Disclaimer: With the minor exception of the unrecognized members
of the Astro Rangers, all the characters and locations mentioned in this
fan-fiction are the legal property of Saban Entertainment. I have no affiliation
with this organization, nor have I received permission to write this piece.
But since I'm not getting paid for it, I hope this doesn't matter.
Author's Notes: As for timelines, this piece takes place at the beginning of the Power Rangers in Space series, not long after Andros formed the team. I'm a big fan of e-mail, so send whatever comments you have to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please? Oh, and in addition, I'd just like to mention that my purpose for writing this fic is to establish some form of past for Andros. I may be wrong, but I don't think this contradicts with the show. So, if anyone wants to use these characters in their own fics, instead of making up another new team of original Astro Rangers, go right ahead. Sometimes, fics just mention them in passing or something. Feel free to use this as background, so long as you mention you got them from this fic.
In the early morning sky, trails of clouds hung in cottony ribbons high above the city of Angel Grove. Streaks of bright orange and pale pink colored the lightening sky, and bounced off the thick mists of the condensed water to give them a surreal glow. The crimson disk of the sun crept over the horizon, returning to give life-sustaining heat to the planet for another day. And also, if one looked carefully, one would see a flash of red light, crossing the plains of the sky like a falling star. The flash descended towards the cliffs just outside Angel Grove purposefully, as if it were headed for a specific location. Once the flash came close to the planet's surface, it slowed down to a more manageable speed, making it clear that it wasn't simply a flash of light. Rather, it was a young man. But he wasn't just any young man. He was the noble and galactically recognized Red Astro Ranger.
His Galaxy Glider, which provided him transportation, hovered about a foot above the dusty, rocky plateau deep in the cliffs. The Red Ranger stepped off the high-tech surf board, and brushed the dust his crimson uniform collected. In silence, he examined his surroundings. Just as he expected, his arrival point was only a few yards from his ultimate destination: the scorched rubble that was once the mighty Power Chamber of Earth.
The Red Ranger approached the ruins slowly, no feeling at all evident in his gait. He journeyed between piles of rubble, taking a quick survey of the damage. There was nothing visible but destruction.
"I figured as much," he sighed to himself, activating his communicator, "DECA, do you read me?"
'Affirmative', answered the dry female voice of the Megaship's computer system, and his only companion during the two lonely years of his solitary voyages.
"I don't see anything salvageable," he said, still scanning the debris with his eyes, "Divatox managed to completely destroy the Power Chamber. I'll take a closer look though, just in case. Maybe if we can find some computer data on Zordon's destination, it'll be easier for us to figure out exactly at what point Dark Specter captured him, and maybe we can extrapolate where he could have taken him."
'Do you need any assistance?' the mechanical voice droned.
"No, I can handle this," he answered, "Andros out."
Andros deactivated the communicator in his wrist unit, and then activated the scanning device it contained. He slowly swept his arm across, reading the data as it came in. He then typed commands on the keyboard, trying to piece together the puzzle. The scan information his unit was receiving was slowly being put together into a schematic map of the Power Chamber before its destruction, which would facilitate Andros' search for data disks.
After a few moments more of scanning, he managed to input all the area of the destroyed Power Chamber. On the small screen within the unit, the number ten appeared. Andros snapped the unit closed, and held his hands on his hips. He had to wait ten minutes for the results.
Andros turned towards the horizon, and noticed that the sun was blazing in the distance, its shade red due to the density of the air along the horizontal axis. A hint of emotion crept on Andros' placid face as he slowly reached up to his helmet, and undid the clasps. He pulled the mask off his face, and let the gentle warmth of the early morning sun shine on his pale skin. He then walked towards the horizon, and climbed upon a large boulder not far from the edge. He made himself comfortable on his vantage point, and set his helmet beside him. Leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, Andros watched the sun slink slowly into the dome of the sky.
As he witnessed the glorious event, that took place every single day of existence, he couldn't help but reflect on the first time he had seen a sunrise. He was ten years old, and for the first time in his young life, the beauty and warmth of the sun didn't bring the hope of a new day. It only magnified his grief.
"Andros!" the little girl cried with excitement, waving her hands, "I can't make it stop!"
Young Andros laughed at his sister's antics. Karone was waving her hands frantically, despite the fact that the ball she was trying to catch was a good two feet out of her reach. Andros held his hand out, and narrowed his pale green eyes in concentration. The ball slowed in its journey over Karone's head, and backed up. It came to a stop in front of Karone, and landed at her feet. A tiny frown on her cherubic face, Karone picked up the ball manually, and passed her small hand over its surface.
"I can't do it!" she whined, "Its too hard!"
"Telekinesis is tons hard!" Andros answered, taking the ball from her, "You've gotta stay focused, Karone. Don't wave your hands. You know you can't reach it. Try to reach it with your mind." Andros handed the ball back to his attentive student. "Try to throw it to me. Its easier to throw than to catch."
Andros jogged back on the lush green yard of his family's home, near the center of the capital city of KO 35, Palatine. He stopped a few yards from his younger sister, and beckoned her to throw the ball.
"I'm ready!" he called to her, "Try to get it all the way to me."
Karone bit her rosy lip, determination glinting in her blue-gray eyes. She let go of the ball, and watched it lower to the ground due to gravity. Her face scrunched with concentration, and the fall of the ball slowed to a crawl. Finally, only a few inches from the highest blades of grass, the ball came to a complete stop. Gritting her teeth, Karone then launched the ball in Andros' general direction. It bulleted through the air, meters above Andros' head. Andros squinted as the ball sailed past, and turned to Karone in surprise.
"I did it!" she squealed in triumph, "I threw it with my mind!!"
Andros shook his head in amazement at his seven year old sister. He, already ten years old, was far too mature to get so excited about such a minor achievement. True, Karone finally displayed some manner of telekinetic ability, but it was very crude indeed.
"Karone, you really launched that ball!" Andros scolded, instantly dispersing Karone's celebration, "Now I have to go find it!"
Karone pouted at her brother's anger, and threw her hands on her hips as menacingly as she could. "Use your telekinesis, Hot Shot!"
Andros shook his head. "You can only use telekinesis on something you can see! I've told you that a million times!"
Karone stuck her tongue out at her brother. Andros sighed dramatically and went into the nearby bushes, looking for the bright colors of the ball. But his search was interrupted when a terrified scream sliced through the peaceful silence.
"Karone?!" Andros shouted, looking up. He raced back to the yard, and looked around urgently. "KARONE!!"
Not even a whisper. Everything was silent.
"No... this isn't funny, Karone!" he shouted, running around the yard, looking behind every bush, rock, or flower patch he came across. At a loss, he returned to where she was the last time he saw her.
"I'm sorry I yelled at you," he offered, hoping his sister would stop whatever cruel prank she was engaging in, "You're very good at telekinesis. Really!"
Andros looked around in confusion. He didn't know what to do. Panic setting in, he ran towards their residence. "Mom! Dad!"
Andros' father Egeon lead a search party that combed all of Palatine, and further. Andros was forced to remain home with his mother, Celeste, and was advised to get some sleep. However, despite his mother's efforts, Andros couldn't sleep. He sat in his bed through most of night completely alert, fingering the ball with his hands. Tears of fear and remorse poured down his flushed cheeks for hours, and Celeste couldn't do anything to comfort her oldest child. Instead, she sat on his bed beside him, wrapping her arms around him in a protective maternal embrace. Andros cried on his mother's bosom all night, until utter exhaustion finally sank him into a tormented sleep. A few hours later, his red eyes opened, and his attention was drawn by a blazing red light that brightened his dark bedroom with its passionate rays. Andros looked out the window with puzzlement, and weakly rose from his bed, where his mother had left him at some point during the torturous night. Andros forced open the window, letting the crisp early morning air into his room. He watched the sun rise in all its glory, with a collage of bright colors strewn across the sky by God's almighty paintbrush.
The sunrise was breathtaking, the unadulterated power of the star so close to the surface of the planet, pulsing with energy and fury. It was simply amazing, especially for a child so young to behold.
Yet, as soon as he recovered from the awe he felt witnessing the extraordinary event, he instantly wished his sister was there to see it with him.
She was never there to see a sunrise with her brother.
She may have never seen a sunrise at all.
His lower lip trembling, Andros continued to watch the sun move upwards into the sky. He remembered his sister's angelic face as clearly as if he had just seen her yesterday. Many times he wondered what could have happened to her. There were never any clues about her abduction, and no one ever contacted Egeon for a ransom. Karone's abduction seemed completely pointless, and all the more tragic.
Karone was a part of him. She was his childhood playmate, his sister... his responsibility. He was the big brother, who should have been around to protect her. Only, he couldn't. When she needed his protection, he couldn't deliver. She was only the first loved one he failed, on a very long list.
A long list written in crimson blood.
Andros pushed the painful thoughts of his long-lost sister out of his mind, determined to cheer himself up by thinking of a happier sunrise. It didn't take long before he thought of one, that happened just about two and a half years ago. On this occasion, he did indeed have someone special to share the moment with. It was probably the moment that would live forever in his heart. It was one of the multitude of special moments he shared with his lifelong love, Thaisa.
"Andros!" she called, glancing behind her while continuing to run full speed into the dark forest. She slowed down when she noticed her companion was no longer behind her. "Andros?"Thaisa shrieked in surprise as a figure leapt out of the woods nearby, and tackled her to the grass. She fell into a fit of giggles as the young pair rolled along the green grass. Once they stopped, she stopped laughing just long enough to meet her love's lips in a tender kiss. Once they parted, she began to giggle once again.
"How... how did you do that?" she panted, pushing back long waves of strawberry blonde hair. An inspiring mixture of reddish-pink and fiery gold, her hair was in itself a work of art. And since it framed the glorious, delicate porcelain of her face, she appeared all the more beautiful. Especially to Andros.
"I took a shortcut," he answered, rising to his feet. Like a gentleman, he offered his companion his hand. She took it with a warm smile, and held onto his hand tightly as they continued their leisurely walk through the forest.
"We'd better hurry," Thaisa said, glancing up at the lightening blue sky, "The sun's rising!"
Thaisa picked up the hem of her dress, and began racing through the forest again. Andros ran beside her, as the pair gracefully leapt over fallen logs and ducked beneath low branches. Soon, they reached their destination: the tallest, oldest tree in the forest just outside the walls of Palatine.
"After you," Andros said politely. Thaisa chuckled.
"No, you'd better go first," she said, "You probably want to look up my dress!"
