Author's note: I'm not exactly sure why I decided to write this particular fanfic, which is my first one outside of my "A Rhyme and Reason" Purple Ranger timeline. (And just so you know, none of the events in that series have any relevance to the events in this one; they're two completely unrelated storylines.) Perhaps it's because of my very strange fascination with the episode "Always a Chance" (if you know enough about me, you'd understand exactly what I mean ^_^). But anyway, this is my look at what could've possibly happened had Carlos not decided to return to the team. Please don't think this is because I don't like Carlos, though; it's merely one of those "What if?" situations that my muse Amethyst presented to me last year. For now, this is just a standalone, but if Amethyst and I can keep the inspiration, this may be the first part in a long series called "A Different Shade of Red" that will take the episodes beyond "Always a Chance" and turn them around to fit this timeline. Continuity of the actual PRiS series breaks off once the story gets to what wasn't actually seen in the episode; you'll know it when you get there. Very special thanks to my friends at the Power Core's message board for telling me to go ahead with this story back in the early part of this year after posting a part of it there and to my friends for trying to help me out with an ending to this story as well. If there's anyone else who'd like to give me any feedback, drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know. I'm always anxious to hear what everyone thinks of my writing!
"Carlos--" Adam tried to call after him. The current Black Ranger turned, glared back at him, and then ran off. Adam could only watch in silence as Carlos disappeared up the park steps.
"Ay-yi-yi," said Alpha, "what are we going to do?"
"Not sure," Adam replied, sitting down on the bench and taking a sip from his water bottle.
"Do you think he'll be all right, Adam?"
Adam sighed, remembering how hard being a Ranger really was despite all of the good things about it. "Saving the world's not an easy business. He's gonna have to make his own decisions now, just like any other Power Ranger."
"I suppose you're right," Alpha commented.
Adam stared off into space, recalling his own days as a Ranger some more. "You know, sometimes I still wish I was a Power Ranger." Then he thought of something. Adam reached into his backpack and pulled something out: his old morpher from his early days as the Black Ranger. He never really knew why he still carried the damaged device around with him; perhaps it was just a fond reminder of that bygone part of his life. "You think this thing still works?" Adam asked, showing the morpher to Alpha.
The robot gasped and took it from his hand. "Ay-yi-yi! Adam, you must never use this morpher!" he urged. "The Power Coins were destroyed, which means morphing could destroy you!"
The former Ranger smiled. "Don't worry, Alpha, it was just a thought."
Alpha shook his head at him. "Ohh, uhh, ay-yi-yi," was all he could say.
Adam set the morpher beside him and stared off into space again. Just a thought, yeah right, he thought. I would give anything in the world to be a Ranger again! Ever since I was forced to give up my powers last year, I've felt like something's been missing in my life. Being a Ranger had become an important part of who I was, and I hated having to give it all up just because I was too old! His mind continued to wander for a while. I wonder what could've happened to me if I didn't have to leave but Tommy, Tanya, and Kat still did. Would I have been promoted to leader because I was the oldest and had the most experience? He smiled at that thought. That would've been the chance of a lifetime! But me . . . the leader of the Power Rangers? I've never been anything more than second in command! Could I really have pulled something like that off, though? I've always wanted to know what it would be like, but I guess I'll never know now. But if I just had one more chance to be a Ranger again, maybe I'd be able to fill in that missing part, even if it meant risking my life. And if it did kill me, at least I'd go down doing something I really loved.
Carlos set his morpher and communicator down on the consul and looked back at the Rangers. There was no turning back now, he thought. He was quitting, and that was final. No more battles, no more lives to risk.
"But . . . we need you!" Ashley told him, totally confused by her long-time friend's decision.
"Come on," T.J. said, handing back the devices and thinking this was more or less just a joke, "you can't quit, Carlos."
Carlos pushed them away and began to walk out the door, showing that he was serious. "Wait, please!" Ashley pleaded.
