..........Hearing the garage door open,
Adam Park looked up from his school work and grimaced. That sound could
only mean one thing. His father was home from work. Not what he
needed right now.
..........Not that Adam didn't love his father; he did, very much so. It was just that they had so little in common. It seemed that all they ever did anymore was argue, especially about the Power Rangers. Trevor Park was a detective with the Angel Grove Police Department, Homicide division. He was a good man, kind, caring, dedicated to his job but always around when his family needed him. The only problem was that he hated the Power Rangers. Well, maybe "hated" was a strong word. Detective Park felt that the Power Rangers were dangerous hot-doggers who caused almost as much trouble as they prevented. Adam wondered what his reaction would be if he knew that his son was second-in-command of the people he disliked so much. Probably a heart attack.
.........."Adam, Franklin!" his mother called. "Dinner time!" Adam put his book away, stretched, and went to go knock on the door to Franklin's room.
.........."Hey, Frank. Dinner's on," he remarked, pushing his way through the door. As he had expected, Franklin had his nose buried in a book, yet another sword and sorcery novel based on a role-playing game. "Franklin, what are you reading?" he asked, curiously. He didn't think he'd ever seen this series before.
..........Franklin grinned shyly. He held the book up to Adam, who couldn't help gasping. "Power Rangers Crystal Quest? Franklin, where did you get this?"
.........."The library," the thirteen-year-old answered innocently.
.........."Somehow, I doubt the Rangers are getting a cut of this," Adam chuckled.
.........."Well, see, the guy who writes them says that since he can't contact the Rangers to send them royalty checks, he's donating what would be their shares to charity."
..........Adam smiled. "That's probably what they'd do with it if they could get it," he told his little brother. "C'mon, Mom's calling us for dinner." The two boys walked down the stairs, teasing each other good-naturedly as they went.
..........Sitting down at the table, Adam looked at his father. Trevor Park was smiling at his wife, so it didn't look as if the day had been a really bad one. "So dad, how was your day?" Adam asked, testing the waters.
.........."Fairly good. We had someone bring in a nutcase who was convinced he was the Lord of Evil. Since he didn't zap anybody or call putties out of the ground, we labeled him as just another kook. He's probably staring at the inside of a rubber room right now. You know, the worst thing about living in Angel Grove is that you have to take some of these guys seriously. There really are gold flying monkeys walking around." Trevor shook his head. Just then, his beeper and Adam's communicator went off at the same time. Adam excused himself and headed for the bathroom, glad that no one could hear the tone of his communicator under his dad's beeper.
.........."What's the matter, Zordon?" Adam asked.
.........."Lord Zedd has sent down a monster called Warpitor. The monster has the power to warp the fabric of reality, setting up barriers and even transporting its victims to other planets or into other dimensions. You must go to the park and confront him. The other Rangers will join you as soon as they can."
.........."I'm on it, Zordon." He exited the bathroom just in time to see his father hanging up the phone. "Sorry, honey," Trevor sighed, kissing his wife on the cheek. "A witness just turned up in the Sandowski case. I have to go downtown and interview her. I'll be back later tonight. Don't hold dinner." He headed for the garage, leaving Mrs. Park to stare at her dinner in resignation.
.........."Um, Mom, I have to go over to Rocky's. I told him we'd study together this evening, okay?" Adam asked hurriedly.
.........."And what about dinner?" Mrs. Park asked, hands on her hips.
.........."Mom, I'm really not hungry right now. If I get hungry later, there's always food at Rocky's, at least as long as you can stand guacamole."
.........."All right, go," she sighed. "Well, Franklin, I guess it's just you and me," she remarked as her older son sped out the door.
..........In an attractive house near Angel Grove Park, Trevor Park had just finished his interview with Lisa Sandowski, the deceased's estranged niece, when screaming outside drew his attention.
.........."Trevor!" his partner, Rick Winslow, yelled. "I think you'd better come see this."
.........."If you've seen one monster, Rick, you've seen 'em all," Trevor remarked, heading for the window. "What's so special about this one?"
.........."I think it's going to kill a Power Ranger."
.........."Shit!" Trevor exclaimed, pulling his gun and racing out the door. He might dislike the Power Rangers, but he certainly didn't want to see one die. In the park, he was confronted with a rather frightening sight. The monster, which looked like the Warp Core of the Enterprise, had the Green Zeo Ranger trapped in what seemed to be a bubble of solid air. The Ranger's struggles were growing weaker and weaker as he ran out of oxygen. Trevor raised his gun, silently praying that the monster had something that he could hit with his bullet.
..........BLAM! Green Ranger heard a shot, seemingly a hundred miles away, and all at once, he could breathe again. He looked up to see his father in a classic shooter's stance, gun trained on the Warpitor.
.........."Freeze, ugly!" Trevor yelled. "Detective Park, AGPD! You're under arrest for attempted murder! You have the right to remain silent. If you refuse the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law!"
..........If his throat hadn't hurt so much, Green Ranger would have laughed at his father's reading the Miranda warning to a monster. As it was, though, he worried about the monster's reaction. Looking around, he spied Rick Winslow, his father's partner, beating on an invisible barrier that seemed to keep him out of the park.
.........."Foolish human!" the monster cried, drawing Green Ranger's attention back to it. "I am above your petty human laws. And when my Lord Zedd takes over your pathetic world, those laws will cease to exist!"
.........."Not if I can help it, Bub!" Green Ranger growled, hurling himself at the Warpitor. The impact caused the Warpitor's shot to misfire, and the bubble of dead air that had been aimed at Trevor Park instead bounced harmlessly off a tree. Green Ranger was slung off his opponent's back, crashing into the ground at Trevor's feet.
.........."You okay?" Trevor asked.
.........."Yes, sir," Green Ranger puffed, getting to his feet.
.........."Where's your friends?"
.........."With your partner, I would imagine," Green Ranger gestured. "Warpitor's put up a field of solid air around this section of the park. Blocks entry by teleport or ground transport. Much as I hate to admit it, you're stuck with me."
.........."At least things can't get worse," Trevor muttered.
.........."Don't say that. Things will find a way," warned Green Ranger.
.........."You can say that again," Warpitor crowed. "Take this, pests!" The monster threw a glowing bubble at Trevor and Green Ranger. Faster than thought, it swallowed them, sending them spinning off into oblivion. The last thing Green Ranger heard before passing out was his father's extremely creative cursing.
