Rangers in Space: Chapter Thirty-one
Countdown to Destruction: Zero
Tommy's vision slowly blurred back into focus. He regained consciousness, immediately feeling the cold fire still running through his veins. He winced and tried to sit up, but someone pushed him back down.
Adam and the other rangers gathered around Tommy on Eltar's war-torn streets. Silver and resistance fighters were nearby as well.
A member of the resistance laid a cold compress on Tommy's head. "Lie still, Dragon Ranger. Your wounds are still healing."
Tommy looked to Adam, Rocky, and Teddy. "What happened?" he asked, his voice a hoarse whisper.
"You did it," Teddy said with pride. "You defeated Sauron."
Tommy breathed a weak sigh of relief.
"But we still have a problem," Adam said. "It's Astronema...she's taken control of Sauron's forces. And Zordon is with her on the Dark Fortress."
Tommy cursed beneath his breath. The teen bit back his pain and pushed the cold compress off his head while sitting up. A wave of vertigo struck him, but he ignored it. "We have to get back to Earth..."
His sister needed him.
"Tommy..." Rocky said. "That fight took a lot out of you. You're in bad shape."
"It doesn't matter," Tommy said as he used his Dragon Sword, Ryuuseikin, to steady himself and rise to his feet. "I have to save Karone. I have to get her to call off Sauron's forces."
Billy scoffed nearby. "You have no idea how to free Karone from whatever brainwashing she's under."
"No," Adam said firmly. "You two are not going to start this again."
"We're going back to Earth," Tommy said. "Rocky, use your power to help me heal on the way."
A figure blurred into vision nearby. It was the Phantom Ranger. He walked over to Silver and handed her a data pad. "The communications net is back online in all four quadrants."
Silver looked over the pad and opened her eyes wide with shock. Sauron had mobilized villains loyal too him into far more systems than expected. And now Astronema was controlling them all.
Phantom took back the pad. "They won't be as unified without Sauron leading them telepathically."
Silver nodded in agreement. "Get in contact with our intelligence network and start mobilizing resistance cells in other systems. We should strike now while they are unorganized."
Tommy looked to the others. "Earth," he said firmly.
Cy and the Astro team regrouped on the Megaship bridge with Zhane after freeing the Rigelian station from enemy troops. They listened to Astronema's broadcast at least three times.
"We have to get back to Earth," Ashley said.
Justin looked back towards her. "But Tommy wanted us to help out here."
"That was before anyone knew about this," Ashley said.
Chris nodded in agreement. "She's right. The Power Rangers are probably heading back to earth now."
Zhane sighed. "Hopefully the engines won't fall apart on the way back."
"We're not that lucky," Justin said.
Cy took his post at the pilot station. "Chris, set a course back to Earth. Ashley, transfer what power you can to the engines and structural integrity. Take life support offline on the lower decks if you have to."
"Course laid in," Chris said.
"DECA," Cy said. "Maximum hyper-rush velocity."
Cy pushed the control lever forward as the Megaship shot into hyperspace.
Astronema stood on the command deck of her Dark Fortress. She was alone with Zordon. She stared out the deck's main view screen while Zordon was contained in an energy tube behind her.
Various images flashed across the view screen. Fighting continued to rage across the galaxy.
A slight smile crossed Astronema's pale face. "Look at them, Zordon. Countless warriors. Savages. All at my command. And I have your Rangers to thank. Pity I'll have to destroy them."
"Karone," Zordon said, "you must end this-"
"Karone is dead, old man," Astronema said. "And soon...you will be too."
Astronema was running out of convenient locations to store slaves in Angel Grove Center. Her solution was simple: exterminate the most crowded slave pen.
Eclipter and the crab Psycho-Gene Beast led an army of Quantrons towards the nearest group of captives to kill them all. Hundreds of citizens were herded into a plaza area in the city's financial district.
Eclipter would not show them any mercy.
"Quantrons," Eclipter commanded. "Destroy them all."
Something suddenly burst from the ground between the captives and Quantrons. Ninjablack leapt through the air and jumped towards the soldiers to attack. "Ninpo Earth assault!"
A seismic blast tore forward across the streets while kicking up rubble and debris that knocked the grunts backward.
Ninjablack landed and unsheathed his sword.
He narrowed his eyes beneath his helmet. The Black Ranger had seen many horrors since getting his first Power Coin five years ago. He's seen evil Rangers slaughter innocents, evil spirits kill people to possess them and turn into monsters, and demonic plagues nearly wipe out entire populations.
He'd almost died himself on more than one occasion. At first he thought being a Ranger was a game. Near-death experiences and watching innocents get killed change all that.
He would not let anyone else die.
Eclipter laughed mockingly as the Black Ranger charged forward. "Do you honestly think you can stop so many of Astronema's soldiers?"
"I can take care of it," the Black Ranger said as he kicked a soldier away. "And I can take care of you, too!"
Ninjablack leapt forward and swung his blade down towards Eclipter.
Eclipter parried the blow and slashed the Black Ranger from the air. The android stepped forward to strike the Black Ranger again, but yellow lightning streaked down from the sky and exploded against the villain's chest.
Ninjablack looked up to see Ninjayellow standing on a nearby rooftop. The Black Ranger smiled beneath his helmet. "Took you long enough, loser."
Ninjayellow leapt downward towards street level and slashed his blade through a Quantron while landing. "Loser? This coming from a guy dressed in spandex?"
The Yellow Ranger spun forward and cut down a second Quantron. The Black Ranger joined him, and they started slashing through the Quantrons together. The two Ninja Rangers were more than just friends. They were like brothers. Family.
The other three Ninja Rangers charged towards the rear of the enemy formation. Ninjared, Ninjawhite, and Ninjablue unsheathed their swords and pounced towards the Quantrons and Craterites.
Ninjared slashed through several of the armored soldiers with the same precision and strength that made him worthy of being the Earth's first Red Ranger.
At his side, Ninjawhite ran her blade through a Quantron's side and stabbed through a second soldier's side. Even when she was the quiet and shy Yellow Ranger, Ninjawhite had always been a very important support for Ninjared. The White Ranger had truly become the soul of the group.
Ninjablue was at her side, kicking soldiers away and running his blade through their armor. The Blue Ranger had loved Ninjawhite since the moment he laid eyes on her. She was attracted to him at first too, but he never acted on it. Their bond was strong just the same.
The Ninja Ranger regrouped while slashing through soldiers and surrounded Eclipter and the crab Gene-Beast. Each Ranger was well beyond fatigued. They had been fighting for days straight. But they found their strength in each other.
The Ninja Rangers sprang forward and swung their blades down towards the two villains.
Ninjablack and Ninjayellow thrashed their blades across the crab monster, their weapons sparking on impact. The crab reached forward and used its two pincers to grab the two Rangers' throats. They struggled to break free, but couldn't.
The crab tossed the two Ninja Rangers backward. They crashed against the pavement and slowly rose to their knees, just in time for a group of Quantrons to slash their crescent-shaped blades across the Rangers' chest armor.
Eclipter parried a blow from Ninjared and slashed his sword across the Red Ranger's chest, whipping the Ranger's body backward.
Ninjawhite and Ninjablue moved in and swung their blades towards the android's head. Eclipter blocked the blow with his arm and swung his sword through a powerful swing that sparked across the two Rangers' armor and knocked them off their feet.
The ground suddenly started to shake.
Something was jetting down from the skies above and streaking across the skyline. The Ninja Rangers looked up. It was the MegaThunderzord.
The six Power Rangers energized and leapt out of the Megazord. Their bodies were worn from the battles on Eltar, but they would never let their city fall. Ever.
Dragon Ranger landed near Eclipter, cracking the pavement as he slammed against it while landing. The Red Ranger extended his hand. "Ryuuseikin!" He summoned his sword with a flash of golden energy. "Leave my friend alone, Eclipter."
Ninjared, Ninjablack, and Ninjawhite had been some of Dragon Ranger's first friends after he broke free from Bandora's spell. They had accepted him. They had reached out to help him, despite the evil he had committed as Bandora's Green Ranger. He would never forget that.
Quantrons rushed forward to defend their android leader. Dragon Ranger only used one hand to cut them down.
The Red Ranger parried a blow and sliced off a Quantron's head while stepping forward.
A Quantron swung its curved blade towards Dragon Ranger's helmet. Dragon Ranger sidestepped and let the blade pass over him. He stepped forward and speared his blade through another soldier's faceplate.
