Chapter 27

Heart of Blue

(Original posting date: November 16th, 2015)

Previously on Power Rangers: End of Days, the Overdrive Rangers were turned evil and they killed a lot of Rangers, including several of your favorites (damn that project314). When Rocky and Jason came to blows over how to deal with them (the Overdrive Rangers, not project314), Rocky announced his intention to get revenge for the deaths of his closest friends and he was joined by several Rangers. A big battle ensued, Camille switched sides, Nick was turned evil, Charlie joined the Overdrive Rangers and several Rangers died. In the end, only Rocky and Scott were spared so they could tell the other surviving Rangers about what had happened, and they stumbled onto an apparently reformed Dax. Oh yeah, that big slacker, project314 teased "a biiiiig cliffhanger" for this upcoming chapter.

Author's note: This one goes out to my grams, who raised me as if I were her own son, with a lot of love and gratitude for everything.

Who's still around based on what we've seen so far? I think this is about right:

MMPR/Zeo: Jason, Zack, Trini, Billy, Rocky, Kat, Tanya

Turbo/Space: Justin, Andros, TJ, Ashley, Cassie, Zhane

Lost Galaxy: Leo, Damon, Karone, Maya, Mike

Lost Galaxy: Carter, Dana, Joel

Time Force: Wes, Lucas, Trip, Katie

Wild Force: Alyssa, Danny, Merrick

Ninja Storm: Dustin, Blake, Hunter

Dino Thunder: Conner, Ethan, Fran

SPD: Sky, Jack, Sophie, Z, Syd

Mystic Force: Madison, Vida, Chip

Operation Overdrive: Dax, Andrew Hartford

Jungle Fury: Casey, Lily, RJ, Dominic

RPM: Scott, Summer, Dillon, Ziggy

Captured: Ninjor, Shayla, Captain Mitchell

On the run: Angela Fairweather & Samantha Grayson-Mitchell (Dana & Carter's daughter)

Villains: Will, Ronnie, Rose, Nick, Miratrix, Camille, Charlie

"I could use some help here, you know?" Ethan called out as Jarrod's talons tore through his sleeve. The Blue Dino Ranger was relieved to see the attack hadn't drawn any blood, thanks to the effects of his Dino Gem. "Any time, now…"

"I'll get the others!" Fran called out. When Jarrod had emerged from the caves, he'd knocked Dom out before taking on his armored form. There had been no explanation, no words spoken, he'd just gone after Ethan.

"There's no time for that," Conner stated as he grabbed Fran by the arm. "By the time you get help, Ethan and I could both be dead. We need you."

From the corner of his eye, Ethan saw Fran pondering that for a moment. Ever since Rocky and the others had left the caves, he and Conner had been coaching her in the use of her new powers, the powers that had become hers when the Yellow Dino Gem had bonded with her.

It hadn't been an easy process. Fran was earnest, she hadn't wanted to let them down, but she'd been lacking the confidence in herself, in her ability to learn to use these powers in the current circumstances, as all their lives were hanging in the balance. Morphing, summoning and using various powers and weapons, it was a lot to handle on a normal day, without the stress they were currently under.

"Set 'em up!" Conner yelled to Ethan a few moments after Fran nodded her assent. The Blue Dino Ranger ducked under another slash from Jarrod's talons and proceeded to shove him back.

"And knock 'em down!" Ethan continued, watching as Fran unleashed her Ptera Scream at Jarrod, making him cover his ears in a futile attempt at blocking the sound.

Ethan then joined the others, exchanging a knowing look with Conner.

"Ready?" Conner started, his morpher materialized on his wrist.

"Ready!" Ethan and Fran echoed, mirroring his motions.

"Dino Thunder, power up! Ha!" they all called out, tapping into the powers of their Dino Gems to become the Red, Blue and Yellow Dino Rangers.

"Take him out," Conner ordered. "He joins up with the others, we're gonna be in even more trouble than we already are."

The Rangers charged at Jarrod, summoning their weapons in the process. Conner was a few paces ahead and Ethan looked on as he engaged their adversary first. The Red Dino Ranger swung his Tyranno Rod at Jarrod, but was surprised when his enemy grabbed the head of the weapon and proceeded to use his own momentum against him, launching him in Ethan's direction, bringing the two Rangers down in a tangle of limbs.