..........Trevor Park woke up on something soft, for which he gave thanks. Taking stock of himself, he found all body parts more or less intact, and his.38 lying by his side. Beside him, the Green Ranger began to stir.
.........."Ohhh," the Ranger moaned. "Where's my stomach?"
..........Trevor chuckled, levering himself into a sitting position. "In about the same place as my lunch, I think. What happened to us?"
..........Sitting up, Green Ranger performed a quick status check on his body parts. Finding nothing broken, he looked at Trevor. "He's not called Warpitor for nothing. He sent us through some sort of dimensional warp. We could be on another planet, or another dimension. It's not one of Zedd's, though."
.........."How can you tell?" Trevor asked, looking around him.
.........."Too much life," responded Green Ranger, also examining their surroundings. They had been dropped into a clearing in an incredibly lush jungle. Around them, they could hear small animals rustling in the underbrush.
.........."What can we expect to run into here?" Trevor asked, scanning the perimeter of the clearing. Green Ranger shrugged.
.........."Almost anything. Remember, I don't know where we are, and some of these other planets have some very interesting wildlife. Other than that, it's your ordinary jungle. I don't think it's too different from one you'd find on Earth." Green Ranger looked at his companion and sighed. "Look, I'm sorry I dragged you into this. With your opinion of the Power Rangers, this can't be much fun for you."
.........."How'd you know about my opinion of the Rangers?" Trevor asked, his eyes narrowing.
.........."I've heard you mention it. You don't exactly keep your feelings a secret, you know."
.........."Hmm. Well, I wish I was home eating dinner right now, but I could have been stuck with worse. So could you, for that matter. I'm not completely inexperienced with jungle fighting."
.........."Vietnam?" Green Ranger asked casually, curious. His father had never mentioned a military career before.
..........Trevor shook his head. "Too young. Not by much, but too young. No, when I got out of college, I spent a couple years in Delta Force. Anti-terrorist unit. They trained us for almost every kind of fighting. I spent a couple years there, got out and went into the Police Academy."
.........."Well, if you've got that kind of training, I'm glad to have you along, sir."
..........Trevor's eyes narrowed again. Something about the Ranger's voice was bothering him. And why keep calling him "sir?" Suddenly it clicked. "You can't be more than eighteen!" Trevor cried.
.........."Close. I'm seventeen."
..........Trevor's jaw dropped. This kid was Adam's age, and he was fighting monsters? "That's pretty young," Trevor managed. "Are all the Rangers teenagers?"
.........."Yes. I'm not the oldest, but I'm close. It's not so young, really. We can die for our country at eighteen. Why not for our planet?"
.........."Eighteen's pretty young to be facing monsters."
..........Green Ranger laughed humorlessly. "Tell that to the kids who go to war. At least for us, the monsters look like monsters. Out there, they can wear anybody's uniform and anybody's face. Even your own."
..........Trevor was speechless. From the news reports, he'd formed an impression of the Rangers as show-off college-age kids, hot-dogging for the cameras. He had not expected a boy Adam's age, with more wisdom than he ought to have. Sighing, he changed the subject. "Come on. We'd better get moving if we want to find out where we are. I say we follow that stream over there."
..........Green Ranger nodded. "No objections here." Rising, the two slipped silently into the underbrush and were quickly swallowed up.
..........Back on Earth, in the Power Chamber, the Rangers were worrying. They had seen Adam and Detective Park disappear from directly in front of them, and to make matters worse, Warpitor had completely disappeared. Tommy Oliver, Red Ranger and leader of the Power Rangers, was pacing in frustration, muttering vile curses under his breath. Katharine Hilliard, the Pink Ranger and his former girlfriend, was trying to comfort a stricken Tanya Sloan. The Yellow Ranger was trying to deal with seeing her boyfriend disappear right before her eyes. Rocky De Santos, the Blue Ranger, was trying to remain calm, and failing miserably. He was tossing his helmet from hand to hand and spinning it on one finger like a basketball, sure signs of his tension. Rounding out the group were Jason Lee Scott, formerly the Gold Ranger, and Trey of Triforia, currently the Gold Ranger, who were standing in a corner, watching their friends anxiously.
.........."I can't believe he's gone," Tommy kept saying. "I can't believe I let this happen. Not only did we lose Adam, but now we don't even have a genius to help us get him back!"
.........."Someone call for a genius?" a familiar voice said. The Rangers whirled to see Billy Cranston walk out of one of the back rooms.
.........."Billy!" Kat cried. "You're back! I thought you were staying on Aquitar!"
..........Billy smiled. "I am. I've come back to help you find Adam. You don't think I'd let my best friend stay lost between dimensions, do you?"
.........."Of course not," Tommy replied. "Especially not when you could come back and brag about finding him."
..........Raising one eyebrow, Billy turned to his former commander. "Well, now, if someone hadn't lost him in the first place, I wouldn't have to find him, would I?"
..........Tommy's eyes narrowed, but he did not reply.
..........After hiking through the dense jungle for a few hours, Green Ranger suddenly noticed a column of smoke rising above the trees. "Look!" he pointed. "That means people!"
..........Trevor nodded, his eyes narrowing. "But are they friendly?"
..........Green Ranger chuckled. "The odds are pretty good. Rangers are respected throughout the galaxy. Unless we've landed on a world totally under some tyrant's thumb, this Spandex suit should get us through without a problem."..........
..........Shrugging, Trevor gestured for him to lead the way. After a few more minutes, the two crested a rise and saw a village below. The houses, which seemed to be some sort of woven grass, were burning, causing the smoke that Green Ranger had sighted. Men on horseback were riding around, torching the homes, terrorizing the people, and laughing uproariously. Suddenly, Green Ranger stood up.
.........."I can't just stand up here and watch this."
.........."You're not going to barge in there, are you?" Trevor asked. "We have no idea what's going on."
.........."I have a responsibility to protect the helpless, and these people seem to fit. You don't have to come, but I could use your help."
.........."Oh, hell," Trevor sighed, getting to his feet as well. "If you're going to get yourself barbecued, I might as well come along for the ride. What's the plan?"
.........."Well, you're the stealth expert, so I'll distract them, and you take them out. There's only eight of them."
