Tyler woke up in the middle of the night and realized the bed was empty.
That was rather unusual, because Terry was a much deeper sleeper than he.
If she was up and around, something must be bothering her. For some reason,
that bothered him. He didn't really understand why he worried about her
being upset, but he did. He had noticed some oddities in her behavior lately,
as well. She sometimes looked as if her mind was a million miles away,
and she seemed to be finding it harder and harder to dredge up enthusiasm
for a new attack on the Power Rangers. Also, when they touched, there seemed
to be a softness in her that had not been there before. He wasn't sure
why, but he liked it.
Rising out of bed, he pulled on a pair of shorts and went looking for her. The vacuum of the Moon did not bother either of them, thanks to the spells Rita provided them with. Neither of them even noticed the cold or the airlessness of deep space. Tyler was far too preoccupied with his own thoughts and worries to care. He was changing as well, and he wasn't sure why. He thought about Terry far more than he ought too, caring more about protecting her than about destroying the enemy. He wasn't sure why he was having these feelings, and he certainly didn't like it. He was Rita's greatest warrior. If he grew weak and sentimental, he would surely be destroyed.
Tyler finally found Terry sitting at the top of a rock ridge, staring at the full Earth above them. The Winnebago was currently parked at the Sinus Medii, where the Earth was always directly overhead. Terry had told him once that she liked the drama in the view there. Sitting down next to her, he said nothing, simply waited.
Looking at him out of the corner of her eye, Terry sighed. She had awakened next to him in the middle of the night, and had spent a good deal of time just watching him sleep. For some reason, every time she looked at him, she felt strange. More and more, she had a desire to protect him and make him happy. These strange feelings were spilling over into other things, as well.
"I'm scared," she finally admitted, breaking the silence. "I feel so strange inside. I don't want to fight the Power Rangers any more. I just want to get away from it all. What's happening to me?"
She sounded as if she was on the verge of tears. Not really understanding why he did it, Tyler reached out and drew her into his arms, holding her tightly. "I don't know, Terry, but I promise, I'll help you no matter what," he promised.
* * *
"I can't believe you're back already," Skull grinned, loading his friend's suitcases in the trunk of his car.
"For good this time, buddy," replied Bulk. "I've got a job as a diplomatic courier, since I know the area. I'm going to be here for a while."
"It's good to have you back, Bulk." Hopping into the car, the two men drove in silence for a while.
"So how's everything going? How's Tommy?" Bulk asked. The last time he'd been home, Tommy had been suffering from exhaustion, to the point where the other Rangers had been planning to force him to take a vacation from the team.
"Oh, he's doing all right. We made him take a break, but he's recovered now. Unfortunately, Tyler has some back-up. Her name is Terry, and she's Jamie's duplicate. Jamie is Jason's girlfriend, and the Purple Ranger."
"Oh, yeah, the short redhead. I think I met her once."
"Right. Well, Rita made Terry into the Purple Warrior, and basically Tyler's backup. They're causing a lot of havoc."
"Nasty. How's your love life going?"
Skull grinned. "Not bad. Kimberly and I are going to a major party next week at Ernie's. It's the twentieth anniversary of the juice bar. Want me to see if I can try to fix you up with someone?"
Chuckling, Bulk shook his head. "No, I don't think so. I prefer to find my own dates, thank you very much. Besides, all the girls you know are taken."
"Yeah, I guess you're right. Kat's dating David, Tanya's with Adam, Lil's with Tommy, Katya's with Rocky, Chris is with Billy, Jamie's with Jason, Trini's with Richie, and Kim's with me. Still, I'm sure we can find someone to fix you up with. And even if you're stag, you can hang around with us."
Bulk smiled. "Hard to believe, isn't it, Skull? We're now hanging around with the people who we made miserable throughout high school. Does Richie know about Trini's day job?"
Skull shook his head. "No, you and David are the only non-Ranger, non-Warrior, non-parents to know the team's identities. Well, there's Aisha Campbell, of course, but we hardly ever hear from her. The mail service ain't too great out on the African veldt. She didn't even know Jason was sick until we'd already saved him."
"So she probably won't be returning, huh?" Bulk thought back to the time that he had suddenly and inexplicably fallen head over heels for Aisha. Later, he had realized that he must have been caught in the spell of a monster, just like every other poor shmuck in the school that day. He liked Aisha, and thought she was pretty, but she just wasn't his type romantically.
"Naw, I don't think so. Why, are you interested?" Skull shot his friend a sly glance out of the corner of one eye. Bulk replied to that with an indelicate snort.
"No, not really. She's not my type. Besides, she'd be Zack's girlfriend if she was home. I'd lay bets on it."
"Actually, the Zack-man finally snagged Angela. I guess being at that peace conference had matured him enough that he was "acceptable" to her high standards. Well, that and the fact that she grew up too. Remember the time he hired us to play music at their table when he took her to that French restaurant?" Seeing that Bulk did, Skull went on to describe what else had happened at that fateful dinner, namely the attack of the Oysterizer, complete with sound effects. The story itself wasn't very funny, but the way Skull told it had Bulk laughing so hard that he almost fell out of his seat. During one of the moments that he caught his breath, Bulk thought with incredulity about how much the two of them had changed. He was doing really important work for the first time in his life, carrying documents that meant a great deal to the people who sent and received them. Skull was a Power Ranger, with all the responsibilities and danger that implied. Wistfully, he wondered if they had changed so much that the friendship between them was gone for good.
* * *
A few days later, Bulk had been easily absorbed into the group. Skull's absolute trust in his friend had gone a long way to improving the other Rangers' opinion of Bulk, and he helped things along by acting like a normal person for the first time in his acquaintance with them. One day, while Bulk and the Morphin Warriors were in the park, trouble struck. Jason's communicator toned, and the seven teens drew close.
"We read you, Zordon. What's up?"
"Rangers, a dire situation has arisen. Tyler and Terry are downtown with Goldar, causing havoc in Chinatown. Teleport to the Power Chamber and I will explain the situation. Also, bring Bulk with you. Alpha and I would like to talk to him."
The Rangers looked at each other, then at Bulk, who shrugged. In seven flashes of light, they disappeared.
At the Power Chamber, the chaos on the viewing globe immediately caught everyone's attention. "Geez," Zack sighed, "what is it with Rita and the Asian-American sections of Angel Grove?"
"Chinatown and Little Japan are among the most populated sections of the city," Zordon rumbled. "No doubt Rita wishes to put you on the defensive."
"Well, she's doing a wonderful job," Kimberly grumped.
"We'll handle her," Jason assured Zordon. "It's morphin time!"
In six flashes of color, the six disappeared, leaving a duly impressed Bulk behind.
* * *
"All right, Rangers, spread out," Jason ordered. "Zack, Trini, take the Tengas. Skull, Kim, Billy, handle our two Morphin Warrior friends. Goldar's mine," he snarled, battle rage lighting his eyes. Their assignments received, the Morphin Warriors hurled themselves into battle.
Zack and Trini, back to back, sent the Tengas flying over, under, and through: over and under each other, and through various flimsy structures on the street. Also, their weapons were cutting quite a swathe through the flock.
"So nice to see you again, White Warrior," Tyler smirked. "Let's end this, shall we?"
"With pleasure," Skull shot back. The two men summoned their swords and a pitched battle followed. Meanwhile Kimberly and Billy were occupied with Terry, who was wielding her staff with economy and grace. Kimberly was able to block some of the attacks with her bow, but it wasn't really made for such things. Terry was far too agile for either Ranger to use their projectile attacks.
"It's good to see you back in action, Jason," Goldar taunted. "Tommy wasn't much of a challenge. After all, I learned all his moves a long time ago. Hopefully you'll give me more of a workout."
Jason smiled grimly. "If it's a workout you want, Goldar, then you're going to get it- in spades." Pulling out his broadsword, he moved to the attack. Thrusting, parrying, and cutting, the two masters of the sword fought back and forth. The only sounds heard were the clang of metal against metal and their harsh, heavy breathing. Jason's face was set and cold, his eyes blazing with fury. Someone who knew him well would be able to detect the signs of Jason's berserker rage flooding through him. Goldar did know Jason well, and was beginning to worry. Still, he only had to distract Jason until one of Rita's Morphin Warriors managed to defeat his or her opponent, and then the young man would be less of a danger.
Terry had just dodged a shot from Kimberly's bow when her breath caught in her throat. A section of concrete ledge, loosened from the building it decorated by Goldar's eyebeams during the initial assault, was crumbling, about to plummet straight down onto a six year-old girl who was watching the fight from the sidewalk, too afraid to move away. Suddenly, she did not think. She simply acted. Throwing herself past the startled Kimberly and Billy, she launched herself at the girl, knocking her out of the way of the falling concrete. Rolling, Terry came up unhurt, with the child unscathed as well.
"Are you okay, honey?" Terry asked, concerned. The little girl nodded, speechless with awe. "Then you'd better get out of here, okay? Go that way; you'll be safe." The child smiled at her and then ran off in the indicated direction. Pulling herself to her feet, Terry turned to face her opponents and stopped. Suddenly she was tired, bone-weary of all the strife.
