Slowly, Billy climbed to his feet as the cavern shook violently. No sign of Tommy. No sign of Simon. They were gone. But Nick had fallen nearby.
Billy helped the ranger to his feet. “Come on…we have to move.”
“My…dad?” Nick whispered, voice and body fatigued well past the point of exhaustion.
Billy shook his head. “He’s gone.”
Nearby, Kruger gathered the remaining champions as their surroundings ripped to pieces.
“Everyone, move!” he shouted.
The ceiling lowered like a shutting jaw, stone grinding against stone.
The champions stumbled through the tunnel. Worn, beaten. They felt heavy. But they pushed forward until they reached the open air of Angel Grove.
The city’s light seemed unnaturally bright and warm. Comforting, as the Wheel of Time began to heal, not as it was, not exactly, no. Something new.
Black surrounded Simon. He felt his mind slip away. He could not see, hear, taste or touch. His body, gone. His consciousness, fading.
His death approached. Slowly.
At first he felt terror. He could not go back to Hell. He could not. He would not.
No…not Hell…not Heaven…something else awaited him.
In his mind’s eye, he saw a glimpse of the Dark Man, hand extended.
Simon’s mind drifted to Maya, his sister. Samuel, his brother. Hunter. Blake. Justin. Rachel. Kou. Tommy. Ashley.
He’d killed Tyler, Tommy’s son.
What legacy would he leave behind? Darkness? Pain?
All his life, all he ever wanted was to be a hero. To save everyone. A foolish wish, yes. Naive. A naivety that his enemies exploited. A foolish wish. But…
Again, through his mind, he saw a glimpse of the Dark Man. Closer.
Rest. All the pain. Anguish. And suffering. He just wanted it…gone. Peace. Let it end.
Would his sister remember him fondly? Would his teammates remember him as comrade or villain? What would their world even look like, now that their battle had ended?
He reached out with his empathy and observed, one last time. He looked past the pain and suffering. He reached out to the ones he loved. The ones he left behind. He felt their tragedy. Their suffering.
But through it all, he felt something he had not sensed in a long time, hadn’t let himself sense. Like a warm flame in winter.
The last thing that Simon felt before he died was hope.
Light washed across all of reality as the timeline, and the Wheel of Time itself, settled back into place — but not exactly the same as it was, like when you fix a broken glass but can still see the cracks.
Those 'cracks’ symbolized something remarkable, however, in this case.
The Wheel of Time had changed.
Lives would no longer be turned by the Gears of Fate. Lives would turn the Gears.
Asa adjusted his glasses and walked up the podium. The former Blue Rail Ranger faced a class of his peers, middle schoolers in Summer Cove Junior High. He fidgeted with his index cards and swayed back and forth on his feet.
The boy could fight hordes of monsters without breaking a sweat, but public speaking terrified him.
He glanced into the audience and noticed his friends. All of them except Tyler.
Loss tightened his throat.
He adjusted his glasses again and began to speak.
“Hi, um….” He cleared his throat. “The topic I chose for my report is…What does it mean to be a hero…?”
“Loss…” Jo said. “Just this…emptiness.”
She sat in a group therapy session for post-traumatic stress. She had never recovered from her time as a Beetle Borg, when Josh and Drew died during the Second Countdown to Destruction. Eventually, Rolad talked her into getting some help.
A psychiatrist, Dr. Lito, led the session. The middle-aged woman had a way of making Jo feel comfortable with her pain.
“It’s hard to describe,” Jo said. “Everytime I start to move on, get my life back to normal…it’s like…it’s like I feel guilty for it. And something pulls me back.”
Dr. Lito nodded with understanding. “Sometimes we would rather feel pain than feel nothing at all. Pain can be familiar. Easy to hold onto.”
“But…” Jo said. “How do you let go?”
“There’s no trick to it,” Dr. Lito said. “Loss never heals, not really. It’s like losing an arm or a leg. You try to live with the change. Your body resists at first, sometimes strongly, but eventually, you adapt. It never heals. You just…find a way to accept the loss. And move forward.”
Jo nodded with understanding.
A few others shared their stories before the session wrapped up. Jo walked outside and met Roland, her former teammate, along with Maya, a friend to the Power Rangers and various champions. Maya had reached out to the surviving Beetle Borgs a few times over the years and had offered to help with their grief.
It was Maya who had suggested their destination for the evening: Hillhurst.
Maya, Roland and Jo walked up to the old, run-down Hillhurst mansion outside of Charterville.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Maya asked.
“Okay…” Maya said. “I’ll be right out here if you need me.”
“Thank you, Maya.” Jo took Roland by the hand, and they walked into Hillhurst.
The mansion looked just as Jo remembered. Dust covered the floor and furniture, and cobwebs hung in the corners. They moved into an interior room, where a massive organ took up most of the eastern wall.
“Flabber…?” Jo whispered.
Rolad looked around, from shadow to shadow. “Flabber, we know you’re still here. It’s…us. We want to talk.”
The organ fluttered with a mournful tone. Mist crept from the pipes, and the mist circled the air to form Flabber, a phantasm.
He kept his gaze low, his hands behind his back. “Gosh. It’s been a while. I guess you kids aren’t kids anymore, huh?”
“We’re not,” Jo said. “It’s…good to see you again.”
Flabber still didn’t look at them. He shuffled back and forth on his feet. “Well…it’s good to see you too. I didn’t think after…you know…I didn’t think you’d ever come back. I figured…you hated me.”
The last time they saw Flabber was during the Second Countdown to Destruction, when Flabber made Josh the Electric Bronze Beetle Borg.
Flabber sighed and leaned against the organ. “Oh, kids. I ruined your lives! I just wanted to…thank you! To make your wish come true, you know! But Drew, and Josh..it’s all my fault.”
Jo sprang forward before she even knew what she was doing. And she wrapped her arms around him.
“It wasn’t your fault,” she said. “It wasn’t any of our fault.”
Roland nodded. “We made our own decisions. Drew and Josh…they died fighting for what they believed in. They made a difference. If we blame ourselves…it takes away from that.”
Flabber hugged Jo back. The two of them, heavy with pain and sorrow for so many years, cried. They finally allowed themselves to let go of the guilt and shame, which poured out of them through their tears.
“I’m sorry, Jo. Roland,” Flabber said between sobbs.
Jo hugged him tighter. “We’re sorry too. It’s going to be okay, though. We’ll get through this. Together…”
Jo and Roland began dating, and eventually, married. Soon after, Jo gave birth to twin boys.
Jo named her twins Drew and Josh. And one-day, when they were older, she would tell them about their namesakes. About heroes.
Ryuuta walked with his 5-year-old son, Nozomu, through the woods.
Nozomu sighed. “Are we there yet?”
Ryuuta smiled. “I’m pretty sure I said the same thing to your grandpa when he brought me here the first time.” He looked through the trees, surrounded by memories. “We wandered around lost for hours.”
Eventually, they passed through the barrier of the hidden Ginga Forest. Nozomu’s eyes opened wide at what he saw. Men and women in tribal gear moved between tents and huts, carrying baskets and barrels. They looked like the people in the fairy tale book his grandfather had written.
“Whoa…” Nozomu said. “It’s like the Ginga Forest!”
“It is the Ginga Forest,” Ryuuta said.
“RYUUTA!” a small tree sprite flew through the air towards father and son. The sprite looked like an acorn, with a leaf propeller around his neck.
Ryuuta felt like a kid again. “Hey Bokku!”
“Ryuuta!” Bokku shouted again. “It’s been too long! I’m so glad you came!”
“I wouldn’t miss this,” Ryuuta said. He placed a hand on his son’s shoulder. “Bokku…I want you to meet someone. This is my son. Nozomu.”
Bokku floated back with surprise. “Ryuuta! You have a son?!” He looked at the young boy, eyes wide open with wonder. “It’s great to meet you!”
