"NO!" With a scream, Rocky De Santos sat bolt upright in bed,
sweat dripping off him. "Another nightmare," he groused, sliding
out of bed. This one had been particularly bad. He'd been thirteen again,
back in the noxious darkness of Potter's cave. Adam had been screaming
in mortal terror, and Rocky could hear Aisha fumbling for the gun in the
Shaking off the memory, Rocky rose and headed for the bathroom. It had been five years since the cave; why was he still dreaming about it? "It's over," he muttered to himself. "Isn't it?"
* * *
Rocky usually rode the monorail into the city for his classes at AGBI. It was cheaper than driving, and he liked to relax and let his thoughts wander in the mornings. Today, with the miasma of his nightmare still hanging over him, his thoughts unerringly flashed back to that summer, five years ago, when another series of nightmares had broken his slumber.
With a start, thirteen year-old Rocky De Santos jolted upright out of a sound sleep, barely holding onto a cry. Soaked in sweat, he stared out his window at the rising sun, trying to reassure himself that he had only been dreaming.
Heading for the shower, Rocky thought back over the sequence of nightmares he had been having over the past couple nights. All of them had centered around his best friend, Adam Park, and in each, Adam had been in some sort of horrible danger. This most recent nightmare had featured ropes of darkness surrounding Adam like the cocoon of some evil butterfly. Rocky had awakened with his friend's screams of pain and terror still ringing in his ears.
Although Rocky was only an apprentice curandero, he understood that the visions he had been having at night were more than just dreams. They were warnings, telling him that Adam was in grave danger. The only problem was, Rocky didn't know from who or what.
College that day was a disaster. It was bad enough that he'd been having nightmares about the cave, but to make matters worse, it was Halloween day, and everyone was distracted. On top of that, odd occurrences and a current of menace kept Rocky on edge. He'd had three black cats cross his path, and one of the computers at the college had exploded, even though he was nowhere near it. As he headed back towards the monorail at the end of the day, a thunderstorm broke, sending the commuters running for cover. As Rocky scurried towards the train, he felt a chill in his bones that had nothing to do with the temperature outside. Watching the scenery slide past the monorail, he could no longer deny the truth. The demon of Potter's Cave was back.
"Hey, Adam!" Rocky called, waving to his best friend. The two of them often met at the playground in Stone Canyon Park during the summer. Sometimes they would spend hours or the whole day hiking in the hills outside the city, exploring the caves tucked there, while other times, they would head to where Roper's Creek flowed past the city on its way to the Rampoon River, which ran through nearby Angel Grove. Today, however, Rocky had serious business on his mind.
"What's up, Rocky?" Adam asked, noticing his friend's unusually grim expression.
Rocky took a deep breath. "Adam, please don't think I'm crazy, but I think you're in some sort of danger. The problem is, I don't know what kind. I keep having these nightmares where you're swallowed up by something dark and evil. Most of the time, it comes out of a hole in the ground." Rocky broke off, seeing his friend grow pale. "Adam, what's the matter?"
"I don't think you're crazy, Rocky," the Korean boy said with difficulty. "I've been having dreams, too. They haven't exactly been nightmares, but they've certainly given me the creeps when I wake up. I've been dreaming about hiking in the hills, by myself, and hearing beautiful music coming out of Potter's Cave, you know, over by the old sawmill? I go inside, and something's there waiting for me. In the dream, I know it's the most wonderful thing imaginable- but I don't know what it is. I have this really strong desire to go to it- then I wake up. It scares the crap out of me! I feel like a rat being lured towards a trap!"
Rocky frowned. "Looks like there may be something to my dreams after all. Maybe a little research will find out what. I'm going to head to the library. Want to come?"
Adam shook his head. "No, I'm going to go home. My parents are having company, and I'm supposed to be home by three."
"Okay. I'll come back to your house when I'm done and tell you what I've found out." With that, the two boys split up.
Rocky sat cross-legged on his bed, taking a deep breath. Last time he'd faced the demon, he'd been lucky enough to know who it was targeting. But this time Adam was an adult, no longer vulnerable to the creature's tactics. He had to find out who was the demon's intended victim this time before it was too late.
Closing his eyes, he sank into a meditative trance. Behind his closed lids, images began to form, coalescing into pictures painted all in shades of green. In his mind's eye, he saw a small boy from the back, sparring with a friend. The friend went flying over the boy's shoulder and rose, laughing. Moving closer, Rocky gasped. The two boys sparring on the mat were Fred Kelman and Franklin Park. And if the images were green, the focus of the image had to be Franklin, the Green Turbo Ranger.
