A cool breeze blew up from the lake and sent ripples across the normally placid surface, reminding all the people on and around the beach and autumn was mere days away. Therefore, the citizens of Angel Grove were out in droves, soaking up the last of the sun's rays and having what fun they could, clad in bikinis, bathing suits, shorts, tank tops and other summer apparel before it became time for long pants, T-shirts, sweatshirts and jackets. Many were simply lounging on the hot sand of the beach on towels, perhaps listening to music, reading, or just laying there. Additional denizens were at the many fast food stands and cafés, looking for a decent meal or refreshment on one of the last hot days of the summer season. Others yet were involved in some type of sport, be it frisbee, ping pong, tennis, baseball or volleyball. It was this latter-mentioned sport that had brought a group of teens down to the beach, bringing with them picnic baskets, towels, and other beach paraphernalia.
"11 serving 4!" Zack Taylor called, grinning, his perfectly white teeth showing as he tossed the volleyball up into the air. He waited until it was at a perfect height, then smacked it with the palm of his hand, sending it sailing gracefully over the net onto his opponent's court. Tommy and Jason both made a dive for it, but hit each other in midair and missed the ball completely. Trini leapt sideways and hit the ball over the net just before it hit the sand, falling to her knees in the process. Her long black hair, tied back in a simple ponytail, cascaded over her shoulders in onyx waves. Provided with a diversion, Jason and Tommy got back to their feet in preparation for the return that would most surely come. And indeed, it did. Billy bumped it to Kim, who set it for Zack, who spiked it down on the opposite side of the net. The ball streaked through the air and landed with a plunk in the sand at the feet of Tommy, Jason and Trini.
"Good defense, guys!" Zack hooted, high-fiving Kim and Billy gleefully.
"Keep cheering, but you'll get yours eventually," Jason threatened good-naturedly.
"We'll see about that," Zack retorted, smiling. Trini picked the ball up and heaved it to Zack, who moved back into serving position.
"12 serving 4!" he called, going through the same routine as he had for the last serve. This time, when his hand connected with the ball, there was nothing graceful about the trajectory the ball took as a result. It was a serve that was hard, fast and could only be hit purely on instinct by the other team
Trini got to it first, and bumped it straight up into the air, providing Jason with enough height to set it for Tommy. Tommy ran forward and went to spike the ball, but Kim leapt up in front of the net and blocked the spike. The ball fairly rolled down the net and into the sand.
"That's showing the men how a woman plays volleyball," Trini commented, grinning and high-fiving Kim underneath the net. Kim grinned back in response, and the two young women retook their positions.
"13 serving 4!" Zack called. "Are you guys ready for this?"
"Just serve, big shot!" Jason called back to him wryly, smiling. Zack shrugged.
"You asked for it!" he muttered. Sweat caused by exertion and heat beaded his forehead as he tossed the ball up into the air and waited until it started to come down before smacking it, open-palmed.
"Mine!" three voices cried as the ball came sailing towards Tommy, Jason and Trini. Jason was there first, but he was too far forward and the ball ricocheted backwards off his arms, sending him to his knees on the sand. Tommy managed to set it, but his long brown hair got into his face and impeded his vision and he ended up tripping over Jason's leg, sending he too to the ground. Trini ran from the side and was able to hit the ball, but it went under the net instead of over it because she, too, tripped over Jason's leg. The three of them landed in a heap on the sand with Jason on the bottom.
On the other side of the net, Zack, Billy and Kim were in hysterics.
"Nice shot, guys!" Kim shouted, laughing and brushing locks of honey-brown hair away from her face that had escaped her ponytail.
"It's supposed to go over the net, folks, not under it!" Zack cried, holding his sides. Billy just stood there, laughing hard while Tommy, Jason and Trini picked themselves up.
"Get offa me," Jason grumbled from beneath the other two. Trini got to her feet immediately, laughing as well. Tommy was next up, and he extended his hand to Jason, who took it gratefully.
"Man, you guys are covered in sand!" Trini exclaimed, eyeing them. "Especially you, Jason."
"Well if Mr. Coordinated over there hadn't tripped over his own two feet, I'd be clean now," Jason commented, grinning slyly at Tommy.
"I'm not the one who had their legs sticking out everywhere!" Tommy protested, chuckling.
"Aw, go jump in the lake, you two...literally!" Zack shouted over at them, still laughing. Tommy and Jason exchanged looks.
"Not a bad idea, Zack," Tommy told him. He walked under the other side of the net, accompanied by Jason, and together the two of them hoisted Zack up and began carrying him down to the water.
"Hey, wait, I didn't mean it literally!" Zack protested, wriggling. However, his last words were lost in a shower of lake water as he was tossed in. He surfaced a moment later, coughing and sputtering. However, he was quickly joined by Tommy and Jason. When the three young men turned, they found Billy, Trini and Kim looking quite pleased with themselves. Zack kicked water up high as he headed for dry land, nearly drenching the three who had been dry up until this point.
"All's fair in volleyball and water wars," he told them, grinning wickedly.
"It's a good thing it's a hot day," Kim muttered, looking down at her now-soaked pink two-piece bathing suit. Jason pushed Zack back into the waves in reply while Kim and Trini headed back up the beach.
They found where they had placed their beach bags and pulled out a couple of dry towels, then stretched out on them to dry off. Soon, the others joined them.
"Man, I'm starving! I hope you guys brought enough for everybody," Zack commented, opening the picnic basket eagerly.
"Zack, the girls brought enough to feed a small army, which means that there may even be food left over for the rest of us once you're through," Tommy kidded, earning a mock-glare from his friend.
The six friends ate in relative silence, gazing out at the slightly-choppy waters of the lake.
"Wow, it sure is nice out today," Kim commented thoughtfully, sipping a bottle of iced tea.
"Probably one of the last nice days we'll have before fall time comes," Trini agreed. "I'm glad we decided to come out to the beach and spend it here."
Suddenly, a six-tone noise erupted from out of nowhere, disturbing the almost unnatural silence that had enveloped the group. Kim sighed.
"It was nice while it lasted."
"What is it, Zordon?" Tommy asked into his communicator while the others huddled around him, shielding him from prying eyes.
"Tommy, you and the others must come here immediately," Zordon replied. "There is a matter of grave urgency that you must attend to right away."
"Uh, we'll be right there," Tommy told him, shutting the communications channel. Then he looked at the others, and saw his own stunned expression mirrored in their faces.
"He sounded way too serious for this to be another one of Rita's attacks," Kim commented finally, sounding a little nervous.
"We should go find out what's going on," Jason advised, looking at Tommy, who nodded back.
"You're right. Let's go," Tommy agreed. The six of them gathered their things, then found a secluded part of the beach where nobody else had ventured and teleported to the Command Centre.
There, they found Alpha running around from computer console to computer console, checking printouts against printouts, printouts against readings and readings against readings.
"Ay yi yi yi yi," he kept crying over and over again. Papers were laying all around the Command Centre's main chamber, and Zordon was giving quiet instructions to the little android.
"Zordon, what's going on?" Tommy asked as soon as he and the others had arrived safely amidst a sea of confusion and paper products.
"Rangers, you have arrived just in time," Zordon told them. "There is a great danger that all of the universes that are currently existing could face certain annihilation."
"Universes? Plural?" Kim asked skeptically, raising a well-shaped eyebrow.
"That is correct, Kimberly. There are an infinite number of universes that exist parallel to our own," Zordon informed her calmly.
"So what's going on, Zordon?" Tommy asked while he and the others tried to wrap their minds around this concept.
"It seems that Rita has discovered a merging point where all of the universes meet and has met others of his kind," Zordon explained.
"You mean there's more than one Rita?" Kim asked. Had Zordon had a neck, he would have nodded. As it was, he could simply affirm that fact verbally.
"Yes, Kimberly. Worse yet, she and the other Rita's have joined forces and gotten their hands on the Universe Bomb, which could potentially collapse all of the forces of good in every universe it touches," Zordon continued.
"So what are we going to do about this?" Zack demanded, wide-eyed.
"You need to go up to the moon and cross into the other universes to recruit the other rangers of good from the other universes so you can all get the Universe Bomb back and deactivate it," Zordon answered.
"But Zedd has the moon under constant surveillance. How are we supposed to get up there without him noticing us?" Billy inquired.
"I will give you the cloaking devices that Alpha and I have been working on for the past few months. It will allow you to slip past Rita's guards and into the inter-dimensional portal," Zordon responded.
"Let's go, guys. We've got universes of people to save," Tommy said. His brown eyes were burning with a determination few had ever seen there, and his voice was hard yet full of emotion at the same time. He and the others knew that this was one mission they couldn't botch up. Trillions of lives, of universes!, depended on them succeeding. I sure hope we can do this, Tommy thought apprehensively, keeping his calm appearance despite his raging internal thoughts and emotions that he was sure were going through the minds of the others.
Scant hours later, after telling their parents that they were all going on an impromptu trip up to Tommy's uncle's cabin, six teens stood in the Command Centre, furnished with equipment that everyday engineers would think impossible to exist, much less function. But function it did, for it had been put through rigorous testing to ensure that it wouldn't fail at a critical moment.
"Are you sure you are ready for this mission?" Zordon asked them one last time as the teens morphed.
"We don't have a choice, Zordon," Tommy informed him stonily. "Does everybody have their cloaking belts fastened and at stand-by mode?" The others nodded their ascent.
"I wish you good luck, Rangers, and may the power protect you all," Zordon said, looking down at the teens.
"Thank you, Zordon," Trini replied solemnly.
Tommy looked around at his collected friends.
"Are we ready for this?" he asked them as they huddled together in a circle. He put his hand out in front of him, palm-down, expectantly. "Because if you're not, now's the time to back out."
"I'm with you," Kim said immediately, placing her hand on top of his.
"You aren't leaving me behind," Jason told him, resting his hand on Kim's.
"I'm not willing to stand around helplessly while the rest of you go on without me. Count me in," Zack said, his hand atop Jason's.
"Someone's got to keep an eye on these guys," Trini said lightly, her hand falling on top of Zack's.
"Affirmative," was all Billy said, placing his hand on the top of the pile. In that moment, the Rangers were united as rarely they had been before. Looking into each other's eyes, seeing the fear, excitement and bravery that was within one another gave them all an extra boost of courage that would help them get that little bit farther in their quest.
"Look out, evil. Here comes the Power Rangers from Dimension One," Kim said, gazing at her friends.
"OK, then. Let's give the evil forces a run for their money," Tommy said. They each took their hands back, and reached for their communicators. "Alpha, Zordon, we'll see you in a little while."
"Good luck, Rangers," Alpha said, waving to his human friends as they vanished in coloured streaks of light.
After arriving at the moon in full ranger suits with oxygen tanks strapped to their backs, it took a moment for everybody to become acclimated to the lessened gravity and strange environment.
"All right everybody, you all know the plan," came Tommy's voice over their helmet communicators, one of the new perks that had been added. "We get to the base, get inside and find the portal. Once we find it, we go through it and start searching for other rangers like ourselves."
"Should we split up into teams of two to make the search go faster?" Kim asked as they began their two-mile trek.
"Zordon said that Alpha adjusted our communicators so that we can contact any other rangers that use the same frequencies as us on their communicators. Once we're at the portal, all each of us has to do is activate their communicator and send out a message telling whoever's listening what's going on and what has to be done," Tommy told her, walking alongside her at the front of the group.
"But what if someone else hears it, like Rita?" Trini queried, walking behind the two between Jason and Zack.
"They won't, because they don't use the same frequencies as our communicators," Billy tossed in from the back of the congregation. "Besides, we have a secured channel." That seemed to satisfy the ladies, and everyone else, for there was no more conversation until they reached their primary destination.
"OK, guys, activate your cloaking belts," Tommy said, his voice almost a whisper even though he consciously knew that nobody else could hear them while they spoke across their comm channel. The others nodded, and six pairs of hands went to their belts.
"Oh, this is too weird," Kim said in awe as she looked down at her hands and saw only a faint outline that was invisible to everyone else, but simply a guideline so she knew what her own hands were doing.
"Why can I see you guys?" Kim asked, gazing at her friends.
"Because we're all on the same wavelength," Billy explained. "Nobody else can see us because the eye can't see things that are fluctuating at as high a frequency as we are."
"Um, thanks for that explanation...I guess," Kim muttered.
"Sorry," Billy replied.
"Remember, we're hot miked," Zack told her with a small grin. Kim swatted him on his heavily-suited arm in response.
They began their final approach, drawing closer and closer to Rita's base.
"I've never seen this place up close. It's awesome," Billy whispered, gazing up at the massive structure.
"We'll have time for sight-seeing later. Right now, we have a mission to complete," Tommy said, taking the lead.
"Uh, right," Billy replied, though he continued to gaze up at the building, trying to absorb as much of it as he could in his nearly photographic memory.
As the teens walked across the barren landscape that was the moon's surface, they began to feel more alone than they ever had been before. Unable to communicate with anybody on Earth, where their families, friends and mentors resided, the feeling of utter isolation and impending doom began to set in.
"OK, guys, this is it. Is everybody ready?" Tommy asked them as they stood outside the moon base in all its gray glory. There was no verbal reply, just the nodding of heads. "All right, then. We go in and find the portal. Once we've found it, we have to contact as many Power Rangers or their equivalents as we can so we can tell them to rally on the moon in our universe. Once we've contacted them, we get out of the base as fast as we can and we wait. Got it?"
"We're with you," Jason told him, deadly serious.
With that, the talking ceased. Six pairs of feet began to move once more across the moon's terrain as they grew nearer and nearer to imminent danger with each passing second.
Up in the throne room, completely unaware of what was going on around her, Rita Repulsa sat in her throne, smiling evilly to herself and talking to her minions.
"They'll never know what hit them!" she cackled, eying the silver globe that hung suspended in midair in front of her.
"But what if the Rangers get wind of the Bomb?" Squat asked anxiously.
"What if they do?" Rita retorted. "There's nothing they can do about it, not now that I have the Universe Bomb in my possession. If they even threaten to come up here, I'll set it off and destroy all the forces of good everywhere...permanently!"
"My queen, I seem to be getting some strange energy readings on the surface of the moon near our perimeter," Finster said suddenly, rushing into the room.
"It's probably from something that you did," Rita said dismissively. "Nothing you build ever works." Goldar, Baboo and Squat snickered.
"If you say so, my queen," Finster replied uncertainly.
While Finster was being ribbed up in the throne room of Rita's palace, 6 teens from the planet Earth were carefully creeping along the perimeter of that very palace with Jason in the lead. The going had been easy, but they were still being cautious, just in case.
Just as they were about to round a corner, Jason stopped dead in his tracks and flattened himself against the wall, nearly causing a domino effect for his friends behind him. They too pressed their backs against the wall, awaiting an explanation.
"There's a huge army of putties around the corner," Jason whispered, as though he were afraid someone was listening into their closed-circuit conversation.
"Define 'huge'," Kim told him.
"Around fifty of 'em," Jason replied grimly. Kim and the others fell silent for a moment.
"6 against 50 don't seem like really great odds," Zack finally said. "We should find another way inside the fortress."
"But this entrance is closest to the portal," Billy protested.
"If we don't find another way in, we might not live long enough to make it to the portal," Kim countered. Jason remained quiet to asses the situation.
"All right, I say we split up and find another entrance as close to the portal as we can get," he said finally, holding up a hand to silence his companions. "Zack, you and Billy go patrol the North side. Trini, Kim, you guys can go South. Tommy and I will teleport to the opposite side and stand guard until you guys meet up with us. We'll keep the mikes open at all times so everybody can hear everything, all right?"
"Sounds like a plan," Billy said in approval, nodding.
"Let's do it," Zack agreed.
"Be careful, Tommy," Kim said quietly to him, laying a gloved hand on Tommy's heavily padded arm. He gently patted her hand before she disengaged and started walking away with Trini by her side. Zack and Billy went in the opposite direction of them, while Tommy and Jason teleported across the surface of the moon.
"I know there's somebody, or something, out there," Finster muttered to himself as he fiddled with some equipment in his laboratory. "If only Rita would believe me, but she's too intent on that Universe Bomb." He paused while he did some calculations in his head, then crossed two wires. "Still, when she sets that bomb off, all things that are good will be destroyed. Maybe then I'll be able to get out on my own instead of having to listen to her incessant whining about her stupid headaches all the time." He played around with the equipment that surrounded him some more, all the while thinking about what it would be like to be free. Many times he had dreamed of such things, but never before had the possibility been within his grasp. All he had to do was make sure that the Universe Bomb was detonated. No matter what, he vowed silently to himself.
"This is so creepy," Kim whispered as she and Trini walked across the moon's surface, their feet moving soundlessly over the slightly rugged terrain. "It's too quiet."
"I could sing for you!" Zack offered, his voice coming through loud and clear through the comm channel. Kim made a face, even though she knew he couldn't see her.
