Disclaimer: The Rangers are Saban's, not mine. This fanfic is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America. Contains scenes of graphic violence that may be disturbing to young children and Saban executives. I mean it, people, this thing is DARK. If you are offended by gore, death, and bad language, turn back now! This story is based on a sort of challenge from April Richards. She wrote the intro, but the story is my continuation. Please direct all flames to me. If you don't like this story, blame my twisted little imagination. To the best of my knowledge, the system of magic depicted herein is my own invention, using bits and pieces of various philosophies. Hopefully, I haven't offended anyone with my depiction.
Angel Grove Cemetery was silent except for the sound of rodents shuffling
through the dead autumn leaves. A full moon highlighted a figure dressed
all in black. Frost-white breasts heaved against the restraints of a low-cut,
tight silk dress. She shook out her glossy, red curls as a cruel smile
caressed her china doll-like face. At her tiny, bare feet was a seventeen
year-old boy with long chestnut hair and chocolate-colored eyes framed
by long black lashes. He was dressed in green and black, and a blood-stained
white handkerchief was stuffed into his mouth. His hands and feet were
"My poor, poor little Tommy," the woman purred. Her glittering red nails stroked Tommy's face. The boy tried to pull away from her, and the woman's cruel laugh echoed throughout the graveyard.
* * *
Things had been building since July, but for Tommy Oliver and his friends, the trouble really started towards the end of September. Tommy woke up to the sun shining in his window, not an unusual occurrence in Angel Grove, California, where it remained sunny and warm all year round. Sitting up with a yawn, Tommy looked over at his alarm clock and grinned.
"Typical. The one time I remember to set the stupid thing, I wake up early. Oh well." His eyes traveled from the clock to the three pictures set on his nightstand. One was of his girlfriend, Kimberly Hart. Her doe-brown eyes smiled at him from the photo. The other two were group photos, both of the same set of six teens, four boys and two girls. One of the girls was Kimberly. Her brown-gold hair shone in the sun of the photo. Beside her in each photo stood Tommy, the same shy smile on his face in both. The only difference in his appearance was the color of his shirt. It was green in one, white in the other.
Next to Tommy stood a tall, muscular boy with dark eyes and hair, wearing a red shirt. Tommy smiled. Jason Scott was his best friend, always there for him when he needed him. The beautiful Asian girl in yellow who stood beside Jason was Trini Kwan, and the blond, bespectacled boy beside her was Billy Cranston. His clothes were different from photo to photo as well. In the first one, he wore baggy overalls and a sweatshirt. In the second, he wore jeans and a blue pullover shirt. On Kimberly's other side stood Zack Taylor, a handsome black boy in black pants and a multi-colored shirt.
Tommy shook his head. He could hardly believe that these five were his friends. They had stood by him through thick and thin, even though their friendship had gotten off to a rocky start. Still, a bond of incredible strength kept them together. These six teenagers, although no one knew it, were the Power Rangers, defenders of the planet Earth. Just one month ago, Tommy had rejoined them, no longer as the Green Ranger he had been, but as the White Ranger, new leader of the team. He still felt a little odd, taking the leadership from Jason, but the other boy had been extremely reasonable about the whole affair. In fact, after Zordon had appointed Tommy the new leader of the team, Jason had taken the new White Ranger aside and explained carefully that he was glad of the change. It gave him a chance to rest, to no longer have to worry about making the decisions. He had said further that he had the utmost faith that Tommy would be an excellent leader for the Rangers.
Sighing, Tommy headed for the shower. He had to get ready for another day at school.
* * *
After showering and dressing, Tommy headed downstairs for breakfast. His parents were already there, as was his sister. His little brother, Teddy, had not yet risen, not having to be at school until nine o'clock. Kissing his mother on the cheek, he sat down to the breakfast she had prepared, snagging the front page of the paper as he did so. As soon as he saw the headline, he winced.
"Another one?" he asked his dad sadly.
Daniel Oliver, Angel Grove's chief of police, nodded. "I'm afraid so, Tommy. Miranda Dottweiler. Did you know her?"
Tommy felt sick. "Everyone knew Mirry. She was the best voice in the chorus, and in all the plays. Same as all the others?"
"Yes," Chief Oliver sighed. This latest case had him baffled. Miranda had been the fourth teenager to die in the past three months. All the bodies had been found dumped in out-of-the-way locations, all with their hearts and eyes removed. Although it was obviously the work of a serial killer, the police had been unable to find a pattern to the victims, except for the fact that they were all teenagers, students at Angel Grove High. However, ninety percent of the teens in Angel Grove attended AGH, so the police were uncertain as to whether or not that was significant. Boys and girls had been killed in equal number, and there was no evidence of molestation. There was no pattern to location or appearance. Time of death analysis showed that all had died around midnight, the night before the body was discovered, but those were estimates, within a three hour window at best. The police were going insane.
"This is bad," Tommy sighed. "Too bad the Power Rangers can't get involved in this."
"That's the truth," Chief Oliver sighed. "I'm stumped, and I don't have the manpower to handle this. I could use their help, but I suppose it's outside their area."
Picking up his bag, Tommy headed for the door. "Chelsea, hurry up! We're going to be late!" he called. Chelsea, Tommy's "twin" sister, crammed the last of her breakfast into her mouth and headed for the door, kissing both parents on the cheek as she went. The two teens hurried out the door.
As they walked to school, Tommy looked at his sister. Despite the fact that he had been adopted and Chelsea was a blood child of their parents, the two looked remarkably alike. Their eyes were the same chocolate color, and their hair was fine, silky, and a beautiful chestnut color. However, Chelsea wore hers cropped close in a sensible short cut. It was a standing joke in the family that Chelsea looked more like a boy than either of her brothers. That wasn't really true though, Tommy reflected. His sister was very feminine up close. Despite the slacks she always wore and her boy-short hair, something in her face and carriage was extremely female. She wasn't a shrinking violet, though. With a black belt in kung fu, she was the equal of either Tommy or Jason in the sparring ring.
"Penny for your thoughts, bro," Chelsea grinned, raising one eyebrow at her brother. The two were the same age, and in fact, shared the same birthday. For that reason, the two of them had always considered themselves twins. Due to this connection, the two were remarkably close, almost enough so to read each other's minds.
"Just thinking about Mirry. I can't believe something like this is happening," he sighed.
"No kidding," Chelsea shivered. "Marge Helman, Rick Walsh, Bruce Mackie, and now this. I can't help wondering who's going to be next."
Tommy nodded, his mind going back over the list of victims. Marge had been the first, and for Tommy and his friends, she had been the worst. Marge had been Billy's girlfriend at one time, although he had broken up with her by the time of the murder. Even so, her death had hit Billy hard. The two had been close friends even after the breakup. A few nights after the discovery of Marge's body, Billy had called up Tommy in tears. Tommy had driven over to his friend's house immediately, finding Billy in a heap on the couch of his lab. Sobbing, the young genius told Tommy how responsible he felt for Marge's death. He had saved her from Madame Woe, but he had not been able to save her from this.
With an arm around his shoulders, Tommy had comforted his stricken friend. He had recently lost his Green Ranger powers, and knew better than anyone the helplessness that Billy was feeling. He had been unable to say anything to Billy, but the other boy had been grateful simply to have Tommy's company.
