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Old September 5th, 2018, 12:57 AM #1
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GreenDTRanger
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The Unknown Ranger Goes Zeo - Season 4

PREVIOUSLY IN THE UNKNOWN RANGER

Dave Cranston, younger brother of Billy, discovers the Power Rangers secrets. He helps them out while also dealing with his own adventures. He's fought intergalactic despots to international assassins, while trying to balance school, a job, family, friends and random powers that manifest out of nowhere.

**************************************

As the flash of light faded, I felt incredibly disoriented. I put my hands out to steady myself and I realized I was already sitting. In my bedroom. Surrounded by my He-Man toys. They were scattered about as if an epic battle was being fought. That was when I noticed the monolith of plastic sitting in front of me. It was an Eternia playset. They are rare to find and I don't own one, but there it was. As I glanced around there were a few extra toys I didn't have, like the mechanical horse and the skeleton carriors. I never owned them because they were never on the show. Same reason I never got Snake Mountain because it was different than the show version. I then spotted a Snake Mountain, and a Crystal Castle and a pile of She-Ra toys complete with comb weapons. What the hell! Ooh, a King Randor, I didn't have him either.

I got up and was very confused. Why was I teleported back to my room? Even my clothes are different. I was wearing a Flash t-shirt, and I haven't had one of those since I was about five. My room looked the same, a few things were in different places but still the same. Is this another parallel Earth?

Mom walked into my room, knocking only after she had already opened the door. "David, you left your pager in the living room again."

"MOM!"
She looked at me and my surroundings. "David, should I be worried? You are way too old for toys."
"I was just... sorting -- them." Weak.
"Okay then." She then tossed me the beeper. "Are you ready for school?"
I snatched the device out of the air but was again confused. It looked more or less the same, but the screen was scratched, there were knicks in the casing, lint accumulation in the crevices and a fading lightning bolt sticker wrapped around the side. "Yeah, ready for it to be over so summer can start."

"I don't think I've heard you so pessimisticly about school before."
"It's been a rough year, so I want this summer to be awesome."
"You're already planning your summer vacation nine months in advance, before the school year starts? I would think you would be happy, being a Junior now?"

"What?
"Are you sure you're all right?
NO! Not at all. "Yeah. Sure. Absolutely."
"I really came to ask you if you had seen your brother lately? I feel like I haven't seen him in forever."
"Can I go find him?" Yes, I need Billy so I can figure out what the hell is happening.
"Sure, just take that with you." Mom pointed to my pager, and gave me a long look before exiting.

I waited until I heard her in the kitchen and tried my communicator. "Billy. Billy come in." Nothing. Not even static or malfunctioning beeps. The teleporter didn't work either. If I had to I would take the Radbug to the Command Center, but for now I'll try to find them myself. As I was heading out it was then that I noticed the calendar and I felt real confused. According to it, almost four months had passed since this morning.

That's not possible. Wait, why isn't it? Rita and Zedd have both pulled time travel crap before. This needs fixed. I headed for the back door and the faceplate for the security system was no longer a pristine white. I punched in the code and headed to the garage. My bike was there, but almost all of Billy's inventions were in boxes and storage totes instead of scattered everywhere.
I headed for the park first. I spotted Bulk and Skull, and with their very civic oriented turn around I figured to give them a shot. "Hey, guys, have you seen Billy or any of his friends lately?"

I startled Bulk. "We weren't doing anything."
Skull was also defensive. "Yeah, we weren't swinging or anything."
Bulk gave his buddy a scathing look before responding. "No, haven't seen them. Come on Numb-skull."

That was weird, but it was also Bulk and Skull. On my way to the youth center, I saw Marcus changing the sign at the video store. Last time I saw him he was mad at me for the girl he was starting to like was starting to like me. "Hey."

"Hey." Marcus was happy to see me. "Is everything there?"
I had no idea what he was talking about. "Is what where?"
"The He-Man stuff. I think out of all the Star Trek stuff I got all that was still missing was a few tiny accessories but I wanted you to check them. I'm thinking about going back to that yard sale today. You want to go back?"

"I'm not sure I'll be able to. I'm trying to track down my brother. Have you seen him, or any of his friends?"
"No, but didn't that one girl move?"
"Which girl?"
"The one with dreads who worked at the animal shelter."
"Aisha." Why would she move?
"You look like you're a million miles away. When you get that look we end up not seeing you for at least a couple days."
My mind was swirling and I need some explanations. "No, I was just thinking about what happened at the mall that time."
"How many times do I have to apologize?"
"It's just I'm having trouble wrapping my head around it."
"Adina likes that I understand when she goes on about musicals. She was thinking that the two of us should go see 'Evita' when it comes out. My mind started hyping up something that didn't exist. Once Ajay and Adina were back to squabbling I realized I was over it quick."

