Gold, silver, purple and bronze. Drew McCormick smiled to himself as he looked at the sun beginning to rise about the horizon. Funny how those tints were so obvious this morning, in the light shining through the clouds. It was a new day for the Beetleborgs, and he doubted the changes were over yet.
This morning, he sat on the front porch of Hillhurst, soaking up the sun and thinking about everything that had passed. The Shadowborg was history, the Beetleborgs had a new member, and they'd made allies who would be ready to come to their aid at a moment's notice.
Drew shifted, remembering what else the last adventure had brought. He could still remember all the hate and anger that had consumed him while under Shadowborg's control. He knew it was going to take him time to work through that, and he wasn't the only one. Jo was jumpy as hell, especially where he was concerned. There were still times when she regarded him with apprehension, and he knew she still relived his attack on her in her dreams.
Frowning, Drew slammed a fist into one of the support posts for the porch. That was one of the things that hurt the most, he thought. His sister had always been the one person in his life he could count on, and vice versa. With one swoop, Shadowborg had managed to damage that bond almost beyond repair. With patience, though, Drew knew he could regain Jo's trust. It would just take time.
From Jo, his thoughts moved to Josh Baldwin, the new Electric Bronze Beetleborg. Although he'd never admit it to anyone, Drew was glad that Josh was back, and not just out of gratitude for his rescue. Josh was an excellent fighter, and Drew knew him to be a loyal friend, despite all the poison that Shadowborg had dug up. Their relationship might not change on the surface, but Drew now knew that Josh would stand beside him until Doomsday, if necessary.
With a sigh, Drew leaned back against the wall to watch the sunrise continue. Considering his life, it was likely to be the only peace and quiet that he got that day.
The sun beat down on Charterville, cooking the sidewalks, the lawns, and all the people stupid enough to be outside on a morning like this. People like Roland Williams, who was finishing up his daily jog. Leaning against a tree, the tall boy wiped his forehead.
"'Sunny and cool,' the man says. Yeah, right." Not that the heat ever stopped him. Running was his favorite way to release tension, and he'd been doing a lot of it lately.
It was a little odd to be running alone again. During the Shadowborg fracas, none of them had ever been allowed to be by themselves, for fear of ambush. And he had truly enjoyed running with Tasha Young, despite the teasing Drew and Jo had given him.
He grinned a little, thinking of the Yellow Turbo Ranger. Sure, he liked her, and he even thought she was pretty, but she just wasn't his type. Besides, he had a feeling that her relationship with Justin Stewart ran deeper than even the two of them knew, and he had no desire to get a first-degree black belt angry at him.
There'd been a lot of changes in the last few weeks, and some of them had even stayed after the Shadowborg had been defeated. Josh was back with the team, and this time he was going to stay. At first, Roland had been a little worried about Drew's reaction, but the other boy had absorbed the news with an equanimity that had surprised Roland. He was good enough at reading Drew, though, that he could tell the relationship had altered.
The Astral Borgs were human. That had been the biggest surprise of the whole thing for him, beyond even Art and Les working together. It would be kind of cool, though. Now they had adults who could cover for them when something came up.
Roland sighed, stretching. If he was going to get back to Zoom in time to help his grandmother open up, he'd better get moving. Looking down at his fingers, he shook his head. He didn't need his civilian powers for this- he could take care of it on his own. That decided, he moved off at a quick, graceful lope.
"Where do you want this, Aida?" Jo asked, the large chair hoisted over her head. Ben and Luke groaned
"She had to ask," Luke Hino, the sometime Fire Borg declared mournfully.
"Well- maybe over there by the bookcase," Aida Madison replied. "Or- no, maybe by the windows. Or maybe-"
"Dear," Sean Drake broke in, kissing her on the cheek, "pick a place and stick with it."
"All right," Aida sighed. "By the bookcase."
Ben Farraday shook his head. "I can't believe this. The woman takes on Mantrons without blinking an eye, but she can't decide where to put a chair?"
"Watch it," Luke cautioned, "or you'll wind up eating your own cooking."
Jo giggled. "It sure was nice of Roland's mom to help you guys find this house," she remarked.
Sean nodded. "And it was even nicer of the Turbo Rangers to make sure we had the funds for it."
Luke grinned. "I heard one of the older Rangers chewing Justin out royally for that. Apparently they don't appreciate hacking."
"Grown-ups can be SO stuffy," Jo sighed with overblown drama. Luke, the only teenage member of the Astral Borg team, agreed with her whole-heartedly.
Sinking onto the couch she had helped move in, Jo watched in contented amusement as Ben and Luke squabbled good-naturedly about just who was stuffy around here, anyway, and Sean and Aida shook their heads in exasperation. She was going to like having the Astral Borgs around in regular life, and not just on the battlefield. Sometimes, it seemed like Lady Borg was the only one she could talk to about certain things. Oh sure, Drew and Roland were great friends, but they were guys. Some stuff just didn't translate that well across the gender gap.
Besides, Jo didn't quite feel comfortable spilling her guts to her brother anymore. She knew it wasn't his fault, and that the attack on her had been all Shadowborg's doing, but- she kept remembering that Lancer, speeding down towards her as she lay on the ground. The image kept recurring at the worst times, and she knew that the others had noticed it, especially Drew. The pain and resignation in his eyes hurt almost as much as the original event had, although in a different way.
