"Come on, Kathy. It won't be THAT bad!"
"Oh, come on!"
"NO!" I repeated, holding tight to the bench I was sitting on. Rocky and Adam were trying to coax me off of the bench, and onto the inline skates that they had somehow convinced me to put on. I'm still not sure how they got me to do that. "I'm not movin'!" I stated.
"You are," Rocky said.
"You are," he stated, then looked at Adam. "You get her left arm, and I'll get her right." The Black Ranger nodded, and before I realized it, they had a hold of my arms, and were trying to pull me off the bench.
"Guys, no!" I pleaded. "I don't want to do this!"
"Too bad," Rocky said, still tugging on my arm. "You are." I felt a pair of hands pushing my back as the two boys started pulling on me again, and as I lost my grip on the bench, I turned back to glare at Aisha, who was standing behind the bench, smiling innocently at me.
Rocky and Adam continued holding my arms as they pulled me along, and Rocky asked, "There, now. This isn't so bad, is it?" He smiled in the face of my glare.
"I don't wanna do this," I repeated.
"Why do you have a problem with inline skating?" Adam asked. I had been in this reality for a week now, and the shy Black Ranger had gotten more used to me. I shrugged before answering.
"Could be because the one time I tried these things, one foot went - WHOA!" The boys caught me as I started to fall, and I said, "Almost like that. One foot went one way, the other foot went the other way, and the rest of me went straight down. The result was that I limped for a week, and almost popped my leg out of joint. Please, guys, I wanna sit down. Take me back to the bench."
"Only if you can skate back on your own," Rocky replied. "You wanna try?" I looked behind me, and only then realized how far we had gotten. I paled, and my feet chose just then to try and get out from under me.
The rangers were taken completely by surprise when I suddenly dropped, and I slipped out of their grasps, only to land hard on the concrete. For a moment I stayed exactly as I had landed, then as Rocky and Adam knelt next to me, I began to try and pull the skates off. "Are you all right?" Rocky asked.
"No!" I replied, holding back tears. "I told you, I hate these things! Now you see why. All I want to do right now is get these things off, and go back to the Command Center." I finally succeeded in getting one skate off, just as the other rangers came up.
"Are you all right?" Billy asked, and I glared at him.
"I'm fine!" I snapped. "I told you I HATE these things, but nooo you wouldn't listen, none of you!" I threw the skate in my hand between Rocky and Tommy to the grass beside the sidewalk, then managed to get the other skate off in one tug, because this time I remembered to untie the lace holding the skate shut first. This skate soon joined its partner, and I pushed myself on to my feet with a wince.
"Are you sure you're all right?" Kat asked, as she and the others watched me angrily shove my shoes back on.
"I'm fine!" I snapped back at her, then teleported out.
Rocky exchanged perplexed looks with the other rangers, then said, "I guess she really didn't want to skate?"
I eased myself onto my bed in the Command Center, and winced again. "I told them I didn't want to do it," I muttered. "And now look what happens." I laid back with a groan, and kicked off my shoes as the door opened.
"Kathy?" Jason hesitantly asked.
"What?" I asked/groaned in frustration.
"I was just wondering if you were okay," the former ranger asked. I sighed, then winced as my backside twinged in pain.
"I'll live," I answered grumpily. I tilted my head back to look at the original Red Ranger, and asked, "Wanna come in?" Jason smiled and entered my bedroom, and I asked, "What brings you here?"
"Well, I heard you teleport in, and last I saw, you were with the others. I just wanted to make sure that you were okay," Jason answered.
I snorted, then winced. "My backside is bruised, but I'm fine. Pissed off, but fine."
"Why?" Jason asked. I looked at him, and he clarified his question. "Why are you mad?"
I sighed, and eased myself up into a sitting position, wincing again. "I told them that I don't like rollerblades, and I don't. Roller SKATES, skateboards, fine, but roller blades?" I shook my head. "Don't care for them, can't see how anyone can stand on them."
Jason chuckled, and said, "It's all a matter of practice. C'mon, the others are probably waiting at the Youth Center." My brow furrowed as I thought, then shook my head. "What now?" Jason asked.
"I'm not goin'," I said.
"Why?" Jason asked, puzzled.
"Well... we need to talk for one thing," I answered. "The history here... it's different from the show, and I figure, I'm here, you're here, so let's talk." Jason remained standing, until I softly asked, "What happened to the other original rangers, Jase?"
The former Red Ranger took in a deep breath, and dropped onto my bed. "Do you really want to know?" he asked. "Can't you just leave it as my fault?" I raised my eyebrows in shock.
"Care to explain that?" I asked. "Starting at the beginning?"
Jason paused, and I almost thought that he wouldn't continue. Then he took in a deep breath, and said, "It all started about two years ago, near the beginning of our freshman year. Tommy had just moved to town that summer, and we were in the Youth Center the same Saturday that Rita was released. Zordon chose me, Tommy, Billy, Trini, Zack, and Kim to be his Power Rangers, in Red, Green, Blue, Yellow, Black, and Pink. What we didn't know was that while Zordon was choosing his rangers, Rita was also choosing her spy. A teen girl, from Australia, was chosen. For the first couple of months, we were doing just fine. Putties and monsters would attack, we would go after them, and it was tough, but we always managed to beat them. Then one day, all of a sudden, Rita seemed to know our every plan made or talked about outside of the Command Center."
"Kat was spying on you?" I asked. Jason nodded in agreement.
"Yeah. Both as a human, and in a cat form that Kim had adopted. We still aren't sure why Rita took so long to use her, but..." Jason shrugged. "Anyways, after a while, we figured out that Rita must have had some way of spying on us when we weren't in the Command Center, so we started not talking about Ranger business outside of here. That's when Rita had Kat steal a Power Coin. Tommy's Power Coin." I sat back, surprised and yet not so at the same time.
"With his Power Coin, Rita was able to turn him into HER ranger, forcing him to fight against us." Jason looked away, and I could almost feel the pain radiating off of him. "For six months, we had to fight one of our own, we had to fight him. Every attempt we made to free him failed. I failed," he added.
"No, you didn't," I said, and his head snapped back to me. "You're alive, aren't you? Tommy's still alive, isn't he? He's free, isn't he?"
"Yeah, AFTER he killed Kim!" Jason yelled, and I jerked back with a startled, silent cry. "Rita's control over him was broken when he killed Kim," he elaborated in a softer voice. "Zordon said something along the lines of a backlash along the Morphin' Grid due to Kim's death shattered Rita's controlling spells, as well as the Green Power Coin's connection to the Morphin' Grid. The backlash also transferred the Pink Ranger Powers to Kat, who was freed at the same time, and wounded Tommy badly enough that he was nearly six months in healing." I closed my eyes, and mentally said a prayer for the dead.
I asked, "Were... Tommy and Kim, were they..."
"Together?" Jason completed, then nodded. "Yeah. That's why Rita made sure to send him after her in every battle."
"Oh," I said softly. "No wonder he seems so sad." For several minutes, we sat there in silence, I not knowing what else to say, and Jason not sure if he should keep going.