One plot thread wrapped up before it could become a potential hassle. "I have to go. If you find anything cool --"
"I'll beep you. And if this is just an excuse to go see her, say hi to Lucy for me?"
"Who's Lucy?"
Marcus rolled his eyes at me. "Okay. Sure. Bye now." He shook his head in disbelief as he climbed back up his ladder.

What was that about? But what Marcus said about Aisha was bothering me so I went over to her house. Grandma Campbell was in a rocking chair on the porch and there was a 'FOR SALE' sign on the real estate pole in the front yard. She waved at me.
"Hey there, young man."
"Hello ma'am. How are you today?"
"I'm just fine now. It's a lovely day today."
"Yeah, sure is."
"You look troubled. David, won't you come sit and have some lemonade?" That question wasn't a question, but old lady speak for politely telling you what to do. I did as told and she poured a second glass for me. "Now tell me baby, why is today not a good day?"

"It's just -- complicated." Damn, the lemonade was good.
"You breathin'? You got a home? And a family that loves you?"
"All that stuff is fine. No first world problems here. What I'm really worried about is -- time, I guess."

"Aren't you a little young to be worrying about that? Time is fleeting for all of us. It shoots by faster than we all realize."
No shit. "No kidding."
"Are you making the most of it?"
"What do you mean?"
"I see you kids all the time helping in the community, which is all amazing and you should do it, but what do you love? What are you passionate about?"

I had no idea but the first thing that came to mind was "Comic books." I got a look. "Star Trek?"

"My grandbaby realized she was good with animals. She found an opportunity to help in Africa and Aisha felt like she had to help. When my son realized it was near where our ancestors came from, he felt compelled to help. It was like fate was calling them home. And in a few days, my daughter-in-law will come back to settle a few things and I'm going to visit too." She handed me a letter to look over. "I always wanted to go, but never in my life did I ever think I would get to. And my Aunt Ashalla is still alive."

"How does that work?" I didn't mean to be rude, and I feel like I sounded surprised.
"My father came to this continent after slavery ended. He would go back and forth, telling tales of his little sister. She was something of a folk hero in the area, loved and respected by those close. You can appreciate this though, she supposedly had powers from a mystical totem."

"That's cool." I handed the letter back. When I did, my finger grazed hers and there was a noticeable shock. It startled the both of us and Grandma Campbell started to laugh from the surprise. As I pulled my hand I noticed purple energy briefly surge around my fingers before disappearing.

"This family was given an amazing opportunity, and collectively getting to pursue our dreams. Just like Kimberly with her gymnastics. Sometimes when I see you, you look miserable. I get the feeling you are doing things because you have to."

"You're not wrong." Oddly enough, I felt a great sense of relief about that. And even stranger still, overwhelmed. Which doesn't make sense, I know.

Grandma Campbell reached over and took my hand. Once I grasped it, she placed her other one on top. "Maybe you should try pursuing your passions. Aspire to be your own superhero. Now you give me a hug but don't shock me again."

I wasn't sure how to take her superhero comment but I gladly did as I was told. Once my arms were wrapped around her, I clasped my communicator with my free hand. I felt another surge from my hand and my communicator started going haywire. I quickly pulled away just to make sure I didn't shock an old woman twice.

Grandma Campbell seemed a little annoyed. "You know Aisha has that same watch, makes that same annoying noise."

"I should fix this. Thank you, for everything. I'll try to see you again before you leave."
"You better be out there living and not worrying about someone who doesn't need to be worried over."
"Say hi to Aisha for me."
"You know it."

I hopped on my bike while still having these conflicting feelings of relief and overwhelmed. Once I was out of sight of the Campbell house, I stopped and looked at my hands. I only manifested electrical powers around those ninjas. While I could believe they might be spying on me still, I wouldn't think they would harm an old woman. None of this makes sense. Now I really needed Billy.

*****

Akomaru sat on Master Vile's throne with a great sense of triumph. He had five female warriors, three of them Gohma heritage, and all agreed to serve him. Granted they weren't exactly overjoyed, but they were definately willing. They were constantly training and all enjoyed the freedom of beating up Tengas whenever they wanted. He had lieutenants, the beginning of a power base. Scorpina was still looking over his shoulder at every opportunity, so he would have to come up with something before Vile got back.

"Get off my throne!"
Akomaru was so lost in thought he hadn't seen Master Vile enter. "You've conquered Earth's whole galaxy so quickly."

"Zordon was able to call the Power Rangers from Aquitar. The spell I cast on Earth drained me greatly, and losing to them only worsened it. I return home to recharge and the Machine Empire are already moving in on Earth. Akomaru, make sure that rooms are prepared for Rita and her minions. They are fleeing Earth too."

Akomaru didn't like that. His position here was tenuous at best, but it would definately be reduced with the return of Vile's children.

"I believe the Master gave you instructions," said Scorpina, appearing out of nowhere, "and with his return there is no longer need for your regency."

