It was night. The room had been darkened, the dormitory was quiet, and the bed was warm and comfortable. There was still no way Karone could get to sleep. Her mind was filled with dozens of images that whirled around dizzily, sharp memories so vivid she could still see and feel everything as if she was living the moments all over again. Some of them were pleasant, like the rush she had felt the first time she had transformed, but some of them were the makings of nightmares...
"Maya?" she called softly into the darkness. "Maya, are you awake?"
Maya stirred. Her sleep had been interrupted the night before, and she had been looking forward to getting a decent rest. Slowly and reluctantly, she rolled over and opened her eyes.
"I guess I'm awake," she said. "What's wrong?"
"I can't sleep," Karone answered, a little sheepishly. "I'm sorry, Maya, but I guess I'm not used to the change in times. My mind still thinks it's the middle of the afternoon, and... I keep thinking about things."
"What kind of things?" asked Maya.
"All kinds," said Karone. "Maya, do you really think I'm going to make a good Power Ranger?"
"Of course you are!" Maya assured her. "You were great today! How can you doubt yourself?"
"Don't you know about me?" Karone asked, a little surprised.
"What am I supposed to know?"
"About... about Astronema, and Dark Specter, and Zordon, and all the terrible things I did," said Karone. "Didn't someone tell you?"
"No. None of those names mean anything to me," Maya admitted, but her interest was piqued. Living in the heart of unspoiled nature had given her sensitivity to the feelings of other living things, be they animals, plants, humans, or Galactabeasts, and right now, could hear the hurt in Karone's voice. It was the sound of an old injury, and it would have to be healed before Karone would be strong enough to be a true Ranger. Maya got out of bed and climbed down to the lower bunk so she could kneel next to Karone.
"Tell me what's wrong," she said gently.
"I don't know where to begin," Karone replied. "I've done horrible things, Maya. I used to be one of the villains. Cities were destroyed because of me, and people died on my command. I even tried to kill my own brother. I still have these nightmares, sometimes... it's awful." Her voice choked up with tears, and she blinked her eyes rapidly to keep from crying.
"It's okay," Maya soothed, stroking Karone's hair gently, willing her to be comforted. "Everything has changed now. You're a good person, Karone. I've only known you for a few hours, but I can see it already. Remember, this is the chance you wanted to make up for your past. You've already made a wonderful start, and you can only get better at it with time."
"You think so?" asked Karone, sniffling a little.
"I know so," Maya replied.
"Thanks." Karone smiled a little. "That means a lot to me."
"You're welcome. That's what friends are for - to help each other," Maya replied. She yawned. "I'm sleepy. Are you going to be okay?"
"I think so," answered Karone. "Good night, Maya."
"Good night Karone."
Maya crawled back into her bunk and snuggled down under the blankets. There were few things as relaxing as being able to hide in a comfortable bed and rest at the end of a long day like this one. It was so different from the way things had been on Mirinoi, where she had slept on a cot or hammock or sometimes even on the ground, cushioned by leaves or moss. That had been nice, but she had to admit that mattresses and clean, smooth sheets were an improvement. She was just starting to slip into hazy memories of her home, playing tag with her friends through the village streets when...
"Maya, are you still awake?"
That voice again. Slightly irritated, but unable to resist the gentle, almost childlike pleading, Maya answered, "I am now. What is it?"
"What was Kendrix like?" asked Karone.
"Well, she was..." Maya paused, thinking. How did she describe her friend? "She was really smart, really curious. She always had to know everything about everything, especially about plants and animals. It was something we shared. And she was always so thoughtful - she'd do anything for a friend, and she always kept her promises. She liked to take care of people and make them happy. She was always so glad to make friends... I didn't know her very long, but she was one of the best friends I ever had." Maya had to stop there; the tears she had thwarted in Karone now threatened to engulf her, and she took a moment to collect herself.
"I'm sorry, Maya. I didn't mean to make you cry," Karone apologized.
Maya took a deep breath to steady herself. "It's okay. I guess I need to talk about it with someone."
"Then is it okay to ask you another question?"
"Sure," said Maya. That wasn't quite true - she wasn't completely sure she wanted to answer whatever was coming next. This was leading to something, and it wasn't likely to be comfortable, but she thought Karone probably needed to know.
