This story is NOT part of my original collection of Power Rangers fanfiction, although it covers events that I had in mind as early as 1997. I wrote this brief entry in 2011, just to assure myself that I still could; I did it with an eye toward filling in some of the gaps as I posted my older stories on Fanfiction.net. I didn’t complete that project at the time, as I thereafter started working on material that I hope to publish; now, I’ve chosen to continue that project here, instead. This story, “Goodbyes”, occurs in 2007, two years into my cycle of stories; and at this point, a lot has changed. For anyone familiar with the television series, many things will seem incorrect; to that, I will just say that these stories are not canon, and I have already stated that they deviate significantly from the show. “Goodbyes” constitutes a bridge between two major segments of this story arc–an end and a beginning, as well. Enjoy.
I had everything packed, and the car was idling in the driveway. I opened the driver’s door and leaned against the frame, looking down at the last item to go inside—a small black box, made of teak and deeply stained, shaped like a small chest. Opening the lid, I gazed down at its precious cargo: six gold coins, each with an animal on each side. The seventh, I carried with me all the time.
Footsteps behind me made me snap the lid closed and tuck the box into a cubbyhole formed by the stack of bags in the passenger seat. My parents, coming to see me off. Although they knew I was a Power Ranger—and apparently had known about it for years, long before it actually happened—they didn’t know about the disaster two months ago, and hopefully never would. I turned to meet them.
It was a little odd, seeing them there alone; but my sister was already gone, off to college herself, at UCLA. After the disaster, she had applied for, and obtained, a special admission to the summer term, which was only introductory classes; she tested high enough that they had considered letting her skip completely, but she insisted that this was how she wanted it. I knew why, even if our parents didn’t. The truth was, it was me; she couldn’t stand to be near me. None of them could. Whether it was guilt (as I preferred to think) or just an opinion that I had lost my marbles, they couldn’t even make eye contact with me. Saying goodbye to Crystal had been both hard and easy. I wondered how in the world I would manage this without her—without any of them.
“It’s over, Zordon,” Jon said. “I can’t—we can’t—do this anymore. It’s too much to ask.” Around the room, heads were nodding in agreement. “Those were people we know, our families, our friends. We were three seconds away from watching them all be wiped off the map.” Everyone knew it was true; the control device, Ivan Ooze’s master key for all the fusion devices around the city, sat on the console in front of us, its timer frozen at 0:00:03.
Amanda spoke up. “We’re done as Power Rangers.” More nodding.
“I am sorry to hear you say this, Rangers,” Zordon said, standing in front of the empty pedestal that had once contained his ailing body. In that instant, he looked very old indeed. “But I have never intended for you to sacrifice your lives in the service of the world, although I know that you have been willing to do so. If you so wish, you may be released from your service at any time.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Then it got worse; a cacophony of voices as, one by one, they each chimed in to say that it was done, finished, that they were through saving the world. “Let someone else have a chance,” I heard Crystal—Crystal! My own twin sister!—say.
“Stop!” I was shouting before I even realized I had spoken. I must have startled them, because they fell silent at once. I stared at them, shock on my face. “How can you say that? How can any of us just think about walking away?” They didn’t speak, so I pressed on. “Look, I know we defeated Ivan”—in truth, he had fled Earth when his last plan failed—”but he isn’t the only enemy out there. Imara is still alive, somewhere, and Zedd and Rita—”
“They’re gone, Chris,” Renee interrupted. “We drove them off. There’s no one left to fight!”
“And how long do you think that will last?” I waved my hand toward the ceiling for emphasis. “They’re out there somewhere, not dead, and when they realize Ivan is gone, they’ll be back. Who’s going to be here to fight them?”
“Not us,” Daniel said, from the back of the group. He seemed almost embarrassed to have spoken, but he went on. “Zordon chose us, and he’ll be able to find other Rangers too.”
“But they won’t be us,” I protested. “They’ll have to be trained from the ground up. They’ll never be ready. We have the experience, the knowledge, everything we need.”
“What we have is our lives,” Rachel said. She had been standing beside me the whole time, but now I felt rather than saw her edging away. Putting distance between us—not a good sign. “And we’re lucky to have them.” She reached up then and touched my arm, trying to be reassuring and apologetic at the same time. “Chris, I love you, but understand where we’re coming from. We’re exhausted, all of us, even you. We’ve been through hell for three years. Enough is enough. What happens when we start making mistakes? We will. You know it.” She glanced around at the others, and then stepped forward, facing Zordon. The Power Chamber seemed to grow colder as she held up her fingers and drew her power coin out of the air, in a flash of pink light. She laid it on the console between us and Zordon. “Zordon, I thank you for letting me serve as the pink ranger, but I resign it now. The power is yours again, to pass it on to someone else.”
They started coming forward then, one by one, and placing their instruments of power—power coins and Zeonizers—on the console, murmuring their words of goodbye to Zordon, nodding their respect to him. And in that moment, I did see what they meant; I felt it myself. The exhaustion. The strain. The fear of battle after battle, not knowing if I would live or die. And underneath it all, the desperate need to see the world survive.
Jon—my oldest, dearest friend, my leader, a brother to me since our earliest days—was the last to go forward. Twin flashes of White and Gold brought his things to hand: The white power coin, with the Falcon on one side and the Tiger on the other, and the gold Zeonizer. He laid them in the center of the line of equipment, then turned to look at me. One space remained, right beside his, a space large enough for my own coin.