Ethan could only watch in amazement as their newest teammate fearlessly took on Jarrod, slashing her Ptera Grips across his chest plate several times before she followed up with a backflip that took her out of attack range and gave her a chance to access her Super Dino Mode. When her transformation was complete, Fran went in for yet another attack, dodging Jarrod's kicks and slashes, connecting with her own strikes.

Once Ethan and Conner were both back on their feet, Fran returned to their side, brandishing her Ptera Grips.

"We need to combine our weapons," Fran urged them. "I don't think we'll be able to defeat him otherwise."

"Good call, Fran," Conner said with a nod as they brought their weapons together to form the Z-Rex Blaster.

Before they could fire, a figure charged past them, tackling Jarrod to the ground and pinning him down on his back.

"Rocky?" Ethan called out, surprised. When the Blue Zeo Ranger and the others had left, Ethan had hoped to see them return safely, but he'd been conscious that such an outcome was unlikely.

"So it wasn't just Camille who was planning to turn on us," Rocky called out as his fists connected again and again with Jarrod's helmet, until the Black Lion Warrior lost the protection of his armor.

Just as Rocky was about to deliver a blow that would have proved fatal for the downed warrior, Ethan and Conner reached him and managed to restrain him.

"What are you doing?" Rocky yelled at them. "He'll kill us if we don't put him down!"

"No he won't!" Ethan called out, struggling to maintain his grip on Rocky's right arm. "He hasn't turned on us! This was meant to be a test for Fran!"

"What?" Rocky and Fran both asked, turning to look at the Blue Dino Ranger.

"Just stand down, all of you," a voice spoke from a few feet away. Dom was back on his feet and he was walking toward them, unharmed.

"We needed Fran to see, firsthand, what she was capable of," Ethan explained. "We needed her to see that she has a place on this team, that she brings something, that she can hold her own."

Fran was silent as the words set in. Meanwhile, Rocky relaxed, leading Conner and Ethan to let go of him.

"It was Ethan's idea," Conner said to the Yellow Dino Ranger. "He believed that, until you proved yourself in battle, you'd doubt yourself. But you did prove yourself when you went toe-to-toe against Jarrod on your own, when you risked your own life for us."

"I'm sorry I whaled on you," Rocky apologized to Jarrod as he powered down and helped the other man get back to his feet.

"Rocky, what happened?" Conner then asked the Blue Zeo Ranger, reminding them all that the newly returned Ranger had taken off with several others on what had appeared to be a suicide mission. "Where are the others?"

Noticing the grim look that appeared on Rocky's face, Ethan knew the news wasn't good.

"Once Sophie's done running her scan, it should be quick," Justin told Dillon, Summer and Ziggy.

Shortly after Rocky and the others had departed, as most team leaders had gathered together to plan their next move, TJ had decided to approach the time-displaced team to get to know them better and answer any questions they could have about the present time. When the RPM Rangers had explained Dillon's condition, the continuous growth of the viral hardware within his body, and their fear that their trip through time could have had an impact on the rate at which it was taking over Dillon's body, TJ had steered them towards two of the smartest Rangers he knew, confident that if anyone could figure out what was going on, it would be them.

Billy and Justin had initially thought of trying to salvage various pieces of equipment that could be found in the caves, remnants of technologies used in the Command Center and the Power Chamber. In the hopes of speeding up their search, they'd gone to Sophie, only to find out she had the hardware inside her to do exactly what they wanted to achieve.

Now, the Green SPD Ranger stood a few feet away from Dillon, her palm aimed at the Black RPM Ranger as she measured the rate of proliferation of the Venjix hardware. With her other hand, she projected the collated data on the cave wall for Billy and Justin to analyze in real time.

"What do you think?" Justin asked Billy, as he continued to take in the various numbers and graphs that presented themselves to them, hoping to get a confirmation of his own interpretation of the data.

"Well, from what they've told us about Dillon's condition," Billy answered, not taking his eyes away from the displayed information, "it doesn't look like what happened accelerated the spread of the virus in Dillon's system."

