Disclaimer: MINE! ALL MINE! Where "mine" = "totally not". I don't own 'em, I don't make money off of 'em, on with the story.
Author's Notes: This one is a birthday gift for Purplestripe66. I love you! *hearts*
Thank you, Challon, for the title. *fails at those* But you went to bed before I could bribe you into writing the summary for me!
I do apologize if the formatting is funky somehow. FFN and I seem to disagree over a few minor things like paragraphs, but I think I've fixed most of it now.
So, I already knew that you can hear Andros and Karone's mom in those voiceover flashback things at the beginning of "Astronema Thinks Twice" (and probably in some other episodes, too, but I don't remember and I didn't have time to rewatch the whole season to write this story, so), but I couldn't remember what was said so I rewatched that part.
And then again, and another several times while I tried to figure out what about it was bothering me.
Half an hour later (this clip is about fifty seconds long. I'm slow sometimes), it occurs to me that it's so not the same woman speaking in all of the flashbacks . There's the one who sounds like DECA, and another one who doesn't. They have two mothers, clearly. And a father, too, I suppose, but I don't know anything about him yet. Except for his name. They all have names.
None of these people are in the story, by the way.
"Do you not eat, Karone?"
She narrowed her eyes at the intrusion into her solitude. "Of course I do."
"You have been in residence on the Megaship for three days now," the computer reminded her, as if she could have forgotten. "You have not yet eaten."
"I eat. I don't always need to," she amended, before she found herself in another argument with the Megaship AI.
"I see." There was a pause, and the red light blinked off for just a moment. Before she could hope that she had been left in peace, it flickered back on. "The other Rangers would welcome your presence at dinner if you would care to join them."
"Dinner?" she repeated.
"Karone, dinner will be ready soon..."
Mom? She shut her eyes, grasping at the memory.
"How the Rangers refer to their evening meal."
It slipped away, out of her reach again. Frustrated, she glared at that irritating red light. "I know what dinner is."
She hadn't meant to stay in the room--her room, she reminded herself--for so long. In here, she was safe from Andros's expectant looks, and the disappointment that flashed across his face each time she couldn't remember.
"You did ask," the computer reproved her, and she sighed.
"Com—DECA." she corrected herself. "Computer" bothered Andros. "Could you leave me alone for awhile?"
The light flickered on and off for several seconds. "If you wish," DECA said finally.
"I do. Thank you," she added, but DECA was already gone.
Left alone with herself finally, she tilted her head back against the pillow and contemplated the darkness. It wasn't that she disliked it here. It was all just very... foreign. Andros was so eager to make her feel welcome, and his friends had been nothing but kind to her, for his sake more than hers, she thought.
It was all very... nice, she decided, but was it really where she belonged?
Unsure that she wanted to dwell on that, she traced a circle in the air. Wisps of purple fire formed in the wake of her trailing fingers, and she smiled as she completed the circle. With a single thought it became a sphere, and she watched idly as it wobbled back and forth in front of her.
The magic was less soothing than it had once been. She passed her hand through it and the sphere dissipated, and in her mind it was replaced by the image of another ball and a boy dressed all in red.
"Karone, go on and play with your brother..."
Mama. The name fixed itself firmly in her head, and the image burst into her mind with startling clarity. A woman with hair like Andros's and a voice like--
She raised her head suspiciously. "DECA."
"Yes, Karone?" The answer came so quickly she wondered if she had ever been alone.
When DECA blinked without answering, she knew.
"I can alter my voice, if you dislike it," DECA offered finally. "I am equipped with--"
"I hear your voice in my dreams," she blurted out. "But it's not your voice, is it?"
There was just a heartbeat of hesitation this time. "No."
DECA didn't volunteer anymore than that, and she tried not to sigh. "Why do you sound like her?"
"Andros has never asked me to change either my voice or my appearance, and I see no reason to do so for myself."
The accusations TJ had made at breakfast were suddenly more credible, she thought, torn between amusement and irritation. She had never met a computer who avoided questions.
"But why do you have her voice at all?" she pressed. "That can't have been your original one."
"It wasn't," DECA agreed. "I thought it would help Andros."
Her surprise gave way to the memory of Ecliptor comforting her after dreams of her dead family, and suddenly it wasn't so strange. "Did it?"
