It was a time of preparation.
It had been nearly a full year since the violent end of the Alliance of Evil. Enemies of the Earth past and present had been destroyed through one selfless, and another brave act. Those villains who escaped a quick painful end had found themselves reformed into ordinary humans, now melding in with societies around the universe, making penance for their ill deeds.
Andros inhaled deeply, taking in the unusually cool desert air. His eyes rested upon the mountain before him, or rather the structure atop it.
When his friends first showed him the rubble, the Kerovan male had wondered what was so special about the former base of operations for the Power Rangers Turbo. Then, his mind fluttered back to his own base, the Astro Megaship, and he realized how important the craft was to him.
The Power Chamber was now rebuilt, but none would recognize it. The once tall circular building was now more geometrical, and greatly larger than before. And perhaps the most impressive feature of it's design, was it's full docking ability with the Megaship, which was partially sunken into the top of the Chamber, waiting to depart on it's next mission.
"It sure is a sight, isn't it?"
Andros nodded to the blonde man. He had known Zhane most of his career as a Ranger, and the two had been the best of friends ever since they claimed their respective mantles on their home colony of KO-35.
Both had attempted to return to their world, but found it too difficult. Andros had left his colony many years ago of his own will in search of his sister, while Zhane spent most of those years locked in a cryogenic unit healing injuries. Zhane had to agree with Andros' statement when the Kerovan's had decided to remain on Earth.
*My home is with you guys.* Andros realized on that day seemingly so long ago.
"This feels right." Zhane admitted. His friend agreed, but still questioned the comment to a degree. "It's everything we've ever talked about, Andros. We've got a family, now. We've never had anything close to this. It just feels like everything's set into place."
A lanky man stepped down the mountainside, a datapad in one had. "I'm sorry to interrupt, but this just came in." He handed the pad over to the Kerovan. "It's from the Aquitians. They're giving up on the search."
Andros examined the report, and sighed. "Cassie isn't going to take this very well."
"By the way," added the messenger, "Everyone says they're ready to go ahead with the plan."
Andros returned the datapad to its courier. "Thank you, Skull. Tell them it's at their discretion."
"Right away." Skull acknowledged, returning to the Power Chamber.
"How'd we manage with just a skeleton crew?" Zhane laughed.
"We never had a need for more than six people." Andros reminded, leading his friend along the path Skull had just set on his return to the base. "But then again, we never had more than six people with us at once. There's still a lot that needs to be done, and we can't do it by ourselves."
Andros placed his palm over the Power Chamber's locking mechanism, watching the green wave scan his hand several times. As expected, the door slid open a second later, granting him and Zhane access to the base once more.
The station was crawling with life. The two Kerovan's had listened to the tales of the Power Chamber as told by their teammates. The base was always quite large, but never housed more than the absolute minimum of crewmembers, including Rangers. At most, the standard population was eight, consisting of six Rangers, an advisor, and one man technical support crew in the form of an Alpha Unit.
Andros and Zhane both stepped foot onto the second level catwalks, peering at the floor below them, as well as the number of platforms above. As was custom for Andros, he strolled the walks trying to imagine how all of the change had come about.
"Miss Applebee." Zhane shook the hand of the approaching teacher, her line loyal students filed behind her. "How is the field trip going? Well?"
The rounded teacher smiled a nod. "Oh yes, very well. I can't thank you Rangers enough for arranging this visit. You have all been so helpful. And the students are even becoming interested in the military after they see what one man can do." She cast a glance around Zhane, to Andros.
"Excuse me," A hefty young man made his way between the two Rangers and the class. "Andros, you've got people lined up around the corner of your office. You might want to check into that."
Andros smacked his forehead. "The interviews! I completely forgot about them." He looked between the young man and his friend. "Zhane, I'll need your help with this. Class," he addressed the young masses. "This is our chief communications officer, Bulk. He'll take care of any questions you need answered." The Kerovan quickly peddled off into a turbo lift. "Executive level." He ordered, the platform ascending a moment after Zhane had boarded it.
"Thanks, Jerome." Cassie smiled as the former Angel Grove Police lieutenant, now head of security for the Power Chamber dropped a handful of reports on her desk. She scanned each one, piling them according to priority. Then, one caught her eye.
"Regarding Phantom Ranger?" She read the folder's label, and opened the manila binding. "It is the sad decision of the Power Rangers of Aquitar to make the following public statement." She read, hands quivering. "After a standard year's search, we have uncovered no evidence of the Phantom Ranger's existence. Therefore, we are assuming the subject deceased---"
She read no further in the report, simply hearing the last word repeat over and over again in her mind. *...deceased.*
Cassie lifted her head from her hands, seeing a sincere TJ in the doorway. "You knew?"
"I assumed." The black man corrected, stepping over to her desk. "All we can do right now, is hope that the report is premature." He sat down at the chair before him. "I know this must be hard on you. Especially with the bond the two of you had. But Cassie, I don't think he's coming back."
"I don't either." The Asian girl said. "But I can't just give up on him, Teej. He's been through so much, I can't write him off as missing in action." She slumped into her chair. "Everyone else has had it so easy since the war. Meanwhile, I'm sitting here, cooped up in my office all day, wondering if someone I barely know is alive."
"It's normal to grieve." TJ placed a hand over his friend's. "But the more you cling to those memories, the more you're going to lose touch with what you have now." He tossed a smile at her. "C'mon. The others are meeting us for lunch at Adelle's. We should get going."
Cassie sniffed, and got to her feet. "Maybe you're right. It's probably for the best if I just let it---" Her soft words were interrupted by the faint beeping of her desk-mounted terminal. She frantically punched a sequence of buttons on her counter top keyboard, pulling the results onto a screen. "Oh my God."
"What is it?" TJ asked, stepping around to her side of the desk.
"Those probes we sent out to various galaxies, one of them is reading an energy signature." She continued to access results. "It's classified as a talisman." She looked with wide eyes to TJ. "It could be the Power Ruby. That could be the Phantom out there!"
"Don't go jumping to conclusions, Cassie. It could be an error. Our local scanners were registering the Power Coin remains for a week before we fine-tuned the system. A little residual energy goes a long way."
"I have to check this out." She said with a harsh stare. "Tell the others I'll be late."
"Whatever you say." TJ replied, his voice filled with conflicting tones. From the door, he looked over his shoulder. Cassie was already consumed by her personal mission. He had to believe she might never be drawn away from it.
TJ rapped his knuckles on the door several times, but obtained no response. Curious, he swung open the door to Cassie's office. Her vacant office. He paced to her computer, a set of fresh results from the probes displayed on the screen.
TJ summoned the fourteen-year-old boy. The former Blue Turbo Ranger had jumped at the opportunity to become the Ranger's chief engineer. Sometimes his advanced IQ found some tasks tedious, but he was glad to be back in the game.
"Have you seen Cassie?"
The boy nodded, his 'mop-top' hair flopping into his eyes. "Yeah, I saw her a few minutes ago. She said she wanted to take her Glider out for a test run. We just finished putting the new hyper-rush accelerators on."
"Thanks." TJ found the nearest staircase, and descended. It was no coincidence that Cassie testing the hyper-rush system on her Galaxy Glider was a few minutes after she had received reports of several active talismans in other planetary systems.
He nearly plowed through any of the workmen on the floor, doing whatever he could to shorten the distance between himself and the girl. He found her ready to board her Glider, her pink helmet cradled under one arm.
"And where are you off to?" He asked, knowing the answer perfectly well.
"The probes picked up a talisman matching the ruby in the Packra System. So, I'm going to the Packra System. I'll find the Phantom Ranger and be home before dinner."
"Cassie, let it go." TJ placed a hand on her shoulder, only to have it promptly swatted away.
"Teej, either help me, or get out of my way." Her venomous eyes narrowed on the young man, who stood silent. "You may not think this is important, but I do. If there's the smallest chance he's alive, I'm going to do everything I can to find the Phantom Ranger. With or without your help."
"Droz," TJ called to the rather unconventional but well loved mechanic. "Is my Glider ready?"
The tattooed man nodded, pulling a tarp from he vehicle. "We just finished it." He said with deserved pride. "These babies can now go up to hyper-rush six."
"Good work, Droz." TJ hopped onto the machine, and punched in the security code for the morpher he wore around his wrist. In a flash of blue light, a Ranger of the same color replaced him. He regarded his pink counterpart for a moment, and decided "Let's go."
"Thanks, TJ." Cassie half-smiled, fixing her helmet to her head. The two Gliders lifted off from their supports, and disappeared through their custom-built access tunnels. As they left the confines of the Power Chamber, and streaked off into the atmosphere, the Pink Ranger realized she had never been so determined in her life.
"Don't even bother with the questions, Zhane." Andros commented at the next applicant. It was quite the unexpected pleasure for him to look up from his paperwork and find one Adam Park standing before him. "He's in."
"Actually, I was just looking for Carlos." Adam shyly confided. "I wanted to see how he was doing." Andros seemed a bit embarrassed, but more disappointed by the statement. "But I might as well ask, 'in' for what?"
"Have a seat." Andros suggested. He decided to take care of introductions first. "Zhane, this is Adam. He helped pull Carlos out of a small depression while you were helping the rebels. Adam, this is Zhane, I believe Carlos has told you about the Silver Ranger.
"We're looking for instructors." The Kerovan continued. "As you probably know from one of our press releases, we've lost three out of four Megazords, and the Megaship still isn't in any shape to go into battle.
"With every experiment our research and development team conducts, we come close to tapping new energies, or some forgotten ones. We're on the verge of a breakthrough with Zord technology, but our time is beginning to run a little thin.
"So, we've decided to start an academy. A Ranger Academy. We want to take the best of the best of this world, and create a new team or two. But the problem is, we're low on those with experience. We were hoping to cover all aspects of the Rangers, leaving nothing to question. Right now however, I don't think that's going to happen."
"I'll do it."
Zhane blinked at the sudden acceptance. "You will?"
Adam shrugged. "Yeah. Why not. It shouldn't be too different from my old Martial Arts classes at the Youth Center, right? You've got yourself a new instructor."
"Excellent!" Andros' grin spread from ear-to-ear. "Tomorrow afternoon the rest of the staff should be arriving if everything goes according to schedule. It will give you all enough time to coordinate your lessons. Your students should be arriving at the end of the week."
"I have," Adam mentally calculated the time frame, "Four days? Four days to come up with a lesson plan for training Power Rangers? No offense, Andros, but that's a little tight."
"You and the other instructors will be collaborating on a lesson plan." Zhane explained. "Each of you would go into detail regarding different areas. After all, if the teachers can't work as a team, how can the students learn to?"
"If you say so." Adam said, standing. He was about to leave when he remembered the reason he had first entered. Fortunately, so did Andros.
"Carlos is in the library."
Carlos looked away from the datapad, leaned back into his chair, and sighed. The Chamber's new library was very up to date on all subjects, as well as comfortable, but the Black Ranger was not sure if he'd be able to memorize three forms of planetary protocol. Ever.
He readjusted himself in the plush chair, rubbing his temple. He'd have to remember to have one of the Chamber's doctors check his vision. He wiped his palm down his face one time, and reopened his eyes.
"Adam? What are you doing here?"
The former Green Turbo Ranger took a seat near his successor. "Well, I just came to see how you were doing after that one day, but I seemed to have trapped myself into teaching for the Academy?"
"You're a teacher, here?" Carlos chuckled. "Wow. Looks like your days as a Ranger just went full circle, huh?"
"Looks like it." Adam agreed. "Hey, what's that?" He motioned over to the datapad on the table.
"Oh," Carlos slid the item over to his friend. "It's just a little thing called protocol. Now that we've gone public, and we're using alien technology to advance civilization, we all figured it'd be wise to learn three common forms of political etiquette. Eltarean, Triforian, and Aquitian. And they're all very, very complicated."
"You look tired." Adam commented.
"I am." Again, Carlos wiped his face, and stretched out a yawn. "I've been at the books since seven o'clock this morning. And I still can't tell you the proper response to a middle-class merchant on Triforia's sub-continents."
"Good lord, you need to know that?" Adam asked.
"Actually no." Carlos recalled. "I don't know where that came from. I think I'll go hit the sack for a few hours." He decided. "Sorry about cutting the visit short--"
"No problem." Adam waved off any possible hard feelings. "I'll just take a tour of the compound. I'll probably have to get some security passes and stuff."
"Yeah." Carlos sluggishly got to his feet, stretching again. "Jerome--- y'know, Lieutenant Stone, he'll take care of all that for you. His office is one floor up. The lifts should take you there no problem." The young Hispanic man collected his datapad, and shuffled to the door. "Now if you'll excuse me, my head and my pillow have an appointment."
The two Gliders broke through the atmosphere of Inus, quickly approaching the water covered planet. Each traveler slowed their descent, and their vehicles calmly hovered above the water as the two Rangers surveyed their location.
Blue looked about. In the distance, he saw some descendants of trees, and other plant life, but they seemed half-submerged. Curiously, he looked down at the crystal clear water, and saw several mammal-like creatures running along the surface.
"Is this planet totally covered in water?" He asked.
Pink Ranger nodded. "At almost every point on the planet's surface, there's at least two feet of water. It's home to mainly small aquatic and avian life. Some larger mammals exist, but they're rare." She answered his blank stare with, "What? You'd think I'd go planet hopping without knowing where I'm headed? Please."
"Okay, so where's this energy signature?" Pink withdrew a small hand-held computer from her belt line. "It's coming from---" The computer beeped, and her hand shot out towards the horizon. "There. I'm picking up a trace of the signature. Either we're quite a distance away, or he's moving and it's an old signal."
"We'd better get a move on, then." Blue recommended. He leaned forward, activating the acceleration systems of the Glider. "Because I don't think anyone would want to live on this planet for too long."
"Did you find them?"
Ashley shook her head. "No, not a trace of them anywhere." She could sense Andros about to explode. "It's not like them to run off and not tell anyone. Maybe there was an emergency."
"They still would have told us." Andros leaned over the railing of the catwalk, scanning the tech crew that was always hard at work. "Their Gliders are gone." He said, counting the number of small vehicles. "Hey, Droz!" The Kerovan called down to the mechanic. "Have you seen Cassie or TJ?"
The grungy workman replied, "Yeah, they left about forty-five minutes ago."
"They left?" Andros verified. "Where did they go?"
The man shrugged. "I dunno. Pinky mentioned something about the Packra System."
"What's in the Packra System?" Ashley quietly asked.
"Only three planets." Andros' face soured. "Two of them are uninhabitable, even in Ranger gear. Which means there's only one place they could be." Leaning over again, this time visibly angered, Andros called to another. "Bulk, I need a long distance communication to TJ and Cassie on Inus. When you have it, patch it through to my office."
"Will do." The hefty man saluted.
"Let's see what had these two so riled up." Andros proposed, stomping back to his office. Upon entering, a page emitted from the communications terminal.
"I'm patching the transmission through now, Andros." Bulk's voice declared.
"Thank you, Bulk." Andros detected the change in reception, as well as the small beep that signaled the switching of frequencies. He asked his first question. "What exactly are you two doing on Inus?"
Blue Ranger could be heard mumbling, "I think I'll let you field that one, Cassie."
"I don't care who tells me, just give me an answer. Why did two Rangers just get up and leave for a planet eight systems away?" Andros forced himself to await a response that never came. "This is the part where one of you answers."
"Okay," Pink submitted to her leader's harsh tones. "I picked up the signal for an active talisman on Inus. I thought it might have been the Phantom Ranger. I'm sorry, Andros, but I had to do this. As for TJ, I think he just came along in case I ran into trouble. He wasn't exactly in the mood for a rescue mission."
"Neither am I." Andros countered. "Which is why you're both going to get back here immediately." To settle the dispute, Andros closed the channel before anyone could reply to his message. "Sorry about that." He apologized to Ashley.
"You're obviously very stressed out." Ashley recognized the trait immediately. "Why don't you go down to the gym and wail on a punching bag for a few minutes?"
"I guess not having any monsters to fight, I don't have an outlet for all that stuff anymore." He smiled, and although the expression was forced Ashley still found it appealing. "Actually, I think all I really need right now is a rest. Do me a favor, spread the word that I don't want to be interrupted for the next two hours. Which oddly enough, is the amount of sleep I've gotten this week."
Ashley giggled a compliance. "No problem." As Andros nearly stumbled onto the large couch located off to one side of the room, the Yellow Ranger quietly snuck out the door. She strode along the walkways, one of the wall-mounted communications systems notifying her.
"Attention:" Deca, the soft-voiced artificial intelligence of the Power Chamber spoke, "Incoming priority message."
"On screen." Ashley demanded. "Authorization yellow-one." She gasped at the staticy image of a man in heavy black armor. "Phantom?"
"Forgive me delay," the Phantom Ranger humbly apologized. "But it has taken me quite some time to locate the proper communications equipment. I hope none of you have been too overly concerned with my well-being."
"I don't know about that. But sit tight, TJ and Cassie already left for Inus."
"But Ashley," the Phantom responded, "I'm not on Inus. I'm on a mining colony in the Draven System." Even though his face completely hidden, Ashley could see the terrified eyes behind the mask. "And I have no way to get to Inus to warn them."
"I might." Ashley pressed a symbol on the illuminated keypad. "Deca, bounce a page to TJ's communicator. Priority two." She requested. "It will take them a second to respond," Ashley told the Phantom, but at least they'll know it's important."
"Destination not responding." Deca announced.
"Wonderful." Ashley sighed. "Don't worry, Phantom. I'll send Zhane out to bring them home."
"Please notify me of any difficulties." Phantom begged.
"There won't be any." Ashley assured, "But you have my word. Power Chamber out." She ended the transmission, and waited a few moments for the terminal to reset before opening a new channel. "Zhane, this is Ashley."
"Go ahead." The Silver Ranger directed after a slight pause.
"I'm not getting a response from TJ or Cassie. Can you go to Inus and check it out?" She listened to Zhane agree, and could see the Silver Ranger dash along the floor of the Chamber to Droz's team of skilled mechanics. "You be careful too!" She reminded as the Ranger boarded his own Glider. The brief salute-style gesture she received did not exactly fill her with confidence. "And call when you find them!"
But he was already gone.
"Remind me again, why I came?" Blue Ranger spat as he climbed from the water onto his Glider. He sat upon the vehicle, and removed his helmet. "This is a Wild Goose chase, you know." He scanned beneath the water once again. "I'm telling you there's nothing down there. I've checked three times, you've checked four. I'm not going down there again."
"We're right over the talisman!" Pink Ranger displayed the hand-held computer. "Coordinates zero, zero, zero. It has to be done there!"
"And if it is, it sure isn't the Power Ruby. Face it Cassie, the Phantom Ranger isn't here."
"You're right." Cassie uneasily accepted. She lifted her wrist, speaking into her communicator. "Cassie to Power Chamber." No response. "Cassie to Power Chamber. Can anyone read me?"
TJ, after attempting to use his communicator, came to the same conclusions. "They're busted. Well that doesn't matter. We'll be back home soon." The young man remained still for a moment. "Did you hear that?" He turned his focus behind him. "What in the world---"
Accompanying a low rumbling, came a large speeding mass. It sheared through the water, stomping it's heavy feet along the ground. Roughly the size of a Killer Whale, but armored and a quadroped, it was quite the intimidating vision.
"Look out!" TJ finally warned, as he tumbled off the side of his Glider. Pink Ranger had enough since to do the same, taking a healthy dive into the ocean covered planet.
Both Rangers, even over the now ear-bleeding rumbling, could hear the crunch of their Gliders as they were caught underneath the mighty feet of the beast.
"That," Cassie recalled, removing her helmet and pointing to the still moving creature, "Was an Inusian Land Whale. They're quite fast for their size."
"And that," TJ pointed to the destruction on the wet surface, "Used to be my Galaxy Glider. And it was our only way home. No Glider. No communicator. No luck." He felt an emptiness in his hands. "Hey, where's my helmet?" He submerged himself for the fourth time in the hour, and arose with the object in hand. "That should be everything." He took inventory, checking for his Astro Blaster. "Yup. All set." A thought crossed his head. "By the way, is this world dangerous?"
"Kinda..." Cassie shyly answered. "There are some -- impetuous creatures on this planet."
"I see." TJ frowned. "Well then, I might as well prepare myself for any other surprises." He summoned his Astral Axe, fixating it to his pistol. Guarding the rifle carefully, he gestured to his companion. "So where's the nearest dry place?"
Cassie reached for her belt, and panicked as she found the hand-held computer missing. "Oh no--" she groaned. Looking between the waist-deep waves, she saw the damaged device below her, laying among the other destroyed machines. "We're stranded, we're soaked, and we're walking blind."
"There's good news." TJ dunked once again dunked himself into the water, and after a moment, came back to the surface with two black cases underneath his arms. "The ration packs survived the encounter with our little friend. At least we won't starve while we're waiting for a rescue team."
On cue, Cassie's stomach growled with hunger. "Toss me something would you? I missed lunch."
TJ opened to box, fishing for something to tide his friend over. "How about this?" He displayed a fist-sized bar, wrapped in a strong foil. "Beef and cheese. It should keep you going until we hit land."
"Thanks," Cassie said gratefully, catching the bar as it was thrown to her. She ripped the foil open with her teeth, spitting the biodegradable wrap into the water. "Not bad." She graded the bar's taste. "Definitely not anything from the Surf Spot, but not bad."
TJ accounted for the situation ahead of them. "We're going to need to stay morphed. We don't have a change of clothes, and we'll need the accelerated healing factor since we don't have a medical kit."
"I'm really sorry about all of this, Teej." Cassie apologized.
"You had a good cause." TJ accepted. "Now let's just hope we can get out of here."
"Want some company?"
Ashley looked up from her plate, smiling at Adam. "Please. It seems everyone is somewhere else at the moment. Cassie and TJ are on Inus, Zhane's looking for them, and Andros is out like a light. I have no idea where Carlos is. I could use someone to talk to."
The Asian man set his tray on the table of the Chamber's commissary, and took a seat across from the girl. "Carlos is sleeping, too. You guys have a habit of wearing yourselves out in a short period of time," he smiled. "But after defeating all evil, rebuilding the Power Chamber, and starting a school, I can understand why you might be a little tired."
"That's right. Andros told me you signed up for a teaching position. Do you know this will be the only Ranger Academy in a four-galaxy radius? We may even be getting some foreign students. I know we were told we'd have a lot of responsibility as Rangers, but I never thought I'd be one of the founders of a training camp."
"You'll do fine. All of you will." Adam paused to take a sip of his beverage. "It will be a lot of responsibility, but that's what being a Ranger is all about. Besides, you've got one former Ranger on the teaching staff."
"The entire staff, actually." Ashley finished another mouthful of food. "Not all from this planet though. One of the Aquitian Rangers will be teaching, I believe. You're probably the last addition to the faculty. We thought we'd end up filling your spot with someone outside the team, but it looks like we've steered away from that problem." Finally, Ashley realized she had hoped to deviate from a profession- related conversation. "So, how are things with you?"
"Not bad." Adam shrugged. "Still working the stunt show at Angel Grove. Which reminds me, I'll have to put in my notice. I'm still seeing Tanya, who says 'Hello' by the way. And I finally got enough of a salary to buy a house. I was hoping to fit in some night courses at Angel Grove Community College, but apparently I'm not meant to be a student anymore."
"Ashley," a familiar voice came through the Yellow Ranger's communicator. "This is Zhane."
"What's up, Zhane?" She asked into the band on her wrist. "Did you find them?"
"Not yet," The Silver Ranger sighed. "But I did find two crushed Galaxy Gliders and the remains of a small navigational computer. The problem is the stuff drifted out in the water, so there's no telling exactly how far or how close I am. I'll keep searching, but it's not looking good."
"Thanks, Zhane." Ashley dropped her head into her hands. "Unbelievable."
"Thank God!" Cassie dropped herself into the sand of the small beach. "Dry land!" She demorphed, tired of wearing the wet suit-like clothing of the Rangers. "I never thought I'd be so glad to see dry land in my life!"
TJ followed suit, dropping like a sack of mud and deactivating his powers. "And before nightfall." He pointed to the setting sun. "We were lucky. We might've been stuck in that water all night, freezing our butts off." He reached for the rations box he had dropped beside him, and began to sift through it for any items that might amuse his tatsebuds. "Aha!"
He removed a package, again wrapped in the biodegradable foil. His fingers dug into the protective layer, ripping the sealed wrap into a long useless piece of shiny flimsy metal. With an eager hand, he grasped one of the few substances in the tray.
He bit into the bread-like pocket, feasting on it and it's contents. Before his third bite, he was kind enough to offer the tray to his fatigued friend.
"What is it?" Cassie asked. She remembered the first time she had to eat from the ration box some months ago. It didn't contain the most domestic of foods, mostly flavorless nutrients from KO-35. That was when she and the others petitioned Andros to allow them to create their own personal selections of rations.
"It's a meatball sub." TJ offered the tray again. "Kind of. More like a thin sandwich, but it's still good." She shook her head, and he graciously removed the offer from the table. "Well you need to eat something," he commanded, handing her supply over to the girl.
"Since when did you start giving orders?" She smirked.
TJ was taken aback. "I used to be your leader, y'know."
"You were never much of a leader." Cassie knew as soon as she had said the words, they were incorrect. "That came out wrong." She explained. "What I mean is, you were always more of a suggestion- giver. You took charge, sure. But you never pulled rank over any of us." Assuming the discussion didn't need to continue, she opened her box. One item was missing, the bar she had eaten earlier in the day. She had long burnt off the energy provided by the simple helping, and craved something larger.
She pulled a cylinder from the box, holding it in both hands. She gripped the very bottom of the cylinder, and twisted. After a small 'crack', the bottom of the container began to glow a brilliant orange. Cassie removed the lid from the cup, and took a sip of the steaming contents.
"It's a stove." TJ realized, his friend focused on digesting the soup within the black mug. "Where did you come up with that idea?" He asked.
"From those glow stick things." Cassie answered. "Alpha was the one who came up with the actual design, but I had the concept for it. This way I can actually get a hot meal if I feel like one."
"Ingenious." TJ complimented. "Wish I thought of something like that. But then again, I went for the stuff I could compact." He waved the flat pocket sandwich before taking another bite. "You fit more in that way."
"Shh!" Cassie held her hand up. "Did you hear that?"
TJ looked about, only seeing the trees no more than one hundred feet away. "No. There's nothing within eyesight that’s for sure. Probably just something in the woods."
"After the Land Whale I don't think I want to see what was in there." Cassie shivered, not so much of the thought than the lowering climate. "We'll need a fire."
"That shouldn't be a problem." TJ climbed to his feet, and darted off to the edge of the woods. He returned moments later with a large bundle of sticks. After a brief morph, he fired his Astro Blaster at the pile he had dropped on the beach, and retired his powers for the night.
The two settled into the sand, ready for a heavy slumber, striking up odd conversations to pass the time until their eyes became to weary. They recalled the first time they had met, when TJ asked Cassie to cease her singing, which was distracting several people on their bus.
"To think all of this started with a simple bus ride." TJ reflected.
"Well, it was actually our getting off the bus to fight Pirhanatrons that started it. Remember, the Red Ranger dangling over a bottomless void in cave in the middle of the desert?" She wondered. "Y'know, I think this is where the void ended up." TJ laughed. "No really, where else could you send someone to torture them, than a world mostly covered in water?"
"Teej," Cassie asked warily. "That was you, right?"
