A/N: Okay folks, so I've wanted to write this story for a while now. It's kind of a what if story but still set in the PRiS universe, after "Countdown to Destruction". The premise is what if Karone had never become Astronema; how would things be different? Would they be different at all? It's going to be darker than my other PR stories but I'll let the prologue speak for itself.
I don't own Power Rangers, don't be silly.
Reviews are lovely and appreciated, please enjoy.
Wish Upon a Star
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n – Milton, "Paradise Lost"
The desert at night was cold, a frozen wasteland of dust and sand. There was no reprieve, no oasis of captured midnight growth—the stars blinked and the moon shone its wan light but life's beauty was all but covered under darkness. Somewhere under a mound of red dirt a scorpion scurried after a spider, and the vultures with their folded wings slept in caves with the promise of tomorrow's feast fresh in their dreams. The desert—the forsaken ground on which death permeated.
Their fire crackled and spat embers at their feet, Zhane grinding the tip of his boot into the sand to quell the glowing outcasts. He angled his head to catch a glimpse of Karone, her own eyes cast into the fire, her mind lost in itself.
If he was being completely unfair, Zhane would admit that this wasn't what he had in mind when she'd suggested a retreat. They were miles from civilisation, on the outskirts of the Californian border, with absolutely no spaceship for comfort at night. What they did have was a fold-out tent, a couple of sleeping bags and light blankets, and a bottle of tequila, which had remained solely cupped in Zhane's hands for the duration of the night. He took another swig and thought what the hell, couldn't hurt.
What concerned him the most, if he pushed his selfishness out of the way, was how little Karone had said since they'd left Angel Grove. Back there, she'd been friendly and warm, they'd spent time together and laughed, she'd blushed when he brushed the hair from her face. Here, surrounded by valleys and gulls and rocky mountains, Karone had reverted to her reserved self, the darkness creeping back in the more they ventured outwards towards the desert. It set Zhane on edge, because he didn't know what she was thinking or what she'd do.
He looked at her again, saw the sadness in her eyes as she huddled with the blanket around her shoulders. Her hair was in her eyes. Zhane set the bottle on the ground, leant it against the log they were sitting on, and reached over to brush the strands of blonde from her face. She turned to him, startled at the sudden touch, but quickly she remembered where she was and who she was with, and smiled warmly at him.
"I haven't seen that in a while," Zhane said quietly, gently touching her lips as he pulled his fingers back.
Her eyes reflected a faint sorrow as the fire's shadow danced across her face. "Sorry. I haven't been the greatest company so far, have I?"
Zhane shook his head, small, swift movements as he smiled back at her. "Understandable. There's a lot going on up in there."
He rubbed the pad of his thumb against her temple, his fingers finding her hair again. She grinned at him suddenly, as a quick breeze whistled past them.
Pointing to the bottle of tequila, Karone raised an eyebrow and her eyes glowed with the fire. "Does that help?"
Zhane let out an audible sigh, reaching for the bottle and handing it over. "Your brother is going to kill me."
At that, Karone laughed. "He doesn't have to know."
They drank in silence, Zhane surprised at how quickly the bottle began to diminish. He began to warm considerably, despite the chill in the air, and noticed that Karone discarded the blanket as it fell backwards off her onto the ground behind them. She still wasn't talking, and he wondered suddenly if he should ask her what was wrong—perhaps that was the way to break through. But then he thought maybe that would be an intrusion, and if she was going to tell him she would on her own terms.
As if she'd read his thoughts—a power Zhane was sure she didn't have—Karone spoke softly, her eyes finding the dead centre of the fire. "Do you ever wonder what would have happened if I'd never been Astronema?"
Looking at her, Zhane felt a surge of deep empathy and he set the bottle down by the log. "All the time. When I met your brother he used to talk about you, that he was going to find you one day. I don't think he could have imagined you'd turn out to be the enemy he was fighting. Thing is, we wouldn't be who we are now if you were never Astronema."
"Right, a lot would be different," Karone said in agreement, though her eyes reflected sadness. "Zordon would still be alive, for one."
Despite himself, Zhane smiled wryly and gently touched Karone's shoulder, prompting her to face him. "Zordon was a gazillion years old. There comes a day when you just have to die. Besides, his sacrifice was probably the greatest thing to have happen, ever. He's wiped out most of the evil in the universe, I'd say that's a pretty big win."
"But at the cost of the greatest Ranger mentor," Karone responded vehemently. "Astronema would be laughing right now. All I can do is feel responsible."
"But you're not," Zhane said with sincere compassion. "Zordon died protecting the world, he gave us a real gift he wouldn't have been able to give had he not sacrificed himself. Astronema was not all bad, remember? She had feelings for a certain blond Ranger…"
Karone could not contain her laugh but she made a point to carefully clap a hand over Zhane's head. "Shut up."
"Speaking of which," he replied playfully while stretching behind the log to retrieve a sealed bag—marshmallows. "There's chocolate somewhere there, too—"
He couldn't finish his sentence because Karone had stolen a kiss—leaned over and pressed her lips to his, soft and tentative, careful. After a moment she pulled away, smiling at the man she really had grown feelings for, and waited for him to respond. Zhane's dark eyes shifted from Karone's light ones, to her lips, to her eyes once more.
"Wow," he said finally, eventually lowering his eyes but being unable to restrain the smile that stretched his lips. "Wow, tequila really does the trick."
"It's not the tequila, dummy," Karone said playfully as she shifted closer to him.
Zhane grinned. "I know."
As the night wore on the two sat close, laughed as they burned their marshmallows, threw out the charred ones but ate the ones that were lightly roasted on the surface. Zhane reached an arm over Karone's shoulders and held her close until she eventually fell asleep, her breathing falling into an even cadence. Zhane smiled at her sleeping form, her completely relaxed face, before he carried her to the tent and slept soundly beside her.
Karone woke soon after and, careful not to rouse Zhane, slipped out of the tent to watch the stars. She remembered from a children's tale, one told to her by her mother long ago… When you wish upon a star…
A/N: To be continued...