Title: "The End of the Age of Innocence"
This is the prequel to "Brave New World"
Chapter 1/3

Written by: Shawn

Summary: They never thought this day would come, that the night would feel this cold, that their best just wouldn't be good enough. Now, at the end, one final sacrifice might save humanity... or send it to extinction.

Rated: R

Category: Drama in every sense of the word.
Timeline/Spoilers: Everything is canon up to the end of Power Rangers in Space. After that its all my Alternate Universe.

Characters: Tommy, Kimberly, Jason, Trini, Rocky, Adam, Zack, Billy, Aisha, Katherine, Tanya, and Justin.
Original Characters: Maria Scott. She's Italian, age 28, and married to Jason Lee Scott. Hope Bella Oliver, age 5, the daughter of Tommy and Kimberly Ann Hart-Oliver.

Disclaimer: Does anyone still read this, lol? Email: Notes 1: This is the prequel to an upcoming Power Ranger novel entitled "Brave New World." Everything you'll need to know about what led up to this story is explained within. This is a very, very character driven piece.

Authors Notes 2: Things get pretty emotional here.

Authors Notes 3: All rangers ages are between 27 and 29.

Authors Notes 4: Super heroes and super hero teams have all been forced to face their moment of truth... the battle that defines them... that saves the day forever. But what happens if you face your greatest challenge and you don't win?


For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin--real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.
-- Alfred D. Souza

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. -- Anonymous


"Freedom-1"
Alpha Ten Class Space Station

Jason Lee Scott's private quarters Deck 9 Friday, August 25, 2007 6:45 PM Currently circling over what was once Asia

"Tell me everything?"

Maria's hauntingly soft voice wrenched at Jason's already broken heart as he stood just over her shoulder. An emptiness settled in the tense air around them. Despite the anger, grief, and feelings of betrayal he knew she was experiencing, the very fact that she was alive and breathing was reason enough for him to give thanks to God.

The scorched, barren landscape that was once South-East Asia laid before them through the curved Zryi-glass hub overlooking the Earth. What was once teeming with culture and life was now miles and miles of uninhabitable devastation the likes of which no one had ever seen before.

The Ranger's co-leader ached to pull his dear wife into his protective arms and soothe her troubled soul, but knew the last thing in the world she wanted right now was for him to touch her. That pained him greatly and yet he thought of her instead of himself. Especially now when so much had finally been revealed to her. "Where would you like me to begin?"

Tears streamed down the olive complexion of Maria's face as she tried to make some sense of the cataclysmic destruction she's witnessed in the last ten hours. The world she once knew was gone and now she's faced with the utter betrayal of the only man she's ever loved. Her heart's broken for so many reasons she wouldn't know where to begin to piece it back together.

"How did this happen? I..." her voice broke in a trembling tone, and then tucked an errant strand of her shoulder length dark hair behind her ear. "I saw the Rangers fighting on the news, but then one by one all of the television stations went black. The radio's wouldn't work and neither would the internet. The skies darkened and the ground shook so hard the streets split down the road. No one knew what was going on or had any clue about what was happening."

Coming around his wife, Jason saw such grief in her the soft green eyes. Her entire family as well as his are gone. Everything they knew... even their way of life has changed forever. At this point all that he could offer her was the total truth. "I better start from the beginning."

Maria turned her gaze toward her husband, taking a good hard look at him for the very first time since she walked into the room. He was the very picture of "Death Warmed Over." Disheveled, bruised, wearing a dark, bloodied jumpsuit that she assumed he wore under his Ranger uniform. His dead-tired face conveyed the utter hell he'd just lived through as his eyes gave off the barest flicker of any hope at all. When the Black Ranger showed her to these private quarters she begged him to find her husband among the eleven thousand plus survivors she was told were brought to the space station.

So imagine the shock to her system when the Black Ranger demorphed in front of her, revealing her husband. A fact she had never known before. Maria needed her answers and she needed them now. "The floor is open."

Jason sighed while running a weary hand through his short, dark hair. "There have been Rangers serving and protecting the universe for well over a thousand years. Their founder was an immortal being named Zordon. He recruited and trained the Ranger teams while providing their powers and advanced technology. When an imprisoned sorceress named Rita Repulsa broke out of her confinement he traveled to Earth. Rangers were needed to combat her. Zordon recruited and trained a young, inexperienced team of Rangers to be stationed here. Kimberly, Billy, Zack, Trini, and myself were the first Earth Rangers."

