11/6/09

Summary: With Zedd gone, the rangers have accomplished their part of the task to save Earth… now The Center steps in.

Hi all. I am SO sorry for the delay in getting this chapter out. Author's pathetic excuse (if you care) will follow the story. Anyhow - Following the destruction of Zedd and his ship, the yoke is lifted of Earth. But how do you rebuild a world? And now, to the story…

-x-

Chapter 10: Shinning a Light

Tommy and the team returned to Angel Grove and the Command Center, their zords slightly worse for wear, but everyone was still in one piece. The war was won, Zedd was gone – but there was so much uncertainty left behind that happiness and a victory lap wasn't really in the cards.

"Shut them down and let's see what's next," announced Tommy across the open channel as the zords returned to the docking bay.

After everyone had landed and powered down both their zords and their uniforms, the team moved en masse towards the elevator. Tiredness showed in their steps, with Kim wrapping her arm around Tommy's waist, Adam and Aisha nearly braced by one another and Jason and Zack shuffling behind them all. Once in the elevator, they all leaned heavily against the walls, waiting until they arrived at the main command center.

When the doors opened, Alpha was there; his dented and tarnished metal greeting them as they disembarked.

"You're back!" cried Alpha in his ecstatic, robot voice as he moved to meet them. "Lt. Cranston and his forces have already left, but they left the coordinates for the Global Government's key location. He said he expects you to join them tomorrow to aid in the transition process. Until then – he left food for you."

Alpha pointed to the makeshift dining area that The Center forces had been kind enough to leave the teens, along with what seemed some pretty decent rations. Moving with renewed interest, the group made their way to the table to see what they'd been left.

There was meat. For the first time since they could remember arriving in this time, they had something besides protein bars. There was a tray filled with cold pieces of what might have been pork or beef ribs. There was fruit and a salad of some kind, filled with leafy greens and vegetables. Lt. Cranston's people had left behind a veritable feast.

With the food before them, they stumbled into the chairs, digging into the food as their stomachs rumbled in complaint for having been neglected. Right now, there was no directive to help the world; the rangers were simply going to take the opportunity to decompress from dealing with Zedd and just have something to eat.

"So, they want us to help…" trailed off Adam as he tried to wrap his mind around Lt. Cranston's request again, rib in hand before it made its way to his mouth.

"Seems that way, based on Lt. Cranston's message," Kim offered unenthusiastically, a camp fork in her hand as she speared some of the lettuce on her plate.

"But what exactly are we supposed to do?" asked Aisha before she took a drink from the water bottle she had picked up.

"Be figureheads?" Zack offered up, his mouth partially full of vegetables.

"That seems impractical," remarked Jason, taking a moment from his food to comment. "We don't have any skills or know anything about this time we're in…"

"But it might have always been their plan. I mean, they did clone us to save the world, which we did," Tommy replied, munching on the piece of fruit in his hand. "Now that it's over, we're still their symbol of freedom."

"What if we don't want to be that?" asked Adam, bringing them back to the painful point that they all had dealt with in some manner since waking up in the warehouse what seemed months ago…

They had all been rangers before, had been cloned to fight and save this world. They had their memories of before, of other battles. Now that they'd destroyed Zedd, what was really their role? Did they even belong here?

Tommy shrugged, chewing on the last pieces of meat on his bone as his eyes fell on the others. He didn't know what they were going to do next… but they would figure it out as a team. Like always.

"How about we cross that bridge tomorrow. For now, let's eat and get some rest," he offered.

"You mean you want to drag Kim back to bed?" Jason joked with a smirk.

Aisha and Zack both gave Tommy and Kim a look of surprise, and Adam simply smiled.

"That's none of your business," Tommy shot back.

"Kim?" Aisha ventured, hoping for some dish from her friend.

"We're sharing a bed," she began, and then purposefully enunciated the next part of her statement, "to sleep! You guys need to get your heads out of the gutter. And I don't know about you all, but I'm tired. We got woken up last time we fell asleep by Zedd…"

"Okay then," Zack offered, his hands rising to placate the irate pink ranger, "moving on… who's on clean up duty?"