"That's quite all right," she told him. Trini giggled.
"You doubt the Zack-man's vocal abilities?" Zack asked, sounding incredulous. Kim glanced at Trini, and they exchanged mischievous looks.
"Yup!" they both said in unison. Laughter rang across the comm channel from 5 different sources.
"Fine then. See if I ever offer you anything ever again," Zack said with a verbal mope, though everybody knew he was smiling.
"Seriously, though, has anybody seen or found anything yet?" Jason asked them all. Immediately, the Rangers grew serious.
"We haven't," Trini reported.
"Negative," Billy answered.
"Well, keep looking. There has to be an unguarded entrance into the fortress somewhere," Jason told them. At least, I hope there's an unguarded entrance. Otherwise, we're going to alert a lot of people if we have to go through the front door.
"But what if there isn't another way in?" Kim asked, voicing Jason's unspoken worries.
"Then we should all be glad that Zordon and Alpha recharged our weapons before we came because we're going to need them," Jason told them tersely.
"We could always dig our way in," Zack joked.
"That's it!" Billy exclaimed.
"What's it?" Tommy asked.
"If we can't find a way in-" Billy began.
"...We make one for ourselves," Trini finished.
"Precisely," Billy affirmed.
"It could work. We could use our weapons to get through the moon's crust," Jason said, thinking quickly.
"Then it'd be a simple matter of locating a good place to break into the fortress," Kim continued.
"Well, simple isn't exactly the word I'd use, considering how many layers of rock we have to go through," Billy countered.
"It's easier than going through that army of putties at the front door," Kim pointed out.
With that, the communications channel went silent as the Rangers resumed their search.
Tommy and Jason paced around, leaving boot prints in the dust on the moon's surface while they waited for their friends to reach their position.
Suddenly, Tommy let out a small shout and reached for his hand blaster.
"Patrol!" he yelled. Immediately, Jason fell into stance beside him, his own blaster at ready. The two-putty patrol barely knew what hit them; Jason and Tommy were such good marksmen that they were down probably before they even know that the two Rangers were there.
"I didn't realize there were patrols," Tommy said as he reholstered his blaster.
"Yea, well, here comes another one," Jason told him, turning in the other direction. Tommy was at ready again, and simultaneously they fired at the two grey figures.
"Hey, wait, they don't look like your average putties," Tommy commented just as a pair of high-pitched shouts came through on the comm channel. Before Jason could respond, two beams of energy were shot at him and Tommy. The beams only narrowly missed their mark as Jason and Tommy dove in opposite directions.
"We're being attacked!" Jason shouted.
"So are we!" Kim cried. "We're just South of the fourth spire in the fortress!"
"We'll be there as soon as we can," Zack promised, speaking for Billy and himself.
"Wait a minute, we're just North of the same spire," Jason muttered. "Hey Tommy, wave your arms in the air."
"What, so I can be a better target for those putties?" Tommy retorted. "No thank you."
"Just do it!" Jason ordered. Tommy sighed and began waving his arms in the air, or rather vacuum of space. "Kim, can you see someone waving their arms?"
"Yeah. Geez, these putties sure are funny-looking," she replied. Jason smiled in relief.
"Kim, those 'putties' that just fired on you were us," he told her.
"Oh! Sorry, guys!" Kim cried.
"We didn't hit either of you, did we?" Trini asked in concern.
"No, we're fine. Are you two all right?" Jason inquired.
"Yeah, we're fine," Trini assured him.
Just then, Tommy caught movement out of the corner of his eye and whirled, blaster ready.
"Relax, it's us!" Zack shouted, eager to avoid another firefight. Tommy relaxed and holstered his blaster.
"Now that we're all assembled, did anybody find anything?" Jason asked once everybody was close enough to see the faces of one another behind their helmets.
"Not a thing," Trini told him, shrugging her shoulders as best she could, considering the bulky spacesuit she was wearing. Jason turned to look at Zack and Billy.
"Negative," Billy replied.
"Man, this place is bordered up better than Fort Knox!" Zack exclaimed, punching a gloved fist into a gloved palm.
"Looks like we're going to become groundhogs," Tommy commented, kicking the ground with his booted toe. "Billy, any idea how far down we need to drill until we're under the fortress?"
"I'd say several meters, maybe a little more than that just to be on the safe side," Billy replied after a moment's hesitation of calculating.
"Then let's get started. I'm not sure how much energy this is going to take from our blasters, and we don't have any way of recharging them," Jason said, looking around at his friends.
"Actually, I'd say that we're only going to drain the energy equal to the capacity of one blaster," Billy broke in.
"So instead of draining from six different blasters, why don't we only use one?" Tommy suggested.
"I think two might be a better idea since the work would go faster," Billy noted.
"Let's get to it, then. Billy, you and Trini set to work on that. The rest of us will keep a lookout in case we get ambushed by any putty patrollers," Jason said.
"Make sure they're real putties this time," Zack kidded, grinning.
"You keep talking, bigshot, but you would have fired, too," Jason replied, returning the grin.
"Not the Zack-man. I could spot a putty a mile away and see which way it's facing," Zack retorted, spreading his arms wide.
"You could not!" Kim broke in with a laugh.
"You don't think I could do it?" Zack asked her.
"In a word, no," Kim replied bluntly, smile still firmly in place. Zack stumbled backwards with a hand over his heart.
"I'm crushed!" he announced. "Guys, she's lost faith in me."
"You can't lose something you never had," Jason said innocently. Zack bounded over and nearly knocked Jason off his feet. Kim giggled as she watched them. Meanwhile, Trini and Billy remained completely oblivious to the entire scenario. Tommy was pacing back and forth, keeping an eye on the landscape to make sure they weren't ambushed.
"Hey Billy, how much longer are you guys going to be?" Jason asked through a laugh as Zack continued to "attack" him, using the moon's weaker gravity to his advantage.
"Oh, about 10 minutes at most," Billy replied, sounding distracted as he concentrated on getting the beam from his blaster exactly where he wanted it while Trini did the same.
"Good. We need to get inside and destroy that Universe Bomb as soon as possible," Tommy threw in, sounding deadly serious despite the attempts by the others to add levity to the situation.
"Um, has anybody thought of a way that we can destroy the bomb without setting it off and destroying the good energies in all of the universes it touches?" Kim asked suddenly.
The comm channel went deadly quiet.
"Oh," Kim said.
"I'll figure out a way to dismantle it when I get my hands on it," Billy stated. By now, he and Trini were only visible from the head up as they had begun to make their way below the surface of the moon. Tommy moved to stand behind his girlfriend as she turned away from her friends, lost in thought.
"Let's hope we make it in time," Kim whispered, gazing upon the Earth as it hung there in space amongst the glittering stars.
In a room somewhere deep within the bowels of the moon fortress, Rita was standing in a dark room. The only light came from the portal and the stasis unit. Within the stasis unit, the Universe Bomb hovered. Silent. Deadly.
"It won't be long now," Rita said quietly to herself. "Shortly, all the good energy in all the universes shall be extinguished, and evil shall reign supreme!" She paused and walked around the Bomb in a small, cautious circle. "As soon I hear back from the other Rita's, telling me that they're ready to detonate the Bomb, the universe shall be ours!"
With that, Rita hurried out of the room, making sure to lock the door behind her so none of her minions could possibly interfere with her plans. After that was done, she went back up to her throne room to await several communications from other universes.
"Billy, how much further do we have to go?" Jason asked. The six Rangers were now in a tunnel deep beneath the moon fortress. Everything was dark, save for the light that was coming from the blasters, and even those were dimming as the seconds passed and their energy was consumed.
Before Billy could even answer, the blasters shot through the rock. As quickly as they could, Billy and Trini moved to turn them off, but before they could, the beams faded into nothingness, leaving afterimages in the retinas of the Rangers. Pieces of rock fell near and onto the Rangers as they entered the lowest level of the moon fortress.
The Rangers stepped out of the tunnel and into a pitch black room. They spread out along the wall where they had come in, keeping close enough to one another that all they had to do was extend an arm a little bit and they'd touch one of their companions.
Jason started forward, and felt someone place a hand lightly on his shoulder.
"It's only me," Trini whispered to him. Jason nodded.
"Stay close everybody," he ordered softly, almost as though he was afraid someone might hear him.
"No problem," Kim whispered. She was clutching Tommy's gloved hand with one of her own, and together they followed the others out into a hallway.
"Which way should we go?" Trini asked as the six of them stepped out into a labyrinth of hallways.
"That's a really good question," Zack murmured, eying the seven or eight different hallways that branched off of the one they were in.
"According to this," Billy said, referring to what looked like a Palm Pilot, "we should go that way, and turn right when we reach the fifth side exit."
"This place is huge!" Zack commented with a low whistle, glancing over Billy's shoulder at the schematic of the fortress.
"And that's only the level we're on," Billy continued. "Apparently, there are 3 levels below us and at least 15 above us."
"I don't mean to complain, but is there any way we can get rid of these space suits?" Kim asked suddenly.
"Billy?" Jason asked.
"Well, the air is perfectly breathable, but it probably won't smell too great," Billy replied uncertainly.
"I'll take it," Kim muttered, quickly removing her helmet. "Whew!"
"Is it that bad?" Trini asked, examining Kim's wrinkled nose and unpleasant expression.
"Oh yea! Smells like someone or something died out here!" she exclaimed.
"Kim, keep your voice down! We're not communicating through the helmet mikes anymore. Anybody can hear us if we take off our suits," Jason said quickly. Kim clapped a gloved hand over her mouth and the six of them looked around apprehensively. Fortunately, they didn't hear or see anything.
"Sorry," she whispered a moment later.
"It's all right," Jason assured her. "I think we should all get out of these suits and hide them somewhere so we can walk around without all this bulk on our backs."
"Good idea," Tommy agreed. "We can stash it all in the tunnel we made." Jason nodded in reply. Quickly, the remaining Rangers shed their suits and stowed them back in the room where they'd entered the fortress.
"OK, Billy, which way will get us in and out of here as quickly as possible?" Zack asked. "I don't want to be here any longer than necessary."
"Third passage on the right and turn right at the fifth turnoff," Billy repeated.
"Let's move," Jason said grimly as he and Billy took the lead. The others quickly fell into step behind them, all their senses working on overtime.
As the group crept through the dark, dank hallway, several times they heard footsteps around them. Thankfully, they never encountered the owners of the sound.
Suddenly, Zack let out a small yelp and jumped backwards, causing the rest of the group, save Jason, to nearly fall backwards in a domino effect. When they regained their footing, they saw Zack standing there, a sheepish expression on his face.
"Sorry," he apologized, noting that all of his friends were staring at him. "I got a spider web in the face." He shuddered. "I hate bugs!" The others chuckled. "Especially spiders."
They continued their trek, and soon came upon the turnoff. Jason flattened himself against the wall, and the others took his cue as he peered cautiously around the corner. When he saw that the coast was clear, he waved them along, and brought up the rear.
"Jason, no offense, but could you back up a little bit? You're my friend and everything, but I'd really prefer it if you weren't breathing down my neck," Kim said a few moments later, feeling hot air at the base of her skull.
"Kim, I'm up here," Jason said, waving a hand up above the heads of the others from the front of the group.
"Then who..." Kim began, turning around. When she did, she screamed. The others froze and whirled, immediately dropping down into defensive positions as what they saw registered in their minds.
Standing directly behind Kim was a huge monster that stood about 7 feet tall. It looked like a cross between a black bear and an alligator, for it had a monstrous body and a long snout. When it grinned, it showed several rows of deadly sharp white teeth. Quickly, it grabbed Kim around the middle of her torso, effectively pinning her against its body.
"Let me go!" she shouted.
Before the others could even move, it turned and ran away at a speed that should have been impossible for its size. The Rangers went after it, chasing it down several hallways before the monster outdistanced them and lost them. However, Kim's screams echoed off the walls for a few seconds after she had disappeared from sight.
"Billy, can you track her?" Tommy asked anxiously, looking to the resident genius.
"I can, but whatever has her is moving so fast that it'd be easier if we waited until she was stationary to go look for her," Billy replied. "Otherwise, we might get hopelessly lost in the labyrinth of corridors that exist in this fortress."
"But we can't just stand around and wait!" Tommy protested.
"We're not going to. We have to keep going for the Universe Bomb," Jason told him, his voice rising to silence the murmuring among the ranks of the Rangers.
"But we can't abandon Kimberly," Tommy argued impatiently.
"I don't plan on abandoning her," Jason retorted. "But right now, we have to get to that bomb before Rita can set it off. Once we've deactivated the bomb, we'll have plenty to time to search this place to find Kimberly." Tommy scowled, but said nothing more.
Jason and the others looked around one more time, then continued on their way through the hallways. Trini hung back and fell into step behind Tommy, who had taken up position in the rear.
"It'll be all right, Tommy," she told him softly. "We'll get Kimberly back."
"I just have a really bad feeling about leaving her," Tommy admitted. "I can't explain it, but I'm almost sure that something bad is going to happen to her."
"Just concentrate on the mission for now," Trini advised. "None of us can afford to be distracted until after that bomb has been disarmed."
"Thanks, Trini," Tommy said. A small smile appeared on his face, but it never quite reached his eyes.
"Anytime," she told him sincerely. She knew he was still worried about Kim, but nothing any of them could say would make those feelings of anxiety go away. Instead, Trini walked along beside him in silent support, and for now, that would have to be enough.
Pain. Searing. Must escape. Trapped. Bound. Caged. Distressed. Suffering. Helpless. What now?
Slowly, with excruciating pain coursing throughout her body, Kimberly regained consciousness. She was vaguely aware that she was shackled at both wrists and both ankles to a brick wall in a cold, damp cell. However, not much else could make itself known through the pain that she was going through. Her mind couldn't even form a simple though. It was functioning solely on rudimentary impulses. Kimberly tried to lift her head, but it was too much effort, and she let it hang down once more. Sluggishly, agonizingly slowly, a single word formed in her mind. Tommy. The thought made no sense to her disoriented mind, yet it was strangely familiar and comforting. Slowly, other names entered her brain, as if on their own power. Jason. Trini. Zack. Billy. Kimberly was confused, but the more she ran these names over in her head, the more her memory came back. Where am I? What happened to me?
Kimberly heard a noise and jerked her head up, groaning in regret as pain flashed through her. She opened her eyes as the door to her cell creaked open.
"Hello, my pretty."
It's that monster that brought me here in the first place! Kim's mind screamed before the thought could actually form consciously.
"Did you have a nice sleep?" It approached her with measured steps. Kim tried to press herself again the wall as it came closer. "Oh, I'm sorry. Would you like me better if I took on a human form?" A flash of white light that momentarily blinded Kim came. "There, is this better?"
Now, standing before her was a human male, around 6 feet tall, with long light brown hair and striking green eyes.
"You're still a monster," Kim managed to croak out, her voice unstable. The man smiled.
"True enough," he conceded. Kim shuddered at the admission. "But in this form, you won't fear me as much."
"What's the point in that?" Kim asked, confused.
"Because when I change back, I'll instill such terror in you that you'll want to die," he explained. His voice had gone low, menacing, dark. "And then I'll grant you that wish." He admired Kim, and she suddenly felt dirty beneath his gaze. The smile on the man's face grew, and was accompanied by a low chuckle that turned into a horrifyingly evil laugh which echoed throughout the chamber. "Bye for now."
With that, the human/monster turned and left the cell, closing the door hard behind him. And as the clang resounded, it was overshadowed by Kim's screams.
"I hate to ask you this, Billy, but how much farther do we have to go?" Zack asked during a particularly quiet stretch of their trek.
"Well, we're on this level right here," Billy told him, dropping to the back of the group to point something out on the screen of the small electronic pad he held. "And we have to climb about 5 floors before we're even on the same level as the Universe Bomb."
"In other words, we've got a long way to go," Zack concluded, disappointed.
"Billy, are we going to get to the Bomb in enough time to disarm it before Rita can set it off?" Jason asked, sounding somewhat tense, from the front of the group where he was walking alongside Tommy.
"We should probably move a little faster, just in case," Billy called up to him as loudly as he dared.
Suddenly, the entire group jumped as they heard a quiet growl.
"Sorry," Zack called. "That was my stomach."
"Zack, you scared us half to death," Trini scolded him lightly, though there was a smile on her face.
"Hey, I can't help it. I'm a growing boy," Zack protested, returning the smile.
"If you keep this up, the only thing about you that'll be growing is your stomach," Tommy kidded.
"Yeah, yeah, keep talking, tough guy," Zack retorted, laughing.
Another grumble, similar to the first one except louder, reverberated off the walls.
"Zack, you sound like you haven't eaten in days!" Jason laughed.
"Jason, that wasn't me," Zack said quietly.
"What? Then who-" Jason began, but he was cut off as Zack let out a yell of surprise.
"Let him go!" Trini ordered, having turned around to face Zack as soon as she'd heard the second growl.