Eclipter glared at Dragon Ranger. "Red Ranger...Did you think I wouldn't recognize you in this disguise?"
"This is no disguise," Dragon Ranger said as he cut down the last Quantron that stood in his way.
Eclipter moved forward and chopped his blade towards the Ranger. Dragon Ranger slapped Eclipter's sword aside and spun forward with a reverse sidekick that smashed against the villain's chest, cracking the android's body on impact.
Eclipter fell backward onto his knees and clutched his injured chest. The villain teleported away in a burst of green light before the battle could continue.
The other five Power Rangers surrounded the crab Psycho-Gene Beast.
Kiba Ranger armed his tiger saber and leapt towards the monster. The White Ranger was trained mostly by his older brother, the Dragon Ranger. He tried to make every strike one that his brother would be proud of.
Kiba Ranger energized the sword with white-hot energy and swung downward, thrashing the monster across the armor.
Tenma Ranger and Lion Ranger armed their Thunder Swords and spun past the monster, slashing their blades through the villain's armor.
Phoenix Ranger and Kirin Ranger pounced forward and speared their Thunder Staffs through the monster, piercing the creature's flesh and circuitry. They pulled their spears free and kicked the monster backward.
The monster crashed against the ground and exploded with a burst of spark and flame.
The Astro Megaship nestled on the night-lit city streets of Angel Grove. The Astro team regrouped with Jason and Tommy's teams. They met in an alleyway within the city. Jason was filling the others in about what had happened in the city the past few days.
Most of the survivors were still secured in the better-hid shelters within the city. Jason and his team had moved several groups of captives into the Ginga Forest in between Angel Grove and Stone Canyon.
Tommy noticed the bags under his friend's eyes. It was then that Tommy realized how much they had all changed. He barely knew Jason anymore. He had grown from someone haunted over his sister's death into...a stranger. And Trini was looked so bold. Her head was raised high. She spoke with authority. She was no longer shy.
"...she's positioning Quantrons to attack four more of the shelters," Jason finished explaining.
"We'll have to split up again," Trini said.
The rangers started discussing a strategy. Ashley nudged Tommy when she noticed he was staying quiet. "Not feeling like a stage hog today?" she teased quietly.
Tommy shook his head. "I have to go onto the Dark Fortress. Alone," he whispered. "It's the only way to stop this."
"You should let us go with you," Ashley said.
"No...they need you down here," Tommy whispered back.
A nearby explosion suddenly blasted across the streets, the shockwave knocking the rangers backward and sending them skidding across the alley.
The rangers rolled back onto their feet. Quantrons piled into the alley from both ends. The rangers immediately armed their morphers.
"It's morphing time!" Tommy shouted.
"Chakra ignite, Aura Power!" Tommy's team connected their braces. Energy shimmered around them as they morphed into their Ranger forms.
"Install! Astro Ranger!" Cy and the Astro team shouted as they flipped their morphers open. They input the code 3-3-5-enter before morphing into their Ranger armor.
"Keitizer!" Zhane shouted while flipping his morpher open. "Install!" He input his code and morphed into his Silver Ranger armor.
"Shogun Transform! Ninja Power!" Energy swirled around them as they morphed into their armor.
"Rooftop," Dragon Ranger said as the Ranger teams energized and leapt towards the rooftops, where they would have more maneuvering room.
The Quantrons followed the Rangers onto the rooftops and moved in to attack with their crescent-shaped blades.
Dragon Ranger extended his hand. "Ryuuseikin!" He summoned his sword with a flash of golden energy.
Dragon Ranger faced three Quantrons that rushed towards him. He knocked their sabers aside and slashed their chests open with a single sparking blow.
Astro Yellow was at his side. She slammed a spinning heel kick across a soldier's chest, and chopped an axe kick down on a second soldier's collar bone. She looked over her chest to Dragon Ranger. "I liked you better in the other suit."
Dragon Ranger slashed through a soldier's armor. "Which 'other suit' ?"
"Good point," Astro Yellow said as she kicked a soldier back. "You've had, like 12."
Nearby, Phoenix Ranger slashed her Star Blade through a Quantrons throat. She looked to her right and saw Dragon Ranger and Astro Yellow fight side-by-side. She felt a pang of jealousy.
