Time is like light. Depending on how you look at it, it changes. Sometimes
time runs in a straight progression, like the waters of a river. Other
times, from other directions, time is circular, and causality is lost.
Its movements are fluid, and can be manipulated. Different beings live
in different types of time, and meetings between the two can prove disastrous.
Humans, most of them, live in Chronos, ordinary, measured time, time that
moves in numbers, from cause and effect. A select few live in Kairos, true
time, which is not measured by human standards, and often flows into itself.
One place on Earth where Chronos and Kairos interconnect is Angel Grove,
home to the Power Rangers.
The timestream around Angel Grove was disturbed. Picture time as a cotton thread, made up of many other threads. These threads are the Nexuses, the events, people and things upon which history turns. At one point in Earth's timestream, the thread was turned back on itself, creating a loop. Unfortunately, a problem occurred with this loop. A Nexus entered it that never came out. This Nexus was comprised of six golden coins, links to the power of the Morphin Grid. The coins were destroyed during the loop, so that when the Zeo Crystal returned the timestream to its original progression, a seamless merging was prevented. It was almost as if one cotton thread that comprised the many was severed. The result was a timesnarl.
Anywhere else in the universe, the timesnarl would have caused disastrous repercussions. It might almost have led local time to collapse upon itself. However, Angel Grove was different. The town was situated on a major groundstar, a nexus of ley lines. These lines, which channeled the natural magic of the planet, also lent resiliency to the space-time continuum. Instead of a collapse, the snarl simply became a discontinuity, which the inhabitants of Chronos dealt with as best they could. Their minds merged their timestreams together, so that only one version of events existed in their minds. Meanwhile, the few inhabitants of Kairos found themselves with no memory of the altered timestream, protected from it by their exposure to magic. Only one of them had any altered memories at all, but this is not her story.
There was one other consequence of the destruction of the coins. The power within them was set free. In a normal time area, the power would have dissipated, eventually being absorbed back into the Morphing Grid from whence it came. In the loop, however, the power was contained and reflected around, building until it could no longer be held. It then erupted into the timestream at the place the barrier was weakest, where a suitable spirit was waiting to receive it.
In the hills outside Angel Grove, the sounds of singing were setting birds into panicked flight. It wasn't that the singer was so bad, it was simply that he was loud. Rounding a hill, Skull grinned up at the incredibly blue sky. "What a day," he sighed. "Too bad the others couldn't come with me." As he hiked, Skull thought about his new friends, the Power Rangers. They were the same people he had made fun of for years, calling them "geeks" and "dweebs," mainly because he was jealous. Jealous of their popularity and of their friendship. Now, however, they had accepted him into their group, making him one of them. Not only that, but he had finally gotten a date with Kimberly Hart.
"Yess!" Skull cried to no one in particular, pumping one fist in the air. Not only had Kim agreed to go out with him, but the two of them now were together, a couple, almost as close as Tommy and Kimberly had once been.
Skull sighed. Tommy had been a great friend, and Skull was finding that he rather enjoyed covering for his friends when they had a problem. It was an exercise in creativity, and he was beginning to find that he was rather good at it.
Suddenly a glimmer by his feet caught his eye. Looking down, he found a crystal ball lying on the ground. He gingerly prodded it with one foot. It didn't move. Squatting, he examined it more closely.
"It's the Orb of Doom," he realized suddenly. His hand reached out to it, then he stopped. This thing had been atrociously bad news, he remembered. Master Vile had used it to transform all of the world into what it had been seven years before, making Skull, Bulk, and all of the Rangers into ten year-old children. As he thought, his hand came to rest on the crystal of its own accord.
Suddenly a surge of white energy ripped through him, knocking him back several feet. "Ohhh," he groaned, shaking his head. "That was really stupid!" As he rose, he suddenly realized that he was glowing with white light. "I'd better talk to the head about this," Skull gulped, reaching for his communicator. Looking at it, he realized that the rainbow stripes that had decorated it were now all bleached to white. Tapping the button, Skull teleported out.
Meanwhile, in a small Winnebago on the Moon, Rita Repulsa was pondering recent events and discoveries, an evil smile on her face. "So Tommy is my half-brother," she mused. "I don't know which one's worse, my half-brother or my whole one." Outside, she could hear Rito and Goldar arguing with each other as if there was no tomorrow. "It's too bad that Tommy's come to terms with the evil in his spirit. I could have used him on my side. Perhaps I still can."
In front of her sat her most recent discovery, a hand mirror with a wooden frame carved into the shapes of various demons, and a mirror surface of the purest obsidian. "Yessss," she purred. "The Mirror of Night will serve me well. Goldar!" she shrieked. The golden-armored warrior teleported before her instantly.
"Yes, Empress?" Goldar asked obsequiously.
"I want you to take the Mirror of Night to Earth. Pick a fight with the Zeo Rangers, and make sure they don't have time to morph. Catch Tommy's reflection in the glass and bring it back here. Do you understand me?"
"Yes, my Queen," Goldar bowed, teleporting out in a flash of golden flame.
In the Power Chamber, Skull had finished telling Zordon his story, and Zordon had then summoned the Morphin Warriors to the Chamber. Skull raised his eyebrows when he realized that the Zeo Rangers were absent, but said nothing.
"Skull, you have been infused with the powers of the Power Coins, creating a link between you and the Morphin Grid. You are now the White Morphin Warrior."
Skull's jaw dropped. "I'm WHAT?"
"When the coins were destroyed, the power of all six colors mixed, making the power White, the color of light. When you approached the Orb of Doom, you were drawn forward that you might receive the power, which could no longer be contained in the timesnarl."
"Why me? Was I just in the right place at the right time?"
"No. You see, the power could have broken into our timestream at any point. Time is meaningless for it. You were simply the White spirit closest to the snarl in time."
"Your personality is that belonging to White Rangers. You are noble, courageous of spirit, and understanding. In addition, you have the mental powers that most White Rangers have."
Skull frowned. "Psychic. You mean like Christina?"
"Yes. Although you are not a healer, you have the same latent telepathic-telekinetic powers that she has. This sensitivity is one of the reasons you have done so well at your detecting."
Skull nodded thoughtfully. "I've always been good at reading people. Does this mean I have to wear Spandex?"
Billy chuckled. "I don't know, Skull. As you can see, it's fifty-fifty so far. Let me see if I can explain how the costumes work. The Power Rangers, the original ones, drew their costume imagery from two sources. The first was the needs of the power. That meant that whatever costume the power's avatar wore, it had to allow freedom of movement, some protection, and had to hide the avatar's identity. Also, it had to bear the stamp of the power it stood for.
"The rest of the costume was determined by the collective unconscious images of the team who would wield the power. For most of us, Spandex determines the image of the superhero, so the outfits were skintight. Since humans are extremely visually oriented, the outfits were mainly color-coded, with only a slight stylistic variation to the helmets to identify the power animal.
"The Power Rangers worked as a team, and therefore had to resemble each other, hence drawing from the collective image. The Morphin Warriors are different. In the first place, the identity is hidden by magic instead of a helmet. Only those close to us or those who know our identities can tell who we are. The costumes are also drawn from the individual image, because the power is not so dependent on teamwork. It is still our greatest strength, but it is no longer our only one."
Skull nodded. "So what you're basically saying is that I won't know until I transform."
Billy grinned. "Exactly."
Sighing, Skull shrugged. "Well, here goes nothing. Tigerzord!" In a flash of bright white light, Skull found himself clad in a pair of white jeans, rather like the blue ones he always wore, and a white tunic top. Experimentally, he tried a few kicks, and found that the jeans were just loose enough to allow freedom of movement, but not loose enough to interfere. They were slightly less roomy than the pants to his gi. In the chest of the tunic was set a golden coin with the symbol of the tiger.
"Not bad," he grinned. "Let's see what I have for a weapon." Concentrating, he felt a surge of energy flow through him. Suddenly, the energy coalesced into a long silver saber. It was a cavalry saber, approximately two and a half feet long, made of purest silver. Skull had a feeling, however, that it was enchanted to be a lot harder than steel. He tested its weight and heft with a few practice swings and thrusts, letting out a delighted laugh. "It's perfect!" he grinned. "Perfectly balanced. Makes sense, I guess."
The other Morphin Warriors laughed at his obvious enjoyment. In a flash, Skull morphed back into civvies. Just then, the alarm went off, drawing everyone's attention to the viewing globe.
"Oof!" Tommy cried, as another Tenga hit him in the gut. The birds were attacking far more ruthlessly than usual, and as a result, he was taking quite a beating. Goldar and the Tengas had attacked him as he was walking in the park, throwing up a forcefield which made it impossible for the Zeo Rangers to teleport in. Tommy had to handle things alone, and was severely outnumbered. "Chew on this," he snarled, flinging a fireball at a Tenga unlucky enough to get too close. The bird teleported out in a hail of charred feathers.
"Very impressive, Tommy," Goldar growled. "However you will not stop us from procuring what we came for." Holding up the Mirror of Night, Goldar turned the glass so that the struggling Tommy was reflected in its black depths. There was a flash, and suddenly Tommy sank to his knees.
"Farewell, Red Ranger. I have my prize." Turning casually to the Tenga on his left, Goldar gestured at Tommy dismissively. "Kill him," he growled, disappearing in a flash of golden flame. Squawking evilly, the Tengas closed in on the fallen Ranger, who was desperately trying to get to his feet.
Suddenly six columns of light appeared, and the Tenga advancing on Tommy was thrown away from him violently. Looking up, Tommy saw the Morphin Warriors battling the Tengas. Six? he thought, confused. There are only five Morphin Warriors. Who's in White? Squinting, he examined the White one carefully. He gasped. "Skull?"
Skull grinned at his astonished friend. "In the flesh. You want to give us a hand here?"
"Yeah, okay. Zeo Ranger V, Red!" In a flash, Tommy became the Red Ranger. Springing to his feet, he threw himself into the fight.
Trini and Zack were fighting Tengas back to back, enjoying themselves immensely. The tall Asian girl wore a skin-tight yellow bodysuit with a gauzy, flowing robe over it. The robe did nothing to hinder her movements, however, or hide the gold coin set into the center of her chest, bearing the symbol of the bear. Currently, she was cutting a very nasty swath through the Tengas with a pair of jeweled daggers.
Zack, on the other hand, was wearing a loose black top, somewhat reminiscent of the outfits worn by the Ninja Rangers, and a pair of loose pants. The coin set into his chest bore the symbol of the Lion. In one hand was an ax, somewhat like the one he had wielded as the Black Ranger.
Meanwhile, Jason had led a number of Tengas to attack him, drawing them away from his friends. Jason's red armor slowed him down some, but it provided him with more than enough protection to make up for it. Also, he was certainly strong enough to stand up to the punches they threw at him. He was carving his way through them so efficiently with his fists that he didn't even need the broadsword he wore by his side. Gleaming from the center of his breastplate was the symbol of the Tyrannosaurus.
On the other side of the field, Kimberly and Billy were side by side, in the team they had perfected many years before. Kimberly wore her long sleeved, long legged pink Spandex leotard and ankle boots, and shot her bow and arrows at the Tengas with pinpoint accuracy. Set into her chest was the symbol of the Firebird.
Billy was also firing his laser pistol at the Tengas, freezing them into place with his well-aimed shots. His blue visor displayed a cross-hairs, allowing him to pick his shots with pinpoint accuracy. He wore a blue bodysuit, rather like his Blue Ranger one, except that this was solid blue. His boots, gloves, and vest were of a darker blue, and in the center of the vest was the coin of the Wolf.
Meanwhile, Skull and Red Ranger were fighting back-to-back, sending Tengas in all directions. Finally, the last of the birds was sent packing, and the seven teens demorphed. Tommy staggered suddenly as the Red energy ceased to course through his system. Jason and Zack quickly caught him. "Tommy, are you all right?" Jason asked, concerned.
"I don't know. That mirror of Goldar's seemed to suck the energy right out of me. I think we'd better go back to the Power Chamber and talk to Zordon about this." In seven flashes of light, the teens teleported out.
* * *
"Excellent!" Rita gloated, taking the mirror from Goldar with great care. "Now get out of here, Monkeyboy! The next section of this spell takes a lot of concentration, and I don't need you bugging me." Goldar left, and Rita turned her attention the mirror on the table.
"I think it's time for a change of look," she mused. Heading into her little bedroom, she shucked out of her gown and pulled her hair out of the cones it had been styled in for the past twelve millennia. Sighing, she examined herself in the full length mirror. The outfit that she had worn had been traditional for witches of her planet for untold stretches of time. However, just before the final battle with Zordon's forces, some of the girls had switched to another style, claiming that it was more comfortable and more frightening than the traditional getup. Her father had never approved, of course.
"But he's gone," she grinned at herself. She was finally free of that old tyrant, who had made her childhood so miserable with all his bellowing and blustering. "Time for me to change."
Going to her wardrobe, she removed a long black caftan. It was covered with silver embroidery in symbols that made one ill if examined too closely. She pulled it in at the waist with a belt of silver cord. Then she turned her attention to her hair. It was far too long and unmanageable to leave down, but she certainly didn't want to put it up in the cones again. After several attempts, she found a combination of combs and pins that she liked. It highlighted the cruel beauty of her features, instead of drawing the attention away.
Once Rita had reshaped her appearance to her liking, she rose and re-entered her workroom. Drawing various symbols on the floor, she placed the mirror on a table in the middle of the design. Then she began to chant in a language far older than the planet below. It was a language spoken by evil beings long before Earth had even begun to develop civilization, a language old as time itself, and reeking with the blackest evil.
Suddenly the mirror began to pulse with a red light. The light began to change, fading to a strange green color, and suddenly a perfect replica of Tommy Oliver stood in the center of the room. Perfect, that is, until he raised his eyes and smiled. The smile was cold, totally devoid of emotion. A thrill ran through Rita. She had succeeded in creating a completely evil version of Tommy. No spells, no clones, simply a solidification of all the darkness within him, a twisting of all that resided within his soul.