Andros' green eyes widened in shock, and he feigned hurt. "Is that what you think of me?"
Thaisa giggled at his performance, and pushed him towards the daunting tree. Andros grasped onto a rather low branch, and pulled himself up. Slowly but surely, he continued upwards, until he reached one of the highest branches. It wasn't blocked by a canopy of leaves, so the view was spectacular over the horizon. Andros sat down on the branch, and glanced behind him. Thaisa was standing right behind him, and sat down on the branch next to him, her slender legs dangling off the edge.
"You're a fast climber," he commented, wrapping his arm over her shoulder.
"Faster than you," she replied, a playful grin lighting up her soft face, "Care to try me?"
Andros huffed. "I know I'd lose."
Thaisa chuckled, and leaned her head on Andros' broad shoulder. Together, they gazed out into the horizon, watching the red orb ascend in the clear blue sky, casting its mighty rays into the distance and breathing life upon the plains once again. Andros turned when he heard a contented sigh pass from Thaisa's tender lips. She enjoyed watching the sun rise. She always saw it as a renewal of life and light, cutting through the silence and loneliness of the night.
If it weren't for Thaisa's incredible optimism, Andros never would have associated the sunrise with anything other than great loss. Loss of his Karone.
Thaisa saved him from a life alone. Despair had settled in after Karone's abduction, and there was nothing his family could do but grieve. Andros felt so utterly alone, and guilty. After all, he was right there when his sister vanished. If he had been more wary, perhaps he would have gotten help in time. He knew he could have saved his helpless little sister. He should have saved her.
However, Thaisa brought light into Andros' darkness. She shone like the sun itself, the dawn forever woven into her incredible shining hair. Her cerulean eyes reflected the cloudless sky in summer, so pure and endless. And Thaisa's spirit was inspirational. Shewas so perfect... so wonderful. She managed to heal a hole in Andros' heart that he thought would always remain...
..and he wanted her to be a part of him forever.
"Thaisa," he said quietly, breaking through the silent appreciation of beauty, "I... uh... I have something to say."
Thaisa's head rose from Andros' shoulder, and she gazed into his pale green eyes inquiringly.
"Thaisa," he said, taking a calming breath, "you've been... everything to me since we first met."
Thaisa flushed a rosy pink, showing quite blatantly on her pale skin. Andros grinned at her modest reaction.
"No, really. You have. Just having you in my life makes my life so much brighter. And... I... I want to make you a part of my life from now into eternity."
Thaisa's eyes narrowed in confusion. "Andros, what are you saying?"
Andros licked his dry lips, his hand disappearing into his jacket pocket. He slowly pulled out a small ring of gold, glistening in the dawn's light like a star. Thaisa's eyes widened in absolute shock.
Thaisa gazed at the ring in amazement, and then locked eyes with Andros. She couldn't believe this was happening.
"Now, before you answer, uh... I want you to know that I realize we're a little young. We're both seventeen. But I know I love you, and that'll never change. I want you to be a part of me."
Thaisa's mouth moved, but no words came out. She then closed her lips, shaking her head in disbelief. Finally, she lurched forward, pressing her lips against his in a powerful kiss. That kiss, passionate and forceful, took Andros completely by surprise. It lasted nearly a full minute. Finally, they separated, each of them yearning for air.
"I... I'll take that as a yes," Andros said breathlessly. Thaisa nodded, still voiceless. Tears sprang to her eyes.
"I'd be honored to be your wife," she said finally, holding her left hand to him. He held her fingertips gently, and slid the gold ring, encrusted with a small gemstone, onto her slim finger. Thaisa touched the ring in wonder, and buried her face in Andros' chest. He leaned his chin on the top of her head, and watched the sun continue into the sky, a wide grin on his flushed face.
A dreamy grin crossed Andros' face when he pulled himself back to the present. However, that smile soon faded, just as a dream does at dawn. That was the last day that he would know true happiness. That was the last sunrise that would bring the promise of another wonderful day of life. For early the following morning, Dark Specter attacked.
The attack was ruthless and quick. Attack squadrons launched against the capital city of Palatine, tearing to shreds the quiet, humble lives of its citizens. Thousands of lives were lost that first day, and the militia, unprepared for such a brutal onslaught, could only try to organize themselves before another catastrophe struck. But the militia couldn't hold back Dark Specter's forces for long, and was soon overwhelmed.
The only hope of the Kerovan society was to establish a fighting force that had remained dormant for centuries. They needed the legendary Astro Power Rangers.
Andros leapt from his bed in alarm, as screams and explosions cut through his blissful dreams of Thaisa. He looked around his room in confusion, which was lit only with the red rays of the rising sun. He climbed out of bed, and hurried to the window. In the early morning sky, small objects were falling towards the ground, littering the air like a swarm of locusts. His mouth opening in disbelief, Andros grabbed his slippers and ran into the hallway."Mom? Dad? What's going on?!"
Celeste raced towards her son, and grabbed his arm. "Quickly, Andros!" she panted, "We've got to get underground!"
Celeste turned to her son, her own green eyes wide with terror. "KO 35 is under attack."
Andros stared at his mother in horror. "Who would attack us? What do we have that anyone would want?!"
"I'm not sure what's happening, but we have to get to the underground shelter. Foot soldiers are landing in the city, taking hostages and killing anyone who gets in their way. We have to get to security."
A thought dawned on Andros, and he pulled his arm free from his mother's grasp. "You and Dad go ahead. I have to find Thaisa!"
Celeste was about to protest, but she saw the seriousness in her son's young eyes. There was no way to dissuade him. He cared for Thaisa more than his own life, so he wouldn't think twice about risking his own life to make sure she was out of danger.
"Fine," Celeste breathed, "but be"
"Andros! Celeste!" called Egeon, running out of the master bedroom, "Why are you still in the house?!"
"I have to go find Thaisa," Andros said, "I've got to make sure she's safe."
Surprisingly, Egeon didn't argue the matter. "Go, and stay with Thaisa. And make sure her father sees this."
Egeon took his son's hand, and placed a small chain in it, with a red gem hanging from the golden disk-shaped pendant. Andros gazed at it curiously, and then glanced at his father.
"Trust me, Son," Egeon said, "This is your destiny. Now, make sure to find Thaisa, and Rasselas. Show him the pendant."
Andros nodded, and raced through the house. He threw open the door, his eyes wide with horror. Before him, in the once quiet and peaceful streets of Palatine, all hell had broken loose.
"The Fates preserve us," he whispered, taking a deep breath. He ran through the blazing streets and panicking crowds of people, and did his best to avoid the random laser fire coming from ships passing overhead. He ran as quickly as his legs would carry him, his heart and mind focused on reaching the familiar house about a block away, which housed his love and her family. He raced past burning homes, squadrons of drone enemy soldiers, and packs of terrified Kerovans fleeing toward one of the emergency underground shelters beneath Palatine. Finally, he reached the home of Thaisa.
Droplets of sweat streaking down his skin, he raced to the unlocked door. The house was silent, but otherwise intact.
"Thaisa?" he called into the empty halls, "THAISA!!"
Andros ran into the house, making sure there weren't any Kerovans trapped inside the house. His dread mounted when he couldn't find a clue to his love's whereabouts.
His hand reached toward the only closed door in the building, but before he could touch the knob, the door suddenly pushed open, knocking Andros across the hall with surprising force. Andros yelped in surprise, and shook his head to orient himself. He looked up warily, expecting to see an alien trooper prepared to end his life. A wave of relief hit as he realized who was standing before him.
Cerimon, Thaisa's older brother."Sorry about that," Cerimon said rather sheepishly, holding out his hand. Andros accepted the help, and let the older man lift him to his feet. He then noticed a gold chain dangling from Cerimon's neck, with a pendant similar to his own. However, a black gemstone glinted in the center.
"Its not your fault," Andros said, his gaze meeting Cerimon's cerulean blue one, "I'm breaking and entering after all."
Cerimon smiled, and grabbed Andros' hand. He led him through the hallway, and to the back exit of the house. When he opened the door, he saw streams of red lasers continue showering on Palatine like hailstones. Gritting his teeth, he raced onto the open lawn, Andros in tow.
"What are you doing in Palatine?" Andros inquired, "I thought you went to Garn to study wizardry under the great Almaleck!"
"I did," Cerimon responded, coming to a stop. He grabbed Andros' arm again, forcing him to come to a halt. Right before them, a stream of laser struck the dirt, causing a small explosion of flames to erupt. The explosion didn't affect the two men, who were just far enough away from the point of impact to avoid being injured. A satisfied grin on Cerimon's face, he began running again. Andros followed him.
"How did you do that?" Andros demanded.
"Its one of the tricks I picked up from Almaleck. Almaleck had a premonition of this attack, and he knew it would be severe. I had to come home, and make sure my parents and sister were alright. If this is what I think it is, then I'm needed."
"What do you mean?"
Cerimon came to a stop beside a tree, and peaked out from behind it. Four alien foot-soldiers marched in a line, firing beams of lasers at the fleeing crowds. Cerimon glowered at them, and brought his fists together.
"Let's see if I can pull this spell off," he muttered to himself, stepping out from the protection of the tree, "Hey, Drones! Over here!"
The four soldiers looked up in surprise at the brave young man who confronted them. But before they could set off a round of lasers, a concussive wave of black energy struck them with the force of a truck, shattering them on impact. Andros' eyes widened when he saw sparks flying from their dismembered parts.
Cerimon nodded. "They're Quantrons, the foot soldiers of the evil lord Dark Specter. He's attacking the planet."
"How did you know that?" Andros asked in bewilderment. Cerimon was always a rather mysterious individual, but ever since his departure to Garn, he had become even more so.
"Almaleck told me."
Cerimon then looked up, and noticed a ship flying overhead. He took a deep breath, and glanced at Andros. Or more specifically, his neck. A grin tugged at his lips when he saw the golden pendant, with the crimson gemstone on it.
"I'm glad I found you," he commented, "Now, the team's almost complete."
Andros stared at Cerimon in utter confusion. "What are you talking about? And where's Thaisa anyway? Is she alright?"
Cerimon nodded. "My father is the Minister of Magicks, Andros. As soon as the invasion began, he was summoned to the Prime Minister's assembly. He took Thaisa and my mother with him. I needed to return to the house to retrieve this."
He reached to his neck, and held up his pendant.
"Now that I have it, I can join the others at the assembly... and you must come with me."
"What assembly?" Andros uttered, as the pair continued through the chaotic streets of the city.
