..........Everyone rushed around the Power Chamber. Tanya looked sharply at Tommy. "Is everything ready yet?".........."Almost," the leader of the Power Rangers replied. "Zordon, is there anything else we need?" .........."The bride and groom would be nice," Adam jumped in before Zordon could reply. "Aren't they done yet?" .........."I'll check on Sheena," Kat left the room, then poked her head back in briefly. "Zordon, why do you have a wedding dress here, anyway?" ..........The large head looked sad for a moment. "IT IS, OR WAS, MY WIFE'S." ..........The Rangers stared at each other for a moment. "You were married?" they chorused. .........."IT WAS A LONG TIME AGO, EVEN BEFORE I MET SHEENA'S ANCESTOR KAHVA, AND LONG BEFORE MY BROTHER AND I FIRST THOUGHT OF FORMING A GROUP TO FIGHT EVIL. HER NAME WAS ELYSIA." ..........Zordon seemed to be looking away: perhaps into the past. Then he returned his attention to them. "BUT THAT IS DONE WITH RANGERS, AND WE HAVE A NEW WEDDING TO PREPARE FOR. IS BILLY READY?" .........."I'll go see," Adam volunteered. He went to the side room where Billy had went to get ready. BIlly had teleported briefly back to his house to get a suit, since Sheena flatly refused to marry him in the jeans and shirt he had been wearing. She herself hadn't been much better dressed, but then Zordon had produced a beautiful silvery-white wedding gown that had fit her perfectly, once Kat and Tanya did some restitching on it. ..........Billy was fastening his tie as Adam came into the room. "How are you feeling, Billy?" .........."Well, for someone who has been abducted, imprisoned, rescued, fallen in love, engaged, and is about to be married within the same twenty-four hour period, I'm doing fine," Billy looked a little foolish. "Is Sheena ready?" .........."Everything's almost ready. I think we just need you." .........."Ready, my foot," Tanya snapped from the doorway. "Sheena needs a bouquet. Does anyone know where any roses are? She wants roses." .........."Roses?" Billy and Adam looked at each other. .........."Roses," the Yellow Ranger said firmly. .........."I'll go find some," Billy headed for the Power Chamber. "Alpha, where's the nearest rose bush?" ..........The little robot, who wore a tie of his own to honor the occasion, checked the area with his equipment. "There is a wild rose bush fifty miles from here, at these co-ordinates. No one is there this time of year. You can teleport straight there." .........."Send me at once," Billy was glad to get away from the Power Chamber for a few minutes. He and Sheena had only been back for a few hours, during which they had mainly rushed around preparing for their wedding. He loved her, that was no problem. She loved him, also no problem. Their souls had touched. So why was he so upset and nervous? ..........It was the fact she was a Ranger and he wasn't. Not anymore. She would be going into danger every time Mondo sent a monster down to Earth. He might lose her... how had their ancestors dealt with this? ..........The answer was easy: they hadn't had to. Silias and Kahva hadn't admitted they loved each other until it was too late, and they had both been Rangers anyway. They had been in battle together, able to watch out for each other. All he would be able to do was watch on the Viewing Globe. .........."At once, Billy," was it possible Alpha was laughing at him? Was it his imagination, or was everyone just having too much of a good time at his expense? So he was only 18, he knew his heart, and Sheena knew hers. ..........Were they rushing into this? he wondered as he transported to the rose bush. He and Sheena had objectively known each other less than a day. She'd known him for years through the TV series in her homeworld... he'd known of her all his life through his dreams. But they'd only met the day before, when she'd been under the effects of Mondo's potion and had kidnapped him. ..........He still wondered why the Machine King had ordered her to take him. Sheena didn't know; she'd only carried out her orders. He wanted to talk to her about what it had been like under the potion's effects. There hadn't been time yet, though. Maybe later. He grinned as he materalized near the rosebush. "On our honeymoon," he whispered under his breath. ..........The bush had several rich white roses on it, which seemed the perfect complement to Sheena's status as the Silver Ranger. He'd already noticed she wore two silver rings, one on each hand. On her right there was a ruby, encircled by hearts, on her left, a moonstone with stars and crescent moons. ..........He meant to ask what they meant to her, since from the way she caressed them at times they seemed to be very prescious to her. ..........As he gathered the roses, he looked up and saw one on the very top of the bush. It was