The Dark Reflection's gaze came to rest on Rita, and he suddenly sank down on one knee. "My Empress. How may I serve you?"
"Tell me your name," Rita commanded.
"I am a reflection of the person known as Thomas Tyler Oliver. Therefore, I will be known as Tyler Oliver."
Rita nodded. "You have all of his powers. You are the Green Morphin Warrior, and a mighty mage in your own right. Do not forget, though, that we will need each other to defeat the Power Rangers. Neither of us is capable of doing so alone."
Tyler nodded. "I understand, my queen. What would you have me do?"
Smiling evilly, Rita began to outline what she wanted of her new warrior.
* * *
"And then Goldar just disappeared," Tommy finished. He stared up at Zordon expectantly. "Can you tell us anything about it?"
Zordon frowned. "I'm afraid so, Rangers. The object that Goldar held is known as the Mirror of Night. It has the power to create warped, twisted reflections of whatever is caught in its glass."
"Another evil Tommy?" Jason cried, exasperated. "Rita's stuck in a rut here!"
"No doubt she wishes to make use of Tommy's Green Warrior powers, not to mention his phenomenal magical ability. This Dark Reflection contains none of the light in Tommy's heart. He is a being of pure evil."
Tommy swallowed. "How can he use my Morphin Warrior powers? He's never held a Power Coin."
"The powers are bonded to you physically. As your physical duplicate, he possesses all your powers, although his animal spirit is most likely different."
"Isn't it about time you explained these powers in detail?" Skull asked, raising one eyebrow.
"Indeed. The power of the Morphin Grid is divided, as you all know, into eight colors, red, yellow, blue, black, pink, green, white, and purple. What you may not know is that it is also divided into three levels. The three types of coins correspond to these levels. The Dinocoins are the coins of the Body level. Dinosaur spirits are strong, with a tendency to push directly through a problem. Jason, this is your type of spirit. The Dinosaur animals are Red Tyrannosaurus, Yellow Saber-toothed Tiger, Blue Triceratops, Black Mastodon, Pink Pterodactyl, Green Dragon, White Velociraptor, and Purple Wyvern.
"Next is the level of Mind, the Thundercoins. The mind level is energetic. While the body is often hotheaded, the mind prefers to work around a problem. The Thunder animals are Red Dragon, Yellow Griffin, Blue Unicorn, Black Lion, Pink Firebird, Green Basilisk, White Tiger, and Purple Medusa. Zack, Kimberly, and Skull, these are your powers.
"Finally, the Ninjacoins are the coins of spirit. Spirit prefers to let its enemies approach, and completely understand them before it attacks. Tommy, Billy, Trini, you are Spirit. The Ninja spirits are the Red Ape, Yellow Bear, Blue Wolf, Black Frog, Pink Crane, Green Panther, White Falcon, and Purple Chameleon.
"Were the other Rangers to call on their Morphin Warrior powers, Rocky would most likely be a Red Dragon, while Adam would be a Black Frog, Katherine a Pink Crane, and Aisha a Yellow Griffin."
Just then the alarm went off. The seven teens turned to see a duplicate of Tommy in the park, dressed in the uniform of a Green Warrior. Set into the chest of the outfit was a gold coin emblazoned with the symbol of the Dragon.
"We've got trouble," Skull sighed.
"More than that," replied Zordon. "There appears to be a barrier against Zeo Power around the park. The Rangers cannot teleport in to confront this new menace."
"Just Zeo Power?" Jason asked thoughtfully.
"Yes. Rita could not block Morphin energy, as the same energy powers her magic."
"Then let's go kick some butt!" Zack cried.
"Be very careful, Rangers. You are not as strong as you once were," Zordon cautioned.
"We understand, Zordon," Jason reassured him. "It's morphin' time!"
"Tyrannosaurus!" The Morphin Warriors teleported out in six flashes of light, leaving Tommy and Zordon behind, each remembering what had gone before.
"Hey you! We're here to stop you!" Jason cried, pointing his sword at Tyler. The green-clad warrior simply chuckled.
"The Morphin Warriors. How nice of you to stop by, especially since I wasn't expecting you. Tengas! Make our guests feel welcome." The oily birds attacked the six teens, and suddenly a free-for-all had broken loose.
Thrusting, parrying, and generally causing chaos with his saber, Skull suddenly found himself face to face with Tyler. In the back of his mind, Skull began to panic, but quickly squashed it with the training he had received from Jason and Tommy over the past few months. Luckily, the battle had moved to swords, rather than fists. Although Tommy, and by extension Tyler, was deadly with a katana, Skull was in his element as a fencer. It was perhaps the one area of the fighting arts in which he surpassed any of the Rangers and Morphin Warriors.
"You fight well, White Warrior," Tyler grunted.
"Yeah, you too," Skull shot back, not letting up for a moment. "Hey, what's your name, anyway? I can't just call you "hey, you" while I'm kicking your butt."
Tyler chuckled. "I am called Tyler Oliver, and I seriously doubt that you'll defeat me."
"Yeah, well, anything's possible." The two men fenced for a while, neither one gaining the upper hand. Meanwhile, the other Morphin Warriors had managed to defeat the last of the Tengas, and now came to Skull's aid. Realizing that he was now outnumbered, Tyler broke off the attack.
"You are a worthy opponent," he told Skull, bowing. "We shall finish this another day." His gaze swept across the other Morphin Warriors, coming to rest on Kimberly. "My lady," he smiled evilly. "I would not destroy you. Will you join me?"
"No way!" Kimberly shot back, taking Skull's hand in her own. Tyler shrugged.
"Perhaps we'll talk about this later."
Skull stepped forward, putting himself between his girlfriend and Tyler. "Don't even think about it," he growled, sounding very tiger-like. Tyler just chuckled, teleporting out in a rush of green flame.
"Let's go, guys," Jason sighed. "The fight's over, at least for now." In six streaks of light, they disappeared.
* * *
The next morning, Skull woke up stiff and sore. As a Morphin Warrior, he had the same accelerated healing facility that the others had, but it simply healed the major damage. Bruises and stiffness still lingered, but the ribs that a Tenga had shattered were as good as new. Hopping out of bed and stretching, he headed downstairs to check the mail.
"Hmm, bill, bill, Bill Clinton, Ed McMahon, letter from Aunt Edna, fruitcake from Aunt Millie- what, does she think it's Christmas? Newsweek, Biker Monthly, letter from- Bulk!" Hurriedly, Skull tore open the letter from the man who had been, until recently, his best and only friend. Quickly perusing its contents, his jaw hit the floor.
"Bulk's coming back for a visit? Tomorrow! Oh brother," Skull groaned. Normally he would have been ecstatic to hear that his friend was coming for a visit, but not at the moment. "What am I going to do? I have that Green Warrior nut to deal with, trying to steal my girlfriend, I have my new psychic powers to get used to, and I do not have time to deal with this!" To punctuate his statement, a book fell from one of the shelves onto the floor with a definitive thump. "Oh, shut up," he sighed. His telepathic powers could be a pain, but at least he had some control over them. Even when he lost control, he usually wound up picking up on thoughts that were so close to the surface, they might as well have been spoken aloud. His telekinetic powers, on the other hand, were harder to get a hold of. They had a tendency to break free when he lost control of his temper, or when he was exasperated. In addition, they drew far more attention than his telepathic powers did. Sighing, Skull concentrated, picking the book back up and putting it on its shelf with a mental effort.
