He felt a stab in his heart, almost like fear, at that. They were the Power Rangers. T.J., Cassie, Ashley, and Carlos. He wasn't, not anymore. With the destruction of the Power Chamber and the fall of Eltar to the forces of evil, the Turbo powers had been lost.
Justin shook his head suddenly. I've got to get past this. I'm sure the others felt like this when they lost their powers. I'll get over it, I've got my dad now, and things are going to be all right. They'll rescue Zordon and come back, and everything will be just fine.
Somehow, something inside of him told him that things were not going to be fine. As he turned away from the launch field and started home, he felt a distinct unease. He couldn't explain it, couldn't begin to understand where it came from.
"Things are going to be fine," he repeated to himself out loud. "And I've got to go talk to my dad."
Without another word, to himself or anyone else, Justin Stewart, the former Blue Turbo Ranger, headed home.
"Justin, are you all right?" Dean Stewart asked concernedly. For the past few weeks, his son had been almost constantly depressed. Ever since his friends all vanished. No one's seen hide or hair of them. . . "Justin!" he almost yelled when his son hadn't even so much as looked up from his bowl of cereal.
"What? Oh, sorry, dad, I was thinking about something else," Justin pushed his bowl away and got to his feet. And yet another week without them begins. I haven't even been able to find any of the others, it's almost like all the other former Rangers dropped off the face of the Earth!
Dean looked at his son, a slight frown creasing his face. "Justin, is there anything you want to . . .talk about?" he asked finally. "You know I'm here for you, son."
He shook his head. "Thanks, dad, I just sort of want to be alone right now. I'm going to hang out at the park for a while, I'll be home for lunch."
Mr. Stewart nodded. "All right. Maybe we can work out some later?" he suggested hopefully; it had been a while since they had practiced their martial arts together. Justin shook his head though.
"Sorry, dad, I'm just not in the mood," was all he said as he went to his room to grab his shoes. And I haven't been in the mood for training ever since I saw the spaceship blast off. And I don't have anything to fight for anymore. I doubt I ever will again.
Dean Stewart watched, fear and nervousness in his eyes, as Justin headed out to the park. "I wish you trusted me enough to tell me what's going on, Justin. But find someone to talk to. Please. You're hurting somehow, and you won't let me help you. Let someone else. Please."
"Hard to believe it's only two days until Christmas," Rocky DeSantos leaned back against a tree and stared up at the clear blue sky. His back still gave him a twinge or two every now and then, but it was nothing he couldn't handle.
"I know," Billy Cranston was on the other side of the tree. "I thought I'd be spending this Christmas on Aquitar, you know."
Rocky nodded. "We all did. Why'd you leave?" he regretted his big mouth a moment later, when he could almost feel Billy tensing up. "You don't have to tell me if you don't want to," he added quickly. Though all the former Rangers had been glad to see him back on Earth, none of them had possessed the nerve to ask him just why he had returned.
Billy sighed a little. "It's nothing much to tell, not really," he said after a pause. "Cestria and I realized that we really are just friends. What we'd both mistaken for love was just. . .gratitude on my part, and sympathy on hers. So I came back."
His friend glanced over at him, having the sudden and strange feeling that there was more to it than Billy was saying. I'm not going to press him for details, though. Anything he wants to tell us, he'll tell us in his own good time. "So, got any plans for the holidays?" he asked finally.
"Not really," Billy shook his head, then frowned a little. "Woah, he looks depressed!"
Rocky looked over. "Who?" his eyes widened a bit when he saw who Billy was looking at. "Woah, I don't believe it!"
"Who is it? A friend of yours?" Billy wondered. Rocky nodded.
Justin barely noticed where he was as he walked down a pathway in the park. The one thought that had been pounding ceaselessly into his mind was that he was alone now. He was alone. His dad didn't understand what he had lost, his friends were all gone, either into space, or so wrapped up in their own lives that they didn't even care what had happened to the Power Chamber or to the Rangers.
Wish I had someone to talk to. Someone, anyone. But there's no one who cares, no one I can tell everything to. My dad cares, but I can't tell him I used to be a Ranger, he'd give me a hard time about putting myself in danger! Wait, is someone calling my name?
He glanced up to see two older people coming towards him. His eyes widened as he recognized one of them. "Rocky?" he asked. "Is that you?"
The former Blue Zeo Ranger nodded. "It's me. You look really bummed out, what's the problem?"
