The silence of mourning had fallen upon the city of Angel Grove. The sounds of jogging through the the peace of the woods was now mute...never to be heard again. The sadness spread all over, reaching the Youth Center: where teenagers no longer had the heart to work out on it's practice mats where he once did.
The halls and classrooms of Angel Grove highschool were filled with grief and mourning. The hearts of the students and teachers were no longer into their work and studies...and that suited Mr. Kaplan just fine. He wasn't in any mood himself to go around and hand out detentions and things to those who were not working...no one felt like doing any of that anymore. There was simply no use any longer...
Nestled in the mountains in the desert outside of the silent town, the base of the Power Rangers was even more dismal. The walls were hung in the deepest black, mourning the loss of one of their brave warriors. A power ranger had fallen in death...and not one of them knew what would happen to the team next...they too felt they no longer had the heart to go on...
Deeply submerged in Angel Grove lake, the subcraft of an evil villainess was not in mourning, but in the brightest of celebration! One of their deadly enemies, a pesky Power Ranger was gone...forever, and Divatox hadn't even had to lift a finger to do it. Divatox and her evil crew rejoiced in the death...
Two days earlier...T.J. Edwards: The Red Ranger, had been killed in a car crash just outside of Angel Grove. It was nothing more than a simple accident, but it had been enough to strip an innocent young man of his life. A drunk driver...always the ones to punish those undeserving in their ignorance, blindsided the teenager's car as he slid out of control on the slippery roads. It had been raining quite frequently those past few days...not surprising that it was still raining on the day of his death. All he had been trying to do...was pick up some supplies from the grocery store for a sleepover that he was going to have...
But he wouldn't have that sleepover...
Ashley's eyes were wet with tears as she sat in the window seat in her room, staring out at the rain-drenched world. Quietly she wiped away the tears from her cheeks and sighed deeply.
"How can you be gone?" she whispered. "It. . .it's just not possible."
If someone had told her a month earlier that she would be mourning over someone she had known less than three weeks, she would have laughed at them. Hard. She'd never had anyone so close to her that their passing would shatter her heart like this. But now that it had happened, she felt like dying herself. Something about being Rangers together, about fighting to save the world and keep themselves in one piece had pulled them together more than just hanging out ever would.
"Ashley?" she looked around at the sound of her name to see her mom standing behind her. "Ashley, honey, how are you feeling?"
The Yellow Ranger wiped her eyes. "Mom," her voice was strangled. "One of my best friends is dead. That's how I'm feeling."
Mrs. Hammond came over to her, enveloping her daughter in her arms. "Oh, Ashley," she whispered. "You only knew him a few weeks. How could he mean so much to you? He was just. ..just someone."
Ashley stared at her mother. "Mom," her voice was just this side of freezing. "Some people you don't have to know forever in order to care about."
"Ashley," her mom stared into her eyes. "Just how close were you and this boy?"
"His name," Ashley grated the words out as if each pained her. "was T.J. Edwards. Thomas Jason Edwards. He was one of my best friends, one of the best friends I could ever have. He was smart, he was funny, he was strong. He taught me about how to defend myself. He saved my life on at least three occasions I can think of, and probably more. Just because you never knew him, doesn't mean I don't care about him."
Mrs. Hammond's frown deepend. "Were you two dating?"
"Mother!" Ashley's eyes blazed as she threw herself to her feet. "I'm not going to sit here and listen to you doing this!"
"Answer my question, young lady!"
Ashley stood up, seizing her favorite yellow jacket and purse. "No, we were not dating. We had something better. We had true friendship. Real friendship. Not the shallow crap you and your friends have. If one of your friends died, Mom, all you'd do is maybe shed a few tears, then start gathering new friends to get together with on the weekend. Me, my friends, we have bonds that you can't even begin to imagine. And I think I'm going to go be with them right now. We need each other."
With a glance that spoke volumes of contempt, Ashley drew herself up and headed out. She didn't want to spend another moment near her mom right then. Wonder if Cassie's feeling up to company. I think we should all get together. . .we have a lot of talking to do. . .and a lot of being together.
Cassie Chan was quietly turning through the photo album on her lap. She barely noticed the quiet licking of her dog Jetson, except to shove him away absently with a pat on the head. She stopped her browsing to stare at a picture momentarily.
That was the first time we talked. . .after we got our powers, she remembered. The five of them looked so nervous around each other, and why shouldn't they? Plucked each from their normal lives, from the usual way things had went for each of them, thrust together as a team, they suddenly had to depend on each other for their very lives.
