Our Final Hope
Beta Read By: JTrevizo
Last Revised: 12/21/2012
Summary: Summoned by the president, a former Ranger finds herself on one last, desperate mission. Earth's final hope. Joined by the legendary Navy SEALs, it's a race against time to save her former teammates and stop an invasion two years in the making.
Rating: M for violence and character death.
Author's Note: Done for the To Protect and Serve Fic-A-Thon. The story was inspired by the song by Steve Jabolonsky called "Our Final Hope" from the Transformers: Dark Of The Moon score.
Dedication: Shawn, Jeannine, Irina thanks for the crazy idea of the fic-a-thon and Ms. J for the beta-reading ;). To all the fans of power rangers, particularly the pinks – this is for you ;P
"No sacrifice, no victory." – Sam, Transformers
"Destiny rarely calls us at a moment of our choosing." Optimus Prime, Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen
"A desperate mission, our final hope..." Optimus Prime, Transformers: Dark Of The Moon
She felt like she was walking into the lion's den as she was led through the brightly lit hallways of the Pentagon and into the bowels of the hub of the country's military. She tried to pay no mind to the stares she was receiving as she walked, but each step reminded her again that she was as alone as she'd ever been. She was the last of HIS team.
The others had all joined the war before her, and now they were all missing.
Every single member of her team, the team that came after hers and the Space team.
Missing in action.
And it was Tommy's fault she was being dragged into this mess. She hadn't wanted to go to war, even after the invasion of their solar system had started. She had built a life she enjoyed; free of the duty she'd done for nearly three years. It had been that decision that had caused the most contention between her and her childhood friends. She barely saw them, except for the once a year reunion in Angel Grove because of the divide between them. And now they were gone. Vanished.
Missing in action.
Presumed dead by the very organizations they had joined.
Her back straightened a little when she was led into a room being watched over from the door by two heavily armed guards.
"Ms. Hart, if you'll follow me," the man in front of her, a young blonde uniformed soldier who had been introduced as the aide of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, motioned.
Her eyes widened just a little as she got a look at the entirety of the military leaders of the country; the Joint Chiefs of Staff were sitting at various spots around the table, as was the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, the Vice President and the President.
They were sitting around two long, rectangular tables that had been pushed together and had a multitude of phones set up at each place. A few of them were typing away on laptops, talking on phones, or conversing with the uniformed soldiers standing near them. Looking around, she saw the large tactical maps displayed on the plasma TV sized computer screens. There were pictures on one screen, photos of people she knew intimately, people who she loved desperately.
"Welcome Kimberly," the President greeted, extending his hand to her. She didn't take it; instead she turned to look at him, sizing him up. He wasn't nearly as tall as she assumed, but definitely as lanky. He took her scrutiny in stride, and even gave her a small smile as she stared. Her first thought was that she'd taken on those of greater power than him when she'd been nothing more than a teenager; this meeting wouldn't spook her, not if she wouldn't let it.
"Why did you call me here, Mr. President?"
He shook his head and said nothing, instead choosing to grab the thick manila folder in front of him. He turned it toward her, opened it, and spread out the pictures that were inside. They were pictures of what appeared to be her friends' mangled, bloodied dead bodies. "We need your help, Pink Ranger."
Her head snapped up, her lips trembling and her dark, tormented eyes zeroed in on his. He knew her secret, the one only a select few people were privy to. "How?"
"I don't believe the others are dead, contrary to what these pictures tell us," he tapped the top picture, the one that looked to be Jason's, where the head had been severed from the body. Her soul screamed in agony as she waited for him to continue. "I've been in close contact with Dr. Oliver since before I took office…." he let the comment hang in the air.
"What does that have to do with me?" she all but demanded, reaching out to close the folder. Even if the pictures were fake, like the President believed, she couldn't stomach them. What was left of her was nothing but an empty shell right now…
"I was told in the event that something disastrous happened to the others, I was to contact you and give you this." Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a key and a flash drive, and handed them to her.
2 Weeks Later
She stood dressed in a pair of black and gray fatigue pants tucked into military grade black combat boots. Her arms were crossed over the gray tank top she wore, her dog tags hanging between her breasts. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail and her eyes were shaded by a pair of sunglasses. She stared impatiently as the three teams unloaded from the transport vehicles and gathered in front of her. She could see just by the looks on their faces they were already apprehensive about what they were going to embark upon. Good, she thought pensively, they should be. They were about to walk into a war that they had no experience in. Dealing with human threats was one thing; dealing with alien ones was completely out of their realm.
Her stance didn't relax at all when the three SEAL team commanders approached her, each of them looking slightly bewildered.
"Ms. Hart?" the tall, dark haired man asked as the trio stopped in front of her.
She quietly and quickly sized them up. She'd read each of their files, and knew that they were known best amongst their peers for getting the job done at all costs. She sent up a quick prayer that the cost wouldn't be all their lives.
