He felt his heart pounding in his ears relentlessly, yet he didn't pause for a moment. His weary pale blue eyes remained focused upon the shimmering center of power that filled the small closet with an aura of pure silvery-white energy.
That focus of power was the Zeo Crystal. The mysterious crystal shard that housed energy unlike anything else in the universe. That crystal had given the Terran Power Rangers abilities far beyond any human, and even beyond any other team of Power Rangers.
It also exacted a terrible price.
Swallowing hard, he pressed the initiation sequence. Narrow threads of tinsel connecting the Zeo Crystal to five small objects began to crackle with colored light. There were currents of green, blue, yellow, pink, and red light. The light continued to crackle, illuminating the five objects, all lying in a pentagonal shape around the Zeo Crystal.
Suddenly, the light in the room intensified to the point that the entire room flooded with rainbow light. The man quickly shielded his weary eyes with his protective goggles, and watched indifferently as the energy died. Once the room was back to its dim lighting, he pulled the protective lenses from his nose, and pressed the bridge tightly.
"It worked," he sighed, exhaling the breath he didn't even realize he was holding. Trembling fingers began typing at a small keyboard, with alien symbols rather than letters. The computer screen flashed, revealing images to the man and foreign characters. He chewed his lower lip absently as his entire attention focused upon the images on the screen.
"...prodigious," he whispered.
The Central Access Complex was more crowded than it had ever been. Still, it was deathly quiet, as if the structure itself were in mourning. The large group of people stood in a semi-circle around the main desk, looking around at the incredible hub of the Power Rangers' communication and data analysis. While most of these people had been here before, it was still so disconnected from their daily lives to leave an impression. After all, they weren't Power Rangers. They were merely people emotionally tied to members of the Terran Power Rangers, and in many cases, their children. Their legacy.
Trini Mitchell, the former Yellow Power Ranger and ally of the Terran Rangers for years, sat at a desk, tapping her fingers against the hollow metal nervously. She finally sighed inwardly, and turned around to face the audience she had summoned. Before her stood a band of individuals she'd known for a while. Decades, in some cases.
All the way to the left stood Emily Lee, her eyes still red from crying. Of all the spouses of the Power Rangers, Emily was always the least comfortable with her husband's role as a Ranger. His entire life, Jason seemed to face death in the face. Emily shook slightly, as if shivering from an inner cold at the realization that Jason couldn't outrun death forever. Beside her was her athletic, slender daughter, with vibrant blue eyes that were the very mirror of her mother's. Brittany was mostly still, passing her steady gaze across the entire room, observing the reactions of everyone else. Most of the time she watched her younger brother Andrew, who's hand was tightly squeezed by his mother, and his other hand occasionally brushed away the tears that escaped the wall of anger he constructed after learning of his father's fate.
Standing beside Andrew were David and Emandia Trueheart, the brother and sister-in-law of Tom Oliver, the leader of the Terran Rangers. David and Tom met after high school, but they shared a bond that only brothers can. The devastating news of the Terran Rangers had shaken David to the very core. He leaned weakly against a computer console, cradling his heavy head with both hands with his glasses hanging from his neck. Emandia stood vigilantly beside him, massauging his back in an effort to calm her husband, while trying not to feel intimidated by the awe-inspiring Central Access Complex in which she had never been before.
Devon Oliver, the youngest of the two Oliver boys, sat on the floor of the CAC, sniffling quietly as a river of tears continued to flow ceaselessly. While everyone else in the CAC were previously cognizant of their loved ones' occupation as Power Rangers, he never knew the truth. Now, the truth slapped the boy in his face, brutally yanking away from him the parents he had never truly known or understood.
Sitting beside his younger brother, fulfilling his role as the protective and comforting elder sibling, was Micah Oliver. The tears of loss had long since dried, but his large dark eyes remained moist... with tears of anger. Anger at his loss. Anger at the world's loss. Anger at his parents, for leaving him and Devon behind. Anger at everything, and everyone.
Next was Angela Taylor, the wife of Zack Taylor. After years of remaining emotionally detached from Zack's advances, Angela finally realized she was actually in love with the energetic athlete she'd known from youth, and they married only four years ago. Angela's usually perfect features were haggard and pale, as only the death of a loved one could cause. She stood apart from the other mourners, not seeking the comfort of group misery. Instead, she remained several feet away from the assembly, gnawing on her lip anxiously while she gazed at the dazzling diamond solitaire she wore on her left hand, coupled by the gold and platinum band she received on the day she vowed to love Zack until death do them part. With tears shining in her eyes, she reflected on her life in disgust, wondering what took her so long to realize she had fallen in love.
Nearest to Angela were Alexis and Rocky DeSantos. Both were former active Power Rangers, who were forced out of the team due to injuries. They were wed in 2013, and they held their eleven year-old son Luke between them. Out of the three DeSantos members, Alexis wore her grave, unfeeling expression. Her husband watched her face carefully, knowing full well that the more pain and loss Alexis felt, the less it showed. Now, her calm was almost terrifying him.
During her lifetime, Alexis had lost a great deal. She lost her powers. She lost her sister. Her family fractured in a devastating divorce. She learned to bear it by pulling all the pain within. Rocky knew it wasn't healthy for her, but she managed to come out of each tragedy a little stronger.
Silently, as he thought about how he'd never see his best friend again, he wished he had her resilience.
Next in the semicircle of despair was Tanya Park. Tanya had moved back to the United States from Africa in 2008, and married Adam two years later. During their time apart, Tanya could only perceive the lack of fulfillment in her life. She realized that all the achievements in the world couldn't compare with finding true love. Now that she was separated from her soul mate, all the mature, emotionally stable woman could do was silently pray that things weren't as bad as they appeared. When it came to Adam, Tanya was optimistic... almost to a fault.