Nozomu smiled. “Bokku…it’s really you?”
“The one and only!” Bokku shouted. “Come on! The others are at the camp!”
Bokku led Ryuuta and Nozomu deeper into the Ginga Forest. There, at the central campsite, they saw the Galaxy Ranger team gather with the rest of the village.
Hyuuga sat with Saya, his wife, near a patch of flowers. Hayate and his wife, Miharu, stood nearby and played their flutes. Gouki cooked near the fire along with his wife– Ryuuta’s former grade school teacher– Suzuko. Hikaru played with a group of children as his husband watched; the ranger had married a burly Ginga warrior shortly after the war against the Dark One. Ryouma ran and played at Hikaru’s side.
Ryuuta smiled at the sight of them.
“Ryuuta,” a deep voice spoke from behind him. “It is good to see you.”
Ryuuta turned to face Moku, the talking tree and mentor to the Galaxy team.
“Moku,” Ryuuta said with a smile. “Everyone’s here.”
“We are all lucky to have survived,” Moku said. The tree noticed Nozomu stay back, hesitant, as he clutched onto his father’s pant leg. The tree smiled. “Who is this young one?”
Nozomu gulped. “No- Nozomu.”
“It is good to meet you, Nozomu.”
Someone else shouted Ryuuta’s name from nearby. It was Ryouma; he jogged towards them.
“Ryuuta!” Ryouma wrapped his young friend in a hug, and Ryuuta hugged back. “So glad you came.”
“Me too,” Ryuuta said. “I thought I’d try to talk you out of leaving.”
“You know that won’t work, my friend.”
“Still have to try,” Ryuuta said.
The Ginga Tribe planned to leave Earth and travel to the stars to find a new home with a new purpose. The Galactabeasts would show them the way.
“We still need you here,” Ryuuta said. “Maybe now more than ever. The world needs legends.”
Ryouma smiled as he looked down to Nozomu. He tousled the boy’s dark hair. “We’ll always live on in legend. To inspire children like your son. And their children. And their children’s children.”
“Well…” Ryuuta said. “As nice as that sounds. I’ll still miss you. All of you.”
“And we’ll miss you,” Ryouma said. “Now…come on, let’s say hi to the others.”
Moku had invited all of Earth’s surviving champions to the ceremony. Not all came, but those who did included Ashley, Rocky, Maya and Kouishiro, and Samuel, as well as the Hurricane, Samurai, Jungle Fury and Dino Thunder teams. Ryan Steel, Seraph Knight, Kamen Rider Blade, and Kamen Rider Chalice joined also, as did the surviving Gao Rangers.
A stone sat in the center of the camp. One-by-one, the Galaxy Rangers walked up and slid their Seijuuken into the rock.
The Elder spoke their names, as he did when he gave the heroes their swords, so many years ago.
“Ryouma. Warrior of Flame.
“Hayate. Warrior of Wind.
“Gouki. Warrior of Water.
“Hikaru. Warrior of Thunder.
“Saya. Warrior of Flower.
“And Hyuuga. The Black Knight.”
The blades hummed with power as the Ginga Tribe’s elder looked into the skies.
The ground trembled, gently, as the massive Galactabeasts surrounded the camp.
“The mighty Seijuu,” the Elder called to them. “It is time. As we, the people of this Earth, were born of the dust of stars, the time has come for us to return to those stars.
“This world was, and forever will be, our home,” the Elder continued. “Our legend here will live on in the hearts and minds of the people. A legend of justice. Family. Love. Friendship. Fantasy. Adventure. A legend of the greatest hope that rose from the greatest darkness.”
The Elder looked out across the gathered champions. “We have all fought together. Bled together. Died together. Such bonds cannot be weakened by distance.
“Now…” he continued, “we will forge new bonds, with new peoples, as we close the chapter of one legend, and begin again with a new.”
Nozomu took his father’s hand and squeezed. Ryuuta squeezed back. He looked at the Galaxy Rangers, his closest friends, and smiled at them, one-by-one, as they smiled back.
“The Earth will always be with us,” the Elder finished. “And we will always be of the Earth.”
The Galactabeasts roared. They glowed with power and transformed into light that washed across the Ginga Forest. And with a final burst of golden energy, the Ginga Forest and its people shot upward into the sky, through columns of brilliant power.
The light dimmed, and when it vanished, a normal forest stood where the Ginga Tribe had once made its home. Most of the gathered champions looked upward, wondering what would happen to their comrades. Others took a look around the forest, shocked at how a majestic place could turn into something so…typical.
Nozomu looked up at his father. “Are they…gone? Will we see them again?”
Ryuuta smiled as he took his son by the shoulder and walked away from the Ginga Forest for the last time.
“The world will always need legends,” he whispered. “Always…”
Casey, Theo, RJ, Lilly and Dominick stood alongside each other after the Galaxy Rangers’ ceremony.
Lilly sighed as she looked up into the clouds. “I wish I could have gotten to know them better.”
“Same here,” Dominick said.
Casey nodded in agreement. “I’ll never be half the Red Ranger that Ryouma was.”
Theo nudged him. “Will you ever stop being so hard on yourself?”
Casey smirked, sheepishly. “Probably not.”
The few remaining Knights of the True Cross had joined the Jungle Fury team at the ceremony, although the organization had disbanded after the war against the Dark One and deaths of Kamen Rider Cross and Shura.
Young Evan stood among them. A Shaded and Heir of DaiShi, Evan had no soul. Darkness and evil ran through his blood. So, of course, he felt out of place. He didn’t even know why he bothered to attend the ceremony. He hadn’t known the Galaxy Rangers. He hadn’t fought with them. But the Jungle Fury team wanted him there, and for whatever reason, he agreed.
The boy heard someone call his name, and he turned to see Kou– the Green Hurricane Power Ranger and former Kiba Ranger.
“Hey, glad I caught you,” Kou said. “My name’s Kou. I wanted to meet you.”
Evan arched an eyebrow. “Why…?”
“Casey told me about you,” Kou said. “He thought I might be able to help you out.”
“I don’t need help,” Evan said.
“I didn’t mean it like that. He just thought…maybe we could talk,” Kou said. “We have a lot in common, you and me.”
“That’s doubtful,” Evan said.
“You’re the Heir of Daishi, right? No soul, evil in your blood, technically died once, yadda, yadda, right?”
“Well, my dad was a Gorma, although not technically– he was a lump of clay made to resemble the Gorma big-bad, Shadam. And when I died, and the Gorma part of me went to hell and came back, and that’s me.”
“You…” Evan hesitated. “That’s messed up.”
“I know!” Kou said with a smile. “But I don’t let where I came from define who I am now. I’m me. That’s all. And even with evil in my past, I can choose to do good. You can too.”
Evan tilted his head and smirked, slightly. “Did you practice that speech?”
“A little bit, yeah,” Kou said. “How’d I do.”
“Not bad I guess,” Evan said.
“Good,” Kou said. “See? I knew you’d like me. Come on…let me introduce you to some other people with screwed up pasts. You should see my friends Hunter and Blake. Their dad trained them to be cold-blooded-ninja-assassins. They are so messed up, you’ll love 'em.”
RJ crossed his arms over his chest and wandered away from his teammates. He made his way to the one person he had tried to avoid– Samuel, his half-brother. Time to rip off the band-aide…
“Hey…” RJ said.
“Hey,” Samuel said awkwardly. They hardly knew each other and hardly talked, if ever. Had they actually talked? Samuel couldn’t remember.
“So…” RJ said. “You and me. I guess we’re the only ones left out of Azmodai’s screwed up kids.”
“I guess so,” Samuel said. “It’s hard to believe it’s really over.”
RJ nodded in agreement. “So, listen…I know we’re not close or anything. But…do you maybe want to hang out sometime?”