Carlos had been a soccer player. Ashley had been a wanna-be designer and a cheerleader. T.J. had wanted to be a ballplayer. And she'd wanted to sing. For a moment, she did wonder if she would ever reach Stone Canyon. Then she knew it didn't matter. After she'd been chosen as a Ranger, she'd gotten back in touch with her slightly estranged family and they had joined her in Angel Grove, once she'd stressed she had absolutley no intentions of going anywhere else.
She turned back to the photo, taking a long look at it. In just a few short weeks, things had changed so much. In this photograph, she looked startled. Carlos looked excited. Ashley looked in complete shock. Justin looked worried. And T.J. . .he looked concerned. Responsible. Just like he'd looked when he was saving Tommy, his predecessor, from that trap of Divatox's. When she'd first met him, only hours before they had become Rangers. She sighed.
"If I had known then, what I know now," she whispered to Jetson. "I wouldn't have changed a thing. I didn't want to be a Ranger when I met T.J. But now that I know him. . .and all the others. ..I wouldn't want to not have that friendship."
She sighed deeply, then almost jumped out of her skin as the phone rang. A moment later, her dad's voice rang up the stairs. "Cassie! It's for you!"
"Got it!" she called out, picking up the pink phone beside her bed. A week after accepting the Pink Turbo powers, she had redecorated her entire bedroom in varying shades of pink, and found she liked the color far more than she'd ever imagined possible. It had to have something to do with being the Pink Ranger, she'd figured. It didn't really seem to matter right now, though. "Hello?"
"Cassie?" it was Ashley on the other end. "Cassie, can I come over?"
Cassie frowned; she could hear the sound of cars and trucks riding in the background over the phone. "Sure," she said. "I think we could both use someone to talk to. Where are you; it doesn't sound like your house."
A sigh. "It's not. I sort of told Mom to shove it and left for a while."
"I see," Cassie nodded, even knowing that she couldn't be seen over the phone. "Sure, come on over. I think we've both cried alone enough the last two days."
"Yeah," Ashley sighed. "And the funeral is tomorrow. I wish we had a body, at least."
"Same here," Cassie replied. "That crash destroyed the car completely. Nothing left, just a lot of burning debris."
She could almost hear her fellow Ranger shiver. "I know. Look, I'll be over in a few minutes; I stopped off at a pay phone to give you a call."
"I'll see you when you get here, then. If you see any of the others, let them know that they're welcome too. We all need to be together now," Cassie bid farewell to her friend and hung up. Jetson pushed his head under her hand again, and Cassie buried her face in his soft fur. "Oh, Jetson," she whispered. "Why did T.J. have to die?"
But the dog had no answers for his grieving mistress.
In the Little Angels Shelter, Justin Stewart lay on his bed, his face buried in the pillow. He shed no tears. All his tears had been wept the day his mother had died so many years earlier. Now, he was just a stone. So he'd lost someone else he cared about. What did that mean? Nothing. People died all the time. It was the way of the universe. You were born, you lived, and you died, and you never had time to say good-bye. It just didn't work that way.
"Justin?" he glanced up to see Carlos standing in the door to his small room. "Mind if I come in?"
The Blue Ranger sat up, shaking his head. "Be my guest," he said dully. "How have you been doing?"
"Kind of hard to say," Carlos sat in the room's only chair. "I've never had someone close to me die before."
Justin nodded. "I have," he said unnecessarily. "You learn to deal with it."
Silence fell between the two of them at that. They simply sat there, each deep in thought. Justin thought about how T.J. had taught him a few moves he'd never known, and how he had returned the favor to the Red Ranger. T.J. had saved him when Divatox had captured him and Storm Blaster. He'd been his friend; had made certain that no one bothered the young boy for being the youngest sophomore Angel Grove High had ever known, just like Tommy had before him.
I wonder if Tommy knows about this, he wondered. The former Ranger would be devestated, he knew. Tommy and T.J. might not have known each other very well or very long, but Justin could sense a sort of kinship between the two of them. Tommy was currently on the racing circuit with his uncle, and way out of reach. I'll have to let him know when I get the chance, Justin decided. He should know that the guy he picked as Red Ranger is dead.
He paused and paled for a moment. We're going to need a new Red Ranger.
Carlos managed to get Justin out of the Shelter and walking. He wanted to go talk with the others about what was going on,and he'd had more than enough of being alone the past few days. Justin needed to be with them too, no matter what he thought.