Finally, though, Jason continued. He needed to talk about what had happened just as badly as I wanted to know. "For those six months, we continued on as best we could with just five rangers. The backlash from her broken spells had left Rita greatly weakened from before. But as Tommy finished healing, Zordon completed a secret project he hadn't told any of us about, and called us here. You can imagine our shock when he revealed this big secret, a new Ranger, a White Ranger. Can you imagine our surprise when he revealed the new Ranger to be Tommy?"
I grinned. "Oh, I'm sure I could. Trust me," I replied, smirking as I recalled the episodes introducing the White Ranger. The former ranger studied me skeptically, then shrugged.
"Whatever," he said. "Anyways, we had a joint leadership for a few months, until Zedd arrived, two years and a month after we had first become Power Rangers. It was in the first battle with his monster, Pirantishead, that we lost Trini and Zack, and I was wounded so seriously that I couldn't hold on to the Red Ranger Powers anymore. A few weeks before this we had met Rocky, Aisha, and Adam, and we felt that they were the best candidates to step in, so we called them to take the Power Coins, to become our new Rangers. I gave full leadership over to Tommy, because a leader that can't go out in battle isn't of much use," Jason softly said, staring at the floor. "The Saturday after that, you arrived here."
I sat back, saddened. "I didn't know," I said softly after several minutes of silence. "But, why are you blaming yourself?"
Jason sighed, and closed his eyes. "I didn't tell Tommy how to handle something like that. If we had pulled back sooner, maybe -"
"Maybe what?" I interrupted. "Maybe now the Command Center would be destroyed, and all of you dead. You've never come across anyone like Zedd, Jason. You couldn't have planned for him." Jason stared me in the eye, then looked away.
After we sat there in silence for several more minutes, Jason asked, "The show... how did it go?" I raised my eyebrows, but didn't even have to think about that answer.
"In the show, Trini and Zack left with you for a teen peace conference in Geneva. Kim was offered a chance to be trained by some famous gymnastics coach, and gave her Power Coin over to Kat, after Kat broke the spell holding her under Rita's control." I didn't go much further, not having talked to Zordon about what all I had seen on the show, and I wasn't sure of the consequences if the rangers knew what to expect.
Jason smiled gently at me, and said without any rancor, "I wish that had happened instead."
Suddenly, the former Ranger stood up, then offered me a hand up, and I studied it, and him, for a minute. "No more excuses for you to hide behind. Let's go." After pulling on my shoes again, I accepted his help up, managing to not wince this time, and he hit his teleport button, sending us out of the Command Center.
As we landed in the middle of an alleyway, I looked around, and blinked. "Deja vu," I muttered. Jason glanced at me, curious, and I said, "I've seen this alleyway in the show." Jason nodded to show his understanding, and I shook my head. "It's just... so weird."
The former ranger led me towards the front of the Youth Center, while I tried not to stare. If the back alleyway was startling, to see the front was almost mind-blowing. How many times had they started the show, showing this exact same scene? Sure, maybe different teens, but everything else was exactly the same. I had to shake my head to make sure I wasn't halucinating.
Jason led the way into the Youth Center after greeting a few friends, and I wasn't startled in the least to see Rocky and Tommy sparring, with Billy and Adam standing nearby, watching. Kat and Aisha were over at their table, just like on the show, and Jason headed over there. I slowed to watch the Red and White Rangers spar, and when I finally reached the table, I asked, "And you get to watch that every day?" motioning over to the boys.
Kat and Aisha snickered as I sat down, and when the laughter ended, Kat asked, "How are you feeling?"
"Bruised?" I offered, wincing as my backside twinged again. "I'll be fine in the morning, but right now, don't ask me to do any jumping jacks." I smiled at the girls, and said, "But that's life. You get hurt when you fall down-"
"And you get right back up again," Jason interrupted. I stuck my tongue out at him, and he smiled back at me.
I turned my attention to where Tommy and Billy were now sparring, and I smirked as a thought occurred to me. I looked around to see if anyone was listening, then leaned in and told the others, "You know, if I could find a way to reliably get people back and forth, I could make an awesome buck off of selling tickets to one of these sparring matches. I mean, the girls would love the view!" The girls giggled while Jason smirked.
Suddenly, an icy wave passed over me, and my head snapped up. I didn't see anything that was cause for alarm, though. Three girls were entering the Youth Center, laughing as they talked, but I didn't really notice anything unusual about them. One of the girls, dressed in a white tee-shirt and black jeans, noticed the sparring pair on the mats, and her eyes never left Billy and Tommy as she made her way to a booth with the other girls, where four other teens waited. I couldn't hear how the girls were greeted, but I shook my head, and turned my attention back to the rangers. No one had even noticed my actions.
Cynthia was the last to actually make it to the table and sit down. But then, she had a good reason. At least, she thought so. But that didn't mean everyone else thought she did.
"Cynthia? Cynthia, you still with us?"
The White Crystal Ranger's head snapped around from staring at Billy again, not understanding why for the life of her, what the reasoning was behind her black ranger doing the obligatory 'snap-the-fingers-in-the-spacing-out-person's-face' routine.
"After that, you might not want to know!" she retorted, half-threatening and half-joking.
"Be that as it may, you might want to be a little more… inconspicuous when you stare persistently at our male enemies. Some people can sense that you know."
"Oh?" answered Cynthia, arching an eyebrow and crossing her arms.
"Yes…" Al confirmed, leaning back in his chair. Although he normally wasn't this way around people, his lord had ordered the team to work together, and if they couldn't tease each other, they couldn't work together, or at least in Al's mind. "…and the way your eyes were boring into Cranston like that, I'm surprised he didn't feel something pushing him into a wall."
That one did it, especially when the others couldn't help but giggle at the exchange. Cynthia disliked many things, including being the receiving end of a tease. Still, she knew how to get back at him.
"Well, thank you Al, I'll keep that in mind… while you get our drinks, your treat!"
The giggling of the other Crystal Rangers escalated into full laughing. Al, smiling but obviously recognizing the order behind her words, stood up. The back of his mind registered the chill on his arms, and he abstractly thought that despite the summertime heat of California, the tank-top had been a mistake for the time of day when he was used to it being warmer. He grabbed his heavy leather coat from the chair and swung it on as he walked.
"Can I help you?" Ernie asked as Al approached the counter.
"Yeah," the teen responded, then ordered the drinks. Al wanted to gag as he opened his wallet. The prices were perfectly reasonable… for his universe. But here, reasonable ate up half of his money for simple drinks. He shuddered at the thought of a computer upgrade…
…and jumped slightly as someone bumped into him. Turning around, he had to force his eyes not to go wide as he saw that 'someone' was KrazieKat.
The girl was just as startled; she had apparently been backing up and didn't see him.
"I'm sorry, I didn't see you there!"
"It's all right." Al simply replied, throwing a fake smile as she turned his way. Soon after, he realized that his lack of people skills probably made it blatantly obvious that it was a forced smile. But thankfully, the drinks arrived at that moment, and he didn't have to worry about it anymore.
