He held his Ranger Key in his right hand, rolling it back and forth between his fingers. He felt…lost. Aimless. Like his father had just before creation Shattered.
The teen heard footsteps behind him. He turned to see Kym climb onto the bow.
“Hey,” she said softly.
“Hey,” he said. “What’s the verdict?”
Mat had been trying to calculate how much time they had before they simply vanished.
Kym shook her head. “Well…Mat said we should be safe since the Legacy Galleon was never really part of the universe. The Shattering shouldn’t affect it. Or us while we’re inside.”
Tyler smirked. “That sounds like a guess.”
“That’s what we told him. He said it is a guess.”
Tyler nodded, saying nothing.
Kym stepped closer to him. “So what now?”
“I don’t know,” Tyler said. He looked at the Ranger Key in his palm. “All these Ranger Keys…using their Grand Powers to unlock Time Shards…I thought they’d show us the answer. All they did was show us everything that went wrong, right up to when Simon shattered everything. Right after I…”
Tyler nodded. “I don’t know how I’m here if Simon killed me. I don’t know how any of us are here. Or why we have these Keys.”
Kym’s eyes lit up with a sudden realization. “That’s it!”
She hurried back towards the inside of the ship.
“Kym, wait, what-” Tyler sighed; she was already gone.
Kym joined her teammates in the main crew hold. She practically burst with energy as she shared her insight.
“We were thinking the Ranger Keys would show us the answer. But what if the Keys are the answer?” Kym said. “What if we use the Ranger Keys, Grand Powers and Time Shards to fix everything?”
“How?” Seth asked.
“To recreate reality,” Kym said. “A rebirth!”
“Hmm…” Mat looked aside thoughtfully. “That seems like a stretch.”
“Is it?” Kym asked.
“Seems like one, yeah,” Mat said.
“But is it?”
Mat sighed and slapped his forehead. “Yes. Yes it is.”
Tyler leaned back in his chair. “Maybe it’s not,” he said as he looked at one of his Red Ranger Keys. “What if we use the Time Shards as a foundation…and build from that foundation?”
Seth looked skeptical. “How would we even do something like that?”
Tyler smirked and flipped his Rail Ranger Key. “Imagination.”
Tyler and his teammates gathered on the ship’s main deck, which floated through nothingness. They morphed into their armor, and then pulled their Rail Ranger keys from their bucklers.
“Express Charge!” They slid their keys into their morphers, which spoke the command: “RAAAAAAAAAIL RANGERS!”
Tyler morphed into Rail Red, Seth morphed into Rail Blue, Mat morphed into Rail Green, Kira morphed into Rail Yellow, Kym morphed into Rail Pink, and Orion morphed into Rail Orange.
Rail Green looked down at his gloves and armor. “OK….We all look ridiculous. Now what?”
The Red Ranger flipped open his buckler. Ranger Keys shot out and floated around them. Grand Powers ignited, forming the unlocked Time Shards the Rangers had gathered during their journey.
“We knit the Time Shards together,” Rail Red said. “We use them as the base, and we build out, recreating the multiverse.”
“But how?” Rail Green asked. “And don’t say 'imagination.'”
Rail Green sighed. “I hate you.”
Rail Yellow walked across the deck as she looked from Time Shard to Time Shard.
“Wait a minute…” she said. “Why put everything back the way it was?”
Rail Pink tilted her head. “What do you mean?”
“We could make everything better,” Rail Yellow said. “Save lives.”
“Um, no way,” Rail Orange said. “That’s the kind of thinking that led to the Shattering in the first place.”
“It’s different now,” Rail Yellow said. “Reality’s already gone. We can-”
The ship shook and broke in half with a shockwave that hurled the Rangers into the void. They tumbled through blackness, as did the Time Shards, while the galleon evaporated into nothingness.
Rail Red armed his bracer.
“Reach for the Time Shards!” he shouted at his teammates, hoping they would hear him.
He snapped open his bracer, which fired a beam of energy shaped like a railroad track. The track latched onto a Time Shard, which flashed with light and enveloped the Red Ranger.
Tyler landed in the Time Shard. He stood in darkness surrounded by mirrors that extended to infinity. Each mirror sat at a different angle and showed a different version of Tyler. Rainbow light fluttered through several of the mirrors.
“OK…” He had no idea what to do. “So…Fix time and space. Right.”
He placed his hand on the mirror in front of him. He saw a reflection of himself dressed in the garb of the Hayate Way.
“What is this place…” he whispered.
Whispers came from the glass. All around him, faint voices spoke from the depths of the shards of time.
Flames flared behind him, and from the flames stepped the Phoenix, in the human form of Kimberly Hart.
“Tyler…” she whispered.
His breath caught in his throat. “M…Mom?”
She shook her head. “I am the Phoenix, appearing in Kimberly’s form.” She reached out and placed a hand on his chest. “I’m a part of you, Tyler. I always have been. You have my power. And the power of your father. And now, at the end of all and time and space, it’s time to use that power.”
“Where’s the rest of my team?” Tyler asked.
“They made it into other Time Shards,” the Phoenix said. “You will reach out to them. You will go to them. And from the bond you share, you will build the foundation upon which we will rebuild all of reality.”
“You make it sound easy,” Tyler said. “Where have you been this whole time?”
She tightened her grip on his chest. “Here. Always here. From before you were born.”
The mirrors shattered into pieces.
Tyler’s vision blurred with colors he didn’t even know existed. When his sight cleared, he found himself hovering in midair outside an apartment window. He didn’t recognize the apartment at first.
The Phoenix spoke from everywhere and nowhere. “Each of you and your teammates are connected to one of the Five Stars of Heaven,” she said. “You more so than any other.”
Suddenly, he saw Kimberly walk into the apartment and sit on the couch. She leaned back, sliding her shoes from her feet. She looked no older than 18, but carried herself with the weight of the world.
“Mom…” Tyler whispered. He was seeing the past, around 2004 AD, about the time that Tommy became the Red Zeo Ranger.
Kim’s gaze drifted to the coffee table, where she kept a picture of her and her friends: Jason, Zack, Richie, Jonathan, Trini, Tommy, Rocky, Adam, Billy and Kou. She picked up the picture and ran her fingers along the frame.
Tyler noticed a tear stream down her cheek.
That picture represented more than three years of her life. Three years of friendship, rivalry, happiness, sorrow, pain, and joy. A three-year roller coaster ride complicated by demons, warlords, demi-gods, and death.
She felt bound to her time as a Ranger, even though that time had ended.
She set the picture down, leaned back, and ran her hand over her stomach.
Tyler’s breath caught in his throat. She’s pregnant…with me.
Kimberly tossed and turned in bed. The sun’s rays crept through her window. Her first thought upon awaking: Tommy hadn’t called her all night.
She knew he wasn’t dead…she would have felt it. She still worried, regardless. She hadn’t been able to sleep at all.
She reached over and looked at her alarm clock. She had to be at the airport in three hours to leave for Florida.
Three hours passed.
Tommy raced through the airport as fast as he could, not bothering to apologize to the people he bumped into or accidentally shoved aside.
His lungs burnt, and his joints ached with every movement, still not recovered from the Machine Empire’s most recent attack, but he didn’t let that slow him down. He had to make it to Kimberly. He had to.
Kimberly stood by the flight gate as passengers started to board. She picked up her bag and slung it over her shoulder as she looked at the gate ahead with mixed emotions.
She would miss Tommy and the others. They were like family to her. Even so, she couldn’t help but wonder if maybe leaving was a good thing. Throughout her whole life she had been identified by the group in which she belonged. She never had a chance to figure out who she was for herself. To start her own life…Maybe you had to have a life of your own to share it with someone.
The flight attendant announced the final boarding call.
Tommy pumped his legs faster, determined to find Kimberly. He had to talk to her. Tell her they’d work things out…make things work. He’d be there for her more. Let her know she wasn’t just someone sitting on the sidelines of his life. She was important to him.
He made it to the gate just in time to see the entrance slam shut.
"No!" he shouted as he ran towards the door. "Don’t let that plane leave yet…" he pleaded frantically with a flight attendant.
"Sir," she said as she held up her hands. "I’m going to have to ask you to calm down. These are difficult times and I will call security if I need to…"
Tommy ignored the flight attendant as he looked out the window to see the plane start to roll off the runway. He walked over to the window and placed his hand on the glass as the plane inched further and further away.
"Kimberly…" he said softly.
Tyler narrowed his eyes. “Why am I seeing this?”
“You need to understand where you came from, and the legacy you have inherited.”
“I know who I am.”
“Do you?” the Phoenix asked. “Do you really?”
Images shifted around Tyler. Light flashed. Distorted. Ripped and tore to pieces.
“Wha-” he staggered backward.
“You and your teammates were not supposed to exist,” the Phoenix said. “You are the Tyler of the band aid timeline, a temporary patch laid across the rot of reality. And your friends…each of them is from the Negative Multiverse, where nightmares give birth to flickers of worlds meant only to die.
“If you and your friends succeed in repairing the shattered reality…you will cease to exist.” The images intensified. “The legacy you have inherited is one of sacrifice and loss. But from that sacrifice, from that loss, can come great strength and courage. This is what you and your teammates embody. The good that can come from even the darkest of places.”
Tyler narrowed his eyes. To win, he had to die?
The Phoenix placed her hand on Tyler’s chest. “Now…find your friends. And show all of reality the power of your legacy.”
Tyler looked down upon a world within a Time Shard.
Cities covered the planet from pole to pole. No oceans. No deserts. No forests. Just one massive network of interconnected cities.
Tyler stood in the midst of the massive cityscape. Around him, colossal skyscrapers stabbed into the sky. Twelve of the skyscrapers formed a castle-like structure that ebbed with dark light. Above, crimson lightning flashed across blackened clouds.
He didn’t walk or run down the streets. He shifted, moving from place to place across the landscape that no longer was, but still remained, like the echo of a dying scream.
Tyler found himself within the castle of spires. And on the throne ahead of him sat Kym, his teammate. She wore pink robes trimmed with black, as well as a tiara of black crystal.
“Kym…” he whispered.
She arced an eyebrow. “Do I know you?”
“It’s me,” Tyler said.
“That’s not very specific,” Kym said. She didn’t sound like herself. No brightness. No cheer. Just cold, emotionless detachment. “Clearly you’re you. But who are you?”
“That’s…not important,” Tyler said. “What’s important is this place we’re in. It’s not real. Not anymore. And it’s not who you are.”
“This place is as real as it needs to be,” Kym said. “I am as real as I need to be.”
Tyler cursed beneath his breath. He didn’t have time for this. “Kym, I need you to come with me. Time and space shattered, and we need to fix it.”
She laughed, a bone-chilling sound. “Do you hear yourself? Okay…okay…” she breathed deep and composed herself. “You’re starting to bore me. Guards!”
Guards rushed into the throne room. They wore black and blue armor with helmets styled after the Triceratops. They carried lances that crackled with distortion energy.
Tyler shifted into a defensive stance. The guards rushed at him. But something seemed…off.
Tyler could see their movements, like loose strands cut from the Pattern of Ages. His vision shifted. Expanded. He could see through to the core of their being. He could see the webs of creation itself. Damaged and ripped into pieces, but still there.
The guards struck. Tyler blocked and dodged with the ease of a kata he had practiced his whole life. He grabbed a soldier’s lance, stabbed it through the chest of a second soldier, and side-kicked a third soldier in the face.
Four guards lunged at once. Tyler swept his arms, blocking the lances. The soldiers tried to strike close. They tried to strike from a distance. And they tried to overwhelm the ranger with numbers. Nothing worked. Tyler blocked, dodged, and countered with the rhythm of a song that only he could hear.
The last guard slashed high. Tyler blocked, grabbed the lance from the soldier’s hand, and bashed him upside the head, whipping him backward.
Kym lunged from her throne and shot towards Tyler.
“What are you- !”
He placed his hand onto her forehead. “Remember.”
Images flashed through her mind. She saw her past as a Power Ranger. And then she saw further in time, to her origin in the Negative Multiverse, on a world where Billy Cranston — her father– choked the world with a powerful corporation, destroying freedom, nature and all things that were good and decent.
“What…Tyler!” She hugged him. “Oh my god! Is this…is this really where I came from?!”
“But it’s not who you are,” Tyler said. “Just goes to show, good can come from the darkest of places.”
She leaned back but kept her hands on his shoulders. “Now what?”
“I have to find the others,” Tyler said. “They’re lost in echoes of the Negative Multiverse, just like this one.”
He pulled out his Red Rail Ranger Key. “Where’s your Rail Ranger Key?”
She pulled her Pink Rail Ranger Key from her belt. “Here…”
Pink light streamed from her key and connected with Tyler’s key. The light formed what looked like a small rail line, and then vanished.
“There,” Tyler said. “I think…”
He smirked. “I’m kind of making this up as I go.”
Tyler shifted into another Time Shard. He flashed across the landscape. Homeless men and women lived in doorways and beneath bridges. Governments kept kids in cages. Sickness spread across the land. And a vile, corrupt businessman led the greatest country on Earth. The obese, wrinkled, incompetent leader embodied the Seven Deadly Sins.
In this world, the Rangers were not real and existed only as legends.
Tyler found Orion living in the basement of an orphanage with kids crammed tightly into bunkbeds. The government paid the orphanage per child, so the facility tried to cram as many children together as possible to earn a profit.
Orion cried in a corner. Tyler leaned next to him and placed a hand on the back of his head.
“Remember…” Tyler said.
Images flashed through Orion’s mind. He remembered his past as a Ranger, as well as his origin in the Negative multiverse. He was born without a mother or father and left for dead in an alleyway dumpster. A dumpster.
“Are you kidding me?!” he practically shouted. “I was a dumpster baby?!”
Tyler smirked. “You’re more than that.” They connected their Rail Ranger Keys. “You have more hope than anyone I know. We need that now.”
“Aw…” Orion said. “That’s sweet! So…what’s the plan?”
“Just be ready. You of all people will appreciate what’s coming.”
Another Time Shard.
Tyler shifted across barren hills and plains. The skies looked golden, with bright light that nearly burned the eyes. Angels swept through the skies, with wings of fire and blades of light.
Dozens of angels dove to the ground and surrounded Tyler. Their leader stepped forward with blazing blades of blue and green energy. Tyler recognized him immediately.
Seth tilted his head. “It speaks. How do you speak?”
“Well, that’s a funny story, I-”
Seth lifted his sword. “Kill him.”
The angels snapped their wings and shot to attack. For Tyler, time seemed to slow. He saw the ripples of their movements, the strands of their past and future. Their patterns.
Tyler dodged and parried with casual ease. The angels struck hard and fast with savage strikes and waves of power, but Tyler avoided the blows as easily as he would step over a log or walk around a parked car.
The ranger knocked the sword from an angel’s hand, kicked the angel upside the head, and turned to knife-hand chop an angel in the back of the neck. He moved with smooth precision; each blow struck with the power of the Dragon and fire of the Phoenix.
Seth lunged and swung his sword through a flurry of strikes. Tyler dodged with a few simple side-steps, and then grabbed Seth by the arm.
Tyler forced Seth to his knees and placed a hand on his head. “Remember.”
Images blasted through Seth’s mind. He remembered his past as a Ranger, and his origin in the Negative Multiverse. He lived in a nightmare world where angels conquered the entire universe and wiped out humanity. Seth, son of Adam Park, had angel blood in his veins and served alongside the winged villains.
Tyler smirked. “You always start off on the wrong side, don’t you?”
They connected their Rail Ranger Keys, and Tyler moved on.
Tyler found Mat, son of Rocky DeSantos, in a nightmare world where trickster gods preyed on all of humanity. Dead bodies lined ruined streets, where survivors lived by tinkering together the tools they needed to survive. Mat had been one of these tinkers. But he had used his skills to attack his fellow humans, to gain the favor of the trickster gods.
Kira, daughter of Kimberly, came from a nightmare world where the original Ranger, Jestin, never defeated the first Dark Monarch of Evil, Sauron. She stole from Sauron’s followers and tried to carve a life for herself, one of greed and carelessness. The world was dark and full of terrors, why fight it?
Tyler shifted into another Time Shard. He had found his teammates and connected with them. Now he had one more task to complete.
He looked into the valley of a sky island, where he saw a lone figure: 16-year-old Simon Kaden.
Rainbow bridges connected Tyler with his teammates. Through the bridges of light, they spoke.
“It’s time,” Tyler said. “Now we have to decide…do we put everything back the way it was, or try to make things better?”
He already knew the answer but wanted the others to come to the same conclusion on their own.
“Well…” Mat said. “It sounds like either way…we die.”
“That’s right,” Tyler said.
“But countless billions will live,” Kym said.
“We’re Rangers,” Orion said. “If dying means saving all of existence? There’s no question what we have to do.”
“But there’s still a question,” Seth said. “Restore reality, or improve it?”
“How can we even decide something like that?” Kym asked. “Look at what we learned about ourselves. If those nightmare worlds never would have existed, we wouldn’t be here. No one would be left to save reality. It would already be over.”
“Yeah…” Orion said. “We came from suffering and loss.”
“From death…” Seth said.
“I don’t want to make a world where death and destruction is the norm,” Kira said. “I won’t do it.”
“Think about the Rangers, Kira,” Orion said. “The ones before us. If Tommy didn’t lose Shannon, he wouldn’t have become the Green Ranger. He wouldn’t have met Kim. Tyler wouldn’t have been born. If Kim hadn’t been neglected and abused, she never would have been so…caring. She wouldn’t have looked over Kou the way she did. She wouldn’t have cared for Tommy the way she did. If Jason didn’t lose his sister, he wouldn’t have become a hero. If Billy didn’t lose his mother…okay, Billy’s a bad example. If Trini-”
“We get it, we get it,” Mat said. “You can’t wipe out the bad without wiping out a while lot of good.”
Kira sighed. “OK…fine. But if we reset everything back the way it was…won’t the same thing happen again?” Kira asked.
“Not this time,” Tyler said.
“How?” Seth asked.
Tyler smirked. “Because this time, we’ll be there.”
—to be continued…