"I will of course oblige with the ruler's wishes." As Akomaru got up from the throne and left, no matter what, he only knew that he would see Scorpina gone before him.

*****

Trini and Kim hugged as if they were never going to see each other again. Both were also failing to not cry.

"You have all my email and contact numbers?" asked Trini.
"I don't want you to go." Kimberly was unable to dab at her eyes with a tissue fast enough.

"I know, but I've been here way longer than I intended. I need to go back, if only to put that chapter of my life to a close."

"I need to go see my Mom in Paris, when I do maybe we can arrange a meetup somewhere."

"Absolutely." Trini jerked her head at the announcement over the airport PA system. "That's my flight."
"I love you so much."
"I love you so much."
"Best friends forever."
"Best friends forever."

It wasn't until the boarding started did Trini finally let go of her friend's hand. Kimberly was oblivious to everything around her. She stared as Trini stood in line and showed her ticket. Trini turned at the terminal, smiled, and waved good-bye. It wasn't until her head disappeared down the hall that Kimberly turned herself.

As she walked out of the airport she didn't have to wait long before Tim pulled up in his car. Without even waiting Kimberly hopped into the passenger side.

"Sorry I didn't come in, but I couldn't find a parking spot so it was easier to just circle around."
Kimberly nodded in appreciation. "Thank you. For this. Waiting."
"Friends help friends out."

Kim rolled down the window and let the wind blow on her face. It felt nice. She allowed her hair to flap freely as her tears dried. When Tim asked if she wanted to stop anywhere she declined. She preferred to just rest her head on the door and stare at the ocean. Crying had given her a slight headache but she ignored it. She had cried too much lately and she was getting tired of it. It wasn't until she got home did Kimberly speak up. "I came to Florida to pursue my gymnastics career, not be in a teen drama. If we're friends, we stay friends. If we are meant to be more, then I need to take it slow."

Tim nodded at everything she said. "You're worth it."

~~~~~~~~~

After a quick check in with Ernie to know if he had seen anything, I headed home. In the garage I was able to find replacement circuitry to replace what I had fried. It seemed in working order so I decided to try jetting to the Command Center to better track my travel. The teleportation was sluggish to start but it did activate and I arrived with no problems. Except instead of landing in the Command Center I arrived in a corridor. It looked like I arrived in one of the lower levels near the Power Chamber. I wasn't certain where to go until I started to hear an alarm going off. I hurried toward it and turned a corner. There were the Power Rangers, but... different.

In unison they shouted "POWER RANGERS ZE-O!" and then gestured in a motion that looked like they were flipping me off with their arms.

Katherine said "ZEO RANGER ONE, PINK!"
A girl who was not Aisha then said "ZEO RANGER TWO, YELLOW!"
Rocky said "ZEO RANGER THREE, BLUE!"
Adam said "ZEO RANGER FOUR, GREEN!"
Tommy said "ZEO RANGER FIVE, RED!"

Morph completed, all five teleported away. It was then I saw Billy and Alpha standing by a console on the far side of the room. A room that was the Power Chamber. I descended a few steps and walked into the room . My eyes were quickly drawn to the back wall. The costumes of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers were on display. Blue, Yellow, White, Pink, Black, Red. And separating them in the middle was a display of the Power Weapons.

"Welcome to the fully operational Power Chamber, David." Zordon sounded happy in the different tube.

Billy gave me a hug, then so did Alpha. Both were happy to see me and said as much but my head was racing with questions. "What is going on?" Good start.

It was a strange story. The orange light was a spell cast by Master Vile to turn back time. With the gang unable to morph, Power Rangers from the water planet of Aquitar stepped in to save the day. Billy tried to use the Ninja coins to counter the spell, but was only able to reverse it on himself before Goldar destroyed the coins. With the Aquitians unable to sustain themselves in Earth's environment and Vile pressing the attack, the Rangers went searching for the Zeo crystals.

"And I'm going to assume that Aisha ended up in Africa and decided to stay there."
Now Billy's mouth dropped. "How could you know that?"
"Her grandmother told me. The whole family has moved."
"Zordon did say that her decision affected the course of her family's history."
"And maybe much more. How long were you under the spell?"
"Several day unfortunately."
"Uh huh. You might want to check just how much Aisha's decision has changed the timeline."

Alpha was the closest to the console, and checked the chronometer. "Aye yi yi, this can't be."
Billy hovered over the robot. "How could we lose that much time?"

Luckily for all concerned, I read enough sci-fi to hazard a guess. "It's time travel. I'm thinking she skipped over what would have allowed her to move in real time, so history is retroactively trying to fix itself by shunting us forward too."

Zordon piped in with "David, do you have any recollections of the last four months?"
"No. The last thing I remember was heading to Katherine's birthday. Then I was in my bedroom."
"While the Rangers were transformed again into children, the Power Coins protected their memories from the altered history. No doubt the coin you possess protected you as well."

"If I regressed to about five or six, I couldn't process what I know now. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't remember some of my experiences." I touched my Flash shirt. Was this my actual shirt from when I was that age? Or did I buy it at some point during this new retroactive timeline? Like those He-Man toys.
"I too am experiencing a lack of memory of events. Please excuse me." Zordon then lowered himself out of view.

I turned back to Billy and saw his suit in the case behind him. That's when it hit me. "You're not the Blue Ranger anymore. Rocky is."
"Yeah." Billy now looked miserable.
"You can't be okay with that."
"Five sub-crystals meant five Rangers. Tanya offered me hers, but Aisha chose her as the new Yellow Ranger. It's her reason for being here."
Not good enough. "You have to fix this. I will help you fix this but I need your help first."
"Okay, with what?"
I held up my hand but wasn't exactly sure what to do. I flexed my fingers and got nothing. I snapped my fingers and got results.

Billy's eyes bulged and grabbed my hand. "Self-generating electrical discharge. How can you do this?"
"Did I not tell you about the ninjas with electrical powers who ambushed me once?"
"Was this before or after the assassin was stalking you?"
I thought about it. "During." Billy dropped my hand in disbelief. "Do I know everything about your life? No."

Zordon rose back into view. "David's assessment seems to be correct. The time elapse has been filled, but it may take some time for all of us involved to become cognizant of the ramifications of events. And the need for the two of you may be even greater than before."

"What do you mean, Zordon?" asked Billy.
"With new enemies comes the potential for greater threats. The Machine Empire can generate a completely functioning and autonomous Cog in a single hour. There's also their fleet of mechanized lieutenants. We need to be prepared."
"Like new weapons, and new zords compatible with the Zeo powers."

I looked at the back wall, with the old weapons and the old costumes. "Where's the Green Ranger?" Everyone turned to look at me. "You have a new one now, why isn't the old Green in here?"

Zordon seemed to smile. "As I told the others, the Power Rangers as they have known them are gone and as such are shown in remembrance. But the powers of the Mighty Morphin Green Ranger are still present and a part of you. And there may come a time when they will be of necessary service."

