- Jean Giraudoux
Zhane sighed as he threw himself onto his bed. It had been a long day, and it had been an even longer week. Is it really over? It doesn't seem possible, especially after everything we've been through the last couple of days. Tiredly, he shucked off his shoes and lazily threw the covers over his fully clothed body. He was too tired to change. I made the right choice in coming back to Earth with Andros. He has Ashley now, but still, someone has to watch his back. And then there's Carone . . . He smiled as he shifted into a comfortable position. Carone was shy and reserved, almost aloof with the others, but not with him. Not yet, anyway. And Tryan said I'd never get a girl . . . The unbidden thought made him pause for a moment, but he shucked the memory away as he closed his eyes and let the peaceful oblivion of sleep over take him.
"Hey squirt, what are you up to?"
Zhane whirled around at the sound of Tryan' s voice, and quickly tried to hide the bandages he'd gotten for Andros behind his back.
"Oh, um, nothing. Just checking up on the medical supplies to make sure we had enough." His voice broke down an octave at the last word, and he frowned in frustration. Puberty is not all it is cracked up to be. If Tryan so much as says a word about it. I'm going to hit the ceiling.
"Zhane, what's that behind your back?" Tryan asked, already knowing the answer. Andros and Zhane were the youngest members on his team, and Zhane was an experimental ranger they had added in just the last couple of months. He's really good for Andros, though. I don't think the rest of us would even be able to figure out what was up with that poor boy, if it weren't for the fact that Zhane's taken him under his rather inept wing.
"Oh, it's nothing Tryan. Just, um, . . . well, lets see I've got a, um, oh, all right. I confess, I was stealing bandages. I, um, hurt my knee." He said as he affected a limp. Tryan raised an eyebrow, and tried not to laugh as he watched the skinny blonde boy in silver hobble around the room in an obviously faked injury.
"Zhane, you're nuts. I guess that's why you were such a perfect choice for the silver powers. What's the matter with Andros?" Tryan asked as Zhane dropped the act, as well as half the bandages in his hands. And Sanjan said that the kids would be a piece of cake to deal with. Between the two of them, they have more pride than Zanthan does, and before I met them, I didn't think that was possible. Tryan took pity on Zhane and helped the ungainly fifteen year old pick up the bandages he'd managed to sprawl from here to kingdom come.
"All right, all right. I confess. Andros got a little banged up in the last battle. You know how he is. He didn't want to cause any problems, so I volunteered to fix him up."
"Poor guy, I feel sorry for him already." Tryan interjected as Zhane glared at him.
"I was going to go get Sanjan. But, well, can you keep a secret from the rest of the guys?" Zhane asked his young face intent. Tryan was momentarily puzzled by Zhane's seriousness, and he rocked back on his heels for a second and then nodded his agreement.
"Andros is afraid you'll kick him off the team cause he's so small. He'd kill me if he knew I was telling you this." Zhane said trying to get his point across. If you say you're taking Andros off the team, I'll be out of here quicker than you can blink, blue boy. Sanjan and Zanthan keep saying you're a good leader, now prove it.
Tryan mulled over the words. They made sense when he thought about it, in fact, it fit in exactly with the way Andros had acted since he'd joined the team a year ago. Some leader I am, I should have seen this sooner. Andros should know he's a valuable member to this team. It took Sanjan forever to 'sniff' him out for the red powers.
"Don't worry about it Zhane, it looks like Andros and I need to have a long talk. He was chosen to be the red ranger for a reason. He's irreplaceable, just like everyone else on this ship." Tryan said as he stood up with an arm full of bandages. "I'll go and fix him up. I think Zanthan's been looking for you. He was muttering something about sugar puffs in his socks." Tryan added with a wink. Zhane had the good grace to look sheepish. "You keep bugging him like that and he'll beat the snot out of you, and you'll never get a girl. Heck, you probably won't even make it past the age of eighteen."
"Zanthan? He couldn't catch me if he tried. Slow reflexes you know." Zhane replied with a grin as Tryan laughed.
"Well, I like you a lot kid, and I'd like to see you make it to adulthood without getting pulverized, okay? Be careful." Tryan said as he left.
12:00 am Zhane woke with a start. The room was silent except for the dull hum of the Megaship's engines which were a deck below his room. It was strange to be back on the Megaship in his old room. He wasn't sure if it was the atmosphere, or the knowledge that it was all finally over, but he knew that it was beginning to effect his dreaming patterns. Well, Tryan, I didn't get pulverized. I made it to adulthood. I wish you and the guys could have been here to see this. Zhane sighed as he sat up in bed. It was so odd to wake up on the ship with the knowledge that the guys were all gone. They had been the one thing he had been sure would never change. I'm not going to get back to sleep now. I might as well get up. So much for sleeping peacefully. I doubt I'll ever be able to do that again. Zhane rolled out of bed, and ran a hand haphazardly through his short blond hair.
"DECA what time is it?"
"Its midnight on Earth, and four am on KO-35."
"Thanks DECA." Zhane rolled his shoulders a bit to work out the kinks, and then headed out of his room towards the bridge. He sighed with relief when his footsteps echoed over the empty room. No one's awake. Good. He sighed as he sat down at the front console near the main screen.
"DECA, can you give me a visual of our present location in space, Please?" Zhane asked as he propped his feet up on the near by chair. The screen in front of him went blank for a second and then switched over to the infinite expanse of space. Zhane stared unseeingly at the scene before him. Sanjan used to stare out at space for hours. He was always a little different. Not that I'm one to talk. I'm sitting here in the middle of the night, doing the exact same thing. Zhane pulled off his jacket and threw it on a nearby chair. The silver patch on his left pocket glinted up at him.
Zhane looked at the floor as he walked behind the rather intimidating guy in blue. Dad may have thought this was way too cool to pass up, but I am seriously beginning to have some doubts. I mean look at the size of this guy! He's huge! He could flatten me in one punch if he really wanted to. What the heck am I doing here? They need me like they need a hole in their heads. Zhane concentrated on his feet, as he walked behind the blue ranger. His feet had a habit of tripping themselves up at the most inopportune times.
Tryan cast a glance back at the newest member of his team. The silver powers were a gift from Zordon of Earth, and he'd had Sanjan looking for a long time for the right person to operate them. Zhane isn't exactly what I expected for the silver powers, but then neither was Andros for the red. He's been really quiet though, for someone whose personality type is supposed to border on obnoxious. Maybe Sanjan was wrong about that part of the silver personality.
"This is the bridge of the Megaship. We control most of the ship's vital functions from here. The guy in black is Zanthan, and that's Andros over there in the red. You've already met Sanjan, I believe. For the next couple of days, I'm going to have Andros here, show you the ropes." Tryan explained as he led Zhane over to the chair next to Andros' console. The teens eyes were wide as he took everything in at a glance, and Tryan had to chuckle.
"This is the new silver ranger? Are you sure you don't have something stuck up that nose of yours Sanjan?" The older teen in black announced as he swiveled around in his chair to inspect the newest member. Zhane stared straight back at the burly teen, trying not to show any of the fear that was thumping wildly against his chest. It was not my idea to come to this place. I already know that I don't belong. Who does this guy think he is anyway? Big, dumb ox.
"I may be an ox kid, but I'm a lot smarter than I look." Zanthan said as he gave the thin blonde teen an amused smile. Zhane tried to keep his eyes from bugging out as the burly teen in black propped his feet up on Sanjan's console.
"Zanthan can read minds, but he won't read yours if you don't want him too."
Zhane's head swiveled around at the sound of the high pitched voice beside him. He found himself face to face with a smaller boy, who had a rather owlish expression on his face. He desperately tried to recall the name Tryan had thrown at him a moment before.
"That's Andros, and he's right. If you don't want me to read your mind, you're gonna have to tell me not to." The burly guy in black inserted before Zhane had a chance to come up with it on his own.
"I knew that." Zhane scowled at Zanthan. Sanjan laughed, and Zhane turned his back on all the older teens, focusing his attention on the boy beside him. "My name's Zhane."
The boy in red offered him a tentative smile, and Zhane beamed back. Now here's someone who looks like he could use a friend. Poor guy must be going nuts here with them. I know I would. Lord, they could probably take on a whole heard of buffalo if they felt like it. Zanthan, I know you're reading my thoughts, would you please stop. Zhane turned to glare at the laughing black ranger.
"All right shrimp. I had to do it while I could, you understand, none of the rest of the guys will let me read theirs, I was beginning to get a little rusty." The tall teen with black hair added as he turned his attention away from the newcomer and back onto the console in front of him.
Don't mind Zanthan, he's a little crusty on the outside, but once you get to know him, he's a pretty nice guy.
"Who said that?" Zhane demanded. Andros bit his lip to keep from laughing as he watched Zhane frantically search for the owner of the voice. He met Tryan's eyes across the room, and smiled as Tryan winked at him. I'll tell him, Andros. This is all part of the acceptance test. You remember, right? We have to make sure he can work with the team.
Zhane was beginning to panic when no one answered him straight away. Great, now they're all going to think I'm a freak because I'm hearing voices. Mom was wrong, I don't belong here anymore than I belong at home. Except here, they're a lot bigger than the bullies back home. He looked down at his hands and avoided eye contact with everyone in the room. After struggling for so many years at school to try and fit in, he had been so sure that he would finally have found where he belonged with the rangers.
"Tryan, give the kid a break. He's new to this." Zanthan finally said after a minute. Zhane looked up at him surprised. Of all the people in the room, he had expected Zanthan to be the last person in the world to stick up for him. Zanthan winked at him as he slowly began to smile. "I was new once too, Zhane."
