Hey guys, sorry again for the wait. There is only one chapter left after this one. For anyone interested, my next two projects will be a sequel to this story called "The Enemy Within". Some of you may have already seen a story with that title on my profile. However, I will be taking the current one down soon and will replace it with better written and longer chapters. I will also be doing a Mass Effect novelisation called "First to the Finish". It is an interactive story where the readers can occasionally vote on what happens. I would really like it if you had a look at both and left some feedback. These projects will also have consistent updates.

Enjoy the chapter

CHAPTER THIRTY

The sun was beautiful. A bright pinkish orange orb gradually descending below the horizon, it cast a slowly dimming glow over the N.A.S.A.D.A. spaceport.

The nine men stood together now, in a circle. Tommy, flanked to the left by Leo, then Andros, followed by Eric, Carter, Cole, Jason, Wes, and finally T.J.. Between Eric and Carter, a just slightly noticeable space had been left. They did not speak of it, nor did they ignore that it was there.

It was their unspoken tribute to him.

For a long time, nothing was said, as the nine men simply stood in silence.

But then again, nothing really needed to be said.

Occasionally glancing to his right, Eric Meyers could almost see him now. Though he knew that he would always see him in his mind and in his heart. Though he'd barely known him, Eric would never forget Aurico. To risk your own wellbeing, put your life on the line, and fight for a cause that was meaningful and true to you, was one thing. But to make that ultimate sacrifice, not only for your partners, not only for your friends, but for billions of lives which you would otherwise never touch, that Eric knew, what a true hero was. That above all else, was what it meant to be a Power Ranger. It was a lesson, and a truth that Eric would take with him for the remainder of his existence. He only hoped that somewhere, someday, the name of the Quantum Ranger could be spoken in the same regard as that of the Red Aquitar Ranger's.

Looking out to the sunset, into the beauty of the high heavens, Carter Grayson couldn't help but think of his Father. On the moon he'd made a very special promise to the man he remembered so fondly in his dreams: to make him proud. That would be his present to him. And now, as the wind blew his sandy coloured hair back across his scalp, Carter could feel the eyes on him. Not the eyes of his peers, but the eyes of his Father, looking down on him from above. He smiled, as the feeling in his heart grew warmer than the sunlight shining down on them.

Cole Evans loved sunsets. In the Amazons, the Wise Men and Tribe Leaders had often spoken about them. Just before he'd left the jungle in search of his parents, one such Wise Man had approached him. "The sun has set on this era in your life young one," he had said. "But fear not, for as the heavens guide you on your path, you will live to see a much brighter sun rise, that of your future." Cole thought of his words now, pondering just how far he'd come since leaving the jungle, and where his path would take him next.

Jason Lee Scott had many reasons to smile. The fact that he had once again dawned the helmet of the Red Morphin Ranger, and helped save the Earth from a terrible threat being only one of them. On the voyage home, Jason had been surprised when Andros had offered him the Tyrannosaurus Power Coin as a gift, a memento of not only his efforts on the moon, but of his entire career as a Power Ranger. Though flattered, and initially tempted to accept the coin, he declined the offer. Although his past as a Ranger would forever remain with him, and it was something he would always hold close and dear to his heart, it would be selfish of him to take the coin as his own. Although he had been the first to undertake its awesome powers, he almost certainly would not be the last. But more importantly, he wasn't the Red Ranger any more. He was Jason Lee Scott, husband of a beautiful woman named Emily, and soon-to-be Father of a beautiful baby girl. That was all that mattered now. In any event, he'd moments ago received something more valuable to him than any Power Coin: An invitation to dinner with Tommy and his wife.

Looking over at his partner and friend Eric, Wes Collins' lips curled into a small grin. He was still almost unable to believe what he'd seen on the Megaship just hours ago. For the first time in his life, Eric had let him in. He'd truly let him in. It just seemed so surreal, to see tears fall from the eyes of a man who had once refused to work with him altogether, simply because of his upbringing. He hoped that in time, Eric would grow to let him in on a regular basis, and to realise once and for all, that he wasn't there to scoff at him, or pass judgement on him. He simply wanted friendship. And in time, he hoped that friendship would grow stronger, strengthening not only their personal bond, but their bond as Power Rangers, and as the leaders of the Silver Guardians. Time. Wes had said it before, and right now, it was all he could think about. From here on out, the future looked bright.

With his fist thrust outward, clenched next to the others, Theodore J Jarvis Johnson thought quietly to himself. Andros had indeed stripped him of his Red Turbo Powers, just as he'd anticipated he would. Ironically, he thought, it wasn't the first time Andros had stripped him of his powers. Although this time, he was perfectly fine with it. He understood full well that the Red Turbo Ranger belonged on Eltare now. And in any event, he had grateful for the opportunity to suit up as a Ranger one last time. And despite the fact that he'd nearly been killed by a ruthless mechanical tyrant, it had all been worth it. Glancing over at Andros, he was sure of that more than anything else.

