"I don't understand it," Andros muttered, frowning at the computer he had taken apart. "Everything seems to be working perfectly."
"Then maybe it is," T.J. suggested. "All computers mess up sometimes. It doesn't mean they have something seriously wrong with them."
"These computers are a lot more sophisticated than what you use on Earth," Andros replied, with a trace of derision. "You ought to know that by now. Zordon designed these things to be as close to perfect as possible. The readings last night were very clear. Either there really was something down there that we missed, or this computer had a major breakdown."
"I don't like that idea," said Cassie. "Do you remember that strange wind we felt? It was so cold . . ." She shivered a little.
"Well, whatever it was," said T.J., "I don't think we need to worry about it. It's gone now, and it didn't do any damage."
"That we know of," Andros added darkly, beginning to reassemble the computer console.
The other Rangers ignored the remark. Andros had always been moody, and now the stress of his current situation was making him even more pessimistic than usual. Having rescued his beloved sister only to have her taken even further from his reach had been hard on him, and he was having difficulty coping with it.
Just then, the door of the bridge opened to admit Zhane, and his teammates greeted him with smiles and waves. In the strain of the last few days, everyone had been grateful for the company of the eternally cheerful Silver Ranger. Though he was as unhappy about the loss of his best friend's sister as everyone else was (if not more so - they all knew, by now, about his disastrous tete-a-tete with the Princess of Evil), he remained positive in his outlook. Sooner or later, everything would come out fine and love would conquer all. In the meantime, he did his best to lift the spirits of his friends with his clownish antics.
"Hey, guys! What are ya'll doing?" he asked, casually taking a seat in Andros's chair and propping his feet on a computer.
"I was checking to see if there were any glitches in this thing's hardware," Andros replied, "but everything checks out. I'm going to run a program diagnostics test next."
"Why? Was there a malfunction?" Zhane asked.
"There was something," said T.J. "Last night, the computer picked up high energy readings in the warehouse district, like there were very powerful life forms gathered there, but when we looked, we didn't see a thing."
"We felt something, though," said Andros, "unless we imagined it. It was like a wind going right through us."
"Weird," said Zhane. "Maybe what you were looking for is invisible."
"Like the Phantom," Cassie murmured.
"Improbable," said Andros, "but possible, I'll grant you. Stranger things have happened."
"Well, I don't think we should worry about it too much," said Cassie. "As long as nothing like that happens again . . ."
"Alert!" announced DECA suddenly. "Unauthorized life forms detected on megadeck three."
"Bring up a visual," Andros ordered.
In reply, a monitor blinked on, showing . . . an empty room.
"I don't see any life forms," said T.J.
"Very strange," said Andros. "Maybe the problem is with the surveillance equipment. You guys want to help me out? I can't run a full test by myself."
"Sure," said Cassie.
"No problem," T.J. agreed.
"I'll stay here," Zhane said. "Just to keep watch, you know."
"Good idea," Andros replied. "We'll see you again in an hour or two. Call if anything comes up."
"You got it," Zhane agreed.
As his friends left the bridge, Zhane stared at the monitor and swivelled thoughtfully in his borrowed chair. Unlike his friend Andros, Zhane tended to act less from logic and more from impulse and instinct, and now his instincts were telling him that there was more to this situation that met the eye. Let Andros and the others run tests; Zhane intended to tackle this problem his own way.
"DECA," he asked, "exactly how sure are you that there really is some kind of life form on megadeck three?"
"Exact measure of confidence is 99.97859%." said DECA.
"Okay, okay," he said. "I forgot, I shouldn't have said exactly. But you're pretty darn sure, right?"
"That is what I just told you."
"Fine. Can you identify what it is?"
"A group of five beings. Energy readings are identical to those detected last night."
"All right, now we're on to something," said Zhane. "Do you know of anything else that might give off the same kind of energy readings?"
"Scanning data banks now. Please wait."
Zhane didn't like waiting, but he did as he was told, feeling very clever for being able to unravel the mystery before his friends could. After a few minutes, DECA replied with an answer.
"The energy readings are identical to those emitted by the Psycho Rangers."
"Psycho Rangers?" Zhane repeated. "But we destroyed them, didn't we? Don't answer that," he added, before DECA tried to take him literally again. She could be as bad as he was, in her way, when it came to putting one over on her human companions. It made Zhane wonder if she was smarter than she let on.
Zhane stared up at the ceiling, thinking hard. He was inclined to reject the first idea that came into his mind, but it wouldn't let go of him. There were very few constants in the universe, but one of them was that, no matter where you went, you would find tales of ghosts and undead. Most of them agreed on what ghosts were like and what their business was. They were the restless spirits of those who had unfinished business, who had been wronged, or had died violently or before their time. They were known to haunt the living, were usually invisible or at least hard to see, and it was also said that they had the chill of the grave about them. Remembering how Andros had mentioned a cold wind, Zhane decided to test his hypothesis.
"DECA," he said, "switch the visual to a heat scan."
The image on the computer screen obligingly shifted, now showing the world in a digital spectrum of colors according to how warm or cold each object was. Where there had been nothing visible before, Zhane could now make out five shapes moving around and evidently carrying on a conversation. They were disturbingly familiar.