-x-

Once the group had cleaned the dishes and utensils they'd been left, they headed back down to the personal rooms they'd used just the night before to get some more rest. All eyes followed Tommy and Kim as they moved to the white ranger's room. Kim gave them all a glare, and Tommy guided Kim inside before shutting the door firmly.

Tommy sat heavily on the bed and took off his shoes. The weight of everything they'd done, that he'd done finally crashing in on him. He'd killed Lord Zedd. It was big… they'd always ended the fight, never escalated without being provoked and never killed.

Until now.

Kimberly came and knelt on the bed beside him, her hand threading through his hair. She could feel the anxiety radiating off him like a heater.

"You okay?"

He shook his head and turned to face her. "Not really. You know I hated Zedd. All the things he did… and I have to wonder if I would have done what I did today… killed him outright if we weren't here, in this wacked out future place instead of where, what we used to be… does that make sense?"

She gave him a tentative smile. There was no way that she couldn't fault him for anything he'd done. If she'd been in his position, she probably would have wanted to have done it personally, and up close.

"Yes. I get it. It's still hard trying to reconcile my memories of then and now… I see Angel Grove and I expect to see the youth center, the high school… the places we know and when I do there's nothing there."

"We don't really belong here," Tommy added quietly, expressing the feelings that all of them had displayed at one time or another since they'd been woken up in the warehouse.

"But we are here. And we have to make the best out of it. But it doesn't mean we have to be this…" Kim replied, her hand waving around them at the room, referencing the command center and their status as rangers.

"What else can we do? We're still teenagers, really. No skills, and we've all seen what this world is like… how are we supposed to live here?"

"We're Power Rangers. We frackin' saved the earth. Don't you think they owe us something resembling a normal life?"

Tommy slid his eyes away from her for a moment, pondering the thought. He didn't remember the life that he'd led before – marrying Kim and having kids. But knowing that he'd had that before made him wonder if he could have it again; that whatever happened in that past life could be his here, in this new world.

"We should ask the others what they think tomorrow before we get to the Global Government base," Kim added, making Tommy swing his gaze back to meet hers.

"I know Adam is going to agree with you."

Kim gave him a slightly puzzled look, prompting him to sigh. It seemed that as leader everyone felt the desire to confide in him, even if they didn't share with everyone else. He was reminded again how glad he was that he had Kim to talk to.

"He kinda thinks The Center fracked with us… cloning us to fight their war and all. I think he wants it to be over. Jason and Zack haven't gone as far as to say the same, but I think they sort of feel like we've already paid our dues once…"

"So tomorrow, we'll discuss with the others what we're going to do? What we're going to say to Lt. Cranston and the rest if they ask us for more help…"

"Yeah. But right now," Tommy said lightly, reaching over to cup Kim's cheek and guide her closer to him, "let's get some sleep."

With that, he placed a soft, warm kiss on her lips, letting himself relax under the feel of her beside him. With the last of his will power, he broke the kiss and crawled up the bed, guiding Kim to follow. He lay on his side, spooning with the petite woman in his arms as he closed his eyes and steadied his breathing, letting the comfort he found in her closeness lull him to sleep as she snuggled back into his chest and drifted off as well.

-x-

When sunrise arrived, Lt. Cranston had his men start securing the Global Government headquarters as soon as they passed the first gates. Once inside, he knew they had three areas to assess: the main council chamber, the control room and the underground holding area. Masses of people flooded the facility, arresting and removing anyone that they found as they planned the purge and reassessment of all the people within the Global Government.

With others dealing with the control room and other non-vital areas, Lt. Cranston took a team to the council chamber. Not surprisingly, it was empty. None of the leaders of the government believed they would get a fair trial, let alone be kept around. He sighed and ran a hand down his face. It meant he'd have to spare resources hunting them down.

After he'd directed one of the corporals to take a team and locate the addresses of the council members and track them down, he focused on the last location in the building he wanted to oversee personally: the holding cells. His people began going through the labyrinth of cells, locating a variety of prisoners, including Center member James Oliver. While the two had never met, The Center member and direct descendent of two of the original rangers made him a contemporary for Cranston and had been instrumental in putting the rangers on the path to saving the world once again.

"About time," growled the older Oliver as two Center soldiers helped him out of his cell. "I guess our returned ancestors got the job done?"