"Welcome to hell, gentlemen," she greeted quietly. The three arched their eyebrows at her. "Your teams will be staying in the barracks to my left. I want everyone back out here in approximately twenty minutes so we can start going over the plans."
"Ma'am?" the stocky, black man who looked a little like the actor who played Heavy Duty in G.I. Joe questioned, eyeing her up and down.
Tilting her head, her sunglasses slid down the bridge of her nose and she stared over the top of them. "We don't have a lot of time to prep. The President has given us one week to get you ready for this mission, and you're going to need every moment of that week… trust me."
Her chest was heaving as she crouched in a defensive position, normally calm brown eyes burning pink while they stared at the young man she'd just taught a painful lesson to. The other members of the SEAL teams surrounding her were motionless, their faces showing their disbelief that a tiny slip of a woman had taken down one of their most skilled members. Of course, the shock she saw might also have to do with the fact that she was glowing like a firefly on a warm summer night. Having the life nearly choked out of a person could do that, especially when said person had her kind of 'gifts'.
She really hadn't meant to display her unique abilities in the way she had; she'd been hoping she wouldn't have to use them until they'd actually gotten close enough to what may be left of her 'family'. But after two days of intense training, some of the fine gentlemen who'd been assigned to her still weren't comfortable taking orders from someone they knew nothing about. She'd understood that, respected the sentiment even, but her family was in danger, and she had been placed in charge of getting the team ready to go and save them. She didn't have the luxury of hoping these men would blindly follow her into battle.
And unfortunately, even being a member of the legendary Navy SEALs wasn't about to get anyone a free pass when it came to questioning her judgment or how she was preparing them. They had her utmost respect; it was time she had theirs.
"How'd you do that?" a short, stocky man in his mid thirties who reminded her quite a bit of Rocky asked as he stepped forward, beefy arms crossed over his chest as he stared at her.
"I have some very unique abilities, Lt. Commander Marshall," she quietly told them as she stood from her crouch and reached a hand to the young man on the ground. He allowed her to help him up before he moved back to join his teammates.
"Ma'am, what you just did goes beyond special abilities," Marshall drawled, his eyes narrowing at her.
"How much do you all know about the group known as the Power Rangers?" she asked them even as she reached up to readjust her ponytail.
"Nothing but myth," someone called from the back of the gathered group, causing her to chuckle sarcastically and shake her head.
"I'm afraid you'd be wrong there," she pointedly told the group, watching some of them shift restlessly. "In 1993, two astronauts from NASADA were on a secret mission to the moon to gather data. They found what was Rita Repulsa's space dumpster and being the curious people they were, opened it. They unleashed a power far beyond their imagining. When this happened, an intergalactic being who was living on Earth at the time, who had been here for thousands of years monitoring Rita's dumpster, sought out five ordinary teenagers and transported them to his secret base in the mountains outside of Angel Grove, California."
One of the other Lt. Commanders, a man named Michaels, called out to her. "Come on, you expect us to believe that?"
"That intergalactic being turned those five teenagers into the team that came to be known as the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers," Kim continued, ignoring his comments and then pausing as she stood a little straighter. "I was one of those five chosen."
"Power Rangers? Intergalactic beings? Does the president know you're a nut job?" a young man she knew was in his mid-twenties asked, total disbelief on his face while others, ones she knew were originally from California, shifted uncomfortably at the words she was telling them.
Kim shook her head, a small, wistful smile lighting her face. "My name is Kimberly Hart, and I was the original Mighty Morphin' Pink Power Ranger. I served my planet for nearly three years before stepping down to follow my dreams. I piloted three aerial machines that would put the United States Air Force to shame, I bore powers that allowed me to morph into a spandex uniform to fight evil, and I carried the power of the ancient race known as the Ninjetti. I assure you, Lord Zedd and Rita Repulsa and all of their minions and evil friends were very real."
The former Pink Ranger's head shot up and to the right, her eyes taking in the two men who had just joined the group. Her heart shuddered in relief as she recognized them both from Tommy's files and the one time they'd met before. "Eric…"
"They aren't going to believe you until you prove it to them," he prompted, arms folded over his chest.
With a shake of her head, Kimberly turned back toward the assembled group. "I can't morph completely anymore, not since I gave up my place to pursue my childhood dreams, but after the death of our mentor, each of us that had served the power were endowed with some unique, if limited, abilities. NINJA RANGER POWER!" she called out, her hands moving with grace and agility. Gasps went up all around as they watched the pink power shimmer around her, changing her fatigues to a body hugging, face covering ninja uniform in a resoundingly bright pink.
Marshall turned to Eric, eyes wide. "How'd you know?"
"Because, she's not the only one with 'unique' abilities," Eric grinned and then grunted when the man next to him socked him in the arm. "Wes…"
"He's Eric Myers, and I'm Wes Collins. We work for the Silver Guardians task force," Wes introduced himself to Marshall and the others. "And we know about Kimberly because we share a legacy with her – both Eric and I were members of the Time Force Power Rangers team in 2001."
The group of commanding officers sat in the ready room with the three former Rangers, each curious about what was going to happen. Wes was standing behind Kimberly's chair, looking over her shoulder at the laptop she had set up while Eric leaned against the wall across from them, his eyes on Kim's face.
"How'd you two know where to find me?" Kim conversationally asked as she booted up the information from the flash drive she'd been carrying with her since the night the president had handed it to her.
"The Lightspeed team passed on some vital information," Wes responded, placing his hand on her shoulder. Because of her distance from her own teammates, Kimberly had only heard vaguely about the other teams in passing from Jason, Rocky and Adam. She'd been graced with Eric and Wes' presence once before, at a gathering at Tommy's house a few years before. It wasn't until she'd used the key and flash drive she'd been given that she'd gotten the full scoop on everyone who'd come after her.
Tommy and Billy had met with, documented, and kept in contact with every team that had come after the Space team. All of the information had been on the computers inside Tommy's basement, which was otherwise known as the Dino Thunder Rangers' lair. The key had been to Tommy's house and the flash drive had one file on it – a program written by Billy and Hayley to get her into the computer systems and get her the information she needed for her mission.
She had been incredibly surprised to learn that the Rangers had essentially stayed under the radar for the most part, even with several teams having worked for the government. Her own team, she knew, had done the same when they'd been in spandex. Yes, Angel Grove knew about the Power Rangers, as did a lot of southern California, but outside of that, most everyone assumed the Rangers were a myth; hence the disbelief amongst the SEALs now under her command.
"Government Rangers," she mumbled to herself, and then smiled. For the first time in two weeks, she didn't feel so utterly alone.
"We're here to back you up, but you're still going to be the primary on this," Eric announced, catching the attention of everyone in the room. "You know the team and the enemy better than anybody in this room, Kimberly."
Nodding, she grabbed a remote and turned on the overhead projector while Wes went and shut off the lights. "This is Akasha," she started, using the laser pointer on the remote to draw their attention to the screen. "And yes, many of you know her from stories like the Queen of the Damned, although this particular Akasha is not a vampire, she's a demon queen from another planet."
"What's her deal?" Marshall asked.
"Apparently two years ago the Zeo and Space Rangers took out her consort and half their fleet as they entered our solar system and attempted to take over Earth," Kim supplied. "While the Rangers did them plenty of damage, the invasion was partially successful. Thousands of her people managed to land on Earth during what has been called the Kitsap meteor shower. The Rangers have been systematically tracking each and every one of them for the last two years with the help of Earth's governments. It's no coincidence that everyone suddenly started working together."
"Yes and no," Kimberly shot a look in Eric's direction. "According to what little information we got from the soldiers who went with the Ranger teams to the moon and managed to return, she wishes to decimate the Rangers and take over Earth, hoping that its inhabitants will feed her soldiers. This species devours worlds."
All heads snapped up and faced Kimberly, who was standing next to the projected image on the wall. "Reports say she took the Rangers to feed them to her royal court, in hopes that she'd gain their morphing powers."
"Only the Space and Zeo Rangers still retain their ability to morph," Wes supplied. "Those who only served on the Morphin' team like Kimberly have some residual abilities that have made themselves known, but they can't morph to save themselves."
"Look," Kimberly finally bit out in frustration. "President Obama has assigned one platoon from SEAL teams 2 and 5, and Delivery Vehicle team 1 to this mission for a reason. Obviously, I can't do this on my own; I need your expertise to get into their base on the moon, find what could be left of my family, and destroy the race trying to take over the planet. Either you're in or you're out; I have to see this through, but I won't think any less of any of you if you want to withdraw your people from this assignment."
Kimberly's slightly watery eyes took in each of the commanders. "Something I always respected was your motto of not leaving a SEAL behind. It was something the Ranger teams have always taken to heart; we left no one behind. I refuse to leave any of my family in that God-forsaken place longer than I have to. Dead or alive, I'm bringing them home so they can have a proper burial or can be honored as the heroes they are."
Every man in the room rose from their seat, standing at attention with their arms behind their backs. "Ms. Hart, I think I speak for each of our teams when I say we would be more than happy to assist you in recovering the other Rangers," Marshall spoke up, his chin lifting as he looked her dead in the eye.
Blinking back the tears that had been threatening from day one, Kimberly gave a curt nod of thanks and swallowed hard. They still had work to do, especially her.
The three platoons of SEALs stared at the craft they were going to be taking into space with skeptical eyes. Kimberly stood before them, hand over her mouth, trying not to laugh while Wes and Eric stood proudly showing it off.
"Are you serious?" the former Pink Ranger couldn't help but laugh as she blinked. If Tommy's files were correct, it was the oldest version of the Astro Megaship still flyable. It had been sitting on Mirinoi until Wes and Eric had put in a call to have Leo and Kendrix Corbett bring it to Earth.
"It flies, it's sturdy, and it's got a cloaking device," Eric muttered. "It's withstood a hell of a lot the last decade."
