"Mountain Blaster," he whispered softly, staring in pure awe at the blue truck in front of him. How in the world had this happened to him? How did a twelve year old boy, even if a karate black belt, become a Power Ranger? They'd always been teenagers, young adults on the verge of a wondrous new world of adulthood. He was the different one. The outsider. The only one who hadn't met them before assuming his Ranger powers, the only one who lived at an orphanage, whose father had abandoned them. . .
Justin Stewart closed his eyes, forcing the pain and the tears away. He couldn't let himself show any weakness. Tommy had told him lurid tales of the four years he'd been a Ranger, how any little thing that the Rangers had went through had been turned against them and twisted into the most horrible of weapons or monsters. Even birthdays weren't safe, as he himself knew now. He shuddered at that memory, clenching his fists. At least I saw my dad then, he thought to himself. Dean Stewart had managed to get there, even though he'd had to leave almost as soon as it was over with. But the words the two of them had exchanged still burned in his son's soul.
"Why don't you come back to Angel Grove, dad? To stay?"
"I can't just yet, son. But I think about you all the time, and I will come back soon. I promise you that. I want to be certain I can provide you with the best possible care both while I'm gone, and when I come back. That's why I've asked the shelter to see about getting you a foster home. A temporary one, until I can move back to stay. But a real home, not just a little cubicle. I know you don't like it there."
He'd agreed to it, with the restriction that the foster family be in Angel Grove. It was his home, and he wasn't going to leave it any time soon. It was also his responsibility. The words left a slightly bitter taste in his mouth. He was twelve, what in the world did he know about being a Ranger? The only reason he'd been given the power was because he'd accidentally overheard Rocky DeSantos and the others talking, and seen four of them teleport to the Power Chamber. He'd had no idea that innocent visit would turn out with him becoming the new Blue Ranger.
"Hey, guys, I'm the new Blue Ranger! Is that cool, or what?"
Slowly his fingers traced a pattern around Mountain Blaster's trim. This swift truck, one of the most powerful weapons in the universe, was the representation of his power. With four simple words, a young boy was transformed into a powerful warrior, using this power to defend the entire planet against Divatox. He took a deep breath. "I don't think I'm ready for this," he whispered. It had seemed so fantastic when they were on Murianthus, it was all new and exciting and powerful, he hadn't had time to think things over. To realize how close to death the Rangers came every time they morphed and went into battle. But in the Temple of Serpents, when those two former Rangers, Kim and Jason, had been evil and there had been Piranatrons everywhere, he'd realized the danger in this job. It had only gotten worse over the weeks.
I think you are, Justin, a soft, whispery female voice spoke. The young Blue Ranger jerked up, his eyes widening with shock to see a form appearing in front of him. For a moment, with the flowing white robes and dark hair, he'd thought it was Dimitria. Until the image firmed, and he saw something, or rather someone he'd never thought to see again. Something that every scientific principle he knew swore up and down couldn't exist. For one moment, for that time, he didn't care about science, though. He knew who he was seeing.
The spirit-shape of Elaine Stewart nodded. Yes, Justin. It's me. The young Ranger stared at her, then ran over, trying to wrap his arms around her. He stopped when he literally ran through her, his eyes widening in shock and surprise. I'm only a ghost now, Justin, I'm sorry. We can't touch, but we can talk. And I know you've wanted to talk to someone for a while now.
He nodded and she smiled, that same warm, familiar smile that he had always loved so much when he was younger, when his family was whole, and his worst concern wasn't being shot at by a Piranatron, but skinning a knee playing in the backyard. Justin, I've been watching you ever since I left you. You have no idea how proud of you I was when I saw you become the Blue Ranger.
"I'm not sure if I'm good enough, Mom," he whispered, his hands shaking a little, wanting to hold her, to be held, but knowing that he couldn't. But it was perhaps enough just to talk with her for a while. "Everyone else is so much older than I am, and they're so much better."
They are just more experienced. You will gain that experience yourself in time, and you must not doubt yourself. There is no need to. You're a brave warrior, but more than that, you are my son, and I have faith in your abilities. You must have faith in yourself as well. Know this, Justin: I love you. I always have and I always will.
He smiled just the tiniest bit, then sighed. "I'm scared, though. I'm twelve years old, I'm the only one my age I know who is risking his life on a daily basis, trying to keep the world alive. I don't even have any friends my age."
Is it the age of a friendship or the quality of one that counts?
Justin blinked at that, not quite certain what she meant at first. Then he remembered Tommy helping him building his racer, Kat watching over him while he had slept at times, everyone helping out in fights, aiding him with his homework when necessary, hanging out with him, no matter what anyone said about high school graduates being with high school freshmen. . .all of the guiding him in the use of his new powers. He smiled. "It's the quality. I might not have any friends my age, but the ones that I do have are great ones."
Elaine smiled, and Justin felt all the warmth of his early childhood rising up within him to wrap around his heart and soul. That they are, and they will grow greater with time. You are what you are, Justin Stewart, and you are more than just the Blue Ranger or a convenient person to hold the power or a young boy. You are yourself, and one day you will know all that such entails.
For a moment, she drifted over to him, and was totally solid. She wrapped her arms around him, holding him as she had when he was little and was having a nightmare, enfolding him in all that love and strength that she had always had for him, and always would. Your father loves you too, Justin, and one day we will all be together again. I don't know when or how or where, but I do know that it will happen. Have faith, Justin. Have faith forever.
"They're going to be sending me to a foster home," he said suddenly. "I want it, I don't want to stay at the shelter anymore. But I. . .I'm afraid of what the new family is going to be like. What if they're. .."
A finger touched his lips softly. Don't be afraid. Remember, have faith. Your new foster family is going to be. . .she paused, smiling gently. Very special. That is all I can tell you. All that I WILL tell you.
"You know who they are?" hope filled his voice, hope and eagerness. "Please, mom, just a hint!"
Elaine shook her head as she stepped away from him. I wish that I could, Justin. But trust me. Trust your mother.
Justin nodded, tears shining in his eyes, tears of both love and pain as he gazed at her slowly fading figure. "Good-bye, mom," he whispered, knowing that her time with him had to be ending.
No, Justin, she whispered softly. Not good-bye. Not ever. Just. . .farewell. Until we meet again. And we will. I swear it, my son. We will meet . .. again. . .
And then only Justin and the Zords were in the storage bay. Justin stared at where she had been, feeling a strange mixture of joy, pain, and sadness in his heart and soul. He knew he should have been afraid, ghosts were supposed to be scary, but how could he possibly be afraid of his mother?
He sighed briefly, going up to the main chamber to inform Dimitria and Alpha Six that he was going back to the shelter. I wonder who the foster family is going to be. And why Mom said that they were special.
"Did you and your mother have a good conversation?" Dimitria's quiet voice asked, and he almost jumped out of his skin at that, staring at her in surprise. How had she known that his mother's ghost had visited?
"Um, yes," he nodded. "How did you. .."
The beautiful mentor smiled. "Did you not know that I can sense the presence of ethereal beings?"
Justin nodded, then shook his head, not quite certain just what to do or say right now. It seemed every time he turned around, life was throwing another surprise at him. He glanced down briefly at his wrists, where the Turbo Chargers would appear when he needed them. I'm the Blue Ranger, he thought suddenly. For as long as they need and want me. I'm the Blue Ranger.
In a shower of blue light, he was teleporting back to the shelter. He wondered how long it would take for them to find this family, and for the first time, felt confidant both in the sense of family, and in the future that he had chosen. The future of a Power Ranger.