Samuel smiled. “Yeah…I think I’d like that. I’m going to be staying with Maya and Kouishiro for a while. We can work something out.”
“Okay,” RJ said. “Good.”
“Good,” Samuel agreed, both of them still feeling awkward.
Dom rushed over and broke the tension. “Hey RJ! Come on, we’re going to go grab some pizza with Rocky and Chelsea. Rocky is starving. He tried to eat my arm, I swear.”
RJ rolled his eyes. “Yeah, sure. I’m coming. ” He glanced at Samuel. “Do you, uh, want to join us?”
“Um, sure,” Samuel said. “Yeah, that sounds fun.”
“Great!” Dom shouted. “The more the merrier. You can buy!”
“Yeah, I think not,” Samuel said.
“Sorry about him,” RJ said with a laugh after Dom dashed off.
“It’s okay,” Samuel said. “Looks like you have some interesting friends.”
RJ shrugged. “They’re alright. I guess…they’re family at this point.”
“Yeah..” Samuel said, his voice trailing off. His thoughts drifted to his family. Simon. Azmodai. The Black Queen.
“Hey, listen,” RJ said, placing a hand on his brother’s shoulder. “We’re not where we come from. And our family can be what we make it. Remember that.”
Samuel smiled. “Is that your first attempt at a big-brother pep talk?”
“Something like that,” RJ said. “Come on…let’s go before Rocky eats everything.”
Evan finished talking to Kou and made his way to the few surviving Night Troops who attended the ceremony. Now disbanded, the Night Troops in attendance including a Shaded Evan’s age, named Gavin.
Evan and Gavin had met a few times in various battles, along with Jarrod and Camille– both of whom had died. In each encounter, Evan felt…drawn to Gavin somehow. Evan wanted to explore that connection.
Gavin smiled when he saw Evan. “Hey. Glad to see you up and around.”
Evan smiled back, the first smile in years, it felt like. “Yeah, well…”
His tongue caught in his throat. Crap.
Gavin smiled, wrinkling his nose as he tilted his head. “What’s going on?”
“Oh, uh…” Evan stammered. His heart pounded in his chest.
“Relax,” Gavin said. He reached out and took Evan by the hand. “It’s…good to see you.”
Evan’s smile widened, thoughts of his evil heritage the farthest thing from his mind. He leaned in, and they kissed.
CYBERTRON – SERAPH – BLADE
Ryan Steel walked through the woods after the Galaxy Rangers’ ceremony. He stumbled upon the Seraph Knight standing on a rocky hill, looking out into the distance.
“Oh…” Ryan said. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“It is OK,” Seraph Knight said in his mechanical voice. He tilted his head. “You are like me. Aren’t you?”
“Not…human,” Seraph Knight said. The Knight was a living totem, a zord, born of the Morphing Grid.
Ryan heitated. The cyborg looked down at his hands. “I suppose I’m not.”
“What does it mean?” Seraph Knight asked, his gaze distant. “To be human?”
Ryan sighed. “Well…that’s kind of a deep question for someone you just met.”
“We have fought side-by-side in battle.”
“Yeah, but,” Ryan said. “We never really talked.”
“I do not understand the difference.”
“Okay then…” Ryan took a seat on the grass. “The truth is, I’ve asked myself that question a hundred times. What does it mean to be human…”
His thoughts drifted to Kaitlin, the White Nova Trooper, who died during the Second Countdown to Destruction. “Did you ever have someone you cared about?”
“Yes,” Seraph Knight said without hesitation. He thought of Troy, Noah, Jake, Gia and Emma, the Seraph Rangers.
“Did you lose any of them?”
Seraph Knight lowered his head. The Seraph Rangers had died during the war against the Dark One. “Yes…”
“Well…what did that feel like?” Ryan asked.
Seraph Knight placed a hand on his chest. He felt…grief. Pain. Anger. Sorrow. “I feel…I feel…”
Ryan smiled. “That’s what makes us alive. To have cared for someone, and to feel their loss. It…hurts. But it makes us appreciate the connections we still have. I believe that those connections, those feelings, are what makes us human.”
The Seraph Knight looked at Ryan for the first time. “I’ve known nothing but fighting. Now that my battle is over…”
“I was built for fighting,” Ryan said. “Literally. It took me a while to find my way. Heck, I even died once. It’s…a lot to process. But asking the questions we’re asking, dealing with the issues we’re dealing with…those things make us human too. Besides, the word 'human’ is just a label. And to me…the greatest thing about being 'human’ is that it’s way too complicated to define with a simple label.”
“You…you are making much sense, Ryan Steel.”
Ryan smirked. “Thanks, pal.”
“Oh yeah,” Ryan said. “After a conversation like this, we’re friends. Otherwise…it’s just weird.”
“Is the word 'friend’ not just another label?”
Ryan’s smile widened. “I think we’re going to get along just fine.”
Ken and Zayden found a secluded place in the woods, near a waterfall, where they could talk. Ken could tell that Zayden had something on his mind, and Ken wanted to help his friend.
“You’ve been quiet,” Ken said as they sat near the waterfall. “Not the normal brooding quiet. The something-is-bothering-you quiet.”
Zayden looked towards the waterfall. “What did you see?” he asked. “In the Bore?”
Ken felt taken aback by the question. “Well…” he said. “When those shadows attacked…whatever they did…they made me see the fire that killed my parents when I was a kid. It was like seeing it again for the first time. That moment..defined me.”
“I saw a test tube,” Zayden said. “And myself inside it.” He kept his gaze on the waterfall. “I am not like you or the others. I was…made.”
“So?” Ken said as he scooted closer to his friend. “Zayden, it doesn’t matter whether you were created or born, you’re more human than a lot of people I know. The way you look over Cassie and Ava. You’re their family. And with me, you’re…Zayden, you’re my best friend. More than that, really. I…”
Zayden looked to Ken; Ken’s breath caught in his throat.
Ken brushed his fingers through Zayden’s hair, leaned in, and kissed him. Zayden tensed at first, surprised, but let himself melt into the kiss. Zayden laid his hand on Ken’s chest, so firm, as they pulled each other close.
Seconds turned to minutes, and then hours. Ken and Zayden laid next to each other, entwined, sweat glistening off their naked bodies, hardened by war. The night sky blanketed the forest.
Ken sighed with relief and leaned his head against Zayden’s chest. “I’ve…been wanting to do that for a long time.”
Zayden smiled and ran his fingers through Ken’s soft, blonde hair. “Ken…this feeling…”
Ken leaned up and kissed him. “Shush. No more talking. Not tonight. Just…lay here with me. Let’s just take a moment and…live.”
They held each other long into the night.
HURRICANE – SAMURAI – DINO THUNDER
Ryan Phillips– the Blue Samurai Ranger– climbed up a tree and stared out into the forest. His thoughts drifted to Teddy…gone. Forever.
A rustling noise came from behind; Ryan looked to see Justin Stewart climb into the tree.
“Hey,” Justin said. “You come up here often?”
Ryan smiled and rolled his eyes. “Yeah, let’s say that I do.”
“Okay, yeah, stupid question,” Justin said as he settled onto a branch. “So, yeah. I just wanted to see how you were doing.”
“Okay, I guess,” Ryan said. “We’ve all lost a lot.”
“Yeah, but that doesn’t make what you’re going through any less serious,” Justin said. “Losing Teddy like that…I’m sorry, man. I know it’s not the same, but…Simon was my best friend. Even after everything we’ve been through, I’ll catch myself thinking of things I want to tell him or say to him. But…he’s gone.”
“It’s just not fair,” Ryan said. “After everything Teddy went through, after everything we went through together. For him to just be…gone. When I think about how I’ll never get to see him again or talk to him again. I just…I can’t wrap my head around that.”