"You win for now, Rangers," she sighed. "Enjoy it while you can." Then she teleported out in a flash of violet flame. Tyler, watching her go, followed suit, leaving only Goldar to carry on the fight. Realizing he was alone and that he would have no help with Jason, the cowardly henchman teleported out.
"Jason," Trini said quietly, "are you all right?"
Panting, Jason nodded, flashing her a quick smile. "Yeah, I'm fine. I just got a little carried away there. Come on, let's head back to the Power Chamber."
* * *
"O'Neil! In my office now!" yelled Ronald Jacobs. Jacobs was the cantankerous editor of one of Angel Grove's three major newspapers, The Angel Grove Gazette. The Gazette's major competitor was the Chronicle, which had the best reporting team in the city, Clark Lane and Lois Kent. They had recently published yet another article about the Power Rangers, and as usual, Parker O'Neil was feeling the heat.
"Yes, boss?" he asked, strolling into Jacobs' office and casually taking a seat in a chair. Parker was 6'4", and well-muscled, with brown-blond hair and odd tawny eyes. He radiated the easy charm and complete confidence that made him such a wonderful reporter. People talked to him, even people who had something to hide. But it was Parker's skill with a camera that made him such a valuable asset to the Gazette. He had a gift for taking pictures, especially pictures of the Power Rangers, that no one else could take. Not to mention that he was the only reporter the Power Rangers would talk to.
"O'Neil, why the heck didn't you get this story? 'Hydra Monster rips up Little Japan.' The Chronicle's made fools of us- again."
Parker just grinned at his choleric boss. "Relax. I've got something even better." Tossing a packet on Jacobs' desk, he had the pleasure of seeing the older man's eyes light up as he thumbed threw it.
"A direct interview with the Power Rangers! Plus pictures of those two evil Morphin Warriors! Hot damn, O'Neil, you've pulled it off again!"
"That interview gives everything Kent's article has, all from the Power Ranger's mouth, so to speak. We'll blow them away."
"I knew I hired you for a reason, boy. Now go on, go find me another headline." Shaking his head, Parker left Jacobs' office, whistling.
If only his family was as easy to deal with as his office. As he left the building, he sighed, thinking about the changes in his sister's behavior recently. She had always been somewhat withdrawn, but she had still confided in him. Now, however, she seemed to have a secret that she wouldn't share, even with him. It all seemed to be tied up with Tommy Oliver, her new boyfriend. Parker liked the guy well enough, but he had been unable to shake the certainty that he was mixed up in something way beyond his years. A quick background check had turned up nothing but squeaky-clean, though. That only served to fuel Parker's suspicions, despite all evidence to Tommy's innocence.
Pushing his worries out of his mind, Parker hopped into his car, a 1989 cherry-red Mustang convertible. It was a lovely piece of work, and had been his for about three years. He had worked hard on keeping it in shape, and it could outrun and outmaneuver 90 percent of the cars in Angel Grove. In his line of work as an investigative reporter, that had come in handy on more than one occasion. As he drove, he kept his eyes open for any potential stories. Reporters were always on duty, after all.
* * *
On the Moon, Terry sat staring at the Earth above her. After their return from battle, she and Tyler had been thoroughly chewed out by Rita, who had then retired, saying something about a headache. Now she was alone, trying to think about what she had done and why. Suddenly a pair of hands descended on her shoulders. She started, then relaxed when she realized it was Tyler.
"Penny for your thoughts," he said quietly. She smiled, shaking her head.
"I don't think they're worth a penny. I was just thinking how tired I am. I don't want to fight anymore. I don't know what I want, but that's not it."
He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her closer. "Sounds like we need a vacation."
"That's it!" she cried, leaping to her feet. "Let's go down to Earth, you and me. Not as Morphin Warriors, not to cause trouble, but just to have some fun! We could go to the movies or something."
"What about Rita? Won't she object?"
Terry grinned. "There's an old Earth saying, 'Better to ask forgiveness than permission.' Besides, she won't care as long as we're available for her next scheme."
Tyler began to smile as well. Terry's enthusiasm was infectious. "You have any money?"
With a flourish, Terry produced a full wallet. "I was bored the other day, and bucked cases of Coca-Cola onto a truck for a few hours. They paid me nearly a hundred bucks!"
"Then let's go. This is the nineties, you can treat me." Laughing the two of them disappeared.
* * *
"I can't believe this," Trini chuckled. "Bulk is going to be hanging out at the party with us!"
"Believe it," Zack told her, grinning. "He's grown up a lot. A lot of fun to have around, too." Just then, the object of their conversation came out of his house, adjusting his jacket and absently rubbing the black and white communicator which rested on his wrist.
"Ready?" Bulk asked. Trini and Kimberly looked him up and down. Kimberly whistled, causing Skull to raise an eyebrow at her.
"Bulk, you look great," Kimberly said frankly. Bulk's hair was neatly combed, and the tuxedo jacket he was wearing was impeccably tailored to fit his beefy frame. Now that he had lost weight and gained muscle, he looked marvelous.
"Thanks. The tux was sort of a going-away present from the office in France. They took me to a tailor and had a suit and a tuxedo custom-made for me."
"I think you outshine us all, Bulky," Skull grinned, only half-serious. The anniversary party was a formal affair, and all the Rangers were dressed in their best. Skull wore a white tuxedo with a pink vest. On anyone else, it would have looked ridiculous, but he managed to pull it off. Kimberly, of course, wore a pink sheath dress which showed off her body perfectly. Jason's black tuxedo had a dark red vest, and Jamie, leaning on his arm, wore a beautiful knee-length gown of purple velvet. Zack, of course, wore a black tuxedo with sparkling black cummerbund and tie, which perfectly matched Angela's shimmering black dress. Richie wore a tuxedo with a light yellow vest and tie, which went perfectly with Trini's yellow Chinese-necked silk gown. Embroidered on it were tigers and kirins, Chinese unicorns. Finally, Billy wore a tuxedo with a vest of midnight blue. Next to him, Christina shone like a star in her simple white slip dress.
"The others will meet us at the youth center," Jason said. "We decided it would be easier if we split into two groups for this." The teens piled into their respective vehicles, and it was off to the dance.
Once at the dance, they met up with the rest of the Rangers, and Bulk was amused to see that all of them were also dressed in their colors. Looking around himself, he felt a little uncomfortable. It wasn't the tie around his neck, although that was helping. Rather, it was the realization that he was definitely the odd man out in this group. They all shared a secret, an experience far beyond anything he had ever known, and he was firmly on the outside. They didn't do it on purpose, of course; they couldn't help it. Still, he felt as if he were standing on one side of a glass wall, and Skull, his longtime and only friend, was securely on the other side.
Sighing, he looked around the room. Suddenly his jaw dropped. A short girl with sandy, curly hair, dressed in a police-blue gown, was standing at the punch bowl, watching the dancers wistfully. Summoning all his courage, he walked over to her.
"Connie?" he asked quietly. She whirled, her eyes wide. "Long time, no see," he continued. "Remember me?"
"Farkas? How could I forget? You were the one that gave me the courage to quit the force."
"Well, it's nice to know I made a difference, even if it wasn't the one I was aiming for. Are you here alone?"
She nodded. "Yeah. I'm still the chief's daughter, even if I am off the Junior Police Patrol. You think anyone's going to ask me out?"
"I would," he said quietly, extending a hand. "Do you want to dance?"
She stared at him for a long moment, then took it, letting him draw her onto the floor.
Over where the Rangers were hanging out, Skull looked around, frowning. "Has anybody seen Bulk?"
Rocky just chuckled, pointing out over the floor. Skull followed Rocky's finger, his jaw hitting the floor as he caught sight of his friend.
"All right, Bulk!" Skull grinned. He had known from the start that Bulk was interested in Connie Crandall, ever since that awful "Dress your Decade" dance, when he had tried everything to impress her, and wound up getting Lt. Stone fired from the police force. As it turned out, that escapade had been the best thing to happen to both of them. He was just glad that his friend had managed to find someone to care about the way he had.
* * *
"That was fun," Terry giggled, as she and Tyler left the movie theater. They had gone to see "Men in Black," laughing at the way aliens were portrayed, as well as most of the other things. It had felt so wonderful not to think about battle tactics, or when to attack the Power Rangers. She wished the night could go on forever.
"Yeah, it was. So what do you want to do next?" Tyler asked, smiling down at her. He had never seen her so happy before, and he couldn't quite understand why that made him feel so good. Still, he wasn't about to give it up.
"Let's go to the Angel Grove Amusement Park! It's open until two in the morning, and we don't have anywhere to go."
"Sounds good to me." The two of them headed off to the amusement park. That night, they had been shopping at the Angel Grove Mall prior to going to the movie theater. Terry had gone into a bit of a frenzy, trying on clothes in most of the boutiques they had passed. Tyler hadn't been too upset, seeing as she looked very good in the clothes she tried on. Luckily, they hadn't had to hide from people at all, as seeing Tommy and Jamie around Angel Grove together was not an uncommon sight. As long as they didn't kiss in public, they were fine.