The only thing to do about his problem was to tell the rest of the team about it, and hope that they could cover for him. In Skull's case, "the rest of the team" meant the other Morphin Warriors. Not that the Zeo Rangers weren't his friends, but there was an almost indefinable separation between them. Different powers, different teams, different ways of looking at things. Besides, they'd had their hands full with Mondo's goons lately. It was better for the Morphin Warriors to take on Rita, as their powers were better equipped to handle her.
As Skull dressed and headed to the youth center, he thought idly about the strain of the recent battles. All the Zeos looked tired, but Tommy seemed to be the worst. He had barely managed to rebuild the energy the Mirror of Night had stolen from him when Mondo launched an almost constant stream of monsters. The Rangers were already discussing forcing Tommy to take a vacation from active duty while David handled the Red Ranger duties. The only thing stopping them at the moment was that Tommy wasn't likely to get any more rest off the team than on, due to his intense desire to be in the middle of things.
Entering the youth center, Skull saw with no surprise that the Zeo Rangers were once again battling Mondo's latest monster downtown. "What's that?" he asked Jason in a low tone, coming to sit next to the other boy at the juice bar.
"That," Jason sighed, "is called Kirinizer. It's based on the ancient Chinese unicorn, the Kirin."
"Looks more like a dragon to me," Zack added, coming up behind them.
Skull did not respond, watching the TV and wincing as the Red Battlezord took another hit. "Tommy's moving really slowly out there," he sighed. "I think the exhaustion is getting to him."
"No kidding," Kimberly agreed. "If this keeps up, we're going to have to put David in for him."
"Then we'll have to pack him off to Lita to have him deal with his feelings of failure," Billy snorted. The others regarded him curiously. "Don't get me wrong, I don't think Tommy's being melodramatic or a prima donna. I understand that this is very real, and it's not his fault. Its just that he's so delicate! Its hard to believe."
"Rita and Zedd have both stomped all over his self-esteem numerous times," Trini reminded her friend. "If it weren't for Lita, Tommy'd probably be a raving lunatic by now. As it is, the therapy is gonna take a long time to make him better."
"And Tyler isn't helping anything, either," Skull grumbled. Although the newest member of the team, Skull had quickly understood the way Tommy's dark side affected him. It was a very scary thing for the other boy to confront, because it was so dangerous. Even though Tommy had come to terms with the evil in himself, he was still frightened of it, and its capacity for destruction.
"Oh, man, I almost forgot. I got a letter this morning. Bulk is coming to Angel Grove for a visit tomorrow. He's still one of my best friends. I have to spend time with him." Skull grimaced.
Jason nodded understandingly. "Hey, we understand. We'll do our best to handle Tyler if he shows up. We'll only call you if it's a major emergency, okay?"
Skull smiled at his friend. "Thanks, Jase. That would be a big help."
* * *
The next day, Skull was waiting at Gate 59 at Angel Grove International. Leaning against a pillar, he scanned the people coming off the plane for Bulk's unmistakable silhouette. Finally he caught sight of his friend and began waving frantically. Bulk headed through the crowd of people with very little effort. When someone is the size of Bulk, crowds let them pass.
"Man, look at you," Skull grinned, giving his friend the once-over. Bulk had dropped a number of pounds since arriving in France, and Skull now realized that the weight loss had continued since he left. Having also put on a great deal of muscle, the larger boy looked more like a football player than the football he had once resembled. Also, his hair was longer than he had worn it as a detective, but not as long as it had been when he was a punk. All in all, Bulk looked good.
"Yeah, you look pretty good yourself, buddy," Bulk grinned back, gripping Skull by the shoulder. The two had kept in touch, but Bulk had somehow missed his friend growing muscles. Skull had always been in better shape than he looked, mainly from the fencing, but now he was toned and fit all over. "So, shall we go get my luggage?"
The two headed for the baggage claim, talking of nothing in particular, making jokes about luggage ending up in Cleveland, and generally enjoying themselves. After collecting Bulk's luggage (and winding up in an argument with a 90 year-old woman), they headed out to the car.
"Man," Skull sighed, shaking his head. "Can you believe that woman was a luggage thief?"
"Or that there was a 60 year-old warrant on her head for the same thing? I tell you, Skull, this kind of thing could only happen to us. Remember how it used to be? We couldn't turn around without winding up in the middle of a monster attack."
"Well, we weren't always blameless in that regard."
"No, we did go looking for trouble way more often than we should have, but some of it was just plain bad luck. You have to agree to that." Bulk suddenly stopped dead. "That's your car?" he asked, dumbfounded. He had expected their old police motorcycle, he had expected Skull's father's rattletrap, he had expected a lot of things. A 1976 white Mustang in mint condition was not one of them.
"Yeah," Skull grinned with unmistakable pride. "Ain't she a beaut?"
"Skull, how did you afford her? These things go for twice what your house is worth."
"I got her at a junkyard for two hundred bucks. She was dead. Nobody thought she'd ever run again. I got her towed home, and Billy, Tommy and I fixed her up."
Bulk turned to look at his friend, astonishment written all over his features. "Billy, Tommy, and you?"
"Yeah. Didn't you get that letter? The guys all came home when Jason got sick, and when I wound up apologizing, I sort of got adopted by the group." Skull suddenly grinned. "Gee, Bulky, if you didn't get that letter I sent you, then you didn't hear about my girlfriend."
Bulk raised an eyebrow. "Girlfriend? Who in her right mind would date you?"
Skull grinned, not insulted in the least. "Well, she's pretty, she's smart, she's very short, and she can kick butt like nobody's business."
"The Pink Ranger?"
"She's not short anymore, remember? No, actually, it's someone even more unlikely. Kimberly Hart."
Bulk started spluttering. "Kimberly Hart? The same Kimberly Hart that turned you down for a date every day of your life? The same one that started dating Tommy, who then threw you into trash cans for pestering his girlfriend for a date? That Kimberly Hart?"
"Yup. That's the one. She broke up with Tommy, and I was there as a shoulder to cry on. Things kind of evolved from there."
Bulk shook his head in wonder. "Kimberly Hart. Man, you've come up in the world. Is it serious?"
"Very serious. I'd die for her." Let's just hope I don't have to, Skull thought grimly. The specter of Tyler Oliver was still hanging in the back of his mind.
Marveling at the change in his friend, Bulk shook his head again. Who would have thought that Skull and Kimberly would wind up in love? Bulk could tell by the look on his best friend's face that this was far beyond an adolescent crush. He wondered idly what could have drawn them so tightly together in such a short time.
* * *
Up on the Moon, Rita was gloating over her latest accomplishment. Although her Green Warrior had been unable to carry the day, Rita had still realized that he was a valuable asset to her forces. "Divide and conquer," she mused.