I never would have thought that any of us would die, the young Green Ranger sighed as the two of them walked towards Cassie's. He knew Ashley's mom's attitude, and knew she'd probably be giving his friend a hard time over the death of someone she'd hardly known. At least hardly by her standards. I figure once you've saved someone's life as often as we've saved each other's, you qualify as far more than just friends.
"Carlos?" he glanced down to Justin. "You know we're going to need someone else on the team now."
"I know," Carlos nodded. "I don't really want to think about that right now, though."
Justin walked next to him quietly for a few more minutes. Carlos' thoughts drifted firmly to the friend he'd never really thought he'd make when he'd been chosen as a Ranger. He'd known Ashley a little, but Justin had always just been 'that smart kid', and Teej and Cassie were complete strangers. They'd quickly formed the bonds, however, that were necessary to survival, and to friendship.
I miss him, Carlos realized. He was my best friend, and there could never be anyone else like him. He was one of a kind.
A crystalline tear danced it's way down the Green Ranger's cheek as he realized he would never look into those friendly eyes again. Would never hear T.J. shouting "Shift into Turbo" in that leader-voice he practically seemed born with again. Would never come into the Youth Center and see him on the practice mats, leaping and tumbling as he practiced his martial arts. Would never walk into Angel Grove High with him by his side, the two of them worrying over a test or trying to sneak a peek at the cheerleaders in their short skirts again. Would never help each other out with homework again.
I don't want to say good-bye, he realized. And I won't. Wherever people go when they die, I know you'll be happy there. Maybe I'll see you there someday.
He raised his eyes to the heavens and sighed. Be happy, Teej. And rest well.
"Wahoooo!!" the sounds of wild and reckless partying echoed all over Divatox's Subcraft. Rygog, Elgar, and Porto were celebrating, but no one was in a better mood than their queen herself. She danced around, her eyes blazing with glee and hate. "He's gone, he's gone! That stupid Red Ranger is goooonneee and I didn't even have to lift a finger!!"
"You're so cool, Auntie D!" Elgar rejoiced. "You can get rid of a Ranger without even getting rid of a Ranger!" he paused for a moment. "Uhh, did that make sense?"
Divatox pushed him out of the way as she partied and danced. "No, it didn't! Nothing you say makes sense! But I don't care! The Rangers are down by one, depressed and crying, and the Red Ranger is dead, dead, dead!!!!" she paused for a moment. "Call up all the other forces of evil and let them know that it was under my administration that the Red Turbo Ranger died!!"
"But, my queen, he died in a car accident!" Porto reminded her. "You had nothing to do with it!" as she turned her furious glowing eyes on him he shrank away. "I'll get started right away, m'lady!"
As Porto scampered off, Divatox took her throne, a cold and wicked smile on her face. She polished her nails quietly and smoothly. Such a perfect time to attack. The Rangers are going to be off-guard, they won't be able to form the Turbo MegaZord, and if I strike at the right time and place, I should be able to destroy all four of them! All four. ..I like the sound of that.. .I like the sound of that a LOT!!!!
She laughed. "One down," she purred. "Four to go."
"Carlos? Justin?" Ashley looked as she came up to Cassie's front door and saw her friends walking up the road towards her. "Are you guys...." she stopped, not really sure how to frame the question. They seemed to understand without her having to say it, though.
"Yeah," Carlos nodded. "You're getting the same feeling I am, aren't you? That we don't need to be alone."
Justin said softly, "We stopped being alone the day we became Rangers. Whether we wanted it or not, we became a family that day. That's what being Rangers means. More than just fighting to save the world. We're brothers and sisters. We're family. We belong to each other."
"You're right," they looked up to see Cassie standing in the doorway. She quietly motioned them inside, hugging each one briefly as they passed her. "Come on, guys," she said softly. "Let's go to my room."
The four of them slowly trooped up to the pink-draped chamber that somehow seemed to be in black even though it wasn't. Maybe it had something to do with the mourning that shadowed their hearts. Everything was shadowy and sad to them. Cassie sat down on the bed while Justin and Carlos curled up on the floor and Ashley took possession of the single chair.
Everyone sort of looked at everyone else. Carlos began. "We were going to be having a sleepover. He told me about it. He was going to invite all of you. Sort of just as a way to get together, to just be friends."
"I heard," Justin nodded. "He went out to get supplies, food and drinks and stuff. And. . .dr. . .drunk driver," he stuttered over the words, then managed to get control of himself. "Hit him."
Carlos put his arms around the youngest Ranger and held him comfortingly for a moment. Justin shook for a couple of moments, then shook his head and straightened up. "I'm okay," he said firmly. "Thanks, Carlos."
"Anytime," he nodded.
Long hours passed that day as they talked over what they knew of their friend. They remembered the fright they'd all had that first time they'd fought as the Rangers together, each terrified that they'd mess something up. T.J., Cassie, Ashley, and Carlos had been scared because this was their first time fighting. Justin had been terrified because he, for the first time in his Rangering career, was the most experienced Ranger. He chuckled a little now as he remembered how he'd had to correct Cassie's morphing stance, just as Tommy had once corrected his own.
"T.J. got it right off," Cassie remembered. "He always seemed to know just what to do."
Ashley sighed, closing her eyes in thought. "If only he'd known what not to do this time, though. Not to leave at just that time. I hate that driver. I wish he was alive again. . .so I could kill him!" her voice was harsh with grief and hate, and Carlos moved to hold her gently as she sobbed against him.
Even Justin's eyes were damp as he and Cassie moved closer to their friends. Together, the four of them wept out their grief, being with each other as they needed to be this time.
Alpha Six was quietly moving back and forth in the Power Chamber. He and Dimitria were both silent, both mourning for the young man they had known so briefly. Dimitria considered all these Rangers her children, just as Zordon had before her. Their predecessors had chosen them, but she had approved their decision and had cared for the new Rangers as she had the old. To lose one broke the ancient one's heart.
But even now she was thinking of business. She couldn't afford to do any less with Divatox around. "Alpha," she said quietly. "Please summon the Rangers. Even in this time of mourning, we must recall what we are here for."
"Yah, Dimitria," the robot's usual demeanor was muted as he quietly sent out the call to the Rangers. A moment later, four columns of light appeared in the Power Chamber. Both of them felt a hideous pang at the loss of the red.
"What is it?" Carlos asked quietly. All of them bore the signs of weeping, and they could all see the slightly red eyes under Dimitria's veil. She, too, mourned T.J.'s loss.
The sorceress closed her eyes for a moment, then opened them, looking at the Rangers. "We must choose a new Red Ranger, my friends," she said softly. "As much as it pains us all, we are still all that stands between Divatox and the destruction of this Earth. And we must have a full team for that."
"Who should it be?" Justin asked quietly. "Does anyone know any good martial artists?"
As they began to discuss people they knew, trying to bury their grief, Dimitria sighed deeply and silently. Fly well, young warrior, and join the spirits of the honored dead. You fell by accident, not in battle as you should have. May the gods of my people and your own watch over you, and be with you for all time, Thomas Jason Edwards, T.J., the Red Turbo Ranger. I am very proud of you.
Sadness and evil joy mixed in the air over Angel Grove. A sense of mourning and sadness unparalleled in that strange town's history hung everywhere where living beings were. On a section of lonely seaside road, there was a streak of rubber, as of where someone had been forced off the road and off a cliff.
On the other side of the road, the woods went thick and deep and wild. Had someone checked there, far deeper than they had, they might have seen something very odd. Something that might have lifted the sorrow over the city.
The imprint of a body on the ground in a clearing. Footprints, those of a barefoot woman, led away from the clearing. They led to a small, tidy cottage. Inside, a young woman was quietly tending to a young dark-skinned man she had found. He was covered only by a blanket, and the remains of his blue jeans and tattered red shirt were cleaned and folded neatly to one side. Slowly, his eyes opened.
"Uhhhhh," he whispered. She laid a hand on his arm.
"Quiet," she told him cautiously. "You were hurt somehow. I'll help you. What's your name?"
He blinked for a few moments. "I. . .I don't remember."
"I don't believe this!" Divatox's shriek was audible all over the Subcraft. "I don't believe this, this can't be happening!"
The partying monsters looked up. Ever since the death of the Red Ranger, there had been rejoicing on the ship, broken only now by their queen's furious howl. "What is it, your evilness?" Rygog asked, moving quickly out of her wrath-radius, just to be on the safe side.
"He's alive! He's alive!" she growled. "What does it take to get rid of one of those Rangers, what are they, immortal?"
The henchidiots exchanged confused glances; they'd all seen the wreckage of the car that T.J. had been in, there was no way he could survive that! "Are you certain, Your Majesty?" Porto asked, while Rygog wisely clapped a hand over Elgar's mouth as the idiot nephew almost opened his lips to speak.