.........."Only," Trevor grumbled, but hid himself to wait for Green Ranger's diversion.
..........Trevor had expected a brush fire, an animal stampede, almost anything. He had not expected the Green Ranger to walk directly into the middle of the camp and announce his presence. That was exactly what the kid did, however. Making his way down the main drag of the village, he yelled, "Hey!" The riders' heads swung around, their attention fixing on Green Ranger.
..........Trevor could not understand what the men were saying, but one word that they kept repeating obviously meant "Ranger." The leader silenced them with a wave of his hand. Turning back to Green Ranger, he said something that obviously translated to "What do you want?"
.........."As a holder of the Black Morphin Power and Green Zeo Power, and as a Ranger/Apprentice to Zordon of Eltare, I hereby order you to leave this place and these people in peace."
..........The leader's only response was a growl. It was unintelligible to Trevor, but the Ranger seemed to understand it well enough.
.........."If that's the way you want things, fine. I will make you leave this village, if necessary. I hereby challenge you to combat. One on one, your men don't interfere." The leader seemed to consider this. "Unless you're afraid," the Ranger needled.
..........The leader's face hardened. He barked at his men, obviously commanding them to stay back. Then he turned back to the Ranger and dismounted, a twisted leer on his face. The two began to circle each other, looking for openings.
..........Trevor wasn't worried about the kid; he knew Green Ranger could take care of himself. It was the seven goons on horseback that held his attention. If the Green Ranger dropped the leader, the seven would attack. If not, the men would return to sacking the village. Either way, he had to take out the leader's back-up while they were preoccupied with the fight. Luckily, they had dismounted to watch more easily. He estimated that he could take out three before they spotted him. That left four that he might well have to fight hand-to-hand. He could only hope some of the villagers would join in.
..........Making his move, Trevor sneaked up on the closest goon, quietly pulling him back into the underbrush. A few quick blows, and the man was unconscious before he could make a sound. A couple of handy lengths of vine trussed him up nicely.
..........Three more fell to similar tactics. Trevor was beginning to get disgusted with his enemies' lack of alertness when one of the last three spotted him and cried an alarm. The three rushed him at once, actually doing him a favor. They were so clumsy and unable to work together that they got in each other's way, making his job easier. He knocked out two, but found the third a much more proficient fighter. Behind him, he could hear villagers cheering, probably for Green Ranger. Finally, in a last desperate strategy, he fell to the ground in a move Adam had taught him, placing a foot into the solar plexus of his charging opponent and flipping him over. The man hit the ground and did not move.
..........Rising, Trevor saw that Green Ranger had also finished off his opponent, and was now tying the unconscious man up. Several villagers were binding Trevor's sparring partners, and still more were dragging the other four out of the brush. Looking at the eight men's dirt-spattered uniforms, Green Ranger cocked his head.
.........."Red, white, green, black, blue, purple, yellow, and pink. Oh man." Kneeling, Green Ranger pulled a medallion from around the leader's neck. Faintly, under a few years of dirt and grime, was an engraving of an ape. "They were Rangers," he breathed. "Rogue Rangers. I think I'm going to be sick."
..........Trevor knelt near him. "How do you know they were rogue? I mean, the Green Ranger- the other one- wasn't he put under a spell or something? I'm pretty sure I remember that from the news."
..........Green Ranger shook his head. "If they were enspelled, they'd still have their powers. The powers that be only strip Rangers of their powers when they've done something awful, broken the rules of their own free will. Gone rogue."
.........."I don't remember a Purple Ranger," Trevor commented.
.........."We didn't have one. Purple was the one color coin we didn't have. I'll explain later. Here comes the headman of the village." Green Ranger stood, brushing grime off his hands. Trevor could no more understand this man than the last one, but it was fairly obvious that he was thanking Green Ranger for coming to their aid.
.........."It was my honor, sir," Green Ranger responded. "I was glad to help."
..........The man spoke further, and in reply, Green Ranger shook his head. "No thank you, sir. We can't stay, I'm afraid. We're lost, far from the world we live on. Is there a wizard or Morphin Master around here who might be able to help us?"
..........The man spoke at great length, at one point bringing a scroll from his hut and showing the Ranger something. When the Ranger nodded, the headman gave a sharp command, and two of the younger men brought out what appeared to be backpacks, stuffed with equipment.
.........."He says that there is a place of great power, the Maze of Shilratha, to the south of here. It's marked on the map," Green Ranger translated. "Although their shaman senses no evil about it, no one who has entered has ever returned. This could mean that inside is a gateway to somewhere else. Maybe we can use it to get home."
.........."And the packs?" Trevor asked.
.........."Repayment for our services. They contain the food and equipment necessary to reach it. Apparently the maze is several days' walk from here."
.........."Great," Trevor groaned. "And Eileen- that's my wife- was going to make meatloaf!"
.........."She makes good meatloaf?"
.........."The best. You should see my sons put it away. It's the only food that Adam can eat six servings of."
..........Green Ranger chuckled and turned back to the headman to make their goodbyes. Then, loaded with the packs, Trevor and Green Ranger began to hike towards the Maze.
..........Back on Earth, in the Power Chamber, things were a bit strained. Adam's disappearance had shaken up all of the Rangers. While they had all given a lot of thought to dying in battle, none of them had ever imagined that they might disappear without a trace, and none had ever thought that they might take a civilian with them.
..........To make matters worse, undeniable tension existed between Tommy and Billy. The two boys hadn't said more than a few words to each other in hours, and when they did talk to each other, they were cold and hostile. Their friends were extremely confused. Finally, matters came to a head.
..........Tommy leaped to his feet. "I can't just sit here and do nothing! I'm going back to the park. Maybe there's a clue to Adam's disappearance there."
..........Billy turned around, folding his arms over his chest and cocking one eyebrow at the other boy. "Oh, yes. Good idea, Tommy. And when Warpitor shows up, I suppose you'll just ask him what he did with Adam?"
.........."I can handle Warpitor just fine."
..........Billy laughed contemptuously. "Adam's twice the fighter you are, and look what happened to him. I wouldn't care if you did disappear, but you'd take the powers with you, and we need those."
