Author's note: Thanks to Hellfire for the idea for this fic. *laughs, shaking head* Man, where do you get your ideas?
The five wandering rangers stared around in shock. The Safehouse was in shambles. All of the consoles had some damage, most looking as if they had been torn apart by someone, the rest looking like they were hit by a bomb. The rest of the Safehouse was in worse condition. The walls and floors of the Safehouse looked as if acid had been poured onto them and were still being eaten slowly away by the swirling purple maelstrom that was the Nexus. The Nexus itself was lighting the interior of the Safehouse in wild, chaotic flashes of light, similar to lightning. Trey stood by the remains of a console, and stared down at the now useless machinery. "What happened here?" he asked softly.
"I don't know," Tommy said. "Bry? Hunt? Do you two know?
"This is what happens without the structural integrity fields," Brynne said. "Don't power down, there's no air. Life supports would be off-line as well." Tommy nodded. "But as to WHY, I don't know either? Any luck, Hunt?"
Hunter was over by a console that seemed mostly together, and working quietly to repair the console. The console sparked, and then the lights flared, dimmed, and then flared into life again. The lights stayed on, but they dimmed and flickered at random intervals. "We have power," Hunter said, straightening to look at the others.
"Can you get into the Safehouse logs?" Tommy asked.
"I'll try," Hunter said, turning back to the console. "I think I'll have it in.... Ah-ha!" he exclaimed, as the remains of the main console slowly and painfully, if it was possible for a machine to feel pain, came to life. "There's only two entries left in the computer memory. One's a written report, and the other's a video entry. Which do you want first?"
"Written," Tommy answered, and Hunter nodded. The Silver Ranger hurried over to help her brother, and together they had a single monitor rigged up, and had the text report up. Brynne went over it once, paled, and then read it out loud.
"'Safehouse main log, entry 52436- Power Chamber is attacked by unified forces of Lord Zedd, Empress Rita, the Machine Empire, and Divatox. Rangers defend, and are forced back inside. Ninja Rangers Jason Scott, Kimberly Hart, Dale and Kristina Conswelo confirmed dead. Ninja Leader Shaira retreats. Union forces invade and destroy Power Chamber. Gate is activated, sensors register all Rangers accounted for except Zeo Rangers Katherine Hillard, Angela Warder, and Ninja Ranger Jeninive Sidney.'" Brynne closed her eyes behind her helmet, and muttered, "I think I'm going to be sick." She leaned on the console and took several deep breaths.
"That doesn't explain what happened here," Alex said softly as Hunter rubbed Brynne's back. The Shadow Ranger's voice was almost a whisper because she was shaken.
Hunter looked up from comforting Brynne, and said, "Maybe the visual log will tell us more. I think I can rig it up to show on the main monitor." He turned back to the console, and started rewiring it.
The main viewer flickered, and then filled with static. "It's working," Brynne said. "Start the log." Hunter nodded, and then hit the appropriate buttons.
The static slowly faded away, to be replaced by the image of Shaira. There were shadows under her eyes, and when she looked at the camera, the rangers could see that she had been crying. "It's been four days since the Power Chamber fell. Jen, Kat, and Ange are gone forever now. Everything's gone. Jason, Kris, Dale, and Kim were killed before I pulled the rest back. Zordon and Alpha are gone; Alpha was torn apart in the Power Chamber, and Zordon's tube was shattered by Elgar. The only reason WE survived," Shaira motioned behind her, to indicate the other rangers, "is because Zordon ordered us out of the Power Chamber. We almost didn't make it ourselves. Adam said that, as he entered the Gate, he saw Jen, Kat, and Ange holding the Piranahtrons, Cogs, and Tengas back for us. They let themselves be captured so that WE could get away." Shaira's breath released in an explosion of air, and her head dropped into her hands. "If only the others were here!" Shaira said, and then looked up. "I figured that the powers on the moon had waited until we were at our weakest, and then took advantage of the fact that Bry, Hunt, Trey, Tommy, and Alex, almost a third of our fighting force, were gone. I'm not sure how we're going to win this one.... or even if we are."
Behind the leader of the now Ninja Rangers, a light flickered, and Brynne breathed in an undertone, "A Gate." Shaira turned as the others exclaimed, and took a fighting stance as three figures appeared. She moved in front of the camera, but that didn't block the sound. "Hello, kiddies," a female voice said evilly.
Alex started at the voice. "Oh, my God. That's Jen!" she exclaimed. And the video confirmed it. Shaira moved out of the way of the camera, and Jen, Angela, and Kat now stood where the Gate had been. But while the girls looked the same physically, they were different, exuding an air of evil that translated through the camera so that even the watching rangers could feel the emanations. The Shadow Ranger shuddered, but kept watching.
"What do you want?" Shaira demanded.
"Your blood," Kat said coldly, and then the three girls attacked. The returning rangers watched helplessly as the enspelled girls trounced the surviving good rangers. Shaira called for them to morph, but as Adam summoned his morphers, Jen grabbed his wrists, and then slammed her foot into his stomach, forcing him back. The two bespelled Zeo Rangers gathered to Jen when she crowed, and the Green Ninja Ranger lifted the Green Zeonizers high as Tanya and Rocky helped Adam to his feet.
"Fall back!" Shaira snapped, and at the far edge of the screen, the watchers could see her holding a Gate Caller. She opened a second Gate, and jumped through. Tanya, Zack, Rocky, and Trini made it through, but as Adam entered the Gate, Kat, Angela, and Jen gathered together, and as they pointed at the Gate, lightning bolts flew from their fingers, striking the Gate. Brynne gasped in horror as the Gate rippled and bent violently in shades of red and violet, and then collapsed.
The three girls laughed, and then began tearing the Safehouse apart. Brynne flinched, but the five watchers were helpless to turn away, caught up in the horrible fascination that made drivers rubberneck an accident. The camera caught Jen placing a bomb in the center of the Safehouse, and then the girls disappeared. Moments later, the bomb went off, and the video ended in static.
"That's all there is," Hunter said, turning his head away from the main viewer. Although no one had removed their helmets, the feeling of nausea was so tangible in the air that they might of well have had their faces revealed.
"You shouldn't have come after me," Alex said softly, closing her eyes. "You should have just left me back in that other reality."
"NO!" Four voices protested, and then Tommy said, "It's not your fault, Alex. We would have gone after anyone, and it was just chance that it had been you we had to go after."
"Just chance? JUST CHANCE?" Alex shouted, causing the others to wince beneath their helmets. "Just chance that I was the last possible hope for the Greater Shades to twist into a Shadow Lord? Just chance that I hadn't been paying enough attention to where I was? If I hadn't been in the park that day, none of this would have happened!" Alex shouted. "I should have just let Ma'erok kill me back there!"
None of the watchers expected Tommy's reaction. He reached out and snagged his soulbond by the front of her uniform, dragging her towards him until their helmets almost touched. "Now you listen, and listen good," he said, angry. "Nothing that has happened has been your fault, Alex. Get that through your thick skull."
Alex twisted in her soulbond's grip, but then slumped with resignation. She didn't say anything, just looked away and put her shields up. Tommy let Alex go, and turned to Brynne. "Can we Gate back to our original time?"
Brynne shook her head. "We don't have enough power. We're stuck."
"Maybe not," Hunter said. Brynne and Tommy turned to him, and he said, "Brynne, remember the Caller batteries we gave to Shaira, 'just in case?'" The Silver Ranger slowly nodded.
"With one of those, we already KNOW the correct formulas for getting back to the correct time. The only reason we used the computers here was because they can do it much faster. We get the batteries, use the Guardian Ship's computer for the calculations, and then Gate back to shortly after Tommy, Trey, and I left, well before any of that," he waved to the main viewer, "happened."
