Title: "The End of the Age of Innocence"
This is the prequel to "Brave New World"
Written by: Shawn
Summary: Trini, Rocky, Tanya, and Aisha share their grief and personal regrets. Zack faces his worst nightmare. Tommy is comforted by a kindly stranger, while Kim tries to explain to their daughter what happened to the Earth.
Category: Drama in every sense of the word.
Timeline/Spoilers: Everything is canon up to the end of Power Rangers in Space. After that its all my Alternate Universe.
Characters: Tommy, Kimberly, Jason, Trini, Rocky, Adam, Zack, Billy, Aisha, Katherine, Tanya, and Justin.
Original Characters: Maria Scott. She's Italian, age 28, and married to Jason Lee Scott. Hope Bella Oliver, age 5, the daughter of Tommy and Kimberly Ann Hart-Oliver.
Disclaimer: Does anyone still read this, lol?
Authors Notes 1: This is the prequel to an upcoming Power Ranger novel entitled "Brave New World." Everything you'll need to know about what led up to this story is explained within. This is a very, very character driven piece.
Authors Notes 2: Things get pretty emotional here.
Authors Notes 3: All rangers ages are between 27 and 29.
Authors Notes 4: Super heroes and super hero teams have all been forced to face their moment of truth... the battle that defines them... that saves the day forever. But what happens if you face your greatest challenge and you don't win?
Nobody gets to live life backward. Look ahead, that is where your future lies.
-- Ann Landers
Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.
Alpha Ten Class Space Station
Friday, August 25, 2007 7:35 PM
Currently circling over what was once the
Four shot glasses rattled on the meta-steel floor to the tune of powerful twin Hyper-Ion engines roaring to life as the entire shuttle bay rumbled from end to end before settling down to a distant, barely audible hum.
Earth's orphans had begun their long, hard journey across the stars in search of their new home.
Trini, Rocky, Tanya, and Aisha were seated side-by-side, their backs against the broad hull of a metallic blue Valkyrie shuttle. One of fifty that was used to rescue the remaining eleven thousand, two hundred and twenty-five survivors of humanity. The massive shuttle bay was empty save for the five hovering repair droids ensuring all are in peak operating condition in case of emergency.
Having received their daily schedules from Katherine nearly an hour ago, the Rangers needed a break from the pleading eyes of those seeking hope and answers concerning the end of the world. Suffering their own private hell, if only they knew those who lived above them as super heroes were as crushed and deeply hurt as they were. And only moments ago Tommy had to have given the word to leave their home world behind forever.
All because in what was supposed to be the Rangers finest hour... their greatest victory... the unkind winds of fate cruelly turned against them at long last.
And now solace of their collective breathing afforded comfort in that at the very least they were together. After all they'd lived through in the past twenty-four hours that had to count for something.
"And away we go," Rocky softly remarked while refilling everyones shot glass with Tequila. Seated between the girls with a small plate consisting of lime wedges and salt, the Emerald Ranger grasped a lime wedge between his thumb and index finger. He licked the area between the two fingers holding the wedge, then sprinkled some salt on the space, licked it, knocked back the shot and then bit the lime.
"That's good Tequila," he noted with a wry grin. "It flares the nostrils and will probably put hair on your chests. Not that any of you would want that, but still," he attempted to jest in the way he had for years whenever the team needed an emotional pick-me-up. His trademark wit and sense of humor failed him as his voice fell flat. "Seems I'm all out of jokes. Anyone got anything funny to add? This funeral atmosphere sucks ass."
You could hear a pin drop. Literally.
"We're actually leaving Earth behind," Tanya heard herself utter oddly enough, her head resting back against the cool hull, eyes shut. "How did this
Trini fired back her Tequila shot, brushed another tear from her eyes before it fell and sighed. "In simple baseball terms, no one bats a thousand," she declared while stretching her sore neck. "Our luck ran out after all these years. The law of averages was against us. No one wins all the time. Not even the Power Rangers."
"Yeah, but how many losses come with over eight billion deaths? That's a lot of blood on our hands," Aisha thought out loud and then reached in her pocket to touch Adam's morpher. Her heart broke all over again as it felt stained still with his blood. Such suffering threatened to cripple an already weary spirit.
Tanya looked to her. "We could go over what happened for the rest of our lives, detailing everything we did wrong or could have done differently. But none of that will change our reality."
"We have to look forward, hard as that will be," Trini imparted before drinking another shot. The burn was a welcome sensation to the pain flaring her right shoulder. They were all adorned with dark bruises, various bandages, and bloody shuttle flight suits. But those were war memories worn on the outside. They revealed little of the terrible grief they suffered within.
Preparing to down another shot, Rocky commented in a tired sigh, "When I found Kayla's body in her car I threw up on the side of the street." Silence reigned around him as did compassionate hearts as he stared blankly at the floor, lost. He shook his head slowly. "She was so... broken," he strained to say without tears as he had none left to shed. "I couldn't do anything but take her body to her parents house. It was all I could think to do. But they were... everyone was dead."
Sharing his pain, Tanya added, "At the Santa Monica-UCLA-Medical Center Hospital I had five minutes to explain to seven doctors why they had to abandon their patients and co-workers so that we could save their families because we needed doctors so badly." Staring at the shot glass before her, she continued, her voice trembling, "I walked past the pediatric ward and some of the children screamed and yelled when they saw a Power Ranger." Her throat constricted painfully as the decisions of who lived and died rested in their individual hands. "I left them all behind."
"You had no choice, T." Trini assured her even as she knew the burden of their actions would haunt them the rest of their lies. "When I was flying over what was left of LA I couldn't get over how the entire city resembled a huge smoking crater," she began. "There were no standing buildings. None of the culture and vibe that was LA. Everything was burning. The smoke stretched for miles and was so dark and thick I could only save nine people. Three died on the way to the space station. One was a child," she finished as a lone tear descended her cheek, tapering off her jawline.
"My family is originally from Atlanta. They're good ole down south Baptist black people," Aisha managed a small smile. "My grandmother was far more religious than I ever was. She had such faith in God and the bible and all that. I think seeing epidemics in Africa the way I did after being a Ranger for so many years left me jaded about a higher power. But now that she's gone I want to see her faith rewarded. I just don't know where God is in all of this. I can't believe this is the way it ends."
"Maybe that's because this isn't the way its supposed to be," Rocky offered after another shot to dull his pain. "We have options and we'd better start thinking long and hard about them."
"We also better think about the fact that if we die who will protect the people who are still alive?" Trini countered in unspoken reference to the Sacrifice of the Ten. "I'd love a big fix-it scenario, but that might be to much to hope for. The reality is we are colonizing a new world with what's left of humanity. Rewinding everything that happened would take a miracle."
"My best friend and fiancée are dead," Rocky choked the foul words out. "Right about now I could use a miracle."
Trini was about to add something, but chose not too at the last moment. What was there to say at all? Her entire family were dead and she hadn't even begun to process what that meant. Not in any way as she's been operating on auto-pilot saving peoples lives while preparing the space station for its six month trek across the galaxy.
At least Maria had Jason to hold her during these trying times. Trini quickly pushed those dark thoughts aside. They had no place here and would only add to the heartbreak she felt.
"I really should of listened to Adam," Rocky sadly nodded, his fist clenched in his lap. His face winced sadly as he felt like he could barely breathe. "He told me I should have married Kayla two years ago, but oh no, not me. I had to be the cool single-guy bachelor who wanted the freedom to date any girl he met... Jesus, I wasted so much time. I was such a fool and now I'll never be able to make it up to Kayla." His eyes closed to ward off tears he was sure he had none left. Sadly, he was mistaken. "I miss her and Adam so much I just can't stand it."
Hearing of her oldest friend's deepest regrets stirred something in Aisha as well. "I should have spent more time with my family," she revealed as their beautiful faces came to her now, causing her to weep softly. "My parents both turned sixty this past year and I've been promising to go on a family vacation with them for years, but I never made time. I always put it off for something more important or some stupid reason. I took their lives for granted and now they're gone forever. I don't think I'll ever forgive myself."
"When my Dad cheated on my Mom two years ago I closed off all contact with him," Tanya revealed in a quiet tone, her eyes in some far off place. "I simply judged him and cut him out of my world. Never mind that he had been an amazing father to me my entire life. I took what he did to my mother as if he'd done it to me. I never forgave him or gave an inch. He tried time after time to talk to me and I just kept shutting him out. Now I can't ever make things right."
Veiled behind the curtain of her long dark hair, Trini wished away the regrets of her heart even as she needed to finally give them voice. "I was so sure Jason and I would end up together someday that I never fought for him the way that I should have. I love him so much..." her voice faded into
twilight. "I loved him when he was dating Violet and when he met Emily I was happy for him then. I just assumed that he and I would date around until we realized we loved each other more than we ever could anyone else. I just knew we'd have our day... And even when he met Maria I still felt she was not the one. I was finally ready to go after him when they broke up. I thought he'd follow his usual pattern of dating someone for a couple of months and then ending things before they got to serious."
Wiping hot tears away, Trini continued, "Maria was special. That's what he told me. He dated her longer than anyone he had before and then all of a sudden he proposed to her. I hugged him so hard that night he told me, and he told me first. Then I cried all night long for all the things I never said. I was a damn coward for so many years... But I held it all in when I was in front of him and even danced with him at his wedding. I thought that was the worst day of my life until now. And what's worse is that Maria is such a wonderful person. She deserves him and makes him happy. I'm just so jealous of her and I hate myself for that. I hate myself for not having fought for him when I should have. Now I'm more alone than I've ever been before."
"Do you think he still has feelings for you?" Aisha carefully asked.
Trini gave a somber shrug. "Sometimes when he looks at me and our eyes connect I can feel... but that gold band on his finger says something else."
Despite the painfully sad mood they were in, Rocky managed a small grin. "This feels like my eight year old birth party. Only minus the pinata, laughter, fun, party hats, Kool-Aid, and gifts." That actually elicited a chuckle or two. Somewhere in his heart he felt a touch of warmth. It was enough for
now. "This would be a great time to play Spin The Bottle. And this Jack Daniels will do just fine."
"The world ends and Rocky Desantos still wants to see two girls kiss," Aisha laughed and then rested her head on his shoulder. "I guess it would be better seeing it in person than on those movies you used to hide under your bed."
"I never owned those movies. I kept them for Adam. They were his stash."
"Liar!" Trini, Tanya, and Aisha all said at the same time.
"Those were my educational videos and magazines concerning female to female behavior. Yes, some of it might of been sexual in nature, but still."
Even in the midst of the worst tragedy in mankind's history they found something to smile about. Trini poured each of them another shot, finishing off the bottle. She was still bone tired and felt like she could sleep for a week, but duty called. For now she shared her inner pain and some laughs with her dearest friends. That would have to see them through the hard times ahead. She lifted her shot glass. "To friends, both who we've lost and who are still here."
"To Earth, our beautiful home," Tanya added.
"To all those that rest in peace," Aisha offered.
"So I take it we're not playing Spin the Bottle?" Rocky shrugged when they all rolled their eyes. "To us all being together. We're a rag tag group of multi-racial, bi-polar, fast food eating super heroes who fought the forces of evil for years in skintight spandex, but you're the best people I've ever known and I love you all."
They clinked glasses, knocked back their shots, and then began reminiscing on the good ole days.
Alpha Ten Class Space Station
Medical Bay 8
Friday, August 25, 2007 9:00 PM
2000 miles east of the moon
"It's nice to see you with hair again," Sheila Taylor said weakly to her son while lying in her hospital bed. Though her voice carried a soft tinge of regret to its tone, her spirit had never been stronger as she gazed upon her only child. Her son held her hand, seated beside the bed. "I remember that interesting box cut you had when you were a teenager. Then came the braids and after that you just cut it all off for a while. Its nice to see you looking so dignified and mature."