larger than the others, and almost glowed in the sunlight. He knew she'd love that and reached for it. Just as the stem broke and the flower fell into his hand, the ground beneath him shook. .........."Alpha! Zordon! Sheena!" he cried, then remembered. Sheena had broken his communicator when she had abducted him, and he hadn't had time to make a new one yet. The earth opened up and swallowed him. He fell for what seemed to be forever, losing all track of time, space, and awareness. ..........When he opened his eyes again, he was elsewhere. Where elsewhere, he didn't know. Shadows surrounded him as he got to his feet. Was this one of Mondo's traps? ..........You are safe here, Billy. The voice surprised him. It was clear and almost bell-like in tone. You have been brought here for a purpose. .........."Who are you?" ..........A friend. That is all you need to know for now. .........."Why did you bring me here?" ..........In ancient times, it was customary for a man about to be married to undergo a trial to determine if he were worthy of the woman he loved. This is doubly so for one who is to wed the Silver Ranger. The voice halted suddenly, as if it had meant to say more, but stopped in time. .........."Who are you?" Billy asked again. ..........A friend, the voice answered once more. There is a series of caverns to your left. The Power Chamber is on the other side. To succeed in your trial, you must reach it, overcoming all obstacles upon the way. .........."Why wasn't I just asked if I wanted this trial?" ..........You want to marry Sheena, don't you? the voice seemed almost smug. .........."Well, yes." ..........Then begin your trial, William Cranston, once the Blue Ranger, protected by the Wolf Spirit, guardian of the Power Chamber, and chosen love of Sheena Devereaux, the Silver Ranger. ..........Light filled the caverns, just enough to see by, but not enough to blind him. He glanced around, and noticed the last rose he had picked at his feet. It pulsated slightly, and he bent to pick it up. "For you, Sheena," he whispered. "Because I love you." He saw there was only one exit to the cavern, the one to the left the voice had told him of, and headed for it, the rose held between his fingers. ..........Just as he reached the exit, he felt a twinge of fear. What if this wasn't some test? What if this was a trap of Mondo's, to keep him from his wedding. The Machine King had been furious, to say the least, when Sheena had not only escaped his potion-induced control, but his palace as well, and had taken Billy with her. What wouldn't he do to get the Silver Ranger back under his control? Like kidnap her fiance? His blood ran cold for a second, and his fingers clenched tightly about the rose in his hand. He looked at it for a second. ..........It gleamed silvery, just like her costume, like the glint in her eyes, like the sparkle in her heart. He loved Sheena. Regardless of whether or not this was a trap, he'd go through with it... for her. For love. He stepped into the cavern ahead of him. ..........Where was he? The very second he'd passed into the cavern, a strange thick fog had surrounded him. The realization came crashing in on him that he was alone. The Rangers couldn't find him here. Zordon and Alpha wouldn't be able to locate him. Even their enemies couldn't get to him. That in itself should have comforted him, but instead he shook with fear. At least if he'd been captured by Mondo again, he knew Sheena would move heaven and earth to get him back... but if he vanished into the depths of this cavern, would she even know what had happened to him? ..........And what about Sheena? She'd been so strange since they'd gotten back, almost distant. What was going on with that? ..........Fear clawed at his heart. This fog was so thick, so enveloping! He could barely see an inch in front of his face. If he couldn't find his way through, what would happen to the Rangers? They needed his scientific expertise... or did they? They hadn't seemed to miss him too much when he'd went to Aquitar a few months earlier. They'd found someone else when they'd needed a brain. When he'd been on the way home from that trip, he'd almost wondered why he had bothered to come back. All he was to them was a liabiltity these days. Sheena had proven that when she'd so easily kidnapped him. ..........Sheena. She was like a warm spark in his heart, a glowing symbol of all that was alive and returning... after fifteen thousand years, her ancestor's power had returned just when it was needed the most, to someone who would make a splendid team member. Why couldn't it have been given to him? He had been a Ranger once. All she had to qualify her was that her ancestor had been one. ..........Well, what did he have to qualify him as one? So, his great-great-greatgrandfather