DECA was silent a moment. "I hope so."
She didn't know what to say after that. DECA fell quiet, too, both of them lost to their own thoughts.
She almost hated to shatter the silence when she murmured, "I'm not... what he wanted, am I?"
"Andros never stopped searching for you," DECA told her, and she smiled sadly.
"That's what I mean," she said. "I'm not what he expected to find, and I... I can hardly remember anything. I make him sad."
"Perhaps," DECA said, "but I do not believe that he would rather he had not found you."
"I might," she whispered, arms hugged to her chest. "I'm not sure yet."
"I would speak to Andros, if you would find it helpful."
The offer made her smile, but she shook her head. "It's--nice of you, but I don't want you to."
"You would rather speak to him yourself."
"No," she said. "Maybe." She would have known what to do on the Dark Fortress. Except that she hadn't, and now she was here.
"I wish..." She laid a hand against the wall, feeling the faintest of vibrations beneath her fingertips. The ship was more alive than she was, she mused, wondering why she wanted to laugh. "I want to remember. When he talks about our home, our parents, I wish I could see what he does, but I can't. I know it hurts him, but I--I don't know who I am."
She wasn't Astronema anymore, but neither was she Karone... at least, not the Karone that Andros wanted, and she didn't know if she would ever be.
The quiet knock that disrupted her thoughts could only have been one person. "Let him in, DECA. And turn the lights up. Please," she added belatedly, but it was already done.
Andros broke into a wide smile when he saw her. "Karone."
She waved him inside, sitting up a little straighter. "How was dinner?"
"How'd you--" His eyes flickered to DECA and then back to her, and he asked instead, "Did you eat already?"
"I'm fine, Andros," she said firmly.
She shook her head, surprised to find herself smiling. "I've just had this conversation with your ship. I'm fine," she repeated, and this time she thought he relaxed a little.
"I was hoping you would eat with us," he admitted, still hesitating in the middle of the room. "The others, too. If you wanted to."
"Really?" She didn't know how else to answer.
He nodded eagerly. "Yeah."
She studied him for a minute. He was dressed in what she could only assume were Earth clothes, pants and a red shirt that seemed just a little too big on him. It wasn't what the Red Ranger should wear, she thought, and when their eyes met she returned his smile tentatively.
"I'll think about it," she promised him finally. "If you'll sit down." She didn't want him standing over her the whole time.
Andros settled himself on the edge of her bed and twisted halfway around to face her. "It's not safe yet for us to go to KO-35 again," he told her, "but, if you wanted to, we could use the Simudeck. I could show you around... it might help you remember."
"I--" He looked so hopeful she hated to do this to him. "Andros, I don't want to."
"You don't?" There was that look, the one that he always hid quickly but not so fast that she couldn't see she was hurting him.
"Oh." Andros considered her, and a look of resignation passed across his face. "You're not happy here, are you."
"I don't know yet," she muttered. Hadn't she told him that already? "It's been three days, Andros! I miss Ecliptor. I miss the Dark Fortress. A week ago all I wanted was to kill you and your friends, and now I--I don't know." Only when she stopped did she realize how loud her voice had grown.
"I'm sorry," Andros said quietly. "If I've been pushing you for too much... I'm sorry."
She bit her lip, half wishing that she had just agreed when she saw the stricken look on his face. "It's not your fault."
She thought he tried to smile. "Yeah, it is."
"It's not all your fault, then," she said, and this time he did smile. "I know you were looking for me for a long time."
Andros nodded once, his smile slipping. Their eyes were the same color. She hadn't noticed before, but it occurred to her now, as his gaze locked onto hers. "I spent years looking for you," he said softly. "I can wait awhile longer if it's what you need."
"Thank you," she murmured.
Andros shrugged, leaning back against the post that supported the upper bunk. He couldn't possibly be comfortable, but he didn't complain. "You're my sister."
He said it as though it explained everything, and for him it really was that simple. He'd brought Astronema onto his ship, his faith in her going against all reason and absolutely certain that she would do him no harm. He had been a fool to trust her, and she had changed her mind about killing him and his friends a dozen times or more on Yotoba.
She didn't tell him that.
Instead she leaned forward and, ignoring the startled look on his face, she hugged her brother.