"Finally, some good news," Ziggy commented, echoing how they were all feeling. With everything that had happened so far, with all their losses, they were due to catch a break.

"And I might actually have some even better news," Sophie added, even as she continued her scanning and her projecting. "In my time, we had extensive access to information regarding the Venjix virus. I might be able to stop it from spreading any more. Given enough time, I might even be able to wipe it from Dillon's body entirely."

"You could actually do that?" the usually unreadable Ranger asked, a hint of emotion in his voice. "You could free me from this?"

"Affirmative," Sophie confirmed. "I'll need some time to process all this data, to determine the exact rate of growth as well as how far along it's gotten in its takeover of your biological being. Once that's done, I should be able to do something about it."

Dillon was at a loss for words upon hearing that. Justin could only imagine what was going through the Black RPM Ranger's mind. For him, time was running out. Eventually, he'd turn against the world, against his teammates. That had to be a terrifying prospect, and so the possibility of that not happening, it was huge.

"Thank you, Sophie," Summer answered for her teammate. "Thank you, all of you," she then said, looking at Billy and Justin in turn.

"Don't mention it," Billy replied. "I'll go update Jason and the others. Sophie, start processing the data and get started on purging the Venjix virus when you're ready. Justin, stay close in case Sophie needs input."

"I'll be okay for the time being, Justin," Sophie said once Billy stepped away. "You can check in with me in about half an hour or so if you want."

With that, Justin left Sophie with the RPM Rangers and he went to sit by himself in a quiet section of the cave. With this latest potential crisis out of the way, this was his chance to just take in everything that had just happened, his chance to mourn his fallen friends, his chance to start thinking of ways to potentially make it through the Blackout alive.

"Mind if I sit with you?" Trini asked as she approached him slowly. One of her arms was bandaged and in a sling, the one she'd injured protecting Jason from one of Will's attacks back in the quarry.

"Sure," Justin answered, looking at the original Yellow Ranger. Despite her injury, despite losing friends, despite everything they'd been through, there was something about her, something uplifting, hopeful. She smiled at him, and in a sense, Justin couldn't help but feel comforted, feel that everything would be okay.

Trini slowly lowered herself to the ground, careful to keep her injured arm still in the process.

"How's your arm doing?" Justin asked, recalling the moment Will's dagger had struck the Yellow Ranger.

"Surprisingly, not so bad," Trini said. "There is some pain, but the blade didn't do any lasting damage. Dana looked it over and took care of it when we arrived here. A few stitches, some bandages, a sling and here I am."

"I'm glad you're going to be okay," Justin said, forcing a smile. Despite being happy for the Yellow Ranger, he couldn't help but think about his teammates who hadn't been as lucky, about Tommy, Adam and Carlos.

"I miss them too," Trini stated, surprising him. "Tommy, Kimberly, they were like family to me, and now they're gone. Having survived my injuries, I wonder why they couldn't have, why they had to die. I don't have an answer for that. And in your case, I don't have an answer in relation to Adam and Carlos either."

"But I do have a question for you, Justin," Trini continued, drawing a look from the Blue Turbo Ranger. "What do you want to do about this?"

"What do you mean?" Justin asked.

"When Divatox took away everything from your team," Trini answered, "what did you all do? Did you give up or did you find a way to move forward, a way that would eventually get you the victory that mattered the most?"

"You're one of our brightest minds," Trini continued. "There has to be a way to make it through this, and maybe there's also a way to undo what's been done, to reclaim the lives that were taken from us. If it's possible, you can figure it out, Justin."

The Blue Turbo Ranger stayed silent, but at that moment, something shifted within him. His mind started to race as he processed everything he knew, everything he had learned about his team and other teams. As potential solutions presented themselves to him, his outlook shifted. He realized they weren't defeated. Not yet. Not by a long shot.

Justin set aside his thoughts when he heard shouts coming from the cave entrance. Exchanging questioning glances with Trini, he helped the Yellow Ranger to her feet and they followed everyone out.

TJ had been about to approach Billy once again, with the hopes of obtaining more information regarding one of the original Blue Rangers' battles when the shouting had begun.

As he made his way outside, the only thing he knew was that someone had returned. He didn't know who it was or how it was possible. Had the Overdrive Rangers been defeated? Had some of Rocky's group been able to escape at the eleventh hour? There were more questions than answers.