"You know me," Zack told her while tightening his hold on her trembling hand. "I'm always reinventing myself."
"Just don't dye it blond. None of that Dennis Rodman mess for my boy." Her attempt at lightening what was inevitable failed, though she had to try for her son's sake. The ethereal sands of time were slowly running out and there just wasn't any way to face this but head on. "Zachary..."
"Mom, don't. I just can't..." Zack bowed his head against her small hand, paying homage to the most important woman in his life. What he knew of courage and honor, she taught him. But hours ago when he found her unconscious on a train he flew her body back to the space station as fast as his Zord's engines could take them. The train derailed due to a massive earthquake in Southern California, killing nearly everyone onboard. What was worse, he only had time to save his mother. Others who were trapped in the wreckage begged for their lives. There was so much blood he couldn't believe it. "I'm sorry I didn't get to you sooner."
"No apologies, son. I know you did your very best. No ones life is anymore important than anyone else's."
"I... I couldn't save everyone," he murmured against her hand. "We had to make terrible choices and... there just wasn't enough time to rescue everyone that needed it."
"Tough decisions are a part of life, son. This wasn't the first or last you'll make. And I don't want you feeling guilty for only saving me."
"But you're my mother."
"Many mothers died today," she reminded him. "Those that are left need you at your best, Zachary." She gently tipped his chin as she had when he were a child, forcing him to face her. Wet brown eyes broke her heart as they had the day he was born, only then the moment was joyous. So unlike this one. "Son, I'm going to be with your father soon."
Zach shook his head as all the air in his lungs fled. He sat mute beside her, unable to do anymore than hold her hand. Cancer took his father three years ago. He just couldn't lose his mother too. "The doctors..."
"Have told me my injuries are to severe, son." Though she wished otherwise, her son had to face what he desperately wanted to avoid. "The last thing in the world that I would ever want to do is leave you. I love you with every breath that I take. From the day you were born I have adored you to no end. My love for you is everlasting."
Her fading voice betrayed the immense pain she was in. Forever protecting him even at her own expense. The penance of a mother. "I need you," Zach confessed, his voice straining with effort as the tears he had refused to allow himself to shed began to fall in earnest. "I can't lose you. I just can't."
"You're a strong man, son," Sheila told him with as much conviction as she could muster. The pain meds were wearing off and soon she knew..."I have more faith in you than anyone else in the world. You're my pride and joy."
"And you're mine."
That made her smile. "When you told me you wanted to go to the Peace Conference to see the world and make a difference as sad as I was to see you go I had always known you were meant for great things. When you graduated college and went on to the School for the Performing arts in New York I loved your fearlessness and ambition to go after your dreams. Words cannot describe how proud I am of the man you've become. And all of that was before I knew you were a Ranger."
"Any accomplishments I have are because of you and Dad."
"We raised you to be a man who could stand on his own two feet who could think for himself. You have all the tools necessary to be a leader. The people need you and all of your friends for hope and guidance." She gasped one of her last breaths as the faint echoes of the great hereafter began to call. "You are the purest reflection of me, Zachary. Every time you look at your face in a mirror you will see me and your father. We love you with all our hearts and will never truly leave you. Have faith and trust in yourself. Live an amazing life. That is all that we want you to do, my love."
The overwhelming emotional pain seared white-hot in Zack when his mothers eyes slowly closed shut as the tension around his hand gently into
nothingness. Her fingers opened and she was gone.
"Goodbye, Mom." Leaning over her, Zack placed a lasting kiss atop her brow. "Thank you."
Minutes later with no clear memory of how he ended up outside the hospital room in the brightly lit corridor Zack found Kim, Trini, Jason, and Billy waiting for him. Without a word said they all rose from the bench and walked over, embracing him as a group. "Someday I'm going to be alright," he breathed deeply, holding onto his second family. "Just not today."
Alpha Ten Class Space Station
Friday, August 25, 2007 9:00 PM
2000 miles east of the moon
In Jack Galen's eyes the White Ranger looked to have some Indian descent in his background. The cheekbones and shape of his brow and nose reflected that, similar to his wife's nationality. Standing at the end of a long curving corridor, the sixty year old man found himself staring at a fully morphed Power Ranger, but with his helmet off.
Now that was shocking to say the least, especially given current circumstances.
For well over ten years the Rangers, in whatever city they were needed or uniform they wore rarely ever allowed themselves to be verbally recorded and never photographed or videoed without their helmets on. Years upon years of speculation over who they were, what they looked like, what race they were or if they were even human at all was debated all over the world. And now that world was gone and perhaps the rules as well.
The Ranger's head was bowed low, his shorty spiky hair a style Jack wouldn't of have guessed the leader to wear, not that the public ever had any knowledge of the inner workings of the Rangers. As career military man, he found himself expecting a more formal look befitting an officer. Still, courage came in whatever form and was simply appreciated for its existence and not its wrapping.
Running a slow hand through his graying hair, Jack calmly walked with his cane toward the young man, appearing no older than his thirty-something
sons. Perhaps a bit younger, but close. The Ranger sat at the bottom of a staircase, appearing so lost in his own thoughts he didn't look up once upon his
approach. "Excuse me. My name is Jack Galen."
The White Ranger's tired brown eyes lifted to me to meet the newcomer. He seemed startled to have not even known someone was standing right in front of him.
"Would you mind if I sat with you?"
Sighing, the White Ranger shook his head in resignation. Jack took a seat beside him, his cane resting against his hip.
"I've never seen a Ranger with his helmet off before."
"There's not much reason to hide our identities anymore."
"I suppose not." Jack peered ahead down the hall where a trio of new station officers were doing a patrol, just turning a corner. "What's your name?"
