Burning Crimson

Summary: The Champion of the Phoenix if fated to die to defeat a powerful enemy. But first the Universe will know . . . Once a Ranger, Always a Ranger. The conclusion of the Crimson Ranger trilogy. AU for MMPR Season 2 and beyond.

Disclaimer: I do not own, nor do I intend/desire to make any money off the Power Rangers/Super Sentai concepts and characters presented in this story. They are fully the property of their respective owners and are used with loving respect. Furthermore, this story utilizes concepts borrowed/adapted from Chris Claremont's run on X-Men.

Chapter 1: 2005

Brandon Loksen, Phoenix Champion and Crimson Ranger stood in the pre-dawn hours on the balcony of his and Jason Scott's apartments overlooking Elashan, the capitol city of Eltar. He wanted to still be in bed, curled up with Jason, but that wasn't happening tonight for various reasons.

The first was the perpetual problem Brandon dealt with; he really didn't need much sleep. Human Rangers tended to not need as much sleep due to the regenerative effects of the Power anyway. However, Brandon, with his direct connection to the Morphing Grid needed even less. Three hours was a long night for him, and he had already gotten that tonight, after recovering from the space-lag he and Jason had suffered from their month-long tour of the Allied Worlds . . . including a stop on Earth to help Tommy and his team celebrate their recent victory. Even Jason's ritual of getting them both properly worn out upon returning home after prolonged space travel hadn't helped Brandon grab any extra sleep.

Normally, Brandon would have stayed in bed, cuddled up with Jason and meditated, but that didn't seem possible tonight. He just couldn't escape the feeling that something was wrong. And this wasn't his normal sense of general foreboding, born of his knowledge that one day he would have to again sacrifice himself. This was more immediate and closer to home.

Brandon sighed and went back inside, figuring he might as well see about getting caught up on any correspondences that came in, nearly tripping over Jason's uniform jacket as he re-entered the bedroom. Picking it up from where Jason had casually tossed the garment when they arrived home, Brandon smiled. Jason hated the uniforms. Not because they were uncomfortable, the leather looking material was actually an incredibly comfortable molecularly woven fabric, but because they were a constant reminder of how formal most of the rest of the galaxy was about Rangerhood, and Jason Scott was anything but formal. Brandon lovingly traced his hand over the stylized Red Stallion image on the back of the jacket and thought back to those first few days after he and Jason's reunion on Phaedos three years prior . . .

"Okay, if we're gonna make a go of this, if you're willing to live on Eltar with me . . ."

"Of course I'm willing to live on Eltar with you," Jason interrupted.

"I know," Brandon picked up, "but if you'd let me finish I was going to say you'll need to be a Ranger. Being one of Zordon's Chosen will buy you quite a lot of respect, but people will treat you like you're my lover rather than my mate unless you can stand with me as a fellow active Ranger."

"Um, hello, remember this?" Jason asked, pulling out his Red Dragon morpher, "I am an active Ranger again."

Brandon sighed, "Beloved, you cannot keep using that."

"Why not? It works fine."

"For now. The localized morphing grid that those power coins were attached to is gone though, which means it's now drawing power un-buffered from the universal Grid. They weren't designed to do that. Eventually the power being channeled through it will be too much and the coin will fail . . . or explode."

Jason looked down at his morpher with surprise and sadness . . . the coin was one of the last physical connections he had to Zordon and he grieved its potential loss. Finally, he looked up at Brandon, "So, if I can't use this morpher, what do I do?"

Brandon looked past Jason and said, "Dulcea?"

Jason turned to find the Master Warrior studying him, she then smiled and said, "Yes, I think so. Even though you've never trained as ninja, I believe you've been sufficiently touched by the Power. Coupled with the Jyuken you picked up from Brandon, I am almost certain you can successfully become Ninjetti and quest to the Temple."

Brandon smiled again, his thoughts returning to the present. Jason had been surprised when his Ninjetti Spirit had turned out to be the very Geki Brandon had seen in him all those years ago, the Stallion. Brandon hadn't been, after all he had been right about the Gekis for Billy, Kim, and Tommy . . . Brandon dropped the jacket as it hit him. That's what was wrong. Something was wrong with Tommy.

Brandon moved quickly, but quietly to the main living area. As he entered the doors to the lift to their mini-Command Center on the level below opened, revealing a very agitated Alpha 7. Seeing Brandon, the automaton began, "Aiy, aiy, aiy, Brandon!"

"It's Tommy, isn't it?"

Not even questioning how Brandon knew that, Alpha continued, "Yes. Billy's transmission just got through, Tommy's been kidnapped!"

Brandon swore, and then latched onto part of Alpha's statement, "Just?"

"Yes, something is actively blocking all transmissions from Earth. We only got it because Trey piggy-backed the signal onto a Triforian diplomatic transmission."

Brandon smiled grimly; he could always count on Trey to meddle when needed. Turning his attention back to the situation at hand, "Play it."

Alpha moved to a nearby console and loaded the transmission, Billy's worried face, Kim pacing in the background, appeared on the monitor, "Brandon, we have had an incident, at 9 pm California time . . ." Kim shoved Billy out of the way, "Someone kidnapped Tommy and left Haley with three broken ribs!" she yelled into the camera. From off camera Billy could be heard saying, "Kim, focus. Give him the info he needs." Kim took a deep breath and continued, "There were five of them, all wearing what looked like knock-off Ranger armor. White and blue with a comet-looking symbol over the left breast."