"Empress?" Tyler asked, entering the room. He had morphed back into civvies, and resembled Tommy a great deal. Only the frosty expression on his face was different.
"I have decided on how we shall carry out this campaign, Tyler," Rita announced, turning to face him. "You will concentrate your attacks on the Morphin Warriors."
Tyler cocked his head. "I'm afraid I do not understand, Empress. Isn't the greater threat that of the Zeo Rangers?"
"Yes, but remember. Time is on our side. They will never launch an attack on us; it's against their code. Therefore, we pick the time and place of the battles. There are three major advantages to launching the attack against the Morphin Warriors instead of the Zeo Rangers. One, the Zeos are constantly under attack by Mondo and Gasket's forces. They're almost exhausted. If we destroy them, then the Morphin Warriors take their places, and they'll be completely rested. Take out the Warriors, and we're left with the tired, inefficient Rangers. Two, destroying the Morphin Warriors will incapacitate at least three of the Zeo Rangers. Jason Scott's death will break Jamie Zedden, Billy Cranston's demise will destroy Christina Collins, and the death of Kimberly Hart will certainly break Tommy Oliver in half. If you go the other way, only two of the Warriors will be incapacitated. Kimberly is far stronger than Tommy, especially since she doesn't feel protective of him, the way he feels for her. Third, always remember the Cardinal Rule of Villainy. Six heroes are a lot easier to kill than ten. It will be good practice for you."
Tyler nodded. "I would like to spare the Pink Warrior, if I may. I have- other plans for her."
Chuckling evilly, Rita acquiesced with a wave of her hand. "By all means. I'm sure you can handle her. We won't be taking them all on at once anyway. I want you to take them one at a time. Start with the White Warrior. He's had the least training and the least time to become accustomed to his powers."
"Of course, my Empress. He's a nasty fighter with a sword, though. I'll just have to make sure he doesn't have the chance to use it." An evil smile crossed Tyler's face as he teleported out in a gout of green flame.
* * *
"Morphin what?" Bulk asked incredulously. He and Skull were taking a walk through the park, and Skull was filling Bulk in on all the changes that had occurred in the ranks of the Power Rangers, third-hand, of course. Informing someone of your membership in the Power Rangers had gone from being a definite no-no to being on a need-to-know basis. As the old joke went, however, Bulk didn't need to know.
"Morphin Warriors. There's six of them, and their powers seem to be based on the old versions, the ones with the White Ranger."
"So you're saying there are ten Zeo Rangers, and all four of the new ones are girls, and there are now these six Morphin Whatsits?"
"Warriors. Yeah, that's what I'm saying. Unfortunately, Angel Grove's under attack from three sources now. There's the Machine Empire, like always, and then there's Prince Gasket. Remember him? He was the one that ordered us thrown in the dungeon."
"Oh yeah, where we met Tritor. I remember. Sheesh, what a ride."
"You're telling me. Well, Gasket apparently is also trying to take over the world on his own. Then there's Rita. Remember her? Well, she's back in business, too."
"Geez, should we be in the park? If I remember correctly, that's where we always ran into those goons."
"You two certainly do have the worst luck," a cold voice said behind them. Bulk and Skull turned to see Tyler, clad in his Green Warrior costume.
"Bulk, that is a Morphin Warrior. Rita's evil Green Warrior, to be exact," Skull said slowly.
"Deja vu," Bulk murmured. "All we need now is a bus." Skull chuckled, remembering how he and Bulk had nearly wound up being smashed up in a bus, thanks to Goldar, during the attack of the Evil Green Ranger.
"Bulk, go back to the youth center. You'll be safe there," said Skull in a calm, level tone.
"What about you?"
"I'll be right behind you. Go!" Bulk took off, and Skull, watching him go, was almost bowled over by the ferocity of Tyler's attack. _He's trying to keep me from morphing,_ Skull thought breathlessly, dodging a strike from Tyler's katana. _Doing a pretty good job of it, too. I hope I can hold out until the others get here._
* * *
Bulk dashed into the youth center and stopped. He couldn't just yell out that there was a monster in the park, or he'd cause a panic. Suddenly, his eye fell on Jason and Trini, sitting at the juice bar making small talk and watching the Zeo Rangers battling a monster. Bulk squinted as the TV suddenly drew his attention. "Is that a giant walkie-talkie?" he asked, coming up behind the two teens.
"Unfortunately," Jason sighed. "It's firing sonic blasts at the Rangers. Causing some major damage to downtown, too." Looking more closely at the person behind him, Jason gaped. "Bulk? Where's Skull? I thought he was hanging out with you."
"He was. We were in the park and we got attacked by a monster. Actually, it wasn't a monster. It looked human, and wore a green outfit with a big gold coin in the chest."
Jason and Trini traded grim looks. "Where's Skull?" Trini asked this time.
"He said he was right behind me, but when I stopped running, he wasn't there. I think he might still be back there."
Jason cursed. "Look, Bulk, stay here. We're going to go look for Skull. You stay here in case he comes here." The two teens rose and hurried out of the bar. Bulk sat down on a stool, thinking hard. Something was very familiar about the present situation, but he couldn't quite tell what it was.
* * *
Skull was fighting a desperate battle, but he was definitely getting the worst of it. He was battered, bruised, and his body ached like nobody's business. Ripping up a handful of grass, he threw it at his enemy's eyes, temporarily blinding the other boy. Then he attacked with a flurry of punches and kicks. It might not have been the most honorable move, but Skull was beyond worrying about fighting dirty. His only concern now was keeping his hide intact. He was too out of breath to morph, and Tyler wasn't giving him any time to catch it.
"Hey you!" A voice called. Skull and Tyler looked up to see Jason and Trini, both morphed, standing atop a nearby hill. "Leave our friend alone!" Jason continued. "If you want a fight, take us on."
"With pleasure," Tyler snarled.
Skull didn't think twice. The second Tyler's attention left him, he took a deep breath and called "Tigerzord!" In a flash, he was dressed as the White Warrior.
"Another time," Tyler shrugged, bowing. In a burst of green light, he disappeared.
"Skull, are you all right?" Jason asked, coming over to his friend. "Bulk's worried sick about you."
"I'm- fine," the exhausted teen panted. "I'll tell- Bulk that- we just- got separated." The three Morphin Warriors demorphed and headed back towards the youth center.
* * *
Kimberly sighed, clutching her diary to her chest. She knew it was a move straight out of a '50's "chick flick," but she didn't care. She was so happy about the way her life was going. Even though she had broken up with Tommy, there were no hard feelings between them. Despite the pain both had felt at the end of their relationship, they had both realized that there was no true romance left between them. Now she was dating Skull, of all people, and she had never felt so wonderful. Even in the first days of her relationship with Tommy, she hadn't felt this bubbly, this full of life. Skull was just the type of person she was best suited for. He was not so protective as Tommy, never having felt truly responsible for her well-being. The fact that Kimberly had always been more than able to kick his butt in a fight had contributed to it. Instead, Skull trusted in the fact that she could protect herself. He was always there for her, but didn't consider her helpless.