"Tommy." Shifting his body, the White Ranger extended his hand in respect and received a firm shake. "Tommy Oliver."
"It is an honor to meet you, Tommy. I just wish it was under better circumstances."
"So do I," Tommy agreed. Despite needing some time alone to clear his head after the tragedies of the past twenty-four hours, he wondered if the man needed something. "How are you doing?"
"Me?" Jack seemed a bit taken back. "I'm fine. My two sons are Marines and our family was rescued by the Red and Black Rangers. We lost five relatives, but we're a family. We'll survive. There are so many people here who have lost everything and are all alone. We count ourselves very lucky not only to be alive, but that you and your team risked your lives to save us. I can't ever thank you enough."
Tommy's eyes closed shut upon hearing those words. "Please don't."
"What, thank you?" Jack understood Tommy better than he realized. "Son, you're fresh out of a war you just lost. You've seen so much death and destruction you don't know which way is up or if you'll ever be the same again. And you probably don't feel like a hero, but let me tell you. Every man, woman, and child on this station thinks you and the other Rangers are heroes."
"Heroes don't let eight billion people die!" Tommy snarled under his breath.
"Did you do your best?"
"It wasn't good enough!"
"But did you do you best?" Jack carefully asked him again, gaining his undivided attention. The two men faced each other. "Are you exhausted? Does every part of your body hurt? Do you feel like you can't cry because the emotion would fail to equal what you lived through?"
"What would be the point?"
"Tommy, I'm a Vietnam Veteran," Jack explained. "I was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1966 and served in the 25th Division mechanized infantry battalion in Nam. I know what its like to live through murderous nights where the killing doesn't end until the sun rises the next morning. I know what its like to not be able to believe you are capable of living that way. I've seen so much death and tragedy and after it was over with questioned why it happened at all."
"You're in a bad place right now. A foul mood because of all the lives you couldn't save. That's survivors guilt talking. I know something about that too," he added compassionately. "I lost two brothers and countless friends in that war. To this very day I still can't fully explain why we fought it and if the sacrifice of all those lives served a purpose at all."
"I just..." Tommy could barely make out, his fists clenched at his sides. "It was under my watch," he spoke softly. "My responsibility and my failure."
"War never falls solely on the shoulders of one man, son. It doesn't work that way. You and your team served the people of Earth damn proud. You have nothing to be ashamed of. So you lost a round and it was a big one. It wasn't the first time the good guys took one on the chin and it won't be the last."
"Jason, my best friend, is the other co-leader." Jack nodded while listening. "We came up with the plan and it failed."
"That's life, Tommy. We do our best and throw it to the wind."
"Eight billion people are dead, Jack. Our entire world is gone."
"Eleven thousand were saved. And we're traveling to a new world to begin again. Now we have two choices. One, we continue killing ourselves over what we lost, could have done differently, and how uncertain the future looks. Or two, we thank God for what we have left, pull up our bootstraps and get to work on making the best of the situation we have."
Jack continued, "Son, life isn't about how hard we get hit. Its about how hard we keep getting hit and keep getting back up."
Tommy smiled for the first time in over a day and a half. "I heard that in Rocky Balboa."
"And here I thought I could just make you think I was cool and original," Jack smiled back, enjoying the lighter moment. "We're soldiers, Tommy. We have duty and irresponsibility to live for. We don't duck our heads in the sand and wish away what went wrong. We identify, adapt, and keep getting back up. You and your team are heroes and we need you. We need your leadership and strength because we've got a very hard road ahead and a ton of people not sure how we're ever going to make this work. But I have no doubt at all in your abilities. I saw you Rangers fighting your hearts out. And I know two of you gave your lives in the line of duty."
"Justin and Adam," Tommy sighed.
Jack nodded respectfully as he saw the somber scowl fall over Tommy's face. "I can see a strong man in your eyes. I know you've just lived through hell, but a man doesn't bow his head in defeat. You lift your head up high and keep going. That's what a soldier does. I believe in you."
Who was this stranger to tell him exactly what he needed to hear? Tommy pondered thoughtfully, exhaling a breath of air he didn't know he was holding. He adjusted a small dial on the morpher he wore on his wrist. In the blink of an eye his White Ranger armor flashed away, leaving him in a white jumpsuit. One stained in blood. "Thank you."
"No, thank you," Jack assured him with a fatherly hand on his shoulder. "You married, son?"
"Yeah. Kimberly Ann Hart-Oliver. The love of my life."
"She beautiful?" Jack asked with an all to male grin, to which Tommy smiled bright. "Kids?"
"Yeah. One daughter. Her name is Hope. She'll be six in September." Thinking of his beloved wife and little girl provided the perspective to fight the dark mood he'd fallen into. "My wife and I had a hard time conceiving. She had two miscarriages before Hope was born. And when she was that name best described who she was to us."
"Its a nice story."
"What are your sons names?"
"Paul and Ronald," Jack said. "They do me proud. Both were on their second tour with the Marine Corp."
"I can tell they're good men because of you."
"I appreciate that."
Standing to his feet, Tommy offered his hand to help Jack up, who was clutching his walking stick. "Thank you again, Jack."
"Think nothing of it, Tommy. Just remind yourself that family is what you're still fighting for. Yours and everyones else's. You can't change the past. But you can affect the future."
Tommy wasn't entirely sure about the changing the past part seeing as how they... he'd talk things over with Kim soon enough. Extending his hand again, he shook Jack's and then began backpedaling away. "You take care, Jack."
"Same to you, Tommy."
Alpha Ten Class Space Station
Tommy and Kimberly Oliver's personal quarters
Friday, August 25, 2007 9:45 PM
3500 miles away from Earth
"That's the moon, right mommy?"
Standing behind her five year old daughter while she poked her finger at the bedroom window, Kimberly continued brushing her long, brown hair in smooth strokes. "That's right, honey. We passed the moon not to long ago."
