Author's Note: This series has become a solo project for me. The basic idea for the series was Thunderlight's. So, if you like this story, drop me a line. This story takes place after Astronema is recaptured by Darkonda and reprogrammed. CD2D does not happen in this time line. This is the fourth story in the 'Once, and Great Power' series, after 'The Gathering of the Rangers'. You might want to go back and read this, and the previous stories first before you read this one, or you might be lost.
Special Thanks: This is a special thanks to everyone who has answered any and all questions regarding information for these stories, and for everyone who reads them.
Red lights flashed on, and DECA's fading voice called out to them. "Andros... systems...failing. Shields...100...%...disabled."
"Hang on DECA. Aquitar is straight ahead of us!"
"Andros, should we try to contact Aquitar again?" Cassie asked, fighting the sparks that began to shoot from the communications console.
"What have we got to loose?" Andros responded.
"Our lives?" Rocky commented from behind them.
Cassie touched a few buttons, hoping that whatever was sparking, wasn't what she needed in order to contact the Aquitians. "Delphine, this is Cassie, aboard the Astro Mega Ship..."
The Aquitian Rangers had been witnessing the approach of the attacked Mega Ship for some time. They were too far away for them to get a tractor beam on, and the communications were garbled, when they were actually able to get something through.
Silently, they prayed that the Mega Ship would make it until the Earth Rangers were close enough to get a lock on them
All attempts at communicating with the ship had been fruitless so far. As Delphine prepared to try communications once again, she heard her name called, broken up somewhat.
"Rangers. You are nearly close enough for us to get a lock on you, and bring you in safely..."
Static filled the line, and Delphine, as well as the others, waited patiently for some indication that they had been heard.
"Nothing." Cassie said, looking at Andros, the worry on her face mirrored the expressions on everyone's faces.
"Keep trying!" TJ yelled over the noise.
All of the former Rangers looked at each other, the same thought crossing all of their minds. "We didn't come this far to die in space." Tommy looked at the Rangers around him. He couldn't just sit by and do nothing to help.
He realized that Billy was the whiz at fixing things, but they had, had to learn a lot about fixing things in his absence.
"Guys." Tommy whispered to the group of former Rangers. "We have to do something to help."
"What? The Rangers are doing everything they can." Kim stated, looking at the Rangers.
"We can each help on of the Rangers." Adam stated. Zack nodded his agreement.
"All right. Adam, you and I will head to the engine room and see what damages have been done, and see what we can do to fix them. We've both been tough a bit about that area." Adam nodded his agreement. "Jace, you help Andros, Rocky will help TJ." Both agreed, getting up and walking over to their perspective partners. "Zack, can you help Carlos?"
"No problem." Tommy watched as Zack headed toward the current Black Ranger. Looking back, he saw the women looking sternly at him.
"Kim, you and...Aisha will help Cassie, Tanya and...Kat will help Ashley. And Trini, would you be willing to help Alpha Six?" Tommy asked the final member of the group.
"It would be my pleasure." Smiling, Trini headed to Alpha's side.
"Adam, wait here for a moment. I'm going to let Andros know what we're going to do."
As Tommy headed toward the controls where Andros stood, with Jason at his side, the Mega Ship began to vibrate violently.
"DECA! What's going on?" Andros called out. But, there was no reply. "DECA!" He called once again. Nothing...
"Incoming!" Carlos yelled.
"Everyone, hang on!" Kat called from her position next to Ashley.
Tommy lept the last few feet, that separated him from Jason and Andros, grabbing hold of the edge of the console, just as the blast hit.
Without any protective shields, the Mega Ship tilted wildly to the side. Various Rangers were ripped from their places by the force of the blast, sending them sprawling across the bridge.
Then, everything went dark. The only illumination being the sparks shooting up from various consoles.
"Yahoo! I love this game! This is better than that...Star-whatever movie it was that they made me watch. It was suppose to be one of the best movies they ever made. I thought it was kind of lame, if you ask me. Didn't seem real at all. Now, this is real." Arcus yelled over the sounds around him. Spinning in his seat, he looked across the Dark Fortress'' deck to where Astronema and Ecliptor stood; their backs to him.
"What did you say?" Astronema asked, as she turned and moved to his side. A printout of the damages to the Mega Ship, held in her hands.
"I said, that this is better than any video game."
"What's a video game?" Astronema asked, looking down at the list of damages.
"You watch a battle on a screen that isn't really happening, and you have these controls in your hands that makes the battle happen, and you try to destroy things, without being destroyed, so that you can win. Something I was taught during my ten year with the Rangers."
"A battle that isn't real? How can that be any fun?" Arcus turned back to the view of the lifeless Mega Ship before him, sticking his tongue out and mocking Astronima's words, silently to himself.
Taking the controls in his hands, he prepared to fire at the ship once more. It was almost over. He watched as the explosions on the far side of the ship began to tear it apart. Smiling, he patted himself on the back for a job well done.
"Wait!" Astronema yelled, just as Arcus prepared to fire.
"Why? We've got them right where we want them. They're not going anywhere. We blast them, and ta-da, no more Rangers, and the galaxy is mine...I mean, ours."
The slip did not go unnoticed.
"You can't let him kill them. Can't you see? Didn't you hear what he said? He's already planing on eliminating you once the Rangers are gone."
Astronema placed a hand over the right side of her face. The cool metal beneath her fingers, a constant reminder of what had to be done to get her own will back.
"Who's will? Yours? Who are you really? Me...or you?"
"Astronima." Ecliptor's voice brought her out of the momentary darkness she'd found herself in. "We must do something my Princess."
Blinking, tring to remember what it was she was doing, she looked up at the ship before them. The voice kept screaming in her head. Closing her eyes, she gave the command. "Destroy them!"