"It's possible," Brynne mused. "But-"
Hunter waved Brynne off. "I know, I know. It means we'll have to spend time here, time where we hopefully stay out of the sights of the Space Loser Trinity, but it can work. Can't it?" he asked, suddenly unsure.
Brynne worried her lip, thinking, and then said, "It should work. But, Alex," she turned to the Shadow Mage, "you can't do any of the big magics. They might sense that, and know that you're back. All right?" Alex nodded, still not looking at anyone.
Hunter glanced at his caller, and said, "My Caller's all charged up. Angel Grove?" he asked, entering the coordinates.
"Angel Grove," Tommy agreed. Hunter opened a Gate, and the five rangers entered the gently rippling vortex. The portal closed after them, leaving the decaying Safehouse behind.
* * *
When they arrived in Angel Grove, they almost didn't recognize it. If they thought that the Safehouse had been trashed, their hometown was worse. Several small fires burned from blasted cars, and wisps of smoke drifted through the air from the ruins of buildings around them. The sidewalks bore scorch marks themselves, and there were several gaping holes in the streets, and between the holes and the debris lying in the streets, it was impassable to most vehicles. "What happened?" Hunter asked softly. He didn't get an answer, nor was he expecting one.
Alex turned, gagging, and powered down just as her stomach tried to empty itself. Tommy helped support her as she bent double, and was there to catch her when she started to collapse. "Brynne!" Tommy called as he swung the now barely conscious Shadow Keeper into his arms
Brynne hurried over, and lifted Alex's eyelid to look into the Turbo Ranger's eyes. She swore as she saw a faint flash of black energy, and said, "We forgot that Alex had to make do with practically NO Shadow energy while in the other reality. Coming back here and connecting with the Shadow Nexus is like gorging after a fast. She'll be fine in a while, but she needs someplace to rest until the shock passes."
"All right, but we should power down," Tommy said. "We'll attract less attention that way. Zeo Five, power down!" The others followed suit, and looked around. Alex curled up in Tommy's arms and whimpered as her stomach cramped. "Let's find someplace safe," Tommy ordered.
"Let's try the Youth Center," Trey suggested, and Tommy nodded. The Gold Ranger took point, and they headed deeper into the city.
"Goddess, Hunt," Brynne said softly, not wanting to disturb the others. "Could all this really have happened just because we were gone? What about Shaira, and the others?"
"If they were overwhelmed, not even the Guardians could have helped," Hunter said softly. "Remember how Turbo ended?" Brynne froze to think on that, and then said, "But, if-"
"Sis, if the Machine Empire had teamed up with Divatox and Zedd and Rita, then there'd be even more soldiers to attack the Power Chamber. Think logically. This isn't a kid's show."
"Not anymore," Brynne muttered to herself, and then looked up as Trey sent a questioning tendril over their link. She smiled weakly, and hurried to catch up with her soulbond.
"We'll get back to our time, Brynne," Trey said. "We'll make sure that none of this happens."
"I know," Brynne replied, "but what if we get back, and this STILL happens?" She gestured around.
"Don't think that!" Trey said. "Remember what you told the other Turbo Rangers. You have to keep hope with you."
Brynne blinked, and then smiled wryly. "And so the comforter becomes the comforted, huh?" she asked, as they turned a corner, and then stopped in shock and horror. "No!" she whispered.
What had once been a green park, was now a burned mess. The trees were now burned and twisted husks of their former verdant selves, and the ground was blanketed with blackened grass. The lake was dried up, and the wall that surrounded the park was tumbling down. Brynne took one step into the park, and then froze. "I can't go in there," she said.
"Brynne?" Trey asked. He was shocked when he saw that she had broken into a cold sweat.
"There's... pure evil in there, Trey. The park... something evil happened there. I can't go any further," Brynne said, her voice shaking. Her breath was coming in shallow gasps, and she started backing up. Trey walked back to her, and she collapsed into the shelter of his arms, shuddering.
"What's wrong?" Tommy asked, walking up. Alex, barely conscious, started muttering, and shivered. She clearly said, "Don't enter. Evil," before her voice faded back into faint muttering.
"That's exactly what Brynne said," Trey said. "She said that she couldn't go on. Why did she say that, Hunter?" he asked the White Ranger.
"Sometimes a place is so evil that a priestess of Cha'lem can't enter there," Hunter said. "If she said that it's that evil, don't even force her to enter. There's no way of predicting how she'd react."
"Or how Alex would react," Brynne said softly, moving away from Trey slowly. "Remember that as a Shadow Mage, and the Shadow Keeper, she's more vulnerable to evil than anyone, except possibly her soulbond," Brynne looked pointedly as Tommy, "and maybe even then."
Tommy sighed, and said, "We'll go around. Brynne, think you can handle that?" Brynne nodded weakly, and she and Trey took point. Hunter came up to Tommy's side, and asked, "Want me to carry Alex some?"
"No," Tommy said. "She's not that heavy, and I think that she's lost weight." Hunter looked at Alex's shuddering form sympathetically, and then said, "I'll take the rear, to watch out for anything behind us." Tommy nodded, and moved ahead.
Brynne glanced back at the park, and made a gesture of blessing. What she didn't tell the others was that she had felt death in there. Her guess was that Rita had summonded a demon, and geased it to stay in the park to kill anyone that entered, just out of spite. Although it wouldn't have taken long for people to figure out to stay out of the park, there had still been enough death to desecrate the entire area besides the usual aura of evil a demon would give off. The Silver Ranger hadn't been sure that she could banish the demon. And she didn't want to find out.
* * *
As they reached the Youth Center and were about the enter, Alex struggled in Tommy's arms, and he called for a halt. The others gathered around as Tommy asked, "What's wrong, Alex?"
"Something... twisted. Zeo power, and.... Guardian power," Alex said, and then, "Tommy, it's Jen!" She twisted onto her feet, caught her balance, and then took off for the other side of the Youth Center. The others gaped for a second, and then took off after the Shadow Ranger.
As they chased after Alex, they finally noticed the sound of a battle, and Tommy caught Alex's shoulder as she was about to turn the second corner. He pushed Alex against the wall with one hand, and then used his body's weight to keep her there. "Hold up!" Tommy snapped. "We don't know what's going on."
Alex opened her mouth to argue, but shut it as Tommy looked cautiously around the corner. "Well?" she demanded impatiently. When Tommy didn't answer, Alex twisted free from his hand, and then looked herself as the others ran up. She paled in shock, and almost whimpered in both fright and pain. "No. Please, God, no," she whispered/prayed.
Two combatants fought in the alleyway behind the Youth Center, the one in yellow being trounced by the one in black. It was only by her red hair that Alex recognized her best friend as the one in black, and even that was tamed to such a sever degree that she almost didn't recognize Jen's familiar tumble of curly red hair. Her hair was pulled back into a tight braid that made Alex's scalp tingle in sympathy.
The Green Guardian was the total opposite of what she had been when Alex had seen her last. The comfortable jeans and green tee shirt had been exchanged for an black miniskirt and tube top that mimicked the outfit the Shadow Ranger had worn as Vampyra. Stiletto heels took the stead of tennis shoes, even though Jen had almost killed the last person to suggest pumps. Her calm green eyes were now lit with a mad light, and her lips were twisted into a feral grin.
Alex backed up a step, and moaned softly, "No!" The burst of energy that had carried her this far ran out, and she collapsed against the wall of the Youth Center. She closed her eyes to shut out the vision of her friend twisted into that creature out there as someone put their hand on her shoulder, but Alex didn't open her eyes to find out who it was.
Tommy ordered, "Hunter, Trey, come with me. We gotta help whoever it is that Jen's fighting. Brynne, stay here. Keep an eye on Alex."