Sitting on a nearby table, rocking herself slowly in an effort to bring her stirring emotions under control, was Regina Drew, the eldest daughter of Aisha and Edward Drew. Although neither of her parents were Terran Rangers, she was very close to all of them. Still, despite her familial familiarity with all the Rangers, she couldn't help but feel she was intruding. She didn't belong here, to witness the intense grief displayed quite plainly by those who had lost beloved parents, adored spouses, and cherished siblings. Yet, while she felt slightly awkward, she knew that her place was among this union. She was invited by Will to attend the information session, and she would find out everything the former Power Ranger had to say.
On the same table, lying on his back and staring at the ceiling blankly, was Anthony Monroe. Unlike the others, this wasn't the first time he had lost a parent. When he was just a boy, his father Trevor disappeared inexplicably for two years. During those torturous years, he felt the hole in his heart at every milestone he reached. Every preschool art project he couldn't show his father. Every holiday that seemed empty without his presence. Every time he saw his friends with their fathers. Every time he caught his mother sitting up late at night, clutching her pillow while still sleeping on her side of the bed, as if Trevor would return in the middle of the night.
Nearly every day reminded him of his loss. And now, with the loss of his mother, Anthony could only reflect on how it felt the first time, and shudder. Trevor, on the other hand, didn't allow himself to reflect upon what life would be like without his beloved wife. He knew he couldn't deal with that. The shock of the tragedy was too great. It was almost impossible for the reality of the matter to sink in. Instead, he focused his entire attention on Kirsten, doing his best to comfort his daughter and assure her that the future wouldn't be as bleak as it seemed.
By attending to Kirsten's pain, he could ignore his own. For the moment, at least.
Finally, keeping her large brown eyes steadily focused on her mother, was the young mutant empath Rebecca Mitchell. She remained quiet and observant, choosing not to participate in the grieving, but rather to separate herself from it. It was also clear that she was putting effort in distracting herself from the pool of sorrow that inundated her. Her empathic senses would surely drown her in angst.
"Where's Will?" Tanya Park said, breaking the barrier of silence, "I thought he was the one who called us here."
Trini rose to her feet and folded her hands behind her back. "He's working on a project at the moment," she explained, "He asked me to fill you guys in on the situation while he finishes up."
"So... what happened?" Micah whispered, his gaze trapped at the ground beneath him, "Are they really... gone?"
Trini took a deep breath, and paused for a moment as she collected her thoughts. "I'm going to cut right to the chase. We've all seen the news clips, and heard of the destruction of the Megazord. They're all true."
Everyone remained in an icy silence, as all their hopes of seeing their loved ones again shattered. Trini gave her audience a chance to let this information sink in.
"What happened is that the power transmitted into the Terrasword lashed back, frying the controls, and eventually leading to the destruction of the Megazord. Now, you're probably asking yourselves how this could possibly happen, and so I'll tell you. The Terra Zords operate in conjunction with the physical as well as emotional health of the Terran Rangers. So, if the Rangers are sick, then the zords are, in effect, sick. That's what happened."
"The Rangers were sick?" asked Alexis, "What do you mean 'sick'?"
"Let me explain," Trini stated, activating the screen on the main computer across the CAC by remote. Everyone turned their attention to the image, which was of the day the Terran Rangers first received their powers. While some of these people were witnesses to the historic event, most only knew of it through stories.
"When Zordon, the original mentor of the Power Rangers, first gave them the Zeo Crystals, he explained that the Power would coarse through their veins, by means of the heart, which is where the crystal was kept. The Power protected them in many ways. It gave them the ability to tap into the experience and power of the Morphin Grid, as well as pilot the Terrazords. It also managed to keep the Rangers' cells from deteriorating so quickly, which is why they don't look as old as they are. The problem is, over time, the constant presence of the Power began to have averse affects on their physical health.
"Zordon said that only someone who was a Power Ranger before has the bodily defenses necessary to absorb the power of the Zeo Crystal. He also chose the six Rangers most capable of dealing with the power. But he never intended them to remain Rangers for so long. It began to weaken them, and the Zeo Crystals began to draw on their life force. Having such a power source in one's body for so long has taken its toll."
"So, in the end, it was the very Power that made them heroes that killed them," said Rocky solemnly, "I can't believe it."
"Don't believe it," said Trini, turning off the screen, "They aren't dead. Yet."
Everyone looked at Trini in shock as she lead the group to the location of the med-unit. Lying on six cots were the Terran Power Rangers, dressed in the clothing they had worn before their tragic final mission. Their ageless faces seemed peaceful, as if they were sleeping soundly. Hovering not far away was the completed Zeo Crystal, with all six shards expanded to their full size of about a foot in length.
"Will and I first removed the Zeo shards, and then placed them in stasis," Trini continued, "The stress of the explosion seriously drained their powers. They are weaker now than they've ever been. We had to put them in stasis to save them from dying."
The group crowded around the slumbering Terran Rangers, and looked down at their loved ones with tears in their eyes. Regina turned away, confusion written on her mocha face.
"Is there any way to cure the 'Power poisoning', as it were?" she asked.
"There's one chance, although it's a longshot," Trini answered, casting her almond gaze towards a small door along the far wall, "I think Will is really the one to go into this."
As if on cue, William Mitchell, the Terran Rangers' most trusted and depended ally, stepped out of the sliding door Trini had looked at. He passed a white handkerchief over his moistened forehead, and walked through the dense audience without so much as a greeting. He stood beside the main computer, and leaned against the large console for a moment.
"How much did you tell them?" he asked his wife.
"I had just gotten to your plan for saving the Rangers."
Will nodded, and briskly tapped in the commands that brought up another image on the computer screen, showing a rotating stone arrowhead, greatly magnified from its real size. David looked at the digital display in surprise.
"What does the arrowhead have to do with anything?" he asked.
"I've done a bit of research, and I've discovered that the arrowhead that you and Tom rejoined has impressive healing powers. It may be able to cure the Rangers, and restore them to health."
"Great!" said Micah excitedly, "Dad and Uncle David gave me the arrowhead years ago! It's in my room. I'll go get it."