A few days after that, Tommy had left town to go up to his uncle's cabin by the lake. It made him feel better every time he went up there. He'd spent two weeks up there, two weeks in which another teenager, Rick Walsh, had died. Tommy had not known Rick very well, but his death was saddening nonetheless. Rick had been a lively, fun guy, always the life of the party and full of jokes, but willing to help out a friend at anytime. In a lot of ways, Rick had reminded Tommy of Zack.
After the two weeks, Zordon had called Tommy back into action, giving him the powers of the White Ranger and a new position as leader of the Power Team. Tommy had been unsure about it, but had been adjusting to his new responsibilities slowly.
That August, things had been quiet. People wondered about the two dead teens, but no one knew what to make of it. Then, towards the end of the month, Bruce Mackie had died. Bruce had been a big guy, a football player, but whatever killed him had done so quickly and quietly, breaking his neck with one strike. This death had hurt Tommy more than the other two, because Bruce had not only been tall and muscular, he had had dark eyes and hair. In short, he had been the spitting image of Jason.
Bruce and Jason had shared a great deal of personality traits, as well. Kimberly had once described them as "great big tigers with hearts of pure marshmallow." They were slow to get angry, but once roused, their tempers were fierce. For Tommy, the similarities had been frightening, and Jason had been badly shaken. This murder had caused them to wonder if Lord Zedd could possibly be behind the whole thing, but that idea had been reluctantly dropped. Zedd was nowhere near that subtle.
That September had been quiet, Ranger-wise. The teens had had nothing but Zedd's Lipstick and Purse monsters to worry about. However, these were easily defeated. More troubling were the deaths. Tommy had been convinced that things were not over yet, not by a long shot. As the month wore down, Miranda Dottweiler's death had proved him right.
"Yo, Tommy!" Jason's voice called, startling him out of his reverie. "Earth to Tommy Oliver! Do you read me?" The other boy fell into step beside his friend, grinning.
"Yes, Jason," Tommy replied, grinning back. Then his face fell. "I was just thinking about Mirry Dottweiler."
Jason nodded grimly. "Yeah, pretty bad, huh? Mirry was such a great girl. She was in Trini's volleyball club, you know."
Frowning thoughtfully, Tommy replied, "Yeah, I did. You know, Mirry was a lot like Trini in a lot of ways. Both quiet, both into clubs and social work, both smart, warm, and kind."
"What are you thinking?" Jason asked quietly. "Do you think someone's after the- you knows?"
Tommy shot a quick glance at his sister to see whether she was listening. Chelsea was waving at another friend, however, and promptly ditched the two boys to go to her. "I dunno, Jason. Think about it, though. Marge was like a female Billy, Rick was like Zack, Bruce was almost your clone, and now Mirry and Trini. I don't think the killer is after us, so much. They'd have tried again. At least one of us would have been attacked by now. I can almost see the pattern to this, but it's just out of reach."
"We'll talk about it later, bro," Jason responded in a low voice. "Here come Trini and Billy."
The four teens walked the rest of the way to school, talking of various inconsequentialities. In the courtyard of the school, they were joined by the other two Power Rangers, Zack and Kimberly. Giving his girlfriend a quick kiss on the cheek, Tommy slung an arm around her shoulders as the six of them entered the school.
As Tommy had expected, the whole student body was abuzz with the news of Miranda's death. The students were all shocked at the number of their classmates who had died, and understandably nervous about what would come next. Just then, a pretty girl with red hair ran up to the six.
"Oh, God, can you believe it?" she gulped, obviously holding back tears. "This is the fourth one of my friends to die! Oh, God, poor Mirry!"
"Veronica, I'm so sorry," Kimberly sighed, hugging the much taller girl. Veronica hugged back. Although she had been new to the school, Veronica Casemoor had been instantly popular. A tall, leggy redhead with striking green eyes and a dynamite figure, the boys were instantly swarming around her like flies. The girls were not slow to like her either, since she was open, friendly, and not a bit stuck up about her looks. Veronica had been particularly close to all of the dead teens.
Looking at Veronica, Tommy thought idly of how much she reminded him of Kimberly. Suddenly he went pale. Veronica fit the pattern of the deceased perfectly, and had been friends with all of them. Looking at Jason, he saw that the other boy's lips were drawn into a grim line. Obviously, Jason had had the same idea.
"Veronica," Tommy said quietly, "I don't mean to intrude on your grief, but have you thought about how this looks?"
"What do you mean, Tommy?" the redhead asked, puzzled.
"Well, the four dead teens were all your friends. You were really close to all of them."
Veronica's jaw dropped. "Tommy, you aren't suggesting that I would have-"
"No, no," he assured her quickly. "Just the opposite. There seems to be a pattern emerging here, and it looks like you might be the next victim."
"Oh." Veronica bit her lip. "I never thought of that. I don't go out at night anymore, though, and that's when the papers say they all died. Hopefully I'll be safe."
"We all hope," Zack told her seriously. "We'd better get to English, or Miss Appleby will skin us alive!"
The seven teens parted ways, scrambling to get to class before the bell rang.
* * *
Walking home after school, Tommy sighed. It had been a very trying week for all of them, starting with the attack by Zedd's Magnetbrain monster, made out of Billy's polarizer. They had managed to defeat it, although Billy had given Tommy a scare when he insisted on going after Goldar. Tommy knew that Billy felt helpless about Marge's death, and wanted to make certain nothing happened to anyone else, but he also knew that Billy wouldn't stand a chance against the number of foes he would have been facing. When Zordon had vetoed Billy's idea, Tommy had breathed a sigh of relief.
One good thing had come out of the whole fiasco. Billy had been drawn out of his shell enough to evince interest in Laura Sanders, who also seemed very interested in him. The two of them made a good couple, and Tommy was pleased to see that Billy had healed enough to care about another woman.
Miranda's death had brought everything crashing down on them again. Tommy sighed. Something about the deaths was nagging at him, some sort of pattern that lay just beyond his reach. He was beginning to be as frustrated as his father. More so, because Tommy was beginning to sense that Angel Grove was running out of time.
Heading up to his room, Tommy sat down on his bed and began to meditate, letting his mind flow over the events of the past few months. Something about the deaths was nibbling at him. Once he relaxed, he was presented with a sudden vision of an empty chest cavity, the heart removed with surgical precision. It wasn't the typical response of a serial killer. While they occasionally took trophies from the bodies of their victims, they were rarely so neat about it. It was almost- ritualistic.
Tommy's eyes snapped open as he remembered where he had seen similar damage before. "The Avenger," he breathed, his face white with horror. "Oh, shit." Leaping off his bed, he ran downstairs, grabbing his leather jacket as he did so. Pulling on his white helmet, he hopped onto his motorcycle and sped towards the Angel Grove Police Station.
Pulling up outside the building, he nodded to the various police officers as he ran inside. Turning a corner, he ran directly into Lt. Stone, the man in charge of the Junior Police Patrol. "Whoa, Tommy, slow down," Lt. Stone cried, steadying the teen. "What's the rush?"
"Is my dad in, Lt. Stone?" Tommy asked, his chocolate eyes pleading. "I really need to talk to him. It's urgent."
Lt. Stone shrugged. "I guess he's in his office. Go on in." Gasping out his thanks, Tommy hurried past the man and into his father's office.
"Dad! I've thought of something important!" he cried. Chief Oliver looked up from the report he was reading. His older son had a detective's instincts, and if he thought something was important, it probably was. Tommy had helped solve a few cases by pointing out details his father had overlooked.
"What is it?" he asked calmly.
"The hearts and eyes. They were removed quickly and neatly. Most serial killers aren't that good or that neat. They just don't care. It's almost ritual. Remember the Avenger fiasco?"
The chief paled as his mind went back to the case. He had been a detective in the LAPD at the time, and it had been one of the most awful things he'd ever seen. During the case, three teenagers had had their hearts removed, in just such a precise, surgical manner.
"We caught the guy responsible for the Avenger case, though. Hell, we were both there when he died. Besides, removal of the eyes wasn't part of the MO."
"I'm not saying it was LaTorre, Dad. I know he's dead, and I'm pretty sure he stayed that way. I'm saying that we may have the same type of situation here."
"Cultists? Ritual killings?" Tommy nodded. "Shit," Chief Oliver sighed. "I did not need this. Angel Grove has enough problems with monsters running amuck. I don't need cultists, too. We don't have the information base to deal with this."
"I know, Dad. That's why I'm suggesting that you call Kaylee. She was a big help with the Avenger, remember?"
"I remember," his father sighed. "I don't like the idea of bringing a sixteen year-old girl up to help investigate a crime that might well get her killed."
"She'd do it in a heartbeat," Tommy replied seriously. "It's her duty. You need her, and you know it. If you're worried about the brass, just invite her up as your daughter's guest. You and I both know Chelsea would love to see her again."
Chief Oliver sighed. "Why do you have to be right all the time?" Tommy grinned and left the office. He knew his father would do it.
* * *
A few days later, Tommy, his five friends, and his sister were all at Angel Grove International Airport waiting for Kaylee. Tommy had told his friends little about this girl, only that she was an old friend from Los Angeles, and that she had knowledge that would help his father with the case.
"Oliver!" a voice yelled. Tommy whirled to see a black-haired girl in a red flannel shirt waving at him. He waved back, and she came over to the group.
"Hey, handsome," she grinned. "Aren't you going to introduce me?" Even as she spoke, she gave Chelsea a hug in greeting.
Tommy chuckled. "Guys, this is Kaylee Richardson, a good friend of ours from LA. Kaylee, these are the friends I told you about in my letters. Jason Scott, Trini Kwan, Zack Taylor, Billy Cranston, and Kimberly Hart."
Kaylee shook hands with each of them, flashing Kimberly a smile as she did so. "So you're the girlfriend that Tommy is always going on about. I was wondering. He talks about you non-stop in his letters."
Kaylee's statement eased some of the jealousy that had flared in Kim's heart as she saw how close the two were, and the looks of pure interest that Jason and Kaylee were shooting each other eased more. Kaylee's looks were vaguely Hispanic, with dark hair and eyes, although her skin was fairly light. Kim thought that she and Jason would make a very striking couple.
"Kaylee's going to be attending Angel Grove High and living with us for a while," Tommy went on, ignoring the looks Kaylee and Jason were shooting each other. "Hopefully the two of us can figure out what's been bothering me."
"It's nice to meet you, Kaylee," Jason told her sincerely. The other four Rangers agreed.
* * *
Kaylee sighed, slinging her bookbag over one shoulder. Angel Grove was an interesting place. While she had been there, the Power Rangers had fought one of Zedd's monsters, and she had watched most of it on the news. There was something familiar about the Power Rangers, but she couldn't quite put her finger on it.
Then there were Tommy's friends. She had never seen a group quite like them. They were six of the most disparate personalities she had ever seen, but they were closer than anyone she had known. It was obvious that they shared some secret, but what? Was it dangerous? She found it hard to believe that Tommy would be involved in anything criminal, but dangerous was certainly in his line of expertise.
Finally, there were the murders she had been asked to advise on. She had also been struck by the similarities to the Avenger case, but that didn't tell her much. Until she could find a pattern to the killing, she would not be able to tell what the cult members were trying to accomplish. Without that information, catching them would be next to impossible.
She opened her locker, absorbed in her thoughts. Looking inside, she screamed, dropping her books. Instantly, Tommy and Jason were beside her. Jason held her while Tommy peered into the locker. Using a pencil, he gingerly reached in and pulled out the small bundle that had rested on her papers. It was approximately the size of his fist, wrapped up in a white handkerchief. There were bloodstains on it, making Tommy slightly queasy.
"Ewww," Cassandra Daton, one of the watching students, remarked, brushing red bangs out of her green eyes. Tommy ignored her. Being careful never to touch the bundle with his fingers, he unwrapped it. Inside was a root, some dirt, an odd coin, and a scrap of paper with some odd writing on it. Seeing the paper, Kaylee swallowed and forked an anti-evil sign at it.
"What do I do with this?" Tommy asked in a low tone.
"Burn the paper and the root. The rest can go in the garbage. It's harmless without a focus," Kaylee whispered. She was still in Jason's arms, holding onto him for strength.
Dropping the kerchief, coin, and dirt in a garbage can, Tommy ran into the chemistry lab and burnt the other two items, still being careful not to touch them directly. Then he came back out to find that a large crowd had gathered, including Mr. Caplan. Veronica, who had seen the whole thing, was trying to explain what had occurred, and not doing very well. Tapping the principal on the shoulder, Tommy took him aside and explained.
"Kaylee found a bundle in her locker. It had some stuff in it and blood on the outside of the kerchief. Kaylee's an expert in magic. That bundle was a particularly nasty curse."
"And this frightened her?" Caplan sounded disbelieving.
"Heck, it'd frighten me. That curse is a killer. The person it's sprung on dies, in pain, very slowly." Frustrated, Tommy realized that he still wasn't getting through to the older man. "It's not whether or not the curse works, Mr. C, it's that whoever sent it thinks it does, and obviously wants to hurt her, maybe even kill her. You're going to say that that wouldn't frighten you?"
Caplan nodded thoughtfully. "You're right, Tommy. That makes a great deal more sense. What happened to the bundle?"
"I burnt it. It's the only way to negate the curse. It's Kaylee's way of letting the person who sent it know that she's going to play hardball."
"Well, be careful. Someone like that may not stick with magical methods of elimination."
"Don't I know it," Tommy grumbled to himself as the principal walked off. Then he crossed to his two friends. Kaylee was holding Jason very tightly indeed, almost burying her face in his shoulder. When she looked up at Tommy, her expression was troubled.
"They know. Whoever we're facing here, they're in this school, and they know who I am."
Tommy gulped. "That explains how whoever it was managed to approach the victims. They knew each other from school."
"I'm afraid so. It also means I'm a target."
"Don't worry, Kaylee," Jason reassured her. "We won't let anyone hurt you."
She smiled at him. "Thanks, Jason. It's good to know."
* * *
After that, things were fairly quiet for a while. The month of October moved onward, and the weather began to become colder. This was colder for California, meaning that temperatures were in the 70's, as opposed to the 80's or 90's. One warm clear morning, near the middle of the month, Jason Scott rose to go jogging. He did so every morning, but this morning he especially wanted to do some thinking, mainly about Kaylee. Tommy's friend from LA was a very pretty girl. She was smart, too, and very able to take care of herself. Both of these were qualities that attracted him. When Kaylee had been holding onto him after discovering that cursed bundle in her locker, he had been torn between wanting to comfort her and wanting to kiss her. He thought that she had evinced similar interest in him, but he wasn't sure.
Rounding a corner, Jason noticed something odd. A set of scrape marks led through the grass of an embankment into the ditch on the other side. Gingerly, he climbed the embankment and looked down. Clapping a hand over his mouth, he shut his eyes, trying desperately not to throw up. Staggering down the grassy slope, he ran at top speed towards the youth center. He had to call the police.
* * *
Many hours later, Jason was still at the police station, answering questions for the umpteenth time.
"Did you know the deceased?" the interrogating officer asked again.
Jason sighed. "Yes, I knew her. Her name was Rebecca Cressel. She was a friend of a friend of mine. We knew each other from school."
"Were you close?"
"No. I barely knew her. Look, we've been over this a hundred times. What do you want to know?"
On the other side of the one-glass window in one wall of the interrogation room, Chief Oliver sighed. "Let the kid go. He has an alibi, and it's not his style anyway." The officer beside him nodded and went to go break Jason's interrogation up. Chief Oliver sighed. Tommy had told him about the package in Kaylee's locker, and he was beginning to share his son's sense that time was running out.
Thinking of Tommy, he scowled. This latest death was sure to be traumatic for the boy. Rebecca Cressel had been a short, perky gymnast, in appearance and manner very like Kimberly Hart. Tommy would no doubt be upset by how easily it could have been Kim. It upset him, too. Kimberly was almost like a daughter to him, she was so often present at his house.
Sighing, he turned back to the ever-present paperwork awaiting his attention. If something wasn't discovered soon, all hell was going to break loose.
* * *
Kaylee sipped at her soda and sighed to herself. The seven teens had come to the youth center to sit and talk, and she was beginning to get fed up with the secret that they shared between them. She couldn't shake the feeling that it was important to the case, and ever since the Avenger, Kaylee had trusted her feelings. Finally she couldn't stand it anymore.
"All right, I've had enough," she said quietly, drawing the attention of all six of her table-mates. "I've kept my mouth shut about this secret you all share. Goodness knows I have my own secrets that I don't particularly want anyone to know. Your secret is important, though. I can't say how I know, but I know. What are you keeping from me? Tommy, what happened to you to make you so- dark? You're different from when I knew you before. What happened?"
The Rangers regarded each other with trepidation. They were pledged to keep their secret, but at the same time, they trusted Kaylee enough to believe her when she said she needed to know.
"Would you excuse us for a moment?" Tommy asked, rising. He and the other five filed out into the hall of the youth center. They were gone for a much longer time than Kaylee had anticipated. She was just beginning to worry when Tommy re-entered the juice bar.
"Kaylee, come with me. You'll see what we haven't been telling you." She followed him out into the hall. Looking both ways, Tommy grabbed her around the waist and teleported her to the command center. Kaylee's jaw dropped as she looked around herself with wide eyes.
"Where- where are we?" she managed breathlessly.
"Welcome to the command center for the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers," a deep voice rumbled. Kaylee turned, seeking the source of the voice, and stopped dead upon her first sight of Zordon. The ancient wizard's image stared down at her from the tube. "I am Zordon, mentor to the Power Rangers. Tommy and the others were pledged to keep their identities as the Power Rangers a secret, but because Tommy trusts you so implicitly, we have chosen to reveal our secret to you. Will you keep this to yourself and never speak of it to anyone?"
Kaylee smiled. "Don't worry about me, Zordon. I can keep a secret." Looking around at her friends, she grinned. "No wonder the Rangers seemed so familiar on TV. This also explains why this group of friends has all six elemental personalities, with no repeats."
"Elemental personalities?" Trini asked curiously.
"According to the system of magic I study, there are six types of elemental personalities. There are the five base elements, fire, earth, water, wind, and wood, and the sixth element, spirit. Each type has a specific personality assigned to it. To find six friends as close as you are, with each element represented, is very rare. Normally certain types of elements will not associate with each other, but of course, Zordon would select a team which complemented each other, and the experiences that you have shared fostered a stronger bond than would usually form.
"Jason, you're like me, a fire personality. Strong and courageous, you are a natural leader. People look up to you instinctively. You never let a friend down, but occasionally your temper gets the better of you. The virtue of fire is courage, and its color, naturally, is red.
"Billy, you are water. Water and fire are rarely found in each other's company, but if you can get them to work together, you get a lot of power. Water is intelligent, calm, and possessed of great intuition and caring. The virtue of water is wisdom and its color is blue.
"Trini, you have a spirit of earth. You are calm and caring, not so intelligent as water, but far more stable. You are at peace with yourself and others. The color of earth is yellow and its virtue, honor." Trini chuckled at the memory of Rita's Preying Mantis monster, which had played off of that virtue in her personality and almost killed her.
"Kimberly," Kaylee continued, "you're a wind personality. Light and agile, you never settle in one place. You are graceful and always able to change. The virtue of wind is love. Its color is violet, the color of the upper aether.
"Zack, you are wood. Always up for a party, always full of life. You keep your friends and those around you always willing to carry on, no matter the situation they find themselves in. The virtue of wood is a pure heart, and its color is green.
"Tommy, you are spirit, the sixth element. Powerful, wise, you are always in control of yourself. It's fitting that your Ranger color is white, because that's the color of spirit."
Tommy gasped. "We never told you our colors. How did you know?"
"Once I knew you were the Power Rangers, it was easy for me to tell which Ranger was which person. Your personalities come through in your fighting style extremely well. Anyway, as spirit, you are the natural choice for leader of the team. Spirit has a dark side, too, an extremely frightening one. Just as a spirit personality's good points are magnified, its capacity for darkness is, too."
Tommy grimaced. "Don't I know it." Seeing Kaylee's confusion, he explained the events of the Green Ranger to her. Smiling, she nodded.
"That makes even more sense. It's sort of a cleansing, going from the dark to the light. The structure of the Rangers reflects the elemental structure, the five base elements, and the sixth. Green Ranger represented the dark side of the spirit element, and then its shadow incarnation. Now, the White Ranger is spirit purified. Admittedly, the colors aren't quite what I would have chosen for you, but hey, it's pretty close for the philosophy of another planet."
Tommy chuckled. "So, why would this be important to the case?" Kaylee shook her head.
"I don't know yet. I'll need more information, and quickly. I have a feeling that our time is running out."
* * *
Later that night, Tommy and Kaylee were poring over the reports of the deaths yet again, trying to find something that would connect them, especially from a cultist's point of view. Suddenly, something Kaylee had said earlier that day clicked with something he had said to Jason nearly a month before. "Kaylee, you said that the six of us were the six elemental personality types, right?"
"Right. So?" Kaylee looked at Tommy with some excitement. She had seen that thoughtful look on his face before. It meant that he had hit on something important.
"I remember saying to Jason, right after the fourth victim, that the dead teens reminded me of us, in a way. Personality-wise, mainly." Pulling out Marge's folder, he flipped through it. "Marge was a lot like Billy. A lot. Perfect water personality. It says here that she died on a Monday. Moon is the planet of water." He moved from folder to folder, checking data. "Uh-huh. Rick Walsh, wood personality. Died on a Thursday."
"In a lot of cultures, Thursday corresponds to wood," Kaylee conceded.
"Bruce Mackie was Jason's duplicate in so many ways, it was scary. He died on a Tuesday."
"Tew was the Norse equivalent of Mars. God of war, and fire."
"Miranda Dottweiler was a perfect earth spirit. She died on a Saturday. Saturn was the planet that controlled the element of earth."
"And let me guess. Rebecca was a wind person."
Tommy nodded grimly. "Just like Kim. She was killed on a Friday. In most cultures, Friday corresponds to love, wind's virtue. It's "viernes" in Spanish, from Venus, goddess of love."
"And Friday comes from Freya, Norse goddess of love and beauty. If you're right, Tommy, then the next victim will be a spirit personality, a teen at AGH, and the murder should come on Sunday, which is a holy day in most Western cultures."
"Something else I noticed. All the murders were committed either in the waning moon or the dark of the moon."
"That makes sense. Those phases are times when evil is supposed to be strongest. When's the next waning moon?"
"Not 'til late November," Tommy reported.
"That doesn't make sense. We need to figure out what they're trying to do. That's when we know what they're doing."
"Darkness is strongest," Tommy mused. "Oh my God." Flipping through the calendar, he gasped. "I found it! Halloween is a Sunday this year! But it's a full moon."
Kaylee slapped herself on the forehead. "It doesn't matter! That night is Samhain, when the darkness begins to overwhelm the light. A full moon is no protection that night, in fact it gives evil power. That night-" Kaylee suddenly went pale.
"What is it?" Tommy asked, concerned.
"That night," she continued, swallowing hard, "the gates to the underworld are weakest, most easily breached. Anything can come through." She looked up at him in desperation approaching panic. "Tommy, they're gonna open a Gate! God alone knows what could come through! With the blood of a strong enough spirit personality, they could release a major demon, something that will make the Avenger look like chicken feed!"
Tommy felt the bottom of his stomach drop out from under him. "We've just got to stop that from happening. Tomorrow, we'll explain everything to the guys. Maybe they can figure something out."
She bit her lip, nodding. He turned away from her and began gathering up the reports. "Tommy," she called. He turned to see the haunted look on her face. "You're a spirit personality with a great deal of power. I'd say you're in a lot of danger."
Tommy nodded. Nothing more needed to be said.
* * *
"A demon?" Billy asked, his disbelief evident. "Tommy, you don't really believe in this stuff, do you?"
"Do you believe in blue-furred flying monkeys and guys with no skin?" Tommy shot back. "Look, I thought this stuff was bull too, when Kaylee and I first met. She convinced me, though."
"How?" Zack inquired, curious.
Standing up, Tommy quickly shucked his white T-shirt. The seven teens were alone in the park, so his actions drew no attention. "Here's how. See these?" Tommy pointed to several thin scars running up his side in a ladder-like formation. "I got these from the claws of a minor demon, a creature called the Avenger. A would-be sorcerer, a high-school student by the name of Gerard LaTorre, let the thing out. He was a sadistic little bastard. Cut the hearts out of three of his classmates to get the required sacrifice to let the Avenger out of its dimension, then sat back and watched the fun. It slaughtered twenty people before Kaylee, Dad, and I took it down."
"Took it down? How?" Jason asked, trying to imagine the fight.
"Kaylee had her knowledge of magic and some supplies. Dad and I had .45's loaded with steel-jacketed rounds. Cold iron or steel disrupts magic, and magically formed demons. We did enough damage to the Avenger that it couldn't defend LaTorre anymore, and he "accidentally" got shot. One round, through the head. No great loss." The cold expression on Tommy's face hinted that LaTorre's death hadn't been all that accidental. "With LaTorre gone, we managed to send the Avenger back to whatever hell-hole it crawled out of. Twenty people died during its rampage, and a very nasty set of deaths, too. That thing had long, sharp claws, and teeth like you wouldn't believe. That was just a minor demon. I have no desire to see what a major one could accomplish."
The Rangers were silent for a long time. Even Billy had been convinced by Tommy's story. Finally, Kimberly spoke up. "So what do we do?"
"The sacrifice has to occur in a specific place. I'll need Zordon to scan for possible ley line nexuses around Angel Grove. There has to be at least one around here; this town is lousy with magic. It's probably why the monsters picked it to attack," Kaylee replied.
"I'll get on that," Billy sighed. Levering himself slowly to his feet, he teleported out.
"Everyone else, think of all the spirit personalities you know. Make a list of the people most like Tommy. Ones close to the other victims of the murders would be good."
The others nodded. "Right." The group split up. Chewing on her lip, Kaylee returned to the Oliver house. She couldn't shake the feeling that something very nasty was about to break.
* * *
The rest of October went swiftly, and soon enough, Halloween arrived. As if the Ranger's worries about the murders and demons weren't enough, Zedd disguised some putties as children and sent them down to the youth center. Due to the imposed curfew, the high school students were taking the elementary school children around for trick-or-treating in the afternoon. Zedd's putties used this as an opportunity to get close to Tommy. He had taken them out, and once they were away from anyone else, they turned into putties. Tommy was instantly teleported to Lord Zedd's Dark Dimension, where he had to fight a whole host of monsters without his morpher. Luckily for him, Billy and Kimberly, then the other three Rangers, soon came to his rescue. Together, they defeated Lord Zedd's guests, especially the Pumpkin Rapper, a particularly annoying monster that they had also faced during Rita's tenure.
Now, Tommy was relaxing at home, hoping that Billy's scans would soon find some way to stop whoever was planning to open a Gate that evening. He was so jumpy and nervous that he finally sat down in his room to meditate. So deeply did he get into his meditation that he didn't notice as darkness fell.
The sound of someone moving downstairs jarred him out of his reverie. Rising, Tommy cautiously picked up his pistol. As the son of a policeman, Tommy had received firearms training very early in life. When he had turned fifteen, his father had given him his own pistol, a .45. Now Tommy checked the clip to make sure that it was loaded with steel-jacketed rounds, and headed downstairs.
Exploring the darkened house, gun at the ready, Tommy could almost hear his own heart pounding in his ears. He tried to tell himself that what he had heard was just the wind, but he didn't believe it. Suddenly a low growl drew his attention. A dark shape hurtled out of the darkness. Tommy whirled, squeezing off a shot, but not in time. He had just time to hear a yelp as his bullet struck something, then he was pinned to the floor by approximately a hundred pounds of slavering, red-eyed monster. His gun flew out of his hand, spinning off into the shadows.
The creature, which looked vaguely like a dog, glared down at Tommy in obvious anger. From his position, he could just see the wound on the flank where his bullet had just nicked it. Black blood flowed from the cut, oozing onto the floor and burning a hole in the carpet.
"Cerebus, heel," a woman's voice chuckled. Tommy looked up to see a tall form walking out of the darkness. She wore a black silk dress that did nothing to hide her obvious femininity, or her generous figure. Her feet were bare, and her red hair shone in the darkness like a fire.
Tommy gasped on seeing her. No wonder the deceased hadn't struggled with their assailant. "I should have known it was you," he sighed bitterly. "It all makes sense. You were friends with all the victims, and you were there when that bundle wound up in Kaylee's locker. You were smirking the whole time. I have to hand it to you, that was one heck of a performance. No one suspected a thing."