“Yeah…” Justin said. “Listen…I know there’s nothing I can do or say to make things better. But…you have people who care about you. We’ll listen whenever you need an ear.”
“Thanks…” Ryan said. “Would you mind just…sitting with me here? For a bit?”
“Sure thing, man,” Justin said. “Sure thing…”
They didn’t realize it at the time, but eventually, Justin and Ryan would become best friends, and that friendship would lead to dating, and then marriage.
Still, Ryan always had a place in his heart for Teddy. Always.
Justin and Ryan joined their teams: the Hurricane Power Rangers– Rachel, Kou, Blake, Hunter, and Lauren– and the Samurai Rangers–Bradin, Anthony, Kirsten and Emma. The Dino Thunder Rangers– Connor, Ethan, Kira, and Trent– also joined.
Together, the three teams returned to the Command Chamber to help Ashley with clean-up and repair.
“Man…” Connor said as he looked around the battle-damaged headquarters. “This place is so trashed.”
“Thanks, Connor,” Kira said sarcastically. “That observation is really helpful, just great, thanks.”
Nearby, Lauren had wandered off alone, and Hunter noticed. He went to her.
“What’s wrong?” Hunter asked softly. “I’m usually the quiet brooding one.”
Lauren shook her head. “It’s nothing. I just…should have been here for the last fight. Maybe I could have…done something.”
After the “Band-Aide” timeline ripped away, the result left many of Earth’s champions scattered and disoriented– these champions had been labeled MIA at the time, with no way to reach out to the Command Chamber, and no way for the Command Chamber to reach them.
“You couldn’t help it,” Hunter said.
“I know,” Lauren said. “But when I think about Teddy. He was…so brave. When we fought against the Gedoushu, I’d never seen anyone push themselves so hard. So determined. It was…inspiring.”
“He definitely made a name for himself,” Hunter said. He took her by the hand. “What else…”
Lauren lowered her gaze. No other person could make her open up like Hunter. “It’s…Simon. I feel more grief for Teddy than I do Simon, and he was my brother. I know I didn’t know him, not at all, really. But I should feel…something worse, shouldn’t I?”
Hunter shook his head. “He was already gone by the time you knew him. The Simon I knew…he was irritating,” Hunter said with a smile. “But in a good way. When Blake and I were with the Ikkazuchi, we were in a bad place. Simon helped us past that. He was…a good friend. The best.”
“I’m glad to hear that,” she said.
Blake shouted for Hunter from the other side of the Command Chamber. “Hey, big brother, you guys going to help or start making out?”
Rachel nudged him. “Blake, be nice, let them have their moment.”
Lauren smiled and rolled her eyes.
Ashley and Ethan finished repairing the vocal processor on Alpha-5.
“Try it now, Alpha,” Ethan said.
“Ay-yi-yi-yi-yi! I can speak again!” the robot shouted.
Ashley smiled. “Welcome back, Alpha.”
“Ay-yi-yi!” Alpha shouted as he noticed the Viewing Globe, shattered in pieces. He waddled towards it. “The Viewing Globe!”
Ethan sighed and leaned back. “So…now what? I mean, after we get his place back online.”
“Well…” Ashley said. “We all fought for a reason. So life would continue. The best thing we can do is…live.”
Ethan nodded, and he shifted awkwardly. “I, uh…I’m sorry about Dr. O,” he said. “Tommy. I’m sorry I didn’t say anything before, but…it was just hard. Is hard. He was the best teacher we ever had. And…more than that.”
“Thank you,” Ashley said. “He was always proud of you, Connor and the others. Not just for being Rangers, but…for the way you all grew as people and friends.”
Ethan smiled, slightly. “Yeah, Connor would probably still be a dick if Dr. O hadn’t come around. And Trent…who knows what would have happened to him.”
“What’s important is how you turned out, and how you all stuck together,” Ashley said. Through the corner of her eye, she noticed Alpha fumble with the pieces of the Viewing Globe. “Now…I better go check on Alpha before he burns out the circuits we just repaired.”
Ashley walked over to Alpha and crouched down next to him. She spoke softly so that no one would hear.
“Alpha, it’s going to be okay,” Ashley said.
“But Ashley…I failed! I failed Tommy. I failed Zordon,” Alpha said.
“We won,” Ashley said. “The cost was…too high. But we won. Now the best thing we can do is make sure nothing like this ever happens again. I don’t want these kids to have to go through any more than they already have. Tommy wouldn’t have wanted that. Neither would Zordon.”
“Thank you, Ashley,” Alpha said. “I know that Zordon would be proud of the woman that you have become.”
Alpha watched over them all in the years that followed.
Blake and Rachel ended up married, as did Hunter and Lauren. They each started a family; Blake and Rachel had twin girls, and Hunter and Lauren had a boy. They moved to Texas and let themselves have typical lives, free from violence– for the most part. They all still lent themselves to fighting evil in various forms from time-to-time.
Justin and Ryan married and moved to Texas as well. They turned their house into a small foster home; Justin wanted foster kids to have better experiences in the system than he did when he was young.
Kou didn’t set down any roots. Instead, he traveled the world, experiencing as much as he could, and enjoying every second of it. He faced battles, found love a time or two, and made new friendships, always challenging himself to grow as a person the way Tommy and Kim had encouraged him to do when he was a kid.
On the Samurai team, Bradin and Kirsten married and started a farm in Kansas, opting for the simple life. Bradin complained every day but secretly loved it, Kirsten knew. Their teammates Anthony and Emma also married, and they opted for a life in Hawaii, where they could live close to the sea.
As for the Dino Thunder team, Connor would move on to play pro-soccer and donate practically all of his earnings to various charities. Ethan, to no one’s surprise, started his own computer company. And Trent and Kira decided to live as starving artists– Kira became a musician, and Trent became a comic book artist.
Alpha, in the meantime, watched over the Command Chamber, always ready, always vigilant and prepared. In the name of Zordon of Eltar. And Tommy Oliver of Earth.
KUUGA – WIZARD – BLACK SUN OVERDRIVE – GAO RANGERS – GARO
Days passed after the ceremony in the Ginga Forest. Maya sat on her bed and looked at the picture on her nightstand. The picture showed her and Kouishiro, standing together with her younger brother Simon before he turned to evil. Loss tightened her throat.
A knock sounded at her doorway, and she looked to see Samuel standing there.
“Hey, um…” he stammered. “Sorry…your door was open.”
“It’s okay,” she said, smiling at him. In so many ways, he reminded her of Simon when he was young. “Did you get settled into your new room okay?”
“As settled as I can be, yeah. Thanks,” Samuel said. “All this still seems…surreal.”
“I can relate…” Maya said. Her gaze drifted back to the picture on her nightstand.
Samuel felt loss pour from her in waves. The grief tangled with his own sorrow as he sat next to her.
“Tell me about…Simon,” Samuel said. “When he was younger.”
Maya smiled and lifted the picture. “He was so…kind. And warm. He cared so much about everyone. All he ever wanted…was to help people.”
Samuel nodded. His gaze drifted to the distance. “I’m…sorry I couldn’t save him.”
“It wasn’t your fault,” Maya said as she took Samuel’s hand. “The way I look at it…the Simon we knew passed away a long time ago. What came back…Abbadon…wasn’t Simon anymore.”
“Still…he was the only real family I had, and I let him down.”
“Hey…” Maya said. “You didn’t let anyone down. My brother…your brother…would be proud of you and all you’ve done. I know I’m proud. That’s why I’m happy to have you in my family.”
Samuel smiled. “Thanks…for letting me stay here.”
“It’s our pleasure. Besides, we have plenty of room.”
“Do you, though?” Samuel asked, his smile widened. “Kaine told me you and Kouishiro adopted another kid?”
“We sure did,” Maya said. “A lot of kids lost their parents. Their homes. They need families. I just…want to do what I can. I just wish…”
Her voice trailed off.