Except, despite the fact that the Rangers' likely reaction could be worked into a blessing in disguise, he didn't think his coat would give something away.
I watched as the sparring rangers approached, and smiled at them. "Have fun?" I asked. The others seemed mystified from my change of mood from earlier, but Rocky took it in stride. I knew that I was in trouble when the Red Ranger began to grin mischievously.
"I don't know," he replied. "Did you?"
I smirked at him, and said in a facetious tone, thickening my accent, "Gee, ah just don't know. Ah mean, four lovely gentlemen, battling plum near topless? It's almost enough to make this Southern belle faint, ah do declare!" I batted my eyes as the sparring rangers blushed, and the watching teens snickered. I couldn't resist adding, "But it was such a lovely view!"
The teasing continued for a few more minutes, but my contributions cut off when Tommy asked, "Then why don't we see how you're doing?" I cut off in mid-word, and my face went dead still.
"Oh, no," I finally said. "This Southern belle knows when to cut her losses. I'm out of here." I stood up, and was about to walk away, but was stopped by a hand on my wrist. I glanced back to see the Black Ranger holding my arm.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
I replied with, "Nothing, except that I'm not about to make a fool of myself. Later." I glanced pointedly at his hand, but when he didn't release me, I looked back at him. "Let me go, please."
"Make me," Adam said, surprising me.
"No," I answered. There was a tense moment where Adam didn't let me go, and I shrugged. My free hand snapped out and I grabbed his wrist, and twisted like I had learned long ago, digging my nails in. Adam exclaimed in pain and released me, and I let him go.
"Where did you learn that?" Adam asked, rubbing his wrist.
"My older brother taught me that. To 'defend myself'," I shrugged.
Rocky grinned and said, "Well, since you've already started showing off, why don't you try it out there on the mats?"
I opened my mouth to argue, then asked, "Do I have to? I don't wanna." My soft question did more than any argument could have, and the Red Ranger began to relent. Then Tommy had to speak up.
"Get changed, and I'll spar with you."
I'm not sure, but I think the rangers were surprised at how quickly my face turned white. "Oh, no thanks!" I said, backing away quickly. In my haste to escape a bout with the White Ranger, I backed into someone, and apologized.
"It's all right," the other person said, and I turned to see one of the teens from the table. It was the boy in black, that had been teasing the newcomers, and he smiled at me. For some reason, the smile seemed a bit off, but I shrugged away my unease mentally as I smiled back at him. I watched as he walked away, and smiled at seeing a familiar symbol on the back of his trench coat. The symbol so distracted me, I forgot about the rangers until Tommy came over to my side. "Come on," he said. "You don't have to spar if you really don't want to."
"Hmm?" I blinked at him, then I recalled the argument. "I really don't want to," I told him. "I just don't want to."
"Hey, I understand," Tommy said. "Come on, the others are waiting for us." I allowed him to escort me back to the table where the others were already seated, and something called the strange teen back to my mind.
"Hey, do ya'll watch the WWF?" I asked.
"What?" Tommy asked, puzzled.
Okay, I figured. Maybe he's not a wrestling fan, but surely he had heard SOMETHING about the wrestling organization. "World Wrestling Federation? Raw is War? Stone Cold Steve Austin? The Undertaker?" Tommy shook his head, and I offered, "Jessie 'the Body' Ventura? Triple H? Chyna? Vince McMahon? "
Tommy shook his head, and Rocky offered, "The only Vince McMahon I know owns half of the Southern Division in the NFL." I blinked and dropped into an empty chair, stunned.
"I did not expect that," I muttered, then the cause of the revelation came to mind, and I paled as I realized what it meant. "Oh, Chaos!"
"What's wrong?" Aisha asked.
"I just saw someone wearing a symbol for the Undertaker, one of the characters in the WWF, which doesn't exist here. But it DOES exist in my home universe." The other rangers paled as the significance of that fact registered, and Tommy looked around. "Where?"
I turned and pointed. "Ther-" My words died as I took in the empty table. "He's gone!" I turned back to the rangers, and I said, "He was here with a group, and they were sitting back there. I felt something just before some of the group arrived, but since I didn't see anything unusual about them, I ignored it."
Tommy nodded, then motioned all of us outside. We followed him out of the Youth Center, but none was in sight. "We'll split up into groups of three. Kathy, head -"
"No," I interrupted. "We'll get more groups to search if I stay, and we split up into groups of two. I have my communicator and I can teleport out as soon as trouble appears." Tommy didn't like it, but liked even less anyone searching on their own.
"All right, but you teleport out immediately if anything happens." I nodded, and found myself paired up with Rocky. Everyone agreed to meet up in the park in an hour, and Rocky and I took off.
Josie watched as Rocky and KrazieKat left the other rangers and chuckled. "Do we follow, oh fearless leader? It's the closest we've ever gotten to getting her alone."
"I know," Cynthia snarled, wrenching her attention away from the Blue Ranger. "Follow, but keep out of sight. If they know they're being followed, it'll put them on guard." The other Crystal Rangers nodded, but Cynthia had one last order. Grabbing the youngest Ranger roughly by her chin, Cynthia growled, "Don't screw up the plan! I know you asked our liege for Rocky, but we need to get Katherine first! Understand?"
"Yeah, I get it, I get it!" Josie answered, wrenching her chin free while glaring at the White Crystal Ranger. "I'm not an idiot like Al is!"
"Why, you little -!"
"Bite me! If you hadn't worn your coat for Katherine to identify-!"
Their words cut off suddenly, and they turned to glare at their leader, whose hand was extended and looked as if it were holding something as it glowed with a white light. "If Al hadn't worn his coat, Josie, we wouldn't have this opportunity. Al, go lead Rocky and Katherine to the alleyway where we teleported in." The Black Ranger nodded and took off as the White Ranger's hand slowly lost its glow.
"Josie, Matt, Megan, Ivy, you follow after them, and make sure they don't get away. Kahva and I'll be in the alleyway." Turning to her near double, she said, "C'mon."
With that, the White and Green Rangers disappeared, and Josie glared at the spot where Cynthia had been. "Why does she always assume that I'm the one who's going to mess the plan up?" she demanded of no one. "Why is it alright for her to gawk and drool at the Blue Ranger, but if I even so much as LOOK at Rocky, she assumes I have no control?!"
Megan smiled twistedly, and said, "It could be because you're the youngest of us."
"So? That doesn't mean I can't kick as much ass as the rest of the team!" Josie retorted.
"C'mon," Matt said finally, not wanting to have to hear another arguement. "Before we lose them." The three evil teens took off after their prey.
"Do you have the feeling we're being watched?" Rocky asked as we walked down a street.
"You mean it's not just me?" I asked back. Rocky flashed a grin my way, and I added, "I think I'll keep a finger near my teleport button."
"Good idea," Rocky said. For a few more minutes, we walked in silence, then I grabbed Rocky's arm, nearly getting punched.
"There he is!" I said, pointing to cover my reaction to almost getting socked. Rocky looked where I was pointing, and he nodded, spying the dark coat. There weren't exactly that many people wearing coats in the early summer weather of sun and warmth. We sped up our pace just as the teen rounded a corner.