"C'mon Zhane, I'll show your room. You're going to bunk with Andros until we can convert the extra hanger bay into a bedroom." Tryan said as he lead Zhane out of the bridge. Zhane looked at Tryan in awe as they walked out of the room. "I'm sorry about the whole ordeal we just put you through, but we had to make sure you wouldn't hold our abilities against us. We had problems with the old red ranger before Sanjan found Andros. It wasn't very pleasant for any of us. Sanjan especially."
"Why Sanjan? He seemed really nice to me." Zhane said as he looked over at Tryan. He had been so scared when he'd first seen the blue and yellow power rangers approaching him in the school yard back home. At first, he'd been pretty sure that he was in trouble when he'd seen the yellow ranger pull out a pad of paper and scribble something on it for the blue ranger to read. The last thing he had expected the blue ranger to say, is what he did say. He still couldn't believe they wanted him to be a ranger. He had tried to protest, when Tryan had formally asked, but Sanjan had simply put an arm on his shoulder, and Zhane had known that he couldn't turn them down.
"Sanjan's our empath. The old red ranger had a problem with the fact that he was mute." Tryan said quietly as Zhane turned his luminous blue eyes on him in surprise. "He hides it well, but he feels things quite a bit differently then the rest of us. I know that we're publicized as these really great guys to the public, that we can do no wrong. Truth is, we're about the biggest bunch of misfits you'll ever find." Tryan said as he put a hand on the shorter boy's shoulder.
"If you can talk without moving your lips, Zanthan can read minds, and Sanjan is empathetic, then what is Andros, and for that matter what am I?" Zhane asked, uncertainty creeping back. What if I can't do something neat like the rest of them? Will they still want me then? Tryan chuckled as he continued to move down the corridor.
"No one knows what Andros can do yet, Andros included. You probably won't find out for a while what your niche is either. It's something that comes with age and experience. Sanjan has a better idea of how it works than I do, you might want to try asking him later."
"What if I never get anything like that? Will I be kicked off the team like the old red ranger?" Zhane asked straight away, not wanting to have to agonize over the issue later on. Better to get the bad stuff out in the open now. If they don't want me on the team, now is the time to say something.
"Back home, have you always felt a little odd? Kind of like you never really fit in with the rest of the crowd, but there was never a real reason why." Tryan asked, Zhane nodded. "Then you're eventually going to come into your own. Sanjan wouldn't have picked you otherwise. He can sense those types of things. All of us are a little different then the rest of KO-35, it's set us all apart from them a little." Tryan said with a shrug of his shoulders. "Oh, I almost forgot. Here." Tryan said as he stopped Zhane and put a small patch of something silver onto the gangly youth's jacket. "Now its official, you're the silver ranger."
"Zhane? What are you doing up?" Carone asked as she slipped unnoticed into the seat next to him. Zhane started for a moment as he blinked back the memory, and then smiled at the girl in purple.
"Just thinking, I couldn't sleep. What are you doing up? I thought for sure you were going to sleep forever after everything you've been through the last couple of days. You deserved a hard earned rest." Zhane watched as Carone tucked a strand of straight blonde hair behind her ear, and drew a deep sigh.
"Can't sleep. Every time I close my eyes, I get these awful scenes playing in front of my eyes. I'm so tired, Zhane, but I can't seem to get rid of any of my nightmares. I could have actually killed you guys." Her voice was thready at best, and Zhane had to strain to hear her. Wordlessly he grabbed her hand and pulled her onto his lap. Without a word of protest, she leaned against his chest and curled her head under his chin. She breathed a sigh of relief as he threw his arms around her and held her. For some unknown reason, she felt safe in his arms. A small smile played at her lips as she felt him lightly rest his chin on the top of her head. The others really have no idea how serious he can be. Well, Andros I'm sure knows, but so far, all the others have seen of him is the surface. That's all he lets them see. She drew a calming breath and placed her hand over his heart and felt the beat beneath her palm.
"Whatcha thinking about?" She asked, as she felt his warm breath fall softly on the top of her head.
"Change. I guess I feel like I'm running to try to catch up to everything, and just about the time I think I've gotten to the finish line, it moves farther out of reach." Zhane said simply. "What about you? What's going through that mind of yours?"
"Pretty much the same thing." She concurred softly. "Everything is so different now. Its all happening so fast." She murmured. They sat in companionable silence for a couple minutes, and then each found themselves struggling to keep their eyes open. For the first time that night, Carone didn't see her brother's crumpled morphed figure before her when she closed her eyes. She let the dark oblivion of sleep over take her.
Angel Grove Park
Earlier that day
Carone smiled as she wiggled her toes in the thick green grass beneath her feet. For the first time, in what felt like a lifetime, she let the warm sun fall on her face. As she closed her eyes, she could hear the laughter of children as they played on the swings.
"Enjoying the freedom?"
Carone looked up to see Zhane standing next to her in a pair of jean shorts and a gray shirt. "Yeah, its been too long since I've seen the sun in person. How is everyone holding up with the camera people?" She asked as she shaded her eyes with her hand. Zhane grinned and sat down beside her.
"They're getting a little sick of fielding questions. Ashley about blew a gasket when they asked her if she'd slept with Andros. They wanted to know if he was any different than the guys from Earth." Zhane said with a laugh. Carone grinned. Zhane had a way of exaggerating the truth. Ashley wouldn't really lose her cool in front of that many people. Zhane's just good at reading her mannerisms. He's probably not as good as Andros, but he's still pretty observant. I never noticed how good he looked in the sunlight before.
"Poor guys, how much longer do they have to be there?"
"For about another hour or two, they're going to be all over the news here. Hey, its awfully hot out here, do you want something to drink?" Zhane asked suddenly as he stood back up. Carone nodded, and smiled as she watched him walk away. She closed her eyes and felt the sun beat against her skin once again, unconsciously she wrapped her hand around her locket. I've found Andros. I've found Zhane. I've made four new friends, but most importantly, I've finally found myself.
"Mommy! That's her! I saw her on the news! Don't let her hurt me again Mommy!" Carone heard the child's cries before she actually saw him. And when she did, she wished she hadn't. She could see the open hostility in the women's eyes as she crossed the playground at a determined pace, dragging her fearful child behind her.
"You! You have some nerve showing up here! Do you think that just because you didn't manage to blow up the world that you have a right to come here and terrorize us in a different form. You don't fool me! I can see behind that goody two shoes act." The woman yelled as Carone scrambled to her feet.
"I . . . I . . ."
"Look what you did to my son!" The women scooped up the crying child behind her and turned the side of his head towards the girl in purple. Carone's gasp was audible as she looked at the child's cheek and ear. "You had your monster attack his daycare. He lost two of his friends, and you left him scared for life. Take a good look, at what you've done!" The woman spit out angrily, but Carone didn't even hear her words. She was focused entirely on the crying child before her. Scars ravaged half his cheek, and part of his scalp with their red, sharp irregular lines. His ear was just a flap of skin held loosely to his head near the opening to his eardrum. What have I done? How could I possibly think that everything would be okay?
"Ah, Astronema. See, there is evil in your soul. Take glory in it, for together, a new era of darkness shall reign with you at the helm as my queen. This piddling child is just the beginning!" Dark Spectre's face appeared in the sky, and Carone shrank back from the red glowing stare.
"You're . . . you're dead. I . . .I saw you die. This isn't real." She stammered as the woman advanced on her and Dark Spectre's laughter loomed overhead. "This isn't happening. . ."
"My princess, you haven't been yourself. . . come and take your rightful place as my queen once more." Carone turned around frantically to see Ecliptor behind her holding the reprogrammer headset in his hand.
"No! . . .I will NOT be evil again. Andros! Zhane! Someone help me!" She cried frantically as she tried to dodge out of Ecliptor's grasp. She rammed into another figure though, as she turned away to run out through the only opening.
"Zhane! Help me!" She cried as she tried to hold back the tears of fear that were forming in her eyes. Zhane turned his eyes on hers. She saw nothing but hatred burning in them. "Zhane?" The word came out in a terrified whisper.
"Help you? Why would I help you? You killed my best friend. You killed your own flesh and blood, your own brother. You deserve what's coming to you, and more." He said as he took an angry step towards her. Her mouth worked wordlessly for a few moments. Andros can't be dead. I just saw him. I didn't kill him! Did I?!
"No. I didn't kill him . . . I'm not evil!"
"Yes, you did, and yes, you are." The figures advanced on her, closing her in, trapping her.
Carone's head collided with Zhane's chin as she jerked awake. Zhane groaned as he groggily opened his eyes, trying to remember where he was and what had hit him.
"Carone? Carone, what's the matter?"
"I didn't kill him Zhane! . . .I didn't kill him. . . . I did not kill my brother . . . I'm not evil." Carone managed to hiccup out between sobs as she gripped Zhane's shirt in both of her hands. Zhane stared at her for a moment. I've been expecting this. I knew she hadn't dealt with the switch, yet.
"Sh, sweetheart . . . Andros isn't dead. He's too stubborn to die." Zhane said as he ineffectually patted her arm. Her sobs grew in strength, if anything. Don't do this to yourself, Carone. I know you're a good person, the guys know you're a good person. You're the only one with the doubts. "I know you're not an evil person, Carone. C'mon, lets go see Andros. You're not going to feel better until you see him in the flesh." Zhane said as he helped her to her feet. Carone nodded as she shakily stood, and let Zhane lead her out of the bridge.
Andros brought his arm to his chest, and held it there, trying to not make any noise in the process. The last thing I need is Zhane thinking I'm some big baby. Andros sighed as he gingerly brought his legs up onto the bed with the rest of him. The movement took his breath away as he ever so slightly moved the injured arm. I was too slow today. Serves me right to have my arm broken. Tryan will never agree to keep me on the team if I keep this up. Miserably, he gently stroked the wounded appendage.