"That's my girl." Arcus commented as he caressed the trigger at his finger tips. "Good riddance!" Pulling the trigger, he watched the beams of light reach out into the darkness of space, drawing closer to it's target. Arcus' plans for total control were nearly complete.
Astronema forced herself to watch, as the beams of light reached their target. The massive explosion blinding them all, momentarily. As the last flame winked out, everything was dark for a moment. Once everyone's eyes adjusted to the light, what they found was a vast darkness all around them. Blinking of stars filled the empty space where the Astro Mega Ship had once been.
A whoop! from Arcus certified what she saw. What she had done. And as she stood there, the darkness of space became even darker, and the voice in her head died into sobs.
Ecliptor watched as Astronema swayed, and as she began to fall, he dropped his sword and raced to her side, catching her before she hit the floor.
Arcus stood up from his seat, on evil glint in his eyes, and a wicked smile on his face. "No stomach for death? Weaklings." Arcus stepped past them, leaving them alone on the silent deck.
"My Princess...what has become of us?" Ecliptor asked, as he lifted her unconscious form into his arms.
"James, they're bringing it in!" Young Cestran called out. Cestran had been in training with his Uncle, Cestro for two years now, and he loved the thought of one day becoming a Ranger.
Excitement filled the air, as he looked around the large room. Several control panels flashed with lights, while others seemed like they were some alien creature with millions of arms. Wires hung from various holes in the panel tops.
"James? Are you here?" Cestran called again. Slowly, he made his way into the room, carefully moving past the dangling wires, hoping to keep his blue robes from getting dirty.
"Cestran? What are you doing here?" Came a friendly voice from behind him.
"Looking for you James. They're bringing in the Astro Mega Ship." Cestran faced the man behind him.
James moved to Cestan's side. His aged hand, patting the young boy on the shoulder. Cestran smiled up into the wise and aged eyes. A head of long white hair, and a long beard and mustache gave statement to James' true age. Cestran hadn't seen very many humans in his life span. James was already here when Cestran had started on his apprenticeship. And he adored the elderly man, whose black robes brought out the stark contrast of his long white hair and beard.
The only other human Cestran had seen, was the Earthling, Billy, but it had been a long time since he'd been there. And when he had seen Billy, it had been for a short time, during a visit. Billy had come to help the Aquitians against the Hydro Contaminators. He'd left shortly afterward.
"Thank you Cestran. I'm preparing for it's arrival at this very moment. How's your sister doing?" James asked, his voice barely registering the fact that he was nearly eighty years old. Heck, he didn't feel like it; his movements unlabored by age.
"Cestria should be returning from her search, for the medicinal plants she was looking for, soon."
"Good. We may need her medical expertise. Tell the Rangers that I'm ready when they are."
"Sure." Cestran quickly left the room and headed toward the control center, where he would find his Uncle Cestro, and the other Rangers.
James turned his attentions back to the device in his hand. It looked to be nothing more than three bubbles sitting atop of each other, but a pulse of blue seemed to swirl around it's outer edges, from bottom to top, then dropping down through the center to the bottom, to start it's upward spiral once more.
"I think this power cell should do the trick." James said, wrapping his hand protectively around it. Moving carefully to the disemboweled console, he stretched out his hand, sinking it into the depths of the panel.
Concentration furrowed his grayed brow, as he strove to place the power cell in it's place. With a slight push, a click, and the hum of computers filled the room.
Smiling to himself, he began to replace the consoles wires, and put the covers in place.
"James, this is Delphine, are you ready to receive the ship?"
"Yes. Is there any sign of life aboard it?" James asked, with some concern.
"Yes, but just barely. But, there has not been any sign of movement for some time. We were just barely able to get the tractor beam on the ship, before the blast hit."
"All right, opening port doors, now." James said, closing the communications.
No movement? They had to hurry.
James pressed several buttons on a nearby console. With a hum, two huge doors at the back of the docking room, began to open onto the sea beyond. He continued to watch further, as a bubble of water slowly began to reach into the room. And as always, he expected it to suddenly burst, flooding the room, and drowning him. It never did, as it stopped several yards into the room.
How often, during the time he'd first arrived here, had he wished the bubble would break, taking him with it? He couldn't remember. But, slowly, old memories faded, and if it hadn't have been for Billy, always there, always talking him out of it with his intellectual thoughts, he would have given up to those memories a long time ago.
But, Billy was gone now, and James had promised to never give up. And he hadn't.
A large object coming toward the bubble, brought James out of his thoughts. He watched as it slowly approached. As he looked at it, it seemed almost as if it were coming in upside down. Turning at the slight sound of footsteps behind him, he saw Cestria approaching him.
"I heard what happened, and I hurried as quickly as I could." James sighed as the young Aquitian woman stopped at his side, and took his hand in hers, leaning against him.
"Glad you could come Cestria. Your help may be needed." Cestria smiled up at him.
She turned her attention on the room beyond them, gazing around at all of the equipment Billy had put together since he'd been there.
When he had first arrived, she watched, feeling strange, as the humidifiers were removed from the room, and the consoles built. It began to look more like Earth in here, than it did Aquitar. The only things that remained the same, were the coral walls, and the doors that opened onto the sea.
"I can't get over how dry it is in here. Thank goodness it's not this way everywhere. I don't think we Aquitians could stand it for very long."
"It was hard for me to get use to your climate as well, but things are working out just fine. I wouldn't live anywhere but here, now."
An alarm began to sound, bringing their attention from the conversation, and back on the task at hand.
"Is something wrong?" Cestria asked, as the once, upside down object, now upright, came to within inches of the skin of the bubble.
"No. It was just a warning, in case something does happen. It was just a way of letting us know the ship is here." James smiled as he released her hand, to stand at the controls to help guide the ship in.
Cestria stood back and watched in amazement, as the huge, blue ship began to emerge from the sea, and enter the room through the delicate skin of the bubble. The ship began to fill the vastness of the room with it's size, making the room appear to be smaller than she had first thought. As the bubble let go of the back of the ship, it vibrated back and forth, causing a slight splashing sound, as it did so.