Kimberly shook her head and walked toward them. "And who the hell is going to pilot that thing? I certainly have no experience with it, and judging from the looks you're getting, there isn't a member of the special vehicle team that can fly it."
"I've had training," Wes pouted a little before rolling his eyes. "It also comes with a talking computer named DECA that can fly the ship on her own."
"DECA's like Alpha 5 on steroids," Eric explained, watching Kimberly's eyes light up as the teams moved to start entering the hangar bay. "She's creepy, but she knows what the hell she's doing."
"Thank you for the vote of confidence, Eric," a very mechanical but distinctly female voice uttered from overhead, causing the group to startle. "Welcome aboard the Astro Megaship. My name is DECA, if I can be of any assistance, please let me know. Kimberly, will you please follow Wes and Eric to the bridge, we have an incoming communication from the President."
The trio handed off their bags and headed down the hallway toward the lift. When they arrived at the bridge, Wes and Eric took up the stations that had once been TJ and Carlos' while Kimberly sat down in the captain's chair. "Go ahead DECA."
When the President's face appeared on the screen, all three former Rangers stood at attention. "I wondered if the two of you would make your way to her side," he joked when he got a good look at them before his face turned serious. "I don't have to tell you what's at stake here if you fail; we don't have enough Rangers left to combat what's happening and Earth's militaries are woefully unprepared to take on an extraterrestrial fight like this. We have no contact with the Alliance, as Billy was our most direct way of getting a hold of them. You are our final hope."
"We understand," Wes responded, tension filling him as he and Eric shared a look.
"I certainly hope so. Kimberly…"
She continued to stand, her legs shaking as she stared at the communication screen. "Either I come back with them, or I won't be coming back at all. I will do my best to make sure the SEAL teams return, but I'm not leaving without the others."
There was a pregnant pause as the President digested what she'd just told him. "You do your legacy proud, Pink Ranger. I've read your teammates files on you and I have the utmost confidence in your abilities to get through this and come home. I'm afraid there won't be anything we can do from here for you, besides give you an escort on launch and re-entry. The Megaship has been equipped with every piece of firepower that was kept inside the Rangers' base of operations in Angel Grove. At least, everything we were able to find. There was one thing our teams couldn't quite figure out."
The trio watched as the president moved back and showed them his laptop. A video of the guards at the Rangers' base was playing, showing them a large hangar door. "What is that?" Eric asked, looking to Kim for clarification.
"That's the Ninja Zords hangar," Kim nurnured. "No one who hasn't touched the power will ever be able to enter that hangar, its release mechanism functions on power from the Morphin' Grid. But I don't understand why it's glowing…the Ninja Zords were destroyed when Rito and Goldar destroyed the Power Coins."
The President reappeared on the screen. "The team there found an encrypted disk taped to the door, Kimberly. I've sent it along with any of the pertinent files we could find at the base. This is Billy's doing, Kimberly. We received a communication on the Rangers' encoded channel this morning, with instructions for finding the hangar and that you were to get all the information I've sent to you."
Kimberly had to take a steadying breath as the ramifications of what could be in that hangar bay hit her. Her body shuddered when she realized that at least as of this morning, one of her brothers was still alive. Billy knew she was coming; there was no other possible explanation. "We have to leave, NOW."
"Good luck Rangers," the President uttered before the screen went dark.
"DECA, can you decode the disk?" Kimberly asked, her voice rock solid as she sank down into the chair behind her.
"I have already been working on it. I should have it finished by the time we reach the Moon's orbit."
"Is there somewhere private I can access the files Billy left for me?"
"If you would like, I can direct you to Andros' old quarters. He had access to every system on the ship there. I believe it may be more comfortable for you than sitting here on the bridge."
Swallowing, Kim nodded. "Thank you, I think I'll take you up on that. Wes, Eric, will you two get the others settled and then get us going?"
"You got it," the answered together, watching Kimberly follow the blinking lights on the wall as DECA directed her back to the lift.
The alarms went off five hours later, alerting the teams that they had entered the Moon's orbit. DECA announced over the comm system that she was engaging the cloaking device even as the commanding officers gathered on the bridge. "That is one massive ass place," Marshall uttered as they stared at the screen.
"DECA, can you scan for Ranger energy signatures without giving us away?" Kimberly asked as she moved to sit in the captain's chair.
"I am afraid not. An energy scan of a place this large will require more power than we currently have as well as give off an identifying signature that would surely give our position away."
Rubbing the bridge of her nose, Kimberly closed her eyes and sat back, thinking of a plan of attack. She wasn't about to lead the soldiers in her care into that place blind; they'd surely all lose their lives that way. "DECA, can you pinpoint a general location of where the radio frequency from Billy came from?"
"The frequency used by Dr. Cranston was encoded on an unknown channel. It is possible that I would be able to detect where it came from. The signal was not intercepted as far as the scientists who received it could tell. It will take me some time to pinpoint it."
"Get started on that," Kimberly commanded. "Wes, Eric, I'm leaving you here with the Special Vehicle team. They should be acquainted well enough now with the Megaship to help you. Marshall, I'm placing you as my second in command."