Tommy Oliver bowed his head, and closed his deep brown eyes. Once again, it was time to leave this life behind. Never in his wildest dreams had Tommy believed that he would once again dawn a helmet, and see the world through the eyes of a Power Ranger. For so long he'd thought it to be merely a part of his past. Never again to have any bearing on his adult life, or his life with his family. Tommy had never been a bitter man. When he'd given up his life as a Power Ranger, he'd made a promise to himself. Never, would he live his life in the past. Never would Tommy Oliver take normal life for granted. Especially one in which he had the love of a wife and a son. Despite the fact that he'd been such a big part of the Power Rangers, the Power Rangers weren't necessarily such a big part of him. At least, they didn't have to be. Not anymore. And yet, only when he'd strapped on a morpher again, and transformed himself once again, into the ultimate fighting force that he'd lived his adolescence as, did he come to realise two very important things. The first had certainly come as a surprise, yet not necessarily an unwelcome one: he'd missed it. Indeed, a small part of him had truly missed this life. The second however, seemed much more important: that was okay. It was okay to occasionally look back, and miss the electricity, the power flowing through your veins, as the adrenaline pushed you forward, urging you to go on. It was okay to miss that. And Tommy knew full well that in the coming years, he would miss it sometimes. But that didn't worry him whatsoever. For deep in his heart, down within a soul that had survived wars with satanic, maniacal monsters, MegaZord battles, dark dimensions, and power transfers, Tommy knew what was waiting at home was something he'd miss so much more, if it ever left him. It was something he needed more than any power morpher. Just then, a third realisation came to Tommy Oliver: he couldn't wait to be home.

Watching the smiles on the faces of his team mates made Leo Corbett happy. For the first time in a long time, he himself actually smiled. Unfortunately, a thought dwelled deep down in his gut that nearly eclipsed the joy of this moment. While the other Rangers were going home to smiles, laughter, and a hero's warm embrace, Leo was returning to something much worse. Corruption, anger, greed, these were what awaited the Red Galaxy Ranger upon his return to Mirinoi. Leo desperately fought back the depression and despair that clogged his mind. He would not tarnish this moment for the other Rangers. He knew, that as long as he and his friends continued on with the same persistence, and the will to survive that had pulled his and his partners through this battle, that everything would be alright in the end. At least, he hoped so...

Seeing T.J. look over at him, Andros smiled, and returned the look. For so long, he'd thought himself all alone in the universe. And for his failures, he'd thought he deserved every bit of that loneliness. Every tear fallen, every nightmare forced into recession, all the empty, sleepless nights he'd spent wondering if perhaps it could have been different somehow. There were periods where he didn't speak for days. Not because he didn't want to, but because there was simply no one to talk to. Little did Andros know, that he had never been truly alone. The thoughts, hopes, and prayers of the friends he'd left behind, had always been with him. Thanks to T.J., he knew that now. He only wished he'd seen it sooner. And now, he knew, it was time to do something he should have done a long time ago. It was time to face his fear, to confront his nightmares, to end the flaming madness raging in his heart. It was time to go home, to see her. The thought of doing so made him more nervous and scared than he'd ever been as a Power Ranger. But as he turned once again to look at his friend, at the man who had had shown him the way, and brought him back here today, he was suddenly comforted. At least now he knew that he wasn't alone. He was never alone.

At long last, Tommy was the one to break the silence. "Thank you, Rangers." he said. "You've all done a great service to the entire universe. I believe I said it on the moon: today, Andros, myself, and the universe itself are in your debt."

For a moment, the silence returned.

"Don't mention it bro." Jason said, a smile slowly spread across his cheeks.

And then, he held his fist out in the centre of the circle.

Returning the smile, Tommy returned the gesture, touching his fist to Jason's.

Then, T.J. stuck his own fist out, brushing his enclosed hand against the other two. Carter mirrored the gesture, followed Eric, Leo, and then the rest.

As the nine Red Rangers stood together, their hands touching in a gesture of respect, the rookie Cole Evans spoke two words. Two words that would forever bind the nine men, as well as the departed Aurico, together in a bond, a friendship, and a brotherhood that would expand across the stars.

"Forever Red."

The nine men each gave a nod, as if accepting this brotherhood for what it was, with honour and pride in their hearts.

"Well," Tommy said. "I guess it's time to say goodbye again."

With those words, the nine Red Rangers closed their fists together even tighter.

"May the power protect you all."

Then at last, the circle was broken, as Tommy Oliver, as ominous and mysteriously as he had appeared, turned and walked away. The remaining Rangers simply watched the legendary hero grow smaller in the distance, as he made his way toward his vehicle.

"Wow..." Cole uttered, in awe. He looked up at Jason. "So that was Tommy huh?"

"Yep," Jason replied, watching his old friend go. "That's him."

Cole nodded. "You know, I think he really is the greatest Ranger."

The resulting uproar of laughter shattered the silence to bits.

Confused, Cole looked back to his team mates. Though at least he knew they were laughing with him this time, and not at him. "What? What did I say?"

Flashing his winning smile, T.J. placed a hand on Cole's shoulder. "Well, I wouldn't go that far! After all, let's not forget I was the one who replaced him!"

Jason's eyes widened. "Are you kidding me? I mean, I was the one doing all the work, while he was at the Juice Bar kissing on Kimberly! Gimmie a break!"

As the eight men began their walks back to their respective vehicles, Carter shrugged. "Alright, well, at least his haircut's regulation now. Right?"

"Eh, he's okay." Eric chimed in. "But we can't deny that my Q-Rex would eat his DragonZord for lunch, now can we?"

"Hey! I don't recall him discovering any new galaxies!" said Leo.

"Well, what about demon armies?" Carter called out. "How many of those has he taken down?"

"Wait wait wait," Wes interrupted, holding his arms up in the air. "Now, I changed history! So why does he have a fan club, and I don't?"

"Hey pal," Andros said, smiling. "I saved two worlds! What about that?"

"Hey now! You want stories?" T.J. called out. "Did I ever tell you guys, about the time I got baked into a giant pizza?"

The sounds of laughter, joyous talks, and recollection echoed throughout the N.A.S.A.D.A. spaceport as the now bright red sun continued its descent down toward the horizon.

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