The boy pulled his answer slowly. "No. I guess it wasn't you, huh?" He sat upright, like his friend, and turned over his shoulder. "Whoa--" he exclaimed with half a voice. It was much more than Cassie could accomplish.
TJ stared at the creature. Underneath the bright orange flightsuit was a blue-skinned humanoid, with large green spherical eyes. It's mouth hung from a small snout mounted low on it's face, and two sets of stubby, rubbery antenna jutted from atop it's bald head.
It held up its three-fingered hand, and muttered something unintelligible. Then, after it noticed the uniforms of the Astro Rangers, it seemed to smile as it made another comment.
"Do you know Eltarean?" TJ asked, recognizing the language immediately. The creature was not of Eltare, but it too was obviously taught to use the nearly universal language.
Still shaken, Cassie nodded. *"What is your name?"* Cassie asked with a new tongue. The creature responded:
*"Weelo. I have been stranded on this world for two weeks,"* it continued. *"My ship was badly damaged, causing me to land hastily on this planet."*
*"I'm Cassie,"* The Pink Ranger introduced. *"And this is TJ. We're Power Rangers in search of the Phantom."* She assumed the squinting of Weelo's translucent eyelids indicated thought on its behalf.
*"I have not seen the Phantom Ranger since my arrival."* Weelo reported.
"Well, Teej, you were right. Wild Goose chase. We've got nothing to show for this trip but two broken Galaxy Gliders and a very ticked-off leader." She returned her attention to the alien. *"Please, sit down."* she lightly patted the sand. *"You must have been lonely."*
*"Yes."* Weelo agreed. *"And my family must be worried about me. The purpose of my journey was to complete my training as a simple businessman so I might take over for my father when he is forced to step down due to his age."*
*"How old are you?"* Cassie asked curiously.
Weelo replied, *"I am twenty standard years of age."*
"Hey Teej, how old are we in standard years?" Again, Cassie curiously asked. "C'mon, you're better at math than I am."
TJ finished some mental arithmetic and came up with the answer, "About fifteen standard. The standard year is just a bit less than our own, so I think it's okay to just subtract about a year."
Cassie relayed small talk between herself, Weelo and TJ for the remainder of the night. The Blue Ranger found the conversation arrangements a little odd, as he could not directly speak with his new friend, but enjoyed the new face just as much.
Eventually, all three tired, and agreed to leave something to talk about in the morning before they dropped into an uninterrupted slumber.
"Computer," Silver Ranger spoke to the system installed on his Galaxy Glider. "Locate and report active morphing signatures," he requested, staring out along the seemingly endless crystal clear sea in the middle of night as his Glider's floodlamps bouncing off of the unstable surface. It took a moment for the data to process, but finally the computer issued results.
"Silver Ranger, coordinates zero zero zero. No other active signatures detected."
"You guys couldn't stay morphed, could you?" He asked to his missing friends. "Computer, scan for humanoid life." Hopefully the results of this inquiry would be more beneficial than the previous.
"Scan complete." The computer replied. "Excluding current passenger, nearest humanoid lifeforms are located at coordinates two seven forty. Inputting data," The computer furthered, before the Silver Ranger had even asked the question. "Trajectory set. Accelerate when ready."
"Won't be long now, guys." Silver Ranger guaranteed, as his Glider took off over the water.
TJ woke with a start, and a question. "Um, Cassie?" The girl mumbled a response. "Wake up, please." His voice hardened. "Now."
She screamed after her eyes fluttered open. Inches from her face was a blaster barrel, held by a form covered from head to toe in heavy black armor that shone in the bright morning sun. "Well, this is one alarm clock I'd like to hit the snooze button on. Wait, where's Weelo?"
"Silence!" Another armored man cried. Cassie quickly counted five of the strange troops. "By the Devarian House's order, he is to be taken to Kariak, where he will stand trial for his crime against the house."
"Trial? Crime?" TJ came to an inconclusive comprehension. "What're talking--" His sentence came to an abrupt end when another troop smashed the support of his rifle against the side of the Blue Ranger's head.
"TJ!" Cassie knelt down to the unconscious man's side, trying to focus on both him, and their oppressors. "You have no idea who you're dealing with." A smile crossed her lips as a faint humming emerged from the distance. "But you're about to find out."
One troop fell to the ground after taking a powerful laser blast. Another followed. The remaining three took notice of the approaching Silver Ranger soaring through the air on his Galaxy Glider.
"Mess with my friends," Silver warned, "And you mess with me! Super Silverizer!" At his command, the wrist-mounted blaster folded outward into a lengthy blade of silver. Silver Ranger leapt from his Glider, slicing his blade into the armor of the first troop that came nearest to him. Out of the corner of his visor, he could see the other two figures escaping, with a hostage. "Who were those guys?"
"They said something about orders from the Devarian House--" Cassie began.
"The Devarian House?" Silver repeated. "That's one of the largest crime syndicates in the universe! Those must have been their enforces. Getting caught by them is never good."
"Oh no, Weelo!" Cassie barely explained, "He's our friend, you have to help him! They want to take him back with them!"
"Not while I'm around. Galaxy Glider," He commanded, "Silver Cycle!"
The board's large dual anti-gravity engines rotated themselves using a unique and complicated framework. The two round engines were soon supporting the weight of the Glider, which had slightly reformed itself to resemble a motorcycle.
It took only a moment for Silver Ranger to board the transformed vehicle and head off into the thick woods, hot on the trail of the fleeing enforces.
"Hold it!" Silver Ranger called through the trees. "Let the Norian go!" Being a man of the stars, it was relatively easy for him to notice the particular species Weelo belonged to. "Unless you want those pretty suits of armor scuffed up with some tire tracks."
"This has nothing to do with you, Ranger!" One enforcer said.
"When someone's suffering," Silver reminded, folding his sword black into it's blaster mode and taking aim, "It has *everything* to do with me. I gave you an option, go back peacefully to your little underground operations, or become an enemy of the Rangers." The enforces regarded each other. "I'm waiting?" Silver pressured. "Have it your way."
The blast screeched past the head of the other enforcer, who was able to make the logical decision. He pushed the Norian a few feet before him, and with his partner turned into the woods to return to their ship, ready to report failure to the Devarians.
*"It's okay,"* Silver said in Eltarean, removing his helmet to show his friendly eyes. *"I'm not here to help you. I'm a friend of TJ and Cassie. Why were those guys after you?"*
*"I was a witness to a deadly assault conducted by Devarian assassins."* The shaking Norian explained. *"What I told your friends about my travelling was true, but what I did not tell them, for their own safety, was that it was the Devarian Enforcers that shot down my ship. No doubt they will be waiting for me when I return home, or to my school."*
*"C'mon."* Zhane signaled Weelo to join him on the Silver Cycle. *"Let's get back to the beach. Your friends are worried about you."*
The Norian agreed, and was amazed at the short time it took the vehicle to exit the woods and return to the shoreline. He dismounted, still a bit disturbed by the attack, but not as visibly as before. *"A very interesting device."* He remarked.