.........."Adam's twice the fighter I am?" Tommy asked dangerously, advancing on the other boy. "You're a fine one to talk. You were always hopeless on the battlefield, Brainiac. All you were ever good for was the science stuff. That's the reason you walked away from the power, isn't it? You couldn't handle the fighting, so you passed it off to Tanya. The Power Chamber was nice and safe, and we spent all our time getting our butts kicked while you played with the computers. Now you want to be the big hero by finding Adam."
.........."Adam was the best friend I had on this team!" Billy yelled. By now the two boys were nose to nose. "God knows you were never one! It was always about you! Your powers, your feelings. You treated every other member of the team like we only existed to fight your petty little war! No wonder Kim left you. She wanted a man who treated her like a person, not a chess piece!"
..........Tommy's face darkened frighteningly, and he reached for Billy's collar. Before any blood could be spilled, though, Jason was there, grabbing the combatants and pulling them away from each other.
.........."That- is- enough!" Jason growled. "Both of you, calm down! You are not going to beat each other up in here!" He shoved Billy into Rocky's hold. "Let's take them to Lita," he suggested. "If anyone can get to the bottom of why they hate each other all of a sudden, she can."
..........Billy quit struggling against Rocky. "Lita?" he asked curiously. "Who's she?"
.........."You'll see, buddy," Rocky promised him. The four teleported out.
..........After they had hiked in silence for a while, Trevor finally decided to ask the questions that had been bothering him since they left the village. "What was all that about, the Black Morphin Power? And who or what is a Morphin Master?"
..........Green Ranger sighed. "The Morphin Grid is an ancient source of power that runs throughout the universe on a metaphysical plane. Its power can be good or evil, depending on which "side" of the grid you draw from. The Rangers drew from the light side of the grid through our coins to morph into our old forms. There never was a Purple Morphin Ranger because we never found the coin. Lord Zedd and Rita, who use evil magic, draw from the dark side of the grid."
.........."And the Machine Empire?"
.........."They don't draw from the grid at all. As machines, they have no connection with the metaphysical energies of this universe. They are apart from it, and draw their strengths from other things. For this reason, we need the Zeo Power, which does not draw on the Morphin Grid. You know the old Earth legends which state that magical power can be turned aside by cold iron? Well, that has its base in the fact that iron alone, of all things on Earth, possesses insulating properties that allow it to deflect Morphin energy. The Zeo Crystal is not magic, strictly speaking. It's a science of energy fields and circuits. That's why we don't need words to morph anymore. We still talk most of the time, simply because it's easier for us to morph if we have words to focus our energy. The words themselves no longer trigger the transformation, though.
.........."The Morphin Masters are those who have mastered the arts and techniques used in the service of their color. The different colors symbolize the different disciplines. Blue are scientists, Red are warriors, Yellow are healers, and so on. The Purple Rangers are sort of larcenous, but honorable. My color, Black, are artists and musicians. I would have been equally at home in Black or Yellow, but certain constraints made me the Black Ranger."
..........Trevor nodded. "That's what you meant about Black Morphin Power. But if you're a Zeo Ranger now, how do you still hold the Black Power?"
.........."The powers are not mutually exclusive. It's like studying both kung fu and karate. It's hard and time-consuming, but it can be done. Our Power Coins were destroyed in battle, destroying our ability to morph. The Power is still part of us however, and can not be taken away by evil. I am still Black Ranger inside, even though I cannot take on the outer form."
.........."So why do you have two different Ranger colors?"
.........."The Zeo Powers use a different color symbolism than the Morphin Powers. I'm Green under Zeo philosophy and Black under Morphin."
.........."The way those people looked at you, it was as if you were- oh, what's the word? My younger son, Franklin, loves sword and sorcery novels. There's a special type of warrior- a paladin! They looked at you as if you were a holy knight, a paladin."
..........Green Ranger chuckled. "In a way, I suppose that's what I am. These people recognize the Power in their lives. To them, it's almost a religion, although that's not quite right. It's a principle, a philosophy, like Tao. It doesn't really have religious connotations. Its defenders are well respected. In return, we defend the weak and helpless, no matter where or who they may be."
..........Trevor was somewhat taken aback. He had not realized what a great responsibility being a Ranger was, or how conscious of it they were. He was beginning to suspect that he had sorely misjudged these teenagers.
.........."Come on," Green Ranger called, breaking into his thoughts. "A few more miles and we'll make camp for the night."
..........Lita Kino had been having an extremely quiet day. Unfortunately, she knew that it was not going to last. Ever since she had received the now-defunct Power Coin of the Green Ranger, she had been able to sense things that ordinarily would have been beyond her grasp. Today, she'd been picking up waves of nervousness and hostility. Because of these emanations, she had a feeling that the Power Rangers would be dropping in sometime that afternoon. For this reason, she sent Serena, her blond secretary, home early and waited for the bomb to drop. At about two o'clock, it did.
..........Jason and Rocky teleported into her office holding onto Tommy and a boy that Lita did not recognize. Lita immediately noticed that Jason and Rocky were keeping the two apart, as if they had been fighting.
.........."Hello, boys," Lita sighed. "What can I do for you today? Tommy, are you having any more problems with the Green Ranger?"
..........Billy's jaw dropped. He was even more astonished when Tommy did not deny knowing what she was talking about. The other boy simply shook his head.
.........."No, Lita. That hasn't been giving me any problems."
.........."Okay, Jason. Who's the blond, and why are you dropping these two in my lap?" Lita asked, cutting to the heart of the matter, as usual.
..........Jason smiled wryly. "This is Billy Cranston. You remember us telling you about him when we told you the history of the Power Rangers?" Lita nodded. "Well, we have a few problems, but only one you can help us with. Adam's disappeared, and unfortunately his dad went with him. One of Zedd's monsters warped them somewhere, and we're trying to find them. Billy came back from Aquitar to help in the search, but now he and Tommy are at each other's throats all the time. We were hoping maybe you could at least get them to understand each other well enough to work together."
..........Lita sighed. "I'll do what I can. You two go on. This may take a while. If I may offer a suggestion, somebody had better morph and tell Mrs. Park a good story about what happened to her husband and son."
..........Rocky nodded. "Good idea, Lita. I'll do that. You just get these two working together again, all right?" He and Jason teleported out. Lita turned back to her two young clients to find them glaring at each other fiercely. She sighed again. So much for a nice, quiet day.