As we neared the same corner, a vague unease began to creep into the back of my mind, and I began to hang back. This went unnoticed by Rocky as it became evident that the mysterious teen had entered an alleyway, but he definitely noticed when I called out his name, telling him to wait. "Something doesn't feel right," I replied to his puzzled look.
The Red Ranger paused at the entrance to the alley, and asked, "What do you mean?"
"It feels like a trap."
"That's because it is." We whirled to face Zedd's Purple, Pink, Red, and Yellow Rangers blocking the way back. I stepped back as soon as I had heard the voice, and almost as if that was their cue, they began walking forward, herding the both of us into the alleyway.
"So glad you could oblige by falling for it," a new voice said, and we whirled to see the White, Green, and Black Rangers blocking off any exit the alleyway might have offered.
I looked at Rocky just as he started going for his morpher. "IT'S MORPHIN' TIME! TYRANOSAURUS!" As soon as his armor appeared, Rocky was tackled by five of the evil Rangers. "Run, Kathy!"
Easy for him to say, I thought. I found myself facing Zedd's Pink Ranger on one side, and Zedd's Black Ranger on the other. "Umm... are you sure you couldn't let me go?" I asked.
I could have sworn I heard a snort from behind me as the female Ranger answered. "Sorry, but our master has plans for you."
I sighed, then dropped to the ground as something warned me to duck. A bolt of black energy flew over my head, and I heard the Pink Ranger grunt as the bolt hit her instead. I bit back a smile and scrambled to my feet as quickly as I could. I ducked another bolt, just to hear something explode, and the Pink Ranger shouting, "Zedd wants her alive, you dolt!"
I didn't know if I should laugh or not, but I DID know that the second bolt had pushed the Pink Ranger back out of the alleyway. I ran for the opening, taking off down the street before she could stop me. "Get her!" I heard the White Ranger snarl, but I didn't look back as my feet started pounding the pavement.
Finally, I stopped to catch my breath, and looked around. No one was in sight, and I breathed a sigh of relief as I leaned against a building. After a few minutes, I took a second look around, and realized that I had NO CLUE as to where I was in Angel Grove, and as I took a look at my communicator, I grumbled in disbelief. "Broken! Just great! Just what I need!" I groaned in frustration, then sighed. "Well, I guess I'm walking. I just hope I can find the park." I pushed myself onto my feet, and started on my way.
As I slowly walked down the streets of Angel Grove, I resisted the urge to gawk like some sort of tourist. For all that Saban had done wrong with the show, his portrayal of the town was amazingly accurate. I passed several scenes that could have come directly from "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers", but then as soon as I passed an alleyway, a pair of hands grabbed me and snatched me backwards, slamming my back against a wall.
My eyes snapped shut as my head connected solidly with the bricks, and when I opened them, I wished I hadn't. Standing around me were seven teens dressed in clothes the same color as the Crystal Rangers. There were five girls, three of which I had noticed earlier in the day at the Youth Center, and two boys, the one in black being the same one I had been following. My stomach sank as all the instincts inside me screamed, RUN, you idiot! but the way they were standing canceled out that option. "Who are you? What do you want?" I demanded.
"Aww, the poor little ol' kitty-cat doesn't remember us," the girl in green sneered. "Maybe we should help her recall?"
"Well, last time we were morphed," the girl in white reminded the first, making my eyes widen. Then she turned her attention back to me. "Which, if your brain hasn't been able to keep up with everything, was just a few minutes ago." Snarling fiercely, she continued, "If it wasn't for the fact that Lord Zedd wants you in one piece, little missy, I'd tear you to pieces for even touching Billy, but as it is..." she motioned, "he didn't say we couldn't have a little fun." She chuckled cruelly, then in a lightening fast move, punched me to the ground, knocking over several trashcans in the process.
The rest of the Crystal Rangers moved out of the way as I rolled along the concrete, and the White Ranger followed after me, kicking me in the stomach when I pushed myself up onto my hands and knees. I gasped for air as the wind was knocked out of me, and the girl's foot connected with my face.
Pain blossomed in my nose as I felt something warm start to flow down my face, and it acted as a wake-up call, my few lessons in self defense coming back to me as I rolled out of the way of the White Ranger's next kick. I rolled up into a crouch as she recovered her balance, and I put my hands up in a defensive position. "C'mon, bitch!" I snarled. "You wanna dance?" I blocked her next blow, and my fist connected with her face. I snarled/smiled when I saw that she sported a bloody nose just like me. "Let's dance!"
The White Ranger staggered back, and eyed me warily, wiping her nose with the back of her hand, and then glanced down to see the blood. "You'll pay for that," she snarled.
"Ooh, I'm SO scared," I replied sarcastically. She began a flurry of kicks and punches, and I blocked as many as I could, but eventually a kick got through, and I was slammed back against the opposite wall. Stunned and winded, I slid down the wall to the ground, and couldn't fight free when two pairs of hands yanked me to my feet.
The White Ranger jerked my head up by my hair so that I was forced to meet her eyes, and snarled, "If Zedd didn't want you so badly, I'd show you a real fight." She threw my head back, and the world turned first white, then black around me.
Zedd examined the unconscious girl lying on the steps before his throne, then demanded tightly, "Explain the damage."
Cynthia stepped forward, then went down on one knee and said, "She put up a fight, Master. I had no choice but to knock her out. Unfortunately, it also required that I had to... damage her."
Zedd studied his White Ranger carefully. He knew that she was jealous of the unconscious girl before him, and that it could bring her loyalty into question. "You knew I wanted her," he said. "You know WHY I want her."
"Yes, my lord." There was no emotion given away in her voice.
"Then know that the next time you hit her, you'll pay the price," Zedd stated coldly. Cynthia's head bowed, and she made no verbal reply, but her fury was evident in her body language. "Grab her, and follow me," Zedd commanded, and Cynthia motioned to Al and Matt to grab the unconscious girl before following their master out.
Kathy began to moan, and her eyes fluttered open as the Red and Black Crystal Rangers dragged her down the hall, then slowly lifted her head. "Wha-" she asked, dazed. Then she realized what was going on, and tried to dig in her feet. Matt and Al simply pulled on her upper arms until she lost her footing and stumbled forward.
"She's awake," Matt informed the White Crystal Ranger.
"Good," Cynthia replied. "That'll make it a lot more interesting."
"What? It'll make WHAT more interesting?" Kathy demanded as they neared Zedd's workroom.
"I can't say," Cynthia replied in mock-innocence as she waited for the Red and Black Crystal Rangers to enter first. "It would ruin the surprise!"
With that, the group entered the workroom, where Zedd stood near the eighth cocoon. "Bring her here," he said. His male rangers complied, and as they neared with Kathy, the cocoon parted open like a hungry mouth, and she began struggling to get free.
"No," she whispered, it was all she could manage in her panic. "Please, no!" But it was already too late as several flesh-colored bands flashed out to wrap around her lower arms and waist. The rangers holding her let go as the bands began to pull the helpless girl towards the cocoon, and Kathy twisted futilely to break free.