"Who's going to make me?" the monster asked. "You?"
"Her and her friends!" Jason shouted. "Rangers, charge!"
"That'll do you no good!" the monster retorted, turning and running away with Zack flung over its shoulder.
"Put me down, fur bag!" Zack shouted, kicking, punching and struggling with all his might. However, it was to no avail as the monster was at least twice Zack's weight, strength and size.
"Come on, we can keep up with him!" Jason called to the others, taking the lead in the chase after the monster.
"If we find out where it's taking Zack, we'll probably find Kimberly!" Tommy agreed, running alongside Jason through the corridors.
"Guys, this is counterproductive!" Billy called after them. "It's leading us further away form the Universe Bomb."
"But we need to rescue Zack and Kimberly," Jason argued as the four of them ran.
"The good of the many versus the good of the few," Trini threw in.
"Trini, that was harsh," Tommy told her.
"But think about it: what good will having Kimberly and Zack back do if the entire universe, infinite universes, are taken over by evil?" Billy threw back.
"Don't you think Kim and Zack would have wanted us to save the universes and all the innocent people in them before we went after them?" Trini agreed. That made Tommy and Jason slow down, and eventually stop.
"Let's do this," Tommy said, his voice with a hard edge to it. "The sooner we find that bomb, the sooner we can destroy it and find Zack and Kim."
"Come on, this way," Billy said, taking the lead with Jason right beside him.
"What is taking those other ninnies so long?" Rita muttered as she paced the marble floor in her throne room, high above the Rangers' heads.
"You mean your counterparts?" Finster asked, withholding a snicker.
"Yes, my counterparts!" Rita snapped. "Who else would I be talking about?" Finster gave no reply. "What is taking them so long?"
"Perhaps they all have headaches?" Finster threw in, allowing himself a small smile as he turned his back on his empress and busied himself with other things. The next thing he knew, he was seeing stars as Rita had clubbed him in the back of the head with her staff.
"Someone's in trouble!" Baboo crowed.
"Just remember where your loyalties lie," Rita hissed in Finster's face. As soon as she turned around and continued pacing, Finster made a face at the back of her head. "Don't give me that look again, or I'll rip your face off!"
Suddenly, an image appeared in the middle of the throne room. In it was the faces of several women, identical to Rita.
"Well?" Rita demanded.
"We're almost ready," another Rita reported.
"In my universe, the Rangers have attacked my fortress. I need more time before I can be ready," a third Rita threw in.
"What, you haven't destroyed those puny Power Punks yet?" the second Rita demanded.
"Not yet, but in my dimension, there are 12 of them," Rita #3 reported.
"12 Rangers?" the first Rita asked, raising an eyebrow. "How can that be?"
A fourth Rita's laughter sounded over the conversation.
"You mean all of you still have Power Rangers in your dimensions?" she asked haughtily. "Here, they were destroyed, along with Alpha, Zordon and the Command Centre."
"How did you manage that?" the third Rita inquired.
"Easily," Rita numero quatre purred. "I personally went down with Goldar, Squat, Baboo and Finster the day the Rangers were given their powers, and each of us slit one of their throats." Rita 4 paused for a moment, and a small smile crept across her face. "Trini put up quite a struggle, but it was very satisfying to see her blood on the outside of her body. And Goldar had a lot of fun with Jason before killing him. They all died slowly and painfully."
The other three Rita's laughed.
"I'll do that someday," the first Rita said enviously. "At any rate, you all have half an hour. At that time, I'm going to detonate the bomb even if you're not ready."
With that, the image vanished into the thin air from whence it had come.
"Soon, very soon, the Power Rangers, and all of the energies of good, will be a distant memory, never to be resurrected," Rita murmured to herself as she settled into her throne, awaiting the deadline to come.
"I don't believe this!" Jason fumed, slamming a fist into the cement wall beside him. "How could we have let that...thing! get both Billy and Tommy at the same time?!"
"Jason, take it easy," Trini said soothingly, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder. "There wasn't anything either of us could do about it."
"But now we've lost our guide! We'll never find the Universe Bomb now!" Jason exclaimed, shaking off Trini's hand and beginning to pace.
"We'll find it, it'll just take a little more time," Trini assured him, standing still and watching him pace. "But staying here won't do us any good. For one thing, that monster will be able to find us easier. Secondly, we aren't getting any closer to the Bomb."
Jason stopped pacing and pivoted on his back foot. Meeting Trini's eyes, he let out a huge breath and gave her a small smile.
"You always did manage to calm me down when I began ranting like this," he told her softly. Trini smiled back.
"Come on, we have a bomb to find," she told him. When he caught up with her, she placed her hand on his forearm. He looked down at her questioningly. "Are you going to be all right?"
"I'll be fine as long as I don't have to think about it," he told her. Trini chuckled, and the two of them started walking once more.
"Tommy? Tommy, wake up," Kimberly whispered, staring intently at the limp figure that hung from shackles as its wrists on the wall on the opposite wall of the cell four out of six Rangers now occupied. "Come on, Tommy, wake up." Kim was desperate. She wasn't quite sure how long she had been standing there after the monster/man left, but she figured it was about half an hour. In that time, Zack had remained unconscious, hanging from his wrists on the opposite side of the cell that Kimberly was shackled to. When Billy and Tommy had been brought in, Billy had been chained next to Kimberly while Tommy had been chained up to Zack's right. Unfortunately, none of them had regained consciousness. Why am I the only one who's awake? Kim wondered idly. The thought got lost amidst a sea of emotions as she redoubled her efforts to awaken the others. Kim shook her chains in an effort to make enough noise to awaken the others.
Suddenly, Zack let out a low groan.
"Zack?" Kim asked, not caring anymore about how far her voice carried.
"OK, which of you guys ran over me in your Zord?" he asked, his voice muddled and shaky with pain and disorientation.
"Zack, do you remember where we are?" Kim asked him. Zack slowly opened his eyes, looked around for half a minute, then shut his eyes and groaned again.
"The last thing I remember is that big monster-thing carrying me and dropping me in the hallway outside a cell, then clubbing me over the head with something when I tried to get to my feet to run away," Zack told her, opening his eyes again. "When did these two get here?"
"Um, about half an hour ago," Kim told him.
"That means that Jason and Trini are alone out there," Zack said in hushed tones.
"I know," Kim replied, worry evident in her voice. "I hope they can stay away from the monster that brought us all here."
"I hope they know where they're going and don't get lost," Zack returned. "This fortress is huge. If they get lost, and something happens to us, they might never get out of here."
Kim let out a small whimper of worry and glanced fervently at the door to their cell as she heard footsteps pass by.
"Kim, I'm sorry," Zack told her, kicking himself as he took in her worried and panicked expression.
"It's not your fault," Kim assured him. "I just want to get out of here as soon as possible, preferably before that monster-thing comes back!"
"I'm all for that," Zack agreed readily.
Just then, twin moans emitted from Tommy and Billy.
"Hey, are you guys all right?" Zack asked once they had opened their eyes for the first time.
"I'll be fine once my head isn't being used as a timpani anymore," Tommy grumbled.
"Er, affirmative, I think," was Billy's uncertain response. He tried to lift an arm to rub his apparently sore head, and for the first time noticed the shackles. "Interesting."
"That's one way of putting it," Zack muttered.
"Tommy, are you all right?" Kim asked anxiously. Tommy raised his eyes and looked at her.
"I'll be OK. What about you? Nobody hurt you, did they?" he inquired quickly.
"No, I'm fine, just a little sore," Kim told him.
"Where are Jason and Trini?" Billy implored, looking around and noticing that their team mates were absent.
"They're the only ones lucky enough to still be free," Zack told him.
"Let's hope they stay that way," Kim murmured.
"Hey, our communicators are gone," Tommy said suddenly after a moment of silence. The other three Rangers checked their wrists, and came to the same conclusion.
"Oh, this is just great," Zack muttered. "Not only are we chained up, but we're powerless, too."
"Ssh, someone's coming," Kim whispered to the others. The four of them turned and watched as the cell door opened and the monster-man stepped into their cell.
"Well, well, it's good to see that the rest of you are awake," he said, standing by the door and looking at all of them. "And how are you doing, gorgeous?" Kim turned her head away and ignored him. The monster-man, which was now in human form, approached Kimberly and gripped her jaw in one hand, forcing her to look at him. "When you're asked a question, it's impolite to not answer."
"Drop dead," Kim hissed, her eyes narrowing. Her entire body was tense, ready to spring. If only I wasn't chained up, I'd give this creep a piece of my mind!
"Well, now, you're certainly a rude one," he observed, dropping his hand from her jaw to let it rest at his side. A grin appeared on his face. "I wonder if your teammate will be any more agreeable?"
"What have you done with Trini?" Kim asked before she could keep herself in check.
"Oh, nothing...yet," he told her, his grin widening. "But it's only a matter of time before she joins your ranks. And then I'll wait a while before capturing that leader of yours."
"You'll never succeed," Billy said, speaking for the first time. "Jason and Trini won't let themselves be abducted by you."
The man turned and looked at Billy.
"You mean, the four of you let yourselves become my prisoners?" he asked seriously. Billy faltered, and the man chuckled. "Exactly. You didn't have a choice, and neither do they."
"You're never going to win," Zack called angrily.
"Oh, could you be anymore cliché?" the man asked, chuckling at Zack furious expression. Then he waved it away. "No matter. Soon, you'll all be brainless servants of Empress Rita."
"Sorry, pal, but that's just not going to happen," Kim told him. The man turned and walked back to stand in front of her. Uh-oh, Kim thought. He placed his hands on her shoulders, and slowly let them slide down the front of her body. "Tommy," Kim whimpered, helpless.
"Keep your hands off of her," Tommy growled.
"Oh, so you care about this girl?" the man asked over his shoulder, keeping his eyes, and hands, on Kimberly. "That's so cute, it's revolting. You have no power here, I do. And soon, you'll have no power at all!"
"We'll see about that," Zack threw in.
The man put his hand behind Kim's head and drew her forward, kissing her roughly. She struggled, but to no avail. Finally, however, she was released, and nearly gagged.
"I'll be back shortly with one more of your friends, Rangers," the man said, exiting the cell and locking the door tightly behind him.
"Kim, are you all right?" Zack asked immediately. Kim shuddered, and tears ran down her cheeks.
"Kimberly, please, look at me," Tommy said softly. Slowly, Kim raised her head, and her shame was plain in her eyes. "It's all right. We're going to get out of this."
"I'm sorry, Tommy," Kim whispered.
"It's not your fault, Kim," Tommy told her. "When we escape, I'll hold him down and I'll let you beat the hell out of that creep."
Kim sniffled and let out a small chuckle.
"I'm going to hold you to that," she told him. Then the four of them settled in and got as comfortable as they could to wait to be rescued. "Jason, did you hear something?" Trini asked nervously as she and Jason walked side-by-side through one of the many corridors in the fortress.
"No, what did you hear?" Jason asked, halting and looking around.
"I thought I heard footsteps or something," Trini told him. "I guess I must have been hearing things."
"Maybe, maybe not. Let's be careful," Jason replied, and they continued walking. "Do you have any idea how far away we are from the Bomb?"
"I'm not quite sure, but we need to find a way to ascend this tower and get to the room where Rita's keeping it," Trini answered.
"I suppose elevators are out of the question?" Jason asked wryly. Trini smiled at him.
"I'd say you're right," she replied. "But that looks like a staircase."
The two of them walked over and stood in front of the doorway that led into a shaft. Inside the shaft, stairs went both up and down for as far as the dim lighting of the fortress would allow Jason and Trini to see.
"Well, let's go. The sooner we get up there, the sooner we can rescue the others," Trini said, and she led the way up the stairs. "It's funny how we thought we were so prepared for this mission, and we managed to forget something as simple as a flashlight."
"Trini, you're rambling," Jason told her gently, smiling. Trini sighed.
"I know. I'm nervous," she confessed
"So am I," Jason admitted. "But we have to keep thinking about deactivating the Bomb."
"That's all I can think about," Trini countered. "That, and the others." She hesitated before speaking again. "I hope they're all right." She looked back over her shoulder at Jason. "You don't think that thing would have-"
"Trini, don't even think about that," Jason interrupted.
"I can't exactly help it," Trini told him wryly. "I mean, Rita's been trying to destroy us ever since we first became Rangers and defeated her that first time. Now we're in her fortress, and one of her monsters has captured four out of the six of us, and done who-knows-what to them..."
Jason nearly ran into Trini when she stopped abruptly. Raising a hand to her face, she wiped her eyes dry.
"Sorry," she murmured, not turning around.
"Trini, you've got to be strong. We'll get the others back, safe and sound," Jason told her, putting special emphasis on the last three words out of his mouth.
"I hope you're ri-- Jason, look out!" Trini shouted, in the middle of turning around. In her peripheral vision, she had caught movement that didn't belong to Jason, and saw that it was the monster that had captured the rest of her friends, and was now coming for her and Jason. So she did the only thing she could. She grabbed Jason by his muscular shoulders and shoved him up the staircase, putting herself between him and the monster.
"What the-" Jason asked, stumbling to his hands and knees on the stone stairs. He was unsure as to why Trini had done what she had, since he'd not heard the monster creep up behind him.
Trini angled her body sideways on a step and delivered a powerful kick that should have knocked the monster down the stairs. Instead, the monster grabbed her leg with lightening-fast reflexes and twisted it sharply to the left, causing Trini to lose her balance and stumble onto the stairs in much the same manner Jason had. Before Jason had any time to turn around and defend his fellow Ranger, the monster grabbed Trini, lifted her over his shoulder and ran down the stairs the way he and the two remaining Rangers had come.
"Trini!" Jason shouted, starting to run down after her.
"Go for the Bomb!" she called back, waving him away. "I'll be fine!"
"That's what you think!" the monster interjected. "He'll never make it to the Universe Bomb; I'll make sure of that!"
"Jason, go! I know you can do it!" Trini shouted, ignoring the monster's verbal barbs. Jason halted, nodded, and started running back up the stairs in the opposite direction the monster was going. Trini's words followed him the entire way.
"I know you can do it," she had told him. I hope I don't let you down, Trini, Jason thought as he ran.
He passed a doorway, and paused in the shadows, making sure he was out of sight. Jason did some quick calculations and data retrievals in his head, and figured that he was probably on the same level as the Universe Bomb.
Jason stepped out of the shadows, and poked his head around the corner of the doorway. Finding the coast clear, he mentally flipped a coin and decided to go right in an attempt to find the Bomb as soon as he could. Let's hope I'm right, Jason thought, his legs pumping as he ran with an urgency he had rarely felt before.
"Huh, I wonder what the scum bag wants now," Zack muttered as he and the others perked up at the sound of the heavy footfalls that were approaching their cell.
"Oh, I hope he's not bringing anybody new in here," Kim said apprehensively.
"Hello, kiddies! Enjoying your stay?" the monster called as he opened the door and walked in. Kim and the others groaned as they saw Trini slung over the monster's shoulder.
"Trini? Are you all right?" Kim called, ignoring the monster.
"Just fine," Trini said groggily.
"He didn't hurt you, did he?" Zack asked, glaring at the monster.
"No, not really," Trini replied as she was chained up on the wall opposite the door to the cell.
"I didn't hurt her anymore than I hurt the rest of you," the monster informed them. Zack snorted.
"That's not exactly saying a lot."
"Now now, none of you was hurt permanently, right?" the monster inquired. He got no response. "Exactly. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go retrieve your last friend before he manages to get any closer to the Bomb than I've already let him come."
"You'll never capture Jason!" Kim called, feeling defiant at that point in time. The monster stopped his approach to the cell door and pivoted on his back foot, turning to face Kim.
"No?" he asked innocently.
"No," Kim stated, looking the monster straight in the eyes.
With that, the monster left, nearly slamming the metal cell door behind him.
"That was fun," Kim said quietly, shaking slightly.
"That was some show you put on, Kimberly," Zack called to her.
"Let's just hope I'm never foolish enough to try anything like that again," Kim replied, meaning every word.
Up ahead, Jason could hear a voice that could only belong to Rita. He winced as she hit a particularly shrill note. I pity the guy she's chewing out right now, Jason thought idly, creeping down the hallway, his running shoes not making a sound on the cold stone floor. He kept glancing back over his shoulder to see if the coast was clear, and up to this point, it thankfully had been. However, he heard footsteps clacking on the floor ahead of him, and quickly ducked into a nearby doorway, hiding in the deep shadows. He didn't dare poke his head around the corner to see who had nearly caught him, and he waited for an excruciating 30 seconds after the last sound of the footsteps echoed off the walls before stepping cautiously back into the hallway.
In his haste, Jason nearly ran right past the open doorway from which Rita's voice emanated. Quickly, Jason flattened himself against the wall just shy of the doorway and listened, all his senses alert, adrenaline coursing through his body.
"So are you ready for me to detonate this thing or not?" Rita demanded.
