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Behind the Mask--Chapter 20: Reunions

Behind the Mask
by Starlit Purple

 

Chapter 20: Reunions

"Wait, what?"

"That's Andros's- You're..."

"His...father?"

The Rangers' surprise and shock were nothing compared to her own. Karone was looking at the man in front of them in a completely different light now. Up until just minutes ago, her parents were dead. Ecliptor had told her that they'd died in the battle on KO-35, that the red ranger had killed her family. She'd known for a while that he hadn't done all those things, but the thought that her parents might be alive hadn't hit her at all.

She hadn't caught the rest of what the Rangers had said, or what Kieran, Andros's father—her fatherwas saying to them now. She pulled away when arms suddenly closed around her, and found herself staring at Zhane questioningly.

"You're crying," he whispered softly as he reached up to brush a tear from her cheek.

"I-I am?"

"Astra?" The yellow ranger waited until she looked up, and then frowned. "Are you okay?"

"I..."

Everyone was looking at her now and she wasn't sure what to say. Her eyes trailed to Zhane, and then past him to her father.

The man was looking her over now, as if trying to place her. For a fleeting moment, Karone thought that he knew, that somehow he knew she was his daughter. But then he stiffened and those kind eyes hardened to an icy glare, and she knew he'd recognized her, but not as family.

"Astronema."

Her eyes fell to the floor in front of her. She couldn't deny it—there was nothing she could say. How could she tell him now?

"Why is she here?" His words pierced her more than she expected them too, and she turned slightly away from all of them as Zhane turned to answer.

"She's..." She could hear him sigh. "She was Astronema, but...she's not evil anymore."

"She's helped us a lot."

TJ's words made her turn. She reached up to tuck her hair behind her ear, and, as her fingers brushed against her face, she realized she had been crying.

Zhane glanced back at her as she attempted to discretely brush away her tears, and she moved toward him and took his hand when he reached out to her. Zhane would tell him—would tell them all, but...a part of her wanted to do this herself. She wanted to be the one to say it, to say that she was—is Karone...even if it meant no one would look at her the same way again.

"Astra?" Ashley's concerned voice again.

"I..." Her voice cracked and she swallowed.

Zhane squeezed her fingers reassuringly. *Do you want me to?*

She shook her head before she realized he was using telepathy, and the realization made her pause. That was the first time in years that anyone had spoke to her that way. But she couldn't think about that now.

*It's okay,* she replied without looking at him. Instead her eyes sought out Ashley's, who was still waiting on her reply. "I-I'm not Astra. ...And I," her eyes moved to Kieran's, "I was Astronema, yes. But..."

She couldn't find the words to continue, and, letting Zhane's hand go, she fumbled for the locket, tugging gently on the chain until it was free of her shirt. She held it for a moment, before pulling it over her head and stepping forward to hand it to Kieran.

He frowned, taking it from her cautiously. He wouldn't recognize the locket by now. It didn't look the way it had on the outside as when he and her mother had given them to them. The confused look on his face mirrored her thoughts as he looked it over.

His fingers found the catch and he flipped it open. Confusion turned to recognition and then anger as he stared back up at her.

"Wha—what is this?"

"It's-"

He cut her off, incredulous. "What do you think giving this to me would achieve? A reminder of...of..."

"It's mine," she told him calmly, when he couldn't find the words to continue. "It's always been mine. ...Ever since you gave it to me."

Kieran shook his head in disbelief. "This—this is...yours?" His voice was softer now, the bitterness replaced with hope. At her slow nod, he moved forward, frowning as he studied her face more closely. Slowly, he raised his hand to touch her cheek, and his, now shining, eyes went wide with recognition.

"Karone."

Karone merely smiled in response. Apparently this was all the proof Kieran needed. Wordlessly, he wrapped her in a hug.

* * *

Ashley's eyes went wide at Kieran's revelation and she looked around at her teammates to see equal reactions of surprise. Except for Zhane. He was smiling at the two as they embraced in front of them all.

The shocked silence wore off before she could think any more about it, though.

"You're Karone."

It was more of a statement than a question, but Karone nodded to TJ as her father drew away. "Yes."

"And you knew?" Carlos asked, directing his question at the silver ranger. ...Apparently she hadn't been the only one to notice Zhane's reaction.

Zhane smiled ruefully. "I've only known for a couple of hours. I figured it out when we were on our way to the work bay earlier, just after Phantom arrived."

Ashley frowned. "Why didn't you tell us?"

Karone sighed, wincing slightly and looking regretful. "I was going to, but Zhane thought that I should wait until after the Phantom Ranger's briefing. And then we were attacked, and...there just wasn't time," she finished awkwardly.

With a small smile for his daughter, Kieran handed Karone her locket back. She passed it over to Ashley wordlessly.

