CHAPTER 1 – RACHEL

"Did it matter? In the end. My life and my - my death - did it change anything? Did I matter?"

"Yes. You were brave. You were strong. You were good. You mattered."

"Yeah. Okay, then. Okay, then..."

I wondered if-

Suddenly, everything changed and I was standing in a bright white room. Was this? Heaven? I mean, I'd never really read up much on religion and the afterlife, but this place definitely gave off a City of Angels vibe. Not that I was into sappy romance movies, but when your mom drags you to a Nicholas Cage movie, you don't say no. And then I saw him and knew that this couldn't be real.

Tobias. Flying towards me, and then all of a sudden, running towards me as his human self. His arms engulfed my body like the shores of the ocean sinking into the sand on the beach. I didn't know if this was real or a dream. But I didn't care. In that moment, I was complete. I slid my arms though his, and grabbed his beautiful and blushed cheeks. Tears streaming down his face.

"I thought I'd lost you forever," he said, staring into my eyes as if he was wondering if this were real too.

I pulled his forehead against my forehead. In this moment, I was happy. I was home. I lifted my head up and pressed my lips against his. Suddenly, I knew. This wasn't heaven or the afterlife. This was real. But how?

"RACHEL?!"

I pulled myself away from Tobias and peered over his shoulder. Staring back at me was Jake, Marco and two people I had never met before. But it was odd. Like, I knew I was staring at my cousin and his best friend, but they seemed different.

"Rachel? I… I can't believe it." Jake's expression went from disbelief to distraught almost immediately as he walked up to me. "I'm… I'm so sorry!" His voice cracked and tears rolled down his face, and then we just hugged for what must've been five straight minutes.

"It's okay Jake. We made the decision together. But I wonder if-", I took a second to make sure I was prepared for the answer.

"Was it worth it? Was my death worth it? Was everything we did, everyone we lost? I mean, did we win?"

"Yeah Rachel", Marco chimed in, with a smile on his face and to my surprise, water in his eyes. "We beat the crap out of those nasty slugs!"

A sense of happiness that I never thought I'd ever experience again came over me. It was over. It was finally all over. And I was alive? That last thought stayed in my head for a bit. I was alive… I was alive!

Within the blink of an eye, the scene around us changed. One moment we were inside the bright white room and the next we were inside of a ship. A ship that was orbiting inside what looked to be the Earth's atmosphere. No wait, not orbiting. We were being pulled towards the planet. But not like you'd imagine, where gravity does all the work. More like being escorted, like when a plane is getting taxied towards its gate.

We all stared in amazement, as the sights changed from space, to clouds, to making out oceans and trees and buildings. The ship lowered and lowered, and within moments we were being docked. The outer gates made their connection to the ship, and it shook a bit. Kind of like it was taking one last breath before shutting down. The doors lowered, and the sunlight beamed inside like a ray of hope showing us the way. I grabbed Tobias' hand and squeezed it tight, as we all began to walk outside.

One by one, we stepped out. Jake went first. Followed by the two newcomers that I didn't recognize. Then Marco. And finally myself and Tobias. I shielded my eyes until they adjusted to the environment. I didn't exactly know what to expect, but then again, I didn't even expect to be alive. As my eyes began to adjust, I gazed out toward the small group of people that made up our welcoming party. There was a woman standing in between two men with cameras. A handful of men in suits and a couple of people in what had to have been military uniforms.

And then I saw her. Standing to the far left, next to an Andalite. She looked taller than I remembered. Not much taller, but still, taller than before. And definitely older than I'd remembered. She was wearing an off beige pant suit, with light brown heels. It sounds crazy, what with all that had happened to me within these last few hours, but I couldn't help myself from thinking that only she would wear something so mismatching and unfashionable.

She took a couple steps towards us, and that's when I realized that it wasn't just my mind playing tricks on me. Or on any of us for that matter. I let out a loud gasp. It was Cassie. But an older Cassie. A much older Cassie.

A/N: I decided to keep the last conversation Rachel had with The Ellimist, to help create a bit more personality to the story and to remind the reader of where we last led off with Rachel. Not that most of us forgot. I also decided to finish her last sentence of "I wonder if-", in what I believe she would've asked. It was important that Tobias approached her first, as he was the most heartbroken since her death. And I also wanted everyone to know that Rachel never regretted that final decision and that it wasn't just Jake's orders that made her do it.