"Go ahead," another familiar female said. Jason's brow creased as he tried to place the voice. Another Rita? he thought. Panic ran through him. She must have already contacted the other universes! Jason hesitated for a second, then made a decision. He came out from his hiding place.
"Get away from the Bomb, Rita!" he shouted, one hand going behind his back to pull out his morpher if it was needed. Rita looked startled, and took an instinctive step backwards.
"Where are the rest of your friends?" she asked with a sneer.
"Get away from the Bomb," Jason repeated, ignoring her question.
"They're not here with you, are they?" Rita asked, truly curious now.
"They're up here, they're just taking care of something somewhere else," Jason bluffed. "Now step away from the Bomb."
"I'm sorry, I can't do that," Rita told him calmly, her voice sounding almost normal.
"You can, and you will," Jason countered, stepping forwards menacingly.
"No, I can't, and you won't make me," Rita said.
"I won't?" Jason asked, continuing to advance on his opponent.
"No, you won't," Rita replied.
"Why won't I?"
"Because I'm not going to give you the chance to get close enough. Prepare to be destroyed, Power Ranger!" she shouted. With that, Rita lifted her staff and smashed it as hard as she could over the surface of the Universe Bomb.
"No!" Jason shouted, diving forwards in a futile attempt to stop the evil queen. However, he was too late, and he knew it even as he flew through the air. At that point, time seemed to slow nearly to a stop. He felt like he was hanging in the air, watching as the events occurred without him being able to do anything about it. Jason hit the ground, his left wrist cracking painfully beneath him. However, with a great effort, he ignored the pain and lifted his head to watch the Bomb, as though he could stop the events that were occurring through will power.
The second that Rita's staff collided with the Universe Bomb, the outer casing cracked and a great white light was released. It blinded Jason and Rita, and the resulting shock wave managed to knock them both backwards. Rita landed on her side behind a work bench while Jason was thrown backwards until his back collided with the stone wall, knocking the wind out of him. Strangely enough, though, throughout all of this, no sound was ever produced. The only things that Jason heard was the pounding of his heart and the rush of his blood in his ears, along with the exhalation of all the air from his lungs when he hit the wall.
Suddenly, the entire fortress began to tremble. Things began falling from the workbench behind which Rita was taking cover, off the shelves and they rolled around on the floor or broke upon impact.
"You're doomed, Ranger!" Rita shouted at him, grinning and getting to her feet.
I've got to get to my friends! I've got to get out of here! Jason's mind screamed at him. His wrist throbbed, but he couldn't afford to pay attention to it. He pushed himself up with his right arm and stumbled out of the room, heading back down the hallway from whence he had come just moments before.
"You can run, Ranger, but you can't hide! The Universe Bomb's effects will find you and strip you of your powers forever!" Rita shouted after him, her evil cackling following him until he reached the stairs. As quickly as he could, considering the entire structure was quaking around him, Jason ran down the stairs until he hit a familiar level. There, he exited and bolted down the hallway. Several monsters ran past him, more or less ignoring him. One of them jostled his wrist, and he let out a howl of pain, but clamped his lips shut and forced him to bite back the curses that were brewing just beneath the surface.
With his good arm, Jason grabbed one of the monsters as it ran by him.
"Where are the cells?" he demanded of it.
"Down that way, to the left! But you're a fool if you're going to go down there! The castle's collapsing!" the monster told him, pushing Jason away and running down the hallway. The monsters instructions kept replaying in his mind, and soon, Jason came upon a whole block of cells with large metal doors.
"Zack! Trini! Where are you guys?" Jason shouted as loudly as he could, glancing into each cell as he passed them. Where are they?
"Jason? Is that you?" Kim called out.
"Kim, what did you hear?" Zack asked. "Did you hear Jason?"
"I'm surprised you can hear anything over the sound of this building falling apart," Trini commented, sounding casual, but feeling intense panic. Being crushed alive wasn't her ideal way of leaving the physical realm.
"Kimberly? Where are you?" Jason's voice came back. This time, they all heard it.
"Jason, we're in here!" Zack called out.
"Hurry, Jason, get us out of here!" Kim called, desperation seeping into her voice as a piece of the ceiling fell and landed in front of her.
"I'm coming, guys!" Jason yelled. The five occupants of the cell watched the door anxiously to see if Jason was near.
"Jason, back here!" Zack shouted as a flash of red stumbled past the doorway. A split second later, Jason appeared in front of the door. "Hurry, man, or we'll all be buried alive!"
"I've got the keys! Which one is it?" Jason asked, holding up the key ring he had retrieved from the floor.
"Just pick one and try it! I don't care what you do, just hurry!" Kim shouted, panic in full swing within her. For a few tense moments, Jason struggled for the lock. Then there came a barely audible click as the tumblers released and the door swung open. Jason quickly got to work, freeing Billy, Tommy, Trini, Kim and finally Zack.
"Man, what took you so long?" Zack kidded as his last restraint fell away. Just then, another stone from the ceiling fell and landed directly in front of him. "Hey, I was kidding!"
"Let's move!" Jason shouted, trying to keep his voice strong.
"Jason, you're hurt!" Trini cried, noticing his wrist before he turned away and started leading the others out of the dungeon.
"It's nothing compared to what'll happen to us if we don't get out of here," Jason told her. "Go! Go! Get out!" He stopped at the doorway and waited for the others to go through before following them. The building was really beginning to fall apart, now. In certain places, you could see up several floors where the ceilings had caved in, and the Rangers had to dodge around holes that had appeared and were appearing in the floor in front of them as they ran back to where they had stashed their space suits.
One such hole opened up right in front of Tommy and Zack, who were running alongside one another with the others close behind them. Zack let out a small shout of surprise, and the two of them skidded to a halt, causing the others behind them to run into them.
"We're going to have to jump it!" Tommy called to the others. They all cleared a path so Tommy could get a running start. Running as fast as he could, Tommy pushed off the edge at the last possible second and soared across the void, landing safely on the other side. Turning back around, he gestured for the rest of them to come. Zack went second, followed by Trini, Billy, Kim, and finally Jason. The second Jason hit the ground, the rest of them were sprinting down the hallway. However, they came upon another obstruction as the ceiling caved in in front of them, blocking up the hallway.
"Now what are we going to do?" Kim asked worriedly, running her hands nervously through her honey-brown hair. Just then, there was a small yelp of pain that came from Trini. "Trini!"
"I'm...I'm all right," Trini told her friend from her spot on the floor. "I just got attacked by a piece of ceiling." Indeed, that was an understatement, as her foot was trapped beneath a rather large piece of rubble, and more fragments were raining down on them all the time. Kim and Zack knelt down and pushed the rock off of Trini's foot, them helped her stand up. When she put pressure on that one foot, however, her leg buckled beneath her, and it was only because Zack and Kim were there did she remain upright. Zack put her arm around his neck and held her upright, allowing Trini to take all her weight off of her injured foot.
"Our communicators might have enough power to teleport us back to Earth, but we have to hurry. We'll be feeling the effects of the Universe Bomb soon," Billy threw in once the others were paying attention once more and it was known that Trini was all right.
"Everybody ready?" Jason asked. The others nodded at him, and they all reached for their communicators, then pressed the button that would hopefully teleport themselves back to Earth.
Tommy noted the wince of pain that crossed Jason's face as Jason reached for the communicator that hung on his injured left wrist. Subtlety, Tommy moved over and stood close to Jason's right.
"Having trouble there, bro?" Tommy asked quietly.
"No, I'm fine," Jason replied, reaching down again, setting his teeth against the pain that was sure to come.
"Quit being such a hero. I'll teleport us both back," Tommy joked quietly in Jason's ear. Before Jason could protest further, the six young teenagers from Earth teleported out of the fortress.
Up several levels in the fortress that was now falling apart, Rita was caught halfway between anger and full-out glee.
"The Rangers are gone! The Rangers have no more power! My fortress is being destroyed, but the Rangers have no more powers!" she cried, nearly dancing around the room, even as it fell apart around her.
"Rita, my empress, we must leave!" Goldar said as he ran into the room.
"Oh, don't be such a ninny, Goldar," Rita chided him. "The Universe Bomb is simply removing anything that has ever come into contact with the forces of good. My castle shall be rebuilt shortly."
And indeed, what she said was true, for even as she spoke, the tremors began to dissipate. Then, they vanish altogether.
"Now what?" Goldar asked suspiciously, looking around almost as though he expected the walls to crumble around him.
"Now, you get to go down and terrorize Angel Grove," Rita told him with an evil smile. Goldar bowed slightly, then vanished.
Down in a secluded area of the park, 6 teens appeared out of thin air and hit the ground with dull thuds and cries of pain.
"That was not one of the softer landings I've ever made," Kim grumbled, pushing herself up onto her elbows and looking around at her friends, who were scattered around her. Then she spotted Trini, who was sitting upright, her face a mask of pain as she examined her right foot. "Trini, are you all right?" Kim got up and hurried over to her friend's side.
"I'll be all right," Trini replied. "I just need to get back to the Command Centre and have Alpha heal this."
"Is everybody all right?" Jason asked as he climbed to his feet. There were nods and calls of assent from all around.
"We're fine, but you're not," Tommy told him, standing in front of him. He gestured to Jason's wrist, which was sitting at a weird angle. "We need to get you to the Command Centre as soon as we can so Alpha can heal that."
"I'll be fine," Jason insisted.
"Jason, you have a broken wrist. I don't care how strong the Ranger suits are, they won't heal that," Zack broke in.
"Jason, what happened up there?" Kim interrupted.
"Well, after Trini got captured, I kept going until I found the room where Rita was keeping the Universe Bomb. She was talking to another Rita through a porthole, and was saying that she was about to detonate the Bomb when I jumped in and surprised her. But I didn't move fast enough, and she smashed her staff over the Bomb, causing it to detonate." Jason paused as a wave of pain rolled up from his wrist throughout his body. "Anyway, I tried to dive but I didn't make it. Hence, the wrist. After the outer casing broke, the whole place started to shake, and I knew I had to get out of there as fast as I could. So I backtracked, found you guys, and here I am."
"It's a good thing you managed to remember your way through the fortress. Otherwise, we all might have been crushed to death," Billy told him.
"That isn't exactly reassuring, Billy," Kim told him wryly. Billy reddened and went quiet.
"I can't believe we didn't even manage to contact the other universes and warn them about Rita's plan!" Jason fumed suddenly, beginning to pace.
"I wonder what Zordon's going to say?" Kim asked nervously, watching him, as the others were. "Do you think he'll be mad at us."
"I doubt it. I mean, we tried our best," Billy commented.
"So if Rita detonated the Universe bomb, does that mean that we're powerless?" Tommy asked in the short silence that followed. Another long one ensued as the implications and consequences of that ran through the minds of everyone present. Jason stopped pacing abruptly. As if of one mind, the six of them reached down to their communicators and pressed the same button that had enabled them to return to Earth.
"Try to morph," Jason ordered tersely, growing more and more concerned with every passing second. They all brought out their morphers. "Tyrannosaurus!"
"Ohmygod!" Kim squeaked, her hands flying up to cover her mouth. Tears sprang to her eyes.
"We're in trouble," Zack said quietly.
"Billy, you try," Jason commanded.
"Billy, please tell me that the communicators and morphers are just short on power, or malfunctioning, or something!" Zack pleaded, frustrated.
"I...I don't think they're low on power," Billy told him, avoiding the eyes of his friends. "I think that what Zordon said about the Universe Bomb was true."
"Billy," Jason said in a warning tone.
"Yea, quit kidding around," Kim said, trying to make her voice sound light.
"I'm not kidding," Billy replied, his voice rock-steady. "I think our powers are gone."
"Gone?" Trini whispered.
"They can't be gone," Kim stated with false bravado.
"Kim," Tommy said to her quietly, placing a hand on her shoulder.
"Guys, we have to stay calm," Jason told them all, raising his voice, falling deeply into leader mode. "Look, if we can get to the Command Centre, I'm sure Zordon and Alpha will already be working on a way for us to get around this problem."
"Work around this problem? But Jason-" Zack began, but he cut himself off as he saw the look in Jason's eyes. He's pissed off, went through Zack's mind, though he wasn't consciously aware of the thought.
"Well hello there, Power Rangers," came a voice from behind them. "Or should I call you the Powerless Rangers now?"
"Goldar, now is not a good time," Jason said menacingly, his voice low.
"On the contrary, Jason," Goldar replied with a sneer. "Now is a perfectly good time."
"Time for what?" Kim asked.
"Time for you all to meet your doom," Goldar informed her, brandishing his sword.
"Yea, well, I hate to break it to you, Goldilocks, but we won't be defeated so easily," Zack called with false confidence.
"Care to test that theory?" Goldar challenged. Silence fell over the Rangers. "As I thought. You are powerless!"
"We can still kick your sorry butt!" Kim called to him.
"Surrender now, and I'll make your deaths quick and painless," Goldar offered.
"He actually means it when he says that," Trini whispered in something close to awe.
"I'm not ready to be the subject of anybody's pity right now," Tommy replied. "No deal, Goldar!"
"Suit yourself," Goldar answered, shrugging his huge shoulders. "After all, they're only your lives we're talking about here. It doesn't matter to me how you die, so long as you do. And you will." With that, Goldar charged at them, sword raised.
"We're in trouble!" Kim squeaked.
"Everybody spread out!" Jason ordered.
"Do you really think that's wise, Jason?" Goldar asked as he began to engage the former Red Ranger in combat that was purely one-sided. All Jason could do was be on the defensive and block Goldar's attacks with his right arm.
"Sure it is," Jason told him, his voice strained. "After all, if you're only looking at me, you'll never know who's sneaking up behind you." His comment made Goldar falter and glance over his shoulders, which left Jason an opening. He took a small step backwards and kicked upwards abruptly, nailing Goldar directly in the human equivalent of the solar plexus. Goldar stumbled backwards, one hand going to his stomach.
Just then, Tommy ran in and grabbed onto Goldar's right arm, trying to wrestle the sword from the space monkey's hand. The others hurried in and joined him.
"Get off of me, you pathetic humans," Goldar growled, trying to shake them off. Kim was the first one to go since she'd had the weaker holds on Goldar. She went flying a short distance and landed on the soft grass. Trini, who hadn't gotten herself involved in the fight, hobbled painfully over to her friend.
"Are you all right?" Trini asked her when she got to Kim's side.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Kim told her, pushing her hair out of her eyes. "I just never realized how strong that gold-plated baboon was until now!"
While the two young women were having their short conversation, Goldar delivered a powerful blow to Jason's stomach in much the same fashion Jason had done to him mere moments ago. Jason stumbled backwards, tripped, and fell backwards, landing flat on his back. He let out a yell of pain as his left wrist was jostled.
"Jason, are you all right?" Tommy asked, placing himself in front of his friend.
"I'll be fine," Jason replied, his voice low, as he climbed to his feet and took on a defensive stance.
"No way, bro, you're not fighting Goldar when you're hurt that badly," Tommy told his friend, his voice indicating that he wasn't backing down on this one.
"But he'll destroy the city if we don't make him back down now, and since we can't morph, we need as many people as we can on him," Jason argued quietly.
Even as he spoke, Goldar flung Zack and Billy towards where he and Tommy were standing.
"Are you guys all right?" Tommy asked them immediately.
"Ugh, just fine," Zack replied, getting to his feet, balancing gingerly on his right foot.
"You're hurt," Tommy stated simply, eying his friend.
"Just a twisted ankle, I can walk it off in a minute or two," Zack replied breezily. However, when he tried to put his theory into practice, he nearly collapsed, having to grab onto Tommy for support.
"Guys, I think we should get out of here and go to the Command Centre," Tommy told them all as Kim helped Trini over to where the others were standing. Goldar was watching them carefully, sword at ready.
"But we can't teleport. How are we supposed to get there?" Kim asked, supporting her friend. The others exchanged silent glances, then looked back at her. "Oh no, we can't walk there! It's way too far!"
"It's the only other way to get there," Tommy told her.
"We can't retreat and leave Goldar unattended," Jason protested.
"Well what else can we do? Half of us are injured, and you know we can't defeat Goldar when there's only three of us and we're unmorphed," Tommy countered.
"Sure we can," Jason argued. "We just have to focus."
"Look, Jason, I totally respect you and everything, but I couldn't ask Kim, Tommy and Billy to attack Goldar, knowing that they'll probably get hurt," Zack spoke up.
"But we'll go if you ask us to, Jason," Kim told him.
"What's wrong, puny Rangers?" Goldar called to them in a taunting voice. "Oh, wait, that's right. I forgot. You're not Rangers anymore."
"Control yourself, Jason," Tommy told his friend quietly while the others were glaring at Goldar. "Don't let him win."
"Come on, guys, we need to get to the Command Centre," Jason told them all through gritted teeth. He wasn't used to backing away from a fight before it could really even begin, especially when Goldar was involved, but he didn't want to risk further injury to his friends...or himself, for that matter. His wrist was beginning to throb in earnest, and he wanted Alpha to take a look at it as soon as possible.
"It's going to be a long walk to the Command Centre," Billy warned them as they turned their backs on Goldar and started walking in the general direction of the desert where the Command Centre lay.
"Uh, Billy? Define "a long walk"," Trini told him, hobbling along, most of her weight on Kimberly.
"Several miles," Billy replied vaguely, not really wanting to dictate exact numbers at this point.
"Look, guys, why don't we go to my house so I can get my dad's Jeep?" Zack suggested, limping alongside the girls. "At least if we drive most of the way there, we won't be in so much pain."
"I'm all for that," Kim agreed. "No offense, Trini, but nearly carrying you all the way to the Command Centre would be hard for any of the guys, much less me."
"Don't worry about it, none taken," Trini replied with a small chuckle the two friends shared.
With that, they changed directions and headed for Zack's house, which thankfully wasn't too far from the park.
"What's the matter, are you afraid of me?" Goldar shouted after them.
Kim started to turn around to retort, but Jason stopped her.
"Just ignore him," he advised. "He'll have nothing to go on." Kim and the others smiled, and they continued on their way.
"That's right, just run away! Cowards!" Goldar taunted. Still, he got no response from the Rangers. "Pathetic! I'd have thought at least you, Tommy, would have something to say back."
"You know what? I do have something to say," Tommy said suddenly, turning to face the huge space monkey.
"Tommy," Kim said, a warning note in her voice. Tommy turned his head slightly and winked at her, then returned his attention to Goldar. His expression was deadly serious, and he seemed ready to shout.
"Well? What do you have to say?" Goldar demanded. Tommy's face broke out into a smile.
"Have a nice day!" he called. Then, after tossing Goldar a little wave, he turned back to his friends and they continued walking. Their laughter reached Goldar's ears, but he could do nothing about it as they moved out of earshot.
"Tommy, you had me so worried that you were going to do something you'd regret!" Kim confessed, grinning.
"Man, that was awesome!" Zack agreed. Tommy chuckled.
"I figured that would shut him up," he told them.
"It seemed to work quite well," Billy threw in.
"He was probably furious!" Jason exclaimed with a laugh that turned into a wince as he jostled his wrist.
"Hey, if we can't beat him physically, we may as well mess with his mind a little," Trini said with a mischievous twinkle appearing in her eyes.
"Ooh, you have an evil streak!" Kim giggled to her friend. "I like it!"
"I keep it well-hidden," Trini told her, giggling in return.
"Welcome to Casa Taylor!" Zack announced nearly 10 minutes later. "It isn't much, but we like to call it home."
"Zack, we've all been to your house before," Kim told him, smiling.
"Maybe so, but I like to make an impression," Zack replied with a shrug.
"Too bad you can't make an exit more often," Tommy kidded.
"OK, I know who's walking to the Command Centre," Zack retorted as they walked up the driveway and stood on Zack's porch. Tommy glared at Zack, who put his hands up in mock surrender. "All right, all right, I'll drive you there!"
"How spontaneous," Kim remarked, grinning, as they were ushered into Zack's house. They stood in the hallway while Zack found the car keys, left a note for his parents, then led them outside once more where they piled into his dad's Jeep, as carefully as they could.
A little while into the drive, Kim pointed out an interesting fact.
"How are we supposed to get up to the Command Centre when it's sitting in all of those huge cliffs?" she asked, breaking the silence that had fallen. Another one fell shortly thereafter.
"We can't drive up, can we?" Zack asked, keeping his eyes on the abandoned desert road that stretched out in front of them.
"Negative," Billy reported. "The only way to gain access to the Command Centre without using the teleportation systems is by scaling the cliffs." Trini blanched at that, her fear of heights surfacing quickly.
"Are you sure that's the only way?" she asked, her voice sounding hollow to her own ears.
"Yea, I'd really rather not have to climb anything on a bad ankle," Zack agreed, not realizing Trini had forgotten about her own injury at the mention of ascending the cliffs.
"It's the only way," Billy told them apologetically.
"We can make it," Jason said, his voice full of determination.
"Right," Trini agreed quietly, looking out the window.
"Whatever we do, we should get it done fast," Kim told them, noticing that the sun was beginning to hang low in the sky. "If we're out late, our parents are going to wonder what happened to us. If we get to the Command Centre, we can get healed, then go home and figure everything out tomorrow."
"Well, this is as close as we're going to get," Zack announced, stopping the car in a secluded area near the base of the cliffs. "Everybody out." He grimaced as he opened the door and tried to step out of the car, nearly collapsing once more. "Watch that first step, it's a doozy!"
The others chuckled. Tommy got out and allowed Trini to put his arm around his neck so she could take most of her weight off of her foot. Billy did the same for Zack, who had already locked up his dad's Jeep.
Together, the six of them stood at the base of the cliffs, and craned their necks to look up. And up. And up. And then they started to climb.
"I can't take this anymore!" Kim exclaimed, collapsing on the dusty ground. "Why did Zordon and Alpha have to put the Command Centre this far up?"
"Are we there yet?" came Zack's voice as he and Billy caught up with the others. The weary group could barely muster the energy to crack a smile. "Tough crowd."
"Come on, guys, we're almost there," Jason urged them from up ahead.
"Jason, bro, we need to rest," Tommy told him gently, stepping up to his friend while Trini rested against a boulder. "Even you have to be tired."
"But we need to figure out what happened," Jason persisted. "For all we know, there isn't a Command Centre waiting for us."
"Then it won't mind if we take a breather," Kim muttered, though nobody acknowledged her remark.
"Five minutes either way probably won't make a lot of difference," Trini called up to them diplomatically. Her foot throbbed, and she wouldn't mind sitting down for a little while. Besides, the thought of going further up these cliffs was beginning to make her shaky, though she hadn't been feeling up to par ever since she had first set foot on the solid rock about an hour ago.
"I'm going on ahead, then. You guys can stay here for a while, but don't stay too long," Jason told them. Without waiting for an answer, he turned his back on them and continued on his way.
"Jason, wait," Kim said after a moment's hesitation. Jason turned back around, looking at her and the others expectantly. "Come on, even you have to be tired. Five minutes?"
"Let us put it to you this way, bro," Tommy told him, walking up to stand beside Jason. "You don't have a choice in the matter. Either you sit down voluntarily, or we make you sit."
Jason glared at them, obviously unhappy, but knew that Tommy's wasn't spitting out an empty threat. Instead, he reluctantly went to join his friends as they sat or laid on the dusty ground on a small plateau. Silence fell over them as they sat, enjoying the motionlessness they were experiencing.
"OK, I can't take it anymore," Kim declared, restless after only a couple of minutes. She had been drawing little designs in the sand while leaning against Tommy's leg as he sat on a flat rock above her. Now, however, she got to her feet and began to pace. "I'm sorry, guys, but I can't stand it. I need to know that everything's all right up at the Command Centre."
"Are you guys ready?" Jason asked, looking at Trini and Zack. They exchanged glaces, made unhappy faces at Jason, then climbed unsteadily to their feet. Trini made the mistake of looking off to her right, where there was a gap in the rock. You could see through the rocks and tell just how high up you really were. Trini's face went ashen and she let out a small moan, stumbling back away from the gap in the rocks.
"Woah, take it easy, Trini," Tommy told her soothingly, catching her before she could trip and fall, injuring herself further.
"Thanks, Tommy," Trini said, offering a small smile of thanks.
The group began to climb once more, driven by a nagging sense of urgency that was making itself known more and more the closer the group got to the Command Centre. In fact, as they grew closer to the Command Centre's location, they moved faster and faster until they were nearly running.
"Oh my God," Kim whispered, stopping dead in her tracks as the top half of the Command Centre came into view. The others stopped around and behind her, having much the same reaction. Trini let out a strangled gasp, her face ashen, and a murderous look invaded Jason's eyes.
"I'm going to kill Rita," he vowed, his voice low but intense with emotion.
"Not if I get to her first," Tommy said, taking a moment to glare skyward.
"We should get inside," Billy commented.
"Maybe it's not as bad as it looks?" Trini suggested, trying to remain optimistic.
"I seriously doubt that," Billy told her, ending all conversation then and there, though not intentionally.
The main tower that allowed the Rangers to teleport into and out of the Command Centre had crumbled halfway up, and there was rubble covering the terrain around the site. The main outside walls that had provided the Command Centre with shelter from the elements had collapsed, huge boulders of stone laying haphazardly on the dusty ground. The inner walls were also destroyed, so much so that one could have seen inside the Command Centre if one had been airborne. Bricks, stones, pebbles, that's what the Command Centre had been reduced to, at least externally. There was no way of knowing what condition the interior was in, except to enter and find out.
The Rangers themselves had similar yet varying reactions to the site that beheld them.
Kim's hands were at her mouth, which had formed a huge 'O' upon taking in the sight. Her face was the same colour as the dusty ground that she was standing on, and had about the same complexion. Her eyes were filled with tears, and the tears began running down her cheeks as she stood there. Silently, she allowed shock, grief and anger to roll through her at their whim, not really feeling anything distinct. Kim had been so taken aback by the sight that she now couldn't remove her eyes from that she had actually taken a step backwards, and in doing so had run directly into Tommy. However, she felt no need to apologize, nor would he have heard her if she had.
Tommy had felt his girlfriend stumble into him, but it barely registered in his brain as he kept his eyes ahead, barely able to believe what he was seeing. A cool breeze blew by just then, running through his hair, which was hanging loosely about his shoulders. The slight wind caused him to shudder, though he did so unconsciously. Moving his eyes around the now-decrepit Command Centre, he was filled with extreme senses of regret, loss, anger, sadness and frustration. Despite the fact that he was looking straight at it, Tommy's mind still didn't seem to be able to accept that this was the Command Centre he and the others called their home away from home. It didn't seem real to him. He felt nauseated, but swallowed the bile that threatened to rise up his throat as he and the others stood there and thought.
Trini was still being supported by Tommy, which was a particularly beneficial thing, considering that if he hadn't been there, she probably would have collapsed. A choked gasp escaped her lips, which were pale and pressed together tightly in order to avoid another release of emotion. She shook her head a few times, as if to make the apparition go away, but it wasn't an apparition. It was real. She couldn't, didn't want to, believe it, but she had to. This was all real. The ground seemed to rise and fall crazily, and everything began to spin, though none of it was caused by the extreme height at which she was standing. Her phobia was taking a backseat to this new terror.
Though he had never experienced any emotional feelings towards any of his other experiments, Billy now felt as though a very large piece of himself had been destroyed as he gazed at the remains of the Command Centre. True, he hadn't built it, but had invested much of his time and effort in it. His eyes began to water the longer he stared at the half-structure before him, and he thought it was because he needed to blink. However, doing so didn't help, and he realized he truly was about to cry, something he thought he had stopped doing years ago. Crying had never helped anything, yet right now, it seemed to be as good a release as any towards the events that had just occurred. He tried to hold it back as long as he could, then resigned himself and allowed the warm, salty water to trickle out of the corners of his eyes and fall to the ground.
There was nothing high-spirited about Zack now as he stood alongside his friends, unable to rip his eyes away from the Command Centre, or what remained of it. He couldn't understand how this could have happened. Zordon and Alpha were supposed to be indestructible, right? Apparently not. Zack's stomach churned, and he wanted to bolt; wanted to be anywhere but there at that very moment, but his body wouldn't respond to his mental commands. He seemed frozen in place, unable to move, yet very able to feel all the emotions that were ripping him apart inside. His normally chestnut-like complexion had faded to an unpleasant ashen colour, and his brow creased deeply. He wasn't exactly sure how he felt, but he knew he didn't like it, and would give anything to have these feelings go away.
Perhaps taking it the hardest of them all, both physically and mentally, was Jason. He felt as thought he had been kicked repeatedly in the head and stomach, then left in some foreign corner of the universe to die. He felt as though his very being had been taken away from him, as though he'd had a physical connection to the Command Centre. His breathing grew short and was taken in the form of small gasps, nostrils flaring every time he inhaled. His eyes narrowed to small, dark embers, smoldering, just barely contained behind a very thin veil of self-control. Down at his sides, his hands clenched and unclenched, finally remaining in tight balls that felt as though they could never be taken apart. His chest felt tight, constricted, almost like there was a great band of metal being tensed exponentially. Many emotions surged throughout his body, but the most prominent one was anger. A deep-rooted hatred that felt as though it could never be quenched. Quite frankly, at that moment, Jason welcomed the anger. It allowed him to avoid any other emotions that he might have experienced.
"I'm going to kill Rita," he growled, glaring at the remains of the Command Centre.
"Not if I get to her first," Tommy countered threateningly.
"Look, we should get inside to see if Zordon and Alpha are all right," Trini said before the men could let their emotions run away with them.
At her words, the group started to move into the broken-down Command Centre, moving as quickly as they dared. None of them had very high hopes about what they'd find inside, but none of them had given up hope entirely, either. After all, there was still a chance that Zordon and Alpha, and the most important parts of the Command Centre were alive and well...wasn't there?
Several times, one of the teens tripped or stumbled on the loose rubble that was scattered over a great radius. When they entered the Command Centre through one of the gaping holes that was where a giant set of double doors had once been, they found the interior to be in much the same state as the exterior.
Hurrying through the labyrinth of corridors that they all knew so well, the teens quickly managed to locate the central core of the Command Centre. They hesitated outside the double sliding doors that led inside, and looked at one another. Tommy, Trini and Jason, who were in the lead, exchanged looks. Wordlessly, Trini dropped her arm from around Tommy's neck and instead leaned on Billy while the two young men stepped forwards.
"The motion-sensitive mechanism on the doors must have been broken," Billy said in hushed tones. However, his words echoed off the walls, or what remained of them.
Tommy and Jason stepped forward again, and each of them grabbed one of the doors. Jason nodded and Tommy, and together, they began to pull with all of their might. Zack joined Jason, since he was pulling with only one wrist. Kim and Trini held their breath in anticipation as the doors inched open ever-so-slowly.
Suddenly, with a deafening shriek of metal on metal, the doors slid apart. Tommy, Jason and Zack stood in the doorway, their broad shoulders and torsos blocking the view for Trini, Kim and Billy, who were the shortest of the Rangers.
"Oh, man," Zack whispered. His eyes were wide as he, alongside Tommy and Jason, surveyed what lay in front of them.
"Ooh, I'm afraid to look," Kim murmured, covering her eyes with her hands.
"I think I'm going to be sick," Tommy muttered. Jason remained as silent as ever. However, one could tell just by looking at him what he was feeling. His hands were clenched into fists at his sides, and his entire body was rigid with fury.
Tommy took Kim gently by the arm and guided her to his side while Zack and Jason stepped away so that Trini and Billy could advance and take everything in for themselves.
Kim let out a strangled gasp, and her hands flew down to cover her mouth and nose.
"This can't be real," she choked out, shaking her head in disbelief.
"It is," Trini said, her voice hard.
"I didn't want to believe that what Zordon said was true," Kim breathed.
"It was," Tommy pointed out.
"Zordon? Alpha?" Trini called, stepping past the others, momentarily forgetting about her injured foot even as she limped. The others followed close behind her, and in the back of her mind, Trini was glad for their closeness. The Command Centre, which she normally felt completely comfortable in, now felt as if it had been violated, and the culprits were lurking in the shadows.
"Zordon? Alpha?" Billy echoed, raising his voice ever-so-slightly above normal volume. In the emptiness of the Command Centre, it felt like a shout.
"Oh my God!" Trini exclaimed. She hurried forward, completely ignoring the protests from her foot, and knelt down on the ground. She held something gently, cradled it in her lap. It glinted in the dim lighting that was shining down on them from a gaping hole in the ceiling above their heads.
"Alpha," Kim whispered.
"Billy...?" Trini said, her voice ending in a question. Billy knelt down beside her examined the prone figure of the android for a moment.
"I don't think there's anything I can do," he announced quietly.
"Alpha..." Trini sobbed, ducking her head. Her black hair completely obscured her face as she let out a small portion of the grief that she and all her friends were feeling at that moment.
"Guys, look," Kim said suddenly, pointing upwards. All eyes shifted and followed her extended arm. "Zordon's gone, too."
Indeed, she spoke the truth, for the giant glass tube that Zordon had once inhabited was now empty, void of even any remaining energy traces.
"We're in trouble," Zack said quietly.
"Maybe not. Maybe we can get Zordon back and repair Alpha?" Kim suggested eagerly. However, even as the words left her lips, she knew that what she was recommending was nearly impossible.
It was at around that moment that the Rangers took a good look at one another. All of them were filthy, covered in grime and dust from a variety of places. A handful of them had blood spattered on them in random places from minor lacerations. All of them felt older and more wearied than ever before.