_Let's face it, Kimberly, when Tommy knew you, you *were* helpless,_ she thought wryly. She had never really been a fighter. She had been good at self-defense all her life, but in a real fight, she tended to rely on Trini and the guys to take the front. When they had become Rangers, she had let them run interference, preferring to pick her attacks when and where they would do the most damage. The pattern had continued throughout her time as a Ranger. All her life, she had had either Jason or Tommy to protect her.
Then had come Florida. Suddenly she was fighting a very different kind of battle. Her enemies were homesickness and the confusion she felt at being away from Tommy. He had always been an emotional crutch for her, a support, just as Billy had been before him. With both of them gone, Kimberly had needed to rapidly reinvent herself to survive. That new toughness had moved into the physical aspect of her life, and now she could truly hold her own in a fight.
The sound of teleportation behind her suddenly drew her out of her reverie. Turning, she saw Tyler teleport into her room. He was in civvies, and she would have thought he was Tommy except for the cold expression on his face, and the fact that his shirt was green, not red. Swallowing hard, she took a fighting stance. "What do you want?" she asked, with more bravado than she felt.
"I want you," he smiled, advancing on her slowly. "You and I were made for each other, beautiful. You know it and I know it."
"I know that I'm not even in love with Tommy anymore. I certainly have no feelings for you."
"Perhaps I ought to change your mind." With that, he lunged for her, intending to knock her back onto her bed. However, Kimberly realized what he was doing and dodged, using her agility to get him between the bed and her. Frantically, she wished that she wasn't home alone.
_If only I could morph! But I can't escalate a battle,_ she thought frantically. Up until that moment, she hadn't realized how deeply the promises that she had made to Zordon had seeped into her soul. Instead of morphing, she picked up a table lamp and held it as if it were a baseball bat. "You might be stronger than I am, buddy, but you're not going to get what you're after without some serious pain," she panted, never taking her eyes off him. Tyler merely chuckled. He approached slowly, dodging a swing of the lamp as he got too close. Moving into her quickly, he stripped the lamp out of her grasp, and got a knee to the groin for his pains. He doubled over, but quickly came upright again, having Tommy's capacity to ignore pain. All the amusement was gone from his expression, however. A powerful backhand caught her across the face, splitting her lip and knocking her into the wall. As he advanced on her, murder in his features, Kimberly looked up with her blurred vision and lashed out with a foot, catching him in the same spot she had earlier. That was too much for him, and he teleported out.
Struggling to her feet, Kimberly fought to stay conscious. She had hit her head on the wall hard, and knew she would be passing out soon. She had to get somewhere safe, so he couldn't come after her again. Staggering out of her room, she stumbled down the stairs and out the front door, heading for the only destination her muddled mind could think of.
* * *
"So then the lady tried to pay us with a live chicken!" Skull grinned. Bulk whooped with laughter.
"What did you do?"
"Well, Detective Stone was polite about it, but he told her we didn't accept poultry as currency. She said fine, she'd pay us the price of the chicken if we'd buy it off her, but she didn't have any money right then. So we wound up accepting the chicken and selling it to somebody else for the same amount of money."
Bulk shook his head. He and Skull had been swapping stories of their various vocations for an hour, and they had laughed so hard that they had almost fallen out of their chairs. Suddenly a knock at the door interrupted them. Frowning, Skull rose to his feet. "Now who could that be?" he wondered.
Opening the door, he was shocked to see Kimberly outside, practically falling into his arms the minute he opened the door. He bit back a gasp at her face. It was swollen and puffy, and one of her lips was split. Also, she was sporting a bruise that would turn into one heck of a shiner soon.
"Kim, what happened?" he asked, helping her over to the couch.
"Tyler- my room. Tried to- I fought him-" Her voice faded in and out, worrying Skull, who couldn't get the whole story. He understood just enough to frighten him badly. Looking up, he saw Bulk standing in the kitchen doorway, a thunderstruck expression on his face.
"Don't just stand there, get a cold compress!" Skull barked. His friend scurried to obey, and Skull turned back to the badly beaten girl lying on his couch. "Come on, Kim, talk to me. Don't fall asleep. I don't know much about first aid, but somewhere I heard that sleeping on a concussion is bad."
"Don't have a concussion," she muttered.
"Yeah, right. I have to get you to the Power Chamber," he muttered.
"The what?" Bulk asked, bringing out the compress. "Why not the hospital?"
Skull shook his head. "Too vulnerable." _Besides,_ he thought privately, _she'll heal fast enough that the doctors will become suspicious._ "I don't think it's as bad as it looks. I'm gonna take her to a friend of mine. You wait here."
"When you get back, will you tell me what's going on?" Bulk asked seriously.
"When I figure it out, Bulky, you'll be the first to know." Picking Kimberly up in his arms, he carried her outside, checked for onlookers, and teleported out.
* * *
"Zordon, I need a table or something!" Skull shouted, appearing in the Power Chamber.
"Ai yi yi!" Alpha cried, teleporting one out of the storage chamber. "What happened to Kimberly?"
"I don't know, Alpha," Skull said grimly, laying Kim down on the table, "but I intend to find out."
After running a scanner across Kimberly's still form, Alpha determined that she needed only rest, and would wake up soon, thanks to her enhanced healing. After almost ten minutes, she began to stir. "Mm, where am I?" she asked groggily, struggling to sit up.
"You're in the Power Chamber," Skull replied, helping her. "You think you can tell me what happened to you now?"
Kimberly looked at him. His eyes were warm and concerned, and there was an expression in them that said that he had an idea of what he was going to hear. "He didn't get the chance," she assured him. "I kneed him once and kicked him a second time. He got pissed off and knocked me into a wall. That's all. He didn't really hurt me."
"Well, we have another problem," Skull told her. "Bulk saw you stagger into my house. He saw your face and how bad off you were. He's waiting for an explanation, and your face is already healing. What do we tell him?"
Kimberly bowed her head. "The truth? I can't think of a story that he'll buy."
Skull sighed, nodding. "Zordon?"
"It is at your discretion, Kimberly, Skull. If you believe that Bulk can be trusted with your secret, then I have no objections."
"We can trust Bulk," Skull said with conviction. "We've both grown up. He'll keep the secret."
"Okay," Kim sighed. "Let's go." In two flashes of light, they teleported out.
As it turned out, they didn't have to tell Bulk much of anything. As the two of them walked through the front door, the other boy was waiting for them, sitting calmly on a couch with his arms folded. "Kimberly, you're looking much better," Bulk nodded. The bruises on her face would take time to fade completely, but the split lip had almost totally healed.
"Um, yeah. Listen, Bulk, you're probably wondering what happened to me, right?"
"Just what monster did that to you. The two of you are Power Rangers, right?" As Skull and Kimberly gaped at their friend, Bulk continued. "I used to be a detective too, remember. Skull, when we got separated, Jason and Trini ran out of there like bats out of hell. I figured the three of you probably took care of that goon in the park. I can't think of any other reason you wouldn't want to take Kimberly to the hospital, and I've suspected for a long time that the Power Rangers had the ability to heal quickly. This just confirms it. Now, seeing as the Zeo Rangers have been on TV when you've been around me, I'm willing to bet you two are some of those Morphin Whatevers."