..........Blue Ranger sighed to himself. He really hated this assignment, but with Tommy in therapy and Adam missing, he was next in line for command of the Rangers. Command of the Rangers indeed, he snorted to himself. Everybody knows that Jason's in charge now. But you're still stuck with the explanations. Sighing again, he rang the Park's doorbell.
.........."Yes?" Eileen Park asked, opening the door. At the sight of a Power Ranger standing on her doorstep, she gasped.
.........."Mrs. Park?" Blue Ranger asked. Wordlessly, Eileen nodded. "May I come in, ma'am?" She nodded again and stepped aside to let him pass. Inside, they went into the living room and sat down.
.........."First of all," Blue Ranger told her, "no one is dead. That's not what I'm here to say." He watched as relief swept over her in a visible wave. "But, I do have some bad news. Your husband and older son are missing. They were caught in a monster attack and sent somewhere else. We're doing everything in our power to find them, and I'm sure they'll be okay. The Green Ranger went with them, and if anyone can protect your family, he can."
..........She smiled wryly at him. "Thank you for coming. As bad as the news is, it's infinitely better than not knowing anything. Besides, Trevor's no slouch at protecting himself, either. I'm sure they'll be just fine."
..........Blue Ranger nodded, rising to his feet. "Thanks for understanding, ma'am. I promise you, we will find them." With that he left the house and teleported back to the Power Chamber, wondering as he did so how he would inform this woman if Adam and his dad didn't make it.
..........Sighing, Lita regarded her patient. "Okay, Tommy, Billy's outside, so we can talk freely. What's wrong with Billy that you seem so angry with him?"
..........Tommy began pacing around the room like a captive tiger. "He's so damn arrogant! He treats the rest of us like idiots, and he always has! First he talked like a major scientist, so that only Trini could understand him. Then when he "dumbed down" his speech, you could see how superior it made him feel. Everyone says how open he is, how nice and friendly. If he's so friendly, how come he graduated from high school and never paid us any attention again? He spent all his time in the Power Chamber, and we hardly ever saw him. Why? Because he didn't care about us at all.
.........."Plus, he's a coward. When the time came to get our new Zeo Powers, when we needed all the ability and experience we could muster, he backed out, and gave the power to a newbie, to Tanya! Don't get me wrong, she's great, she's worked out really well, but that doesn't change the fact that when we needed Billy, he turned and ran away with his tail between his legs. Then he has the nerve to whine about it! 'There used to be six of us,' but when he had the chance to be a Ranger again, he turned it down. Oh, he gave us a lame excuse about not being able to take the powers because of that explosion, but come on! 'Negative proton molecules?' Oh, please! I did pass Chemistry, thank you very much. Yet another instance of his superior attitude. He thinks we're too dumb to catch him in a lie. Then he decides to stay on Aquitar. Never mind that we needed him, he decided to stay where no one would shoot at him."
..........Lita regarded him with one eyebrow raised. "That's quite a list of grievances, Tommy. I see why you feel so hostile. You go outside, now, OK? I want to talk to Billy."
..........Staring up at the unfamiliar stars above them, Trevor Park sighed. "My wife is going to be having a cow over my whereabouts."
..........Green Ranger shook his head. "Time passes differently when you travel the dimensions. I think that time in this one is longer than time in ours. On our world, we probably won't be missing more than a day, if that. Besides, the Rangers will tell her what happened to you, and will reassure her that they'll bring you back. She'll be fine."
..........Trevor sighed. "I hope so. I hope I get to see her again. I've really got a great family- but you don't want to listen to an old man ramble on," he cut himself off.
..........Green Ranger chuckled. "Old? You're what, forty-five? That's hardly old. Besides, I'd like to hear about your family. You obviously love them very much."
..........Smiling slightly, Trevor nodded. "Okay, but don't say I didn't warn you. My wife is beautiful, smart, and tough- very tough. She had to be. Her father was a sulsa, which is the Korean equivalent of a ninja. He taught all of his children martial arts, and some of the things he had picked up from U.S. Marines who were in the area. She's accustomed to taking care of herself, and is deadly with almost any kind of weapon.
.........."My older boy, Adam, is the quiet, sensitive type. He doesn't let anyone push him around, though. He became interested in martial arts as a young boy, when he was picked on by the other kids. Now he's even teaching me a few things. Adam's smart, but he's so shy. Sometimes too shy for his own good. He'd known his current girlfriend for months before he asked her out. I don't understand him at all, but I'm very proud of him.
.........."My younger son is Franklin. His nose is always in a fantasy novel of some sort, unless he's taking kung fu from Adam. Franklin- nobody calls him Frank except Adam- he's the most knowledgeable authority on role-playing games in Angel Grove. He's a good kid, but sometimes his head gets stuck in the clouds.
.........."Anyway, that's my family. So what about you? Is there someone back home who'll miss you? Not to pry or anything."
..........Green Ranger laughed. "Oh yes. I have a family back home, and of course the Rangers will miss me. Still, we all knew this could happen, and we've all made arrangements to take care of things. If anything happens, my family will know what happened to me."
.........."Y'know," Trevor smiled, "I'm a very stubborn man. It's hard for me to admit when I'm wrong. I'll admit it now, though. I was wrong about you Rangers. If you were my son, I'd be very proud of you."
.........."Thank you, sir," Green Ranger replied gravely. "Your respect means a lot to me."
..........Trevor chuckled, but did not respond. Still, he wasn't very surprised. The kid reminded him a little of Adam, and Adam had always wanted and needed the respect of adults. The Green Ranger didn't seem to be much different. Thinking about this, Trevor lay back on his bedroll and stared up at the brilliant, alien night sky.
..........Sighing, Lita regarded the boy before her. She'd already managed to coax his life story out of him, and it had not been the nicest story she'd ever been told. Billy had been a child prodigy all of his life, learning to talk, count, and write at an early age. Although Hank Cranston had loved Billy very much, he had never understood his only child very well. The only person who had understood the young Billy Cranston at all was his mother, Rachel. However, Billy had lost his mother in a traffic accident when he was nine. That had been extremely traumatic for the young boy, causing him to retreat into an over-scientific, impersonal shell. He had remained there until Trini Kwan had found him and introduced him to Jason, Zack, and Kimberly. The rest of the story Lita had already known, although it was interesting to hear it from Billy's point of view.