"That won't work," said Will grimly, "I've calculated that the arrowhead's healing powers fade over time. The point of maximum power is when the two halves are joined, but from there the power decreases. It's been over twenty years since David and Tom met, and joined the two halves. By now, the power remaining in the arrowhead probably couldn't heal a paper cut."
"Then it's hopeless!" cried Emily in frustration, "There's nothing we can do!"
"Not quite," said Will, "What we need to do is travel back in time to a specific point, when Tom and David reunite the two halves. Then, if we bring the united arrowhead here, we can save them."
"Time travel?" asked Trevor, "As in through the Multiverse? I know for a fact that humans cannot travel through the Multiverse without some kind of protection."
"That's true," said Will, digging into his jeans pockets, "and we have something."
Will stepped towards an empty lab table, and laid out five gold, circular objects, each about twice as large as a silver dollar, with designs etched in their faces. The outline of each design was in a signature color: blue, green, red, pink, and yellow.
"Oh my God," Alexis gasped, leaning over to get a closer look, "Are those Power Coins?"
"Almost," Will responded, "but they shall serve a similar purpose. A few years ago, when the Terran Rangers were reactivated, I began a full sweep of the data banks. That included running through a detailed history on how exactly the different Power Rangers were created in the first place. I found it very interesting reading, since understanding the power behind the Power Rangers gives me a better ability to restore them if they are ever compromised.
"Now, what I found the most interesting was the original White Ranger, the White Tiger Ranger. Remember, the seven original coins... red, blue, pink, black, green, yellow, and purple... were created by Ninjor thousands of years ago, and the six Ninja Ranger coins were created by Ninjor in conjunction with Dulcea and the Great Power. But the White Ranger was created by Zordon himself, right in the Command Center."
"Really?" Rocky whispered in amazement, "I didn't know that."
"You joined the team after the White Ranger was already the leader," Trini pointed out, "but the original five remember it well... when Tommy was introduced as the new White Ranger. Zordon and Alpha had worked on their secret project for weeks, trying to make a Power Coin that would work with technology compatible with the Power Rangers and their Thunderzords."
"Yes," Will picked up, "Zordon also created the Thunderzords for the Power Rangers after the Dinozords were incapacitated by Lord Zedd. Now, here's the theory I developed after reviewing the history files: Zordon was given the Power Ranger coins and Dinozords from Dulcea and Ninjor, and he in fact helped create them. However, he also had with him the basic plans for a new team of Power Rangers, that included the White Ranger, the Thunderzords, the White Tigerzord, and Tor the Carrier Zord."
"Amazing," Emily muttered in awe.
"Wait, wait, wait," Alexis grumbled, shaking her head furiously, "That doesn't make any sense! If Zordon had the specs for a new Ranger team all along, then why hadn't he ever created this new team of Rangers?"
"When?" Billy challenged, "The original five were fine with the powers they had, until the Green Ranger came along. Zordon's signal with the Command Center was lost, so we didn't have his guidance throughout that ordeal. By the time he came back, we had figured out who the Green Ranger was, and how to stop him. So the five Rangers became six. When the Dinozords were destroyed, the Power Coins were still fully operational. Time was of the essence, so creating a whole new team, with brand new zords, would have taken more time than we had. So Zordon took a few shortcuts, by altering the specs for the Thunderzords so he could use the parts from the Dinozords. Since he used the mainframes of the Dinozords, he managed to link the Thunderzords to the Power Coins, thereby creating this new arsenal much quicker than simply tossing out the coins they already had. When Ivan Ooze came along, Zordon was incapacitated and the Command Center was thoroughly destroyed. He wasn't capable of creating the new team of Rangers... he didn't have the strength, nor the equipment. Instead, he sent us to Dulcea and Ninjor, so we could get a new set of Power Coins. Those coins, coupled with the Ninjetti powers from Dulcea, managed just fine until we were transformed into children. We were too young to be Power Rangers, and since the entire timeline was thrown out of whack, everyone's ages were thrown off. It would have been dangerous to make a team of Power Rangers then, considering time didn't actually move backwards. Instead, we were de-aged. Everyone was especially fragile to magical power, since we were all pumped with enough magic to make us seven years younger. That's why Zordon resorted to calling upon the Alien Rangers. Since the time spell was focused on Earth, the rest of the universe was unaffected. And finally, once we had the Zeo Crystal, Zordon was able to create an even more powerful team of Rangers with that. So the backup team he had planned was never used. Until now.
"Okay, everyone here who was alive during the early 1990's can remember the Power Rangers, and the White Ranger," Will continued, "He looked different from the others. His uniform was different and he had a weapon with artificial intelligence. He was more powerful than the other Power Rangers put together, which is why Rita and Zedd wanted him out of the way more than anyone else. Often he took on a monster all by himself, while the rest of the team did something else. That's because his powers were different. When we became Ninjetti, Dulcea and Ninjor used the template of Zordon's White Tiger Ranger to create the White Falcon Ranger. So, the White Ranger wasn't a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger. Zordon never told us this... but the White Tiger Ranger was a Starlight Ranger."
Will then gathered the five discs, and lifted up one with red etching on the surface. "This is the Red Dragon Starlight Ranger." He then picked up another. "This is the Pink Firebird Starlight Ranger." He reached for the blue badge. "This is the Blue Unicorn Starlight Ranger." Then, the yellow disc. "This is the Yellow Griffin Starlight Ranger." And finally, the green one. "And this is the Green Lion Starlight Ranger."
There was an audible gasp from the entire group, who were simply amazed by this long-held secret finally brought to light.
"So the reason why the White Ranger was tougher than the others... is because his powers came from a different source?" Alexis recapped.
"Exactly," Will said, nodding.
"But... but... the Thunderzords are now obsolete!" Rocky pointed out, "I mean, Rito Revolto managed to destroy the Mega-Thunderzord. These powers don't hold a candle to the Zeo Crystal."