"Okay," Brynne said, but the hand on her shoulder didn't move any. Alex opened her eyes after the boys morphed, and Brynne looked at the Shadow Mage sympathetically. Alex took in a deep breath and swallowed back her tears. "I'm okay," Alex said.
* * *
Jen reached back to deliver a punch to her opponent, but when she started to swing forward, a hand grabbed her wrist, swinging her around. "YOU!" she spat, eyes blazing. "What are you doing back here?"
Zeo Ranger V, the leader of the 'Power Dorks' held her wrist, and Jen wrenched free as something black caught her notice at the edge of her vision. Her eyes narrowed to see the Gold Ranger helping the 'Powerless Pain' back. If Trey and Tommy were back, that meant that so was Hunter. Kat would want to know this. An evil smile grew on Jen's lips, and she sent out a mental call.
Her back was too them so that she couldn't see her sisters arrive, but she could tell by their presence and the way that Tommy took a step back. "We have some new play toys, sister," Jen said.
"Oh, goody," Kat said, giggling evilly. She was in an outfit similar to the one Jen was wearing, but her blond hair was dyed black, and her nails were well over an inch long, more claws than nails.
Angela merely narrowed her eyes, an evil glitter in her eyes. Her outfit wasn't a true black, but a deep purple that was almost black. It was also a TRUE dress, not a skirt and top. But that didn't stop her from showing just as much skin as the other two. Her hair was still brown, but cropped into a page cut.
But then Hunter appeared into the girls' vision, and that changed the Pink Ranger's mood immediately. She froze in disbelief, staring, and then her expression slowly melted into shock. The Australian whispered in shock, "You're alive!" She took a step forward, and repeated, "You're alive!"
"Kat, don't do this," Hunter pleaded.
Kat snarled and made a clawing motion. The White Ranger was jerked towards the three girls, and landed on his hands and knees before his girlfriend. She grabbed his throat before anyone could react, and the White Ranger was forcefully powered down.
Just at that moment, half of the Power Rangers arrived, and Jen said, "Come on, guys. Let's get outta here." With their captive, the three girls disappeared with identical flashes of red light.
"Who are you?" Shaira demanded. She had a few too many surprises over the past 9 months to want any more. She thought that she had seen a White Ranger with Kat, and when she looked around, she saw Zeo V and the Gold Ranger.
"Don't tell me you've forgotten us," Tommy said, and then powered down. Shaira stared in shock behind her helmet, as Trey did the same. "Shaira, it's us."
"Tommy?" Aisha breathed. She had been the one under attack, and she looked a lot older than Tommy remembered. She took a step towards the boys. A shaking hand reached out to touch Tommy's face. "It's really you?" she asked softly.
"It's really us," Tommy said. "We're back."
Shaira looked at Tommy, and she fought back a sudden urge to break into tears. The thought that it was a trick sprung to mind, and she narrowed her eyes. Pulling Aisha back, she demanded, "How can we be sure?"
Shaira's eyes widened as a familiar voice spoke. "Because they brought me back," Alex said, being helped into the alley by Brynne. The Shadow Ranger was being supported by one arm thrown behind Brynne's neck, and Brynne's arm around the Shadow Ranger's waist. Tommy hurried over as Alex's knees gave out from under her.
"Let's get them to headquarters," Tanya said. "They'll be safe there."
Shaira nodded, and then said, "Rocky, Zack, take Alex. Trini, you take Brynne, and I'll take Tommy. Tanya, give Trey a lift." As soon as everyone was situated, they teleported out in a rainbow of colors.
* * *
Tommy watched as Zack and Rocky eased Alex onto a medical bed in the remains of the Guardian ship's medical bay, and Trini started a scan. He turned to Shaira, and said, "What happened after we left?"
Shaira sighed, and said, "It's a long story. Let's go to the messhall, so that we can all sit down."
A few minutes later, the six rangers sat around a table. Trini and Brynne stayed with Alex to finish their scans, and so were attending the conference via an intraship monitor. Shaira sighed, and said, "A month after you guys left, when you didn't return, you were declared dead and there were memorials held for you. Shortly after that..., everything went to hell. The three leaders decided to join up, and they decided to attack the Power Chamber."
"We read about it at the Safehouse," Trey said.
"What's left of it," Brynne muttered. Only Trini heard her.
"There were two entries that we could salvage," Trey explained. "A text entry about the Power Chamber's attack, and your visual log."
"That's where Jen, Kat, and Angela were captured? When you fell back to the Safehouse?" Tommy asked. Shaira nodded. "It appears that Rita's still hard up to have her evil ranger," Tommy commented acidly. His face was a hardened mask, his emotions so tightly controlled that even if Alex was full conscious, she wouldn't have been able to sense what he was feeling. "What happened after your log entry?"
"We retreated here, but Adam didn't make it out of the Gate. We've assumed the worse, that he didn't make it," Shaira said.
"We saw what happened to him," Brynne said. Looking down, she added, "He was in the middle of a Gate when the girls' energy struck. There wasn't anyway for him to survive, unlike Alex."
Shaira closed her eyes as she wrestled with her grief and guilt, and then said, "We retreated to the Guardian ship, but Mondo managed somehow to get past the cloaking device with some new device, and we were shot down by the Skybase. Billy died because he was thrown into his console during the landing." Shaira flinched behind her eyelids, and said, "It took him three days to die."
"She wouldn't be one to say so, but if it wasn't for Shaira's flying skills, we wouldn't have survived, or as much of the Guardian Ship as what we do," Rocky said. "She detected some underground caverns, and directed the ship to crash land here. She tricked the Sky Base's sensors into thinking that the ship didn't survive, and then repaired the cloak, adjusting it so that the Machine Empire can't break through it again."
Shaira took the story back to its original line. "Shortly after that, I discovered that a special pouch that Ninjor gave me had recalled the Power Coins off of the others, so we had the rest of the Ninja Coins. I gave the Coins to new bearers, and we've been defending Angel Grove the best we can."
"That's all that anyone can do," Tommy said, his eyes haunted as he remembered his own stint as the Green Ranger, and Rita had controlled him.
After a moment, Shaira asked, "Where's Hunter?"
"Jen and the others have him," Tommy said softly.
"Then they'll know ALL of you are back," Shaira said. "Ever since the Union of Evil twisted them, Kat, Jen and Angela haven't hesitated to torture someone." To Brynne, she added, "I'm sorry."
"Don't be," Brynne said, her eyes narrowing in anger. "Be sorry for them if they harm him." Her attention shifted back to Alex as the Shadow Ranger tossed restlessly. Turning away from the viewscreen, Brynne closed her eyes and prayed silently for her brother to be protected.
* * *
Hunter tested the chains attached to the shackles around his wrists, and looked around nervously. He didn't like this. As soon as they chained Hunter to a dungeon wall, Kat, Jen, and Angela had left him alone, and as the moments passed, his nerves grew worse. What were they doing? What were they GOING to do?
He looked around futilely for something to help him get free of the manacles, but there was nothing useful in reach. The floor was bare stone, and the other pairs of manacles weren't of any use to the White Ranger. The door was behind him and to the left, and he didn't think it was locked. But to open the door, he had to get out of the shackles.
He heard someone approaching, and looked over his shoulder as Kat entered, followed by two Cogs, a pleased smile on her face. "My lords gave me permission to play with you for a bit," she said, her eyes narrowing dangerously, and Hunter felt his stomach sink. "Just so long as I get some USEFUL information from you," she added as the Cogs freed his wrists and grabbed his arms. "Take him to my play room," Kat commanded.
The White Ranger was forced down the hall into another room, and Hunter swallowed back his fear as he saw that the "play room" was really a torture room. He was strapped down to the table in the center of the room, and then the Cogs left Kat alone with the captive. She circled him slowly one, studying him intently, and then walked out of Hunter's sight.