His eyes flew open, and Rocky could barely restrain himself from letting out a curse. He should have known that Franklin would be the demon's target. Like Adam, the boy was extremely sensitive to psychic energies, and was the same age as they had all been during their first battle with the demon. To make him an even more attractive target, Franklin had the Green Turbo Power, which would make him an even better prize. Hopping off his bed, Rocky almost flew downstairs.
"Mom, I've been thinking," Rocky said casually, strolling into the kitchen. "You were planning to take the kids trick-or-treating tonight, right?"
Maria De Santos looked up at her son, arching an eyebrow. Removing the pins she was affixing to Lindsey's ballerina costume from her mouth, she nodded. "Yes," she replied slowly. "Why?"
"Well, Pedro said he'd stay home and give out candy, so I thought, why don't I take out the older kids, and you can take Alex and the twins. That way, you're home early, but the older ones can stay out later."
"That would be nice, Rocky. Lindsey here is planning to go with some friends from school, as is Juan, so you'd be chaperoning Rosa and her four friends. Any problem with that?"
Rocky shook his head, inwardly fighting the desire to cheer. With only the Turbo Rangers to chaperone, he wouldn't have to make any excuses about weird things happening. "No, Mom, that's fine. I'll go get ready." Smiling to himself, Rocky headed upstairs.
Mrs. Rogers, the head librarian at Stone Canyon public, looked up in amazement as Rocky De Santos approached her desk. It wasn't because Rocky never entered the library; just the opposite. He spent so much time there that he knew every nook and cranny of the place, and rarely had to ask for help. "Rocky, what can I do for you?"
Rocky shuffled his feet, embarrassed. He rarely went into the non-fiction section, so he didn't know where most of the sections were located, but it still flustered him to have to ask for help. "Um, I was wondering if you had something on Stone Canyon legends?"
"Well, I think so," Mrs. Rogers replied, rising to her feet. "What exactly were you looking for?"
"Um, weird things that had happened around here in the past, especially stuff connected to the supernatural."
"Try this," she told him, taking a thick book off the shelf. "It should contain the information that you've been looking for."
Rocky took the heavy volume from her, blowing the dust from it gently. "A Compendium of Ghosts and Ghouls of Stone Canyon and the Surrounding Area," he read. "Written by Ignatius Stone." He looked up, cocking his head. "Wasn't he the son of the guy that founded the town?"
Mrs. Rogers nodded. "Yes. And while his father, Matthew Stone, was a business man involved with shipping, Ignatius devoted his life to the study of the paranormal. He collected a huge amount of stories about ghosts and goblins in the area. I think you'll find what you're looking for in there."
Rocky smiled. "Thanks, Mrs. Rogers." Taking the book over to one of the tables, he began to read.
"So you're taking us trick-or-treating?" Justin asked. He shifted his helmet under his other arm.
"Yeah, just in case something goes wrong," Rocky answered in a low tone. "Besides, I have something that I need to talk to you guys about."
"What is it?" inquired Fred curiously.
Rocky shook his head. "I'll tell you later." Just then, Rosa came down the stairs in her costume.
"I can't believe you all talked me into this," she grimaced. "I hate pink."
"Aw, come on, Rosa," Tasha grinned. "Don't you think this is hilarious?" The five of them had decided to go trick-or-treating as the Turbo Rangers, each in the correct color. Rocky shook his head.
"You all look great. I don't know if Zordon would ever have let us do this. Come on, we'd better go." The six of them headed out the door.
"So what did you want to talk to us about?" Fred asked, his voice slightly muffled by his helmet.
Rocky sighed. "You guys know about my training as a curandero, a healer, right?" The kids all nodded. "Well, when I was your age, I ran into a little trouble. A demon that had been sealed in a cave near Stone Canyon had targeted Adam, and we had to fight it. That's when Aisha started hanging out with us. We managed to defeat it, but unfortunately it's back. It's targeted Franklin this time."
Frank gulped. "Me? Why?"
"Because you're a lot like your brother, plus you have the Green Turbo Powers," Rocky explained.
"So what's going to happen?" Tasha inquired nervously. Rocky shrugged.
"Almost anything. This demon doesn't follow patterns or anything." Suddenly a strange hissing noise interrupted him as strange shapes rose up in the shadows. "This, for example, was unexpected." All six took fighting stances as the shapes closed in.
"Oh, man!" Rocky gulped. He had been hurrying home from the library, desperately needing to tell Adam what he had found, when the ground under him had given way, dropping him into an arroyo. Now, as he slowly picked himself up, he looked around for his notebook. Finding it, he picked it up with a sigh of relief.
Suddenly a low hissing behind him caught his attention. Turning slowly, Rocky saw an army of rattlesnakes, far more than would naturally be gathered, slithering towards him. There were so many of them that the ground itself appeared to be writhing. "This is not good," he said, to no one in particular. He was backed up against one of the sheer walls of the arroyo, and the snakes were swiftly blocking off all of his routes of escape.
"Too many snakes to be natural. The demon must have sent them after me. I've got to get out of here!" Frantically, he looked around for an escape route, but to no avail. Just when it looked as if the snakes would overwhelm him, a rifle shot split the air, causing the reptiles to scatter in all directions.
"Need a hand?" an unfamiliar voice called. A dark-skinned hand lowered to him. Grabbing it, he allowed his rescuer to draw him up.
"Thanks," Rocky puffed, looking to see who had helped him. A cheerful-looking black girl, even shorter than he was, smiled back at him.
"Don't mention it. Are you okay? Those snakes looked nasty. By the way, I'm Aisha. Aisha Campbell." She extended a hand to him, and he shook it firmly.
"Rocky De Santos. By the way, what were you doing out here with a rifle?"
Aisha grinned. "Hunting rattlesnakes. We like to keep them off our land. What were you doing, in such a hurry? And why were all those snakes after you? That was not normal."
Rocky regarded her for a long second. The few times he'd seen her at school, Aisha had struck him as an intelligent, levelheaded person. However, this was enough to make anyone laugh at him. Still, he needed all the help he could get, especially if the demon pulled another stunt like that. Quickly, before he could change his mind, he launched into an explanation of his dreams, Adam's dreams, and the information he had found at the library.
Aisha listened intently, then blinked. "A demon? Whoa, that's nasty. You want me to go with you to your friend's? This sounds like a situation where you'd need all the help you can get."
Rocky stared at her a moment in astonishment. "You believe me?"
She shrugged. "Sure. That's so crazy, you couldn't be making it up. Either you're nuts or you're telling the truth, and those snakes tip the balance in favor of truth."
"Then let's go." Quickly, the two of them headed off to Adam's, stopping only to return Aisha's rifle to her house.
"What are these things?" Rosa cried as the shapes closed in on them. Slowly, the creatures stepped into the light, revealing themselves to be large snake-men. Rocky couldn't suppress a shudder.
"I hate snakes," he muttered, "and that demon knows it, too."
"Come on!" Justin cried. "We can take these guys!"
Franklin shrugged. "Looks like we're going to have to. Here they come!"
As the creatures charged, the six quickly dodged, and the fight began. "Chew on this!" Tasha snarled, kicking one snake-creature in the snout. It absorbed the blow without flinching, then sending her flying into a tree with a vicious backhand.
"Tasha!" yelled Justin, running to her side. "Are you all right?"
"Never better," she replied weakly, allowing him to help her to her feet. All around them, the others were getting the same treatment. Finally, Fred called them over to him.
"They're too strong," he informed them. "We have to morph. Rosa, are we clear?" Quickly, Rosa checked both directions.
"Yeah, we're clear."
"It's morphin time!" Rocky called. "Zeo Ranger III, Blue!"
"Shift into Turbo!" yelled Fred.
"Wind Chaser Turbo Power!"
"Dune Star Turbo Power!"
"Mountain Blaster Turbo Power!"
"Desert Thunder Turbo Power!"
"Red Lighting Turbo Power!"
Blue Ranger watched in amusement as the costumes the Rangers wore flickered subtly, changing into their real Ranger uniforms. "All right," he grinned, once they were all transformed. "Let's take these beasts!" After that, the fight was less one-sided, although Pink Turbo received a nasty shock when one of the snake-men spewed a stream of green venom at her. "Ewww!" she cried, dropping into a split. The venom flew over her head, striking a tree, and instantly eating all the bark off of it.
"Didn't your mother ever tell you, it's not polite to spit?" Green Turbo asked, wrapping a length of chain from a nearby gate around the mouth of the offending snake.