"Aha!" he said. "It really is the Psychos! Man, they just don't give up!"
Even as he spoke, the figures on the screen seemed to come to a consensus. As a group, they turned and left the room.
"Now where are they going?" he wondered.
"That hall leads to the simudeck," DECA offered helpfully.
"I knew that!" said Zhane. "The big question is, what would they want to do with the simudeck?"
"What would who want to do with the simudeck?" a voice piped up. Zhane spun his chair around to face Alpha 6.
"Alpha! Just who I needed to see," said Zhane. "Tell me, how far can the simudeck's abilities go? I mean, exactly how much can you do with it?"
"It depends on the programming," Alpha replied. "Programmed properly, it could do almost anything."
"Like maybe give substance to energy?" persisted Zhane.
"Well, yes. That's happened before," said Alpha, sounding vaguely confused. "Matter and energy are the same thing, really. With enough power, a non-substantial entity could be given physical reality. It happened with the Craterites, due to a power surge from a lightning strike, but that was a freak accident. To try to recreate that kind of situation would be extremely dangerous. Is that what you wanted to know?"
"Sort of," Zhane replied. "What do you mean when you say it could be dangerous?"
"The ship doesn't have enough power to make something like that work for very long. Assuming you could even get it to work, it would probably shut down the whole ship - maybe even destroy it!"
"In that case, we need to get the simudeck in a hurry," said Zhane. "The Psycho Rangers are on their way there right now."
"But I thought you destroyed them!"
"We did. It just didn't stop them. They're more stubborn than most monsters."
"Do you think they'll try to use the simudeck to bring themselves back to life?"
"Not if we get there first. Come on, Alpha. I've got an idea."
The Psycho Rangers, endowed with senses far beyond those of mere humans, naturally heard every word that Zhane and Alpha said.
"Fear is such a wonderful weapon," said Psycho Black. "Just create a small problem and let your enemies imagine the worst-case scenario."
"And then we make it so!" Psycho Blue put in, laughing coldly. "Foolish Ranger, devising his own destruction!"
"We will use this magnificent machine, this simudeck, to make ourselves real again," said Psycho Black.
"And then I will finally have my chance to destroy the Red Ranger!" Psycho Red growled.
"Take it easy," said Psycho Black. "You and your obsession is what got us into this mess in the first place."
"For you, anyway," Psycho Pink said. "My destruction was all her fault!" She shoved Psycho Yellow roughly and made her stumble backwards through the wall. It didn't seem to bother her. She stepped back through it as if it wasn't even there.
"This is ridiculous," said Psycho Yellow. "We can't even hurt each other, much less the Power Rangers!"
"Well, you're the mechanical expert here," said Psycho Blue. "Find that simudeck thing and program it to make us real again!"
"Yeah, yeah, don't blow a gasket," answered Psycho Yellow derisively. "I'll get it done. You can count on me!"
"Sure hope so," Psycho Pink grumbled.
"Enough!" shouted Psycho Black. "We'll never get anything done if we keep fighting with each other like this. The Power Rangers are the ones who destroyed us, so we need to concentrate on finding a way to pay them back, not arguing with each other over whose fault this is or who gets all the glory. Our only purpose is to destroy the Power Rangers. Agreed?"
"Oh, all right," said Psycho Pink.
"I'll work with her, but I won't like it," Psycho Yellow grumbled.
"I'm with Psycho Black," said Psycho Blue. "We can argue after we've destroyed the Rangers."
"I'll do anything to destroy the Red Ranger!" Psycho Red asserted.
"Fine. We're agreed," said Psycho Black. "Let's find this simudeck and get to work."
"Right!" the others agreed.
The Psychos hurried along the hallway until they found the open area that made up the stage for whatever scenery the simudeck might be used to create.
"I think this is it," said Psycho Yellow. "Let me check it out."
The Yellow Psycho Ranger transformed into a cloud of yellow lights and worked her way inside the computer. Moments later, she returned.
"This is it, all right," she announced. "I can use it to put us back into our true forms, but only for a little while. Remember what the Ranger said? We won't have more than a couple of hours before the ship runs out of power."
"That's all we'll need," said Psycho Blue. "It shouldn't take me that long to destroy the Blue Ranger!"
"Follow me, then," said Psycho Yellow. Reverting back to her light form, she shot inside the machine, followed closely by the other Psychos. The computer hummed loudly, and its lights blinked crazily. Suddenly, something exploded, giving off a cascade of sparks. A siren wailed, and then . . . five newly re-created Psycho Rangers appeared on the simudeck.
"It worked!" Psycho Red exclaimed.
"Just barely," replied Psycho Yellow. "That was cutting it close. I hope nothing goes wrong."
"Nothing is going to go wrong," said Psycho Blue, "and we're wasting time talking about it. We've got two hours to get rid of the Power Rangers, and we may never get another chance."
"Bettermake thise work, then,"Psycho Black replied.
Suddenly, Psycho Yellow looked towards the door opposite from the one they had come through.
"Someone's coming," she said.
"Probably that irritating Silver Ranger and the little robot," said Psycho Red. "The Silver Ranger has made fools of us too many times before. What do you say we make him our first victim?"