"I have to!" Carlos snapped back. "Before I hurt someone . . . again." Then he turned and walked out the door. Cassie, her arm still in the sling, tried to protest, but she was too late as the door slid shut in front of her.
Aboard the Dark Fortress, Astronema sat on her throne, glaring at LizWizard. "You've failed me once too many times, LizWizard," she said.
"Wait!" the monster pleaded, cowering before the princess. "Give me another chance!"
"I don't think so," Astronema hissed.
"Your wrath staff," Elgar cut in, handing the princess her staff as she rose from her throne. "Heh heh, yeah!"
"I can destroy the Black Ranger!" LizWizard continued to beg as Astronema pointed her staff at him. "Please! Give me one more shot! He'll be history!"
Ecliptor leaned towards Astronema and whispered something in her ear. "My princess, sources indicate that the Black Ranger has quit the team," he said. The princess raised an eyebrow, fascinated by this interesting turn of events. "We have not been able to track him, but his friend who had come to his rescue is alone in the park."
A thin, devious smile crossed Astronema's face as she drew her staff back. "You want one more shot?" she asked the still cowering monster.
"Yes! I'll do anything!" LizWizard shouted.
"All right. Then go get rid of the Black Ranger's friend. He isn't a Ranger and thus has no power, so he shouldn't be much of a challenge for you."
"Oh, thank you, Astronema!" LizWizard rejoiced. "I won't fail you this time!"
Astronema slammed the end of her staff down on Elgarís foot, the henchman jumping up and down in pain. "You better not!" she yelled.
Adam continued to wait for Carlos at the same place where they had been practicing the day before. "Where is he?" he asked himself, looking at his watch. "He should've been here an hour and a half ago!" He got up from his seat. "Something must be wrong."
"Adam, where are you going?" Alpha called out.
"I'm going to find Carlos," Adam replied. "If his actions yesterday were any indication, then I think I know what might be going on."
But Adam didn't get too far when a series of explosions threw him backwards. He looked up to see LizWizard materialize in front of him. "Surprise, human!" the monster cackled.
Adam glared at the creature as he got back to his feet and assumed a fighting stance. "What do you want, LizWizard?" he growled.
"Since your Black Ranger friend is out of the picture," the monster came back, "Astronema demands that I get rid of you instead! Quantrons! Attack!"
The foot soldiers attacked, but despite being outnumbered, Adam was able to hold them off the same way he always could with Putties, Tengas, Cogs, and Piranhatrons. A few punches here and a couple of kicks there easily took out the small army. "Is that the best you've got?" Adam then asked, a defiant glare on his face.
The monster started to back away from the former Ranger. "No!" he cried. "How could you have done that?"
This is my chance, Adam thought. He backed up, reached into his backpack, and pulled something out.
"No Adam!" Alpha protested as the former Ranger took out his old morpher. "It's too big of a risk!"
A Ranger has to do what a Ranger has to do, no matter the risks, Adam thought again, totally oblivious to the robotís warning. "It's morphin' time!" he cried, the first time he had done so in nearly two years.
"What?!" LizWizard roared. "Not another Ranger!"
"Adam, don't do it!" Alpha pleaded again.
But the robot was too late. Adam thrust the morpher out into position the way he used to and shouted "Mastodon!" The old Black Ranger costume materialized on him once more. Once the transformation was complete, the born-again Ranger charged after LizWizard, delivering several swift blows that sent the monster reeling. Adam looked himself over, astounded by the fact that he was the Black Ranger again, then smiled from behind his helmet. "Just like old times!" he said.
But the euphoria didn't last too long when Adam felt a sharp, sudden pain rush through him. "I'm losing power!" he cried, falling down to one knee. He looked at himself again, the armor beginning to fade back and forth. "Gotta keep it together," he said to himself, trying to force as much of the power back into him as he could.
LizWizard found this to his advantage and attacked the helpless, unsuspecting Ranger. "Having a little trouble?" the monster taunted Adam.
Adam staggered backwards, doing everything he could to prolong another attack. "I can't let this stop me," he said to himself as his powers faded out and came back again.
