Shaira's sleep was interrupted as a special alarm went off. She jerked awake, and the interface, now with her where ever she went, kicked in. "Oh, no!" she whispered. "Not now! No, no, no, no, no!"
Billy opened his eyes blearily as his door opened and the light kicked on. "What?" he asked.
"Billy, get up! The Barrier's gone critical! Get the others up, now!"
Shaira had an image of the Barrier on the view screen. It wasn't much, just an entirely black piece of space, but that was what was so scary. No stars were visible on the view screen, and there were graphs and notes showing different things about the Barrier. Then the blackness rippled, and Shaira said, "Freeze. Right there!" She pointed as the shot froze, and Jason said, "What?"
"Look at the energy readings, Jase." Shaira looked at the others, and for the first time, they saw terror on her face. "Sensors couldn't say if something was freed when the Barrier rippled like that. It's going to keep doing that, more and more frequently, until it falls. Guys, it's time. We have to go now!"
Jase looked over at Kim, and said, "Get the Power Chamber." Kim, paled at Shaira's statement, nodded wordlessly, and went over to her station.
Rocky opened one eye and swatted his alarm clock again. Then he realized that it want's his alarm going off. It was his communicator. "Yeah?" he asked, yawning. _If it's Zedd or Mondo.._ he thought.
"Rocko, get Alex and meet us at the Power Chamber. The Barrier's about to fall." Tommy sounded shocked, and Rocky didn't blame him.
Alex was already up, sitting meditation style in the moonlight. She looked over at Rocky, and asked, "It's the Barrier, isn't it? I felt it." She stood up, and said, "Let's go." Rocky and Alex teleported out.
Kat groaned and turned over. _Not now!_ she wailed in her head, then answered her communicator. "What's wrong?" she asked sleepily.
"It's the Barrier." Kat sat up and climbed out of bed. "I'm on my way," she said.
Tanya landed in Adam's bedroom and grabbed his cover. In one motion, she yanked the cover off Adam. He rolled over, almost shouting, "Hey!" but caught himself as he saw who it was. "What's up?" he asked, rubbing his eyes.
"Zordon's getting everyone in the Power Chamber. The Barrier's gone critical. Shaira says it's time."
Kris and Dale exchanged looks as their communicators went off. "Is it the Barrier?" Kris asked into hers.
"Yeah," Alex replied. "We need everyone here."
"We're on our way," Dale said.
With Brynne and Hunter in the Power Chamber, everyone was there. "What's up?" Brynne asked. She was in a nightgown, and when she looked around, every other teen was in a similar state of dress, except Jen, Alex, Kris and Dale. They were already dressed, and looked as if they had been awake for some time.
"The Barrier's gone critical," Shaira said. "We have to go today. I calculate a week until total collapse of the Barrier. We have time for you to gather some things together, and then we have to go. We will be gone for a week, and we will be doing a lot of traveling by foot."
Brynne looked over at Alex, who looked uncomfortable, and asked, "What's wrong?"
"I.. can feel the Shadows. They're stronger than ever. They're demanding I release them." Alex shoved her hands into her pockets and shivered. Tommy walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her.
"Don't worry, Alex. We'll help you." Alex smiled at him, and kissed him on the cheek.
Everyone had agreed to meet up in the Power Chamber in an hour, and left to pack their things. Billy and Shaira, who already had their things in the Guardian Ship, waited in the Power Chamber, and started collecting every scrap of information about the Barrier and the way there.
Alex finished packing her bag, and looked around. "What am I forgetting?" she asked herself.
"How about this?" her aunt asked from behind her, and Alex whirled to see her aunt holding out Alex's laptop. Her aunt smiled, and said, "You and Rocky take care while saving the universe, all right?"
"How did you...?" Alex asked.
"Know? It wasn't too hard to figure out when you and Rocky started disappearing together when the Shadow ranger appeared. You two take care, all right?" she asked, turning to allow a stunned Rocky in.
"Si," Rocky said, then kissed his mother. "Thank you, Momma."
"You take care to eat well. I don't want any race thinking I don't feed my children well." Mrs. DeSantos smiled, and said, "Have fun."