“You can’t save them all,” Samuel said.
“I know,” she said, patting his hand. “I know. Come on. Let’s go see how the rest of our new family is doing.”
Maya and Kouishiro’s new home sat on several acres outside of Summer Cove. Fields of grass with patches of trees surrounded the massive, multi-level house, that Kouishiro and Maya built with money saved from a lifetime of archeological adventures.
Kouishiro stood on the edge of the property along with his friend Hikaru– Kamen Rider Black RX.
“You’re sure you don’t want to stay a while?” Kouishiro asked, his smile infectious. “Maya’s practically giving away rooms at this point.”
Hikaru shook his head. He may have made peace with the death of his brother, Shadow Moon, but he was still a man of few words.
“I have to go,” he said.
“Have to?” Kouishiro asked.
Hikaru hesitated. “Want to,” he said. He planned to return to Japan to see Kyoko and Katsumi– his sister and his brother’s former fiance. He hadn’t spoken with them in well over a decade. Shame had kept him away. But on the field of battle against the Dark One’s forces, he’d finally dealt with that shame. That loss. “It’s time.”
“Well,” Kouishiro said. “Glad to hear it. Everyone needs family.”
Kouishiro reached out his hand. Hikaru shook it, and Kouishiro pulled his fellow Rider into a hug. Hikaru stiffened, awkwardly. Kouishiro patted his back.
“You know you love me,” Kouishiro joked. “Come on.”
Hikaru couldn’t help it. He smiled. And he patted his friend on the back.
Maya planned to let Austin– Kamen Rider Wizard– and Leo– Kamen Rider Beast– live with her as well. She got to know them both during their war against the Phantoms, when they stayed at the shop that she and Kouishiro had owned.
Austin sat on the patio and watched Leo hit on one of the Gao Rangers– Saya. It only took about three seconds for her to flip him to the ground.
Austin smiled. He heard a laugh come from behind him.
“Yeah, he should actually be flattered,” Timothy–Gao Blue– said as he took a seat next to Austin. “The last guy who tried to hit on Saya got two broken knee-caps and a busted nose. She’s going easy on your friend. She must like him.”
“Doubtful,” Austin said. He noticed the bag slung over Timothy’s shoulder. “So are you guys taking off?”
Timothy nodded. “Yeah…we wanted to be here for Maya. But now that everything is starting to settle…we might as well be on our way.”
“I’m glad you came,” Austin said. “I can tell that Maya and Kouishiro appreciated it.”
Timothy nodded. “Simon was our leader, man. After everything that happened. Well…at least it’s over.”
“What’s next for you guys?” Austin asked.
“Well,” Timothy shrugged. “I’m not sure. I know Saya is going to try to finish Grad School. Maybe I’ll join her? Michael and I were traveling the world for a bit, but maybe it’s time to finally settle.”
“What about you?”
“I have no idea,” Austin said. “For now…I guess I’ll just stay here with Maya and Kouishiro. Do what I can to help her with the kids she takes in. Make sure they have…hope.”
“Sounds nice,” Timothy said.
A voice called from the yard. “Hey, Blue!” It was Michael– Gao Black. “Come on, help me load up Maya’s truck!”
Timothy sighed. “Well…duty calls.” He stood up and adjusted his bag. “Don’t be a stranger, okay?”
“You either,” Austin said. “Take care, man.”
Austin watched Timothy walk off and join Michael at the rear of Saya’s white jeep. His gaze drifted to a nearby tree, where Kaine Hollowell, one of Maya’s adoptees, played on a tire swing with an 8-year-old foster child that Maya had taken in recently.
Austin smiled at the sight. “Hope…”
Eiji sat alone on Maya’s roof. He had never felt so lost. Zadie, dead. His five Overdrive teammates, dead. Where would he go? What would he do?
He heard footsteps come from behind. Ryan– Gao Yellow and Kamen Rider Faiz– walked up and took a seat next to him.
Eiji arched an eyebrow. “Aren’t you heading out with the other Gao Rangers?”
“I don’t think so, no,” Ryan said. “They’re all ready to move on and settle down. I’m…not.”
Another pair of footsteps. Shirogane joined them.
Eiji sighed. “So glad I came up here to be alone…”
Shirogane ignored the barb. “I have a proposition for you both.”
“And what’s that?” Ryan asked.
Shirogane unsheathed his sword and stabbed the blade into the roof. “In the Bore, when we were attacked by the shades of Moridin…what did you see?”
Eiji and Ryan didn’t answer; neither tended to share such things. Eiji had seen demons known as the Ashu butcher his family. Ryan had seen armies of demons burn the Animarium from the skies, killing Tetomu.
“I saw my past,” Shirogane said. “The Org. Killing those I loved. But then I saw something…else. New demons. New threats. And when I faced them…the two of you were at my side.”
He looked at Eiji and Ryan. “There is still evil in the world. I would ask you to join me in striking down that evil, in whatever form it may take in this new world.”
Eiji arched an eyebrow. “I don’t…hate the idea.”
“The three of us have been lone wolves,” Shirogane said. “But we’ve seen what we can accomplish when we fight together. For people like us…warriors…the way of the sword is the only way of life.”
“So, what, we’d just wander around the world like Kane in Kung Fu?” Ryan asked.
“I don’t understand the reference,” Shirogane said. “But we would travel the world with purpose, to wherever we are needed.”
“And how would we know where that is?” Eiji asked.
Shirogane closed his eyes as he grasped his sword. A breeze shuffled the bangs of his hair. “We would go…wherever the wind takes us.”
HEAVEN STAR TASK FORCE: POWER RANGERS
Rocky and Chelsea moved to Coral Harbor after they married. Chelsea had felt crippled by the loss of her brothers, Tommy and Teddy. Rocky did his best to make her laugh and smile — and he succeeded rather often– but he could tell she would never be the same again.
One night, Chelsea stood at the window of their loft and looked out upon the city.
Rocky stepped up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist, resting his chin against her shoulder.
“Hey,” he whispered. “TV is in the other room. This is actually the window.”
She rolled her eyes and smiled, leaning back against him. “Oh, thank you. That’s very helpful.”
“I am amazing.”
“Are you, though?”
“I…have my moments?”
“I…suppose.” She reached back and patted his cheek.
“Seriously, though,” Rocky said. “How are you?”
“Okay for right now,” she said. “You’d think I’d be used to them being gone. Tommy was always running off being a Ranger, and Teddy was basically the same. I didn’t…I didn’t spend enough time with either of them. And now…it’s too late.”
“They knew you loved them,” Rocky said. “And they loved you.”
Chelsea sighed. “I know. And I’m glad they made a difference. I really am. It’s just…sometimes…I wish they would have made a difference some other way. That they didn’t have to…”
“I know,” Rocky said. “And speaking of making a difference, I actually have a surprise for you.”
“Your surprises terrify me.”
“Usually, yes, but you’ll like this one, I promise.” Rocky walked into the living room and grabbed a tablet from the table. “I was going to wait and show you tomorrow, but…what the heck.”
Rocky handed Chelsea the tablet. It showed designs for a massive Youth Center dedicated in Tommy and Teddy’s name.
“SCRTCH has been doing so great lately,” Rocky said of his massive sporting goods company, “I wanted to do something to give back. I figure…there are other ways to make a difference besides fighting monsters and cosmic warlords.”
“Rocky…” she whispered. “I…I love it.” She wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tight. “Thank you so much.”
“I know it doesn’t bring them back, but-”
She shushed him gently. “Just hold me, knucklehead.”
Rocky smiled and leaned his head against hers. He’d lost Tommy. Adam. Kimberly. Yet he had survived, somehow. He’d spend the rest of his life making sure that his survival meant something. “I love you so much.”
“I love you too…”
Dr. William “Billy” Cranston bought a small office building in Coral Harbor. There, he planned to get back on his feet, now free of the influence of his alternate selves.