"Warriors," Skull corrected automatically. "Yes, we are." Quickly he outlined the events of his power infusion and of the struggle with Tyler Oliver. Bulk was appalled.
"He's an evil version of Tommy? With these Morphin Warrior powers? Man, that's bad news."
Kimberly snorted. "You're telling me. The creep practically beat the snot out of me. He's not going to give up, either." She shivered, thinking of the expression in Tyler's eyes. Skull put an arm around her shoulders and drew her close.
"I won't let him hurt you, Kimberly. I'll take him apart with my bare hands first," he promised. He sounded so sincere that both his friends believed him implicitly.
* * *
A few days later, the entire group was hanging out in the juice bar, watching the Zeo Rangers battle yet another of Mondo's creations. This one, called Soapatron, fired bursts of a soapy liquid at the Rangers, making it difficult for them to keep their footing. As Red Ranger absorbed yet another solid hit, all seven teens winced.
"Man, Tommy's taking a real beating," Bulk said quietly.
Billy nodded. He was still having a little trouble adjusting to the new Bulk and Skull, but he tried hard not to show it. "Yeah, he's really slowing down. I think we're going to have to pull him out."
"You're right, Billy," Jason sighed. "Is it unanimous with the Morphin Warriors?" The entire group nodded reluctantly. "Then we'll talk to the others after this battle and see what they say." Suddenly, his communicator toned. The six Morphin Warriors and Bulk moved out into the hall, where they answered the page.
"Yes, Zordon?" Jason asked.
"Rita has sent down her latest monster, an animated skeleton known as Skeletiger."
"Skele-tiger?" Skull swallowed hard. The thought of facing a perversion of his spirit animal made him decidedly uncomfortable.
"I am afraid so, Skull. Also, a number of Tengas have accompanied it. You must hurry, before they destroy the warehouse district."
"We're on it," Jason responded. "Bulk, wait for us here, okay?" Bulk nodded. "It's morphin time!"
"Tyrannosaurus!" In a flash, the six teenagers disappeared. Bulk turned to re-enter the juice bar and stopped dead. Ernie was watching them go with a concerned look on his face.
"You knew?" Bulk asked, astounded.
"Oh, sure. I've known for a long time. Remember Zack's birthday? Well, while we were setting up, I mentioned the Power Rangers, and Jason told me that he'd heard they were aliens from space. Jason's hardly the type to spread rumors like that, or to believe them, so he must have been covering for someone. Once I realized that, I noticed how often they'd race out of here without eating what they'd paid for, and I followed them into the hall one day. I saw them morph. Yeah, I've known ever since- oh, I'd say since Tommy became Green Ranger. I'm not *that* oblivious to what goes on in my juice bar." Grinning, Ernie headed back to his work, leaving Bulk to stare in thunderstruck silence.
* * *
"Look at this place!" Jason exclaimed, surveying the damage that the Tengas had already inflicted. "Come on, guys, let's stop these birdbrains from making any more of a mess."
The six Morphin Warriors threw themselves into the fight, knocking Tengas in every direction. Billy and Skull, working together, were so caught up in the battle that they didn't notice that they were being herded away from the group and into an old abandoned warehouse. Suddenly, Skull looked up from his fight. "Billy, we've got to get out of here! One false move, and this place will supply Angel Grove with toothpicks for the rest of the century!"
"Too late, Warriors," Skeletiger growled, appearing at the door. Skull saw with a sick feeling that the tiger skeleton was composed of bleached white bones that were themselves striped with black.
"Rita deliberately made a mockery of my spirit animal," he muttered. "This is personal."
"White Tiger Thunderbolt!" Skeletiger roared. A ball of energy left its empty ribcage, shattering the main supports for the warehouse. Skull and Billy heard the floor groaning beneath them. They exchanged a glance.
"Uh-oh," they groaned in unison. Then the floor dropped out beneath them and they crashed into darkness, most of the warehouse following them.
* * *
"Billy?" Skull called, swimming slowly to consciousness. "You alive, man?"
"I don't think dead people have headaches."
"I know they don't wear plaid," Skull smiled back, pulling himself out from under a few timbers. By incredible chance and his Morphin Warrior healing abilities, he had survived the fall, mainly because the majority of the timbers had not hit him. A cursory glance in the gloom of the cellar showed that Billy had been as lucky.
"Holy shit," Billy whistled, looking up. Skull had to admit that it was an impressive sight. Timbers were twisted around one another, forming an impenetrable cap over the cellar where they were. A few holes allowed light and air in, but were too far above them to offer an escape route. "I've got some bad news. We can't teleport out. All the timbers are blocking the signal. The wood kind of interferes.
"This is not good," Skull cried, gingerly sitting on a nearby timber. Billy sank down next to him. The two sat in silence for a while, listening to the sounds of battle going on above them. "Billy?" Skull asked suddenly. "I want to apologize for all the rotten things I did to you when we were younger. I was a total jerk. I'm really sorry."
Billy waved Skull's apology away with the back of his hand. "Don't mention it. It's forgotten."
"Is it? I wouldn't forget. I remember being seven years old and being picked on by everybody. Well, everybody except you. I was skinny, I was awkward, and I had a funny name. Then I met Bulk. He was actually nice to me, probably because he understood what I was going through. He was fat and clumsy, and his name was Farkas, for Pete's sake. We formed a friendship, and started picking on other people to feel bigger. It was stupid, I know. I guess my point is that I never have forgotten what people did to me. I'm finally able to forgive them, and put it behind me, but I haven't forgotten, and I never will. I find it hard to believe that you've forgotten, either."
Billy regarded the other with astonishment. "I guess you're right. I have forgiven you and Bulk, I really have. I'm not bitter or anything anymore. It's just- I'm having a hard time adjusting to the fact that you're not like that anymore. I keep waiting for the two of you to pull one of your old tricks, even though I know that you won't."
"I want to tell you something, Billy. The reason I always picked on you as a kid wasn't just because you were the only person who couldn't beat me to a pulp. I was also jealous, very jealous of you. I mean, you were a klutz, you were a bit of a nerd- no offense, and you had no idea how to relate to people. I was better at that stuff than you were. Still, you had the friends, Jason and Trini, and as time went on, there was Kim and Zack, too. I was so jealous. The main reason I picked on you was that I wanted to be you."
"You did?" Billy could hardly believe his ears. No one had ever really wanted to be in his shoes before. It was a new experience for the shy young man.
"Oh, yeah. That's one of the reasons I've been so glad to have you as a friend. I thought I'd never fit in, but I do. I'm glad we've been friends, even if it does end like this."
"I'm glad I've been your friend too, Skull." They sat in silence for a while longer, then Skull got to his feet.
"Billy, you see that one hole? Do you think it's big enough for a man?"
"I guess so. Why?"
"If we could climb some of these timbers, we could get out."
"Skull, we'd need all sorts of gear to climb these timbers. We can't do it."
"Oh yes we can. Look, Billy. You guys treat your Morphin Warrior powers as half-strength Ranger Powers, right?"