"The first thing we gotta do is remove your clothes," she commented casually. "You are WAY over-dressed." She walked back into Hunter's sight, a knife in her hands.
The White Ranger broke out into a cold sweat as she raised the dagger. He closed his eyes, felt the edge of the blade pass down the center of his chest, and then felt the cloth of his shirt jerk with the sound of cloth tearing. He opened his eyes to see his chest bared to the Pink Ranger, and she was running a possessive hand over his skin.
"You know," Kat said softly, "you could just save yourself a lot of pain, and tell me what I want to know. I'm sure my masters wouldn't mind another ranger working for them." Hunter said nothing, just turned his head aside, his jaw clenching.
Kat laughed, pleased. "I was hoping you'd refuse." She straddled Hunter and grabbed a hand full of his hair in a painful hold. Bending down to Hunter's ear, she whispered, "I'm going to make what Angel did look like child's play." She chuckled cruelly as Hunter shivered.
* * *
Alex moaned and shivered, until Brynne placed a blanket around the Shadow Mage. "Hold on, Alex. It'll be all right." A noise made Brynne look up, and she smiled at Shaira. "Hey, Shaira," Brynne said.
"Hey, Brynne." The leader of the Rangers stood up from leaning against the entranceway, and she took a step into the Medical Bay. As the door slid shut behind her, Brynne noticed that there were more white hairs in Shaira's peppered mane. "How is she?"
"She's fine. The worst of it's over, so now she needs to rest. How are you?"
Shaira smiled weakly, and admitted, "Tired. But Tommy and I agreed that I should keep on being the leader, since you're not going to be here long."
"Speaking of which, we need the Caller batteries I gave you," Brynne said.
Shaira's eyes narrowed as she thought, then widened. "The last place I saw them was in the Power Chamber. They're not here."
"That's not good," Brynne muttered. Their voices started to bring Alex back around, and Brynne lead Shaira away from the Shadow Ranger. "Do you remember exactly where you left them?" Brynne asked in a half-whisper.
"Uh.... in my room," Shaira said. "In a hideaway. I showed it to Hunter... when I was putting them away." Her voice faded away in horror.
"Oh, Goddess," Brynne moaned. "This is getting better and better. The girls probably know what we're after, and where the batteries are by now."
* * *
A dry wind curled around the remains of the Power Chamber as Brynne stared in shock. She struggled to hold back her nausea as she took in the fact that what she had hoped would only happen on the show back in her original reality had happened. "Goddess bless," Brynne whispered to no one in particular.
The Silver Ranger pushed her deep brown hair back, and turned as Shaira called her name. "Over here," Shaira shouted, and Brynne climbed through the debris to where Shaira's room had been. The Purple Ninja Ranger was clearing dust and dirt that had covered the hiding spot where she had tucked the Caller batteries.
As the top of the hidy-hole slid back, Shaira reached in, and pulled out a black drawstring bag. "This should be them," Shaira said, and opened the bag. "What!?" she exclaimed as rocks of the same approximate weight and size of the Caller batteries were revealed. Shaira tossed the rocks away, and dug deeper into the hidy-hole, and came up empty handed. "They're not there," Shaira exclaimed.
"Missing something?" Shaira and Brynne turned to see Angela and Jen behind them, and Shaira cursed herself for not insisting on some backup, or at least morphing before they teleported here. The two evil rangers were already morphed, and aiming their Zeo Blasters at the Purple Ninja and the Silver Ranger.
"The batteries!" Brynne shouted, seeing them hanging from Jen's belt in a net bag.
Jen looked down without her aim ever wavering, and exclaimed, "THESE things? Oh, so THAT'S what you were looking for." Looking back at Shaira and Brynne, she said, "Too bad you didn't morph before coming here, or at least have some backup handy. It might have helped." There was an evil grin in Jen's voice as she said the last. "But now you're all alone."
"Maybe not, Jeninive!"
At the new voice, everyone turned to see a White Ninja Ranger standing on a pile of debris, the Pink, Blue, Red and Orange Ninja Rangers ranging behind him. All had their blasters drawn and aimed at the two evil Rangers.
"Oh, so the kiddies have decided to come out and play, have they?" Jen sneered. "Where were you hiding? In the nursery?" She screamed in pain as a silver-white blast of energy knocked her off her feet. Angela helped the Green Ranger to her feet, and they saw that Brynne and Shaira had morphed while the newcomers had distracted them.
"Angela, retreat," Jen ordered.
"But-!" The Purple Ranger looked as if she was about to refuse the order.
"I said 'Retreat!'" Jen snapped. Angela was clearly pouting behind her helmet, and she turned to Brynne. "I'll be back for you, Brynne. And I'll tell Kat to send your love on to Hunter.. the next time he's conscious." Angela laughed as Brynne lunged for the Purple Zeo Ranger, and Shaira stopped the Silver Ranger. "Ta-ta, for now!" The two girls teleported out, and Brynne broke free of Shaira's grip before breaking down into tears.
* * *
"Wakey, wakey," a voice purred in Hunter's ear. Hunter shivered as the breath curled around his ear, and then moaned at the pain the shiver elicited.
"Oh, good. you ARE awake." Hunter's eyes slowly opened, and for a brief second, hope flared as he saw Kat. But the hope was squashed when he noticed that she was naked, and so was he. She straddled his waist, and, crossing her arms, leaned on his chest, pressing against the new wounds there. "I DO so like to play with conscious toys," she said. Her hands slid down, stroking and teasing as they went.
"Kat, no," Hunter moaned. But Kat just pressed her lips to his.
"Brynne sends her love," Kat said.
* * *
Alex tossed restlessly, finally kicking off the blanket. Although exhausted, she wasn't able to get back to sleep. She rolled onto her front, and let her eyes roam over the Medical Bay. The door opening had her flipping onto her back, and smiling tiredly at her soulbond. "Hey, Tommy."
"Hey," Tommy said, and then sat down on the bed as Alex pushed herself up into a sitting position with a sigh. "What's wrong?"
"I don't want to just lay here, but I can't do ANYTHING," Alex complained. "I'd love to help, but if I get out of bed, I'm ordered right back."
"And that's where you belong," Tommy said, tapping her nose with his finger. "You're still getting adjusted to being connected to the Shadow Nexus again. I'm still getting how tired you are, no matter HOW hard you try to hide it." Alex blushed, and looked down as Tommy laughed quietly.
The door opening had Tommy and Alex looking up to see Rocky standing in the entryway. "Can I come in, or is this a personal conversation?" the Blue Zeo Ranger asked.
"Come on in," Tommy said. "I have some things to do, and if you're here to make sure Alex stays in bed, I can get them done without worrying about her." He smiled at Alex, and ducked as she swung a mock blow at him. "Have fun," Tommy said before leaving the Medical Bay.
For a moment, there was an awkward moment, and then both spoke up at once. "Alex-" "Rocky-" They cut off as they realized the other had spoken, and then Rocky said, "Go ahead."
"Yeah, okay." Alex said, nervous. "Where to start?" She sighed, and looked down at her clasped hands on her lap. "Well...., you know that precog Tommy had... about me and..."
"Yeah?" Rocky asked, puzzled.
"Well..., it..., uhh...., came true, with the other reality's Rocky, I mean, and..., we didn't part on the best of terms."
"Oh," Rocky said, grasping why Alex seemed uncomfortable around him. He looked away, and then said, "Alex, about what we felt, in LA.... Was there anything in it, for you?"
"I... I don't know," Alex admitted. "I used to think so, but now, I'm not so sure. Why?"