"It's... difficult to explain. Just wait until we arrive. All your questions will be answered then."
Andros abided, and together they reached the center of Palatine, where the mighty palace stood. The towers were greatly damaged, and it was obvious that the palace was the focus of the alien attack. Nonetheless, Cerimon raced toward the main entrance, which was locked.
"How do we get in?" Andros pondered aloud.
Cerimon lifted his pendant, and held it before the door. It glinted with black energy, and the door suddenly opened, allowing the young men access.
Andros looked at Cerimon in confusion yet again. How did he do that? What was happening? And, what did he have to do with it? Egeon hadn't told him what the pendant was for, and from what he deduced from Cerimon, it was greatly important. Even vital... for the continuance of KO 35.
After they entered the palace, Cerimon raced to the main assembly room, where the Prime Minister held his meetings. Andros blinked in surprise when he noticed the room was vacant.
Cerimon didn't seem phased by this. Instead, he walked toward the throne, that sat in the center of the room with two large booths on either end for audiences. He pulled his pendant off his neck, and pressed it against the head of the throne. The throne moved along the floor, revealing a set of stone stairs leading into darkness. Andros followed Cerimon into the underground chamber.
"Andros!" Thaisa shrieked with excitement, running to him and greeting him with a tight embrace. Andros returned the hug with equal enthusiasm, and then looked around him. He saw Thaisa's parents, as well as a few other distinguished ministers and their families. Rasselas, the Minister of Magicks, stood beside his wife, and happily greeted their eldest child. Also assembled were the lady Antigone, the Minister of Science, and her sixteen year old son Lysander, Viola, the Minister of State, her husband Sebastian, and her daughter Dionysa, and finally the Minister of War Cassio.
"What's going on?" Andros asked, glancing at Thaisa. She shook her head in frustration, her grip tightening on Andros' hand.
"I don't know," she admitted, "The Prime Minister asked to assemble his Council as soon as the first laser struck Palatine. Everyone has been waiting in here for him to appear."
Suddenly, a large pair of double doors opened, and a young man stepped through. He wore a black uniform of slacks and a jacket, with a silver shirt beneath. "The Prime Minister will see you all now. Please, follow me."
The congregation followed the young man into the secret audience room. Leonatus, the Prime Minister of all KO 35, stood in the center of the room, his aged face hard and serious. The messenger stood beside him, and folded his arms proudly.
"Council members," Leonatus said, "please step forward."
Cassio, Viola, Rasselas, and Antigone stepped forward, and each bowed lightly to the Prime Minister. He bowed in return, and took a deep breath.
"The dreaded time has arrived," Leonatus announced, "Dark Specter has decided to attack KO 35. Although we don't know what has attracted the despot to our planet, we know he will not cease in his hostilities until all of KO 35 is reduced to dust."
"Prime Minister," Cassio said, "the militia won't be able to stop such a sudden and decisive attack. We have dispatched squadrons to combat the enemy immediately, but the foot soldiers continue to attack. Their number seems endless."
"That's because they are automatons," Antigone stated, "Dark Specter has at his disposal a seemingly infinite army of robotic warriors, and we don't know what else he has in store for our planet."
"That is why I have summoned you all here," Leonatus said, "KO 35 has entered into a time of great tribulation. We must activate the Lightstar powers immediately. Before we lose all chance of victory."
Andros listened to their conversation, completely baffled. He had never heard of the Lightstar powers before, nor had he heard of the villain Dark Specter.
"Where are the Rangers?" Leonatus inquired, glancing past his Council to see the assembled family members. "Rangers, step forward."
Andros watched as Lysander, Dionysa, and the man dressed in black and silver joined the Council. He then glanced at Cerimon, who was looking at him expectantly. It was then that he realized what all five of them had in common... the golden pendants with different colored gemstones.
"Me?" Andros whispered, letting go of Thaisa's hand. Cerimon nodded with an amused grin, and together they joined the circle.
"Where is the Yellow Ranger, Father?" the young man in black asked the Prime Minister.
"Perhaps we should ask Cassio, Zhane," he responded, turning to the Minister of War, "Where is your daughter Desdemona?"
Cassio bit his lower lip. "She... was killed in the first onslaught," he responded weakly, fingering the gold pendant on his own neck, "I couldn't save her."
Leonatus bowed his head sadly. "I'm sorry for your great loss, Cassio. Desdemona was a spirited and intelligent young woman."
Cassio nodded, his fists clenched tightly with anxiety. Leonatus then turned to Andros, Lysander, Dionysa, Zhane, and Cerimon.
"The five of you all have pendants, which were given to you by your parents. Those pendants are representative to the great power you will be granted."
"Um, Prime Minister," Andros asked quietly, "I'm afraid you have me at a loss. Apparently, everyone else here understands what is going on."
Leonatus smiled. "The Lightstar powers developed by the ancient magical clan of Ma'at, who tapped the magical nexus of the planet known as the Lightstar Fountain. At that time, early in the history of KO 35, our budding civilization was in danger of annihilation by belligerent alien forces. If it weren't for the Astro Rangers, we never would have achieved victory.
"After those forces were defeated, KO 35 entered a Golden Age of peace for centuries. The Astro Rangers retired, and returned their power to the leaders of the colony. They knew their great powers weren't needed, however the thought remained that if an attack did happen in the future, it would most likely be too sudden to form a new team of Rangers completely from scratch. Therefore, six pendants were made, and given to the former Astro Rangers. They in turn passed them down through the generations, to those they felt worthy to carry on for them. Most often, the pendants were passed on from parent to child, but sometimes they were past to members of different families. Over time, the pendants had many owners indeed.
"Since the pendants were always given to individuals devoted to KO 35, it isn't uncommon that they would go on to run for public office. That is why the owners of the Silver, Yellow, Black, Blue, and Pink pendants are all members of the ruling council. Your father Egeon was once one of my most trusted advisors, but once your sister Karone was abducted, Egeon decided to forsake that time-consuming occupation to care more readily for his family. It was a decision that I understood and accepted. Still, he is a brave and devoted man, worthy enough to keep the Red pendant. And apparently, he has given it to you, selecting you as his successor. Now, you shall be an Astro Ranger."
"Prime Minister," Dionysa uttered, her hands folded tightly, "I have never fought before. I'm not sure I am worthy to serve as a Power Ranger."
"Your humility speaks otherwise. The Power will guide you all in its use, and with time you will learn how to use the Power in the most efficient and beneficial manner. I have faith in all of you."
Leonatus then turned to the older generation. "Please give your children your blessings."
Antigone stepped forward, and gazed deeply into her son's eyes. "Lysander, you have always been logical, wise, and intelligent. You will serve well as the Blue Astro Ranger."
Then, Viola approached her daughter, hugging her tightly. "Gentle and compassionate Dionysa, you have always valued life in all its forms. I am certain you will continue to do so as the Pink Astro Ranger."
Rasselas entered the circle, and grasped his son's shoulder. "Cerimon, you have made me proud in your magical training, as well as your dedication to family and friends. You will fare well as the Black Astro Ranger."
Leonatus turned to Zhane, and held his hand. "My son, you have learned well over the years. You are strong in body, mind, and soul. Evil shall tremble at the sight of the new Silver Astro Ranger."
Leonatus then glanced to Andros, who was standing alone in the circle. His father wasn't there to give him his blessing. It was obvious Andros didn't feel like he belonged in this privileged group.
"Andros," he said, stepping toward the young man, "I have seen you grow from a child to the young man you are today. You are brave and loyal, honest and sharp-minded. Therefore, may the Power protect and guide you as the Red Astro Ranger, leader of the Astro Rangers."
Andros gasped, staring at the Prime Minister wide-eyed. "Me? The leader?"
"Indeed. Do not worry, Andros. You are capable of being an excellent leader. The Power will guide you, if you let it."
Andros smiled, fingering the pendant in awe. He then took a deep breath, and locked eyes with the four other members of the Astro Rangers. He knew the future looked bright, with such worthy youths fighting to preserve it.
"Then, let's get our powers," Andros said, his fist enclosing on his pendant, "People are dying above ground, and we have to stop it."
"Wait!" Thaisa called, hurrying away from her mother and joining the inner circle, "Andros, you can't go without a Yellow Astro Ranger. The team is incomplete!"
Andros gazed into Thaisa's cerulean eyes, worry building inside of him. He discerned her proposal before it passed through her lips, and he was instantly against it.
"Thaisa," he said gently, taking her hand, "its too dangerous. The Power Rangers will become Dark Specter's prime targets!"
Thaisa kept her eyes on Andros, and her voice steady. "I know, and I'm willing to take the risk. That is, if the Prime Minister would let me."
Leonatus pondered this for a moment, and then glanced at Cassio inquiringly.
"It is an excellent idea," Cassio said finally, pulling off his pendant, "Although I always looked forward to the day I could pass this great honor to my beloved Desdemona, I can think of no one more capable of carrying the mantel of the Yellow Ranger than you."
Thaisa beamed at Cassio, and stepped towards him. However, Andros caught her arm, causing her to turn and face him.
"Thaisa, you could be killed!" Andros argued, "I can't let that happen."
Thaisa smiled, and touched his cheek gently. "Andros, I know you love me, but you have to listen to reason. If the Power Rangers fail, all of KO 35 will be destroyed! Every one of us will die! We must keep at full strength if we are to defeat Dark Specter's overwhelming forces. Now, can you think of someone else you'd rather have at your side as the Yellow Ranger?"
Andros lowered his eyes from her penetrating gaze. He had no answer for her.
"I didn't think so," she said quietly, giving his hand a reassuring squeeze, "This is a cause you are willing to risk your life for. That automatically makes it matter to me, too. I'm staying by your side, no matter the consequences."
Cassio smiled proudly at Thaisa's powerful arguments, and placed his pendant around her neck. "Young Thaisa, spirited and self-sacrificing, you will make a fantastic Yellow Astro Ranger. Carry on the mantel, for Desdemona, for myself, and for every other individual privileged to wear this pendant."
Thaisa beamed with joy, and tightly grasped the pendant. She and Andros then joined the four other youths in a circle, and they all joined hands.
"We are KO 35's best hope for victory," Andros said proudly, "From this day forward, we are the Astro Power Rangers!"
That day was one of the most incredible days in Andros' life. In just a few short hours, everything changed. The night before, he was just another Kerovan teenager, with hopes and dreams, but little else. Then, a new life came with the rising sun, as his peaceful planet was thrown into a tremendous war that would last three months... until KO 35's fall.
Andros thought for a moment about the five other Astro Rangers. Although they were mostly strangers when they first were banded together, they became friends very quickly.
That made sense, considering a Ranger has to trust his teammates with his very life.
Lysander instantly struck Andros as a brilliant scientist and philosopher. He was also very warm and friendly, as well as very skilled in lightening the dark mood of war with his humorous antics. His youthful demeanor made him comfortable to be with, yet with all his impressive skills and qualities, he remained humble and likeable.
Dionysa was gentility and innocence personified. She was seemingly delicate and frail, yet she proved to be quite graceful and agile. Also, her passion for her work was evident in the way she handled herself in a battle. Although she was never one to back away from a fight, she would always put the welfare of others before herself. Often she risked her life by leaving the site of a battle to save some innocent bystanders that were caught in the crossfire. She also was almost always the first to assist a wounded Ranger.
It didn't take long for Dionysa and Lysander to grow very close. Andros always thought it was a shame that they didn't have much time together. Had they lived long, fulfilling lives, they certainly would have been happy together. It was ironic that what first brought them together... the Power Rangers... ended up being what drove them apart. Yet, in a way they were still together. At least they accompanied each other in death.
Cerimon became an older brother to Andros. He was very protective of his leader, as well as his younger sister. He was never hesitant to throw himself in the line of fire to protect any of his teammates. Also, his magical skills came in handy often, especially when the Rangers needed to pull a surprise tactic to avoid near-certain defeat. Andros knew that Almaleck would have been proud of his apprentice, if only he had lived long enough to see him in action.
At first, there was slight hostility between Andros and Zhane. Andros could sense that, deep inside, Zhane had wanted to lead the team. He felt he was entitled to it, considering he was the strongest of the Astro Rangers, as well as the son of the Prime Minister. He was raised to take a position of power, and he suddenly was forced to take orders... and from a younger man, no less.
Still, Zhane accustomed himself to his position, and soon learned to trust Andros' judgement wholeheartedly. It didn't take long for Andros to win Zhane's complete respect, and after a few short weeks, the two young men became the closest of friends.
And finally, there was Thaisa. She remained loyal and supportive, always there to help Andros accustom himself to his role as leader. Her support always meant a great deal to him, and he knew she was always ready to give it to him. As she promised, she never left his side. Battle after battle, she fought with skill as well as spirit, for the preservation of everything she ever held dear. They soon learned to grow strength from one another.
Andros always found it uncanny how fitting their Power Ranger colors were. Andros was red, like the rising and setting sun. Thaisa was yellow, just like the sun during the rest of the day, when it was the most powerful and warm. The sunrise and sunset were the most visible points in the rotation, yet it was the middle that really made life possible. Similarly, Andros was the leader of the team, yet the true strength came from Thaisa, and her well of indomitable spirit. She was the center, that filled the hollowness within him. Andros often wondered how he would have managed to lead the team if he didn't have Thaisa by his side.
Still, no matter how successful the Astro Rangers were, or how skilled the youths themselves were, they couldn't win. Dark Specter's forces were simply too powerful for six teenagers to abolish, and desperation soon struck when Dark Specter managed to get a foothold on KO 35 by landing his Dark Fortress only a few miles from Palatine itself. It was then that Andros had the idea that he felt would put an end to the war... and it did. Unfortunately, it wasn't the ending Andros had wanted. Instead of ensuring victory, he signed the Astro Rangers' death warrants...
..in crimson blood.
"It was so obvious," Andros lamented, his eyes lost in the memories of the past yet again. He recalled the last days of the Astro Power Rangers.
A young mage had volunteered to help the Power Rangers infiltrate Dark Specter's palace, which had lowered onto the plains only a few miles from Palatine to establish a stronghold on the planet's surface. Andros had accepted the young woman's offer, and asked her to sneak into the palace, and draw a map of the layout, so the Power Rangers could strike decisively. Only days later, she returned, and offered to lead the Rangers into the palace herself. Five Rangers went into the depths of the dark palace, leaving the Silver Ranger behind in case Dark Specter's forces struck again during their absence.
Only one came back.
Once deep inside the palace, the five Rangers were cornered by an army of Quantrons. They tried to fight them off, yet there were simply too many.
Also, the young guide's disguise melted, revealing a wicked villainess with bright purple hair, black leather uniform, and a cold glint in her pale blue eyes.
She, Astronema, had led the Rangers into a trap.
Andros often wondered if Astronema had actually found and replaced the young mage who offered assistance, or if Astronema was indeed that mage to begin with. Of course, it was a mystery how Astronema could fool everyone so easily into thinking she was Kerovan. Still, it was a mystery for another time.
Astronema was then an unknown and rather insignificant villain. In fact, that was the first instance Andros met her. Her conquest of the five Power Rangers won her instant respect from Dark Specter, who then granted her the title of Queen of Evil for her work. Also, he allowed her to decide how the Power Rangers would be destroyed.
With a smirk on her face, she decided "Why not make it a game?"
Andros winced as Astronema's words echoed in his mind, all these years after the tragedy. The coldness and indifference in her voice infuriated him, and the brutality of the game was fathomless. Never before then, and never again, did Andros see such violent and sickening bloodshed.
Before the day was done, rivers of blood stained the game floor.
The five Astro Rangers were led into the arena by a squad of Quantrons. Each Ranger's hands and feet were shackled, preventing them from possibly escaping their fate. As the Rangers crossed the sandy field in single file, thousands of alien beings shouted in excitement from the stands. Apparently, Dark Specter had decided to make the deaths of the Power Rangers a sports event. And judging from the reactions of the spectators, it was going to be historic.
Andros remained quiet during the funerary march, keeping his head high with pride. He scanned the enormous crowd, and deduced that the majority, if not all the beings watching the fight were members of Dark Specter's army. The Dark Lord had more than enough warriors to enter into the battle, and there was no way five Rangers could beat them all.
There was no way the Rangers were going to get out alive.
The parade of Quantrons were led by the newly crowned Queen of Evil, who opened the gate on the side of the arena, where a wooden bench was located. The Rangers were forced onto the bench, and sat side by side. Astronema walked in front of them, her hands gripping her scepter tightly.
"Now here are the rules," she said, her lips curled into a cat-like grin, "Each one of you will face off against one of Dark Specter's knights. The victor will go on, and the loser will be dead. The game is over when the last Ranger falls. I do hope you put up a good fight. The audience has been longing for this day ever since we arrived at this planet."
Andros wanted with all his heart to leap to his feet and beat that smug smile off Astronema's heavily-painted face. Yet he knew it wouldn't solve anything. There was nothing he could do.
"Any last words?" Astronema asked, cocking her head.
After a few moments, Lysander rose to his feet.
"I have some," he said, turning to meet Astronema's gaze, "You may kill us today, but the Power Rangers will live on forever. We are only the second team of heroes to fight for KO 35. After we pass, another team will rise to the challenge. Unlike villains, who fight for their own personal gain, we fight for justice. And therefore, we will never be defeated."
Astronema snickered. "Nice speech, Blue Ranger. You just won the privilege of being the first to die."
At that, Dionysa's head tilted up, and she struggled to rise to her feet, but the surrounding Quantrons held the Pink Ranger in her seat. Lysander gazed down at her, a sigh escaping his lips.
"Goodbye, my love," he whispered gently, as the Quantrons began forcing him onto the arena. Once they tossed the Blue Ranger onto the sand, they returned to the side, and locked the gate. Lysander rose to his feet, and moved to the center of the ring proudly.
"I am not afraid of whatever sentinel you send against me!" Lysander shouted to Dark Specter, who was seated in a raised throne at the top of the ring. Andros marveled at the bravery his friend was displaying, although he knew the terror that sat in Lysander's noble heart.
"Send in the first beast," Dark Specter ordered, his deep voice rumbling throughout the stands. A gate, at the opposite end of the arena from where the Power Rangers were kept, opened wide, and a tall, muscled creature stepped into the ring. The crowds cheered anxiously for the gladiator, and Andros felt his breath catch in his throat. The beast stood at least seven feet tall, with arms as wide as Lysander's entire body. It was man-like, although it resembled a more primitive man, perhaps even a cave man. He dragged a large club as he walked, his club digging a deep trench along the sand as he moved. The beast stopped about ten yards from the Blue Ranger. He then raised his club into the air, and let out a blood-curdling roar. The audience responded with heavy cheering.
Andros bit his lip beneath his helmet, which effectively hid his face from any onlookers. Since he didn't need to keep up appearances, he didn't need to try and prohibit the tears that had already begun to sting his eyes. Lysander wasn't much of a fighter. He was more of a tactician, or strategist. Often, he even remained in the palace, calculating plans of action when the others went into battle. He was a thinker... not a fighter.
All the thinking in the world wouldn't save Lysander now.
The audience calmed down when Dark Specter rose his hands into the air. He then lowered them as if he were doing a karate chop, and in doing so he officially commanded the battle to begin. The ogre growled softly in reply, and immediately began his attack by swinging his enormous club at Lysander. The Blue Ranger dodged it easily enough, ducking the high swing, and then punched the beast's abdomen. Andros' eyes widened when the ogre didn't seem to feel Lysander's attack at all. The Blue Ranger immediately retreated, stepping backwards and then flipping in the air to make some space. He then gripped his right fist painfully, shaking his head in disbelief.
The ogre's strength was incredible.
Lysander didn't have much time to think, because the ogre had immediately raced after him, his club held high. The beast's speed was incredible as well, especially for something so large. Lysander backed up until his back was literally against the wall, and then he waited for the beast to approach. Just as the ogre swung his club downwards, Lysander rolled out of the way, causing the beast's club to smash into the wall, denting the durable metal fence easily. The beast growled in disgust, and turned around, searching for the Blue Ranger. What he didn't realize was that Lysander was actually holding onto the mesh of the fence, a few feet above.
Without making a sound, Lysander dropped onto the ogre's back, wrapping his legs around the monster's neck, and holding his hands over its face. The ogre stepped back in surprise, swinging his arms to strike his passenger. When the ogre leaned back slightly, Lysander pulled him further back, tipping the beast backwards. He then jumped off, letting the monster fall onto his back with an earth-shaking thud. Lysander backed away from his opponent, waiting for the beast to rise. Sure enough, it rose to its feet quickly, and picked up its lost club. Lysander immediately reached for his laser pistol, and bombarded the creature with rays of powerful light. The beast was hurt by this attack, as evident by its loud roar, yet it continued to approach. Without warning, the beast suddenly lifted its large foot, and stomped the ground. The arena shook yet again, causing the Blue Ranger to lose his balance. He fell to the ground, obviously disoriented.
