Rangers in Space: Chapter Two
"The protection of Earth had slipped into the hands of politicians and bureaucrats beneath the Rangers' noses. Many believe not even Dr. Cranston predicted his company would create such a snowball effect, reshaping the Earth and galaxy forever."
— Miles J. Elliott, 2100
"ISIS: The Earth's Great Hope"
"Tea. Earl Grey. Hot," Justin said into the synthatron while doing his best Patrick Stewart impression.
He laughed to himself as the machine replicated a cup of tea for him. "This thing still cracks me up."
"I wish we could say the same," Ashley said.
The rangers laughed as they sat around the ship's dining table. They sat in the Astro Megaship's main galley, which besides the synthatron, had five jump tubes that would instantly morph them and launch them into space on their Cyber Sliders. Five small storage lockers were nearby as well.
"So where's Cy?" Chris asked.
"I think he's working in the engine room," Tommy said. "He said he wasn't hungry."
"Have we figured out what his problem is yet?" Justin asked.
They looked to Kat. She shook her head. "I don't know. Something had to have happened to him."
The rangers thought to themselves for a moment before Justin got up from his chair. "Well, I think I'm going to work out on the simudeck before we get home. Cy put in this new targeting program based on The Matrix trilogy."
"Really?" Chris asked.
Justin nodded as a large smile spread across his face. "Oh yeah."
"Count me in," Chris said.
A short alert tone sounded across the ship's intercom. "We are dropping out of Hyperspace," DECA reported.
"We can't possibly be at Earth already," Ashley said.
"Let's check it out," Tommy said as the five hurried towards the bridge.
The rangers walked onto the bridge and found Cy already at work on his station.
"We've been pulled out of hyper space," Cy reported.
"Pulled by who?" Tommy asked as he assumed his place on the right side of Cy. Justin took the left side. Chris sat in between Kat and Ashley at the forward station.
"DECA?" Cy consulted the computer.
"Gravity Wells employed by two Interdiction cruisers," DECA said.
"The gravity wells must have created some kind of bubble that disrupted the flow of hyperspace," Ashley said.
"It's a classic trick," Cy said.
"The cruisers are moving towards us," Chris read from his station. "I think they're powering up some kind of weapon."
"Affirmative," DECA confirmed.
"Polarize the hull plating," Cy ordered DECA.
"They're trying to contact us," Kat said.
"Let's hear it," Tommy said.
"I can play it on the viewer," Kat said as she activated the viewscreen's comm channel. A face appeared that reminded the Earth rangers of the old Predator movies.
"Power down your ship and prepare to be boarded," the alien said, quickly closing the connection afterwards.
"Don't think he's coming for dinner," Justin said.
Cy analyzed a closer look at the hull plating of the two cruisers. "They're Wyrun Pirates."
The two cruisers opened fire on the Megaship as the rangers felt the deck plating tremble.
"Chris, Justin, hit 'em back," Tommy ordered.
"Aim for their weapon platforms," Cy clarified.
"Gotcha," Justin said.
"On it," Chris sad.
The Megaship's Megalaser platforms fired darts of blue energy that pounded against the enemy ships' deflector shields. The enemy cruisers returned fire with two torpedoes.
Cy angled the nose of the ship downward and barrel rolled, bringing the starboard side of the ship up to avoid the first torpedo. But a second torpedo slammed against the ventral hull.
"Hull plating is offline," DECA said.
"We were in bad shape before we got into this fight. Now we're worse," Cy said.
"A group of four Wyrun pirates has teleported onto deck five," DECA reported.
"Justin, Chris, Ashley, Kat, go," Tommy said. The four nodded as they ran off the bridge.
"We need to destroy those gravity wells," Tommy said.
"Even if we do, we're in no shape to fight past those ships to re-enter hyperspace," Cy said.
"One thing at a time," Tommy said.
Justin led Chris, Ashley, and Kat down a corridor, all of them grasping their silver-plated plasma blasters.
They stopped at a closed metal door.