"No wonder these guys are so lousy," Blue Turbo puffed, dodging a lighting-fast tail strike. "They work for scale." The other five Rangers groaned at his pun.
"Fangs for the workout, Kaa!" chuckled Yellow Turbo, hitting yet another snake-man in the stomach. Realizing that they were outclassed, the snakes quickly retreated into the darkness.
"I think we'd better go to the Power Chamber, and you'd better explain this in-depth, Rocky," Red Turbo suggested. Blue Ranger nodded.
"Right. Let's go." In six flashes of light, they disappeared.
"There's a demon after me?" Adam asked again, his voice cracking. He had already been introduced to Aisha, and told the story about Rocky's encounter with the rattlesnakes, but had been unable to get past the concept of the demon.
"Yes, Adam," Rocky sighed for the fourth time.
"Sorry, it's just kind of hard to accept. I mean, what in the world would a demon want with me?"
"According to legend, this creature isn't actually a demon in the Christian sense. It's closer to the daimon of Socrates, a spirit which is neither divine nor diabolic in origin. This one hates humans, though, a real nasty customer. Hundreds of years ago, it tormented the native people of the area, possessing those of the correct temperament and using their bodies to carry out its plans. It was slowly turning even more evil, and planned to one day wipe out the human race. Finally, a tribal shaman did battle with it, sealing it into the darkness for five hundred years." Rocky looked at his two friends grimly. "Five hundred years is up tomorrow. That's when it is no longer contained, and will once again be able to find a host body."
"Why me?" Adam asked, almost afraid of the answer.
"The demon is best able to possess those who are open to psychic energies, ones that have no defenses like I do. You've always been open to psychic phenomena, but you don't have any training in mental defense. You're a perfect target."
Adam swallowed. "Great. So what do we do?"
"I have no idea," Rocky sighed.
Aisha cocked her head. "Well, I think I might know," she mused. Both boys turned towards her.
"Yeah?" Adam asked curiously. "What?"
"You two are best friends, right? And we know that whatever happens, it's gonna go down tomorrow night. If this demon is evil, it'll probably draw strength from the darkness. So, the two of you sleep over at his house tonight, and I'll stay up at mine. I have a couple of long-range walkie-talkies we can use, and if anything goes down, you give me a call."
Rocky nodded. "I like that. What about you, Adam?"
"Sounds like a plan to me."
The night passed uneventfully, although Rocky and Franklin had decided to sleep at the Power Chamber. Luckily, Detective Park knew his younger son was also a Power Ranger, so there was little problem of parental concern. When morning broke, Franklin woke to see that Rocky was gone. "Where'd Rocky go?" he asked, rubbing sleep from his eyes.
"He went home to get some clean clothes and then he was going to search the city for the demon's new base of operations," Alpha informed him. "He told us to keep you here. It's too dangerous for you to go out."
"I won't argue with that," Franklin replied wryly, "but I don't intend to spend the rest of the day hanging around the Power Chamber in my pajamas."
"Not a problem," answered the little robot, pressing a button on one of the consoles. Suddenly a pair of blue jeans and a green T-shirt appeared on the pallet Franklin had slept on the night before. "There is a bathroom down the hall where you can get cleaned up and change. Also, there should be a toothbrush and toothpaste for you. When you get back, I can use you the food replicator to make you breakfast, if you wish."
Franklin smiled warmly. "Thanks, Alpha. That'd be nice." Picking up his clothes, he headed off in search of the bathroom.
* * *
"Nasty," Rocky muttered, looking around himself. "Very nasty." Even at ten in the morning, the warehouse section of Angel Grove was a bit seedy. It was constantly in a half-destroyed state, thanks to the numbers of monsters who attacked it, and no one was able to keep the city's homeless and criminal elements from moving into the abandoned structures.
Careful not to appear to hurried or nervous, Rocky strolled down the street, eyeing the looming dilapidated buildings with worry. He was almost certain that the demon would have set up shop in one of the warehouses, wanting to take advantage of the darkness and bad feelings which permeated the whole area. "If Angel Grove had a psychic dumping ground," Rocky muttered to himself, "this would be it."
Suddenly a wave of evil, blacker than anything else he had felt during his explorations, nearly knocked him off his feet. Turning towards its source, he swallowed hard. "I should have known," he sighed.