Enough was enough.
“I,” I said, stepping forward to stand beside Jon, “am the Red Ranger.” A collective gasp—it wasn’t what they expected. “I made a promise that I would stand and fight until I couldn’t fight any more. I haven’t reached that place yet. And neither have any of you, though you don’t realize it.” I shook my head. “If we do this thing, we’re abdicating our duty. We’re giving up. What kind of monsters would we be? You say we’re exhausted. You say there’s no one left to fight. Well, use that time to rest! Recover! Because they WILL be back! Right, Alpha?”
Alpha, never one for a confrontation, had been staying out of sight behind the line of Rangers. Now he came forward and—slowly, unwillingly—he nodded. “I can’t come up with any scenario in which Lord Zedd and Rita Repulsa—and probably Imara too—don’t take this opportunity to return, soon, and press their attack.”
I could see their faces growing hard against me. I turned around. “And Zordon, I have always respected you, but I can’t agree with you now. Even if you mean what you said about letting us choose, you should at least be trying to replace us first. How could you let us just walk away?” I saw something then on my mentor’s face that I had never seen: anger. Directed at me. Well, let him be angry—I suddenly knew what I was going to do. If he was angry now, he would soon be furious.
I strode to the console.”Zordon, you’ve taught me everything you can. Now I have to act on that teaching. And the first lesson you taught me was duty. It’s from duty that I’m acting now.” I picked up the white coin. Zordon made no move to stop me; he stood still, staff in hand, glaring at me, but kept silent. “These coins”—I took the green coin from its place—”are for those who defend Earth.” Black. “They were trusted to you.” Pink. “But they were not the only tools you ever used, and you’ll find others.” Blue. “Besides, you still have the Zeonizers.” Yellow. “If I’m the only one willing to continue the fight, I’ll need every advantage I can get.” I gripped them in a clenched fist. “The power coins are going with me.”
“Are you sure about this?” my mother asked. It was a little late to be asking that question; my letter of intent had been mailed out weeks ago. It was also the tenth time today that she had asked me. “It’s such a long way—”
“Mom, I’ll be fine.” I leaned in and put an arm around her shoulders, trying to be reassuring. “I’m a big boy now. If I can drive a Zord, I can drive across country.” I patted the roof of the car. “After all, this car is special, it’ll keep me safe. You know that.” It was special, and for more than one reason; aside from being an inheritance from my late uncle Jared—once a Power Knight himself—it was actually the self-aware Lightning Cruiser, rebuilt from a long-ago battle, and one of only three such vehicles in existence. It was part of my legacy as the Red Ranger—specifically, the time I had spent carrying the Turbo powers. They were unaware of that part, of course, as the car’s hull was currently in what I jokingly called “stealth mode”, the camouflage setting that made it look like a normal Camaro. Knowing about the Rangers was one thing; but they didn’t know all of our secrets.
“Oh, I know.” She sniffed, and I frowned. My tough-as-nails mother, shedding a tear? Granted, she had cried a lot during the time that she thought Crystal was dead, but a death was a far cry from a trip to college. “It’s just…you know…first Crystal, and now…”
“We’re proud of you both,” my father interjected. “We just don’t know what to expect with the house empty now. We’ll be fine.”
My mom, I could see, was working up to a speech. “Chris, it’s not that you can’t handle it. We know you can handle whatever you have to.” She wiped her nose with a tissue, then continued, though not without a quaver in her voice. “For years we’ve known you would not just be a Ranger, but live through it. We didn’t worry about that. But we worried about…oh, about what it might do to you. To both you and Crystal. Maybe we tried too hard to be good parents, to teach you right, so you would be worthy of all that responsibility. And you are. But now…now it’s, you know, it’s hard to let go and let someone else hold the reins.”
I smiled. “Mom, you did a great job, and you’ll do just fine now.” I threw my arms around her. “And I’ll still need you both. Just, now, I’ll have to, you know, pay for it.” She choked up then, from laughing and crying at the same time.
I shook my father’s hand then, and he pulled me into a crushing hug. For just a brief moment, once, he had carried the coins in my box himself; he knew, I think, what was in the back of my mind, though I hadn’t breathed a word to either of them. We said our goodbyes and our “I-love-yous”, and then I was off, on my adventure.
Rachel sat on the front steps of her house, looking off up the street toward the park, legs tucked under her. It was a pose she only assumed when she was uncomfortable. I looked over her head, toward the sunset, my face bathed in its orange glow; I was uncomfortable enough myself.
“I knew this was coming, I think,” I said. Quietly. I couldn’t muster the strength to be loud. “Ever since that day in the Power Chamber, and maybe before that.” I paused. “I think I just didn’t want to admit it.”
Without turning, she lowered her chin, and I heard her say, just as quietly, “I’m sorry.”
“I am too.” The words were out before I could stop them—a reaction—but truthfully, was I? I love Rachel, but we don’t see eye to eye lately.
“Chris…this isn’t just about the Rangers. I wouldn’t end it for that. You know.”
She was silent for a long minute. “It’s not you, it’s me,” she finally said, then let out a bitter laugh. “There’s a good cliché for you! But it’s true. It’s not that you stayed when we didn’t, it’s not that you didn’t give up…it’s…it’s what you must think of me for doing it.”