Once at the amusement park, they rode all the rides, some more than once. Tyler had to admit that this was certainly more fun than fighting for the umpteenth time with Skull or Tommy. The thing that made it best, however, was the expression on Terry's face. She was really getting into living like a normal human, and Tyler felt a pang of sadness that it couldn't be this way all the time.
At one of the game booths, he won her a little stuffed wyvern, without using any of his special powers. She gave him a kiss, and carried it with her for the rest of the night, although she could have easily stuffed it into a subspace pocket. He had to admit, the thing was kind of cute.
At two in the morning, after the park had closed, they continued to walk the moonlit streets of Angel Grove, completely unconcerned with muggers. After all, when you could drain energy with a simple touch, or conjure up flames with a wave of your hand, street criminals ceased to be one of your major worries.
"It looks so beautiful, so peaceful," Terry sighed, looking up at the bone-white moon hanging in the sky above her. "Hard to believe that there's such an evil witch up there, isn't it?" Suddenly she turned to look Tyler in the eyes. "Tyler, I don't want to go back to the moon tonight. Can't we stay on Earth a little longer? I want to see the sun come up."
Tyler thought for a long moment, then nodded. "I think so. Come on. I know just where we can go."
Sometime later, after they had hiked up to the top of Maguire's Leap, the two of them lay on a blanket that Tyler had pulled out of their dimension, staring up at the moon and the stars. They lay there, snuggling, talking of inconsequentialities as the hours ticked by. Finally, the sun began to peek over the horizon, painting the sky in hues of pink, orange, and gold as it came. "So beautiful," Terry murmured, snuggling closer to Tyler. Almost immediately, she was asleep.
_She's right, it is beautiful,_ he thought, holding her close. _The sunlight is incredible. How can we destroy this? If Rita has her way, the skies will be forever gray with dirt and dust, and no one will ever see this again, certainly not with free eyes. How can we let that happen?_ His thoughts disturbed him. How could he think of being disloyal to Rita? She had created him, and he owed her his fealty. Didn't he? A voice in his heart kept telling him that he didn't owe Rita anything.
"Think about it later, Oliver," he sighed aloud. Casting a spell of invisibility and a protective shield around the two of them, Tyler settled down to sleep in Terry's arms.
* * *
On the moon, everything was still. It was the middle of the fourteen-day night on the back of the Moon, where the Winnebago was now parked. Everything was pitch-black- except for the strange, greenish glow emanating from the Mirror of Night where it lay on the table in Rita's workroom. The glow was not the emerald green of Tommy and Tyler's power, but rather a sickly yellow-green, the color of an old bruise. An awful humming sound was heard, growing louder and louder. Rita, woken from her sleep, stumbled into the workroom.
"What in the nine levels of inferno is going on here?" she cried. The Mirror began to pulse, changing shape. The darkness began to flow out of the frame, changing until it took on a different form. The creature was composed of pure darkness, black as night, and shaped like a dragon. Turning its empty eye-pits towards Rita, it began to chuckle. Rito and Goldar, who had been drawn by the commotion, looked at each other and ran. Had anyone been clocking them, our non-existent observer would have found that they broke the land speed records for winged monkeys, walking skeletons, and most cheetahs. They were over the terminator, the line between dark and light, in about five minutes.
I return! the creature cried, stretching its serpentine neck towards the ceiling of the Winnebago. I am released into the world of day once more! It is at last time for me to feed on the darkness of the mortals and attain my throne!
Swallowing hard and summoning all her courage, Rita took a step forward. "And just who are you, anyway?"
Foolish mortal! I am midnight, I am fear! I am the essence of that which haunts you even in your dreams! I am the demon NYGHTMAYR!
Rita blanched. The name of Nyghtmayr was known to all evil beings throughout the galaxy. It was the essence of the worst nightmares of anything it encountered, feeding on the dark emotions of the human spirit. It had created the Mirror of Night long ago from its own essence, and apparently had used it as a gateway to return from the place where the Powers of Light had imprisoned it long ago. Picking up her skirts, Rita Repulsa turned and ran after her henchman and her brother, making better time than either. Behind her, Nyghtmayr's insane laughter echoed in her brain.
* * *
Much later in the morning, the Rangers were interrupted as they went about their morning routine by the chiming of their communicators. Teleporting to the Power Chamber, they found with some shock that Zordon had summoned all sixteen Rangers, plus Bulk.
"Zordon, why call all of us?" Tommy asked, stepping forward.
"Yeah," Jason seconded. "It's a little crowded in here."
"Rangers, a creature of unfathomable evil has appeared on Earth. It is the demon Nyghtmayr, a living nightmare if one ever existed. It is the creator of the Mirror of Night, which was a part of it. Long ago, the Powers of Light had exiled it to the Lost Dimension, a place from which nothing has returned. It was thought to be contained there forever. Unfortunately, Rita's recent use of the Mirror of Night has released it from its captivity and it has landed in Angel Grove Park. Observe the viewing globe." Zordon's voice was far grimmer than the Rangers had ever heard it. Frowning, they turned to the globe and gasped. A dragon made entirely of darkness was in the middle of Angel Grove Park. It didn't seem to be doing anything, but overhead, a vortex of dark clouds was forming, and the wind began to pick up.
"It's a Shadow," Tommy whispered, his eyes huge. "It's the template the Shadow Empire was created from." Beside him, Billy swallowed, remembering his incarceration at the hands of the Shadow Empire almost a year before.
"Indeed, Tommy. One of the many theories on the origin of the Shadow Empire states that they may have been created by a sorcerer who tried to free Nyghtmayr. He failed- and paid with his life. Nyghtmayr is far more powerful than the Shadows you fought, even the one who ran the castle. He will not only be able to absorb your spirit, but your very being, locking you within him forever."
The Rangers paled at this thought, and Rocky quickly crossed himself and began to pray.
"We have to stop him," Tommy gulped, "despite the risk. It's our duty, it's what we do. Bulk, are you going to be okay?"
The bigger boy nodded. "You bet. I'd rather be here watching it happen than at home wondering if you're all right."
"Rangers, you must be careful. If you do not work together, Nyghtmayr will be too powerful for you. Please, use the utmost caution."
"We will, Zordon," Jason replied. Looking at Tommy, he smiled. Then, in unison, Jason and Tommy let out their famous call.
"It's morphin time!" The Power Chamber was suddenly filled with the unprecedented light of sixteen transformations. When they cleared, Bulk and Alpha were the only ones standing on the floor. Sighing, the two turned toward the viewing globe and settled down to watch the fight.
* * *
Across town, in the Scotts' well-kept two story Tudor, a bridge game was being set up. Leslie Zedden suddenly put down the cards she was shuffling and stared at her husband in exasperation. "Larry, are you going to look out that window all day, or are you gonna play cards?"
"Leslie, come look at this," he replied. The worried tone in his voice instantly alerted Leslie that something was up. She crossed to the window and stood beside him, watching the dark clouds spreading across the sky. John and Karen Scott soon joined them, and the four adults watched in silence. Finally, Karen spoke.
"That's not normal, is it, Larry?" she asked in a quiet voice.
Larry shook his head. "No, I can sense a lot of evil energy coming from it, worse than anything Rita or I ever came up with. Something very evil is afoot. Looks like the kids have gone to work." John and Karen Scott were the only other parents who knew of Larry Zedden's former identity. The Scotts had at first been somewhat leery of the man who had on more than one occasion sworn to kill their son, but Jason's complete acceptance of him had brought them around finally. Now the four parents were good friends, held together by their common worry for their children.
"I'll go turn on the TV," John sighed. "So much for bridge."
Soon, the four of them were sitting in front of the TV, watching Marlene Maris of K-Grove News, reporting live from the park. At the moment, she was being herded away from the scene of the monster's appearance with a number of other reporters. Determined not to go down without a sound byte, she shoved a microphone in the face of Detective Park, who was among the police chivvying the reporters away.
"Detective Park, what would you say is going on out there?" she asked quickly.
Shooting a worried glance over his shoulder, he replied, "All hell is breaking loose."
* * *
Out at the park, the Rangers appeared in sixteen flashes of light. "Stay together," Red Ranger cautioned. "We have no idea what this guy is capable of." Slowly, they advanced on Nyghtmayr. The creature regarded them contemptuously, then laughed.
So, the forces of Light once more arise. Do you truly think you can stop me, even with so many of you? I am all that is dark within your souls! Suddenly, the creature cocked its head, orienting on Red Ranger. I know you, young one. I have tasted your spirit through my little ones.
Red Ranger's head snapped up. "What? Oh my god. He isn't just like the Shadows- he's connected to them!"
Yess. I will play with you myself. As for the rest of your friends, they can deal with the Minor Demons. Arise, spirits of nightmare! Despayr! Dowyt! Hatryd! Bytyrness! Fyar! Arise!
To the Rangers' horror, five blobs of darkness oozed out of the ground, taking on the shapes similar to that of Nyghtmayr, only smaller. Hissing, they advanced on the shocked heroes.
"Spread out, Rangers!" Jason called, taking control of the situation. "Divide and conquer!" The Rangers did as he commanded, splitting up to deal with the Minor Demons. As Red Ranger turned to join them, a wall of black energy shot out, encircling him, trapping him with Nyghtmayr.