The warehouse before him was older and more dilapidated than any of the others, but showed no signs of vandalism. Some of the windows had fallen in, but they did not appear to have been broken purposefully, and they were in the minority. The others were still in perfect shape, and stared out on the street like blind eyes. No graffiti adorned its sides, although its corrugated metal walls were far more stained with rust than those of any other structure in the area. It was as if time had collapsed in on itself, but only in the area of that one particular building.
"Madre de Dios," Rocky whispered, quickly crossing himself. The evil rolling off of the place was such that even the lowlifes of the warehouse district had sensed it and steered clear.
"This is more than the demon's doing," Rocky told himself. "Time for a trip to the library to see what I can come up with."
"Good night, Adam," Rocky yawned.
"Good night, Rocky." Adam snapped off his bedroom light, and the two lay in the dark for a long moment. "Are you scared, Rocky?" Adam asked quietly.
"Petrified," replied Rocky from his sleeping bag beside the bed. "But we have to do this. We can't keep running away from this thing forever."
"You're right, I know. I just wish we could have told our parents about this."
"What, you think they would have believed us?" Rocky snorted. "They would have thrown us into a series of padded rooms so fast, our heads would have spun around. We were doing good to get Aisha's help."
"Mmm," Adam agreed. They were silent for a while, then, "Rocky? Do you think she's pretty?"
"Aisha. Do you think she's pretty?"
"She's okay, I guess," Rocky replied, sitting up. "Do you like her?"
Adam shrugged. "Maybe. I dunno."
"Well, she's nice, she's smart, she's brave, you could do a lot worse."
"You're welcome. Now, go to sleep!"
* * *
In the middle of the night, something suddenly jolted Rocky out of his slumber. Blinking rapidly to clear his vision, he saw Adam getting out of bed. In the full moonlight seeping in the windows, Rocky could see that his friend's eyes were blank and expressionless. In a trance, Adam crossed to his closet and pulled on jeans, a sweatshirt, and sneakers. Then he opened his window and jumped out. Rocky, who had slept in his own jeans, pulled on a pair of shoes and followed, glad Adam's room was on the first floor. As he left the room, he grabbed Adam's pistol from the table where they had placed it. The book had told them that the demon in the cave was vulnerable to iron, so Adam had loaded the pistol his father had given him and left it beside his bed. Pulling a walkie-talkie out of his sweatshirt pocket, Rocky began beeping Aisha madly.
He followed Adam past the playground, where Aisha joined him, and soon realized with a sinking feeling that they were headed to Potter's Cave.
Franklin was practicing a kata in the middle of the Power Chamber when the alarm began to blare, startling him. He turned to the viewing globe and cursed quite fluently, startling both Alpha and Zordon. Franklin Park looked and acted so much like his brother that people tended to forget he spent a great deal of time with Tasha Young, the Yellow Ranger. Born and bred in the harbor district of Angel Grove, Tasha had a vocabulary that would make truck drivers blush.
On the viewing globe, he could see Pink Turbo fighting with the snake creatures that the Turbo Rangers had dealt with the night before. She was dodging their venom with ease, but she was hopelessly outnumbered and failing fast. "Those things are after Rosa!" Franklin cried. "I've got to go help her!"
"But Franklin!" Alpha cried. "We promised Rocky you'd stay here!"
"Tough," Franklin shot back, pulling his Turbo Key from his pocket. "Beep the others and tell them to meet me there! Shift into Turbo! Desert Thunder Turbo Power!"
In a flash of green light, Green Turbo appeared on the street where the fight was. Almost immediately, three other flashes appeared. The four Rangers threw themselves into the fight to try and rescue their comrade.
Red Turbo suddenly found himself flanked by two of the snakes, which grabbed his arms and held him while the third spat a stream of deadly venom. Unable to dodge, he had only one option. "Tire Shield!" he called. In a flash of black light, a mantle appeared on his shoulders. It resembled the Dragonshield that Tommy had once worn, except it was black and rounded. The venom struck the shield and splattered on the snakes holding Red Turbo. They instantly let him go, and he returned to the fight.
Meanwhile, Green Turbo was fighting like a berserker, attempting to reach Pink Turbo through the press of snake-men. Although numerous enemies tried to capture him, none could touch him. Finally realizing this, the snakes tightened their grip on Pink Turbo and disappeared, with her in tow. "Rosa!" Green Turbo cried, his voice agonized. Red Turbo laid a hand on his shoulder.
"Come on, man, we have to get back to the Power Chamber. Zordon and Alpha will know what to do."
* * *
"They did what?" Rocky cried, slamming his hands down on a console. The expression on his face was worthy of Tommy. Alpha's voice trembled audibly as he replied.