"Of course I'm certain!" she screeched. "I'm always certain! Now take some Piranatrons and a monster and go destroy him! I want his head brought back on a stick!"
None of them paused long enough to hear anything else she might say, vanishing along with a pack of Piranatrons she had conjured up with her shout. They had no intentions of listening to her scream at them for delaying.
"You don't remember?" Lina, the young woman who had tended the stranger, frowned briefly. "You must have amnesia because of your accident."
He sat up, wincing at the pain in his head. "I guess," he shrugged. "I don't remember anything. . ."
"Well, that should make it a lot more fun to pound the daylights out of you!" a harsh voice cracked. They both looked up to see what could only be described as. ..
"Monsters!" Lina shrieked, backing against her patient and reaching for a long wooden staff in a corner. "Get out of my house! You're not welcome here!"
The one who looked like he was carrying a blue turtleshell on his back only laughed. "We're not going anywhere until we've got what we came for! Him!"
The young patient blinked slowly. His head was pounding as he tried to remember. . .but nothingness held his mind. . .his lips moved softly in words he did not understand, shaping thoughts he wasn't aware of.
If someone had read his lips, they would've said, "Shift into Turbo."
"What about Owen?" Carlos suggested his long-time friend. "I think he could be a good Ranger."
They had been discussing this for hours, but were no closer to finding a replacement than they had been when it had started. There was just no one around who could be a proper Red Ranger, no one who could take T.J.'s place on the team or in their hearts.
Discussion was ended, however, when the alarms rang out suddenly. "What's going on, Alpha?" Justin asked, wiping a few stray tears from his eyes.
"Yo-yo-yo!" Alpha Six muttered. "Piranatron attack in the woods!"
"In the woods!?" the four remaining Rangers stared at each other. "What could she want out there?" Carlos wondered.
Dimitria gestured briefly, and an image of where the Piranatrons and whatever they were attacking appeared on the viewscreen. As one, everyone in the Power Chamber stared. This couldn't be! He was dead!
The fight was raging still, not just in the young man's head, but in the room, as the Piranatrons tried to get past the guard of Lina, which seemed to be practically impossible. Her patient fought to remember words that sought to attack his mind even as the Piranatrons, Rygog, and Elgar were attacking Lina.
An innocent, he thought. I can't let her be hurt, I'm a . . .I'm a. . .he raised his head and watched distantly as a Piranatron slapped her legs out from under her and raised an arm to destroy her. . .and something snapped inside of him. With a perfect spinning crescent kick, he leaped off the bed and slammed into the Piranatron, knocking it halfway across the room. "Stay away from my friend!" he snapped. He barely knew her, he'd been awake only a few minutes, but she had saved his life.
"And just what are you going to do if we don't?" Elgar growled, raising his sword dangerously. "You don't even remember who you are!"
"No, but we do!" a sharp voice answered. Piranatrons, henchmorons, amnesiac, and healer all looked up to see four figures, clad in tight-fitting spandex in shades of green, blue, pink, and yellow come running towards them. The green one tossed something towards the injured young man. "T.J.! Shift into Turbo!"
As he heard the words, a memory flooded back to him, and he morphed swiftly. Once the red light had faded, other memories surged into his mind, and he looked down at himself. "I'm T.J.," he whispered. "I'm the Red Ranger." he jerked his head to look at the Piranatrons. "And you're history!"
After the battle, which had taken only a few moments once T.J. had gotten his memory back, the others gathered around him outside the house, clapping him on the back and holding him tightly in Cassie's case. "How'd you survive the crash?" Carlos wanted to know.
"Lina saved me," he said, smiling. "Come on, I have to tha---" his voice trailed off as he turned to look behind him. He took several deep breaths in shock.
The house was gone. There was no trace of it, or Lina, or anything to indicate they had ever been there. He turned back to the Rangers, who didn't appear to have paid any attention to him, and started back to Angel Grove. The memory of all that had happened was already draining out of them all, though none of them noticed it.
Nor would anyone else in Angel Grove notice when history was slightly altered so that the accident had never happened. Lina, Guardian of Time and healer of the mind, would see to it. She knew she would have to answer to the Higher Ones for her changes, but it was for the best. If T.J. had died in that crash and the memory of it and her had remained, then the timeline would have been thrown so far out of track not even she could fix it. For the greater good of the universe, she had done this.
But as she watched them live their lives, she sighed. One day, we might meet again, she thought. But for now, I have my duty.
And she returned to time.