Author's Note: This is the last chapter of Shards. :'( Sad to see this story end. Please read and review. As always, all feedback is appreciated. I hope you like it!
Main Control Room
"Zordon, the sensors indicate that Master Vile should arrive in Earth's atmosphere in approximately sixteen days."
The Eltarian sighed.
"ALPHA, IS THERE ANY WAY TO DISCERN HOW MANY SHIPS HE'S BRINGING WITH HIM?"
Alpha quickly pressed buttons on the panel. "Yes, Zordon. His fleet consists of fourteen ships and Serpentera."
This was just the news the Eltarian did not want to hear. Zordon had used the last few weeks as the time to recharge. He had gone so long without stopping in his mission to retrieve the Imanyd shards that his exhaustion was nearly overpowering.
Upon waking up, Zordon was informed of Master Vile's approaching vessels. To further complicate matters, he was unable to contact the rangers – it appeared all of them had turned off their communicators.
"ALPHA, TRY TO CONTACT THE RANGERS AGAIN. THEY MUST BE INFORMED THAT – "
Zordon paused when saw the six Ninjetti warriors materialize before him.
"Oh good! You're here!" said Alpha.
"RANGERS, ALPHA WAS JUST ABOUT TO CONTACT YOU. IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT YOU BEGIN MAKING PLANS ON HOW TO HANDLE MASTER VILE."
"He will be reaching Earth in sixteen days," said Alpha in worry.
Tommy glanced at Billy and Kim before stepping forward, eyes locked with their mentor.
"We will not be fighting against Master Vile."
The silence in the room was deafening, and Zordon stared at the white ranger in confusion.
"We have decided to step down as the active ranger team." Tommy stared at Zordon unflinchingly. "We told you before… if you lied to us again, we were done."
Zordon looked at the others, and from their expressions, he knew they were serious.
"AND WHO WILL DEFEND THE EARTH IF YOU CHOOSE NOT TO FIGHT?"
Billy stepped forward. "We realize that in making this choice, the Earth will be defenseless. That is why we have taken the necessary steps to ensure that the world is safe."
Billy looked over at his best friend, giving a slight nod in his direction to begin.
"SILVER NEO POWER!"
"GREEN NEO POWER!"
"PINK NEO POWER!"
"BLUE NEO POWER!"
"YELLOW NEO POWER!"
"RED NEO POWER!"
Zordon watched in a mixture of confusion and amazement as the teens morphed before him, wearing spandex suits similar to Ninjor's. They even bore his insignia.
Billy removed his helmet, staring up at their mentor. "We've created the Neo powers to take over in our place. The morphers, zords, and weapons have already been created. The Neozords are fully functional and come together to create the Neo Megazord."
Billy walked over to the console, typing rapidly on the computer to pull up schematics of the machines.
"They resemble and operate like vehicles on Earth. We do not possess the knowledge to build something as intricate as the Ninjazords, but we used them as a guide on how to create zords out of something we can build – cars."
Zordon said nothing, eyes scanning the six vehicles that appeared on the screen.
"Each ranger has a weapon. The pink ranger has the Neo Bow, the yellow ranger has the Neo Daggers, the green ranger has the Neo Axe, the blue ranger has the Neo Lance, the red ranger has the Neo Sword, and the silver ranger has the Neo Flail."
The rangers summoned their respective weapons.
"YOU DID THIS WHILE I WAS RECHARGING." It was a statement, not a question.
Adam looked up at Zordon. "We can't do this anymore, Zordon," he said sadly. "This fight is not ours. It never was."
"But we also couldn't leave the Earth to be destroyed by Master Vile," said Rocky. "We made these powers to protect the Earth, to be used by warriors that will fight against Evil with honor and bravery."
"Warriors that aren't us," finished Tommy.
Silence filled the room as Zordon looked down at them.
"AS YOU ARE RESOLVED TO NO LONGER FIGHT IN THIS WAR, I ACCEPT THESE POWERS YOU HAVE CREATED… ON THREE CONDITIONS."
Tommy raised an eyebrow. "Name them."
"THE FIRST IS THAT I CHOOSE WHO THE NEO RANGERS WILL BE. EVEN THOUGH YOU CREATED THE POWERS, YOU MUST UNDERSTAND WHY I MUST CHOOSE MY WARRIORS AS THEIR MENTOR.
"THE SECOND CONDITION IS THAT YOU MUST TRAIN THE WARRIORS ON HOW TO HANDLE THESE POWERS. AS THE CREATORS, YOU KNOW BEST WHAT THE NEO RANGERS ARE CAPABLE OF AND HOW TO USE THE POWERS. I WOULD LIKE YOU TO TEACH THEM THE FULL CAPABILITIES OF THEIR POWERS, THE SAME WAY NINJOR TAUGHT YOU.
"MY FINAL CONDITION IS THAT ALTHOUGH YOU WILL NO LONGER BE ACTIVE RANGERS, YOU WILL AGREE TO SERVE AS AN INACTIVE SECONDARY TEAM TO BE CALLED UPON ONLY IN EMERGENCIES. MASTER VILE POSES A GRAVE THREAT TO THE UNIVERSE AND WHILE THE NEO POWERS ARE SURELY GREAT, THEY ARE NOT AS POWERFUL AS THE NINJETTI. YOU MAY BE NEEDED IN THIS BATTLE."
Tommy turned to his teammates. The first two conditions were sensible in his eyes. As the mentor to the rangers, it was important for Zordon to have some decision about his team. He needed to have rangers he could trust and feel connected with, and none of the rangers wanted the task of choosing the next power team. Training them was also a reasonable request. As the makers of the Neo powers, they were the only ones that could show the new team how to use them.
It was the third condition that made him pause. He didn't exactly mind being called into action again in case of emergencies, although remembering the pain Kimberly was still in from his death made him hesitant to accept.
The Neo rangers, having derived their strength directly from the Imanyd, were incredibly powerful. They would be able to fight valiantly against Master Vile; given that Rita and Zedd no longer possessed the Imanyd shards, the Neo rangers definitely stood a chance.
Of course, Zordon was right – the Ninjetti were the strongest in the universe, and given that the temple was destroyed, there would never be more Ninjetti warriors. Rocky would definitely fight again, more than willing to protect the Earth from Evil. Adam and Aisha were not particularly thrilled with the idea of fighting anymore as rangers, but their compassionate nature and sense of duty would never allow them to say no.
He looked at Billy and Kim, the two he knew more than anyone else wanted to be done with the power rangers for good. Billy both admired and loathed the person he had become as a result of being a ranger, wanting nothing more than to move on to the next phase of his life. As for Kimberly, seeing Tommy die on the floor of the Ninja Megazord shattered any lingering chance of getting her to fight again.
"It's up to you two," he said looking at the pink and blue rangers.