"Oh, right." Zhane returned to his native tongue and spoke into his communicator, which because of his morpher's unique structure, resembled a cellular phone. "Zhane to Power Chamber."
There was static over the delayed reply. "We read you, Zhane." Bulk's voice could be heard saying. "Any luck with the scavenger hunt?"
"Yeah," The Silver Ranger eyed his friends and the Norian. "And came up extra. I need Droz to teleport a Galaxy Glider, immediately." Accounting for the delay in transmission, Zhane waited a few seconds for the requested item to appear.
They weren't the most attractive of the Gliders. Several dozen had been manufactured for different purposes. The one that had been just received, was an unappealing lime green, with fluorescent orange stripes along the sides, occasionally interrupted with the words "Property of the Power Rangers" written in the same color.
"Thanks, Bulk. We'll be home in an hour or so."
"We'll be waiting." Bulk said, before cutting the transmission.
"Sorry guys." Zhane waited for his Glider to retroform to its original mode before inviting Weelo to climb onto it. "No hyper-rush systems on these babies. But at least you're not stuck here."
"As long as we're leaving," TJ smiled, helping Cassie onto the Glider he assumed control of, "I don't really care how slow we move. You ready?" He asked his passenger. "Let's rocket!"
The two morphed, and took off into the sky in a multicolored stream. Zhane looked over his shoulder to his passenger.
*"Don't worry, these things put an artificial atmosphere around you. Just hang on for a fun ride."* After Silver Ranger replaced his helmet, he pushed forward on the acceleration system, and followed his friends in a streak of fading silver light.
"Hey." Ashley gently nudged the sleeping lump on the couch. "Andros, it's time to get up." She shook the object of her affection until he began to stir. "C'mon, you've been asleep for hours. There's no way you could still be tired."
"Nope," the Kerovan smiled. "Just laying in wait." With one hand, he reached out and brought the young woman down to his level. "Subterfuge works on so many levels," he laughed. She joined him, but only because of the intense tickling session inflicted upon her.
"Why, hello." Ashley managed, staring into the doorway. She stood, adjusting the fit of her uniform. Andros did likewise.
"Jerome." He coughed. "What can I do for you?"
The chief security officer easily ignored the personal lives of his employers, and handed them a datapad. "This is just in from Cassie, TJ and Zhane." He explained. "It's a report of their experience on Inus."
"Zhane didn't go to Inus." Andros took the pad in confusion. "There must be a mistake."
"Actually," Ashley interjected, "I -- sent him to Inus." She put her hands up in unneeded defense. "But I had to, otherwise TJ and Cassie would've been stranded on that planet for who knows how long! Cassie went to search for the Phantom Ranger, and after he checked in and said he wasn't on Inus..."
"The Phantom checked in?" Andros blinked. "When?"
"Right after I left your office earlier today. It turns out he just didn't have access to a communications system for quite a while. He's on a Draven mining colony. I guess in all the excitement I forgot to put it down in the records."
"It's okay," Andros said, turning his attention to the datapad. "Hold on a second. Who's Weelo?" At the mention of a new name, Ashley leaned over his shoulder to check the findings. "Jerome, it says they rescued a Norian." He looked up from the pad. "They rescued a Norian? >From what?"
"Read on." Jerome pointed to the data. "It gets better."
"From a troop of Devarian enforcers?!" He slumped into the couch once again. "A search for the Phantom Ranger has now become a possible intergalactic incident." He answered blindly to the knock at the door. "Come in." He grumbled. A new face entered the already crowded office.
"Andros?" The blonde woman asked. "Is this a good time?"
"Just a little encounter with a crime syndicate. What's up, Korone?" he asked his sister.
"I guess you've read about Weelo, right?" Andros nodded. "Well, I was talking with him, and he says there's really nowhere he can go. We've checked with the Blue Senturion. The family is under close observation by the Devarians. And the school he was to arrive at went under a small assault." She fidgeted slightly. "And I was thinking that since I *am* the head recruiting officer for the Academy..." "Korone..." Andros weakly whined. "...we can't just go adding students that we feel sorry for to the roster. We have procedures we have to go through. Regulations---" Korone whipped a paper from the pocket of her purple jumper and tossed it to her brother. "What's this?"
"His evaluation." Korone answered. "He passed. Now you can either let him in, or I can petition for a majority rule. I already have three other votes, Andros, and I make four. There are only seven members on the council."
"Fine." Andros leaned into the couch, closing his eyes. "He's in. What about the others? Did they all come back in one piece?"
"They did." Korone said uneasily. "I can't say the same about their Galaxy Gliders. Droz is working on a new pair right now. They should be completed by tomorrow afternoon the latest. Until then, Droz says we can use two of the unassigned ones."
"Anything else?" Andros asked.
"That covers it for me." Korone retrieved her paper and left the office. "I'll stop by later. Zhane and I are having dinner, and I don't want to be late."
"Have fun." Ashley waved.
"And if you'd just sign those reports," Jerome once again pointed to the datapad. "I'll be on my way." Andros scribbled over the screen with an attached marker, and handed the device over. "Thanks. Have a good night, you two."
"Now." Ashley curled up next to Andros. "Where were we?"
"Zhane!" Korone beamed when she saw the Silver Ranger approaching. His face was not as hopeful however. "What's wrong?" She asked, his head dropping at the question. "Zhane, not again. It's the third time this week."
"I'm sorry, Korone, but I've got a lot of work to do." He lifted her sinking head with his hand. "Hey, you know I wouldn't break a date with you if I could do anything about it, but I have to make sure everything is set up for tomorrow afternoon."
"Can't someone else do it?" She asked. Korone knew the answer, but she felt no harm in asking an innocent question. "Carlos? Ashley, maybe?"
"I can't do that. Andros trusts me to double-check everything. Twice." Zhane grabbed Korone by the arm as she began to walk away. "Korone, listen to me. It will be a lot easier once the instructors arrive. Once they've settled in, had time to adjust to the Chamber, everything will slow down." He glanced at his watch. "How about this? Tonight, let's say around eleven, we'll have dinner. I should be done with all my work by then. Okay?"
Korone nodded slightly, still upset over the last-minute cancellation.
"Whaddya think?" Zhane asked. "You, me, candles and music?" He saw her growing smile. "Yeah, I thought you'd like that. Why don't you get everything ready, and I'll meet you at your place tonight. I promise."
Zhane threw off his black uniform jacket as he slipped through the still-opening door of Korone's apartment within the Megaship. His efforts to arrive on time had proved futile, and whenever he had accomplished one task, two more seemed to have appeared from nowhere.
"Korone," He called, sneaking into the dining area. "I'm so, so sorry. I tried to ---" He scanned the table. It was unoccupied. Two plates of what would have been an excellent meal were now sitting as ice cold lumps. Two candles that once burned brightly, were burnt down to waxy nubs. "Korone?"
Searching the entire apartment, Zhane finally located the young woman sleeping atop her bed, still in the semi-formal attire she had planned to show off during dinner.
"Korone," he slightly shook the woman until she agreed to wake. "It's me."
"What time is it?" She asked.
