The Strength of Family

After receiving the news all Shane could do was back away and leave. "Shane!" Niko called out after him.

"Let him go Niko," Doc put his hand on her shoulder.

"But…" Niko began.

"He's had to deal with a lot this year," Doc said gently. "Not even counting the whole Civil War deal."

"Which for some damn reason he thinks it's his fault too!" Zach growled.

"Well technically…" Cain began.

"Goose didn't decide to try and overthrow the League of Planets!" Zach defended.

"No, he just revealed the plot, along with the rest of us," Cain said. "I knew they weren't going to go away quietly but I had no idea they'd be so damn possessive about it."

"Fanatical is more like it," Doc frowned. "We were just damn lucky that the Black Rose Society and the Board of Leaders had gotten so complacent over the years. If they were a little more organized…"

"Let's just say it's best not to think about it now," Cain nodded. Both Zoot and Cheyenne looked at each other sadly.

"I can't keep thinking about what Walsh did and what he was willing to do until the last moment," Zach shook his head. "Especially what he did to Shane. And you Cheyenne...I'm so angry at what he almost did to you..."

I'm not, Cheyenne shook her head. The truth is, Walsh was desperate to save Shane's life. I think I might have done the same thing if circumstances were reversed. Deep down Walsh is a good man who made some bad decisions.

"How can you be so forgiving of Walsh after what he tried to do to you?" Zach asked.

Because Walsh made Shane. And I will always be grateful for him for that, Cheyenne smiled sadly.

"The sad fact is Walsh's choices and his legacy are going to be a burden Gooseman will have to bear for the rest of his life," Cain said softly. "He was never a normal Galaxy Ranger to begin with but with the civil war and the revelations of his family ties…"

"He's going to have to deal with that kind of fame as well," Doc sighed.

"More like infamy," Cain said. "We may have won the war but not the hearts and minds of all the people. And things are going to get worse before they get better. Whether it's true or not a lot of people are going to blame you Galaxy Rangers for what happened. Especially Gooseman. Make no mistake people. We're in for the long hall and it's not going to end in a few months or a year or even a few years."

"You're right about that," Zach said. "But we also proved something today. The majority of Earth fought back against the Black Rose Society. That has to mean something."

"It does," Cain smirked. "It means that maybe the human race has a shot in hell after all. And it's up to us to make sure that we keep that hope alive. I'll see all of you in the morning. Right now…Go see your families." He walked away with Zoot and Cheyenne.

"I just can't believe Commander Walsh is gone," Niko shook her head. "I'm just so shocked."

"You're shocked?" Zach asked. "Niko, the man broke about a dozen laws and turned his own son into a weapon! Even if by some miracle he wasn't charged with anything his career would be over anyway! Face it Niko, the man we knew and trusted was a lie!"

"Shane doesn't see it like that!" Niko snapped.

"Then he'd better get some common sense stuffed into him," Zach growled. "Unbelievable. All this time we thought Cain was an amoral bastard and Walsh was this honorable man when it was really the other way around!"

"Cain never said he was honorable," Doc remarked.

"Well at least he didn't lie about it!" Zach snapped. "Even when he was being dishonest he never lied about being dishonest which to me is a lot more honest than some hypocrite pretending he was honest when he really wasn't! You know what I mean!"

"Not really," Doc sighed. "All I know is that Goose is really hurting over this. Walsh was one of the most important people in his world. He saw him as his Commander as well as a father figure his whole life. He was the one person that stood by him when Wolf Den was shut down. And now that he's run off Goose feels abandoned and betrayed."

"He's not the only one," Zach growled.

"Enough!" Niko snapped. She glared at them. "I don't want to hear any more of this! Not around Goose!"

"A little late for that," Shane appeared from around the corner. Apparently he didn't go very far.

"Shane we didn't mean…" Niko began.

"I know what you meant Niko. He's gone isn't he?" Shane let out a breath. "Commander Walsh is really…"

"I'm sorry Goose," Niko sighed. "If there's anything I can do…"

"There's nothing we can do apparently," Shane shook his head. "Commander Walsh has abandoned his post and left BETA. Cain's in charge now. Nothing to do but accept it."

"That's not what I meant," Niko said gently.

"What am I supposed to do, Niko?" Shane asked. "Scream? Rant on how I hate the guy for not telling me he's my father, turning me into a living weapon and then run off and abandoning me?"

"It would be a start," Zach said.

"I can't do that Zachery!" Shane said. "I can't just hate him like that! I know I should but I don't have it in me. You heard what he said, he didn't have a choice. He had to use his DNA in order to keep the project alive! If he didn't all the Supertroopers would suffer! It was the only way! I was created to be a weapon, not a son! It's not his fault that he…That he grew attached to me. He couldn't tell me. It was for my own good…"

"Shane Gooseman do you hear yourself?" Zach shouted in rage. "You're making excuses for him!"