The whole reason for creating the Neo powers was to make sure that once Master Vile made it to Earth, someone was there to protect the Earth.
Someone that wasn't them.
And now they were being asked to do it again. They wanted to say no, but they needed Zordon to accept the Neo rangers so that they could go on with their lives.
Kim bit her lip. "As long as we're clear that it's only in the case of absolute emergencies."
"I concur," said Billy. He knew the Neo rangers weren't as strong as them, and he could understand the potential need for reinforcements, though it would be highly improbable.
Tommy nodded before turning back to the Eltarian. "Fine, but we have conditions of our own."
"First," began Tommy, "although you can choose the bearers of the Neo powers, they must accept them of their own free will. No guilt trips or persuasion on your part is allowed.
"Second, we must be there when you choose power bearers, in order to make sure the first condition is met.
"Third, these powers can only be given to those whose physiology can handle exposure to the morphing grid. Several people can access these powers, most likely ranging in age. Children should be a last resort when selecting rangers. We were children when we were given this power and suffered greatly because we were too young to understand what we were getting into."
Zordon looked down at the white ranger.
"I ACCEPT YOUR CONDITIONS."
He smiled sadly. "MY GREATEST REGRET IS THAT YOU WERE PUT IN A POSITION TO EXPERIENCE SOMETHING AT AN AGE THAT YOU SHOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN EXPOSED TO. PLEASE BELIEVE ME."
Tommy looked at his mentor with an unreadable expression.
"Power down," said the white ranger softly.
"Contact us when you've found your warriors."
The teens disappeared in six streams of light, leaving Zordon and Alpha in their wake.
"Zordon, I'm running a diagnostic on the Neozords. These are quite impressive."
"I WOULD NOT EXPECT ANYTHING LESS FROM THEM," he said with a small smile.
"ALPHA, BEGIN RUNNING A BIOSCAN FOR POSSIBLE BEARERS FOR THE NEO POWERS. WE NEED SIX CANDIDATES IMMEDIATELY."
Angel Grove Park
Saturday, 2:49 PM
"You think you got game, Park? You don't have shit," taunted Rocky.
Adam remained quiet, skillfully dribbling the ball between his legs before running around Rocky, making the pass to Tommy. Tommy grinned as he caught the ball, jumping as he made a lay-up.
The white ranger looked over at the suspiciously mute red ranger. "You might want to keep your mouth shut next time."
"Whatever," said Rocky with a dismissive wave of the hand. "Lucky shot."
He turned to the blue ranger."We got this, Billy."
The blue-eyed teen snorted, shaking his head. "Okay, Rocky."
Off to the side, Tanya, Trini, Kim, and Aisha watched the boys play basketball on the court.
"I love him, but I swear that boy needs to learn when to shut the hell up," said Aisha.
Tanya nodded. "He and Billy are getting spanked because of that mouth of his. I didn't know Adam was such a good player."
Kim smiled. "Basketball's his favorite sport next to soccer. That boy is in love with the Lakers." The purple and gold jersey with the name Van Exel on the back over the number nine was proof of Kim's statement.
"What's the score?" asked Trini.
"18 to 12," said Tanya, her eyes never leaving the court. "Tommy and Adam are winning."
Back on the court, Rocky was guarding Adam like a hawk. "I know you're trying to be big and bad because your girl's here," he said. "But she's gonna see how much you suck at this game."
Adam laughed, expertly handling the ball. "You talk too much, Rock."
He looked past the red ranger at the basket, noticing the way was clear with Tommy effectively covering Billy.
"Hey, Rock, you know whose jersey I'm wearing?" asked Adam.
"Yeah, it's Van Exel. What about it?"
"They call him 'Nick the Quick'… here's why."
Adam dribbled the ball through Rocky's legs, running quickly as he jumped high, dunking the ball. Tanya stood, cheering loudly for her boyfriend.
Rocky stood with a sour look on his face. "Cheater."
The black ranger grinned, sweat dripping down his face. "We won fair and square."
Tanya ran up to him, kissing him lightly on the lips. Rocky walked over to Aisha, wanting his own kiss but she held up a hand, stopping him in his tracks.
"First, you lost. Second, you're sweaty and gross. No." Rocky glared before pulling her into a bear hug, and she screamed as his sweat got all over her body.
"You played really well," said Tanya, causing Adam to blush.
"Thanks," he said shyly.
He tensed when he felt the hairs stand up on the back of his neck. He knew without turning that Scorpina was behind him, and he forced himself to ignore her.
"I'm really going to miss this," said Trini suddenly. "All of us here at one time, having fun. We won't be able to do this anymore."
"For a while," corrected Billy. "We'll all be back together again. I'm sure of it."
Tanya swore loudly as she looked at her watch. "Tri, we gotta go."
"Already?" complained Kim.
"Yes, unfortunately. We have to meet with the rest of the track team. Coach Randall is retiring this year, and they're throwing him a party at the gym," said Trini.
She kissed Billy on the cheek and waved to the others; Tanya joined her after parting ways with Adam. The others watched as the two girls climbed into Trini's blue Corolla, heading off to AGHS.
Tommy sat straddling the bench, Kim between his legs as she rested against his chest, the two of them sharing a bag of potato chips.
Adam sat across from them, eyes staring off into the distance.
"You okay?" asked Aisha.
He debated lying, not really wanting to have a group therapy session.
"No… she's here."
They tensed, knowing she meant Scorpina.
"Where?" asked Billy.
He pointed at the red ranger. "Next to Rocky. She's touching his hair."
The red ranger shuddered at the thought.
"I know she's not real," Adam reassured them. "I'm getting better, I promise… it's just gonna take some time."
Kim smiled. "We know you are, Adam." She sighed. "I'm just upset you're going through this in the first place."
'Another thing being a ranger has cost us,' she thought to herself, though she unintentionally projected it to the rest of the group.
The conversation died with that thought, and a silence lingered over the group.
"It's going to be any day now," said Rocky quietly. "A new team of rangers."
He looked around. "Are we really going through with this?"
Billy shot a glance at Tommy before taking a deep breath. "Are you having second thoughts, Rocky?"
"I was before," admitted the red ranger. "I initially thought this was the worst idea on Earth and completely selfish on our part."
Billy nodded. "And now?"
Rocky ran a hand through his hair. "Now? I feel the same, but I think I'm at peace with our decision. I see what this has done to you, Billy. And now Adam." He looked at his friend sadly. "I was so caught up in the fact that the world needed us… I forgot that we matter, too."
He looked at Aisha. "When we were on Phaedos and Goldgoyle stabbed you… that was one of the scariest moments of my life." Aisha grabbed his hand comfortingly.
"Not just because of what happened to you, but how I completely lost it afterwards. That wasn't me; that was something brought out by this war. I don't want to see that side of me again," he confessed. "But I hate that it had to come to this."
Adam watched his friend with a faraway gaze. "I can't sleep at night."