Rocky and Alex shouldered their bags, Alex tucking her laptop under her arm, and then teleported out. Mrs. DeSantos let her smiled fade, and she whispered, "Please take care of her, Rocky. She'll need it."
Kris sheathed a dagger in her boot, and said, "I'm ready to rock. What about you?" She saw that Dale was looked around nostalgically.
"We might not return, Kris. Does that scare you?" he asked. Kris sighed.
"Hell, yeah, brother-of-mine. I'd be inhuman if I wasn't. But we have to do it, Dale. No one else will do."
Dale sighed. "I know." He turned back and smiled at Kris. "Let's go. The others are probably waiting."
Shaira pulled her hair back into a ponytail, a habit she picked up on Earth, and said, "All right, everyone's on board and getting settled. Let's get going."
"There's a communication from the Power Chamber," Kim said. "I'm patching it through." Shaira nodded absently, and the view changed to the inside of the Power Chamber. The Aquitian rangers waved and Delphine said, "We await your return, rangers. Our best wishes go with you."
"Thank you, Aquitian rangers. We'll do our best to return as soon as possible," Shaira said. "Good luck in defending the Earth." The Alien Rangers bid farewell, then signed off.
Shaira looked around, and said, "We WILL be back, guys." She smiled, and said, "We're too stubborn not to." The others laughed, banishing any tears, and Shaira said, "Set course for Shadius."
Everyone was gathered in the mess hall, one of the few rooms large enough to hold everyone, and Shaira said, "Well, we're on our way. We're expected to arrived at Shadius tomorrow afternoon. Any questions?"
"Not that I'm trying to insult anyone, but... why is there Guardians AND Rangers?" Alex asked. "I mean, we only need ten, don't we?"
Shaira sighed. "It's... backup. We might, and probably will, lose people on the way. That's why we have to pair up one ranger to one guardian, except for Alex." Before anyone could react she said, "There are some things that only SHE can take care of, guys. Of all of us, she'll be the focus of the attacks. Without her, we can't do anything."
Tommy said a few minutes alter, "I take it, you have an idea of who pairs up with who?"
"Yeah. And it's not always going to match color of color. Kim, Kat, you're paired together. Trini, Tanya, you're together. Jason, I know you'd like to be paired up with Tommy, but you're with Hunter. Tommy, Jen, you're together. Dale, you're with Brynne. Rocky, Zack, you're the next pair. Adam, Billy, you're together. Trey, you're with me. Kris, you're with Angela. It's a pairing of similar personalities. The reason we do this, is because if something happens to one, they hand the Power to their partner. And as much as you'd like to help your partner, do not, I repeat, DO NOT, help. Even if it seems that you have the perfect chance to. It will be a trap. Understand?"
Everyone nodded, and Alex asked, softly, "What about me?"
Shaira closed her eyes, and said, "Pray someone kills you. If the Shadows get you on Shadius, there's no possibility of getting you back. Tommy, Jen, as the only other mages, and as Shadowed souls, if something gets Alex, we HAVE to rely on one of you to take her place."
"Wait. I thought you said that we couldn't do anything without Alex," Zack said.
"We won't be able to do more than repair the barrier, buying more time for another group," Shaira explained. "We have only one shot at this, and if we do it right, we can banish the Shadows for good." She sighed, and said, "Remember everything I've told you, and we should do all right."
"There are too many possibilities for me to give you a clear path, but most them involve us banishing the Shadows," Kris said distractedly. Her eyes had glazed over, and she said, "Some of us won't make it to the goal, but in the end, we'll be together." Kris shook her head, and said, "That wasn't particularly helpful."
After that, everyone drifted off, either in pairs or small groups, usually with their partner. Jen, Tommy and Alex were sitting on the couch, and Alex was curled out, staring out the window behind them. "Is it all right to be afraid?" she asked softly.
Tommy gathered Alex in his arms, and said, "I'm afraid."
"Yeah, but you have a partner," Alex said. Then something made her say, "If something happens to me, and I don't survive this, Tommy, promise me that you'll fall in love again." Tommy looked as if he was about to argue, and she said, "Promise me!" squeezing his had tightly.
Tommy winced and said, "All right, I promise!" As Alex released his hand, he said, "You promise the same thing, Alex. I don't want you to be alone."
"I promise," Alex said. "He won't take your place, but I will try to fall in love again." She kissed him, and Jen cleared her throat. They broke apart, and Jen asked, "Shall I make sure it happens?" She smiled, and said, "I intend to live though this, guys. And I intend for both of you to live through this. All right, cousin?" she asked Tommy, "Al?" she winked at both of them then left.
Kat stared out a different window, and was surprised when Hunter walked up behind her and asked, "What's so fascinating?"
"Nothing," Kat said. "I was thinking. I hope that the Earth will be okay," she added lamely.
"Lady Kat, you're fibbing," Hunter said softly. "You're worried about someone, aren't you?"
"What if Alex doesn't survive this, Hunter? Tommy won't be able to take it. He may try something foolish," Kat said.
"That's the way it is," Hunter said. "They've already promised that if something happens to the other they'll try to find love again. They'll live, if only to keep their promise."
"Aren't you scared?" Kat asked.
"Absolutely," Hunter replied, "But you know something? I'm not going to let it bother me right now. Right now, I can either let fear stop me from having fun in what may be my last few hours of life, or I can put it aside, until I need it. What about you, lady-o? Are you going to let fear choke you? Or make these few hours full of memories for the others to remember you?"
Kat smiled. "You're right. You know that? You are absolutely right. Let's go."
Sooner or later, everyone wound up in the hanger, where Shaira had been listening to some rock'n'roll. As each found their way down, each teen did their best to add to the party atmosphere. Zack brought down a stack of CD's and Rocky, Alex, and Tommy added snacks and a pizza while Kat and Hunter brought sodas for everyone. Brynne started making everyone laugh by telling jokes, while Jason and Hunter began sparring, and Angela started a poker game.
Eventually everyone headed for their cabins, and soon Shaira was the only one in the hanger. "Did I do the right thing?" she asked the ship. She wasn't expecting an answer, and jumped when she got one.
"We chose to go, Shaira. We all knew what could happen to us when we agreed to join up. We also know what would happen if we don't." Jason walked over to Shaira, who had turned to face him, and he said, "Come, on, Shaira. Leave them to enjoy these last couple of hours." He kissed Shaira, surprising the both of them.
Tommy and Alex were lying on Alex's bed, just holding one another. "Jason and Shaira are a good couple," Alex said, her head on Tommy's chest. She enjoyed the rumble of his heart, and feeling the vibrations from when he spoke.
"What do you mean?" Tommy asked.
"Shaira and Jason. Oh, come on, don't tell me you didn't notice," Alex said.
"Well, they're a couple. Then there's Rocky and Angela. I'm sure you noticed Adam and Tanya are growing close?" she looked up at Tommy and he smiled at her.
"Yeah, I noticed them."
"Then there's Kim and Dale, Kat and Hunter, Trini and Billy, Kris and Zack, and then there's Trey and Brynne," Alex said, listing the couples that left the party together. "Only Jen doesn't have someone."
"Jen's special to you, isn't she?" Tommy asked.
"She's been my rock in the storm, Tommy. She kept me sane when Darian died, and then the others. She just couldn't make it to my parents' funerals because they had been like her parents to her. She couldn't stand the thought of burying another set of parents. Hers had died before we had met."
"She's handles it well," Tommy said.
"She can't do otherwise," Alex said. "She's always been alone, and after That Night, she changed, became darker. You have a Shadowed soul because of what Rita did to you, she has one because of what life did to her."
"What about you?" Tommy asked.
"I was born this way."
Trini and Billy were staring out of Trini's bedroom window, and Trini said, "You be careful out there. I just found you again."
Billy chuckled, and said, "I will, Trini, so long as you do the same. WE just found each other again." They hugged, and no more was said in words that night.
Kat giggled, and said, "No, really?"
"I swear," Hunter said. "She literally had her tongue hanging out." Kat giggled, and Hunter pulled her in for a kiss.
When they broke apart, Hunter whispered, "Wow!" Kat grinned, and asked, "Isn't that my line?"
"No, because I never did that before. All the girls thought me too much the clown."
"Then it's their loss," Kat said, before kissing him again.
Kim snuggled against Dale, and said, "Are you sure you just want to snuggle?"
Dale nodded. "Right now, all either of us need is someone to hold onto."
"I can't believe you left me in Florida. I missed you. What happened?" Kim asked.
"Something... came up. I had to leave, with Kris. Why didn't you tell the others that you knew us?" Dale asked.
Kim sighed, and said, "I realized you probably had good reasons to not tell them, so I kept quiet, respecting your wishes, Dale. Besides, I didn't want to explain to Tommy that you're the one I dumped him for. Even if he did have Alex, he'd be angry because you left without a word."
Dale chuckled, and said, "Thank you.. for waiting." He hugged Kim, and said "God, I missed you, Kim! I wish I could have brought you along, but Kris said that you had a different fate. And if I wrote you, the guy who was after us would have found us."
Kris and Zack leaned back in the cartography room, looking at all the stars surrounding them, and Kris pointed out a star. "There. That's Earth's sun."
"How can you tell?" Zack asked.
"I'm not sure. It's a gut feeling. Like the one that tells me that there's something that'll go horribly wrong, but also right, tomorrow." Kris shivered, and Zack wrapped his arms around her.
"I'll always be right here," he said, tapping her heart. "Even if something happens tomorrow, just remember, I'm right next to your heart, rooting you on."
Kris' hand went to a console, and she typed in a command, and the area around the Earth's sun magnified until you could see the Earth clearly. "It's so tiny, Zack. How could it have lasted this long?"
"Because we're a stubborn race?" Zack asked jokingly, and Kris laughed. She turned to him, and kissed him soundly on the lips.
Trey and Brynne were walking through a simulation of a Triforian night, and Brynne said, "It's beautiful, Trey. How could you leave your home?"
"The Earth was in danger. There was no choice. If the Earth falls, so goes the rest of the galaxy. But I'm glad I went. There's one thing of beauty there that I couldn't of found at home."
"What's that?" she asked, turning towards Trey. He smiled softly and Brynne blushed. "Oh." After a pause, she asked wryly, "What is it about being a ranger that causes you to blush?" Trey laughed.
Rocky and Angela were munching on a pizza in the mess hall. "You know," Angela said around a mouth full of pizza, "if we keep this up, we're going to exhaust the food supply." The cheese started sliding off the slice of pizza, and Angela caught it, piling it on top again.
Rocky chuckled and wiped a line of sauce off Angela's chin. Angela grinned, and putting her slice down, did the same to Rocky. She leaned forward, and the Blue and Purple rangers kissed.
When they broke apart, Angela commented, "I can hear Grandfather now. 'He's not good enough for you, Angela! Besides, he can probably have any girl at your school, so why should he try for you?!'" she mimicked. Rocky chuckled and shook his head.
"And what do you think?" Rocky asked.
"I think he would be acting ridiculous. You are too good enough for me. I love you." Angela leaned forward, and their lips met again.
Jen paced the ship again. Everyone was with their special one, except her. "Good luck, Alexandria," she whispered to her friend, as she paused at her quarters. "And you, Tommy." She continued on her way, and paused at Trini's quarters. "Trini, Billy," she whispered, placing her hand on the door.
She moved along, and whispered at the next door, "Kat and Hunter. Never an odder pair." The next door that she paused at, she said, "Zack and Kris." Then the next quarters that she paused at was Dale and Kim, who had met in Florida. "Don't break her heart, Dale." She continued pacing, and paused in front of another closed door, and smiled gently. "Jason and Shaira. Two warrior spirits that don't know when to quit." She moved on to the next pair, sighing. "Trey and Brynne. Silver and Gold." She paused at the mess and smiled at Rocky and Angela, who were alternating bites of pizza and kisses. "The walking stomachs," she said softly. She finished her rounds, and reached her quarters. She sat on her bed, then laid down, and whispered, "God go with us all." She closed her eyes and fell to sleep.