Unable to steel her attention away from the gigantic smoking craters of Earth's remains, Maria prayed this was some sort of nightmare she would wake up from. "How long ago was this?"

Suddenly, Jason was taken back to that bright, sunny day one afternoon when his life changed forever. "I was 15 when Zordon recruited me."

As thoroughly shocked as Maria was, she was sure this was only the beginning. Her body shivered as she tried to grasp how long her husband had been a part of all of this. And how many years he's lied to her. "Go on."

"Not long after we began working with Zordon, Tommy joined us. Then Trini, Zack and I were offered jobs with the Peace Conference. When we left Angel Grove Aisha, Rocky, and Adam were recruited to take our place. When Kimberly left for Florida to train for the Pan Globals Katherine joined the team. Then Aisha left for Africa and Tanya replaced her. When Rocky was injured Justin replaced him."

This was just too much to take in at one time. Maria could simply not believe what she was hearing. Not only had her husband lied to her for the whole five years of their relationship, and now two and a half years of marriage, but their closest friends had all lied to her face. Despite feeling disgusted and utterly betrayed by this news she had to hear it all. "Every last one of them were at our wedding." Jason nodded before her and then ducked his head in a guilty pose. "We're Hope's godparents..." Her husband looked as if he wanted to say something, but decided to hold his peace. "Keep going."

"Zordon retired Tommy, Katherine, Tanya, and Adam. He replaced them with new recruits. Unfortunately, an attack on their Command Center destroyed it and set them on a quest to find new powers and save Zordon, who was kidnapped."

The aghast expression she wore spoke volumes. "Are we talking about real life or some science fiction movie?"

As calm as he could, Jason agreed. "Believe me, I've asked myself that many times. But I can assure you all of what I have told you is the truth."

"So everyone was retired?"

"At one time, yes."

"Then what made you all come back and why did you never confide in me about the life you once led?"

Her anger was expected as it was justified. Jason had no defense, nor did he even try. She deserved the absolute truth and even better than that. On the same hand he wore his wedding band, Jason lifted it so that she could see a black jeweled ring. "I told you that me and all my friends wore these rings because they were a symbol of our life-long friendship."

More lies as they seemed without end. Maria couldn't understand how the man she trusts with her life has lied about all of his own. "And I always wondered why each of you chose different stones."

"They are the source of our new powers." Jason could feel her slipping further away from him with each new revelation that shook the foundation of their marriage. "A mystical artifact known as the 'Xarxious' called out to all twelve of the original Earth Rangers through a series of painful visions. The Xarxious informed us that it was the very essence of the Morphing Grid, which was where our powers originally came from. Zordon hid it hundreds of years ago, but when it sensed an incredibly powerful dark force seeking it out it summoned Zordon's most experienced living Rangers."

Helping his wife to grasp this wasn't going to be easy in the least. Jason continued, "We were forced to quest, find, and secure it safely. It wanted us to use its powers to defend the Earth from what it deemed its greatest threat ever." The worried expression on her face only made him feel worse. This was all too much for a civilian to take in. "We had no way of knowing when Lord Kraven might discover the Xarxious was found and taken to Earth. Honestly, we hoped that we had covered our tracks and hidden all the mystical signatures of the Xarxious so that he might never find it."

"Who or what is Lord Kraven?"

Even hearing that creature's name made Jason sick to his stomach. "He was an extremely powerful, hate-filled war monger who attacks planets, steals whatever he feels is worth anything, and then destroys the world. He's killed trillions. He has no respect for life of any kind. Somehow he broke free of his mystical prison and set about conquering everything in his path. When he found out about Zordon's death he sought the Xarxious with deadly intent."

If she hadn't sat startled in front of the TV screen in high school along with the rest of the world as the Power Rangers exploits played out for a world-wide audience this would sound beyond insane. "How did he discover it was on Earth?"

Jason shook his head. "We still don't know. Its an investigation we haven't had time to finish. We just had to stop him any way that we could so that he never gained the Great Power. If he did then..." The words died as the horrific symbol of the Rangers utter failure laid before him in the charred remains of Earth. Fractured beyond all hope of recovery, the once beautiful blue world was now a floating, lifeless husk in space.

"When..." Maria started to say as she began putting his lies together in her mind. "When you and the guys went on that week-long hiking trip..."

"Yes," he answered before she finished. "Billy opened a dimensional gate to the dimension where Zordon had hidden the Xarxious. It took us five days to track across twelve miles of jungle to find it. We almost died in the process."

"And I would have never known a thing!" Maria raged, her anger focused at him. "You could have died and I wouldn't even have body or an explanation or anything. How could you do that to me? How could you not share this with the person you claim to love more than any one else in the world?"

Guilt choked his every breath. "I thought I was protecting you."

"Were you protecting Trini?" Maria countered while gauging every nuance of his response to her accusation. "Because I'm sure she was by your side every step of the way."

Trini, one of Jason's oldest friends and former college sweetheart was a sore spot between the Scott's as Maria had always sensed something between them, though he had made his choice the day he'd asked her to marry him in Rome. Nonetheless, the deep connection he shared with another woman was now far greater than Maria had feared.

"Honey, please listen to me. I never wanted to deceive you, but being a former Ranger comes with enemies who might seek revenge on us through our loved ones. That's a fear each and every Ranger lives with."

"Does Kayla know about any of this?"

"No." With somber eyes, Jason shook his head at the mention of Rocky's fiancée. "I hate to tell you about this, but... We couldn't get to her in time," he explained with a heavy heart, not wanting to think of the personal hell Rocky was dealing with at this time. Maria's gasping reaction to yet more news of tragedy tore at him. He hated how he was so incapable of taking any of her pain away, never mind his own.

Maria slowly walked over to the black sectional couch and sat down, her face now in her hands as she could barely accept all of this as reality. "So you all found this Xarxious thing and were protecting it from Lord Kraven? Well what happened to cause the end of the world?"

His methodical journey towards her left Jason with snapshot mental images of the horrors he's witnessed in the last twenty-four hours. His mental and physical exhaustion were crippling to his spirit. He pushed on because he had no other choice. "Lord Kraven threatened to detonate a ninety-megaton Vector Bomb at the Earth's core if we didn't turn over the Xarxious to him. One Vector Bomb is equivalent to fifty thermonuclear Russian Tsar warheads."

All that Maria could do was listen. She couldn't even look at his face right now.

"There was no way we were going to trust Lord Kraven with that kind of power. He was powerful enough but with the Xarxious he would be near God-like. Billy's advanced alien radar systems found Lord Kraven's cloaked citadel in the Arctic Circle. We attacked his forces head-on in a last ditch effort to deactivate the bomb and stop him once and for all. We battled his Four Horseman to the death. Rape, Slavery, Death, and Holocaust guarded the bombs controls. We managed to defeat them, but we lost Justin and Adam during the battle."

"Oh God..." Her anger aside, Maria reached for her husband's hand as she could not imagine how the pain of losing two good friends this way was affecting him. The endless compassion she held dear for him could not be denied. Not even in the face of his lies. "I'm so sorry."

At this point facing any of his own grief wasn't something Jason could deal with. He sucked it up, pushed it aside, and pressed onward. "Lord Kraven attacked us after we killed his Horseman. We barely defeated him, but not before the bomb went off. We were too late. At that point we had..." his voice broke suddenly as his own hated tears began to fall in earnest. "We... we needed to make decisions. The Earth was doomed, so we stripped and teleported everything that wasn't absolutely necessary from this station into space and went after our families first. Very few of us have any family left," he told her. "After that we sought doctors, nurses, scientists, engineers, writers, policeman, priests, farmers, and children. We took those we felt the human race would need to survive."

Restlessly, Jason stood to his feet with his fists balled in grieving rage as he paced the area in front of Maria. "You can't imagine the decisions we've made in the last day. We have had to play God and decide who lives and dies. We had to ignore the desperate pleas of billions of innocent people because we could only house eleven thousand. We separated them as best we could by race and religion so that at least each would continue to live on."

"I can't imagine..."

"Zack's mother is in intensive care fighting for her life. She probably won't make it. Kimberly was to late to save her brother and his family. Rocky couldn't reach Kayla in time. Katherine watched Australia sink into the sea." Jason stopped and simply broke down, falling to his knees. "Hell, all of us have died a little today. WE FUCKING FAILED!" he violently kicked the wall as hard as he could. "The explosion sent the planet off its normal gravitational rotation. At least a billion people died in the first twenty minutes. Devastating earthquakes and tidal waves began devouring the rest of the planet. We had no choice but to abandon it completely."