As soon as she was pulled into the heart of the cocoon, it closed around her, and for a moment, the sides of it pulsed and bulged as Kathy struggled to get free, but eventually the movement stilled, and Zedd chuckled. "Zordon's rangers can't save her now." Evil laughter filled the workroom as Zedd left, leaving the guarding of the chrysalis to his rangers.
The rangers gathered in the park at the appointed time, and it was Adam that first noticed the discrepancy after all of the search groups reported nothing. "Where's Rocky and Kathy?" he asked. The rangers looked around, realizing for the first time that their friends weren't there.
"You don't think -" Kat began.
Tommy interrupted the Australian. "I don't want to take a chance. Billy, Jase, head to the Command Center, and look for them there. We'll split up here and search for them in person." The Blue Ranger and the original Red Ranger nodded, then teleported out in a stream of cobalt blue and a stream of white.
"Adam, Aisha, backtrack their route. Kat and I'll take the south side, and we'll meet up in the middle." The Yellow and Black Rangers nodded, and took off at a run. Kat and Tommy exchanged looks, then took off on their own search.
For several moments, the Pink and Red Rangers hurried anxiously along, then Kat finally asked, "You don't think something happened, do you?"
"I don't know," Tommy said. "But Rocky's not normally one to be late. I hope they're okay, but I'd rather not take a chance... not with Zedd after Kathy." He paused and looked around, then pointed down a street. "This way." They didn't get too far before a groan caught their attention.
A few blocks away, Aisha and Adam were worried. They knew that the only reason Rocky wouldn't have informed someone else about not being at the meeting place on time would be because he couldn't. They weren't sure what could delay their friend, but it would have to be something major. "I hope they're both okay," Aisha said.
Adam agreed, but kept all negative thoughts to himself, refusing to voice anything bad that could have happened. "Come on, Rocky probably found an all-you-can-eat buffet, and someone foolishly challenged him," Adam said with a smile. Aisha glanced at him, and saw that the smile didn't reach the Black Ranger's eyes. She smiled back at Adam, but both knew that the other didn't really feel like smiling. They were too worried.
Adam paused as they passed by an alleyway. Something about the way the cans were knocked over bothered him, but he shrugged off his unease. But just as he was about to hurry past them, something caught his eye. "Hey, Aisha, wait up!"
The Yellow Ranger stopped and turned back as Adam stepped into the alleyway. After a moment, she hurried back the few feet to the entrance. "What is it?" she asked, seeing Adam kneeling on the ground.
Adam turned and held something up in his hand. "It's Kathy's communicator," he said needlessly.
Cynthia stood on the balcony, watching the Power Rangers through a screen created by her master, and she smiled as Billy and Jason teleported out. A devious little idea grew in her mind, and she turned to the throne where her lord sat. "My lord, I request permission to attack the Command Center."
If he could have, Zedd would have raised his eyebrows. "What about the Rangers?" Zedd asked.
"Billy and Jason are the only ones in the Command Center right now. The rest are split up, looking for their red teammate and our... guest," she spat. "Right now, the Command Center's only guard is the Blue Ranger, and the powerless Ranger. They wouldn't be expecting us to..." she chuckled cruelly, "drop in for a visit."
Zedd thought on this, then nodded. "Very well. I give you permission to attack, but one of you must stay here, to watch little Katherine."
"Thank you, Master," the White Crystal Ranger said, then bowed before leaving the throne room.
The other Crystal Rangers met their leader in their common room, except for Megan, who was on guard duty. "We're going to attack the Command Center." Twisted grins began to grow on the evil teens faces as they leaned in.
Matt asked the question that was on all of their minds. "What do we do first?"
Megan glared resentfully at the cocoon that now held the escapee from her lord, and resisted the urge to hit or kick at the cocoon. She just KNEW that the others were planning something fun, and she was stuck cocoon sitting. Josie was right. Cynthia isn't being fair, I want to join in the fun too! she thought. It's not as if the Rangers are going to show up here.
The Purple Crystal Ranger's lips began to curl up in a twisted parody of a grin as she mentally added, Although, I wouldn't mind getting closer to Adam. Her mind began to plan out how she'd train her own personal Ranger toy once she got her hands on him, then her eyes flared a brilliant amethyst.
What am I doing here? she wondered. Just a moment before, she had been at her computer, but then a strong wind had suddenly –
The line of thought was cut off as Megan's eyes flared again, this time a bloody crimson as the twisted magic of the girl's cocoon asserted itself again, and the Purple Crystal Ranger never noticed as the cocoon bulged as its occupant shifted, almost as if sighing.
In the Command Center, both boys' hearts sank as they saw that neither Rocky or Kathy were in the headquarters. "Zordon, Rocky and Kathy are missing. Have the sensors picked up on anything?" Billy asked.
"No," Zordon said, then, "Alpha, start searching for both Rocky and Kathy."
"Yes, Zordon," the robotic assistant said. For a moment, things were as normal as it got for the rangers, with Alpha starting a scan for the missing teens. Then abruptly, there was a flash, and everything went dark.
It took a moment for the emergency lights to kick in, but when they did, Billy and Jason looked around in shock. EVERYTHING was shut down, even Alpha and Zordon. "What happened, Billy?" Jason asked.
"I'm not sure. It looks like something happened to the power for the Command Center," Billy said, hurrying over to a dead console.
"Not something," a female voice purred. "Someone." Billy paled as he recognized the voice of the White Crystal Ranger, and both teens turned in the direction of the speaker. "Grab them," the leader of the Crystal Rangers ordered, and both felt hands clamp down on them, forcing their hands behind their backs.
"Let us go!" Jason snarled as his hands were bound tightly with chains. He felt his communicator being jerked off of his wrist and flinched.
"Oh no... I don't think so," a new ranger spoke up, and Jason found himself face to face with the Green Crystal Ranger. She wore an outfit that was almost a mockery of Tommy's first outfit, the only difference being the lack of white touches to the boots and gloves and the dragon design on the helmet, and the fact that the gold crest was molded to fit her curves perfectly. "I have plans for you." She trailed a finger slowly down the center of Jason's chest, giving a soft laugh as the former ranger tried to jerk away from her touch.
"Play later, Sister," said the White Crystal Ranger. "Business now." The Green Ranger nodded reluctantly, then hefted her dagger.
"Business before pleasure, sweetie," Green purred as she moved away from Jason, chuckling as she twirled the deadly dagger in her hand. With unmistakable delight, she turned to the others and said, "Let's do it!"
Both teens looked away as the Command Center was trashed, and Billy winced as a hand painfully gripped his chin, forcing him to look back. "Remember what Zedd's power has done, Ranger," the White Ranger snarled. "He could order us to destroy you and your powerless friend, but he's allowed me and Green to... play, with you. Be grateful." With that, she pushed the Blue Ranger away, and motioned to the crystal rangers holding Billy and Jason. The two captured teens felt the world melt away and their stomachs sank.