Not so fast, young Shadow, the demon hissed. Let's just see what food your nightmares yield. With the speed of thought, images began to appear. Red Ranger was unable to tell which were before him and which were in his mind. Rita and Zedd, laughing at him, his friends turning against him, the Green Ranger destroying the city, all of these swirled before him in a kaleidoscope of nightmare images, bringing Red Ranger to his knees.
Within you is all the darkness and evil that I crave. What shall I feed upon first? Perhaps despair. Without warning, Red Ranger was plunged headlong into a series of memories.
"My Power is yours, now, Jason. Use it to defeat Rita." Oh, dear God, I can't stand it. I'm not a Ranger anymore, I've lost it. What am I now but a failure, useless to anyone?
"Our last attempt to revive your powers has failed." So that's it, the end. Zedd finally beat me. What's the use of trying anymore?
Oh my God, the Zords! They're gone, Rito destroyed them! And Zordon says the power is lost, too. There's nothing more to do, Zedd's won.
Zedd destroyed the power coins, and we're stuck in these seven year-old bodies! Billy's back to normal, but we're not! And the Aquitian Rangers can't defend the planet forever. What do we do now?
The Command Center! Zordon, Alpha, NOOOO!
David, I'm sorry. I've failed you, and now I'll never see you again. I barely even got to know you.
Jason's dying, and it's all my fault. I should have never asked him to be Gold Ranger!
Kim's back, but I'm still alone.
Vile's my father! I'm nothing but a monster, I never should have been a Ranger, never should have been born!
Sobbing, Red Ranger reached up and removed his helmet, sinking to his knees. Nyghtmayr watched him with interest, soaking up the despair radiating from Tommy. I have never fed upon a soul so despairing, or so strong to have borne up beneath it. And I sense that I have just scratched the surface. This one will feed me well.
* * *
Meanwhile, on the other parts of the battlefield, the Minor Demons had encircled each Ranger with the same type of walls that surrounded Tommy, and were evoking the emotion for which they were named. Blue Ranger was tormented by Despayr, surrounded by the shadows of his lost father and girlfriend.
You couldn't save me, Rocky, Jennifer hissed. You failed, and I'm dead. You failed me, Rocky.
You're alone, son, and a failure. You promised to take care of your mother, but you spend all your time gallivanting around with your Spandex-clad friends. Alejandro De Santos, Sr, regarded his son disdainfully.
Ripping off his helmet, Rocky screamed back at the spirits before him. "I'm sorry! There's nothing I could do! Oh, God, I'm sorry!"
Without responding, they faded back into the darkness, leaving him alone. Quiet settled over him, and he realized that he was all alone. "Please, don't leave me," he sobbed. "Don't leave me alone. I'm so sorry!" He collapsed to the ground, not even bothering to look as a host of Nyghtmayr's little minions, called Night Terrors, crept up on him through the dark wall around him.
* * *
Not far from Rocky, Despayr was also holding Zack in his clutches. The young Morphin Warrior was reliving two of the most despairing times in his life: giving up his powers to Adam and watching helplessly as the best friend he had ever had slowly faded away towards death.
_They didn't want me,_ he thought, anguished. _They never even asked me to stay. It was just "So long, Zack, and don't let the teleport beam hit you on the way out. They never cared, never. I wasn't a leader like Jase, or a brain like Billy and Trini. Tommy and Kim were both better fighters than I am. I'm nothing to them._
"Poor Zack," a voice said behind him, filled with mock sympathy. Whirling, Zack found Angela watching him, a cold smile on her face. "You're pathetic. I don't know why I bothered with you. You're nothing but a useless wimp. I hate you."
"Angela!" he cried, stretching a hand out to her. She faded away, leaving to stare after her emptily.
* * *
Frowning, Tyler looked at the darkening sky. The two of them had slept themselves out up at Angel's Bluff, and awakened to take a walk through the city. Now the two of them were walking through the empty business district, looking at the fear-inspiring clouds above them. Suddenly a line from Macbeth flashed into Tyler's head. "By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes," he whispered. Beside him, Terry swallowed.
"You feel it, too?" she asked quietly. "I feel strange. Something has happened to the Mirror of Night, something unearthly."
He nodded. "I think the source of the disturbance is the park. Do you think we should go?"
"Yes," she replied unhesitatingly. "Whatever it is, we're a part of it. We need to be there, to see it to the end."
He nodded again, and the two of them headed towards the park, with the manner of people going to what they suspect to be their own execution.
* * *
Yesss, you are most nourishing, young Shadow. Shall we try another emotion? Nyghtmayr asked sweetly. Let us see the doubt in your soul, human.
Instantly, the exhausted Tommy was caught up in a storm of doubts that swirled around him like vultures, waiting for him to fall. They were many and varied, but two seemed to stand out above the rest: _What if I fail them? and Am I really good now?_ Curious, Nyghtmayr probed the first one and was rewarded by a torrent of memories.
The Green Ranger, racing to the rescue once again, regardless of his power level, praying that he is not too late.
"Extend your hand, White Ranger, and receive all that has been granted to you." Can I do this? Can I make it? Oh God, why am I the leader? Why not Jason?
"Allow me to introduce myself. I'm Tommy, the Green Ranger." Oh dear God, what did Rita do now? He's me, but evil. How can I possibly fight the dark side of myself?
Oh no! The Zords are blown up! I did this. I should have fallen back. What do we do now? They're all looking at me like I'll have the answer. What do I do?
"I've decided that I'll be more use to you guys in the Power Chamber." Oh, Billy, no. What am I going to do without you? I can't lead this team alone. I've never been able to. You should be the leader. I'm the one who should step down.
Can I get my brother back? This arrowhead is supposed to have power, but I can't access it. Maybe it isn't for me after all, but David. That's more likely. I'm not destined for anything special.
Hmm, Nyghtmayr mused. Very interesting. What do you suppose the other one holds? Reaching out a mental probe, he opened up the thought, and another host of memories came whizzing out, memories of spells and traps, all designed to capitalize on the darkness in Tommy's spirit. Nyghtmayr drank them in greedily, savoring the taste of Tommy's mental anguish.
Most satisfying, young one. I will enjoy this immensely.
* * *
Out on the reservation, in the desert east of Angel Grove, David Trueheart was startled out of his meditation by the screaming of a falcon. His eyebrows furrowed and he quickly got to his feet. Following the screams, he found a strange sight. A falcon, its feathers bearing an almost green tinge in the brown, sat on a rock, shaking its head. It suddenly stopped screaming, staring David straight in the eyes. He staggered back at the force of the mental contact.
The falcon took to the air, leaving David with one thought in his mind. "Tommy's in trouble," he whispered. Tapping his communicator, he quickly teleported out.
* * *
Laughing to itself, Dowyt regarded the three Rangers that it had trapped in dark walls. Turning its attention to the closest, it chuckled as it watched the young man inside grappling with his own doubts. The Green Ranger had already removed his helmet, and saw himself talking to his father, who regarded him disdainfully.
"I'm very disappointed in you, Adam. I had hoped that you'd wind up doing something important, not running around in Spandex, endangering the people of Angel Grove. Why do you think I spend so much time at work? I never wanted to be home with you."
"But-" Adam protested. Vaguely, he could remember his father telling him why he was gone so often, but the memories of too many nights when Trevor Park had not come home, too many games, parties, and tournaments his father had missed, had come between him and his acceptance of his father's absence.
"You're so worthless, Adam," Tanya's voice said behind him. He whirled to see her with an arm around Shawn's waist. "I finally found a real man. Who needs you anymore, you wimp? I certainly don't. Why don't you just go back to playing with your frogs?"
"Yeah, Adam," Rocky chimed in, appearing beside him. "I only hung out with you all those years because I felt sorry for you. I've got better friends now. Who needs you?"
Adam fell to his knees, watching his friends abandon him one by one. _It's true,_ he thought despondently. _I am worthless. Nobody wants me, and why should they? I'm nothing. No one._ As his doubts consumed him, he sank to the ground, crying bitterly.
* * *
Nyghtmayr could hear the cries of the Rangers as they were faced with their deepest fears, but he could not spare any attention to savor them. All his being was focused on the boy who lay before him, who contained such delicious reservoirs of pain and suffering.
How are you feeling, Tommy? the demon asked with fake solicitousness. Tommy looked up at it with eyes that seemed almost empty of emotion and life.
"Fuck off," Tommy said dully. "Go back to Hell."
Nyghtmayr chuckled. What was it that one of the demons of your planet's literature once said? "Why this is Hell, nor am I out of it." This is the truth, young Shadow, for at this time, for you, this is Hell.
Trying desperately to focus on something other than what was occurring, Tommy managed to identify the quote. "Mephistopheles," he mumbled. "One of the versions of the Faust legend." Unfortunately, he couldn't remember which one.
It suddenly ceased to matter as Nyghtmayr reached out to him and opened his mind once again. This time, the demon released all of Tommy's deepest fears. Instead of being dropped into a series of memories, though, Tommy found himself kneeling on the grass, holding Lillian in his arms. A horrific wound marked her abdomen, and she stared up at him accusingly as she died in his arms.