..........Now, this teen-age genius was pacing around her office as if stopping would cause a nuclear explosion. What is it with these kids? Lita wondered. I don't think I've seen a single one keep still for more than ten minutes at a stretch. Aloud, she requested, "Tell me why you're so hostile to Tommy. I don't really understand it."
..........Billy turned towards her, brushing his bangs out of his eyes. "Because he's an arrogant, controlling jerk! He always has to be the center of everyone's attention. When he first joined the team, sure I felt sorry for him, just like everyone else. Then I began to notice something. He was always at the center of the action. Spells, power loss, whatever happened, happened to him. If he wasn't getting the worst of it from one of Rita's plans, he could always go into a good guilt trip. At first, I was glad not to be the Ranger charity case anymore, but it got to be really annoying. He was always showing off, hot dogging, and all anybody ever said was 'Tommy, what about your powers?'
.........."Then there was Kimberly. Sure, I had a crush on her; I think we all did. Still, I never really had a chance, and I knew it. That's why Trini and I went out. We were friends, and she liked me. It wasn't anything more than that, and we liked it that way. Kimberly- Kimberly was something else. As pretty as I thought she was, it was always worship from afar. Then Tommy came. First, I thought he'd be really good for Kim, but it seemed like all he did was use her as a shoulder to cry on about his powers. Just another attention getting device. He certainly didn't waste any time taking up with Heather Thompson and then with Kat.
.........."When Jason left, Tommy took charge of the team. Kim and I'd been there longer, but he sort of shoved us aside, just two more grunts in his private war. All we are to him is chessmen, pawns in a game between him and whoever's our enemy this time around," Billy laughed bitterly.
.........."Then, when I gave my powers up to Tanya, I suddenly ceased to exist. 'Good ol' Billy, stuck in the Power Chamber all day.' God forbid anyone should try to talk to me or anything."
.........."Billy," Lita asked hesitantly, "about the Gold Powers. I'm not a chemist or anything, but even I know that there's no such thing as 'negative proton molecules.' What happened?"
..........Billy looked at his feet. "I- my body did repel the Gold Powers, I wasn't lying about that. I just made up an excuse because I couldn't tell them the truth. The truth was, I was aging even then. It wasn't visible yet, but I could feel it, and something in my body rejected the Gold Powers as a defensive measure. I didn't understand that part; I simply thought it was a side effect of the aging process. Later, I found out about the detrimental effect that the Powers had on human biology, although I was on Aquitar at the time. Zordon called and kept me informed. I was glad to hear about Jason's recovery, though."
..........Lita nodded. "Well, I think that's a fairly good session. Tommy, would you come back in, please?" she called, raising her voice slightly. At her call, Tommy entered and took a seat in one chair, while Billy sat in the other. Once they were seated, Lita rose to her feet to address them, and realized with some amusement that she was about to start pacing herself. Apparently, the Rangers' habits were catching.
.........."All right. Normally I wouldn't discuss one patient with another, but this is an emergency, and it's necessary, so patient confidentiality has just been tossed out the window in this case. First off, Tommy, you've done some things that you probably shouldn't have in running the Power Rangers."
..........Tommy shrugged. "I know I've made mistakes, but I'd like to think that I'm getting better at it." Billy snorted in reply, and Lita held up a hand before the bloodshed could begin.
.........."That is enough out of both of you for the time being. Now that we've established that Tommy has occasionally put his foot in it, let's move on to the roots of your mutual hostility, which have little to do with anyone's actions, but rather your pre-set re actions to certain conditions.
.........."Tommy, you've been doing a lot of reacting rather than acting. From the time that Rita gave you your powers, much of what you've done has been in reaction to something else." Tommy shifted uncomfortably in his chair. He'd had his psyche picked apart by Dr. Lita Kino before, and it wasn't a pleasant experience. Helpful, yes, and often needed, but having the faults and failings that you didn't even admit to yourself spread out in the open was not an enjoyable proposition.
.........."First, there was your almost excessive nobility, self-sacrifice,- and guilt, all a reaction to what Rita did to you. I will admit, Billy, that his guilt was rather excessive, and he does seem to be accident-prone, but I don't think he does it on purpose. Trouble just has a way of finding him.
.........."Then, Tommy, there was your behavior as White Ranger. You were reacting to two things: 1. A desire to distance yourself from the taint of the Green Powers and 2. A desperate need to prove that the trust Zordon placed in you was not mistaken. In your zeal to prove yourself, though, you alienated parts of your team.
.........."Finally, when Billy lost his powers, you reacted again, and again it was in a pattern set by your previous experiences. Your own power loss made you uncomfortable with Billy, who was suddenly in the same boat. When Jason's turn came, you had less of a problem because your relationship with Jason was not already strained, the way your relationship with Billy was."
..........Lita turned to Billy, who was watching her in fascination. "Billy, you haven't exactly been blameless in this regard either. Your patterns run much deeper than Tommy's, stemming from a lifetime of loss. You seem to have lost everyone and everything that you care about. You lost your mother at age nine. You repeatedly lost your chances to have a normal life, first with your incredible intellect, then with your mother's death, then with becoming a Ranger. Kimberly, you lost her to Tommy and then to Florida. Jason, Trini, and Zack, the people who helped bring you out of your shell, they went to Switzerland. You lost your Ranger powers, and then your chance to get them back. That's a lot of loss, and as a result, you have a tendency to resent anyone you can blame your losses on. Tommy has been the beneficiary of a few of your losses, and you've therefore shifted the blame onto him.
.........."Ironically, this conflict really seems to stem from one of the oldest stories there is. Two men, one woman. Two instances, actually. Both of you, of course, were in love with Kimberly, although I don't think it would have worked out for either of you. Billy, you even admitted yourself that you were in love with an idealized image of Kimberly, not the real person. As for you, Tommy, you latched onto Kimberly at a very vulnerable time in your life. You needed somebody to love, and Kimberly was there. I'm not saying that your feelings weren't real, but that they weren't based on something that would allow you to stay together. That's probably why she broke up with you."
..........Tommy considered this, and finally nodded in reply. "Lita," he asked thoughtfully. "You talked about two instances. What was the other one?"
.........."Why, Katherine," she replied, puzzled. "Didn't you know?"
..........Tommy looked over at Billy who was looking a little sheepish. "Is this true, man?"
..........Billy nodded. "Yeah. Once again, it was the 'love her from afar' syndrome. As usual, she decided on you."