“Rachel, you know I don’t think anything bad of you,” I started; then I stopped. I couldn’t go on, because I knew—we both knew—that I was lying. Rachel had been my girlfriend—closer than anyone—for three years, and now I really did think ill of her. I was angry at her, I realized now, and angry at all of them. Still…”I can’t do this without you.”
“The right thing for me to say here is, let’s be honest with each other,” she said. “But I won’t say it. I don’t want you to be honest now. I can’t take it if you do, so let’s just leave it at a lie we can both accept.” She turned to look at me—not in the eye, I knew she couldn’t—and said the words I’d been expecting all along. “Go, Chris. Stay away from me. I don’t want to see you anymore.”
Later, I would over-analyze that day, again and again. Was it really just that? Was our parting of the ways as Rangers really the only thing between us? Or had they been going sour already? I still don’t know. But as I walked off that front porch, toward that sunset, I knew one thing: it was hopeless. One way or another, we were done.
Two thousand, three hundred and ninety-six miles. That was the driving distance from my home in Angel Grove, California, to my temporary home in West Virginia. I had driven two thousand, three hundred and ten of them—five long days—when I pulled into the rest area outside a tiny little town whose name I hadn’t even paid attention to. The rest stop was bigger than most, with a short walking trail going up the hill behind the tourist info booth. On sore legs, I walked up the trail to its crest at the top of the hill, where there was a spectacular view of a valley that held the more picturesque side of town.
I sat for a few minutes on a bench, thinking—not for the first or last time—about whether I had done the right thing in coming here. Appalachian University was small, out of the way, and quiet, but fully accredited and carrying a good reputation, so it seemed like a good choice at the time. I had my worries about being so far from Angel Grove, where the action always happened; after all, Zordon and the Command Center were there, creating the most tempting targets on Earth. But teleportation would make up the difference; and so here I was, far from home, and far from all the people I least wanted to see. Again, not for the first time, I decided it was the right choice after all.
It wasn’t a noise, exactly, that alerted me. Rather, it was an absence of noise, as the birds fell silent; and then, behind me and to the left, there was the faintest click of a twig snapping. I hurled myself forward and into a somersault that landed me on my feet, facing back the way I had come, hands in a ready position. A shadow stood in the gloom under the trees, scant inches from my bench. “Who are you?” I demanded.
“Something you can’t handle,” a voice said. The figure stepped forward, dim light fading in on red armor. “I am the Red Ranger.” Then he leaped.
I had just enough time to register that his armor was different from mine. His chest was crossed by a white band with five squares in other Ranger colors; mine, when I was morphed, held a white diamond and a large replica of my power coin. His helmet was different too, with a black hemisphere capping it above the visor. But there was no time to speculate as to his identity, as he flew toward me with feet aimed at my chest. I backflipped, sprang to my feet and intercepted his first punches, then countered with a throw that left him sprawled in the fallen leaves. As he came back up, I had my morpher out at my side. “Red Ranger power!” I shouted, and thrust it ahead of me. Power roared through me, and my own armor burned into existence around me; suddenly the gloom was gone as my helmet enhanced my sight. He was coming back; I snapped a kick into his stomach that sent him reeling, but he was on me in a heartbeat, a whirlwind of jabs, holds and punches that I was pressed to counter. I landed a knee to his ribs, then swept at his feet, but he leaped up and over my head, landing behind me. The next punch sent me crashing into a tree, then stumbling over a root.
“I thought you were better than this!” I heard him say as he came at me again. I launched myself at him, and this time it was me pressing the attack; punch after punch, I walked him backward as red sparks flew when we made contact. But it was short lived; he seemed to get better as we fought, and then he managed to shove me back again. Then he pulled a weapon. “Spiral Saber!” he called, and a strange sword phased into his hand—strange, in that it was shaped like a large drill bit. I got the name at once. He came at me swinging; but now we were on my turf.
My Power Sword appeared in my hand with a thought. With this weapon, I had fought Goldar, the best swordsman I had ever faced, more times than I could count; and with it, I had destroyed monsters. When it came to hand, I felt a calm fall over me. Battle peace, a sensei had once called it. The sword was my first and best skill; and I knew how this would end now.
I floated through the first attack; or at least, that’s how it felt. I saw the other Ranger coming at me, and I knew from his stance that he was good; he held his sword the right way, considering its awkward shape. But it wouldn’t do him any good; he was obviously, first and foremost, a hands and feet fighter, and the sword didn’t come naturally to him. I faded to my left, under the tip of his blade, and slashed across his torso, drawing sparks. He spun back to catch my next slash, blade point down; but I wasn’t where he expected. I brought my blade in low, striking him across the thigh; if he hadn’t been armored, his leg would have been severed. He hit the ground hard—even with armor, it hurt—and rolled to avoid the thrust he anticipated. But once again, I wasn’t there; I was waiting for him when he made his feet, and caught his blade near the hilt, sending it spinning out of his hand and off into the trees. My boot in his chest put him on the ground, and the point of my sword at his throat made him stay there.
The entire battle, I realized, took less than two minutes.
He lay still, hands up at his shoulders in a surrender gesture, knowing that my powers gave me enough strength to put my sword through him, armor or not. “Good,” I heard him say. “Don’t do anything. You win. Just stay calm.” He lowered his hands. “Power down!” His armor vanished in a swirl of red light; from the corner of my eye, I saw a second flash as his spiral saber also disappeared. “Can I get up?”
Mystified, I withdrew my blade and stepped back, though I kept it at low guard. He stood up, and I got my first good look at this strange adversary: a young man, older than me but by no more than ten or fifteen years—it was hard to gauge his age—with a slender build and long black hair, streaked with blonde. He wore a uniform of grey trousers and a short grey coat, loose over a red t-shirt that was tucked in tight at the waist. On his left wrist, I saw what I assumed was his morpher, a black-and gold box with a rounded prominence close to his hand; it looked like the body of it was a compartment that would open. He wore no communicator. I glanced up at his face, a curious mix of guarded and guileless all at once. “I’ll ask you one more time,” I said, gesturing with the sword. “Who are you?”
“My name is Andros,” he said. “I am the Red Astro Ranger. And I’m sorry to have challenged you that way, but I wanted to take your measure before I spoke to you.”
“Why? And how do you even know me?”
“That,” he said, “will take some explaining. But suffice it to say, first, that I knew some of the past Rangers of Earth. I’ve followed your exploits since you took your position—you and all your friends.” He lowered his head as if in thought. “Will you trust me now enough to put your weapon away? I have something important to discuss with you. You pass, by the way.” He saw my confusion. “My test. You are more than up to any challenge I could throw at you. Please, talk with me.”
I was still uncertain, but I released my sword back into the morphing grid. “Power down!” As the power drained away, I nodded to Andros. “Fair enough, I suppose. Start talking.”
He turned and walked toward the overlook, beckoning me to follow. I hesitated a moment, then strode after him. Standing at the railing, overlooking the valley, he gazed down at the town for a long minute before speaking. “Since you didn’t recognize me, I’m going to assume that there are things, maybe a lot of things, which Zordon never told you. Things about the history of the Rangers. Well, I’m a part of that history, the recent part of it, anyway. About ten years ago, my teammates and I were the only Rangers on Earth, and we saved the world from an invasion. Has he told you that the power coins were destroyed once, and that they were remade later?” I nodded. “Well, during that time, we fought our war against Dark Specter and Astronema and a…horde of their compatriots. We won, obviously. But that’s not what I came to talk about; you can find out more later. After it was over, I left Earth and returned home.” He glanced at me. “I suppose you realize I’m not from around here,”
“I was getting that impression.”
“Right. I’m from a planet—a colony—called KO-35, for ‘Kerovan Outpost Thirty-five’. Humans…well, no one knows if they originated on Earth, or on Kerova, my race’s original home, or where, exactly. But we and those who are like us can be found all over the galaxy. Anyway, back to why I’m here.” He stopped to think. “I know I’ve been out of touch for a while, so Zordon likely thinks I’m still gone. But I and my friends have been watching you for some time, as I said. I know you’ve broken away from your mentor, and that your friends have left their service.” He frowned. “I didn’t arrive in time to see what happened. Why did this occur?”
“Well.” Did I really want to talk about this to this stranger? “It was…We fought a battle. If you’ve watched us, then you know about Ivan Ooze.” It was Andros’ turn to nod. “Ivan was nearly defeated here on Earth. But at the end, he set us up. While we were occupied with another plan of his, he planted fusion devices around Angel Grove, powerful enough to vaporize most of the city. All of our family and friends were there. He put us in a situation where we faced a choice: save some very strategic targets, where a lot of life would be lost if we failed, or save Angel Grove, where a lot of lives close to us would be lost. We managed to do both, somehow. But it was close, very close. We saved Angel Grove with only three seconds left on the timer.”
“Then you succeeded,” Andros said. “I fail to see how that caused your friends to abdicate.”
I gave a bitter laugh. “That’s the exact word I used—abdicate. It sounds so dramatic now that I hear it. But, no, it wasn’t that we won or lost, it was what we almost lost. My friends, they saw how close we came to failing to save the people we love…I guess it was too much for them.” I fell silent for a minute. “I was the only one who stayed. They couldn’t stand that, couldn’t…couldn’t look at me after that. But there was nothing else to do. And because of the way I did it, Zordon put me out. I can’t go back there.”
“I see.” The words could have been judgmental, but they came out sympathetic. “I have felt the urge to give up, myself. It is understandable if they did, but it is good that you did not.” At last he turned to face me. “It is very good. Someone must continue the fight. And it must be you.”
I laughed again. “That’s not likely,” I said. “In case you haven’t noticed, I’m alone here. My team walked out on me. What good is one Ranger?”
“My leg is telling me that one Ranger can be very good.” He rubbed his thigh where I had struck him. “But I understand that you are upset at them. Of course you are. Nevertheless, it must be you. Even if they had stayed, you are the one I had to find.”
I frowned at him. “Why me?”
“I…I can’t say. It is something that I learned some time ago, from a man whose name I don’t even know. A man dressed all in black, and radiating power.” Jared, I thought, and was suddenly sure of it. My time-traveling, Black Knight uncle, reaching out from the grave again. “He told me that you were crucial to important events. He spoke as if he knew the future. I think he did.”
“I think you’re right,” I said. “I know a man who fits that description.”
Andros nodded as if satisfied with that. “Well, he told me that a time would come when you would have to stand alone, with no one to help you, and that you would need to be ready. He said that you would have your heart in the right place, but you would lack the tools you need to complete the task in front of you. I’m here to give you those tools.” He turned toward the valley. “Look at this.”