They turned to look at him.
"Every night, I relive Scorpina trying to kill me. I can still feel the blades in my arm… every morning I wake up afraid I can't walk, can't feel my legs." His hands ran along his thighs subconsciously. "I think of what I could've lost that night. My life, my mobility… my friends, my future, Tanya. I came too close for my liking. I don't want to tempt fate again."
"So we're all in agreement?" asked Aisha. "We're really giving this up. This is what we feel is right and this is what we want to do."
Tommy felt Kim shift against him uncomfortably, and he didn't have to ask why.
He cleared his throat. "I don't doubt this is what we want to do… it's the part about it being right that's the elephant in the room."
They were silent at his words, knowing he hit the nail on the head.
"We created the Neo powers," Billy reminded them. "The Earth and the rest of the universe will have protection… and need I remind you, we are still technically rangers. We'll be an inactive team. We're not doing anything wrong," he argued.
And for the first time ever, the rangers weren't entirely sure if Billy was right about something - himself included.
"Look," said Tommy finally, "what if we just d–"
Beep. Beep. Beep-beep. Beep. Beep.
Tommy looked at his teammates before calling in. "We read you, Zordon."
"TOMMY, YOU AND THE OTHER RANGERS ARE NEEDED AT THE COMMAND CENTER IMMEDIATELY.
"IT IS TIME."
Tommy and the others entered the main control room, anxiety rolling off of them in waves.
The six teens stood before Zordon.
"You have selected the rangers?" asked Billy.
"YES," said Zordon.
"ALPHA 5 AND I FOUND SEVERAL CANDIDATES FOR THE NEO POWERS, AND AFTER CAREFUL CONSIDERATION, I HAVE MADE MY CHOICE."
Six beams of light entered the room, and the Ninjetti warriors found themselves staring into the faces of the next generation of power rangers.
And suddenly the feeling of excitement and nervousness in the Ninjetti warriors quickly transformed into dread and anger when they recognized the faces of their successors.
The two sophomores that were gawking at Tommy and Kimberly in the hallway, Cassie and Ashley.
The rookie quarterback for AGHS, T.J.
The waiter from Olive Garden that served Billy and Trini for their anniversary, Zhane.
The teen Adam accidentally knocked over in chorus when he caught sight of Scorpina, Carlos.
The long-haired teen that thought it was a good idea to play his guitar on Rocky's jeep, Andros.
"Oh my god," said Cassie. "You guys were the power rangers?" She grabbed onto Ashley excitedly. "How cool is that?"
T.J. smiled. "It makes complete sense now. You guys are the top athletes in school – no wonder the rangers were so powerful."
Kim felt her stomach drop as she listened to their excited chatter, and she caught eyes with Rocky. His face was one of complete shock, and his normally tanned skin seemed pale in the dimly lit room.
"C-Congratulations," choked out Adam and he numbly accepted Carlos' offered hand, shaking it limply.
"NEO RANGERS." The six young teens turned towards Zordon, eyes shining with excitement. "YOUR PREDECESSORS WERE KNOWN AS THE NINJETTI WARRIORS, THE STRONGEST WARRIORS IN THE UNIVERSE. YOU KNEW THEM AS THE POWER RANGERS."
"You guys have done so much for the world," said Andros in awe as he looked at the Ninjetti. "Thank you… for everything."
"THESE SIX HAVE ACCEPTED THE NEO POWERS AND THE DUTIES THAT COME WITH BEING A POWER RANGER. ASHLEY WILL SERVE AS THE YELLOW RANGER, CASSIE AS THE PINK RANGER, ZHANE AS THE SILVER RANGER, CARLOS AS THE GREEN RANGER, T.J. AS THE BLUE RANGER, AND ANDROS AS THE RED RANGER."
Aisha's hands covered her mouth as she looked at the Neo rangers. She wanted to throw up. 'This can't be happening…'
"ANDROS." The red Neo ranger turned towards Zordon. "AS THE ELDEST, YOU WILL BE THE LEADER."
Tommy felt a chill run up his spine as he remembered Zordon saying the same words to him two years prior.
"YOU WILL LEAD THE TEAM INTO BATTLE. I HAVE OBSERVED YOU FROM THE VIEWING GLOBE FOR SOME TIME. I BELIEVE YOU POSSESS THE QUALITIES THAT WILL MAKE YOU A FINE LEADER."
Andros nodded, though it was clear from his expression that he wasn't exactly sure he was fit to lead the team.
"AS POWER RANGERS, YOU WILL SERVE AS ONE OF THE MAIN FORCES OF GOOD, PROTECTING THE WORLD AND THE UNIVERSE FROM EVIL."
Ashley made a face. "But Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd haven't attacked in weeks."
"RITA AND ZEDD WERE SERIOUSLY INJURED IN A BATTLE ON THE MOON BY THE NINJETTI WARRIORS. THEY HAVE SPENT THESE LAST FEW WEEKS RECUPERATING IN RITA'S HOME GALAXY, M51, WITH HER FATHER, MASTER VILE. MASTER VILE WAS NOT PLEASED TO FIND HIS DAUTHER AND LORD ZEDD IN THEIR CONDITION AND IS HEADED TO EARTH TO EXACT REVENGE."
"He's going to try and destroy the world?" asked Carlos.
"HE'S COMING TO NOT ONLY DO THAT, BUT TO STEAL THE IMANYD, THE POWER SOURCE FOR THE POWER RANGERS."
"We can't let him do that," said T.J. forcefully. "He has to be stopped."
The determination in the younger boy's voice caused tears to sting Kim's eyes. 'There's so much they don't know…'
"THIS IS TRUE, AND AS THE NEO POWER RANGERS, YOU ARE EQUIPPED WITH THE POWER TO DEAL WITH MASTER VILE." He paused. "AS POWER RANGERS, YOU WOULD DEDICATE YOURSELVES TO THE SIDE OF GOOD AND FIGHT TO KEEP EVIL AT BAY."
"We understand," they said in unison.
"Do you?" asked Tommy softly.
The Neo rangers turned to face the leader of the Ninjetti warriors.
"Do you really understand what you're agreeing to?" At their confused expressions, he continued. "Every day, every single day, you will be faced with a challenge unlike any other. This isn't a sport or a TV show – this is real life. You see the footage on the news of our battles. You hear the reporters glorify us and what we do, but you're not out there."
His tone darkened. "Being a ranger is about more than fighting a few putties or blowing up the latest monster someone sends down. Fighting as a ranger changes you. You're going to see things someone your age shouldn't see, shouldn't know. You'll travel to different galaxies; meet people you would never know exist."
Aisha could see the excitement growing in their eyes, and she grew disheartened when she realized Tommy's words were having the opposite of the desired effect.
"You'll be forced to make decisions that you can't take back," stressed Adam.