"But it's the truth!" Shane shouted. "Why won't you believe me?"

"So you're just fine with him taking off and abandoning you? Abandoning BETA and Earth?" Zach shouted.

"No! But I'm sure he had a reason!" Shane said.

"Oh yeah he had a great reason," Zach said sarcastically. "He didn't want to go to prison for the next thirty years!"

"I know what you're saying makes sense but…" Shane threw up his hands. "I just know him all right?"

"No, you don't," Zach snapped.

"That's enough!" Niko said, her voice loud and commanding. "Both of you. This isn't the time or the place for this. We've all been through a lot this past week. We're all tired and hurt and…This is a celebration. A time for family. We're going to need each other more than ever to get through the changes in our lives. So can we not fight today? Please?"

Zach let out a breath. "You're right. Shane…I'm sorry. I don't have the right to tell you how you should feel about Walsh."

"No, you don't," Shane said. "But you're right in telling me…Telling me why I should be cautious of him. And not to…not to make excuses for him. He broke the law and I have to accept that. Just don't ask me to hate him. Because I can't. Yes I'm angry and hurt and what he did, but as angry as I am...As hurt as I am...I still...I know it's strange to understand but…I remember so many little things…So many times he's helped me."

Shane stopped. "I'm sorry I just…This is all a lot for me to take in. I can only imagine what Darkstar's feeling right now about Dr. Nagata."

"She's gonna need you now Gooseman," Doc said gently. "She's going to need her baby brother to help her through this. The lady's got a lot on her plate."

"I know," Shane sighed. "Come on, let's go see her."

They went to a large hospital room in the left wing of BETA. They already found a few of their friends there. Stingray, Darkstar, the Supertrooper kids, Buzzwang, Bubblehead, Waldo, Zozo, Billy, Eliza, Jessica and Zach Jr. were there. Zach Jr. was in a wheelchair and his left eye was bandaged. Q-Ball was there as well. "I tell you Little Zach, your new eye will feel exactly like your old one. And you'll be able to see better even."

"That's great!" Zach Jr. said happily. "Dad!"

"Son…" Zach couldn't stop himself hugging his child. "Oh my boy…"

"I'm okay, Dad. It doesn't hurt that much anymore," Zach Jr. said hugging back. "And I'm going to have bionics! Just like you! Okay only in my eye but still isn't that cool?"

"Yeah," Zach let out a breath. "You're a chip off the old block all right."

"Darkstar?" Shane asked going over to his genetic sister's bedside.

"Hello Shane," Darkstar smiled. "There's someone I want you to meet."

Shane's breath was nearly taken away as he saw the tiny pink bundle in Darkstar's arms. The baby had a small shock of white hair and her little face had a dark circle around her left eye like her mother. Her eyes were the same color as her mother's, a light green.

"She's beautiful," Shane looked down at the infant. "Just like her mother."

"Would you like to hold her?" Darkstar asked.

Shane nodded and gently took the baby. "She's so small…" Shane whispered. "She has your eyes…"

"She's adorable," Niko smiled as she looked at the baby. "What are you going to call her?"

"Dawnstar," Darkstar smiled.

"That's a perfect name," Shane smiled. "She's the first of our kind that's truly free. She's the start of a new beginning for all of us." He looked at Darkstar. "And I can't think of a better mother to care for her."

"She's so tiny…" Hari blinked as Shane returned the baby to his mother.

"She's a very special little girl," Niko smiled warmly. She looked at Stingray. "You must be very proud of her."

"Yeah…It's like…" Stingray had no words for the strange warmth and pride in his heart. He merely smiled and shrugged.

"Hey…" Shane paused. "Ray, can we talk? In private?"

"Yeah," Stingray nodded. Both men went outside to the balcony for some privacy.

"Niko we heard about…About Commander Walsh," Darkstar said. "How is Shane doing?"

"The truth?" Niko sighed. "It's breaking his heart. He was always devoted to Commander Walsh and now this…"

"Cain said it was because of that damn conditioning," Zach growled.

"It's not just that," Darkstar shook her head. "For some reason Shane always seemed to have some kind of bond with Commander Walsh. And he always seemed especially proud of Shane. We always thought it was because Shane was designed last with the latest in genetic engineering technology."

"Instead it turns out to be simple old human biology," Doc shook his head. "Go figure."

"The next few months are gonna be really hard on him aren't they?" Darkstar realized. "We heard that they want a detailed investigation into exactly what went on at Wolf Den and after it."

"That's gonna go well with Gooseman," Doc rolled his eyes.

"How are you holding up?" Niko asked. "I mean, concerning Dr. Nagata."