The other Psychos laughed and nodded in agreement.
At that moment, Zhane and Alpha rounded a corner and entered the room, carrying a couple of strange tools. Zhane, in the lead, was the first to catch sight of the Psychos.
"Whoa, boy!" he exclaimed, and jumped backwards in surprise, nearly knocking over his robotic companion. "I think we're a little late."
"Oh, no! You're right on time," said Psycho Blue. "As a matter of fact, your time has come!"
"I don't think so!" Zhane responded. He whipped out his Digimorpher, but before he had a chance to use it, the Psychos began to fire on him, forcing him to dive out of the way. He managed to get away safely, but Alpha, less agile than his human friend was hit full-force by the evil Rangers's lasers.
"Aieeee!" he shrieked as he was thrown against the wall with a metallic crash. He fell to the floor and lay still.
"Alpha!" cried Zhane, hurrying to his friend's side.
"Aw, what's the matter?" jeered Psycho Pink. "Did we break your toy? So sorry." She laughed with malicious glee.
Zhane ignored the Psycho's taunts. "Alpha, are you all right? Say something!"
"I don't feel so good," said Alpha weakly. "Ay, yi, yi . . ." His lights flickered out, and he faded into the mechanical equivalent of unconsciousness.
"You're going to pay for that!" Zhane shouted angrily at the Psychos. "Let's rocket!"
Light surrounded Zhane as he transformed into his magnificent alter-ego, the Silver Ranger. He tried to attack the Psychos, but even in his super-powered form, he didn't have nearly as much strength as the combined Psycho Rangers had. Before he could even get close to them, Psycho Pink produced her bow and fired a succession of pink energy arrows at him. He was thrown across the room, where he landed with a thump on the hard metal floor. Though not seriously injured, the fall was enough to make him realize that he didn't stand a chance against the Psychos if he was fighting alone, not in this kind of battle. It was time to retreat, to join his friends, and to plan.
"Surrender now," said Psycho Blue, "before I use you to test my axe before I go after your friend the Blue Ranger!"
"A Power Ranger never surrenders!" Zhane answered. "I'll come back for you, and next time, you won't be so lucky!"
So saying, he carefully picked up the fallen robot, and, half carrying him and half dragging him, took him out of the room and away from the Psychos.
"Ha! Did you see that?" Psycho Black gloated. "We beat the invincible Silver Ranger on his own turf!"
"I didn't see you doing any of the fighting," retorted Psycho Pink. "I was the one who shot him. All you did was stand there and watch."
"All right, all right!" said Psycho Black. "I thought we agreed we were going to do this together without arguing!"
"Yeah, well that doesn't mean you get to take all the credit for what I do," Psycho Pink muttered.
"Quiet, all of you!" snarled Psycho Red. "We don't have time for this! We only have a few precious minutes to complete our mission, so stop talking and get moving! I for one, do not intend to let any of you keep me from destroying the Red Ranger!"
"Yeah, yeah, we know, we know," said Psycho Yellow. "Is that all you ever think about?"
"I'm with him," said Psycho Blue. "Let's split up, hunt the Rangers down, and destroy them, before our time runs out."
Carlos and Ashley, chatting with each other as they made their way toward the gym, were surprised to see Zhane came running down the hall at full tilt, carrying the nonfunctional form of Alpha 6.
"Zhane, what happened?" asked Ashley. "Why are you morphed? What's wrong with Alpha?"
"You aren't going to believe this," Zhane panted, "but we just had a run-in with the Psycho Rangers! They tried to take me down, but they hit Alpha instead."
"Oh, no!" exclaimed Ashley.
"How could the Psychos be back?" Carlos asked.
"No time to explain that now!" Zhane replied. "We've got to find Andros, and fast! He's the only one here who knows how to fix Alpha, and if we don't fix him soon, his emergency battery will run down, and that will be the end of him!"
"Okay, don't panic," said Carlos. "DECA, call Andros and tell him to come to the workroom immediately."
The ship's computer, who usually had a reply for any remark addressed to her (as well as some that weren't) was strangely silent.
"DECA?" Carlos repeated. "DECA, is something wrong?"
"There!" said Psycho Yellow, snipping through the last of several colored wires. "That takes care of ship security! Can't have anyone knowing what we're up to."
"Coward," Psycho Pink muttered.
"Say that again," snapped Psycho Yellow, raising a fist threateningly.
"Come on! You know you don't have what it takes to beat the Power Rangers in a fair fight," said Psycho Pink. "You've got to sneak up on them and take them by surprise."
"You're just jealous because you didn't think of it first," Psycho Yellow replied, "and even if you had, you wouldn't have had the brains to carry it out."
"Just because I'm a REAL warrior instead of a techno-dweeb like you . . ."
"I'll show you what being a real warrior is all about!" answered Psycho Yellow furiously. "Just let me track down the Yellow Ranger, and you'll see a battle you'll never forget!"
"Seeing you get blown to pieces would be a memorable event," said Psycho Pink.