"Rita won," Zack said dully, staring at Alpha's prone figure that still lay in Trini's lap.
"She hasn't won yet," Jason said, raw determination in his voice.
"Jason, we're powerless. How are we supposed to fight Rita and her goons if we can't even morph?" Kim demanded, desperation creeping into her voice. She was visibly trembling, and clenching her hands nervously.
"We'll find a way," Jason vowed.
"Jase, buddy, she beat us this time. She won," Tommy said quietly, placing a hand on Jason's shoulder that was quickly shrugged off.
"I refuse to believe that," Jason said firmly, turning and looking at his friends. "We've been in tough spots before, and we've always managed to survive. We can do it again."
"How?" Zack asked.
Jason had never realized that one word could carry so much weight until that point.
"We'll find a way," he repeated, glancing at Billy. The genius shrugged his shoulders.
"I might be able to figure something out," Billy threw in meekly, reddening under the gazes of so many.
"You see? There's hope, Rangers," Jason insisted.
"Very little hope," Kim muttered. Jason glared at her. "Well, it's true! We have no powers, Zordon's gone, Alpha's been destroyed, and our zords are probably toast, too. How are we supposed to beat Rita and Goldar and all the other monsters she can easily create when we can't defend ourselves?!" Kim's voice had started to crack as she spoke, and tears were welling up in her eyes.
"I don't know," Jason told her honestly. "But we're the Power Rangers. Are we going to give up without trying anything?"
The others squirmed uncomfortably under his scrutiny.
"I let Rita win once, but I'm not going to let it happen again," Tommy broke in after a moment of silence had encompassed them all. "I'll give anything a shot if it means we have a chance of defeating Rita."
"There's no way I'm going to be any kind of traitor; count me in," Kim said reluctantly.
"We're definitely going to do whatever we can," Trini said, speaking for her and Billy.
"That space witch isn't going to know what hit her," Zack commented with a small smile that was complimented by the mischievous glint in his dark eyes.
"Good, we're in this together," Jason said, a small amount of relief seeping into his voice as he spoke, a small smile appearing on his face. "Now, the first thing we have to do-"
"The first thing we have to do is get the three of you to a hospital," Kim interjected, eying Jason, Trini and Zack.
"Kim, we've got more important things to worry about," Jason protested.
"Kim's right. The first thing we should do before even thinking about going up against Rita without our powers is making sure that we're all healthy and able to fight," Tommy broke in.
"They're right," Billy agreed, earning himself a dull glare from Zack.
"This is mutiny," Jason kidded with a grin.
"Damn right," Tommy agreed, grinning back.
"So you're saying you want us to go all the way back down this mountain in the dark?" Trini asked nervously.
"Do you have a better idea of how we can get to a hospital?" Tommy asked her. Trini hesitated, then shook her head.
"Don't worry, nothing's going to happen," Kim whispered to her friend with a reassuring smile.
"Come on, guys, let's get going," Jason said. "The sooner we get to that hospital, the sooner we can leave and come back here to figure out what we're going to do."
Jason, Kim, Zack and Billy all headed for the door, but Trini and Tommy hung back.
"Come on, Trini," Tommy said gently, extending his hand to help her off the ground.
"I don't want to leave him here," Trini told him. "I know it sounds silly, but I'll feel like I'm abandoning him."
"Trini, we have to get you to a hospital so that someone can take a look at your foot. Alpha would have wanted you to look after yourself first," Tommy replied. "Besides, we're coming back as soon as we can."
"I guess you're right," Trini told him reluctantly. "I hope nobody comes up here tonight."
"Nobody ever has before," Tommy said with a shrug. "Come on, we don't want to lose sight of the others in the dark."
"That wasn't very reassuring," Trini informed him with a wry smile. She accepted his hand and was pulled to her feet. She winced as she put pressure on her injured foot.
"Sorry," Tommy apologized, noticing her reaction.
"It's not your fault," Trini told him. "Come on, let's go."
On the way down the mountain, the sun fell further and further on the horizon until it disappeared completely. Not soon after, the stars and moon began to appear. Thankfully, it was just after a full moon, so the rays of light provided some illumination for the group of teenagers that was climbing down the mountain with no other source of light.
Once they reached the bottom, they found Zack's jeep, piled in and headed off for Angel Grove Memorial Hospital.
There, they parked and walked or limped into the emergency room.
"Excuse me, but three of my friends are in need of some help. Is there a doctor who could come look at them, please?" Kim asked, turning on her charm as she stood before a woman who sat behind the counter.
"I'll see what I can do," the woman promised, giving Kim a small smile. "Just have a seat over there, and I'll get someone as they come in."
"Thank you," Kim replied, smiling back. She turned and headed back over to where her friends were. "She's going to get someone as soon as she can."
"It had better be soon," Jason grumbled. He had barely spoken a word since they had left the Command Centre. He was in an extremely foul mood, and had every right to be. His wrist was throbbing quite painfully, he was powerless, the Command Centre had been destroyed, and Rita could attack at any moment. Not exactly the best of situations to be in. Inside, frustration, tension, anger and pain were building at an alarming rate. Thanks to his years of training, Jason had enough self-control to keep his feelings under wraps, but if he wasn't able to get out of this hospital and back to the Command Centre quickly, he wouldn't be held responsible for his actions.
Having nothing better to do, the group sat around, and waited.
Finally, Jason smacked the arm of the chair he was sitting in with his left fist and stood up. Tommy and Kim quickly got up with him, but stayed behind as he paced.
"Dammit, where's the doctor?" Jason muttered. "We can't stay here all night!"
"Jason, just calm down," Kim said soothingly, going over to him and laying a hand on his forearm. "I'm sure that a doctor will be along any minute." She tossed a glance behind Jason's back to Tommy and gestured towards the front desk with her head, mouthing the words, Ask her. Tommy nodded and went over to talk to the woman.
"Rita could attack at any minute, and we're cooped up here because there aren't enough people on staff," Jason said, half to himself while glaring angrily at the wall in front of him.
"Jase, Rita rarely attacks at night. Besides, she knows we're powerless, and she doesn't think that she has to attack right away. Knowing her, she'll wait," Kim assured him. "We'll have plenty of time to get you and the others patched up, then go back to the Command Centre and figure a way out of this mess."
"The woman at the desk just paged one of the doctors. He'll be here in a couple of minutes," Tommy reported, loudly enough so that all of his friends could hear him.
"About time," Zack muttered. He was getting restless, being unable to get up on account of his ankle.
"Hi, my name is Doctor Meredith Bartlett," a woman's voice said. They all turned or looked up, and saw the source of the voice standing before them in a white lab coat. Her medium-length brown hair was half pulled back and her hazel eyes seemed to contain deep concern and a hint of veiled mischief. "Who's the one I get to practice of tonight?"
"Thanks for coming so quickly, Doctor Bartlett," Tommy said.
"Please, call me Meredith," the woman said. "Being called doctor makes me feel so old." She paused as the teens smiled or chuckled. "So, who're my victims? And I'm having a slow night, so you'd better be an interesting case."
"There's three of them, actually," Kim told the woman, bringing Jason over to join the others. "One broken wrist, one sprained ankle, on probably fractured, maybe broken foot."
"Impressive. Med student?" Meredith asked.
"No, just a gymnast who's seen it all," Kim replied with a grin.
"Then you people are in good company," Meredith told them. "Gymnasts know their stuff." Turning to an orderly who had just walked by, Meredith called out to him. "Hey, Ryan. How about a couple of wheelchairs for the nice teenagers?"
"Coming up!" Ryan replied, smiling fondly at Meredith.
"We'll have you three fixed up in no time," Meredith promised them.
"Boyfriend?" Kim guessed, grinning at Meredith.
"Fiancé, actually. Is it obvious?" Meredith asked, sharing that grin.
"Yup," Kim replied. "Congratulations." Just then, Ryan returned with two wheelchairs. Tommy, Billy and Meredith helped Zack and Trini into the wheelchairs. Then, with their friends pushing them, the teens and Meredith walked down a hall to an examination room.
Trini and Zack were helped up onto beds while Jason was taken down to X-ray by another doctor who had just finished with a patient.
A while later, Trini, Zack and Jason were released from the hospital.
"Thanks, Meredith!" Kim called back to her as she and the others headed out.
"Any time!" Meredith called back with a small wave.
"How am I supposed to get back up to the Command Centre using these stupid things?" Zack muttered, indicating the crutches that he was using to hobble out to his jeep.
"Probably the same way as me; with great difficulty," Trini replied, hobbling along beside him. "How does your wrist feel, Jason?"
"Fine," Jason lied, glancing down at the cast that encircled his wrist. Truthfully, his wrist was throbbing since the painkillers he had been given were starting to wear off.
"Tommy, how would you feel about driving the jeep?" Zack offered, sending a wayward grimace down to his ankle.
"Better than if you were driving the jeep on a bad ankle," Tommy kidded.
"Shut up and drive," Zack retorted, tossing his friend the keys.
On the way to the desert, Kim asked an interesting question.
"Um, I hate to be a downer, but nobody thought to bring a flashlight, did they?"
There was a collective groan throughout the jeep.
"That's what I was afraid of," Kim said.
"You want us to climb those cliffs in the dark on crutches?" Trini asked, arching a perfectly-shaped eyebrow. "No way, count me out!"
"Trini, we have to get back there to see if we can repair Alpha," Jason told her. "I know how you feel about doing this, and we can drive you home if that's what you want, but honestly, we need your knowledge."
Trini sighed. She really didn't want to go scaling the cliffs again, much less in the dark, much less on crutches, but what choice did she have? Sure, Billy could figure Alpha out by himself, but it would take him longer. The others were counting on her.
"Keep heading for the Command Centre, Tommy," Trini told him, a new resolve in her voice. Mentally, she began steeling herself for the fear that was sure to begin bubbling up as soon as the cliffs came into view.
Nearly an hour and a half later, the exhausted teens arrived at the top of the cliffs, where the remains of the Command Centre lay. Everything was quiet, interrupted only by the cry of a lone wolf now and then that seemed to echo across the vast expanse of the desert.
"Let's go inside. This place is giving me the creeps," Kim said quietly with a shiver. She and the others hurried inside, eager to escape to the comforting interior of what was left of the Command Centre.
"OK, Billy, what's repairable and what isn't?" Zack asked once they were in the main chamber once more.
"I'll have to take a closer look at everything before I can tell you for sure," Billy answered. "I'm not even sure if I'll have the necessary tools in case I can fix some of this stuff."
"Do your best," Jason told him.
"I always do," Billy replied, not without a touch of resentment in his voice.
"The rest of us should look around and see what we can salvage," Jason said to the others.
"I'll go down and check the holding bay," Trini offered.
"Good idea. We need to know how badly the zords were damaged when the Bomb detonated," Jason commented. "Tommy, go with her. She might need your help."
"You got it, Jase," Tommy replied.
"Be careful," Kim whispered to him as he walked by her. He nodded and smiled, then continued on his way with Trini hobbling along beside him.
"Kim, you, me and Zack are going to look around up here," Jason said. "We'll check the medical ward first and see if any of the equipment down there is working."
"Good idea. I'd hate to go home and have to explain to my parents why I'm on crutches," Zack commented with a wince. "The cast probably isn't going to go over very well, either, Jase."
"I'll deal with that when the situation comes up," Jason told him, glancing down at the cast on his left wrist. He was already becoming used to having the extra weight, but hoped that the equipment in the medical bay was still working so he wouldn't have to get too attached to the cast.
So to speak.
Meanwhile, up on the moon, Rita was watching Angel Grove, cackling all the while.
"It worked!" she crowed. "I can't believe it! I've finally managed to defeat those puny power punks!"
"My queen, you haven't defeated them yet," Goldar reminded her.
"Shut up, you!" she yelled at him. "They have no powers, Zordon's gone, Alpha and their zords have been destroyed...I can attack at any time and those Rangers won't know what hit them!"
"So why don't we being now, my queen?" Goldar asked.
"Let's give those nerds some time," Rita answered. "Let them think they're in the clear. Then, when they're least expecting it, we'll hit them harder than ever before, and there won't be a thing that they can do about it!"
"Excellent plan, my queen!" Goldar told her.
"Of course!" Rita agreed.
"I think we may have a problem here," Trini said, her quiet alto voice resounding off the walls in the holding bay. She was way up, high above Tommy's head, near the ceiling of the holding bay. Her crutches rested on one of her saber-toothed tigerzord's ears while she explored the cockpit, inspecting the damage that had been done. "How does the tyrannosaurus look?"
"Like it went extinct about a million years ago," was Tommy's grim reply. "Do you think we'll be able to repair any of this?"
"I honestly don't know," Trini replied soberly. "That bomb Rita set off did a lot of damage to everything connected with our powers. Even our communicators have stopped functioning. If Billy can find tools that don't rely on the Command Centre's power source for energy, then we might stand a chance. Otherwise..." She trailed off as she climbed out of the cockpit and emerged near where her crutches were resting.
"If I ever get my hands on Rita, I'm going to destroy her," Tommy growled. He had left Jason's zord and was walking towards the saber-toothed tiger when he caught sight of Trini's long, dark hair reflecting the moon's rays that shone through the open roof of the holding bay. He hurried over to help her onto the catwalk.
"Thanks," she said with a small smile of gratitude, placing her crutches under her arms and beginning to hobble towards the ladder.
When she stood at the top of it, she gestured for Tommy to descend first.
"After you," she told him. Moving past her, Tommy turned around and put his feet on the ladder.
"See you at the bottom," he told her with a reassuring smile. Then his head disappeared below the metal catwalk. Trini tied her crutches onto the rope that she had used to hoist them up onto the catwalk and lowered them quickly. Once they were resting on the floor beneath her, she got to her knees and crawled over to the ladder. There, she swung one foot over the edge and waited until she found purchase before allowing her other foot to follow.
As she climbed down the long ladder, which was only used as an alternative to the elevator when the power was down, Trini had time to think about everything that had happened. Up until that point, she had tried to push it all down into her unconscious mind, since she didn't want to break down in front of the others, but now that she had time to herself to think, everything resurfaced.
I can't believe our powers are gone, she thought with mental anguish. What are we supposed to do now? Rita can attack any time she wants, and she'll win! There's nothing we can do to stop her! Not without our powers or our zords! Even if we had Zordon and Alpha, we'd have hope. But they're gone...what are we supposed to do now?
Lost in thought, Trini wasn't concentrating on what she was doing. Her foot slipped off of the rung it had landed on initially, since she had been in the middle of descending, the rest of her lower body followed. She let out a scream and hung onto the rungs above her with all her might.
"Tommy! Help!" she shouted down to him.
"Trini! Hang on!" he called up to her. No problem, she thought silently. She could hear him noisily climbing the rungs, but was afraid he wasn't going to reach her in time. Already, she could feel her fingers beginning to slip. Her feet dangled uselessly beneath her, only one of them really functional. However, neither of them managed to find purchase as she flailed and struggled. "Stop moving around. I'm right behind you." True to his word, Trini spared a brief glance down and saw Tommy was hanging on only a couple of feet below her legs. "I'm going to take hold of your good foot and guide it to a rung. When you feel the rung, put your weight on it to stabilize yourself, all right?"
Trini could only manage a faint nod. She felt Tommy's hand on her right ankle and felt him gently move her foot forwards.
"You're pulling me off," she managed to choke out, feeling her fingers losing more and more ground.
"No, I'm not," Tommy replied reassuringly. "Can you feel the rung beneath your foot?"
"Yes," Trini replied, feeling the solidity of it beneath her.
"Good. Now, start climbing down slowly. I'll be right here in case you slip again," Tommy told her. She heard him start to climb down, and followed him, this time paying absolute attention to the positions of her hands and feet.
When they reached the bottom, Trini would have collapsed onto the floor if it hadn't been for Tommy. He had seen how pale she was, and caught her just as she started to fall. Placing one of her arms around his shoulders, he held her until she was steadier.
"What happened up there?" he asked her gently.
"I...I was thinking about everything that had happened," Trini explained, almost shyly. "I kept thinking about how powerless we are. Rita's won, Tommy! We have no power, no zords, Alpha's destroyed, Zordon's gone...how are we expected to win?!"
"I don't know, Trini," Tommy told her soothingly, stroking her hair. "But there has to be a way. There always is."
"What if there isn't this time?" Trini demanded, tears falling down her face. "What if this it? This could be the end of everything! All the times that we fought back Rita's monsters might have been for nothing!"
"You can't think like that. You're not doing yourself, or anybody else, any good," Tommy replied. "Look, we should get back. For all we know, the others have already figured out a way to get the power running through the Command Centre again."
"I wish I could believe that," Trini told him. She balanced unsteadily while Tommy went and picked up her crutches and handed them to her. "Thanks."
Side by side, the two returned to the main chamber with heavy hearts and dying spirits.
"Is it just me, or does this place look completely trashed?" Kim asked, gazing skeptically at the medical ward.