"Well, there's more to them than that. When you had your coins, you tapped the power filtered through two sources, your coin and your spirit animal. Now you have the power directly, with only the spirit animal to give it shape. The powers are different! We can become our spirit animal, at least for a time."
"How do you know all this?" Billy asked warily.
"I'm not sure; I just know. I think it has something to do with a cross between my psychic powers and the fact that I've never been a full Ranger. I'm not used to thinking of it that way. Look, you're a telepath too, right?"
"Look into my head. We'll do this together."
Sighing, Billy closed his eyes and reached out a tendril of thought to Skull's mind. Once there, he read what Skull was trying to get across. It was hard to describe in words, but in thoughts it was crystal clear. Reaching down into themselves, the two boys opened doors that had until that time remained locked. Suddenly a howl burst from Billy's throat, followed by a tiger's roar from Skull. Their forms were swallowed up in flares of bright light. Billy glowed blue, while Skull shone white. In the center of the lights, you could see the black outlines of their bodies. Suddenly the outline began to change, and when the light cleared, a silver-blue wolf and a white tiger stood in the basement.
_Pretty cool, huh?_ Skull sent to his friend.
_Most definitely,_ Billy returned. _Come on, let's go._ With their new agility and claws, the two scrambled up timbers that now made a makeshift ladder. Reaching the hole in the cap, they surveyed the battlefield. The Morphin Warriors were pinned down by Tengas, while Skeletiger headed off towards the city proper.
_Oh no you don't!_ Skull called mentally, forgetting that the monster could not hear him. He took off towards the retreating monster, Billy close at his heels. Catching up with it, he launched himself at the skeletal tiger, catching it a nasty swipe to the side of the face. Soon the two were going at it tooth and nail, literally.
Billy shook his head. _Skull! Back off, and let's take him together. Strategy, remember? We're not animals!_
_Right Billy,_ Skull responded, pulling off. _I just got carried away for a moment._ The two of them began circling their adversary, darting in for a swipe there, a bite there. Skeletiger was definitely fighting a losing battle. Suddenly the sound of teleportation drew Skull's attention. Tyler, in Green Warrior guise, had teleported into the battlefield and was heading toward Kimberly.
_I don't think so, creep!_ he thought viciously. _Billy, can you finish things here? I need to go take care of Tyler!_
_Don't worry about me,_ the wolf responded. _I've got things under control here._
Assured that his friend was taking care of things, Skull took off after Tyler, moving at a tiger's fastest pace. Tyler, intent on taking Kimberly by surprise, never saw him coming. 160 pounds of angry tiger slammed directly into the small of his back, knocking him flat on his face. As Tyler rolled to face his assailant, Skull morphed back into his White Warrior form, summoning his saber as he did so. "Get up and fight," he said coldly. "We've got a score to settle."
Summoning his katana, Tyler leapt to his feet and bowed. "As you wish." The two of them moved into their attack, and the air was instantly filled with the sounds of clashing steel.
Meanwhile, Billy was having a few problems of his own. Skeletiger was much better able to hold its own against one attacker, and Billy had taken a few nasty blows. In addition, nothing he dished out seemed to faze the tiger for a minute. _Maybe I should just bury it under about a hundred different trees,_ he mused wryly.
Suddenly an image flashed into his head. He saw the six Ninja Rangers in a strange forest. They were clad in multi-colored versions of Tommy's Green Warrior uniform. Ninjetti, a voice in his mind whispered. _There's that word again,_ he frowned. _What the hell is a "Ninjetti?"_
In his vision, Tommy was perched on the back of a living skeleton rather like this one, except that one was a large dinosaur. Reaching out, Tommy pulled a bone from the creature's neck, causing the entire thing to fall apart. The vision faded, but it left Billy with an idea.
_Worth a shot,_ he mused. Launching himself up into the air, he wound up landing on the back of the Skeletiger. Reaching down, he grasped the vertebrae in his jaws, and pulled. Sure enough, the minute the spine was severed, all the magical life went out of Skeletiger. The bones collapsed to the ground and disappeared.
Morphing back into Blue Warrior form, he scanned the battlefield. Skull seemed to be holding his own against Tyler, so Billy reluctantly threw himself back into the battle with the Tengas. Slowly but surely, the Morphin Warriors were turning the tide.
For his part, Skull's battle was turning quickly. He was filled with anger over what Tyler had tried to do, to Kimberly and to the rest of the team. He was also angry with the Dark Reflection for existing, for screwing up his visit with Bulk, and adding one more stress to the pile weighing Tommy down. He was fighting like a berserker, and Tyler had no defense against him.
With a powerful strike, Skull knocked Tyler's katana out of his hand. A swift kick knocked the other boy down onto his back. Looking up at Skull, Tyler saw the tip of Skull's saber presented at his throat.
"I should skewer you right here," Skull said, his voice shaking with anger. "There's no good in you, not the way there was in Tommy. And what you tried to do to Kim-" He cut off, shaking his head. "I should kill you, but I won't. I'm not like you. Go back to Rita and tell her she's failed again. Tell her she'll keep failing until she gives up and goes away." Stepping back, he allowed Tyler to get to his feet.
Retrieving his katana, the other boy bowed. "This is not forgotten, White Warrior. We will meet again." In a rush of green flame, he teleported out.
Sending his sword back into its dimensional pocket, Skull sighed. Turning, he saw Jason and the other Morphin Warriors watching him seriously. "How long were you guys there?" he asked quietly.
"Long enough," Jason replied, clapping him on the shoulder. "Good choice, man."
Skull shook his head. "Whatever. Let's go." The six of them teleported out.
* * *
"I have failed you, my Empress," Tyler admitted, bowing his head.
"Not at all," Rita responded, looking at the Earth. "You are still alive, and I still have the Mirror of Night. The game is not over, not by a long shot."
* * *
"I'm really going to miss you, Bulk," Skull sighed. The seven teens were at the gate for Bulk's plane, waiting for the boarding call.
"Yeah, right. Look at all the friends you've got here," Bulk grinned. "Seriously, I'm going to miss you too, buddy. We'll keep in touch, though. I promise."
"We're all going to miss you, Bulk," interjected Jason. "I'm sorry the other guys couldn't be here to see you off, but they're working. You know how it is."
"Oh, yeah, Jason, I know," Bulk grinned. "You make sure Tommy doesn't burn himself out, all right?"
"We'll be taking him off duty after this battle," Jason replied. "It's gotten too bad for him."
Bulk sighed. "Well, I'm going to miss you all, too. You be careful. The world needs you." He looked up as the stewardess announced the boarding call. "Oops, that's me, gotta go." Flashing one last grin at them, he hurried for the door.
"Skull, you okay?" Kimberly asked, slipping her hand into his.
"Hmm? Oh, yeah, Kim, I'm fine. I'm just remembering, that's all. I'm just so glad to have had so many great friends, and not to have to choose between them."
"Come on," Jason smiled, "let's go to the park. I feel like a picnic." The six of them headed out of the airport, Skull turning back to wave at the loading plane once more before they left.