..........Tommy thought about that for a second, and then to everyone's astonishment, he began to laugh. He laughed long and hard, until he almost fell out of his chair. "Oh, that's rich," he gasped, holding onto the arms of his chair for balance. "That's great! That's just..." he dissolved into helpless giggles again.
.........."Tommy, what are you talking about?" Billy asked, confused.
.........."It happened again, man! Kat- Kat broke up with me a few weeks ago. She's dating David now!"
.........."Your brother?" Billy was incredulous. Tommy simply nodded, unable to speak. Suddenly Billy had joined him, both laughing so hard that Lita thought one or both of them was going to have a heart attack.
.........."You're right, Tommy," Billy managed, once he had caught his breath. "That's just great. Cosmic joke of the year. Listen, you weren't planning on dating Cestria, by any chance, were you?"
.........."Nope, not- my type," Tommy gasped between giggles.
.........."Good. I don't think I could go through this again. My sides wouldn't stand it." Woozily, the two boys stood.
.........."Listen, Billy, I'm still a little ticked off at you, but I know I have no reason to be, and I'm sorry. It's going to take me a while to work through this, but I think we can work together." Tommy extended his hand. "Friends?"
..........Billy looked at him a moment and then smiled. "Forever," he replied, shaking Tommy's hand.
.........."Well," Lita smiled, looking them over. "I'd say your problem is half-solved. It'll take some time for you to work through your feelings, but right now, I'd say you two should get to the Power Chamber. Adam needs you."
..........Tommy nodded. "Good idea, Lita. Thanks." They teleported out, and Lita turned back to her paperwork.
.........."And I thought private practice was going to be boring," she chuckled.
..........In the Power Chamber, Billy immediately went to work on the computers, hurriedly running through everything he knew of to try to find Adam. When nothing worked, he slammed his hands down on a console in frustration.
..........Finally, Tommy spoke up. "I have a suggestion."
..........Turning towards the leader of the Rangers, Billy bit back the sarcastic comment that rose to his lips. "Yes?" he asked coolly.
.........."Warpitor transports people via space warp, right? Now I don't know much about science, but even I know that folding space would result in some sort of disturbance. Shouldn't that still be detectable?"
..........Billy nodded. "Yes, but I don't know what to scan for. I have no knowledge of the composition of Warpitor's warp beams."
..........Tommy grinned predatorily. "That's where I come in. I'll lure Warpitor out and make him take a shot at me. I'm sure I can tick him off that much. When he does, Billy, you can scan it and use that to run your trace on Adam. Sound good?"
..........Billy grinned. "Sounds great. Let's do it."
..........The Rangers then morphed, teleporting out to Angel Grove Park. Sure enough, they hadn't been there fifteen minutes when Warpitor appeared.
.........."Hello, Rangers. Looking for something?" the monster crowed.
.........."Where's Adam?" Red Ranger asked coldly.
.........."Yeah, we want our friend back, you reject from a Star Trek convention!" chimed in Blue Ranger.
.........."Well, that can be arranged. Why don't I send you to him!" Warpitor fired another one of those glowing warp bubbles at the Rangers. This time, the Rangers dodged out of the way.
.........."Now, Billy!" Red Ranger cried.
.........."I've got a lock!" came the answer. "Running trace now!"
.........."Then let's finish this!" yelled Red Ranger. "Zeo Power Cannon, now!"
..........At this point, Warpitor decided that discretion was the better part of not getting blown up, and decided to disappear- literally. He teleported back to Zedd's Winnebago Base.
.........."C'mon guys," Red Ranger sighed. "Let's go back to the Power Chamber. Maybe Billy's found Adam."
..........Green Ranger and Trevor were standing outside the entrance to the Maze of Shilratha when Green Ranger's communicator toned.
.........."Hello!" the wristband squawked. "Hello! Green Ranger, do you read me?" Green Ranger couldn't believe it. The voice on the other end was Billy's! Quickly he pressed the "transmit" button.
.........."Green Ranger here. Man, what are you doing back? I thought you were on Aquitar!"
.........."You didn't expect me to leave my best friend lost in some dimensional rift, did you? No, on second thought, don't answer that. Is Detective Park all right? Do you know where you are?"
.........."I wish," Green Ranger sighed. "Detective Park is fine. He's even revised his opinion of the Power Rangers. We're the good guys now."
.........."Will wonders never cease?" Billy chuckled. "Blue Ranger told Mrs. Park what happened to her husband and son, so she won't be too worried when they come home."
.........."What about my son?" Trevor asked, grasping Green Ranger's shoulder.
.........."Adam Park got swept up in the anomaly too," Billy told them, just the right hint of concern in his voice. "He didn't get drawn all the way in, and we're taking care of him. He's not really hurt, just a little shaken up."
..........Green Ranger grinned beneath his helmet as he understood what his friend was trying to do. "Got it," he sent. "I think that makes us all feel better. Listen, Zordon, do you know anything about the Maze of Shilratha?"
..........Zordon's familiar voice boomed from the communicator. "Indeed I do. It was a training ground for the wielders of the Morphin power. At its center is the Eye of Shilratha, a gem of great power that will enable you to get home. First, however, you must reach it. This will not be easy, as teleporting in is impossible and the traps were made lethal when the maze was closed."
.........."Why was it closed, Zordon?" Green Ranger asked.
.........."Because Shilratha's Rangers were turned to Darkness and stripped of their powers. The Morphin Masters wished to make sure that no evil person could ever access the Eye again."
..........Green Ranger turned to Trevor. "Are you up to this?" he asked
.........."Sure thing. This is the most fun I've had in years," Trevor replied sourly. "Let's go." Slowly, the two made their way into the maze, unsure of what they might find.
..........Tired, Trevor leaned against a wall to catch his breath. "I feel like I'm stuck in 'The Goonies,'" he grumbled. "Collapsing floors, falling rocks, even the occasional, extremely cliche closing-in wall trick! What next?"
.........."Don't ask," Green Ranger chuckled. "You probably don't want to know." Silently, Green Ranger thanked whatever Powers existing that of all the people to get swept up in this adventure with him, his companion had been his father. Between the two of them, they had had the necessary skills to bypass each trap. Trevor had shot the switch that stopped the walls from closing in, Green Ranger had been able to vault off the collapsing floors before they fell, and they had both spied the trigger stones for the falling rocks. Now, the corridor before them looked clear, but neither of them was foolish enough to trust appearances.