had been one when Kim went back to the Wild West... what did that mean? So his ancestor Silias had been one of the first. Blood did not the Ranger make. ..........What did it matter? He had proven he was worthy, by hard work and fighting constantly. So would she. What did she have that made her worth it? She'd had the courage to deny Mondo power over her when she could have surrendered. She had fought well when the Cogs attacked, both in her apartment and in the Skybase. ..........He loved her. He could never forget that. That was why he was going to marry her. As that thought crossed his mind, more doubts assailed him. Were they doing the right thing in marrying so soon? Shouldn't they wait until they'd gotten rid of Mondo and all the other would-be dictators trying to conquer the Earth? ..........What if they never got rid of them? What if the Rangers were defeated? The thought of Sheena gone, of that light in her eyes and heart extinguished forever, stopped him in his tracks. Doubts began to fill his mind. ..........He saw something out of the corner of his eye. He looked fully at it and caught his breath. An image formed in the fog. It showed him and the other Rangers, back when Rita had been the only one threatening their world. ..........They were fighting the GooFish, and the others had been trapped by it's toxic spray. He, on the other hand, had been trapped only by his fear. ..........Something he now felt again. His fish phibia had returned, a thousand fold. He literally quaked with fear as he watched the GooFish taunt his friends. He knew how it had ended the first time: he had overcome his fear and broken the spell on him. But this was different. ..........The GooFish turned to Billy. "You're nothing but a coward! All this time, hiding your fears behind your brain! You would have never beaten me without help from Zordon! You're still a prisoner of fear!" ..........Billy stepped back. What was going on here? Panic overwhelmed him, and he turned to run. Before he'd gotten three paces, though he stopped cold in his tracks. Putties, Tengas, and Cogs were all around him. Goldar and Rito appeared, swords in hand. "Pathetic human!" Goldar snarled. .........."You couldn't beat us with the Power, you've got no chance to do it without," Rito agreed. ..........He stepped back, then remembered the GooFish was behind them, the embodiment of all that he feared. He held up his fists, the rose clenched ingrously in them. "Get away from me!" his voice shook. ..........Rito knocked him down easily, then all of them were converging on him. He fought back as best he could, but he was outnumbered and overmatched. Where were the others when he needed them? They'd always shown up when he was in trouble before. ..........Not always. He remembered when he'd been attacked by Sprocket's monster and Cogs weeks earlier. He'd defeated them with his mind, not his body. He had been afraid then, but he'd overcome it. He'd had to, just like he did now. ..........Fear. You must overcome all obstacles along the way. The strange voice had told him that. This had to be one of them. The monsters drew back and he stared at them. "Come on, give it your best shot," Rito sneered at him. ..........Billy laughed at him. He had his back to a wall, and was surrounded. It was a classic movie setup. If he'd been watching it, he would have bent double laughing. "Give it your best shot, Rito. I might not be able to take you all, but I'll go down fighting." ..........Then he was alone in the cavern. Everything had vanished, including the fog. ..........You have passed the trial of courage, Billy, and I congratulate you. Courage comes from not giving up, no matter what the odds. The voice sounded in his mind again, then was gone. ..........Now that he could see what was around him, he noticed there was an exit on the far side of the cavern. He glanced behind him, and swallowed suddenly. ..........There was nothing but a blank wall there. No tunnels, no openings. Nothing he could have come through. Nothing at all. ..........He headed for the far side of the cavern. When he went through, he turned around at once to see what happened. But somehow in that split second, the cavern had sealed behind him just as the other must have. ..........He turned back to the new cavern. He had figured out that each cavern would hold a test, but he also had no idea of how many tests there were. This could go on for quite a while. ..........Billy walked on for what seemed like forever. He couldn't see the other end of this cavern. He kept walking. If only there was some sort of short cut! He looked up, and saw what looked to be a cavern entrance. Had he reached the end so quickly? ..........As he drew closer, he saw that it was in fact, two exits. With little plaques attached to them, no less. "Why don't they just put up a sign saying "here is your next test?" he wondered. ..........He glanced at the plaques. One read "Power Chamber." The other read "Next Trial." ..........Like he had to think about this! He started for the one that said it led to the Power Chamber, then stopped. It couldn't be this easy, could it? ..........He listened to both caverns for a moment. ..........At the one that read "Next Trial" he could hear nothing. But when he went to the one that read "Power Chamber" he heard, "Where is Billy? Is he still getting my flowers?" ..........OUR READINGS INDICATE HE IS STILL WHERE HE WAS TELEPORTED TO. Zordon's voice boomed into his ears. HE SHOULD NOT BE MUCH LONGER. .........."I'm here," he called out loudly. "I'm being put through some sort of trial or test! I'm all right!" .........."Sheena, have you thought about Billy's parents? I don't think they're going to take you just appearing out of thin air and being his wife very well," that was Kat. .........."I've got an idea for that, but I want it to wait until after the wedding," Sheena replied. ..........Billy stepped back. This had to lead to the Power Chamber. The other corridor would cause him to continue his trials. He could be at his wedding in moments: or he could keep going. ..........He walked through the cavern that read "Next Trial". He had promised himself to go through these trials. He wouldn't cheat. ..........Once more, well done, Billy. You have passed the trial of honor. You would not take a shortcut to success. .........."Then that other cavern?" ..........Would have led you to the Power Chamber and your friends and beloved. But you chose to continue the trials: to keep your word. If one will not keep their word to themselves, then they will keep it to no one else. .........."What's the next trial? How many are there?" ..........You will know what it is when you reach it. As for how many there are: as many as there need to be, for you to earn your way. .........."But I already love Sheena!" ..........That, too, shall be tried. Now, go, and be strong, Billy. Light blinded him as he entered the next cavern, then music filled his ears. It took him a second to recognize was it was. .........."The Wedding March?" he murmured. "I'm sure I took the path to my next trial." ..........As his vision cleared, he realized he wasn't in the Power Chamber, but instead somewhere else altogether. It was a church! The pews were filled with people, who didn't seem to notice his strange appearance from nowhere. ..........The music swelled to a crescendo, and he saw a woman standing near the door. She wore a splendid wedding gown, and her eyes were fastened on the front of the church. A lovely smile graced her lips. He gasped. ..........It was Sheena! ..........He turned to look at the groom, and his heart fell so low it might as well have not existed. ..........It was Adam. ..........He watched in horror as Sheena approached. He saw the other Rangers standing near, and went to talk with them. "Tanya, what's going on here?" ..........Tanya didn't say anything, at least not to him. She leaned over to Kat, who stood next to her, and whispered, "Aren't you glad Sheena decided not to marry Billy? Adam is so much better for her." .........."Yes," Kat nodded. "Sheena was smart to realize that when Billy never came back. I wonder whatever happened to him." .........."He just vanished. He ran out on her," Jason whispered from near them. "It's just as well. We could never have defeated Mondo if he'd stuck around." .........."And now Sheena's marrying her true love: Adam," Tommy nodded briefly. ..........Billy stared as the two exchanged vows. As they kissed, he felt as if his heart had broken forever. "How could you do this to me?" he whispered. .........."I thought you loved me, Sheena. I thought you were my friend, Adam. I thought you were my best friend. I thought all of you were my friends." He felt like crying. Tears did begin to slip down his cheeks as he crumpled to the floor. How could Sheena and Adam do this to him? How could the others speak so cruelly of him? It wasn't in Jason's nature to say something like that...despair came close to overwhelming him. ..........Billy came to his feet suddenly. He shook his head. "Sheena loves me. I love her. The others are my friends. I don't doubt that. This is just another test: another lie! I believe in my friends, and in my love. The love Sheena has for me, and I have for her. But even if this were real, and she'd left me for Adam, or for anyone else: I'd want her and him to be happy. And if that happiness was with each other: then so be it. I want her to be happy more than I want her." ..........The church and all within it vanished. He saw something gleam out of the corner of his eye. It was the rose, which he'd stuck in the loop of his belt. It was glowing! He smiled softly, and kissed it gently. "I do love you, Sheena. Forever and always." ..........Congratulations, Billy. The voice he'd almost expected came again. True love is not selfish. True love gives, and in giving, grows. You have passed the test of love. .........."Now what's next?" Billy asked. ..........You continue your quest. .........."Who are you? And don't tell me a friend." ..........You will learn when you have completed your quest. Not until. ..........Billy saw he was back in a cavern, and there was an opening on the far side, as usual. This was a progression, he saw. These tests might vary in length, but he could see the logic behind each one. Each tested one emotion, one quality that he supposed the mate of a Ranger, or a Ranger, should have. ..........A Ranger? He considered the possibilty for a moment. No, there weren't any more powers to be given out. And even so, he wasn't sure if he wanted them. All he wanted now was to be done with these tests and go home and marry Sheena. He remembered something that had been said back at the trial of honor. His parents would be somewhat upset that he'd brought a wife home out of nowhere... but if Sheena weren't his wife, but his girlfriend...they'd have time to get used to it. An idea came to him just then, and he stored it away until afterwards. ..........Once more, the cavern sealed itself behind him. He turned to see what the next trial was; if there was any hint. And stopped where he was. ..........There were a number of paintings in front of him. Apparently this was one of those 'make the right choice' ones again. He examined the paintings. One was of Jason, Zack, Trini, Kim, and he himself. The second was of all of them, and Tommy. The third showed Kim, Tommy, Adam, Aishia, Rocky, and himself. The fourth had Kat, but no Kim, and the others were unchanged. The fifth showed the Alien Rangers. The sixth displayed the Earth Rangers, but with Tanya, not Aishia, and he wasn't there, either. The seventh had Tommy, Adam, Tanya, Rocky, Kat, and Jason, as did the eighth, only in this one, Sheena had joined them. In the ninth picture, he and Sheena stood together, hand in hand. ..........He stopped before the tenth painting: it showed he himself alone. He looked at that one for a time, then turned back to the one that showed Sheena with him. He had no hints of what this was supposed to test... nothing to help him... the others had been relatively easy, but here.... He confessed mentally to something very few had ever heard him say: he was stumped. ..........He noticed that there was one area cordoned off, with a velvet drapery over the wall like he'd seen in museums. He went over there and pulled the drapery back. He stared in wonder at it, then looked around. There were no other openings here anywhere. He wondered something. It seemed kind of silly, but that could be the way things worked here. He'd seen that the normal rules of physics he was used to didn't. ..........Billy caught his fingers on the edge of the last painting, and pulled himself up. Then he walked into it. He found himself in another cavern, which when he looked behind him, was just as featureless as all the others. ..........He smiled briefly as he remembered what the last picture had been of: what had made him choose it. It had shown all the Rangers, Jason, Trini, Zack, Kim, Tommy, Adam, Aishia, Rocky, Kat, Tanya, Sheena, the Alien Rangers, he himself, Zordon, and Alpha-5. ..........Wise decision, Billy. You showed loyalty to your friends: not just one particular group of them, but to all those who have earned your trust and love. Such is the trial of loyalty. .........."Thank you," he replied. The voice seemed quite pleased. "Are we almost done?" ..........You won't trick me that easily, Billy. It is safe to safe I am at least as intelligent as you. The voice seemed to be smiling .........."Are you me?" he had to ask. ..........No. You will learn, as I said, when the trials are complete. Continue with them, warrior. You are almost there. ..........The new cavern was quite small, only a dozen paces across. Leaning against the far wall was a huge boulder. Billy went over and tapped on it. It was quite real, and solid. No other openings, if this was even an opening, revealed themselves. .........."You know, you could give me some hints on what this test is supposed to be," he said aloud, hoping the voice would reply. Nothing happened, however, and he continued to stare at the boulder. It had to weight several hundred pounds, much more than he'd ever tried to lift before. But if there was no other way out.... ..........He tried to move it. The boulder responded about as much as it would have if he had never touched it. He pushed again, exerting more this