When he joined the others outside the caves, he saw Rocky, Scott and, surprisingly, Dax in the distance, all looking like they'd taken a severe beating. The Dino Rangers, Dom and Jarrod were with them.

Many appeared frozen in place, taken aback by the sight before them, unsure as to what to do next. Others, like Carter and Dana, sprang forward without hesitation to offer the returning Rangers assistance. TJ was quickly off and running as well, not waiting for anyone's lead.

TJ and Carter reached the returning Rangers at the same time. A few moments later, Dana caught up with them and started to look over the various cuts and bruises that covered the three Rangers' bodies.

"Dax took a really bad fall when he was morphed," Rocky said as Dana checked on the Blue Overdrive Ranger. "I don't think he would have survived that normally."

TJ watched in silence as Dana examined Dax carefully. Carter stood behind her, protective and cautious in the face of this apparent return to the side of good. When Dana was done, she informed them all that Dax would be okay.

The Pink Lightspeed Ranger then turned her attention to the other two returning Rangers, confirming that they too would be fine. The words brought relief for many of those who'd joined the small group of Rangers, but a quick look at the three Rangers let TJ know that, in the way that mattered most, Dana's diagnostic was completely off the mark. The Blue Space Ranger didn't know what they'd just been through, but he knew that those events had left scars they would carry for the rest of their lives.

Madison stood alone outside the caves, breathing in and out slowly, gazing at the horizon. After Dax, Rocky and Scott had finished sharing the details of the battle with them all, Leo and Wes had asked to speak with her in private to assess the new threat posed to them by Nick, to learn more about what they were now going up against.

The Blue Mystic Ranger had answered all their questions as best she could in the circumstances. When Nick had left, she had known there was a very real chance they would lose him, either because he wouldn't survive or because his actions would change him, but she had never foreseen that he'd be turned against them. She had struggled to come to terms with the situation when the battle's survivors had returned, and that struggle had continued during her talk with Leo and Wes.

When they had finished asking her their questions, at her request, they had left her alone outside. Madison had claimed to need a few moments to clear her thoughts before going back inside to rejoin her team.

For a few minutes, Madison stared off into the distance, focusing on her inhales and her exhales, on the warm breeze that sent stray strands of hair in her face. And yet, her thoughts drifted occasionally to their fallen friends, to Nick.

In those moments, when she was brought back to their current situation, when her emotions threatened to get the best of her, Madison thought of the two Rangers who were waiting for her inside, counting on her to take the lead. She could do this. She would do this. No matter what the opposing forces would throw her way, no matter how strong they were with Nick now on their side, she knew they had the heart to see things through.

When Madison stepped back through the cave's opening, her eyes immediately sought out her friends. She quickly found them sitting side by side on the ground, their backs to the cave wall, both quiet and looking down at their feet. It broke her heart, seeing them like this, hopeless.

The Blue Mystic Ranger was about to join them when she saw another group of teammates standing a few feet away, looking even worse off than her friends. Madison's eyes teared up, as she felt a responsibility for the Wild Force Rangers' latest loss. If only she'd been able to get through to Nick, maybe Taylor wouldn't be dead. Maybe Rocky wouldn't have had the support necessary to go after the Overdrive Rangers.

She slowly approached the three Rangers until they noticed her. Before she could apologize for Nick's actions, Alyssa took a few steps in her direction, followed by Danny and Merrick, and she extended her hands to hold hers. The White Wild Force Ranger's eyes were red from the many tears she'd cried since their ordeal had begun, yet her grip was firm, grounding.

"Don't," Alyssa said simply. "We've both lost people we care about deeply, in different ways. You're not responsible for what happened to Taylor, and we know that Nick isn't either."

"Thank you," Madison said, touched by Alyssa's words. She hugged the other Ranger, who returned the embrace, and held on tightly, drawing on the other woman's strength and compassion.

"You should go be with your team," Danny eventually said, reminding Madison that she was needed elsewhere. "We'll be okay."

Madison let go of the White Wild Force Ranger and smiled at her and her teammates in turn. She then made her way to her friends.