“I want to stay,” Jared said. My father’s brother looked just like I remembered from those long-ago memories, but younger…as well he should, since he had died at thirty-six, but here and now, he was only twenty-two. “But I have to finish what I started, back in the past. I didn’t ask to be a Power Knight, but I wouldn’t give it up now, not when I can do some good.” Shifting his helmet to the crook of his left elbow, he held out his gloved right hand to me. I clasped it in my own gloved hand. “You know about duty, I guess. You’re all doing a good job here.”
It didn’t seem fair, that he was leaving now. I had only just discovered today that he was a Power Knight, that unique type of warrior that is formed when all the Power Coins are carried by one person. He had been caught out of time, twelve thousand years in the past, when he was a teenager; I knew now that he was almost thirty when he returned. Then, six years later, he was gone. I was eleven when he died.
He knew none of that, I was sure. I wasn’t going to tell him. Would you?
“I’ll miss you,” I said, a lump in my throat, feeling more like a cliché all the time. “But I do know about duty. We…we’ll hold the fort here.” It set in then that he was really leaving; to him it would be the first time, but to me it was the second. His death was the first.
“I knew you would,” he said, and stepped back. Then his expression grew grim. “Chris, listen to me. Some things I’ve been forbidden to go and find out. It only makes sense, if you think about it, because there are things that no one would ever want to know, especially about the future. But there are some things I do know, important things. Here’s one: You have important things ahead of you, and for that reason, you have to stay strong. Stay the course. When it looks bleak, don’t give up. A time is coming when this will all be over, and you need to be a part of it.” He paused. “And one more thing. You’ll always have what you need. I’ll make sure of it. That’s the only service I can really do for you.”
He smiled then. “Tell your sister, next time you see her”—she was off-world at the time—”that I’m proud of her too. Goodbye, Chris.”
“Goodbye.” I raised my hand in salute. Then a white light radiated from his left shoulder, where the jump generator—the subcutaneous device that carried him through time—was implanted. The light spread to envelope him, and he was gone.
Five hundred feet above the valley, a shimmer filled the air. It darkened, and then solidified into an enormous wedge, black and red and silver. Involuntarily, I gasped. “A ship?”
“Yes,” Andros said. “Not just any ship. It is called the Delta Megaship, Mark II. The original Delta Megaship was a weapon of great power, used to great effect in our war. But it was destroyed at the end. This one is its replacement.” He turned to me again. “And I am giving it to you.”
I stared at him. “Are you serious?”
“Quite. It is what you need. After all, without access to the Command Center, you are going to need a base of operations. This ship will provide it.” He studied my reaction, which I imagined was still disbelief. “After all, how will you even know if the world is under attack? You have no sensors and no alarm to warn you.”
He had a point. I had to admit, I had considered that problem myself, but without a good solution. “What’s the catch?”
“There is no catch. I have no need of it—I have other transportation—and even if I did need it, you need it more. It was meant for you, though you don’t believe me now.” He held out a hand. “Will you come aboard? I’ll show you everything I can.” After a moment’s reluctance—a short moment; the ship was impressive—I stepped closer and nodded. Looking satisfied, Andros raised his morpher to his lips and flipped the lid open; I had been right about that. “D.E.L.T.A., two to come aboard. My friend doesn’t know the way, so please handle the teleport.” Red light swirled again, and we were pulled away from the overlook.
We materialized in a wide corridor, with walls of a grey metal and black accent stripes. Andros smiled and gestured around at the walls. “Welcome to the Delta Megaship.”
I collapsed back onto the mat, panting with exhaustion. Across from me, Jon did the same. We were fairly evenly matched, and had always been, so our sparring usually ended this way. Jon picked up the conversation right where we had left off before the match. “You know, she’s right. Renee, I mean. There’s so much we just don’t know about all of this.”
I leaned back on my elbows, finally catching my breath. “And she thinks she does?”
“Not all of it. But some. I mean, she divides her free time between the archive and the Knight’s tomb, studying up on all those past Rangers. She ought to know a few things by now.” He shook his head. “Maybe we could learn some things that would help us. Like, did you know that not all the Rangers in the tomb are from Earth?”
That got my attention. “Really?”
“Really. Some of them are from other planets. We knew that Aquitar had its own team, but Renee says there are a lot of planets with Rangers—or at least there used to be. She doesn’t know how many are still active. She says there is actually a sort of council that oversees these things throughout the galaxy…sometimes it seems like Zordon is a part of the council, sometimes it’s like he’s in trouble with them. But at times when it’s going okay, some of the other worlds have sent their Rangers who died in battle to be buried here, for safety.” He paused. “I guess it’s dangerous to be a Ranger, even though sometimes we feel so…I don’t know, invincible.”
“I don’t,” I said. He looked at me strangely then, as though it came as a surprise. “Feel invincible, I mean. I know we could die. All those coffins down there told me that a long time ago.”
“But you keep going.”
“Yeah,” I admitted. “It scares me to death sometimes. But if we don’t do it, who will?”
Jon thought about it for a moment. “Right,” he said at last. “So we keep at it. Until the end. Whatever the end is.”
If I had known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have left it at that.
Andros explained that the original Delta Megaship—the Mark I—was simply a prototype, and had never been properly finished. It held an atmosphere, but it was not built for habitation; on only a few occasions had it ever even been piloted. This one, with ten years of construction time, was completely outfitted.