Maria saw the man she loved more than her own life cry his heart out in a way she never thought he was capable of. She was at his side before she even realized she moved, now draping her arms over his shoulders, effectively holding him to her. "And now?"

Jason paused for a moment, and then said, "Computer, Command Code 11678. Jason Lee Scott."

Maria heard an electronic voice acknowledge him as if the voice were all around them.

"Access holographic layout of Gais-9."

As the lights dimmed and a single red beam shot from the ceiling to the floor and then seemed to evolve into a colorful wire frame image of a blue world that looked similar to Earth.

Jason exhaled a long, deep breath. "The leader of the Space Rangers discovered a planet five years ago that had the climate, water, soil, and air compatibility for human existence. His team is currently testing every square inch of it and will be for the next six months before we reach the world. We have to know everything about the vegetation, water, air, soil, animals, gravity, insects, diseases, and anything else that might not be viable for the human race. Normally, researching a new world for colonization would take years, but we just don't have that long."

Holding her husband as tight as she could, Maria tried to wrap her mind around the life-changing events of the day. Tragedy on a biblical scale was unleashed upon the Earth and now what's left of mankind must flee the dead world it called home and seek a new one.

As time passed by they would all do their best to hold each other up as they always had. Maria silently vowed to do her part, setting aside her anger of Jason's deceit to glorify that they are at least alive and together. Yes, in he midst of suffering there were still some things to be thankful for.

Despite her tender comfort, Maria could always pick up when her husband had more to say. The tension he was giving off left her quaking against him. "There's more, isn't there?"

Jason swallowed hard, hating what he was about to tell her. "The Xarxious foretold a prophecy about 'The Gathering of the Twelve' and the 'Sacrifice of the Ten.'"

Her husband told her everything... and then Maria cried harder than she ever had before.


"Freedom-1"
Alpha Ten Class Space Station Observation Deck Alpha Deck 10 Friday, August 25, 2007 6:45 PM

When the Freedom-1 Space Station was built in secret seventeen months ago as a joint venture between the Rangers, the U.N. Security Council, and the Galactic Alliance space engineers its purpose was clear. A formidable battle station and an advanced base of operations were necessary to combat Lord Kraven and his armada should they ever make their way towards Earth in search of the Xarxious.

During the architectural process this technological wonder of a main control room and observation deck were crafted with an eye towards the original Earth Command Center's design. Originally Zordon's clear stasis tube resided just to the right of the viewing globe and so when the architects asked the Rangers how they wanted the command area configured they requested in honor of their fallen mentor's memory a memorial be placed near the massive glass hub overlooking Earth.

With that small gesture Zordon would forever more watch over the world he swore and ultimately died to protect.

Head bowed before the Laconian-crystal replica of Zordon's stasis tube, Billy Cranston silently prayed that Zordon, in whatever afterlife truly followed this one was not watching over them now. The man who entrusted a rag tag group of inexperienced teenagers and newcomers with the legacy of the Rangers should not have to witness this horrific outcome. The utter torturous sense of failure wrenched the Green Ranger's soul as the view of a horribly crippled, decimated Earth hung dead in space.

What would Zordon think of them now?

Brushing his hand softly over his weary eyes, still dressed in his bloodied green jumpsuit, Billy's heart knew their former mentor would tell them how proud he was of their best efforts. Lord knows they gave it all they had, bled their hearts out and lost two of their own in the process. Zordon would tell them to keep their heads up, remain focused and stick together. He would point out that the living are their priority and the dead should be remembered and their memory placed in a soldiers proper frame of thought.

He would remind them its always darkest before the dawn. And that even in the appearance of a lack of hope the light of friendship, love, and courage could see them through.

Billy shared those beliefs. Zordon's memoirs often offered him clarity concerning how to deal with the trials and tribulation of this uncertain lifestyle. But as the ethereal reflection of the glass hub exposed a tired, spiritually broken man in its wake the shame of being part of the only Ranger team in its one thousand year history to lose the world it was charged to protect damned his spirit. Earth's destruction was as tragic as it was humiliating, though the latter didn't matter near as much as the former.

Billy hated and yet understood that fact would haunt him and the other Rangers for the rest of their lives... however long that was after today.