He looked on helplessly as Scorpina twirled a finger in Ashley's hair, the other hand running the tip of her sword across T.J. throat. The black ranger willed himself not to cry out in warning.
"Like what?" asked Cassie.
"Like taking a life," said Billy. "At some point, you will be put in an untenable position where you have to choose between killing and being killed."
Zhane's eyes narrowed. "So it's in self-defense? That's understandable."
Tommy shook his head, frustrated with how they were trying to rationalize it.
"It doesn't matter if you're doing it as an act of murder or protection," said Kim. "Can you honestly live with the knowledge that you took someone's life?"
Andros fixed her with a serious look. "If it's necessary for the good of the world, then yes."
Billy stared at the red Neo ranger.
'They don't understand,' he told the others sadly. 'Nothing we say will ever make them understand.'
"Do you really think we can beat this Master Vile guy?" asked Cassie nervously.
"ALL OF YOU POSSESS NATURAL TALENTS WHICH WILL HELP YOU IN BATTLE. YOU ARE ALL CAPABLE OF GREATNESS, BOTH MENTALLY AND PHYSICALLY. I AM CONFIDENT THAT YOU WILL SUCCEED."
The worried look did not leave the pink Neo ranger's face.
"THE NINJETTI WARRIORS HAVE AGREED TO TRAIN YOU IN THE DAYS PRECEDING MASTER VILE'S ARRIVAL. THEY WILL BE SHOWING YOU THE FULL EXTENT OF YOUR NEO POWERS, INCLUDING THE WEAPONS AND ZORDS THAT COME WITH IT."
"We have weapons? And what are zords?" asked T.J.
Alpha 5 pressed several buttons, and 3D images of the Neozords and weapons appeared before them.
Billy stood paralyzed as he watched the Neo rangers grow excited over what he and the others created. If there was ever a time when Billy wished he could destroy his own work, now would be it. The images of the Neozords hurt his eyes, and he forced himself to look away, unable to stomach what they- what he put in motion.
"This is beyond cool," said Zhane with a wide smile. Andros nodded in agreement.
Adam shivered when Scorpina chuckled loudly in his ear before moving to stand next to the new team, eyes giddy with excitement as she ran her sword on the ground near their feet.
"THE NINJETTI WARRIORS WILL SERVE AS A RESERVE TEAM IN THE EVENT OF AN EMERGENCY. YOU ARE EARTH'S PRIMARY TEAM AND MAIN DEFENSE AGAINST EVIL." He turned to the automaton. "ALPHA, SHOW THEM TO THEIR QUARTERS. A TOUR OF THE COMMAND CENTER WOULD ALSO BE BENEFICIAL."
The young Neo rangers quickly followed behind the small robot, chatting excitedly about their new powers.
Tommy remained silent until the doors to the control room slid closed, the teens disappearing down the hallway.
Then he marched up to Zordon's tube. "We said no children!"
"I WAS LEFT WITH NO CHOICE."
Kim scoffed. "What do you mean no choice? We know there had to be several candidates for the Neo powers."
"AND THERE WERE," confirmed Zordon. "THIRTY, TO BE EXACT."
"And how many of those thirty were adults?" asked Aisha.
Rocky threw up his hands. "Twelve? You had twelve adults to choose from and you didn't pick any of them? Did they all say no?"
"THEY WERE NEVER ASKED."
Adam gasped. "What?"
"I RULED THEM OUT AS CANDIDATES FROM THE BEGINNING, LEAVING EIGHTEEN. OF THOSE, THE ONES CHOSEN WERE THE OLDEST. THE REMAINING TWELVE WERE NOT OF AGE TO FIGHT."
"How old were they?" asked Tommy.
"FOUR AND ELEVEN EARTH YEARS. I REFUSE TO PUT SMALL CHILDREN IN WAR."
"But it's okay to send more teenagers," snapped Kimberly. "You didn't even bother to ask the adults!"
"SIX OF THOSE ADULTS WERE OVER NINETY EARTH YEARS. THEY DID NOT POSSESS THE MENTAL CAPACITY OR PHYSICAL STRENGTH REQUIRED OF A POWER RANGER."
"What about the other six? Why didn't you ask them?"
Zordon looked at them sadly. "I WOULD HAVE PREFERRED TO ASK THEM INSTEAD OF THE SELECTED TEAM, BUT I WAS LEFT NO CHOICE, EVEN THOUGH THEY WERE BETTER SUITED FOR THE TASK AT HAND."
"Then ask them!" yelled Rocky desperately. "You have another group of teenagers out there fighting your war. That isn't fair to them!"
"I WOULD GLADLY DO THAT, ROCKY, BUT I CANNOT."
"Why not?" asked Tommy angrily.
"BECAUSE YOU HAVE CHOSEN NOT TO FIGHT."
They looked at him startled.
"YOU ARE THE SIX THAT WOULD BE THE NEO RANGERS INSTEAD OF THEM AS YOU ALSO POSSESS THE PHYSIOLOGY THAT ALLOWS YOU TO SURVIVE THE MORPHING GRID. YOU MADE IT CLEAR, HOWEVER, THAT YOU DO NOT WISH TO FIGHT IN THIS WAR ANY LONGER. I RESPECTED YOUR DECISION AND WAS FORCED TO CHOOSE ANOTHER TEAM. I CHOSE THEM, AND THEY HAVE ACCEPTED."
Billy felt as if the wind had been knocked out of him, and he sagged limply against the console, head buried in his hands.
"This is wrong… this is all wrong," he said softly.
The idea was to make sure the Earth was protected while they could get on with their lives. They built the zords, the weapons… everything was done with the best of intentions. They had made peace with the fact that another group would be faced with the responsibilities of being a power ranger, of having to deal with the emotional and mental scarring that went along with it.
They had specifically told Zordon they wanted children to be chosen as a last resort. They were sure that there existed a group of responsible, rational adults that would take their place, step up and protect all that was good in the universe.
Not once did it occur to them that they were the responsible, rational adults meant for the job. They were too focused on getting out, on putting the job on someone else that they succeeded in doing the one thing they wanted to avoid most.
Condemning another group of unsuspecting teenagers to fight Zordon's war.
Billy was overcome with nausea, sick to his stomach at what they had accomplished.
They really were no better than Zordon.
The six were snapped out of their trance by the sound of approaching bodies and laughter and soon found themselves looking into the innocent eyes of the Neo rangers.
"This place is amazing," said Ashley breathlessly. "Much bigger on the inside then I realized."
Andros nodded, before turning his gaze to the older rangers. "So what's our next move?"
Tommy turned his team, gleaning from their faces what to do next.
And once again, the decision was his to make.
They still had the chance to right this, to save these kids from the pain they knew was inevitable. They could send them all home, reinstate themselves as the rangers, and spare six kids from an experience that would surely break them.