"Grrrr . . ." Psycho Yellow snarled in anger, but began scanning the area in search of the Power Rangers. Her electrically enhanced senses could hear a pin being dropped on the other side of a busy city, if she chose, so of course she could easily hear the sound of the Yellow Ranger conversing with Zhane and Carlos a few rooms away.
"Got her!" she said. "She's over that way, with the Black and Silver Rangers. Now all I've got to do is . . ."
Suddenly, the entire ship trembled, and the lights blinked erratically. The Pink and Yellow Psychos braced themselves against the wall until the tremor passed.
"What was that? Some kind of earthquake?" asked Psycho Pink.
"No, you psychotic excuse for a Psycho!" snarled Psycho Yellow. "We're in space! Either we ran into some kind of cosmic phenomenon, or . . ." She turned to the computer panel she had just been working on and pushed some buttons. "I was afraid of this. The transformation took more out of the ship than I thought it would. If we don't finish this and end the simudeck program soon, the whole thing will short out and we'll all be destroyed!"
"I'm not going to stand for that," said Psycho Pink. "You have your fun. I'm going to look for the Pink Ranger. She's going to be destroyed, but I don't want to go with her. Being destroyed the first time was bad enough!"
"Fine, then," said Psycho Yellow. "You won't get any more help from me!"
"Since when did you ever help me?" Psycho Pink retorted. Before her partner could reply, she turned and darted off down the hall on her own mission of destruction.
Meanwhile, in the engine room, Andros and his companions had also felt the disruption on their ship.
"What was that?" asked T.J.
"I don't know," Andros replied, but I don't think I like it. DECA, what's going on?"
Naturally, he received no answer, thanks to Psycho Yellow's handiwork.
"Something's really wrong," said Cassie. "We should find the others."
"Sounds like they're on their way to find us," T.J. said. "Listen! Someone's coming."
"Wait a second," said Andros. "Those aren't their voices. They sound like . . . hide!"
Andros quickly hid himself behind a stack of crates. The other two Rangers followed their leader's example. As they waited, trying to keep their breathing silent, they could overhear three ominously familiar voices.
"I know they're here somewhere," said Psycho Blue. "I heard the Blue Ranger's voice!"
"Is this like the time you swore you heard a communicator, and it turned out to be a computerized address book?" asked Psycho Red with a sneer.
"No, I heard it, too," said Psycho Black, "so stop acting so superior. This is supposed to be a team effort, you know."
"Who put you in charge?" Psycho Red shot back. "I'm the leader of this team, not you!"
"It seems to me you haven't been doing a very good job of it," said Psycho Black. "I haven't forgotten how you flew off the handle the last time we fought the Rangers. If it hadn't been for you and your obsessions, we would have won that fight!"
"We still would have won if you and Psycho Yellow hadn't interfered!" Psycho Red snapped.
"Both of you shut up!" said Psycho Blue. "The Blue Ranger is around here somewhere, but I'm not going to be able to find him with you two talking so much!"
"Who cares about the Blue Ranger?" asked Psycho Red. "It's the Red Ranger I'm interested in!"
"Well, I heard him here, too," said Psycho Black, "so be quiet!"
Andros listened to the voices incredulously. How could the Psychos have returned? He realized his heart was racing with fear and surprise, and he took a few cautious breaths, trying to quiet it, fearing that even such a tiny sound would be audible to the Psycho's superhuman senses.
*It's going to be okay,* he thought. *All we have to do is keep from being heard . . .*
Just then, his communicator blipped.
"Why isn't he answering?" Zhane asked in consternation.
"Um . . . maybe we shouldn't have done that," said Ashley. "I just remembered that the Psychos can track us down by listening for our communicators."
Zhane slapped his forehead in chagrin. "Oh, that's right! Stupid!"
"It doesn't matter, anyway," said Carlos. "With DECA shut down, we don't have any way of knowing where the Psychos are anyway. No matter how you look at it, we're sitting ducks."
"We aren't beaten yet," said Zhane. "We won before, and we can do it again."
"But last time it was only three Psychos we had to beat," said Ashley, "and they didn't have the element of surprise."
Suddenly, the ship started shaking again. All the lights went black, and an emergency siren wailed somewhere. A few of the keypads on the wall suddenly exploded as their circuitry shorted out, lighting the room just enough that the Rangers got a split-second view of their friends's shocked faces. Then, there was another second of darkness before the lights flickered reluctantly back on.
"We're still losing power," said Carlos. "We have to get rid of the Psychos or the ship might self-destruct with us still in it!"
"Maybe . . ." said Zhane thoughtfully, "but maybe not. What if we could get into the main engine room and shut everything down? Without a source of power, the Psychos should disappear, shouldn't they?"
"Well, it might work," Ashley admitted, "but we've got to keep the engine running so the ship can stay aloft. If we turn off all the power, we'll be pulled in by the Earth's gravity and crash!"
"Wait," said Carlos. "We're flying pretty high up right now. It would take a while for the ship to really start falling fast. All we would have to do is turn off the engine for a second and then turn it on again. It would be cutting it close, but we might just be able to pull it off."
"Are you sure?" asked Ashley nervously.
"It makes sense to me," said Zhane. "I'm for giving it a shot."
"Same here," Carlos agreed.