"Andros, are you still awake?" Zhane's voice whispered from overhead. Andros paused for a moment, trying to decide if he should acknowledge that he was awake or not.
"Yeah, I'm still awake. What's up?" Andros asked tentatively. Zhane seems nice enough, but he's only been a part of the team for a week. If he's anything like the guys back home, we definitely won't get along.
"Are the battles always that hard? I mean, I've . . . I've never felt so helpless in my entire life." Zhane said as he climbed down from the top bunk. Andros gave his arm one last pat, and then let it fall to his side. I've been biting back grimaces all afternoon trying to keep this from Tryan, a couple more minutes isn't going to make much of a difference.
"Some are harder than others. You'll learn how to fight back. I was totally useless to the team for the first three months after I joined. I kept freezing in battle. I think Zanthan was on the verge of strangling me before I finally started picking up on a few of their moves." Andros said as he regarded the teen in silver with his usual owlish gaze. Zhane doesn't have to worry about getting kicked off. He did better today then I did those entire first three months. Tryan is going to realize one of these days that I'm not good enough, but I can't leave. I haven't found her yet.
"Geez. The last thing I want is that big ox to come after me. You were awesome out there, do you think you could show me a couple of those moves you used?" Zhane asked uncertainly as he sat down on the bed. Andros' gaze flew to his in shock. He wants me to help? Why?
"Um, sure. . . if you want me to." Andros answered quietly, a little in awe of the boy in front of him. Zhane flashed him a bright smile.
"Thanks!" Zhane said simply as he clapped Andros on the arm. Andros' hard won composure slipped as his arm was jostled by the movement. OW! Stupid arm. If I had moved just a little faster, or been just a little bit stronger, it wouldn't hurt right now. Andros bit his lip, drawing blood, to keep from crying out loud.
"Andros? Andros are you okay? I didn't hurt you did I?" Zhane's worried voice penetrated his mind, and he looked up at the boy in silver with a new concern. He isn't going to tell Tryan is he?! I can't get kicked off the team!
"No, No . . . you didn't hurt me. Its nothing, don't worry about it." Andros said as he cradled the arm against his chest once more. Zhane gave him a dubious look.
"Its something Andros. I didn't clap your arm that hard. You got hurt today in battle, didn't you?" Zhane put his hands on his hips and looked at the boy in red sternly. Andros avoided his gaze.
"My arm's just a little sore is all. It'll be better tomorrow." Andros whispered, and he continued gently stroking the injured limb. Its all over now. Zhane's going to go and tell Tryan, and then my days as the red ranger are numbered. I haven't found Carone yet! Its so unfair, I can't leave yet!
"Do you want me to go and get Tryan? or Sanjan? Heck, you and Zanthan even seem to get along pretty well, do you want me to get him?" Zhane asked. Andros' startled gaze flew to his.
"No! . . . no, please don't get any of them. I don't want them to know." The boy in red finished softly.
"Well, that arm needs to be bandaged, I'll go steal some stuff from the medical bay." Zhane said taking charge of the situation. Andros sure looks spooked. Poor guy. Come to think of it, he always looks a little spooked. He keeps to himself too much. I'm going to have to change that.
Zhane left the room, and Andros watched him leave with apprehension. He's probably getting Tryan. It's protocol after all. Why did I have to be so small?! I can't keep up in battle, and I have nothing of value to offer the team. I don't know why they even bother to keep me on. I can't leave yet. If I leave now I'll never find Carone, and at the very least, I owe her that much.
"Found the bandages. . . oomph. Darn feet. They're always getting in the way." Zhane said as he sprawled onto the floor, scattering bandages everywhere. Puberty sucks. As if Andros didn't already think I was the world's biggest weirdo, I have to go tripping over my own feet. Some ranger I'm turning out to be.
Andros managed to smile as he saw Zhane pick up all the scattered bandages on the floor. Did he rob the entire medical bay out? I'm not hurt that bad, am I? Andros' grin broadened as he watched Zhane try to gather all the bandages into his arms. Finally, Zhane managed to scoop everything up and set it on the bed beside Andros.
"So how come you don't want the rest of the guys to know?" Zhane asked casually as he began to bind the arm to Andros' chest. Andros looked panicked for a moment.
"I . . I'm afraid they'll kick me off the team." The boy in red finally said softly. Zhane rocked back on his heels in amazement.
"Kick you off?! Why would they do that?" Zhane asked genuinely puzzled.
"I'm not fast enough, and I'm too small. I'm holding the team back. They'd probably be better off without me. I can't get kicked off the team like the old red ranger was, Zhane! I can't." Andros cried as all his worries came to the surface. "I try not to be too much of a bother, but I'm so afraid Tryan's going to finally come to his senses and realize that I'm not very good at anything. I can't even make it through one battle without getting hurt." Andros finished miserably.
"I won't tell anyone, Andros, but I don't think they'll kick you off the team. I had the impression, that once you're on, you're on, unless you don't get along with everybody else like the old red ranger did." Zhane said seriously as he pinned the last bandage on Andros' arm. Andros looked up at him, unconvinced, but happy that Zhane had promised not to say anything to Tryan. "The other guys are great, but . . . well, they're a lot older than we are. I'm feeling kind of lonely and left out. You wanna be friends?" Zhane asked the smaller boy uncertainly.
"Friends, I'd like that." Andros replied back in his usual, solemn manner.
"Andros, buddy. Wake up!" Zhane ground out as he shook his best friend. "Carone, he's not dead, I swear. He's just a very deep sleeper. Please don't cry." Zhane pleaded as Carone's sobs reached a hysterical pitch. "Andros! Wake up!" Zhane said as he gave his friend a healthy shove. The teen in red jolted awake, and blinked several times.
"Zhane? What's going on? Carone? Geez, what's the matter with her?" Andros asked as he leaped out of bed at the sight of his crying sister. He wrapped his arms around her, and rubbed her back as her sobs subsided. "What's going on, Zhane?" Andros mouthed to his friend questioningly.
"She had a nightmare. She thought she'd killed you." Zhane said simply as he walked over and rubbed her back reassuringly along with Andros. " I had to wake you up to prove to her that you weren't dead."
"Thanks, Zhane." Andros said as he drew back, from Carone. "Are you going to be okay, Carone? I'm not dead, see? I wouldn't let you kill me back then, and I know you won't hurt me now. You're a good person, sis." Andros said seriously as he put his hands on her shoulders and looked into her eyes. Carone gave a teary smile and nodded. "Here, why don't you climb into my bed and get some sleep." Andros said as he helped Carone into his bed. After drawing the covers up around her exhausted form, Andros motioned to Zhane and the two teens walked out of the room and back to the bridge.
"Do you think she'll be okay?" Andros asked as they both slid into their seats in front of the main console of the bridge. "I'm still real worried about her. I wish . . . I wish Sanjan was here. He never was at a loss with this type of thing." Andros said morosely as he stared out at the wide expanse of space before him on the visual screen.
"Yeah, all he ever had to do was put his hand on your shoulder, and you knew everything would be okay." Zhane mused as he propped his feet up.
"Is that what it felt like?" Andros asked surprised. Zhane looked over at him with a dubious look on his face. You should know, Andros. Out of all of us, you're the one Sanjan ended up comforting the most. Especially after Tryan found you searching for Carone over the data banks that one night.
"Yeah, don't you remember?" Zhane asked. I guess it all seems more recent to me then it does to him. He's had two years to cope. I've had what? The six months since I came out of a coma?
"I never felt that, Zhane. Sanjan . . . well, I guess that's why he and the old red ranger never really got along. He couldn't feel what I was feeling. I think it sort of freaked him out a bit." Andros said as he imitated his friend, and propped his feet up on the console.
"No wonder Sanjan always seemed so worried about you. How come you never said anything before?" Zhane asked as he turned and gave his friend a questioning glance. Andros shrugged.
"I dunno. Guess I just didn't know how to explain it at the time." Andros said as the room fell into a companionable silence. There's a lot you guys never knew about Sanjan. I kind of think that's the way he wanted it. He worried about you a lot too Zhane. He was afraid you'd get too overzealous and get yourself into a real pickle some day. Which you did, time and time again. Lord, you probably gave him gray hairs.
"You ever wonder if there was something we could have done to stop, well, to prevent the fall of KO-35?" Zhane asked softly, breaking the silence.
"Yeah, all the time." Andros said solemnly as he closed his eyes.
"Um, hey, Sanjan . . ." Andros started as he walked up behind the yellow ranger as he was working on the main engine boosters. C'mon Andros. Just spit it out. I know you don't like me, Sanjan. What I don't know is why. This was all Zhane's idea. Why do I ever listen to him? Oh, that's right he's my friend, and he doesn't want to see me kicked off the team like the old red ranger. Andros watched as Sanjan pulled out his worn notepad and pencil from a pocket in his jacket.
"Before you write anything Sanjan, I just want to say that whatever it was that I did to you, I didn't mean to, and I'm sorry. I know you don't like me that much. You probably think I'm a real pest, always moping about and stuff. I don't want us to not get along." Andros said uncertainly as he stared down at his booted feet.
Andros' head in snapped up. Sanjan, didn't just talk, did he? Tryan said he was mute. Mute people can't talk . . . can they?
"Did you just say my name, Sanjan, or am I just hearing things?" Andros asked uncertainly as the yellow ranger stood up and put his hands on the smaller boy's shoulders.
"What do you feel right now, at this minute with my hand on your shoulder?" Sanjan's hoarse voice asked as he focused his gaze on Andros. The boy in red shifted uncomfortably on his feet for a moment.
"I don't feel anything, Sanjan. Is that bad?" Andros asked, on the verge of breaking down into tears. I know everybody else can feel stuff when you touch them. Why can't I? What's wrong with me?