Shaira studied Jason from where she laid on top of him, her chin on her overlapped hands. "Either on of us might me gone tomorrow," she said. "I lost the first guardians to a mistake I made. Is this a second one?" she asked rhetorically.
Jason listened to her musing, and said, "We made the choice to do this, Shaira. Just like the first guardians. Let them go."
Shaira argued with him, saying, "I know, but if I hadn't asked you, then-"
"Then I would have been sliced and diced by Shades a long time ago, and Alex would be under their control, the rangers would be dead, you with them, and none of us would have met Kris and Dale, or Brynne and Hunter, or Angela and Jen."
Shaira sighed. "Did I really do all that?"
"Nah. You were just a catalyst."
"Thank you, Billy," she teased, and Jason smiled.
"Hey, hang with him for a while and you're bound to pick up something," Jason shot back. Shaira tilted her head to rest her eyes over her hands and laughed quietly.
Shaira, in her chair the next afternoon, swallowed and said, "Approaching Shadius. Begin preparations for landing." She disconnected from the neural interface, then said, "It's time."
The other guardians nodded at her, and stood up after doing some last minute jobs. They hugged each other, and Shaira said, "See all of you on the flip side. Get your packs and meet your partner at the teleportation chamber." She swallowed and followed her own advice.
Alex, the only one going on her own, was wearing an unusual pendant, and at Shaira's puzzled look, said, "Icelandic 'K' It was my mother's and she swore it brought her luck. It can't hurt."
"Remember to take plenty of notes for your diary entry for today," Rocky said. He and Zack were going a different path, and he hugged her. "Go with God," he whispered, and Alex nodded. Zack and Rocky took their positions as Kris and Angela said their good-byes to the others. Remember what I said," Angela said, stepping back from Trey, then turned to Alex. "Oh, Al..." she said, then hugged Alex tightly.
When they broke apart, Kris took Angela's place and said, "You remember what I taught you, understand?" Alex nodded, and the two girls took their places. The quartet disappeared in four separate columns of light.
The next four to go were Billy, Adam, Hunter and Jason. Each hugged Alex tightly, and said their various good-byes to the others, then they left. Then Brynne, Dale, Trey and Shaira left, and that left Tommy, Jen, Kim, Kat, Tanya, Trini, and Alex, who were all going to the same place. Tommy nodded, and SARA activated the teleporter one last time. The seven teens disappeared.
When Shaira looked around, she was standing in the middle of a forest, and she pulled out her porta-comp. She typed in a command, and she said, "That way." The others nodded and followed her.
They walked for about an hour, until they reached what looking like a temple that exuded evil. The quartet stopped to eye it, then Shaira said, "We have to go in. She lead the way, and Trey followed, then Brynne and Dale.
Adam's group landed almost at their entrance point, and he motioned towards it. "That looks like what Shaira said to look for," he said. Hunter looked in and swallowed. That seemed to be the feeling of the others.
"We have to go in," Jason said, unknowingly copying Shaira's own words. He got up his courage first, and entered the tunnel. The others followed behind.
Zack looked around as his group landed, and asked, "Is everyone here?" They had landed in a darkened cave, and Kris said, "I am." Her flashlight showed where she was, and Rocky and Zack pulled out theirs as well. Angela tried her, and slapped it a couple times. "Mine's not working," she said.
Zack sighed. He panned his light along the walls, and said, "Well, it looks like we're in the entrance tunnel. Let's go." The others nodded and followed along.
The fourth and largest group landed, and they looked around. They were in the center of a large, overgrown room. Light poured in from the large hole in the roof, and Alex said, "Holy mother of- Jen, Tommy do you feel it?"
"Yeah," Tommy said. "What is it?"
Jen closed her eyes and rolled her neck. "It's the Shadows. They know we're here. It's time to go." She looked around, and said, "That way," and she pointed, leading the way.
An amused chuckle. Visitors? What!? No! Three Shadowed souls,
one of which is a powerful Shadow Mage. Can't let the Shadows stop
them! Protect the Mage! Follow and help where possible. Follow HER
orders, and stop the Shadows.