It was impressive. Andros led me through the ship, starting at the engine room with its faster-than-light engines and massive power core. The ship had six decks, and could easily accommodate a crew of eighteen, although it appeared that Andros was travelling alone. I saw the holds, filled with supplies in stasis pods; no food here would ever spoil, as time didn’t pass inside the pods. There was a galley on deck three, with a full kitchen as well as a machine—a synthetron, as it was labeled—that produced food from its constituent elements. That deck also housed the crew quarters, ten single rooms and two bunkrooms holding four each. The second deck held a well-stocked armory of personal weapons; it was clear that this ship, although designed to accommodate power rangers, was equipped to be deadly even with a normal crew. Andros noted for me that the ship itself was well-defended; besides its shields and armor, it carried an array of energy weapons, missile tubes, and projectile weapons—rail guns, mainly—spaced around the hull. Almost everything could be operated remotely, via the onboard computer, D.E.L.T.A., which was semi-sentient.
Also on deck two, we stopped at a peculiar room; it was lined with lockers on one side, and on the other with a raised deck and seven circular openings, marked in Ranger colors. “These are jump tubes,” Andros explained. “You use them for rapidly leaving the ship when you need to go into action. Grab the bar at the top and jump into the tube, feet-first. You’ll exit in morph, and teleport to whatever location you have in mind. Since you’ll be using the ship as a base, you’ll need to be able to get to your destinations quickly. D.E.L.T.A. can help you code the tubes for your bio signs and your powers.”
Then we came to the bridge. It was spacious, with two long consoles facing the large viewer on the front wall. Three stations and seats lined the frontmost console; on the rearward console, there were two seated stations, with a third in between that appeared to be a manual-piloting station, with no seat. Other stations lined the side bulkheads.
I noticed that the screen showed the dark of space, with the curve of the Earth’s terminator across the bottom. “We’re in space?” I said.
“Yes,” Andros said, looking at the viewer. “I thought it was best if we didn’t draw a crowd, since your vehicle is still there. I had instructed D.E.L.T.A. ahead of time to cloak the ship and take us out of the atmosphere as soon as we were aboard. You didn’t feel the acceleration?” Truthfully, I wouldn’t have known if I did feel it; the ship’s vibrations were all new to me, and had thrown my perceptions off. I shook my head. “That’s okay. If it were too obvious, I would think that something is wrong. At any rate, this is it,” Andros said, resting a hand on the pilot controls. “This will be the center of the action for you. Any alarms will register here, and D.E.L.T.A. can tune them to monitor activity on Earth. Our systems are actually more advanced than those in the Command Center; we can monitor the whole planet continuously, not just the immediate area.” He turned to look at me. “What do you think?”
“I…Andros, this is amazing. But I still can’t believe you’re just giving it to me.”
“Believe it,” he said. “And let me make that clear: I am giving the ship to you, personally, Christopher. It is not the property of the Rangers, or of Zordon. I know that this may not make much sense to you now, but there will come a time when you will see the purpose in this decision. Much will ride on it.”
“I suppose.” I gazed around again, taking it all in. “It’s a lot of space for one person.”
Andros grinned. “What makes you think you will be alone? Surely when you brought the power coins with you, you had in mind to give them away to someone.”
Truthfully, I hadn’t really thought yet about what I would do with them. But it had to be addressed eventually. What Andros was hinting at would require me to take Zordon’s place, essentially—to be the mentor to my own team of Rangers. Was I up to that? Did I really believe I could do such a thing? I wasn’t sure, even then; but I thought, maybe so. But not yet; it would require finding the right people; and I didn’t have the database of information on the public that the Command Center’s computers contained, the source from which Zordon selected his Rangers. And I wasn’t even sure how soon they would be needed.
“You’re right,” I said at last. “But I’ll have to cross that bridge when I come to it. It’s too soon.”
“Don’t wait too long,” he said; and I sensed a grim note in his voice. We both knew what a precarious position Earth was in right now.
“I’m tired of arguing with you about this,” Crystal said, and slammed the lid of the suitcase—as much as an overstuffed bag can be slammed, at any rate. “I know what happened. I’ve been at this almost as long as you have. I was evil myself for a while! Do you really think I don’t know how bad it is?” She yanked the case off the bed, then started loading another bag.
“Then why would you walk away?” I demanded, not for the first time. “You of all people should know how dangerous it’s going to be for everyone on Earth if we’re not here to fight! We’re still needed!”
She sighed then, and stopped. After a long moment, she turned to look at me, and I saw a look in her eyes that I had never expected: desolation. Finally she spoke. “Chris, I did terrible things when I was under Ivan’s control. I spent the last two and a half years feeling guilty, trying to pay for my mistakes by helping you and the Rangers, fighting as a Zeo Ranger. I hate even the thought of anyone getting by with the…the atrocities that Ivan wanted from me. But I paid my debt. I’m done. For two and a half years, it was like walking around dead, just waiting for my life to catch up with the fact that it was already over. Now I want to live.”
I stared at her, unable to come up with a reply that would convince her. Finally I sighed. “I do too, Crystal. I just…it isn’t worth it if I’m the only one who gets that chance. That’s why I’m going to keep on.”
“Then do it,” she said. She turned back to her packing. “Just leave me out of it. Goodbye, Chris. Don’t talk to me about this again.”