The monster laughed at Adam's plight. "Some Ranger you are!" he taunted the Black Ranger some more. "Can't even attack me without going through an identity crisis!" He struck out at the faltering Ranger, knocking him to the ground. "Astronema was right!" LizWizard exclaimed triumphantly, his foot resting soundly on Adamís chest. "You aren't much of a challenge!"
Adam looked up helplessly at the monster, knowing he was facing certain defeat. So this is how it ends? he thought. It's not gonna be my powers that kill me, but some stupid monster who I easily fought the other day without any powers? Even Rita and Zedd had better monsters than this one!
"Too bad your friend isn't here to help you," LizWizard harassed him again, ready to strike out. "It's been nice knowing ya . . ."
Just then, four laser shots threw the monster backwards. Adam looked back to see the four remaining Lightstar Rangers in the distance and heading in his direction. That distraction was just what he needed to get back to his feet. "Carlos!" the four Rangers shouted prematurely.
Andros was the first to reach Adam. "Wait a minute, you're not Carlos!" he said, finally noticing the unfamiliar Black Ranger costume. The Red Ranger looked over to Alpha, still beside the bench. "Alpha, who is this?" he asked.
"I could ask you the same question," Adam responded upon hearing the unfamiliar voice of the Red Ranger, the rest of the team catching up to them.
"Adam?" Cassie, Ashley, and T.J. asked in unison, recognizing the voice as a friend's.
"You know him?" Andros continued with the questions.
"They ought to," Adam came back. "I'm the reason Carlos is on the team to begin with!"
"You mean was on the team," T.J. corrected him. "Carlos just quit!"
"What?" So that's what LizWizard meant when he said that the Black Ranger was out of the picture, Adam thought. Man, I should've seen this coming after the way Carlos ran off like that yesterday!
"Unfortunately, it's true," T.J. replied. "But until we can either get him back or find a replacement, would you be willing to help us?"
"Absolutely," said Adam, all of the Rangers striking their respective fighting stances.
* * *
Astronema was furious as she watched what was happening on the viewscreen. "Another Black Ranger?!" she yelled. "How could that boy be a Ranger?" But then she thought about it. "But at least that explains why he was helping that friend of his." No matter what, that was the final straw. "Fire the Satellasers!!" she screamed, slamming her hand down on Elgar's.
* * *
Seconds later, LizWizard grew to city-wrecking proportions. "Oh no," was all Adam could say.
"All right guys, let's do it!" Andros shouted.
Right then, Adam's powers gave out again. Falling down to one knee once more, there was nothing he could do as they fluctuated back and forth. Finally, the powers gave out completely, and Adam was left unprotected and defenseless. The four Rangers ran to him as he tried to regain his balance. "Adam, are you all right?" T.J. asked.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Adam replied, still trying to catch his breath. "But it's pretty obvious I can't help you guys like this."
"Donít worry," Andros said. "We'll be able to take it from here." He looked to the other Rangers. "You guys ready?"
The four Rangers stood in a line and raised their hands to the sky. "We need Astro Megazord power, now!" they all cried.
Adam watched in awe as the massive spaceship appeared through the clouds and transformed into the mighty robot. "Wow," he said to himself, "I wonder what it's like to be up there."
LizWizard charged at the Megazord. "Astro Megazord Saber on-line!" Andros commanded. The immense sword appeared in the robot's hand. "This one's for both of our Black Ranger friends!" The Megazord made one clean sweep with the saber and slashed through the monster. LizWizard fell to the ground and exploded into a massive fireball, finally defeated for good.
One week had passed since the LizWizard incident, and thankfully, there were no monster attacks that entire time. Neither Adam nor the Rangers had even heard from Carlos either since the Black Ranger declared his intention to quit. In hopes that he would find out what was going on, Adam stopped by Carlos's house. "What the . . ." he began to ask himself when he saw the "For Sale" sign in the front yard. "This can't be right!"
"Oh, you didn't hear?" one of the neighbors called out from his yard.
"Hear what?" Adam asked.
"The whole Vallerte family just moved out the other day," the neighbor replied.
Adam couldn't believe this. Moved? "Where to?"
"San Francisco. I don't know, but the oldest kid--Carlos, I think--said something about them wanting to get away from all the monster attacks." Adam's eyes widened in disbelief as the neighbor rambled on. "Geez, that whole family up and gone in less than a week. Unreal how so many people can move out so fast." But before the man could say anymore, Adam was already gone himself.
* * *
Adam sat in the park alone. "It's my fault this has happened," he berated himself. "If I didn't work him so hard, Carlos would've never left." He thought about the day he chose Carlos to be the next Green Turbo Ranger. Adam could remember the exact words he said to him: "You've proven yourself to be decisive and intelligent." But did I make the right choice in choosing him as my replacement? he had asked himself then. Now Adam was asking himself the same question a year later, and the answer had now become clear to him that he hadn't. "Now because of me, the Power Rangers are down a member."
All of a sudden, there was a red streak of light in front of him, and Andros, dressed in street clothes, appeared from it. "Adam?"
The former Ranger looked up. "What do you want?"
"I wanted to speak to you . . . about Carlos. There was something he wanted me to tell you."
Adam got up and started to walk off. "Yeah, you're probably blaming me for him quitting the team," he grumbled.
"I'm not blaming you for anything!" Andros replied. "None of us are." Adam stopped and looked back at the Red Ranger. "Carlos made the decision himself. He'd even said that it wasn't because of you."
Adam finally turned around and looked once more at the current Ranger. "It wasn't?"
"Right after he left, I found this letter in his quarters." Andros pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket. "I'm pretty sure he wanted you to read it."
"Do the others know about it?" Adam asked, taking the letter and beginning to read it over.
"Not yet," said Andros. "But after you read it and make your decision, I'll make sure they will."
As you already know, I've decided to leave the Power Ranger team. After injuring Cassie, I feel like every move I make could hurt or kill someone important to me. I don't want to risk anything happening to any of you because I can't control my actions, and so that's why I've chosen to move on with my life.
My friend Adam, whom I had replaced as the Green Ranger last year, tried to help me overcome my fears, but it was not enough. Adam, if you ever read this, please know that this isn't your fault. I value everything you've done for me, from being the best soccer coach I've ever known, to the best friend I've ever had. You took the time out of your life to help me with my martial arts skills, come to my aid in battle when you did, and be an overall great friend. I'm sure that the Power Rangers lost something very important when you were forced to step down.
Now that I'm gone, I know that you'll be searching for a new Black Ranger. I would ask Adam to take back this role, but after all that he's done for me, I believe that he deserves better. Andros, if it's all right with you, I ask that you take my place as Black Ranger and that Adam take over as Red Ranger. I know that he would make an excellent leader of the Rangers, perhaps one of the best there may ever be. Ashley, T.J., Cassie, I know you would agree with me on this as well.
Yo los recordaré, mis amigos.
Adam was at a loss for words after reading the final paragraph. This could at last be my chance to become a Ranger again! he thought. Even though it has to come at a price, it's what Carlos wanted. I've never let him down before, and I still won't let him down now.
Andros looked at him. "Well, will you do it?"
It didn't take long for the one-time Ranger to make his decision. "You bet I will, man," Adam replied, taking his new teammate's hand the way he would with all of his friends.
The three Rangers sat around a table in the Astro Megaship's main workroom, eating their dinner. "You know, I still can't believe he moved," Cassie said.
"Yeah," Ashley replied, "and so fast. I guess Carlos really was serious when he said he never wanted to come back."
"But I just wish we knew who to pick to take his place," T.J. mentioned. "I mean, we can't just pick anyone to be a Ranger."
A short while later, Andros, still dressed in street clothes, finally walked in by himself, a completely emotionless expression on his face. Ashley immediately looked up upon seeing him. "Well, where have you been all this time?" she asked.
"Yeah, you either show up for dinner on time or don't show up at all," Cassie added jokingly.
"Guys," Andros announced in mock sadness, "I'm calling off the search for a new Black Ranger."
"But . . ." T.J. replied, "we need a fifth Ranger, especially with Zhane gone right now!"
"You can't just give up the search!" Cassie protested.
Andros finally cracked a smile and then laughed. "Guys, just watch! Letís Rocket!" 3-3-5-Enter! he pressed into his morpher.
What happened next took the team by complete shock. Instead of morphing into the Red Ranger, Andros became the Black Ranger. "Does this answer your questions?" he said, removing his helmet.
The three Rangers all gave him a confused look. "So . . . who's gonna be the Red Ranger then if you're gonna be the Black Ranger?" Ashley asked.
"I am," another voice said.
All the Rangers looked back and found someone else standing in the doorway in the Red Ranger's costume. Seconds later, the Ranger removed his helmet and revealed himself to be none other than Adam, his hair cut short again like it used to be during the early part of his Ranger career. He looked around at the three stunned Rangers, none of them expecting any of this. "Well, nice to see you guys again too," he joked in light of the three's silent response.
"Andros, what's going on?" T.J. finally asked. "What's Adam doing here . . . and as the Red Ranger?"
"After the last battle," Andros explained, "I found a letter that was left in Carlos's quarters. Here." He showed it to the three. "In it, he asked that I replaced him as the Black Ranger and that Adam took my place as the Red Ranger. I hope this is all right with you."
The Rangers read it over. "Carlos is right," said T.J. "We do agree."
"Yeah," Ashley added. "Carlos always told us about how great of a Ranger and friend Adam was to him."
"And after what Adam did last week, it's only fitting," Cassie continued.
"Well, I guess that settles it," Andros said. He extended his hand to Adam in partnership. "Welcome to the team, new Red Ranger."
There was a huge smile on Adam's face, and it didn't look like it was going to disappear anytime soon. "It's my pleasure, new Black Ranger," he responded in kind, taking Andros's hand.
"Boy, is Zhane ever gonna be in for a shock when he comes back and sees this," T.J. commented.
"Who's Zhane?" Adam asked.
"Zhane's the Silver Ranger," Andros replied. "He and I have been best friends since our days on KO-35. I just hope he's doing all right with the refugees." He hated to see his friend, whom he had just been reunited with after two years, leave again, but he knew it was all for a good cause.
Adam laughed. "I guess I have been out of it for a while!" he said. "A Silver Ranger, huh? Looks like I'm gonna have a lot of catching up to do!"
"Hey, don't worry about it," T.J. reassured him, clapping his hand on the new leader's shoulder. "We'll get you caught up in no time."
Adam shot up from his bed and looked around; it was already morning. He looked at his clock, which showed that it was shortly after 9:00 am. He thought for a minute. "Was that all a dream?" he asked himself. "Did I only dream that I became the Red Ranger?" He ran a hand through his hair to find that it indeed was cut short again, so he at least knew something about all of that was real, but everything else with becoming a Ranger again still seemed a little too hard to believe.
After doing nothing but sit there for a few more minutes, Adam glanced back over to his nightstand and found a strange device laying on it. Still unsure if everything that had happened to him the day before was real or just a dream, he stood up and picked up the device. It looked familiar, but Adam couldn't seem to determine what exactly it was, that was, until part of it popped open and revealed a small keypad. He then looked at the keypad curiously as a simple three-digit code suddenly came to him, and then slowly punched it in as if he knew exactly what to do. 3 . . . 3 . . . 5 . . . Enter . . .
All of a sudden, Adam felt a sudden rush of power surge through him. "Whoa!" was all he could say as he was suddenly enveloped in a quick wash of red light. It was a familiar feeling, one that he had experienced many times before, but it was a new and different feeling at the same time. It was the feeling of morphing into a Power Ranger.