A Quantron slashed his crescent blade across the Pink ranger's chest. Phoenix Ranger crashed backward as five more soldiers hovered over her.
"Tommy!" she called. But he did not seem to hear her.
Dragon Ranger cut down three more soldiers and turned to Astro Yellow. "I'm going," he said. "This has to stop."
Astro Yellow nodded and slammed a crescent kick across a soldier's head. "Be careful..."
"I will," Dragon Ranger said as he slammed the end of his sword's handle across a soldier's head. "I love you, you know."
Astro Yellow jumpkicked a soldier upside the head and spun forward with a hook kick, bashing her heel across a second soldier's helmet. "You picked a great moment to tell me that for the first time....I love you too."
Dragon Ranger leapt into the air while raising his sword and grasping his Thunder Gem. "Thunderzord arise! Red Dragon!"
The armored Red Dragon snapped downward from the skies like a serpent. The massive zord swooped downward as Dragon Ranger energized and leapt onto his zord's head.
Dragon Ranger leaned forward as his zord swooped towards the Dark Fortress.
Eclipter was in one of the Dark Fortress's sensor rooms. He watched holographic projections of the battle spread across the streets. The Quantrons were dividing the Rangers across the rooftops and streets below.
The Rangers were already exhausted from days of fighting. Today they would surely die by force of numbers alone.
Eclipter dispatched Quantron units from across the city to converge at the main battle site. He held the Craterites back as a reserve force.
The war was going just as well across the entire galaxy. Communications frequencies in the sensor rooms were jammed with reports of allied ships being destroyed, troops getting killed, and planets being taken over.
Eclipter was so busy beaming with arrogance, that he failed to notice Dragon Ranger sneak onto the fortress and move through the shadows towards the main command deck.
Quantrons lined the hallway leading to the command deck. They each stood in silent guard positions with their curved blades held tightly in hand.
The end of the corridor suddenly blasted in flames. The explosion rocked the entire deck.
Dragon Ranger leapt from the flames. He snapped a soldier's neck while spinning forward with a reverse sidekick, his heel smashing the soldier's faceplate. Dragon Ranger grabbed the first soldier by the arm and hurled him forward, slamming him against three other Quantrons.
Dragon Ranger dashed forward while whirling his blade through a butterfly pattern. The twirling sword sliced open Quantrons with burst of spark.
The Red Ranger lifted the last guard and hurled him forward. The guard smashed through the entrance top the command deck. Dragon Ranger leapt through hole and landed on the deck.
No one was there.
But Zordon's energy tube was in the rear of the chamber.
"Zordon!" Dragon Ranger shouted as he ran towards the energy tube. "You have no idea how good it is to see you."
"Tommy," Zordon said, "I am afraid there is little time. You must use your sword to shatter my energy tube."
"What?" The Red Ranger narrowed his brow beneath his helmet. He shook his head. "But, Zordon...you'll die."
"Only the energy from my tube can destroy Sauron's forces across the galaxy," Zordon said. "You must trust me."
The Red Ranger heard laughing come from the rear of the room. He turned and saw Astronema step off a turbo lift and onto the command deck.
"Hello, brother," she said mockingly. "I'm glad you're here. It gives me a chance to thank you for destroying Sauron. You made it so much easier for me to take power."
"He's not gone completely," Dragon Ranger said. "Whatever hold he placed on you is still there. You have to fight it, Karone."
"You're too late," Astronema said as she stepped forward. She raised her staff, aiming the weapon at the Red Ranger. "Now step away from Zordon..."
"Karone..." Dragon Ranger pleaded, it doesn't have to be this way. I know what you're going through. You can fight it. Don't let it-"
Astronema pounced forward and swung the end of her staff towards Dragon Ranger's head. The Red Ranger ducked and let the staff pass over him.
"Karone, don't," Dragon Ranger said as he moved past her.
Astronema snapped around and slammed a roundkick against the Ranger's side.
Quantrons were everywhere. And they kept piling forward.
Ninjared and Ninjawhite stood back-to-back as the soldiers closed in on them from all sides. Their blades were whirling through fierce arcs and thrusts. But they were slowing down. They were getting overwhelmed.
Nearby, Astro Silver was backed against a wall as a wall of Quantrons nearly smashed him. His Silver Blazer shot volleys of golden energy darts that exploded against the soldiers, tearing through their armor. But the villains kept pressing forward.
Things were the same throughout the galaxy.
A full back-up garrison arrived at Titan and ambushed the Kamen Riders in their captured compound. The three Kamen Riders held their ground against ground troops, but were blasted backward by Kyrana war hawks from above.
The Machine Empire separated the Beetle Borgs from Cybertron and SHOC. Cogs dented the Borgs' armor with repeated beatings from short staffs, and optic pulse blasts.
The Rangers of Aquitar were at the full mercy of Namor's invading forces. Amphibious creatures forced the five Rangers to their knees and bound them in shackles for execution.
Kruger's vessel was being pursued by pirates.
Demon Hunter and his companion were about to be hanged on an enemy vessel.
The Galaxy Rangers and Avataars were blasted back by a horde of Divatox's monsters.
Tarrant and Nolan faced an onslaught of countless enemy soldiers that stretched as far as the eye could see.
A pocket of spider creatures regrouped and ambushed Zeo Gold and the Turbo Rangers.
The list went on...
Dragon Ranger parried a blow while stepping back. He did not want to hurt his sister.
"Karone," he pleaded while parrying a combination of strikes and jabs. "I don't want to hurt you. End this."
"End it?" Astronema glared at the Ranger. "Very well."
Astronema pushed forward, her attacks becoming more chaotic as she swung wildly, mad with anger.
She let her anger fuel her every strike. She swung frantically, thrashing through control consoles and bulkheads as Dragon Ranger parried and dodged. She forced the Red Ranger backward, step-by-step, blow by blow.
The Red Ranger crashed backward through a flimsy holo-display and landed against his tailbone. Astronema leapt forward and swung the end of her staff towards the Ranger's head.
Dragon Ranger rolled backward as her staff slammed harmlessly against the floor. Astronema looked up and swung forward, bashing her staff against Dragon Ranger. The Red Ranger slammed against a wall.
Astronema speared her staff towards the Red Ranger's faceplate. Dragon Ranger dove and rolled aside, getting distance between himself and Astronema.
Dragon Ranger rolled into a crouched stance as Astronema whipped her staff around and fired a jagged purple energy burst towards the Red Ranger.
Dragon Ranger acted on instinct. He lifted his saber to deflect the blow. The jagged energy blast sparked against the Red Ranger's sword and reflected back towards Astronema.
The blast exploded through her armor and burnt through her chest.
Astronema opened her eyes wide as her breath caught in her throat. Her staff slipped from her grasp and crashed to the ground. She slowly collapsed onto the floor.
"Karone...no!" Dragon Ranger ran to her side. He leaned down next to her, but she wasn't breathing. Her eyes stared blankly at the ceiling above. "Karone..."
Eclipter entered the room. "Princess!" the android raised his saber at Dragon Ranger. "What have you done, Red Ranger?"
Eclipter charged forward to attack. The villain held his blade high and chopped the sword down towards the Red ranger's head. Dragon Ranger snapped to his feet, parried the blow, and thrashed his sword through the android's neck with a single strike.
Eclipter's head exploded off, and his body collapsed to the ground like a useless piece of junk.
Dragon Ranger fell to his knees. He looked down at the sword in his hand. His face had grown pale beneath his helmet. He had killed so many. And now his sister. And now he was supposed to do the same to Zordon? Was that all he was capable of?
"Tommy," Zordon said. "The forces of evil can not be allowed to win. It is your responsibility, as a Power Ranger, to protect the galaxy. Destroying my energy tube is the only way."
Dragon Ranger slowly rose to his feet and walked towards his mentor. The Red Ranger's heart was pounding in his chest. His throat felt like it was being choked. He could not believe what he was about to do.
Dragon Ranger slowly raised his saber.
He looked into the eyes of his mentor.
The Red Ranger tightened his grip on the sword's handle. He closed his eyes tight beneath his visor. His mind flashed back...
Tommy stood alone in front of Zordon.
"I am glad you have decided to join us, Tommy," Zordon said.
Tommy nodded as he traced his fingers across the new communicator on his wrist. "Yeah, well…I don't feel like I was given much choice."
Zordon nodded. "I know what you're going through Tommy. Not only did I lose my love as a result of this war, but I lost my entire family as well."
"And I also used to be on the side of evil, only not under a spell, but out of ignorance."
A tear streamed down Tommy's cheek. "How did you...does the pain…"
"It does not," Zordon said. "But from this moment on, if you live every moment on, each life you save will bring you one step closer to healing. With every battle you win, you will be filled with a greater sense of purpose. It's a difficult destiny The Power has chosen to give us, Tommy. With that power, comes great responsibility. But remember, your teammates are going through similar circumstances and will always be there to help you. As will I."
Tommy nodded. "Thanks Zordon."
"Welcome home, Tommy," Alpha said.
For the first time in a long time, Tommy smiled.
Tommy slowly opened his eyes, thankful that his visor hid his tears.
"Goodbye, Zordon," he whispered.
Zordon was not afraid as Tommy raised his sword. Zordon was at peace. His entire life had geared towards this moment in time. This was his purpose.
His only regret was not being able to watch his Rangers grow. They had all changed so much. Grown. Thrown into adulthood at far too young an age. But they had handled themselves admirably. He was proud of them all.
Zordon closed his own eyes when he saw Dragon Ranger's sword energize with crimson power. The sword swung downward.
Zordon had so much he wanted to tell them. Each of them. Tommy, Jason, Zack, Kimberly... Zordon remembered a song that Kimberly had sang once. The soothing song, although simple, was rich with pain and hope.
"Down the road, we never know
what life may have in store.
Zordon felt his energy tube shatter. He poured out his heart and soul, washing across the Dark Fortress. He felt them all. Expanded across the city. Across the planet. He felt their grief. Their struggles. Their pain. He washed it away.
Winds of change, will rearrange
our lives more than before."
Zordon spread further. Across the stars. Each seemed damped by scars and wounds. He healed them.
But you’ll never stand alone, my friend.
Memories never die.
His final gift. Zordon spread across the galaxy, and with one final thought, his light pierced through the darkness. Then he knew no more.
Within our hearts, they’ll always live
and never say goodbye.
and never say goodbye."
Zordon's Wave had spread across the entire galaxy with a blinding pulse of light that destroyed Sauron's forces. The Quantrons had vanished from Earth completely.
The Rangers regrouped in a plaza area and demorphed.
"What just happened, people?" Rocky asked.
The Dark Fortress suddenly lowered closer towards the plaza. The rangers stood silently as a boarding ramp extended, touching down on the street below.
Tommy descended the ramp of the Dark Fortress. He carried Karone in his arms. Tears streamed down his face. Tears of anger. Sadness. Pain. Guilt.
Tommy collapsed to his knees. He looked down at his sister's cold face. She had pulled from innocence. Stripped of humanity. Manipulated. She didn't deserve to die. Why did she have to die?
He had failed her.
Tommy lowered his head and cried. For the first time in five years, he let it all out. Shannon, his father, Kou, Jinn, Kaku, Sulia, Zordon.
And now Karone.
One of his tears fell onto Karone's cheek.
The last remnants of Zordon's energy tingled in the air and converged over the rangers, causing their hairs to stand on end, giving them chills. The energy converged over Karone.
Her heart slowly started to beat as the guise of Astronema melted away. Color returned to her face, her headpiece disappeared, and her hair returned to its true color. Her eyes slowly fluttered open. Tommy's eyes opened wide with shock.
She looked up at her brother with confusion. "Tommy...what happened."
Tommy smiled at her and sniffed back his tears. "It's a long story..."
Four days passed.
The Megaship had set down on KO-35 to help the colonists return to their home. Workers everywhere were carrying crates with hover loaders, dragging broken mechs to repair bays and helping to process refugee ships from other worlds
Tommy, Cy, and a Kerovian named Bran walked through the colony streets. Tommy was leaving the Astro Morphers on KO-35, and Bran was in line to be Astro Black. Cy still had the Astro Red digimorpher around his wrist.
"That should be everything..." Tommy said as he looked over a data pad. "You might want to keep the leadership from Halcaron isolated from the other refugees."
"We know," Cy said as he grabbed the pad from Tommy's hand. "Just because you defeated Sauron doesn't make you an expert on space."
Tommy turned to face his friend. He narrowed his brow. "Is that your way of saying thank you?"
"No," Cy said. "It's my way of saying you don't need to speak to us like we're Kilrathi cubs."
"Your nails are long enough to pass for Kilrathi," Tommy said.