Hope gently scratched away a small itch at the tip of her nose and then pointed to to another star. A far larger one than the first she picked out. "Is that the Earth behind it?"
"Right again, sweetheart." Having dreaded this conversation all day long, Kimberly knew she couldn't possibly avoid it any longer. Her child might be young, but she was inquisitive and smart. She knew something really bad had happened, just not exactly what. And with Tommy having so much to do already she decided it would be best if she gave their daughter the talk.
"Honey, I know you must have a lot of questions. I promise to answer as many as I feel you need to know, but there are some things only us adults have to deal with. I'll do my best to explain everything to you, but there are some things you don't have to worry about, okay?" Hope nodded in her Sesame Street pajama's, seated on a yellow children's chair. One of the few things from home they were able to take with them.
"Why are we on this big ship, mommy?"
"Sweetheart, something bad happened to the Earth."
"Can we fix it?"
A child's mentality, as pure as ever. Kim suddenly felt humbled. "No, honey. I'm afraid we can't fix it this time."
"Oh..." Hope loved whenever her mother brushed her hair. It always made her feel so special and loved. "Is the Earth sick?"
"In a way, yes," Kim sought to explain in terms a five year old might understand. Treading carefully was the only way to go. "A very bad person who isn't around anymore hurt the Earth and now we can't live there anymore. But we've found a new planet that's a lot like Earth called Gais-9. That's going to be our new home."
"Gais-9..." Hope tried out the name, thinking it over for a moment. "I like Earth better."
"Me too," Kim smiled fondly while brushing her daughter's hair. "We all loved the Earth. But all of us, we're called humans. And humans can't live on Earth anymore. So we had to leave."
"Did bad aliens attack like in War of the Worlds?"
"I thought I told you that movie was too violent for you to see?"
"Well, I was at Uncle Rocky's house and..."
"Say no more," Kim managed a knowing laugh. One of the very few she's enjoyed in the last twenty-four hours. "The point is that we built this very nice and cozy space station to take us all to the new world."
"Did a lot of people die like my Nana did a year ago?"
Not a day passed by when Hope didn't in some way mention Tommy's mother, who passed away in a sudden car accident. They were so very close and it always broke Kim's heart to know her child missed her Nana so much. "Unfortunately, yes. A lot of people did die."
Hope rested her small hands in her lap, kind of unsure what she should ask. "Do I know any of them?"
Sometimes Kim wished her child wasn't as smart as she was. "Honey, the Power Rangers and other good people like police officers, firemen, doctors, and nurses saved as many people as we could and brought them here. But the bad thing that happened was so fast we just couldn't save nearly as many people as we wanted too. All of us lost a lot of our family and friends."
"That's sad, mommy."
"Yes it is, sweetheart." Laying down the brush, Kim closed her arms around her daughter, hugging her close. "I know this sounds very sad and scary, but I want you to know that me and daddy will always love and protect you. Our little family is going to be just fine, okay?"
Hope gave a nod. "Are the dead people with God like Nana?"
"Yes. God looking after them and keeping them safe. He wants us to focus on taking care of each other and working together. We should always remember our loved ones like your Nana, but we're still going to smile and laugh and make new friends. It won't be easy, but we're going to work together and be there for one another."
"So all my friends at preschool are dead?"
How do you possibly answer that? Brushing away a tear she didn't think her daughter needed to see her shed right now, Kim hugged Hope tighter while trying to phrase things in a way that would best help her sleep at night. "When the Earth got really sick God made all of them fall asleep so that he could take them and keep them safe. They never felt any pain at all and they are all with their families," she explained as gently as she possibly could. The barely audible sound of her daughter sniffling signaled she was on the verge of tears. "Sweetheart, if you want to cry its okay. Crying helps us deal with sad things."
Slowly, Hope turned around in her mothers arms, twin tears descending her cheeks. Her beautiful brown eyes glistened. "I'm going to miss my friends."
"I know. And I'm sure they're all looking down on you now waving and blowing kisses," Kim smiled at her, and then affectionately squeezed her nose softly before rubbing away her tears.
"Are there any kids on the space station?"
"Yes, honey. A couple of hundred. That's a lot of kids."
"Do we have a lot of food?"
"Yes, we'll be fine."
"Are there nice people on the new world?"
"I don't think there are any people at all. But there are tons of people on this station. We're all going to make lots of new friends that are very nice."
"Are there any ponies on the new world? Oh, what about horses? And dogs and cats?"
"We're bringing a number of those animals with us, so they'll be there."
Picking at the collar of her mothers lavender pajama top, hope cautiously asked, "Are you scared, mommy?"
"Me?" Kim laughed and then made a muscle and let Hope feel it. "Mommies are never scared. We're super tough. We're going to be just fine."
"Are you sad, mommy?"
Kim thought that one over for Hope's sake, and then felt honesty was the best way to go. "A little bit."
"Is daddy sad?"
"He's super tough too, but yeah. I think he's a little sad."
"Well, mommy. I'll take care of you and daddy so you won't be sad anymore." Smiling brightly, Hope hugged her mom tight, receiving the same in return as mother and daughter shared a tender moment.
"That sounds like a good idea, honey."
Looking over her mom's shoulder, Hope saw her dad standing in the doorway watching them quietly. "Hi daddy." Quickly moving from her mothers arms, Hope launched into her father's, who lifted her off the ground and swung her around in a big loop. "Where have you been? I missed you."
"I was busy, sweetheart," Tommy replied while snuggling her close. "I'm sorry. Its been... its been a long day."
"You'll have a better one tomorrow."
Her faith never failed to bring anything less than hope to his weary heart. She was the purest part of his very soul. "Thank you, honey." Walking over with his daughter in his arms, Tommy bent down to kiss his Beautiful. "I think its time for this little one to get some sleep."