Justin bit his lip, suddenly torn between not wanting to bother the young man with what had happened, and wanting to pour out his heart to a fellow former Ranger. Then he saw Rocky's friend, and clammed up quickly. "Nothing," he shook his head. The stranger looked somewhat friendly, but that didn't meant he could be trusted with the secrets of the Rangers.
Rocky glanced over at Billy, and figured out quickly what the problem was. "Justin, if there's anything wrong with the Rangers, then you can trust Billy here. Billy was the first Blue Ranger, and stayed on the team longer than just about anyone."
"This is Justin?" Billy said gently. "It's nice to meet you," he held out a hand, which Justin shook almost automatically. "Come on, let's go somewhere a bit more private."
Justin was quiet as he headed back with them to the tree they'd been talking under. Finally, he said softly, "I'm not a Ranger anymore. The Rangers don't exist anymore, at least not with the Turbo powers."
Billy and Rocky exchanged surprised glances. "What happened?" Rocky asked finally. Justin's lower lip quivered as he recounted the horrible tale of how Goldgoyle had destroyed both sets of Zords, of how the Piranatrons had invaded and destroyed the Power Chamber, then how the other Rangers had wound up leaving for Eltar with Alpha, seeking some way to free Zordon from Dark Spectre. Halfway through everything, he broke down into tears, tears he had held back for weeks.
"Oh, man," Rocky muttered as he held Justin's sobbing body. "I. . .the Power Chamber. . .Zordon. . .,"
Billy nodded, his own eyes shining with unshed tears. "The others will get him back," was all he said. He knew what was going through Rocky's mind: the same thing that was going through his. The destruction of the Command Center by Goldar and Rito, the countless Zords they'd both seen destroyed. . .
"I wish I had gone with them sometimes," Justin choked the words out in the end. "But then I think about my dad, and I don't. . .I just don't know!"
"You did the right thing, Justin," Rocky told him gently. "You did the right thing."
Billy nodded absently as he stared at the communicator Justin was still wearing. I wonder. . .I wonder. . .
"Are you sure this is the right thing to do?" Rocky asked as he and Billy walked towards the row of telephones. "I mean, Justin doesn't know half of these people!"
Billy nodded. "But we all have something in common: we all were Rangers. That's more important than anything, and he can get to know them. Besides, they all need to know about what he told us."
"Yeah, I guess you're right," Rocky relented. "Okay, who's calling who?"
"I'll take Jason, Kim, Trini, Zack, and Tommy," Billy decided. "You can handle Adam, Aisha, Kat, and Tanya."
"All right," Rocky stopped at a phone booth and pulled out a handful of quarters. "Hope they can all make it!"
Billy shrugged. "With the holidays coming up, they're sure to have some time off from work, school, depending on who you're talking to or about."
Rocky's only reply was a nod as he started to dial up his oldest friend, Adam Park. Less than a foot away, Billy was phoning up someone he hadn't seen in almost six months: Jason Lee.
For almost two hours the two of them were on the phone lines, calling places all over the world. They didn't go into specifics on what had happened or why they were suddenly calling out of the blue, but they did make it very clear that the only excuse either would accept for not showing up at Billy's garage on Christmas morning would be death or dismemberment, and even that would be frowned upon.
After obtaining the final agreement to be there, Rocky and Billy exchanged tired glances. "I can't believe we actually did that!" Billy giggled. "Do you realize that this is going to be the first time that all the retired Rangers are going to be together at the same place at the same time?"
Rocky nodded. "It's going to be one heck of a party! And I hope Justin'll feel better once it's done."
"So do I," Billy didn't mention the almost sense of kinship he'd felt for Justin. It was something to do with being a former Ranger, for being too intelligent for his age, and something else, something he really couldn't put his finger on. I just like him. He's a nice kid. And I do hope this works out. I really do.
"Dad?" Justin called out as he entered the house. For some reason, after talking to Billy and Rocky, he felt so much better. He almost felt alive again, strange as it seemed. "Dad, are you here?"
"I'm here, Justin," Dean came out of his study. "What is it?"
The thirteen-year-old scuffled his feet a little. "I was wondering, would you. . .like to do some sparring?" It's been so long since we trained together, I hope I'm still up to this!