Adam reached for his communicator after showing Kathy's broken one to the Yellow Ranger and spoke into it. "Guys, we've got trouble," he said, calling the Command Center, and was startled when he only got static. Exchanging worried glances with Aisha, he tried, "Tommy, Kat, can you read me?"
"Yeah, Adam," Kat replied. "We have some bad news. We found Rocky but no Kathy."
"I think Zedd may have her," the Black Ranger said. "We found her communicator, and it's broken." Adam bit his lip, then reported, "We just tried calling the Command Center, but we didn't get an answer."
Tommy broke into the conversation. "Try teleporting there, and we'll met you."
"All right," Adam said, then glanced at Aisha before looking around. Seeing that there were people around that might see, both rangers eased back into the alleyway. Once they were sure they were out of sight, the two hit their teleportation buttons, and disappeared in a flash of their representative colors.
Once they could see again, the rangers' hearts sank. The Command Center was completely trashed, Alpha was shut down, and Zordon was gone. But what worried Aisha and Adam the most was that there was no hint of Jason or Billy anywhere.
Pink and white teleport streams bracketed a red one as Kat, Tommy and Rocky arrived in the Command Center, and Rocky grunted as the teleport caused him to support his own weight. The Red Ranger was battered and bruised, and basically looked like he had been in the losing end of a serious fight. "What happened?" Aisha asked.
"We were jumped out of nowhere by Zedd's Rangers," Rocky said. "I told Kathy to run, completely forgetting that she could teleport out. The last I saw of her was running down the street like I told her." He groaned as Kat and Tommy eased him to the floor, wincing as his ribs ached sharply. "Then the next thing I know, I'm lying in an alley, with Tommy and Kat standing over me." Looking around carefully, and wincing when he wasn't as careful as he needed to be, he asked, "What happened here?"
"I'm not sure," Adam replied. "It was like this when we arrived. We haven't seen Jason or Billy, either."
"WHAT!" The exclamation came from Tommy and Kat, while Rocky stared at his friends in shock. Those that were able to, immediately split up to see if the two missing rangers were somewhere else in the Command Center while Kat attended to Rocky, keeping her communicator open. The roving rangers made constant reports, but the Pink and Red Rangers were startled when Tommy ordered Aisha and Adam to him.
"What's going on?" Kat demanded after tying off the bandage she had wrapped around Rocky's chest.
"I found out why there's no power," Tommy said. "The generator is trashed. Adam, think you can fix it?"
"I don't know," Adam said, though not speaking into his communicator. This gave his voice a distant quality as Kat and Rocky heard him through Tommy's communicator, and the Red Ranger shivered before wincing. He hoped that his best friend wasn't the next to disappear. "If Billy were here, I'd say sure, but... I don't know. I can try, though."
"Try your best," Tommy encouraged the Black Ranger. "Even if we just get partial power, that should help us greatly."
"All right," Adam said.
A few moments later, Tommy and Aisha slipped between the partially opened double doors, and Tommy asked, "How are you feeling, Rocky?"
"Stupid," Rocky said. "I totally forgot that Kathy can teleport, and there wasn't even anyone around at the time. Maybe if I had recalled that, none of this would have happened."
"It's not your fault," Tommy said. "You were under attack, and it's very likely that Zedd had a teleportation block while you were fighting. Besides, if I hadn't listened to her, and sent her here straight away, she'd might still be here, and she might not, if the rangers had attacked while she was here. We'll never know."
"How did Zedd's Rangers get in here anyways?" Aisha asked. "I thought that no one could come in without a communicator unless teleported in from here."
"If they took out the generator first, that would short out the forcefield that prevents entry, and the rangers could just walk right on in," Tommy explained. "It's how... I got in," he said, looking away. His first reaction after arriving in the destroyed headquarters had been pain as his days as Rita's evil ranger sprang back into his mind. The White Ranger turned away from his teammates, and walked over to the console facing Zordon's plasma tube.
Kat closed her eyes, her days as Rita's spy coming back to her. She wiped away a tear as she recalled what had happened to free her, and said, "We won't lose anyone this time, Tommy. We won't let it happen again."
Tommy nodded, not looking at the Pink Ranger. Aisha and Kat exchanged worried looks, and the Yellow Ranger walked over to her leader's side. "What's wrong?" she asked.
"I should have seen this happening, Aisha. I should have foreseen Zedd sending his rangers to attack here. I did as Rita's ranger. Why didn't I think of this, prepare for this?" Aisha winced as Tommy pounded the console.
Both rangers jumped when the lights flickered to life, and Adam said through the communicators, "I think I got it temporarily fixed, but I'm not sure how long it'll last."
"Good job, Adam," Tommy said. "Get back up here ASAP. We need to get the scanners back online, and find our friends as soon as possible."
Jason grunted as he was given a sharp push that caused him to stagger, then fell onto his side upon the steps leading up to Zedd's throne. Billy landed beside him, and before either boy could recover, rough hands pulled them up into kneeling positions before the Emperor of Evil. "'Welcome to my parlor,' said the spider to the fly," Zedd quipped to the two boys before him. "I hope you enjoy your stay here, especially since my Green and White Rangers specifically requested your..." Zedd chuckled, "personal attendance to them."
"Whatever you want, you're not gonna get it," Jason growled, glaring at the sorcerer.
Zedd began laughing in twisted amusement, his laughter echoing in the Chamber of Command. "I already HAVE what I want, former ranger," he replied, then struck his staff against the stone dais. Sparks flew as a ball of magical energy appeared before the boys. In the globe, a cocoon of some fleshy material hung in a dark room, glowing with a steady, hideous light that nauseated the boys as they stared. "There, in my special chrysallis, young Katherine rests, slowly but surely turning evil, becoming that which I desire, becoming mine as my Crystal Rangers are mine… mind, body, and soul."
"NO!" Jason bellowed, trying to get to his feet. But the Red and Black Rangers forced him back down.
"Oh, ho, ho, yes!" Zedd gloated. "So, like I said, I already have what I want. But my rangers, on the other hand, are another story. They want you and your friends, and currently I'm inclined to grant their requests." Motioning to the girls, he said, "Take them and enjoy!"
The two evil rangers seemed to growl, then claimed their chosen prisoner. "Thank you, my lord!" the White Ranger said happily. She held a tight grip on the Blue Ranger, and tossed something golden towards her liege. "For you, my lord, compliments of my new playtoy!" She covered Billy's mouth with her hand when he protested as Zedd caught the ranger's Power Coin.
Zedd chuckled, fingering the golden circle, then stared straight at Billy. "Have you ever wondered what it feels like," he started, slowly raking a chrome claw across the coin's surface, "to lose your powers?"
"Don't you dare!" Jason shouted, struggling vainly in the grip of the evil Green Crystal Ranger. A painful howl interrupted his protests, though.
"AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!" Billy screamed, sagging in the grip of the White Crystal Ranger, his face suddenly pale and sweating. "No, please!!" he shouted again, then screamed as Zedd cruelly continued to toy with his Power Coin.
"What are you doing to him?!" Jason shouted, vainly trying to launch himself at the evil sorcerer. "Stop it!!"