"One thirty." Zhane weakly reported. "Last time I checked."
"You're late." She remembered. "Zhane, you promised. You said you'd be here."
"And I am here." He corrected. "I could've walked right past your door and had a rather harsh conversation with you in the morning, but I didn't. I showed. I'm sorry if you're angry with me. I really am."
"Thank you for coming." Korone half-smiled.
"I still owe you a dinner." Zhane reminded.
"Make it a breakfast and we'll call it even," she yawned. "But I need some sleep. Tomorrow's going to be crazy. So as much as I hate throwing you out when you're giving me those puppy dog eyes--"
"I understand." Zhane leaned over to plant a kiss on Korone's forehead. "Have a good night's sleep. I'll see you in the morning."
Andros flipped a switch, filling the room with light. *"All we have free is the student quarters."* He told the Norian beside him. *"But you'll have it to yourself until the end of the week. Then you'll be getting a roommate. I know it's late, and you'd probably like to rest."*
*"Before you go,"* Weelo said to the Kerovan. *"I must thank you for being so kind. Especially since I am an unscheduled arrival. My family will be so pleased when they hear I have been accepted into a Ranger Academy. On my world, it is an honor just to be a student, not necessarily a graduate."*
*"Weelo,"* Andros confided in the hopeful Ranger candidate. *"You can't contact your family at all. We've gotten word that the Devarians are watching your family closely, and they've attacked your business school. We may have to provide you with a completely new identity if the syndicate isn't eliminated by the time you leave the Academy."*
*"I see,"* Weelo uneasily accepted. It was a reply Andros was prepared for. Norians were not known for being over-emotional. It was a good sign that Weelo might be able to get through his training with little distraction. *"If you would excuse me sir, I believe I could use some rest."*
Andros nodded and shut the door as he exit, leaving Weelo to ponder his future life, and what may lay before him.
The Devarian on the other end of the transmission shrieked at Andros' flat reply. "What?!"
Protective of the newest student, but also angered for the Devarians calling him at such an early hour, had put the leader of the Space Rangers in a rather poor mood. "Weelo is a student of the Ranger Academy. You are a lackey for a criminal order. The charges from the Inus incident add up to assault and battery with malicious intent of two Rangers, and attempted murder of an innocent Norian.
"Consider this your first and last warning, Ramthet. Should you, or any other member or representative of the Devarian syndicate even enter this galaxy, I will immediately contact the Senturions, and declare your house a universal enemy of all Rangers. Now," he finished. "If there is nothing else I can do for you?"
The wrinkled red-skinned humanoid spoke through clenched teeth. "No. Have a good day."
The transmission ended, Ashley applauding immediately from the doorway.
"You should've been a lawyer." She laughed, slipping an arm around the Red Ranger. "That was very impressive. Now who was he? Or do I want to know?"
"It's not important." Andros forgot the transmission as he pulled Ashley into him.
"What now?" He griped, still with one arm around the yellow Ranger. "Sorry, Skull. What's up?"
"The uniforms just came in." The lanky man answered with a package under his arm. "So seeing as how it's been a slow day for the gopher," he grinned, handing over the brown paper-wrapped pack. "I thought I'd bring them around to the faculty."
"And you say you designed these?" He cast a questioning glance at Ashley. "The guys told me what happened with those jackets, you know. I'm not going to get hit by a rock or something else when I put this on, right?"
"Only if you make fun of it." The girl smiled.
Andros ripped into the packaging, and removed the first item, an all black long sleeved tee shirt. He placed it upon the couch in his office, along with the wine red pants that were beneath it.
The final article pleased him. He held up the matching red waistcoat for display. The back had the familiar gold block, black lines splitting it into three triangles. The left front had various patches sewn into it: one symbolizing his membership to the Astro Rangers, another declaring him a founder of the Academy.
On the right side's pocket, his name was embroidered into the fabric. It was only his first name, as he had never actually told anyone his last name. Ashley assumed that since Zhane hadn't placed a last name on the order form either, Kerovans are only given one.
"I like it." He admitted. "What about the faculty?"
"Well, since they’re all former Rangers, I called up the tailor and made a last minute color change. Just like those," Ashley pointed to the uniform spread out across his couch. "Black pants, black jacket, shirt of their old Ranger color. The students all have solid ivory."
"Why ivory?" Skull asked.
"It's a color outside the Ranger spectrum." Andros answered. "We don't want to assign colors immediately since it can imply rank." He examined his jacket again. "Thanks, Skull. Is this the last one?"
"Just delivered Ashley's to her mailbox. The instructor's will have to pick theirs up in person from the Jerome. I'll leave you to decide when the students get there." He frowned. "I wished I was getting one."
"I'm sorry, Skull." Andros honestly spoke. "You didn't pass the psychological exam. I know you're a friend and everything, but I can't go bending the rules. But to tell the truth, this is not some bold- faced lie to make you feel better, I'm talking straight from the heart --- I think I need you more in the Chamber than on the field.
"When I gave you a job here, it was just to thank you for what you did. You and Bulk saved a lot of lives when you both claimed to be Power Rangers after Kor..." He caught himself. "After Astronema called us out. And then when the others were fighting off her soldiers, you rallied the people to help.
"And the more I saw you here, putting everything you had into this job, I knew I couldn't have made a better choice. It's just a shame to see you go."
Skull's jaw dropped, as did Ashley's. "You're firing me?" He asked.
"Only if you want to be an instructor's assistant." Andros offered. "I had a quick talk with Adam, and he's a little bit unsure about being able to keep a heavy schedule. Then I mentioned your name, and the great work you've been doing, and if it's okay with you---"
"Yes!" Skull answered. "Thank you!" He clasped Andros' hand, and then regarded Ashley. "May I?" He asked politely.
She gestured to the Red Ranger. "Knock yourself out."
Smiling like an idiot, Skull wrapped Andros in a fierce bear hug. "Thank you, thank you!" He rambled. "Oh," he sobered. "I've gotta find Bulk. We've gotta celebrate!" Skull marched out the door, barely touching the floor. "Hey Bulky! Bulky!"
"Well you just made his day." Ashley giggled. "That was so sweet of you," she said, pulling him close. This time, she mumbled something unintelligible at the interruption. "Do you have a 'do not disturb' sign you can put on the door, or something?"
"Hey Carlos." Andros greeted. "Where have you been?" He saw his friends tired eyes. "You didn't overstudy again, did you?" The Black Ranger nodded. "And let me guess, you fell asleep for a few hours, and then went back to studying, right?"
Another nod. "I need to learn those --- things." Carlos fumbled.
"Carlos, I said it would be beneficial, but not required. No one else except Cassie has even bothered with another language, and she just stuck with basic Eltarean." He ran a hand through his striped hair. "Look, forget the protocol. Justin's working on some universal translation devices, and as long as your formal and polite, no one really cares what your response is."
"Oh." Carlos simply replied. "I wish someone would've told me---"
"I sent out memos." Ashley smiled. "Labeled 'please read' as a matter of fact."