"I can't feel anything, either." Sanjan said as he took his hand away from Andros' shoulder. "You are true red personality for that very reason. Most people seem to shout what they're feeling at me. But you don't, and the red ranger before you didn't. You're a total enigma to me, Andros. That's not a bad thing, it just makes me a little edgy around you sometimes, because I never know what you're feeling, and that's new for me." Sanjan finished as he took his hand sadly off Andros' shoulders and bent down towards the conduit once more.
"How come you never talk, Sanjan?" The boy in red asked as he bent down beside the older teen in yellow. Great, Andros. You get the guy to finally open up to you and then you go and ask him a stupid question like that. Why don't you just ask him for his entire life story while you're at it. He eyed the reclusive yellow ranger apprehensively as the worn pad and pencil came out of the jacket pocket. Now I've done it. I pushed him too far. Well, at least I get to tell Zhane 'I told you so'. I knew he was going to tell me to get lost.
Talking is too painful. When I first started to sense things, people called me a freak, a misfit. If I argued with them, it just created more fear and more hatred. It hurt, and it stung my pride to know how they truly felt about me. It is easier to be mute. People do not expect as much from you then, and they do not fear what they are not aware of.
Andros watched Sanjan quickly scrawl the sentences down, and then looked up at his teammate with new understanding. I know what its like to be a misfit. The people back home didn't like me, and I can't even do anything out of the ordinary yet. I don't blame him for not talking, I guess it would be easier.
"I understand, Sanjan." Andros said as he gently elbowed the older teen away from the main conduit. "Your secret is safe with me. I won't tell anyone, unless you want me to." He finished as he grabbed a small wrench-like device from Sanjan's tool box and fused two wires together.
Thank you, Andros. It helps to have someone like you on the team.
Andros smiled as he read the paper Sanjan had shoved under his nose. "Anytime, Sanjan. Although, I don't think I help a lot. I don't exactly add a lot in battle." He said with a grimace as he wiped his hands on his pants and stood up. "That should about do it, here. Is there anything else that needs repair?" Andros looked up to see Sanjan staring at him with a curious smile on his face.
You do not think you are useful to this team, Andros? Where would we be without you? It would have taken me three hours to accomplish what you just did in three minutes. You do not think that is important? Who do you think repairs everything when it is broken around here? It certainly isn't Zanthan.
"Its just repairs, Sanjan. I don't do anything that great." Andros said softly as he read the note the yellow ranger had passed to him. So I can fix things. Big deal. Anybody can do that. Andros felt his shoulders sag a bit. I still don't see why Tryan keeps me on, if I were him I would have gotten rid of me the moment I clapped eyes on me. If that makes any sense.
Andros, you are vitally important to this team. Without you, we are not whole. We need you.
Andros stared at the note for a moment, not believing what he was reading. He touched the page, as if he were scared the words would vanish if he tried to make them tangible. "Can I keep this page?" He asked, barely above a whisper. Wordlessly, Sanjan took the sheet from the pad and handed it to the boy in red. Andros stared at it for another moment and then folded it carefully, and placed it in his left jacket pocket.
Do you want to help me fix the main thrusters? Or rather, do you want to fix the main thrusters while I watch?
Andros read the note and smiled as Sanjan winked at him. "Sure Sanjan. Lead the way."
Ashley rolled over and sighed as she smacked her knee against the wall for what seemed like the fiftieth time that night. Why can't I get to sleep? There is nothing to worry about. No life threatening danger is lurking behind the corners, and everyone is safe and accounted for on the ship. So why am I feeling so restless? Ashley sat up and pulled her shoulder length brown hair out of her eyes. Resigned, she got out of bed, and sat down on the cold hard floor. A couple of stretches, a glass of water, and I should be ready to fall asleep. Methodically, she worked through her stretch routine from cheer leading and then drank the glass of water she always kept at her bedside table.
Feeling a bit more relaxed, she crawled back under her covers, and closed her eyes. Moments later, the quiet sound of her steady, rhythmic breathing could be heard.
Angel Grove Elementary School
A fifth grade sleep over in the cafeteria. This is so dumb. I don't understand why I have to be here, I mean, gimme a break. I already know everyone. Ashley frowned as she looked at the rest of the fifth grade class that had gathered together on the cold hard floor of the school cafeteria to listen to the list of activities for the night.
"First off children, no one goes anywhere without a buddy, and without first telling one of the chaperones, this is the first time we've ever attempted to have a lock- in here at the school and if you ever want to have the privilege of doing this again, you will be on your best behavior . . . "
Yeah, Yeah. Whatever. Ashley tuned out Mrs. Thompson, the teacher who had organized the sleep over, and surveyed the room. This is great, just great. I'm stuck here for a whole night. Maybe I can sneak out and practice my routine later, it sure would beat pretending to enjoying myself. If I make it onto the Angel Grove park junior cheer leading squad, I just know I'll make more friends. That's what Mom keep telling me, anyway. She says that all the popular girls were on the cheer leading squad when she was a kid. And if I make it onto the squad now, I'll have a better chance of getting onto the junior high, and high school squad when I'm old enough.
"All right boys and girls, you have ten minutes to find your gear and pick out a spot on the floor, then we're going to go over to the high school gymnasium for our first activity." Mrs. Thompson's nasal voice echoed against the bare walls of the room. I don't think so. I'm out of here. Ashley melted into the crowd of excited ten year olds, and made her way out the back door of the cafeteria. The cool night air felt good on her skin as she quietly made her way to the opposite end of the school grounds where the physical education fields were. She smiled as she saw the two street lights that illuminated a portion of the playground area and the baseball diamond. Just enough light to work by, but not enough to get caught by.
"Congratulations Ashley, you have just managed to avoid spending the night with the entire fifth grade class. How do you feel? . . . Great. I didn't want to spend the night with them anyway, they all think I'm a geek." Ashley said the words out loud to herself, glad to finally be rid of the watchful eyes of her classmates. She gave a small giggle as her voice echoed through the empty field. Its nice to be alone sometimes. Mom just doesn't understand that, she wants me to be a part of the popular crowd. That's just not who I am. I guess it wouldn't hurt though to join the squad though, maybe I could make a friend or two.
Ashley sighed as she pushed her thoughts away and began doing her routine. She had just finished one of the more difficult cheers when she felt something hard slam her in the middle of her back.
"Sorry about that. The ball got away from me."
Ashley frowned in confusion as she tried to understand the thickly accented words. Who is this guy? And why is he talking so funny?
"Are you okay?" The boy said as he looked at the girl his soccer ball had had the misfortune of colliding with. Ashley nodded this time, finally understanding what the dark complected boy in front of her was saying.
"Yeah, I'm okay. You're the new kid in school, aren't you? My name's Ashley Hammond." She said as she stuck her hand out. The boy shook it with one hand while he gripped the soccer ball with the other.
"My name's Carlos. How come you're not at the gym with everyone else?"
"How come *you're* not at the gym with everyone else?" Ashley countered as she put her hands on her hips. You may be new, but you're probably just like them. If I wanted to be picked on, I would have followed Mrs. Thompson and the brat pack to the gym. "
Are you kidding me? With them? I don't think so. They all call me stupid Spanish boy. They're a bunch of dweebs." Carlos said with a frown as he walked over to the playground and sat down on a swing. In spite of herself, Ashley felt herself following his lead, and sitting on the swing next to his.
"Yeah, they are." Ashley agreed. "They call me nerd all the time, but I'm going to show them." Ashley said as she pushed off and swung out into the cool night air. "I'm going to make the Angel Grove cheer leading squad, and then they'll all have to like me, because I'll be popular." Ashley said with a great deal of determination. I am going to fit in. I know I'm different, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't have any friends.
Carlos nodded from his position on his swing. "I'm going to join the soccer team, and when they see how good I can play, they'll quit calling me stupid." He said with a emphatic shake of his head. I am not going to be on the outside looking in for the rest of my life.
"You're different from everyone else, aren't you, Carlos?" She asked as she stopped her swing abruptly and looked over at the Hispanic boy. She studied him for a moment, trying to determine, what it was about him that she recognized. This is weird. I don't even know him, but I do. How is that possible? He's different like I'm different.
Carlos struggled with himself for a moment. I know I'm different. I always have been. What do I have to lose by admitting it? So she'll laugh at me. People do that all the time. The boy stopped his swing, and drew a deep breath. "Yeah, I'm different from everyone else. You want to make something out of it?"
"No, hey, I didn't mean anything by it." Ashley said, startled by the defensiveness in his stance and in his voice. "I'm . . . different too. Nobody at school here likes me much. I think they all think I'm a freak or something. I never did anything to make them think that, but that's what they all think anyway." She said as she kicked the ground restlessly. Carlos nodded in amazement.
"That's what its like for me too! Even at my old school, they all thought I was a weirdo. My Mom used to be the only one who understood me." The Hispanic boy finished softly.
"Used to? She doesn't understand anymore?" Ashley asked. My Dad's the only one who understands me. I don't know what I'd do if he quit.
"My Mom is . . . she's dead." Carlos said abruptly as he got up off the swing and grabbed his soccer ball. "I'm going to go practice some more. It was nice meeting you." He mumbled as he walked away.
"Carlos! Wait up!" Ashley cried as she jumped off the swing, and followed after him. Me and my big dumb mouth. Mom's always telling me if I didn't talk so much, I wouldn't get into so much trouble.
Carlos didn't turn around as he heard Ashley, he didn't even look up as she started to walk by his side. Real smooth, Carlos. You finally meet someone who just might want to be your friend, and then you go and do something dumb, like cry. Angrily he wiped the tears out of his eyes, and kept walking.
"Carlos, I'm sorry I said anything." Ashley said as she put her hand on the Hispanic boy's shoulder. The touch felt like a little jolt from static electricity, and suddenly Ashley was overwhelmed by a myriad of emotions that assaulted her senses all at once. What the heck? . . . She looked over at Carlos to see if he was as affected as she was by the connection.
Carlos felt Ashley put a hand on his shoulder, and stopped abruptly. Before he could say a word though, a feeling of tranquillity washed over him. For a moment he was confused, as the lump in his throat disappeared and the tears stopped. Questioningly he looked over at the small girl beside him. She looked as about as confused as he felt.
"Did you . . . feel something?" She asked uncertainly, as she took her hand off his shoulder. Carlos felt some of the grief he'd felt earlier come flooding back, but the edge of the pain didn't seem as raw as it had before. He nodded solemnly as he looked over at her.
"How did you do that?" He asked, not exactly sure how to phrase what had just happened into words. Ashley shrugged, bewildered.
"I don't know."
"Awww, Andros, this is so cute. I wish Carone could be here to see this. She'd get a kick out of it."
"Shh. Shut up, Zhane. You're going to wake her up." Andros whispered furiously at his friend as they watched Ashley sleep from the doorway of her room.
"I can't help it. I just never pictured you checking in on her." Zhane said with a grin. Andros shot him a warning glare, as Zhane's voice got a little too loud for his tastes. "How long have you been doing this?" Zhane asked in a loud whisper.
Ashley cracked an eyelid as she woke at the sounds of her teammates voices. What on Earth are they doing up? Better yet, why are they watching me from my doorway? Ashley smiled softly as she saw Andros give his friend in silver a small shove.
"I'll tell you, but only if you promise, never to tell Ashley." Andros said as Zhane enthusiastically nodded his head in agreement. "I've been checking up on her ever since the guys became a part of the team, and started spending the nights on the Megaship. She just seemed so . . . I dunno know, vulnerable, I guess. I wanted to make sure she was all right, so I'd check in on her while she was sleeping. She doesn't know that though." Andros whispered. Ashley's eyes opened wide, at his pronouncement.
"Well, I don't think you'll have to worry about me telling her." Zhane whispered with a grin. Andros shot him a questioning glance. "I think she already knows." He said as he motioned to Ashley. Ashley's astonished grin broadened as Andros' face flushed.
"What are you guys doing up? Its what, two in the morning?" Ashley said as she threw off her covers and got out of bed.
"This is the last time I take you anywhere with me, Zhane." Andros threatened as Ashley came over to his side and grabbed his hand. Zhane rolled his eyes, but laughed at his friend's embarrassed expression.
"I couldn't sleep, and I had to wake Andros up because Carone had a nightmare. She went back to sleep, but we decided to stay up for a while." Zhane explained to Ashley. The girl in yellow smiled as she laid her head on Andros' shoulder.
"Well, now that I'm up too, do you want to go hang out on the bridge for a while?" Ashley asked, herding the two boys out of her room. The group moved quietly down the hall until Zhane stopped them at the door to Andros' room.
"I just want to check in on Carone. Give me a second, and I'll be right back out." Zhane whispered as he entered the room.
"I w-want my Mommy!" Carone cried as Darkconda placed her roughly onto the metal counter of the bridge room of the Dark Fortress. Darkconda glared at the small child as her sobs grew in intensity, and her cries for her mother became louder and louder.
"Your mother's dead." He said maliciously as the cries began to grate on his nerves. "She's dead, your father's dead, even your bratty twin brother is dead." He said with a grin as the girl stopped crying to stare at him in shock.
"D-dead?" She whispered, horrified by the prospect. The evil being took great satisfaction in nodding an affirmation. She promptly burst into hysterical tears.
"What's going on here, Darkconda?" Ecliptor asked as he entered the bridge only to find himself confronted with a sobbing child and an evil being that was grinning madly.
"I was just telling the brat here, that her entire family is dead. Fitting don't you think?" Darkconda sneered as he regarded the cubodiol being with disinterest. "What do you want anyway?"
"You've just been reassigned, Darkconda. Dark Spectre has placed me in charge of the young one here. You are to report to him immediately for further instruction." The black and green cuboidal being announced as he stood beside the wailing child. Darkconda's eyes flashed malevolently.
"You two have not seen the last of me." He announced as he disappeared from sight. Ecliptor sighed as he regarded the distraught child that was currently sitting on one of the Dark Fortress' main consoles.
"M-my parents are d-dead. My b-brother is d-dead. I'm all a-alone." Carone cried to the big being that was in front of her, not caring if he intended to hurt her or not. All she could feel was the overwhelming grief of knowing that her family was gone. Awkwardly, Ecliptor placed an arm around the small girl's trembling shoulders, and attempted, for the first time in his entire life, to offer comfort to another living thing.
"You are not alone. I am here, my princess. I will take care of you from now on." Ecliptor said as the teary eyed girl looked up at him in amazement. "The power rangers were the ones responsible for your family's death. Together, we shall be able to defeat them." The being continued with renewed enthusiasm as he hit on a topic that sparked his interest. Death to the power rangers.
"What if you die to?" The little girl asked, tears welling up in her eyes once again. Ecliptor studied the human child for a moment, unsure of what to do about her continual leaking problem.
"All you will have to do is think of me, and I will be there for you, Astronema." The being said as he gifted her with her new name, and helped her off the console.
Carone awoke from her dream to the sound of something crashing to the floor with a rather audible thud. Groggily, she rubbed her eyes and sat up in bed.
"Zhane? Is that you? What are you doing on the floor?" She asked as she looked down to find the silver ranger sprawled out on the bedroom floor. Zhane groaned good naturedly as Andros and Ashley came in through the doorway to inspect the noise. Stupid feet. I thought I had this problem under control. He rolled his eyes as Andros helped him up.
"You know, you're as about as quiet as a herd of stampeding elephants." Ashley said with a grin as Carone got out of bed and took hold of Zhane's hand.
"Sorry I woke you up. I just wanted to check in on you. Why don't you crawl back in bed and go back to sleep." Zhane said ignoring Ashley's comment as he concentrated on the willowy blonde next to him. Carone smiled.
"What and miss all the fun you guys are going to have? Yeah, right. Why don't we go to the bridge." Carone suggested with a laugh as she lead the group out of Andros' room. Ashley gave a grin as she pushed Zhane's back while Carone tugged on his hand. Zhane beamed at the attention, and Andros rolled his eyes.
"You always were such a cut up." Andros said as he gave his friend a healthy shove, pushing the teen in silver through the doorway.
"Andros, you're bleeding." Zhane stated calmly as he saw the dark, damp stain that was just beginning to show through his friend's jacket. Andros turned slightly away from the console he was sitting at to look over at his friend.
"Is it bad?" He asked. I knew I was feeling something. Must have reopened the stitches Zhane put in last night. This is such a mess, and I've dragged him right on into it with me. One of these days, for better or worse, I should just come clean with Tryan. I can't keep asking Zhane to cover for me, and lie for me. It just isn't right. Andros sighed as he turned his attention back to the gangly teen behind him.
"No, it isn't bad. If it was bad, I would say 'OH MY STARS, ANDROS! You're bleeding! Lay down before you fall down!'." Zhane said in mock horror. Andros lifted an eyebrow, and tried to keep from grinning as Zhane placed a hand against his forehead and pretended to fall into a faint.
"You are so full of it, Zhane." Andros said as he tried not to move the shoulder that now throbbed as he became painfully aware of the ripped stitches. He shook his head as his lanky friend grinned back. "You're impossible. I'll be fine, why don't you go to bed, its late. I'm going to stay up for a while and search the computer." Andros said quietly as he turned his attention back onto the maps of the galaxies he'd asked DECA to supply him with.
"And leave you here injured? You're kidding, right?" Zhane said as he eyed his friend with a questionable glance. "I'll be back in a sec to sew that wound up again. Don't go anywhere." Zhane added shaking a finger at his friend as he left the room. Andros nodded as he watched the teen in silver leave. Slowly he turned himself back to the computer, and within seconds he was fully absorbed in searching through the various galactical maps.
Tryan shook his head as he walked through the halls with the bandages he'd absconded from Zhane in his arms. This is just great. The world is falling apart around my ears. We're up against the greatest galactical force any planet has ever seen. Half of KO-35 has already fallen, and Dark Spectre seems to know what we're going to do before we do. The militia is convinced there's a leak somewhere in the ranks, and I've been bending over backwards through red tape to convince them that its not one of us. Now, I have to deal with the fact that the youngest member of my team has been harboring feelings of unworthiness, and I've been blind to the situation from the moment he first became the red ranger. Tryan ran a hand through his short brown hair. He needed more sleep, and a little reprieve from the fighting, he realized, or he was going to burn out pretty soon.
He entered the bridge and stilled at the sight of Andros rifling through what appeared to be DECA's inventory of galactical maps. Tryan felt something in him snap, and within moments, he had crossed the room.
"What? Tryan?!" Andros cried as the bigger, older teen, roughly grabbed him by the shoulder and slammed him against the viewing screen, pinning him. You thought you could sneak behind our backs and rat to the enemy? I put my faith in you, Andros. How could you betray us like this? I guess I'll have to go back and inform Khenwan that we've found our traitor. Andros flinched as Tryan mentally yelled at him.
"I-I don't k-know w-what you're talking about, Tryan." Andros stammered as the older boy's grip grew stronger, and the frown on his face more intent. Oh lord. I don't have to worry about him kicking me off the team. He's going to kill me first.
"Of course you don't. You were just looking through the galactical maps for a better view of the universe. You weren't trying to send Dark Spectre our latest tactical plans in the Kerova system or anything." Tryan bit out sarcastically as he glared at the boy in front of him. Andros' eyes clouded with confusion, and then with a misty film of tears.