~~~~~~~~

Lord Zedd could feel his brain throbbing through his metal claws. Everything was a disaster. He had been on Earth for almost two of their 'years' and had never known defeat in this manner before. He had never ran from anybody, and now the Machine Empire would be taking over where he left off. And now, worst of all, he was having to go stay with his father-in-law. He couldn't think of anything worse.

Finster came rushing into the cockpit, "Lord Zedd, Mistress Rita is vomiting again."

"Then deal with it. I have to pilot the zord."
"I can put it temporarily on auto-pilot. She's requesting you."
Zedd's patience had been wearing thin ever since boarding. "Make sure we make it to the first space portal before engaging the autopilot. I don't want to get stranded on the outer edges of the Milky Way galaxy." Zedd stormed out of the bridge for the living quarters. He found Squatt and Baboo fidgeting outside of waste extraction.

"She made quite the mess getting here," said Squatt.
"She sure..." started Baboo, but the waste extraction door flung open. Baboo was hit in the face and fell backward.

"Come on now Zeddy, where'd you learn how to fly!" Rita looked pale and there were stains on her dress. "Both of you, go clean up that mess," she shrieked at her underlings.

Once Squatt and Baboo were gone, Zedd's tone softened. "Honeykins, what is it?"
"I don't know. I've been feeling off ever since before Daddy cast his spell on Earth. It got worse as we were leaving the moon." Rita began to absently rub her stomach. Her hand stopped mid-rub and her eyes bulged. She had been less scared when she saw the Machine Empire approaching through her telescope. "Zeddy..."

"What now?" Zedd was annoyed, but Rita took his hand and placed it on her stomach. After a few moments he felt movement and Rita's stomach swell slightly. "By all that is evil, you've been infected with a parasite!"

Last edited by ShadowRanger; September 7th, 2018 at 02:16 AM. Reason: Colors are not allowed in posts. See fanfic rules at top of forum - ShadowRanger
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Old September 5th, 2018, 01:09 AM #2
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Please do not use colors in fanfic section. See rules at top of forum if you njeed a reminder or have not already viewed them.

Edit: Colors removed.

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Old December 6th, 2018, 11:43 PM #3
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Part 2

I felt an overwhelming sense of pride, but there was no time to waste. Zordon immediately put us to work. The team had new powers but no additional support. We needed weapons, zords and we needed them now. Billy was already cobbling something together on one of the secondary consoles while we tossed around ideas. I started to immerse myself into the fully active computer systems and tried not to geek out. I stumbled upon the schematics for the 'new' Command Center as it is and was impressed. Even when I had previously explored the lower levels for the last two years I still barely knew what was down there. Everything was powered up and functional. There were science and testing labs, a foundry, industrial replicators, an area near the power core to house the Zeo crystals, in addition to regular storage and living quarters. An additional hangar was already under construction by the automated systems. What was weirder, was that there were areas and doors that seemed to lead nowhere. Alpha said it was for "the Vortex" but didn't explain it.