"They should be on the other side of this door," Justin said as he pressed the door's control panel.
The doors whipped open, and they saw the backs of four soldiers further down the passage.
"Peek a boo," Justin said as the soldiers turned, and the teens opened fire with weapons set to stun. After more than a year of handling firearms as Zeo Rangers, the teens had grown used to dealing with blaster-type weapons, so their shots struck their targets, dropping them to the ground.
"That was too easy," Chris said.
"Three more Wyrun have teleported to engineering level," DECA reported.
"Damn, this was a decoy," Justin said as they ran off. Lights started to fade and flash back on as the power whined throughout the ship.
"Justin," Tommy said over the ranger's communicator. "Those pirates are trying to hack into our engines. Hurry."
"Can we shut down the engines? Stop them from gaining control?" Tommy asked.
"Not if you want to survive this," Cy said. "Our auxiliary and emergency systems were damaged in the crash on Hayden."
Tommy sighed. "I should have watched more sci-fi movies," he said quietly to himself.
The doors to the engine room buzzed open and the rangers started shooting. The pirates ducked for cover besides boxes and crates, and the rangers stood outside the door for cover, leaning inside only to shoot.
"We can morph and rush them," Chris said.
"We can't escalate a battle unless we have to," Justin said. "That'd be like using a nuclear bomb to squash a fly."
Ashley fidgeted with a few controls on her weapon.
"What are you doing?" Kat asked, shots still coming in their direction from the pirates in the engine room.
"You'll see," Ashley said as she closed the back panel of the blaster and tossed it across the engine room floor. The weapon landed in front of the crates the pirates were behind and started to whine. The gun's energy chamber exploded, emitting a pulse that stunned the three pirates in the room, knocking them out.
"Nice," Chris said.
"Thanks," Ashley said as they dashed inside. Justin, Kat, and Chris tied up the stunned pirates as Ashley examined the Mega Accelerator, the power core for the entire ship. "This is not good."
"Power has been restored," DECA reported.
"Good work, guys," Tommy said through the comm.
"Don't thank us yet," Justin said. "We have a bit of a problem."
"What is it?" Cy asked.
The ship shook, knocking Tommy and Cy off their feet.
Cy reached up and used the console to lift himself back to his feet. "Make that two problems. One of those cruisers just locked onto us with a tractor beam. The other is cutting through our hull with an energy beam."
"Is the hull plating back online?" Tommy asked.
"Quiet, I'm trying to think," Cy said.
"Um, Tommy," Justin said again over the comm. "The Mega Accelerator...something was busted when those pirates were trying to hack into our engines. Ashley says the core is going to breach. She thinks she can fix it, but she's not promising anything."
"She won't know how to fix a breach," Cy said as he started back towards the turbolift. The doors wouldn't open.
"The lift system is down," DECA informed them as the ship shook again.
"DECA, patch me through to one of those ships," Tommy said.
"What are you doing?" Cy asked. "Our core is going to explode!"
"Ashley will take care of it, we need to get those ships off of us, otherwise it won't matter either way," Tommy said.
The face that had appeared before flashed onto the viewscreen.
"We have your men captive," Tommy said. "Stand down and we'll return them to you."
Tommy had a hard time reading the alien's facial expressions, but he was pretty sure the man smiled. "We'll discuss that once you and your crewmates are in my brig."
The view screen flashed off. The ship shook again.
"They've almost cut through the hull," Cy said.
"Back whenever one of our Megazords would be caught with a tendril, or something similar that would send an energy pulse against us, we'd reroute the energy back at them, taking them out with their own attack. Can we do something similar with these cruisers?" Tommy asked.
Cy thought for a moment and nodded. "It might work. Not while our engine is in the middle of a breach."
"Do whatever you can so the second Ashley fixes this engine, we can toss those cruiser's attacks right back at 'em," Tommy said.
"And if she doesn't fix the breach? We should head to the escape pods. Our mission is more important than this ship," Cy said.
"Ashley will fix the breach," Tommy said. "She's good at what she does."