"You can't judge the Starlight power based on the Thunderzords," Trini highlighted, "Remember, Zordon compromised the initial plans of those zords, by using the parts from the Dinozords in order to make them faster, and to make them compatible with the Power Rangers on active duty. So, in effect, the Thunderzords weren't the Starzords. They were more of a hybrid between the pure Starzords, and the Dinozords. Then, when Zordon created the White Ranger, he had to make his zord compatible with the Thunderzords. So the Tigerzord was a Thunderzord too, but closer to the Starzord than the others were."
"You're right about one thing, though," Will admitted, "the Starlight powers aren't as potent as the Terra powers. The specs Zordon had created would have made a team stronger than the Ninja Power Rangers... but not that much stronger. However, since I've been working with the Terran Rangers for so long, and I've studied the Starlight powers thoroughly, I've figured out how to make them far more powerful than Zordon's would have been. Still, they won't be quite on par with the Terran Rangers, but they are much closer."
"The genius strikes again," Alexis commented, a grin crossing her lips, "So tell us, Will... how'd you do it? How'd you surpass Zordon?"
"The Starlight Rangers gain power from the stars. Zordon's sketches allowed them to harness the powers of the stars in general. However, I've discovered that they'd be far more powerful if they only drew power from a particular star... the closest. The down side is that the Starlight Rangers are now forced to be planetary Rangers. Just like the Aquitians need Aquitian water to gain strength, the Starlight Rangers need to be within our solar system. The further they get from the Sun, the weaker they get. However, to make them more powerful, I figured it'd be worth the sacrifice. After all, the Starlight team are defenders of Earth.
"I also went a step further regarding their power source. Each Ranger will draw power from a particular aspect of the Sun. The Sun contains different layers, with different elements and different energy levels. Different power sources makes the team more diverse."
Will then grinned proudly. "And finally, I took a chance. Even after I programmed the coins, I still needed to give them a jump start. I decided to use the Zeo Crystal. As it turns out... it worked! And now that there is some of that mysterious Zeo power in the coins, they're energy levels have peaked even beyond my expectation. And they're ready."
"This is so incredible," Regina whispered, watching as Will stepped away from the table, and sat down at the central computer. "How did you do all of this?!"
"Well," Will admitted with a slight grin, slipping a mini-disc into the disk drive, "I can't take that much credit. I didn't come up with this strategy over night. I've been working on the Starlight project during my free time since I first discovered the full record of them. That was only about six months after the Terra team was reinstated."
Rocky shook his head in amazement. "You've worked on this project for nearly twenty years?!"
"Hey, Will likes to be prepared," Trini quipped, standing behind her husband and draping her arms around his shoulders.
"Okay, I've made a CD containing all the information on the new Starlight team," Will highlighted, typing on the keyboard, "This includes weaponry, zords, their power source, and how these different aspects can be modified to their fullest potential. Unfortunately, I've had difficulty in recreating the White Tiger Ranger, due to the fact that Zordon had already created a White Tiger coin, and that coin was lost. So for now, we have five Starlight Rangers, each powered by a Starlight Disc, and a different force of the Sun."
Will stopped typing, and an image appeared of five Rangers, two on the top and two on the bottom, with the Red Ranger in the center. Each Ranger wore a spandex suit and helmet of their signature color, along with a white vest, white boots, and gloves. The entire uniform sported gold trim, including a gold bar stretching down the white torso of the suit, and connecting to the golden belt. Finally, each Ranger had a golden badge on his chest. The badge was the Starlight Disc.
"Since there is no White Ranger yet, there are five spots on this team. That means we need five new Rangers. Fortunately, this power doesn't require the previous membership on a Ranger team, like the Terra team does. So, anyone can become a Ranger. Now, Trini and I have been thinking about this ever since the Terra team ran into trouble, so I'll tell you whom we've chosen. Of course, you all have the right to back out."
Will then pressed another key, and the Blue Ranger's space flashed. The image enlarged until it filled the entire screen, and the Ranger began turning. Captions flashed at different abilities this Ranger had. Also, to everyone's surprise, a white miniskirt with gold hem appeared.
"The templates for the uniforms are flexible," Will explained, "So all the female Rangers can have a skirt... unless they don't want one, of course. This Blue Ranger draws power from the solar flare, which is an arc of plasmic energy exploding from the surface of the Sun. She will pilot the Unicorn Starzord... once they are finished, of course... and her weapons are the Gemini Axes, named Ares and Artemis."
Will then signaled to Trini, who walked towards the lab table and picked up the golden badge with the blue etching. "As usual, the Blue Ranger will be the brains of the team. Someone who is cool headed, intelligent, and logical. Someone who is willing to take orders, but prepared to voice her opinion fearlessly. As you can see from the screen, we've decided to make this Blue Ranger female. Regina... do you accept the honor and responsibility of being the Blue Unicorn Starlight Ranger?"
The young woman blinked in astonishment, her mouth hanging over slightly. Then, her lips pulled into a smile. "Well, I don't think people tend to call me cool headed and logical... but if you think I can pull it off..."
"Modesty also tends to be a trait of the Blue Ranger," Rocky quipped, casting a side glance at Will. Will shrugged innocently.
"This is so incredible," Regina whispered, accepting the badge from Trini and cradling it in her hands as if it were an egg.
"Next up is the Yellow Ranger," Will continued, pressing another button. The image of the Blue Ranger shrunk to the size of the others, and the Yellow Ranger zoomed in, and began spinning slowly so all could see the lemon yellow uniform, tastefully trimmed in gold, with a small white miniskirt matching the Blue Ranger's. "The Yellow Ranger will draw energy from the corona, the heated ion aura that glows around the sun. She will pilot the legendary Griffin Starzord, and her weapon shall be the Javelin Erith. Just like Trini, Aisha, and Kimberly before her, the Yellow Griffin Ranger will have a fierce spirit, that shines through whenever the stakes become too high for her natural gentility. She is the soul of the Power Rangers."