"Yeah, she's way past her bed time." Kim watched Tommy sit Hope on her bed and then pull back the covers while she ducked underneath them. "You, my love, need to get some sleep. Tomorrows going to be a busy day." She smooched her daughters cheek at the same time Tommy did. Hope giggled as usual, the sound of which was the best noise in the world. "Get some sleep, HBO."
"Okay, mommy. I love you. I love you too, daddy."
"Sweet dreams," Tommy offered before following Kim out of the bedroom. He flipped the light switch off before shutting the door.
Twenty Minutes Later
The quiet was a welcome companion.
Seated on a large swivel chair in the corner of their modest-sized bedroom, Kim used her foot to spin around a couple of times for the hell of it while waiting for her husband to return from the kitchen. She used to do the exact same thing when she was a child on her grandfathers bar stools in the finished basement of his house. For some strange reason spinning around while sitting down was one of the coolest things in the world to her.
Ceasing the movement when a dizzy spell felt on the horizon, Kim unexpectedly found her gaze settled on Tommy's bloodied white jumpsuit in the hamper on the floor by their closet. Four people he rescued from a collapsed high-rise corporate building in downtown Denver, Colorado were severely injured. Two required immediate mouth to mouth resuscitation, so he had to unmorph to perform it.
Their dark red blood stained his clothing all the way through, soaking clear to his skin. When the rangers arrived back at the space station with the last of those they could saved Kim almost wretched when she saw just how much blood was covering Tommy's clothes. The Falcon Zord was packed with twenty survivors, far more than it was ever meant to carry. They were literally piled one on top of the other. A more gruesome sight one couldn't possibly imagine.
Only seven were alive when the bodies were pulled from the Zord. Tommy lifted each and every one out himself until the others arrived to help.
Shutting her eyes on the wing tips of a thankful sigh, at least it wasn't his blood. Fate hadn't taken him from her just yet. His nine lives might be running low but they hadn't run out.
Kim knew they couldn't do anything for those who were gone, though not forgotten. But if death had claimed Tommy it would have killed her too. And after that what of her beloved Hope? Some things were to painful to imagine. Then again, so was what they just lived through.
Running her hand through her shoulder-length brown hair while trying to piece together the worst day of her entire life, Kim felt as if the events of the past twenty-four hours were all a dream. Or perhaps better described as a nightmare. As soon as the Rangers went after their own parents and family members they had such a small amount of time to come up with any semblance of a plan. The Earth was literally falling apart, with worldwide catastrophes on a biblical scale happening so fast and in so many places at once the Rangers were completely overwhelmed.
Saving humanity wasn't realistically enough seeing as how they had limited resources and room on the space station.
That broke things down to basic needs such as immediate emergency supplies, clothes, water, food, and medical equipment. Then came doctors, nurses, engineers, scientists, and military personnel. After that came the horrific reality that that they could only offer rescue to a certain amount of people in every race just so that each race could continue. Then there were religious considerations as not everyone had the same faith. There had to be representation there as well for everyone who practiced a faith as well as those who didn't.
Rubbing her tired eyes, Kim relaxed back as far as the chair would allow and exhaled a long, deep breath. Compartmentalizing her thoughts, she knew that there was nothing they could do about yesterday. At least not in the normal sense... After leading a team of scout ships on their first patrol tomorrow morning she was set to meet with Katherine, Jason, and the religious leaders onboard to come up with some sort of funeral ceremony that everyone could attend regardless of their faith.
The people needed closure. Hopefully a funeral ceremony will provide some.
While mentally blocking out the desperate cries for help of those she couldn't save that just wouldn't stop ringing in her head, Kim tried to wrap her mind around the terrible fact that her entire family save for Hope and Tommy were gone. It was an unbelievable truth. The kind of thing you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy.
Alas, her precious daughter needed her to be strong for her sake, so that was her top priority. Nevertheless, Kim could feel an emotional breakdown on the horizon. It was tap dancing at the razors edge of her tired soul. She had to grieve at some point, only now wasn't the right time. She had to remain focused for her family, the team, and the eleven thousand people depending on the Rangers for leadership.
So the gorgeous picture on the nightstand of both her and Tommy's families taken in Cancun, Mexico to celebrate their third wedding anniversary a couple of years ago haunted her. They were ghosts wearing smiling faces she couldn't bear to face any longer.
Walking over to the picture, Kim turned the oak frame face down. She just couldn't look at it. At least not right now. And probably not for a long time.
The sound of approaching footsteps caught her attention, signaling her quiet time alone was over. She moved to the end of the bed, watching Tommy walk towards her with a steaming cup of her favorite tea in one hand and a bowl of something in the other. It smelled familiar. It smelled like, "Are you eating Hope's Spaghetti Os?"
"She won't miss it," Tommy winked at his wife and then handed her a cup of steaming apple cider tea. He pulled the swivel chair in front of where she sat on the bed to be close to her. "Besides, I was hungry. It was the quickest thing to make."
Normally Tommy wouldn't touch stuff like Spaghetti Os, ever the health food nut. But today just wasn't a normal day. As a matter of a fact, normal probably didn't exist anymore. So Kim savored the delicious aroma and taste of her favorite tea, enjoying the way it warmed her body while her husband ate his bowl of Spaghetti Os with what looked like the biggest spoon they had. He was so typically male sometimes. Then she caught sight of another one on the other side of his bowl. "Why did you bring two spoons?"
"Because I figured soon enough you would want some and I didn't want to go back to the kitchen."
"If I wanted some Spaghetti Os I would have told you to bring me a bowl in the first place."
"Yeah, but I know you."
Kim shot a mild glare his way. "And just what does that mean?"
"It means in a couple of minutes you will get snack hungry and want some."
"I could just go make a bowl for myself."
"You could, but you won't. You'll want some of mine."
Partly miffed, Kim looked away. "I don't want any of your Spaghetti Os."
"Good." He knew not to look up.
"Good?" How dare he not look up.
"Well, I'm hungry. So it'll be more for me," Tommy added while attempting not to smile.
"So you refuse to share?"