For a moment, the ship hovered over the floor, as if held aloft by some invisible hand.
"It's in, Delphine. Retract the beam." James said, as he gazed at the huge ship before him. Water from the sea, running off of it in waterfalls. The water running to the lower side of the room, where it ran down a drain and into recycling containers, then back into the sea.
A beam, barely visible, slowly withdrew from the ship. And as it did so, the ship gently came to rest, with a shaking thud!, on the floor before them. Once the ship was settled, James took Cestria's arm and guided her into a small room, set into the wall. Once inside, James pulled closed the large, thick door.
"Now what?" Cestria asked. She knew that the Aquitians had created this chamber to house the ships of various visitors to the planet, but she never thought to learn the mechanics of the things within it.
"I'm going to raise the air pressure in the room, forcing the bubble of water back, so that the doors can close."
Cestria watched silently, as a loud hissing filled the room outside. The bubble that reached into the room, began to slowly retreat. The doors closing slowly, as it did so.
"Tideus, is the medical staff ready?" James called out. Tideus' steady and controlled voice filtered into the small room around them.
James watched as the large doors finally came to a close. Switching on a lever, the hiss faded and a slight roar followed, growing fainter by the minute.
"All right Tideus, let's get them in here, and I'll see what I can do to get into the ship."
No sooner had Cestria and James left the chamber, than the medical staff, followed by the Rangers: Corcus, Delphine, Cestro, Aurico and Tideus, filed into the room.
James grabbed up some equipment from a nearby table, and strode toward the bottom of the ship. Drops of water continued to drip from it's hull, as James began to move around it.
"Where are you? I know you've got to be here somewhere...Aha! There you are." Spotting a small silver panel on the rear of the ship, James called out to Corcus, who rushed up with a ladder for him.
Once the ladder was in place, James began to climb it, reaching out for the panel. Placing the equipment in the pocket of his dark robes, James began to feel around the panel's edges looking for a trigger that would allow the panel's door to be manually opened.
"How are the life forms inside, doing?" He asked Delphine, who stood looking a the monitor.
"They are still alive, but they have lost their air supply some time ago. If we do not get the ship open soon, they will all die." The last, she said, looking James directly in the eyes.
As he prepared to respond, a small click! alerted him to the fact, that he had indeed found the trigger. With hands just as dexterous as they ever were, James pulled open the panel, and fished the device out of his pocket.
Cestran, who had entered with the Rangers, watched from below, sandwiched between his Uncle and his sister. They watched as James connected two thin wires to the dark panel before him.
Quickly, he began to tap out codes on the hand held pad. "Come on, come on! Where's the blasted code for this thing?" James questioned himself, impatiently.
"I've got a life sign starting to fade. We need to hurry!" Delphine announced. And if Delphine was yelling, he knew he had no time to waste.
As he punched in code after code, James' mind kept leaping forward to the next code and the next. "Come on, there's only two left." Closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, he hit the last numbers.
The room was silent. Every little drop of water falling from the Mega Ship could be heard hitting the floor. It's sound like that of thunder in the silent room. When nothing seemed to happen, James opened his eyes, looking around at the people gazing up at him, vivid memories of another time, rushing in.
"We are loosing them..." Delphine announced what no one wanted to hear.
James checked to make sure that the device was connected correctly, and prepared to re-enter the codes once more. As his fingers brushed the pad, a roar of power filled the room, and the lights on the panel flashed to life. Acting quickly; having no time to be surprised, James tapped a code into the panel. Suddenly, a ramp descended down to the floor of the docking room. The medical staff rushed up it as it continued to lower, then stood waiting at the still, closed door.
Before they could question weather it would open, the doors slid apart, allowing the air in the room to rush past them, like a sudden wind storm, to fill the air starved ship. Cestria left Cestran and Cestro's sides to follow the medical staff onto the ship. James descended the ladder and moved to Delphine's side at the monitors.
Staring down at the screen before him, he watched as six, quickly flashing, dots approached the...fifteen? slowly flashing dots.
"Who are those people?" James asked, a bit confused, as the all the dots came together.
Delphine, feeling a bit confused herself, replied, "The Lightstar Rangers." Her eyes remained glued to the screen before them.
"Are there suppose to be fifteen of them? Maybe it would be wise for us to send in some armed guards?" James asked, a bit worried.
"What little communication that we did receive, seemed to indicate that the only attack was that from the Dark Fortress. And, as far as I remember hearing, is that there were originally two Lightstar Rangers, then they recruited four more. So, at the most, there should be only six Lightstar Rangers aboard the ship."
James looked up at the ship. "Then, who are the other nine?"
Suddenly, one of the medics emerged from the ship, carrying, what appeared to be a body. James moved forward, and as he neared the medic, he noticed that the body was clad in red, gold and black armor.
"I found this aboard the ship, with the others. It's an Alpha unit, and it's been severally damaged. I don't know if it can be fix." The medic nodded to the figure in his arms.
James closed the distance between them, and stopped, staring down at the body in the medic's arms. "It is indeed an Alpha unit." He agreed. Then he noticed that half of the head was missing, having exploded outward, wires dangling from inside of it, with small bits of the outer shell clinging to their ends. "Leave him here. I might be able to do something with him." The medic nodded and continued down the ramp. Looking back into the darkness of the ship, James could see the rest of the medical staff emerging, fifteen floating bubbles, barely inches off of the ground, following behind them.
James stood to the side, as the medical staff, Cestria and the bubbles containing the Lightstar Rangers, passed by them. The first bubble contained a white male, with brown and blond striped hair. The second one held the body of a young man who seemed to be of Spanish decent, with wavy, shoulder length, black hair.
Feeling a presence next to him, James looked to find Cestro and Cestran standing next to him.