"She is Brittany," Trini concluded, holding out the yellow badge and smiling at the Lees' oldest child, "If she accepts, of course."
Brittany pressed her lips together tightly, her body almost trembling in excitement as she took the badge. She gazed at the design intensely with her wide blue eyes, briefly reflecting upon the legacy she was about to continue. The fourth in a series of brave, strong women, with innocence and a love of life, coupled with the fierce determination to protect what she loved. Like a lioness, circling the den of her cubs.
"I'll be the best Yellow Ranger I can be," she stated firmly, stepping back to her mother and hugging her tightly. With tears in her eyes, Emily returned the gesture, leaning her chin on her eldest child's head.
"The Green Ranger draws power from gravity, which is the force that keeps our entire solar system circling the sun. That makes gravity his signature power as well. Also, he will pilot the Lion Starzord, and wield the Dagger Sampson in battle. The Green Lion Ranger will be the surprise powerhouse of the team, to help balance the odds when the forces of Evil seem to hold all the cards. His nobility and strength of character fuel him when he faces danger, and his bravery is second to none."
"Since the first Green Ranger was Tommy, it seemed only fitting that his son continue that legacy," Trini affirmed, handing Micah the badge. "I'm sure you'll do your best to carry on the legend."
Micah stared at the badge in astonishment, his dark eyes wide and his forehead wrinkled. "Me?" he whispered blankly, "You want me to be a Power Ranger?"
Trini nodded, smiling warmly at the boy. "I know you'll be the youngest Power Ranger this world has seen, but you have a maturity that reaches far beyond your years. You were raised on stories of heroes, but you also know the darker side to the Power. Your parents, both loyal Terran Rangers, have brought you up well. You deserve this badge, and a role on this team."
Micah's eyes glassed over slightly, as he accepted the disc. He then took a deep breath, and cast his gaze towards the medical station, where both his parents laid comatose. "I'll make you proud, Mom... Dad," he vowed, "I'll make you proud."
"The Pink Ranger is energized by the fierce heat of the solar winds, which reach far beyond the actual star as ions are released," Will continued, changing the screen to view the Pink Ranger, "She will pilot the high-flying Firebird Starzord, and her weapon will be Edana, the crossbow. Like both Kimberly and Katherine, the Pink Ranger continues the station of being the heart of the team. Her natural compassion and empathy for all living beings, including her friends, helps her stand fast as the emotional pillar of the team. This is an essential role, since the pressures of heroism are great indeed, and group cohesion and emotional strength are vital to the success of the Power Rangers."
"We thought about it," Trini said, picking up the pink badge and gazing at the carving, "and we decided that there's only one person with enough empathy to fulfill this role to its full potential. Becky, your mutant powers give you an edge in determining the emotional needs of the Rangers, and of citizens as well. Also, you've shown great strength in your training to get your powers under control, and while you trained in Xavier's institute, you also tempered your body as well as your mind, learning a variety of stealth and fighting skills that will certainly come in handy on this mission. Becky... you were born to be a Power Ranger."
Trini leaned over to her young daughter, and kissed her forehead. "Just be careful out there."
Rebecca smiled widely at her mother, and then cast a reassuring smile to her father. "I can handle it," she said firmly, "Especially with this great team of Rangers to stand by my side."
"And finally, Billy said, rising from his seat after altering the image once again, "we come to the Red Ranger. The leader of the team. He will draw strength from the actual nuclear fusion that takes place within the star, which creates the energy that keeps this system alive. He will pilot the Red Dragon Starzord which, just like the Thunderzord, can shift between Warrior Mode and Dragon Mode. His weapon is the trusted broad sword Draco, who will impart his own intelligence and experience whenever asked."
"The Red Ranger will have to face something that the rest of the team rarely does... the burden of leadership," Trini highlighted, "The lives of these four youths will be in his hands. Leadership proved to be withering to both Jason and Tommy. They bore it well, but whenever one of the Rangers was hurt seriously, the guilt ate at them from within. Leadership is never an ability you are born with. It is something you will develop with time. Still, we've decided that Anthony has the right heart attitude. His friendship and older-brother role will be vital to this position. And with the support of the other Rangers, he will certainly blossom as the third Red Ranger."
Anthony bit his lip, staring at the badge without ever reaching for it. His aqua eyes almost screamed with uncertainty, as he glanced around the room, at all the faces that waited for his answer. He then locked his eyes on the badge, swallowing hard.
In all his life, he had never considered becoming a Power Ranger. In fact, he didn't even really want it. If his mother had never been a Power Ranger, then his father Trevor never would have been lost for two years, turning into the villain Solar. It was the Zeo Crystal that sent him into the Multiverse.
He knew that the Power Rangers had many sacrifices to make, including even the possible sacrifice of their loved ones. Their cause was just, to be sure... but could he do it? Could he deal with having the lives of these four individuals... including the love of his life, one of his best friends, and two kids that looked up to him like an older brother? These weren't just friends... they were like family to him.
Could he handle the weighty responsibility that would sit entirely on his shoulders.
Just then, he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned around slowly, and gazed into Regina's wide hazel eyes. They weren't pleading. They weren't even asking. They were gentle and supportive... just like they always were.
Then, his decision was made.
He reached out, and accepted the badge Trini offered. He gripped the badge in his fist, and nodded.
"I'll do it," he said.
Frankly, he didn't trust the lives of these cherished people with anyone else.
Everyone stepped back slightly, and Anthony, Regina, Brittany, Rebecca, and Micah congregated in the center of the void. They all held up their badges to the sky, and they each flashed in colored light.
"Look into your hearts," Will advised, "The Power will teach you all you need to know."
Rebecca closed her eyes, her smile widening as the pink pulse on her Starlight Disc intensified. She then opened her eyes, revealing a faint pink glow shining from her deep brown irises.