"Are you sure?" Mr. Stewart stared at his son, feeling a strange and unexpected joy welling up in his heart. "I mean, it's been a while! I don't know if I can keep up with you, anymore!"
Justin smiled, the first real smile he'd had in weeks. "Only one way to find out!"
"Guess so!" Dean grinned. "Where do you want to spar at? The backyard?
"Sounds like a plan!" Justin was already on his way back there. "Oh, dad, I ran into a couple of old friends at the park. They're going to be having a little get together on Christmas morning, I was thinking about going, after we've hung out for a little while."
His dad nodded. "Have a good time!" Whoever these friends are, they've certainly caused a welcome change in Justin! He's acting more like his old self than he has in almost a month! "Could I meet them first, though? Maybe they can come by tonight or tomorrow?"
"Sure!" Justin felt the scrap of paper in his pocket; both Rocky and Billy had given him their phone numbers. We Blue Rangers have to stick together! Billy had told him, and he had felt an instant kinship to both. It was hard to describe, maybe it shouldn't even be described. But he knew he had found true friends in them both.
It was good to have friends again, Justin decided.
The next day, Rocky and Billy arrived at the Stewart house almost with the sun. "Good morning, Mr. Stewart," Billy said politely as he opened the door. "I'm Billy Cranston, and this is Rocky DeSantos, we're Justin's friends."
Dean smiled. "Nice to meet you two," he said, letting them in. "Care to join us for breakfast?"
"Oh, yeah!" Rocky grinned; his appetite hadn't been diminished in the slightest since he'd given up his powers. Billy chuckled as they headed for the kitchen, to be greeted by the sight of Justin casually cooking some eggs.
"I didn't know you could cook!" Rocky blurted out before he could stop himself. Justin smiled.
"I know you didn't," he said. "My mom taught me how," there was a slight trace of sadness as he spoke, one that faded as his dad clapped him on the shoulder.
"You're a fine cook," he told his son. "And I think you'd better put a few more eggs on, I think Rocky's hungry!"
Billy laughed. "Rocky's always hungry, Mr. Stewart, you should know that!" he warned the older man.
"Call me Dean," Justin's father had warmed to the two young men at once. They seemed a little old to be Justin's friends, but it was obvious the three of them got along very well. They even were dressing alike it seemed, all wearing various shades of blue!
After breakfast, everyone pitched in to wash up, then headed for the backyard, once Justin had let it spill that Rocky and Billy were both into martial arts as well. "You're good!" Dean declared to Rocky after the two of them had sparred each other almost to a standstill. "I've really enjoyed this match!"
"So have I," Rocky nodded. "Hey, look at that!" he glanced over to where Billy and Justin were still sparring; and didn't look to be stopping anytime soon. Dean grinned.
"I'm glad Justin ran into you guys," he told Rocky. "How did you meet him, anyway?"
Rocky wasn't too sure if he wanted to answer this; he didn't know how Mr. Stewart would react. Finally, he just said it. "I met him when he was still staying at the orphanage, and Billy was with me when I ran into him at the park yesterday."
Dean nodded, regret in his eyes. "Leaving him there was one of the worst mistakes I ever made. I'm just glad I was finally able to get back here, and get a job so I don't have to keep wandering over the country!" he sighed a little. "I can stay here with my son."
There was silence between them for a few minutes, broken finally when Rocky said, "Justin's glad you're back too. He really missed you."
"I know," Dean nodded. "But I'm not going anywhere anymore," he took a deep breath, and smiled. "So, what's this little get together you and Billy are planning?"
"Nothing much," Rocky demurred. "Just a few old, dear friends getting back together for the holidays," who all happen to have been Rangers at some point in their lives.
"Hurry up, Rocky, they're going to be here any second!" Billy yelled as he ran around the garage pulling off the last minute party details. "And where did you put the mistletoe?"
"Over every door I could find!" Rocky laughed as he put down bowls of snacks and set out plastic cups. "And all the presents are under the tree. You know, for a party we planned in two days, this is going to be a blast!"
Billy nodded. "Who's going to go pick up Justin?"
"Me!" Rocky bounced around so much, Billy had to stop and look at him. "You're going to be picking everyone up at the airport, remember?"
"You've had a Jolt this morning, haven't you?"
Rocky giggled madly, jumping all over the garage and putting things up at nearly warp speed. "What makes you think that?"
"Oh, just a hunch," Billy said dryly as he checked everything one last time.