"I thought you said you didn't want any?"
"I don't," Kim fired back defensively before drinking more of her tea. "But it wouldn't kill you to share."
By the way she was now eying his bowl of Spaghetti Os, Tommy figured Kim was snack hungry already. She often ate Spaghetti Os with Hope after school when she didn't feel like cooking dinner or grabbing some fast food.
When he lifted his gaze he found her staring at him, patiently waiting for him to give in. It was cute in its own way. "You said you weren't hungry," he reminded her before devouring another spoonful.
Kim added no more than a slightly impatient tilt of her head.
"Fine, switch." He handed her the bowl while taking her tea. Thankfully, he liked her favorite tea as well. "Hey, you're using my spoon."
"I had your kid, so hush," Kim declared in a way she that allowed no room for rebuttal. And it was sweet the way he tried not to laugh at what she said. She dug right into the Spaghetti Os, mindful he was watching her the whole time.
"I made two cans so there would be some left for you anyway."
His kinda cute attempt to justify his actions amused her. If only recent events hadn't ruined her ability to enjoy the lighter moments of their domestic lives she might further their minor lovers spat. Sadly though, some events couldn't be easily forgotten. "Zack's mother passed away a few hours ago."
Sudden, painful memories of his own mother's death swept over Tommy. He slowly lowered the cup he held while thinking of his friend's loss and what he must be going through tonight. There was a personal hell when anyone lost their parents that had no equal, no matter their age. You'd gladly trade any pain that existed to never feel what you felt the day one of your mother or father died. "Was Zack with her when she died?"
"Yeah, he was able to say goodbye."
Nodding, Tommy was lost in the memories of his mother's sudden death. He had made peace with it, but was far from over it. "How is he..." Pausing, he knew that question made no sense at the end of the day, though it was the typical thing to ask. "Were any of you with Zack afterwards?"
"Trini, Jason, Billy and I were waiting for him in the hallway when he walked out of his mother's room." Kim ate another spoonful while collecting her somber thoughts. "We're all so shell-shocked right now that we're just quiet, you know?" Of course Tommy understood, as she well remembered he barely said a word for three days when his mother died. "Zack's a strong guy. He'll bounce back like all of us. Just not right away."
"I'll be sure to find Zack tomorrow morning and offer my condolences. Sheila was such a good, sweet person. I remember dancing with her at our wedding and she gave me the best advice for a happy marriage."
Fondly recalling the day, Kim had to ask, "And that was?"
Tommy laughed before raising his head. "Do everything your wife says."
"I always liked Mrs. Taylor. And she was married to Ben for thirty-six years. You'd do well to remember her advice. Or perhaps I'll have some cards printed up with that phrase on them so you won't forget. Or maybe you could get a tattoo of it on both of your arms."
"Whatever, Short-Stuff," he affectionately called her when he wanted to knock her down a peg. Thankfully for him, she wasn't wearing her house slippers tonight. If she were he was sure one would be flying towards his head right about now. "I love you," he offered in a mockingly high voice.
"Switch and don't think a term of endearment will make it all better." They exchanged the bowl and cup, with Kim quickly finishing off the tea while awaiting Tommy's outburst in three... two... one...
"You barely left me two spoonfuls!"
"Us short people get the munchies too, you know." He appeared so frustrated with her over such a little thing. That meant she had won that round, mentally pumping her fist. He finished off the bowl while mumbling something under his breath he didn't have the guts to say to her face. She kinda liked that. "How was the rest of your day, honey?"
Tommy never, ever left plates or bowls on the floor in their bedroom at home, but recent events haven't left him without much caring about such trivial things. "All security personnel are organized and in place, as well as checkpoints and detention cells. Hopefully we won't need to use them. All in all the space station is secured."
The bed dipped next to Kim when Tommy could no longer stand the distance, short as it was. Instinctively, she leaned against his side, her head resting against his shoulder while his arm curled around her waist. "At least that's one thing out of the way."
"Yeah," Tommy sighed and then tenderally kissed the nape of her neck, lingering for a moment to inhale the scent of her skin. She tilted her head, allowing their lips to meet softly, just enough to nibble and sway lovingly. As always, her love was more than enough to sustain him through anything life threw his way. "I met someone today... a Vietnam veteran. Actually, he introduced himself to me. I was kind of in a..."
"Dark place?" Kim finished as she knew him better than he knew himself. A slow nod verified her assumption.
"His name was Jack and he talked to me about some things. I really understood where he was coming from. Having fought in and lived after a war, he gave me plenty of insight on issues I'm struggling with."
Kim absently toyed with the hem of his white t-shirt, ever the need to touch him. "I'm sure he had a lot of perspective on what we're dealing with right now."
"Yeah, he did," Tommy agreed. "Jack said a lot of things I didn't want to hear, but needed too. He could tell I had a lot on my mind."
"Sometimes strangers can reach us in ways the people closest to us can't. Life's funny that way."
"No one," Tommy confessed as he took her small hand in his, caressing it with a loving touch, "Reaches me the way you do."
"Ditto." They shared another slow, warm kiss that seemed to push their problems away for the time being.
"I told Hope what happened," Kim admitted while he tucked a couple of errant strands of hair behind her ear. "At least as much as she needed to know."
"I should of been there wi..."
"No, sweetheart," she tenderally cupped his face, drawing his focus. "You had a ton of important things to do. I handled it and she took it as well as she takes everything. I think we lucked out in the kid department."
"I certainly lucked out in the marriage one."
"You did, didn't you," Kim grinned in his face, adoring the same expression reflected back at her. "Hope's going to be fine."
"I'll talk with her again in the morning in case she has anymore questions."
"Sounds like a plan." Kim laid the cup on the floor and then pushed Tommy on his back. Easing down beside him, she curled in his arms, pressing her face against his chest. His t-shirt smelled of Bounce and something uniquely him. Something she absolutely loved, silly as it was.