"NOO!" he cried. Looking around himself, he saw all of the Rangers, Zeo and Morphin Warriors, lying dead around him. "What happened? What did this?"
"Why you did, Green Ranger," Goldar's mocking laughter replied. Tommy whirled to face the large golden monkey. "I'm not-" he began, before he looked down at himself. His voice died as he realized he was dressed in green Spandex, its sparkle muted by the blood which covered it. "No. No! What did you do to me?" he screamed.
Goldar merely chuckled. "I did nothing. Your own personal darkness took over. It was only a matter of time, you know, even after Dr. Kino got rid of the Green Ranger. All that stress, all the problems you've been having, I'm not surprised you snapped. And now the Power Rangers are all destroyed. My mistress owes you a great debt, Green Ranger. As a thank-you, I'm going to spare your life. I'd love to see you explain this one to Zordon." Still laughing, the monster teleported out.
Tommy sank to his knees, shaking his head. "No. It isn't real. I can't have- Oh, God, NO!" He began to sob.
Nyghtmayr watched the boy as he hallucinated. Now I see why he has been able to live through all that he has. With his friends at his side, nothing managed to hurt him. Now that he is alone, though, he cannot stand up to the fear and pain within him. It will be most rewarding when he becomes one with me.
* * *
It had been a quiet day for Dr. Lita Kino. She'd had only two patients, and both had been ordinary cases, one a stress management problem, the other a mild case of depression. She hadn't heard from any of the Power Rangers since Jamie and Jason's encounter with Rita's evil Morphin Warriors. That worried her. Usually something was up, and at least one kid was having problems that compelled them to come see her. The sudden quiet period had her nerves in an uproar.
Suddenly the coin she wore around her neck, the defunct Green Power Coin, began pulsing with a bright green light. Lita frowned. She had never seen it react quite that way before, but she knew that something was going on. Reaching out, she hit a button. The television that was tucked into a discreet corner of the office clicked on, and Lita found herself watching a newscast live from the park. The Rangers seemed to be trapped in strange walls upon which dim images flickered. Lita could hear, just at the threshold of her senses, Trini begging her friends not to abandon her, not to hate her, even if she deserved it. Lita's eyes flashed and her face hardened. One of the Rangers enemies had finally launched an effective psychological attack on the teens. If they were to come through, they would need her help. Lita leaped to her feet and ran out the door, telling Serena, her secretary, to hold her calls. Once she was in a secluded portion of the office, she teleported to the Power Chamber.
* * *
The demon Fyar had also trapped three Rangers in his forcefields. The White and Gold Rangers were interesting to watch as they confronted their worst fears, but the fears themselves weren't very original. They saw their friends dying, their loves in jeopardy, all of the usual things that Fyar had seen from a hundred sentient life forms.
Kimberly, on the other hand, had some very interesting fears, indeed. Her hallucination had started off, like most others, with her finding herself among the bodies of her dead friends. However, there was one major difference from most people's nightmares. The body of her boyfriend, Skull, was nowhere to be found.
"Maybe he's alive," she whispered to herself. "Oh, God, I have to find him. Where is he?"
"Looking for me?" a voice said behind her. She turned to see Skull watching her with unreadable eyes.
"Skull?" she said breathlessly, taking a step towards him. The look on his face caused her to stop, though. "Are you all right?"
"Oh, I'm fine," he said, advancing on her. "Better than ever, actually." His eyes flashed with white light, punctuating his statement.
"No, please," she moaned to no one in particular. "Not another spell! Why my boyfriends?" She tried to dodge as he came after her, but he was too fast for her. Grabbing her by the shoulders, he pulled her to him, kissing her roughly. While she was struggling, he locked a metal collar around her neck. Instantly it flashed pink and she found herself back in civilian clothes. With a wicked smile, Skull grabbed her and teleported her out.
* * *
The demon Bytyrness was also enjoying his three captives, the Pink, Silver, and Yellow Rangers. Yellow Ranger was confronted with her ex-boyfriend Shawn, who had dumped her so cruelly. He was standing there with his arm around his current girlfriend Veronica. The two of them were laughing at her, and in return, she had ripped off her helmet and was screaming at them.
The Silver Ranger's illusions were not as entertaining for the demon. She was simply faced with the people who had made her moving to Angel Grove miserable, especially Lisa Carrol, the android that Mondo had sent to lure Rocky to his doom after his first girlfriend's death. Bytyrness turned away from her with disinterest, preferring to watch Pink Ranger.
She had removed her helmet, and now she watched with narrowed eyes as images of Kimberly paraded before her. Kim with Tommy on one arm, Kimberly dressed perfectly, Kimberly, always the perfect little center of attention.
"Why?" she asked rhetorically. "Why did I have to be Pink? I could never compete with Kimberly, sweet, pretty Kimberly. Tommy never loved me, he was always interested in her. Everyone prefers Kimberly. What do I matter?" she spat. Other images flowed up inside her, images of Rita's spell, Tommy laughing with Lillian, and the way all the Rangers seemed to ignore her whenever possible. Sitting down on the grass with her head in her hands, Kat abandoned herself to the bitterness inside her.
* * *
Fear, bitterness, doubt, despair. Your memories yield them all, young Shadow, Nyghtmayr cackled. Now for the last, most powerful of the dark emotions within you- hatred. Tell me, Tommy, whom do you hate?
Unbidden, images of Rita, Mondo, and every other villain came into Tommy's mind. _I hate them. They've taken away my friends, my powers, any chance any of us might have had at a normal life. They hunt us at every turn. I hate them!_
Yesss, Nyghtmayr hissed. You hate them all, very good. But you're holding back. Who else do you hate, Tommy? Let me see.
Tommy fought the demon's probe with all that he possessed, all his mental tricks and magic powers, but was unable to stop the slow, steady opening of the memory that he tried to hold shut. Soon it came completely open, allowing Nyghtmayr to see what lay within.
_I hate myself,_ Tommy sobbed mentally. _I'm weak, I'm a danger to my friends. No one loves me, I'm not worth it. I hate myself, all I want to do is dieŠ._
Nyghtmayr was taken aback by the amount of self-loathing in Tommy's mental voice. It had never known a human in whom duty was so strong as to override such a powerful death-wish. It is a miracle that he is still alive, the demon thought privately. I would have thought that he would kill himself a long time ago. Eagerly, greedily, Nyghtmayr opened itself up to Tommy's hatred and began to feed.
* * *
Hatryd, the last of the five Minor Demons that Nyghtmayr had summoned, was having the time of his life with his three captives. He could not decide which one was the most entertaining of the three. The Black Ranger was faced with Rita Repulsa, who regarded her with amused disdain.
"You bitch," Black Ranger growled. "You made his life a living hell! How could you do what you did to him so many times?"
"Now, dear. Surely you understand Tommy's delightful potential for evil. How could I not make use of such a man?"
"I ought to rip your black heart out."
"Only if you can catch me," Rita said smugly. As a hallucination, she was uncatchable, although Black Ranger tried extremely hard.
Meanwhile, Purple Ranger found herself face to face with her old nemesis, Jack Doyle. "You're dead," she snarled. "I killed you myself, you bastard."
Jack shrugged. "Well, you obviously didn't do a very good job. Care to try again?"
Purple Ranger suddenly found a gun in her hand, a forty-five automatic, just like the one she had used on him the first time. "This time, you aren't going to make it," she promised him, taking aim.
"Temper, temper, Jason," Goldar taunted, avoiding another of Jason's sword strokes with ease. "You'll never catch me at this rate."
"I'll rip your heart out, you son of a bitch," Jason panted. "After the living hell you've made out of my life and Tommy's, nearly killing my friends and the people I love, you ought to be glad I'm just going to kill you." Jason's eyes were almost glazed over by the strength of his fury. Although he couldn't see it, the walls of his prison were glowing with deep black energy, all his hatred being used to strengthen them and the demon who maintained them.
* * *
"O'Neil!" a voice yelled, causing Parker to wince. He'd been sneaking around the edge of the battlefield, trying to find some angle that would allow him to figure out what was going on. He'd been lucky in dodging the police so far, but it looked as if his luck had just run out. Turning around, he saw Detective Trevor Park regarding him sourly.
"Detective, what can I do for you?" Parker asked, a small smile on his face.
Trevor snorted. "You could evacuate the area, as you were ordered to do. However, we both know you won't. What are you trying to do? There's not much of a story here, and won't be until the battle is over."
"Do you think that's all I care about?" Parker shot back. "The Power Rangers have saved my life too many times for me to count, and now they look like they're getting creamed. I want to help them if I can."
Trevor sighed. He liked Parker, far more than he liked any of the other reporters in Angel Grove. The man was genuinely more interested in helping people than getting a scoop. It was almost a shame that he couldn't be told that his sister was out there on the battlefield.
Suddenly, Trevor's communicator toned, and immediately after that, Zordon's voice came from the wristband. "Detective Park," the being boomed, "please come to the Power Chamber immediately, and bring Parker with you. I believe we will need his help to defeat this latest menace."
Trevor shrugged. "Whatever you say, Zordon," he replied. "Come on, kid. You wanted to help out the Power Rangers; here's your chance." Snagging the sleeve of Parker's leather jacket, Trevor teleported out.