"Honestly?" Darkstar looked at her. "If that bastard wasn't already dead I'd kill him. At least Commander Walsh had the integrity to stand by Shane and look out for him even if he couldn't admit who he was. Dr. Nagata never gave me that. He never gave any of us that. I don't even know how many others are…How many half brothers and sisters do I have besides Shane? Not just on Nagata's side but Cheyenne's side? Oh it's all a mess!"

"Wait a minute…" Doc looked outside at Stingray for a moment.

"They had a completely different set of DNA codes at the Australian Base," Darkstar smirked. "Cheyenne's DNA was too valuable to use outside of Wolf Den. And uh…We just had a blood test to make sure. Stingray and I are not related in any way other than the fact that we're Supertroopers."

"That's a relief," Doc let out a breath.

"I know. I've been thinking…" Darkstar said. "It might not be a bad idea if somehow…We were able to get all our DNA profiles. Doc could you help us organize some kind of strategy? I think it's important that we all know our past. Especially for Dawnstar. She has a right to know about her family. All her family, good and bad."

"I think I might be able to do something," Doc said. "And don't forget, Cheyenne is an ambassador now. She's gonna have a lot of pull politically. We shouldn't have that much trouble getting the authorization for the records. It's finding all of them that might be tricky."

"Isn't that why you're called the Doctor?" Niko smirked. She frowned. "So…What is going to happen to Dr. Nagata?"

"He was removed from his post as Tactical Commander obviously," Zach growled. "The higher ups decided he's too valuable to let go because he has so much damned information about not only the Supertrooper Project but all of Earth's defenses and every other military project Earth's involved in. Cain decided to keep him locked up at Longshot until he decides exactly what to do with him."

"Except for unplugging him you can't exactly do that much more to a brain," Bubblehead blinked.

"I dunno," Doc grinned. "Maybe you should spend some time with him Bubblehead?"

"Oh now that is cruel and unusual punishment," Zach agreed with a grin. "And I like it."

Back on the balcony the two Supertroopers stared out at the desert. "So…" Shane asked. "How does it feel being a father?"

"I don't know it's…" Stingray sighed. "I feel wonderful and proud and yet…I'm scared Goose. I never felt scared like this before. What if I can't do it? What if I can't protect her? What if I hurt her or…"

"You won't," Shane interrupted him. "You're not the same person you were a few weeks ago, Stingray. Even if you were…You would never intentionally hurt either Darkstar or your daughter."

"But I did hurt Darkstar, dragging her along into one mess after another…" Stingray sighed.

"She chose to go with you," Shane said. "She's responsible for her own messes."

"Just like I am…" Stingray sighed. "I keep seeing myself as I was…And I can't believe how nuts I'd become. Thank the stars for Darkstar. If it wasn't for her keeping me on a tight leash I would have done a lot worse. She made sure I never killed anyone or…Well things would have been a lot worse without her keeping me grounded."

"I'm not gonna lie to you. It ain't gonna be easy and you're gonna have to put up with a lot of stares and people talking behind your back," Shane said. "Take it from me. It takes time for people to build up trust. But it will happen if you want it to. And you and Darkstar have one thing I didn't have. You're not alone. You have someone to talk to when things get bad."

Stingray thought a moment. "Remember back at Wolf Den? When we were training? Then we learned about…about the Board's plans for you and started taking that genetic accelerator? It was like, we had to beat you down to prove ourselves. To show everyone we weren't useless. But harder we tried the better you got."

"I was just trying to be as good as you were," Shane said. "You should have told me about that. Maybe things would have been different?"

"Maybe. What I'm trying to say is," Stingray let out a breath. "All those reasons…They seem so petty now. So meaningless. They don't exist anymore. There's no need to…There's no need for us to hate each other."

"I don't think I ever really hated you," Shane said. "I was angry at you for a long time because I felt you took Darkstar away from me."

"Humph, lucky for you I did," Stingray gave him a look. "And I don't just mean the whole brother/sister thing. That Niko…You two are good for each other."

"I know," Shane smiled wistfully. "She's…amazing. I never thought I'd find someone as…wonderful as she is."

"Yeah…I feel that way about Darkstar," Stingray smiled. Then he let out a breath. "Look Goose…This is all…It's about Darkstar. She needs you. And so does the baby. I mean you're the only one of us from Wolf Den she can be proud of."

"She'll be proud of you too," Shane said. "When she hears about what you did this day. She will be proud. She needs you. And so does Darkstar. And the kids. They need you. And I need you too. "

Stingray let out another breath. "Goose…I…This is not easy for me to say. Supertroopers are supposed to be strong. We're not supposed to need anyone. But now…Now the rules have changed. I don't think I can do this alone."

"You don't have to," Shane said. "We good?"

"Yeah," Stingray lightly punched him in the arm. "We're good."

"Not to get too sentimental but I missed having you as a friend," Shane told him.

"Hmph, boy you have gotten soft and mushy," Stingray snorted.

"And weak?" Shane raised an eyebrow.

"No, never weak," Stingray admitted. "Stars Goose, I don't know how you survived all these years living here. I've only been here less than a day and I'm already feeling buggy."

"You get used to it," Shane smiled. "It helps to have friends."

"No offense Goose but your friends are nuts," Stingray snorted.

"Well then you'll fit right in," Shane smirked.

Back in the room everyone was resting and relaxing. "So you're a baby," Bubblehead chirped at little Dawnstar. "How's that working out for you?"

She responded by yawning as she rested in her mother's arms. "That dull huh?" Bubblehead blinked.

"You're such a funny little bird," Darkstar smiled.

"Stick around long enough," Shane said as he walked in with Stingray. "The novelty will wear off."

"Have you two finally agreed to behave yourselves?" Darkstar gave them a look. "Because I am going to have my hands full with the baby. I don't need to hear your immature bickering any more."

"Hey I just thought it was time I laid off Gooseman," Stingray held up his arms. "Let's face it, I got better things to do so if he wants to think he's the better man, let him."

"Huh?" Zach was stunned.

"That's the Supertrooper way of saying 'I'm sorry I was such an ass'," Darkstar grinned.

"I'm just saying so he's a big hero and everything," Stingray shrugged. "No point in arguing about it. I'm not Kilbane you know?"

"That means 'Goose I owe you my life and thanks for kicking some sense into my thick head,'" Darkstar translated.

"With the new baby in our lives and all these kids running around I got bigger problems," Stingray huffed. "Besides Goose is an uncle so don't think he's gonna get out of doing his share! Especially when it comes to babysitting!"

"That last one I think is self explanatory," Doc grinned.

"Don't laugh Doc," Darkstar gave him a look. "As Godfather to Dawnstar you're going to be changing your fair share of diapers too."

"Godfather?" Shane raised an eyebrow.

"It's an interesting custom," Stingray admitted. "And he did bring her into the world."

"What can I say? She made me an offer I couldn't refuse," Doc grinned. "Speaking of which…"

Cheyenne floated in on her hover chair. "Cheyenne!" Mata squealed as she and Hari went to hug her.

"Are you okay in that thing?" Hari asked.

I'm more annoyed that I have to wear a bra and clothes again after all these years than being in the chair, Cheyenne fidgeted a little, absently scratching her shoulder.

"Well ambassadors can't exactly go around topless," Zach coughed.

"I dunno, it would make those meetings a whole lot more interesting if they did," Bubblehead chirped.

"You are the head of the Supertroopers too," Shane pointed out. "People need to respect you."

I may be the source of the Supertrooper bloodline but Shane you are the heart and soul of it, Cheyenne smiled. You are the true head of this family. We will need your strength and guidance in this new world.

"Me?" Shane was stunned. "What do you mean me?"

"Because you brought us all together," Stingray pointed out. "Even I can see that."

"And as much as I hate to admit it, there are not exactly plenty of other candidates to take the job," Noah folded his arms.

"You found us all Goose," Ryder told him. "And you brought us together like you said you would."

"Not to mention kicked some sense into those of us who needed it," Stingray admitted. "Like it or not Goose, you're the boss. So go on and make your acceptance speech already before we get bored to death."

Shane looked at everyone in the room. "This is something I never thought I'd have. I never thought we'd have. This is a new day for us. We're not soldiers bred for combat. We're a family, a real family. A family made up of both Supertroopers and humans…And an alien or two."

"Don't forget memory birds!" Bubblehead chirped.

"The point is that we're all family, everyone in this room," Shane smirked. "And some of us who aren't here…"

Shane let out a breath. "And not just Commander Walsh. We lost a brother to this war. Flashfire died so that we could all live. We must always remember his sacrifice."

They all nodded sadly in unison. "Let's also not forget something," Darkstar spoke up. "Even though he made a lot of mistakes…In the end, Commander Walsh did do the right thing. He stood with us against our enemies. No matter what else he's done…He helped us when we needed it the most."

Shane made a gentle smile. "This is going to be a new world for us. It won't be easy adapting to a new life. But I believe with all of us together, we will not only survive…But we will thrive. We may be small, but we are strong. No longer will we compete against each other, but work with each other. And one day…Maybe we'll work to a way to save our frozen brothers and sisters. We've come this far, we can achieve anything."

"Amen to that," Zach nodded. "This is the beginning of a new chapter for the Galaxy Rangers. It's not going to be easy. But we just beat the odds before and we'll keep doing it until the job is done."

Everyone in the room knew no truer words were ever spoken.

Not The End: But A New Beginning