"I don't think it's just you," Zack called to her from the other side of the room. "You found anything that even looks like it has the potential to work, Jase?"
"Not yet, but we can't give up," Jason replied. He was off in the Command Centre's ICU, poking around.
"I'm about to," Kim muttered. Zack looked at her sympathetically for a moment, then kept rummaging around in the drawers. Kim continued wandering around the mayhem that was once the medical ward, hoping to find something that looked functional. "Well, I found a first-aid kit."
"It's a start," Zack threw in optimistically. "Have any pain killers in there?"
"Probably. Hang on, let me check." Kim set the case down on a dusty and debris-laden counter, then flicked open the latches and lifted the lid. "It looks like you might be in luck, if you can swallow pills dry." Zack made a face, but left what he had been doing and hobbled over to her, his crutches more of an impairment and an aid as there was debris scattered all over the floor. "Hey Jason, do you have a working sink or water source in there?"
"Nope, why?" Jason called to her, coming out of the ICU area.
"I just need something to wash these pain killers down with," Zack explained, holding a pair of small white capsules in his hand.
"Are there any more?" Jason asked, a little too eagerly. After all, he was supposed to be the strong one of the group, wasn't he? Hey, a broken wrist is nothing to sneeze at, he thought to himself wryly. Kim reopened the bottle and handed Jason two capsules, which he promptly popped into his mouth and swallowed.
"Down the hatch," Zack joked, glancing wearily at the pills that were still in his hand.
"Just put 'em in your mouth and swallow really hard," Kim told him brightly.
"I can't," Zack said quietly.
"Sure you can," Kim encouraged him. "When in doubt, I know the Heimlich maneuver."
"That's reassuring," Zack muttered. "Oh well." With that, he threw his head back, put the pills into his mouth and swallowed hard. He screwed his face up for a second, then relaxed. "Hey, it worked."
"Of course it did," Kim told him lightly. "Did either of you manage to find anything working in here?" Jason asked, sobering the moment.
"No. Did you?" Kim replied, worried.
"No," Jason answered.
"I think Rita really did us in this time," Zack said quietly.
"We don't know that for sure," Jason told him firmly. "Come on, let's get back and see if Billy managed to get something working."
"I hope he did," Kim whispered, mainly to herself, as the three of them exited the medical ward and headed back down the long, rubble-strewn corridor to the main chamber.
This is impossible, Billy thought. Rita did a really good job on us this time. He was laying on his back, most of his torso buried beneath an open console. Only his blue Jean-clad legs poked out and signaled that he was still there to the outside world.
"I can't believe she hit us this hard," Billy murmured to himself. "That bomb must have been serious." He paused as he tried crossing a few wires. Nothing, not even a spark. "Not that we ever didn't take her seriously, but she has thrown fakes at us before." Changing a few connections, Billy crossed the wires again. Nothing. Great. He rested his head on the floor beneath him and closed his eyes, allowing his thoughts to take over. If Rita did manage to destroy our powers, what are we going to do? We can't take her and her monsters on without them, can we? Billy sighed. I'll let the others deal with those problems. Right now, I've got to concentrate on getting some power back into this place! I don't want to let the others down.
Several moments later, he heard footsteps in one corner of the main chamber.
"Billy?" he heard someone call.
"Down here," he called back, his voice muffled as it drifted out from beneath a computer console. Feet shuffled and suddenly Tommy was in his field of vision.
"How's it going, Billy?" Tommy asked him. Billy crawled out from underneath the console and, after dusting himself off, stood up and faced Tommy and Trini.
"Things don't look good," he replied grimly. "I can't seem to get any power into any of these conduits."
"We couldn't get anything working in the zords' holding bay, either," Trini told him. "The wiring has been completely trashed."
"That goes double for the medical ward," Zack called as he, Kim and Jason entered into the room.
"I think we're in trouble, guys," Kim said nervously, wringing her hands together.
"Not necessarily," Jason argued. "There still might be a way to get everything working."
"How?" Zack demanded. "Billy's tried, and couldn't get any power anywhere in here. How are we even supposed to think about going up against Rita if we can't even use the Viewing Globe to see where she is?!"
"Zack, calm down," Trini told him quietly, laying a comforting hand on his arm. Zack glanced down at her hand, then took a deep breath and looked back at Jason.
"Sorry, man," he said quietly.
"All right, so the Command Centre has been trashed, there's no power, and we can't morph," Tommy assessed.
"We don't know that we can't," Kim said quickly. "Pterodactyl!" Nothing happened. "OK, now we know that we can't morph." She looked down at the debris-littered ground dejectedly. Tommy took and gently squeezed her hand to reassure her.
"We may not be able to morph, but that doesn't mean we can't defeat whatever Rita sends down at us," Jason told them.
"Do you honestly think we could defeat Goldar if he came to Angel Grove?" Kim demanded, giving him an exasperated look.
"Why not? There's only one of him, and six of us," Jason pointed out. Kim fell silent at that, unable to think of a decent reply.
"I hate to be pessimistic, but if Goldar does come to Angel Grove, and we somehow manage to beat him, won't Rita only make him grow?" Billy asked in the silence.
"Billy's right. If Goldar grows, there's no way we could ever hope of defeating him," Trini commented.
"There's no way we're ever going to defeat anybody if we keep thinking negatively," Jason argued. Zack made an annoyed sound, and everybody turned to look at him.
"I'm sorry, but I'm sick of optimism," he said by way of explanation. "No offense, Jason, but we can't assume that if we keep a positive attitude that we're going to come out of this thing all right!"
"Guys, take it easy. We're not going to get anywhere if we start fighting each other," Trini broke in, hobbling to stand between the two men. "So why don't we try to figure out a way to keep tabs on the city? That way, we'll know when Rita sends down a monster because, as it is, even the alarms aren't working."
"The only way to do that is to go back to the city and let the media do its job," Billy informed them.
"I guess there really is no other way," Kim murmured.
"Look, it's getting late. We should all probably go home and get some rest. It's been a long day, and we actually have school tomorrow," Trini commented, checking her watch.
"There's no way I'm going to be able to sit through English while Rita's up there, plotting against us," Kim muttered, casting a wayward glance and the ceiling of the Command Centre, or what was left of it.
"If all of us don't go, it's going to look pretty suspicious," Billy told her. "I think Trini and Zack should stay home, but the rest of us can go to school."
"Is it smart to split up?" Trini asked. "I mean, what if there's a monster attack? We don't have any way to contact one another, and if one of us is ambushed, we won't be able to call for help."
"And I do not like that idea," Kim agreed.
"OK, so we're all going to stick together at all times," Jason said.
"We can all walk to school together," Kim threw in.
"Good idea," Jason told her. "That way, we're minimizing the time we're alone and vulnerable to an attack."
"I hate to break this up, but it's gonna be light soon, and I don't want to have to explain to my parents why I came home at dawn with an injured foot," Zack broke in.
"I think we should just skip going home and go straight to school from here," Billy said. "That way, we won't have to face our parents tonight and we'll have time to concoct a decent alibi."
"Do you really think we'll be able to get away with that?" Kim asked skeptically. "I mean, my mom is going to wonder where I've been all night."
"Just tell her you were staying at my house," Trini offered. "I'll tell my parents I was at your house, and the guys can do the same."
"That might actually work," Kim said thoughtfully. "As long as I call her from school and let her know I'm all right, she shouldn't worry."
"Guys, shouldn't we get back to the matter at hand?" Tommy broke in. "Like figuring out a way to restore power to the Command Centre, our zords and our morphers?"
"I don't think there is a way," Billy said quietly, slowly. "The Universe Bomb was meant to destroy the forces of good when it was detonated. Well, it went off, and we're powerless, and I'm not sure if we can ever do anything about that."
"We really need to work on his optimism," Kim grumbled, mainly to herself.
"Come on, guys. We should head back to the city and get something to eat before school starts," Jason said gently, stepping subtly into the middle of his friends. "The last thing we need is to be hungry as well as powerless and tired."
Wordlessly, his friends followed him as he led the way towards the exit. Carefully, they picked their way down the side of the cliffs that had seen more physical activity lately than they had in the past few months. Upon arriving at the bottom of the cliffs, they all piled into the Jeep and Tommy sped off, kicking up dust.
They reached the bare fringes of the city just as the sun was beginning to come up over the horizon. As they came up over the steep hill that determined Angel Grove's city limits, they were horrified at what they saw.
The first thing that they really took in was the smoke, which was raising from the city quickly. The sky had been darkened to a steel grey that was nothing less than ominous. Next were the fires that were causing the smoke to billow into the atmosphere. Following those two sites was the poor condition of their once-fair city.
Tommy stopped the car on top of the hill and they all got out, standing in a shocked silence.
"What happened?" Kim asked, her voice barely above a whisper, as she clutched Tommy's arm tightly.
"Rita took advantage of the city's vulnerability while we were at the Command Centre," Jason said, his voice taut with barely-contained anger.
"The city's being destroyed!" Zack exclaimed. "And we can't do anything to stop it!"
"We have to get down there and see if we can help," Trini said, countering Zack's pessimism. Without another word, they all piled back into the Jeep and Tommy sped off towards the city's more populated areas.
"Tommy, watch out!" Kim cried as they were driving down a residential side road. From out of nowhere, a huge tree fell in front of the moving vehicle. Tommy slammed on the brakes just in time to avoid the falling item. His passengers were jolted, but remained relatively unharmed.
"What knocked that down?" he asked, looking around cautiously. As if on cue, a whole squad of putties jumped out from behind the shelter of a house and converged on the Jeep. "I'm sorry I asked." He and the others fought their way out of the Jeep and began attacking the putties as best they could.
"Get back in that car, Trini!" Kim ordered her friend as the young Asian woman was knocked off her feet and landed at Kim's.
"I'm fine," Trini told her, climbing gingerly to her feet. "They just teamed up on me, that's all. I can hold my own."
"Trini, I'm too occupied to force you, but it would be in your best interest if you locked yourself into the Jeep before something else happens to you," Kim rebuked. Before Trini could reply, Kim back flipped and did a split-jump, effectively knocking away the putties that had been sneaking up on Trini. "You were saying?"
"I'm not going to let you guys fight one person short," Trini said stubbornly.
"No offense, Trini, but we'll be better off if we don't have to worry about you," Kim said, somewhat harshly. They both mellowed a little, however, as Kim tossed a quick apologetic glance at her closest friend.
"OK, OK, I'm going," Trini told her with a small smile. With that, she started hobbling off towards the Jeep with Kim right beside her to protect her.
Meanwhile, Zack and Jason were having problems of their own on account of their own injuries.
"Get off me, you clay brains!" Jason exclaimed as he was suddenly grabbed from behind. He felt a pair of hands lock around his neck, and a fist began to repeatedly nail him in the stomach. Try as he might, Jason couldn't fight his captors with one arm in a cast and the other pulled up behind his back. He was greatly relieved when the arm around his neck was released and the blows to his stomach stopped coming. As soon as he was free, he collapsed on the ground, gasping for breath and in pain. Looking up from the pavement upon which he rested, Jason saw Tommy standing over him, extending a hand to help him up. "Thanks, bro."
"You can thank me by getting your butt into that Jeep and not coming out until we're finished with these putties," Tommy told him bluntly, pulling his friend to his feet.
"I'm not leaving five of you to fight this many puttied by yourself," Jason replied.
"For one thing, the Rangers fought putties with only 5 members before," Tommy remind him. "Secondly, you aren't doing us any good if you can't defend yourself. We're just going to have to keep another eye on you and be distracted from the putties." Jason was about to object when it hit him that Tommy was right. Despite the slight bruising his ego took, Jason realized that Tommy had a point.
"Be careful," he cautioned as he began moving towards the Jeep.
"Don't worry about us," Tommy called back, keeping one eye on his friend's progress while he payed attention to the putties that were circling him with the other eye.
"Trini? What are you doing here?" Jason asked as he opened the door and jumped gingerly into the Jeep, locking the door behind him once he was safely inside.
"The same thing as you. They kicked me out of the fight," Trini replied with a wry smile.
"Looks like we're not the only ones," Jason observed, watching as Zack hobbled over towards the Jeep. Quickly, Jason opened the door and leapt from the Jeep to demolish a putty that had been sneaking up on Zack.
"Thanks, man," Zack said as the two young men hurried into the safety of the Jeep.
"No problem," Jason replied.
"I feel useless sitting in here!" Zack complained, frustrated, as he and the two other injured Rangers watched their friends take care of the putties.
"We wouldn't be doing them any good if we were out there," Trini told him, even though she felt much the same way.
"At least we'd be doing something," Zack replied.
"Yeah, getting ourselves hurt, possibly captured and/or killed," Trini shot back. Zack conceded the point to her with a simple shoulder shrug. Mentally, Trini calmed herself and settled in for a long wait. This could take a while, she thought, watching her friends and the putties go at it with vigor. A long while!
"I'm going to be sore tomorrow," Kim muttered as she, Tommy and Billy nearly crawled over to the Jeep. Trini, Jason and Zack, seeing that their friends had finally finished off the last of the putties, emerged from the Jeep and met their friends halfway.
"Here. It looks like you could use these more than me right now," Zack kidded, offering his crutches to Tommy.
"I'll be fine," Tommy told him. "That was just rough!"
"What are we going to do? The entire city is probably crawling with putties, not to mention whatever monsters Rita's sent down! There's no way we can destroy them all on our own!" Kim said, leaning heavily on Tommy while she caught her breath.
"We'll just have to do what we can," Jason told her, somewhat apologetically. "We can't let them run rampant in Angel Grove."
"But with only three of us..." Kim trailed off, wincing at her comment.
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," Jason said firmly. "Right now, we should head further into the city and see what other monsters are here." With that, he and the others piled into the Jeep and headed further into the city.
Several times, they had to stop so that they could take care of a squad of putty patrollers. As they drove down the city streets, everything that had once been familiar no longer was. Much of the commercial and industrial zones of Angel Grove had at least been attacked by Rita's forces, if not destroyed. The only solace, however, was that Rita seemed to be avoiding the residential areas, at least for the most part. It was peculiar, but none of the Rangers were about to question it.
"The monster shelters must be absolutely packed!" Kim murmured as they drove slowly down a street lined with small, darkened shops on the fringes of downtown Angel Grove.
"So far, we haven't seen anybody on the streets. That's a good sign," Tommy said. "Hopefully, everybody made it to the shelters before anybody could be hurt."
"We've had monster drills and attack before. We all know what to do," Trini assured him.
"Speaking of which...we have trouble!" Zack exclaimed. Tommy slammed on the brakes just as the Jeep was surrounded by a dozen putties and some monster.
"Hmm, the road seems to be a little congested," Tommy commented calmly. "Just have to do something about that!" As the last syllable left his lips, he jammed his foot onto the gas pedal. Several of the putties and the monster, which had been standing in front of the Jeep, flew over the hood, across the roof and off the back onto the concrete that was warming as the sun rose up over the horizon. "Well, that wasn't so bad."
"Maybe we can get a snowplow for the front and clear out the entire city like that," Zack said, only half in jest. Tommy put the vehicle in reverse and started driving backwards.
"It's going to be a bit bumpy, guys. Hang on," he warned them. Several dull thuds were heard each time Tommy hit a bump in the road. "Well, that should take care of that batch." He put the car in drive again and headed off in the direction they had been driving in initially.
"This is going better than I ever could have dreamed!" Rita crowed from her position on the balcony, overlooking Earth. "Angel Grove is being destroyed, and there's not a thing the Rangers can do about it!"
"Let me go down and finish them off, my Queen," Goldar requested, placing a hand on the sword that hung from his side.
"Not yet. I want to wear them out some more before I decide to end their pathetic lives," Rita explained. "But at the rate this is going, you'll be down there soon enough."
"I look forward to it, my Queen."
"Well, on the bright side, we've only encountered one monster," Billy said optimistically while the others gaped at the destruction that had been done in downtown Angel Grove.
"Apparently the putties can do enough damage on their own," Zack said quietly.
"They're going to pay for this," Jason vowed, his voice low.
"I hope nobody was killed," Kim whispered, clutching Tommy's arm.
"I'm sure they all made it to the monster shelters in time," he assured her, though he wasn't certain by any stretch of the word.
"It's quiet," Trini observed, hobbling between Billy and Jason. Zack was right behind her, picking his way forward carefully on his own set of crutches. "This is horrible."
Suddenly, they heard footsteps behind them. They were too far away from the Jeep to get back to it in time, so they were forced to hide in the ruins of a building that had been almost completely demolished.
"Stay down, and keep quiet," Jason ordered, crouching behind a piece of fallen concrete that had once been a ceiling. Beside him, Trini had laid down her crutches and was gripping his knee with one hand to steady herself. Her injured leg was stretched out beside her, hidden by rubble. In assorted other places nearby, the other four Rangers were concealed behind pieces of debris that had once made up a six-storey building.