Andros stopped breathing when he saw the demonic expression of malevolence on the ogre's face. It was on top of the Blue Ranger before he had a chance to steady himself, and plucked his weapon from his victim's feeble grasp. Then, the beast rested his heavy foot on Lysander's chest, holding his club with both hands. The cheers of the audience intensified, and the beast looked up to his master.
A grin on his molten face, Dark Specter nodded once.
Andros watched the ogre turn his attention back to the Blue Ranger, who was struggling against the immense weight of the giant. The audience was silent. The ogre growled again, and let his club fall mightily. Andros turned his head, unable to allow himself to watch.
A sickening smash echoed through the silence. It was accompanied by the desperate screaming of Dionysa.
Andros kept his head turned until he felt a gentle hand turn him back. He glanced at Thaisa, who was seated beside him, watching him carefully. Although her helmet was on, he knew she was crying for her friend. Andros felt his body tremble with shock and disbelief, and he forced himself to look at the arena again.
Shattered remnants of the Blue Ranger's helmet, along with a pool of blood, stained the ground where Lysander had fallen. A streak of blood-stained sand marked the path his corpse was dragged, most likely to be disposed of like so much refuse. A group of Quantrons entered the arena and covered the crimson liquid with fresh sand, as if nothing had happened.
The ogre remained in the arena, pounding his chest like an ape, excited by the chanting of the enthralled audience. He then let out a cry of victory, that was received by a standing ovation from the spectators.
The first Astro Ranger had died.
The others weren't far behind.
Andros turned back to his friends. Thaisa was squeezing the life out of his hand, although he didn't feel it. Cerimon was silent, rocking Dionysa's quaking body. Dionysa's sobs were lost in Cerimon's chest, and her pink helmet was thrown to the ground.
"Now, isn't this fun?" Astronema mocked, tossing back her purple locks, "Little Miss Pink, its your turn."
Immediately, Dionysa stopped shaking. Cerimon glanced down at her in surprise, and watched as she pulled herself to her feet. She pushed back her ebony locks with deliberate slowness, and gazed at Astronema with haunted chocolate eyes.
"I'm ready," she said, her voice low. Cerimon leapt to his feet to protest, but he was immediately restrained by Quantrons.
"Don't be so eager, Hot Shot," Astronema laughed, her scepter on Cerimon's neck, "You're next."
Dionysa slowly put her rose colored helmet back on, and purposefully walked into the arena. The audience shouted excitedly, expecting to watch the carnage continue.
Again, Dark Specter signaled the battle to commence. The beast charged at the Pink Ranger speedily, no doubt pumped by his recent victory. He was expecting the slip of a girl to crumble with fear or sorrow for her lost friend.
He was wrong.
Dionysa timed her move carefully. Once the ogre was close enough, she bent her knees, and leapt straight up. The ogre stopped short, and gazed up as she continued to ascend. A cruel grin on his face, he prepared to catch her right out of the sky and crush her with his bare hands.
Once she began descending, a flash of pink light appeared in her hand. A small grin tugged at Andros' lip when he saw the Satellite Stunner appear. The ogre wasn't phased by the appearance of the weapon. He didn't know what was coming.
Without hesitation, Dionysa began her merciless barrage of firepower. Streaks of pink energy fired at the beast like a meteor shower, burning his flesh. One lucky blast struck the beast in its eye, causing it to drop his weapon and holler in pain. The Pink Ranger landed right on his head, plowing her heels into its bald cranium. She leapt off him as the beast crashed to the ground, a massive bruise forming on its misshapen head.
Dionysa turned her attention to her Satellite Stunner, pressing buttons as the beast shakily rose to his feet. Finally, she pressed a button, and pointed the weapon towards the monster. A broad beam of faint pink energy emitted from the dish, and bathed the beast in its light. Suddenly, to the ogre's surprise, he began moving towards the dish. His speed increased, and he tried to grab the ground, to slow his motion. Yet the power of the tractor beam was too strong to be avoided, and as his speed increased, he began to fly head first toward Dionysa. Once again timing her move perfectly, Dionysa leapt into the air, performing a decisive spin ki ck, striking the beast's cheek and snapping the neck. The ogre fell limp to the ground, and Dionysa turned off her Satellite Stunner. She then walked away from the beast's dead body, and stood at the fence, rubbing her arms for warmth.
Andros was stunned by the ferocity in Dionysa's attack. It was something even he wouldn't have come up with, much less the Ranger of compassion and gentility.
He knew then that Dionysa had died, in the truest sense. Only the Pink Ranger remained.
After a deafening chorus of displeased threats and curses, the audience erupted into a fit of cheers as the next evil champion took to the arena. This warrior looked far more human than the ogre. He stood about six feet tall, with slender build and a curled moustache. His empty eyes surveyed the situation, and watched the dead ogre as he was dragged out of the way. The warrior wrapped his body within his back cape, and bowed to the cheering audience.
"Oh no," Cerimon whispered, sitting up straight.
"What is it?" Thaisa asked, turning away from the Pink Ranger.
"It's a Tyrim," he spat with contempt, "I can feel it."
"What's a Tyrim?" Andros asked, dreading the answer.
"It's a form of wizard. Very powerful."
Cerimon took a deep breath, and pulled his black helmet off. He ran his fingers through his dark hair, his eyes red and wet with tears. "She can't beat a Tyrim."
The three remaining Astro Rangers fell silent as Dark Specter signaled the match to begin. Dionysa watched her opponent carefully, as if sizing him up. From her perspective, he was nothing intimidating. However, she was more than aware that looks could be deceiving.
Suddenly, without warning, the sand in the area surrounding Dionysa began to built on top of itself, creating a sandy wall around her. Dionysa gasped in alarm, and leapt out of the opening before the pillar could complete itself. She landed on the ground, searching for her opponent. However, he was nowhere to be seen.
Then, an invisible force struck her in the back. She arched backwards in response, only to receive a blow to the stomach. She then doubled over, and was inundated by blows from all directions, swift and painful. She collapsed to the ground, trying her best to protect herself from her unseen enemy. Yet she couldn't even think straight.
Then, just as suddenly, the blows stopped. Dionysa lifted her head, only to see a ring of beings surrounding her. They were all identical copies of her opponent, all holding their palms together in a praying fashion.
"You have one choice, Pink Ranger," all the images announced, their hands beginning to glow with black energy, "You have one chance to strike. If you fail to choose correctly, you shall be destroyed."
Dionysa slowly rose to her feet. Andros could only guess at what was going through her mind at that moment. She gripped her Satellite Stunner tightly, and stared at all the copies intently. Finally, at a loss for what to do, she raised her weapon and fired. The beam smashed into one of the beings, causing him to vanish in a burst of black and pink energy.
Only she chose the wrong one.
Andros cringed as the pulsing beam of black energy smashed into the Pink Ranger. Dionysa cried out in agony, bolts of black energy flashing all through her body. The bolts tore through her uniform, singing flesh and armor, darting through her system and ripping her internal organs apart. Battered and bleeding, the Pink Ranger collapsed into a boneless heap on the sand. The audience exploded into cheers.
Then, Cerimon rose to his feet, his eyes cast downward. "I guess its my turn."
"Cerimon..." Thaisa began, slowly removing her helmet. However, her voice died on her lips before she could complete her thought.
Cerimon glanced at his sister, and smiled weakly. "Don't worry, Thaisa. This won't end today."
With that, he grabbed her hands between his, and held them tightly. "Thaisa, you mark my words: you won't die tonight."
Thaisa smiled wanly at her brother, fresh tears shining in her eyes. She gently kissed his cheek. "I'm going to miss you, Brother."
Cerimon nodded, and broke his grip on her hands. He then picked up his helmet, and with his head held high, he marched onto the arena. He waited while the Quantrons removed the earthly remains of Dionysa, tightening his gloves. Finally, Dark Specter gave a nod, and the battle began.
Cerimon waited while the Tyrim studied his new opponent. Cerimon remained calm and collected under the wizard's intense gaze.
Without a word, the Tyrim struck. He suddenly vanished from sight, and Cerimon staggered under the physical assault of his invisible enemy. However, Cerimon quickly oriented himself, and thrust his right arm in front of him. To the utter shock of the entire audience, his arm slammed into the Tyrim's stomach, knocking the awestruck villain to the sand.
Despite all that had happened so far, Andros couldn't help a small smile from crossing his hidden face. He doubted that Dark Specter, or any of the spectators, had known of Cerimon's intensive magical training. That skill was the advantage he needed to defeat this monster.
Unfortunately, Andros was faced with reality. No matter how trained in the arcane arts Cerimon was, he couldn't destroy a stadium filled with Dark Specter's mightiest warriors. But knowing Cerimon, he would certainly do his best.
Before the Tyrim could recover from the surprising strike, the Black Astro Ranger had summoned his Lunar Lance, and had struck the villain while he was down. However, the Tyrim managed to roll out of the way of an attack, and threw a handful of sand. In the air, the sand somehow transformed into small bullets, that sliced through Cerimon's armor, leaving a few dozen small, bleeding wounds on his body. Cerimon fell back slightly, but by the time he had risen, he found himself surrounded by a ring of copies of the Tyrim.
"You have one choice, Black Ranger," the images echoed as before, "You have one chance to strike. If you fail to choose correctly, you shall be destroyed."
Cerimon rose to his feet, and let his lance drop to the sand. He then held his fists to the sky, and brought his palms together. Sparking with black energy, Cerimon brought his arms parallel to the ground, and spread them around his body, leaving a ring of black energy. Once his arms were behind him, he let his arms drop to his sides. Suddenly, the ring of magical energy expanded, obliterating all the Tyrim images, and crashing against the metal fence, which magically absorbed the power to protect the spectators.
"Thank the Fates," Thaisa whispered, her hands clasped tightly in her lap. Andros wrapped his arms over her shoulders, and hugged her tightly. Although it was so difficult for him to fathom, their demise was inevitable. Cerimon may have one this fight, but he can't win all the ones that will follow.
Astronema huffed with anger. "So your little Black Ranger is a wizard in training, eh?" she asked, "Well, he may have been able to defeat a Tyrim, but can he destroy a Lilith?"
Immediately, the villain's gate opened, and a large snake, about eight feet long, slithered onto the sand. Cerimon had stepped back cautiously, and watched as the green serpent slinked into the center of the ring. Then, it lifted its upper portion into the air, and bowed at Dark Specter. The audience erupted with excitement.