"What's with the long faces, you guys?" she asked as she sat on the ground across from them.

"We're all that's left, Maddie," Vida replied, frowning, as if she was unable to comprehend how her sister could ask such a question. "Xander, the Mystics, our friends, they're all dead. And now, Nick, the strongest of us, is evil. I don't see much reason to be optimistic at this point."

"The three of us are still here, aren't we?" Madison replied, causing Chip to look up from the ground. "And it's not like we're powerless or anything."

"We can't defeat them," the Yellow Mystic Ranger chimed in. "Not now that they have Nick fighting with them."

"Enough with the Nick fixation!" Madison snapped at her teammates. "Things are looking hopeless, I know that. It's not like that's a new thing for us, and I don't know that this really is the worst position we've ever been in either. Remember when Imperius captured Jenji and wished there'd never been a Mystic Force? Remember our journey to appeal to the Tribunal of Magic and everything we had to go through to get our powers back? That looked pretty bad, yet we still managed to turn it around."

"The Tribunal of Magic," Vida pondered out loud, "maybe they could help us?"

"I doubt it," Chip quickly answered. "There's a difference between good magic being completely removed from the equation and good magic simply being outmatched. But that does bring us back to Madison's point, which is to say we're still in this."

"Yes we are," Madison echoed, hoping to bring her sister to their way of seeing the situation. She observed the Pink Mystic Ranger for a few moments as their words started to sink in and felt relief as the look of resignation on her face made way for a confidence and a determination that were a better fit for Vida.

"I'm sorry about what happened to Cameron," Rocky said as he set the Green Samurai Ranger's amulet down in the palm of Dustin's hand.

The Yellow Wind Ranger looked down at the amulet and closed his hand around it. Hunter stood by him, a comforting hand placed on the other Ranger's shoulder. Blake couldn't start to imagine what was going through their teammate's head. Even though they'd all formed a team, Dustin had known Shane, Tori and Cam for a lot longer than he'd known them. Now, they were all gone, and all he had to remember them were two wind morphers and an amulet.

"Thank you, Rocky," Blake then spoke up, breaking the silence and letting the other Ranger know that he could leave them alone.

As the Blue Zeo Ranger started to walk away, Blake started to think about this latest loss. Cam had told them that this was his big play, he had foreseen almost everything that had happened. Everything, apparently, except the fact he'd be taken out right before the beginning of the fight.

Blake felt anger building up inside, and it was all directed at their teammate. Cam was dead, and for what? What advantage had his death provided them? What difference had he been able to make in the long run? None at all. Cam was dead, and now Dustin was breaking and they were all destined to die.

"Bro, come back," Hunter ordered, drawing the Navy Thunder Ranger's attention. The Crimson Thunder Ranger was crouched on the ground by their teammate, who was sobbing and shaking.

Blake was instantly by the others' side and, following his brother's lead, he wrapped his arms around Dustin, holding on tightly.

"We're here, Dustin," he whispered in the Yellow Wind Ranger's ear. "I swear we're going to make it through this."

After his encounter with Dustin and the Thunder Rangers, Rocky had felt a strong need to be alone. Unnoticed, he had slipped out of the main section of the caves, where most of the survivors were gathered and he'd started to wander through the tunnels.

Coming back here had been difficult for the Blue Zeo Ranger. During Earth's last stand against Dark Specter's forces, he'd been tasked with returning to the place where the Command Center and the Power Chamber had once stood, in the hopes of finding the Zeo Crystal. It was supposed to be a simple mission, but once the Zeo Crystal had been found, it had all gone terribly wrong. Rocky still had nightmares about that day, about those final moments after the explosion, waiting for the blast to catch up with him.

That day, his life had flashed before his eyes, much like it had a few hours ago when he had been under the impression the Overdrive Rangers were about to kill him. There was one fundamental difference between the respective outcomes of those two events, though. Back then, his actions had helped save lives, but this time, his actions had doomed friends and allies.

"Rocky?" Jason's voice pulled him out of this thoughts. The original Red Ranger stood a few feet away, looking at him expectantly.