“I have one more gift for you,” Andros said. “But it isn’t to be used now.” We were standing at the end of a corridor on deck five, outside a heavy blast door with a code lock. Andros keyed in a lengthy numeric code.
“How will I know when?” I asked. “For that matter, what is it?”
There was a hiss, and the door swung open on enormous hinges. Massive bolts could be seen retracting into the door and its frame. “You’ll know when,” Andros assured me. “Come in.”
The room was small, with walls that were plated in heavy armor. Steam gusted around the floor; I assumed the room had been pressure-sealed as well as bolted. “This is the vault,” Andros said. “Anything of great value could be stored here, but it chiefly exists for one purpose only.” He gestured to the far wall.
Seven pipelike projections jutted from the wall, each as thick as my forearm; together, they formed the points of a hexagon, with one in the center. Each of the outer six pipes held a morpher like Andros’s, with the wristband wrapped around the pipe. The center pipe was empty. “There may come a day when all the preparations you have made will not be sufficient. I want you to be prepared when that time comes as well.” With his right hand, he unsnapped the band of his own morpher. “These morphers control the Lightstar powers, also called the Astro Ranger powers. My friends and I once carried them into battle. But the battles to come are not ours.” He stepped to the wall and placed the morpher on the last pipe. “They are yours.”
“Andros, no,” I said, reaching to stop him. I had seen too many friends walk away lately. “You can’t give me those.”
He snapped the catch together on the morpher’s band, then stepped back. “I can. Christopher, I need you to trust me on this. I assure you that I am not abandoning my duty.” He faced me, a look of intensity in his gaze. “My duties now do not require that I bear the power. That part of my life has passed. I have other responsibilities which will contribute to our cause, but which do not require a Power Ranger. You need what these powers can offer you.”
I wanted to object, but couldn’t. “But…why? Andros, you know more than you’re saying. What’s coming? Tell me!”
He shook his head. “I can’t! I would if I could. But there are reasons…Look, I can tell you this. There is nothing you need to fear in the near future. The danger will come, but later. And you will be prepared.” He gestured around at the ship. “And in the meantime, should you need these powers, remember this: This ship is also a zord. In battle, it will serve you as the Delta Megazord. That alone should make it worth it to you.”
I didn’t know what else to say. Finally I put out my hand, and Andros shook it. “Thanks. You don’t know how much this means to me.”
“It means much to everybody, though only we know it,” he said. “Now, let’s go back to the jump tubes.”
I followed him back to the jump room, and we mounted the steps to the raised deck. He stopped in front of the red tube. “D.E.L.T.A.,” he called out, “deploy the pod.”
“Affirmative,” D.E.L.T.A.’s androgynous voice answered; then there was a muffled thump that radiated up from the deckplates. Andros nodded in satisfaction.
“That is my transport back to KO-35,” he said. “As soon as I enter the jump tube to board the pod, control of the Megaship will revert to you. D.E.L.T.A. will help you with anything you need. I suggest you allow him to plot an orbit that will keep the ship out of detection range of any terrestrial craft, and keep it cloaked at all times. Even shielded, the ship will allow you to teleport aboard at any time, if you encode your teleportation signature. D.E.L.T.A. can help you with that, as well.” He fell silent, looking around the ship for one last time.
“Are you sure about this?”
“Absolutely. Just use it well.” He shook my hand again, then gripped the bar over the jump tube. “May the power protect you, Red Ranger of Earth.” Then he jumped up and swung his feet into the tube, let go, and slid out of sight.
“No,” Derek and Daniel said in unison. Though the Blue and Black Rangers had been close friends for years, I had never seen them act so much in sync. “We won’t do it,” Daniel added.
I felt helpless in the face of their refusal. It was not a feeling I was used to, or fond of; but it was inevitable. I had been to all the others—Jon and Mark, Rachel and Amanda, and the Zeo Rangers, Crystal, Melissa, Renee, and Steven—and one by one, they had refused to return. Still, I had hopes for Derek and Daniel; they had always been the reliable pillars on which our team stood, quiet and dedicated. Now those hopes were crushed.
This time, I didn’t even bother trying to persuade them. I didn’t have the strength left for it. I just stood and nodded to them, then turned and walked away. Another goodbye.
I wandered through the ship, my new domain. It was odd, but I felt at home here, in a way I never had felt at the Command Center. I thought that perhaps it was because the Command Center, strong as it was, was built by Zordon and his onetime servants, while this ship was built by human hands. Or perhaps it was because it was finally setting in that the ship was mine. I could go anywhere, leave Earth if I wished—not for the first time, I had been out in the galaxy before, but this time it would be at my choice.
For two months, ever since the Rangers walked out, I had been alone, it seemed. More than that, I had felt bereft, as if something vital had been pulled out of me. There was a phenomenon—powerloss—that occurred when a Ranger’s powers were stripped away, as had sometimes happened in the past; it had been known to make us a little crazy, sometimes even to the point of suicide. This, I thought, was what it must feel like. I had hardly caught my breath, I felt, since that day.
Now, as I walked the corridors, going wherever my feet took me, I felt a strange lightening. It had been so long, I hardly recognized it for what it was: hope. As I climbed through the decks, I felt it quickening my steps, and the feeling resolved into determination.