The two of them materialized in the Power Chamber to find Lita, David, and Bulk already there. Parker gaped at his surroundings while Trevor crossed to face Zordon's warp tube. "We're here, Zordon. What do you need us for?"
"Why am I here?" Parker added in amazement.
"The five of you are here because you are close to the Power Rangers, and you can take care of yourself in battle. Lita, you have a black belt in aikido, David has a black belt in karate, Bulk has been trained in hand-to-hand, Detective Park is ex-military as well as being a policeman, and Parker has extensive training in kendo and boxing."
Parker shrugged. "Considering the number of people who would be just as happy if I disappeared, I have to know how to fight. But what do you mean, I'm close to the Power Rangers. I barely know them."
"Actually, you're close to one in particular," Lita informed him. "Your sister, Lillian, is the Black Zeo Ranger." Parker's jaw hit the floor.
"So that's what she's mixed up in," he managed finally. "Is Tommy Oliver one, too?"
"Yes. He's Red Zeo Ranger."
"I don't get it, Zordon," David interjected. "How will being close to the Power Rangers help us?"
"Alpha and I have examined the walls that surround the Rangers, and have discovered that they are evil in its purest form, pure concentrated hatred. The only thing that will weaken the walls and help break the spells the Rangers are under is love and friendship, which are the basis for all good. The five of you have strong feelings of love and friendship for the Rangers, and therefore you must reach them, for I cannot. I would not put you into danger if there was any other way, but I am afraid that I have no choice."
The five looked at each other, then back up at Zordon. Speaking for all of them, David replied, "We'll do it."
"Parker," Alpha piped up, "you are more capable with a sword than with your hands. Please, take this with you." Alpha handed the young man a silver katana with a black hilt. "It's very strong, and has some anti-magic properties that will help you against the Night Terrors."
Parker took the sword from the little android, testing its heft. "All right, let's go." The five dissolved in white streaks of light, heading for the battlefield.
* * *
Trevor landed next to the walls in which his son was imprisoned. They towered above him, black as midnight, dark and imposing. Inside, he could hear Adam talking to an illusion, and to his surprise, he could hear the illusion responding in his voice. Growling, he approached the walls. "No one does this to my son and gets away with it," he informed the black energy barriers. "Most especially, no one uses my face to do it!" With that, he walked right up to the wall, which flowed back to let him pass. He was surprised for a moment, then remembered what Zordon had said about the composition of the walls.
Quickly, he surveyed the scene around him. Adam was sitting on the ground, staring blankly at an image of his father, who was continually telling him that he was a failure, a disappointment to his parents, especially his father. Trevor growled again, taking a step towards the illusion. He had always known that his older son had a problem with low self-esteem, although it had seemed to be getting better since he had met the other Rangers. However, the illusion had pushed exactly the right buttons, bringing it all back in a rush.
Trevor's advance was halted by the sounds of chittering. He turned to see several of the little Night Terrors advancing on them. The things were a good deal smaller than he was, but he knew that if they mobbed him, he'd be in big trouble. "I don't have time to deal with you right now," he told the little monsters, pulling his .38. "Eat lead." Snapping off several shots, he blew two of them up completely, and made the rest think twice about attacking him without a plan. Then he turned back to his entranced son.
"Adam? Adam, listen to me. That's not real. That thing that's talking to you is not your father." No response. Adam still stared straight ahead, listening to the illusion's litany of his failures. "Adam, please, you have to listen to me. That thing is lying to you. I'm very proud of you, and I love you very much. Do you hear that, Adam? I love you. I'm your father, and I love you."
Adam's head cocked and his attention shifted. "Dad?" he asked hazily, his eyes struggling to focus on his father.
"Yeah, Adam, it's me. Come on, come back to me."
"Why should I?" The bitterness and self-doubt in Adam's voice was evident. "I'm a failure, a disappointment. Just let me go."
"No. Damn it, Adam, I'm not going to let you go. You're not a failure. I'm more proud of you than I could ever say. You're a Power Ranger! You save the world every day, practically. I only put away a scumball at a time, if I'm lucky, and they always keep coming back. You, you're doing something I can only dream about. You make a real, noticeable difference. You're a true hero, Adam, and I'm so proud of you, and I love you very much."
"Then why aren't you ever home?" Adam whimpered. A pang shot through Trevor. He hadn't been home enough in his life. He'd always been so dedicated to his work that he'd sometimes overlooked his family. Eileen had put up with it, and never said a word, and he hadn't realized how his constant absences had affected his children.
"I made a lot of mistakes, Adam," Trevor said quietly. "I let my work grow until it eclipsed everything else. It was never more important than my family, but- it was more immediate, I guess. So I devoted all my time to work and forgot about everything else. I don't know, maybe I wanted to prove I could do anything anyone else could do. Maybe I wanted a secure job to make sure that you kids had everything you needed. I didn't have a lot, growing up, and I always wanted to give you kids the things I didn't have. Whatever my reason was, it wasn't good enough. I made a mistake, and I'm sorry. It was a mistake, though. Don't ever think that I stayed away because I was disappointed in you, or that I didn't love you. I'm very proud of you, Adam, and I love you with all my heart."
Adam stared at his father for a long moment, then burst into tears, throwing his arms around the older man in a fierce hug. "I love you too, Dad," Adam sobbed into his father's shoulder. "I love you, too."
With those words, the walls surrounding them flashed once and crumbled into nothingness. Adam pulled away from his father, staring around him in awe. "Wow," he managed.
"Mm-hmm," Trevor agreed, rising to his feet. "Amazing what three little words can do, isn't it?" Bending over, he picked up Adam's helmet and handed it to him. "Here, you might need this. The place is crawling with reporters."
Adam chuckled, putting the helmet back on. "Thanks, Dad. You'd better go back to the Power Chamber, though. Not much else you can do here."
Trevor nodded. "Right. You be careful, son." He disappeared in a flash of white light. Green Ranger smiled.
"I will, Dad. Bet on it." With that, he headed off to where he could hear Tanya's cries coming from inside one of the enclosures.
* * *
Parker was examining the enclosure he found himself next to when he heard a breathy hissing sound behind him. Turning, he saw a dragon-like creature, approximately the size of a large St. Bernard, regarding him cruelly. Taking a defensive position, his sword out in front of him, he raised an eyebrow. "And you are?"
I am Hatryd, demon of hate and malice. You seek to deprive me of my sustenance. For that, you must die.
Parker's face hardened. "Your 'sustenance' is my sister, buddy. Nobody messes with my family and gets away with it. Come on!"
The Minor Demon charged him, swiping at him with one taloned hand. Parker dodged smoothly, counter-attacking with a swipe that removed the tips of most of the talons. Ducking the creature's barbed tail, he leapt forward, launching a few attacks of his own.
The two of them fought for a while, and then Parker's greatest advantage in a fight kicked in- his mouth. "Come on, Puff," he panted. "You can do better than that. Aren't you the spirit of darkness of the soul? Get real. You couldn't hate your way out of a paper bag. 'Demon of hate', my eye. 'Mild dislike' is more like it."
Parker's words had the desired effect. The creature lost its temper, throwing itself at Parker in an obvious charge. The reporter's years of training in kendo paid off, allowing him to smoothly intercept the demon's charge, slicing it neatly through the midsection with his katana. The thing regarded him for a minute, astonished, and then dissolved into the dark blob from which it had originally formed. The blob soaked back into the grass and was gone. Parker whistled.
"Buffy, eat your heart out," he grinned. Then he turned back to the enclosure that held his sister. Summoning his courage, he closed his eyes and stepped through the wall.
Black Ranger was surrounded by images of the various villains who had threatened the Power Rangers over the years. She was screaming at them, threatening them with various painful things she'd learned to do in the course of aiding her brother in his career. Parker swallowed at the sound of the raw hatred in her voice. He hadn't realized how much of a capacity for hate his sister had, especially when her boyfriend was threatened. He had managed to pick up from the things she said that Tommy had been put through the emotional wringer a number of times by the villains present.
"Lillian," he said quietly, stepping forward. She whirled to face him.
"What are you doing here?" she snarled. "You're just like them. Did you think I didn't know about the background checks you ran on Tommy? Why can't you leave him alone? Why do you have to keep poking and prodding? I-" she broke off, her voice dying.
"You hate me?" Parker finished quietly. "No, you don't. You may be angry with me, and I don't blame you. I shouldn't have run that background check on Tommy, I admit. That was uncalled for. But I did it because I care about you, and I didn't want to see you hurt. I love you, sis. I always have. And I know that you don't hate me."
"I don't," Black Ranger sobbed, throwing herself into his arms. "I love you too." As the walls dissolved around them, she looked up at him and cocked her head. "Parker, what are you doing here? And how did you know about my being a Ranger?"
"Your boss recruited me, because only love and friendship are strong enough to break down these walls. He told me about your day job, too. Now, are you going to be okay? I need to get back to the other reporters before someone notices I'm missing."
She nodded. "I'll be fine, Park. Thanks." She hugged him again, and he transported out.