"They are alive?"
"Yes." James replied to Cestro's concerned question. They let the silence hang in the air, as they continued to watch the Ranger filled bubbles emerge from the ship. The next bubble held the form of a young Asian woman, with long black hair. Quickly, another one passed, this one containing a young, tall male, of African decent; head shaved.
James risked a glance at the two Aquitians at his side. Cestran showed great interest, but Cestro's expression remained unreadable.
Another bubble had passed them, and James took a quick look to see a young white woman, with brownish-blond hair, passing by. Quickly he looked back at another bubble coming his way. As it passed them, he heard Cestro speak up.
"Earth Ranger?" Cestro seemed confused, which James clearly understood. He was just as confused. He knew them too.
"I know them as well. But, why are the former Earth Rangers with the Lightstar Rangers?"
"I do not know. And it may be some time before we find out." Cestro stated, indicating the state all of the Rangers were in.
Quietly, they watched as, bubble after bubble passed them. James ticked off their names in his mind. "Jason Scott, Rocky DeSantos, Zack Taylor, Kimberly Hart, Aisha Campbell, Tanya Sloan, Katherine Hillard, Trini Kwan, Adam Park...Tommy Oliver." Spite filled his mind as well, as he said the names. Anger at how they had treated Billy, after he, himself, had declined to be a Ranger again.
James looked up at Cestro, who was looking questioningly at him. "I believe two of them are missing." James stated, as he quickly took leave of them, his back stiff against their gaze.
Delphine approached Cestro and Cestran, watching as James moved to the machines, to start a diagnostic on the ship. "Is he all right?" Delphine asked.
"Yes. And I think we're going to be seeing Billy again...soon. With his friends here, he won't be able to stay away for long." Cestro stated, gazing in James' direction.
"Good. Billy's been gone a long time, and I miss him." Cestran added.
Cestro and Delphine nodded in agreement.
Dark Specter's image stood high above the ridge where Arcus now found himself standing...alone.
"Where is Astronima?"
"Well, I think she got a head start on celebrating the demise of the Rangers. She'll be all right. Might have a hell of a hangover, but hey, it's not a party if you don't have a hangover in the morning." Arcus said, a touch of sarcasm in his voice.
"Very well. Congratulations on your victory over the Rangers. Your names are spoken with honor among the Alliance."
"Yeah, right." Arcus folded his arms over his chest.
"What was that?"
"I said...all right." Arcus lied, holding his fist up in mock excitement.
"Earth, and it's galaxy, now belong to the two of you, to rule or destroy, as you desire."
"Thank you my Lord." Arcus forced himself to bow. "Oh, I'll destroy, all right. But, it will be you, and then Astronima's next. I'll be the soul ruler." He said to himself.
As Arcus rose, he found that Dark Specter had left, leaving him completely alone on the ridge.
"My plan is going well."
"I wouldn't say that, you over inflated windbag." Came a familiar voice from inside of Arcus' head.
"So, you're still hanging around, huh?"
"You thought I'd leave?"
"No. I was just hoping that you had stuck around long enough to witness the end of the Power Rangers." Arcus smiled contemptuously.
"Well, if that's what you think, you don't know the Rangers very well...do you?" Zhane's voice mocked. And then began to laugh.
In a flash of red rage, Arcus disappeared from the ridge.
A face emerged from the darkness, and Astronema smiled. "These are for you." Zhane held out the bouquet of roses to her.
"Zhane? Is it really you?" She asked. Where had Arcus gone?
As Astronema reached out to take the flowers from his hands, they began to wilt, then they burst into flames. Quickly, she jumped back, flames forming a wall between them. "Karone!" Zhane called to her, trying to reach her through the wall of flames.
"I-I can't!" She tried to reach out for his hand, but pulled back as the flames began to burn her skin. A wall of flames rose up, keeping her from seeing him. Then, as the flames finally began to die down, she could see Zhane again. But, something was different. His eyes were hard, and a sinister smile curved his lips.
"Arcus!" She spat.
"You seem surprised to see me?" She watched as he walked through the wall of dying flames. Slowly, Astronema backed away from him. But, like a snake, he struck out, grasping her around the neck.
"Karone must die!" Arcus declared, as her ears began to ring, and her lungs begged for air.
A sudden brightness filled the space around her. Had she died? Feeling a touch on her arm, she pulled away, blinking her eyes against the light. "My Princess." Ecliptor called to her. Gently, he reached out to still her struggling form.
He watched her eyes slowly opened and she blinked against the light. Ecliptor saw a slight whisper of fear pass over them, then it was gone. Carefully, she sat up, leaning against the wall behind her.
"What, what happened?" She asked. She put her hand to her head, and felt a small wire hanging from the device attached to her face.
"I did, what I thought was best. What my heart told me to do." Astronema looked at Ecliptor. Her father, with a real heart beating behind the cold armor. "I have raised you as my daughter, from the moment Darkonda brought you to me. I've watched you grow, and I've been at your side your whole life. You were in pain, and I knew I had to make it stop."
"I don't understand." She stated, shakily.
"You are, who you have always been. And I will still remain at your side, and I will fight to the death to protect you."
"Who I've always been?" Confusion overwhelmed her. She stood, unsteadily, from the bed, and wondered to the mirror on the wall. Carefully, she listened for the voice in her head, but everything was silent.
"Andros..." Quickly, Ecliptor was at her side, holding her.
"You know...do you not?" Ecliptor asked.
"Yes. Astronema is dead, forever. But, you will have to keep pretending you are still her. Arcus is growing stronger, and is finding favor with Dark Specter. We have to defeat him and Dark Specter."
"Andros? The Rangers?" Tears began to well up in her eyes. She had just found out who she really was, and that she wasn't alone in this world, she had a brother. Then Darkonda took all of that away.
"Gone. All of them."