"The snake-men kidnapped your sister Rosa. No doubt they did it to try and lure you and Franklin out into the open."
Rocky let out a Spanish curse vile enough to make Tasha blanch. "I'm going after her," he sighed. "This is ending once and for all. I found where it's hiding, and I'm going to take it down."
"I'm coming with you," Franklin told him flatly. "Rosa's my friend too. Besides, it's my spirit at stake here."
Rocky shook his head. "Uh-uh. You're staying right here until all this blows over. I'm not going to put you at risk."
"It's not your decision. Besides, you mentioned needing cold iron against this thing. You can't handle a gun like I can. Dad and Adam have been teaching me to shoot since I was seven."
Rocky looked at Franklin for a long moment, trying desperately not to laugh. Although the situation itself was not funny, he couldn't help but be amused. He had seen the look in Franklin's eyes before, when Adam was worried about Tanya, and he knew it meant the other boy would not be backing down. _When did this happen?_ Rocky asked himself with a sigh. _When did Franklin Park fall in love with my sister?_
The two children had been close all their lives, and over the last few years, Rocky had noticed their friendship developing into something more, something deeper, but he hadn't quite expected this. He supposed that it had been brought to the forefront by their adventures as Turbo Rangers. Goodness knows, that was the catalyst for every other relationship on the three teams.
"All right. Just the two of us, though. I don't want to risk anyone else's life."
Franklin nodded, then removed his Turbo Morpher. "That demon is not getting my Turbo Powers, no matter what. If I don't come back, find someone to give them to, okay, Fred?" Fred just nodded, not trying to speak.
"Let's go," Franklin sighed, and the two Rangers dissolved into beams of colored light, heading for the Park household and Franklin's .38.
"Adam!" Rocky hissed, not able to keep silent any longer. He had been worried about what would happen to Adam if they awakened him suddenly, but now that they were deep in the darkness of Potter's Cave, he could no longer wait. "Adam, wake up!"
"Huh? What?" Adam asked, jerking into wakefulness. "Where am I? What's going on?"
"You are in my domain," a cold voice laughed. "For five hundred years, I have been locked in darkness. Now I am free, and you will serve as my host, allowing me to walk the world once more!"
"Not if we have anything to say about it!" Rocky cried, determination and fear warring in his voice.
"So, a spirit warrior comes to protect his friend! And a young maiden as well! I have no need of you. Return to your homes, and you may yet live."
"Not without Adam," replied Aisha, in a voice made of stone. "We don't abandon our friends."
"Then you shall die, humans! Though I cannot walk the world beyond without a host, in this cave, I exist! The boy is mine, and you are dead!"
Two red spots appeared, floating in mid-air. With a sensation like being dipped in liquid nitrogen, Rocky realized that they were the demon's eyes. The demon let out a spirit-curdling roar and charged them. That was when all hell broke loose.
"What in the name of God happened here?" Franklin asked in awe, looking at the dilapidated warehouse. His enhanced psychic senses were almost shorting out from the evil rolling off the structure.
"God had nothing to do with it, I'm afraid," Rocky replied grimly. "Have you ever heard of The Angel's Song massacre?"
"Sure, every kid knows about that. The Angel's Song was a speakeasy, back in the '20's. One night, the guy who ran it and most of his gang were wiped out by competing bootleggers."
"Right. Well, this warehouse was where The Angel's Song was built. After the massacre, no one wanted to buy it, because it was rumored to be haunted. So they tore it down, and after a while, someone built a warehouse. This warehouse. It's the only one in the area still standing from the early '40's, when it was built. Even the monsters stay away."
"But- how could one murder, even a mass murder, cause the type of evil that's consuming this building?"
"It's on a ley line nexus. Remember, Angel Grove is situated on a major groundstar, where a whole mess of them come together. Smaller nexuses are located all around the major one, which is located under the youth center, of all places."
Franklin chuckled. "It figures."
"Anyway, the evil of the massacre polluted the nexus, and now the place is a center for the powers of Darkness."
"You're telling me. Is that thing loaded?"
"Steel-jacketed rounds, just like you ordered."
"Good. Let's go, nice and easy." Moving as silently as the wind, the two boys began to head to the warehouse.
* * *
Slowly, the two of them sneaked into the structure, moving with speed and silence, following the sounds of harsh multilingual cursing. Franklin wasn't the only Turbo Ranger to have picked up Tasha's vocabulary.