"Is that what that was about?" Carlos scratched his head and stumbled out the door. "I'd better check my mail and see what else I've missed."
"Carlos, wait. Did you want to talk about---" Andros felt Ashley clamp his mouth shut.
"Are you actually inviting interruptions?" She asked. Andros shook his head. "Then shut up and kiss me, okay?"
"They're here already?" TJ asked, speeding down the stairs in his new uniform. "I barely had time to get dressed. I thought they weren't going to show until this afternoon."
"Expect the unexpected." Cassie muttered, rounding a turn before her friend. "But at least we don't have to wear that drab gray anymore," she commented her own attire. "It was kind of nauseating."
"Hey!" Zhane commented behind the two, dressed in the color of topic with the exception of his black shirt. "I wear that nauseating tone, you know!"
"At least you have contrast." Carlos tailed the group as they made their way down the final stairwell. "I'm the one who has to wear all black."
Cassie swung open the door to find Andros and Ashley, both in their new uniforms, waiting for their friends. "Are we late?" The Pink Ranger asked.
"They just teleported in." Ashley reported. "As soon as they pass through security, they'll be here." She heard a doorway hiss open, and watched several faces stride into the spacious and well-lit welcome center. "Looks like they're done."
The instructors of varying appearance and demeanor stepped in a perfect line, as if they were instructed to do so themselves. Andros stepped to one of the line, ready to slowly make his way to the other end.
"I guess I should get introductions out of the way." The Kerovan smiled. It was fairly obvious from Adam's eyes that he knew some if not all of the staff. "Adam Park, established kung-fu master and our new physical combat trainer."
Andros moved one spot over, facing the black skinned man whose other features could only be described as an extremely form-fitting gold and purple helmet. "Cestro of Aquitar, your intelligence level has brought you here as our new science teacher.
"Trini Kwan," He stepped before the composed Asian girl, perhaps the one Adam was least familiar with. "Wise in the ways of the mind and the body. You're our resident philosophy instructor."
Andros looked down at the petite brunette. "Kimberly Hart," he named. "Careful, ingenuitive and resourceful, you'll be our strategy coach."
Andros shifted his head to meet the level eyes of the burly man before him. "And finally, Jason Scott, the experienced leader. Hopefully you can teach our students to work together, as a fully functional unit like you and your team once had."
Stepping back a few paces, Andros released his implied command. "Why don't you all take a few minutes to get to know each other." To his confusion, the instructors all looked to each other curiously, asking the same question:
"What are you doing here?"
"They all know each other?" Cassie leaned into Zhane. "I don't get it."
"We did this so they'd be able to cooperate." The other Kerovan whispered. "Four of them served on different generations of the same team. Cestro was brought in for his vast knowledge of both Earth and alien technology. Not too mention some recruits might get discouraged taking orders from a fourteen year- old."
Andros gave the teaching staff a few more minutes to themselves before speaking again. "Not that I don't love a good reunion, you should know that your students will be arriving two days from now. Today, tomorrow and until they arrive, you have to come up with a cohesive course for these students." He heard the stifled replies from several of the instructors. "I have faith in all of you. And I also have faith in the hopefuls that will walk through those doors in a few days time."
Kimberly leaned back in her chair, as did most of the other teachers who were all cooped up within a fairly large meeting room. "How come we end up with only a few days to come up with a semester’s worth of lessons?" She asked, spinning her support about.
"Don’t ask me." Jason answered, standing before the built-in Synthetron food replicator. "Pizza’s ready." He said, taking the large plate of steaming cheese and dough and tossing it upon the tabletop. Each person within the room quickly snatched a slice, with Cestro the exception examining the product before tasting.
"Might I suggest we begin with a history of the Rangers, mainly focusing on Earth's team, but touching upon others?"
Everyone else nodded. "Sounds like a start." Trini agreed.
The group continued on for several hours. The only thing that seemed to get them through the many conflicts and disagreements were constant trips to the Synthetron. When tempers flared, it was usually an indication that the Pizza, Tacos, or whatever food they decided on. Once the food hit the table, peace seemed to be restored.
"What's next?" Adam asked.
"The final." The others looked to Jason, who showed the legal pad that held the notes of their meeting. "We've got twenty weeks of stuff right here," He reminded. "All we need to do is figure out how these guys pass or fail."
Kimberly muffled a sound to gain the floor as she popped the current snack of choice, a cheese fry, into her mouth. "What about the Desert of Despair?" she proposed. "They could cross it and Ninjor can issue them Ninja Powers."
"Good idea," Adam said, "But no challenge. The only reason we really had any trouble was because of Rita and Zedd's Tengas. There wouldn't be any obstacles for them to cross, when you think about it."
"I think the final could wait." Trini voiced. "At least until we find if Andros has any ideas."
"Then I believe we are done." Cestro correctly stated. "Which means, we are free."
"Thank goodness." Kim stood, stretching. "I could use a good night's sleep."
"Computer," Adam asked suspiciously. "Time."
Deca's voice came through pleasantly. "The time is four-fourteen, p.m."
"No way." Trini frowned.
"We were in here for over one day." Cestro realized. "I was not aware that it was that late."
"Well, I still need sleep." Jason grunted. "Let's get these notes to Andros, find a place to lay down, and stay there for a few hours. How does that sound?" He witnessed a round of weary nods. "Hopefully we'll wake up in time for the first day of class."
The next few days were a blur to everyone. It wasn't long before everyone had to ready themselves for the big day. The students began filing in onto the first floor, a large portion of which had been cleared out, covered in inch-thick protective mats.
From the stage of assembled faculty, Adam examined himself. At the last moment, he was told he would have to use his secondary color of green on his uniform unless he wanted to be confused for the Black Astro Ranger. Meanwhile his assistant seemed to thrive in the green shirt, which he wore with a white uniform.
Andros stepped to the end of the stage once the students settled. On his right the Astro Rangers and Korone, the school’s founders flanked him. To his left, the staff surveyed the crowd, probably wondering how they had let themselves get talked into the situation.
"Welcome." Andros said, immediately silencing the group. "You are all here, because you wish to serve not only your nation, but your planet, as part of a powerful galactic force. Let me begin by saying, many of you should take pride in simply being selected to attend this school.
"The training you are about to begin will not be the most pleasant twenty weeks of your life. Do not take me lightly when I say half of you will not be here next month." Fear was not something Andros was intending on filling the minds of the students with, but he felt compelled to speak the truth. He had to wonder if even he could complete the training the staff had set.
"For the next five months, you will live here. With the exception of the commissary and your quarters, all of your available time will be spent on this floor, training. And for those next five months, you will listen to your instructors." He gestured to the left of himself. "You will do what they say as it pertains to your training. If you have a problem with that, someone will assist you in locating the door.
"Prepare yourselves for the most intensive training, and the most grueling experience of your life, ladies and gentlemen. Get ready to experience your wildest dreams, and most frightening nightmares. Welcome to your Heaven. Welcome to your Hell. Welcome to the Ranger Academy."
He scanned the ivory sea once again. "Shall we begin?"