"Well, okay," said Ashley, "as long as you know what you're doing."
"We'd better not stand here all day talking," said Zhane. "There's no time to lose. Come on, let's get going before those Psychos track us down."
"Too late," a voice said. The Rangers turned to see Psycho Yellow standing in the doorway.
"Did you hear that?" Psycho Black asked his companions.
"Hear what?" asked Psycho Blue. He had been too involved with his argument with Psycho Red to pay any attention to his surroundings.
"One of those foolish Rangers is trying to use his communicator," said Psycho Black. "It was coming from in here!"
The Psychos entered the engine room. Andros, hidden insecurely behind a pile of cardboard boxes full of spare parts, held his breath and watched tensely.
"I don't see anything," Psycho Red grumbled.
"You idiot!" snapped Psycho Blue. "Did you think they would be standing around in plain view? They're hiding from us."
"If they were smart, they would surrender right now," said Psycho Black.
"I don't want them to surrender," Psycho Red replied. "I want a real fight. I want to make the Red Ranger beg for mercy so I can have the pleasure of denying it to him!" *Same old Psychos,* Andros thought to himself. *Still can't think of anything but winning battles. Good thing, too. If they could think rationally, we'd be in trouble.*
"I don't know," said Psycho Blue to Psycho Red. "The idea of surrender does have a certain appeal. It might be fun to toy with them a little before we destroy them. Give them some hope just to snatch it away again. It could be fun."
"Don't count your Rangers before they're captured," Psycho Black scolded. "We still haven't found them, and we're running out of time!"
"Didn't I tell you to stop bossing me around?" snarled Psycho Red. "I've had it up to here with being told what to do! You're worse than Astronema."
"Well, somebody has to keep you in line," Psycho Black retorted. "You don't know anything about leadership."
"Are you saying you want to be in charge here?" asked Psycho Red dangerously.
"I'm saying you're starting to get on my nerves with your obsessions and your overconfidence," Psycho Black said, beginning to lose his cool, "and I really think I WOULD be a better leader than you!"
"Oh, is that so? Well, if you want leadership so badly, why don't you fight me for it?"
"Um," said Psycho Blue, "aren't we forgetting something?"
"Shut up!" Psycho Red growled. "You stay out of this! Or are you turning against me, too?"
"No," said Psycho Blue. "It's just that . . ."
"Save it," Psycho Black interrupted. "I want to finish this right now!"
"Okay, have it your way," said Psycho Blue, "but if the Power Rangers get away while you're having this fight, don't blame me!"
"Ridiculous," Psycho Red scoffed. "The Power Rangers can't get out. We have the door blocked. If they want out, they'll have to come through us."
Suddenly, a tall pile of boxes and crates fell on the Psychos, courtesy of a small push from the Ranger who had been hiding behind them. The unfortunate Psycho Rangers were buried and half crushed by the heavy crates. Andros, deprived of his hiding place, leaped over the mess and dashed for the relative safety of the hallway.
"T.J, Cassie, run!" he called out.
T.J. obeyed the call, barging out from his hiding place and making a jump and tumble over the stacks of boxes and spilled bits of machinery. He scrambled to his feet and took off down the hall. However, Cassie didn't move as quickly. As she tried to jump over the fallen Psychos, Psycho Blue reached up and managed to grab her ankle. She fell down hard and tried frantically to get back up, but the mess that was trapping the Psychos hampered her movements as well. She tried to find some kind of hand or foot hold, but the objects on the floor got in her way. Finally, she managed to disentangle herself and make a half-crawl towards the door . . . only to find her way blocked by a row of black metal boots.
Psycho Yellow struck a superior pose as she stared at her heroic counterpart.
"Well, well," she said. "We meet again, Yellow Ranger. What a pleasant surprise."
"Uh-oh," said Carlos. "I think we have a small problem."
"Only a small problem?" repeated Psycho Yellow. "I'm insulted!"
"You can't be so tough," Zhane said. "We all know you don't have very much power. You can't. The simudeck isn't capable of generating enough to make you a threat."
"That isn't what it looked like to me," said Psycho Yellow. "As I recall, we beat you earlier today without even trying hard."
"Well, this time the situation is different," Zhane replied. "You're outnumbered."
"True," said Psycho Yellow, "but I'm only interested in one of you. You boys can leave. It's the Yellow Ranger I want." She paused to consider. "Of course, I could destroy you anyway. It might even be interesting. I would love to hear what Psycho Black would say when he found out I had gotten to his Ranger first, and you, Silver Ranger, are fair game for anyone who can catch you. This could be fun! Psycho Pink wouldn't dare say I'm not a real warrior if I destroyed all of you!"
"Did Psycho Pink really say that about you?" asked Ashley, with convincing disbelief. She winked subtly at her friends.
"Yeah," Psycho Yellow replied. "Can you believe it? The nerve of her!"
"Unbelievable," said Zhane.
"That's just not right," added Carlos sympathetically.
"Yeah, it bites," said Psycho Yellow. "I'm a better fighter than she'll ever be - faster, stronger, better reflexes. . ."
"Smarter, too," Zhane chimed in.
"You said it," the Psycho Ranger agreed. "When I think about the things she said, it just burns me up!"