"Wow," Rocky remarked, awestruck. "I didn't know she knew all those words."
Franklin just chuckled. Rounding a corner, they found themselves in a dimly lit section of the warehouse. Up ahead, they could see Rosa tied to a beam, yelling at something just out of their line of sight.
"All right, I'm here, you son of a bitch," Rocky snarled, stepping forward. While the demon's attention was focused on him, Franklin darted in and began untying Rosa.
"Ah, so good of you to come, human! I have been waiting for this day for five years, stranded in the outer darkness! And now I will rip you apart and feast upon your spirit."
"I don't think so, creep," Franklin interrupted. "We're going to take you down!"
The demon just laughed. "That sounds very familiar. I believe your brother said the same thing, five years ago, and I'm still here."
"So's Adam," Franklin shot back. "Let's rock."
"So be it, humans. Prepare to die!" The demon charged them, and for the second time in Rocky's memory, all hell broke loose.
With a couple casual backhanded cuffs, the charging demon knocked Rocky and Aisha into the walls of the cave. As he struck the rock, Rocky lost his grip on the gun, which went skittering off into the darkness. Laughing evilly, the demon picked up Adam. Rocky realized with horror that he could see them both. Adam and the demon were both glowing with a baleful red light as the evil being tried to force its way into Adam's body, dispossessing his soul in the process. Adam was screaming in fear and agony, and behind him, Rocky could hear Aisha scrambling for the gun.
"Let him go!" Rocky cried, advancing on the pair, heedless of his own injuries. Blood was running down a cut on the side of his head and everything was blurry, but somehow he managed to keep on his feet.
Still laughing, the demon turned toward Rocky and shot two bursts of light out of the burning coals of its eyes, sending him back into the wall once more.
"Drop him, sucker!" Aisha snapped, her voice splitting the air in the cave like a knife. "Or I swear, I'll blow your head off!"
The demon threw Adam aside casually, sending him to the ground near Rocky. As the creature advanced on her, Aisha snapped off a series of shots. All of the shots struck home, and the demon sent up an outraged, pained howl as the bullets tore through it.
"It's hurt, but it's not stopping!" Aisha cried. "What do we do now?"
Suddenly, something inside Rocky snapped. "Leave my friends alone!" he cried. Raising a hand to the wound on his head, he flung the blood from it at the demon as hard as he could. As the droplets struck home, the demon howled again, this time in pure agony.
"Get out of here!" Rocky screamed, his voice cracking. "Go back where you came from. Go back to HELL!" At this last word, the demon began glowing with a bright white light, then faded out. As the three teens recovered from the light, they realized that the demon had completely disappeared. That was when the cave started to shake.
"We've got a cave-in!" Adam cried. "Come on, we've got to get out of here!" The three of them ran for the entrance, wondering if they would escape in time.
This time, Rocky was a little more prepared for the demon's charge. Ducking out of the way, he let Franklin unload an entire clip of steel-jacketed rounds into the beast. As it howled in pain, he turned to the two Turbo Rangers.
"Get out of here. The world needs you to defend it. Besides, this is my fight."
Rosa started to protest, but Franklin stopped her. "Are you sure?" he asked seriously. Rocky nodded.
"Yes, I'm sure. Go on. This ends here, tonight." In two columns of colored sparks, Franklin and Rosa disappeared. Rocky turned back to the demon, which was weakened, but recovering. "All right, you creep. Let's rock."
"You young fool! Do you think you can stand against me with no one to help you? You barely survived the last time, and you had two friends with you."
"But now, I'm older and wiser. I've faced worse than you and come through it." Rocky fell into a defensive stance. "I'm not letting you hurt anyone else, ever again, even if I have to die to prevent it."
"Then so be it, human!" Faster than thought, the demon struck out, sending Rocky flying through one of the flimsy walls. Pulling himself together, the boy launched himself at his adversary. Although he landed several devastating punches and kicks, the creature simply laughed them off. Red light flared around it, and Rocky suddenly found himself slammed into a much thicker wall, several times. As he dropped to the floor, he looked up at the creature advancing on him through bleary eyes.
_That's it, I'm dead,_ he thought despairingly. _I can't beat him. I never could._
Not all enemies can be bested with a physical fight, a familiar voice whispered in his mind. Remember your training, Rocky.