"Ten seconds to core breech," DECA reported in engineering as steam coming from the engines filled the room.
"Ashley..." Chris started to say.
"I've almost got it," Ashley said.
"Five seconds to core breech," DECA reported again.
Cy sighed and shook his head. Tommy stood firm and closed his eyes. Come on, Ash...
"I did it!" Ashley shouted as she slammed the panel to the Accelerator shut.
Cy opened his eyes wide in disbelief. "She did it..."
"Told you," Tommy said. "Now give those cruisers a little feedback."
Cy activated a few controls and modified the hull plating to disrupt the energy beams striking their ship and reroute the energy back at them.
A surge traveled along the lead cruiser's tractor beam and blew up the front of the enemy ship. A surge traveled along the cutting beam with the same effect.
"The gravity wells are offline," Cy said.
"We're out," Tommy said as he moved the throttle shift to full, sending the ship blasting into hyperspace.
The Astro Megaship traveled at hyper-rush velocity as it neared the Earth.
Justin and Tommy walked through a corridor on their way to question the captured pirates being held in the brig.
"Cy called this area of space the Wastelands," Tommy said. "He seems to think everyone here, Night Sisters, the Samarian planet, and pirates alike, have allied themselves with Sauron. "
"That would explain why they were after us," Justin said, following with a long sigh. "This still seems surreal, huh?"
"More and more each day," Tommy said as they entered the brig. The six captured pirates were tied in chains and held behind a layer of force fields.
"Hey guys," Justin said. One of the pirates hissed at him.
"We're piling you into an escape pod and letting you go," Tommy said. "When you get picked up by your friends, give them a message. Tell them evil's days are numbered."
The Astro Megaship docked with a space station in Earth's orbit, much to Tommy's surprise. Cy stayed on board the Megaship while the rangers took the Megashuttle down to a ground-based space station on the Earth's surface
The surface of the station looked as primitive as a trailer park. The rocky terrain was dotted only by a trio of mobile command centers. The shuttle landed and was taken below ground by a large service elevator. The hanger was a technological marvel in stark contrast to the surface. It reminded the Rangers of the Zeo-zords' holding bay.
The rangers walked to a command platform in the hanger, and an officer in a brown jumpsuit greeted them. He wore an INET pass on the left side of his chest. He appeared to be in his mid 30s.
"My name is Matt Hawkins. Let me be the first to welcome you to our base," he said as he extended his hand.
Tommy reluctantly shook it, not being comfortable with his team's current situation. Billy had brought a crew from his INET company over to help him maintain the Zeo-zords a year ago, but they weren't made aware of the rangers' identities, and things weren't nearly as wide spread as they seemed to be at the present.
The whole base knew the identities of the rangers and Cy. INET also appeared to be nothing more than a front company, working alongside NASA and the military. This didn't make Tommy happy at all.
"Where's Billy?" Tommy asked.
"Dr. Cranston?" the man asked.
"I suppose," Tommy said. Billy had never gone to college. After graduating high school, he was approached by businessman and genius Anthony Starr. Starr kicked INET into full throttle and made it part of his global conglomerate. This was before Billy left the Earth for Aquitar.
"His location is classified," Hawkins said.
"What?!" Tommy asked. "Do you have any idea how ridiculous you sound? Classified by who? Who the hell do you think you are?"
"That location is classified by only top ISIS personal," Hawkins said.
"What's ISIS?" Tommy asked, losing even more patience with the man.
"The ISIS Defense Initiative is what keeps this planet safe from maniacal super beings bent on world domination," Hawkins said.
"I'm so confused as to what I've been doing for four years," Tommy said sarcastically.
Hawkins shook his head. "I don't have time for this, kid. There's a limo outside that will take you to the INET building in the city. Argue with them."
Hawkins walked off as Tommy rolled his hands up into fists, containing his anger.
"I guess we're going to pay a visit to INET," Tommy said.
The Dark Fortress of Astronema spun through space. Half of the fortress appeared as a mesh of steel an iron. The other half appeared as nothing more than a green grid of lines.