"No." Turning, she sobbed into Ecliptor's arms. "I've finished what Darkonda started. I've killed my own brother."
"Someone please point me to the nearest bathroom, I'm going to be sick." A familiar, and unwelcome voice came from the door way.
Karone turned to find Arcus leaning against the frame of the door, a slight smile on his lips.
Andros made his way through the, Aquitian equivalent, of a hospital, checking on all of the Rangers. At each doorway, he carefully peaked inside. Not so much to keep from disturbing the occupant, but to keep his head from aching.
When he had awaken, his arm was in a sling, his lip was cut, and his head hurt like hell. Bandages, even still now, were wrapped tightly over one eye. So far, all of the Rangers he had checked on, were fine. Ashley was a little bruised, and her left leg was broken. Carlos had a couple of broken ribs and a sprained wrist.
Cassie, who seemed to have suffered only minor bruises, was already up and assisting Cestria with the others. TJ, he found, had an arm in a sling, and was sitting on the foot of Rocky's bed, playing a game of Aquitian cards. Tideus was teaching them to play. Rocky had bandages on one cheek, and a split lip, which didn't seem to stop his affective laughter.
In another room, he found Jason, arm re-bandaged. The wound was from the blaster shot to the shoulder he had received during the gathering of the Rangers. His left leg in a cast. He was talking with Zack and Trini. Zack was nursing a black eye, sore jaw, and a broken hand. Trini, like Cassie, had sustained only minor injuries, though a spot just above her brow looked slightly swollen.
Further down the hall, in another room, he found Aisha and Tanya, who were talking about a place called 'Africa'. Andros wondered if it was some planet he'd never heard of. Shaking his head, and smiling, he observed that both had arms in a sling. Tanya had a brace around her neck, and Aisha's ankle was wrapped. Other than that, they seemed only to have a few bruises.
Next, he found Adam watching over Kat, who looked as if she was just waking up. The bandages on her head indicating that she had hit her head as well. One wrist was wrapped, the other in a cast.
Adam, just looked tired. His eyes were blood shot, and an angry expression covered his face. A few bruises and a bandage over one brow, were the only indication that he had even been hurt. As Andros moved on, he wondered a the anger in Adam's expression, and made a note to check on things more closely, later.
As he approached the last room, he could hear Tommy talking. Andros neared the door, careful not to be seen. The room was dimly lit, but he could make out Tommy leaning over the bed, holding the hand of the person in the bed.
From what he could see, Tommy had a split lip, his right shoulder was wrapped and his arm was in a cast. Andros looked past Tommy, to the owner of the hand. Kim lay still in the bed. Still unconscious from the blast that had rocked the Mega Ship, and brought them all here, in this condition. Her nose looked like it had been broken, which made both of her eyes black. She also had a split lip and a wrapped wrist.
Andros watched, as Tommy reached out with his good arm, to brush at a lock of hair, that had settled over Kim's eyes. "Hey beautiful. Everything is going to be all right. We made it. I'll be here when you wake up." Tommy brushed a light kiss on her forehead, then sat back in a chair by her bed.
Andros prepared to leave, but heard Tommy call to him. "Andros. Come in." Tommy motioned to him. Hesitating, he entered the room and stood by the door. "Hey man. You look ruff. Are you all right?"
"Yeah. Head hurts a bit, but I'm fine. What about you and Kim?"
"I'm a little beat up, but, I can't figure out why Kim hasn't woken up yet. I talked with Cestria, but even she doesn't understand it."
"I hope she'll be all right."
"Me too, man, me too. How are the others?" Tommy asked.
"Everyone is a little banged up, but it appears that the women came through it a lot better than us guys."
"You look worried about something. What's up? Is it Billy?"
"No. When I checked on Adam and Kat, Adam seemed angry." He watched as Tommy nodded his head slowly, and took a deep breath. "It had something to do with you, didn't it?" Andros stated.
"Yeah. But, it's a long story." Andros looked at Kim, as Tommy spoke.
"But, an old one as well." Tommy looked up at Andros, surprised by his words. "I've learned to be observant." Andros smiled on of his rare smiles. "Listen, I've been asking around about your friend, Billy. But, I can't get a straight answer from anyone."
"I've noticed that too. When I asked Cestria about him, because I knew she and Billy were close, she got really quiet, and quickly told me to talk to Delphine. Then she left."
"I was told to talk to Delphine as well. I was on my way to find her, but thought I'd check on everyone first."
Tommy smiled. "The curse of the Red Rangers."
"Everyone who has been a Red Ranger has switched into leader mode, when things went wrong. And, we've always made sure that everyone was all right before anything else. It happened to Jason, Rocky, Myself, and TJ. And apparently, you too."
"I never thought about it. I guess I'd better find Delphine, and see if we can't get this little mystery about Billy, solved." Andros slipped out of the room, and down the hall.
Needing a break from the tedious work of fixing the Mega Ship's computers, James found himself wandering the corridors of Aquitar. Often stopping to watch the Aquitian children swimming around, just outside of the windows in the corridors.
It was at one of these points, that James heard voices in a nearby room. Curious, he made his way to the slightly, open door.
"Why won't anyone talk to us about Billy?" Came a voice from inside. Another voice responded.
"I don't know, but it's starting to bother me."
James opened the door and moved into the room, startling TJ and Rocky, who looked as if they were preparing to leave the room. TJ wore a gray pair of pants and jacket, with a blue, mock-neck shirt underneath. Rocky wore a similar uniform, but his shirt was gray as well. Both looked up at James' entrance.
"Can we help you?" TJ asked.
"I over heard you talking about Billy. He's a friend of mine."
"You know Billy?" Rocky asked, slipping the jacket on over his shoulders, and adjusting the collar.
"Yes, I do."
"Wait, Rocky." TJ said, moving closer to James. "Just who are you, anyway?"
"You don't trust people very often, do you?" James queried.
"No. Not recently." TJ punctuated. "Why are you the only one willing to talk to us about Billy? What is everyone hiding?"
"I don't know what they're hiding, but Billy isn't around right now. What do you need him for, anyway?" James' voice began to take on a slight edge of anger. Remembering how these so called 'friends' treated Billy once before.
"We need-" Rocky started, as TJ cut in.
"I think we'll wait until we can see Billy." TJ said, crossing his arms over his chest. James only shrugged his shoulders.
"Have it your way, but you might be waiting for quite a while." With that, James turned and left the room.
"What was that suppose to mean?" TJ called down the hall, and the retreating figure. But, there was no answer to his question.
Grumbling under his breath, James made his way back to the Mega Ship, and his repairs.
"Excuse me, are you Delphine?" Andros asked the woman standing at a control panel in Aquitar's main control room.
She was about his height, with the distinct Aquitian markings on her head. A long, blond, pony tail of hair, flowing down her back, brushing lightly against the black uniform that she wore.
"I am. You are Andros, of the Lightstar Rangers?"
"Yes. I'm Andros." Delphine clasped her hands together in the customary way of greeting, and bowed.
"Welcome to Aquitar, Andros of KO-35. How may I be of assistance to you?"
"Me, and the rest of the Lightstar team, have been gathering together all of the former Rangers, in hopes that we all can defeat Dark Specter, and Astronima. We've gathered all of them, except Billy." Delphine stopped what she was doing. "I've been asking around about him ever since I woke up, but everyone avoids me when I ask about him, or tells me to speak to you."
Delphine looked at Andros, wanting to tell him, but she couldn't. "I haven't seen Billy for some time. But, I think I may know who might be able to help you."
James stood on the bridge of the Mega Ship. The control panel fixed, and looking as good as new. The lights flickered briefly, as James tested the power.
"Well, what do you think DECA?"
"Systems are running at optimal power James. Thank you."
"You are quite welcome. Now, if a few other things could be fixed as easily."
"Like Alpha 6?"
James turned to face the voice that came from behind him. Well, it looks like everyone is going to be leaving soon. James thought to himself, as he moved past Andros.
"Who are you?" James asked, as he made his way through the Mega Ship's corridors, Andros following behind him.
"I'm Andros." James stopped before a panel on the wall, and carefully opened it.
"Oh? That name suppose to mean something to me?" Andros shifted to his other foot, already feeling frustrated by the old man.
"No. But, I am the leader of the Lightstar Rangers."
"Quite a few of you Lightstar Rangers, aren't there? What do you want with me?" James closed the panel door, and stepping past Andros, headed back toward the bridge once more.
As he prepared to pass, Andros reached out, grasping the old man's arm, stopping him from passing, and forcing him to listen to him. "We're looking for Billy, and I was told that you and he are close, and that you could tell me where I could find him."
"Who told you that?" James pulled away from Andros' grip, and continued on to the bridge.
"I figured as much. What do you need Billy for? Did you break...something else, that you need him to fix?" James laughed, indicating the Mega Ship around them.
Andros stopped, confused by James' anger and sarcasm. "No. We need his help in unlocking the powers of the Morphin Grid. We've gathered together all of the former Rangers, hoping to return their powers to them, so that they; along with Billy, will be able to help us defeat Dark Specter and Astronima. We believe that Billy is the only one with the knowledge to unlock the Morphin Grid's powers. Please. Can you tell me where he is? It's urgent. Zordon's life depends on it."
James stood silently, still. Andros wondered if something was wrong. As he reached out to place a hand on James' shoulder, Andros drew back when he heard James speak.
"Billy's been gone on a kind of 'soul' searching mission. He's aware that you are here. If he wishes to be here, he will." James didn't look at Andros, but he knew when the young man turned and left the bridge. Slowly, he turned to leave as well. As he looked up, he saw Cestria standing in the doorway, watching Andros disappear around the corner in the corridor.
"Don't start, Cestria. Now's not the time."
"When will it be the time? James, please. Don't you think you should tell them about Billy?" She asked.
James hated it when she looked at him that way. Eyes sad and pleading. "Why should I? They have never cared before. Why should they care about what has become of Billy, now?" He replied, then moved through the door, down the hall, and out of sight.
Cestria stood alone. Then, after a moment, she too, disappeared down the hall.
Day Four, on Aquitar:
"This is ridiculous. We've been here for four days, and no Billy." Tommy complained, for the zillionth time, since Andros told them of his meeting with James. "Are you sure he said that Billy knows we are here?"
"That's what he said." Andros sighed. He felt the same way as the rest of them. They had to get going, and soon. If they waited any longer, they'd loose Dark Specter's trail for sure. Then they'd never find Zordon. And...who knew what Astronema and Arcus...Zhane, were up to on Earth?
"We need to get out of here soon. If Billy won't come to us, I'll demand that this...James, person, show us where he is." Tommy declared. He stood from his seat; they'd all gathered together in one main room, almost like a livingroom, except there was no TV.
Jason stood as well, but blocked Tommy's exit, placing a hand on his chest to hold him back. "Loosing our heads over this won't get us anywhere. We've got to keep our cool."
"Besides, Kim hasn't woken up yet. Or have you forgotten?" Adam put in. Tommy glanced at him, letting his shoulders slump.
"You're right. If we could just get access to the Morphin Grid, at least."
"I think I can help you with that." Everyone looked toward the door, to see an elderly gentleman, with long gray hair and beard. Tommy looked at TJ.
"James?" TJ nodded.
"What about Billy? Why hasn't he showed up, if he knows we're here?" Tanya demanded.
"Things have been different, and hard for Billy since he arrived here. You'll have to forgive him. But, I think I can help you with the Morphin Grid. You're ship is ready, and finding Zordon, is the most important thing right now."
"Thank you." Kat offered a smile. James returned it, and nodded to her.
"How long will it take?" TJ asked.
"I'm not sure. It depends on the Morphin Grid."
"But, we can't wait too long. Zordon's getting further and further away as we speak." Carlos stated what was on all of their minds.
"Kim's in a coma. We can't just leave her here. At least, I can't." Aisha declared.
"Kim?" James seemed confused, and just a bit worried.
"Our friend. The first Pink Ranger. She's been in a coma ever since we got here. No one seems to know what's wrong with her." Cassie said.
"Cestria will take good care of her. Where can I find the Morphin Grid?"
"I'll show you." Zack said, getting to his feet, and heading for the door. "It's on the bridge of the Mega Ship."
"So, that's what's in that large containment field? All right, you go ahead, and I'll be right there. I need to get a few things from my quarters, first."
"Energetic, as usual." Rocky declared.
"Ooh, Rocky." Tanya groaned.
For the first time, laughter began to fill the room, and quickly got out of control. Knowing that no one would hear him, James quietly left the room.
The room was dark, and a few small lights flickered on and off, slowly. The only sound in the room, was Kim's steady breathing. Once in a while, her eyes would twitch, indicating that she was in deep REM sleep.
Quietly, a figure entered the room, moving silently to the side of her bed. It moved slightly, reaching out with a hand, to brush a lock of sable hair from her forehead. A slight whisper escaped her lips, and the figure drew back it's hand.
"Billy." She whispered again. The same hand moved carefully, to stroke her hair.
"Billy, where are you?" She whispered once more
"I'm here Kim. I'll always be here for you. You'll be okay. I need you to be strong, for me, and for the Rangers. Okay?" Billy reached down, and carefully took her hand. "James will see to it, that you will all get your powers back, and then you'll be able to save Zordon. Just hang on."
Carefully, he leaned forward, placing a gentle kiss on her lips. Then, as quietly as he had entered the room, he left.
But, the room had not been as empty as he had thought. Cestria stepped from the shadows, looking from the door, to the still figure laying on the bed. "Welcome home, Billy." She whispered, then took her place in a chair next to Kim's bed.
Zack paced the length of the bridge for another time. Where had James gone? Surely it shouldn't take this long to gather a few things? Zack complained to himself. A sound behind him, made him jump. Turning, he saw James entering the bridge.
"Sorry. I couldn't find my stethamoratope." James held up a device that looked to be nothing more than a normal clipboard. Zack shrugged his shoulders, and pointed at a large, black container, at the back of the bridge, in a corner.
"It's right over here." Zack moved to where the box sat. James right behind him. Slowly, James reached out to touch the box. "I'd be careful if I were you. Andros said that he tried to get a hold of it, when they first found it, and it gave him quite a jolt." Zack said, as he wrung his hands nervously.
"It was a power overload. He already held the Ranger powers, so when he touched the Grid, the powers overloaded. It's a good thing he didn't try it again. He might have...'shorted out' his powers, so to speak. I, on the other hand, don't hold any of the Ranger powers, Morphin or otherwise."
"All right. Whatever you say."
James gave Zack a reassuring smile, but Zack stepped back, none the less.
As James placed a hand on each end of the box, he could feel a slight tingle race to his finger tips. Excitement rushed through him, his adrenaline firing his blood. How long had it been, since he'd last been in contact with the Grid?
Slowly, ever so carefully, he began to raise the box. A nearly blinding, greenish, white light filled the bridge.
"I see, from the wires attached to the box, that someone was harnessing the power to help power the Mega Ship. Very ingenious."
"I believe that it was Alpha 6." James nodded in acceptance of Zack's words.
It was almost time. The Grid could feel a familiar presence outside of it's containment field. And the presence was getting stronger. Slowly, it began to reach out, to test it's surroundings. There was an opening.
Carefully, it stretched out a small tendril, to lightly touch the presence that it could feel. Something was wrong. The presence was familiar, but it wasn't the 'One', but it was still drawn to the presence.
The Grid had never experienced confusion before. It always knew what it was to do, and what it had to do. This wasn't the presence that it should become one with, but it was being drawn to it, and it wouldn't fight the force that began to pull it forth.
As soon as the containment field was removed from he Grid, James stood, staring down at it's brilliance. Small tendrils of power began to stretch forth, moving toward him.
"Hello, old friend." James said quietly, smiling. "What say we help the Rangers out?" Carefully, James took the device he'd brought, in both hands. Zack watched with fascination and curiosity, as James held the clipboard looking device over the Grid.
Pressing a few spots on the device's surface, he let it go, and it hovered gently over the Grid. James stood back a bit, hearing a series of beeps emanate from the device. Within moments, an electrical web stretched forth from it, wrapping itself around the surface of the Grid.
With words trapped in his throat, Zack watched as James moved forward, placing both hands firmly on the webbing, and the Grid. Suddenly, a bright bolt of light shot forth, and entered James' body. Immediately, he stiffened, and his eyes rolled back into his head.
A supernatural wind began to spin around the bridge. Zack grabbed onto the back of a chair, holding on to it with all of his might. The swirling wind, pulling at him. He tried to call out to James, who had not made a sound, or tried to move away from he Grid, but the words were sucked from his lungs before he could speak them.
He struggled, violently, to breath.
Zack watched as a spiral of blue light began to wrap around James' body. Using objects that were bolted down, Zack made his way through the blasting wind, to reach James' side.
Carefully, using his other hand to hold him in place, Zack reached out to James, but pulled back when a small arch of light struck out and zapped his hand. A sudden blast from the Grid, sent them both flying backwards into the control panels, and consoles. Then, as quickly as it had began, it ended. Everything was calm and quiet.
Panic stricken, Zack pushed himself up from the floor. Rubbing his arm, where it had come in contact with the computer console, he looked up to see that the Grid was now, a pulsing ball of light. The net of electrical current encasing it tightly.