time. ..........The boulder didn't move an inch. Finally, he stood back and looked hard at the boulder. He bent down and looked at the base and laughed. He could have pushed at that thing from then until the end of time, and it wouldn't have moved! It was part of the floor itself! ..........Then he stopped laughing. "How am I going to get out of here?" He began to examine the walls, ceiling, and floor, seeking any minute difference that would mean he'd found a path to escape. ..........After what had to be an hour of searching, he located a tiny crack in the wall. He dug his fingers into it, finding that it was larger than it looked. He pulled up with all his strength, so hard he fell on his rear. ..........The wall, or rather a door in the wall, had moved, revealing a large hole behind it. Billy got to his feet, and peered through. He'd never looked through on the openings; having only just went through them. "Nothing," he whispered. "There's nothing there." he looked behind him, then rushed ahead, just barely squeezing through the narrow opening. He heard the cavern collapse as he did so, and sighed a deep sigh of relief. ..........Then he heard the same rumbling sound he had heard moments earlier. A quick glance to the ceiling showed him that this cavern was going to fall too. ..........Always when he'd completed a trial or cavern, the strange voice had spoken to him, telling him the trial he'd gone through. He heard nothing now. Had he failed? Or was the trial not over? His thoughts were interupted by a small shower of pebbles from above, and he leaped to his feet. The only opening he saw was to the right. Out of habit now, he glanced to the other side, in case this was a choice-test, but all he saw were falling rocks. .........."Time to go," he muttered, and got moving. He headed straight for the opening, knowing he had to be setting a world's record for the hundred meter dash. As he ran, the cavern fell in behind him, and he ran even faster to avoid the rocks. He darted through the opening just as the last bit of the cavern collapsed. ..........He leaned against the wall as soon as it was a wall, trying to catch his breath. As he'd half-expected, the voice sounded in his mind. You are swift and strong, Billy, qualities to be expected in one such as you. You passed with flying colors the trial of strength of body and mind, and also the trial of speed, to escape the cavern's fall. But trials yet remain, and you must get to them. .........."Can't I rest, just for a second?" he almost whined, then slowly pulled himself to his feet. "I'm sorry. It's just that I'm tired." ..........I understand, believe me, though it has been long and long since I was capable of being tired. Take your rest for the moment, then continue the quest. ..........Billy chuckled at the voice's inadvertent rhyme, then leaned against the wall again. After a few moments of deep breathing and concentration, he felt his energies returning. .........."Now, what's next?" he wondered. He got back to his feet and looked around. There was no trace of an exit from this one, but that didn't seem too important. He knew when he passed the trial of this cavern, an exit would appear. ..........But what was the test? He started examining the area around him, but saw nothing. He spread out to the walls, but still nothing. Finally he stopped and sat down. He was getting very tired, and he knew Sheena and the others had to be worried about him by now. He had been gone well over an hour already, and who knew how much longer the rest of the trials would take? ..........He amused himself for a few minutes with thoughts of Sheena and how their lives together would be different than most couples. He was almost certain his parents had never had to worry about being called away from home to fight off impending alien monster attacks. ..........He glanced up, and kept on staring. He'd assumed this place had a solid roof, just as the others had... well, a roof anyway, remembering how the last caverns had collapsed in on themselves. This one didn't, and there was a ledge only a few hundred feet up. .........."I guess the opening's up there... it's not down here, anyway," he mused. He walked to the nearest wall and examined it for handholds. He was disappointed; the wall was just as smooth as an egg. He looked up at the ledge, and laughed. He went straight to the other wall, where the ledge was, and started climbing up the handholds he found there. .........."With luck, I should make it in time for our wedding," he grunted. "Our fiftieth wedding anniversary, that is," he grinned as he dragged himself up the cliff. When he reached the top, he searched for the exit. .........."I don't believe it," he stared across the cavern to a matching ledge: and to the opening he saw on the other side. The