Andros felt nausea build in the pit of his stomach. The Liliths were among the most dangerous predators in the known galaxy. He had never seen one in person, but Andros had heard terrifying tales of their intelligence, trickery, and brutality. With short, shallow breaths, he silently prayed that his dear friend wouldn't suffer too long.
The Lilith suddenly rippled, as it changed form from the serpent into a humanoid female, with snakeskin covering her from head to toe. Her venomous fangs hung over her lower lip, and she hissed at Cerimon, her long tongue flapping with contempt.
Cerimon balanced his Lunar Lance between his two hands. He steeled himself when he saw the snake-woman launch herself at him like a cat would a mouse. He held his lance out as a defense, but it didn't prevent the Lilith from knocking them both to the sand. Cerimon found himself pinned to the ground by the snake.
"No!" Thaisa shrieked, rising to her feet. The surrounding Quantrons forced her back onto the bench. Refusing to struggle against them futily, she returned her attention to the fight. Andros watched her for a moment, and slowly removed his helmet. He knew that, once Cerimon died, he would be separated from Thaisa. It was terrible, since he should have devoted more of his concern to Cerimon himself, as well as the other Rangers. But Andros couldn't help it. Thaisa was his love, his heart and soul. And either he was going to die next, or Thaisa. In either case, he would never see her again.
Andros looked back to the arena. Somehow, Cerimon had managed to free himself from Lilith's grasp, yet he was clearly weakening. It was then that Andros noticed the terrible gash on Cerimon's shoulder.
"Thaisa," Andros whispered, "how did Cerimon get that wound on his shoulder?"
Thaisa bit her lip, her eyes brimming with tears. "It's a bite from the Lilith."
With that, Thaisa began to cry outright. She knew what that meant, and so did Andros. Most likely, everyone in the arena knew of the legendary Lilith bite. The potent venom in their saliva would immobilize an elephant in under a minute. Cerimon's clock was ticking.
Sure enough, Cerimon began to slow down. His reflexes were hindered, and suddenly it became difficult for him to even remain on his feet. The toxin had run its course, visibly weakening the powerful Black Ranger. Cerimon's body was quaking, and he dropped his lance. He was unable to hold the weight of it.
With a triumphant hiss, the Lilith once again became a snake. She slithered towards the shaky Power Ranger, and wrapped around his body. Cerimon let out a cry of agony as the snake constricted, crushing his body in an embrace of death. Andros thought he could hear the bones shatter in Cerimon's body, and he squeezed his eyes shut.
The crowds roared excitedly as the Lilith released Cerimon's corpse. She then returned to humanoid form, and bowed before the audience. Quantrons dragged Cerimon off the sand, and once again covered the blood staining the arena floor in preparation for the fourth fight.
"Thaisa," Andros said, turning her towards him. She tried so hard to stop herself from crying. She knew she had so little time left, that she didn't have time to mourn for her brother.
"Andros," Thaisa whispered, hugging him tightly, "There's... so much we never did. So much... I never said..."
"I know," Andros answered, tears streaking down his cheeks, "Me too."
"Oh stop it!" Astronema muttered, her hands on her hips, "You're giving me a toothache." She turned to her Quantrons, and tilted her head. "Ladies first."
Andros leapt off his bench, surprising Astronema with his speed. "No! Take me instead!"
Astronema laughed at his plight. "What difference does it make, Red Ranger? You'll be joining her soon enough. The Lilith will make short work of the Yellow Ranger, and then she'll finish you off. Now, sit down!"
Astronema punctuated her last three words by striking Andros in the stomach with her scepter. The shock wave immobilized him for a few seconds, which was enough time for the Quantrons to force the Yellow Ranger onto the sand. Snapping her helmet on, Thaisa approached the monster, who was grinning at her new opponent with glistening white fangs.
Wasting no time, the Lilith struck. Leaping into the air in the same manner which she attacked the Black Ranger, the creature sailed through the air with her mouth dripping with venom. Thaisa flipped backwards, avoiding being tackled to the sand. Once the creature landed, Thaisa smashed her foot against its jaw with a swift roundhouse kick. The Lilith backed away, and hissed at the Yellow Ranger angrily.
Andros watched the fight continue, holding his helmet in his hands tightly. He winced with each blow Thaisa received, as if he felt the impact each time. He shivered uncontrollably, his mind filled with irrational thoughts. For example, he entertained the notion that perhaps he could overpower the dozens of Quantrons that stood ready, allowing him to race into the ring, destroy the Lilith, and escape the arena with Thaisa. His mind was swimming, and his heart ached. Watching his beloved fight to the death, without being able to save her, was the greatest of all tortures to young Andros. In just a few hours, a life filled with hope for the future was reduced to emptiness and solitude.
Andros knew he would never recover.
A hint of a smile crossed Andros' lips when he saw the Star Slinger appear in Thaisa's hand. She spun around to face her opponent, and drowned her in bright yellow lasers. The Lilith screamed in agony, and collapsed to the ground, bleeding profusely from several incisions. Andros wept tears of relief as the Lilith reformed into her serpentine form, and remained motionless on the sand. Thaisa jumped for joy, and turned towards Andros.
It was only then when Andros noticed the Lilith move.
A cry of warning wasn't enough to save her. The Lilith had raised its upper portion, and fired a beam of some kind of poisonous energy from its gaping maw. The energy beam sliced through the air, aimed perfectly for the distracted Yellow Ranger, who had only begun to turn around.
Andros could hear nothing but his own heartbeat ringing in his ears when he saw the beam rip through Thaisa's midsection, and penetrate the other end. He only realized he had been screaming when he was suddenly breathless, and gasped desperately to fuel his starving lungs. Without thinking, he leapt to his feet, tossing his helmet to the ground. The Quantrons tried to hold him back, but nothing could hinder the impassioned Red Ranger. He muscled through over a dozen drones, and raced onto the sand.
Thaisa was shaking, her hand covering the hole in her stomach. The energy beam seared through her flesh and bone, leaving a mortal wound. Rivers of her life staining her arms and forming a pool at her feet, she lost the strength in her legs, and fell to her knees.
The Lilith smiled at the Yellow Ranger's slow death, and painfully reformed into her humanoid shape. She was so occupied by the cheers of the audience, as well as the pain in her own wounds, that she didn't realize the Red Ranger's approach, until the latter had tackled her to the ground, Spiral Saber in hand. A decisive, precise strike through the creature's neck gave the monster a quick end.
"...Andros," Thaisa whispered, slowly lowering to the ground. The blind rage in his eyes dying instantly, Andros rushed to Thaisa's side, catching her before her head touched the bloodstained sand. He cradled her head gently, slowly pulling off her helmet, and brushing the loose strands of pink-gold sunlight from her porcelain face. She gazed into his eyes, her own cerulean ones clouded and wet with tears of pain.
"Don't... move," Andros choked, rivers of tears streaking down his cheek. Thaisa forced a smile on her face, which was quickly replaced with a grimace of pain. Andros cringed, unsure how to comfort his dying love. There was nothing he could do.
"Andros," Thaisa whispered, her eyes shuttering closed, "...t..take my necklace..."
Andros gazed at her in confusion. "What?"
"Take it," she repeated, "You... you can give it... to the next... Yellow Ranger."
Thaisa raised her hand slowly, in an attempt to touch the face of her fiance. Andros quickly caught her hand before she lost all strength, and touched it to his heart. He tried to speak, but no words came out.
"You're not... going to die," Thaisa said sternly, breathing laboredly, "you're going to win... and you're going to beat them all... take my necklace, to remind you of your promise..."
"Promise?" Andros repeated.
"You're going to promise me... never... to give up hope..."
Andros nodded, squeezing his eyes to fight back the tears that blinded him. He gently reached beneath the white collar of Thaisa's uniform, and pulled out the golden chain that Cassio had given to her when she first became the Yellow Ranger. A satisfied smile crossed Thaisa's face.
"I love you," she said, her voice soft as a summer breeze, "I've loved you through this life... and I'll love you... into the next..."
"I'll love you into eternity, just like I promised I would," he said quietly, shivering with anxiety and remorse. He leaned over, and placed a soft kiss on her tender lips. He cringed when he felt her cold skin on his, but he didn't let that stop him. He then remained on the sand, his crimson uniform soaked in her blood, and his tears falling on Thaisa's ashen face.
Andros ignored the cheers of glee from the spectators, who were indulging in the Red Ranger's pain. He ignored the chants of other spectators, anxious to see the leader of the team battle the next monster. He also ignored the person who stepped into his field of vision, standing over him at a rather close proximity. If it were a monster ready to kill him, he didn't care.
"She's dead, Red Ranger," said a cold voice, "Now, get up and face your fate like a man."
Andros didn't respond to Astronema's taunts. His head remained bowed, his eyes locked on the unseeing orbs of Thaisa, that no longer shone with life.
Losing her patience, Astronema set her staff under Andros' chin, and forced him to raise his head. She staggered back slightly when she gazed into his glassy green eyes.
"Kill me if you want," Andros said in a monotone, "I won't jump through hoops for you."
Andros saw the confusion in Astronema's expression, but it didn't interest him. He also noticed that the newly-crowned Queen of Evil stood only a handful of feet from him, and that none of her soldiers were anywhere close. He could lash out, and kill her on the spot. He could make the demon pay for her crimes. The blood of all the Astro Rangers were on her hands.
Yet, Andros couldn't even feel his feet. All he could feel was the gaping hole in his heart, that threatened to devour him whole.
Death would be a release from the pain he felt.
Astronema and Andros remained eye-locked for what seemed like a long time. Andros merely stared at her, the pain and fury he felt evident in his verdant gaze. Astronema, on the other hand, displayed an entire sequence of emotion. At first, she was frustrated by Andros' unresponsiveness. Then, her frustration was quickly replaced by confusion: why, Andros didn't know. Afterwards, the confusion turned into uncertainty, as Astronema pursed her lips tightly. Finally, she backed away from the mourning Ranger, and took her weapon from beneath his chin.
"Quantrons," she said, her eyes never leaving the pale green gaze of the Red Ranger, "escort Andr uh, the Red Ranger to his cell."
Andros was stunned by the proclamation. It almost seemed as if she pitied the Red Ranger's loss, although her motives were a mystery.
"Astronema!" Dark Specter's voice rumbled, winning the attention of all the assembled villains, "Why have you ordered the Red Ranger's departure?"