The Rangers exchanged surreptitious smiles. Psycho Yellow was getting so wrapped up in her personal conflict that she had forgotten her earlier intentions. There just might be a way out of this after all!
"I'll bet you could beat her in a fight any day of the week," said Carlos.
"Forget Psycho Pink," Zhane added. "I'll bet Psycho Yellow could beat Psycho Red!"
"You think so?" asked Ashley.
"For sure," Zhane replied. "I mean, Psycho Yellow is obviously the best fighter in the bunch, and she has technical know-how they don't. Smart, strong, level-headed . . . she'd make a great leader, much better than that dumb old Psycho Red."
"You think so?" Psycho Yellow had listened to the conversation with considerable interest.
"Oh, definitely," answered Carlos. "How could you lose?"
"Hmm," said Psycho Yellow thoughtfully. "Me as leader? The idea does have a certain appeal . . ."
"Go for it!" Zhane encouraged. "Stand up for yourself! Don't let the others push you around!"
"Now that you mention it," said Psycho Yellow, "Psycho Red never was a good leader. He can't think of anyone but himself! And lately, Psycho Black has been getting really pushy. I'm starting to get fed up with them both."
"Why do the guys always get to be in charge?" Ashley chimed in. "The team would do much better if it was led by a woman."
"You know, you're right!" said Psycho Yellow. "I'm going to find Red and Black, and I'm going to show them what a real warrior is like!"
"That's the spirit!" agreed Zhane. "Go show 'em what you're made of!"
"Right!" Psycho Yellow replied. "I can't wait to get my hands on those two . . ."
The Yellow Psycho Ranger turned and hurried down the hall in search of her comrades. The Rangers breathed sighs of relief.
"That was cutting it close," said Carlos.
"Pretty quick thinking there, Ashley," Zhane said. "Maybe putting a woman in charge isn't a bad idea!"
"Who said it was?" Ashley replied. "Right now, though, I'm worried about Alpha. We've got to go find Andros, and fast."
"And we've got to go to the engine room to turn off the power," Carlos added.
"Well, last I heard, Andros was in the engine room, so we have to go there anyway,"said Zhane.
"Right," said Ashley. "Lets get moving, before we run into any more Psychos."
The three Rangers hurried down the hall, not knowing that what they would find at their destination was exactly what they wanted to avoid.
"Well, well, well," said Psycho Red in his unctuous voice, "what do we have here? It looks like a little lost Power Ranger. What do you think we should do with her?"
Cassie stared up helplessly at the three Psycho Rangers blocking the only avenue to freedom and safety.
"I think we ought to destroy her," said Psycho Blue.
"But this is the Pink Ranger!" Psycho Black objected. "She belongs to Psycho Pink!"
"I say, finders, keepers," answered Psycho Red. "She can have some other Ranger to destroy."
"Not mine!" said Psycho Blue. "Nobody touches the Blue Ranger but me!"
"She can have the silver one, then," answered Psycho Red. "Besides, she should have been keeping a closer eye on this one if she really wanted her. I say we just get rid of the Pink Ranger ourselves, before she gets into any trouble."
"What was that about the Pink Ranger?" a voice interrupted.
Everyone looked up to see Psycho Pink standing outside in the hallway.
"It's about time you showed up," said Psycho Blue. "Where have you been?"
"I had a little argument with Psycho Yellow," Psycho Pink replied. "What have you been doing . . . besides trying to steal what is rightfully mine?"
"Who's stealing?" asked Psycho Red. "I found her, fair and square!"
"She tripped over you, you mean," Psycho Black snickered. "That was right after your Red Ranger buried you in a pile of boxes."
"Is that what happened?" asked Psycho Pink incredulously. "How pathetic! And he calls himself a leader! I liked it better when Astronema was in charge. The Rangers never put one over on her."
"That's because she stayed in her room all day being waited on, while we did all the hard work," Psycho Blue muttered.
"Are you challenging me, too, now?" snarled Psycho Red to Psycho Pink. "Why has everyone turned against me? Well, I'll show you who's a leader . . . and I'll start by destroying the Pink Ranger!"
"Don't you dare!" screamed Psycho Pink in rage. She flew at Psycho Red, and the two clashed in a furious battle, sparks flying from their robotic suits as they struck each other. Psycho Black tried to stop the fight, only to be pitched across the room by the two angry combatants.
"Humph!" muttered Psycho Blue. "They are all pitiful! Well, I might as well take advantage of the situation."
With a quick hand gesture, he produced his weapon of choice, a cruel double-bladed axe. Before anyone saw what he was doing, he made his way toward Cassie, weapon raised, ready to strike a killing blow.
Andros and T.J. rounded a corner and nearly crashed into the other three Rangers.
"Whoa, am I glad to see you guys!" said Zhane. "I was afraid the Psychos got you!"
"I was starting to wonder about you, too," Andros replied. "We just barely got away from them ourselves."
"Hey," said Ashley suddenly. "Where's Cassie? I thought she was with you guys."
"She was," said Andros.
"I guess she isn't anymore," Zhane replied.
"The Psychos must have gotten her!" T.J. exclaimed. "We've got to go back for her!"