"They did indeed," Lt. Cranston replied as he looked at the man who bore some aged resemblance to the Tommy Oliver he'd gotten to know briefly. "They'll be here in a few hours… I assume you'd like to greet them?"

"You guessed right."

"I'll see to it. For now, they'll take you someplace more comfortable," Lt. Cranston stated as he smiled slightly, and turned back to the tasks at hand. Taking the remainder of his detail, he headed back upstairs, knowing that the rest of their 'guests' were on their way. He quickly made his way through the building, headed outside.

At the gate, new vehicles were rolling into the base, carrying the underground VIPs of The Center's organization, including scientists, politicians and other disaffected educated men and women. Among them was the one person who had been instrumental in seeing this day become reality and whom Lt. Cranston took his direction.

Lt. Cranston saluted when Dr. Stuart Masterson, tall Caucasian man with graying hair exited the old humvee. He was a former political leader and scientist, and had been a vocal voice against the Global Government. And he was a very knowledgeable scientist – in the field of cloning. It had been his understanding, specifications and instructions that had allowed the DNA of the rangers to be cloned, bringing back the teens to the planet; his actions in creating them having saved them all.

Everyone within The Center expected him to take the lead in the new interim government. They all knew he had been planning for years the blueprint to rebuild the world anew. Countries would all be given back their rights, with the recreation of the UN; states and cities would begin to rebuild. New policies for food and water would be enacted; jobs would be created with the new building and revitalization of the planet.

Desalinization plants were first on the agenda of facilities scheduled to be built, at least one would be erected along every coast. The new, fresh water they would produce would revitalize the ecology; farming and raising livestock would no longer have to compete for resources as they had before. Within a year, twice the number of crops could be harvested; more meat would be available. And with that, increases in 'rations'.

They knew he figured within five years they could resume a fully free market society as more people were able to work in the less restricted and increasingly better circumstances freedom from the Global Government afforded the world.

But it had to start with baby steps.

"Lieutenant," Dr. Masterson said as he acknowledged the military man who had led the fighting cells that had continued to dog the Global Government for decades while they waited for the moment of liberation.

"Sir. It's good to see you."

"Likewise. We have a lot to do… let's herd everyone inside and get to work."

"Of course… the rangers have yet to arrive…"

"They've been busy," Dr. Masterson said simply, giving the younger man a slight grin. "And I think we're all more than willing to wait on them, considering…"

"Yes sir. I'll show you to the council chambers so you can start the planning meeting and then wait for their arrival."

With that, Lt. Cranston waved the new leader of the newly freed world forward, the next small step in rebuilding a world.

-x-

Everyone was anxiously awaiting the rangers when they finally arrived at the Global Government compound in the jeep James had lent them. As they were escorted into the facility, they passed soldiers and common looking people who all seemed to stare at them in awe. It wasn't until they finally were brought to the main building that they were met by a familiar face, Lt. Cranston was standing at the doorway, another man beside him that none of the team had expected to see again…

"James!" called out the teens, moving in a group to surround the older man who had not only given them an insight into their other selves past, but given them a refuge for a night.

"Are you all right?" asked Kim as she reached a hand tentatively to catch his hand, seeing the remnants of the bruising from when Captain Dell had slapped him.

"Fine," he said as he shrugged off Kim and Aisha's concern. "Good to see you all again. Looks like you did your ancestors proud, huh?"

"We did our best," Jason interjected, making James grin.

"Not like you could do anything else but. You are after all chips of the block…"

The rangers paused at that… another reminder of their duplicate status digging into their thoughts and souls. The discussion as they'd prepared to leave for the Global Government's headquarters had been at times heated, at times painful. But they'd addressed their feelings on what they all seemed to want next. Now they had to see if they could have it.

"The new council is waiting," Lt. Cranston stated, and the teens looked away from James to the military leader of The Center.

With Tommy in the lead, the rangers followed Lt. Cranston into the building. He led them along the corridors, the teens again being pinned with admiring and shocked looks. Finally they arrived at a large door that Lt. Cranston knocked loudly on before opening with a hard shove. Inside, the team could see a large table surrounded by a variety of people; men and women of varying races and sizes looked up from their focus before them to turn and regard the rangers.

Dr. Masterson quickly rose when he saw the rangers walk in. He had never seen them before Tommy's televised announcement, but could recognize the confidence, the authority within all of them as they entered the room.