"Heaven's Gale Starlight Power!" she cried, her voice echoing through the silence. The light from her disc erupted in a wave of glowing pink energy, bathing her with power and infusing her with energy to the very core of her being. The light then tightened around her body, until it became a second skin. When the intensity faded, the light had transformed into the form-fitting metallic salmon uniform, complete with shimmering pearly white sleeveless tunic and short miniskirt, matching gloves and boots, and an elegantly styled pink helmet, with skillful gold etching around the opaque facemask in the design of a bird. Finally, her badge relocated from her hands to her chest, and a bright pink and gold crossbow was attached firmly to her belt, with a head of a firebird and the bow styled as wings.
"I... can't believe this is happening," she whispered, staring at her hands.
Brittany then closed her eyes, digging deep into her soul for the fiery yellow light that represented her new power. She managed to tap into that, allowing her mind to be flooded with rich energy. Her eyes opened, and her mouth moved, shouting out words she simply knew were the key to her destiny. "Corona Wash Starlight Power!"
The wave of energy struck her, molding itself to her body to create the perfect protective shell. Brilliant canary yellow spandex stretched across her body, along with the white chest and skirt, hemmed with gold. Her Starlight Disc enlarged, and placed itself firmly on her chest. Her helmet glimmered with the gold design of a griffin, and from the holster on her golden belt hung a collapsed staff, with a griffin's head on the top.
"This... this is so intense!" she breathed.
Micah chewed on his lips, his eyes focused on his green Starlight Disc with uncertainty. Finally, he took a deep breath, and closed his eyes tightly. For a few moments, he was silent, as his face wrinkled with frustration. But finally, a peaceful expression melted his worry, and his eyes opened, glowing faintly with green energy. He had found what he was looking for.
"Graviton Rush Starlight Power!" he shouted at the top of his voice. A flood of green poured out from the badge, bending and shaping itself to fit Micah's slender form. It then flashed, the energy transforming from liquid to material. The emerald-hued uniform reflected the dim lighting majestically, and the Starlight Disc flashed slightly. His uniform was identical to the girls', minus the skirt. The emerald and gold helmet sported the design of a bold lion, and from his belt hung a sharp dagger, with the head of a lion with its eyes closed.
"It's so unreal," Micah said in awe, his hands blindly exploring his helmet as if to see if it were really there.
Then, Regina squeezed her eyes shut, blocking out the outside world as she searched for the power within.
"Solar Blaze Starlight Power!" she called. Suddenly a dam burst, releasing blinding neon blue waves from the disc and down her arm. The energy molded around her body, transforming into the brilliant sapphire armor of the Blue Unicorn Ranger. Her uniform matched the others, with a short pearl miniskirt. Her helmet bore a stylized unicorn design, and from her belt hung two axes, with the handles in the shape of unicorn heads.
"...wow," she gasped, completely at a loss for words.
After a few more moments of gazing at his teammates, Anthony turned his attention to the golden disc he cradled in his palm. He felt the eyes of all the other Rangers, as well as the onlookers. Everyone was waiting for him to take the honor he had accepted.
Closing his eyes, he searched for the crimson flash within. When he found it, his mind occluded everything except three words.
"Starburst Starlight Power!"
His deep command summoned the flood of energy to cloak his body in its radiance. Crimson tides whirled around his body, folding until it created a body cast. Once again, energy transformed into matter, and the brilliant crimson waves became the brilliant crimson armor of the Red Dragon Ranger. His helmet was designed as a dragon, and his golden belt carried an intimidating broad sword, with the head of a dragon on its hilt.
"I've... never felt so alive before," Anthony affirmed, looking around the room.
Then, Will moved closer to the newly-formed Starlight Ranger team. "I wish we had more time for you to accustom yourselves to this new power, but every second is costly. You five will take this new power, and travel back in time to a point just before the first meeting of Thomas Oliver and David Trueheart. They will borrow the arrowhead, just long enough for me to save the Terran Rangers, and then return it."
"Did you find this dimension yet?" asked Rocky, "I remember the Multiverse is nearly impossible to navigate."
"Well, about sixteen years ago, as you remember, Kimberly went back in time to the year 1997, with the help of the mutant Nate Grey. I still have the coordinates of that dimension, but since sixteen years have gone by, I do not know just when the portal will take the Starlight Rangers. I think I've isolated the specific energies of the arrowhead halves, though, so it won't be after they were united."
"But, wouldn't they be stealing the arrowhead from the past Rangers?" Luke DeSantos said quietly. He then kept his inquisitive gaze on Will, who stared at the boy in amazement.
"The arrowhead will be returned to them expediently," he assured.
"But Luke has a point," Brittany stated, "We're asking these Terran Rangers to give us the united arrowhead. You said that the peak healing energy occurs right at the union, so they will permanently lose that maximum healing capacity. They might not be willing to give it up."
"It's our only chance," Will said, sighing, "I know we're asking a lot, but we can only hope for the support of our fellow Power Rangers in this time of crisis."
"It's our best bet," Anthony said, tugging on his glove and tightening his hand into a fist, "So Mr. Mitchell, when we get the arrowhead, how do we get back home?"
"I'm glad you asked," Trini answered for her husband, holding out a red and silver communicator, "This communicator will keep you all in contact, as well as emit a beacon through the Multiverse. Presently, the computer doesn't read anything, because they aren't turned on. When you are ready to come home, press the gold button, and the beacon will be sent. It should take about half an hour for the beacon to reach the CAC. Take care, Starlight Rangers."
William and Trini handed out the wrist communicators, and stood back. Will placed the Zeo Crystal beside the Terran Rangers as before, and then took a seat at his desk. After a few minutes, a black portal appeared in the center of the room.
"Goodbye, Starlights," Will called, turning from the computer to gaze at his creations, "and mmay the Power Protect you."
The Starlight Rangers said goodbye to their families, and leapt through the portal, one by one. Once all five were gone, the portal closed.
"There's nothing more we can do," said Will, "at least, until they return with the arrowhead."
Scene: Angel Grove, California; March 1997; 11:00 am (Western Time)
A large black hole irised open upon the roof of Angel Grove High. Out of that hole fell five figures, draped in skin-tight, colored armor. They rose to their feet, and looked around at the scene below.