Cassandra Daton smiled down at Tommy. "Thank you, Mr. Oliver. Now, shall we go? You have an appointment to keep." At an unspoken command, the dog stepped off Tommy, and Cassandra reached down, hauling him to his feet. "You know, I've never had a Power Ranger at my mercy before," Cassandra chuckled cruelly, her green eyes bright. She laughed aloud at Tommy's obvious surprise. "I know a great deal about you, Tommy. After all, you were the property of the darkness for a time. And such magnificent property indeed." Still laughing, she pulled him close and kissed him. Tommy began to struggle at the feel of her cold lips against his, but her strength was more than human. Just as her tongue began to probe at his mouth, he passed out, falling into a very welcome darkness.
* * *
Kaylee and Billy were hunched over the computer at the command center when the alarm began to blare. Looking at the viewing globe, they saw Tommy's living room, empty. "What in the world?" Kaylee asked, puzzled.
"I'll teleport you there," Billy told her. "Be careful."
Kaylee was enveloped in the teleportation beam. When she reformed, she found herself in Tommy's living room. Making a face, she shivered. The room positively reeked of evil, especially the small burned patch in the carpet. Looking around, she found Tommy's .45 in a corner.
"Tommy would never leave this thing lying around. Whoever it is has him." Tapping the button on her communicator, she quickly teleported back to the command center. "Billy, call the Rangers. Tommy's been kidnapped. It's a cinch that he's the next sacrifice."
"Shouldn't we get to the site, then?" the teen genius asked helplessly.
Kaylee shook her head. "No, we have until the moon reaches its apex. I need them to come here. It's safe, and we're going to need to do some preliminary work before we go save Tommy."
* * *
Angel Grove Cemetery was silent except for the sound of rodents shuffling through the dead autumn leaves. A full moon highlighted a figure dressed all in black. Frost-white breasts heaved against the restraints of a low-cut, tight silk dress. She shook out her glossy, red curls as a cruel smile caressed her china doll-like face. At her tiny, bare feet was a seventeen year-old boy with long chestnut hair and chocolate-colored eyes framed by long black lashes. He was dressed in green and black, and a blood-stained white handkerchief was stuffed into his mouth. His hands and feet were tied.
"My poor, poor little Tommy," the woman purred. Her glittering red nails stroked Tommy's face. The boy tried to pull away from her, and the woman's cruel laugh echoed throughout the graveyard.
Tommy looked down at himself and frowned as well as he could around the handkerchief. He was resolutely *not* thinking about where the blood on it could have come from. _When did she change my clothes?_ he thought groggily. He was still wearing the black pants he had had on when he passed out, for which he gave thanks, but his shirt was one of his old green ones that he hadn't worn since receiving his White powers. Why would Cassandra put this on him?
"Admiring your ensemble, Tommy?" Cassandra asked him. "I thought it was so much more appropriate for what lay inside you. The Green Ranger was your delightfully dark side, and we're going to be seeing a lot more of him after tonight. I thought it only fitting that you should dress the part."
Tommy couldn't talk, but he communicated quite well with a nice ringing glare. Cassandra simply chuckled. "You don't have to be afraid of me, Tommy. It won't be your blood spilling tonight." Even as she smiled, she was looking up and down, the way a lion looked at a piece of meat. Tommy closed his eyes and fought to hide the shudder making its way through his body. Cassandra was a beauty, but she was cold and heartless. She held no attraction for him. _Think of Kimberly,_ he commanded himself. _A beautiful summer day, you and Kim at the beach, not a monster or a putty in sight._ Desperately, he tried to lose himself in the fantasy. Anything was better than what he expected Cassandra had planned.
Smiling cruelly at her captive, Cassandra dragged Tommy up to the doors of one of the mausoleums. They swung open, shedding a red light on the surrounding graveyard as she dragged Tommy through. Tommy had time for one thought before the doors swung shut behind him. The sophomore English class had been studying Dante's "Inferno" recently, and Tommy had a sudden vision of the writing over the gates of Hell. _"Abandon all hope, ye who enter here." God help me now._
* * *
"I don't understand!" Jason cried. "We know where he is, why not just go after him?"
"How do you know he's in Angel Grove Cemetery anyway?" Billy added. "The computer found three ley line nexuses."
Kaylee sighed. "Yes, but one is in the caves on the edge of the city. They have no ceremonial quality to them. They wouldn't take him there. A cemetery is the perfect place for a blood magician. They'll be surrounded by the dead."
"But the other ley line nexus was in Angel's Rest Cemetery. That's a big place. Why not take him there?"
"I know," Zack piped up, startling them all. The Black Ranger had been unusually serious since getting the call to teleport to the command center, even for the situation. Now, everyone turned to him. "Angel's Rest is consecrated ground. The whole thing was laid out in the 1700's, when they still blessed cemeteries. They can't call up a demon on holy ground."
Kaylee nodded. "Angel Grove Cemetery is much newer. It was never blessed. That's where they'll take him."
"So why don't we just go after him?" Jason repeated, getting frustrated.
"We'll need weapons. You won't be able to morph in such an evil atmosphere, so you need weapons of the spirit. We have time until the sacrifice begins. I need you all to sit down on the floor, in a big circle. Close your eyes, and let yourself relax. Slip deeper and deeper into a trance." As Kaylee talked, the Rangers did as she asked. Slowly, their breathing changed until it was obvious that they were all in deep trances.
* * *
A strange red mist cleared, and Jason found himself surrounded by putties. He fought them with every ounce of skill he possessed, but they just kept coming. Finally two putties grabbed his arms, forcing him to his knees. Out of the darkness, Goldar appeared.
"Well, Jason, how does it feel to be the loser?" the monster laughed.
"Yes, Red Ranger," Lord Zedd hissed. "How does it feel to be helpless before me? Your powers are useless here. You have no choice but to surrender to me."
"Never!" Jason cried defiantly. He struggled against the putties that held him, but to no avail.
"Never say never, Red Ranger," Zedd chuckled, gesturing with one metal-tipped claw. "Your friends have already taken me up on my offer." Out of the darkness stepped the rest of the Rangers. All five of them looked at him with cold eyes, eyes that glowed with the red light of Zedd's power. "They have surrendered their wills to my spells. You are the only one left! Surrender to me! You have no choice."
"NO!" Jason yelled, tears clouding his eyes. "Whatever you do to me, whatever you do to my friends, I will never surrender to you! I'll fight you till the last breath I take, if necessary, and if I die, I'll damn well take you with me!"
Zedd, Goldar, and the enspelled Rangers stared at him for a long moment, then dissolved into red mist. Jason was alone in a place of complete darkness.
_Well done, Red Ranger,_ a voice spoke in his mind. It was warm and somehow familiar, but Jason could not place it. It was neither male nor female, and didn't seem to be quite human. Still, Jason knew that it meant him no harm.
_The virtue of fire is courage, which you have displayed. Courage is never giving up in the face of adversity. You have proven yourself worthy of this, the Sword of Fire._ A broadsword with a red hilt, much like the one he wielded as Red Ranger, materialized before him. He put his hand out to it, and found that it fit as if made for him. The world around him began to fade, and soon, all he could see was the sword, shining brightly.