Astronema leaned back in her chair as she sat behind the desk in her ready room. Eclipter stood before her as she leaned back with her legs resting on her desk.
"The Rangers have returned to Earth," Eclipter said.
"Do we have their exact location?" she asked as she played with a braid in her hair.
"Yes, highness," Eclipter said.
"Excellent," Astronema said. "Ready my ship."
Tommy and the other four rangers sat in a row of chairs facing an INET representative seated behind his desk in a high-rise office. The office was in INET's main corporation building in Angel Grove.
"I suppose you're looking for some answers," the man said.
"Where Billy is would be a nice start," Tommy asked.
"I can't tell you that," the man held up his hands before Tommy could say more. "I can't tell you because no one knows."
"Start telling us what you do know then," Tommy said.
The man sighed. "Alright, fine. He was on KO-35, working on finishing up the Astro Ranger project. We lost contact with him when the planet was attacked."
"Attacked?" Tommy asked. "What happened?"
"Sauron's forces learned of the Astro Ranger project and sent Astronema, his lead general, to crush the planet. She succeeded. KO-35 is now uninhabited, its survivors scattered," the man said.
"Cy," Kat whispered. "He lost his homeworld."
The man nodded. "His job was to bring you your morphers and ship. He succeeded."
The rangers sat silently for a moment, now understanding why Cy carried so much weight on his shoulders.
Explosions sparked throughout the Megashuttle's hanger bay as a dimensional tear opened. Astronema's bull-like ship emerged from the hole as technicians screamed and ran for their lives.
Eclipter and a group of Craterites teleported to ground level. The dark warrior tightened his grip on his sword and prepared to attack.
Small time bombs materialized at key access points all across the large hanger bay.
Security teams arrived on the floor. They wore light suits of combat armor and carried rifles equipped with explosive, armor-piercing bullets.
"Open fire!" the security captain shouted as their guns started to blaze. Bullets ricocheted harmlessly off of Eclipter and his soldiers. The villain looked towards the security team and fired crimson eye beams that tore through the guards.
Eclipter started walking down the main floor of the hanger as more security teams poured in. He nonchalantly looked from left to right while striking them down with his optic beams.
Alarms in INET headquarters started flashing. The man the rangers spoke with activated a comm unit on his desk.
"What's going on?" he asked.
"The hanger bay's been infiltrated," a voice reported. "We're reading a threat force approaching headquarters too. Not sure what it is, but its heavily armored and causing damage."
"Let's go," Tommy said as he and the others hopped from their chairs.
One of Astronema's monsters tore through the city outside of INET's main corporation building in Angel Grove. The creature had the feet of a rhino, and its head was mostly a large drill nose with small eyes and ears wrapped around it.
The teens ran to face the monster. The streets had been evacuated.
"Not another drill monster," Justin said.
The monster turned and roared at the Rangers as it stomped its feet to the ground.
"He should ask his predecessors what happens to lunatics that mess with Earth," Tommy said. "Let's take care of business..."
"Install, Astro Ranger!" they shouted as they morphed into their Ranger forms.
"Digital Task Force, Astro Rangers!"
The monster rushed towards the Rangers and knocked them aside one by one. Astro Black grabbed onto the monster when it tried to bash him. The Black Ranger struggled against the creature using all the strength he could muster. The monster overpowered Astro Back and flipped him over his shoulder.
"Astro Snipers!" Astro Yellow and Astro Pink shouted as they blasted the monster, but their shot's ricocheted off the creature's armor, and some blasts bounced right back at them, exploding against their chest armor.
Side-by-side, Astro Red and Astro Blue jumped towards the creature and flying punched opposite sides of the drill nose. Their punches sparked against the monster's armor, but the impact tossed them onto their backs.
"That armor is stronger than a Machine's," Astro Blue said as he and Astro Red rose to their feet.
"We'll see how he likes some of my drill action," Astro Red said as he readied his Drill Saber and assumed a fighting stance in front of the monster. The monster's drill began to spin, as did Astro Red's.