"Good," said Anthony, the Red Ranger, "I don't think anyone saw us."
"I wonder if they'd recognize us," said Micah, the Green Ranger, "I mean, Will didn't tell us whether or not this universe has a team of Starlight Rangers. It's not entirely impossible."
"It's highly improbably, but I'm sure we'll find out soon," said Regina, the Blue Ranger, "After all, we have to find David Trueheart and Tom Oliver, and most likely when we find Tom, we'll find the Power Rangers, no matter which incarnation they may be."
"Where are we anyway?" asked Rebecca, the Pink Ranger, looking down at the relatively quiet yard surrounding the building.
"We're at the school," said Brittany, the Yellow Ranger, "This is Angel Grove High! I'm a senior here back in our time."
"Great," said Anthony, "then you'll be able to navigate the place. Okay, gang, we'd better split up. Some of us will find Tom, and the others will find David Trueheart. Uh... Micah, do you know where your uncle lived in the year 1997?"
The boy rubbed the chin of his helmet with his white-gloved hand. "Uh, I think he still lived at the reservation," he said finally, "But, I'm not sure."
"That's a good place to start," said Regina, "Micah, you should go find your uncle. You'll recognize him better than the rest of us. Becky, you go with him. You can try to scan for David with your psi powers."
"That's a good plan," said Brittany, "The rest of us all about high school age."
"Should we go morphed?" asked Rebecca.
"Nah," said Anthony, "It'll only attract unwanted attention. But, if you run into trouble, don't hesitate to morph. I don't want to take any chances."
The five Starlight Rangers waited until the coast was completely clear. Then, they leapt gracefully off the roof to ground level, and hid inside a cluster of trees. After a bright flash of light, Anthony, Regina, and Brittany walked towards the school, while Rebecca and Micah ran the other way.
"Keep in touch!" Anthony called, "Every half hour! Don't forget!"
Rebecca waved, and the two youngest Rangers were out of sight.
Anthony, Regina, and Brittany walked into the double doors, and were surprised by the large number of students filling the hallway.
"I guess it's between classes," Brittany observed.
"Then this is the perfect opportunity for us to find Tom," Anthony responded, "Okay, ladies, split up, and keep an eye out for Tom Oliver. If you can't find him, look for one of the other Rangers. Try not to talk to them, just watch them. Contact the rest of us before you do anything else. Clear?"
The two girls nodded, and they separated. Regina walked down one hallway, lined with chatting students and lockers. As she passed, nearly ever male student stopped what he was doing to gaze at the mysterious six foot tall young woman, with an exotic beauty that demanded attention. Regina felt everyone's stares, and wrung her hands nervously. Her intense discomfort serving as a distraction, she accidentally bumped into a young Asian man with dark, curly hair and a green T-shirt. She knocked the books from his hands, and they both nearly fell to the ground.
"Oh, gosh!" she said nervously, bending down to pick up the books, "I'm so sorry..."
"No harm done," he said, picking up the rest. He then looked at the girl curiously.
"Have we... met before?" he asked, "You seem familiar..."
"Uh, I don't think so," she said, looking away from his dark eyes, "I... I don't attend this school."
"So, why are you here?" asked Adam, rising to his feet. Regina followed.
"Visiting," she said, "Uh, look, I have to go..."
"Maybe I can help you find who you're looking for," he offered. Regina considered this. "Do you know a Tom Oliver?" she asked. Adam blinked.
"Tommy Oliver? Yeah, he's one of my best friends. He has gym class now, down the hall, to your left. I'm Adam, by the way."
Adam extended his hand, and Regina looked at him in alarm. Oh my goodness, I didn't even recognize him!
"I'm Regina," she said, "Nice to meet you."
"Likewise," he said. He then looked past Regina, and saw a tall, dark girl dressed in yellow, frowning at him. Adam turned a little red. "Uh, I have to get going," he said finally, "Bye."
Adam hurried away from Regina, and stood beside his girlfriend, Tanya Sloan. Tanya, who was usually of friendly demeanor, wore a frown that chilled blood.
"Who is that?" she asked Adam.
"Her name's Regina," Adam explained, "She bumped into me, that's all."
"Oh, right," Tanya said, "I'm sure you didn't notice she's got the body of a swimsuit model, eh? And that outfit doesn't leave much to the imagination."
"Really?" asked Adam innocently, taking Tanya's hand, "I hadn't noticed."
Together, they walked down the hall towards their next class.
Meanwhile, just down the hall, Anthony Monroe was busy trying to make sense of the rough map of the school he picked up at the main office. Once in a while he glanced up, and watched the students walk past him. He keenly noticed that many students looked at him curiously, especially the female population. Anthony disregarded the attention, and continued on his way. He stopped beside the bathrooms, and flipped the map around in frustration.
"Am I looking at this the right way?" he muttered to himself, "Twentieth century two dimensional maps... I'll never understand them!"
"Are you having trouble?" asked a perky voice. Anthony lowered the map, and gazed down at a pair of doe-brown eyes, framed with long, dark lashes. Anthony barely stifled a gasp when he realized who he was looking at.
"Ma--" he started, but quickly caught himself before making a fatal mistake. Kimberly looked at him in confusion.
"What did you say?" she asked.
"Ma... math," Anthony recovered, "I was wondering where the math room is."
Kimberly smiled, and shook her head, "You're gonna need to be more specific. There are lots of math classes here. Are you a new student?"
"Yeah," Anthony breathed, "I'm a new student. Just got here from New York." Well, it's not a total lie...
"Oh really?" she said, "That's great! I always wanted to visit New York. Never have, though. I'm Kimberly, by the way. Kimberly Hart."
"Hello," he said, rather uncomfortably. Kimberly frowned a little.
"That's you're cue," she said good-naturedly.
"To tell me your name!"
"Oh, okay. I'm Anthony."
"Do you have a last name?"