That was when the Power Rangers returned. Something was nagging me. I didn't know how I felt about the suits but that might have been because they were new.

"Are you David?" The new Yellow Ranger demorphed with the rest of the team. She was smiling and extending her hand. "Hello, I'm Tonya."
"Yes, and hello." Her shake was very exertive. Her clothing was clearly not local.
"Isn't this place amazing?"
"I'm used to it."
"Right. So, what happens now?"

Zordon answered for me. "A new beginning. Much has changed while time was in flux. First must be the adjustment to the time we now face. Tonya, what year was it when you left home?"

"1996."
The rest of the Rangers were confused and Tommy expressed it. "How is that possible? We all traveled into the past."

I raised my hand. "That might have been me." I explained resetting the temporal coordinates when sending away the Zeo crystals.

"We're lucky you did." Now everyone looked at Billy yet he never looked up from what he was doing. "Imagine if Aisha had decided to remain even further in the past. It could have screwed up the timeline even more."

"Indeed," said Zordon. "The world around us has been altered but you all must adapt accordingly. Especially for our new Ranger."

"I have an idea on how to do that," replied Kat.
"First, she'll need this." Billy joined the group and presented Tonya with a communicator. "I have already congifured it to be compatible with the Zeo powers. Kat, I've done a temporary patch on yours but the others I need to reconfigure slightly." The three Ranger guys each gave over their communicators.

"Alpha, teleport the Rangers home. Katherine, proceed with your plans. Mondo's forces have been temporarily pushed back but we need to prepare."

Once the Zeo team was gone, Billy went back to work. The first thing he did was pop the white and black stripes off two of the communicators. "I was thinking we could recongifure your Sword of Power."

That seemed to come out of nowhere. "You mean my prototype that I hadn't even come up with a decent name for. The prototype Tommy stole when he went evil again."

"Yeah that one."
If the Zeo powers were as powerful as they were made out to be, compressing that much power into a single weapon could be devastating. "Let's work our way to that. It would be easier to start off with a... Zeo cannon. And if the Rangers have individualised weapons, maybe there's a way those could be combined." I started to pace the floor as Billy pitched me some more ideas. I would then offer some suggestions and Alpha diligently started taking notes.

"Okay, I have to take these to the others." Billy then held up the three fixed communicators in the correct colors.
"How did you do that so fast?"
"There's a small matter replication unit in that console."
"Of course there is."
"Somebody will need to teleport me. Without a power coin, I..."
"I know, I've been there. I'll send you home first. That way Mom won't be worried anymore."

I pushed the necessary buttons and Billy disappeared in a flash of white light. Once he was gone my eyes rested on the suit of the White Ranger. That was what was bugging me. I hadn't thought about him in a while. Kou's legacy, and the last vestiges of his people's powers were gone. Worse yet, I wasn't there to do anything about it. Now I was feeling like a scumbag failure. If nothing else, the Thunderzords needed to be fixed. I checked on the automated systems, and the secondary hangar further in the mountains was well underway and would probably not need much longer until completion. The zords were still in pieces so I set the programs to make repairs the main priority after the bay was finished.

"David, what are you doing now?" Alpha came up to me after inputting something into the computer.

"The Thunderzords were never ours. If we're not going to be using them we need to send them back." How do you thank a people when a very personal piece of their cultural heritage has been lost? A greeting card and fruit basket definately won't cut it. Maybe... maybe I can get them functioning again. But first I would have to sever their connection to the Power Coins, since they are still programmed as the power source. "Zordon, where are the Dino coins?"
"I have secured them in the vault with the Zeo Crystals, but Adam did take back the Mastodon coin."

I turned to leave the room and realized I didn't exactly know how to get there. Everything was getting to be too much. So much to do and school was starting tomorrow. I wasn't exactly sure how many more metaphorical balls I could juggle. "You know what, I'll be back tomorrow."

"We understand David. There is much still for us all to process." With that, Zordon lowered himself out of view.

I rubbed Alpha on the shoulder, said "Later" and teleported home. My perpetual disaster of a room needed cleaning. No thank you. Sorting through this new stuff could be fun and hey, maybe I could catch up with Marcus for even more stuff. I moved some stuff on a shelf, and my Storm figure dropped her lightning bolt accessory. Hey! Billy and I barely discussed my problem. I heard Mom in the kitchen so decided to check in.
Mom was in full homemaker mode. A meatloaf, lasagna, a casserole, two pies and brownies were in various states of completion.

Mom waived me in, "Sweetie, could you take the cookies out of the oven." I looked around for the oven mitts and found them next to a bowl of frosting. "Dave, something awful has happened. You know Justin Stewart?"

