Disclaimer- Saban, not me, we all know how this goes by now. This is the fourth in the "Aftermath" series of vignettes, in the PC series after "Though the Heavens Fall." Thanks to Hellfire for suggesting this whole thing. This vignette is rated G by the Motion Picture Association of America.

Aftermath: Rider Before the Storm
by : Ellen Brand

Morning dawned bright over Leawood, as usual. The first rays of the sun washed over the peaceful city like liquid gold. In a small suburb outside of the city, a young man sat on the roof outside his bedroom window, watching the display with thoughts that were far more troubled than the world around him.

Dex Stewart, prince of the planet Edenoi and heir to the powers of the Masked Rider, hadn't slept at all last night. In part, it was the sheer relief of Shadowborg's defeat, and in part it was due to coming off of two weeks of constant vigilance. But it went deeper than that, and now, as the world slowly awoke around him, the young Edenite tried to sort out the thoughts and emotions coursing through him.

He could still remember the shock he'd felt when Tommy had told him of Edenoi's liberation. He was happy about it, certainly, but- it had been a surprise, nonetheless. Somehow he had always thought that when the final battle for Edenoi came around, he would be present in it. It was what he had been training for, for the five years of the Edenite rebellion.

Now it was over. For the first time, Dex could see the end of his long struggle. Not that he didn't still have responsibilities, he reminded himself. It wasn't visible, but he knew that somewhere, soaring above the planet he had come to regard as a second home, was Dregon's spider base. Edenoi might be free, but his private war went on.

But even that battle was drawing to a close. Dex could feel it in his bones. Without his forces on Edenoi to support him, Dregon was restricted to the Insectivores he had aboard his Spider Base, and those were diminishing rapidly as Masked Rider soundly trounced every one of his uncle's evil schemes. It was only a matter of time before Dregon's lack of resources forced the dictator into the final battle. That was a battle he'd either win, or- Dex shook his head. Losing to Dregon wasn't a possibility he let himself contemplate.

But victory brought its own problems. However much Dex loved Earth, and it's people, he was the prince of Edenoi, the only one who could carry on the royal line- and the line of the Masked Rider. Once Dregon was defeated, and could pose no more threat to Edenoi, there would be no more reason for Dex to remain here.

Part of him was glad, rejoicing in the end of his long fight, in the chance to finally relax and enjoy the fruits of peace. But part of him ached every time he realized that peace meant never seeing his adopted family again. The Stewarts had become true family to him, despite only having known him for three years. Hal and Barbara had become his parents, since he had never had a real chance to know the people who had given birth to him.

A sudden sound behind him made Dex turn, only to see his slightly portly adopted father hauling himself out the window behind him. "I used to do this when I was your age," Hal Stewart puffed, managing to fit. Dex smiled.

"You were never my age, Dad," he replied. "I am sixteen hundred of your Earth years old."

Hal shrugged. "You know what I mean. So- what's bothering you, son? You've been extremely quiet since you came home last night, and I noticed that your light was still on at two this morning."

Dex let out a long sigh. "I'm just- trying to work through a lot of things. Edenoi is free, Dad, finally. Dregon's been dealt a crippling blow, and it looks like this fight will at last be over."

"But?" Hal prompted softly.

"But that'll mean I have to leave you guys, and Earth. I've come to love this place, almost as much as Edenoi. It's my home."

"But you have responsibilities there. It's not an easy choice, I can imagine. But you don't have to make it right away. Dregon hasn't been defeated yet. What else is bothering you, Dex?"

The young man dropped his head into his hands. "It's just- all of a sudden, I don't know what I'm fighting for. The battle's not about freeing Edenoi anymore. I know it's about protecting Earth, but- what if there's more to it?"

Hal was silent, knowing that Dex wasn't about to stop there.

"He killed my father," the Edenite continued softly. "I was five Earth years old, but I can remember. My grandfather was retiring as King and Masked Rider, passing the powers on to my father. His name was Tyrex. I can remember just a little about him- he had dark hair like everyone else in the family, and he was tall and strong- well, at least from a five year-old's viewpoint." Dex's eyes stared off into the distance, seeing things from a very long time ago. "My mother's name was Janara. Supposedly she was the most beautiful woman in three provinces. All I really remember is hearing her sing to me- I sometimes hear her still, when I'm very afraid. She'd always sing me lullabies when I had nightmares.

"Anyway, Dregon and my father had both courted her, and she chose my father. My father was always the golden child, but no one realized just how much his younger brother resented him. Not until the day of the coronation.

"Grandfather had just begun the transfer when Dregon pulled a blaster and shot my father dead. I was only a child, but I can remember everything so clearly. He shot my father, and turned to shoot me, and my mother saved me. She threw herself in front of the shot to save me. By then, the guards had captured Dregon, but it was too late. My parents were dead.

"Dregon was banished to deep space, along with some of his 'court.'" Dex's mouth twisted at the thought of the Renegades. "Nobody heard from him again until five years ago, when his attack on our planet began." Shaking himself, he pulled back to the present.

Hal nodded slowly. "And now you're not sure whether you want to take Dregon on to protect people, or to get revenge for your parents' deaths."

"Exactly." Dex rubbed his temples. "I've seen what vengeance can do to you, Dad. I got a very graphic reminder a few days ago." He shivered, remembering the look on Ryan Steele's face as the defense force had burst into Ziktor's office. For a second, the Trooper hadn't seemed quite- human.

"I can't give you any guarantees, Dex, but I can tell you that we have a lot of faith in you. You've always made the right decisions, even- especially when they weren't easy. This is something I'm afraid you'll have to deal with by yourself. Just remember, we all love you, and we will always be your family."

Dex shot his adopted father a grateful smile. "Thanks, Dad."

"Anytime." Then, in silence, the two of them watched the rest of the sunrise.