When it was all over, Adam turned and looked into the mirror. Though the room was still slightly darkened from the drawn shades, he could see his reflection clearly. "I don't believe it," he said to himself, stunned to see the form of a Ranger staring back at him instead of his normal reflection. It wasn't the first time he had done this, though. Four years before, when he had first become the Black Ranger, he had looked at himself in that very same mirror and couldn't believe then that he had been chosen to be a Ranger to begin with. "I really am a Ranger again!" Adam continued to look himself over, expecting to see himself in the black or green armor he had grown so accustomed to, and so it caught him off guard to see neither of these colors; instead, the armor he now wore was red. "And . . . I'm the Red Ranger too . . ."
Adam then realized something else that more often than not came with wearing that particular Ranger color. "And that means . . ." He slowly removed his helmet and looked at himself again in the mirror, a huge smile spreading across his face. ". . . I'm the leader . . ."
Suddenly, there was a slightly unfamiliar beeping sound. Adam just about jumped at it once he heard it, but when he heard it again, he realized that it was coming from the communicator sitting on his nightstand. I don't remember it making that kind of sound, he thought as he picked it up. "Adam here," he said into it instinctively. "What's up?"
On the other end was Deca, the Astro Megaship computer. "Adam, sensors do not indicate that any of Astronemaís forces are on Earth, but I detect that you have morphed. Is there an emergency that the other Rangers should be informed of?"
Adam smiled again. "No need, Deca," he replied. "I was just . . . curious about my new powers, that's all. Nothingís wrong."
"Understood," the computer responded before automatically signing off.
Adam took another look at himself in the mirror, still impressed by seeing himself in the Red Lightstar Ranger's armor, and then glanced over to the other side of the room, where there was a neatly folded Astro Megaship flight suit, complete with the red shirt and accents. He now remembered everything about the day before; later that day, he was supposed to report to the Megaship, where he would begin his new duties as leader of the Rangers. Finally powering down, Adam walked over and picked up the uniform. "Something tells me this is just the beginning," he said to himself, letting out a heavy yet confident sigh, "only the beginning."
It was only a matter of a few hours now before Adam was expected on the Megaship, and so he took advantage of that time by using it to get used to his new powers. He was out in the desert, one of the places he would always go to whenever he felt the need to get away from everyday life. It was also where he had always felt the most comfortable practicing while morphed, something he hadn't forgotten about in that past year. Before he had even attempted using his old Mastodon powers the week before to protect himself, Adam had already pondered coming out here to try using them again, just to see if it really would work. But none of that mattered now that he was a full-fledged Ranger again and he had new--and more stable--powers.
"Spiral Saber!" Adam reached up and the weapon materialized in his hand. Then, as if someone were right in front of him and about to attack, he began to twirl and swing the saber around in a series of fluid, effortless movements, gradually adding in many of the other martial arts techniques he had developed over time. But as Adam tried to relax himself with this practicing, there were still many things on his mind. Once I was forced to give up my powers a year ago, he thought, I thought my days as a Ranger were over for good. But just as I had gotten used to living a normal life again, I noticed that Carlos was in trouble. Because I couldn't just stand there and let my friend get beaten, I had to help him out, and that was when everything changed all over again. I had expected to just help him out with his self-confidence and fighting skills and then go on with the rest of my life, but that was when my life changed once more. I finally had my chance to be a Ranger again, and it nearly killed me. But now I have yet another chance to be a Ranger, and it's much more than what I had ever expected. Amazing how wishes sometimes really can come true. I'm the Red Ranger now--the leader of the Power Rangers--and now I'm going to work to make myself one of the best leaders the Rangers have ever seen, no matter what I have to do. It's what Carlos wanted for me, and it's what all of my Ranger friends, old and new, would want of me as well. And I won't let any of them down.
After one last finishing move, Adam stuck the point of the saber into the hard earth, removed his helmet, and looked up. It was almost time to begin his new role as leader, and he was finally ready to accept this position. "This is for you, Carlos," he said, a smile spreading across his face. "Even though it had to come at a price, thank you . . . for giving me the chance of a lifetime."