"What am I doing?" Zedd chuckled. "Why, little brainy Billy here is just finding out what it's like to have the talons of evil tearing away at his very heart and soul, slowly ripping out his precious Ranger power… mangling it," he gloated, slowly twisting the coin into an unrecognizable shape, laughing as Billy crashed to his knees, screaming and moaning in pain, "then finally, mercifully, destroying it!"
"NOOOOO!!" Jason yelled and Billy screamed in agony as Zedd disintegrated the coin in his clenched fist. Jason stared in despair as a fine golden dust slowly fell from Zedd's hand, the evil sorcerer adding insult to Billy's suffering by sprinkling some of the dust on his head. "Billy?" Jason choked out fearfully. "Zedd, if you've killed him, there's NOWHERE that you'll be safe from me!!" he growled, angrily trying to fight free to his friend's side.
"He won't die," Zedd chuckled, reaching behind Billy and taking his now virtually useless morpher. "But I'm willing to bet that right now he wishes he could die, just to end the pain." Zedd clamped a hand around Billy's throat and pulled him up to his feet. "Don't worry, the pain will go away soon. The weakness… that will take longer to fade." With a smirk, he nodded towards Jason and said, "Just ask your former leader." Without another word, Zedd shoved Billy back into the White Crystal Ranger's arms, then casually snapped the Blue Ranger's morpher in two, crushing the halves in his fists. "But just so that you two can't say I never gave you anything…" he laughed, "I'm going to give you both a little souvenir of this moment."
With that, Zedd conjured up two gaudy gold chains and attached them to the halves of Billy's morpher, making hideous, mocking necklaces out of them. He feigned solemnity as he draped the first one around Billy's neck, then the other around Jason's. "I dub you both… 'Slaves of the Empire'! MY empire!" he taunted them. "Don't worry, your teammates will join you both soon enough." Casting a look at Jason, he added, "And you won't be able to protect them anymore than you were able to protect the wimp here, ex-Ranger leader Jason. Some leader you've turned out to be! It's a good thing Tommy took over, or the whole team would have fallen long before now."
"You…" Billy gasped, his pain fading away already, but as Zedd had promised, weakness was rushing in to overwhelm him in its place. "You… son of a –"
"Silence!!" the White Crystal Ranger snapped out, slapping Billy nearly hard enough to knock him out. "You will show respect to the Lord of Evil!"
"Let them rant and rave, my dear Rangers," Zedd chuckled, taking his seat upon his throne, motioning the girls away. "Their futile attempts at bravado should make things more interesting for you both during your… 'playtime'. They are yours, take them."
The still morphed girls easily dragged their unwilling prizes out of the throne room and deep into the heart of the Lunar Palace, their helpless prisoners no match for them. Finally, the boys were split up and forced into different bedrooms.
"Have fun with your toy!" the White Crystal Ranger called out to her green-uniformed teammate, watching as she quickly disappeared with Jason. "I know I'm going to enjoy mine..."
The sound of the door slamming behind the two of them echoed as if it were the very crack of doom itself. Billy knew quite well just how cliche that was, but it didn't matter. Thinking in cliche, or thinking of anything but what was going on was far more preferable than acknowledging what he felt was about to happen.
The White Crystal Ranger smiled frostily as she spun Billy towards the bed in the center of the room. "Welcome to my ...or should I say our quarters, my dear Billy. You wouldn't believe how long I've wanted to be this close to you."
"W...what are you talking about?" Billy didn't want to stutter, but the look she was delivering to him through the helmet definitely made him squirm. "Who are you?"
"I'd say your worst nightmare...but that doesn't even come close." A flicker of energy passed over her, and the uniform garbing her vanished. Billy noticed with slight relief she was dressed underneath her morph, but the emotion faded as she literally leaped towards him, pinning him to the bed before he had a chance to move.
She was definitely not unattractive; long dark hair and eyes that smoldered with a heat he tried to avoid looking at, a figure that stirred up feelings in him he had no intentions of acting on, lips that were descending on his....
The kiss was hot, savage, brutal, and passionate. Billy had about as much chance of resisting the desire that boiled up inside of him as he did of resisting the need to breathe. After almost two full minutes, she moved back, a cold and wicked smile on her lips as she kept him on the bed with only the weight of her body and the fire in her eyes. "And that's just the beginning. It's going to get much, much worse from here on out."
"Do I want to know?" Billy gulped. He could hardly believe this was happening, and some parts of him could hardly believe it hadn't happened sooner!
With a slow, lazy movement, she seized his wrists and jerked his arms above his head, holding them there only for a moment. He heard a metallic clink-clink, and looked up to see steel manacles on his wrists. "I wouldn't want you to get away, after all," she laughed softly, running a finger softly down his chest to the waistband of his jeans. "I've went to a great deal of trouble to getting you here, and we've only just begun."
Billy's entire body shook with fright, and perhaps something else, as she traced a delicate design down his legs to his ankles, sliding half way off the bed as she did so. He jerked at the chains holding his wrists tightly to the bed to no avail, then glanced down as he felt hands on his ankles. Swiftly she pulled his socks and shoes off, then jerked his legs as wide as possible without actually dislocating them. His eyes went wide as she casually chained them apart, then looked up at him, a hungry expression in her eyes.
"And before you ask, no, I wouldn't unchain you even if you agreed to be with me willingly. I've always wondered what it would be like to have you chained down and helpless." Casually she sat next to him, that cocky, crafty, ice-cold smile never leaving her face, the hungriness only increasing with every moment. "And now look...I get to find out."
The Blue Ranger wanted to protest. He wanted to tell her he'd never give in, no matter what she would do to him. He wanted to say a lot of things, and some of them were things that no Power Ranger should ever say to their enemies. She's my enemy, she's kidnapped me, she's going to rape me or worse, man, she has beautiful eyes... "Wouldn't it be better...if I was willing?"
A brief flare of hope rose up as she appeared to be considering that. Then she spoke, and the hope died faster than he had dreamed possible. "Maybe. But I don't care about better. I just want it now."
Billy wanted to say something in protest, but as he opened his mouth, he was muffled by yet another kiss. This time she held it there until, half-willing and half-not, he began to slowly return the kiss. He could see the triumph in her eyes, and his heart sank. Unable to do anything, he wondered what she was going to do next.
"Whenever you open your mouth, if I haven't told you that you can speak, that'll happen again," she informed him in a slightly clinical tone, then glanced at him. "Though I don't think you're going to mind all that much if what I'm seeing is any indication."
Billy saw where she was looking, and blushed cherry red. He thought about saying else, but a slight movement brought his attention back to her lips again. I don't think I could take another kiss like that.. His thoughts derailed suddenly as he saw a sharp bladed knife in her hand. "Wh..." He cut himself off just as she started to look towards him again, an eyebrow slightly raised.
"Somehow, I thought that's what you'd say." She smiled again, then slowly ran the knife in her hand up his leg, slicing through the jeans methodically. Billy tried to remain as still as he could, but couldn't stop himself from trembling, be it from fear, power loss, or something he didn't want to name even to himself. Within moments his jeans were nothing more than sliced fabric, and Cynthia licked her lips. "Quite a treasure you're hiding behind those clothes. You should get out more."