But when Tommy looked into his friends' eyes, he remembered. He remembered the day Billy first killed and how the light in his eyes died when he realized what he had done. He remembered the feeling of helplessness when Aisha was stabbed in the chest, his inability to prevent it and how her near death made Rocky lose control. He remembered the wild rage in Rocky's normally happy face as he brutally attacked Goldgoyle and how he lost all compassion and humanity. He remembered Adam's nearly mutilated body after Scorpina's attack on Serpentera and the heightened fear in the black ranger's eyes as she haunted him constantly.
But most of all, he remembered the look of heartbreaking pain in Kimberly's eyes when he died and how broken she was, and remained, following his death and revival. He could never get the image of his lifeless body out of her mind, and he never wanted her to relive that experience ever again.
He knew as the leader of his team, he was expected to think rationally and to make the best possible decisions, despite personal feelings.
Tommy knew deep down what the right course of action was, and steeling himself, he closed his eyes as the words spilled forth from his lips.
"We begin your training."
Angel Grove High School
Two weeks later
Billy pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, a ghost of a smile crossing his face when he saw Tommy roll his eyes at Principal Kaplan from below.
He found it funny that of all the students in Angel Grove High, both the valedictorian and salutatorian were power rangers.
He was glad Aisha was up there with him to give her salutatorian speech and fondly recalled the numerous times he nearly burst into laughter during his speech from her comments in his head. She knew he hated giving his valediction, not at all comfortable with public speaking, and tried to make him laugh in order to ease his mind.
'With all the things I've seen these last few years, I'm more scared of talking in front of a group of people than being attacked by aliens.'
He remembered seeing Trini's smiling face in the crowd as he spoke, her long black her contrasting sharply with her bright gold gown. He was happy that she would be with him when he began this next chapter of his life; he had never felt so strongly about anyone before in his life. Granted, she was his first and only girlfriend, but he knew without a doubt that she was the one.
He caught sight of Zhane and Cassie in the back of the room, the two of them chatting quietly. They had volunteered to help out with graduation, running around as ushers when needed. The two waved excitedly at him as he sat on the stage, grins clear as day on their young faces.
He briefly wondered how long it would take before their excitement gave way to self-loathing.
Training the new rangers in the last two weeks had been interesting, to say the least. Billy had almost died when he attempted to show T.J. how to operate his Neo weapon, narrowly missing being decapitated by the teen's Neo lance at least three times. The football player gave him a sheepish look, finally deciding he would just watch Billy instead of trying it out on his own.
The blue Neo ranger reminded Billy a lot of Rocky when he first became a ranger. The boy was very brave and ready to assist when he could, but he did not always think before acting. Billy could easily foresee problems in the future if that behavior wasn't curbed, but he believed more time training would help whip T.J. into shape.
All of them could use some work when it came to self-defense, none were as skilled as his team in hand-to-hand combat. They relied too heavily on their powers, too quick to call upon their weapons or zords in battle for his liking.
'I suppose they'll learn on the job… We did.'
He caught sight of his father on the other side of the auditorium, and he gave a sad smile in the older man's direction. His father was the only family member he had left, what with the death of his mother from breast cancer and his older brother's murder… His father would be all alone once he was off to Cambridge.
'How could I forget that?'
"And now, it is time for our seniors to make their way to the stage," he heard Principal Kaplan say over the speakers.
Billy rose when Kaplan nodded in his direction, grateful he didn't have to wait long to get his diploma since he was valedictorian.
He stood off to the side, patiently waiting for the people on stage to get everything set up. He took the time to look around the auditorium, surveying the room with a heavy heart.
He never realized how much he would truly miss AGHS or Angel Grove until now.
'Time to move on.'
'Does he not realize how painfully obvious his toupee is?' Aisha thought as Principal Kaplan stood on the stage, hands crossed behind his back.
She scratched her arm underneath her gold graduation gown, finding the fabric incredibly itchy against her skin. Her foot tapped impatiently as Kaplan continued to drone on about the value of education and his high expectations of the seniors.
Aisha looked around the large auditorium, smiling when she caught sight of her parents and older brother in the bleachers. She hadn't expected Keith to be able to make it all the way from Japan, but he was granted leave at the last minute, allowing him to see his baby sister graduate.
Behind her parents were her grandparents, her aunt Michelle and her uncle James. She smiled when her father winked at her, a bright smile on his face.
It was strange to think she was graduating, about to take that final step that would end her high school career.
'And so much more.'
Her thoughts drifted to the Neo rangers, specifically Ashley Hammond. The sophomore had taken on the role of the Neo yellow ranger, succeeding Aisha. She liked Ashley; the girl was incredibly sweet and hilarious. Ashley was very excited about being a power ranger, sometimes startling Aisha with her eagerness.
'I don't remember being that excited, but maybe because it was just shoved on us.'
She supposed it was different for them than the Ninjetti rangers. They became power rangers when no other team existed, so they had no expectations. Ashley and the others had already known about power rangers from the footage of their fights on television, giving them a small, skewed idea of what they would be getting into.
'They don't really know, though,' thought Aisha sadly. 'I guess they'll learn soon enough when Vile comes.'
She stood behind Billy, playing with the back of his blue gown as she waited to walk across the stage.
She caught sight of Rocky below them, chin resting against his chest as he sat in his chair sleeping. She snickered, knowing he was drooling on his gown.
Aisha knew she was lucky to have a guy like Rocky in her life. Even though he was a tad "uncivilized," as Billy liked to describe him, she had never met a guy as caring or devoted as Rocky. Their relationship was still new, and neither had a clue what UCLA would bring in the fall, but she was glad she would be with him for the ride.
She watched Principal Kaplan shake Billy's, and the blue-eyed teen made his way across the stage, taking his seat once again. Taking a deep breath, Aisha smiled when she felt the bright light on her face.
Down on the auditorium floor, the red Ninjetti ranger snored softly in his chair, arms crossed over his chest and head now tilted back dangerously. A small amount of drool was building at the right corner of his mouth.
He was exhausted from the night before, spending nearly four hours with Tommy training the new team. T.J., Zhane, and Andros showed promise of making decent fighters, though they needed some work with their form. Ashley and Cassie were impressive as well, though neither were as fierce as Kim and Aisha when they fought.
Carlos was proving to be, well… quite terrible at fighting. The boy lacked confidence in himself, something Rocky and Tommy never had a problem with. They left him to Adam, realizing Carlos needed a lot more one-on-one instruction than the others; given that Adam had the most patience, he was left in charge of the young boy.
Rocky's blue cap fell off his head onto the floor, tousled brown hair out for the world to see. A jab in his side jolted him forward, and he reflexively kicked the seat in front him, causing the girl sitting there to nearly fall out of her chair.