* * *
Kimberly found herself in the hall of Tommy's house, outside the door to his room. From inside came the sound of laughter and soft voices. One seemed to be Tommy's, but the other was definitely female. Pushing open the door, Kimberly stopped dead. Lying in Tommy's bed were Tommy and Kaylee. His arms were around her, and she was combing her fingers through his long, silky hair, just as Kimberly herself liked to do. Neither was wearing any clothing.
"Tommy?" Kimberly heard herself gasp. He and Kaylee looked up, surprised. Kaylee clutched the sheet closer.
"Kim? What are you doing here?" he asked, squinting at her in bewilderment.
"What am I doing here? I'm you girlfriend!" she stormed at him. "What the hell is she doing here?"
Tommy sighed. "Kim, I don't know how to tell you this, but whatever you and I had is over. It was over from the minute Kaylee walked back into my life. It just took me until now to realize it. She's the only woman for me. She's beautiful, she's sexy, she's smart, and quite frankly, she's more of a woman than you'll ever be."
Kimberly's jaw dropped and her eyes filled with tears. "I- understand," she squeaked. _If it's what he wants, then I should be happy for him,_ she thought to herself. "I hope you two will be very happy."
Suddenly the whole room, including the lovers in Tommy's bed, dissolved into violet smoke. _The virtue of wind is love,_ a voice said in her mind. _You were willing to give up your happiness that Tommy might find his. This is true love. You have earned the Bow of the Wind._ A violet bow formed in front of Kimberly. Reaching out, she took it and felt the world dissolve around her.
* * *
Trini looked around her. "Hello? Is anyone here?"
"I am here, Yellow Ranger," Goldar's voice growled. Trini whirled just in time to see Goldar's sword approaching her head. She ducked and whirled away. Spying a discarded sword lying on the flagstone floor behind her, she picked it up and met Goldar's attacks with a few of her own.
The fight was heavy and hard, but slowly Trini began to get the advantage. Suddenly, one of her cuts caught Goldar's blade at just the right angle, sending it spinning off into the darkness. Disarmed, Goldar knelt before her.
"You are the victor, Yellow Ranger. Finish it."
"No!" Trini cried. "I won't kill you!"
_You must,_ a voice said in the back of her mind. _You will never get the sacred weapons if you do not. Besides, think of all the awful things he has done to you and your friends. How many times has he nearly killed Tommy and Jason? How many times has he nearly killed you?_
"It doesn't matter," Trini whispered, throwing the sword away. "He's unarmed. I will not kill someone who cannot fight back."
Goldar suddenly puffed into yellow smoke. _Well done, Yellow Ranger. You have showed great honor here. The Bands of Earth are yours._ Two golden wristbands suddenly appeared before her. Trini slipped them onto her wrists. _These bands will allow you to harness the power of earth against your enemies._ As the world disappeared, Trini kept her eyes on the bands on her wrists.
* * *
Zack looked around himself. "Well, this place is interesting," he snorted. The darkness he had landed in was completely featureless. "Hellooo! Anybody home?" he called.
_Welcome, Black Ranger,_ a voice said in his mind. _I have been waiting for you. What do you seek?_
"I need to help my friend Tommy. He's in trouble, and I'm supposed to be going after some kind of weapon. Can you tell me where to find it?"
_I could. Are you sure, though, that that is what you want? I can give you so much more._
"Such as?" Zack drawled.
"Zack?" a woman's voice came from behind him. Zack turned to see Angela smiling at him. "I'm sorry I've been so cold to you," she cooed, coming closer. "Maybe we could- get to know each other better?" Sliding her arms around his neck, she kissed him deeply. Zack enjoyed the kiss for a minute, then pulled away.
"Sorry. One, you're not Angela, and I darn well wouldn't settle for less that the real thing. Two, I don't want Angela to fall for me because someone made her do it. I want her to love me for me, and you can't make that happen. Not interested." Angela puffed into green smoke.
_Then perhaps wealth? Power?_
Zack shook his head. "No. I've never wanted to be rich. Just enough money to keep me alive is all I've ever wanted or needed. Money can't buy the really important things in life. As for power, forget it. It's too much of a headache. I like not having a lot of responsibilities, and power brings them. Being a Ranger's quite enough power and responsibility for me. All I want is that weapon to help my friend. It doesn't matter what you offer me. I'm not going to trade Tommy's life for it."
_You are truly pure of heart, Black Ranger. You have earned the Ax._ An ax much like the one he wielded as Black Ranger appeared before him, except this one was green. He clutched it tightly as the rest of the world dissolved.
* * *
"Most interesting," Billy mused, examining the door before him. He was in some sort of stone corridor, and the door was blocking his way. He had figured out that his goal lay beyond the door, and that the key to opening the door lay in the grid of eight crystalline squares that was set into it. Gingerly, he tapped one, and a beautiful crystalline tone rang out. Tapping a few more, he realized that they made music in a scale.
"It opens with a key," he said to himself. "Music has keys. But which key?" A number of experiments with sonic phenomena had led Billy to discover that he had perfect pitch. After hunting around, he found the key which sang an A. "Might as well do this alphabetically," he sighed. Quickly, he pressed the key long and hard. Suddenly a long sharp spike came down out of the ceiling. Billy narrowly dodged it. "Hmm, looks like trial and error isn't the safest method." Closing his eyes, Billy visualized a piano keyboard. Slowly he plunked out an octave in A. His eyes flew open and he grinned. "Oh, what a pun!" Hunting around with short touches, he found the key which sang a C. Pushing it long and hard, he watched the door rumble open. "The key of C," he announced aloud, "is the only one that has no sharps. Somebody has a really awful sense of humor." Walking through the door, he found nothing at all, only a blue mist.
_Well done, Blue Ranger. The virtue of water is wisdom. You used your wisdom to find a way through your predicament. You have earned this, the Staff of Water. Use it well._ A staff made of a crystalline material appeared before Billy. It looked like ice, but was warm to the touch. Even as Billy touched it, the world spun and disappeared.
* * *
The five Rangers came slowly awake in the Command Center. The first thing they noticed was that Zordon, Alpha, and Kaylee were looking at them expectantly. The second thing they noticed was that the weapons they had received in their trance states were sitting across their laps.
"Whoa," Kimberly breathed, looking at her bow. "That was intense."
"How much time have we lost?" Jason asked, rising to his feet. The other four did the same."
"About ten minutes," Kaylee told him. "We need to get going. Zordon, can you teleport us to the cemetery?"
"Indeed," Zordon nodded.
"Wait a minute," Trini interrupted. "Kaylee, what do you have for a weapon?"
Kaylee grinned. Reaching into her jacket, she pulled out a .45. "Steel-jacketed rounds. I should be able to handle myself."
"Let's do it," Jason said grimly. The six teens teleported out.
* * *
The six appeared in Angel Grove Cemetery. "Everything looks normal," Billy remarked, examining the area. "Where could they be?"
"Call me crazy," Zack drawled, "but I think they're in there." He pointed toward one of the mausoleums. The stonework glowed with an unholy light, shedding a forbidding glow over most of the graveyard.
"Come on," Jason growled. The six made their way to the doors of the tomb, but found them secured.
"Let me handle this," Kaylee told them. "Open in the name of the Light!" she cried, striking the doors with a knife. Amazingly, the doors swung wide before them. "Let's go."