Brandon swore, "The Council Guard . . . knew I couldn't trust that little weasel not to try something."

His eyes went back to the screen as Kim finished, her voice cold and hard, "Brandon, Jase, you guys find whoever took my man, get him back, and then make them hurt for me."

The recording ended and Brandon yelled, "Jason!"

The Red Stallion and the Crimson Phoenix leapt over the rooftops of Elashan in Ninjetti form, moving quiet as ghosts, heading for the governmental complex. Brandon had one and only one prime suspect, the Chancellor of the Eltaran High Council, Gant.

Gant was a little weasel and Eltaran who just happened to be a descendent of Zordon's only sibling. In the wake of the UAE's defeat, he had used that fact and the post-war chaos to secure himself the Chancellorship. Neither Brandon nor Jason could stand him, for several good reasons: he despised all of the Rangers Zordon had claimed as his Chosen for the very fact that he felt humans unworthy of that honor, although it was more likely jealousy due to the fact that, by Galactic law, the Chosen were Zordon's true heirs, not any blood relatives; the other was that he had decided Tommy was galactic enemy number one, due to getting his start under Rita.

Unfortunately, the whole Mesagog situation had not helped, although Gant even knowing about it just proved he had spies on Earth watching Tommy, maybe even all of the Chosen. Gant had tried to declare Tommy a traitor to the Power and to have him arrested . . . until Brandon declared that, as a Ranger, Tommy was under his protection and should Gant even appear to be a threat to Tommy, he was getting fed to the Phoenix Zord.

Gant had done a good job covering the kidnapping up, but not good enough when faced with Alpha and the hacking skills he had acquired from Billy and Justin. By the time Jason was dressed and up to speed, Alpha had tracked Gant and a Power-tinged human life sign to the Adjudication Chamber in the governmental complex. Jason and Brandon weren't much surprised . . . Gant's ego wouldn't let him give up the trappings of his power and just kill Tommy. He'd want the whole thing to seem official.

It was a simple matter for the two Ninjetti to slip into the building and past the normal security. The five Council Guardsmen standing watch outside the Adjudication Chamber never saw what hit them. Once they were unconscious, Brandon turned to Jason, "Ranger morph, I want to be ready for anything." Jason nodded in agreement.

"Phoenix Ranger Power!"

"Red Stallion Ranger Power!"

The instant they morphed, Jason and Brandon struck as one, kicking the doors in and storming into the room. What they found shocked even the two veteran Rangers. Instead of more Council Guard, as they expected, there were a dozen or so creatures that resembled Z-Patrollers, but looked like that had been molded from cold-iron instead of clay and had a T chest medallion instead of a Z. Tommy was strapped to a chair, a life-extractor pointed at him and powering up. Presiding over it all was Gant, seated in the place of the Adjudicator.

"What do you think you're doing Gant?!" Brandon demanded.

For the first time ever, Gant didn't seem cowed. Instead, he smiled maliciously and responded, "Ending a threat to universal order. Tallicks, destroy them! Activate the extractor!"

As the creatures began to move, Brandon went into a defensive posture and Jason pulled his blade blaster, "Hey, no life extracting from Tommy . . . Kim will destroy us all!" he announced as he put disabling shots into the machine's energy core.

Gant yelled in rage as the machine sparked and died. Brandon fended off the Tallicks, landing a lightning fast series of punches and kicks, holding them back while Jason unstrapped Tommy. Brandon backed up and joined them, shaking his hand, "They don't just look like they're made of metal, they really are."

Noticing the chest emblems, Jason said, "Let me try something," and he spun a kick into one of the emblems. It cracked, and energy poured out of it. The cracks spread across the Tallick's body and it exploded, showering the room in shrapnel. Brandon was a blur, moving to shield the un-morphed Tommy. Gant dived behind the Adjudicator's throne as shrapnel tore into it.

There armors protected them, and Tommy was okay, although rips in his jacket and pants suggested several close calls. Gant rose from behind the throne and taunted, "What will you do now Rangers? My Master has created soldiers you can't defeat without risks."

"Master?" Brandon asked, "Gant, what have you done?"

"I've assured my place in the Universe to come," he laughed evilly. "Goodbye, Rangers," he spat out the last word and then vanished in a flash of dark teleport energy.

Brandon shoved Tommy at Jason, "Get him out of here. The teleport block is only on signals originating outside the building."

"What about you?" Tommy asked.

Brandon drew the Phoenix Avenger saber, "I can't let these things run loose."

Jason grabbed Brandon's shoulder, "You're not going to . . ."

Brandon put his hand over Jason's, "Over these things? No way in hell. Just need Tommy clear of the blast."

Jason nodded and then he and Tommy vanished in red and white teleport pulses. Brandon charged his sword and then became a blur of slashes, cutting through the remaining Tallicks in seconds. He then quickly dived behind the half wall that separated the observation area from the main floor, an instant before a storm of metal shrapnel tore the chamber apart.

When the dust cleared Brandon stood. Reaching over what was left of the wall, he pulled a piece of the metal shrapnel out of it. He studied it for a moment, noting the nagging familiarity of not only the design of the creatures, but the tingle of dark magic he could sense in the shard.

"Well, crap."