Rocky looked away, looked everywhere except into Alex's eyes. "I- Oh, hell, Alex, Angela is lost to me, and it made me look back on what I felt for you. I thought I had lost you, too," he added softly. "And when I looked back, I realized that I STILL don't know what I feel for you."
"Oh," Alex answered, looking down. Rocky paced in silence for a few minutes, and he added, "I don't know how to figure it out."
"I think I know one way," Alex said softly, looking down again.
"Really?" Rocky asked, walking back to Alex's side. "How?"
"A kiss," Alex said, even softer.
Rocky stared at her blankly in shock, and then asked, "A WHAT!?"
"One kiss. We kiss, and if there's anything there, we'll know," Alex said, still not looking at the Blue Ranger. Rocky sat down beside Alex, and then tilted her head up by her chin. His eyes met hers, and he could see the confusion in them.
Taking a deep breath, Rocky closed his eyes, and leaned in for a kiss. Alex stared in shock as she felt lips pressed to hers, and then closed her eyes, putting her heart into the kiss. But even with her calling on the memories of what she felt in Los Angeles, it wasn't even a faint shadow of what she and Tommy shared.
The kiss ended as they pulled apart, and as Alex looked into her step-cousin's eyes, she saw that he had had the same reaction as Alex. "I guess we both know what that means, don't we?" she asked softly, smiling in relief.
"Yeah," Rocky said with a faint laugh, smiled back at Alex. "Are you glad?"
"Now that these feeling are out?" Alex asked. She nodded. "Yeah. At least now I know-" She stopped as she noticed that her bond to Tommy was blocked. She looked in the doorway, and her eyes widened in shock. "Tommy! How long were you-?"
"Long enough," Tommy said, his voice harsh enough to make both DeSantos wince. He was glaring angrily at the cousins, and he demanded, "Why, Alex?" But when Alex opened her mouth to answer, he held up his hand. "I don't want to know." Before Alex or Rocky could answer, the Red Ranger turned and ran out of the Medical Bay.
"TOMMY!" Alex shouted after her soulbond. She sent a pleading probe to her soulbond, and felt his shields strengthen against her. The Shadow Mage struggled off of the bed, and as soon as she put weight on her legs, they buckled under her. She collapsed to the ground, and as Rocky knelt down to scoop her up, she whispered, "It's not what you think." She broke down and cried as Rocky placed her back onto the medical bed.
* * *
All things considered, when the newcomer rangers powered down back at the remains of the Guardian Ship, Brynne wasn't too startled. She blinked in amusement to see the second generation of Turbo Rangers, but in Ninja colors, as Shaira said, "Guys, this is Brynne, the missing Silver Ranger. Bry, this is Teej, current Red Ninja, Carlos, current White Ninja, Cassie, current Pink Ninja, Ashley, current Orange Ninja, and Jus-"
"I know Justin, in a sense," Brynne interrupted. "He was the Blue Turbo Ranger in the reality we just left," she explained, and then added to the new Rangers, "Nice to meet you." She nodded, and turned away before she gave in to the urge to stare. There were some things that were different from the show back home, like the shadows that were hidden under Cassie's eyes, or the hardness in TJ's face. Of course, that WAS twenty years ago, Bry, and on TV. You could have forgotten some things, she told herself.
"But what are we going to do?" TJ demanded. "If they have the Caller batteries AND a Caller, it's a sure bet that they're going to try and take over some OTHER Earth."
"We can't let that happen," Brynne said.
"We won't," Shaira answered. Turning to Cassie, she said, "Inform the others to meet in the messhall. We're taking the offensive. The planning session starts in ten minutes." The others stared in shock at Shaira for a moment, and then scrambled to obey her orders.
* * *
Something about her friends was bothering Brynne. She wasn't sure what was wrong, just that something was different, and that it had been bothering the Silver Ranger since she had first seen them in this time. She needed someone to talk things out, and Hunter wasn't here. She could have talked to Alex, but the Shadow Ranger was still recovering.
Brynne heard someone talking as she neared the quarters for the new Orange Ranger, and when she peeked inside the doorway, she saw that Carlos and Ashley were sitting on the Orange Ninja Ranger's bed. "We could die in this mission," Ashley said softly, studying the carpet in her quarters.
"At least we'll be together," Carlos said, tilting Ashley's face to meet his. "And at least we'll have this." He move in, and hesitantly brushed Ashley's lips with his. The Orange Ranger's eyes widened, and then her arms drifted up to drape around the White Ninja Ranger's neck. They slowly eased back onto the bed, and Ashely started tugging Carlos' shirt free.
Brynne turned bright red as she saw the pair fall back onto Ashely's bed, and the Silver Ranger turned away, hitting the outside button that would close the door. She chuckled softly, and then in that instant of amusement, what was bothering her about the others struck her. Even though the older rangers had smiled, or laughed, it had never really reached their eyes. It was as if something in each of them had died. Only the newer Ninja Rangers REALLY smiled, and not look as if they were being forced to. Only THEY hadn't been broken by the past nine months.
Brynne closed her eyes and prayed that they would be able to get the batteries, and Hunter, back. If it was in her power, the Silver Ranger would do her best to make sure that the string of events that led to the others being in this state never happened.
* * *
Fifteen minutes later, Shaira finished telling the others about what had happened at the Power Chamber ruins, and said, "We're losing, staying on the offensive. I've never told anyone, but... I ran a projection two days before Tommy and the others came back, and..." Shaira paused, looked down, and then forced herself to continue on. "The computers here say that if we continue as we are, in five months time, the Earth will have been overrun. We HAVE to take the attack to them." Everyone stared at Shaira in shock, and then Trini asked softly, "But how?"
"I- I don't know," Shaira admitted with a sigh. She dropped into her chair, and said, "That's what this meeting is about. We have to have a plan."
"I have one," an oh, so soft voice said. Everyone turned to see Alex leaning weakly against the doorway into the messhall, and Brynne and Rocky hurried over to help her to the chair the Blue Ranger had just vacated. Her eyes flicked over to where Tommy was sitting, but he refused to look in her direction. Alex's eyes filled with pain, and then she shoved the hurt deep inside, out of the way for now.
"Alex, you should be resting," Shaira said. She hadn't missed the pain in her eyes, or who the Shadow Ranger's eyes had been on. As soon as she could, she'd talk to Tommy, to see what was wrong.
"You said you need a plan, and I have one," Alex said. "Do you have a map of the Moon Palace and the surrounding lands?"
"Shaira, please," Alex said in a near whisper. The leader of the Ninja Rangers reluctantly activated the back lit mapping console that was also the messhall table, and called up the map of the moon on it. Alex stood up, Brynne and Rocky supporting the Shadow Ranger, and Alex said, "This is my plan." She went into detail, pointing out exactly where something could or would happen, and eventually, even Tommy had to agree that it was for the best.
"But are you sure you could handle the teleportation?" Tanya asked. The Shadow Ranger nodded.
"I maybe PHYSICALLY unsteady, but magically, I'll be fine," Alex said, looking the Yellow Ranger in the eye.
Shaira studied Alex with narrowed eyes, and then decided it was Alex's decision. "How long will it take for you to get ready?" Shaira demanded.
"Give me a half hour," Alex said. Shaira nodded, and said, "You have it. Everyone, you know what your part is, so get ready for it." With that, everyone broke up as Alex dropped back into her chair.
"Tommy, wait," Alex said, putting her hand on Tommy's arm as he passed. He stopped, and looked at his soulbond coldly. The Shadow Ranger flinched, but said, "It wasn't what you thought, Tommy."
"What I though? Then what was it?" Tommy asked harshly. Alex looked down, and Tommy said, "I have to get ready. Leave me alone, Alex." The Shadow Ranger closed her eyes sadly, and let her hand drop. As everyone but the Silver and Blue Ranger left the messhall, Rocky knelt down and held Alex as she started crying again. Brynne narrowed her eyes speculatively, and then headed after Tommy.