Billy sat at his polished desk and finished a round of video calls. He saved his most important call for last. A personal call– with Ashley.
“Thanks for agreeing to speak with me,” Billy said.
Ashley nodded. “I was surprised you reached out.”
“I wanted to express my…condolences,” Billy said. “For Tommy.”
Ashley nodded awkwardly. “Thanks.”
“I regret I didn’t get a chance to speak with him,” Billy said. “He was…a good friend.”
“What would you have told him?” Ashley asked.
“I’m…not certain,” Billy said. “Not everything that happened was because of my…evil alternates. I believed I was doing the right thing. By tapping into the Morphin’ Grid, using it to defend the galaxy.”
“I know,” Ashley said softly. “So…what will you do now?”
“I’m not sure,” Billy said. “INET is no more. But in its place I’ve been thinking of something new. An organization to continue advancing the sciences, not the Morphin’ Grid, not for war, but for the betterment of humanity. I call it: Promethea.”
Ashley arced an eyebrow. “Interesting name.”
“It’s taken from the name of Prometheus, who-”
“I know, I know,” Ashley said with a smile. “But Prometheus was a trickster.”
“In…some interpretations,” Billy said. “In myth, he was known for his intelligence. A champion of humankind. The creator of the sciences.”
“That sounds…interesting,” Ashley said, cautiously. “Are you sure you’re up to something like that?”
“I am,” Billy said. “I lost years of my life. Now…it’s time to move forward.”
“Just…be careful, Billy.”
“I will,” Billy said. “Thank you, Ashley.”
Billy turned off his monitor.
He laced his hands. And he leaned back in his chair.
Protestors marched through the city streets. They carried signs and chanted peacefully– until they faced a wall of federal soldiers. The soldiers wore unmarked uniforms and carried assault rifles, shields, and batons, as if ready to go to war.
The federal agents struck without mercy.
A soldier swung his baton, battering an unarmed woman to the ground. The other troops opened fire, shooting tear gas and flash bangs into the crowd of gathered protestors.
The agents kept their focus on the streets.
Above, a shadowed figure dashed across the rooftops. Richie, the last of the Ninja Rangers, dressed in black from head-to-toe, blended in with the darkness and leapt through the air.
Richie dropped on the soldiers as quiet as a shadow. He ripped a baton from a soldier’s hand, whacked the soldier to the ground, and snapped a volley of kicks that dropped another three soldiers before they even realized they were under attack.
The agents shouted orders and turned their weapons on Richie. The ranger dashed at them; he knocked the weapons from their hands and dropped them to the ground with a series of punches and kicks that cracked visors and dented kevlar.
He breathed deep as he stood among the unconscious soldiers. He looked down and tightened his hands into fists. Jason, Zack, Trini, Jonathan…all dead. Richie, the only Ninja Ranger to survive, knew he needed to make a difference in their memory.
He needed to continue the fight.
He might not have had an army of evil demons to go up against. But not all evil came in the form of monsters. And not all heroes wore colored costumes.
He looked into the distance and dashed towards his next target.
The Silver Flyer ignited its thrusters and blasted from orbit around Onyx. Plasma cannons battered the ship’s aft shields, green bursts against a barrier of pale-blue light.
“Shields are almost gone!” Karone shouted to Zhane in the pilot seat. “We’re not moving fast enough!”
“I can see that, dear.” Zhane said as he piloted the ship through a loop.
“Don’t ‘dear’ me,” she snapped back.
Zhane smiled. “I love you so much.”
He turned hard to starboard; a plasma barrage grazed the shields.
Karone started to plot a course out of the system. But she stopped when her sensors pinged with new signals.
“Uh, Zhane,” she said. “We have a new problem.”
Ahead, a group of templeships entered the system. The ships belonged to the Brotherhood of Light, religious zealots that “purified” planets throughout the galaxy– by destroying them. The ships resembled sea-faring battlecruisers with actual palaces of glass and steel on top.
Zhane sighed. “Well, it’s been fun.”
“No more joking,” Karone said. She armed the ship’s concussion missiles and opened fire.
The missiles blasted the lead templeship with explosions and shrapnel, but not enough force to penetrate the vessel’s armor.
The templeships returned fire with particle beam cannons, beams of light that stabbed through space and speared towards the Silver Flyer. Zhane climbed and banked, dancing the ship through the attack.
“I don’t suppose this thing turns into a Megazord,” Zhane said.
“Wishful thinking,” Karone said.
Another wave of templeships shot into the system.
Zhane sighed. “Well…technically, we did come here to see if the Brotherhood had a presence in this system. So, technically, mission success?”
“Keep telling yourself that,” Karone said.
Karone opened the commlines and sent out a distress signal. She and Zhane operated as free agents, helping to bring order to a galaxy devastated by the war against the Dark One. During that war, every planet in the universe had faced its own version of the Apocalypse. The result left galactic civilization in shambles. Still, Zhane and Karone had allies.
Unfortunately, she couldn’t reach those allies.
“They’re jamming our signals.”
“Okay…” Zhane said. “New plan.”
He swung the ship around and plotted a collision course towards the lead templeship.
“Zhane, what are you doing?” Karone asked.
“They’ll move,” Zhane said.
Suddenly, another ship blasted into realspace: the Tristar, the SPD Command Ship of High Commander Kruger.
“Kruger!” Karone shouted through the comm system– the enemy jamming fields hindered long-range comms only. “How did you find us?”
“I have an inside man on one of the templeships,” Kruger said. “We’ve been tracking them. Stand down. We’ll take it from here.”
Trey of Triforia joined Kruger in the lead boarding pod. Typically, Trey spent his time leading a rescue armada that helped pick up the pieces of the broken galaxy. But he occasionally leant his services to SPD.
The boarding pod ripped through the hull of the lead templeship; Kruger and Trey dashed into a wide corridor of polished, white steel with golden and bronze trimming, as well as glass viewports.
They armed their morphers.
“Emergency! DECA Shadow!” Kruger morphed into DECA Shadow.
“Ultra Transform!” Trey morphed into Zeo Gold.
Enemy troops–priests dressed in white robes covered with golden armor plating– charged into the corridor. They carried energy staffs that they aimed like rifles, and opened fire with bolts of Holy energy.
DECA Shadow and Zeo Gold twirled their weapons, blocking the blasts.
“Vega Slash!” The Shadow Ranger energized his sword and slashed through a group of priests.
“It’s time for a Gold Rush! Victory Flash!” The Gold Ranger swung his staff and fired bursts of golden energy that tore through enemy armor.
Before they could advance, a massive pulse of Holy energy blasted them through the corridor. The two Rangers rolled to their feet and looked up to face their attacker: a heavily armored Paladin.
In one hand, the Paladin carried a massive mace, as big as his chest, that glowed with golden energy. In the other hand, he carried a thick sword, as long as he was tall, that shined like glass and glowed with an inner fire. He wore a silver helmet with a grated visor; flames flickered within the grating.
“You denizens of evil have dirtied this universe with your filth for long enough!” he shouted. “Now, prepare to face the cleansing fire of-”
A blur of motion struck the back of the paladin’s head, and he collapsed into unconsciousness.
The blur took form and became visible: the Phantom Ranger.
“What kept you?” the Phantom Ranger asked.
DECA Shadow smiled beneath his helmet. He opened a commline. “Wes. Nat. We’ve entered the templeship. Have your strike teams converge on the bridge.”
The bridge comprised of a wide walkway of white steel, which crossed over a pit of control consoles. Massive viewports wrapped around the entire bridge, giving a view to space outside from all angles.
Five Paladins stood on the bridge walkway, and several Priests stood on guard.
Officers scurried about as they responded to alarms and warning sirens.
“We’ve been boarded!” an officer shouted. “Three boarding parties. No…four?”