The veteran SEAL nodded. "What do you need me to do?"
"Gather everyone in the hangar bay so we can go over a plan of attack. We don't have a layout of this place, and I don't know how many guards are in or around it. This could very well be a suicide mission, but I want to make sure we're as prepared as can be."
Reaching into her pocket, Kimberly quietly drew out the circular gold object that had been in the packet the president had sent to her before they left. Alongside the encrypted disk, it was the only other object Billy had demanded be given to her. She could only hope he'd been correct in his brief but simple instructions on what she needed to do with it. "If I could use some back up power, now would be the perfect time," she whispered to herself, clutching the object in her hand. When she slipped it back into her pocket and drew her hand back out, she held her palm open.
The imprint of a Crane stared back at her.
The plans had been set. DECA's sweep of the large, black citadel that was sitting on the moon was complete and had yielded unexpected results – she'd found where the radio frequency had originated from. It was in the uppermost left corner of the building, and what's more, it had shocked all of them when DECA had identified the energy signatures of several Rangers with it. Blue. Red. Black. Yellow. Pink. Kimberly's whole body had tensed at that discovery. Five signatures. Five Rangers. Her heart wept at the possibilities of why only five were found. Her brain refused to give in until she had sound proof. Pushing back the despair of what she knew she'd find, she swallowed the lump in her throat and watched her men get ready.
Specially made weapons they'd trained with were held in their hands, slung across their backs, or strapped to their legs. Billy and his team of scientists had developed the weapons six months before, specifically for taking out Akasha's forces. The test weapons had been taken on the Rangers' failed mission. Kim could only hope they weren't defective. The thought alone brought a smile to her face. Nothing Billy touched could ever be defective. If he made these weapons to take out the demon forces, then they would.
"DECA, have you put part B into motion?" the brunette asked from where she stood near the hangar doors, strapping on the weapons she'd use. Luckily for her, the Space and Lost Galaxy Rangers had left some Ranger-like weapons on board and she'd discovered them in one of the training rooms. Much to her delight she'd found what had turned out to be a bow. It struck her as ironic that the energy bow, of all things, was pink. The second she'd touched the handle it had sprung to life and felt like it belonged there in her hand. She'd also found a quiver of specially designed arrows, which were strapped to her back. They weren't physical arrows, but ones of pure, white hot energy that only activated when the bow activated. She'd spent an hour testing it out in the training room before deciding to take it into battle with her. It was fitting that her return to the Rangers would see her carrying a weapon similar to the first she'd carried, and having a unique form of back up on its way to the moon.
"It will arrive in approximately one hour," DECA announced.
With a silent prayer, Kimberly fervently hoped Billy hadn't been wrong in his files. If everything went according to plan, she was going to need the piece of equipment currently hurdling toward them to finish this rescue mission.
"We're ready on the bridge," Wes' voice floated over the comm system.
"We're ready down here," Marshall called back, his eyes searching out Kimberly's.
"I just want to take a quick second to thank all of you," she spoke, turning in a full circle as she stared at the warriors with her. "I know you all have lives, families… thank you for putting them on the line to help me save mine." She watched as they nodded at her. "Now, let's go kick this bitch's ass and save Earth, shall we?"
There were team members stationed along the corridors the entire route from where they'd entered the base to the top floor where the group of twenty were currently fighting. Marshall was beside Kimberly, firing off his weapon in perfect tandem with her as she shot arrow after arrow, her arms a blur as she drew on the power of the crane. She'd long ago lost feeling in her arm with as many arrows as she'd fired. It was as if once she'd started, she found she couldn't stop. Marshall hadn't said anything, only quirked an eyebrow at her prowess with the bow and arrows. She was a dead on shot, despite the years since she'd last held such a weapon. "Clear!" one of the SEALs called as the team finally stood up from their crouched defensive positions they'd fallen into. Two men guarded the entrance to the hallway while Kimberly and two of the explosives experts rigged the door.
"We have to move fast," Kimberly reminded them. "Once we blow the door, the alarms are going to go off…if this place even has them."
The group moved back, shielding themselves as the explosives took out the door. Kim's heart was in her throat as she rushed past all of them and darted into the room. A searing, wrenching pain exploded into her chest when she saw the carnage on the other side. Chained to the far wall, bloodied and battered and obviously dead, were Rangers.
Tears rushed to her eyes as she took each of them in, her heart shattering. Andros hung from both arms from the ceiling, a large gaping hole in his chest indicating how he'd died. Carlos was slumped against the wall, one leg and one arm completely severed and his head resting on his shoulder, severed almost completely from his neck. Ashley lay at Andros' feet, obviously having tried to stop her husband from dying. There was a small hole in the front of her forehead, and Kimberly didn't have to look to know that the Yellow Ranger was probably missing the back portion of her skull. Blonde hair and black leather was the only indication of who was laying next to Ashley. Karone's limbs were sliced off, her chest looked like something had exploded from the inside out, and her face was mutilated. And then there was the last body, one Kimberly knew well, one she had considered her honorary little brother. Justin lay on the floor, a gunshot to his forehead, his throat slit, his eyes blankly staring into the distance. Ignoring the others, she moved to drop to her knees beside him. "Justin…" she uttered, her stomach rebelling at the sight of so much carnage. "Oh Justin."
"Kimberly?" Marshall called to her, causing her to reach out and gently close her friend's eyes before turning to him. She saw that the SEALs were currently cutting Andros down and carefully getting him into a body bag. They'd already broken off into teams and retrieved the others. "Where do you think she's keeping the others?"
"I don't know," she moaned, clenching her eyes closed tightly. They had to have been in this room within the last 24 hours; that much she knew. Billy had sent the message, but now she was wondering how. Taking a deep breath, she hardened her heart to what she'd seen. She still had the others to find. "But I intend to find them or I'm not leaving this place."
"I've ordered the others to take the bodies back to ship. Only four are going with us," he told her, gesturing as the men began carrying the bodies of the fallen Rangers from the room.
Kimberly nodded and tapped her wrist. "DECA?"
"Has back up arrived?"
"It arrived approximately ten minutes ago."
"DECA, I need you to scan for the others, we only found five. It doesn't matter if they catch the scan, just do it!"
"Marshall, guard the door. I have something I have to do, but I need complete silence for it." The SEALs moved from the room while Kimberly knelt in the center of the room, not far from where Andros had been hanging. She gently set the bow down on the ground before rubbing her hands on her thighs. She slowed her breathing and reached into her pocket for the round, gold object that was hidden within. Drawing it out, she fingered it lightly before she clenched it in her hand. She'd never done this before, but something inside her was urging her that this is what she needed to do. "I am the crane! Agile and graceful!" she called out, clenching her eyes closed. The coin in her hand seemed to flare to life, pink light rippling out between her clenched fingers before engulfing her entire body.
The SEALs watched from the doorway, each of them in awe of what they were witnessing. The former Pink Ranger was drawing on every last ounce of power she obviously had, both within the coin and within her body. In mere seconds, that pink light that had surrounded her exploded in a supernova and spread out through every nook, crack and cranny of the room, and in the hallway they watched it flare down the halls, spreading out. "What is she doing?" one of the SEALs asked.
Marshall blinked and then smiled as it came to him exactly what she was doing. "She's trying to find the others."
Kimberly wanted to tell him he was only half right. She needed her concentration on what she was doing, because she wasn't looking for all of the others, she was looking for someone in particular. She was looking for the one who anchored her, the one who held the other half of her soul, the one she refused to admit she missed beyond reason.
She was looking for her Falcon.
Tension was running high between the six of them. They'd managed to evade the foot soldiers a few times, but for the most part they didn't run into anyone. Kimberly's eyes were narrowed in on the thin streak of white light only she could see that she was following, knowing it was going to lead her to Tommy. If they could get him free, and barring any injuries he had, they'd be able to find everyone else. He hadn't earned the title of "Mr. Legendary" for no reason, she mused to herself. They finally came to a set of double doors, which Kimberly knew should have been guarded.
"They know we're here," she told him, her heart thundering in her chest.
"Then let's say hello," Marshall responded, holding up a fist full of flash grenades. Kimberly couldn't help but grin and nod. Two of the SEALs inched forward and on Kimberly's silent command, Marshall activated the smoke and through them through the now open doors. Kimberly stood in the middle of the doorway, bow at the ready, and strode into the room beyond just as the explosions of the flash grenades went off.
"And who is this?" a sinister, feminine voice called out seductively as Kimberly notched an arrow and pointed it straight ahead. When the smoke finally cleared, she got her first look at Akasha, who was holding a struggling Tommy by the throat. Blood red, with a goo oozing along her bare skin, she looked like a twisted version of Zedd.
Kimberly had only a second to think she'd have preferred the stupidity of the former Emperor to the sadistic bitch in front of her. A quick visual scan of the room broke the former Pink Ranger's heart – Jason, Zack, and Trini were spread out across the floor, blood pooled around them. Her eyes couldn't linger on the sight, at least until she got to Jason. The former Red and Gold Ranger's head was completely gone from his shoulders. The only reason she knew it was her brother was the tattoo clearly displayed on his arm, the one he got the day after his son had been born.
"I'm the woman who's going to end your pathetic life," Kimberly hissed, her soul screaming in agony as her heart broke more. Rocky and Adam were off to the left of Trini and Zack, cradling Aisha and Tanya in their arms. Quick nods from the two told her that her girls were still alive, but the look on Rocky's face said that Aisha didn't have long. Darting her eyes to the right, she spotted T.J. and Billy being held by Katherine and Cassie. Kimberly knew that the only thing holding back the agonizing grief she could see straining Kat's face was that Billy needed her. If he hadn't, the former Morphin and Zeo Ranger would have been on the floor grieving her husband's death. And then there was Zhane, who was hanging from the ceiling, his body charred in some areas, his eyes open, filled with pain beyond belief, and staring right into Kimberly's.