"Yo, Red, wait up!" Brynne shouted, and Tommy stopped and turned back as Brynne ran up. "What was that, back there?" she asked, waving back the way they had come.
"It's nothing, Bry. Leave it alone," Tommy said, turning back to continue on his way.
"No," Brynne said, turning Tommy back towards her. "If we have to work together on this mission, I have a right to know what's up between you and Alex. Now you can tell me NOW, or I'll drag it out of your mind." Her face was set, and she crossed her arm to wait for Tommy's answer.
Tommy finally sighed, and said, "Brynne... I saw them, kissing."
"Them?" Brynne asked, confused.
"Alex and Rocky. I saw them kissing."
"Oh." Brynne looked down, and then, looking up at the Red Zeo Ranger, asked, "Did you ask about that?"
Tommy shrugged. "I didn't want to know," he said.
Brynne's eyes narrowed in anger. "WHAT?" Tommy backed up in shock.
"I didn't want to know," Tommy said, and his back hit the wall of the corridor. Brynne paused, and then said, "You idiot! Just because they were kissing doesn't mean anything. They're cousins, for Cha'lem's sake! The next thing I know, you'll be accusing me of cheating on Trey because I'm hugging Hunt! Gah!" Brynne threw her hands up in the air in exasperation.
"It wasn't a cousin type kiss, Bry," Tommy said in his defense. Brynne stopped her rant, and raised an eyebrow.
After a moment, Brynne spoke. "I still say you should ask about it," Brynne said softly. "Did you ever think that maybe she was trying to sort her feelings out, and that was the only way she knew to do it?" Tommy paused and thought on that, and Brynne walked away silently.
* * *
Rocky heard the door to the messhall open, and looked up from Alex to see Tommy in the doorway. "Alex, Tommy's here," he whispered into the Shadow Keeper's ear. Alex pushed away from her cousin, and wiped her eyes and pushed back her hair in one motion.
"Hey.., Tommy," she said, sniffling. "What's up?" Her eyes were on Tommy, but she saw Rocky in the corner of her eye, easing back.
"Can I talk to Alex, alone?" Tommy asked Rocky. Even though she couldn't see her cousin anymore, she felt Rocky's eyes on her, and she nodded. Rocky left silently, and Tommy entered, allowing the door to close behind him.
"Alex, I may have assumed some... things, when I saw you and Rocky kissing. What... what was going on?" Tommy finally asked.
Alex opened her mouth, and then anger blazed up in her. Why should SHE explain herself? HE was the one assuming things, never asking any questions about what was going on at the time! "Nothing," she said in a deadly calm voice. "And you made your feelings plainly clear on that matter, so just drop it." She turned away, and could feel a responding echo of anger in Tommy flare through their mental bond.
"Oh, so it's MY fault, is it!?" Tommy snapped. "I walk in and see you and Rocky kissing after you SWORE there was nothing between you, and you expect me to assume nothing? I'm not the one that slept with my step-cousin!"
Alex's eyes narrowed, and she turned to Tommy. "Like it was my fault! I wasn't in control at the time, just like when you were the evil Green Ranger! Or should I assume that the story you told me about then was as full of crap as you are, and that you actually were under your own control!?"
Tommy's eyes narrowed, and he said, "I came in here to make amends, but I see that you're still a back-stabbing bitch. You always have been, and you always will be!" With that, Tommy turned and stomped towards the door of the messhall.
"Better a back-stabbing bitch, then a boy who doesn't even have control of his mind from one week to the next," Alex replied, pushing herself up into a standing position. "At least I'm in control of my actions."
Tommy's back stiffened as he froze, and he narrowed his eyes. "I guess we know what our true feeling for each other are after all. What I thought was love was really just lust."
Alex yanked off her engagement ring and threw it straight at Tommy's head. It hit and bounced off to land on the floor of the messhall. "Take that ring, and for all I care, melt it!" Alex snapped. "Good bye and good riddance!" She turned away as Tommy turned around to pick up the ring, and without a reply, he stormed out of the messhall, never noticing the Blue Ranger waiting just a few feet down the hall from the door.
Rocky hurried into the messhall as soon as Tommy had passed him, to find Alex on the floor, crying. "Oh my god, what did I do?" Alex sobbed. "I just killed the most special thing in my life." Rocky did the only thing he could do. He held his cousin, offering silent comfort to the distraught Shadow Keeper.
* * *
All of the rangers met up in the remains of the bridge of the Guardian ship when the requested half-hour was up. The older rangers noticed a tension between Rocky, Alex, and Tommy, but none of the three really wanted to talk about it. The Shadow Ranger, when she looked up from her backpack, looked as if she had been crying, but when asked, replied that nothing was wrong.
"Well, we'll go get started. We'll keep them distracted as long as possible," Shaira told Alex. "Keep safe, Shadow," she said, cupping Alex's cheek.
"Will do, half-breed," Alex teased, smiling sadly. "You take care as well, and I'll be seeing you soon."
"Yeah, but I won't," Shaira replied with a grin. The leader of the Ninja Rangers walked over to the bridge teleporter controls as the others said their good byes.
The only new ranger that Alex stopped was Justin, and the Blue Ninja Ranger asked, "What?" Alex shook her head. Something about him was different in this reality. "Shadows be with you, young one." The Blue Ninja Ranger shook his head, but joined the others by Shaira.
Rocky walked over to Alex, and said, "I'm about to lose you again, aren't I?" Alex didn't answer, and he gave her a hug. "Watch out for yourself," he said when they stepped back. "And for God's sake, TALK to Tommy. Apologize."
Alex shook her head. "I can't. I just... can't. Maybe later, when the anger passes. But you take care yourself. Don't forget. Angela is on their side now. Don't let her body fool you, because it isn't the same Ange that you fell in love with. All right?"
"Okay." The Blue Zeo and Shadow Turbo Rangers hugged one last time, and the Blue Ranger joined the others.
Tanya was next. "I promise. When we get the batteries, you'll have Adam again," Alex said softly. "We'll make sure that fate doesn't allow you two to be separated again." The Yellow Zeo Ranger smiled sadly.
"I know. Just take care of the others, including Tommy. You might be angry at him now, but it will pass, and you'll need him."
"If you say so," Alex said. Tanya smiled, and Zack took Tanya's place.
"I think Kris would say that whatever's up between you and Tommy is a stupid argument, and you should just apologize, but I don't think that Kris ever realized how stubborn Tommy can be. If he doesn't come to you soon, give him a kick in the pants for me, all right?" Zack asked seriously, although he was smiling. Alex snickered, and asked, "Does it matter where the kick lands?" Zack laughed even as he winced in pain, and the Black Ninja said, "Keep that smile, and we'll be meeting up again, soon."
"'S’alright!" Alex said with a grin, and hugged the Black Ninja Ranger. Trini came next, and smiled at seeing Alex's smile.
"I hope that you didn't blame yourself for what happened here," Trini said. "This wasn't your fault."
Alex's smile turned wry. "Nah, it never is," she said with a sigh. She paused, and then asked, "Is it a Power Ranger thing to assume that anything that goes wrong is your fault?"
"It certainly seems that way, doesn't it?" Trini asked, and both girls smiled.
"See you soon," Alex said as she hugged the Yellow Ninja. Trini joined the rest of her group, and the Shadow Mage watched as they teleported out. Several emotions played across Alex's face; most notable among them was sorrow and regret.
"Alex?" Brynne asked.
"Let's go," Alex said, looking at the Silver Ranger. "They won't be able to keep the leaders occupied for long." Brynne opened her mouth, but then snapped it shut.