"We were heading that direction anyway," said Zhane. "Carlos has a plan to get rid of the Psychos. Come on, we'll explain on the way."
The reunited Rangers hurried to the rescue of their friend.
Cassie's attention was drawn away from the battle between the three raging Psychos by a peripheral glimpse of movement. She turned around to see Psycho Blue approaching her with deadly intent. She froze, wondering what to do.
Suddenly, there was a brilliant flash of light - golden light that hissed through the air and struck Psycho Blue's wrist, making him scream and drop his weapon. All eyes turned to see Psycho Yellow standing at the front of the room, casually holding her own villainous version of the Star Slinger.
"Don't anybody make a move," she said. "I'm taking over!"
"You and what army?" Psycho Red retorted.
"I don't need an army to beat you," she said. "Even our enemies admit that I'm a greater fighter than you, Psycho Red."
"The Power Rangers said that?" asked Psycho Black. "When was this?"
"Just a minute ago, when I was talking to them in the . . ." She trailed off as realization dawned on her. "Wait a second! Those rotten Rangers tricked me! I had them, and I let them get away!"
"You moron!" jeered Psycho Blue. "Some leader you'd make! Now, if I were in charge, you wouldn't see me doing anything like - ouch!"
The Blue Psycho Ranger's assertion was cut short. Cassie had taken advantage of the Psychos's distraction seize the weapon Psycho Blue had dropped. It wasn't exactly her preference in armament, but it was good enough. She aimed carefully and struck hard. Unaided by the boost of strength morphing would have given her, she wasn't able to inflict much real damage to the Psycho's armor-plated body, but she was still able to knock him off his feet. Quickly, Cassie scrambled to her feet. The other Psychos were still trying to figure out what had just happened, but it wouldn't take them long. She would have to act fast. Fortunately, there was help available at the touch of a button.
"Let's Rocket!" she shouted.
There was a bright flash of pink light as Cassie made her metamorphosis. The Psychos watched, unimpressed. They had seen the trick before, and they hadn't been very impressed the first time.
"Okay, Psychos," she said. "I've had about enough of you. Anybody think they could take me down now?"
"No problem," said Psycho Pink. "Remember, I know everything about you. I know how you move. I know how you fight. I can block every move you make before you even think about making it."
"We'll see about that," said Cassie. "Satellite Stunner!"
The Pink Ranger produced her weapon, at the same time wishing that she might have been equipped with something a little more formidable.
"Isn't that cute?" sneered Psycho Blue. "She's going to hurt us with her little toy! Ooh, I'm so scared!"
"Yeah, well you should be," said Cassie. Psycho Pink's bragging had sparked a train of thought, and now she was hatching a plan. "I have a weapon that's way stronger than anything you have."
"Ha! That's a good one," Psycho Red laughed.
"Better watch it," cautioned Cassie. She leveled her Satellite Stunner, aiming at the leader of the Psycho Rangers. Suddenly, she spun around and took a shot at Psycho Pink with her Astro Blaster instead. The Pink Psycho was caught totally off guard. There was an explosion of golden sparks as she was thrown against the wall.
"I thought you said you knew every move Pink Ranger would make before she made it," said Psycho Black to his fallen comrade.
"I thought I did!" Psycho Pink protested. "She's never done anything like that before!"
"Actually," said Cassie, "I learned that move yesterday from Zhane, long after you read my mind, so of course you don't know about it."
"Well, that's no problem," said Psycho Pink, scrambling to her feet. "I'll just read your mind again!"
"Not so fast!" interrupted a voice. The rest of the Power Rangers had arrived, morphed and ready for battle.
"What do you know?" said Psycho Red. "The gang's all here at last! Now we can finally finish this once and for all!"
"Sounds like a great idea," said Andros. "I've had about all I can stand of you Psychos."
"Well, you won't have to worry about that much longer," Psycho Red replied, "because in a few minutes, you'll be blown to oblivion!"
"I don't think so! Ready, Rangers?" Andros asked.
"Ready! Let's do it!"
Chaos ensued. Good Rangers and evil Rangers met in a furious battle, and sparks flew as powerful weapons struck enchanted armor or clashed with each other with a sound of ringing metal. The Psychos were extremely strong and skilled, but the Rangers refused to give up. They were fighting for their lives in their own sanctuary, and there was nowhere to which they could escape, even if they wanted to. The Psychos realized this, and they pressed their advantage.
"This isn't going well," said T.J., his side smarting from where he had received a blow from Psycho Blue's axe.
"You can say that again," Ashley replied, herself feeling rather unsteady after taking a few direct hits from Psycho Yellow's laser slinger.
"Keep it together, gang," Andros encouraged. "We're not beaten yet. Assemble the QuadroBlaster!"
The Rangers rallied together and combined their weapons. Andros revved his Spiral Saber into booster mode. On a word of command from their leader, the team fired two twin bursts of power and sent them hurtling at their adversaries. There was a loud crackling sound and a flash of light, as the Psychos were enveloped by burning energy.
It took a second for the Rangers to realize that something was wrong. Instead of striking the Psychos and destroying them, the laser blasts hadn't even touched the evil Rangers. The energy hovered in a cloud of colored lightning bolts around the Psychos, who stood still and calm in the eye of the storm.