Billy sealed his lips shut and tried to focus his attention on the ceiling. The White Ranger was having none of that, however. She laid the knife slowly on his throat, just to where the breath of life quivered. "You will pay attention to me, Billy. Is that understood?" The fire in her eyes burned brighter as he nodded slowly and returned his eyes to her. "I thought you'd get my drift. After all, you are supposed to be the smart one."
The fingers of her free hand caressed down the side of his face to the buttons of his shirt. "My, my, so much packaging before one gets down to the real meat of the matter. Well, at least I won't have to unwrap you again after this." She leaned forward and slowly placed her lips on his again, this time sliding her tongue into his mouth for a few moments. Billy dared not blank his mind, dared not do anything but what she seemed to want of him. "Mmmm...very nice."
She moved back a little to break the kiss, then slowly dragged the knife down his shirt with a sharp movement. The sound of each button falling to the floor sent more and more chills through him, and as she sliced his shirt into the same ribbons his jeans had become, Billy realized that he now had only his shorts in between herself and him.
Seconds later, there was nothing between either of them except the air and their own flesh. Cynthia looked him up and down, a look of predatory dominance in her eyes. "Oh, this is definitely worth everything," she purred. Billy didn't even have time to scream before she was on top of him.
The screaming came later. And somewhere in the middle of it all, it turned from pain and terror to outright pleasure. Not even Billy was ever certain when. After some time, he wasn't even certain if he cared.
Rocky cautiously walked out of the Command Center, careful of his aching ribs. Although the Power had sped up his healing until most of his wounds were already gone, the Red Ranger's chest would still give the occasional twinge if he wasn't careful, painful aches that left the Hispanic teen gasping. But those twinges were being caused by the accellerated healing, according to Kat, and should be gone by morning. Rocky hoped so, but he still had to look for his team leader. "Tommy?"
The Red Ranger found his White teammate sitting with his back against the Command Center, looking up at the half moon hanging low in the sky. Rocky made his way over and eased himself down to sit beside Tommy, and asked, "Worried about the others?"
"Yeah." There was a paused, then Tommy continued. "I don't even know if Kathy'll be able to handle whatever's happening to her right now."
Rocky grinned, and said, "She'll deal. Trust me, she can deal with anything Zedd can throw at her. When it really counts, that girl can be tough as nails."
Tommy looked over at his red teammate, and asked, "How do you know?"
Rocky continued to grin, and asked, "Who do you think got me to change my opinion of witches? She had a way of stuffing facts down my throat until I choked and gave up." Rocky's grin grew briefly into a smile before fading away as he looked up at the night sky.
Tommy continued looking at the Hispanic teen as he said, "I kinda noticed that you both seemed to become friends rather quickly."
Rocky chuckled. "We talked and... we just connected. According to her, that happens pretty often. Let's see if I can recall how she put it..." The Red Ranger closed his eyes before saying, "'It happens almost everytime I meet a future friend that I'll be able to trust. We start talking, and the next thing I know, we've clicked together like two pieces of a puzzle.'" He smiled and opened his eyes. "It also helped that we had the same sense of humor."
Tommy gave a soft snort of laughter, and said, "Yeah that sounds like her." His faint smile died as he turned his attention back to the night sky.
Silence settled between the two rangers as they looked up at the stars, both worrying about their friends.
Ivy sat as ordered, her attention glued to the twisting shape of the cocoon before her. Her eyes never wavered; Lord Zedd had been most explicit in his command: watch the cocoon at all times and report even the slightest abnormality. The Yellow Crystal Ranger clinically analyzed each movement like a doctor studying a patient after a difficult surgery. Unknown to her, Lord Zedd watched from a hidden alcove far above, his staff at the ready. He scrutinized the quiet woman so obediently following his orders, looking for the slightest sign of a crack in his spells. She made him nervous – this calm, almost serene woman. Zedd found it strange someone he knew to be evil could appear so tranquil. Finding no fault immediately apparent with the silent young woman, he reluctantly melted into the darkness beyond the balcony, no surer of his unexpected Ranger than before.
But his suspicions were well-founded, for the placid shell showed nothing of the battle being fought within. Deep inside the Yellow Crystal Ranger, far beyond the touch of Lord Zedd's evil power, lay the beleaguered soul of Ivy Tante.
No! A silent scream sounded within the black recesses of a consciousness overpowered by something so foul – so fetid – that she felt ill. No! The urge to do something, anything, to stop this waking nightmare was so strong she lashed out, uncaring she could injure herself as she did so. I must be free! I cannot stand this, I MUST BE FREE! Great Spirit, help your daughter in her darkest hour!
But the comforting presence that had molded her life since childhood did not manifest itself, and the shadows continued to tighten their hold. Must be something, a strength within me to fight this… Ivy cast about wildly, panic enveloping her as the shadows darkened. Frantic, she reached out beyond her mental prison, stretching into the surrounding void, calling for she knew not what. To her surprise, there was an answer from the one place she would not have expected... and it was a voice as desperate as her own.
Help me! Oh, please, help me! Father Chaos! It was Kathy, entombed in her own private underworld, forced to endure the same torturous change Ivy had so lately suffered. Leave me be! LEAVE ME BE!
Knowing she couldn't touch Kathy, couldn't give comfort, couldn't help… it made the situation even worse. Am I really so helpless, so useless? That I cannot help a Sister in pain any more than I can help myself? Elements preserve my sanity! Great Spirit, give me courage!
But there was no answer from the deity being called upon, and Ivy cringed as Kathy's voice came again, fainter this time, as if she had fought too long, too hard. Tommy, Rocky, Adam, Jason, Billy… Where are you guys? Now her tone changed, becomining wounded. You promised to help me, to protect me. Then the wounded tone turned back to desperate. Help! Oh, please, help me!
Ivy tried with all her soul to reach Kathy, but suddenly there was something in the way, a brightness in the void between the Ranger and the cocoon she guarded. Wonderingly, Ivy touched it, felt its embrace; she almost pulled back in terror. But the fear faded; it wasn't the Great Spirit, no, it wasn't that powerful. It was something less… but still a power to be reckoned with. An elemental power within she had never known until dire circumstance forced a path to it.
I am Frost, the element of Ice, it said, and I am part of you. You called, and I am finally free to answer. I cannot help now, for the evil that binds you is too strong. But it will crack – the spell was hastily prepared. It was not tailored to you, and in time you will shatter it. Bide your time, my other half! You are neither useless nor helpless! We shall soon know freedom, so promises Frost!
The pleas and cries of Kathy faded out, as Ivy knew peace for the first time in days. Rest, Kathy. Soon I will be able to help you. Rest now. YOU will be the first I free, for you have suffered bigotry and humiliation at the hands of those who feel they are righteous. In following Tribal traditions and customs, so have I.
The evil Yellow Crystal Ranger continued to watch the cocoon, inwardly comforted by the knowledge that she would do more than watch very soon...