"No lo ha hecho," he mumbled as he looked around the auditorium blearily, slightly confused by his surroundings. (I didn't do it)
He wiped at the drool on the side of his mouth, shaking his head as he blinked away the sleepiness from his eyes. He looked up at the stage, grinning goofily when he saw Aisha biting her lip as she tried not to laugh at him. Billy sat beside her with a small smile, head shaking from side to side.
The red Ninjetti ranger stretched his limbs as he yawned, lazily scratching his stomach as he watched student after student walk across the stage to get their diploma. He could feel a heated gaze on him, and he turned, wincing when he met his mother's angry gaze from across the room. He knew he was going to get it for sleeping during graduation, especially with all of his siblings there watching him. He gave a slight wave in Maria's direction, and she pointed angrily at him, a move he knew meant turn around. Adriana sat on their mother's lap, and she waved excitedly at her older brother when she saw him looking in their direction. Rocky smiled, sticking out his tongue to the child's amusement.
Rocky grinned when his row was told to stand, jumping to his feet before anyone else in his enthusiasm. Jacob Donaldson sat behind him, hand extended out with Rocky's graduation cap in hand; it had fallen near his feet while the teen was sleeping.
"Thanks," said Rocky quickly as he slipped it on, playfully flicking around the tassel.
He walked to the stage, huffing in irritation when he realized he would be waiting in line for some time before they got to his name. He glanced up at Aisha, disappointed when he saw her talking quietly with Billy.
'I should probably let them be… with Billy heading up to MIT, she won't have the luxury of talking to him so easily anymore.'
Rocky frowned at that thought, the realization that they would all be parting ways very soon hitting him hard. Aisha would still be with him, and Adam would be with Tanya just north of them in the Bay Area, but the others…
Billy, Tommy, and Trini would be on the other side of the country; Kim would be just a tiny bit closer in Maryland, albeit alone.
'Things are going to be different now… everyone's going their separate ways…'
It was a little unnerving to think about, but he had faith that everything would work out in the end. They had been through too much together both as friends and teammates to let things between them end.
Rocky grinned when Yeyson DeMayo's name was called, knowing he was next to walk.
'About damn time.'
Kim snorted when she saw Rocky cross the stage with a grin a mile wide. He shook Principal Kaplan's hand enthusiastically, jostling the older man so much that his hairpiece slipped to the side.
The pink Ninjetti ranger laughed out loud when she caught sight of the principal on the JumboTron, quickly quieting when she felt several pairs of eyes on her.
"Sorry," she whispered, tucking her bottom lip between her teeth.
Rocky winked at her as he headed back to his seat, and she snickered lowly.
'God, I'm going to miss that kid,' she thought sadly.
She was going to miss all of her friends terribly when she left in the fall for John Hopkins. She would miss the inside jokes and shopping sprees with Aisha… the crazy mishaps and endless teasing from Rocky… the sarcastic exchanges with Billy that left them both in stitches…
More than anything, though, she would miss Adam and Tommy.
If anyone had told her back in seventh grade that the same awkward, quiet boy that transferred from Kansas would become one of her best friends by the time she was eighteen, she would have laughed in their face. She hadn't thought much about Adam Park when she was younger, and now she couldn't imagine her life without her big little brother. Adam had become someone she cared deeply for, and it pained her to think of him being all the way on the other side of the country after growing so close to him.
She briefly wondered if she would feel as attached to her boyfriend if they had never been rangers, if they had been able to have a normal relationship filled with normal teenage activities…
'Maybe then it wouldn't hurt so much.'
Before their final mission at the lunar palace, Kim had been sad about leaving Tommy but firm in her decision to go. But now… after losing- no, almost losing him to Goldar, she was very reluctant to leave him. Kim knew it was too late to change her mind, having already accepted the decision to attend John Hopkins weeks ago. Not to mention the fact that Tommy would kill her if she gave up the opportunity to pursue a lifelong dream just to be with him. The two had already discussed their impending separation, and he was unyielding that she go to John Hopkins.
"I know you love me and that's why you're saying this, but I love you enough to ask you not to."
It hurt when he said those words to her, though she knew deep down, Tommy was only doing what was best for her. She knew he was right, but she couldn't fight the fear at being away from him.
Intellectually, Kim knew she had nothing to be afraid of. Her faith in Tommy and their relationship was unwavering; no distance would ever be able to break them apart. Tommy never even noticed other women where Kim was concerned, and she was too in love with Tommy to break up with him with some guy she knew would never compare to him.
'As if I could find someone to replace Tommy… it's not like he'd let me leave him anyway.'
Kim stood when she saw two ushers wave for her row to go up to the stage. She smoothed out her gold gown, readjusting her cap on her head before making her way to the stage. Cassie Chan stood at the end of her row, and the pink Neo ranger waved excitedly at the older girl.
Kim waved back, mentally wincing from how enthusiastic the sophomore was. Training Cassie proved to be an interesting experience for Kimberly at first, something akin to pulling teeth. The teen was reluctant to do most of the work required, including using her crossbow and learning offensive moves. She had to get tough with the young girl, even going so far as to using the girl's idolization of her as a way to get her to listen.
Now, she was confident that Cassie would make an exceptional power ranger… eventually. She was a reasonably good archer; she was not as good as Kimberly but she could get there with a bit more practice. She still needed a bit more work with her hand-to-hand combat, but overall, she was fast on her way to being a formidable fighter for the side of Good.
Standing at the base of the stage, Kim stared out at her classmates with a bored expression, wishing the line would move faster. She lightly blew on the tassel hanging near her eye, curious to see how far she could make it fly up.
She tensed when she felt someone looking at her, and she grinned sheepishly when she saw Tommy shake his head, brown eyes bright with amusement as he looked at her.
She winked back before turning around, making her way up the few steps to the stage. Aisha gave a small wave when she saw the pink ranger.
'Is your gown making you itchy as well?' came Aisha's voice in her head.
'Oh my god, yes! I'm dying to get out of this damn thing already,' complained Kim.
'You two can't hold off for five minutes without talking about clothing, can you?' asked Billy.
'Shut up, Billy,' said the female rangers in unison.
Kim saw the sandy-haired teen smirk, and she rolled her eyes. She quickly fixed her face into one of happiness when she saw Principal Kaplan smile in her direction, and she stepped onto the stage.
Tommy figured it was probably bad that the first thought to cross his mind when Kim walked across the stage to get her diploma was what exactly she was wearing beneath that gold gown.
He couldn't really be held responsible for his wandering mind – the entire graduation ceremony was beyond boring.
'Thank God I'm an honor student. I don't think I'd have made it if I had to graduate any later than I do now.'
His eyes followed Kim as she walked off stage, gaze fixed on her ample bottom. If only the gown were a few inches higher…
'Stop it, Tommy.'
He looked up into her eyes, chuckling at her annoyed look. 'Sorry, beautiful.'
The white ranger sighed loudly, desperately wishing the day was over with. He hated waiting for anything, and sitting down as he waited to be called to line up was proving torturous.
Ashley and Cassie passed by him, giggling slightly to each other before waving at him. He gave them a tight smile, waiting until they passed him before rolling his eyes.
'They could at least be more discreet.'
By now, Tommy had grown accustom to the looks and giggles of the pink and yellow Neo rangers. At first, he didn't understand what they were doing; it wasn't until the day he took off his shirt during training and heard them squeal that he finally understood.
Their ogling had died down some since training had begun. Initially it proved problematic; the girls were too distracted to fight against him and the other guys because they were too busy staring. Aisha and Kim had to train the two in a separate area so they could concentrate on fighting.
In retrospect, he wished they had stayed; the girls were better than the guys. Training the male rangers was easily one of the most frustrating things Tommy ever had to do. T.J. was too rash to follow directions properly, often executing the simplest move incorrectly. Zhane was incredibly arrogant and had little to back it up. The teen had some karate experience under his belt and mistook that as being ready to serve as the silver Neo ranger. Tommy promptly wiped the floor with the blond teen when his ego became intolerable, humbling the younger boy.
The remaining two were the most troubling for Tommy. Carlos lacked the confidence of a fighter, and Tommy wasn't sure how he felt about the boy being the green Neo ranger. Granted, he had improved drastically since they first began training him, but his negative view on his abilities, no matter how true, were not conducive to the mindset he needed to win in this war.
Tommy debated on whether or not he should talk to Zordon about the decision to make Andros the leader of the Neo rangers. He understood it was based off of age, and as the oldest, Andros naturally assumed the position of leadership. T.J. was chosen to be his second-in-command, but Tommy wondered if it might be a better idea to make T.J. the team leader. The current leader of the Neo team was actually quite skilled in karate, but Tommy found Andros too emotionally unstable at crucial times during training. When the teen was focused and calm his leadership skills were in top form, but there were times when he would become easily frustrated or incredibly moody that gave Tommy pause.
He and Rocky had discussed the red Neo ranger last night after training, unsure if his skills as a leader outweighed his mood swings.
"I told you guys, that kid's emo."
Maybe Rocky was right.
Tommy sank in his chair, grinning at the love-struck look on Billy's face when Trini received her diploma. The only other time he had seen that look on the blue ranger's face was when he received a new DC motor controller kit last Christmas.
He imagined that's what he looked like whenever Kim was around. He felt a warmth fill him at just the thought of his girlfriend. 'God, I'm going to miss her so much.'
If there was one thing Tommy looked forward to the least, it was parting ways with Kimberly in the coming weeks. Normally, they would spend most of their summer together, but he was leaving for Okinawa for the international karate competition in about three weeks and would be gone for nearly a month. Kim would be leaving for her gymnastics competition in Los Angeles two days after he made it back to the states, leaving them with a total of less than five weeks to spend together – and that didn't include the time spent with the rest of their friends.
'Guess we'll just have to make the most out of it.'
Maryland wasn't too far away from Massachusetts… not on a map, anyway. Tommy knew it would be tough being apart, especially given his death and subsequent resurrection, but they would be able to get through it.
They loved each other.
The white ranger yawned loudly, drawing attention to himself as he idly traced patterns on his gown out of boredom.
'This is taking too fucking long…'
He nearly yelped with happiness when he saw Zhane come to his row, indicating that it was time for them to line up. The long-haired teen made his way to the stage, smiling when he saw Kim blow a kiss in his direction as he passed her.
He released a breath he didn't know he was holding as he neared the stage.
'This is it… the last step before everything becomes different. No more high school, no more being a ranger… I get to be normal now.'
As he stepped onto the brightly lit stage, he found it strange how much that single thought scared him.
Adam watched Tommy shake Kaplan's hand, and he didn't miss Billy's eyes rolling when Tommy looked in his direction.
'Knowing Tommy, he probably said something rude.'
Adam stretched his neck from side to side, rubbing the tender muscles firmly. He had spent yet another late night practicing with Carlos. Adam felt responsible for the green ranger; first, because he was his successor and second, because the young boy wouldn't be in this position if it weren't for Adam.
Adam understood Carlos' frustrations well. He had been the same when he first started practicing martial arts as a child, failing miserably when trying to execute moves because he had low self-esteem. It was because he practiced kung fu for several years that Adam built confidence in himself as a fighter. Carlos wasn't afforded the luxury of over a decade of martial arts training, but Adam was determined to help the younger teen develop more faith in himself and his abilities as a ranger.
The black Ninjetti ranger climbed to his feet, walking with his row to stand in line at the front of the stage. He caught sight of Tanya a few rows back and smiled widely in her direction. His girlfriend returned his smile with a grin of her own.
'My girlfriend… who knew so much could change in so little time…'
It made him wonder about the future.
Adam was absolutely ecstatic about the upcoming fall. He was going to the school he wanted with the girl of his dreams, and he would actually have time to enjoy himself now that he was no longer a power ranger.
Admittedly, he still felt somewhat guilty about pushing the responsibility onto another group of teenagers but realized it was what he and the others needed to do in order to save what was left of them. His life had been turned upside down since he became a ranger, starting with his first kill and ending with the visions of Scorpina that still haunted him. Her appearance was becoming less frequent with time, but she still managed to show up whenever something would remind him of the fight on the moon.
Adam rested heavily against the railing as he waited to receive his diploma. He stifled a laugh when Kim stuck her tongue out at him.
'Cute,' he sent to her mentally.
'I try,' she responded sweetly.
Principal Kaplan nodded at the black ranger when it was his turn to walk, and Adam blinked against the harsh light in his eyes.
The rest of graduation went by in a blur for the rangers, though they all managed to pay attention when Tanya crossed the stage. The awarding of diplomas took nearly two hours, by the end of which only two rangers remained awake.
Tommy's head was bent at an awkward angle as he slept, mouth open wide. Kim was a bit more discreet, arms folded across her chest and hair covering her face as she slumbered. Adam's head was battling gravity, bobbing up and down every now and then when he would wake up. Rocky was fully turned in his seat, curled into a fetal position as he snored softly in his chair.
'I wish we weren't on stage,' said Aisha in Billy's head. 'I want to take a nap, too.'
Billy smirked. 'I see Rocky has had a positive influence on you.' He grinned when she smacked his thigh.
A loud screech over the speakers shocked everyone in the room, and Aisha snorted when she saw her friends jolt awake. Rocky merely turned in his seat, and it took someone physically shaking him awake for the red ranger to get up.
"I apologize for the noise," said Principal Kaplan. "Seniors, will you rise?"
The students slowly climbed to their feet.
"If you would please move your tassels to the left."
In near unison, the seniors moved the tiny ornament from right to left on their caps.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Angel Grove High School graduating class of 1995!"
Blue and gold caps flew in the air and thunderous applause filled the room as the graduates cheered loudly, exchanging hugs and kisses with their classmates.
It was finally over.
Angel Grove Youth Center
Angel Grove, CA
"Let's hear it for Angel Grove High's seniors!"
Whistles and loud clapping were heard in the Youth Center as everyone lifted their free smoothie in the air. The building was packed with people.
"You've got to be kidding," muttered Tommy irritably, eyes narrowed as he observed something across the room.
He and the others were seated at their usual table in the Youth Center. Their families were off mingling in the room, telling each other how much they'll miss their kids.
"What is it?" asked Aisha as she looked around, eyes widening slightly before rolling. "Oh, Lord…"
Over near the far end of the Youth Center stood the Neo rangers, each wearing their respective color.
"Oh look… the rainbow coalition…" said Rocky with a shake of his head.
"They can't possibly be this stupid," whispered Kim fiercely. "This is like the sixth time in a row I've seen them wear their colors."
"Fourteenth," informed Adam as he took a sip of his smoothie. "I've been keeping count."
Billy sighed. "Perhaps we should inform them that this is not their best idea as it pertains to keeping a low profile."
The white ranger rubbed his temples tiredly. "I'm gonna kill them. What part of secret identity don't they understand?"
"You know, Tommy, they could just be doing it to help them remember. Being a ranger is hard work… maybe wearing their colors all the time reminds them of who they are," offered Rocky.
Kim laughed into her cup at the red ranger's words, and Tommy shot him an annoyed look.
Rocky laughed. "Come on, T… they're just excited. Give it a few days; it'll pass."
"And if it doesn't?" asked Adam.
"Then we kill them."
The ground beneath their feet shook violently at that moment, and the Youth Center filled with panicked screams.
The Ninjetti warriors looked at each other in alarm. "What the hell was that?" asked Aisha.
Tremors rocked the building once more, sending several objects crashing to the floor. The teens found themselves on the ground when the shaking finally stopped.
"You kids all right?' asked Tommy's father.
"Yeah, dad, we're good. What was that? Didn't feel like an earthquake," said Tommy.
Frank Oliver nodded in agreement. "No, it didn't… but I'm not sure what–"
Their heads turned when they heard a surprised gasp. "Look! It's the power rangers!"
The six teens looked at each other in confusion before rushing to the large window of the Youth Center, gathering behind the growing crowd.
Outside, six figures in brightly-colored spandex were fighting off a patrol of putties. They easily defeated the clay creatures before teleporting out in six beams of light, following after the large monster that was attacking Angel Grove.
"That was so cool!" said one excited child as the crowd began to part.
"Totally! And the new uniforms are awesome!" said another.
The six Ninjetti warriors remained by the window long after the fight was over, each wearing a strange expression.
"That was… odd," said Tommy after some time, unsure of how he felt about watching the battle as opposed to fighting in it.
'Didn't an attack on the city warrant at least a check-in with Zordon?' he thought irritably. 'We wanted out… but I didn't expect it to be so abrupt.'
"Yeah," said Adam slowly. "I didn't think seeing them in action would feel so…"
"Weird?" supplied Rocky as he rubbed his communicator idly, as if the action would make it start beeping. "I know what you mean."
"Was anyone else waiting for Alpha to call us in to fight?" asked Aisha quietly. "As soon as I felt the ground shake, I just knew it was a matter of time before we were out there fighting."
"It's not like that anymore, guys," said Kim lowly. "Remember?"
They quieted at her words. Up until now, they had never actually experienced not being rangers. Things had been relatively peaceful on Earth for the last few months, and even with training the new rangers to take over, they were still the active team on Earth.
But not anymore.
"I guess… I guess Master Vile is finally attacking," said Adam softly.
Billy nodded. "Affirmative. He most likely sent out a monster to gain some insight on Earth's current defenses."
Rocky sighed as he looked out the window. "It feels strange to do nothing, you guys. My instincts are telling me to go to the Command Center."
Tommy crossed his arms in annoyance, wholeheartedly agreeing with Rocky. Right now, he and his team would be in the Command Center, coming up with a way to handle Master vile. They would be strategizing in the control room, planning out their next attack on the new enemy.
But instead, they were in the Youth Center, safe and sound as the Neo rangers were out there defending the city.
The white ranger sighed. 'That's not our job anymore. We need to accept that.'
"I know what you mean, Rock. We're wired up to respond to things like this because of our time as rangers, but Kim's right; that's not who we are… not anymore," the long-haired teen said solemnly as he looked at his friends.
"We made the decision to stop fighting, and we found capable people to take on the job. If we're needed, they'll let us know."
He stared at them hard in the eyes one by one. "This isn't our fight anymore, it's theirs – we have to honor that decision… our decision."
His words were met with mixed expressions, ranging from understanding to reluctant agreement. Tommy understood where each of them was coming from, having felt all those emotions himself.
But that didn't change anything.
"Come on, guys," he said with a strained smile, looping an arm around Kim and Billy's shoulders. "It'll be fine."
He forced himself to push the battle outside to the back of his mind.
"Now… let's go be normal."
Before anyone asks or sends me angry PMs, yes, the story stops here (no sequel, not anytime soon anyway). Is it actually over? Not really. As you can see, Shards could continue well beyond where I stopped it in many directions, but I made the decision to end it here for several reasons.
1) My intention was only to write for the original six until they were no longer the active ranger team. Since they have effectively passed the torch, the story stops here because the focus shifts to the new team, and I don't want to write about them, LOL. I only do MMPR.
2) The same way you're dropped into their lives abruptly, you're pulled out. That's what I wanted from the very beginning when I planned this fic out.
3) I don't believe in happy endings, LOL. Life doesn't wrap itself up nicely and end with everything resolved. I like the openness of the end because it can be taken in any direction. However, Shards is the only fic I'll write for MMPR that will have such an ambiguous ending. I usually end my fics with everything answered or at least provide more closure, but this will be the first and only time this happens.
4) This story could go on forever, and I don't have that kind of time. If it were still summer, yes, but I'm a senior in college, and I have other stuff I want to write as well.
I highly encourage anyone that would like to do something with Shards to go ahead, just ask for permission and credit me for the idea.
That being said, I would first like to thank my AMAZINGLY AWESOME beta psycochick32 for all the editing and extremely helpful comments. You're the best EVER. I would also like to thank everyone who has reviewed my fic. Your reviews were extremely helpful in pushing me to turn a small idea into an actual fic, which now has 150+ reviews (I'm still shocked by this). Thank you so much.
The new Evil Green Ranger fic will be up soon. My beta has read through part it and has spazzed out over it several times, LOL. Hopefully you guys will enjoy that. Also have a one-shot coming up in the next few days based on an episode from MMPR Season 3. Look out for that.
I hope you enjoyed Shards of Darkness. Thanks for reading. :)