As he stood, the other people at the table as well as the others in the room did as well, surprising the rangers. The man moved from his place behind the table to walk directly in front of them, his hands hanging loosely at his sides and the expression on his face seemed open and pleased.

"Rangers, I am overwhelmed at this chance to thank you all personally for everything you have done for us. Your return, your victory has allowed this moment of change to happen. We're all in your debt, once again."

"So, what now?" Tommy questioned, looking to see what this new government, The Center's best and brightest expected of six teenagers.

"We'd like to you stay and help with the transition. There's always a need for rangers," Dr. Masterson said simply, his face looking expectant now.

"But…" Adam began, looking to Tommy to help.

"We already did this," Tommy said quickly, jumping in to make their desires clear. "We were rangers before… you created us to save you. We did that."

"We still need you…" Dr. Masterson insisted.

"Why us? You could handpick anyone to be rangers now. The Command Center can be cleared and rebuilt. It doesn't have to be us," Jason explained, adding his voice to the discussion.

"It's not fair – we served our time," Aisha offered as explanation, hoping to be heard.

"You're rangers… it's your jobs…" Lt. Cranston interjected, leading everyone in the room to look at him.

"Our jobs?" Zack said in a scoffing tone before looking away in annoyance.

"We didn't ask for this – the first time or this time," complained Kimberly, pointing a finger at the men before them. "You brought us back, shoved us into your battle to fix everything. And we did what you wanted. Now can't we have some peace?"

Dr. Masterson and Lt. Cranston both looked to the teens and then to one another. There were plenty of people with the skills to fix things. It would take time, but to ask the rangers to do more than they already had…

"No, you're right. You have earned that. Obviously several times over," Dr. Masterson stated, alluding to the fact that all these rangers had served and saved the world before. "The least we can do is offer you a life free of battle."

"And we'd like your assurance that Angel Grove will be rebuilt," added Tommy, startling not only the men and women of The Center, but the rest of his team as well.

"I…" stammered the new leader of the temporary government.

"The ranger's home has been Angel Grove. And even though we're rangers, it was our home before we were rangers too. We'd like to go back… start fresh. You have to reinforce the Command Center anyway," Tommy explained.

Dr. Masterson looked back to his colleagues. Among them were engineers and architects. There were so many other needs… but could they really deny these teens, these rangers their home again?

"We'll get some crews to start rebuilding. Mr. Oliver," Dr. Masterson said, looking past Tommy to James, "perhaps you'd be willing to help out with researching and relocating any Angel Grove families who survived?"

"More than happy to," replied James, looking to the teens in front of him.

"In the meantime… since there aren't any services in Angel Grove, we can arrange for somewhere for you to stay…" Dr. Masterson began, looking at the young yet old faces before him.

"We can stay at the Command Center until new rangers can be chosen and trained. By then, hopefully Angel Grove will be well on its way to being restored?" suggested Jason, looking to Tommy and the others, seeing their agreement.

"I can't see any reason why not. As you said, it is your home. We'll have a crew start clearing and repairing the facility immediately. As well, everything else you might need – food, water, clothing… we will be sure to provide it. You've earned that, and so much more."

"Thank you," said Kim sincerely, her hand moving to lie on Tommy's arm.

"No, as I said before, it's we who are in your debt. You've served this world twice now… you deserve the chance to choose your own paths. However, if you ever wish to join us, help…"

"That will be up to the team to decide individually. For now though… I think we'd just like some peace and quiet."

"Understood. Lt. Cranston will get you an escort back to Angel Grove with any provisions you need. Thank you again," Dr. Masterson said, moving forward to extend his hand to Tommy.

Tommy took it and shook it briefly before moving back to stand with the others. Lt. Cranston then moved to wave the team towards the door.

At that, Tommy looked to Kim and then to the others before saying, "alright guys, let's go home."

-End-

Thank you all for reading. There may be an epilogue, showing what happens to our team in the future but I am not sure. As I stated above, my only excuse for the delay in this chapter was being diagnosed with frozen shoulder in October, which has made moving my right arm unfun, so typing is not on the top of the list of things I want to do. However, I wanted to get this out to you all, and at least give it some kind of wrap-up. Thanks – Ms. J.