"Dark Lord," she responded, "he is obviously in no condition to fight. Let him wallow in self pity for a few hours. Come morning, he will meet his death at the hands of our greatest warriors. He's in shock now. If we commanded him to fight, it would certainly not be as entertaining as the others' deaths."
The audience hummed in agreement with Astronema. They wanted to see a momentous battle between the famed leader of the Astro Rangers and one of Dark Specter's mightiest henchmen.
Finally, Dark Specter nodded. "Very well, take the Red Ranger away. However, you are in charge of keeping an eye on him. Remember, your appointment to the position of Queen of Evil is contingent on the deaths of all the Power Rangers you have captured... including the Red Ranger."
Astronema nodded, and gestured to the Quantrons. Andros let the drones pull him off the arena, his body too weak to offer protest. Instead, his gaze turned from Astronema to Thaisa, who lay still in the center of the arena, covered in her own blood.
"Get that body out of here," he heard Astronema order, before she left the arena. His lips trembled when he saw the Quantrons drag Thaisa out of the ring as if she were furniture being moved.
She wouldn't even get a proper burial.
The next few hours were a blank to Andros. He curled up in the corner of his prison cell, crying until he had no more tears to shed. He was utterly exhausted, but every time he closed his eyes, he saw the deaths of his teammates replay in his mind over and over again. Brave Lysander, his skull crushed by the barbaric ogre. Gentle Dionysa, ripped and torn by powerful black magic. Mighty Cerimon, strangled and crushed by a demonic snake. Beautiful, loyal Thaisa, cut down by a blast of searing hot energy.
They had all paid the price for his naivete. It was he who had fallen for Astronema's trick, and led the Power Rangers into an inescapable trap. It was all his fault.
In silence, he prayed to whoever would listen for his suffering to finally end. He was so focused on his prayer, that he didn't hear the prison gate open. However, he did hear footsteps against the stone floor.
"What?" Andros asked in a deadpan, gazing at the Quantron who visited. The drone closed the door behind him, and gazed around the cell in silence before maintaining his gaze on the single occupant.
"Andros, its me," he said quietly, pulling off his helmet. Andros was shocked to see Zhane standing before him, a question lingering in his eyes.
"They... they're dead," Andros answered. He nodded when Zhane's jaw dropped in shock. "Lysander, Dionysa, Cerimon... Thaisa... all dead."
Zhane remained silent, leaning against the wall and taking short breaths. He was too stunned to respond.
"Curse the Fates!" Zhane shouted suddenly, pounding his fist into the hard opaque wall. He took a deep breath to calm himself, and ran his hands through his platinum blonde hair. "If only I had come sooner!"
"How did you break in?" Andros inquired, still not moving from his position in the corner.
"The palace was completely overrun by Quantrons and other foot-soldiers. I remained there, fighting them off with the militia while my father and the other members of the Council hid in the underground labyrinths. Once the Quantrons were all disabled, Lady Antigone discovered that the outer casing can be removed, to serve as a disguise and an armor. There are very few guards posted here, so I got here easily."
Andros was surprised to hear that. Didn't Dark Specter warn Astronema about keeping an eye on him? Could she have a trap in store? Could she have spared him only to lure the only remaining Ranger into her web?
"Get out of here, Zhane," Andros said quietly, his eyes returning to the ground, "while you still can."
Zhane glanced at Andros in bewilderment. "I'm not leaving here without you, Andros."
"Yes you are. Its an order."
Zhane stared at his best friend in complete confusion. "Hey, I didn't come here to leave empty-handed!"
"No, you came here to save the Power Rangers," Andros responded, "and they're all dead."
Zhane crossed the chamber, and took a seat beside Andros on the stone floor. "Andros, I can't beat Dark Specter alone."
"I won't be any help," Andros muttered, "I'll probably get you killed."
Zhane folded his arms. "I'm not leaving without you."
Andros turned, and gazed at his companion. "I gave you an order, Zhane."
Zhane shrugged, his gaze falling from Andros' face to his arm. "You're not wearing your morpher."
"Of course not," he huffed, "The Quantrons took it from me. So?"
"So, you're not the Red Ranger," he pointed out smugly, "You're just a civilian, and I'm the Silver Ranger, Prince of KO 35. You can't give me an order."
Andros rolled his eyes, and turned away. "Don't start with legal red tape. Please, get out of here. I can't have your death on my conscience as well."
Zhane grinned, rising to his feet. "Don't worry. I'm not dying today."
The Silver Ranger straightened, and began taking off the Quantron armor he was wearing. "Now listen up, Andros. This armor has shielding against laser beams and other types of attacks, so it should get you out of here safe and sound. Since you don't have your morpher, you'll need some kind of protection."
"What about you?"
"I'm the Silver Ranger! No one can beat me!"
Andros was astounded by Zhane's characteristic egotism. "Zhane, they'll detect you if you morph in the Dark Fortress!"
"Its our best bet. You get out of here first, and I'll follow. Make a left, and go down the hall until you can't go any further. Then, go left again, and stay to your right. You'll find your way out by the Velocifighter hangar. I'll give you ten minutes, and then I'm bustin' out."
Andros' eyebrow rose. Zhane sighed, and gripped Andros' shoulder tightly.
"Listen, I know your hurting. I am too... I loved them all. The Power Rangers are family to me, but we can't let remorse stop us from fighting. Is that what they would have wanted? Or, would they have wanted us to keep on fighting, for the same cause they were willing to lay down their lives for?"
Zhane's argument brought Thaisa's final words to Andros' mind. He had promised her he wouldn't give up hope. The least he could do for her was keep his promise.
"Fine," Andros answered, donning the armor, "but if you die on me, I swear by the Fates that I'll kill myself, just to go into the afterlife after you and ring your neck!"
Miraculously, both Andros and Zhane managed to escape the impenetrable Dark Fortress safely. Andros was astounded by how few guards were posted around the prison. Andros was wary as he maneuvered through the palace, certain he'd fall into another trap. Yet, he didn't. He escaped the palace, and waited for Zhane concealed in the cliffs. Soon, the Silver Ranger broke through the front door, and together, the two young men rushed to safety.
The next few days were days of preparation. Andros and Zhane remained in the labyrinth beneath Palatine, where the survivors were all hiding out. Once it was discovered that the Power Rangers were killed, everyone went into mourning for the loss of their greatest heroes. The Council members, although distressed by the loss of their children, nevertheless immediately began work on a new set of morphers, so the Power could be passed on to another team of Astro Rangers. There simply wasn't enough time to mourn the lost Rangers properly.
Andros himself couldn't bring himself to face anyone. He remained in his room within the most secure area of the labyrinth, which was where the Council and their families remained in relative security. He couldn't do much until his morpher was restored to him anyway, and it also gave him an excuse to ponder over all his losses.
He had lost everything he ever cared about. He had lost Karone a decade ago, yet the pain remained just as strong as it did then. He hadn't been able to find his parents, and he hadn't seen them since the day Dark Specter began his attack. He had no way of knowing whether they were alive somewhere on the planet, if they had managed to get off the planet, or if they were dead or captured by Dark Specter's troops. He had lost the Power Rangers as well. Lysander was a close friend, always with a smile to brighten everyone's day. Dionysa was sweet and charming, just like a little sister. Cerimon was an older brother, protective and admired. Thaisa... was his heart and soul. All of them were gone... just like that.
The only friend Andros still had was Zhane. The Silver Ranger visited the recluse as often as he could, but his responsibilities as the only active Power Ranger and as the prince kept him busy most of the time. Also, he respected Andros' privacy. He knew Andros needed to deal with the pain of his losses, and he knew he couldn't relate to them, or understand them. He too had lost a great deal, but he didn't lose everything that mattered to him. Also, Zhane wasn't there to see the Rangers die, helpless to stop it. He didn't have their deaths on his mind, or their lives on his shoulders; as Andros did.
However, Andros wasn't allowed to mourn for long. Dark Specter had organized a mighty attack force, too strong for any man... not even the famed Silver Ranger... to fight off alone. The five astro-morphers had been recreated by the heavy-hearted Ministers, yet the Astro Rangers hadn't been reformed in time.
It was a time of desperate need, with all hope resting on the shoulders of the remaining Power Rangers. And yet again, Andros failed.
"Andros!" Zhane cried, throwing open Andros' chamber door. Andros was still lying on his cot, staring blankly at the stone ceiling. He had been that way for days, and the Silver Ranger's patience was growing thin.
"Andros," Zhane muttered, marching into the room, "Astronema and Ecliptor have led an entire army of Quantrons into Palatine for a final assault. They're already at the palace gates! If they get inside, they'll discover the underground labyrinths, and then everyone will die!"
"There's nothing we can do," Andros whispered, "Its hopeless."
Zhane glowered at his best friend. He was broken, like a puppet with its strings cut.
"No, Andros, its not hopeless. While you've been... recovering... the Ministers have assembled an engineering crew to build ships to carry as many citizens of KO 35 away as possible. We can't beat Dark Specter now, but some day, we'll reclaim our homeland!"
Zhane sat down on the corner of Andros' cot, and lay the Red astro-morpher beside him.
"Antigone is also working on a special secret project, to help the Astro Rangers continue to battle evil. The other astro-morphers have been completed as well. As soon as we beat off this invasion, we can reform the Astro Rangers, and then we'll fight off Dark Specter's squadrons long enough for the Kerovans to evacuate. We have to preserve our way of life."
"Its gone," Andros said, "there's nothing left to save."
Zhane's eyes narrowed, and he rose to his feet. "I'm going out there," he affirmed, walking to the door, "If you don't want to help me, that's your decision. I won't blame you. But, you're the leader of the Astro Rangers. Your place is on the battlefield, not the barracks..." His voice lowered. "..and Thaisa would have wanted it that way."
Andros turned to look at the Silver Ranger, as he quietly left the room. He bit his lower lip, squeezing his eyes against the flood of tears that had wet his eyes constantly the past few days.
"No," he whispered, sitting up, "I won't be weak. I can't turn my back on my duty. I can't let my pain bring about the pain of others. No more tears."
Andros swung his legs over the edge of the cot, and grasped the gold pendant with the yellow gemstone that sat on the table beside his cot. "I can't give up. I promised her that much."
Rising slowly to his feet, Andros lifted his wrist morpher from his bed. Strapping it onto his arm, he hurried through the hallways urgently. He was surprised to see Zhane leaning against the wall just around the corner.
"What took you so long?" Zhane quipped, pushing off from the wall. Andros smiled. "You knew I'd come along."
"Of course I did," was his response, "You're my best friend. I know how you think."