..........Cautiously, Green Ranger picked up a rock and rolled it down the hallway. Nothing happened. He gingerly took a step forward, then another. Still, nothing appeared. Suddenly Trevor's hand shot out and grabbed the Ranger's shoulder in a vise-like grip.
.........."Wait. I hear something." Picking up a somewhat larger rock, he dropped it straight down. The weight and pressure caused spikes to shoot up from under the stones. "I heard them setting themselves," Trevor explained. "Come on. I'll set them off and you can shoot them with that pistol thing you carry."
..........In this manner, Green Ranger and Trevor managed to reach the center of the maze. There, they found the Eye of Shilratha floating in an energy field. "With that, I can power up my communicator enough to teleport us home," Green Ranger whispered. Trevor simply nodded, awestruck by the sight of the gem. The Eye was a hunk of topaz approximately the size of a man's head, glowing with a soft, golden light. As Green Ranger reached for it, there was a crackling noise, and the two men whirled to see Lord Zedd standing behind them.
.........."I thought no one could teleport in here!" Trevor cried.
.........."He's a hologram," responded Green Ranger. "What do you want, Zedd?"
.........."I want the Eye, of course," replied the villain, grinning evilly. "What else would I want?"
.........."You're not going to get it," Trevor growled. "There's no way either of us would let a creep like you at so much power."
.........."Ah, but Detective Park, I believe I have something that you'll want to make a trade for."
.........."What?" Trevor asked, in his deadly "interrogation" voice.
.........."This." The hologram changed to show a scene of Adam, struggling with the Tengas. He fought bravely, but was soon overwhelmed. The Tengas teleported him to a cave in which he was imprisoned. "The choice is yours, Detective," Zedd's voice continued. "Give me the Eye, or your son will become a meal for my Tengas. Simply take the stone and throw it through the holographic gate."
.........."Adam," Trevor whispered in a pained voice.
..........Green Ranger looked at his horrified father. Zedd had hatched a truly fiendish plot this time. Trevor had no way of knowing that his son was standing beside him, and according to Zordon's rules, he couldn't be told. Zedd was betting that Trevor's dislike of the Rangers and love for his son would win out over his honor. The frightening thing was that Green Ranger couldn't be sure that Zedd was wrong.
.........."You can't give him that stone," Green Ranger said quietly.
..........Furious, Trevor whirled on the younger man. "That's my son! I can't just leave him to become bird bait!"
.........."Would he want you to give up that stone?"
.........."Yes! No- I don't know. I only know that if I don't, my son will die."
..........Green Ranger shook his head. "No he won't. Zedd isn't holding Adam prisoner. It was an illusion."
.........."And just how do you know that?"
.........."The Rangers were guarding him. Do you really think that they'd let Tengas run off with your son?"
..........Trevor scoffed. "Oh, and I suppose you've never lost anyone you were guarding." Green Ranger did not reply, and Trevor sighed. "That was low, and I'm sorry. The point is, we can't know that Zedd doesn't have Adam, and I can't take the chance. I have to give him the Eye."
..........Green Ranger sighed as well. It looked as though the choice had been made. "No, you don't. I'm telling you, I know that Zedd doesn't have your son."
.........."How?" Trevor cried, frustrated. "How do you know that?"
.........."Because I'm right here, Dad." Slowly, Green Ranger removed his helmet. Trevor Park gaped as his older son's familiar face stared back at him.
.........."ADAM? You're a Power Ranger?" Adam nodded. "How long has this been going on?"
..........Adam laughed. "About a year and a half now, Dad. Right after we moved to Angel Grove."
..........Trevor shook his head. "Fathers are always the last to know. I wish you hadn't lied to me, but I understand. I'm glad you're all right. Let's go home." Adam nodded again, and the two men laid their hands on the Eye. Forming their wish, they instantly disappeared and were on their way to Earth, and the Power Chamber.
..........Trevor and Adam reappeared in the Chamber, much to the consternation of the Rangers, who were not wearing their helmets. Before a word could be spoken, Adam raised his hands for silence and said, "It's okay, guys. My dad knows about me. I had to tell him to keep Lord Zedd from getting his hands on the Eye."
.........."It is good to have you back, Adam," Zordon rumbled. "Now, however, I think that you and the other Rangers should teleport to the park. Warpitor is causing a great deal of trouble."
..........Tommy nodded. "We're on it, Zordon. Adam, good to have you back, buddy. Back to action!" The Rangers disappeared, leaving Trevor with Billy, Jason, Zordon, and Alpha.
..........Billy smiled. "I know this is a shock for you, Detective Park, so why don't I tell you the whole story? I'll start at the beginning. One fine day in December, almost three years ago, I was at the youth center when a witch by the name of Rita Repulsa escaped her confinement...."
..........Trevor listened to Billy's recounting of the history of the Power Rangers, enthralled, and a little appalled at how blind he had been to the changes in Adam's behavior. Billy's story was so interesting that only when the Rangers returned from the battle did Trevor realize how neatly he had been manipulated. He had been so drawn in by the tale that he had completely forgotten to worry about Adam. Now, however, his concern returned in full force.
.........."Adam, are you all right?" he asked.
..........Adam nodded. "Sure, Dad. I'm fine. Listen, I'm sorry I never told you about this, but-"
..........Trevor cut him off. "Adam, I understand. I don't like the idea of you lying to me, but I understand why you did it. Now that I know, however, I don't ever want you lying to me again, understand?"
.........."Yes sir," Adam grinned. Then he demorphed. "We should head home. Mom is probably tearing her hair out over what happened to us. What on earth are we going to tell her?"
..........Trevor grinned. "You let me handle your mother, Adam. C'mon, let's go home." With that, the two men teleported out.
..........A day later, at the station, Trevor had explained his unexpected absence to Rick and his captain, and related his story to all the fascinated policemen. The story he told was the truth, but with everything that could point to Adam's identity edited out. After ribbing Trevor good-naturedly about his reversal of opinion on the Power Rangers, most of the officers returned to their jobs. Sitting down to some paperwork, Trevor smiled at the communicator he now wore on his wrist, just in case. After all, what kind of father didn't support his son?