* * *
"Third down, and goal to go," Bulk grunted. "They go for the punt!" So saying, he kicked one of the Night Terrors that was attacking him. It soared up into the air, flying high over the battlefield. The rest of the little creatures scattered, not wanting to deal with Bulk. Now unencumbered, the larger boy made his way to the wall which imprisoned Skull. Inside, he could dimly hear his friend crying. Taking a deep breath, Bulk pushed his way through the wall.
Inside, he saw Skull, faced with images of Kimberly and the other Morphin Warriors. To his surprise, Bulk also saw an image of himself, looking at Skull with obvious disdain.
"How could you ever think we'd want a loser like you around?" Jason sneered. "If it weren't for you getting the Power, we'd have dumped you long ago."
"Yeah," Kimberly giggled. "You thought I'd actually want to go out with you? Yeah, right. As if! Why would I want to date you, when there are so many better choices out there?"
"Bet you're sorry you abandoned me, huh, Skull?" the illusion of Bulk taunted. "I don't need you anymore, either. You can just go back and hang out with your other friends- if you can find any."
With a growl, the real Bulk stepped forward. "What a load of bull. Come on, Skull, do you really think I'd do that to you? Any of us? Skull, we've been friends since kindergarten. We were inseparable! We spent more detentions together than I care to recall, looked for the Power Rangers together, joined the police force together, and became detectives together. Yeah, we split up when I wanted to stay in France and you didn't, but that's all it was about, different goals. I never thought you abandoned me, and I never stopped being your friend. I figured that since you had all these other friends now, you wouldn't need me anymore."
Skull looked up at his friend in confusion. "Bulky, I'd never think that. You're the best friend I've had in my life, and I don't think that's ever going to change." The two friends stared at each other for a moment, then hugged, hard, for once not concerned in the least what people would think of them. Around them, the dark walls flickered and died out. Skull looked around him.
"Thanks, Bulk. You'd better get out of here, though. Things may get real nasty in a minute." Bulk chuckled.
"You got it, buddy. Be careful." In a flash, Bulk disappeared.
* * *
David groaned to himself. He'd never admit it to anyone, but he didn't like being in the middle of the action without any powers. He still believed that Tommy was the best leader for the Zeo team, but he couldn't help wishing for some sort of power himself, especially when he wound up in situations like this.
His train of thought was broken as he approached the enclosure which held Kat inside it. He could hear her muttering to herself, something about Kimberly. Taking a deep breath, he stepped through the wall.
Inside, he instantly realized what emotion was overwhelming Kat. The images of Kimberly at her most perfect made it obvious that Kat was in the grip of a rush of bitterness. Taking a step forward, he rested his hand on her shoulder.
"You're just as good as she is, you know," he said conversationally. "I think you're prettier, too. You're just as smart, you're as good a diver as she is a gymnast, and you're just as good a Pink Ranger."
"You're the only one who thinks so," Kat spat. David raised an eyebrow.
"Are you sore about Tommy? As I recall, you didn't have feelings for him, not really. As for the other Rangers, notice that no one even suggested that you give up your Zeonizers. Kat, you're something special, and I think you know it too. I certainly do. I love you, Kat. Who cares how you compare to Kimberly?"
She looked at him for a long moment, and smiled. "I love you, too, David. Thanks." Around them, the walls dissolved into nothing as Kat put her helmet back on. Around them, the walls were all disappearing as the Rangers who had been freed broke down the barriers around their imprisoned comrades and attacked the Night Terrors and Minor Demons. Skull threw the illusion duplicate of himself against the wall of Kimberly's enclosure, causing the illusory situation to dissipate, and then the two of them went on to destroy the demon Fyar. All over the battlefield, the Minor Demons were meeting their demise at the hands of the angry Rangers. As the walls faded, all attention turned to the last enclosure, where Tommy and Nyghtmayr still fought.
His face set, David followed Pink Ranger as she and all the others began to converge on the last of the dark walls. "No one messes with my brother and gets away with it," he muttered. "You're history, Nyghtmayr."
* * *
Sighing, Lita looked up at the wall which surrounded Tommy and Nyghtmayr. Behind her, she could sense the Rangers coming up behind her. Looking to one side, she saw Black Ranger give her a thumbs-up. On the other side was David Trueheart, regarding the black walls grimly. "All right," Lita called. "This is the big one. Come on, guys. We have to hit it with everything we've got."
In unison, the Rangers spread out, each coming up to the coruscating energy barrier. As they reached out, the black light flowed back and away, exposing a sight that made them all gasp. Silver-white energy trails were coming out of Tommy, heading towards Nyghtmayr. The Red Ranger lay on the grass, staring blankly at the sky. The motion of his chest was almost imperceptible, and everyone understood that the demon was stealing Tommy's soul.
"Madre de Dios," Blue Ranger whispered, hurriedly crossing himself.
Skull and White Ranger exchanged glances and began to concentrate, reaching out to Tommy with their psychic senses. "He's given up," White Ranger reported, a concerned note in her voice. "He's so steeped in his fear and pain that he just let Nyghtmayr take over. We have to reach him."
Lita cocked her head. "I know. We'll do what you did for Jason when he was almost gone after what happened with the Gold Powers. Warriors, behind Skull. Zeos, behind Christina. David, you and I will bridge the gap. It's time for a mental link."
"Are you nuts?" Skull yelped. "We'll be open to all of Nyghtmayr's mental attacks if we do that."
"And if we don't do it, we'll lose Tommy, to something a lot worse than death," Lita shot back grimly.
"Let's do it," Black Ranger declared. Moving into position, the Rangers began concentrating. Soon, Skull and White Ranger were glowing brightly and a link was established to Tommy's mind.
Tommy! Lita called. Where are you? Come on, Tommy, come back to us. We love you. To the others, she sent, Show him we love him. Send him all your love. Waves of love and affection poured through the darkness to the small isolated mind in the depths of the netherworld they found themselves in. Slowly, so slowly that Lita almost thought she was imagining it, the mind brightened and reached out a few questioning tendrils.
Lita? Guys? Where are you? I'm so scared, please, help me. Tommy had no sooner gotten these words out than a black wave washed over him, swamping the tendrils of communication in blackness. He was isolated once more.
I don't think so! Lita sent determinedly, even though her thought had no real destination. Come on, Rangers, back me up. Tommy! With a powerful mental heave, she threw out a powerful, shining rope towards Tommy's mind. Feeling something grab on, she began pulling it back.
Lita, pull me back! Tommy's mental voice cried, growing stronger. I want to come back! The Rangers hauled, and they could feel him getting closer. Suddenly a black shape, reminiscent of the demon Nyghtmayr, grabbed onto Tommy, hauling him back into the darkness. Turning his awareness to the thing, Tommy's power flared. If he had been in his body, his eyes would have flashed green. I don't think so, he hissed mentally. Eat size 11! He lashed out with what he pictured as his foot, knocking the thing back into the darkness. Then he was swallowed up in a rushing tunnel of light, and he didn't know anything more.
* * *
Returning to their bodies in a rush, the Rangers staggered and nearly fell to the ground. As her vision cleared, Lita could see the last silver wisps of Tommy's soul re-entering his body. Even as she watched, he stirred and sat up, reaching for his helmet as he did so. Slamming it back on, Red Ranger rose painfully to his feet.
"Thanks, guys. Lita, Dave, I think you'd better get back to the Power Chamber now. We can handle this," Red Ranger puffed. Lita and David looked at each other, shrugged, and disappeared in two flashes of white light. Red Ranger backed up until he and his friends were standing in a tight group.
"We know how to beat this guy, now," he told them. "As long as we've got our friendship, he can't touch us."
True, Ranger, Nyghtmayr snickered, but neither can you touch me. You are not pure enough, any of you. Like all beings, there is darkness in your hearts. You are not good enough to stop me.
"Then let's change the equation!" a voice rang out. All the Rangers turned behind them to see Tyler and Terry, in their Morphin Warrior gear, standing behind them. Tyler glared at the creature fiercely. "You're worse than Rita," he continued. "She wants to conquer the world, but you want to destroy it. We won't let you get away with this!"
"This planet is too beautiful to let you ruin," Terry cried. "We will stop you, no matter what the cost."
Oh? Do you know the price you pay for this change of heart? the demon asked, nonchalant.
Terry nodded grimly. "We know."
Then let the battle be joined! Black lightning arced from the clouds above Nyghtmayr, striking the ground all around the Rangers. Where the ebony bolts touched, more of the little Night Terrors sprang up, advancing on the Rangers. Immediately they made a ring, instinctively surrounding Red Ranger and Tyler. The Green Warrior laid a hand on Red Ranger's shoulder.
"Tommy, I know how to stop this guy! A major charge of magical power should blow him out of existence. He's concentrated evil magic, the dark side of the grid. If we pool our powers for a good cause, the magics should annihilate each other, somewhat like a matter-antimatter reaction."
Red Ranger regarded his foe for a long moment, then nodded, morphing back into Tommy. "You've got a deal. Guys!" he called, raising his voice. "Keep those little creeps off our backs!"
"You got it!" Gold Ranger called back. The little creatures began to advance slowly on the assembled Power Teens.