The Blue Zeo Ranger looked down, remembering his earlier confrontation with Jason. His thoughts then went back to another moment when a rivalry with the then Gold Ranger had made him to go after King Mondo on his own. The leader of the Machine Empire had summoned the Damocles Sword, and Rocky had wanted to prove his worth, but he had only managed to make things worse.

"Rocky," Jason then said, "the Overdrive Rangers targeted you since this whole thing started and none of us saw it. What just happened isn't on you, it's on all of us, and right now, we need to set it behind us. If the Overdrive Rangers are expecting us to crumble under the weight of all we've been through and all we've lost, we need to make our peace with it and move forward. We need you, now more than ever."

The Blue Zeo Ranger looked at the original Red Ranger for a moment, understanding why, to this day, he was regarded as one of the greatest Rangers and leaders of all time, why he'd headed the operation against the Machine Empire's forces back when Serpentera had been unearthed.

"Okay then, let's do this," Rocky acknowledged with a nod.

"And by the way," Jason added casually as they made their way back to the others, "thanks for helping us out against Serpentera."

"You know about that?" Rocky asked, stopping in his tracks, taken aback by the comment.

"C'mon Rocky," Jason answered. "You really expected me to believe that Cole was able to destroy Serpentera alone with his Wild Force Rider?"

Rocky chuckled, their current predicament temporarily forgotten, and he wondered if any of the other Red Rangers had figured out they'd gotten an assist that day.

Dax hadn't said anything since Rocky and Scott had found him. When he had regained consciousness following his fall, the Blue Overdrive Ranger had prayed that the images going through his mind were nothing more than a really bad dream. Seeing the Yellow Wild Force Ranger's body on the ground, however, had confirmed his worst fears.

At that moment, it had all come rushing back to him. Mack, Cole, Eric, Xander, Cestro, everyone else he'd hurt, he remembered every single moment. And for Dax, the young man who had been so grateful when he had been given the chance to save the world several years ago, it had all been too much to deal with.

Sitting by Taylor's side, he had held her hand, apologizing to her for the part he had played in her death. They had known that Taylor would be likely to seek vengeance if pushed sufficiently, and that had been on Dax's mind during his first fight with her and her team. When Eric had initially stopped him from killing Max, Dax had seized the opportunity to take out the man Taylor loved. He had been directly responsible for the deaths of Cole and Eric, two men Taylor had cared about a great deal, and indirectly responsible for Max's death. His actions were the ones that had led to her following Rocky and the others to what would be her final battle.

The three men had returned to the caves in silence, and even though Dax had been overwhelmed with his own feelings, he had been able to pick up on what his companions had been dealing with. When he was seemingly welcomed with open arms and forgiveness, Dax's feelings of guilt intensified.

"When I recruited you," Andrew Hartford said, approaching the young man and breaking the silence, "I mentioned being a fan of your work."

"Truth is, however, it went farther than that, Dax. I'd seen you once before, during an event held at the San Angeles Children's' Hospital. There had been a special appearance planned for the occasion by a big action star, one whose stunts you performed, but it had been canceled at the last minute. Before we could make any announcement to the children, you arrived at the hospital, chased by what appeared to be evil ninjas. It turns out they were friends of yours, that you'd recruited them to save the day, without any further incentive than that of doing something good for those kids."

"I remember the looks in their eyes as they watched you. They were mesmerized, and they never realized that you weren't the real deal. Eventually, the ninjas, defeated, retreated, and you chased after them, waving at the children."

"You have a good heart. That's why I chose you, and you didn't let me down. And despite what's happened in the last few days, you still haven't let me down."

Dax stayed quiet a moment longer, remembering the event in question. It was a nice memory, but one that he couldn't hold on to as his mind was filled with images from the last few days. "It's just that, what we did, it cancels out all the good, Mr. Hartford. I know that I wasn't in control of my body, but it was still me, I was the instrument used to destroy good people. I saw it all happen, and I saw myself doing it, hurting others, taking lives. I don't know how I can live on with that."

"You keep on going because of the good you can still do," Karone said as she approached the pair and sat down by Dax' side.

"Does the pain go away at some point?" Dax asked, looking at the former villainess.

"It hasn't for me," Karone answered, "but even though I'm conscious of what I caused as Astronema, I'm also aware of the good I've done since the fall of Dark Specter, as a Galaxy Ranger, as Karone. The guilt, the pain, the darkness, they're still there, but there's more and more light and joy. And there will be for you too, Dax."

