZHANE!" T.J.'s yell echoed to him, pulling his attention to the others.
Andros had finished off her foot soldiers, joining the rest of the Space team as they faced off with none other than Darkonda.
"She belongs to Dark Spector" Darkonda announced.
"No, she doesn't," Carlos argued.
Cassie let out a growl and corrected their opponent. "She belongs with her family."
Andros, Zhane could see, stepped forward then. "She belongs to herself," his brother-in-law spoke, tightening his fist around his weapon. It was then that the Silver Ranger realized his teammates were all morphed. Swallowing hard, he scooped his wide into his arms before hurrying away from the battle he knew was about to erupt.
He set her down a way away, but he could still hear their family going into battle. "Sweetheart, wake up, please," he begged softly, leaning down to check her pulse.
"Why would you move me?" he voice called to him.
"Because it wasn't safe," he explained, not phased by the question. "Your brother is pissed, and when he is, he gets just a tad bit crazy at times. You've seen it yourself."
She turned her eyes up to his, knowing she should kill him for touching her but feeling…she couldn't do it. "I don't know what to believe anymore."
"Believe that I love you, no matter what."
His face was fierce – so unlike the smiling visage she saw in her dreams. "Zhane…"
"She's gaining control again."
He swallowed the lump in his throat and asked the question, though he was pretty sure he already knew the answer. "Who?"
"Astronema." His eyes bore into hers, watching as the magic swallowed his wife whole. Acting on instinct alone, he was able to summersault back away from her just as a powerful blast ripped from her hands.
When he'd righted himself in a crouch a few feet away, Zhane's heart ached as he watched her roll to her feet, her eyes flashing pink and black while she smirked at him. "Ta ta for now," she grinned impishly before disappearing.