"Monroe," he said, and then instantly regretted it.
"Oh, really," she said, staring at his features even closer, "I know a guy named Monroe. He goes to school in Florida. His name's Trevor. Are you related?"
"Nope," he said, backing away from Kimberly's gaze. He only ended up with his back to the wall.
"It's funny," Kimberly continued, "Now that I think about it, you kinda look like him. Except for the eyes..."
Before Kimberly could further analyze the situation, a ringing came from Anthony's wrist. Both he and Kimberly were surprised to hear the six-tone signal.
Will never changed the sound the communicator makes?! Anthony thought, rolling his eyes in frustration, Now I'm in trouble...
Anthony looked down at Kimberly, and noticed that she was covering her wrist with her hand.
"Uh, I'd better get going. Nice to meet you, Anthony."
With that, Kimberly hurried down the hall. Anthony sighed in relief, and then ducked into the men's room.
She must've thought it was her communicator ringing, he thought, raising the device to his mouth, "Hello?"
^Tony? It's me, Regina.^ "What's up, Gina?"
^You're not going to believe this, but I bumped into Adam Park!^
"I believe it," Anthony said, "I bumped into, of all people, my mother!"
^Really? What are the chances?^
"Well, it's a small high school after all. Man, she just wouldn't leave me alone! I think she's figured something out. She knows my name--"
^You told her your real name?^
"It just slipped! Anyway, when my communicator went off, she left. I think she thinks her communicator went off."
^That's bad, Tony. When she finds out no one paged her, she'll know where that sound came from. You'd better avoid her completely, Tony.^
"I'll try," Anthony sighed, "What about you? What happened with Adam?"
^I didn't even know it was him until he introduced himself. I asked him which class Tom has now. He said gym. I figure the three of us could go down to the gym, and meet up with him. We just have to figure out how to go about doing this, without revealing too much about our future. We probably should try to keep the other Rangers out of this, to keep the situation from escalating. We'd better handle this delicately.^ "Good point. Let's touch base with Brittany before we do anything else."
Brittany was wandering down the halls, looking at the room numbers in surprise. She found her way to the second floor, her forehead wrinkled in confusion as she searched for the stairs to the third floor. She stood still and pondered the design of the school when a young Mexican American man tapped her on the shoulder.
"Hello," he said, "I don't think I've seen you before. You new?"
Brittany nodded, and turned around to see a tall redheaded girl standing beside him.
"Welcome to Angel Grove," she said, "I'm Alexis Darling, and this is my friend Rocky DeSantos."
"Friend?" asked Rocky, arching an eyebrow. Alexis giggled.
"Okay, slightly more than friend."
"Oh," said Brittany, "hello. I'm Brittany."
"Well, what are you looking for?" asked Alexis.
"They're right behind you," said Rocky, pointing to the stairs she just ascended. Brittany shook her head.
"No," she sighed, "not those stairs. The stairs that lead to the third floor. The computer labs, observatory..."
Brittany stopped when she saw Alexis and Rocky exchange bewildered looks. Brittany looked around nervously.
"There is no third floor," said Alexis, "There are only two floors at Angel Grove High."
"Oh, really," said Brittany with a nervous smile, "My mistake. Well, that explains why I can't find my classes! Well, see ya, and thanks for your help!"
Before either of them could say anything, Brittany hurried down the stairs, and leaned against a locker, catching her breath. By now, most of the students had gone their ways, and the bell rang.
I don't believe this, Brittany thought to herself, How could I have forgotten that the third floor wasn't added until 2001? Sheesh, I'm not thinking! That was close...
Brittany sighed, and walked down the quiet hallway. Without warning her communicator beeped, and echoed down the hall. Brittany cringed as the loud echo filled the empty hall.
"Excuse me," said a slender man in a navy blue suit, with an obvious toupee, "what was that noise?"
"Noise?" asked Brittany innocently. The man nodded.
"The noise. It sounded a lot like... a pager."
"Oh," Brittany said in relief, "a pager! Yeah, that's what it is, just my pager. Uh, sorry it's so loud--"
"What's your name, young lady?"
"Well then, Brittany, you should know that pagers aren't permitted in school. Come with me, please."
With that, the principal of the school, Mister Caplan, stepped towards his office, and held the door open. Brittany's shoulders slumped as she walked past him, into the foreboding office of authority.
I just do NOT believe this is happening!
Meanwhile, Kimberly stood in the corner of the hallway, tapping her chin in thought.
"So," she whispered into her wrist, "you didn't contact me, Billy?"
^Negative,^ he said, ^Did you speak to the other Rangers?^
"Yes," she sighed, "Something's fishy here, Billy."
"Do me a favor? Could you hack into the school's computer files, and find out if there's a new student here at Angel Grove high? His name's Anthony Monroe."
^It'll take a second,^ Billy said, the sound of typing in the background, ^Anthony Monroe, eh? That name sounds... vaguely familiar.^
"I know what you mean," said Kimberly, "I know I've heard that name somewhere before. I just can't place it..."
^Perhaps your telepathic powers are at work, giving you the feeling of deja vu?^
"I suppose that's possible," Kimberly thought aloud, "But it's never happened before..."
^I have the results. According to the school's files, the last new student to enroll in Angel Grove High was Alexis, in late January.^
"That's what I thought," she said, nodding, "Thanks, Billy."
^Do you think I should I tell the other Rangers about this guy?^
"Not yet. I'll find him first, and ffind out who he really is, and what he's doing here."
Meanwhile, out on the moon, a lone figure stood on a cliff. He remained silent, his hands clasped and the long sleeves of his black gown obscuring them from view. He looked at the Earth, the shining blue gem floating in a sea of black nothingness. He then looked towards the stone castle standing in a crater not far from him on the face of Earth's only natural satellite. He began his journey, and took his time walking to the castle.
After all, he had all the time in the world.
Author's Note: Check out the Starlight Rangers Introduction Page to see what the next generation of Power Rangers look like!