"Let's go!" Astro Red shouted as he leapt through the air and brought his blade down diagonally against the monster. The two drills clashed and grinded against each other with enough force to toss Astro Red backward.
"Tommy, use your helmet icon!" Astro Blue shouted.
Astro Red activated his helmet icon power, symbolized by a personal computer. The icon analyzed the monster's attack and created a counter attack.
Astro Red flipped while still in midair as Astro Blue extended his hands outward. Astro Red twisted so his feet landed against Astro Blue's hands, and the Blue Ranger pushed out as Astro Red jetted towards the monster.
Astro Red spun through the air as red energy circled around him. "Screw Drill Saber!" His attack slammed into the monster's drill and caused the drill nose to explode.
"Saber Slash!" Astro Red shouted as the tip of his blade energized. He ran his blade through the monster once horizontally and then diagonally. The creature fell backwards and exploded.
A flash of neon-green lightning appeared before the Rangers as they regrouped. Astronema walked towards them with an evil grin on her face.
"Rangers," she said. "I am Astronema."
"Astro Snipers!" the Rangers fired at the princess, but she erected a telekinetic energy barrier that blocked the shots.
"I didn't come here to fight you. I came here to warn you. You'll never leave this planet alive. Not if I can help it," she said as she vanished from sight.
"Glad she stopped by," Astro Blue said.
"Can't wait to prove her wrong," Astro Black said.
An explosion blasted out the windows of the first three floors of the INET building.
"Let's go," Astro Red said as they ran back towards headquarters.
Below the main INET building was a large command room filled with computer terminals and displays. That room was in chaos as Eclipter and his soldiers marched through, having finished their work at the hanger bay.
The Astro Rangers burst into the room and started bashing into the Craterites as Eclipter glared at them, studying their moves.
"There's an emergency teleportation system!" one of the tech's shouted. "Good for one short-range burst!"
"Get my team outside along with the bad guys," Astro Red said.
The tech nodded and activated a control on a computer nearby. The Rangers, Eclipter, and Craterites flashed with light, then disappeared.
They rematerialized at the plaza on the other side of the building. The plaza was a down slope of curved concrete steps.
The Rangers struck fighting stances as the Craterites regrouped around Eclipter.
If Eclipter was capable of the act, he would have been smiling. The Astro Rangers amused him greatly, and he considered them no threat at all. He held out his sword and called out: "Destroy them!"
"Let's take 'em out," Astro Red said as his team moved forward.
The Craterites split up to attack the Rangers. The grunts' formation was sloppy and scattered.
Astro Red stood ready as the purple warriors rushed to confront him. "Bring it on…"
Astro Red low blocked a soldier's saber and backfisted that soldier in the face with the same arm, following with a side kick to its gut. He turned and low blocked another blow, hopped up, and brought his elbow down on the Craterite's back.
Another duo of soldier's came at him. Astro Red used his right arm to outer-block the soldier's saber as he shifted to the left and used his left hand for a knifehand blow that slammed onto the back of the creature's neck. He then whipped his right leg around and smashed a side kick against the other soldier's face.
A Craterite jumped onto Astro Black's back and wrapped his fingers around the Ranger's throat as two more soldier's grabbed him by the ankles. He twisted the hands off of his throat and backfisted that soldier in the face. He then reached down, grabbed the two soldiers latched onto his leg, and slammed them together before tossing them aside like rag dolls.
"Astro Sniper!" Astro Pink shouted as she split her weapon into two smaller blasters. She fired and struck down any soldier that approached her.
Astro Blue and Astro Yellow were taken off guard as soldiers cut them across their chests. Astro Yellow activated her helmet icon and teleported them into her digital pocket dimension.
The Craterites stood together as Astro Blue and Astro Yellow zoomed past them while striking them with flying double punches.
Astro Blue landed as a group of soldiers surrounded him. He low blocked a blow and backfisted that soldier in the face. Then he flipped backward while kicking the soldier upside the head. When he landed, he crouched to the ground and swept the legs out from a soldier.