Processing Andrew Hartford's and Karone's words, Dax realized that they were right, that he still had work to do. He had people to save, and among them were three of his best friends. He needed to be strong for them, to try to free them and help them cope with what they would be left with afterwards.

As the Time Force Rangers waited for Wes to join them once again, Lucas found himself pacing back and forth restlessly. The former race car drive and current leader of his team in the future was having trouble coping with their current living arrangements, more precisely with being cooped up in these caves. He needed freedom, he needed movement, he needed to be doing something productive right now to ensure his team's survival.

"I can't believe this is happening," Lucas said, frustrated. "If we'd done what we came here to do, we'd all be back home by now instead of being sitting ducks here."

"Lucas," Katie pleaded, "you know there was no way Jen, Wes and Eric would have gone with it. And we fought alongside the Lightspeed and Wild Force Rangers. Would we have left them behind? And then what about everyone else? It's not as black and white as you're making it out to be. We made a choice, and we're trying our best to figure things out."

"I just feel like time is slowly running out and we're not getting anywhere," Lucas said to his teammates. "We're in these caves, safe for the moment, but even that won't protect us from what's supposedly coming, and we're not making any progress where that's concerned."

"We don't have the answer," Katie replied, "but that doesn't mean someone here doesn't have it, or that they won't find it. Have faith, Lucas, in us, in Wes, in all the others gathered here. Yes, this looks like the most hopeless situation we've ever been in, but this is also the greatest group of Rangers we've ever been a part of. Someone's bound to figure it out."

"Um, guys?" Trip interrupted them, "I'm receiving something."

The two Rangers looked at the green gem embedded in the Xybrian's forehead, its bright glow an indicator that he was receiving a signal. They both stayed quiet until the glow subsided, wanting to give their teammate the chance to focus on the transmission.

"Trip, what did you see?" Lucas asked when their teammate opened his eyes again. By this point, Wes, who'd been keeping an eye on his teammates despite being in conversation elsewhere, was back with them.

"It's the Overdrive Rangers," he said, urgency in his voice. "They're coming here. And Will ordered Rose to activate a chip of some sort, said it was time for a little chaos."

"That can't be good," Wes said, sharing a worried look with Lucas.

"I swear, Sky, I am this close to punching you right now," Jack said as he tried to wrap his head around what the Shadow Ranger had just shared with them. After Rocky and Scott had finished telling them about what had happened, Sky had joined Jason and the other leaders, presumably to fill them in on the risk posed by Charlie. While he was away, and while Sophie was busy looking into Dillon's condition, the rest of the SPD Rangers had come to the conclusion that Charlie had been sent by Cruger to make sure they wouldn't alter the timeline. When Sky had finally returned, that's when they'd found out that he was responsible for Charlie being after them in the present.

"It was a calculated risk," Sky said to his teammates. "Part of the reason A-Squad defected in the first place is that Doggie ordered them to stand down when they stumbled on data regarding the Blackout. I thought they'd want to help us make things right."

"Is there any chance that Charlie could still be on our side?" Syd asked. "I mean, yes, she killed Sam and Kelsey, but maybe that's all part of some bigger plan?"

"It's a possibility," Sky answered. "But the only person with the answer to that question is Charlie. All we can do is hope that her ultimate agenda coincides with ours."

"Well, considering Lady Luck's been on your side today, Sky, what with all the close calls you've had," Z offered, "I'll say the odds are in our favor, as far as Charlie's concerned."

"What's that about Charlie?" Sophie asked as she rejoined her teammates.

Before any of them could respond to the Green SPD Ranger's comment, Jack became aware of some increased activity in the area of the cave where the Time Force Rangers had been gathered. His teammates all noticed it too, and they slowly approached the other time-displaced team, just in time to make out the Green Time Force Ranger's statement about the Overdrive Rangers.

Seconds after Trip was done speaking, Jack heard an agonized scream coming from outside. Being closest to the cave's exit, he was one of the first to get out and see the RPM Rangers standing around Dillon. The Black RPM Ranger was on his knees and he was holding his head as if it were about to explode.