Andros eyes narrowed, as he reached out and grasped Zhane's upper arm. "Remember our deal. If you dare die on me, I'm coming after you."
"You got it, Red Ranger," Zhane responded with a mock military salute.
In bright pulses of silver and red light, the two Astro Rangers materialized on the surface near the demolished palace of Palatine. The entire city was in flames, with rubble littering the streets in piles, and the sky burning as if it were ether. Columns of smoke poured into the horizon at dawn, with the sun's red light bathing the ground like blood. Within this chaos, the statuesque form of Astronema stood on a raised platform, leaning her weight onto her long scepter. A cold grin crossed her face when she noticed the arrival of the Power Rangers.
"Finally," she said, loud enough for the heroes to hear, "now I can finish the job I started! Ecliptor!"
Out of the army of Quantrons, a tall, black warrior with a grid of green decorating his body stepped forward. His grasp tightened on his long saber, and he bowed humbly to Astronema.
"How can I be of service, my Princess?" he asked.
"Keep the Silver Ranger busy," she answered, turning her head sharply to the Rangers, "I'll finish off the Red Ranger. Then, maybe I can be re-established as Queen."
Ecliptor nodded, and beckoned to his troops. A swarm of villains flew towards the Rangers, who stepped back slightly at the onslaught.
"We'll split up," Andros decided, "Astronema wants me, so she'll get me."
"You sure?" Zhane questioned. The Red Ranger nodded. "Well, keep your head on, Andros. You're not here for vengeance."
With that, Zhane raced head on into the approaching legion. For the most part, the Quantrons continued their desolation of the planet, allowing the famed Silver Ranger and the general Ecliptor to face off one-on-one. Andros then turned his attention to Astronema, who slowly approached him, flames of destruction silhouetting her as she moved.
"So," she said in a smooth voice, "it comes down to this. Just you, and me."
A cold smile crossed Andros' lips. "So, you're now the Princess of Evil, eh? Get demoted so quickly?"
Astronema glowered at him. "Its all your fault, you know. Dark Specter blamed me for your escape. I guess I found you as a rather pitiful husk, once all your friends were dead."
Andros felt the wound open, although it hadn't really closed. She was trying to antagonize him, and she was doing a pretty good job of it. "I didn't know you cared," was his wry response.
A surreal coldness entered the icy blue of her eyes, as she raised her staff into the air. Andros quickly leapt to the side to avoid the beams of purple energy that fired from the apex of the diamond shaped head of the scepter. He rolled into his landing, ducking behind a large chunk of concrete as he summoned his Spiral Saber.
Without uttering a word, Andros leapt into the battle that would become the most memorable duel in his life. For every thrust, she parried. Every slice, she dodged. Every swing, she blocked.
He was fast. She was faster.
"Not bad, Andros," Astronema commented, knocking the Spiral Saber from his grasp. She kicked him to the ground, knocking him on his back, and pointed her scepter to his neck. "I'm sure you made ol' Mom and Dad proud."
Energy built in the apex of the scepter, enough to burn a hole through the Red Ranger's armor, and likely his body as well. Yet, before the energy could flow through the scepter, a blade was thrust beneath it, forcing the scepter upwards and causing the energy to fly clear over the Red Ranger's head. The startled Astronema turned just in time to receive a massive backhand to her jaw, throwing her to the dusty ground.
"Zhane...?" Andros gasped, allowing the Silver Ranger to pull him to his feet. Zhane nodded mutely, tightly gripping his Super Silverizer in preparation for Astronema's almost instant recovery. Violet anger flashed in her eyes as she wiped the stream of blood that tracked down from the corner of her lip.
"You'll pay for that with your life!" she spat, pointing her scepter towards the Rangers. Andros and Zhane flipped in opposite directions, narrowly missing the searing bolt of magic. The powerful explosion erupting from the collision of the magic with hard concrete knocked both Rangers to the ground. Zhane got up promptly, while Andros seemed stunned by the attack. It was then that Zhane noticed the sly approach of Ecliptor, charging his sword for a massive assault on the preoccupied Red Ranger.
"Andros!" Zhane shrieked, moving as fast as his feet would carry him. Andros saw Zhane's urgent approach, but knew not what it meant. He only realized what was happening after the fact.
The Silver Ranger threw himself at Andros, knocking him out of the way of a powerful slice from Ecliptor's sparking blade. Ecliptor grunted angrily, but swiftly turned around, delivering an equally devastating blow, this time making contact with Zhane's back. Zhane screamed in pain, his cry reverberating through Andros' nearby ear. Zhane collapsed on top of Andros limply, forcing the Red Ranger to the ground.
"Z...Zhane?!" Andros shrieked, pushing his unmoving friend off him. He gasped in acute horror when he saw the deep wound stretching from the prince's waist to his neck.
"Well, well," Ecliptor muttered, slowly approaching, "I had intended that for you, Red Ranger, but I'm content to see the mighty Prince of KO 35 fall."
"You're friends are dropping like flies!" Astronema laughed, moving towards Andros from the other end, "and the Quantrons have breached the palace's security. All that's left for you to do... is die."
Andros was quaking with fear and disbelief. Everything he cared about... even the indomitable Silver Astro Ranger... had fallen. And it was all his fault.
"No!" Andros shrieked, swinging the Spiral Saber in a semicircle. The crimson energy arched forward, smashing both into Ecliptor and Astronema. Andros took the few seconds he won to lift Zhane over his shoulder, and activate his teleporter. The two vanished in a column of red light, sprinkled with silver sparks.
"Antigone!" Andros cried, panting heavily. He felt his knees weaken under him, but he wouldn't let them buckle. And he refused to lay Zhane on the ground to ease his load. Zhane's death was a load he would always bear.
"Antigone!" he repeated, slowly walking through the engineering wing of the labyrinth, "Cassio! Leonatus?!"
Andros felt his throat closing up, the weak sounds of gunfire and screaming evident through the thick walls. Somewhere inside the labyrinth, Kerovans were under attack. The Kerovans he failed to protect.
Weakly, Andros lay Zhane onto the ground on his stomach, and examined the huge gash on his back. His noble blood poured freely from the wound like water in a river, soaking the shimmering armor and dulling the shine. Andros tore off his crimson helmet, his face pale and soaked with salty tears. He looked around the chamber, and pulled an emergency medical kit from beneath a console. Quickly, he spread antibiotic cream along the wound, and wrapped Zhane's entire torso in a clean blanket. Once that was done, he rolled Zhane onto his back, and gently pulled the helmet off. To his surprise, Zhane was still conscious, but barely. His face was contorted with intense pain, and his lips quivered.
"Don't you dare die on me, Zhane," Andros ordered in a shaky voice, "I won't let you!"
Andros began to rock himself back and forth, watching Zhane's face for any sign of a response. He couldn't judge whether Zhane could survive such a wound or not. Terror gripped him as he thought of his dear friend dying, just to save him. Again, his foolishness cost the Astro Rangers dearly.
"Andros!" came a voice, echoing through the empty chamber. Andros leapt to his feet urgently, following the sound of footsteps rushing towards him. He calmed slightly when he saw Antigone, the Minister of Science, approach.
"By the Fates," she whispered, dropping to her knees beside Andros and Zhane, "not the prince too!"
"He... he's dying," Andros stammered, "He took a shot intended for me. It's my fault..."
Antigone's gaze rose, and locked with the reddened gates into Andros' soul. "Don't say that. Don't ever say that. There's no time for self pity now."
Antigone rose to her feet, and pulled Andros with her. "Listen to me now, Red Ranger. We just finished work on the Astro Megaship, which will be the Astro Rangers' mode of interplanetary transportation. It's sitting in the west wing, just waiting for you. I can give you the coordinates, so you can teleport there yourself. Take Zhane with you, and once you get there, let D.E.C.A, the onboard computer, take care of him. He may survive yet."
A glimmer of hope entered Andros' eyes. "But... what about you and the others?"
Antigone shook her head sadly. "KO 35 is lost for now. Leonatus and the rest of the Council managed to escape already, but I wouldn't leave without making sure you got to the Megaship. Its my prize creation, and I know you'll use it well. Now, go!"
The Minister of Science grabbed Andros' wrist, and began typing a sequence of numbers onto his wrist unit. "I'll send you directly to the infirmary, where you can take care of Zhane. The four other astro-morphers are already onboard, just waiting for another team of Rangers to carry on. Once you get Zhane taken care of, get the ship as far away from here as possible."
With that, Antigone grasped Andros' shoulder. "For the honor and memory of my son, and the other fallen Rangers, keep fighting for our freedom, Andros. We may have lost this battle, but we haven't lost the war. Not yet. May the Fates protect you."
Then, Antigone hurried out of the chamber, clearly taking care of whatever business remained before her departure from the lost planet. Andros slowly lowered himself to one knee, and grasped Zhane's limp hand.
"No more tears," he whispered to himself, pressing the button to engage the teleportation, "Never again..."
Andros closed his stinging eyes for a moment and exhaled slowly, doing his best to maintain control over his emotions. He recovered from the flashback without shedding a tear, and his gaze returned to the glowing disk of the rising sun. By now, it had passed its red stage, and became a softer shade of orange. But all Andros could see was the red sun, drenched in the blood of Cerimon, Lysander, Dionysa, Zhane, and Thaisa. Drenched in the blood of the entire population of KO 35. Drenched in the blood of his missing sister, and slain family. Drenched in the blood of every single individual he failed to protect; starting with his sister, and never truly ending.
Once he had arrived in the Megaship, D.E.C.A was able to place the dying Silver Ranger in suspended animation, which was the only way to save his life. However, the cryogenic freezing process was exceedingly slow. It would take years before Zhane was well enough to return to life. So in essence, he was dead. A block of ice served as his coffin, certainly not fitting for the son of the Prime Minister. Still, at least he had a coffin. The other Astro Rangers weren't even granted that small luxury.
Quietly, Andros rose to his feet, and stood on the boulder with his head cast downwards. He wanted to cry, but the spring of tears had dried up years ago. With a deep breath, he straightened his shoulders, that were slouching from the weight of his guilt, and snapped his helmet on over his pale face. He then walked back to the rubble, the emotionlessness of his gait returning.
He turned away from the rising sun, and continued his work. He didn't look back, but he felt the warmth of the sun's rays on his back, mocking him. The heat penetrated his uniform, but it didn't melt the ice that covered his heart. The passion of the sun couldn't resurrect the dead part of Andros' soul. Nothing ever could.