Astro Yellow launched herself at three soldiers, striking them down with a flurry of kicking combinations.
The two exited the pocket dimension as the Rangers regrouped.
"That's the last of the Craterites," Astro Black said.
"Where'd that grid guy go?" Astro Blue asked.
Astro Red shook his head. "I don't know, but we better get to the hanger."
"Cyber Sliders!" They called for their hover-boards and flew towards the hanger bay.
The shuttle's platform rose from the bay doors, with the Megashuttle pointed upward for takeoff.
The Astro Rangers landed near the area.
"There's our ride," Astro Blue said.
Before anyone could answer, explosions sparked around them, and they were thrown to the ground.
Eclipter walked over to Astro Red and held him up by the neck. "You aren't leaving here alive, Red Ranger. You do not understand the forces you're dealing with."
Eclipter tossed Astro Red over his shoulder. Astro Red quickly rose to his feet as the Rangers regrouped around him.
"He's strong," Astro Red said to the others as Eclipter slowly walked towards them.
The villain projected a deep green holo-image of himself. A jagged energy pulse lashed out from the image's eyes, striking the Rangers hard as the shockwave tossed them to the ground.
Astro Red rose to his knees, but Eclipter emitted twin jagged beams of crimson from his eyes that ensnared the Ranger. The villain used the beams to toss the Ranger through the air and crash him against the ground several times.
Eclipter released his grasp, and Astro Red rolled across the dirt. "Your mortality makes you weak."
"There's not a line you can come up with I haven't heard before...Those who spoke them have long since been killed," Astro Red said as he downloaded his weapon.
"Drill Saber!" He leapt through the air and used his sword as a spear as he struck at Eclipter. The villain grabbed the blade, but Astro Red pushed him back several meters, through crates and cylinders, and slammed him against a wall. The Ranger then grabbed the villain and tossed him over his shoulder.
The Rangers regrouped as Eclipter rose to his knees. "Our time is up, Rangers." He twirled and vanished in a flash of energy.
In the hanger below, the time bombs ticked down to their limit and started exploding one by one, the explosions ripping through the ground above.
The Rangers ran towards the shuttle as waves of explosions closed in on them. They made it to the shuttle just in time to clear the fiery destruction.
The Megashuttle blasted into space, and the Rangers saw Astronema's bull ship closing in on the Megaship.
"The Megaship's in trouble," Astro Black said.
"Kat, pipe me through to Cy," Astro Red said.
"I have him on speakers," Astro Pink said.
"Need some help?" Astro Red asked over the comm line.
"Activate the Astro Megazord program to form the Galaxy Mega," Cy said.
"Sounds easy enough," Astro Blue said.
"Should have known Billy would have a Megazord laying around for us," Astro Yellow said.
"Astro Megazord online!" Astro Red said as he activated a newly emerged switch marked 'digital fusion' on his control console. The Megaship assumed a humanoid form as the shuttle connected to form the head.
"Astro Megazord, Galaxy Mega!" the Rangers shouted from their cockpit after the Megazord formed.
The bull-ship blasted at the Megazord as it moved in closer at impulse speeds.
"Download, Astro Megazord Saber!" Astro Red commanded as a slender sword appeared in the Megazord's hand.
"Fire the boosters," Astro Red commanded. The Galaxy Mega zoomed towards the bull ship at incredible speeds. "Energize Saber!"
The saber energized as it sliced through the ship like a hot knife through butter. The Galaxy Mega came to a halt as the bull ship exploded.
Astronema stood on the bridge of her Dark Fortress as she watched her ship engulfed in a ball of flames through the viewer.
"These Rangers are troublesome," Astronema said.
"Yes, my princess," Eclipter said from behind her.
Astronema walked away from the viewer and walked towards her ready room. "No matter. Soon their threat will be removed from the galaxy."
Astronema sat behind her desk and looked out her viewport with a look that could melt steel.