_Who are you?_ Rocky thought, even as the demon lifted him into the air. _Whoa!_ He crashed through another wall and rose painfully to his hands and knees. The demon was instantly at his side, pulling his head up and hitting him again and again.
Damn it, Rocky! Pull yourself together, or we're going to be meeting a lot sooner than I'd hoped! And how the hell do you expect Rosa to explain that to your mother!
Even through the pain-induced fog in his brain, Rocky recognized the voice. _Dad?_ he thought incredulously. _It can't be! You're dead!_
Hasn't being a Ranger taught you anything? Nothing is impossible! Now get up and fight, before this thing destroys you!
_I don't know how!_ Rocky wailed mentally. _He just absorbs everything I throw at him!_
Then stop fighting with your body and start using your brain! Didn't my mother teach you anything? You are a curandero, a holder of the powers of Light! How do you defeat darkness and evil?
"With light and love," Rocky whispered, finally understanding. Pulling himself to his feet, he turned to face the demon, which shrank back from the expression in Rocky's eyes. Concentrating, Rocky pulled on all the memories of love and friendship he had, focusing on them until he felt power exploding through his body and he began to glow with a blue-white light. "By all that is light, I banish you, creature of darkness!" he cried, stepping forward. "Return to the night, return to the dark, be gone from the world of men forever! By light and love, I cast you out!" Suddenly, he moved into a spin kick, his foot making crushing contact with the demon's head. His blue-white aura flared like the heart of a star. Released energy exploded, fountaining up through the roof and blowing out the walls. The light from the blast was visible over most of the city. Then it subsided, and all was silent.
* * *
"Rocky? Rocky, wake up," a voice said. Rocky swam back to consciousness with the second-worst headache he had ever had.
"I think the hangover had this one beat," he grumbled. Opening his eyes, he saw Detective Trevor Park looking down at him in concern.
"Rocky, are you okay? We saw the explosion at headquarters, and Franklin contacted me and told me what had happened, so I volunteered to check it out alone," Adam's father explained, helping Rocky to sit up.
"I feel awful, but I'm alive," he groaned. "Oh, man. Looks like the demon's history, not to mention the warehouse." The two of them surveyed the destruction around them. Very little of the warehouse was left standing. Suddenly Rocky realized something.
"Hey, I don't feel any evil here! I guess the blast must have purified it!"
Trevor looked at him for a long moment, then shook his head. "I learned a long time ago not to ask. Are you all right?"
"Yeah," Rocky smiled. "I think I am."
* * *
"Mama, Carolyn took my Blue Ranger figure!"
"Well, Raul gave my Barbie doll a haircut!"
Rocky grinned. Outside, he could hear the sounds of the annual De Santos family Day of the Dead get-together going in full swing. Every year, on November 2, the family got together to celebrate the Mexican holiday and remember the loved ones that had passed on. At the moment, he was in his bedroom, lighting the last of the votive candles.
"I love you, Jen," he said to the photo of his former girlfriend. "I always will. I hope you're happy, wherever you are, and I hope that you know I am too."
Moving to the last picture, he lit the candle before it. "Dad, I want to say thanks for helping me out yesterday. I couldn't have made it without you. I miss you a lot, but I know you're always with me. I love you." That finished, Rocky went downstairs to join the party.
It wasn't quite the same, of course. Adam was at Northwestern University in Illinois, so Mama Carmen could not chase him down and try to convince him to become a curandero, the way she usually did. Franklin seemed to be better at avoiding her, so he didn't have that problem. Sighting his thirteen year-old cousin Mollie De Santos over by the grill alone, he crossed to her. "Mollie, where's Nikki? The two of you are usually attached at the hip." Mollie just grinned and pointed. Rocky turned to see that Nikki, Mollie's best friend, had Franklin Park cornered and was obviously trying to flirt. "Guess she's given up on Adam," Rocky chuckled. Nikki had always had the hugest crush on his best friend, although he had never been interested. Now that Adam was gone, he assumed that Nikki had moved onto the next available Park.
He was about to break in and rescue the younger boy, but someone beat him to it. Rosa came up to the pair and draped an extremely possessive arm around Franklin's shoulders. Nikki, not wanting to mess with a blue belt in Karate, backed off in a hurry.
Laughing, Rocky headed off into the rest of the party. The sounds of merriment echoed long into the night, and occasionally, out of the corner of his eye, Rocky thought he saw a tall, dark-haired man watching with a smile. "I love you too, Dad," he whispered. "Te amo tambien."