"Where are they all coming from?" Rocky wondered, almost doing cartwheels as the Jolt ran through his system faster and faster.
Billy pulled a list out of his back pocket. "Jason and Kim are flying in from Florida together," he recited. It seemed after the adventure on Murianthus, those two had decided to remain together for a while. "Kat is flying in from England, and Aisha from Africa," he shook his head a bit over that one. Somehow when the Zeo Crystal had altered history, Aisha had been in modern Africa when things returned to normal. "Zack and Trini are coming in from Switzerland," he continued. His heart jumped a bit at the thought of seeing Trini again; then like he always had, he pushed it back down. "Tommy and Adam are still in Angel Grove, and so is Tanya."
"Cool!" Rocky bounced around a bit more, then headed for the door. "I'm going to get Justin! Party time!"
Billy chuckled, then glanced at the list again. "Oh, man, Jason and Kim's plane is landing in twenty minutes, I'd better get to the airport!"
Five minutes later, two cars left the Cranston garage. One headed for the Stewart residence, while the other roared as fast as was legally permissible to the Angel Grove airport. Billy dodged around the terminal, looking for his friends, and finally spied them picking up their luggage.
"Jason! Kim!" he yelled, almost breaking a leg as he jumped over a couple of suitcases that were in the way.
"Billy!" Kim smiled as she heard her name called and turned around. "Hey there!"
Jason grinned and caught Billy up in a strong welcoming hug. "Hey, man, good to see you!" he declared. "We've missed you!"
"Same here!" Billy grinned. "Things just haven't been the same!"
Kim chuckled; Billy wasn't surprised to see she still wore pink, and Jason still wore plenty of red in his outfit. Guess being Red Ranger stuck to him more than Gold. Don't blame him, either. Nothing like blue for me! Her eyes widened suddenly as she saw something, or rather someone, behind him. "Kat?"
The boys turned to see the second Pink Ranger coming up behind them, luggage in tow, and right behind her was Aisha! It didn't take long before a full-scale reunion was in swing there in the middle of the airport.
Justin glanced outside the window as he heard a car pull up. "Dad, Rocky's here!" he called out, heading for the door.
"Okay, son!" Dean Stewart was deeply involved in one of the new toys he'd picked up for his son for Christmas: a computer. Justin grinned; he might've minded before, and he sort of did now, but he really didn't want to miss out on the get-together with Rocky and Billy. He had an idea they were going to invite a couple of others, and wondered who they were. Maybe Tommy and Adam, they're still in Angel Grove, I think. I don't know about the others.
"See you later, Dad!" Justin went over to see what his dad was up to, expecting some sort of deep, involved computer program, and chuckled under his breath.
"Bye, Justin!" Dean grinned as he glanced up from what he was doing, a light blush staining his cheeks. Justin smiled and headed out to where Rocky was practically standing on the car horn and bouncing around.
Too much Jolt, Justin diagnosed at once. "Hey, Rocky! Merry Christmas!"
"Merry Christmas!" Rocky returned. "Strap yourself in, the Rocky Express is boarding for Billy's garage and all points west!"
"Umm, are you sure you should be driving?" Justin wondered. "You are sort of wired."
Rocky giggled and sobered down almost at lightspeed. "No, I'm fine," he said. "Jolt doesn't affect me that badly. I like to make people think it does, though!"
As they headed for Billy's garage, Justin found himself realizing that there was a lot more to Rocky than he'd ever originally thought.
"Merry Christmas!" was heard echoing over and over in the garage. The reunion at the airport had finally broken up, shortly before security had started to descend on them to ask that everyone leave for blocking airport traffic. It had taken a couple of hours, but finally the entire Power Ranger family, excepting only Justin and Rocky, was gathered in Billy's garage.
"Okay, okay, everyone, calm down, please!" Billy tried to establish some form of order, to no avail. Finally, he took a deep breath and shouted, "SHUT UP!"
Instant silence reigned.
"Woah, Billy-man, you've got some lungs on you!" Zack said softly. They had never heard Billy yell before; it actually wasn't that big of a surprise.
"Sorry for that," he apologized, "but before we start the serious business of partying, it's time to tell you all the real reason Rocky and I called you all together."
Jason nodded. "So go on," he smiled a little, half-expecting it to be romantic in nature. What Billy said next was a shock to everyone's system.