cavern had to be fifty feet across, at least. He might be able to jump it; there was certainly room enough for a running start. He thought quickly, and realized that was his only chance. He certainly had no intentions of giving up. ..........As he started to back up, he murmured, "I must find out who designed this course... so I can hurt them incredibly badly," he chuckled under his breath as he said this. It was getting on his nerves, though. ..........He ran even faster than he had before when getting out of the falling cavern. He saw the ledge coming up and jumped, powering it with all the strength he had. Billy soared across the cavern, and landed just barely on the other side. He teetered for a moment, losing his balance. He screamed as he fell into the depths. ..........A hand wrapped around his wrist and caught him. He felt himself being pulled up to the ledge, and dropped to his knees. He huddled there a second, trying to catch his breath. "Thank you," he said, not looking at the person who had saved him. .........."It was my pleasure, Billy. You passed the trial of wisdom admirably: by knowing not just where to look for the handholds to get up here, but to find a way over here, when no other presented itself," the voice was in his ears this time, but it was the same. He looked up into sapphire-blue eyes, and could just barely stop himself from staring. .........."Who are you?" he asked for the last time. "Don't you know me, grandson?" .........."Grandson?" he looked oddly at the man. "Excuse me, but I don't remember seeing you at the family reunion." .........."Considering I'm roughly 15,000 years old, I would be very surprised if I'd been there as well," the man didn't look much over thirty, if that much. "Don't you recoginze me?" ..........Billy looked harder at him, then started. "Silias! You're Silias! The Sapphire Ranger!" .........."Very good, Billy," the ancient Ranger smiled. "You have more than proven yourself worthy." .........."I'm glad," Billy was suddenly very tired. "Can I go to my wedding now?" .........."Not quite yet," Silias touched his shoulder. "You are courageous, honorable, loyal, strong, fast, and wise. You trusted in your love and in yourself and in your friends. These are all admirable qualities, but they are also more: they are the qualities of a Power Ranger." .........."I was a Ranger," Billy grunted. .........."And will be again," Silias smiled. "I have looked long for one to pass the Sapphire Powers to, and now I have found you: the one of my line, the one chosen to be the new Sapphire Ranger, as Sheena was to be the new Silver Ranger." .........."What do you mean?" A wild hope leaped up in his heart. .........."Just as I said: You are to be the new Sapphire Ranger. You earned the right when you passed the Trials." .........."You said those were to marry Sheena!" Billy was suddenly angry. "If I had known--" .........."You would have passed the trials with greed: not with love. That is the ultimate test, to pass without knowledge of what the trials truly mean. The test of faith: to do what is necessary, without giving up and without hope of the true reward. Tell me, if you had failed the trials, would you have married Sheena anyway?" .........."Of course!" he snapped. "I love her!" .........."Then you have truly succeeded," Silias smiled warmly. "Now it is time." .........."Time?" .........."Time for the ascension of the Sapphire Ranger," Silias held out his hands, and a gleaming dark blue crystal appeared in them. "It is your choice, Billy. You can choose not to, and I will wait for another. You know what it is to be a Ranger. You know the perils and the dangers. Choose, and choose wisely." ..........Billy stared at the crystal. Taking it meant taking on a responsibility he had willingly given up to take care of the Power Chamber and the Zords. He bit his lip. But it would also mean being with Sheena as she fought, making sure she was alright. ..........What was he thinking? She was the strongest Ranger, and could certainly survive without him to guard her. He didn't have to take the Power. Then he took a deep breath and made his decision. "I would be honored to be the Sapphire Ranger, Silias," he took up the crystal and felt the energy flow through him. It felt... it felt good to have the Power again. He'd forgotten what it was like! The crystal was absorbed into him, and he called out, "SAPPHIRE RANGER POWER!" ..........He saw a costume shimmer into being about himself. He knew he wore a helmet again, and unlatched it to examine it carefully. The design was that of his totem, the Wolf, only it seemed much fiercer and more powerful than his old one had been. .........."Your Zord is the Cave Wolf, primordial and powerful, silent and sure, wise and caring," Silias smiled softly. "Come. It's