"What happened? What are they doing?" asked Zhane.
"I think . . . I think they're using the same strategy we used to destroy them," Andros said incredulously. "They've absorbed our power to use against us!"
"That's right, Ranger!" crowed Psycho Red. "We can learn new tricks, too! Psycho Rangers, fire!"
"Get out of the way!" Andros shouted.
The Rangers scrambled to do as they were told, but it was too late. Their own laser blast, augmented by the strength of the Psychos, poured out on them. They cried out in pain as they felt the laser beams burning through their suits, and then . . .
The Psycho Rangers stared in amazement. For a moment, they couldn't quite believe what they were seeing: six black scorch marks on the floor, a few charred-looking weapons. The Rangers were gone.
"Can it really be true?" asked Psycho Black. "Are they really destroyed?"
"Shh!" Psycho Yellow hissed. "Listen!"
The Psychos listened. They heard . . . silence. Dead silence.
"We did it!" cried Psycho Blue. "We finally defeated the Power Rangers!"
Any celebrating was cut short as the ship began to tremble again. The lights blacked out, and the steady light of the engine suddenly began to flicker ominously.
"I think we've overdone it a little," said Psycho Yellow. "This ship's going to explode in a few minutes if we don't change back!"
"You heard her! Get moving!" Psycho Red ordered.
The Psycho Rangers hurried down the hallway as fast as their metal-booted feet could carry them. They reached they simudeck room, where Psycho Yellow hurriedly programmed the computer while the rest of the team waited impatiently.
"All right!" she called. "Five seconds to activation!" She made a dash for the simudeck and rejoined the rest of the team just as the program took effect. As the Psychos reverted to ghost state, the ship ceased its trembling and the lights came back on.
"We made it!" said Psycho Pink.
"At last! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! At last, I've finally destroyed the Red Ranger!" Psycho Red laughed insanely. "My destiny is fulfilled!"
"Um, I have a question," said Psycho Black. "Uh . . . what exactly are we supposed to do now?"
"What?" asked Psycho Red.
"What do we do now?" Psycho Black repeated insistently. "Our whole reason for existing is to destroy Power Rangers. What do we do now that they're gone?"
"Um . . ." For once, Psycho Red was at a loss for words.
"We don't do anything!" cried Psycho Yellow. "We're ghosts now! No one will ever know what we did! We'll never get the glory we deserve! No one can even see or hear us! WE WENT THROUGH ALL THAT FOR NOTHING!"
"No!" exclaimed Psycho Blue. "This can't be! I've gone through too much for it to end like this!"
"But what can we do about it?" asked Psycho Black. "We're doomed! We're stuck like this, with no life and no purpose, for all time!"
The Psycho Rangers thought this over. It was horrible, terrifying. It was also undeniably true.
Zhane, leaning casually against the simudeck computer, watched the Psychos with considerable amusement. Faced with an eternity of pointless non-existence, they were angrily cursing fate, the Rangers, and each other, unaware of the way things really stood. In truth, they had never left the simudeck, thanks to Zhane and Alpha's programming of the computer. The entire adventure had been, in truth, nothing more than an illusion created by the twisted mind of the Silver Ranger and brought into being by his robotic helper's technical know-how. Alpha, who didn't have Zhane's sneaky sense of humor, didn't think it was quite so funny.
"Are you sure that was really a good idea?" he asked. "That last bit was so real, it almost fooled mr!"
"I just thought it would be fun to let them find out what it would be like to get what they wanted," Zhane replied. He laughed. "They don't seem to like it very much! Maybe they'll think twice about bothering us again."
"Maybe," Alpha admitted reluctantly. "But don't you think this has gone on long enough?"
"Nah. Let 'em suffer a little while. It'll be good for them," said Zhane.
"Have it your way," Alpha replied. "I've got other things to do today. Don't get into trouble."
Zhane looked offended. "I never get into trouble! Well, except that time where I let everybody think I was dying, and the time I went on that date with Astronema, and . . ."
"How you and Andros became friends, I'll never know," said Alpha. "Bye, Zhane. Have fun." Alpha turned and clanked out of the room.
A few moments later, Zhane's communicator blipped, and his best friend's voice came through.
"Hey, Zhane," said Andros. "I just got done working in the engine room, but I couldn't find any problems."
"It's okay," Zhane replied. "Alpha and I took care of it."
"Really? What was it?"
Zhane smiled. "Oh, just something gone psycho with the simudeck."
"Simudeck?" Andros repeated. "What has the simudeck got to do with anything?"
"I'll tell you about it later."
"Oh. Well, anyway, do you want to come to lunch with us?" asked Andros. "The others said something about wanting to 'do Chinese,' whatever that means."
"Nah. Thanks anyway," said Zhane. "I'm having fun here. Catch you guys later, okay?"
"Okay. See ya, Zhane."
Zhane turned back to the Psychos, who were still ranting and raving at the universe in general, and laughed.
"They should put good stuff like this on T.V." he said. Still
smiling, he settled himself
more comfortably against the computer and sat back to watch what the
Psychos would do next.