Alex raised her hands, and black energy began to swirl around them. Alex closed her eyes to briefly revel in the feeling of using the Shadow Nexus again, but then opened them to say, "Second floor, Caller batteries, White Rangers, and idiots of the moon, going up." Brynne snickered as the group disappeared in a flare of black energy.
* * *
TJ looked around, and nodded. Shaira's teleportation had landed them in the hallway outside of Klank's lab. The robotic inventor had taken up a second lab in the Lunar Palace to be closer to the experiments since the other two scientists needed to breath, and there was more room in the Lunar Palace than the subcraft. The lab had a keycard slot to keep unauthorized personnel out, but the rangers had a skeleton key, built by Justin, especially for this mission.
"Justin?" he asked the Blue Ninja Ranger. The youngest ranger was already kneeling next to the lock with a card and some wires, and the red light changed to green.
"It's open," Justin called, and the group fell back into the lab. Carlos and TJ stayed on guard on opposite sides of the door as the girls followed Justin's instructions. The group's orders were to create as much destruction as possible, and TJ could trust Justin to do so in a minimal amount of time.
"We're almost done," Justin informed the Red Ninja Ranger after a few moments. "A few more orders, and we can set the bomb and get out of here." Everyone in the group knew that as soon as the bomb was set, they had 30 seconds to get the hell out of there, so they were waiting for Justin to finish.
Just then, a pounding on the door started, and Carlos said, "Looks like they found out about the party crashers."
As the pounding on the door grew, TJ said, "You'd think they'd want us out of here. Gee, I wonder why."
Carlos grinned, and suggested, "Maybe they don't like party crashers?"
"Maybe," TJ agreed, and then called out, "Justin?"
"Just a moment!" the Blue Ranger called, typing frantically at a computer.
"We don't have a moment," TJ replied as the door began to bend in. "Hurry up!"
"I'm done!" Justin finally shouted as the door crashed in. The Blue Ranger spun away from the computer as Cogs, Tengas, and Piranahtrons spilled into the room. The rest of the group fought off the lackeys as Justin summoned the time bomb into his hand from the subspace pocket it had been tucked into. He set the timer, and said, "It's set! We gotta go!" as two Piranahtrons got past the girls. Justin threw the bomb away from him as the grunts reached him, and fought off the Piranahtrons with practiced ease.
Ashley and Carlos were thrown together, and Ashley said, "I guess this is it." She paused as she ducked a swinging Cog, and the said, "I love you."
Carlos smiled under his helmet, and kicked a Tenga into a Piranathron and a Cog. "I love you, too, Ashe."
* * *
Shaira fired one last time at the Cogs, and then pressed her back against the wall she was hiding behind. "How's it going?" she asked Tanya.
"Not so good," the Yellow Ranger said. "Kat and Angela have blocked off our exit, and TJ's group has been cut off from us." Both girls braced themselves as a loud boom rocked the palace.
"Looks like TJ's group is finished in Klank's lab," Shaira said, smiling. She glanced up, and her eyes landed on a vent that she never noticed. "They've gotten to their objective. Let's see if we can catch up. I think I've found a way out of here."
Tanya looked at her leader, then the vent, and smiled. "Trini, Rocky, Zack! We're on the move!" The three rangers guarding the rear pulled back, still keeping an eye behind them, and one by one, the rangers disappeared into the maze like tunnels of the Lunar Palace air conditioning vents.
* * *
As the four rangers rematerialized in a hallway below the Lunar Palace, Tommy and Trey immediately fell into fighting stances, looking around to see if anyone was coming, and Brynne turned to catch the Shadow Ranger. But to the Silver Ranger's surprise, Alex was steady on her feet. "Alex, how-?"
"Does it matter?" Alex asked, looking around. "We need to find Hunt and the batteries."
Tommy turned as he listened to the conversation, and demanded, "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," Alex said, but Brynne said, "She shouldn't be so steady."
"What did you do?" Tommy demanded, and Alex looked away.
"I didn't do anything, and of what concern is it to you?" Alex said. She was taken by surprise when Tommy's hand reached out to snag her jaw and forced her to look at him. He easily slipped into her mind, and he released her in shock. "She took something, a drug," he said. "It was in a clear bottle with a light purple label with red banding and black writing."
"An energy booster?" Trey demanded. "You know that Shaira told you to never take those. We don't know how you would react to those, Alex."
"Oh, Alex, what did you do?" Brynne asked.
"Nothing," Alex said, looking away from everyone. "I did what I thought was for best. Now, if you don't mind, we have someone to look for." With that, she stalked to the head of the group, and headed down the hall.
Just then, a faint boom echoed through the building, and Brynne had to smile. "Someone's having fun," she said.
"Sounds like Shaira's group started the attack," Tommy said. "Brynne, can you sense Hunter?"
The Silver Ranger closed her eyes, and said, "Yeah. He's still alive, and he's on this floor."
"We have company," Alex said, and everyone looked down the hall, where Alex pointed. A patrol of two Tengas and a cog had apparently been scheduled to walk down the hallway at that time, because the three were staring at the unmorphed rangers in shock.
"It's time to get to work," Tommy said, and then, "IT'S MORPHIN' TIME! ZEO V, RED!"
"GOLD RANGER POWER!"
"SILVER RANGER POWER!"
"SHIFT INTO TURBO! SHADOW TURBO POWER!"
"Alex, look for Hunter," Tommy ordered. "We'll take care of the grunts!" Alex glared at her soulbond, but complied with the order as the other three were attacked.
Heading on down the hallway, Alex paused at every door she came across, putting her hand flat against the wood of the door and sending in a light probe. As soon as she was sure that Hunter wasn't in any of the prison cells, she immediately pulled back, and went on to the next room. Finally, just before she would have had to turn back, she found the room Hunter was in. She tried the door and found that it was locked. "Shit!"
"Something wrong?" Brynne asked as she, Tommy and Trey ran up.
"It's locked," Alex said. "I was about to blast it open."
"Hold up," Brynne said. She powered down and knelt before the door, studying it intently. Her tongue ran lightly over her lips, and she reached into a pocket of her bag to pull out a rolled up packet. She unrolled it on the floor, and selected a thin piece of metal. Sticking it in the lock, she twisted, and grinned in satisfaction as she heard the lock tumble before the door swung in. Sticking the pick back in its place and rolling the bundle up, she put the packet back into her bag and stood up and dusted herself off. "There. A lot neater and quieter than blasting a door open," she said.
Alex smiled, and asked, "Do ALL priestess of Cha'lem know how to pick locks, or just you?" Brynne smiled, and refused to answer. Instead, the Silver Ranger entered the room, and gasped in shock.
The White Ranger was unconscious, chained to a table, and covered with only bruises, cuts, and even burn marks. Brynne rushed to her brother's side, silent tears streaming down his face. "Hunter?" Brynne called softly. The White Ranger moaned and stirred.
"Here are the keys," Alex said from by the door, tossing the ring of keys to Brynne. The Silver Ranger caught it, and began trying keys in the locks of the manacles. The Shadow Ranger hurried over, and held lightly glowing hands over Hunter. As her hands passed over the wounds, the bruises faded, the cuts disappeared, and the burns healed without a trace.
"Hunt, come on, wake up," Alex said softly as the last of the bruises were fading away. She reached up to lightly slap the White Ranger's face, and she said, "Come on, Hunt. It's time to go."
"Alex?" Hunter asked, opening his eyes. "Wha-"
"We're getting you out of here," Alex said. "Brynne's here, with Tommy and Trey."
"You shouldn't be here. They know you're here," Hunter groaned.
"Hush," Alex said, looking over at Brynne. "How's it going?"