Grazing his hand over the two days old stubble on his face, Billy took his high-back chair, one of five at the twelve foot-long main command console and did a quick systems check. Engines, weapons systems, air circulation, security protocols, water, food replication, and sanitation devices were all working at peak efficiency. If they rationed things out conservatively they had enough supplies to make the six-month journey across the stars to Gais-9 and would rendezvous with a massive Aquitar supply convoy for additional support. In addition the Galactic Council were busy gathering food, building materials, excavation equipment, clothing, and medicines from hundreds of worlds while adapting all of it for human usage. No less than three hundred starships were involved.

Help was on the way and it was coming from nearly every corner of the galaxy. But nothing could replace the loss of your entire home world.

Shutting his eyes to the devastation of Earth before him, Billy sighed upon choking back a fresh wave of tears. Despite his brilliance he wasn't able to save one member of his family. He's the last living Cranston as his father and older sister now joined his mother in what he hoped was a far better place. Though not a religious man himself, ever a child of science, he held a deep-seeded belief that there was more to life than what he could discover and that it was good. When faced so often with the unimaginable, the belief in a higher power offered him comfort in a way he never was quiet able to convey.

With Tommy organizing the security personnel, checkpoints, and duty roster he awaited the word from either him or Jason to press that little red button. The one that would ignite the Freedom-1's Hyper-Ion engines and take them away from home towards the hope of salvation. Even when those orders came there was still one last, grave decision to be made. One that he could honestly say he had no clue would even make sense if they tried.

Billy hasn't had time to grieve the loss of his family. He's one of the most respected and needed men alive and his expertise, clear headedness, and ability to work well under pressure required he bury his feelings for the time being. The greater good were all that mattered.

Zordon taught him that. He'd kill for his mentor's counsel at this time. For a kind word to soothe Rocky's agony, Zack's imminent loss, Hope's fears, Maria's shock, and humanities utter homelessness.

What lay ahead of them was as unpredictable as it was opportunistic. Any number of events could take place on their journey to Gais-9 and even when they arrived he had no clue how long it would be before they could start landing. Safety precautions dictated that they needed to examine and study every square inch of the entire planet before colonization. As it was they didn't have near enough time to do that in a truly factual way. So many variables could at the last minute remove the planet from being viable for the human race. Or what was left of it.

Yesterday humanity numbered seven billion plus in total. Today its down to eleven thousand and sixty-six exactly.

The global death toll was biblical in perspective. Billy tried not to think about it to much, having thrust himself in making sure as quickly as possible that the Freedom-1 was space travel ready. Adam was one of the chief engineers in the construction of the station, having found another passion along with his martial arts to pursue as years passed. Together with the other one hundred and thirty-five station personnel they were responsible for keeping this place up and running at peak efficiency.

Adam Park was quiet and humble in a way that Billy found familiar in himself and the last couple of years saw them grow closer as friends. The death of such a good and honorable man, so loved by his friends and family stole that much more light from a rapidly darkening universe.

The observation decks electronic doors whizzed open and shut behind him. Billy spun his chair around to find the Pink Ranger slowly approaching him, a clip board dangling from her right hand. The dark bruise on her neck, coloring her fair complexion was slowly beginning to fade. That it was there at all still hurt him to see. "You look exhausted."

"It's because I am," Katherine replied as she took the chair next to him, laid her clipboard down on the console armrest and relaxed in the comfort of finally being off her feet for the first time in hours. "When was the last time you ate something?"

Billy nervously adjusted his glasses. "Two days ago."

She understood, sad as that was. How could any of them have an appetite after what happened. She wasn't sure when if ever she'd feel normal again. "I'm done with my report."

"How do we look?"

"In total we have three hundred doctors and one hundred and fifty nurses on board. They are all in good health and have been acquainted with the med-droids. Deck six, seven, and eight now house all the medical equipment we could salvage and deck five is cleared for when we rendezvous with the Aquitar convoy. Deck 4's escape pods and Zords are all fully repaired and operational. Decks one through four are filled to capacity with survivors. So far so good."

The sheer need to take her in his arms again and forget for a time the pain they're living through would have to wait. At least for now. "We're making good progress all things considered. What else?"

Katherine hated that even hours later her hands were still trembling. Maintaining her professionalism in the faces of those she organized to be in charge of the health and medical operations onboard this space station betrayed her suffocating inner grief. She sucked it up nonetheless. "Tommy assembled the three hundred and fifty police officers into teams. He's armed them, given them quarters and decks to patrol and secure on a schedule."