"I-I don't know what's going on, Tryan. B-but I'm not sending t-tactical p-plans to anyone. I'm searching through the logs f-for my sister." Andros managed to stutter out. Tryan's grip relaxed slightly, and Andros felt the whole story pour out of him. "When I was five, she was kidnapped from our backyard on KO-35 while we we're playing. I was distracted for a moment when the ball spun out of control and into the woods. When I came back, she was gone. The police couldn't find a trace of her, so they chalked it up to an alien kidnapping. I have to find her, Tryan, I have to. But I never should have gone behind you're back. I'm sorry." Andros said as he hung his head in shame.
"I . . . I had no idea." Tryan's voice was hoarse, as the severity of what he'd just accused Andros of doing came crashing down. "Damn Andros, I am so sorry. I've just been on edge all week, and when I saw you here . . . well, I lost it. I know that's no excuse, but damn, I'm sorry." He said as he completely released the small teen in red.
"That's okay. I should have told you earlier. Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to go and pack my bags. I wish you the best of luck in finding a new red ranger. Maybe he won't let you down like I have." Andros said weakly. Tryan put a hand on his shoulders before he could go anywhere.
"Andros, that's the reason I came in here in the first place. Well, before I accidentally lost it and accused you of being a traitor, that is. You will always have a place on this team, if you still want it. You have never let us down. We need you more now then ever. I know I haven't been the greatest leader. I've failed you all in battle more times than I can count, and I hurl false accusations at those who are the closest to me. I know I don't have much to offer you, but I need you here. Can you forgive me?" Tryan asked with troubled eyes as he focused on the pale boy before him.
"You still want me on the team?" Andros asked with owlish seriousness. Tryan nodded. "Thanks, Tryan. I won't let you down. I promise." Andros said as he swayed a little. Tryan's worry over his teammate's emotional state was overtaken by worry for his physical one as the small teen blinked unseeingly for a couple of seconds.
Tryan managed to catch Andros under the armpits before the teen in red hit the floor in a dead faint. It was then that blue ranger saw the dark maroon stain on the back of Andros' jacket and the thick, sticky blood that was running slowly down the viewing screen where he'd shoved Andros up against it. This is all my fault. He bit back an expletive and focused all of his mental energies. Zhane. Get here pronto! Andros is in bad shape!
"Andros? Earth to Andros . . . are you there?" Ashley asked as she waved a hand in front of her boyfriend's blank face. Andros started and looked over at her. Ashley smiled, as he shot her a questioning look. He can be such a space cadet. Its like he retreats back into his own little world, and stays there until someone forces him to join the rest of us here in reality. Ashley looked over at Zhane and Carone, who were curled up together on a chair on the other side of the room, fast asleep. Andros followed her gaze and grinned as he saw his friend's arms wrapped around his sister.
"They sure got to know each other pretty fast." Ashley commented quietly. Andros nodded, as he grabbed her hand in his.
"Yeah, I was really worried about Carone at first. But well, with Zhane here, its like she's got something from her old life that's tied into the new one. I think it gives her a certain comfort level. I mean, they already had feelings for each other before, well, before everything went to hell and back. I think they pretty much latched onto each other after that." Andros whispered as he pulled Ashley closer to him. Ashley followed willingly, but grinned as she listened to Andros philosophize.
"Have I ever told you that I think you're the most overprotective brother I've ever met?" Ashley asked as she nodded in Carone's direction. Andros frowned for a moment until he realized that Ashley was teasing him, and then took great pleasure in tickling her ribs.
"Mercy!" Ashley giggled as she slapped at Andros' hands. "Sorry, I couldn't resist." She added as she wrapped an arm around his neck. "Andros, I'm really glad you decided to come back to Earth with us. I . . . I don't know what I would have done without you." She whispered as she laid her head on his shoulder. So much has happened in the last six months. My life has changed completely. If someone had told me a year ago that I would be depressed over the thought of being separated from a guy, I would have laughed in their face. Andros is different though. He's more than just some guy I happen to know. Andros paused for a moment as he wrapped an arm around his girlfriend's waist.
"I thought KO-35 was my home. But when I saw you punch that button, and shut the airlock doors, I knew that I'd made the wrong decision. My place is with you." The teen in red said simply. Ashley smiled and closed her eyes as she listened to his heart beat through his chest.
Ashley walked down the hall towards the bridge, hesitating slightly as she walked past Andros' room. I really like him. He's unlike any other guy I've ever known. Well, sure there's the minor detail that he's from a space colony, but other than that he's still a lot different from anyone I've ever met. He's aloof and unfriendly one moment, vulnerable and shy the next. Argh. What am I supposed to do? If I tell him I like him, I risk losing our friendship and creating a really big rift in the team. But if I don't say something, then I know that this will be something I'll regret for the rest of my life. Ashley blew a strand of straight brown hair out of her eyes as she walked through the door to the main bridge. She stopped short though as she saw Zhane with his feet propped up on the main console.
"Zhane?" She asked quietly as she noticed he was staring off into space in the otherwise empty bridge room.
"Hum? Um, what? Ashley?" Zhane asked as he blinked and looked over at the yellow girl standing uncertainly by the viewing screen. "Hey, what are you doing here? I thought Sunday's were kind of like a free day around here. Why aren't you down at the similudeck with everyone else?"
"I just wanted to get some time away from them to think some things over in my head." Ashley said as she plopped down on the chair next to Zhane. The teen in silver regarded her for a moment, and then grinned.
"You like Andros, don't you." He said, stating it more like a fact then a question. Ashley nodded miserably.
"Is it that obvious?" She asked. Zhane nodded as she groaned and put her head down on the console in front of them. Great. Zhane's been here all of two weeks and he knows how I feel. Andros is probably laughing his head off somewhere over what a fool I've made of myself. This is a mess.
"Yeah, but its pretty obvious that he feels the same way." Zhane said with a smile as Ashley's head shot up in amazement. "Oh come on. Don't tell me you didn't notice?! He follows you around the room with his eyes, and he always has this big dumb goofy expression on his face when you pat him on the shoulder. I've never seen him like that before. Its kind of weird." Zhane said as he took his feet off the console and scratched the back of his neck. Ashley regarded him with a new perspective.
"What was he like before KO-35 fell?" Ashley asked softly. Zhane turned over to look at her, and for the first time, Ashley saw sadness lingering in his eyes. Zhane took a deep breath, and tried not to overreact. I know it's been two years. But for me, its only been a month since things fell apart. Geez, Andros is as quiet as a clam about the guys too. I can't do what he does though, I can't keep this all inside.
"He was a lot smaller than he is now." Zhane said with a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. "I had a hard time even recognizing him when I woke up. If it weren't for the fact that he still gives people that same owlish look when he's serious, I might not have known who he was. He's changed a lot, but at the same time he hasn't. . . I'm not making any sense." Zhane said as he threw his arms up in the air and began to pace around the console.
"You're making perfect sense, Zhane. I . . .I know this has got to be hard for you. What with waking up and having two years of your life gone, and everything turned topsy-turvy. But I'm here if you ever need to talk to someone." Ashley said as she got out of her chair and put a hand on his shoulder. She felt a shock as her hand came in contact with his shoulder, and suddenly she was confronted by a tidal wave of sadness and uncertainty.
Zhane stopped as he felt Ashley's hand connect. The overwhelming mournfulness and unsteadiness that had felt like a weight around his heart lifted with the simple touch. Its not possible. She can't be. Can she? Zhane turned around and faced the girl behind him. Ashley kept a hand on his shoulder the entire time.
"Ashley?" Zhane asked as he saw the tears well up in her eyes.
"What's happening, Zhane? I don't understand. I . . . its just . . . so sad. There's so much pain." Ashley managed to gasp out before her body was wracked in heart breaking sobs.
"Geez girl, let go before you dissolve into tears." Zhane said with a half hearted laugh. It took every ounce of will power in his body to make himself take her hand off his shoulder. As he broke the connection between them, he felt the sadness come rushing back, although not as intense as it had been before. Ashley dried her tears and looked at Zhane in confusion.
"I don't understand, Zhane. What just happened? Did I imagine it?" She asked apprehensively as she took a step back from the teen in silver, and stared at her hand as if she'd never seen it before. I've spent all my life living on the outskirts. A part of the crowd, but not. Now that I've finally found a group of people who are closer to me than my own family, I start becoming the freak I always thought I was. This isn't fair. She bit her lip as she felt another tear slide down her cheek.
"Ashley, you're an empath." He said simply, as if that explained everything. She watched him as he sat down and propped up his feet once more. He stared at her as if waiting for her to come to some general understanding about the situation.
"Huh?" She asked doubtfully. "An empath? Zhane, people just aren't empaths, that's stuff you read in science fiction books and bad B rated movies." Ashley said as she sat down next to him.
"Oh come on Ashley, all fiction is based on some amount of actual truth. Andros and I can do telekinesis, can't we? That's supposed to be something that's not humanly possible. Some people just have a stronger connection to certain things than others, and you're one of them." Zhane said simply. "When you touch other people, you feel what they feel, and for a short time you absorb their emotions. When you break the connection, you return their emotions to them, slightly changed." Zhane explained as Ashley looked at him uncertainly.
"So can everyone on KO-35 do this kind of thing? Can you and Andros do it?" Ashley asked as Zhane gave her a small quirky smile at her assumption.
"No. Not everyone on KO-35 can do what you do, me and Andros included. It's a special talent, something just you possess." Zhane explained, and then hesitated. "Well, I think it's connected in with yellow personalities, too. The old yellow ranger had the same thing. You're a lot like him, except you talk." Zhane said in an odd, distant voice. "Hey, you want me to teach you telekinesis? Andros said none of you guys have learned how, and it might help you get a rein on that ability of yours." Zhane said switching the topic quickly as he stood up and grabbed Ashley's arm. "While we're at it, we can devise a way to get lover boy to ask you out." He added with a wink as he dragged Ashley out of the room.