"Sure"
"His mother just passed away."
"Oh no, that's awful." I couldn't even remember the last time I had spoken to Justin, but Mom always seemed pretty friendly with his mother. Mr. Stewart had offered me lessons a couple times at his karate studio, but I was already much further along with Jason and Trini and the others instructing me than other kids in my age range.

Billy had stopped by long enough to say hi to Mom, change and go to meet back up with the others. I thought about going also, but figured Mom might appreciate me staying. She did too, finding constant excuses to hug me, kiss me on the forehead or mess up my hair. We loaded up the provisions into the car and headed to the Stewart house. Turns out it wasn't that far away in a new subdivision. There were a few other cars there and people could be seen through the windows. I carried in most of the food myself, while Mom started conversing with everyone in sight. I recognized most of them from church and acknowledged the greetings of everyone who noticed me.

Mr. Stewart was sitting on his living room couch, surrounded by people offering help or condolences. He looked pale and sickly, almost oblivious to everything around him. Been there. Mom went to join while I looked for the kitchen. I found a little bit of empty space on the stove to deposit what I had because the table and all the counters were covered with crockpots, pans and plates overflowing with meals, side dishes and desserts. I then thought I heard a sniffling noise. From the pantry. I opened the door and found Justin sitting on the floor with his arms wrapped around his legs. A plate of unwrapped cookies was next to him, but his red eyes showed what he had really been doing in there. I was saddened for his loss of course, but I was in no mind set to tolerate Mom's friends or inflict them on a grieving child. "Do want to get out of here for a little while?"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

King Mondo looked at the blue planet before him. He didn't particularly care for it but, according to Clank's reports, petroleum and oil business was a driving force in the planet's economy. It could provide good raw materials for his family and minions. He then glanced at his wife Machina. She listened more diligently to Clank's continued droning, but she was tapping the fan in her hand rather impatiently. He looked back to Earth. Mondo knew the decision to leave the United Alliance of Evil was the right decision ever since Dark Specter had begun his own moves in the neighboring galaxy. Specter was coming much too close to the galaxies under Machine Empire control and taking the Milky Way could continue his current reign of success and cut off Specter's potential future interests here.

"But Daddy, let me take a fleet of quadrifighters and I'll make these Power Rangers pay." Prince Sprocket was bouncing in anticipation but he was barely getting his frame a few centimeters from the ground.

Machina quit tapping her fan and turned to her son. "Now now dear, your father has already said not until tomorrow. He wants to finish inventorying our resources."

The universe was littered with heroes: Power Rangers, Knights, planetary warriors, not to mention more ancients forces like the Morphing Masters or the Tribunal of Magic. Some of these individuals, like this Zordon, had developed reputations throughout the known universe. In his conquests, Mondo had never had much competition to fight against, especially when he had the Democles Sword. Much as he never cared for Rita or Zedd, he knew enough about their reputations. They had power, the experience, the resources, and yet a group of underage humanoids defeated them time and again. But with his superior power, his greater experience and vaster resources it will be a much different story.

Orbus was floating near a wall interface when he started calling for his leaders. "Your highnesses, we have an incoming ship."

"This type of brazenness must be common in this galaxy." Electrical impulses were shooting up his spinal column, and Mondo started feeling exhilarated.

Machina was also intrigued. "Who dares? Anyone we know."
Orbus had now floated over to Clank and was sharing his sensor data. "It appears to be from the planet Edenoi."
Mondo retrieved an internal memory file on potential threats in this galaxy. "This must be Count Dregon."

The small ship flew in closer to their walkway. Once beside it, a plank extended from the hatch. Count Dregon appeared at the door, walked the length of the plank and stopped. He put his arms behind his back and looked down at the Machine rulers. "Your Majesties."

Neither Mondo or Machina liked Dregon for his impertinence, but that was what Clank was for. "How dare ya' be so rude! These are the rulers of the Machine Empire! You will be respectin' them."

Dregon turned his attention briefly to Clank. "I am merely here as a formality. I have business that has kept me here and Zedd knew well enough to stay out of my way. When I am finished I will be returning home."

Mondo accessed what information the Empire's network had on Dregon. "You may complete your business at your leisure." He then started to casually stride forward. "But you will remember one thing Count Dregon. You may be inheriting a planet once you've destroyed the Masked Rider, but know this: I have several galaxies under my control with a multitude of loyal lieutenants manning them. I am intent on claiming this one as well, which includes your home planet. As a future servant of mine, you may remember who you cross. Disrespect me or my family ever again and that gas planet will become a smoldering cinder."

~~~~~~~~

Justin and I walked for two blocks with no destination in particular. Mom had thought it was a wonderful idea for him to get out but Justin's father seemed to be in a perpetual state of shock. Justin was barely easier to get a any kind of response out of. The news of his loss was still fresh, so I couldn't push him. He needed to grieve whatever worked for him but at least somebody could try to be there for him in some way.

"So, do you want to go anywhere? Angel Haven usually has summer activities going on."
Justin shook his head no.
"A friend of mine was going to a yard sale. We might be able to catch up with him."
Justin shrugged.
"Do you need anything? Or want to talk about anything?"
Justin looked off in the distance before asking. "Why were those cops around your house all the time?"
That was unexpected. "Well, um, I was helping out the mayor. And a bad man came after her and I helped scare him off. The cops were just there to keep us safe."
"Is he coming back?" Justin wasn't scared, but did seem a little intrigued.
"No, you don't have to worry about him."
"But you can't be sure."
"I'm pretty sure."

With no better ideas, when I saw a yard sale sign I decided to follow it. Once there, Justin just hovered while I searched the tables. I found a Tor robot for $5. It was banged up and stickers were peeling, but over all in good shape. Mine. "Do you see anything you like?"

Justin didn't really answer, just picked up a random Transformer that was in front of him, looked at it and set it back down.

"Hi Dave."
I turned to the voice and just stopped. This very pretty girl with red hair was approaching me. She was smiling at me and the summer air started to get warmer. How does she know me? Did we meet in the alternate timeline?

She stopped in front of me and looked at Justin. "Who's this, your little brother?"

It took me a few seconds before I realized she was asking me. "Huh? No! No, this, this is Justin. Justin, this is--" Please answer for me, please answer for me.

"I'm Lucy."
Justin said "hi" but then walked away.

I never really knew how much I liked the name Lucy until that moment. I mean, it is one of the best names ever. "Don't be offended," I leaned in a little closer to whisper "his mother just passed away." She smells amazing. Flowery but not in a sickening type of overwhelming way.

"Oh that is so sweet of you. To be there for him."
She thinks I'm sweet. "How are you today?"
"Good, I just wanted to say thank you."
"For what?"
Lucy seemed curious, but an amused curious. "The book suggestions from yesterday. I caved and bought the Anne books and was so into the first one I read the whole thing in one sitting."

I was smiling at her, but was it a crazy smile? "You might want to pace yourself." I hope it isn't a creepy smile.

"I was thinking about getting these." Lucy then showed me VHS copies of 'Anne of Green Gables' and 'Anne of Avonlea'. "Since you're apparently a movie guru too, are these worth a dollar?"

"Absolutely. The first one is pretty faithful but takes a few liberties. The second one is a combination of parts from several of the sequel books so I would hold off until after you've read 'Windy Poplars'."

"Oh, I looked at that one. Is the whole thing written like letters sent back and forth?"
"Yeah, but if it bothers you, know that 'Lady Susan' is worse."
"You've read Jane Austen too? You really know your chick lit."
I defensively blurted "It was an assignment" but I immediately had a mental image of Miracle Max's wife from 'Princess Bride' screaming "Liar! Liarrrrr!"

"I thought you said you were a student librarian who liked to read."
How talkative was I in the alternate timeine? "That too."
"Tia and I were going to hang later. Maybe we'll see you around."
"Maybe. Yeah. Sure. Totally. If I can." I smiled again but gestured a thumb towards Justin.
She smiled back. "Right, of course. Well, bye."
I really liked how she walked away. Confident, yet swishy. And her hair literally bounces with each step.

Justin was now on the opposite side of the table, shaking his head in disapproval. "Gross."

"What?" How can one word sound so defensive? "Tell you what, let me check the long boxes to see if there are any good comics, and then we go grab a burger at Adelle's."

"I haven't been there. It's down town, so my mom wanted to make a day of it." Justin started to sadden again.

I glanced over at Lucy, who had just bought her movies and was walking away. But then I looked at Justin. "If that's what she wanted, then that is what we are going to do." I walked to him and put my arm around his shoulder. "But first, the long boxes await us."

Justin and I spent the rest of the afternoon together. After a brief stop at my house to drop off my purchases I indulged Justin in any whim I could get him to respond to in any affirmative way. We took the bus downtown to Adelle's restaurant where Justin barely touched the appetizer cheese sticks so I didn't order anything else there. I took him for milkshakes to help with the heat and that got me a fraction of a slight possible positive reaction. We walked along the beach and browsed tourist shops until it was almost closing time. He let me sign him up for activities at Angel Haven when we passed by on our way back to the bus stop. The sun was starting to set and the last thing I needed to do was get the kid in trouble for being out past dark.

As we headed back to his home Justin began to tense up and his face started to get pale. Before I could ask what was wrong, Justin ran to the front of the bus and demanded to get off. The driver barely slowed before Justin was pounding on the door. I offered up an open apology to everyone in general as Justin was finally let off. He went running into the park with me chasing after him. I was able to keep pace but there didn't seem to be a destination. Justin eventually started to slow down and, once he stopped, he slowly fell to his knees. He was crying really hard and starting to gasp for air. "Please... I can't... "

I still had some napkins from the milkshakes and handed one to Justin. "You have to at some point." I sat down right in front of him. "But it doesn't have to be right this minute."

Justin blew through half the napkins before his breathing came under control again. "She was sleeping. They wouldn't even let me see her."

"Do you think seeing her like that would have made you feel any better? I don't think it would."
"How would you know?"
"Because I watched someone die once." Even I was surprised by how blunt that came out. I had never spoken this openly about it before. Even with Billy I hadn't been completely forthcoming. Justin was just gawking at me now. "I was with him when he let out his last breath."

Justin's eyes were shimmering in the limited light, but I had his complete attention. "When?"
"Couple years ago."
"How -- how did you feel?"
"Startled. Shocked. Afraid. Sad. Horrified. Angry and frustrated. The combination of them washing over me made me kind of numb. And I was determined to do something about it."

Justin squatted into a more comfortable sitting position. "Like what? How did you deal with it?"

I blew up his killer, but that wouldn't apply here. But damn, it had been cathartic. "I attended the funeral, confided in my brother and a couple close friends about my feelings, and I spent many nights crying into my pillow."

"How about now? Do you think about him?"
"Just today I realized I hadn't thought about him in a while, when before I couldn't help but agonize over it every spare second of the day. Something like that is impossible to forget but I am starting to get past it. That's how I'm positive your mother wouldn't have wanted you to see her like that. Your father did see it and look at him now."

"But I don't want to forget her." Justin's throat cracked as he pleaded with me.

"Justin, I only knew my friend a few days and I will never forget him. There is absolutely no way you can ever forget your mother." I looked at Justin, and I wasn't sure how to console him. If he had wanted sympathy, he wouldn't have hidden from the church ladies. During everything with Kou, I had been treated like an adult so I was going to offer the same courtesy. "You are going to feel miserable for a while though."

"How long?"
"As long as you need to be. People are going to be offering sympathies and offering to help, but don't let them rush you. If you need to vent, do it. Cry, by all means. If you need space, take all you need." I now had a flashback to Zordon and how every time I felt frustrated and overwhelmed, especially after Daos, he had me take breaks. Damn his wiseness. "It will help to focus on the good stuff but you really need to do what is best for you."

Justin turned his head to look off toward the lake. The darkness had fallen on us and his face was unreadable in silhouette. This kid has had his entire life changed and I dropped a personal bomb of my own on top of him. After several minutes Justin finally stood up and said "I think I need my dad right now."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Linn stood on the forward balcony of her castle. The aroma of turned soil was all she could smell and it was invigorating even from a great distance.

"What is that smell?" Ryu approached with a mortified expression.

Linn shook her head. "Farming season has begun. With the new equipment we were able to get we can increase production of the grain crops. Expand and increase trade opportunities."

"That's why I'm here." Ryu handed a letter to his queen while using his other hand to cover his nose. "There is an orchard east of the capital city that is requesting to expand. This is their proposal."

Linn began to read. "Why is this being brought to my attention?"
"Apparently a majority of the land they want to expand onto is part of the royal holdings."

Linn finished and handed it back. "We'll agree, but reduce our profit margin by a quarter and we will maintain proprietary rights of the land itself. Have Kaizu go with you."

"He hasn't returned yet. He found a shop in the city that he wants to open as a new hair salon."
"Daigo?"
"He went with. Daigo might be opening a pet salon to go with it."
"Shoji?"
"He's off training somewhere. He wanted to try out for 'Galaxy Warriors' but I spent most of yesterday talking him out of it."

"Wow." Linn turned to look back at the vista around them. "When did that happen?"
Ryu stood next to her and leaned on the railing. "When did what happen?"
"When did the team disband and go their separate ways?"

"I think it started after Lord Zedd blew up our planet and we realized we were never going back."
"But the mission--"
"The mission is over. It has been ever since David Cranston destroyed the last Emperor. We have no powers, no zords and no pressing enemies. Our days as Power Rangers are over."

Linn had never really liked people arguing with her. She hated it even more now that she was Queen. "Our scientists have been trying to re-energize our morphers."

"They've had an entire planetary orbit and they have made no progress."
"I've been speaking with some Eltaran representatives and even some Space Patrol delegates. They've given me some promising ideas."

"Bureaucrats seeking opportunity. Or possibly patronizing a ruling monarch without upsetting her."
Linn gripped the railing in frustration. "So, what now?"
Ryu joined her at the railing and placed his hands down. "Move forward. New adventures and new opportunities await. Don't you think being Queen is enough?"

"So does this mean you're leaving me too? Get a job at a restaurant?"
"I'm eager to explore whatever comes next."
It was then that Linn noticed that Ryu's hand was on top of hers. She smiled.
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