"In a last battle with Divatox, the latest alien to try and take over Earth, the Power Chamber was destroyed, as were the Turbo Rangers powers. Zordon has been captured by Dark Spectre, and Eltar has fallen to evil forces," he said, tears welling up as he spoke. "Four of the Turbo Rangers and Alpha-6 are currently on their way to Eltar to do what they can there."
"Zordon? Captured?" Trini whispered. "How?"
"I don't know," Billy shook his head. "We just know that it happened."
"Four of the Turbo Rangers?" Adam sat up a little straighter. "Who didn't go?"
"Me," they looked up to see Rocky and Justin in the door. "I stayed behind to be with my dad."
Billy cleared his throat. "For those who don't know, this is Justin, the former Blue Turbo Ranger. He told us everything, and that's what got Rocky and me to bring you all together. I knew you'd all want to know, and I knew we should all be together. Even if we all didn't serve as Rangers at the same time, we share that bond, and we all knew and loved Zordon."
Aisha nodded slowly. "I wouldn't have wanted to go through the holidays not knowing about this," she said, without a trace of sarcasm. "I couldn't have lived with myself if I found out I'd been celebrating, and all this had been going on."
To greater or lesser degrees, everyone felt a good deal the same. Different personalities, different relationships with Zordon, different reasons for leaving the team, they all had that in common. They were a family, and family should be together during holiday and horror days.
Tommy sighed deeply. "I wish there was something we could do to help," he murmured.
"You and me both, bro," Jason nodded. "You and me both."
"Make that all of us," Zack looked around at everyone. "But there isn't."
Justin took a look around the room. Everyone here had known power loss, had known what it was to be a Ranger and to not be a Ranger. But they still went on, even now, when they had just received the darkest news of their lives. "Guys!" he said sharply. "There's nothing we can do to help Zordon, or the other Rangers up there in space now. But we're together, here, on Earth, and it's Christmas. Let's give them a gift, even if they don't know about it. Let's do everything in our power to make sure once they do get back, with Zordon free and this Dark Spectre guy's rump kicked all around the galaxy, they've got friends here waiting for them. Let's not lose our hope, or our faith, in them. They're Power Rangers, and they'll make it through." he took a deep breath. "Just like we will."
"He's right!" Tanya nodded. "And this is Christmas!" she then did something she'd wanted to do for months: grabbed the unsuspecting Adam by one arm, dragged him under the doorway where mistletoe still rested, and planted a warm and loving kiss on his lips.
"Let's celebrate our being alive!" Kim spoke up. "You know, I could almost pity Dark Spectre! He doesn't know what he's dealing with!"
Zack nodded, as the level of cheer in the room slowly began to rise. "He's gonna regret messing with the Power Rangers!"
"You know it!" Billy grinned as he started up the music. This was what he had hoped for most of all, that Justin would find the courage to go on. They really had all needed to be together for him to do it, though. There was just something about twelve people gathered together who were all sworn to serve the cause of right that just felt. . .right to him. Then Trini was pulling him out onto the dance floor, and all dark thoughts fled.
It was, after all, Christmas.
Later that night, once the party was winding down, Billy, Justin, and Rocky found themselves together outside. Billy glanced up the star-filled sky. "Somewhere up there, fellow Rangers are fighting to free Zordon, and an entire world. And to make sure the enemies there don't come here."
Justin nodded. "You know, just a few days ago, I was wishing I was with them."
"What about now?"
"Now?" Justin thought about Rocky's question. "Now I'm glad I stayed. I wouldn't have wanted to miss this party, or being with my dad, or meeting you guys, or any of this."
Billy smiled. "And we're glad we met you," he said. "You know. . .this could almost be a blue Christmas."
Justin frowned. "I thought blue Christmases were sad ones? And this one isn't, not for me, not anymore."
Rocky chuckled. "I know what he means. Billy was the Blue Morphin Ranger, I was the Blue Zeo Ranger, and you were the Blue Turbo Ranger. We were the ones who got this party together, who brought everyone together for Christmas. That's why it's a blue Christmas."
"Oh," Justin grinned. "Yeah, I guess it is a blue Christmas then."
The three of them looked up at the sky, knowing that somewhere up there, their brother and sister Rangers were doing what Rangers always did: serve and protect. From behind them they could hear the sounds of the party, muted as people were growing tired. "Good luck, guys," Justin whispered. "See you when you get home."