"What is this, a party on the bridge? And no one invited me?" Carlos whined petulantly as he startled his four friends out of their sleep. Ashley managed to glare at him drowsily as she pushed the mass of thick brown hair out of her eyes and accidentally elbowed Andros in the side. Andros grunted in response, and opened his eyes as Ashley readjusted her position on his lap.
"Nice slippers." She commented, as she looked down at the raggedy pair of bunnies that encased Carlos' feet. They looked to be about a couple years old, but the bright baby blue fur on them was still just as visible from great distances. The googly eyes jiggled with every step he took, and as Ashley rolled her eyes, she could tell that Carlos was glad she'd mentioned them. He shot her a cheerful smile as he rocked back on his heels.
"Yeah, this is Blinky, and this one's Winky." The teen in black announced as he stuck out one bunnied foot and then the other. His four sleepy teammates stared at him for a moment.
"Here we go again." Ashley muttered. "It's the one man who can be all three stooges. I knew I never should have given you those slippers as a gag gift."
"Why does he have rabbits on his feet?" Carone asked in a loud whisper as she looked up at Zhane for an explanation. Zhane shrugged as he struggled to keep from laughing.
"He just does it to be a really big goof." Ashley inserted as Carlos walked by her. Carlos stopped in mid stride, and turned to Ashley with a mischievous glint in his eyes. As Ashley turned her head back around to say something to Andros, Carlos moved in and gave her a gentle smack upside the head. "Dork." she muttered as he moved out of reach with a satisfied smile on his face.
"Dweeb. Don't insult the bunnies. They're very sensitive to criticism." He called back as he sat down in a chair between the two couples. Ashley responded by sticking her tongue out at him. Andros laughed as he watched his girlfriend and his friend pester each other.
"If I hadn't already met both of your families, I would swear you two are brother and sister by the way you carry on." The teen in red said as he rubbed Ashley's arm. She turned to him and laid her head on his shoulder once again, and Andros had to give a contented sigh as he felt her warm breath on his neck. And if I had know it was going to be this nice having a girlfriend, I would have asked Ashley out ages ago. She's like my own personal human electric blanket. Still, it is a little cold in here, maybe I should turn the thermostat up some. Andros looked up as Carlos began chuckling to himself. After a moment, the teen in black met is inquiring gaze.
"What? Oh, sorry. Private joke, you wouldn't understand." Carlos said as he propped his slippered feet up on the console in front of him. Andros shook his head with a smile as he got comfortable in his chair once again. As the room fell into a sleep induced silence, he heard Carlos mutter something to himself that sounded suspiciously like 'Andros' human electric blanket'.
Turbo Zord Garage
"Hey Teej, look at me. I'm a grease monkey." Carlos announced with a laugh as he hung from one of the numerous pipes lining the ceiling of the turbo garage. TJ looked up from his zord to see his friend, who was covered in patches of thick black grease, swing from pipe to pipe with a banana in his hand.
"Exactly how many cans of Jolt did you drink when you when you went over to see Rocky this morning?" The teen in red asked as he raised an eyebrow. Carlos shot him a happy grin.
"Between the two of us, we downed a twelve pack, but Rocky only had four cans." The teen in green replied cheerfully as he let go of the pipes and landed gracefully on the garage floor. "You know Teej, other than you, Rocky and Adam are like the only other guys in town I ever really hang out with." Carlos added with a shrug as he exchanged his banana for a screwdriver.
TJ shot his friend an envious look as Carlos turned toward Desert Thunder, and crawled under the machine. Geez, Carlos. You're like the only other guy in this town that I hang out with. I wonder If you saw Clara. She said hello to me the other day in math class, and my heart about froze in my chest. I'd like to try to ask her out again, but Divatox is only a small part of the problem there, but in a way, she's the whole reason that it'll never work. TJ sighed morosely as he picked up a socket wrench and turned back towards his zord.
"Divatox does have a tendency to screw you out of dating." Carlos' muffled voice came from under the dump truck zord. "Clara? That's Rocky's younger sister isn't it?" He asked. popping his head out from under the vehicle. TJ shot him a confused look. What the heck are you babbling about?
"What do you mean babbling? I do not babble. You just told me that you you'd ask Clara out again, but you can't because of Divatox. When did you ask her out the first time?" Carlos asked as he crawled out from under his zord. TJ raised an eyebrow in dubious disbelief. I didn't say that last thought out loud.
"Yeah, you did. I heard it as clear as day." Carlos said as he rubbed a greasy finger over the bridge of his nose. TJ looked straight at him and made eye contact. Carlos, I haven't said a word out loud since I asked you how many cans of Jolt you had this morning. You've got grease on your nose. Carlos paled slightly.
"How'd you do that?" The teen in green asked in awe.
"I didn't do anything. You did this." TJ said as he tapped his astonished Hispanic friend on the chest.
"Don't any of you people sleep in your own rooms?" TJ asked incredulously as he walked onto the main floor of the bridge. DECA wakes me up at 5 every morning so I can get some exercise time in on the similudeck before the rest of the gang can wake up. For the last two years, I have been the only one out of my room this early with the occasional exception of Andros. However, I wake up this morning and pass five empty bedrooms with their doors wide open. What is going on?
"TJ, don't you ever get up at a decent hour, like noon?" Zhane moaned as he rubbed his eyes. TJ crossed his arms over his chest and gave the silver ranger a patronized look. "Well, since you're here, you might as well pull up a chair." Zhane said grudgingly as he dragged a hand through his hair.
"Gee. . . thanks. You're a real pal." TJ said with mock seriousness as he sat down across from the group. "What are you guys doing in here anyway?" He asked as he looked from one teammate to the next. For a moment, no one answered him.
"It's been a long night." Andros started as he wrapped his arms tighter around Ashley's shoulders.
"I didn't want to be by myself." Carone interrupted softly, effectively cutting off her twin. "I've been having nightmares, and I just couldn't seem to fall asleep in my room alone." She said quietly as Zhane tightened his grip around her waist. TJ seemed to think about it a moment.
"It's been a couple of days straight out of hell, hasn't it?" TJ said as he looked directly at Carone. The girl in purple gave a solemn nod, and TJ had to hide a smile. Yeah, she and Andros are definitely related. I'd know that serious expression anywhere. Poor kid, I hope she's not feeling too guilty about the mistakes she made as her alter ego. No one here on the ship holds it against her. I know I've goofed up enough times to last a lifetime, but if there is anything I've learned since becoming a ranger, it's that we will *always* be there for each other. No matter what happens.
"Teej, why don't you lay off the exercise for a morning and relax with the rest of us here on the bridge." Ashley suggested as she scooted into a comfortable position, and laid her head down on Andros' shoulder with a yawn. TJ mulled the idea over for a second, and then propped his feet up on a neighboring console.
"I guess I could use a couple more minutes of shut eye." He conceded as he closed his eyes.
Napa Valley, California
TJ grimaced as he inched closer to his fallen mother, and he flinched as he heard the string of slurred swears emanating from the other room. He held his tears in check as his mother gave him a weak smile through her black eye and split lip. Oh, Mama. Why do things have to be like this? TJ brought the glass of ice water in his hands carefully up to her lips, and let her drink as much as she wanted from the plastic cup.
"Will you go and check on CC, honey. I don't want her to cry with your father in one of his . . . moods. You're such a good boy. God blessed me when he gave me you." She said softly as she reached up and gently gave his cheek a reassuring pat. TJ felt a tear run down his cheek, and angrily, he brushed it away as he nodded silently to his mother. She spared him a lopsided smile, which started her lip bleeding again. TJ regarded her for a moment. There was a world weariness about her now that he'd never really noticed before, and her eyes, the ones that had once shown with such vibrance and life, were now dull and lackluster. I wish he'd never come back. I don't care if he is my father, we were better off without him. Why couldn't he have stayed in Houston? TJ scowled as he got up, and moved over to where his eleven month old sister was sleeping peacefully in her crib. Automatically, he checked her diaper, and after discovering it was dry, he moved back to where his mother lay on the floor.
"Where's my beer, woman! You hid it. I know you did!" TJ's father bellowed as he burst in through the bedroom doors. TJ's head whipped up, startled as the door slammed against the wall as his large, muscular father advanced on his mother. CC, awakened by the strength of the deep, drunken voice, let out a cry of infant frustration.
"Shut that damn brat up! Never mind. I'll do it myself." The man muttered as he approached the crib at a menacing gait. TJ reacted instantly, and threw his body between his father and his wailing sister. "Get out of the way, you little snot." The big man growled as he carelessly drew his hand back and let it fly into his son's face. TJ fell to the ground with a small thud, and tasted the blood as it trickled from the corner of his mouth. There wasn't time to linger on the injury though, as he saw his drunken father bend over the railing of the crib. Stay away from her! If you need to hit someone, hit me, you bastard. TJ shakily climbed to his feet, and glared at the man. Intuitively, he knew that the burly man had heard his unspoken thought, and he could see the evidence in the man's spooked eyes.
"Freaky little brat. I always knew there was something wrong with you. Should have thrown you into the river the first moment I saw your ugly little face. Always were too lippy." The man said as he staggered over to his son. He roughly grabbed the boy's arm, and wrenched his body to the other side of the room. TJ grimaced in pain, and bit his lip to keep from crying out as he felt his muscles and ligaments protest at the treatment. The big man released his grip on the boy's arm, only to grab his wrist instead, and give it a vicious twist. TJ did cry out this time as he felt something snap.