"Security should be pretty solid. We have holding cells for anyone who gets out of line and weapons-protocols on all decks."

"I'm less worried about trouble makers and far more concerned over the grief counseling that all of us need. You just don't get over the end of the world."

"All things in time," Bully thoughtfully reminded her.

Katherine continued, "Tanya and Trini have their communications and long range radar teams in place and on schedule. They're familiarizing them with our systems and the staff that was here before them."

"I'm going to sit down with Kim and Jason tomorrow morning so that we can come up with things for everyone on the station to do. People need to feel that they have purpose and are needed. Especially now."

"I agree. We also need to over the course of the next couple of weeks select people among the survivors to help us make decisions about them."

Billy hadn't thought about that until now. As always, Kat was a step ahead in her thinking. "So far so good."

Shrugging uncertainly, Katherine closed her eyes, exhaling a deep, soothing breath. "Everyone's operating on autopilot. No one wants to stop long enough to truly think about what happened and how much all of us lost."

"We will eventually. Especially us Rangers."

"The Rangers were supposed to defend the Earth at all costs. We're not supposed to lead humanity the way we are now. It still boggles my mind how we are walking around with our uniforms on. I even morphed in front of a group of people to lift something out of their way. That was so strange."

"The times, they are changing."

Ignoring the aching throb in her left leg, Katherine pressed on. "The survivors look to us now for leadership, protection, and stability. Not to the faceless Rangers wearing helmets, but to us as real people. That's frightening to me, though I hate to admit it."

"I share your fears in that regard, Kat. We're used to leading by example, not actually being an interim government."

"The work ahead of us is no less than protecting what remains of the human race."

"Unless... There's still plenty to discuss," Billy somberly alluded to the unmentionable topic they've yet to talk over fully as a group. Judging his girlfriend's unforthcoming expression he recognized she wasn't in the mood to go over that yet. "Kim's advance starship scout teams are assembled. She's taking them out on their first patrol tomorrow afternoon."

Those patrols would serve as an early warning to any trouble that might lay ahead. Katherine nodded in reply. "I bet little Hope is asking a million and one questions. And there are no easy answers."

Hope Bella Oliver... the first child born to the Ranger's. She was everyones little girl. Billy adored her to no end and even now cracked a small smile when thinking of her. "I wish... I wish for so many things," he finished as unable as ever to make sense of the catastrophe they are living in the fallout of. "She should be thinking about starting kindergarten and the new Tickle Me Elmo toy she wants for Christmas. Instead, her parents have to try and explain the end of the world in a five year olds condensed version."

"I don't envy them," Katherine echoed as she gazed out at Earth's smoking remains. A fractured world that was once home to such a diverse civilization, now now the single biggest graveyard in human history. Suddenly, she thought of another to count among the dead. "Rocky didn't know Kayla was pregnant." Billy's eyes widened and then shut tight as he shook his head in dismay. "She only found out a week ago. She was going to tell Rocky on his birthday."

"September 29." Each time he hoped things couldn't get worse they usually did. "Despite being the jokester of our merry band he's so good with children and his relationship with Kayla was wonderful to watch. He really grew up when they got together."

"I was the only person Kayla told." Kat suddenly found herself lost in her inner thoughts. Kayla was a very good friend who'll be sorely missed. "I'm not going to tell Rocky. It would only hurt him more."

"As if losing his best friend and fiancée in the same day weren't enough, the pain of losing his unborn child might be to much. Maybe someday but not now."

Kat regarded her boyfriend of the past two and a half years with the knowing gaze of a lover and best friend. Sparing a tender appraisal Billy's way, he looked as bad as she felt and she felt rotten, heartbroken, and powerless. "I'd like to arrange a memorial service for the dead in a week. I think everyone should be allowed to say something and maybe we can come up with some sort of a memorial. People need to mourn and be able to in whatever faith they believe in, or none at all."

Billy just stared straight ahead. "Justin always joked that when he died he wanted his ashes scattered towards a strong wind," the Green Ranger remembered fondly. "He heard a line similar to that in King Arthur. He loved that movie."

"He was a brilliant young man," Katherine remembered fondly. "He reminded me allot of you."

"I'm sorry, Katherine." Those painful words broke free from his subconscious heart, set forth for reasons he couldn't quite figure out. Or maybe he could and just didn't want to suppress it any longer.

"Sorry for what?"