"Did you hear that? The silly human female thinks she can kill me!" the sadistic laughter echoed out of Akasha's mouth, followed by a rolling laugh from her court that sent chills down Kimberly's spine.
"I'm not just any human female," Kimberly uttered milliseconds before she let her arrow fly. It struck true, slicing into Akasha's right eye socket. The demon queen screamed in painful agony and dropped Tommy to the ground. "MARSHALL! GET THE OTHERS OUT OF HERE!" she ordered, and in quick fire succession started launching arrows while avoiding laser fire. The five SEALS who had accompanied her quickly disbursed to help the injured rangers and quickly gather the bodies.
"KIM!" Tommy argued as Marshall started dragging the Rangers' leader toward the door. "NO!"
"Marshall! Get them out of here! Don't wait for me!" she commanded as she spun in a circle, using the energy of her bow to start slicing Akasha's soldiers in half. The SEAL hesitated, watching the magnificence that was the former Pink Ranger as she quickly decimated the meager gathering of the demon queen's forces inside the throne room. "Tell Wes and Eric to take off as soon as you get back to the ship! I'll be right behind you!"
"Yes Ma'am," he replied, even as her eyes slid away from him and Tommy to focus once more on Akasha and then Marshall hoisted Tommy into a fireman's carry and left as quickly as possible.
The last sound the two of men heard were the combined screams of Akasha and Kimberly.
"Wes! Take off!" Marshall ordered, rushing onto the bridge, followed by those Rangers who were only slightly injured, including Tommy and Billy.
"Where's Kim?"' Eric demanded, spinning around in his flight chair.
"She gave the order, take off. She's right behind us!" Marshall argued, hoping beyond hope that she hadn't lied to him; he wasn't going to leave her behind.
Before anyone had a chance to argue any further, the base on the view screen blew up, a massive fireball bursting out from its core in a fiery, golden-red explosion, taking many of the warships floating in the space around it with it. The megaship was rocked by the concussive blast and the ensuing debris as the Rangers let out strangled cries.
All eyes flew to Tommy as he let out a strangled cry and collapsed to his knees, his eyes trained to the viewing screen. "Beautiful…"
There was a large crowd gathered on the tarmac when Wes set the Megaship down at NASADA's space port in Angel Grove. The SEALs exited the ship quietly somber. They had been lucky and hadn't lost any of the team members; the Ranger teams, they knew, hadn't been so lucky. As one, they saluted the President, Vice President, and the Joint Chiefs. Marshall was at the head of their contingent.
"Mr. President, all but one accounted for," he spoke in a whisper, meeting the President's gaze.
"She didn't make it, sir," he choked. "She took out their base while covering our asses. There was nothing left..."
"And the other Rangers?"
"Andros, Ashley, Karone, Justin, Carlos, Jason, Trini and Zack are dead. Zhane, T.J., Billy, Tanya, Aisha and Tommy sustained major injuries but are healing. The others survived with minor issues." Marshall's stoic expression nearly broke as he watched the President reach up and wipe a lone tear from his face before he cleared his throat.
"A job well done. Thank you for your service, Marshall."
The SEALs turned as one and watched as the Rangers and the caskets were unloaded from the megaship. Each coffin had been draped in a blanket of that Ranger's signature color. Even with the gentle breeze blowing across the tarmac, the air felt oppressive to everyone standing there. As a color guard made of one person from each branch of the military helped load the coffins into the waiting vehicles, the SEALs saluted, honoring those they considered their brothers and sisters.
When the last casket was loaded, Jason's, a rumble shook the afternoon sky. Everyone's eyes widened and heads snapped up to see a large, fast moving craft come hurtling toward them. The Rangers and their SEAL team comrades dropped into defensive positions, everyone reaching for a weapon, until a cry escaped Billy's lips.
"It's the Ninja Mega Falcon Zord!" he called out, the Rangers straightening immediately as the large craft slowed before it gently touched down yards away from the megaship. The Ninja Zords looked like they'd seen better days – there were scorch marks everywhere, missing chunks of metal from each of them, the tail feathers of the Falcon zord were missing, and the cockpit windows to the Crane zord had been shattered.
In seconds, the tiny figure seated at the front of the cockpit unbuckled and jumped the building sized leap from the cockpit to the ground. Glowing pink all the way down, the light show died out when the figure hit the tarmac and collapsed, the spandex giving way to the pink cloth of a familiar ninjetti uniform before it reverted back to the fatigues and tank top she had been wearing at the start of her journey.
Everyone rushed forward, Billy and Tommy getting to Kimberly's prone form first despite their injuries. Carefully they rolled her onto her back, both of them gasping when they got a good look at her. She looked like she'd had the crap beaten out of her – bloody slashes along her forehead and cheeks, one eye was black and blue, and it looked like both her jaw and nose were broken.