Offering a casual massage of her lower back, Tommy asked, "So how are you doing?"
"Me? I'm just peachy."
"Seriously?" He sensed an immediate shift in her mood, and so he held her tighter to ward off whatever it was. Her silence spoke volumes he wished never existed.
Kim finally gave up the ghost. "I'm scared out of my mind about how were going to start over on a new planet. I'm worried sick about our daughter's future because so much is still up in the air. I'm heartbroken over my family and yours being totally gone. I'm heartsick over our grieving friends and every sad face I see in the corridors because everyone has lost someone close to them." She continued with a heavy heart, "I hate the legacy of failure our Rangers will leave behind, even if that's a misplaced fact. I miss Earth and TV and new movies and just so many other things I can't seem to think straight."
"And here I thought you just wanted another bowl of Spaghetti Os." She playfully swatted his arm for that one, though she purred when his lips brushed her forehead tenderally as he understood how serious she was being. "I'm worried about the same things you are. Colonizing a new world is the most dangerous, unpredictable thing you can possibly do. As much testing as the Space Rangers are doing on Gais-9 there's no way to know how we'll react long-term to the planets Eco system, or how it will react to us."
"There's so much work to be done in the next six months before we reach Gais-9. And even more once we're there."
"Then there's the thousands of people looking to us for answers to questions we've barely had time to consider. And I want them all to believe and trust in us and each other, but I'm just as lost as they are sometimes."
"I just hate this so much," Kim echoed her restlessness.
"We're going to be fine, sweetheart." Turning onto his side, Tommy stared into the beautiful brown eyes he fell in love with the first time he saw her so many years ago. She grew into such a smart, courageous, capable woman who he greatly admired. But here, now, in this bed she was hurting and he just had to put an end to it. "There's a dark past behind us and a long road ahead of us. But as long as were together nothing can stop us."
"The unstoppable Olivers," Kim snickered lightly, then smiled when he kissed their joined hands. "You know," she began in a whispery tone, "As much faith as I have and as hard as I'm going to work there's a very dear part of me that just loves to hear you tell me every things going to be alright."
That was a wonderful thing for her to say to him. "Making you feel better is my job, Beautiful. And I take that job very seriously."
"You're the best husband who's ever husbanded."
"Its a new word I just made up. Work with me."
"Gotcha," he smiled before kissing her again, deeply, needing to be this close to her when it felt as if his world was falling apart. He only hoped his presence offered her the same comfort. Judging by the way she held him close, he knew it did.
"Do you remember when you asked me to marry you?"
She started giggling half before the words were out of her mouth. Tommy both loved and hated thinking about the actual proposal. "Look, everything turned out great so I see no reason to bring it up again." Still giggling, Kim straddled his waist, arms crossed while gazing down at him.
"Despite how you see that night, its still the best, most romantic, and probably the funniest of my entire life."
"Can I just put the pillow over my face now?"
Kim paid him no mind, needing to relive something beautiful in the wake of such sadness in their lives. "You brought me up to your Uncle's cabin by the lake and it looked so great that night. I thought it was the sweetest thing in the world that you got all the guys to help you clean the place up and make it nice for us."
"Only the best for you."
Bending over, she graced his lips with a kiss. "Then you took me out horseback riding at night along the lake's shore and I had a feeling you were about to propose. I just didn't want to get my hopes up."
"Can we just skip over the next part? Please?"
"I didn't think so."
Kim enjoyed that he knew he was resigned to his fate. "So there we are on the shore walking hand in hand with a full moon above it. God, it was such a gorgeous night. And then you stopped in front of me, fell down on one knee and I swear my heart stopped," she laughed. "You asked me to marry you, but when you put your hand in your pocket you pulled out air. I just wish you could of seen the look on your face when you realized you forgot the ring. I swear I thought I was gonna die laughing."
"Thank you for that fond memory, Kim. Perhaps you'd like to talk about another fond moment of mine, How about my painful wisdom tooth extraction a year ago?"
"Oh hush, I loved you more in that moment than I've ever loved you before. Even as you stared off into the sky cursing the heavens that you forgot the ring, never mind I must have said yes to your proposal like fifty times, I'll never forget that night. Next to Hope's birth it was the best night of my life."
"Mine too," he admitted begrudgingly. "I just hated that I forgot the ring. I just don't know how that happened."
"Well at least I said yes."
"Yeah, there was that." Sitting up with her, his arms closed around her slender waist. His Beautiful... he loved her more than his own life. "We haven't talked about the spell yet."
Running her tongue over her bottom lip, Kim nodded, her hands braced on his upper shoulders. "The interpretation of the spell is too vague to take seriously. But we need to look into it more before we make a decision as a group."
"Do you know what worries me the most about it?"
"The spell talks about the Gathering of the Twelve and the Sacrifice of the Ten. The Xarxious called on twelve Rangers exactly and now only ten remain. Its as if what happened was foretold long ago."
"Does that make you believe the spell is genuine?"
"It makes me curious," he replied. "If there were a way to turn back the hands of time so none of this took place then we'd have to do it. But if our early interpretation of the sacrifice is correct, that we give up our lives, then if the spell fails we might be leaving the people of Earth defenseless."
Tommy held her closer upon mentioning their beloved daughter. "I would die before letting anything bad ever happen to her."
"So would I."
"But I'd also die to save innocent lives."
Kim felt the same way. "So what do we do next."
"We get as accurate an interpretation of that spell as we can, gather the team, and talk it over. Its fine if we decide not to do it, but we can't just dismiss it."
"I agree," Kim whispered against his neck, now rolling her tongue around his pulse. Her hands began inching up his shirt. "We can deal with all of that tomorrow. How about tonight you make love to your wife and remind her what its like to feel alive?"
Lying her down on the bed beneath him, Tommy lowered his body over hers, nestled in the cradle between her thighs. "As you wish, Beautiful."
The End of Chapter 2
Chapter 3: The Finale