Further shame and sorrow filled his blue eyes as they lifted to face her. Jesus, Katherine was beautiful even now and here he was, ever the fool. Always seeking the unknown instead of a deeply satisfying personal life. Even when one was within arms reach. "I'm sorry for wasting so much of your life," Billy allowed himself to tell her at long last, having felt that way for well over a year now.

With no reason to hold back anything any longer, Billy poured his heart out. "I'm sorry for not marrying like I've wanted to for the longest time." Something less than shock clouded her lovely face. Acceptance and maybe even... regret. "I'm sorry for being so chicken shit about us moving in together so that we could have spent more time together. I'm sorry for placing my career and my endless thirst for knowledge above making you happy because God knows you are the only thing in my life that truly makes me happy."

The pain just kept pouring out of Billy, even as tears cascaded down Katherine's cheeks. "I'm sorry for every minute of every day you might of thought you weren't as important to me as science or my career or being a Ranger again. I'm sorry for you having to see Kayla so happy to be engaged when we've known each other longer than her and Rocky and have been together longer. I'm sorry that I didn't tell you every day you are my heart and I don't value anything in my life more than yours."

Being a sensitive man in touch with his feelings, the stark contrast from the Tommy she dated in his younger days, Billy was able to do what most men couldn't. He was capable of expressing his deepest emotions without inhibition. Even as his face remained calm the tears he shed matched her own. She could not possibly love him more than she did at this very moment. So much so that she was speechless.

"I love you, Katherine. I want to spend the rest of my life with you and I am so sorry for it taking the end of the world to get my head out of my ass and tell you that."

Their entire history, from the first sweet date they were set up on to their tenth date that ended with breakfast in bed the next morning to that precious walk on the peer where they gave each other those three little words and never looked back... Katherine could no more regret a minute of their relationship than she could grab the moon with her bare hands. And no matter the pain and heartache, love like what Billy felt for her and her for him was eternal.

"Took you long enough."

Laughing softly, Billy wiped his eyes, and then gently caressed her smiling face, brushing aside her last stray tear. "I'm sorry."

"Apology accepted," Kathrine told him as her soul found its mate. "For the record, I never pushed you and I could have. Maybe I should have at times. I was just like you, Billy. I lived in the mind state of 'someday when everythings perfect.' I waited because I just knew that we'd eventually defeat Lord Kraven and then we'd all retire again, except this time for good. Fate had other plans but just because it did doesn't meant we should give up on our dreams."

"But what about our lives?"

'The Sacrifice of the Ten...' Katherine lowered her head for as moment and sighed, then met his eyes once more. "The Xarxious translation is still up for interpretation, Billy. It could mean one thing when we think it means another."

"It could be our only chance to undo what has happened."

"Or it could leave this space station and what's left of humanity unprotected."

"I don't fear death, Katherine. I've seen to much of it."

"Neither do I. But this belief that we might turn back the hands of time could turn into a mass suicide that solves nothing."

"Or we just might save the Ear..." Before he could finish the console com-link beeped. The signal was unmistakable as the message he expected to receive. "I'm here, Tommy. What's the word?" A sigh of sincere sadness came crystal clear over speakers. Katherine seemed to understand what was on the horizon as her eyes turned away from the Earth.

"The word is go, Billy." Tommy paused for a breathless moment. "There's nothing left for us here. Set the course for Gais-9. Tommy out."

And there is was. One simple, heartbreaking command. The command that would take Earth's orphans across the stars... far away from home.

Katherine swallowed bitterly in the back of her throat and somehow found more tears to shed. She held her peace, ever the strong woman and watched Billy ghost his hand over the engine ignition button before finally willing himself to push it. The station rumbled in response and then every so slightly... began to move...

Leaving Earth behind.

Pushing all else aside, Billy rose his weary body to his feet and then tenderally pulled Katherine into his arms, needing to hold her as badly as she needed to be held. They needed each other, drawing on their combined strength and love. "How did I ever get so lucky as to win your heart?"

Smiling brightly behind her glistening blue eyes, Katherine explained. "Its the glasses, Billy. Chicks love the glasses."


The End of Chapter 1

Chapter 2: Trini, Rocky, Aisha, and Tanya commiserate over the dead and their deepest regrets. Zack must make peace with the unthinkable. A mentally and physically exhausted Tommy is comforted by a stranger. The Sacrifice of the Ten looms ominously in everyones thoughts.