"Okay." Karone also took a deep breath. "Maya, how did Kendrix die?"
There was stillness for a moment. It was very quiet in the dark.
"I'm sorry, that was a bad question. I shouldn't have asked. It's probably too painful for you..." said Karone.
"It's all right," said Maya, with a steadiness she didn't feel. "It's only natural you'd want to know. I'll see if I can explain it. You know Cassie, don't you?"
"Yes," Karone replied.
"Well, she was here, with the other Space Rangers. They were helping us fight these creatures called the Psycho Rangers. We managed to destroy most of them, but Psycho Pink survived, and she stole a weapon called the Savage Sword. Cassie and Kendrix went to take it away from her, but Psycho Pink was too powerful for them. Cassie was badly hurt, and... Kendrix gave her life to save her."
"So it was Psycho Pink's fault she died?"
Maya winced; there was something wrong with the way Karone said that. She sounded too scared - terrified, even. All her instincts were warning her from giving an honest answer to that, but Maya couldn't help saying, "Yes."
"Oh, no," Karone whispered. "Oh, no." There were stifled sobs.
"What's wrong?"asked Maya anxiously. "Karone, what is it? Tell me."
"It's my fault," Karone choked out. "I'm so sorry, Maya. You'll never be able to forgive me..." Karone was deeply in tears now, crying into her pillow.
"Forgive you for what?" Maya asked.
"The Psycho Rangers," said Karone miserably. "They were my creations. It's my fault Kendrix died. If it hadn't been for me, she'd still be here."
Maya's brain reeled in shock. No wonder Karone was upset!
"It's not your fault," Maya said. "You didn't intend for this to happen. You weren't responsible for bringing the Psychos back. You didn't tell Psycho Pink to do what she did - she came up with that idea on her own. None of this is your doing."
"I shouldn't be here," Karone insisted. "How can I take Kendrix's place?"
"She chose you to be her successor. I trust in her judgement," Maya replied. "If she thinks you'll make a good Pink Ranger, I have no doubt you will be."
Karone sniffled a little. "Maybe."
"I'm sure of it," Maya insisted. "Wherever she is now, I'm sure she'll be looking after you."
"Yeah," Karone said. She was still sniffling a little, but she was back in control again. "I remember her saying that. She said she'd be here if I needed her."
"I wonder what she's doing now?" said Maya, half to herself.
"She's all right," said Karone positively. "It's not so bad being dead."
"What?" Maya was not sure she'd heard right. "Why do you say that?"
"Because I was there, once," Karone replied. "I died in battle on my last day on the dark side. I remember being somewhere very dark, and I was moving toward this light far, far away. There were people there, calling me to come join them, but I didn't, because I could feel my brother was somewhere nearby. I remember feeling how scared he was, but also how much he loved me. I had to go back to let him know I was all right, so I did... and then I was alive again."
"Are you for real?" asked Maya, amazed.
"It's true," Karone insisted. "Ask anyone. Ask Andros."
"If that's true..." Maya began, almost not daring to hope, "if that's true, do you think Kendrix might make it back, too?"
"Maybe," Karone said. "Even I can see how much you and the others love her. If you really needed her, she'll be here for you, just like she was there for me today."
"Thanks, Karone," said Maya. "I needed to hear that."
"You helped me, too," said Karone. "Maybe we both needed to talk." She was quiet for a second, staring across the room and out the window to the view of the everlasting starry universe. "Wow. I still can't quite believe all of this is happening. Imagine - me, a Power Ranger."
"I don't see anything strange about it," said Maya. "You're heart is full of goodness and innocence... you almost glow. The soul of a true hero shines within you."
"Like a night-light," said Karone sleepily. "That's funny."
The room became quiet again. Maya could hear the sound of her friend's breathing, slow and regular. She had finally fallen asleep. Maya would join her in a little while. For the first time since Kendrix's death, she felt really at peace. Not that she didn't still miss Kendrix, but it was good to have a new friend here to share the pain. Things would never be quite the same, but they would be all right. Everything was going to be all right...
Unseen in the darkness, Kendrix put out a hand to brush a
fallen lock of hair away from
her sleeping friend's face. Then she stood away again, watching both of
the Ranger girls enjoying
their well-deserved sleep, and she smiled. It was nice to know that
things would be well taken
care of in her absence. With a small sigh, she faded away, content.