It didn't take Jack long to put two and two together. Trip had said something about a chip activation and chaos, and now Dillon was in a world of pain. The Overdrives had planted something on Rocky or Scott before they'd sent them back, something that was having an effect on the Black RPM Ranger because of the hardware in his body. But then, if Dillon was affected…

Jack never finished his thought, as the ground started to rumble in a way all too familiar to him. Something was coming, something big.

"Look, over there!" someone called out, pointing in the distance, where three towering figures appeared.

Having done some research into the Ranger legacy since his arrival at SPD, Jack quickly recognized Camille's armored form, Miratrix' monster form and the Centaurus Phoenix Megazord. Flanking them were some of the Overdrive Rangers' zords.

Dillon then let out another scream and Jack drew his eyes away from their attackers, remembering his previous thought. If Dillon was a target, surely she would be too. His eyes found Sophie too late, however, as the now red-eyed Green SPD Ranger fired her Deltamax Striker into Sky's back before Jack could shout a warning.

To be continued...

Hey everyone!

Second update of 2015, and it's been like, forever since the last one! Very exasperating, I know, and I'm sorry to everyone who's been waiting on a new chapter. At least, it was a long one, so there's that.

So, why 'Heart of Blue'? I think the idea came to me after I'd decided to let both Rocky and Dax survive the last battle. It was only normal that they'd get focus scenes in an upcoming chapter, and there was a color connection, and I was looking through the episode guide for potential chapter names, and so I thought of an all-blues chapter. An interesting idea, but in hindsight, it would have been much easier with less Blue Rangers still standing.

Challenges involved finding different scenarios for the different blues so it wouldn't feel repetitive, and also having the story keep moving forward along the way. Ethan's scene initially played as a mislead, with an apparently evil Jarrod, and it set up Rocky, Scott and Dax' return. Justin's scene served to remind us of the presence of our two part-cyborg Rangers, Dillon and Sophie, in anticipation of the cliffhanger, and maybe it sets up Justin to offer up some insights into the situation. An initial version of the scene involved a heart-to-heart between Justin and Cassie, which felt more natural since they were teammates, but I ultimately opted for the wisdom of Trini. TJ was about moving us forward a bit more with Rocky and the others' return, but the beginning of that scene also suggests that TJ has an idea and that it's related to something Billy knows about. With Madison, I wanted to establish her character in the face of the news regarding Nick. She's not breaking down in tears, she's solid for her teammates, she's the new leader of the Mystic Force trio. With Blake, after Rocky and Scott collected the morphers from the bodies, it was important to me to have at least one morpher be given to a teammate of a fallen Ranger. Dustin received that honor, and the scene played out from Blake's perspective. Rocky, there are references in his scene to events that'll occur in other stories. In this continuity, the first 12 Rangers were involved in the Countdown to Destruction and Rocky did play a role in the events of Forever Red. It's a nod to that, a slight knock on the way Serpentera was dispatched in Forever Red, and also a chance to heal the rift between Rocky and Jason. Dax' scene was brief yet necessary, and it was nice to have that little moment with Hartford and the appearance by Karone. Lucas was our POV character in a scene where Trip would have a vision, building towards the final reveals. Finally, Jack's scene, which was meant to explore the situation with Charlie, but also to set up the "biiiiig cliffhanger" involving Camille, Miratrix, the Centaurus Phoenix Megazord and the Overdrive Rangers' zords. Oh, and also whatever's going on with Dillon and Sophie.

Next time, on Power Rangers: End of Days, the Overdrive Rangers have brought in the heavy artillery, can anyone stand up to them? And with a threat in their ranks, will the surviving Rangers be able to pull through? You'll get answers to these questions and more in chapter 28, tentatively titled 'Battle of the Zords'.

Finally, a big thank you to everyone who's been reading and to those who wrote in since chapter 26 went up: PurpleRanger101, Harley McCoy, SilverDragonRanger09, TaitanoRules555, The Lost Fox, Mr. Couver, Psycho Tangerine, Dash Master 48, SilentNinja, Kh530, ImaSupernaturalCSI, Son of Whitebeard, Doogie Turner, JDFFan2278, dominick1996, guests and Chris.