"James!" He breathed. Standing on shaky legs, Zack gazed around at the bridge of the Mega Ship. Spotting a hand sticking out from behind one of the consoles, he made his way to James' side. Gently, he reached out to touch him, but was surprised by a small shock. "I've got to do something. You'll be all right. I'll go get help." Quickly, Zack left the bridge, heading for the main control room, and the Aquitian Rangers.
Word of the accident spread quickly through the corridors of Aquitar. By the time the Rangers all arrived at the docking bay, where the Mega Ship was being kept, Cestria and the medical staff had already brought James' body out of the ship.
"Delphine, Zack, what happened?" Kat asked, as Tommy and the others met the staff at the bottom of the ramp.
"James touched the Grid, and it...attacked him."
"Attacked him? Why? It didn't do that to Andros. It just sort of...shocked him really good." Cassie stated.
"Well, it did that to him, after it wrapped itself all around him. When I went to touch him, after it was all over, I got a good little shock."
"What's going on Delphine?" Ashley questioned.
"I do not know, Rangers. I do not know."
James, released from the containment bubble, was placed on a bed in the same room with Kim. Cestria then shooed all of the Rangers out of the room, promising them that she would give them the best explanation of what happened, after she was able to do a thorough examination.
Once she was alone, she moved to the side of the bed, smiling down at him. "Billy will come and take care of you. Please let him help you this time?" Carefully, she brushed her hand over his forehead, as little sparks of blue and purple sparks crackled under her hand.
Still smiling, she moved to the door, pressing her hand to a panel next to it, the lights dimming at her touch. Taking one more look back, she quietly left the room. The doors sliding shut with a whisper, behind her.
There was silence all around him, and total darkness. He welcomed it. All thoughts were gone from his mind. He sighed, closing his eyes, and letting the darkness enfold him completely.
Just as his body began to sink into the velvet warmth of the darkness, a familiar voice called out to him. "Hello James."
"Billy." James reached out through the dark, and felt a hand take his.
"It's been a long time James. I'm back to stay this time. No more running away from everything."
"Are you all right now? Is everything fixed?"
"I'm wonderful James. I feel happy once again. Thank you for being here for me."
Everything was quiet again, but James could still feel the hand holding his, pulling him out of the darkness. Suddenly, there was light behind his closed eyes. He rubbed at them, then opened them. Struggling to focus on the blurry figure standing above him.
Finally, the beautiful face of a woman came into view. Brown/gold eyes, sable hair, and a smile that warmed his very soul.
"Welcome back to the land of the living." She pulled at his hand, helping him to sit up. Carefully, he turned, letting his legs dangle from the side of the bed.
"Have I been gone long?"
"A little longer than we had hopped, but you're all right now." Kim sat next to him, an arm around his shoulders, and a smile on her face.
"What about you?" He asked, looking down onto her face.
"I'm fine now, thanks."
He was about to reply, when he heard the door behind them open. Kim looked back, past his shoulder, to see Tommy and Andros standing in the doorway.
Tommy had convinced Andros to come back with him. To sneak in to see how James was doing. He was surprised to see James sitting up on the edge of the bed, but he was even more surprised to see Kim, finally awake, and sitting next to him; their backs to them.
But, as Tommy moved into the room, he noticed that something was different about James. He seemed a bit taller, and his hair wasn't gray anymore.
"Hi Tommy. Guess who's back?" Tommy watched as James slid off of the edge of the bed, then turned slowly, to face them.
Gone were the old, lined eyes. In their place, a set of pale, hazel eyes gazed back at them, and a familiar smile, from behind a long beard and mustache, made them sparkle with life.
"It's been a long time." Came a voice that Tommy had thought to never hear again.
"Billy?" Tommy looked at Andros, who was looking back at him, with the same look of shock.
Kim, at Billy's request, had asked Tommy and Andros to go and tell the others, while he cleaned up, and prepared to meet with all of his old, and hopefully, new friends.
All of the current, and former Rangers found themselves waiting in the same room, where they had been waiting for the past two days, after waking up. All were surprised by what Tommy and Andros had told the, and were excited to see Billy once again. At the sound of the door sliding open, Kim entered first, with Billy coming in behind her.
Billy had trimmed the long hair, so that it brushed lightly at his shoulders. He had kept the beard and mustache, which were now dark brown, and trimmed neatly, and short. He was wearing the familiar jeans and black turtle neck shirt that he had been wearing when he left Earth, years before.
Nervously, he moved to stand before the surprised group; Kim taking her place with the others. He knew that he would have to explain a lot of things to them, and he only hoped that they would understand, and forgive him. But, with what he knew, it would have to wait.
"I'm sorry for the charade, but things were difficult for a long time, for me. I know you all have many questions, and I'll answer them at another time. I just want to say that I am sorry, and that I have missed you all, and I'm glad to be back."
"We've missed you too." Trini declared. She could tell, from looking around, that everyone was trying their best to hold themselves back from jumping up, and running to hug him. She knew she was.
"We can wait, until you're ready to tell us. We understand." Tommy stated, rising from his place on the floor. He moved to stand before Billy. Smiling, he shook Billy's hand.
"Thank you Tommy. But, what is important right now, is accessing the Grid, and saving Zordon." The room was filled with words of agreement, and Billy smiled.
Suddenly, he felt a surge of energy within him. And it was telling him everything he would need to know, to return the powers to the other Rangers, as well.
Soon, all of the hugs and handshakes, had been passed around. Billy felt as if his ribs were broken, but he was happier than he had ever been. He stood alone in the large room, Cestria beside him.
"Thank you, Cestria. For being my friend, and sticking with me, even when I let James take over."
"I understand why you did, what you felt you had to do. And I
am honored, to be your friend. Welcome back, Billy. Welcome home." She
smiled, hugging him. Then, together, they left the room, to join up with his
friends on the Mega Ship.