In front of them, a squad of about twenty putty patrollers marched through the abandoned area that used to house industrial buildings and had now been reduced to industrial rubble. Some of them surrounded the Jeep and peered inside while others wandered about the now-open area, searching for signs of anything alive. When they didn't find anything, they left the Jeep where it was and moved on.
"Thank God," Zack whispered, having been afraid that the putties would do something to the Jeep that would be hard to explain to his parents, never mind the insurance company.
Once more, they all piled into the Jeep and drove off, searching for putties and monsters to destroy. They came across several squadrons of the clay henchmen, but no monsters.
"Rita must be saving them all up for one huge attack," Zack muttered pessimistically.
"That's reassuring," Kim grumbled.
"Let's just keep looking," Trini broke in smoothly, as she was sitting between the two in the backseat of the Jeep.
Just then, a firebolt exploded on the ground in front of them, shattering the silence that had fallen. Tommy, who was driving, swerved sharply to the right in order to avoid the crater that had been created in the middle of the road. Then he hit the brakes, jolting all the passengers in the vehicle.
"Is everybody all right?" he asked, twisting in his seat.
"We're fine back here," Kim reported, even though Trini was wincing in pain.
"Nice stop, bro," Jason said wryly, holding his wrist gingerly. He sobered up quickly, however. "Did anybody see where that came from?" The others just shook their heads.
"I don't know, but here comes another one!" Zack exclaimed, looking out the window. Tommy put the Jeep into gear, then drove and parked beneath the shelter of a huge pile of rubble that had once been a building.
Looking up from under their temporary cover, the 6 of them had their breath taken away. From the dark grey sky, brilliant red-orange firebolts were raining down on the city, igniting whatever they touched. The noise was almost deafening.
"It's started," Jason said grimly, watching the explosions when the firebolts hit.
"What now?" Kim whispered, clutching Tommy's arm nervously.
"We can't fight this," Tommy threw in, gesturing with his other arm at the city before them. Before anybody could say anything else, Jason charged out from beneath the shelter.
"Jason!" Kim yelled, starting to go after him. Tommy pulled her back.
"Jason, get back here!" Tommy shouted.
"Come on, Rita!" Jason bellowed, looking up at the sky. "You've always wanted to destroy us. Here's your chance. Come and get us!" His strong voice carried clear across all the noise that was being created from the firebolts.
"He'll be killed!" Trini breathed, grabbing onto Zack's arm for support.
"I hope he knows what he's doing," Tommy said, never tearing his eyes from the scene before him.
"We have no powers, and you know it! Are you still afraid we're going to beat you?" Jason taunted.
"Forget it, Jason. She won't face us. She's too afraid we'll find a way to defeat her again," Tommy shouted to his friend.
"Tommy!" Kim exclaimed. "What if she hears you?!"
"You're probably right," Jason conceded, his voice still ringing out across the destroyed expanse of the city, despite the immense amount of noise that was coming from the firebolts and the destruction there were causing. "We all know you're a coward, Rita!"
"Coward?!" came a high-pitched reply. Rita's face appeared in the sky before the Rangers in an attempt to intimidate the teens. "How dare you?!"
"If you're not a coward then come down here and face us!" Jason challenged. Rita laughed.
"Now why would I do that when I can send down enough monsters to rip you all to shreds?!"
"Your monsters couldn't destroy wet paper," Tommy threw in, jogging out to stand beside his friend.
"We'll see about that!" Rita replied. With that, her face vanished from the sky. The other teens quickly joined their friends out in the open.
"Now what?" Kim asked quietly, looking up at the sky where the apparition had just been.
"Do you hear that?" Zack asked, his voice hushed.
"Hear what?" Tommy asked, not hearing anything.
"Exactly. The firebolts have stopped falling," Zack told him. The others looked around nervously.
"Be on your guard, Rangers," Jason said, his voice hard. All his muscles were tensed and adrenaline was coursing through his body like wildfire. His senses were extra-alert, and he felt prepared for anything. The others felt the same way.
It was at that point that 6 different monsters fell from the sky, landing in a circle around the Rangers.
"You ex-Rangers are going down!" the Samurai Fan Man told them.
"This is bad. This is very, very bad," Kim muttered, eyeing the monster that had once imprisoned her in a vase.
"I thought we had destroyed all these goons!" Zack exclaimed. "Especially this guy!" The Pudgy Pig was standing in front of him, drooling hungrily. "Don't you ever die?"
"None of us do!" the Fighting Flea cried in its nasally voice.
"No matter how hard you try, you can't get rid of us!" Fang agreed.
"It may seem like a fishy situation, but it's the truth," Goo Fish threw in.
"This is insane," Trini muttered, keeping her eyes on Ticklesneezer as he stood before her.
"Be on your guard, Rangers!" Jason ordered, somewhat needlessly. Suddenly, a firebolt streaked down from the sky and impacted in the middle of the circle the Rangers had formed. The shock wave threw them all outwards, effectively scattering them. More fire rained from the sky until each of the individual Rangers was penned in by a circle of flames with a monster standing before them.
Zack tried to get a running start and flip over the 7-foot high wall of flames, but the Pudgy Pig grabbed his ankle in midair and threw him back to the ground. Zack impacted hard with the pavement, groaning as he did so. Not gonna be trying that again, he thought, rising gingerly to his feet. Fortunately, nothing was injured further, but his entire left leg was throbbing.
"Is that the best you can do?" Pudgy Pig asked him.
"You don't want to see my best!" Zack shot back, stalling for time. OK, Zack, what do you do now?
"I think I just saw it," Pudgy Pig taunted.
"I think you're wrong," Zack retorted.
"We'll see." With that, the giant hog charged at Zack. He managed to dodge out of the way and stumbled to the ground, scrambling to get to his feet before the monster could get him from behind.
Not too far away, in another circle of fire, Jason was in the middle of a stand-off with the Fighting Flea.
"Gee, Jason, doesn't that cast make your arm itch?" Fighting Flea asked slyly. Unconsciously, Jason raised his right arm to his left one, where a strange little prickle had begun to develop.
"Nice try, but you can't distract me," Jason replied, lowering his arm when he realized what he had done.
"Whatever do you mean? I'm just looking out for you," the annoying insect answered, pretending to be wounded.
"Is that so? Well, look out for this!" With that, Jason leapt into the air and aimed a kick at Fighting Fleas's upper chest region. Fighting Flea grabbed his ankle and twisted Jason in midair. He landed hard on his wrist, nearly cracking the plaster that held the bone in place. A grunt of pain escaped from his lips and it was quickly amplified as he was dragged across the hard, unyielding concrete road.
Meanwhile, adjacent to where Jason and Zack were being beaten up, Kim was attempting to hold her own with the monster that was three times her size and weight.
"I remember you. You trapped me in that stupid vase," Kim said, glaring at Samurai Fan Man. "It took me nearly ten minutes to get the knots out of my hair that that wind caused when you trapped me in there, and my new shoes were ruined!"
"Aw, is that all you have to worry about?" Samurai Fan Man asked with fake sympathy.
"No. Right now, I'm worried about winning this fight too easily," Kim replied cockily. Oh great, now what have I done?!
"You actually think you're going to win this fight?" Samurai Fan Man asked incredulously.
"Of course I am. The bad guys never win," Kim answered.
"That was cheesy," came a remarkably civil reply.
"Maybe so, but it's true," Kim said.
"Not in this case!" With that, Samurai Fan Man charged at Kim. She shrieked and ducked beneath his arms as he tried to grab her, then hurried to the other side of her fiery makeshift prison. "You can't evade me forever!"
"I won't have to!" Kim retorted. "My side is going to win this fight!"
"In your dreams!"
A short distance away, Billy and Goo Fish were at a stand-off. Billy was skirting around the edges of the flame circle while Goo Fish chased after him, scaring him occasionally.
"Oh, give it up," Goo Fish said. "I'm getting tired of this."
"Forget it!" Billy replied, not completely over his phobia of fish. Sure, he wasn't as petrified of them as he used to be, but he still disliked them with a passion. "Just leave me alone!"
"I can't do that, not before I destroy you," Goo Fish retorted, grabbing out suddenly and ripping the sleeve of Billy's blue long-sleeved shirt. Billy let out a little cry of alarm. Without really thinking, he lashed out with his foot, catching Goo Fish's arm. He snapped it away, and the two of them stood facing one another.
"That wasn't very smart, Billy," Goo Fish told him. "Now I'm going to have to destroy you and make it painful!"
"Take your best shot," Billy said confidently, feeling shakier than he was about to let on. I really wish we had our powers about now!
Not too far away, Tommy was attempting to ward off Fang. The two of them were locked in hand-to-hand combat, with neither of them winning or losing. An almost perfect stalemate, except that Tommy was already weary, and this new challenge was making him positively exhausted. Being worn down, he knew he didn't have much of a chance against this monster, but he knew he had to keep trying.
"Submit!" Fang demanded as the two combatants stood, eye-to-eye with one another. Robogoat had a tight grip on Tommy's wrist and Tommy had a handful of Fang's upper arm.
"Never!" Tommy shouted in his opponent's face. Fang raised a foot and kicked Tommy in the stomach, causing him to stumble away, coughing and gasping for air.
"You can't win," Fang announced, standing a few feet away with a smug look on his face.
"That's what you think," Tommy muttered. "We've always won in the past. This time won't be any different."
"You don't have any powers," Fang taunted.
"We'll see how much that matters soon enough," Tommy retorted. Getting to his feet, he and his opponent went at it again.
Meanwhile, Trini was nearly backed up against a wall of fire. She could feel the heat radiating on her back, and sweat trickled down the sides of her face.
"You aren't real," she said, looking at the model of her favourite doll.
"I'm real enough to destroy you," Ticklesneezer told her.
"Even when my Ticklesneezer was under Rita's influence, he wasn't intentionally mean," Trini continued, attempting to rationalize this whole episode in her own mind.
"I'm not your Ticklesneezer," the monster replied, grinning evilly in such a way that made Trini shudder. "Besides, how is an injured, Powerless Ranger going to stop me?"
"Just because my Ranger powers are gone doesn't mean I'm powerless," Trini retorted. "I'll find a way to defeat you."
"How? You don't have any power great enough to stop me," Ticklesneezer said, chuckling. With that, he ran at Trini and grabbed her around the midsection. Trini lost most of the air from her lungs and could barely think straight as the pain around her middle worsened.
It was at about that point that the six Rangers, alone in their flaming prisons but for the presence of the monster, began to think that they were going to be fighting for the last time.
"Listen, Baconface, just leave me alone," Zack said from within his own circle of flames as Pudgy Pig threw him into a corner. He was covered in scrapes and lacerations of all sizes, and bleeding from several places.
"Make me," Pudgy Pig sneered.
"I'd love to," Zack muttered.
"You don't have the power to even scratch me," Pudgy Pig taunted.
"Come on, Jason, is that all you have?" Fighting Flea asked, laughing, as Jason leaned with his hand on his knee and his other wrist cradled beneath his bent-over body. "Don't you have any more power than that?"
"Get away from me, you overweight piece of clay," Kim muttered. She was in a heap in one corner of her "cell", drained and weak.
"Is that all the power that's in that body of yours?" Samurai Fan Man asked, looming over her.
"Looks like this poor little powerless Ranger is going to be done in by his worst fear. Billy is going to be killed by a fish!" Goo Fish laughed, swiping Billy's feet out from under him. Billy collapsed on the pavement, too scared and hurt to really move or do anything in his own defense. "No power...this is going to be too easy!"
"Why don't you go pick on someone your own size?" Tommy asked as Fang kicked him again. This time, Tommy fell to the ground and stayed there. No matter how hard he tried, his limbs just refused to feel like they were made of anything else but lead.
"What, and miss this? Forget it!" Fang cried. "Why would I go somewhere else when I can beat you, Powerless Ranger?"
"Once I get finished with you, the rest of the city is next, so make this easy on both of us," Ticklesneezer said to Trini as she lay, crumpled in a heap on the cold cement. "After all, it's not like you have the power to stop me from doing what I want."
Simultaneously, all six teens in their separate fiery prisons looked their opponents in the eyes and uttered the exact same sentence.
"I do have power!"
No sooner had the last syllable left their respective lips than they each felt filled with an all-too familiar feeling of energy. From somewhere deep within each of them, a warm feeling emerged and began spreading throughout their bodies. Their wounds were healed, they had the energy to get back onto their feet and they felt alert and ready for anything. A remarkable feeling of euphoria enveloped them all. Everything around them seemed to fade into the background and disappear, and their minds went pleasantly blank.
"What's going on?" the monsters said, aghast, backing away from the teens. The 6 Rangers had closed their eyes and spread their arms out wide. Light in their respective colours encompassed each of them and grew to blinding proportions. The monsters looked away and shielded their eyes.
When they looked back, they shock couldn't have been greater. Standing before each of them was a fully-morphed Power Ranger, hands-on-hips, ready for action.
"This isn't possible!" Fighting Flea squeaked, backing away from Jason.
"Rangers, attack!" was Jason's reply. Brandishing his sword, he charged at Fighting Flea, who ran around the ring of fire created by his evil mistress. Similar events were transpiring in the other circles.
Suddenly, the fire disappeared. The Rangers corralled the monsters together, encircling them, weapons at ready. The monsters changed shape and twice the number of putties appeared.
"They're imposters!" Kim exclaimed.
"That makes more sense," Billy commented idly. "I thought that we had destroyed those monsters."
"Let's get rid of these putties. They've pushed us around for long enough!" Jason called. He and the other Rangers charged the putties, who were quickly defeated.
And then, all was silent.
"Is that it?" Kim asked, her voice low, as she and the others looked around, somewhat apprehensively.
"That was awesome!" Zack exclaimed.
"Billy, where did our powers come from? I thought the Universe Bomb had taken care of us for good," Tommy commented, looking at the genius in blue.
"Apparently it destroyed only the physical elements connected to our powers. The energy from which the Power is derived has always existed in each of us, which is how Zordon found us and brought us to the Command Centre in the first place," Billy explained, still trying to figure half of what had just transpired out for himself.
"Hey, look!" Trini exclaimed. The other Rangers turned just in time to see what remained of the city being rebuilt before their very eyes.
"How did it do that?" Kim asked in awe.
"Don't question it, just let it go," Zack told her, and Kim let the subject drop.
"Come on, Rangers, let's go to the Command Centre," Jason said. The Rangers fell into formation and soon vanished in streaks of multi-coloured light.
At the Command Centre, the Rangers were pleased to find everything intact and in working order, including Alpha. Zordon was back, suspended in his interdimensional warp like nothing had ever happened.
"Well done, Power Rangers," he said upon their arrival. The Rangers removed their helmets and smiled up at their mentor. "You have done well."
"Oh, I'm so glad you're all back! I'm glad I'm back!" Alpha exclaimed, hovering nearby. The Rangers chuckled at his reaction.
"We're glad to have you back, Alpha," Trini told him.
"So does this mean that the Rangers in all the other universes that exist parallel to our own have regained their powers as well?" Billy asked.
"Indeed they have, Billy," Zordon replied. "And now that the Universe Bomb has been destroyed, another like it cannot be created."
"That's good news," Tommy commented.
"Maybe Rita will finally get the message that she can't beat us," Zack said, somewhat hopefully.
"I wouldn't bet on it. She's more persistent than that," Jason replied.
"Well, this is sure to get her to lay off for a little while," Tommy commented. "She'll be too busy beating up her henchmen and complaining about her headaches." The Rangers, Alpha and Zordon all chuckled at that mental image.
"Um, I hate to break this up, guys, but we should go check on our families. We've been gone a long time," Kim said, fidgeting nervously. She wasn't looking forward to making up excuses as to why she had been gone so long, and neither were the others.
"Oh no, I have to get home and do my English essay! It's due Monday!" Tommy exclaimed suddenly. "I completely forgot about it!"
"And then there are some things that never change," Zack kidded. Tommy glared at him.
"Don't you have someplace else to be?" he asked wryly.
"What, and miss that comment? Never!" Zack replied, grinning.
"You need a hobby," Tommy retorted, a smile threatening to appear on his lips.
"I think we should all go home before this situation explodes," Jason said, stepping between the two. "Pun intended." The others groaned.
"That's my cue to leave!" Zack said. He powered down and teleported away.
"Mine too," Billy agreed. He too powered down and vanished in a flash of light.
"See you guys later," Trini tossed off before demorphing and disappearing.
"My mom is probably worried sick. I'll see you guys later," Kim said. Her Ranger uniform disappeared and was replaced with the street clothes she had been wearing earlier. She tossed a smile off at the others, and then she was gone.
"If I don't get home, my dad will send out the entire police force to search for me," Tommy commented. He powered down, and left. Jason followed him not soon after.
"I'm very impressed with the Rangers' abilities, Alpha," Zordon said once all the teens had gone.
"I know, Zordon," Alpha agreed. "The world is lucky to have them."