“Which is it, Acolyte?” a Paladin shouted.
The officer panicked. “I- I- I-”
The elevator to the bridge exploded. Out came two groups of heroes: the Time Rangers and DECA Rangers. Wes once again wielded the powers of Time Red, and two newcomers–Katie and Trip–replaced Damien and Sion as Time Yellow and Time Green, who had died during the Second Countdown to Destruction.
Time Pink energized her weapon with power and hurled it across the bridge. The blade spun like a propellor, streaked with power, and slashed through priests with bursts of spark.
Time Red flashed his badge. “Stand down!”
“All guardsmen to the bridge!” the lead Paladin shouted.
DECA Red twirled his blasters. “Yeah, they’re not going to be much help.”
Below deck, the guardsmen armed swords, blasters and staffs, and activated several monsters crafted from Holy energy. The monsters looked like evil angels, with bulky armor and razored wings.
Before they could move out, an attack wave struck fast and hard. The attackers: Gavan, Shaider, Sharavan, Nova Black, the Guyver, and Dino Charge Silver. From the other end of the bay, four more attackers joined the fight: Kamen Rider Leangle, Kamen Rider Garren, Kamen Rider Kabuto and Kamen Rider Gattack.
These heroes had joined SPD after the war against the Dark One, to carry the fight for justice into the stars.
The fighting ended as quickly as it began.
SPD secured the templeships and prevented the destruction of Onyx. After the battle, Kruger returned to his command ship and reviewed his after-action report.
The Time Rangers had performed well with the DECA team. After the Wheel of Time’s restoration, the future of the Time Rangers had become an alternate timeline. A parallel Earth. As a result, the Time Rangers could travel back and forth from their timeline to Kruger’s timeline without having to worry about affecting the future or past with complicated time paradoxes.
Kruger brought the Time Rangers under the umbrella of SPD, with Wes as the commander, for use on an as-needed basis. As a side-note, this helped Wes and Jenn maintain their relationship. And it gave Wes an opportunity to chart his own path, away from the remnants of his father and the now-defunct Silver Guardians.
A few other champions had volunteered to enlist in the new SPD, and they had performed well. Among them, Kruger knew Xenowing– Dino Charge Silver– his former apprentice, as well as the virtual heroes Gavan, Shaider, Sharavan and Nova Black. He didn’t know the Riders or Guyver, though, and hadn’t expected them to sign up for service.
Kabuto said something about joining because of some saying of his grandmother’s that made little-to-no sense, and Gattack wanted to accompany his friend. Garren and Leangle seemed like they wanted to join SPD to find purpose. And the Guyver wanted to learn more about the space-origins of his powers, which came from the panet Isis, where the inhabitants had learned how to meld man and machine (Isis also spawned the tech that led to the creation of the virtual heroes).
Either way, they handled themselves well.
Kruger activated the holographic map on his desk. He growled quietly beneath his breath. The map showed the galaxy, with hot spots labeled in red. Pirates. Fanatics. Wanna-be warlords. Entire civilizations, collapsed. And countless refugees who needed homes.
“Looks like we have our work cut out for us,” he said. He opened a commline to the bridge. “Swan, send in Nat and Wes. The galaxy isn’t going to save itself…”
DIGI RANGERS – JET FORCE – RPM – BIO BEAST – DINO CHARGE
INET gave Dr. K a home after she escaped from the Alphabet Soup think tank, the organization that kidnapped her and exploited her intelligence. But now, INET was no more.
She didn’t have a home. Or a family. The RPM Rangers had died in battle, along with the Jet Force, Bio Beast and Digi Ranger teams.
Maybe she could look at this situation as an opportunity, she told herself. Maybe she could make a family of her own. A home of her own.
She reached out to Miss Fairweather of Jet Force, Colynn of the Gene-Tech Task Force, and Kendall Morgan of Dino Charge. Each appeared in front of Dr. K via a holographic display.
After lengthy introductions, Dr. K wrapped up her pitch.
“The Earth will still need protecting,” Dr. K said. “With INET gone…I believe that responsibility should fall on us.”
With those words, she laid the foundation for what would become known as the Grid Battleforce.
The Amber Beach Dinosaur Museum served as a front for INET’s Dino Charge Rangers. So when INET collapsed, the museum shut down.
Kendall gathered the Rangers in the museum basement that had served as their headquarters. She finished telling them about her plans to join Dr. K and the organization that would become Grid Battleforce.
“So…that’s the plan,” Kendall said. “After we finish closing down the museum and clearing everything out…I’m going to Corinith. And I’d like you to come with me.”
The rangers looked reluctant, at best.
“I don’t know, Kendall,” Ty said. “I’m still not comfortable with everything that happened when we were a part of INET. Rangers fighting Rangers…all those experiments…”
“That’s not what this is, at all,” Kendall said. “Just the opposite. We’re going to try to do some real good. Think about what we could do if we applied Ranger tech to peaceful causes. Clean energy. Agriculture and food production.”
Shelby smiled. “You don’t have to talk me into it, Kendall. I’m in.”
Ty sighed. He didn’t need to say it– where Shelby would go, he would follow.
Riley looked less than enthusiastic. “I don’t know. I think that sounds great, but…I’m ready to go back home. After everything that’s happened…I really want to just spend some time with my family. At least for a while. I think…I think I took them for granted.”
“Mind if I tag along?” Chase asked. “No offense, Kendall, but I think my days with super-secret organizations and such are over.”
“I understand, Chase,” Kendall said. “Ivan? Koda?”
“Koda and I have much yet to learn of this modern world,” Ivan said.
Koda nodded in agreement. “Need time. To find our path.”
“But make no mistake,” Ivan said. “This is not goodbye. We all have become more than comrades. We have become family. And we will see each other again.”
Kendall smiled. “I have no doubt, Ivan,” she said. “No doubt.”
Grace had always considered herself the “cousin” of the Lightspeed Rangers. The news of their death had crushed her. Max. Kevin. Junior. Steph. DJ. All…gone. Forever. She knew them from the foster system, where she had grown up, and had considered them family. Losing them nearly crushed her.
But instead, she let the loss inspire her.
Okay, Max…she had thought to herself. You think you’re the only one who can be a hero?
Grace joined Damage Control, the FEMA division tasked with cleaning up the wreckage of Angel Grove and surrounding cities. Every day, she braved her way through rubble and fire, saving the lives of men, women and children who had been left behind in the war zone.
One boy that she saved would grow up to lead the first manned mission to Mars. Another would find the cure for Cystic Fibrosis. And another would cast the deciding vote in legislation that would end the Second Civil War.
Grace didn’t know that at the time. She only knew that her best friends had sacrificed themselves to save others. And she vowed to do the same, one life at a time.
MYSTIC FORCE – ASHLEY
Nick finished moving boxes into his new apartment on the northside of Coral Harbor.
Kuro, the black cat spirit that had aided the Mystic Rangers, jumped from box to box. “But, but…there are no trees!”
Nick sighed. “There are, Kuro. Just not in the apartment. The park is just a block away from here; you’ll have more trees than you can climb.”
“But, but…what about grass! And leaves! And, and…squirrels!”
“All of that too,” Nick said. “Listen, this is going to be a change for both of us. And with the others gone. Well…it’s just you and me. But we’ll make it work.”
The Mystic Rangers had gone their separate ways after the final battle against the Dark One. Vida became Queen of the Vampires and tried to use their ranks for good. Xander decided to travel the world and live his life as a druid, communing with nature. Maddie married Daggeron and started her own coven of witches, while Daggeron spent his days rebuilding the Heavenly Realms, along with help from Chip and Mikhail.
Nick missed them all. And he missed the Sailor Guardians too, especially Serena. A part of Nick hoped that Serena and the Sailor Guardians would have returned somehow after the restoration of reality. But everything that had happened, happened. The Sailor Guardians were no more.
“ASHLEY!” Kuro shouted with excitement as he shot across the room.
Nick looked to see Ashley enter the doorway. Kuro tackled her with a flying hug.
She laughed as she scratched Kuro behind the ears. The cat spirit purred so loudly, he sounded like a boat engine.
“Okay, okay,” she said. “I’m glad to see you too, Kuro. Can Nick and I have a minute?”
“Sure!” Kuro shouted as he hopped down. “I need to finish exploring this place anyway. It’s huge!”
“It’s really not,” Nick said, but Kuro had already dashed out of the bedroom.
Ashley smiled as she looked after him. “I’ll never get used to that.”
“What?” Nick asked. “All your time as a Ranger, traveling the galaxy, you never met a talking cat?”
“Surprisingly, no,” she said. “Well…cat people, yes. But that’s different.”
“Yeah, I guess that makes sense,” Nick said as he took a seat on his bed. “So…are we going to talk about the elephant in the room?”
Ashley sat next to him. “We can. I wanted to wait until you were ready.”
“So…what am I to you? And Tommy?”
“You’re our son,” Ashley said. “I don’t care if you’re from a different timeline. You’re my son, and I’m glad that you’re here. It’s the only thing that’s kept me…from falling apart. Your father…”
Her voice trailed off.
“He made sure Billy saved me,” Nick said. “In the end, Billy could only shield one of us, and Tommy made sure it was me. I wish…I wish I could have died in Tommy’s place instead. I don’t belong here. It would have made sense.”
Ashley shook her head. “Tommy wouldn’t have been able to live with himself. He lost Tyler– twice if you can believe it. Lost his little brother. Simon. Some of his closest friends. Losing you too…I don’t think he would have made it.”
She rubbed her hands on her legs, a nervous gesture. “I know you didn’t get to spend a lot of time with him. But he loved you. Very much.”
Nick nodded. “I know. I know he did. I just wish…”
“Me too,” she said, as she took her son’s hand. “Me too.”
Nick noticed her engagement ring. “Why did you two never get married?”
She shook her head. “There was never time. We could never make time. These last few years were nothing but one emergency after the other. We did make plans though, off-and-on.” She smiled, slightly. “Tommy wanted our wedding colors to be red and yellow, but I thought that was too on-the-nose. And tacky.”
Nick smiled back. “What else did you have planned?”
“It would have been an outdoor wedding. On a cliffside,” she said. “That’s what Tommy always wanted; he was the sappy one when it came to this stuff. He was always romantic. I remember this one time, when we were on the Megaship together, I was missing home…and he used the synthatron to remake this stuffed bear I had when I was little. It was so sweet…”
Nick smiled and arched an eyebrow. “He did that? Really?”
“He did,” Ashley said. “He was always so hard on himself, about everything. But he always showed that he cared for the people he loved. And he was always there when it really counted.”
Nick nodded. He looked across his apartment, at the boxes and bags filled with more belongings he’d ever had in his entire life, belongings he didn’t quite care for or even need.
“Every time you talk about him…it sounds like he was happiest in space?”
“He was, I think,” Ashley said with a smile. “We all were. Space is where I fell in love with your father. It brought out the best in him. Set him on his path. It did the same for all of us; we really found ourselves there, and each other.”
“Do you think maybe…” He shook his head. “Nevermind.”
“Maybe it could do the same for me?” Nick asked.
“You mean go into space?” Ashley asked.
“Yeah,” Nick said. “I mean, you could come with me. I’d want you to. It’s just…I look around here and it doesn’t feel…right. Maybe I can find myself in the same place my dad did.”
Ashley smiled and placed a hand on his. “I think he’d like that.”
“We’d have to bring Kuro…”
“We can find a ship with a simu-deck so we can make a forest for him to play in,” Ashley said, all of a sudden excited at the idea. “Oh, and we’ll need a crew.”
She pulled out her phone and texted Justin Kase and Kat, wishing Chris were still alive– he would have loved this. And so would have Tommy.
Nick’s smile widened as he looked at his boxes. “Well…guess I shouldn’t bother to unpack.”
Tommy sat on the shore of Bear Lake in Angel Grove. At least, he did within a plane of thought that defied explanation. He picked up a pebble, tossed it at the lake, and watched it skip across the water, rippling with each touch.
The Dark Man stepped up behind him.
Tommy didn’t bother to turn.
“I figured you’d be here…” Tommy said. “Did you know it would end this way?”
“I did not,” the Dark Man said as he stepped alongside the former Ranger.
“So what now?” Tommy asked. “You didn’t get your way.”
“I did not,” he said. “But you showed me something remarkable.”
“And what’s that?” Tommy asked.
“That even after all of time, in this universe and the ones that came before it, I can still be surprised.”
Tommy couldn’t help it. He laughed. “Are you telling me I taught Death that he still has something to live for?”
“In a sense…” the Dark Man said. “Also, you might not realize it, but when you re-forged the Dark One’s prison, when you repaired the Wheel of Time…you changed it. Lives will no longer be turned by the Gears of Fate. Lives will turn the Gears. Every life, every moment, will weave the Pattern, turn the Wheel. Reality is no longer the chess board for games of fate. Those who live within Reality…they are the players.”
Tommy sighed with a slight smile. “I never liked your metaphors.” He tossed another pebble into the lake. “So is this it, then? Is this my afterlife?”
The Dark Man shook his head. “What you’ve experienced to this day as Heaven and Hell…these were merely planes of existence. Forms of life. Not death. Not truly. Merely…stepping stones, eyeblinks, in the final moments before the spirit passes to…the after.”
The Dark Man looked up into the blue skies, painted with white clouds. “The true 'afterlife’ is…”
Tommy glanced up. “Is…?”
“Well,” the Dark Man said, his hands in his pockets. “I don’t want to spoil your final adventure, do I?”
Tommy shook his head. His gaze drifted across the lake, and his thoughts drifted to Ashley and Nick. To his sister, Chelsea. To everyone he left behind.
He and Ashley never married. He should have found the time– he had owed that to her. They never raised a family. Never had a child who would grow up to become Nick. He’d failed Ashley. And he’d failed his son, Tyler. He accepted Tyler’s sacrifice. But…
“I should have been a better father,” he whispered. “And Ashley…I should have been her husband. We should have started a family instead of…all this fighting. And Karone…god, when was the last time I talked to Karone?”
And Teddy and Chelsea. His brother and sister.
“I didn’t spend enough time with them. Any of them,” he said. “I just wish…”
“Do you doubt their strength?” the Dark Man asked.
Tommy arched an eyebrow. “What?”
“The strength of those you left behind,” the Dark Man said. “Do you doubt it?”
Tommy thought for a moment, of what Ashley would be doing, and Nick, all his family, all his friends. He thought of their willpower. The will to face evil head-on, and to come out the other side stronger.
“No,” Tommy said. “I guess I don’t.”
“You have left behind a legacy of heroes,” the Dark Man said. “Champions. Of love and family. Friendship and wonder. You have inspired in ways that the darkness never could.”
Tommy smiled. “Yeah…I guess you’re right.” He’d learned to let go. To break free from his chains. “I guess you’re right.”
He looked up at the Dark Man. “Aren’t you supposed to be the Big Bad? What’s this about…?”
“Death is with you your entire life,” the Dark Man said. “When you are young, it is a voice that guides you in whispers. When you’re older, and you realize its power, you lash out and fight against it. Here, now, at the end, you accept it.”
Tommy’s smile widened. The Dark Man. Akuma. Death. As cryptic as ever.
“Who are you?” Tommy asked. “Who are you really?”
The Dark Man smiled and reached out his hand. “Care to find out?”
A typical answer.
One he found surprisingly…warm.
Tommy reached up. And he took Death by the hand.
ULTIMATE POWER RANGERS: THE END