"If I don't find the right key soon, I'm just going to pick the lock," Brynne said in exasperation. But just as she finished saying that, she felt one slide in, and it turned in the lock smoothly. Brynne sighed with relief as the manacle popped open, and she opened the other. The girls helped Hunter sit up, and then they supported him off of the table.
"Hello, Rangers." The Shadow Ranger's head snapped up, and Alex inhaled sharply. Jen was standing in the middle of the doorway.
"Jen," Alex whispered, and the Shadow Ranger powered down. The only Ninja AND Zeo Ranger stared at her oldest friend, and something within her seemed to break.
"Alex?" Jen whimpered, and collapsed. Alex hurried to her friend's side, and gathered the weeping Green Ranger in her arms. "Oh, Alex, what did I do?"
"Shh," Alex soothed. "It's all right, Jen. It's all right. You're free now."
"Are you sure?" Tommy asked softly. Alex glanced up at the impassive visage of Zeo Ranger V, and nodded, her face as bland as Tommy's faceplate.
Easing the sobbing Green Ranger back, Alex asked, "Jen, hon, we need your help. Jen, where are the batteries?" The Green Ranger's sobs began easing, and she sniffed a few times.
"The- they're locked in Finster's lab," Jen said softly, hiccuping. She still wasn't looking anyone in the eye, and Alex tilted Jen's face up towards her. "Alex, I thought..."
"I know, Jen. But your baby sister is back." Alex smiled, and said, "Come on. Let's get a little payback on them." Jen smiled weakly, and said, "All right." The two climbed to their feet, and Jen lead the way out into the hall.
* * *
Shaira cursed herself mentally as she tried to retrace her path through the duct works. She had assumed that the others had been right behind her in her haste to get to the throne room, and by the time that she noticed that they were gone, she had no clue as to where they were. Now she was just trying to find the others.
A sound made Shaira freeze, and as she eased up to a ceiling vent that was in the floor of the duct she was in, she heard Angela speak. The Purple Zeo Ranger was standing under the vent, talking to Goldar. "The older Rangers have been taken care of. I took care of Rocky myself. The poor fool thought to the last that he could change me." Shaira blanched with hate and pain as Angela laughed, but kept quiet.
"The younger Ninja Rangers had been fighting in Klank's lab when a bomb they set blew, and they were caught in their own explosion," the simian rumbled. "Where's Shaira?"
Angela growled, and said, "She's still eluding patrols. But we'll find her, just like Jen will find the others. That's what Rita and Zedd had her go do. Now, be a nice winged monkey, and tell me where our lords and ladies need me." Goldar led off down the hall, Angela trailing behind.
Shaira looked down the vent, and knew what she had to do. She had to find the others before Jen did. The Purple Ninja Ranger headed down into the darkness of the fortress. She prayed that she got there before it was too late.
* * *
Using her knowledge of the patrols, Jen kept them from any more encounters, and as they made their way down one of several hallways, an air conditioning vent cover clattered to the ground before them. As the rangers dropped into fighting stances, a purple blur dropped from above. "Shaira!" Alex said as she recognized the battered Purple Ninja. There were rips in the material of Shaira's ship uniform, as well as soot and dirt. "It's us!"
The leader of the Ninja Rangers had taken her own fighting stance as the others relaxed. Shaira's eyes were on Jen, and she didn't relax from her stance. "Is she-?"
"Tommy and I freed her," Alex said. "She's on our side. She's leading us to the Caller batteries."
Shaira slowly dropped out of her fighting stance, but never totally relaxed. "The others are dead," Shaira said. "I had gotten separated from the others in my group, and by the time I had found them again, Angela and Kat had finished them off."
"And the others? TJ, Carlos, any of them make it?" Brynne asked.
"No. I heard Goldar report that they had gotten trapped in Klank's lab, and the blast that we heard caught them as well."
Alex closed her eyes as the grief welled up in her, and then shook it off. "We have to get the batteries," she said softly. "Then we can prevent this from happening." Shaira nodded, and helped Brynne support the wounded White Ranger as the group took off.
Jen finally stopped, and motioned to a closed door. "They're in here."
Jen opened the door, followed closely by Alex, then Brynne and Shaira, who were still supporting Hunter, Tommy and Trey slipping in after the girls. Finster wasn't in his lab, and Brynne and Shaira helped Hunter to a chair as Jen searched through a cluttered cabinet. "I saw him put them here... somewhere. Where- A-ha!" She held up the net bag of Caller batteries, and tossed them to Brynne.
The Caller had been preprogrammed at the headquarters, and the Silver ranger caught the bag, pulling a battery. Opening her Caller's back, she replaced the old battery, and pressed the button that called for a Gate. With a ripple of reality, the Gate opened, and Jen, who had made her way over to where Shaira had been, hurried over to Alex's side as Tommy and Trey entered with Hunter.
"I guess this is goodbye," Jen said.
"Never goodbye, sister," Alex said, one hand cupping the back of Jen's head. "I'm just going to make sure that this never happens. You'll never remember this happening. I promise, by the blood we share." She held out her hand, and Jen saw the tiny scar that Alex had in the center of her palm. The Green Ranger had a matching one in her own palm. Jen pressed her palm to Alex's, and hugged the Shadow Mage.
Jen stepped back as Shaira stepped up to hug the Shadow Mage, and Alex closed her eyes. "I'm so sorry," Alex whispered, and the Purple Ninja tightened her hug to comfort the Shadow Keeper.
"It's not your fault," Shaira said.
Alex stepped back as Jen slowly moved forward, and she started to turn for the gate. A thought struck Alex, and she turned back to ask Shaira a last minute question. The Shadow Mage turned back just in time to see Jen reach up and twist Shaira's head, snapping the Purple Ninja's neck with a sickening SNAP! Then as the Green Ranger released Shaira, who dropped lifelessly to the ground, Jen motioned, and a dagger appeared in her hand. Alex finally saw the madness in Jen's eyes, and knew that more than just a spell had bound Jen to the leaders. In the back of Alex's mind, she felt her soulbond clamoring to know what was going on, but she shoved him out, more concerned with Jen's dagger.
"Time to say goodbye, little mage," Jen snarled, and swung. Alex reacted instinctively, and grabbed Jen's wrist, turning the blow away from her, towards the Green Ranger. Jen was unable to stop, and stiffened in pain and shock as the dagger slid into her belly. An incongruous smile grew on Jen's face as her eyes locked on Alex's, who had been unable to look away.
The hand that had held the dagger released the hilt, and the blood covered fingers reached up to trace a line down the side of Alex's face, leaving red streaks down the Shadow Ranger's face. As Jen's fingers reached Alex's chin, the Green Ranger's life fled her body, and the girl's body collapsed to the ground in death, dragging Alex to her knees with it. "NNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!" Alex howled before collapsing into body wracking sobs over the body of her best friend.
The Silver Ranger watched the Gate as the Shadow Ranger's sobs slowly died, and made a decision as she saw it fluctuate in preparation of closing. Brynne pulled the numb Shadow mage to her feet, winced at the empty expression in Alex's eyes, and guided the non-responsive girl to the Gate. As they stepped through, Brynne looked back at Jen's body, and closed her eyes in mourning as the Gate obscured everything from sight.
* * *
The Gate opened and the four travelers stepped out.
Kat ran to Hunter, who was still being supported by the Red and Gold Rangers, and gave him a deep kiss, wrapping her arms around him. The other Rangers immediately crowded around them.
"Alex!" Angela called, but Alex didn't turn to her.
"Alex? Hey!" Rocky waved a hand in front of her.
Tommy..., was all she could manage. Without warning, Alex fell face-first on the ground.
"ALEX!" Tommy yelled, pushing through the crowd. He grabbed Alex and pulled her into his arms, searching for her pulse with his fingers.
For a long moment, he was still. Then...