Slowly, Ashley reached out and grasped the necklace, letting the chain fall between her fingers as she analyzed the locket's casing. She'd seen it so many times adorning Astronema's neck, her symbol displayed prominently on the front...but she'd never given it any thought before.

Her fingers slid along the edge of the casing until they found the small catch and flipped the locket open. She blinked in confusion at the pictures inside. She was expecting to see a duplicate of the pictures in Andros' locket. Pictures of a young girl and stripey-haired boy.

Instead though, there were two very similar looking boys staring back at her. One was clearly a bit younger than the other, lighter blond stripes to his older brother's darker tones. She recognized the older one from Andros's locket. She'd always thought that that picture was of him, but now she could tell that the younger one was Andros. Meaning that the boy in Andros's locket...

She looked back up at Karone, frowning. "Who is this?" She felt more than heard the others move in closer around her so they could see. She didn't know if they'd seen the pictures in Andros' locket, but they'd all known about his sister and the reason his locket was important to him. Although she'd never heard him mention anyone other than Karone...

"Joran. My brother," Karone replied, though she was looking at Zhane as she spoke. "At least, that's what Zhane told me... I don't remember very well."

"Yes," Kieran spoke up from behind her. "Joran, your older brother, and Andros." He paused, smiling sadly. "You meant a lot to them—to all of us. After you were taken...Joran, he couldn't take it, he ran off, and I don't think Andros ever forgave himself for not being able to protect you."

"He didn't," Ashley uttered softly, idly brushing her thumb over his picture. Her eyes trailed to Zhane's when she realized he'd said the same thing.

"And now he's over there..." Karone let the thought trail off, unfinished, before she sighed. "I should have told him."

Zhane moved forward and put a hand on her shoulder. "We didn't know this was going to happen. And besides, Andros is tough, he won't go down without a fight."

"We'll get them back."

TJ's voice held all the confidence Ashley wasn't feeling, but it made her smile nonetheless.

"We will," she agreed.

* * *

Andros threw his hands out in front of him as he was shoved forward into a dark cell. He found his footing before he completely lost his balance though, and turned just as the door was being pushed closed.

"That'll be all," he heard Shade telling his minions. "I'll handle him from here."

A quick scan of his cell showed no signs of his mother that he could see. It was really dark, but he was mostly certain no one else was in there with him. He glared through the bars at his captor. "Where is she?"

He could see the same dark glower reflected back at him behind Shade's half-covered face. Shade didn't reply, but looked over his shoulder. As if on cue, two of his Stalkers walked into view, holding his mother between them.

"Andros!" she called as soon as she caught sight of him.

"Mom!"

Andros struggled at the bars helplessly as Shade walked over to her. He leaned forward and said something Andros couldn't hear, then, as her eyes widened and she looked about to say something, he put a hand over her mouth harshly and whispered something more.

Her eyes darted to Shade and then to Andros, then she closed them and nodded. Shade let her go and turned once more to Andros.

"Throw her in with him!" he ordered his minions. "I'll deal with the Ranger tomorrow."

The Stalkers opened the cell once more, pushing his mother into him before closing it again. With one last glare for Andros, Shade turned and followed his Stalkers down the hall and out of sight.

"Are you alright?" Andros asked worriedly as he steadied her, even as he was mentally checking her over.

She nodded and hugged him, hard. "I'm alright."

Her voice sounded a little breathy, and when she pulled back and put her hands on his face, he could see the tears in her eyes. She smiled sadly as she studied his face, lightly touching his cheek.

"Oh, my Andros, you've grown so much," she sighed wistfully, her eyes darting back and forth as she looked into his. "How've you been? We haven't heard any news since KO-35 was evacuated. Where did you go? You must tell me everything."

Andros had to fight to control the flood of emotions hitting him. He hadn't thought about being reunited with his mother beforehand, only that he would do whatever it took to save his parents. He blinked rapidly as he pulled his mother close again.

"There'll be time for that later," he told her gently as he released her. "Right now, we've got to figure out a way out of here. I know a bit of the layout of the ship, maybe if we compile our knowledge we can figure out an escape plan."

His mother merely smiled. "Ever the Ranger. I've missed you, Andros."

"I missed you too."

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
tsukino_akume
Dec. 6th, 2010 07:16 pm (UTC)
I haven't actually read this yet, because I still need to go back and read the entire thing and right now my concentration/comprehension is all o.O, but I just wanted to say:

WHOOOHOOOOO! YOU POSTED MORE! YOU ARE AWESOME! I'm so proud of you! ♥♥♥♥

-Coughs- That is all.
lunaria_kitty
Dec. 6th, 2010 09:58 pm (UTC)
*giggles* Yay! I love you ♥ Waking up to this totally made me smile. ♥♥
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )