Author's Note: This is part one in a new series. (Hopefully) It takes place long before the show, so bear with me as I just have some fun writing this. :) Also, I'm not that great with politics, so I'm trying to make them as complex as I can believe, while still keep them simple enough to keep you awake. Cameos by no one, and there are some week-old Fritos under the couch.
Over ten-thousand years ago...
...Beyond known Space
The ringing out of powerful blades clashing together drove the unique forest denizens away. Strange quadrupeds scurried about the ground, seeking refuge in a bush or underground, while the painful harmonics sent the avian life into the trees. The smaller animals watched carefully as the two larger ones fought, mesmerized by the gleaming weapons.
The first fighter, a broad but elderly man, held his sword upright before him. He blocked the attack, but he could feel the handle of his weapon rattle within his ever-loosening grasp. The other had gotten considerably stronger, and he had only gotten considerably older.
He refitted his hand around the handle in time to bring his blade down to deflect yet another possible defeat. He could feel the sweat drip down his forehead, and he winced once the thick droplets set into his eye. The stinging and the impaired vision caused him to hesitate, and cost him a victory.
He felt the cold edge of steel kiss his neck. Out of the corner of his eye, he traced the blade down until he saw his opponents determined face. There was a certain relief knowing he would survive the day, but in the same way it caused an ache he could not explain. Nevertheless, he sighed of relief once the razor-tipped blade was removed.
"You have learned much in the past few days," he said while catching his breath. He held his own blade before him, sending it away to an unknown place in a flash of purple light. "I can teach you no more, I'm sad to say. It has given me immense pride to watch your skills grow under my watch, and it makes me even more proud to give you this."
The old man reached into a pouch on the belt that kept his elaborate purple robes closed, and with crooked fingers, withdrew a small golden coin with the slightest hint of blue. "You have proven yourself worthy of this power. Kneel before me, my pupil."
The young man took a knee and lowered his head. The thin but lengthy brown braid that stemmed from the back of his otherwise bald scalp draped over his neck, balancing itself on the wrinkles of his robes.
"Do you vow to serve Order? To protect those others may oppress? Do you agree to give your life for the beliefs and views of the Order?"
"Yes," the young man replied.
"Then rise, Zordon, Knight of the Order." The old man smiled as his pupil rose to his feet with a newfound pride in his eyes. "We should return to the city," the old man suggested as he handed the coin over to his pupil's eager hand. "We have been in these woods for hours."
The pair began to walk as Zordon announced his undying gratitude. "I must thank you again, Master, for teaching me what you have. I recall I was not the best of students in the early days of my training."
The master chuckled softly. "Normally I wouldn't have even taken a young man like you were under my wing. But I owed your father for saving my life. He is an incredible scientist, and only in these recent months have I seen much of him within you. There are great things in your future."
"Which brings me to a request," the young Zordon carefully approached. "Eltare has been a wonderful home to me, but on the same token I find the challenges absent. There is so much I wish to do to help others, but there is rarely anyone here to help."
"I am well aware of your boredom, Zordon."
"Then why must I remain here, master? I can not make a life simply being a Knight of the Order, no one can. I need direction and purpose."
"Do not seek adventure, Zordon. Adventure finds you."
"I do not seek adventure, master," Zordon corrected. "I seek activity. I wish to put my talents to use, and I'm afraid I can not do that here. Perhaps if I were to leave Eltare. I've heard the Order is requesting someone begin chronicling other lands. Perhaps I might apply for that position."
"Absolutely not," the master refused. "While your skills have been honed, you have never set foot off of the prime continent, let alone the planet. To do what you wish unsupervised would be insane."
Zordon stopped, and turned to the master. "Then come with me, master. The Order has many members, and can do without two of them for a short while. Surely you can spare some time now that I no longer require your teachings."
The master sighed. "You are not about to let the matter drop, are you?" Zordon shook his head mischievously. "Very well," he sighed. "When we return to the city we shall inform your father of your leave. That is, as soon as you decide where it is you wish to visit."
Zordon could barely contain his excitement. "Thank you, master," he smiled.
"And another matter," the old man answered. "You are no longer my student. It is no longer necessary to appoint me any superiority. Please, call me Kalon."
"Very well, Kal---" Zordon's steps stopped short as he lifted an ear to the wind. "---There is something happening. There is someone using the Grid unwisely."
Kalon concentrated, but shook his head. "I don't sense anything."
Zordon unsheathed his sword for the second time that morning, and retrieved the coin just granted to him. "I do." He locked the coin into a compartment on the side of the hilt, causing the blade to become consumed by a brilliant blue light. "Something is crying out," Zordon said, sneaking between two trees and eventually disappearing into the woods. "I must try to help it."
* * * * * * *
The young man brushed a long lock of silver hair from his eyes as he scanned along the forest floor. His target had fled from sight, but was still very close. He could sense it, he could feel it trembling somewhere. He could hear its heartbeat increase faster, and faster.
"Yes," he hissed, locating a hollowed out tree stump. "Come out and meet your destroyer." He kicked the bottom of the stump, sending a panicked fuzzy six-legged creature flailing into the air. He brought his sword about, the light from it leaving a dark red arc in its path. Then, he met with interference.
Another blade, one of blue light, caught his own. There were the eyes of his unofficial rival, Zordon, staring back at him with a lack of tolerance. Once the small prey fled the scene, the newly inducted Knight lowered his blade, but remained prepared for a battle.
"Zedd," Zordon sneered. "This land is for training only. You know that." The other young man rolled his eyes in response. It was then that Zordon took note of the weapon Zedd had elected to use during his hunt. "You are not a member of the Order," he reminded. "How did you obtain that blade?"
"It was my master's." Zedd replied sourly.
"Your master is dead." Zordon stated.
"And no longer has use for it."
"To handle the blade of another, especially one that had once belonged to a man of your master's strengths, without the proper training, is incredibly dangerous. You must relinquish it, immediately." Zordon carefully demanded.
"Listen to him, Zedd." Kalon stepped from a concealed path, hands folded before him. "Zordon speaks the truth. To hold Onaeis' own blade will only cause great pain for you, and those around you."
Zedd pointed the blade to Kalon's throat, but with a good deal of distance between them. "I am not your student, Kalon. And there is no set law against the wielding of someone's blade after they have left this realm." A sadistic smile crossed his lips. "But if you would like to establish a quarrel over it..."
"We have many important matters to attend to today," Kalon said. "You are not one of them." He turned to his formal pupil. "We had best return to the city as soon as possible if we are to make preparations for our departure. Let's be off."
Zordon gave Zedd one parting look before crawling through the trees onto the main path. "We can not leave him with that blade, Kalon. If he holds it too long, darkness will consume his heart."
"Perhaps darkness already has, Zordon." Kalon supplied. "Now come. We've had too many distractions for my liking, today."
* * * * * * *
An evening of brisk, refreshing weather set upon the land, as was frequent on Planet Eltare. With a bundle of items collected into a moderately sized duffel bag thrown over his shoulder, Zordon, now in simpler, plainer robes, climbed the large flat stones that formed an almost perfectly horizontal stairway to Kalon's home.
He stopped halfway, pulling his sword from the sheath on his back once more. The blade had always called to him, but now it was as if Zordon shared a spiritual connection with the simple weapon.
He ran his fingers over the coin set into the side of the hilt, feeling the embossed design under their tips. The animal sculpted onto the coin, the Ateon, was long a symbol of intelligence as well as hope. Those were the traits Kalon found within Zordon, otherwise the old master would have taken the time to choose a more suiting creature.
He returned his sword to its place, and effortlessly continued the mild ascension to his former master's door. Zordon took in each minor feature of the modern structure, finding it impressive that his world had been able to use both magic and science in tandem. Most other planets had chosen one or the other, making Eltare truly unique in the universe.
After Zordon reached the door, he pressed a thumb against a plastic plate, which glowed red under his touch. At the computer's audible prompting he announced, "Kalon, it's me." He released his thumb, but got no response. He tried again. "Kalon, its Zordon." Again, there was a lack of acknowledgement. "Computer, override door mechanism, authorization Zordon One."
The magnetically sealed door locks hissed as they released themselves. Cautiously, Zordon slipped through the entrance. He looked to the opposite side of the large main room, spying his master lying limply upon a plush couch.
"Kalon?" Zordon asked as he approached. "Kalon, are you all right?"
The old man breathed his words slowly. "I am being called away, Zordon."
The former student knelt by the old master's side. "By the Order?"
"No," Kalon seemed to smile. "By a power beyond even their reach. I seem to have evaded my age for some time, and now the years of taking my own body for granted are taking their toll upon me. I will not be able to accompany you on your voyage." He reached into his robe, withdrawing a thin card of translucent pink plastic. "This is my property card. It has a listing of everything I own on it." He held it out before Zordon. "I've signed it over to you, Zordon. What was mine, is now yours."
Kalon nodded over to a wall-mounted rack, on which his preferred weapon was set upon. "Everything from my home, to my blade. I want you to take it with you on your journey. I have a feeling you will need the extra protection," he laughed softly.
Zordon eyed the blade for a moment. It was a very appealing weapon. The pure white handle had an extravagant sculpture of a helmeted tiger at the end, and the guarded blade had the ability to double in length. Finally, he shook his head and decided, "I can't take anything of yours--"
"You must," Kalon insisted. "I have already transferred everything to your name. If you refuse, all my belongings, all my work will be given to the community block. I have too much research to go unnoticed." Seeing Zordon's resisting eyes, Kalon begged, "Please."
Zordon's will broke, and he took the card. "Very well. I will do as you ask."
"Thank you." Kalon released a breath and turned his eyes towards the ceiling. "Now go, before you miss your transport."
"I can't leave you like this." Zordon argued.
"If you do not leave now, you never will. You were right, Zordon. There is nothing for you here. The only way for you to perfect your skills is to begin using them in situations where they apply, and to learn from your mistakes." The old master closed his eyes. "You must go, Zordon. Leave me rest."
Zordon stood and walked to the wall where he would retrieve Kalon's blade. "I will make you proud, Kalon. I promise."
As the former student left the house, Kalon began to think his last thoughts. "You already have, Zordon. You already have."
* * * * * * *
"Transport six now departing for Enrada," Zordon heard through one of the passenger compartment's many small speakers. Indeed he had heard the words, but he did not listen. For one reason, he had already boarded the transport, taking a seat on one of two extended benches. The other reason was that his mind continued to drift back to his thoughts of Kalon, who had most likely passed on by this time.
He held the top end of a bundle in both hands, the bottom balancing steadily on the rubbery floor of the transport. He guarded it subtly, but carefully, as last minute passengers began to file in through the doors.
An old woman cried out, and Zordon could see a man of little honor who viciously laid claim to her purse. The man, just a bit older than Zordon himself, ran for the opposite end of the transport towards the exit. Towards Zordon.
The thief made good time, but not good enough to avoid Zordon's reflexes. Letting his bundle fall onto the floor, Zordon reached out with his right hand, pulling the passing man back to him by his hair. Zordon wrapped his leg around the thief's, and using his free left hand to guard his own face he threw himself to the floor, taking the thief with him.
"Somehow," Zordon said, climbing to his feet and rolling the thief onto his back, "That bag does not exactly strike me as something you would fancy. Perhaps it would be best if you returned it. And that includes the fourteen credits you hid under the cuff of your sleeve." Zordon reached out for the purse and threw it back to a younger woman who had been travelling with the older one. He then reached for his own bundle when a gloved hand snatched his wrist.
"We don't allow violence on our transports," the security guard announced grimly. "From any source, regardless of their reasonings. I must ask you to deboard."
Zordon did not want to leave the transport, and attempted to explain the events. "But--"
"I've asked you," the guard said, placing a hand on his blaster. "Do not make me tell you. Please, exit the transport to your left."
Zordon gathered his bundle and did what was asked of him. Shortly after he stepped out onto the pristine white floors of the boarding gate, so did the thief, who was more physically persuaded to exit than Zordon. Kalon's former pupil took a look at the transport, as the shuttle's engines grew from warm to an intense heat. The motor's revved for a moment, and soon it launched itself down a dark corridor where it would find an acceleration gateway that would propel it to a new world in the shortest increment of time possible.
"You cost me my ride," the thief spat while dusting himself off.
Zordon slowly turned his head over his shoulder, not pleased with the situation, or his present company. "Then perhaps you should have left the old woman in peace, and been grateful for what you have."
"I'll have your head," the thief decided, drawing an eight-inch dagger. "I quarrel."
Zordon stuck his hand inside one end of the bundle. "I'm afraid I didn't hear you too clearly." He slowly pulled the handle of his blade out of the bundle he had been treasuring. "Would you care to repeat that?"
The thief was unaffected. "I said, I quarrel!"
Zordon grew a thin smile. "Good." Within a second's time, he had the bundle torn open. In one hand was his prize blade of brilliant blue, with Kalon's compacted gleaming white blade in the other. "That's what I thought you had said." He readied a stance. "When you are ready..." Zordon invited.
The thief stepped back. "Our weapons are not of equal caliber."
"Whoever said they had to be?" Zordon asked, inching closer to the slowly escaping opponent. "You have called this quarrel, I have accepted. A formal challenge has been established. You must engage in combat." He tipped his head. "Unless---"
"Unless what?" The thief said eagerly.
"Oh," Zordon frowned. "I don't seem to recall." The young Knight struck out with his blade, which the thief barely evaded. Knowing the thief would sneak around behind him, Zordon crouched and spun, kicking his opponent's knee out of place. He placed the tip of his blade against the thief's throat. "Do you yield?"
Both combatants turned their eyes across the sunken transport track, where half a squadron of armed guards stood with firearms ready. Zordon lifted his ear to an approaching rumble as a pair of guards attempted to flank them by crossing two distant bridges that eliminated the gap between parties.
A transport roared past, softly screeching its presence to all in attendance. Once it had passed, the guards found both Zordon and the thief gone. Dumfounded, the squadron leader sent commands to his followers.
"Send a communication to transport nine and tell them they have two stowaways. Give them the best descriptions possible. The rest of you, get some of the transport chasers out here and follow to where ever that shuttle went. I want those two found!"
Zordon waited for the scene to silence before he pushed the simple grate away. He pulled himself out of the small compartment, and lent a hand to the thief beneath him.
"Why'd you save me?" The thief asked the obvious question.
Zordon thought for a moment. "Peace is not always good, especially when such a determined police force is employed. We had a formal quarrel that should not have been interrupted." He began to exit after checking the immediate area for any guards. "Perhaps we will continue it someday."
With those words, Zordon rebundled his swords and headed off for a new direction. Curious, he stopped at a nearby interface terminal, sliding Kalon's property card into the input drive. As he scrolled down the list of items, Zordon found that his hunch had paid off.
New excitement crawled through his veins as he removed the property card and slipped it back into his role. It would take him longer than expected, but Zordon would find his way off of Eltare, to a world where he could be of use to someone.
* * * * * * *
It loomed overhead like gunmetal Hawkbat, technology and an independent personality melded together into a perfect symmetry. The underbelly was slit open repeatedly, forming a grill that would leak a magnificent fuchsia light once the accelerators came online. It's shadow would send running anyone who was unaware that it was in actuality a simple cruiser.
"That thing's been offline for ten years, or so," the greasy mechanic said, scratching his head. "I can't even tell you if it's going to work, or what."
"It will work," Zordon assured, pulling a mobile stairwell near the edge of one wing. He climbed the steep steps and carefully set foot upon the thick wing. "The Gliding Shadow," he said, reading the title written just below the streamlined cockpit. "Kalon always did have a talent for labeling things," he recalled.
Zordon stomped down on a marked portion of the hull, breaking a seal of air around the cockpit's frame. The frame lifted itself, granting access to one leather chair and a console crowded with controls and gauges of various sizes. Zordon needed no invitation to slip into the chair and begin flipping switches.
"I told you it would work," Zordon called down to the mechanic as the ship roared to life. "Has anyone kept the computer's star charts updated as of late?"
"Where are you headed?" The mechanic asked over the engines.
The mechanic thought for a minute, quietly repeating the name to himself in hopes of jogging his own memory. "Enrada, Enrada. We get updates for a lot of places, but not for Enrada. I don't expect much has changed there in the last several years."
"Good." Zordon flipped a few more switches and plotted a quick course on a small navigational computer. "You might want to step out of the way and open the hangar doors. Of course, that decision is entirely up to you."
The mechanic nodded, and hustled to the controls that would open the far wall of the hangar. He removed the docking clamps, allowing the ship to float freely in mid air for a few moments. "You're good to go," he waved to the pilot.
Zordon nodded as he ordered the cockpit closed. One last check of his oxygen and fuel levels proved he had everything he would need on his journey. With that, he pushed forward on the control yolk and sent the Gliding Shadow out of the hangar and into the clear blue skies of Eltare.
* * * * * * *
The Gliding Shadow left the final acceleration gate, slowly coasting until it returned to its intended maximum speed. Suddenly, something rocked the hull. The passenger within the cockpit would have been tossed about unmercifully had it not been for the sturdy straps that anchored him into the seat.
The simple red bulb indicating exterior damage lit the cockpit. "Wonderful," Zordon groaned. "There must have been a free-floating asteroid just outside of the gate." He retrieved a diagram of the ship through a small visual interface. "And it hit the fuel reserves," he diagnosed from the display's reaction. "I had better find a place to set down."
He typed at a small keypad, bringing up a star chart of the extended area. There was one planet fairly close, and the shuttle ports too far off in the distance provided no options at all to the young Knight. As he headed for the red planet, he tried to recall where he had heard its name.
* * * * * * *
Removing the portions of his attire that might make him stand out in a crowd, Zordon left himself in a white collared shirt and a loose-fitting pair of blue pants. He jumped down from the cockpit of the Gliding Shadow, his feet shifting slightly in the sandy surface of the Planet Onyx. As he slipped both swords and their sheaths over his upper frame Zordon thought about the quickest method of finding a way to repair his damaged craft.
"No better place to collect information that the local watering hole," he deduced. Fortunate for him, the Shadow was touched down mere meters from the limits of Ravyn, Onyx's primary town.
"Excuse me," He asked of a passer-by politely, but gruffly as to not sound easily intimidated. The last thing he desired at the moment was a confrontation. "Might you tell me where a man would find a decent drink?" Zordon knew he could have asked for a local machinesmith, but being stuck in a cockpit for hours would make any man crave some social interaction that only a tavern could provide.
The old man pointed down the road, and Zordon thanked him with only a nod. As he strolled, the young Knight took notice of many things. The town was obviously one of little science, as many of the buildings were constructed of wood. He could see two-wheeled vehicles that resembled rusty metal fish hitched to posts during their owners' absence, and several patrons of questionable intentions that lined quite a few storefronts.
It didn't take Zordon long to reach the town's pub. It seemed fairly new, at least the wood did, but it appeared to be going downhill in status if the quality of customers were any indication.
He stepped through the entrance, pushing the small wooden doors out of his way. The establishment did not seem as bad as he had expected. Most of the occupants seemed content, with the exception of a rowdy collection in the corner. Zordon paid them no mind, since there was almost always such a group in almost every bar.
Zordon stepped to the counter and swung himself onto a stool. He felt himself under careful watch by his neighbors for just a moment, until the overweight and seemingly unwashed bartender approached him for his order. The young Knight credited the appearance of the older man to the humidity of the planet.
"Whaddya 'ave?" The bartender barely asked.
"Darian Ale," Zordon said without thinking. It wasn't long before a thick mug filled with unusually red liquor was placed before him on the counter. When he prepared to take a sip, a thin bearded man next to him looked on carefully. "Can I help you?" Zordon asked.
The bearded man blinked. "You can actually drink that stuff? Knocks most guys out."
"I'm not most men," Zordon informed. To prove himself, he took a small sip, then consumed most of the mug in a series of rapid swallows. "As you can see."
The bearded man laughed once. "Heh. You ain't from 'round here, are ya?"
"No, I'm not." Zordon set the mug on the counter and turned his full attention to the man. "So perhaps you can help me. I need a man who can repair some simple hull damage, or at the very least supply me with some fuel."
"Fuel?" The bearded man thought. "Well that would be---"
The conversation stopped at the sound of glass crashing onto the floor. Zordon turned his head instinctively to the corner, where the rowdy group had begun harassing a young woman. The girl was short Zordon's age by only a year or two, which made her awfully young to have a career that required her to wear a leather corset.
The bearded man put a hand before a rising Zordon. "Hey kid, ya don't wanna get involved wit' them. They just cause problems for everyone 'round here."
Zordon tried to listen to the man, but blocked his words out when the group's leader began hiking up the ankle-length black skirt that gave the raven-haired girl a minute amount of dignity. He saw her attempt to push the man from her, but she was not strong enough. Zordon knew she needed help, and he knew he was the only one willing to grant it to her.
"Leave her alone!" Zordon boomed in a deep voice that silenced the room. The shock startled the rowdy group, giving the girl an opportunity to seek safer distance. "The young lady doesn't seem interested in what you have to offer."
The leader stood from the table, as did his partners. "Well, look what we got here, boys. We've got us a big ol' brave man." He reached for his hip. "So tell me, brave man. Can those fancy swords of yours stop," he paused. "Oh, I don't know -- a blaster?"
Before the man's words were finished, Zordon had pulled his glowing blue blade. He was more than ready to deflect the oncoming shot from the scraggly man's carbon blaster. The lightning quick stream of orange energy was not quick enough. With a twist of his wrist, Zordon's blade knocked the blast off course, and into the chest of the man's friend.
"Yes." Zordon answered, pulling his second blade.
"Hey!" One of two standing friends shrieked. "The guy shot Corban!"
"Actually," Zordon corrected and gestured to the leader, "He shot him."
"Either way, you're still dead!"
Zordon rolled his eyes. "There is an overwhelming abundance of challenges today," he sighed. "But if we must, we must." He tumbled into a barrel roll and rose close enough to the leader to slice the front half of his blaster away.
Another came from behind Zordon and attempted to restrain the Knight, only to have the heel of Zordon's boot rise backward into a rather sensitive spot of the male anatomy. The force of the kick would leave that particular roughian out of the fight for some time, leaving a tolerable two-on-one conflict.
Problems still surfaced however, for Zordon found himself under attack. What he could sense after a powerful kick in his stomach was that he was being pulled by his thin tail, and soon had his head submerged in a container of unsavory alcohol, the remnants of beverages never fully consumed. He struggled at first, but his movements died quickly.
The leader lifted his head out of the water while the other member displayed a flame-emitting tool. "Hey, I got an idea!" He said. "Let's watch this Sandslug burn!"
Life returned to Zordon, and air exited his lungs along with a hardy mouthful of liquor. The spray of alcohol ran through the small flame, sending a large fireball into the man's face. There wasn't much else that would need to be done to keep him from interfering.
The surprise generated by the fireball was all Zordon needed to turn on the leader. With a flurry of punches and kicks, he easily gained the upperhand once more. The battle had ended as quickly as it had began, only now the tavern was empty with the exception of the girl and the bartender.
Zordon collected his blades as he heard the girl frantically apologizing to the older man's cries of anger. Why would she be expected to apologize, Zordon thought. Perhaps fate had played a hand in his arrival to this planet.
"I'm sorry," the girl cried. "I truly am!"
"I've told you before, girl, I need the customers! What did you think you were---"
Zordon interjected. "You do not need that specific brand of customer," he said while waving a blade to the three unconscious roughians. He slipped the swords into their sheathes and continued. "And I would expect you to be more protective of your help. Especially when your help is too fair for the environment."
"It ain't like she'll be workin' 'ere all her life!" The bartender countered. "In two years' time she goes over to Amiud's Pleasure House."
Zordon eyed the young woman, who had taken the liberty to stand closer to him. "Why do you work for this man?" He asked, not getting the expected answer.
"He's my father," the girl replied.
"Your father?" The girl nodded in answer. "May I kill him?" He asked outrageously. "Sir," he said to the bartender, "Your daughter should mean much more to you than a source of income. No proper father would exploit his daughter as a sight to draw in a crowd that you manage to."
"Excuse him, father," the girl meekly pleaded. "He is just upset---"
"Wait till you get home!" The father said. "I'll make this young man happy! You'll be so bruised that you ain't gonna show up 'ere for a month!" He began to step out from behind the bar to claim his daughter. "Now c'mon, I'm takin' you back home!"
Zordon pulled his blade and pointed it at the corpulent man. "I can't let that happen, sir."
The man fumed. "Fine. We'll 'ave it your way." He turned to his daughter. "You're fired! And you're disowned! Don't even come lookin' for your things 'cause they'll all be incinerated by the time you get home!"
The girl began to beg. "Father, please!"
"Why do you defend him?" Zordon wondered. "He doesn't care for you, can't you see that?"
The girl watched as the father turned her back on her, walking directly to a back room. She wiped tears away from her eyes and nodded. "I do now." She turned her head up to Zordon. "But what do I do? I can't find anything better, not on Onyx."
"I'll help you," Zordon said, extending a hand. "I promise." He smiled when she placed her palm in his, and led her out of the tavern for the final time. "In all of that arguing, I don't believe I ever caught your name."
"Saria," she announced, stepping out into the sunshine. "And you?"
"Are you really a member of the Order?" Saria asked. "You're a little young to be a Knight." She saw Zordon chuckle at her words. "What? What'd I say?"
"Nothing. I only just gained my title yesterday. I'm still very new at it." Zordon stopped short as he stepped out onto the sandy road. "Perhaps I should have accounted for this problem before I whisked you away from your lifestyle."
"What's that?" Saria curiously asked.
"At the moment my craft needs repairs. Some minor welding and some fuel."
A thought entered Saria's mind. "How discrete can you be?"
"Much more than I was in the tavern." Zordon grinned. "Why?"
"My father's transport is located near here. He has an emergency repair package. We could easily fix the damage and get enough fuel to reach the nearest space port. Not too many people around here take standard credits anyway."
"Although I am not too fond of your father, I would not want to leave him without those supplies. He may very well need them," Zordon fairly spoke.
Saria was quick to counter. "He just had the entire ship overhauled. There's not one thing wrong with it. Let's go. If we move quickly we can get what we need and be off this dreaded planet within the hour."
Before Zordon could agree, even though the expression on his face said that he did, Saria grabbed him by the wrist and began to pull him towards the area she had mentioned. He would have verbally disputed, but each time he tried Saria flashed an innocent smile at him that made Zordon forget his own thoughts.
The day became a bit brighter for the young Knight.
* * * * * * *
Zordon and Saria paced the blue-gray halls of the spaceport. It wasn't much of a scene for the Eltarean, but the young former barmaid seemed overwhelmed by just how far technology had reached, and how long it had evaded Onyx. Finally, her steps became so fast that Zordon had to reach out for her to keep her in step.
"Calm down," he smiled. "We've got all day to explore the station."
Saria was practically jumping. "What do we do first?"
"First?" Zordon took in Saria's attire and was quick with a decision. "First, we get you some decent clothes. I'm sure I have enough credits to spare for a handful of outfits."
Saria waved her hands before her new friend. "No, you don't have to do that." A simple look from her savior broke her. "Okay, so you do, but I don't have to gush profusely about it." She was silent for a moment before continuing. "Thank you!" She squealed, wrapping her arms around Zordon's neck.
Zordon did not do much to return or continue the gesture, in fact he did his best to free himself from her grasp. "You're quite welcome. After all, I did cost you most of your personal belongings."
Saria brushed off the thought. "Yeah. All six of them. I didn't have that much to begin with, Zordon. It's part of the reason I came with you. You honestly make me feel like I can have a life so much better than the one I was given."
"I'm glad I inspired so much hope in you, Saria," Zordon said. "If I was headed towards it, I could have easily helped you establish a new life on my home world. However, I'm not set in that direction. I guess you could say I'm searching for something better myself."
"You?" Saria gasped. "Why would you leave Eltare? It sounds so wonderful."
"It is," Zordon agreed. "But everything I wanted was handed to me. The only one who truly understood was Kalon. In the end he was also responsible for my finding you. Were he with me, I would have made the transport to Enrada--"
"What's on Enrada, anyway?" Saria asked. "Why go there?"
"In all honesty, I simply covered my eyes and pointed to a star chart. There was no logical reasoning behind it. I suppose it would make more sense to find a world where I might make a difference." He stopped his steps and turned to Saria. "Do you have a passport?"
Saria shook her head. "I've never been off Onyx. My father only has his transport so he can ship his own supplies back and forth to the bar. I guess I should have told you that before we left, huh?"
"No, it's quite all right. We can get one while you're here," Zordon solved. "Speaking of 'being here', we may want to find a room to hold up for the night. It is going to be a while before all the preparations are completed."
Zordon shrugged. "We need a destination. We'll need some food. You need some less inconspicuous clothes. I need to find a better ship---"
"What's wrong with the Shadow?" Saria grinned. "I thought it was kind of cozy."
"Perhaps, but I have some trouble reaching the controls when someone is sitting on my lap. It tends to obstruct my vision by a slight margin." The unique smile defused any hostile words in Zordon's sentence. "Plus we could make better time at less of a cost of we store the Shadow here and take a public transport."
"You don't seem to have good luck on those things, though." Saria quipped.
"Misfortune is only as bad as you make it out to be," Zordon philosophized. "Kalon taught me that when I was having some difficulty with a certain lesson. I learned more from him in one year than I did in twelve at a private academy."
"Could you teach me?" Saria turned onto a hidden tangent.
"Teach you what?"
The thought of rejection, or perhaps even humiliation, made Saria so nervous that she almost failed to produce her words. "What Kalon taught you. Could you teach me all of that stuff about the Order?"
"I can teach you only so much," Zordon revealed. "I do not have the knowledge or the skill to give you a talisman upon your graduation. I can not show you how to use the talisman properly as I do not know all of the secrets it holds, myself."
"But you can teach me." Saria verified.
"I believe so. You would not be an official member of the Order, but you would learn many of the same skills and techniques. When do you wish to begin?" Saria flashed a smile that gave an answer of 'immediately'. "Very well. Then let's get you into the proper attire, shall we?"
* * * * * * *
After emerging from the dressing room, Saria spun on her heels to display her newest outfit. She had already chosen clothing for every possible occasion with the exception of informal wear. "So, what do you think?" She asked of Zordon. The young Knight merely nodded.
"It looks nice."
Saria tugged at her simple pair of beige pants the long sleeved white shirt. "That's what you said about the other four. You don't know too much about fashion, do you?" She found her instincts to be true. "So help me, Zordon, if it's the last thing I do I'm going to pound some fashion sense into that bald head of yours."
Zordon took mild offense to the comment. "What's wrong with my head?"
Saria laughed off the comment and brought her goods over to the service counter where she would pay for her purchases. Zordon followed her with a datapad in one hand. "I've been looking over some of the nearest systems. I might have found a suitable destination for---"
"I'm sorry," the clerk interrupted. "Your account seems to be empty."
Saria's head dropped onto the counter, protected only by her crossed arms. "I don't believe this! My father even siphoned everything out of my financial records. He must really hate me right now."
"More reason not to return to him," Zordon added. The young Knight pulled a card from his pocket and tossed it onto the counter. "They're on me, anyway," he told the clerk. "I should have plenty in there, especially to cover a few simple outfits."
"And you're rich," Saria cooed. "Another reason to hang around with you."
"You're incorrigible," Zordon grinned.
"But admit it," Saria elbowed her companion in the ribs. "You love me for it."
"You have your qualities," Zordon responded. He reclaimed his credit card from the clerk, gathered Saria's purchases, and escorted the young woman back into the corridors of the spaceport.
"So now can I start training?" Saria asked.
"Not just yet," Zordon said. "We must find an antiques merchant, first. You will need a sturdy weapon that suits your natural abilities." He looked to the frowning girl. "Don't worry, this is perhaps the most enjoyable part of the training process."
"I'm enthralled," Saria said sarcastically.
* * * * * * *
Twenty seats encircled a large center platform within a pale blue room. Of those seats, only one was vacant. That was the seat belonging to the recently departed Master Kalon, one of the finest Knights to ever serve the Order. His absence did not eliminate conflict however, for as was tradition, the Council of the Order was tearing away at futile issues as it was known to do.
"Before we reach our next order of business," Master Inxit, the gray-skinned tentacle-mouthed humanoid said, "The votes have been tallied for replacing Kalon's seat on the council." This statement naturally arouse a few mumbles. "Would the newest member of the Council please enter?" He called to the entranceway.
In stepped a large figure, covered mainly in a cloak of flat black. His face seemed to be constructed of abused bronze, and his head was lined with thinning, scraggly lines of gray hair. There was no emotion stemming anywhere within the man, which made a handful of Council members slightly agitated.
"May I present, Councilman Master Vile." Inxit lead the applause as Vile seemed to float over to his appointed chair. "Now, to quickly move on to other matters, it would appear that a newly inducted Knight has taken it upon himself to teach an outsider our ways. Isn't that correct," Inxit looked menacingly towards another Councilman. "Azord?"
"I am well aware of my son's actions, Inxit." The elderly man with fading wisps of hair spoke. "If you recall, I was the one who told you this only moments before the meeting began. You even seemed to agree with it for the most part."
Inxit shook his head furiously. "I agreed to no such thing."
Azord shook his head in disgust and formally addressed the Council. "This afternoon, I received a transmission from my son. He was leaving for Enrada in his newly acquired ship when he took on damage. He remained on Onyx for not very long, but long enough to rescue a young woman who my son described as not being in the best of situations.
"The young woman, after taking notice of Zordon's abilities and insight, requested that he instruct her in the ways of the Order. Needless to say, he agreed. I do not understand why this would be mentioned here, especially since he has assured me that she will not be granted a talisman."
"We do not teach our ways to outsiders." Vile entered.
"Until you prove it to me, Vile," Azord shot, "You are an outsider. Yes, I did vote for a replacement for Kalon's seat, but I did not choose you. Your methods of training, in my opinion, are sadistic, cruel, and unnecessary."
"We are not here to discuss Master Vile's techniques, Azord." Inxit reminded. "I propose a vote of action on this matter. All who are in favor of ending Zordon's teachings, please express your voices now." Inxit's own voice was met with roughly ten others, a controlling majority of the Council. "Very well. There is no need to calculate the other option. Zordon's teaching must be stopped before our ways are corrupted."
"This is insane!" Azord argued.
"And Master Vile," Inxit regarded the newest member. "In order to prove the effectiveness of your methods to Azord, you will supervise the operation."
"I would be honored." Vile sneered his voice as he turned his head to Azord. "Do not worry. All will turn out well. At the most, your son will only learn a valuable lesson."
"And what lesson would that be?" Azord asked.
"To not betray the beliefs of the Order, less he wishes to pay the price."
Azord stood in protest. "I will not have you harming my son."
"Your son is violating the codes of the Order." Inxit stepped in.
"Teaching others our ways is how the Order got to where it is today. Each of us was taken under the wing of an old master at one point in our lives. Most of us weren't even welcomed by the other Knights, and occasionally the instructors themselves. Now, because my son chooses to train someone it is violating some makeshift bylaw?"
Azord gave the room one last look before he herded himself towards the exit. "What this Council once stood for is no more. The Order, what it is meant to be, lives on through the men and women who do not treat it like it is private property, but a lesson taught to all who ask.
"If the Order is now considered a trade secret, then I no longer want to have any dealings with this Council. Good day, Gentlemen."
Not too soon after Azord left the room, Vile's eyes followed his exit. Deep within his soul, Vile knew what Azord was capable of. He knew what had to be done. More importantly, Vile knew that he would enjoy every single moment of it.
* * * * * * *
She held the object in her hand, testing its weight. Although she did not believe it at first, Saria finally saw that Zordon spoke the truth about selecting a weapon. Once she found the proper blade, it felt as if she had found a part of herself.
That part came in the form of a pair of foot long double-edged feather-like blades that could be used individually, or in unison by locking the two eighteen inch handles together. In Saria's mind, a bond was instantly formed with this weapon.
"I think she'll take it," Zordon told the dealer. "She seems rather pleased with the selection."
"Without a doubt," Saria beamed. "How much?" The dealer named a figure that Zordon immediately agreed to. "Wait, I can't have you waste your money on this," she told her friend. "Would you take a trade?" She asked the dealer, pulling a ring that Zordon had never noticed on her finger. "This is worth quite a bit."
"Are you sure you want to give that up?" Zordon asked.
Saria nodded. "It's from my father."
"Yeah, exactly." Saria handed the ring over and awaited a response.
"Hmph." The dealer put the ring under the counter and smiled. "The swords are yours."
Saria lifted the metal feathers. "They're not really swords, are they?" She asked to no one in particular. "But I don't care. I like them anyway. They feel so right for me."
"An excellent choice, then," Zordon assessed. "Come. Let's take care of our other matters so we can begin your training as soon as possible. We'll need a room for the night, and we must find the schedule for tomorrow's transports."
"You're out of luck," the dealer frowned. "From what I've heard the last room was handed out a few hours ago. And we don't have a transport coming through here for another two days. You might be better off just going back to where you came from."
"I came from Onyx," Saria stated matter-of-factly.
The dealer removed the previous thought from the conversation. "You might be better off in the hangar. You two don't have anywhere to go for the night?"
Zordon shook his head. "We don't have enough fuel to make it through the acceleration gates. We were lucky we made it here from Onyx."
The dealer thought for a moment. "I've got a spare room in my apartment where my brother used to stay when he came this way for visits. The ring was worth more than those swords, so that should cover the cost of one day's room and board." He added, "That is, if you're interested."
"Of course!" Saria replied.
"Excellent." The dealer wrote some information on a flimsy sheet of opaque plastic and slid it across the counter to the pair. "Stop by about an hour after I close up shop. It gives me time to help my wife prepare a larger dinner. She always wants to feed the company," he chuckled.
"Is there some way we can repay you for your hospitality?" Zordon asked.
The dealer waved his hand in response. "Just, whatever it tastes like, tell my wife her food is great." His smile made it nearly impossible for both Zordon and Saria to decide if the man was joking or being sincere. "This is my good deed for the day I suppose."
"You are a very generous man," Saria complemented.
The dealer laughed. "Tell that to my wife, too."
* * * * * * *
Azord reached for the manual light switch as he entered his home. He reminded himself to check the electrical system as the lights failed then, and when they were supposed to activate upon his entrance. He paid the problem no important matter, as he knew the layout of the house by heart.
Before him however, a light did shine. It was a hideous light, the burning eyes and smiles of a demon. Azord felt all of his reflexes fail him. What was this before him, and what did it want?
Azord never got his answer, as he felt all life drain from his body. It was his worst nightmare come true, to die slowly and alone in the darkness of his own home. As he slowly lowered to the floor, he sent all of his prayers and wishes out to Zordon, hoping for his son's safety. When his eyes closed for the last time, Azord knew that Master Vile sent this creature. And he knew it would be after Zordon next.
* * * * * * *
Zordon sat before the guest bedroom's computer terminal, remotely accessing Kalon's files. He was so deeply involved in scanning his old master's work that he did not here is companion calling him for several minutes. His attention was pulled away from the monitor when a pillow hit him in the back of his head.
"Hey, Zordon," Saria called while turning down the twin bed. "Are you sure about this? We can both use the bed and act perfectly mature about the entire thing, you know." She sat herself on one side's edge of the bed. "What are you doing over there, anyway? You've been looking at those files for the last fifteen minutes."
"Some of Kalon's projects," Zordon barely replied, returning his focus to the screen. "He had some rather interesting ideas in here and I thought I would ---" The next file came onto the screen and widened Zordon's eyes. "--- Unbelievable."
"What?" Saria stepped over to her friend and draped her arms around his neck. "Did you find something interesting?"
"Very." Zordon continued to read through the file as he spoke. "Remember how I told you the talisman given to a Knight can only be used to grant new power to his weapon? Kalon was studying the properties behind the energy transference, and he believed to have found a way to channel the talisman's energies directly into the Knight himself."
"By using a modified version of the power converter that's put into every Knight's sword." Zordon brought up a diagram of a strange looking buckle with a rounded socket in the center. "He theroized that with the changes he'd made, the energy would flow into the Knight when called upon, rather than into the blade constantly."
"Could you build it?"
Zordon shook his head. "I'm afraid I don't have the necessary skills to assemble the device. The only person who could would have to be both an extraordinary scientist and an accomplished talisman forger. As far as I'm aware, those are on opposite ends of the career spectrum."
"Well I don't know about you, but I'm getting some sleep." She hugged him lightly and kissed him on the cheek. "I just wanted to thank you for everything you've done for me. It was a lot more than anyone would have."
"You're welcome," Zordon said flatly. He barely noticed as Saria slowly drew herself away from the young Knight, dragging herself away to bed for the evening. Instead, Zordon dug further into Kalon's documents.
Within the computer system laid dozens of unique and complex ideas. Zordon etched everything into his mind, from the weapons that could convert from short to long range in the blink of an eye, large vehicles that could combine together to create an unstopable force, and more of the like.
"I thought you were sleeping," Zordon said to Saria. "Did I wake you?"
The girl sounded mildly surprised. "No, the sun did."
"What?" Zordon turned in his chair to the small window, where the morning light was indeed peaking into the room. "I must have been up for hours. How did you sleep?" He asked of his friend. "Well?" He could hear Saria yawning as she stretched.
"Not too bad, really. That was the most comfortable bed I've slept on in a while." She placed a hand on Zordon's shoulder. "So, were you digging through Kalon's things all night, or what?" Saria took notice of what was on the screen at that moment. "Why are you reading a death statement."
"It's my father's. He died sometime last night. No one has been able to figure out why, however. It's as if his heart just stopped beating without any reasonable cause. No blockage, no insufficiencies, it just stopped."
"How sad. You don't seem too upset."
"We weren't very close. He was busy with matters on the Council and I with my training that we never had time to spend together. He never raised any objections to the situation, though. I always assumed that was the way he preferred it."
"Are you going to go home?"
"No, I have no reason to. Everything should be transferred over to my name, and there isn't much from the house that I would need outside of it." Zordon's eyes bulged as he read a related article. "This is strange. Master Ciloe reports that my father had a slight altercation with Master Vile."
"Who's Master Vile?"
"A rather unpleasant man, to say the least. He succeded Kalon on the Council, but I can not understand why. Vile's tactics have been brought into question time and time again by the council by Inxit, the lead Councilman. Why would Inxit agree to admit Vile without a strong protest?"
"Maybe it's some kind of deception." Saria suggested. She saw Zordon jerk at the mentioned possibility. "What? What'd I say?"
"My father was murdered."
"How do you know that?"
"He was next in line for the position of lead Councilman once Inxit stepped down. Inxit can now use this incident to declare that he will extend his time on the Council for life, a true rarity. Or Inxit could step down, giving Vile power over the Council. This would benefit Vile, without question."
"You think Inxit and Vile are working together?"
"Yes," Zordon agreed, "But I don't believe Inxit is aware of that."
* * * * * * *
That afternoon, Vile took his seat within the Council's circle. He threw a flat glance towards Inxit, who barely responded by turning his pink eyes to the empty chair once belonging to the recently departed Azord. Both men succeeded in acting casual as the remaining Councilmen filed into the room.
"Gentlemen," Inxit began, "I would like to start this afternoon's session by introducing the replacement for Azord's seat upon this Council." Inxit was hoping to procede over the few low voices of protest, but Ciloe's cries put that hope to rest.
"But we haven't even had the chance to vote on suitable replacements!"
"Master Vile and I believe we have chosen a very worthy man. Taking the chair of Azord shall be Master Vile himself." Inxit did not expect the mumbles to become monosylabic tones of outrage. "And in turn, Kalon's seat shall be rendered null. This will bring our numbers down to eleven, eliminating the deadlock that so often prevents us from reaching decissions."
"You can not do this without a vote, or a majority rule! It violates our code!" Ciloe argued.
"But there was a vote," Inxit stated. "If you check the public data tracks, you would surely see that you yourself voted for this arrangement, as did everyone else here."
"You would usurp the Council for your own purposes after it has served you and your family so well?" Ciloe asked Inxit. "And you," he asked of Vile, "I assume you had Azord eliminated because he was the only one of us who proved a threat to you."
"The true threat," Vile smiled, "Will be dealt with."
* * * * * * *
"You believe Vile is trying to rule the Council?" Saria asked as she followed Zordon through the Space Port towards the hangar. How she could barely keep up when he was carrying everything they had brought with them was beyond her knowledge. "What good will that do?"
"None," Zordon said, turning into the hangar as a set of doors opened before him. "Now. But if he can get control of the Council, or at least appear as if he does, he'll gain signifficant politcal status as Lead Councilman."
"A figure in the public eye," Saria realized as Zordon sought out the Gliding Shadow.
"Yes," Zordon said, walking beneath his ship and punching a code into a concealed keypad that would unlock the cargo hold. "As a prominent figure, he could easily gain a position in the Eltarean Senate." He quickly loaded the luggage into the hold and closed the compartment. "Where he would repeat the process."
"You're telling me," Saria said as she trailed Zordon up the mobile stairway that would lead her to the Shadow's cockpit, "That Vile is going to try to turn Eltare into a communist empire?"
"Yes," Zordon said, stomping on the plate that released the cockpit's frame from the rest of the ship. "And as a loyal Knight, I have to do whatever I can to stop him." Zordon then slipped into the cockpit, gesturing Saria to join him.
"You haven't even been a Knight for a week," she said, taking a seat on his lap. "And what about the little problem we had with the fuel tank? You expect to make it to Eltare on what we have?"
"I had someone fill the tanks last night." Zordon struggled to see the control panels properly as the cockpit closed around them. "I thought I might need to make a quick get away for some reason or another, especially after my father's death."
Saria snorted. "You think of everything don't you?"
"Not really," Zordon shot back. "Considering I have no idea how I'm going to stop Vile."
* * * * * * *
As the Shadow lifted off and left the hangar in exchange for the depths of infinity, neither Zordon nor Saria seemed to notice the figure in black with the flaming face watching them leave from the shadows. He threw a taloned hand upward, tossing a spark that would expand into a window permitting visual communication.
"Master Vile," it spoke, "Zordon has fled. I was not able to deal with him."
The aged bronze face wrinkled in anger. "You are my prize student, D'ceit, but I will not accept failure from anyone! Has Zordon discovered what I am attempting?"
D'ceit nodded. "It would seem so, master."
Vile growled. "All is not lost. You must intercept him before he reaches Eltare. He will no doubt return to his prized home world to lead any possible revolt against my upcoming appointment. For this alone, the son of Azord must not live!"
"Yes, my master." D'ceit bowed, and the image flickered away. "I will serve you well."
* * * * * * *
"Hey!" Saria jerked, smacking Zordon's free hand as the Shadow exited the first acceleration gate. "Just because you're a Knight of the Order doesn't mean you can get grabby." She playfully pointed a finger under the young man's nose. "Behave."
"I was trying to reach the communication controls," Zordon defended. "It so happens that you're just about sitting on top of it." Without a request being issued, Saria grunted and repositioned herself to free the console Zordon desired. Zordon threw a soft chuckle her way and began to type away into the console's miniature keypad.
"Who are you trying to contact, anyway?"
Zordon's mouth quirked before he answered. "Ciloe, Omias, anyone who may realize what's going on. If I can get some of the Councilmen to support my theory, it could gain some weight and make a sufficient impact." He cursed as the computer released a harsh sound.
"No luck?" Saria assumed.
"No response, from Ciloe anyway. Either Vile got to him or---" Zordon's sentence broke.
"Or what?" Saria probed, gesturing him to continue with her hand.
Zordon sighed. "There is no 'or'. Either he's seen things Vile's way, or he's been eliminated." He typed again, with the computer singing happily after he did. "I've reached Omias," he said as the small monitor that accompanied the console came to life with the image of a broad-headed, yellow-skinned, black eyed creature. "Omias, can you here me?"
"Zordon?" The Councilman asked in astonishment. "Where are you?"
"I've just passed acceleration gate nine. I'm on my way back to Eltare." Zordon felt a smack in his shoulder, which Omias could barely see through the transmission. "We're on our way back to Eltare."
"You are bringing the girl?" Omias asked.
"Yeah," Saria answered while slipping into the picture, leaning closely into Zordon. "Hi."
"Greetings," Omias nodded. "Zordon, perhaps you should invest in a larger ship."
Saria semi-snuggled into him as Zordon blushed. "Blame it on Kalon, it was his to begin with. But I drift from the subject. Omias, I believe Vile is executing a plot that cost my father his life. I think he seeks control of the Council---"
"As do I," Omais interupted. "Vile has been appointed to your father's position, unethically allowing him to become the most powerful Councilman excluding Inxit. The rest of the Council has spoken about this, but it does not appear as if arguing will solve the problem. Vile will merely eliminate everyone in his way and replace them with someone he can control."
"Gaining full control of the Council after Inxit steps down. Or is found dead. And there would be no way to oppose him, not with the entire Council backing him." Zordon hid his rage well, but barely surpressed the urge to pound his fist upon the nearest console.
"Actually," Omias spoke, "There is. If it can be proven that the Council is corrupt, it may be wiped clean an entirely new line of Knights would take the place of the old masters. But the dificult part is finding proof. Zordon, I know you feel strongly on this matter, and I want you to know that you have my complete support in what you believe has to be done."
"Then perhaps you can assist us in generating a plan that suggests more than the assisination of Master Vile." Zordon subtly pleaded. "I'm shy of a battle plan myself, and I'm afraid Saria here is not too familiar with the situation."
"Vile is too powerful for anyone else to oppose him. Even if a Knight survived an encounter with one of his students, he would not survive a battle with Vile himself." Omias was grim. "And as for finding proof of Vile's actions, that is nearly impossible. There are many forged documents that are believed to be legitimate works of the Council, and too many members of the Council are intimidated by what Vile may do to them should they revolt."
Zordon's brow wrinkled. "What options are left?"
"Probably not many," Saria interjected.
"Thank you for your help, Omias." Zordon said appreciatively. "But it seems as if this will have to be a course of action that is plotted as we go." The young Knight deactivated the console, and Saria jumped once more.
"Hey, I said watch the hands," she chirped.
"I'm trying to plot a course to the next acceleration gate," Zordon retorted.
"Oh." Saria took the explanation as an apology, or at least for a few moments. "Wait a minute, aren't the coordinate controls on the other side?"
* * * * * * *
Deep beneath Eltare's cities, built into the bowels of the planet, sat a lair of the damned. The cavern converted dungeon was swamped in darkness, lit only by randomly placed torches of suffocating flames. Guards were few, not deserving the punishment of standing within the cold caverns for several hours each and every day.
In the corner of one particularly dark cell, was a man cited as a victim of stereotypical insanity. His wild haired beard was challenged only by his filthy and unwashed hair. He stared down a small rodent, holding it motionless with his frozen eyes.
He snatched out with one hand, grasping the squealing rodent and squeezing it between his boney fingers. "You shall not escape me tonight, my pretty meal." He took a lengthened thumbnail, pressing it against the rodent's belly. "I will peel you like the fleshy fruit you are."
Even near total darkness, the man could sense a new shadow among others. He looked to the gate of his cell, where a living field of black with a frightening bronze face took interest in him. During his lack of focus, the prisoner cried in agony as he felt the rodent slip from his fist and scurry away into it's hole once more.
"Who are you?" He asked, crawling on his knees to the gate. "Are you a demon?"
"Of sorts," the face replied. "I am Master Vile, soon-to-be leader of the Council of the Order." He pulled a small scrap of food from the sleeve of his cloak, tossing it to the cell's corner where the prisoner quickly pounced on it. "I have a job for you, Paelion. A job outside of this cell, outside of this dungeon. And all you have to do, is serve me without question."
Paelion was cautious of accepting any offer. Even in these secluded stone halls, word of Master Vile's teachings were described as methods of torture. "What do you need done," he asked with a mouthful of scraps.
"I need a threat to my consolidation of power eliminated." Vile answered.
"Very well," Paelion smiled. "Now, what is it you want?"
Vile smirked in return. "I want this young man to experience the worst pain imaginable. I want him to suffer for an eternity, and to have no other pleasures enter his heart ever again."
Paelion's lips split farther, showing his decaying and yellowed teeth. "I can do that."
* * * * * * *
Omias wondered why no one stopped to gaze at the demon before him. It was not an everyday ocurrance that a black cloaked figure, with a flaming reptilish head the spewed fire from it's mouth and eyes, stopped one man on the street on his way to his occupation. If no one else saw the demon, Omias credited it to one thing. This was no demon, it was Vile's prized pupil, D'ceit, commonly referred to as the Wizard of Deception.
"You have spoken with Zordon," the Wizard recalled. "Tell me his plans."
"Plans?" Omias acted. "For what? He has no plans."
"You lie," D'ceit accused. "He seeks to remove Master Vile from the Council. You agree with him on the matter. Either pay proper respect to our Master and tell me of Zordon's plans, or be destroyed like all who stand in Master Vile's way."
"I know of no plans--" Omias clutched at his chest. He first believed his heart to be failing him, but he knew what the Wizard was, and was not capable of. His worst fear was coming true. Omias would not die, rather he would live on, helpless and reliant on others, in a society of Vile's eventual design. He would live, breathe, eat, but his only contribution to any resistence would be in rememberring the Eltare he once knew.
* * * * * * *
The triad stood tall before Inxit, towering over the gray-skinned being currently nesting in one of the Council's comfortable seats. Vile stood with both D'ceit and Paelion in tow, and both followers were prepared to pounce on Inxit without giving the notion a second thought should they be ordered to do so.
"Ciloe has agreed to give me his division of power on the Council," Vile snarled. "So long as I spare him and his family once my new order arises." The bronze face quirked, and a rotting finger was pointed towards the Council leader. "What of you, Inxit? Do you wish to reap the rewards of my utopia, or would you rather join Azord and the others?"
Inxit nodded blankly. "I shall do as you wish, Master Vile."
"Excellent," Vile smiled, floating himself to the opposite side of the room where he took his appointed chair. Of course, his minions still stood behind him silent warning Inxit not to double-cross their master. "We shall continue this charade for, oh, another few days. By that time either the remaining Councilmen will either be supportive of my goals, or dead in their beds."
"What of Zordon?" Inxit asked. "He is just a child."
"Zordon is no more a child than I am a parlor magician." Vile corrected. "He was taught by Kalon, perhaps the most liberal of any Knight of the Order. I need not mention that at his age, and his present frame of mind, that he is especially dangerous. As it is, he is quite intelligent and seeks to destroy me."
"He is a boy." Inxit debated.
"He is a threat to my power!" Vile raged. "I have sensed from the moment I first saw the son of Azord that he would be a great thorn in my side. And like all threats, he must be treated seriously and eliminated as soon as possible."
"And the girl with him?" Inxit followed.
Vile sat silently for a moment. "The girl will be his destruction."
* * * * * * *
Saria sprang to her feet from a laying position, an ability that Zordon wished he was able to emulate. He lowered his weapon, waiting for the former barmaid to collect her twin feathers. Once she had done so, Zordon took a defensive stanse. "You keep landing on your back because you don't understand your weapon," he said.
Saria regarded her feathers for a moment, confused. "They're just sticks," she said.
Rolling his eyes, Zordon lowered his weapon again and stepped closer. "They're not just sticks, they are very unusual weapons that you personally selected on account of many factors. They are not swords, yet you have been treating them as such." He stepped behind Saria, lining his arm with hers and enclosing his fingers over her hand. "Feathers glide." He demonstrated his point by softly moving Saria's arm about in gentle arcs. "They do not slice the air, they ride it."
The girl threw down her weapons and groaned. "I don't even understand what we're doing here!" She said. "You were so anxious to go stop that Master Vile guy, and now you've pulled me into a training room on the last space port before Eltare. Why?"
Zordon sighed, kneeling on the protective floor covering to claim Saria's feathers. "I will accomplish nothing if I attempt to destroy Vile. It will take him a bit more time before he's ready to secure power. I must wait until I can be sure that all are suspicious of his motives, less I become a criminal myself."
Saria asked, "Are you afraid?"
"Yes," Zordon confirmed, "But I am patient as well. I would much rather Vile let himself slip than I would risk him finding me setting a trap. Assassinating a Councilman is an undisputable death sentence on Eltare, and that is something I would like to avoid."
"But if others believe or even suspect he's corrupt before you destroy him," Saria guessed, "Then you may not be punished at all, right?" Zordon nodded. "I think I'm getting the hang of this politics stuff." She caught her weapons as they were tosssed to her. "Again?" She pouted.
"Again," Zordon agreed, coming at Saria with his blade. "Remember what I told you," he instructed as the girl frantically blocked his quick swipes. "Go with the air, rather than against it." The student did as told, and when she lessoned the strength used in her weapon there was a great increase in it's speed. "Very good," Zordon graded.
"Really?" Saria smiled, and softly swung her feathers to keep Zordon's blades at bay, following her motions with a strong kick to the young Knight's chest. Before he could pick himself up or collect his weapons, Saria pounced on Zordon, stradling him and holding his arms at bay. "Whaddya think of that?" There was a certain gleam in her eyes as she asked the question.
"I could learn to like it."
"Yeah?" Saria asked, somewhat seriously.
"Good." Saria lowered her head closer to Zordon's slowly but steadily closing the distance between the pair. She could feel his breath, and her's reflecting back at her as she continued her movements. It seemed like an eternity, but finally, after the endless wait, her lips met his.
A low beep froze the two for a moment, and Zordon made a statement as his mouth was freed. "Our time's up," he said disappointed. "There's someone else waiting to use the training room."
Saria, still stradling her friend, straightened her spine and brushed her loose black hair behind her ears. "Oh." Her words sounded a bit more upset than Zordon's. "Well, we could continue this in another room," she sweetly, lightly, smiled. "Our room."
Zordon's expression of momentary happiness faded. "Perhaps we should not rush into this situation too quickly," he proposed. "There will be plenty of time for everything, when the time comes." Saria was kind enought to climb to her feet and offer Zordon a hand. He rose, and sheathed both of his blades behind his back. "I can't guaruntee you'll be safe, you realize."
Saria cautiously regarded her friend. "What?"
"Once we reach Elatre," Zordon continued. "Vile will more than likely be ready for a confrontation. He knows I'm coming for him. His prize student followed us out of the hangar at the other spaceport. It's part of the reason I stopped here to begin with. D'ceit wouldn't have thought that I would just turn off the acceleration gate pathways. He would have assumed an immediate assasination."
"A fearsome mage, who's greatest ability is to make your worst nightmare come alive. He is also a master of illusion. I have no doubt he is responsible for my father's death, as well as any others that will follow. He can be very clean with his attacks, and no one would ever see him." The room's alarm sounded a tone yet again. "We should go. We've had our time here."
"Lunch?" Saria opted, collecting her weapons. "Come on, and let's just hope that the food services here are half-way decent." She stepped out of the training room, and a young man instantly collided with her. "Hey," she screamed, "Watch where you're going, pal!"
The man got to his feet, dusting himself off and apologizing as he offered Saria a hand up, when Zordon narrowed his eyes. "You again," the Knight sneered, drawing his blue blade. "Trouble seems to be around every corner, lately." He began to slowly stalk the back-peddling thief from his original transport. "And I believe we have some unfinished business."
The thief promptly put his hands up. "Whoa, I don't want any trouble!" He pointed a shakey finger over Zordon's shoulder, where three very angry men. "I've got enough of it from them, as it is."
"Watch him," Zordon ordered Saria, who quickly clamped a hand onto the shaking young man. The Knight stood tall as the trio of fierce men stopped before him. "The situation is under control," he told them. "Your services are not required, here."
The lead man stretched past Zordon to point out the theif. "That boy is in serious trouble! He double-c>
"No, he's mine," Zordon debated. "As a Knight of the Order, I am placing him under arrest for a theft I had witnessed with my own eyes."
The man's lip curled. "You want to play politics?" He asked the thief. "Fine, have it that way. Devarias will find you, one way or another." He signaled his two companions to follow as he exited. "You won't be in prison forever," the man pointed out with a fading voice. "And when you're released, we'll be right there to collect!"
As the young thief offered stuttered thanks, Zordon pinned him to the wall by his throat. "You stole from an old woman, you still have an impending quarrell with a Knight, and you did something bad enough to anger those three." His fingers released the slightest bit, granting the thief his necessary intake of oxygen. "How involved in this kind of lifestyle are you?"
Saria pulled Zordon's hand away. "Go easy on him, Zordon. He's scared."
"I didn't do anything," the thief coughed. "I saw those guys commit a murder. They were ready to kill me, too. They said they'd let me live if I could pay them the difference of what the other guy didn't. That's why I robbed the woman on the transport, because I need the money to save my own neck."
"What's your name?" Saria asked, gaining a spiteful look from her impromptu teacher.
"Jared," he said, rubbing at his neck. "Apprentice to Viscera." He nodded to the Knight. "So you're Zordon, huh? I've heard a lot about you. Our masters knew each other, I believe." Jared saw a strange look grow upon Zordon's face. "What? What'd I say?"
"Your master is a member of the Order?" Zordon asked.
"No, he just did some work for the Order at times. I've never even seen the Council building." He tipped his head briefly. "So what's the big deal about Viscera being a member of the Order, anyway? Does that get me off the hook?"
"What if I told you," Zordon supplicated, "That as we speak, Master Vile is executing a plot to assume total control of the Council of the Order?"
Jared shivered at the name. "Vile? I despise that guy. He'd take the nicest people under his wing and turn them into things worse than himself."
Zordon found the statement to be genuine. "And what if I said I would dismiss the charges I've placed on you, if you assissted my friend and I in a liberation of the Order? If you help us in removing Vile from the Order all together."
Both Saria and Jared seemed amaze at the request. "What?!"
* * * * * * *
The three young people stood before a large vessle, and Saria looked to Zordon in surprise. "You honestly want to buy this thing? It's as big as a house." She evaluated her words. "Okay, so it's as big as my father's house. It's going to be a bit pricey."
"I can cover it," Zordon assured as he awaited the arrival of the craft's salesman. Until that time came, he simply stood like his partners in the large hangar, examining the ship. "Besides, the two of us in the Shadow is bad enough. Would you like to try for three?"
"If the ship is as small as you say it is," Jared entered, "You can probably fit it right into the storage bay. It'd be cramped, and you wouldn't have much room for anything else, except a replicator, but you could probably do it."
"That's the idea," Zordon rejoined. "And there should be enough room to hold the lot of us."
Saria snorted. "Yeah, so long as we don't add any more refugees to our party."
"I don't expect that to happen anytime soon." Zordon folded his arms over his chest. "So, Jared, what exactly was it that you learned from apprenticing Viscera?" The answer that came was one that made Zordon glad that he had spared the young man.
Saria's mouth hung low. "You're joking, right?"
Jared shook his head. "No. I'm not very skilled at it, mind you. I'm perfecting my carving skills at the moment, but I believe I've got the channelling of energy almost down pack." He shrugged. "I never thought carving those little creatures onto coins and medallions would be so much more dificult than the actual harnassing of the power."
Zordon stroked his chin. "What do you mean, you've almost got the channelling down?"
"Well, I'm learning, but I never get the right results. I'm always following the traditional formula, but it always ends up giving me some weird results. I've never been able to empower a weapon."
"What if we gave you a different formula?" The former barmaid asked.
"Saria!" Zordon snapped.
The young woman rolled her eyes. "Zordon, we're going to need some extra power to take out Vile. You have access to Kalon's designs. Jared could bring Kalon's work to life, and as a result help keep the Order intact." She saw her friend's resistence weakening. "We need to do this."
"All right," Zordon broke. "Jared, what would you need to continue your training? Without returning to Viscera's manor, mind you. We wouldn't want those young men looking for you."
Jared thought. "I'd probably need quite a bit for the channelling process."
"Kalon's home has a large laboratory, he may very well have what we need." Zordon turned away from his friends at the irritating shrill of the vessle's merchant. Once he had swam through the slick man's lengthly introduction, Zordon stated interest in dealing with the middle-aged man. "Why don't you go back to the room?" He told Sariea from the side of his mouth. "This may take a while."
"Right," the girl nodded, signalling Jared to follow.
"Jared, stay with me." Zordon absently demanded. "Saria's an excellent student, but she is not yet capable of fighting off three criminals at once." He apologetically regarded Saria for a moment, but fortunately the girl seemed to have understood completely. At least he hadn't insulted her.
* * * * * * *
Saria laid on her bed, with her hands locked under her head. As she stared at the curved, white ceiling, her mind drifted to thoughts of her recent experiences. And for each thought that entered her mind, a doubt was there to counteract it. She attempted to decypher her fate, but found it increasingly difficult.
Days ago, she was living her original and uncontested life as a simple barmaid at her father's tavern on the every decaying planet, Onyx. Life was good. Or at least she believed it good at that time, only because it was simple. She had never asked for a thing for her father that she knew he would never give her, but on Onyx, room and board was more than anyone could ask for.
Sure, life on Onyx was never pretty, but it was a life. As she looked back upon it, she probably should have asked her father for more concealing clothing, but that would have earned her nothing but bruises or a fractured finger or wrist.
She got struck down by her father quite often, Saria recalled. In fact, it was most likely what pushed her into Zordon's care. When Zordon had offered his hand to her, she nearly flinched, expecting the Knight to simply pull her away by force. That didn't happen. No, Zordon allowed her to make her own decissions.
Freedom had a pleasant taste, Saria lammented. While a life had been planned out for her, she would much rather live her life, and she would be proud of her decissions whether her life was successful or not. She was no longer trapped in the dark tavern, bringing cheap ale to men who would kill her rather than speak to her. She was free, a word she could never hear too many times.
And then there was the icing on the cake, Zordon. Saria had no idea what caused her attraction to him. Maybe it was his composure, or how he came to her rescue without question, or even his hypnotic voice. There were so many reasons that the young woman eventually lost count.
He was so kind to her, too. He could have laughed her request away when she asked to learn the way of the Order. He could have either humiliated her in the training room, or escalated the situation to something she probably would have regretted in the following days. Zordon seemed to take everything she said or asked for in stride.
She stretched her arms out, not even coming close to reaching the end of either side of the bed. The furnishing was quite large, and no doubt specifically requested by her friend. Saria had no trouble discovering that Zordon was a bit shy, and she had no reserves about teasing him to no end about it.
The room's door slid open, breaking Saria away from her thoughts. "Well?" She asked the entering pair of young men, "Did you get the ship?"
With a smile, Jared chuckled. "For half the production cost. This guy's one tough business man." He clapped Zordon on the shoulder twice. "I'll tell you, I thought the negotiations were going to come down to a fist fight."
"So you got the ship." Saria assumed with a grin as she moved to the edge of the bed. "That's great. When do we leave for Eltare?"
"Tomorrow." Zordon answered flatly. "I need to the proper forces to ensure that we'll safely arrive at Kalon's home."
"But Omias said the others on the Council would be intimidated by Vile," Saria recollected, "didn't he? If all of the Councilmen are afraid of him, what makes you think they'll help you?"
"I won't ask the Councilmen," Zordon solved. "I'll ask the people."
Jared would have dropped his cargo had he had any to carry. Zordon's words spoke of something mildly unlawful, mildly compared to the actions of Jared's associates. "You're going to ask the people of Eltare to hide us from Master Vile and the Council? We've got one of the most strict enforcement agencies, and that's just the local authorities on the Prime Continent. Eltare is built on order and respect. What happens if Vile finds out the people were blatantly lying to him about our whereabouts?"
Zordon cited a possible bleaker future. "What happens if he gets control of the Senate? I'll tell you what will happen. Vile will intimidate the rest of Eltare's political forces just as much as he would have intimidated the Senate and the Council. There will be the few who pledge aliegence to him, becoming nothing more than proud slaves, and there will be everyone else, those who refuse to bow before him and who will die as a result of that fact."
"The people will be afraid to die," Jared installed.
"The people will die before they agree to let someone such as Vile rule over them." Zordon regarded his companions for a moment. "I am going to contact some of the more rebellious parties on Eltare, and see if they can't provide the secrecy we'll require." With that, the young Knight left the room in a mild rage.
"Oh, yeah," Saria timidly entered, "I forgot to tell you, he can get a bit of a temper at times."
Jared scratched the nape of his neck. "Yeah, I could see that. Thanks."
* * * * * * *
D'ceit stood next to his master, who had taken a stand before one of the Council building's windows. "Master, Zordon will return to contest your authority, and soon. He may very well arrive with additional forces, or support." His master was silent. "What if the people choose to believe in his cause?"
"They will not," Vile believed. "Not fully, not publicly. Some will hide him, keeping him from me, but no one would dare stand up against me, knowing what I am capable of."
"But if they should," the Wizard hypothesized, "you would punish the people for their actions, would you not?" His flaming eyes tracked his master's movements back to one of the Councilman's seats. "Master, you would not strike down your opposition?"
"Zordon is all I must worry about at the moment," Vile reminded. "If I take action against the people of Eltare, then I give them reason to rise up against me. As long as I do not harm them directly, they know they have no true justification for an uprising, even though I am quickly consuming their world."
As D'ceit and his master continued to converse, neither noticed the young man lurking just outside of the room's portal. He pressed a gloved thumb against one of the many buttons atop the palm-sized data recorder he held in his hand, and slipped the device into his black jumpsuit's breast pocket.
Finally, he thought somewhat jovially as he bounded down the corridors, We're getting somewhere.
* * * * * * *
"Marik!" A young woman in black called from one of Eltare's alleyways. The man in the jumpsuit quickly checked his exit, joining the woman and a few of her comrades. "Did you get anything useful? Something we can send off?"
The young man tapped his breast pocket. "It's a vague confession, but someone should get the gist of it. I could go back, see if I can get any more information." The woman quickly denied Marik's suggestion. "Why not?"
"We can't risk you getting caught," the woman explained. "We've already earned a reputation as ingrateful, trouble-making upstarts. It's going to be difficult enough to get any other government to believe the story we're going to tell them."
"There's this one guy," Marik said, "he left Eltare, but he's coming back."
"What's that say? Aside from the fact the man has lousy timing."
Marik rolled his eyes at the woman's quip. "He's coming back so he can deal with Vile, Rook." The woman then decided to take interest in Marik's words. "I don't know why, or how exactly things will turn out, but Vile and this guy don't seem to be on the best of terms."
"Do you have a name?" Rook asked, folding her arms over her chest.
"Zordon." Marik said. "He's going to be back soon, if D'ceit's worry was any indication."
"Did you find Paelion?"
Marik shook his head. "No, he wasn't in the room as far as I knew. No doubt Vile already has him working on something disturbing. We should try to figure out what he's up to."
"No," Rook eliminated the objective. "We've got other matters to take care of." She nodded to one of the men next to her. "Get back to the station and see if you can't find some way to track down, or get in contact with this Zordon character. The rest of you, resume your daily operations."
The group scattered, and melted away into Eltare's quiet streets.
* * * * * * *
Laughter, that which could easily be compared to the shaving of metal sheets, stretched itself throughout the magnificent laboratory. Freestanding walls of viles and flasks held various contents, from dark, opaque sludge and phospherescent minerals, to florescant liquids and colorful gases.
The laughter's source navigated his way through the maze of metal and glass, his face distorting and reflecting off of the surfaces of his many instruments. Had someone asked, he would not have said he was amused, or happy, or even excited. No, he would have responded with the one true explanation for his mirth.
He was insane.
The man known as Paelion was at one time one of Eltare's most renowned scientific minds, but his mind was eaten away by one of his very own controversal experiments. After being tried for the murder of several Senators, and several tens of Eltare's citizens, including members of his immediate family, Paelion was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment deep within the bowels of Eltare itself, as close to Hell as one would reach before death.
And now, he was pardoned, although he was quite aware of the situation's illegality. That was why he had agreed to hide from everyone, so long as Master Vile provided his lab with everything he could need to produce his wonderful devices and formulas.
His involuntary, but enjoyed mission of priority, was to give Zordon of Eltare a new, hopeless existence. Such a task would indeed be dificult to accomplish. From what information he had been given in regards to the young Knight, he concluded that Zordon was extremely centered, deeply focused, and goal-oriented. To directly use his latest invention on Zordon would surely be useless.
Then, Paelion recalled another name, one belonging to Zordon's associate. D'ceit mentioned a girl, who was overheard as being addressed as Saria. Knowing Zordon would most likely choose to fight his battle alone, like any true Knight who's father had been slain, he must have some sort of relationship with the girl. Perhaps Zordon even cared for his friend.
Zordon would be too stubborn to feel his own pain, but he would be more than willing to weep over Saria, or so Paelion hypothosized. With a wheezing snicker, the insane scientist returned to his project with a new found devotion, and the oppurtunity to cause pain to another human being once again.
* * * * * * *
After not having partaken in one for a day or so, the young Knight of Eltare had craved a shower. And so, an hour or so after his original departure, Zordon stepped from the bathroom, and into the primary portion of his shared quarters. Draping a towel across his neck, which hung onto his bare, well-conditioned upper form, he tipped his head in confusion to his roommate. "What are you eating?" He asked the girl who sat cross-legged in the center of the spacious bed, holding a bowl filled with a mysterious food in one hand, and a long metal pin in the other.
After swallowing, Saria answered with a satisfied growl, "Crambiun Eel." She speared one of the pink meaty tentacle-like pieces in question, offering it to her friend. "Want to try one? They're quite good," she whole-heartedly endorsed.
Zordon seemed to cringe at the thought of eating another creature. "Perhaps I'll broaden my culinary tastes some other day." He turned to the wall hook that held his shirt, turning his back to Saria, and allowing the girl to notice something she hadn't expected to see.
"You've got a tattoo?" Her surprise came in the form of a giggle. On Zordon's lower back was a symetrical marking that Saria could not decypher. "Somehow I did not expect you to be the type of person to opt for one of those." Zordon did not respond to her comment. "I've got one, you know." The girl smiled when she finally gained her friend's attention.
"Do you?" Zordon asked, a bit skeptical. "Where? After seeing you in your -- uniform, there aren't many places you can hide one of those."
"Oh, you'll find out," Saria flurtaciously tormented. "If you're good."
At first, Zordon seemed to have almost turned away from her words, but eventually raised an eyebrow to Saria. "How good?" He asked with a smile. "I rescued you from a life of working in some of the most despisable places on Onyx, bought you clothes, and started training you to become an unoffical Knight of the Order. How good do I have to be?" He pointed a finger as a mock threat. "I'm seeing that tattoo," he said, carefully approaching the girl.
"No!" Saria gasped as Zordon reached for her ribs. She struggled to retain her composure and balance her meal as the young Knight's fingers danced over her rib cage, sending her into a tickle-induced frenzy of laughter. "Zordon -- Stop! I'm gonna spill the f -- food!" The delicate attack did not cease, rather Zordon enetered into negotiations.
"Where's that tattoo?"He asked, laughing along with the girl, although not as greatly.
"Okay!" Saria laughed a moment before Zordon let up. "Okay, okay. It's on my hip," she said between breathes. "Here, look." Saria hooked her thumbs under the band of her beige pants, pulling only a select portion of her attire down an inch or so. "It's nothing major. Actually, it's kind of a brand. My father paid to have it drawn. I was stupid, I thought it was a gift."
As Saria continued to babble a history of the marking, Zordon closely took it in. The tattoo wasn't of anything questionable, just a circle with several diagonal markings. And as the girl still protested her distaste for it, Zordon broke in with, "We can change it."
Saria strained to lift her head in Zordon's direction. "What?"
Retreating from the bed, Zordon sought out one of his bundles. After pulling Kalon's white blade from his pile of belongings, he returned to the girl, displaying the medalion locked within his former Master's weapon. "The brand isn't too different than the coin in Kalon's hilt. We can see if there's a qualified artist on the station, and have it changed."
Saria thought. "What's the symbol?" She asked, returning her beltline to it's original position. "I know all of the symbols, or the animals on the coins all have meanings. What's this one?" She asked, tapping the sword.
"It's from an ancient language," Zordon explored the symbol's definition. "And the symbol means 'revival', and was often used to refer to someone who had never backed down, despite the odds, someone who continued to fight, and continued to live."
"And you think that fits me?" Zordon agreed to Saria's statement. "Let's do it," she decided. "But," she pointed a finger under Zordon's nose. "There's a catch." She twirled her finger, lightly tapping Zordon on the tip of his nose. "You have to get one, too."
Snapping his head about the room, Zordon raised a question. "Where's Jared?"
"Oh, he said he would chance making it back to his room. I think he took a security escort and had some guards posted. He probably didn't want to impose on us." Saria disregarded the thought and leaped from the bed, capturing Zordon's hand as she did so. "Now come on, we've got an artist to track down."
* * * * * * *
She stepped surely, but softly on the dark, concrete floors, lurking through the shadows, trying to become one herself. Shards of light highlighted her soft facial features and set off her creamy skin. Now, when she had the chance to be noticed, she wished she would have rememberred her hood, as well. It would take only a little more than a glance to pick her out of the darkness.
Her foot stopped, a split-second before her heel would have crushed a small metal bead. No doubt her prey did not enjoy visitors, and that small bead was actually a complex device, set to render her unconsious.
With her focus regained, she took another step, suddenly overwhelmed by countless volts of electricity flowing through her delicate form. She was still awake, however, as well as aware, when she tipped over onto the dark passage's floor with a distinctive 'whump'. Still in the position that portrayed her as taking a step, she witnessed a shadow as it crossed over herself.
"Should've stepped on the bead, pretty," Paelion suggested, "It deactivates the voltage field." The young woman, still a girl, felt incredibly stupid regarding her presumtions as she felt herself dragged deeper into Paelion's scientific lair. "Then again, if you had, I wouldn't be able to show you my newest innovation, would I?"
It took a few moments, but Paelion finally straightened the girl's form, laying her out atop a modified examination table. And, well aware that the temporary rigamortis could wear off at any moment, the insane scientist made sure to tighten straps over the girl's wrists, ankles, and stomach.
"There are so many ways to hurt people," Paelion began, as he left the girl's view. "Directly, indirectly. You can hurt them with hate, you can hurt them with love. But perhaps the most common way to hurt someone, is by touch." His boney index finger suddenly taced itself across the girl's cheek, and the prisoner jolted significantly. "Ah, so the effect has worn off. Excellent."
"I-- I didn't do anything!" The girl cried. "I thought I could meet you and---"
"You must have thought me a fool to believe such a hollow alibi," Paelion said, still out of view. "You're one of them, those who are always making trouble. Although, now you have a purpose. You've discovered me, and so you've discovered my Master's plan." He paused, snickering. "We can't have that now, can we?"
Again the girl was startled, this time as Paelion's hand washed over the shoulder of her leather body suit. "Touch," Paelion continued, "can be so pleasurable. If executed correctly it can cause uncomparable feelings and urges. But that is not to say that those results can not be manipulated." The old man finally stepped into view, weilding a hypodermic injection pistol. "And that is not to say, that they won't."
The girl screamed as the point of the needle was jabbed into an artery in her neck, and moreso once she felt the pressure of an icey liquid entering into her cardio-vascular system. But as Paelion withdrew the device, she did not feel the effects of light-headedness, or anything else she had been told to expect from truth syrums or other standard formulas.
"I'll tell you nothing!" The girl snapped.
"Fortunate," Paelion's words were accompanied by a sick, decaying smile. "As I wish to listen to nothing but your screams." He reached out for the trembling girl, running his fingertips over her forearm briefly. The second-long experience caused the girl's pretty face to contort, her teeth to clench and her body to stress. "It was a psycho-active formula," Paelion reported to the frightened girl. "Registering any and all physical contact as pain. And the formula exagerates, greatly."
Proving his point, Paelion pressed his palm against the girl's flat stomach. It took less than this to send his subject into shattering cries and wild convulsions. "And the effects are quite long lasting, as they respond to your brainwaves. As long as you're capable of harnessing thought, the pain remains." He emphasized the sentence by trailing his skinny digits down the girl's thigh, again sending his prisoner into a literal world of hurt.
The scientist turned about and was dwarfed by his benefactor. "M-Master Vile! How good of you to grace me with your presence." He gestured two shaking hands to his examination table. "I--I've obtained a gift for you."
* * * * * * *
"Hold still," the tattoo artist instructed Saria.
Zordon stood in the corner of the parlor, his arms lazily crossed over his chest. "How did you get through the first tattoo?" He asked. "No offense, but when it comes to needles you don't seem to have a high pain threshold."
Saria, laying atop the cushioned table on her side, stuck her tounge at her friend in response. "Hey, you did quite a bit of wincing when he was working on your arm, Mister 'I-don't-feel-any-pain'!" Her face contorted again, and she looked to the artist. "Are we just about done here, or what?"
With one or two final additions to the design, and after comparing his work with the coin set into Kalon's blade, the artist nodded and began to apply minimal ammounts of alcohol to the reformed brand, now a symbol of what Zordon interprited Saria to be. "All set," he said. "Just keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn't get infected and you should be fine in a day or so." The artist took a moment to align a thich patch of gauze with the girl's hip. "And keep the padding on it until then."
"Thanks." With a grunt, Saria hopped off of the table and readjusted her pants. "Well, that was fun." She told Zordon. "Wanna do it again?" At her friends look, she swatted him lightly in the stomach. "Oh yeah, like I want to go through that again."
"Better that design on your hip than a branding mark," Zordon reminded, escorting Saria out of the parlor. "At least now you've gotten rid of something you never really liked in favor of something that might actually provide you with decent memories."
"So," Saria broke off into another subject, "What happened when you ran off earlier today. Did you find anyone who could help us? You really didn't mention anything about that."
"There's a small band of young men and women who've always ignored authority," Zordon said as he stepped down the halls with the young woman. "They've recently found a purpose, that being to remove Vile from power before he obtains anymore. Ironically, they were trying to contact me when I contacted them."
"Are they going to help?" Saria's voice had newfound hope buried within.
"In their own way. I'm mainly praying for the support of the common people, not just a rowdy collection of upstarts. They've been accumulating as much data as possible in regards to Vile's plans, but they definitely will not have the means to eliminate him."
"I don't want to sound rude or anything, Zordon, but don't you feel like you're taking on just a little too much?" Saria was unaffected by her friend's stare. "I mean, let's face it, Zordon. You are not going to be held solely responsible for wiping out all evil in the universe."
"Sure I am," the young Knight replied with a goofy smile. Saria simply shook her head.
"You are so full of yourself."
"But admit it," Zordon countered, "you love me for it."
* * * * * * *
Rook, a blonde woman barely into her twenties, sat before a makeshift desk constructed from loose pieces of iron and scrap. The report that she had tossed on the furnishing's service only a second ago did not instill her with any sort of faith regarding her home, not that she had expected good news to begin with. Still, she had hoped for something to give her joy again.
Instead, Master Vile was steadily adding to his power. At first it began with the man holding the position once graced by Kalon. That was quickly rendered useless however, as Vile took it upon himself to replace Azord. After Ciloe's resignation, Omias' death, and the undoubted control over Lead Councilman Inxit, Master Vile was now controlling four of the Council's eleven seats. There was no doubt in Rook's mind that even as she read the document moments ago, Vile had gained yet even more power in the Council.
To add to the mix, there was the sudden disappearance of Jinelle, a new recruit to the band, but an excellent spy and recon officer. The girl was incredibly eager for her assignment, investigating Paelion's lab, but her excitement never got the better of her in any situation. Why Jinelle had failed to return, sent a shiver up Rook's spine.
And finally, there was the mysterious Zordon. A man, possibly younger, or slightly older than Rook herself, had lithlessly agreed to help the resistance with an almost non-existent alliegance, almost nothing more than an information network to pass data between the two parties.
Things could get worse, Rook said to herself, slouching in her torn leather chair. Things will get worse. Once Vile can prove he's got the entire Council of the Order under his thumb, once he proves that even Eltare's bravest men fear him, he will have no trouble ruling this world.
* * * * * * *
Jinelle felt uneasy, but many young women in her position would. To stand between both the demented scientist, Paelion, and the Wizard of Deception, D'ceit, was one thing. To have to stand between them, in such close proximity, wearing a revealing outfit of red silk, was another. The equation was made worse, with her hands bound by cuffs of iron that connected to a chain so Master Vile might lead her along like a brainless creature of the forest. But perhaps the most frightening aspect of the situation was the fact that she had to stand between such men, in such attire, leashed by a cruel master, in the company of the Council.
Inxit suspiciously eyed the girl. "Have you acquired new company, Master Vile?"
"Slavery is outlawed," another voice entered.
"I assure you," Vile growled, "her state is completely voluntary. Isn't that correct, my dear?" Vile tugged the chain in his hand, beckoning Jinelle closer to his post. When he received to answer, he held out a hand as if he were ready to gently stroke it across her face. "Isn't it?"
Jinelle promptly nodded until she could overcome her stuttering. "Y--Yyes, Master Vile."
"As I said," Vile smiled, "voluntary. But let's get down to business, shall we? I asked each of you to appear before me today so I might thank you for all you've done." Over the murmmers of confusion, the bronze-faced Master continued. "After all, it is not every day when each of you sign your percentage of control over the Council over to me."
"We've done no such thing!" A rather lanky councilman objected.
"Then perhaps you'd better," Vile sneered, "or you will find yourself beside Azord and Omias. The Council is mine, as of now. If you have a dispute, my associates behind me will surely make sure that all conflicts are resolved one way or another."
The lanky councilman stood, about to raise another protest when his face began to turn colors. "Do not fight me, G'don. You can not win. Today, I have the Council. Soon, I will have the Senate. It will not be long until all of you, and all of Eltare's people bow before me, their new Emperor."
Vile's mental chokehold over G'don faded, and color returned to the Councilman's face. "You have supported this?" G'don asked Inxit. "You have always been the most trustworthy of any member of the Order. Why turn your back on everything you once stood for?"
"Because what he stood for," Vile spoke in place of the lead Councilman, "was unprofitable. And Inxit is indeed loyal, but now to my cause, rather than your Order. It did not take a great deal to sway him over to my side." Inxit returned Vile's smile from across the room. "Fortune and power will always have appeal over a life of adequacy."
Two security officers chose this time to enter the council room, dragging a young man in black behind them. "We found this boy outside of the doors," one guard reported. "We believe he's a member of that underground band. He was recording your conference."
"Leave him with us," Vile softly demanded. "The Council will punish him accordingly."
"Yes, sir," the officers said in unison, bowing out.
The young man stood in the center of the room, witnessing those who were about to pass judgement on him. He knew what he had done was a crime, but he knew this was not the standard procedure in which he was to be tried.
Then, a softer, more innocent figure caught the young man's eye. "Jinelle?" The young woman's head dropped as low as possible, as if she were ashamed over her presence. The young man was about to speak again when Vile silenced him.
"You have been spying on this Council," the unofficial leader of the Masters spoke. "The words spoken within these walls are to be treasured, not exploited. Your insolence must be dealth with in a fitting manner." Vile waved his fingers towards G'don, who was lost at the gesture until his blade of blinding yellow uncovered itself from underneath his robes. "The sentance, is death."
G'don's sword cut through the air, finding a home directly in the young man's chest. Jinelle winced, not observing the event, but hearing the crunching of bone and slicing of flesh through her ears, and a deadly thump as the young man fell backward onto the floor of the room.
"Your blade," Vile adressed G'don, "your finger prints. How will the Senate, the people, or even our dear security force react when they come in here to find your own weapon lodged in a young man's chest?" As G'don paled and shifted uneasily in his seat, Vile offered solace. "I can protect you. They believe me, they always do. All you must do, is follow in the ways of your fellow Councilmen, Inxit and Ciloe." Vile's voice projected towards the room's portal. "Security, enter if you would?"
It took only a moment for the on-duty officers to gasp at the lifeless body of the young man they had carried in not minutes ago. "What happened here?" The second officer asked, scanning the occupants. "I deamand an answer."
Vile snared a panicked nod from G'don, and answered, "The young man quarrelled with G'don. As you can see, he was no match for an experienced Knight of the Order. Send our condolences, as well as our confusion and disgust, to his family, would you please?"
The officers wasted no time in removing the body as Inxit called the meeting to a close. Before exiting like many of the others however, G'don strode to a member of Master Vile's party, speaking with a low voice and words of depression. "Be thankful that you are a slave, young lady. You would not be able to live with yourself had you participated in this scheme voluntarily."
* * * * * * *
It seemed to have become a pattern, or at least routine. Zordon would be sitting down, this time on the edge of his bed, reading miscellaneous data of some sort, this time a hand-held data processor, when Saria would sneak up behind him and wrap her arms around his neck, leaning her head against his. "What're you reading?" She sked, her breath gently rushing past his ear.
"Eltare's news release. Two members of that resistence group are gone. Actually, one's gone, found dead in the Council after supposedly quarrelling with one of the old Masters. The other was alleged to be at Master Vile's side during the other's death."
"Weird," Saria commented.
"Suspicious is more like it," Zordon corrected. He deactivated the processor and tossed it upon a small piece of furniture. "We should get some sleep. We'll probably have a complicated day ahead of ourselves, tomorrow." Zordon was mildly amused when Saria left her arms around his neck. "Do you want to let go so we can sleep?" he asked with a chuckle.
Saria was quick to reply with a rather sweet-sounding "No." The young woman did not know how it happened, but in a swift combination of movements, Zordon had tossed the girl infront of himself, wrapping his arms around hers, as well as her stomach, preventing movement on her part. She smiled, and cooed lightly. "This feels kinda nice," she said, "all warm and secure like this." Her head fell against Zordon's shoulder. "I don't think I've ever felt this safe."
"I won't let anything happen to you," Zordon promised.
"Oh? Weren't you telling me earlier today that you couldn't guaruntee my safety?"
"What can I say?" Zordon laughed. "I'm a sucker for challenges."
Saria turned her head over to spot the corner of Zordon's eye. "Are you saying I'm trouble?"
"Well," the Knight turned his head as well, bring his eyes into close proximity with Saria's, "you were kind of responsible for that incident back in your father's tavern. What were you thinking," Zordon teased, "prancing about in that so-called dress?"
With a gasp, Saria shook her head at the young man. "What happened to that fine, upstanding, level-headed, reserved man with a passion for justice that I loved so much?" She asked.
"You broke him," Zordon shrugged. "Want him back?"
"Not in the least!" Saria said to Zordon's surprise. "I like you much better." An eyebrow raised on her delicate face. "Did I really break you?"
"No, you just bring out the scoundral in me," Zordon said, nuzzling his cheek against hers. "A welcome escape, though. I believe you perceived me as being a bit uptight during our original meeting, did you not?" Saria released a playful snort. "As I thought." His tone changed. "I've never really done this before."
"What, show affection?" Saria laughed the question, but Zordon's silence disturbed her. "Wait a minute, you can't actually be serious about that. Can you?" Zordon remained quiet. "You're tellimg me that you've never expressed feelings for any woman? Not even on Eltare?"
"No," Zordon admitted. "The women on Eltare never appealed to me. They're so stiff, and emotionless. Proper and stuffy to no end." He tightened his hold on Saria by a slight margin. "You're real. You've experienced life, and you look to the unknown future with bright, open eyes. You're intelligent, even if in an unconventional way. You're strong, always speaking your mind and making dificult decissions." He paused. "Did I miss anything?"
"Incredibly attractive," Saria supplied.
"I didn't really think you needed me to tell you that, but very well. You're incredibly attractive." With a sigh, Zordon released his friend. "As I said, we should get some sleep." He climbed into his side of the bed, flanked by Saria. But instead of drifting off to sleep, as he had expected to do after the day's experiences, Zordon lay motionless on his half of the mattress. He felt an absence, and had a sense that the feeling was mutual.
Zordon rolled over once, his chest gently pressing against Saria's back. From the lack of reaction, he assumed that Saria was fast asleep. In one fluid motion, Zordon draped an arm across the young woman, giving her, and himself, a strange sense of safety and wellbeing.
As his eyes finally agreed to close for the evening, he could hear Saria's struggling yawn.
* * * * * * *
The Gliding Shadow shrieked as it was pushed into the rennovated hold of the yet unnamed ship that had been recently purchased by Zordon. The tips of it's bat-like wings sparked as they kissed the inner walls of the craft. Finally, after the smaller vessel had voiced it's distress several times, Zordon and Jared ceased their pushing, and closed the rear cargo door.
"Barely fit," Jared noted, "but it fit nonetheless."
Hearing Jared's comment, but not recognizing it, Zordon called out to Saria, who was leaning against the ship, one leg propped up against the hull. "Well, Saria? What's your answer?" Seeing the girl was visibly frustrated, Zordon repeated the question. "Okay, one more time. Why is it called the Grid?"
"Even I know that one," Jared quietly commented.
"Quiet," Zordon demanded of his partner. "Do you have an answer?"
Wincing as if she would be attacked for an incorrect answer, Saria guessed, "Because all things magical and technical intersect on that plane?" Zordon's silence did not instil a great deal of confidence in the unofficial student, and his response surprised her.
"Correct. You certainly seem to have an intuition regarding the Order."
"I'm a quick learner," Saria chirped. "So, is the Shadow secure? Are we ready to move out?"
"Yes, on both counts," Jared answered. "That is, if it's okay with you, Zordon."
"I'm ready," the Knight answered. He tossed his male companion a small data processing pad. "I've downloaded some of Kalon's theories. Jared, I want you to see what you can do, even if it's just getting a better understanding of what he was talking about. Saria, do you think you can handle the navigational controls?" The girl scowled at her friend. "Right, I forgot, quick learner."
"So we're headed straight for Eltare?" Jared assumed. "Then what, Kalon's manor?"
"Assuming we can sneak in there, yes. Kalon has an emergency exit, or entrance, depending on what was needed at the time, that leads into his home. He had it mainly in case of a fire, where his primary exits were blocked, or should something such as this situation arrive."
"So it starts at the house, but where does it end?" Jared asked. "Somewhere secluded, I hope."
"The back room of a market, the owners of which were friends with Kalon, as well as my father. It's roughly two miles from the manor, so it will take some time to navigate. Fortunately, it should still be well lit, as well as fairly comfortable, nothing like a plumbing system."
"That's always a plus."
"Guys," Saria motioned, "hush the plan, we've got company."
Concerned, Zordon turned his eyes to the opposite end of the large hangar. The company in question was easily identifiable, at least by Zordon. The black jumpsuit, lined with multiple pockets for securing small items almost gave the wearer aware to the Eltarean. For some odd reason, members of Eltare's underground resistence never were too conspicuous when it came to clothing.
"Zordon of Eltare?" The young man with short white hair asked as he approached. "My name is Prem, I'm here to escort your craft back to Eltare on behalf of the Underground."
"I asked for no escort," Zordon said, almost turning his back on the young man. "Your band hasn't been too silent in the past day or so. You left Eltare in one of the Underground's ships. Do you know Vile saw you heading towards this station?"
"No, I don't know if he saw me."
Zordon's brow furrowed. "I didn't use if in my question. Vile knows you're here, and he'll be waiting for you to return. You haven't done anything, with the exception of making yourself a martyr to your cause. Now, if you'll excuse my friends and I, we have a journey to make."
Prem had barely spoken half of a syllable before the stinging kiss of metal was lined against cheek. "I am closing the argument," Zordon said as he withdrew his blade, "not opening it to a discussion of compromise." Tucking his weapon away, the Knight continued. "I did not ask for your help. I do not want your help. I am not responsible for your actions, or your choices, and therefore, your well-being is not my concern."
Zordon climbed into the side hatch of his new ship, removing himself from view, but not from the topic of conversation. As Saria boarded the craft as well, Jared gave the rebel some parting words. "You took a chance you shouldn't have. He can't save everyone, you know." Jared slid himself through the portal, sealing the hatch shut after pulling his body into the ship.
"I know," Prem softly agreed, making way back to his own craft. "but that doesn't mean I have to believe it."
Sliding into the second of two cushioned piloting seats, Saria reported to the ship's captain. "Setting in a course to acceleration gate Eltare-Omicron One. If these readings are correct, we'll be flying into the gate in about ten minutes. After a quick jump, we'll have a nice half-hour cruise until we hit Eltare's atmosphere." Her head tipped as a questioned arose. "Where are we going to land?"
Zordon would have responded with a grim expression, had he not been so involved with the ship's controls. "You're assuming we don't get shot down."
* * * * * * *
Her fringer trembling, Rook pressed a digit against one of her communication console's numerous activation buttons. She had hoped the hail would have come sooner, or later, thanks to her current situation. Regardless, the blonde resistence leader tried her best to hold a brave front, and to defeat her quievering voice. "Go ahead, Prem," she invited.
"I've got Zordon," the voice declared through the staticy speaker. "He'll be riding back with me on our ship, along with his friend. We'll be sending his ship back on auto-pilot as a decoy, just as we planned." Rook shivered as the plan was revealed. "I'll be back within an hour. Prem, out."
She knew it was a lie, or to be more accurate, bait. If Vile was so intent on having Zordon destroyed, then surely the man was worth saving. Prem's message was predetermined, a signal to say that he would not bring Zordon back in his own ship, sacraficing his own life in the process.
The placing of a hand on her shoulder almost shook her to tears. While she did not give away the secret meaning of the message, Rook had permitted an audience to witness all transmissions. The sorrow gave way to slumber, following a slight stinging in the back of her neck.
"Sleep well," Paelion laughed, exiting the room before D'ceit.
The Wizard of Deception stood in the doorway, flicking a small spark from his fingers which would consume the makeshift office in flames after only a matter of moments. And, as the Wizard casually walked himself to the building's front door, he was sure to cast a flaming grin at the numerous and sleeping members of the Underground.
"Some resistence," he spat, leaving the building as the flames moved forward.
* * * * * * *
Two ships, one white and bulking, the other cold and sleek, cruised through the inky void. The first, quite boxy and illequiped in terms of weaponry paved a bath through the stars for it's distance cousin, the heavily armored wing-shaped fighter. One could almost sense the moods of the ships' pilots simply by their flying: The leading craft, eager and determined; the wing fighter, depressed and heavy in heart.
From within the boxy craft's cockpit, Saria marvelled at the sudden change of appearance the stars had seem to take on. "They look so different from when we were in the Shadow," she mused. "Space looks so much brighter...spacious." She threw a glance at the chuckling pilot. "When I want you to criticize me, I'll tell you what to say." Then, in a complete mood swing, she pushed her feet off of the floor and spun about once in her chair.
"Enjoying yourself?" Zordon asked.
"It's the first time I've had this much room on a ship for some time. So, yes, I am."
A quick alert from the computer system caused Zordon to reach for the vessel's intercom. "Jared, we're approaching the acceleration gate. Whatever you have loose back there, tie it down and strap yourself in." He nodded to Saria, who had slipped into her shoulder harness, but had not buckled them together. "You too, Saria. Unless you want to be next to Jared when we enter this thing."
Zordon guided the ship near the center of what appeared to be a large metal ring, with a smaller ring anchored in the center with the aid of several stiff shafts of metal. The center, smaller ring rippled and glimmered with a hypnotising hue of royal blue, which began to swirl into a vortex not soon after Zordon pushed the ship forward.
Saria attempted to look out of every available window at once, as the ship slowly slid itself into the vortex. This part never ceased to amaze the young woman. "Here comes the fun part," Zordon reminded her. A white blast came from the center of the vortex, and rather than Zordon pushing the ship further, the light seemed to have pulled him inward itself.
The light released the craft, spitting it out into empty space, save the planet Eltare located off to one side in the distance. All had not gone routinely however, as the vortex behind the small ship began to react strangely.
A wave of shrapnel, gears, and glass washed over the ship in a rumbling motion. Little damage was done to the boxy vessel, but after close examination it could be determined that the hundreds of thousands of loose metallic objects floating about were once all part of a certain wing fighter.
"Whoa!" Saria would have been sitting on the edge of her seat, had her belts permitted it. "Zordon, is that what I think it is?" She took his silence as confirmation. "Wh--Where's that guy, Prem?"
"Trust me," Zordon said, sounding a bit injured himself, despite his well condition, "He didn't even make it out of the gate. Not if the condition his ship is in is any indication." The young Knight racked his brain for a possible explanation. "Vile must have tried to stop us from coming. He probably thought I'd be on the fighter, as well."
"You think Vile did that?"
"It only takes one second to flip one switch back and forth again. He must have accessed one of the relay stations for the gate and done just that. And more than likely, no one knows about it. Or at least, no one's telling."
"Surprise, surprise." Saria was still staring at the destruction as she spoke. "I'm going to go check on Jared, see how he's doing. He's been in the back cabin and hasn't made a sound since." She unstrapped herself and exited through a small door to the rear of the ship, patting a hand on Zordon's shoulder as she left. "Keep my seat warm, would ya?"
After a brief hob to the ship's middle portion, Saria rapped her knuckles against the doorframe to the sleeping quarters. "Am I interupting anything?" She asked. "How's it going?" She said after Jared approved her entrance. "Are you making heads or tails out of Kalon's work?"
"Not really." The young man revealed. "There is so much here that I'm finding it hard to believe Kalon even knew what he was talking about. In one part, he starts referencing this storage space, an unused dimension where an item with a specific and unique energy signature can be stored and retrieved at will, as long as the owner has a proper parent signature."
"Neat," Saria simply commented.
"Not neat," Jared disputed. "Reading through all of these theories, I can't even find a math computation that I understand. It's as if two-plus-two doesn't equal four when it comes to this kind of stuff."
"Well," Saria suggested, "maybe it doesn't."
"Come again?" Jared asked, looking away from the data pad.
"The Grid is an intersection of magic and technology, right?" Jared nodded. "Right. Well, since you're not dealing with one or the other, you may very well have to create a new mathematical process. Technology is too strict in those terms, and magic is too lenient. Meet somewhere in the middle. If two-plus-two doesn't equal four, maybe it equals three, or five, or something else."
Jared glanced at Kalon's equations again, this time in a new light as a smile split his face. "Saria, I could kiss you, if I didn't think Zordon would break my head for trying." He returned to his work, and Saria turned about and exited.
"I'll leave you alone so you can work, then." She said with a smile.
"So simple," Jared uncovered, not witnessing the door slide shut.
* * * * * * *
The control tower stood as one of the tallest structures on Eltare's prime continent. A slender pole balanced a large saucer-shaped construct perfectly, while containing the only stairwell that lead into the main control room of the tower.
Within that control room, which was just as brilliant white as the exterior of the building, stood a middle-aged man. His post was a circular platform stationed in the center of the room, with a railing that nearly encompased that platform, supporting several flat-screened monitors.
A simple headset connected the man to the other ten operators, each of whom were lined before the room's many windows, sitting before their individual terminals while executing their medial and routine tasks.
"Sir," one operator spun his small chair so he might meet the Chief Operator's eyes. "We have an unlisenced craft entering Eltarean airspace. The pilot has supplied two of the three current security codes, but standard procedure requires contact and designation."
"Thank you, Ryo," the Chief Operator nodded. Gazing out of his favorite pane of glass, he spoke into his headset. "Unknown vessle, this is Chief Operator Dasn. Before clearing you for entry, I must request that you identify yourself, and your ship, immediately."
The reply was filled with static, and came after a brief pause. "This is Zordon, captain of the --- Saria." Dasn believed he heard regret at the pilot's self-designation, and a last minute choice in the craft's title. "I apologize for piloting an unlisenced ship, but it was purchased recently from a spaceport. Permission to land?"
"Granted," Dasn decided. "Control out."
Once the communication had ended, Dasn made a statement. "Continue in your operations, men. I have something to attend to." He shrugged a smile at the confused looks earned from his subordinates. "Too much Tempaken Whiskey," he joked.
The Chief Operator stepped outside of the main control room, joining a rather mismatched quartet. "He's coming," Dasn told Master Vile. "He wasn't in the fighter, as you expected." His voice quiverred with his question. "Have I done my part?"
Vile nodded his bronze face. "Your family is safe," he rewarded. "So long as the information you've given me is accurate."
"It's accurate," Dasn quickly insisted. "I'd stake my life on it."
"You already have." Vile turned to his trio, tugging on Jinelle's lashes. "There is much for us to prepare. We must learn of Zordon's plans of attack before he executes them, all while continuing on with our intended mission."
Dasn returned to his control room, trying his best to avoid eye contact with any of his fellow operators. Ryo was too quick for the Chief Operator. "Sir, are you feeling well? You seem -- ill."
"I'm fine, Ryo," Dasn insisted, grazing his fingers along the handle of his simple defense pistol. "I'm fine."
* * * * * * *
"I can't believe you gave your name," Saria scolded from her co-pilot's seat, turning to Zordon, instead of the clouds that ripped past the ship as it entered Eltare's atmopshere.
"Vile was expecting me anyway." Zordon reminded. "So he knows I'm on the planet, he won't know where I'm going."
"You think Kalon's house won't be the first place Vile looks for you?"
"There's a security system for the manor," Zordon said. "Once we enter the home from underground, which will help us quite a bit since Vile will no doubt be watching the obvious entrances, all I have to do is flip a few switches and the property will be magnetically shielded."
"I've said it before, I'll say it again." Saria slouched uneasily in her seat. "You think of everything, don't you?" There was no response. "This is going a little too smoothly for my tastes. Take that for what it's worth, that being Onyx intuition."
"Your concern is noted," Zordon responded. The young Knight's head turned to the control panels, his attention drawn to a blinking red light that signified an incoming communication. "This is the Saria," he said, after flipping a switch. "Go ahead."
"This is Chief Operator Dasn, Eltare Air Control. There is a slight alteration in your landing request."
"Am I still permitted?" Zordon asked the Chief Operator.
"Yes, however, if you examine your landing orders, you'd see you have been cleared to approach platform six. We have just become aware of a -- flaw -- in the platform's structure, a flaw that could prove very dangerous should continue on your course."
"You'll be providing us with a new course, I'm assuming?"
"Yes," the Chief Operator added, after a moment of conversational hesitation. "If you would please alter your destination to platform C-three ---"
"We are not a commercial vessle," Zordon corrected the other.
"I'm afraid it is the only other vacant landing platform, and I assure you that if you choose to land on platform six, I can not be held responsible for any damage your ship, or your crew may suffer. Control out."
"I have a bad feeling about this," Saria commented.
"Yeah," Zordon agreed, "so do I."
* * * * * * *
Zordon's ship, formally identified as the Saria, set down gently upon it's designated landing platform. And as it's engines cooled, the craft was electronically clamped to the platform, which began to sink itself into the building it was positioned upon.
"Be ready," Zordon warned his co-pilot, and the young man who braced himself across both chairs. "The Chief Operator seemed sincere, but we may have just walked right into a trap." He reached to one side of his seat, pulling a sabre with a blade of gleaming white from a thin bundle. "Do you know how to use this?" Zordon asked Jared.
Jared laughed and scratched his head. "Let me guess. I swing it and cut up the bad guys, right?"
"Right," Zordon replied with a set face. The young Knight was not in a jovial mood, which his companions easily detected from the flat tone of his voice. "Saria, are you ready? I know I haven't given you too much training---"
"Hey," Saria interupted, "I grew up on Onyx, okay? I had to fight for a roll at dinner. I think I can handle a simple confrontation." The young woman reached beside her seat, much as Zordon had his, and withdrew her own bundle. "Besides, I'm getting pretty handy with these things," she said, patting the package.
The ship settled within cold gray confines. The large room was filled with various instruments for weighing and carrying cargo shipments, and was sealed in all places but two, a bi-folding cargo door behind the ship, and a simple exit way for the average passenger.
With a 'hiss', the Saria's only portal rose open on it's upper hinges. No one stepped out, rather Jared peeked around the ship carefully, wanting to be prepared should the scenerio be an elaborate setup.
"All clear," Jared flagged, stepping out of the ship. "Let's go."
* * * * * * *
Ascending the freestanding stairway in curiosity, D'ceit lead his master to the open platform that stood hundreds of feet above Eltare's surface. The wind ripped at his robes, as well as his masters, and attempted to extinquish his flaming mask. "He is not here, master." D'ceit obviously reported. "I do not understand, why do you consider this Zordon such a threat to your power?"
Stepping onto the platform himself, Vile explained. "Zordon was taken in by Kalon at a late age, when most begin to lose their connection to the Grid. His training should have given him remedial skills, but that theory has been tested wrong. The few times I have come face-to-face with Zordon, the few times I attempted to persuade Kalon to release Zordon into my care, I sensed a great destiny within him. Perhaps even powerful than my own."
"You believe he would have made an excellent ally?" D'ceit assumed.
"Only because he does prove such a dangerous enemy. In time, Zordon will accumulate a power that rivals, or perhaps even dwarfs, mine. I must eliminate him while I have the oppurtunity." Vile whipped his head about, frantically. "The Operator has betrayed me."
D'ceit extended a finger to a small communications console, supported off of the platform by a lone post. "Eltarean Air Control," he spoke, "you had assured my master and I that Zordon would be approaching this platform. Explain yourself!"
A cracked reply emerged from the small speaker. "I--I'm afraid Chief Operator Dasn is not about to answer you. He's-- taken his life."
"Then you shall answer for him, boy!" D'ceit snapped. "Zordon. Where is he?"
There wa a pause. "I--err-- have him registered on platform C-three."
"Blast!" A crackle of energy leapt from Vile's finger tips, inscinerating the console. Racing back down the stairway, Vile cursed abundantly. "We do not have much time." He reached into a sleave of his robe, holding a translucent blue card between his thumb and two fingers. "Take this."
D'ceit snatched the card.
"Every file must be uploaded into Eltare's central computer core." Vile instructed. "It is what will guaruntee my victory, should fear and intimidation fall just short of securing my goal."
"It shall be done, my master."
"See that it is."
* * * * * * *
Saria was well-versed in the ways of slinking into shadows. She had done it most of her young life, evading her father while he was consumed in a drunken rage, or sneaking out to have a moment of peace, despite her surprisingly strict mother's wishes. Yes, Saria knew what it took to conceal herself in the elements around her, but on Eltare, such an action was near impossible.
On Zordon's home world, even the alleys between buildings were fairly wide open, and coated in a coat of prisitne white. The inching around corners, and waiting for crowds to pass, only made the trio more noticeable in Saria's mind. "This is rediculous," she critiqued. "Why not just get out in the street and walk?"
Zordon grimly answered, "Because the police are most likely still searching for Jared and myself after the incident on the transport. And you're not a registered resident of this planet," he informed Saria, "so you'd be incarcirated until you've been fully processed, which includes a strenuous background check."
"Have I mentioned how much I love your planet?" Saria cracked.
"Don't forget," Jared reminded, "we left it as well. Though, Zordon's departure was not as forced as mine." He stopped. "We're looking for the storefront that belongs to Uiho and his wife, correct?" Zordon agreed, and Jared pointed across the wide street beside them. "It's right over there. We made pretty good tme."
Saria said, "Well, fugitives are known for they're speed," and gained ill looks from her friends.
"The streets are quiet," Zordon informed. He briskly walked across the road in a quickened pace, not turning back to ensure that his companions had followed. He did stop once he reached his destination however, opening the door to allow his friends quicker, easier access to the building.
Zordon himself stepped into the market, the door jingling a bell as it closed behind him. He smiled as an old man and his matching wife happily exited the rear of the store and claimed their traditional posts behind the counter, offering cheerful greetings. "Zordon!" The surprisingly energetic man cried. "Where have you been? You haven't come by our store in over a year."
"Uiho," Zordon explained, "my friends and I are in danger. We need to get to Kalon's manor as quickly and quietly as possible. Might we make use of his passage way?"
"Of course," Uiho regarded the young Knight with a stern look, "I wouldn't dream of putting Kalon's student in danger. It's in the back room, as you know. Move the crate of wymfruit aside and you should find it easily." The shop owner gestured to a portion of the counter that was not, and invited the trio to enter the storage room.
"Wait a minute," the elderly woman cried. She quickly retrieved and handed Zordon a small bundle, a loaf of bread, riddled with small gelatinous seeds, sealed in a tight wrap of transparent plastic. "Take this for Kalon, he always did love our bread."
"Ma'am," Zordon sadly spoke, "Kalon's--"
"For some odd reason," the old woman continued over Zordon's protest, "Kalon always believed that our bread was lucky." She winked after her words, and Zordon nodded, taking the hint to pass her words off as mock-senility. To complete the act, Uiho gripped her shoulders.
"Now, Iriam, did you forget your medication?" He asked his wife.
Zordon ducked into the storage room, as his friends had moments ago. The crates specified by Uiho were already moved aside, and a small hatch was opened to reveal a drop into a strange void. "Saria, you're after me." Zordon said as he stepped to the edge of the opening. "Jared, you're last, I need you to close the hatch as you drop."
"Got it." Jared confirmed.
Zordon hopped, and slipped himself into the small portal, landing with a soft 'thump'. He could be heard taking a few steps in an unknown direction before calling up to his friends. "It's about a ten foot drop," he detailed, "but you should be able to stick the landing."
With a shrug to the newest member of the party, Saria dropped through the opening as well, only with much more room to spare thanks to her slimmer frame. She too, was heard pattering about for a second, before giving a signal to Jared.
When the young man landed in the darkness, he nearly fell onto his side, but managed to arrange himself to prevent such an instance. "It's pretty dark in here," he told Zordon, wherever the young Knight was. "I thought you said this thing was 'well lit and comfortable'."
A light split the darkness, shining brilliant and blue. The source, as Saria and Jared had immeidately assumed, was Zordon's blade. "It is," the Knight said, strolling about, "we just have to find the light switch." He quickly found something that was half-shrouded in darkness, and reached out for it. "Here we are." An upward flick of his wrist was accompanied by a 'chunk!'.
One by one, hundres of individual lights began to activate. The first began directly above them, and the electricity flowed down the only direction the spacious hall permitted travellers to go.
Jared whistled at the structure, not fully crediting Zordon's praise of it as fact. The walls were a comfortable off-white, with a strip of dark maroon trailing along at mid-height. The floors were firm and solid, to ensure proper footing, but coated in a thick carpet of deep blue that would ease the impact as the three ventured the tunnel.
"What's with the bread?" Saria asked Zordon, who had already taken lead once again.
"This?" Zordon held the loaf in one hand, regarding it. "Good question. But it's not just bread." Tucking his blade under his arm, Zordon utilized his free hand to tear the loaf free of it's protective wrapping. Once the product had been freed, he then tossed a hearty portion that he had broken off of one end to Jared. Another chunk was sent to Saria's hands. "There's something in here," he announced, stuffing his hand into the bread.
"What is it?" Saria asked with a mouthful of the baked good.
"It's," Zordon seemed purplexed as he withdrew a palm-sized black box, which had a few odd switches and a digital display system, "a warning." He quickly located a clip on the back of the item, and locked the box to his beltline. "There's trouble ahead. Be ready."
"I always am." Saria chirpped, freeing her feathers from their back harness. Jared was quick to do the same with the sabre Zordon had loaned him earlier. "But aren't you getting a little paranoid? We haven't really had one formal confrontation with anyone evil since we left Onyx."
Zordon took the remaining hunk of bread, and tossed it around the hall's bending corner. The food hit the wall before riccochetting onto the ground, where a flurry of laser fire pounced upon it, turning it into a smoking pile of char. As several attack droids crept around the corner, Zordon gave his friend a look that could be read as 'I told you so'.
The droids were hunched over, mainly due to their rounded spinal structure. They posessed a somewhat radial symmetry, as their upper and lower appendages, as well as their heads, seemed to have stemmed from a central motor mechanism, which hung below the curved spine. Adding to the danger, their upper appendages were nothing more than repeating laser rifles attached to simple armatures.
"What are those things?" Saria shrieked.
Zordon brought his blade up at the last possible second, deflecting several shots from the droids at once. "Kalon's defense droids." Zordon reported, fending off additional laser fire. "They're not supposed to emerge without direct provocation or an order from Kalon himself, though." Suddenly tired of twirling his glowing blade about, he called to his female friend. "Saria, the box on my belt."
"What about it?" She asked, taking the item in her hands.
"It's an electronic shock emitter." Zordon cried over the sounds of lasers screech over a closing distance. "Throw it at the droids. Try to get it in the center of the lot of them!"
Saria measured the distance careful, wound her arm, and pitched the device through the air. When it hit the ground, landing at as good of an intersection of targets as possible, the box sparked to life, sending thick, crackling cords of electricity into the misfiring droids. A moment later, the droids were charred and lifeless.
Jared exhaled. "Direct provocation, huh? I didn't think the bread was that bad."
"There may be additional dangers ahead." Zordon declared. "Though, the defense droids were most likely altered by a bug in their programming. And while I strongly doubt that anyone is still down here, Uiho and his wife were concerned enough to grant us the emitter. We must be prepared."
"Don't you ever get tired of saying that?" Saria asked.
* * * * * * *
Zordon was the first to reach the end of the tunnel, and he had done so without encountering any additional threats. While this was a relief, it simply made the young Knight worry if danger lurked behind the door.
Shaking the thought away, Zordon pressed his hand to the tunnel's seemingly exitless finish. A portion of the wall, a door-sized portion, sank inward an inch or so, and then pulled itself halfway into the rest of the wall.
"So far, so good." Zordon disappeared into the egres, not making a sound after passing through the emergency portal. A moment later, he called back to his comrades. "It seems to be clear." He reported, signaling with his call for Jared and Saria to follow.
* * * * * * *
Kalon's manor could be summed up in one word: Magnifficent. The area in which Zordon, Saria and Jared stood, had a costly impression by itself. It consisted of a large, spacious foyer, separated from the other side of the house by a canal that was just deep enough to allow small, aquatic life to swim through.
A wide, slightly arched, and heavily decorated bridge lead the way to the next portion of the manor, which was decorated with various wall-hangings, paintings, sculptures, and a great deal of white space. Pieces of heavy but comfortable furniture was arranged perfectly, never in a direct path, but always available should they be needed.
"Kalon lived here?" Jared shook his head. "Viscera didn't have anything like this."
"A few contractors owed Kalon some favors." Zordon informed. "That was usually his luck. He would need something, and incidentally help someone who could provide it. It finally turned on him, though. He finally ended up owing the favor."
"What favor was that?" Saria asked.
"Training me." Zordon smiled. "I'm sure I eliminated his patience, as well as his luck."
Jared looked down, spreading his feet apart. "Is this floor painted?" He asked, citing the inriquite designs drawn all about the surface.
"It's etched," Zordon corrected, striding over the bridge that granted him access to the rest of the manor. "As I said, Kalon was always owed a lot of favors. But, in return, he often did let the designers use his manor as a living portfolio to perspective investers."
"So, where's this lab?" Jared restated the intended purpose of entering Kalon's manor.
"Above us," Zordon said, "on the next floor. You may go on ahead, if you like, Jared. I must look around to ensure that all of Kalon's assests are secure." Jared gave a shrug and left in search of a stairwell. "He left something," Zordon said, "I know he did."
"Left what?" Saria questioned from a few feet behind.
"Anything," Zordon said. "Kalon always had something for every conflict that arose. A weapon, a spell, even a speech that would end any contest." He searched about the manor with his eyes. "He had to have something for this occassion." Saria's gentle hand gripped his shoulder.
"Maybe you are that something." Zordon seemed both confused, and frightened. He stood nearly still as his friend continued. "There has to be a reason why Kalon agreed to train you, something other than returning a simple favor. He saw something in you, Zordon. We all do. And maybe, just maybe, you're the only one capable of stopping Master Vile."
With his head a bit heavier, Zordon approached a distant corner, where a computer terminal was poised. "Perhaps we should see what Vile is up to today, hmm?"
* * * * * * *
Inside Kalon's detailed lab, Jared hefted a pistol-like weapon, finding it's barrell to be a bit out of place. There was no exit for a laser beam, or even a ballistic projectile. While the rest of the weapon seemed to be constructed out of a standard issue, and very well crafted firearm, the barrell was more along the lines of a cone, the rounded bottom protruding outward.
Curious, he found an aging stack of rusted sheet metal in one corner of the lab, and aimed the weapon upon it. After squeezing the trigger, and nearly being thrown back into the large counter top where most of Kalon's projects rested, the sheet metal screeched as a crater appeared within the center of the collection.
It did not take Jared long after that test to conclude that the usual barrell had been rejected in favor for one of a ship's many artificial gravity sensors. The sensor, having been reversed, now sent a powerful blast of force outward. The conflict with nature's own gravity was more than enough to cause great damage.
"Not too bad," Jared graded, already searching for the devices holdster.
* * * * * * *
D'ceit approached his master, who was feeling quite comofrtable while sitting in a very abstract chair located in Vile's manor. Decorations in Master Vile's home were atypical of Eltarean design. Darkness and shadows loomed everywhere, and the only light came from candles with dark orange flames that flickered their brief lives away.
"It has been done, as you requested," D'ceit announced, kneeling at his master's feet. "The mass data interupts for Eltare's central computer core have been reprogrammed as to your specifications. Now, no matter how many votes are cast, no matter how many parties are involved, you are assured to obtain fifty-one percent of the people's 'trust'."
"Excellent," Vile commended, barely visible in the darkness.
D'ceit carefully examined his master's face. "My lord, has your appearance altered?" He asked. "Perhaps it is merely this light, but you appear to have reconfigured your facial features, even if slightly."
Vile laughed softly. "You are observant, D'ceit. That is my connection to the Grid. Slowly, but surely, I am fully embracing it. In time, age will no longer be a factor for me. Soon, my appearance, my destiny, and everything else that comes into my way, will be mine to control."
"Including Eltare," D'ceit added.
"Yes," Vile agreed. "My timing could not have been any more perfect. Already I have been thrust into the public eye. With the Council signing their control over to me, my reuptation has been as purified as possible, but that is not to say there are not those who doubt me. And tonight, I will put the final phase of my plan into effect. Announcing my candidacy for the Eltarean senate at such a late date will raise many questions, but no one will have the time to reach their answers."
"Ingenious," D'ceit praised.
"Yes. I thought so, as well."
* * * * * * *
Zordon turned at Saria's question, and found her handeling a small and unusual dagger that she had pulled from it's place on the wall. "That?" Zordon rose from the computer terminal, and eventually reached the young woman. "Kalon specially crafted that himself."
Saria turned the dagger in her hand. The hilt and the blade were both riddled with jewels and coated in precious metals, while the handle was wound with thick, soft threads repeatedly, creating a comfortable grip for what was obviously a decoration piece.
"He called it a 'promise blade'," Zordon continued. "He said that whenver he found the woman he was meant to be with, he would give this to her. He said that the time and effort he put into this blade, would be dwarfed by the love he would have for whomever the other turned out to be."
Speechless, Saria began to replace the blade upon the wall when Zordon stopped her. "Why don't you hold on to it?" Zordon asked. He placed his own hands around Saria's fist, tightening her grasp on the dagger. "It's very important. I don't want anything to happen to it."
"Always the cryptic charmer, hmm?" Saria sweetly smiled.
As the two were drawing closer, a sharp projectile speeded between their faces. Their eyes followed the object, as it's front pointed tip unfolded to become a unforgiving suction cup. The pair was about to speak when the projectile's path was lit with a bold red laser.
As a handled pully made it's way down the laser, strangely supported by the beam of light, Zordon turned to the equipment's projector. A young man, wearing a sheepish grin, stood behind a laser emitter that rested atop a tripod.
"Jared," Zordon breathed a bit easier. "Thank the stars, I thought it was some attack."
"Sorry," the other apologized. "I was going to ask you if you knew what this was, but I guess we've already figured that out, huh?" After Saria's non-verbal prompting, Jared explained the machine's purpose. "It's an infrared cable system. We can use the handle mechanism down there," he pointed to the pully, "to ride the beam down to wherever the receptor hits."
"Assuming it's a line-of-sight trajectory," Zordon elaborated. "The slightest breeze can knock this thing off course if you don't account for it."
"You boys and your hi-tech stuff." Saria shook her head. "Me? I'll take a club any day of the week, thank you very much." Her mind began drifting. "Or a simple explosive." A small, innocent smile crossed her face. "Maybe under the porch of my father's bar. Pressure sensitive."
"Saria," Jared calmly interupted. "Worry about blowing up daddy later, okay? Right now, we've got to figure out how the three of us are going to stop Master Vile." He placed a hand over his rumbling stomach. "And we should eat something, too. Where's Kalon's replicator?" He asked Zordon.
"I don't want to blow him up," Saria said, following Zordon as he lead Kalon to the kitchen area. "Just cause a few third-degree burns, that's all."
* * * * * * *
The office was quite comfortable, decorated with relaxing tones of rich tans and dark greens. Not that there were many furnishings in the room, just one fairly long couch, and two matching chairs that sat before a large and sturdy desk.
Behind the desk, a middle-aged man, his hair plagued by random whisps of gray, looked up from a report he had been finalizing, not smiling as his assistant of only two-thirds of his years entered into the simple room. The man sighed, as if he had lost all hope. "He has done it," the man said. "Hasn't he?"
Carefully delivering a thin data pad, the female assistant nodded. "Master Vile has asked that we please include him on the ballot for the Senate elections."
The man leaned back in his large, supporting chair. "Absolutely not. As the ballot's coordinator, I have the authority to add and remove whomever I wish from the election race. And although I do not have the time required to conduct a concrete evaluation of Master Vile's questionable character, public speculation alone should support my opinions."
"But he has gained the trust of the Council," the assistant advocated. "The other councilmen did sign their control over to his care, after all." She stood, fumbling her hands. "Maybe -- Maybe you should reconsider your decission."
The Coordinator eyed his assistant suspiciously. "Is something wrong, Neyeo?"
After a pause, the woman nodded. "Master Vile's men are just outside the door," she whispered. "If you do not add his name to the ballot, I doubt we will step out of this building alive." The assistant began to midly beg her employer. "Please sir, put him on the ballot."
"What if you just go out there and tell them I put his name on?"
"They want proof. They want us to show them the ballots, which we can't print until everything's been finalized. If we want to survive the election, we have to put his name in the hat."
The man grumbled, and broke. "Fine," he said, spitting a sour taste out of his mouth. "Tell them it will be done, but the final ballot will not be prepared until tonight. They may wait in the lobby, if they wish."
"Yes sir," Neyeo said as she left. "And sir, whatever you do, don't try to pull something over on these people." Her voice was sad and empty. "I'd very much like for my children to grow up with their mother."
* * * * * * *
Hours later, Saria dropped herself onto the edge of a cushy sofa, watching as Zordon tinkered with a mysterious device on the floor. She took an impressive swig from the bottle in one hand, and swallowed before speaking. "What're you doing, Zordon?"
"I'm--" Zordon looked up to the young woman, frowning. "Where did you get that?" He
"This?" Saria looked at the bottle in question. "It was in one of the cabinets." Zordon's expression grew more threatening. "Look, it's just one of those celebrational liquors that you can buy any day of the week for two credits. The stuff's about one percent alcohol, ninety-nine percent fruit water and carbonation."
"Just take it in moderation," Zordon requested. "Okay?" She nodded, and he continued. "This is a free-standing hologram projector," he explained. "Kalon's had it since I can remember knowing him, but it's been broken just as long. Nothing that couldn't be fixed with the turning of a screw, but he never had use of it."
"And we do?"
"Actually, yes." Zordon stood, finished with any adjustments or repairs to the small, pod-like machine. "As soon as Jared's collected the data we need, this is going to give us a three-dimensional diagram of almost any building we want. We'll have overhead and first-person perspectives. This is going to give us an idea of how we'll need to approach Vile."
"Don't we need to figure out how to do that, first?"
"I've already thought of that," Zordon said, prior to a snort from Saria. "We've already established he'll go for the Senate. If, somehow, he gets elected, it would obviously be due to fraud on his part. I strongly doubt that Master Vile would win over a majority of the votes to obtain a government position. And I also doubt the people would believe anyone else, other than his students, would vote for him. It would be a great 'silent conspiracy', to phrase it correctly.
"This accounted for, I believe the proper place to strike would be at the Senate building itself. Granted, we'd have to make our way past several obstacles, some of those armed guards, but if we plan everything correctly we should be able to remove Vile from power one way or another."
Saria wavered, unsure of if she wanted to ask her next question. "What if we don't get Vile?"
Zordon's expression went blank. "What?"
Saria slightly smiled. "You're cute when you've got that 'drifting through the cosmos without a purpose' look, you know that?" She took a breath, changed her tone, and continued. "Zordon, I want to ask you something. You don't have to agree with it, but I'm hoping you do." She braced her palms against her knees, straightening herself, only to slump forward once again. "If you don't get Vile at the Senate building, I would really appreciate it if you just let it be."
Zordon shook his head, and turned away. "I can't believe what you're asking."
"Listen to me," Saria said, still perched on the sofa. "You can stick around and battle Vile if you want to. But if you do, I won't be there." Those words did recapture Zordon's attention. "I left Onyx so I could have a better life. And it didn't take me too long to realize I'd really like to have a life with you. But I refuse to trade in one Hell for another."
"You want me to allow Eltare to fall under Vile's control?"
"I want you to give your all to eliminating Vile. But, if we fail, I'm hoping you'll come with me."
"To where?" Zordon asked, slightly angered.
"Anywhere but here. We could go somewhere else. Start over. As a Knight of the Order, you could probably get a job guarding the King of Triforia, or you could be brought on as a mediator to solve all of the partisan conflict on Edenoi. As a Knight, you're possibilites are endless."
"But my duties are specific," Zordon countered. "I am sworn to protect my planet."
"And I'm not going to help you defend a dying planet. Do you know why? Because no one will take up your position if you don't make it out of the Senate building alive, that's why. Vile will have everyone running scared, and no one will try to oppose him."
"The people will rise up, if they have hope. I will give them hope."
"The people will rise up when they realize no one will do their fighting for them!" Saria snapped. "You can give them hope, you can be their symbol, but you can't take the world on your shoulders!"
"I will if I have to," Zordon said.
Saria gripped her head. "What are you even fighting for, Zordon?"
"My people." Zordon calmly and promptly answered.
"Not who," Saria clarified, "what. Are you fighting because you have a grudge against Vile for what he's done to the Order? Are you fighting because it's honestly what you say your duty as a Knight is? Is it because you don't think anyone else will fight if you don't?"
Zordon's words stumbled. "I -- Vile. He has to be stopped."
Saria looked at Zordon strangely, as if the young Knight was about to tip over in the wind. She could sense the disruption within himself, as the rules of good and evil and black and white that had been programmed into his brain so long ago, bent and broke before his very eyes. "Then we'll try to stop him," Saria soothed, forgetting her previous topic. "But if we don't stop him the first time, the next time it will be up to you."
"Found it." That was Jared, who entered carying a small data processor that was still large enough to require support from his two hands. "Some of the old architectural archives are in serious need of restructuring. I couldn't find anything on those networks." He set the device down, and connected it to the holographic projector with a thin, flat cable. "But, I managed to scrounge up what you were looking for."
Jared pressed a button on the processor, and the projector hummed to live, sending a detailed, three-dimensional structural design of Eltare's Senate building roughly three feet into the air. "Shall we start with the back door?" He asked.
* * * * * * *
Clangs and clashes, the whistles and wheezing of metal on metal, those were the sounds that filled the space in Kalon's private, once private, training room. Under the powerful lights which lit the white room, trails of silver, both slim and broad, circled about an aggrivated form, and intersected with a training droid.
"Releasing some hostility?"
Saria ceased the turning of her metal feathers, and turned to the doorway. She pulled her sweat-soaked bangs from her forehead, and regarded Jared with an attitude that had gotten her through most of her life on Onyx. "Yeah. It's not even close to what I'd like to do, but it's doing some good." She waited for Jared to pick up his half of the conversation, and sighed. "Is there something I can help you with?"
"You and Zordon, you had a pretty heated argument. Didn't you?" He stepped farther into the room, knowing it was safe to enter since Saria's training session had obviously ended. "I heard the closing while I was bringing in the processor."
Saria shook her head, and grinded her teeth. "He can be so dense, at times." She scowled at Jared's chuckle. "You know, when I'm in this mood, holding weapons that could slice you in half, perhaps you shouldn't make fun of me."
"My cousin sounded like you once," Jared smiled. "Not too long before she agreed to marry her husband." The girl rolled her eyes. "So, you had your first fight. What's the big deal? It is a very stressful time for each of us."
"You seem to be handling it well," Saria observed.
Jared shrugged. "Self-taught anger management," he solved. "Not easy to learn, but useful."
"He's a totally different person when he's here," Saria related after turning away. "Since we've stepped foot on Eltare, he's become this -- I don't know -- Machine. Back on Onyx, even on the Spaceports, he would care about what he was going to do, but it didn't consume him. He hasn't even smiled once since we've arrived here." She paused. "At least, I don't think he has."
"Look, Saria. Zordon has his own priorities, and loyalties. You didn't meet him on Eltare, so you don't know what he's like when he's here. Whenever he's not on this planet, he'll laugh, he'll cry, and show every other emotion. When he is on this planet, however, his training, his father's death, it all comes back to him. Yes, he's totally different when he's here, but it's important that you be there with him. If there's one thing I've learned from the short time I've known the two of you, it's that Zordon is not a loner."
"And I'm not a warrior," Saria countered. "I'm not going to live like one."
"Somehow, I'm beginning to think playing mediator was a bad idea," Jared regretted.
"No one asked you to get in the middle of this, you know."
"True," Jared accepted, "but if I hadn't, you two wouldn't speak to each other again." He shook his head, and waved his hand once in Saria's direction. "Look, this is something that you and Zordon need to settle, and settle quick. If he doesn't go into his little confrontation with a clear head, we may all end up paying for it."
* * * * * * *
And when vengance overtook his soul, and controlled his every thought and motion, the brave young warrior realized that the darkness had stolen something from him, not his soul, but his life.
Zordon returned the 'ancient' book to a shelf that displayed works of literature that Kalon had collected over time, and shook his head. "I've read it as a child, I've read it as an adult." He said to himself. "And I still do not make heads or tails out of such an interpretive legend."
"I think it means, 'be careful'." Saria explained from behind Zordon. As her friend turned to her, she shrugged slightly. "You have a habit of reading things out loud. You do it quietly, but you still do it."
"I see." Zordon took the comment in stride, and then began to relocate himself.
"You should be careful." Saria said. "You know that, right?"
"I'm always careful."
Saria snorted. "Narrowly missing oncoming convoys and spitting fireballs is not being careful. That's actually being more careless than anything else." After Zordon's lack of commenting on the matter, Saria threw her hands in the air, let them drop to her sides, and stomped off. "Fine, if you don't want to talk about it, I'm not going to bother. I'm going to find a place to settle for the night." She extended her bottom lip, and exhaled, blowing her bangs about. "Somehow, sharing a room with you doesn't seem to be a sensible idea, anymore."
* * * * * * *
Darkness swam over Eltare, as citizens and members of the press alike uneasily gathered infront of the Senate Building for Master Vile's 'surprise announcement'. There was no doubt in anyone's mind as to the content of his statements-to-come, nor was there any sense of relief or salvation about to enter their hearts anytime soon.
Two figures, however, evaded the crowds, choosing backways and alleys as their preferred path. Both strong, male figures, clad in the color of night, seemed to serve a just purpose, while still seeming so out of place with their large cargos hung over their shoulders.
"We should've told Saria we were leaving," Jared scolded, readjusting the bundle riding on his back. "When we get back, she is going to whip you around the house with that tail of yours."
"She's not in a mood where she wishes to speak with me, at the moment." Zordon announced softly. "Plus, she needs the rest to sleep off her anger. And these are merely preparations, we do not need her for this." Zordon's attention was torn in another direction.
"He's here." Zordon told his partner. "Vile must be at the front of the building." He dropped his load to the ground, all but a thin bundle that held his sword, and gave instructions to Jared. "Set up what you can without me. I should be back in an hour's time, at most."
"What are you doing?" Jared asked.
"To see if I can't stop the damage before it begins."
* * * * * * *
Master Vile floated onto the pure white platform that had served so many of Eltare's public and reknowned speakers in the past. Just the very thought of his thin, withering fingers gripped around the innocent guardrail however, seemed to tarnish and corode the structure, as well as the strong building that stood behind him to house the Senate of Eltare.
"My dear Eltareans," he began, gesturing to the nervous crowd of noted officials and press members before him, "I have asked all of you to assemble here tonight, for a purpose I'm sure all of you can assume. On this night, I am pleased to announce that my name will be available on tomorrow's voting ballot. In a mere day's time, I can safely assume that I will become Eltare's newest Senator."
Vile continued with an eerie speech, occasionally letting his eyes float upward, to the roof of an opposing building. The Master did not need to clearly see the form in order to read it as Zordon's, the young man's connection to the Grid was unique enough to send out a signal of his presence.
"Now, I believe most candidates would opt for the chance to answer any questions you might have." Vile said. "However, I do not believe that you, the people of Eltare, have any --- sensible questions to ask. Am I correct?" He smiled when no hands rose into the air. "Very good. Very good, indeed."
* * * * * * *
Zordon returned to the alley behind the Senate Building, and took a moment to himself before answering Jared's query. The young Knight was obviously very distraught. "I wouldn't have been able to do it without getting myself viewed in a bad way." He nodded to his partner. "How are you doing?"
Jared huffed. "I've spent the last forty-five minutes trying to get Kalon's Auto-Seekers to work. I programmed the blueprints for the building into them, so they could fly in and take out Vile without anyone getting caught."
"And, there's a sub-program within the blueprint code. It totally wiped the core memory of the stupid little things." He apologized as Zordon leaned against a wall in frustration. "Sorry. It looks like we'll have to do this by hand, and as criminals."
"We're already criminals," Zordon reminded, "thanks to Eltare's strict violence policy."
"Look on the bright side," Jared said. "Maybe Vile will change that policy, and make it retro-active. That way, if we try to kill him, and fail, nothing will happen to us."
Zordon was silent for a second. "You're the only person I've ever known who tries to find the silver lining on a piece of coal." He gestured to their pack of equipment. "Is there anything else that we can do here? Anything useful, I mean." Jared shook his head, and Zordon sighed. "Let's pack up, then. There's no sense in staying out here any longer."
"You're the boss."
* * * * * * *
Zordon and Jared ran back and forth through Kalon's manor, a once beautiful home that had been ransacked while the two young men were away. Glass was broken, walls were crushed, and art was destroyed. Nothing seemed to be intact, yet everything was accounted for.
Except for Saria.
Zordon called out her name again, and roared. "Where is she?!" He said to Jared.
The young apprentice was equally loud. "I don't know!" He easily lifted an over-turned couch, breathing a bit easier when he did not find the young woman underneath it, dead. "This is crazy! Who did this? Who was in here?" He turned, discovering a strange symbol that had been drawn on one of Kalon's wall. "What is that?"
Zordon looked to the drawing, gritted his teeth, and cursed. "Paelion!" He then stormed off to examine the rest of the home.
"Paelion?" Jared followed, confused. "He's released?"
Both turned to the rear portion of the house, where Saria stood, feathers in hand. "What happened, here?" She asked, before Zordon ran to embrace her tightly. "Hey, Zordon--" she struggled. "--I can't breathe!"
"Oh." Zordon released her, and composed himself. "I'm sorry." He took in the young woman, and sighed greatly. "Where were you? I thought you were sleeping when Jared and I left."
"I was," Saria confirmed. "but I heard this noise outside, and went to check it out. I must've been too far out to not hear what was going on." She looked to the grafittied wall, and nodded to Zordon. "So, who's this Paelion guy?"
"A total psycho," Jared explained. "The guy was locked in the dungeon for life because of what he's done." At Saria's curious expression, he recalled one of the more milder crimes committed by the whithered scientist. "There was that one senator's wife --- they found most of her."
"Ew." Saria simply commented.
"That wasn't one of the worse ones, though." Jared finished. "But I'll save those fun little tales for some other time." He turned to the small band's leader. "I think we should move on. It's obviously not safe around here, anymore."
"We just need to stay the night," Zordon said. "The voting takes place tomorrow. Vile will be present in the Senate Building, as will the other candidates, to accept his new position. We'll strike then. It will take quite some time to make our way, quietly, through the building. Vile will anticipate our move, and likely have his enterage prepared to engage us."
"And back to 'warrior-mode' he goes," Saria griped. "Zordon, can I make a suggestion?"
"Lose the whole 'knight-with-honor' thing."
Zordon disputed the comment with shock. "It's what I was taught my entire life."
"Yeah. Well, since you'll be assassinating one of Eltare's senators, I don't really think you have to worry about good form and fair play." After the mild snap, Saria's tone softened. "Take the cheap shot, and just keep your wits about you. It really pays off."
"I can't really say she's wrong about that," Jared entered. "Especially since Vile will probably be expecting a very by-the-book attack."
"So you're recommending what, exactly?" Zordon asked of his Eltarean other.
"Go in without a plan." Jared solved. "If we go in with a plan, we may screw everything up if we have to deviate from it. If we just deal with each situation as it comes along, Vile won't be able to predict what we'll do next as much as he probably would."
Zordon made a decission after a moment of silence. "You're both insane."
"We're insane?" Saria repeated.
"We're right, though." Jared announced. "You have to admit that."
"You're calling us insane?" The girl continued. "Have you seen your hair?"
"What's wrong with my hair?" Zordon defended.
"Forget about the hair!" Jared bellowed. "We have bigger things to worry about."
"Jared's right." Zordon turned to the young man in question. "How much of Kalon's work have you been able to properly execute."
"I didn't have enough time, but I found some useful items in his lab that are going to do some good. Providing we can carry them all."
"Then let's collect what we'll want to take with us." Zordon ordered. "We'll spend an hour on that, and try to get a few hours of sleep before the polls open tomorrow morning."
The trio was still, until Saria spoke up. "Isn't this where you say some really cliche line about how we're going to win the day?" Zordon, along with Jared, eyed her curiously, and walked off to Kalon's lab. "Zordon? Hey, come back here you two! This conversation isn't over yet!"
* * * * * * *
The main audience chamber for the Senate Building was quite unique. Long wooden benches covered most of the oval floor, with a spacious aisle carved down the middle. The far wall had a ramp that curved upward that was hidden failry well with a solid wooden rail that also served as the speaking podium. On the entrance's wall, numerous balconies and box seats were created for those who cared enough for Eltare's politics to visit with the Senators.
"I'm sorry," a young, but loyal guard said to Master Vile, crossing his file across the aisle way. "Master Vile, you're company will have to wait outside." Despite Vile's hardened stare, the young man stood strong. "Only candidates or press are allowed in this area."
With a growl, Vile slapped Jinelle's leash into D'ceit's waiting hand. "Take her outside," he told the flaming-faced demon. "And find my other charge. Bring him back here and wait for my victory." Vile turned himself to where the other candidates were assembling, and marched off, speaking to himself. "At last, my destiny is coming to pass."
* * * * * * *
Across from the Senate Building, as a crowd gather to cast their secret ballots, Zordon quietly and quickly gave instructions to his two friends. At the moment, he did not care about being seen, as the people were more involved with casting votes against Master Vile's candidacy.
"There's three of us," Zordon reminded, "and three of them. I think if we split up and hit Vile from each angle, it will be a bit too much for him to handle. Now, not to sound conceited, I'm the only one with enough skill to deal with Vile. If you two can get D'ceit out of the picture, and then move on to Paelion..."
"...I can handle Paelion."
Frowning, Zordon shook his head at Saria. "I don't think so."
"I know how to take care of my self," she aggressively whispered. "And I can certainly take care of some old, decreped scientist. Just give me the chance."
"It's against my better judgement..."
"...It always is. And it always will be." Saria was not about to be denied the chance to prove herself as a capable fighter, even if that was the last title she ever wished to hold. "You know I'm going to do it anyway. You might as well allow me."
Zordon, with a groan, turned to Jared. "You can handle D'ceit by yourself?" Regretfully, Jared nodded. "Fine," he spat behind clenched teeth. "It's settled. Everyone find your targets, and try to avoid any unnecessary obstacles."
Jared peeked over Zordon's shoulder, to the buildings across the way. "I don't know about Paelion, but D'ceit and some girl are leaving the building."
"Vile's probably inside, alone," Zordon said, not turning around to risk himself being identified. "Neither D'ceit nor Paelion will be in the main chamber, so the Wizard is probably seeking out his associate. Follow him, the both of you." Zordon did his best to emphasize a union. "Deal with the situation appropriately. No stupid moves."
Saria was about to leave, when Zordon gripped her by her arm. "Hey!"
He glared at her. "No stupid moves," he repeated, then adding, "Please."
She nodded with mixed emotions. "I got it," she said. "I got it."
* * * * * * *
Jared snorted as he and Saria made their way down the streets of Eltare. "And you say Zordon's a different person on this planet." He received a harsh stare, courtesy of the young woman, but made no polite explanations about his comment. Instead, he simply made an obvservation. "You're doing the same thing you were complaining about."
"And what is that?"
"You're picking and choosing your roles at a moment's notice," Jared said. "At first you said you didn't want to do this, and now you're begging Zordon to let you take on a hardened criminal all by yourself. I swear, you two are either made for each other, or of each other." A new notion entered the talisman forger's mind. "Does this have anything to do with your fight?"
"I left Onyx so I could be free," Saria reiterated. "I'm not about to spend the rest of my days trapped in a war I didn't want a part in to begin with. I want this over, and done."
Jared sighed. "I don't know what being on Eltare does to you and Zordon, but I'm thinking I should get off this planet before it gives me an involuntary and unnecessary attitude adjustment."
* * * * * * *
D'ceit's voice ripped through the dark corridors, eventually landing in the former-prisoner's laboratory. Entering the room with a strong pace, towing the tired Jinelle after him, the flame-faced demon searched for the withering man over numerous counters, and through many glass viles and containers.
"Our master commands that we converge at the Senate Building for his victory," relayed the demon. "Put aside whatever you are involved with, and come with me."
Paelion snickered from behind his rotting teeth. "Oh, I do not believe such an idea suits us, my nightmarish adherent." His withering finger pointed to a small monitor mounted in one corner. "For according to a little bird, we are not without guests."
* * * * * * *
"Still with me?"
Even whispers from that of a friend seemed incredibly eerie within the blackened halls. Unlike what was expected by the pair, absolutely no light whatsoever existed within the undesignated building. And having a friend with you, was no consolidation when you could not verify their accompanyment.
"Right behind you," Jared said, before a small, but brilliant fire grew from behind him. "And apparently, I'm not the only one." He turned, facing D'ceit, who stood in the light created from his own reptilian visage. "Keep going." He ordered his friend. "I'll take care of this one."
Saria hesitated. "Are you sure?"
"Just go!" Jared forced.
"Go?" D'ceit laughed. "Go where? For you, are in a world without boundaries, and thus, without substance."
Jared jumped as the darkness collapsed into an astral scene. Stars, planets, comets and meteors all tore past his being, never making contact regardless of which angle they approached him. It did not take the young apprentice long to decypher the illusion as such, but he well knew the effect was to keep him off-balance and disoriented.
"Are you going to fight," Jared asked, "or are you going to throw dreamscapes at me?"
"Why choose?" D'ceit cupped his hands together, summoning a flaming orb. "Especially, when I am capabale of both!"
As anticipated by Jared, the fire left D'ceit's hands in search of the young apprentice. A quick, and last-minute dodge proved uneventful, as the fire held it's position, and re-acquired it's target. Jared moved again, this time slamming himself into a wall he did not, and could not, see.
The fire singed past his ribs as he lifted his arm in the hopes of avoiding contact, all while the Wizard of Deception roared with a bellowing laugh. "How will you fair, young warrior? You can not keep this pace up forever, and eventually the fire will claim your soul." His eyeless brow raised. "Of course, in a battle where I control what you perceive, who is to say that the fire is real at all?"
Jared cried out as the fire momentarily grazed his shoulder, though leaving no damage.
"Oh, that's right. Perhaps, I am."
* * * * * * *
"One little girl, slinking through the night.
"Much like the one, who shall never taste delight.
"Loyal to a cause, and valiant to the end,
"You shall not exit, neither shall your friend."
That did it, Saria said, trying to force Paelion's rhymes out of her head. This guy has officially creeped me out. It was now, when she wished she had further developed a strategy, or at least researched this falsifier a bit more carefully. "Why don't you stop playing games, and get your wrinkled carcass out here and prove you have a backbone?"
"Oh," came the venomous voice, "I have a backbone, but I'm afraid that years of huddling in the corner of my cell have degenerated it to the point where a traditional battle is out of the question."
The young woman could hear faint 'clicks' in the darkness.
"Instead, I tend to rely on more -- unusual tactics for survival."
Small bits and pieces of the concrete flooring dropped from under Saria's boots, giving her the impression of walking atop a strong, iron grid-working. Then, the 'clicks' became louder, joined by an increasing hum.
"And unlike my cryptic comrade, you can trust yourself in knowing what you are experiencing, is without a doubt, true pain."
Taking a step became increasingly difficult, with Saria's boot souls melting into the grating. Through the softening half-inch of rubber, she could feel the temperature of the metal beneath her increasing.
* * * * * * *
Running about the spacescape was beginning to take it's toll on Jared. Then, something clicked in his mind, and he rememberred something he had tucked into his beltline. A second later, a thin pair of lenses, lenses that read thermographic scales, were set over his eyes.
"So," he said, staring down a non-present fireball. "It wasn't real."
"Resourceful," D'ceit somewhat applauded. "But a short-lived advantage, as the key to illusion is not controlling what science disects, but what your mind observes." The wizard held his palms out, and Jared threw off his glasses after believing two snarling beasts of prey had appeared from nowhere, charging him. "And as of now, I am in control."
"And I," Jared returned, reaching for the weapon he had earlier strapped against his hip, "am growing sick of your incredulous dictations!" With a fluid motion, the alleged firearm was in his hand, and pointed at his tormentor. "You say this place has no boundaries? No substance?" He commented of the astral scene without losing sight of his advesarie. "I'm willing to gamble on that!"
The gravity gun fired, and D'ceit found his spinal column whipped against a disguised structure. "Impressive retaliation," the wizard complimented again, "but can you eliminate what you can not even survey?"
It was then, that D'ceit merged into the astral environment.
* * * * * * *
With the corridor filling with the red glow of the heating grid, Saria observed the rungs that were evenly spaced above her. Her first instinct was to swing herself over the grid, and to a safer spot. Her second instinct told her those rungs were no doubt rigged, set to release and send her down to the grating once more.
With no other options, Saria tucked her feathers into their back-harnass, pushed her hands against one side of the small corridor, and struggled to plant her feet on the opposite side, holding a horizontal position.
"Ah, very good," Paelion's voice hissed in regards to the slowly escaping girl, "but how long can you hold that?"
* * * * * * *
Holding Kalon's white blade tightly in his hands, Jared made a risky move. "If you're controlling what my eyes see," he called out to the unseen wizard, "perhaps I should stop relying on them entirely." It was then he shut his eyes, not tightly, but completely. Once he could no longer see the disorienting illusion, he found navigatating himself by the senses of touch, sound, and smell was much more efficient.
"There you are!" Jared cried, striking out with his blade. The heat and crackling of the flames D'ceit wore upon his face would give his position away, all too easily. Though, that did not prevent the wizard from making split-second avoisions. "Looks like someone didn't think of everything, huh?"
"I would not keep running my mouth, if I were you, boy," D'ceit's voice said. "For unlike you, I can continue to rely on my sense of sight."
"Then I shall have to do something to remedy that!"
* * * * * * *
Saria spun out through the darkened air in a corkscrew-like manuver. Pulling the soaked black hair from her sweat-covered face, she took a moment to relieve her muscles.
"Quite the accomplishment," Paelion cackled from nowhere in particular, his voice snapping out from the blackness that surrounded the girl. "What will you do now? Surely you are aware that I have anticipated someone clearing such an obstacle."
"I think I'll just wait until you trip yourself up," Saria answered.
Paelion howled. "As you wish, pretty."
The young girl cursed, and the flooring beneath her gave way. She felt herself sliding down a slanted platform, until she crashed into a waist-high pool of water. Taking quick note of her altered surroundings, she could see the heated grate that she had crossed moments ago, resting fifty feet above her head. There was also a near-deafening rush of water coming from two opposing sides of the chamber.
"I hope your muscles are not too sore from your previous escape," Paelion could be heard saying. "You will need them once the water reaches past your head."
* * * * * * *
Jared's hand whipped from behind his back, launching a soft powder into D'ceit's eyes. As the wizard roared in a temporary agony, the young apprentice took the time to explain, and prepare another strike. "It's a smothering agent!" Jared victoriously presented. "It works great on burning fabrics, but it doesn't seem to be too compatible with your face, does it?"
With a mighty swing, he brought Kalon's blade through where he assumed D'ceit's mid-section would be. Unnaturally, the blade sliced through the demonic form without causing any damage whatsoever.
"You're not even real!" Jared solved. "You're casting an illusion of yourself to wear me down! That's why you haven't even touched me, yet!"
"As if I would waste my time with you!" The figmant said. "When I have been so enjoying watching the suffering that your friend is currently experiencing." Laughing, D'ceit's image did away with the spacescape, and some minor light entered the hallway. "She is such an entertaining prey."
"Saria!" Jared snarled at the image before him. "Where is she?"
"Find her, if you can," D'ceit offered. "Save her, if we let you."
* * * * * * *
As Zordon snuck into the main chamber of the senate building, he cursed to himself. First, he had neglected to carry along his pack of supplies and weapons, which would make the assassination attempt all the more difficult. Second, he had no idea how he was going to forge his way through the crowd, evade the guards, and still be quick enough to catch Master Vile off guard.
Then, catching Zordon off guard, Master Vile stared him down from his post on the opposite side of the chamber. At first, the young Knight panicked, figuring his cover had been blown, and all of his secrecy had been for naught. Panic turned to worry, as Vile merely smirked, and released a soft laugh that only Zordon could sense.
With his heart beating faster than it ever had in his life, Zordon left the senate building.
* * * * * * *
Saria's powerful scream caught the ear's of her friend, whom she could see standing over the grating that she rose closer to each and every minute. "Jared, I'm down here!" Some traces of hope entered her mind as she saw the young man look down at her in shock. "Help me! I can't get out!"
Stuttering, panicked, Jared asked, "What do I do?"
"Cut the grating!" She cried.
Finally realizing that he had a weapon, Jared brought Kalon's blade down in a strong arc. As metal kissed metal, screeches came alive, and sparks flew. However, no damage was evidently done. Before Saria could comment on the fact, Jared repeated the action again, and again, all while the water rose beneath him.
"Where are your feathers?" Jared exhaled. "If we hack from both sides..."
"They're on the bottom!" Saria regretted. "I had to let them go so I wouldn't drown." She scoffed. "I guess that's kind of a moot point, now, isn't it?"
* * * * * * *
Pacing the general area of where he last saw his friends, Zordon looked about the streets in hopes of fnding something that could give him an indication of Jared and Saria's location. That something came in the form of Paelion, who Zordon would not have noticed under the maroon cloak unless he had sensed the evil with his connection to the Grid.
"You!" Zordon's fingers wrapped around Paelion's scrawny throat, and his arm lifted the struggling old scientist into the air. "My friends!" He bellowed. "Where are they?" Paelion only coughed, causing Zordon to shake the ancient criminal like a pile of fleshy rags. "Tell me, or I'll make you wish you were still in that dungeon!"
"The unmarked complex..." Paelion wheezed. "...but by now, my traps have made short work of them." The scientist then began laughing, at least, until he was thrown down to the pavement.
"I'll deal with you, later!" Zordon said, dashing down the street.
* * * * * * *
"Hurry!" Saria shrieked, during Jared's continuous attack on the grating. "My head's almost touching this thing!" She emphasized her point by barely reaching up to grasp the cage ceiling. "I dont' have a lot of time here!"
"What's going on?" A third voice barked.
"Zordon!" Saria's voice lightened somewhat. "Come on, you and Jared have to get this grate open!"
Zordon wasted no time in drawing his sword, and joining Jared in repeated strikes against the neigh-impervious grating. "Why didn't you begin this method earlier?" He huffed in question to his standing companion. "You've barely scratched this thing!"
"And I've been working at it," Jared said as he struck down twice, "for nearly half-an-hour. One scratch is all I've been able to make." He lifted his head slightly, and continued striking against the grating. "Do you hear that?" He asked of Zordon, while an increasing rumble filled the corridor.
"Yes!" Zordon replied. "Keep going!"
"Hey!" Saria's eyes widened. "Guys, the ceiling's coming down! Fast!"
"Say what?" Jared turned his eyes upward, and gasped. "We're in it deep, guys!"
"No we're not!" Zordon disputed.
"That's right!" Saria added, silencing her friends with her next words. "I am!" Zordon's cutting ceased, and he looked down to the rational girl in horror. "Face facts! I'm not getting out of here alive!" Her face was set firmly while Zordon shook his head. "Go! Stop Vile while you have the chance!"
"I won't leave you, behind!"
"Jared, get him out of here!" Saria issued. When the other young man hesitated, she cried again. "Go! You don't have much time!"
With the ceiling dropping lower every second, Jared made the only decission he could. Using all of his remaining strength, and a great deal of adrenaline, he pushed Zordon out to the safer area of the corridor. Then, before Zordon could try to return, Jared rolled under the falling slab, moments before it slammed against the caged floor.
The head-splitting, ear-bleeding roar did not come from the collision, however. It came, from one lonely, vengeful, Knight.
* * * * * * *
Murmmers of 'I don't believe it', and some varying levels of profanity filled the main chamber of the senate building. The final tally was in, and Master Vile took the center podium, proudly holding fifty-seven percent of all votes.
"At this time," Vile started, "I would prefer to by flanked by my trusted associates. Guards, if you would?" He nodded to the two young men before the large double-doors, who then pulled the portal open, revealing three greatly contrasting figures. By the time the company had joined Vile at his post, he quietly asked, "How did you fare?"
"Zordon raced to the rescue of his friends." Paelion whispered a snicker. "I doubt we will be seeing the likes of that would-be Knight, any longer."
Vile released an uncharacteristic "hmph", and returned to his address. "Citizens of Eltare, as a proud member of the Senate, and controlling Councilman of the sacred Order, I promise that I will use all of my power for great accomplishments." By any other Senator, the sentence would have been harmless, holding no hidden meaning. "I hope to use all of my influences for --- everyone's benefit."
Murmmers arose again, which turned to confused remarks when a thin silver dagger lodged itself into Master Vile's podium. Had the miniature blade traveled one inch upward, it would have carved into the newly-appointed Senator's ribcage.
"Never see the likes of him again, hmm, Paelion?" Vile raised his eyes to the highest, center balcony of the senate building, watching with interest as a man in a deep blue cloak removed it's hood to reveal himself as a particular Knight of the Order. "Stand down," he said to his faithful subjects.
"Vile! Let that blade be a reminder of your own mortality!" Zordon's voice drew everyone's attention, yet no guards acted against him, simply because they were awe-struck with the situation. "Let it be known, that it is I, who owns your life!
"You've taken the Order from me! You've taken my father! You stole the soul of the one person who ever brought me true happiness! In the short span of time in which you orchestrated your plan for domination of Eltare, you've all but obliterated my life!
"You should have killed me, Vile! For even though you were correct in assuming that these events would be emotionally damaging, you neglected to realize that I am the only one capable of bringing you down! The death of the Order, my father, my love, they do not stop me! They only fuel the fire that burns within me! A fire that will grow increasingly fierce, until I can harnass it to burn your demonic hide to the deepest levels of the Grid!
"Beware, Vile! You have set the standards for this violent game! And, you have taken the lives of those who might have played as bargaining chips! Without realizing it, you have begun this game. I must make you aware today, that I, will end it."
With the chamber silent, Zordon faded into the shadows from which he appeared. D'ceit wished to race out onto the streets in order to eliminate the ambitous target, but felt Vile's hand pushing him back. "No." Vile said, calm yet shaken. "Let him go."
"But," D'ceit argued, "we must trap him! He will run."
Vile set his eyes on the balcony one final time, and stepped away from the podium. "He won't run," Vile realized. "Not forever."