I found myself on the bridge. Then, as in the Power Chamber when I took the coins, I knew what I was going to do. I stepped into the wide space between the forward console and the main viewer, and pulled my power coin from the Morphing grid. “D.E.L.T.A., there is a black box inside my vehicle. Can you teleport it here?” I held up my hand, and the teak box materialized on my palm. I set it on the console and opened it.
With a thumb and forefinger, I held my power coin up in front of me at chest level and released it. It floated there, making a lazy rotation about its center. I took the white falcon coin from the box, then the green eagle, and placed them in the air above and to the left and right of my coin; defying gravity, they hung there. Pink and yellow, I hung to the sides of my coin. Blue and black, I placed at the bottom; the finished pattern was the same as the pipes in the vault.
I held my hands up before the coins, and focused. The gold coins began to spin in place, glittering with reflected light; then, a white glow emanated first from my own coin, then from the rest. They spun faster and faster, the glow spreading from coin to coin in lines of force. Suddenly, they flashed brilliant white and came together in the center with a ringing as clear as a bell. The light faded, and I raised my hand; one gold coin dropped into my palm.
I held it up, examining it. It was larger and heavier than the individual coins, and its designs were unique. On the front, it carried all seven Ninjetti spirit animal symbols—Falcon, Eagle, Crane, Ape, Wolf, Bear, and Frog—and on the back it displayed the six ancient creatures that comprised the Dinozords, and the white tiger. It was the power coin of a Power Knight, the Black Knight. It represented the powers of all the Rangers, combined into one.
“Maybe,” I said aloud, “maybe one person can make a difference, after all.”
I sat at the kitchen table, a sea of papers in front of me, a scavenged desk lamp shedding light on them. It was hard to focus on college matters; after all, only hours before, my friends had walked out on the most important thing in our lives. What did it matter what college I went to, compared to that?
“Chris?” My mom came into the room, wrapped in a robe, holding an empty coffee mug. “Why are you still up at this hour?” Midnight had long since come and gone. “You could do this tomorrow.”
“Couldn’t sleep.” There was no way I was telling her my real reason for being up. “I thought I’d look these acceptance letters over again. Maybe I’ll bore myself to sleep.”
She snorted a laugh, and went to fill her mug. “College gets better, you know. It’s just the getting there that’s boring.” Sitting down across from me, she eyed the documents—a half-dozen or so acceptance letters, from a variety of schools both near and far. Letters of intention were due in two weeks at most of them. “So what are you thinking?”
“I don’t know.” I tossed the letter in my hand back onto the pile. “Right now it just seems so…I don’t know…so trivial. You know?”
“I can guess,” she said. “Compared to being a power ranger, college must look boring.”
Not exactly what I meant, but close enough to save me an uncomfortable explanation. “Yeah.”
She picked up the first few letters and leafed through them. “UCLA, Texas, Kentucky, Appalachian, Florida…That’s a pretty wide net.”
I nodded. “I was leaning toward UCLA, but now that Crystal is going there…I don’t know. It’s a good school, but I want to, you know, do my own thing. And these other schools all have good criminal justice programs. No, mom, I haven’t changed my mind about that.” She rolled her eyes; my choice of major was still a sore point—she had been pushing me toward pre-law since middle school. Well, that debate was not entirely closed, even in my mind, but I wouldn’t give her the satisfaction. Not yet, anyway.
She sat sipping her coffee for a minute. “Chris, what’s going on? Tell me the truth. I’m your mother, I’ll know if you’re lying.”
I chuckled at that. “Mom, that hasn’t worked since I was seven. I successfully lied to you about what I was doing with my spare time for the last two years.”
“I knew what you were doing,” she pointed out.
True enough. “Only because Jared told you about it before I was born. That’s not exactly the same thing as mother’s intuition.” She just stared at me. Sighing, I glanced off to the side and told her the only part of the truth that I was actually willing to part with. “Fine, then. Ah…Rachel broke up with me today.”
Instantly she was all sympathy. “Oh, Chris, I’m so sorry. What happened?”
“I don’t know, Mom. We just…we’ve just been going different directions lately.” That was more true than I wanted to admit. “You ever been there?”
“Once or twice. A long time ago. Oh, honey, maybe she’ll come around if you just give her time…”
“No, I don’t think so. Not this time.” I shook my head. “Right now, I just want to forget about it. I wish I knew how.”
She stood up and crossed to the sink to empty her cup. “Then maybe,” she said over her shoulder, “a change of scenery would do you good.”
After she left the room, I sat for a long while, thinking about that. Maybe she was right, I finally decided. I picked up the letters again, and leafed through to the last one, from the smallest school. Appalachian University. Why not, I thought. Change is good. I reached for a pen.
The sun was just above the horizon as I came out of the woods behind the rest area. The parking lot was empty, except for my car; its lights blinked at me in what I took to be consternation at my long absence. I shouldn’t be surprised; of course the car would have known something was up when the box of power coins vanished. I patted the hood as I came to the door. “It’s okay, buddy,” I said as I reached for the handle. “Everything is fine. Have I got a story for you.” Inside, the navigation unit in the dash flashed over to communication mode, and text scrolled down the screen, chiding me. “I know, I know. But we made some allies today. You’ll need to know what to expect.”
As I backed out of the space, the text turned to a question. “Do I know what to expect? Well.” I pondered the question. “Let’s just say, whatever comes our way, we’re ready now.” I shifted into drive. “Let’s go see what’s waiting for us.”
TO BE CONTINUED.