time for you to be married." .........."Silias... you are... dead, aren't you?" .........."Yes, I'm dead," Silias became transparent in the space between one heartbeat and the next. "When I died, I chose not to truly pass over, but to remain as a spirit, to be with Kahva and to wait, as she had, to pass my power to one I chose." .........."When you see Kahva... could you tell her... thank you for me? If it wasn't for her, I would never have found Sheena," Billy looked nervous. .........."I understand, Billy," Silias gestured, and a shining hole opened up in the air. "Step through. It leads to the Power Chamber." ..........Billy took a deep breath, then entered the hole. He found himself standing in the Power Chamber, looking right into Sheena's green eyes. She stared. "Billy? Is that you?" ..........SILIAS? YOU HAVE FOUND YOUR SUCCESSOR, THEN? Zordon smiled. I KNEW IT WOULD NOT BE LONG, WHEN BILLY CHOSE NOT TO TAKE A ZEO POWER, AND WHEN KAHVA APPEARED LATER TO CHOOSE HER OWN SUCCESSOR. .........."You knew he was still around?" Billy stared up at Zordon. "Why didn't you say anything?" ..........BECAUSE I DID NOT KNOW IF YOU WERE TRULY BEING CONSIDERED TO TAKE ON THE SAPPHIRE POWERS, AND BECAUSE SILIAS ASKED ME NOT TO, Zordon chuckled. BUT NOW YOU HAVE PASSED THE TRIALS, AND FULFILLED YOUR DESTINY TO BECOME THE EIGHTH AND FINAL POWER RANGER: THE SAPPHIRE RANGER. WELCOME BACK TO THE TEAM. .........."He never left it," Jason found his voice. All the others were staring in awe. ..........Silias cleared his throat, more for attention than anything else. "It's time for me to go," he said, already fading. "But one last thing... Sheena, hold out your hands." ..........Sheena did, and a moment later a bouquet of silver-white roses and sapphire-blue geraniums filled them. "Thank you," she blushed a touch. "Thank you very much." ..........Billy demorphed, and found that his suit was just as neat and clean as it had been when he started his quest. "Thanks for this, too, grandfather." .........."Silias will do nicely, Billy," the ghost began to fade. "We'll meet again... someday." ..........The eight Rangers looked at each other, then exchanged smiles as Silias vanished entirely. Sheena turned to Billy. "Are you ready to get married, or is there anything else you need to do first? Maybe save the world all by yourself this time?" .........."Nothing yet," Billy kissed her, then pulled away as Adam tapped his shoulder. .........."Billy, that part comes later. Shall we get this started?" ..........They arranged themselves before Zordon, who looked benevolently down on them. IT HAS BEEN MANY EONS SINCE I LAST UNITED TWO BEINGS IN MARRIAGE. BILLY, SHEENA, YOU HAVE PROVEN YOUR LOVE FOR EACH OTHER ALREADY. WILL YOU CONTINUE THAT LOVE FOREVER, HELPING EACH OTHER TO GROW, TO LEARN, AND TO BE STRONG? .........."I will," Sheena promised. .........."I will," Billy echoed. ..........WILL YOU CARE FOR EACH OTHER ALWAYS AND FOREVER, UNTIL THE VERY END OF TIME AND BEYOND? .........."I will," Sheena and Billy spoke together this time. ..........WILL YOU STAND TOGETHER, AGAINST ALL THAT MIGHT TRY TO TEAR YOU APART, AND SEEK YOUR HAPPINESS UNITED, FOR ALL TIME? .........."Always and forever," Billy nodded. .........."For eternity." ..........THEN I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU UNITED IN MARRIAGE, HUSBAND AND WIFE, FOREVER AND ALWAYS, Zordon announced. ..........Everyone cheered and crowded around, clapping Billy on the back, hugging Sheena, and just generally doing what people do at weddings. Finally, someone asked Billy what he was going to do about his parents. "I'm going to introduce Sheena to them as my girlfriend," he explained the idea that had occured to him in the caverns. "We'll let them get to know you, and get used to the idea of you being around. Then, in a few months, we can broach the idea of marriage to them, and have a second wedding: one everyone can attend." .........."How does a year from today sound? Then we can celebrate every year on the same day, and not confuse people," Sheena suggested. .........."Sounds good," Billy nodded. Then he pulled her close to him for another kiss. "Zordon, Alpha, do you suppose you could teleport us somewhere nice for a first honeymoon?" .........."How does Hawaii sound? I know a nice island no one will bother you on," Alpha suggested. .........."Excellent idea," Sheena nodded. "But before we go, Billy, you should do something." .........."What?" .........."Make a pair of communicators for us. We'll need to know if Mondo attacks while we're away." ..........Billy agreed, and after another kiss, got to work. "After all, we might be married, but first and foremost, we're...." ..........He held out his hand, and the others piled theirs on it quickly, knowing what he wanted. "POWER RANGERS!"