"Let's kick some butt," Zack grinned. With a number of shouted battle cries, the fight began. Tommy, in the center of the circle, thought later that he would remember the fight as long as he lived. The cries of the Rangers, the sounds of chittering mixed with cursing, the wind whipping overhead, and over it all, Nyghtmayr's dark laughter. Meanwhile, he and Tyler grasped each other's hand and began to build a ball of bright green power between them.
The ball grew and grew, humming loudly as it began to shine over them. Looking at his duplicate, Tommy was surprised to see tears in the other's eyes. "We can't send this to him," Tyler informed him grimly. "One of us will have to walk it in. I'll do it."
"No way!" Tommy cried. "I'm not going to let you sacrifice yourself."
"Think, Tommy!" Tyler hissed. "Nyghtmayr is, in essence, the Mirror of Night. Terry and I were created from it. When it goes, we go! I'm dead anyway! No sense you throwing away your life."
"But-" Tommy began, then stopped, seeing it was hopeless. "As you wish," he sighed.
"I don't have the right to ask a favor of you, I know, but I need you to do one last thing for me," Tyler continued. Reaching up to the front of his uniform, he ripped the Dragon Coin from the fabric. The costume faded away even as he did so. With his free hand, he extended the coin to Tommy. "Give this to Terry before the explosion. The Morphin Powers we have are the only parts of our beings that were not created by the Mirror. One link isn't enough to save us from dissolution, but two should be. Give it to Terry, and tell her-" Tyler's voice cracked and he paused to get it under control. "Tell her that I finally learned to say 'I love you.' Please."
Biting his lip, Tommy reached out and took the coin from Tyler. "I will, man," he said quietly. "Good luck."
Tyler smiled slightly, then broke the grip. The green ball flickered for a moment, then flowed into Tyler, causing him to glow brightly. His face set and hard, Tyler walked through the Night Terrors as if they weren't even there, approaching Nyghtmayr with ease. The demon looked down at Tyler in surprise.
You are one of those created from my essence, yet you glow with the light. Do you truly intend to go through with this, knowing what will happen? You will be destroyed, completely. Nothing of you will survive, even in the next world. Not just death of the body, but the true death.
Tyler shrugged. "It's worth it, for her. I wouldn't expect you to understand. Besides, as someone on my planet once said, 'It's a good day to die.'" He began to glow even brighter. "See you in Hell, Nyghtmayr." In a flash of emerald fire, Tyler released all the power within him, resulting in a green flare bright enough to blind the watching Rangers and light up the sky around the park for a radius of five miles. When their sight cleared, the Rangers saw no trace of Nyghtmayr anywhere, and only Tyler's crumpled form on the ground.
Terry fell to her knees, clutching the coin that Tommy had pressed into her hand moments before. "You idiot," she sobbed. "Why did you have to go and be a hero?"
"That's what really destroyed Nyghtmayr, you know," Trini said quietly. "The power was just sort of the triggering mechanism. The demon was really destroyed by a flash of pure good, the love found in a selfless sacrifice."
"'Greater love hath no man, than that he lay down his life for his brother,'" Blue Ranger quoted softly.
"Right," Tommy said, a slight tinge of bitterness in his voice. "Come on. I have to see." Helping Terry to her feet, he escorted her to where Tyler lay, unmoving on the turf. "He told me to tell you that he loved you," Tommy told her quietly. "It must have been true."
Sinking to her knees by his side, Terry looked the body over. "He doesn't have a mark on him," she said helplessly. "After an explosion like that, how can that be?"
"He was at ground zero. Everything exploded from around him. It wasn't the damage that killed him so much as the power leaving him, and the destruction of the Mirror," Tommy told her gently.
She brushed a strand of hair out of his eyes, barely noticing the purple-green spark which crackled from her fingers as she did so. Then, taking his coin, she situated it on his chest. "This belongs to you, Ty," she whispered. "I love you too." This time, the energy was more noticeable, and Tyler's head moved perceptibly. "What the hell?" Terry cried.
"Billy!" Tommy yelled. The teen genius was by his friend's side instantly. "What's going on?"
Billy removed his visor and polished it on his vest. "It's possible, just possible, that Tyler's not quite dead. Remember what Zordon told us. The Mirror of Night, and Nyghtmayr, were pure, unadulterated evil. They were hate incarnate, as anything they created should be. But when Rita made copies of you and Jamie, she had to copy your bond. The mirror, as you know, could neither create or destroy parts of what it reflected, only change them. A love went in, so a love had to come out, one way or another. While your love for Jamie is platonic, the love of friends, Tyler and Terry had a more romantic, passionate love. Still, any type of love was enough goodness to disrupt their condition as pure evil. Therefore, they were transmuted into true organic human beings. The destruction of Nyghtmayr only stunned him, and the power flowing through him sent him into some sort of comatose state."
Terry had listened to Billy's explanation only up until he mentioned that Tyler might not be dead. Then she threw her arms around her lover and held him tightly. The purple-green energy flowed between them faster and faster, until they were both swallowed up in its light. When the light faded, Tyler was sitting up, holding onto Terry as if he would never let go.
"He's alive!" Blue Ranger yelled. The whole team had joined the group at this point, and were now watching in astonishment.
"Let's go back to the Power Chamber," Tommy smiled. "Maybe Zordon can clear a few things up for us."
* * *
"So your life energies are linked," Billy finished. After everyone had returned to the Power Chamber, explained events to the five waiting friends and family members, and Billy had repeated his explanation of why Tyler was still alive, Zordon had run a check on Tyler and Terry's physical condition. "You'll be extremely empathetic with each other, but that shouldn't be a problem. Also, the amount of energy required to bring Tyler back was so immense that you both burned out your links to the Morphin Grid. You are no longer Morphin Warriors, and I don't know if your powers will ever return."
Tyler and Terry grinned at each other. "That's all right," Terry informed Billy. "I've had enough of fighting for a while, maybe forever."
"Alpha has finished creating you new identities," Zordon rumbled. "You are now Mr. and Mrs. Tyler Oliver of Angel Grove. I have also found a spell which will keep anyone from noticing that you resemble Tommy and Jamie."
"You've got an apartment, a good credit rating, and are enrolled at AGBI," Alpha piped up. "We figured you'd want to be married, but if not, we can change that."
"I like the idea," Tyler grinned. "What about you?" For an answer, Terry just kissed him. When she let him speak again, he turned serious. "I know we don't have any powers, but just remember, if there's anything we can do for you, let us know."
Tommy smiled. "You know it, man. Good luck."
* * *
"Rocky, give them a chance to move in before you clean out their refrigerator," Adam scolded. Rocky was on his third can of Jolt, part of a housewarming present to Tyler and Terry as they moved into their new apartment. Most of the male Rangers were helping the pair into their apartment, as were Lillian and Jamie. The two girls were never ones to be left out of heavy lifting.
Tyler grinned at the two. "Let him drink it. He brought it, after all, and there's the rest of the 24-pack still in the refrigerator."
"You don't know Rocky like we do," Tommy explained, setting down his end of the couch. "Give him enough Jolt, and he'd move everything in by himself."
"What's wrong with that?" asked Terry, from where she was directing Jason and Skull in setting up a bookcase.
"Correct me if I'm wrong," Lillian chuckled, "but don't most people like their china unbroken?" Setting down her end of the couch, she wiped her forehead.
Rocky pretended to pout. "I resemble that remark!" he cried, and was promptly pelted by dust rags.
Sometime later, most of the teens had gone home, and only Tommy and Lillian were left in the apartment with Tyler and Terry.
"Look, I really want to thank all of you guys for being so understanding," Tyler began.
Shaking his head, Tommy raised a hand to stop him. "Hey, you're friends. We always help our friends."
"We nearly killed you," Terry reminded him sardonically. Tommy just chuckled.
"Hey, it's forgiven." His demeanor grew serious. "If there's one thing I've learned in life, it's that everyone should get a second chance."
Tyler nodded, half-smiling in recognition of their shared history. "Thanks. You won't regret it."
"I know," Tommy replied. "I know."
* * *
On the Moon above, Rito, Goldar and Rita returned to where their Winnebago had been, only to find that there was very little of it left. "He destroyed everything! My trailer's gone, my Morphin Warriors are gone, what am I going to do!" Rita cried.
"There's still the palace," Goldar reminded her. "Mondo pays it little attention now that Gasket has returned. We could return there and set up shop again."
"Good idea, Goldar. I'm glad I thought of it." Turning back to the earth. "I'll get you for this, Power Rangers. You've ruined my plans for the last time. I swear I'll get you if it's the last thing I do!" Her shriek reverberated off the rocks of the moon around them, causing Rito and Goldar to cover what passed for their ears.
"Um, Sis, do you think you could keep it down?" Rito asked. "You're giving me a headache!"
Rita turned slowly, her eyes flashing with fire. "What did you say?"
The walking skeleton gulped. He was stupid, but he wasn't that stupid. "Um, nothing, Sis. Nothing at all."
Rita's staff flashed, and a bolt struck the ground near Rito's feet. He took off running, Rita close behind him. Watching them go, Goldar shook his head. Things were once again back to a semblance of normal.