"Al, come on now, I think you have an extra case of beer hidden in the cupboard." His mother said, trying to pacify her husband as she laboriously crawled to her feet. Al gave TJ one last look of drunken disgust, and then slammed him up against the wall, releasing him in the process. TJ gave a little hiss as the air was knocked out of him, but the man ignored him as he staggered towards his wife. None too gently, Al shoved the petite black woman out of the bedroom towards the kitchen.
"I knew you hid my beer. Stupid slut."
TJ shuddered as his father's voice faded. He finally gave free rein to his tears as he hugged his injured wrist to his chest. He knew it was broken, or at the very least sprained from the pressure his father had used when he'd twisted it. Slowly, he crawled up off the floor and moved over to his sister's crib. Somewhere in the midst of the chaos, CC had stopped crying, and she now looked up at him with dewy young eyes. We will always be a family, CC. You, me, and Mama. We will always be there for each other, and I'll never let him hurt you. I promise. TJ said, conveying the thoughts to the smiling baby girl. She gurgled happily as she shook a tiny fist.
"How come you guys are still in your pjs?" Cassie asked as she walked onto the bridge, only to find her friends scattered across the room, asleep. TJ cracked his eyes open and shuddered slightly as he pushed away the last remnants of his dream. Cassie crossed the room and hopped up onto a console facing the rest of the group. TJ raised an eyebrow and grinned as Cassie, sat down hard on the paneling. There are five chairs in the room, and you choose to sit on a work console? You're definitely one of a kind Cassie.
"I'm, one of a kind, TJ? You're one to talk. I know you didn't want me to ever tell the guys, but come on, we just lived through the possible destruction of our planet and possibly the whole universe. No one's going to think you're a weirdo. We're too close for that. You've got to tell them sometime." Cassie chided as TJ blushed slightly.
"Tell us what?" Ashley asked as she gave a feline stretch to throw off the last remnants of sleep. TJ looked over at her and sighed. Cassie wants me to tell you all, that should I want to, I can talk to you like this. TJ said as he projected his mental voice to the rest of the teens in the room.
"He didn't just . . . " Andros trailed off in astonishment as he made eye contact with Zhane across the room.
"I knew it! I knew Ashley wasn't the only one! Way to go TJ, welcome to the world of the weird and unusual. " Zhane said in delighted surprise, to which Andros shot him a confused look. "Zhane! You weren't supposed to say anything. Besides you can't even be sure. Andros never feels a thing." Ashley returned blushing slightly.
"This has to do with that shoulder touchy thing you can do, doesn't it?" Carlos said jumping into the conversation with a huge smile on his face. Andros looked from his friend in silver to his friend in black with disconcertion.
"Andros told me earlier tonight, that he can't feel empathetic intervention. It has something to do with the red personality type. You're an honest to goodness empath, Ashley." Zhane said as he hugged Carone closer to him with a smile.
"Ashley's an empath? And no one told me?" Andros asked mystified. "How long have you and TJ been hiding this?" Andros asked as Ashley laughed and gave him a hug. TJ grinned at Andros shocked face.
"It gets better. Carlos is a mind reader. Literally." TJ said as all eyes focused on the teen in black. The Hispanic teen blushed slightly at the attention.
"You know Carlos, that explains a lot about you." Andros said with a smile as he watched his friend squirm a little.
"Sorry. Sometimes it was just too hard to pass up the opportunity to read a thought or two. You guys think some of the funniest things. Especially you and your human electric blanket." Carlos said sheepishly. Andros had the good grace to blush.
"I *knew* I heard you say something like that before we fell asleep earlier tonight."
"What did you mean by you knew Ashley wasn't the only one, Zhane?" Cassie asked suddenly as she focused her attention on the teen in silver. Zhane looked at her and then turned to Andros. Andros drew a deep sigh.
"If Ashley was an empath, then it was only logical that TJ and Carlos would be able to do what they do. The powers were developed with the different personalities of the universe in mind. The rangers who held those powers before you were capable of the same thing." Andros explained.
"Can you and Zhane do, well, weird stuff, too?" Cassie asked thoughtfully as she tilted her head to one side.
"Andros gets premonitions." Ashley injected before Andros could say a word. The teen in red gaped at her in astonishment while the rest of the teem gazed at him with shock. "Oh come on, Andros, you always got antsy before a battle. I could practically predict when a battle would occur, because you'd be driving everyone on the ship up the wall with last minute repair check lists. I knew the minute you told me that you had to confront Carone on the Dark Fortress for the last time, that you'd seen it occurring in that head of yours already." Ashley said as she rubbed Andros' arm.
"She's right." Andros said finally with a great deal of chagrin. "Nothing much ever gets by you does it?" Andros hugged her closer to him as he grinned.
"So what does Zhane do?" Carlos asked, drawing the attention away from Andros to the teen in silver.
"Zhane's a healer." Andros answered for his blonde friend, and winked as Zhane looked over at him, startled. "Oh please, like you expected me not to notice? You saved my life more times than I can remember, and you healed more of my wounds than I'd care to recount. I'm sure one of the only reasons you were able to survive through that mortal wounding blast on KO-35 was the fact that you could heal yourself."
"He has a point Zhane. I felt it too when you helped my broken arm along." Cassie added, recalling the injury.
"So if all of you can do something because of your personality types, what can the pink personality do?" Carone asked as she looked to Cassie for clarification. Cassie shrugged the question off.
"Before I answer that, I just want to ask you guys something." She said as she tilted her head to the side a little and gave all of her friends a serious look. "Now that everything evil in the world, universe, etc. has been destroyed, what happens? I don't know about you guys, but I'm not ready to break things up. You all are the closest thing I have to a living family. I'm not prepared to go on with the rest of my life and leave this all behind as some memory of something I once did and people I once knew."
"I'm not ready, either." TJ said in agreement. "Besides there's still a lot of reconstruction we should probably help with in downtown Angel Grove. It was pretty much leveled in the attack." TJ added. The rest of the group nodded.
"I don't think any of us are ready to disband just yet. We're still trying to recover." Carlos observed. Cassie shot him a bright smile.
"Exactly. Whew, well I'm glad that's settled. The one of the only things that I was ever really afraid of in my life was the emptiness that is left behind when people drift apart. I mean we're all so close. Death is one thing. There's a reason for separation then." Cassie said with a simple shrug of her shoulders. Then suddenly she turned her head to the side and stared at an empty space to her right. "If you three don't shut up, I won't tell them. I'm getting to it in my own sweet time." She admonished the air as she placed her hands on her hips. Carlos leaned over towards TJ with a dubious expression on his face.
"I think she's finally lost it." He whispered loudly. Cassie turned and gave him an exasperated look as she rolled her eyes.
"What I was trying to say, before I was so rudely interrupted, was that I've never been afraid of losing loved ones to death, and this is why." She said as she stretched her arms out in front of her with her wrists held together with the palms facing each other. Within moments a small glow started to shine between her hands, and as the team watched in awe, three figures appeared to her right. With that accomplished, Cassie opened her eyes. "These three have been pestering me all morning, but they wouldn't tell me who they were, just that they had to meet you all again."
"Cassie, you have no idea how many of your stray thoughts make sense now." Carlos said in amazement. The burly looking teen in black that had appeared, laughed at that.
"Its a guy after my own heart. You did a good job picking these guys out to replace us, Andros. Zhane, its nice to see you made it out of hibernation."
Andros and Zhane stared at the three dumbfound.
"How? When? Oh boy." Andros managed to eek out as he faced his dead, former teammates in morbid fascination. "Um, everyone, this is Tryan, Sanjan, and Zanthan." He said with a note of uncertainty as he motioned to each figure respectively. The tallest teen, the one clad in blue, bowed at his name and flashed a sympathetic smile. The red haired teen in yellow merely gave an expressionless nod, and the final, stocky figure in black grinned from ear to ear.
"Awww. Aren't they so cute Sanjan. Look, they grew up." Zanthan teased as he watched the youngest members of his team flush. "And Tryan look at the shrimp! Who would have ever thought he would have gotten so big?" Zanthan said as he pointed at Andros. Andros raised an eyebrow in consternation.
"I wasn't *that* small."
"Yes, you were." Four male voices chorused back. Andros rolled his eyes, but smiled. Ashley laughed as she climbed off his lap and helped him to his feet. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Carone do the same.
"You made a good choice for the pink." Sanjan's thready voice permeated the air, even though his lips failed to move. "Although she is a little on the confrontational side. Which I guess is good, considering who she's deeply in love with. She's gonna need that spunk. I wish you the best of luck, Cassie. He's a stubborn pain in the rear." He added with a smile.
"I'm sure I don't even want to know. . ." Cassie said with raised eyebrow as she turned to the rest of her teammates. "These three are the most exasperating ghosts I've ever encountered. They tried to follow me into the shower this morning. I had to outlaw them from the room when I was changing."
"Yeah, I'd say she's definitely a good match for Tannen." Tryan said with an embarrassed laugh. "I hope you don't mind, Cassie, but we'll be back when you meet up with your Phantom next." Tryan said with a wink as Zanthan snickered. "Until then, do you think we could have some time alone with Zhane and Andros? We have some old things to talk about." Tryan said as he regarded his old teammates with a bittersweet smile. Cassie smiled as she and everyone with the exception of Andros and Zhane got up and headed to the door. "We're going to be on the simludeck watching TV if you need anything. Guys you have half an hour before they start to fade back." Cassie said softly. She gave the three apparitions and her two teammates one last look before she left the room. Everyone needs closure in their lives, and I'm glad we have each other to help things along. I hope they saved me a spot on the sofa. Cassie grinned as she took off after the rest of her teammates.
On DECA's main viewing screen the sun slowly rose over the edge of
the Earth. It's light blazing ferociously as the luminosity of its rays
licked the recesses of the planet's surface, accomplishing what it
accomplished every dawn of every day. Light chasing away the darkness.