She took the locket around her neck and flipped a small switch on the side. The red ruby in the center of the locket projected a small holographic image of two elderly looking humans, along with a small baby girl and a boy toddler.
"They will pay..."
The Astro Megaship was blasting through hyper space. The lights inside were dimmed to low levels as the ship traveled in 'night mode.' The Rangers had retired to their quarters for the night, except for Cy who was working on the bridge.
The doors swept open as Kat walked in. Cy turned to her. "I didn't think you'd still be awake." He turned back to his control station and flipped a few switches.
"What are you doing up so late?" she asked as she walked to his side.
"I'm making some modifications to the hull plating," Cy said. "It should make the Megazord transformation a little smoother."
Kat nodded. "Look, Cy, I hope you don't think I'm intruding...but I know what happened. On KO-35."
He shook his head, not taking his eyes up from the control station. "You don't know."
"I know I wasn't there but...I'm sure you did all you could," Kat said.
"It wasn't enough," Cy said as he took a deep breath. "The Eltarians knew Sauron was coming. They turned a blind eye to that fact. They thought they were invincible. Zordon was the only one who took the threat of Sauron seriously. He and his Shaper developed the Astro powers on my homeworld. Then...Sauron's forces attacked. Eltar, Triforia, Aquitar, the leaders of the entire local group did nothing while my planet was consumed."
"I can't believe they would do that," Kat said as she shook her head. "That's terrible."
Cy nodded. "They knew Sauron was coming and did nothing. It was a slaughter. Only a few scattered groups of my people survived. The rest were murdered. Sauron didn't even claim the planet. It's a ghost world now. He just wanted to strike fear."
He turned to Kat for the first time during their conversation. "So you'll understand if I have a little trouble trusting people."
Tommy sat at the ship's table near the synthatron, drinking a cup of tea and going over a data pad containing specs and information on the ship.
Ashley walked out from the corridor and stood next to the synthatron. "Milk. Warm."
She took her glass of milk and went to sit by Tommy. Tommy glanced up at her from his data pad. "You should be resting. We have a long day tomorrow."
Ashley smiled. "So do you."
Tommy shrugged. "I never sleep much."
"How come?" she asked.
Tommy sighed. "No reason, really. Just...dreams."
"Wanna talk about it?" Ashley asked.
Tommy shook his head. "It's okay. How about you? Why are you up so late?"
She sighed. "I'm homesick already. I miss my house, family...even my stuffed bear."
Tommy grinned. "A teddy bear, huh?"
Ashley shrugged. "I've had him since I was a kid. Don't tell me you never had a teddy bear."
Tommy's face slightly blushed as he shrugged. "I don't remember."
Ashley smiled playfully. "Oh come on, is the tough Tommy Oliver afraid to admit he used to play with stuffed animals?"
"I never played with them," Tommy said.
"Ah-ha!" Ashley said. "You admit it then, you had one."
Tommy sighed as a large smile spread across his face. "Two." He said quietly. "Brownsy and Wrinkles."
Ashley laughed. "Mine was Mr. Winklefancier."
"Mr. what now?"
"You'll laugh," Ashley said.
Tommy smiled and nodded. "Probably, but it's only fair."
"Well," Ashley said. "He had a dog named Mr. Winkles, and he fancied him."
Tommy laughed. Just then, Kat walked from the corridor and into the galley.
"I didn't expect anyone to be up this late," Kat said.
"I was just heading to bed," Tommy said as he got up from his seat. "You two try and get some rest."
"Night, Tommy," Ashley said.
"Night, Ashley. Night, Kat."
Ashley and Kat had stayed up for another half hour chatting before heading to bed. As Ashley entered her room, she noticed something on her bed. It was a small brown teddy bear with a red bow wrapped around his neck and a hand written note.
A large smile spread across her face as she picked up the note and read it. "It's not exactly Mr. Winklefancier but it's the best the synthatron could do. Hope this helps the homesickness a little. Tommy."
She smiled as she picked up the bear.
To be continued...Chapter 03