Silence. The two glared at each other.
"I'm going to miss arguing with you, Cy," Tommy said.
"I can't say the same," Cy said.
The two shook hands, and pulled each other into a hug.
Tommy approached the Megaship. He saw Karone and Ashley sitting on a bench at a nearby plaza. They were talking and laughing while looking over a data pad. He moved over to them.
"Hey, Tommy," Ashley said. "Just showing your little sister some pictures from our trip. We're particular enjoying the one of you, after you fell in the mud pits on Molray VII."
"Great," Tommy said. "That's just the impression I wanted to leave her with."
Tommy sat next to his sister. "Are you sure you want to stay?"
She nodded. "This...this is home. This is where I need to find myself again."
Tommy nodded. "I understand...I'm proud of you, you know."
Karone arced an eyebrow in disbelief.
"Really," Tommy said. "After everything you've been through...you're not giving up. You're strong, and a good person."
"I have a long way to go to prove it," Karone said. "To everyone else, and myself."
Tommy nodded, his sadness welling inside his throat. "If you ever need me, I'll be here."
They hugged each other. Two orphans. Both stained by evil and atrocities beyond imagination. Both cursed with tremendous power. Brother and sister, on separate journeys for redemption.
The rest of the rangers gathered around the base of the Megaship.
"Everything's unloaded," Chris said. "I had DECA set a course for Earth."
Justin sighed with relief. "The first thing I'm going to do when I get back is sleep. For about three months."
"You realize we have to register for college soon," Kat said.
Justin cursed beneath his breath. "Well... I guess I could sleep through classes for three months."
Chris looked to Justin. "Are we still rooming together?"
"Absolutely," Justin said. He looked to Ashley. "I don't suppose you could move the whole holo deck into our dorm room?"
Ashley rolled her eyes. "I'm not even going to humor that with an answer."
Tommy, Chris, Justin, Kat, and Ashley gathered on the bridge and went through take off procedures.
They worked silently. The reality that their journey was over was starting to sink in. Various memories flashed back as they prepared to leave.
Tommy's mind flashed back as they prepared to leave...
The rangers and Cy all manned their bridge stations as they traveled towards Setiacu.
"Do they have pools and stuff?" Justin asked.
"Something like that," Cy said.
"It's not like any of us packed our trunks," Tommy said.
"If we can make food in the synthatron, surely we can make clothes," Chris said.
"Sure, if you want a swim suit made out of lettuce," Ashley said.
"That might be nice," Justin said.
"Oh please don't," Kat said as she laughed.
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."
"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.
Tommy walked into her room, and from the look on his face, he wasn't happy. "So I just found out what you did. Spying on me?"
"I was going to talk to you about that on Kilwan," Ashley said.
"I guess you got a little distracted," Tommy said.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Tommy shook his head. "Nothing. I just wish you'd respect my privacy, that's all."
"And I wish you'd just learn to open up a bit," Ashley said. "After all we've been through, you're still almost as cold as the day we met you."
"That's not true," Tommy said. "Just because I don't sit around talking about the 'glory days' like your little pet magician back there doesn't mean..."
"Whoa, whoa," Ashley said. "My pet magician?"
"Clarance," he said.
"Clarance, Kerice, Frank, I don't care," Tommy said.
"I think they're gone," Tommy said. "We should stay here for a while though. Just to be safe."
"Since when has safety first been your modo?" Ashley asked.
"That's it," Tommy said with frustration as he climbed down to the branch next to her, "what's been your problem these past couple of months?"
"My problem?" Ashley said. "My problem? I'm not the one with the problems. Do you even remember...argh..." She shook her head and looked the other way. "Never mind, Oliver."
"No," Tommy said, "we're working this out right now. Do I even remember what?"
"This," Ashley said as she grabbed the back of his head and pulled him in close, kissing him full on the mouth.
Tommy had spent his whole journey through space searching for Karone, searching for what he thought was his last chance at finding a family. He had thought wrong.
The Megaship speared into hyperspace with a burst of light, carrying the rangers back home.
The Dark Man watched the rangers from within the shadows of the Megaship. His eyes were on Tommy.
"Well played," he said quietly. "It's only a matter of time now before the real test begins. What will you do, Tommy? What will you do..."
The saga continues with Chrono Task Force Time Rangers...