"Kim?" Billy whispered, his fingers seeking the side of her neck to check for a pulse. He nearly slumped back when he felt the steady beat at his fingertips.
"Beautiful?" Tommy's hoarse voice rasped as he drew her into his lap despite the fact that every part of his body protested the action.
"It's done," came the murmured response, doe brown eyes opening in slits as she stared up at them. She grabbed both of their hands, squeezing tightly. "She's gone."
"Let's get her to the hospital!" Billy commanded, the Rangers stepping back as Marshall and his men swooped in with a stretcher and loaded her onto it.
Her body remained motionless, her arms tucked behind her back as she stood with the SEAL teams that she'd worked with, watching the color guards mount the steps to the capital building. What was left of Zordon's Ranger teams stood to her left, their identities having been uncovered in the ensuing chaos after the battle on the moon and the President's worldwide addressing of the loss of the Ranger team members.
She had cried more tears in the last week than she had in her entire life; cried enough of them to create a river in the desert. Her heart had broken, shattered beyond repair, as she and the others had mourned the loss of their friends, of their brothers and sisters.
As each casket was carried up the steps of the capital, the SEALs and the Rangers saluted the fallen. There wasn't a dry eye among those gathered.
The families of the dead Rangers sat on the platform that had been erected while the President stood at the podium, his grief palpable on his face before he turned his sights from the coffins to the families and then to the Rangers left behind before turning toward the cameras and those gathered at the base of the building.
Her own eyes were transfixed on the three coffins clustered together, the ones bearing the red, black and yellow flags. In her head, heart, her very soul…her crane screamed in agony at the loss of her brothers and sister. The tears she shed ran unheeded down her face until she felt the warm, soft pads of a familiar hand reach up to wipe them away. Turning her gaze to her left, brown clashed with brown as she and Tommy stared at one another.
"He'd have been proud of you," Tommy whispered softly, his eyes darting from hers toward Jason's casket. "And he loved you, very much."
There were too many things to say, and she felt she couldn't find adequate enough words to verbalize her feelings. Trembling horribly, she reached out for his hand, their fingers twining and saying more than words ever could. They would get through this, together, but they would never be the same.
"Words cannot express the sorrow of this day," the President spoke, his lips pressing into a thin line as he took a moment. "The people of Earth have experienced war by their own hands many of times, have suffered the loss of their soldiers by their own hands, but never before have we suffered a loss such as this. The Rangers have been the protectors of Earth for so long, have been invincible and timeless to those of us who they have protected, that the mere thought that they are dead is unfathomable."
The crowd seemed to hush except for the occasional sobbing of someone from within it. "And yet, the evidence rests before us. Eight of the mighty protectors of Earth were lost in a battle not of their choosing, doing what they have done for so very long – they died protecting this planet from an invasion that the governments of Earth were woefully unprepared to handle. They did what we could not do. They saved us all. Not all of the fallen were of this planet, but they loved it with a fervor that so few of our own people still have. These brave soldiers, legends in their own right of a legacy that has continued for the last twenty years on Earth, made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that this planet and its people live on. Nothing we do will ever repay them or their families for their sacrifices. There is no honor we can bestow upon them that will ease the grief and pain that those they loved and left behind are feeling. Nor will we ever be able to repair the heart breaking sorrow that their surviving teammates feel."
The Rangers stood a little straighter at that, heads high even as tears slid down all their cheeks. Kimberly took a deep breath and waited for the signal from the president before she approached. She was the only member of the team whose identity hadn't been revealed in the hours after their return home. In this time and place, she felt it was time for her to acknowledge her part in this legacy, to stop running from the past. Once a Ranger, she reminded herself wryly, always a Ranger. When the time came, she slowly stepped away from between Tommy and the SEALs and made her way to the podium. "Thank you, Mr. President. Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Kimberly Ann Hart, and I was the original Mighty Morphin' Pink Ranger."
The crowd let out a roar of murmurs and gasps as Kimberly cleared her throat. "The Rangers would like to thank all of you, for your support, for the love and compassion you have shown us this last week. It has not been easy for any of us – the eight who lay before you were loved so much. Husbands, wives, parents, best friends, brothers and sisters," she choked as her eyes strayed to Jason, Zack and Trini's caskets. "More than teammates, they were our family. You have mourned and grieved with us this last week, and yet, you understood and have given us the time and space we need to come to terms with our losses. If there is one thing that we as Rangers would like you to know, it's that we all would make the same sacrifice for the people of our planet. There isn't one among us who wouldn't lay down our life for you. Please, if you do nothing else to honor those we've lost, live your lives to the fullest measure. Do not be scared or frightened of the what-ifs. Conquer your fears; make your dreams come true. For every person who does this, you will be honoring those we lost."
Stepping away from the podium, Kimberly joined the other Rangers as they moved to stand behind the caskets. Quietly, the remaining team members saluted their lost loved ones in their own way before they reached out to run their fingers over the caskets while the crowd began to applaud, the sound thunderous and echoing in the ears of those left behind.