_Damn Shadowborg anyway,_ she scowled to herself. She didn't often swear, even in her own head, but it seemed like the only way she could express the emotions swirling inside her. A lot of good had come out of the whole thing, but the scars the battle had left were far from healed.
On the bright side, Josh was back. Jo smiled, remembering how good it had felt to know that he was one of them again, back on the side of right, fighting against evil. Even the fact that he was almost wearing her brother's armor couldn't blunt that. And she could barely remember images from her coma, twisted and distorted things. Clear among them though was a warm hand grasping hers, and Josh's voice somewhere out there. Knowing that he had cared for her had been a great comfort when it seemed as if she couldn't reach the outside world at all.
Jo's thoughts were interrupted as a pillow from Luke and Ben's "discussion" suddenly flew at her head. Hefting it, she threw herself into the battle with a kamikaze cry, her moment of introspection temporarily forgotten.
"Do I want to know?" Josh Baldwin asked, resignation in his voice as yet another thump echoed from upstairs. Flabber made a face.
"Probably not," the phasm admitted. "House Monster projects can be hazardous to your health."
Josh chuckled, acknowledging that. Leaning back in his chair, he shook his head. "And to think, I actually MISSED all this," he grinned. "I must be insane."
"That is an occupational hazard," Flabber agreed. "So, what's on your agenda for today, Josh?"
"Nothing, if I can help it. The guys are down at Zoom, and I'll join 'em eventually, but- I kind of wanted to get re-adjusted to this place."
The blue phasm cocked an eyebrow at him. "Josh, I'M not adjusted to this place. I'm not sure I ever will be."
"So, did the monsters wreck anything while you were ensconced in the Power Chamber?"
"Well, I checked, and Charterville isn't missing any pizza delivery people, and the house seems to be intact- for now," he amended, as yet another thump echoed down the stairs.
The latest thump was followed by the unmistakable sound of Count Fangula crying "Tally-ho!" and the blare of trumpets. Josh looked at Flabber in alarm.
"Don't think about it, and maybe it won't come down here," was the phasm's advice. "So, how's things with you and Drew?"
"Pretty good, now that I've accepted that _he's_ the leader of this team. And I've gotten over my crush on Heather, so we've pretty much worked everything out."
Flabber grinned. "How's things with Jo?" he inquired, summoning a bouquet of red roses and a string quartet. Josh glared at him.
"Progressing slowly. Like not until she's at _least_ fifteen." Then he grinned. "But the roses aren't a bad idea. Can I have some?"
"Red," Flabber asked, "or purple?" With the last word, the roses flickered and became a beautiful lavender color.
Josh shook his head. "Show-off."
"What do you think, Drew?" Joyce asked anxiously. "The gold earrings or the green?"
Drew shrugged. "I'm a guy, Mom. Ask Jo."
Joyce stuck her tongue out at him, then headed to the foot of the stairs. "Josephine!" she yelled.
"Green!" came the reply. Joyce shrugged.
Drew shook his head. "She just knows you. Mom, I've never seen you this nervous. It's just dinner- right?"
"Yes, Drew." Joyce sighed. "I just- haven't wanted to make a good impression this badly for years."
"Mom, trust me. You'll knock his socks off- if he's wearing socks."
"It's a nice restaurant, Drew. He'll be wearing socks. Now, I've left you dinner, and you know where it is, right?"
"MOM!" Drew regarded his mother with fond exasperation. "We'll be fine. I'll heat up a can of Spaghetti-O's if I have to, but we'll be okay. Calm down."
Joyce made a face. "Who's the parent here, anyway? I'm going to go put on my make-up. Answer the door if it rings, okay?"
"Yes, Mom," Drew sighed. He had just turned back to his new issue of Beetleborgs when the doorbell rang. Rising to his feet, he reached the door just as Jo bounced down the stairs.
When he opened the door, Drew was greeted by a sight he never thought he'd see- Art Fortunes in a suit. It was a normal dark gray, with a white shirt and a conservative tie. Drew raised both eyebrows. "Art! You look- normal. But good," the blond hastened to assure his mother's date.
"Thank you," the cartoonist said dryly. "Is your mother ready yet?"
"She's putting on her make-up," Jo supplied. "She'll be down in a minute."
Drew grinned. His mother had dated off and on for the past few years, but he couldn't think of a single one of her boyfriends he liked better than Art Fortunes. He knew the man would treat her well, and wouldn't run away from any suggestion of Joyce having kids. And if somewhere down the road, Art and his mother got married, he knew Art would be a great step-father to the two of them.
Drew looked up as his mother came down the stairs, locking arms with Art as she reached the bottom. "Remember, bedtime is at nine," she ordered them. "I don't care if you're superheroes, you're still growing children."
"Yes, Mom," Jo and Drew droned in unison. Then Drew chuckled.
"Remember, Art, bring her back by eleven," he grinned. Art stuck his tongue out at the boy, and turned with great dignity to escort Joyce to the car. Left alone in the house, Drew and Jo turned to each other and grinned. It looked as if the future was going to be very interesting for everybody.