The six of them had not made it more that ten feet down the corridor before they were attacked. Kaylee pulled her gun and began pumping shots into the little creatures, while the Rangers used their new weapons on their attackers. The air was soon filled with the sounds and the smells of dying demons.
The fight went on down a corridor that was far too long to be contained in the mausoleum they had entered. Finally, it spilled out into a larger chamber. The last of the little demons was dispatched, and the six turned to the center of the room.
"Cassandra?" Jason gasped, seeing the girl standing behind the altar. His attention then fell on Tommy. The other boy was strapped spread-eagled to the stone altar, which stood in the center of a pentagram drawn on the floor. "What did you do to him?"
"Nothing, yet. We were waiting for the moon to hit its apex. And now that it has, let the ceremony begin!"
Zack looking closer at the pentagram, suddenly felt the urge to be sick. Each of the points of the pentagram was marked with the eyes and hearts of the murder victims. His attention was suddenly taken as Cassandra began to chant in a language so blackly evil that the Rangers were glad they couldn't understand her. The lines of the pentagram flashed red, and an evil black mist began to seep up through them.
Suddenly Kaylee understood. "Oh my God. Tommy isn't a sacrifice! She's trying to release a major demon! Major demons are so powerful because they can take on a host and free their magic for other things! Tommy's the perfect host because he's been evil once!"
Even as she spoke, the mist began to invade Tommy's body. He screamed, a gut-wrenching sound, and then went silent. As Cassandra released the ropes, he sat up, smiling coldly.
"At long last, I am free," he chuckled. His voice was Tommy's, but it had a dark, chilling quality to it that none of the Rangers had ever heard before. Turning to Cassandra, he smiled again. "I will- reward you well for this," he promised her, his dark eyes smoldering. She curtseyed.
"Tommy?" Kimberly ventured, taking a hesitant step forward. The boy turned back towards her, and she stumbled back in horror at the pure evil in his eyes.
"Tommy is no more. I am all that is left."
"Who are you?" Jason demanded, stepping forward.
The thing in Tommy's body chuckled, shaking its head. "I'm not such a fool, Red Ranger. You'll not get my name from me. All you need to know is that I am the last thing you'll ever see." With that, he launched himself at the Rangers.
The five teenagers formed a united front, protecting Kaylee. The girl's eyes had rolled back in her head, and she had begun to chant in a strange language. Although Jason could swear it was nothing he had ever heard before, he found that he could understand it.
"By Uriel and Michael, by all the names and powers of Light, by the power I hold, I charge you to depart from this world. In the name of all that is sacred, I banish you, I bar you, I cast you out from this place! Depart hence, release your grip on the soul of this man, and return to the world from which you came!" She began to chant a long series of words that Jason would never have been able to pronounce, but he somehow knew they were names of powers beyond his experience.
The creature that wore Tommy's shape hissed, curling its lips. Jason could see that it was hurting. It tried to strike at Kaylee, throwing fire in her direction, but Jason was there almost immediately, blocking with his sword. The demon tried to cut around him, but found Billy blocking its way, his face grimly determined. No matter where it turned, one of the male Rangers was in its way, hemming it in, while all the while Kaylee continued her chant.
"I don't think so," Cassandra hissed. Raising her dagger, she moved to attack Kaylee. Unfortunately, she quickly found Kimberly and Trini in front of her.
"You picked the wrong man to mess with," Kimberly growled, her bow at the ready. A glowing violet arrow hummed on the string. "I'm going to make you rue the day you first laid eyes on my Tommy."
"Big talk, Kimberly," Cassandra mocked sweetly. "Can you back it up? Or are you afraid to fight me without your little bow and arrow?"
A dangerous smile crossed Kimberly's face. The expression would have looked more at home on Tommy, Trini thought wryly. Lifting a hand into the air, the shorter girl dismissed her bow.
"I won't even ask you to drop the dagger," Kimberly grinned. "Trini, keep our little friends off my back." As Kim and Cassandra began to circle, Trini looked back towards the corridor the Rangers had entered by and saw a host of the little demons that they had fought earlier.
"Don't you boys ever give up? Quake strike!" Raising her hands into the air, Trini brought them down in a powerful crushing motion. Her palms struck the earth, and a wave rippled through the ground, throwing the little demons in all directions.
While Trini dealt with the minor demons, Kim concentrated on Cassandra. The crazy smile still hovered around Kimberly's lips, disconcerting Cassandra to no end. It was amazing how much the little smile made Kimberly look like Tommy.
"What's the matter, Cassandra?" Kim cooed. "You wouldn't be afraid of little old me, would you? You're the one with the weapon."
Cassandra might have been a powerful sorceress, but she was no warrior. Her first attack was a low slash toward Kimberly's belly. Kim dodged with ease, still grinning.
"You'll have to do better than that, Cassie," Kim taunted. She was still waiting for the right moment. Her eyes never left Cassandra's chest.
Cassandra's next move was a vicious stab at Kim's chest. Again, Kim dodged, swaying to the side with almost no effort. She made no attack of her own. Things were not quite right yet.
Flipping her knife into the ice-pick position, Cassandra attacked again, this time with a vicious downward stab. This was the move Kimberly had been waiting for. Grabbing Cassandra's arm, she flipped the larger girl over her shoulder, simultaneously stripping the knife from her grasp. In the blink of an eye, Kim had the blade at Cassandra's throat.
"Now, bitch," Kimberly hissed, "tell me its name."
"Never," Cassandra growled.
"Then I slit your throat," responded Kim, shrugging. "Your choice."
Cassandra looked up into Kim's eyes, and saw the smaller girl was deadly serious. When it came to Tommy, there was little that Kimberly would not do. "Seti! His name is Seti!" Cassandra squeaked. Across the room, Kaylee spared a little of her attention to grin. Kimberly had deduced, quite correctly, that knowing the demon's name would give her power over it. Quickly, Kaylee began weaving the name into her chants and commands.
Seti, for his part, had heard the exchange. In desperation, he heaved himself at Jason, catching the boy by the throat. With strength far beyond human, he lifted Jason into the air, laughing.
"You fool! You thought you could stand against me? I am pure spirit, far stronger than your puny mortal shell could ever be! Like all flesh, you are weak."
_The flesh is weak?_ Jason grinned to himself, an idea occurring to him. With all his strength, he smashed his knee into Seti's groin. The demon immediately dropped him, doubling over in agony.
"The trouble with being pure spirit is you forget that a mortal body has weak points. And man, that one's a doozy," Jason grinned.
Kaylee's chanting had reached a fever pitch. Suddenly, in English, she cried, "Depart! By your name I charge you to release the soul of this man and depart his body! He is no lawful prey of yours!"
Tommy's form began glowing white. Dropping to his knees, the demon began to scream, his hands on the sides of his head.
"Tommy's fighting it, but he's not strong enough!" Kaylee yelled. "He needs us! Concentrate on your friendship!"
Almost instinctively, the Rangers joined hands, arraying themselves in a loose semicircle around Kaylee. A white light grew around them as all six teens concentrated, remembering scenes from their friendship. The light flared, gaining in intensity, enveloping Tommy's body as it did so.
Suddenly, through the sound of Seti's screaming, Tommy's voice came through, loud and clear. "Get out of my head!" he called. The light flashed once, and then was gone. Tommy was kneeling on the floor, panting heavily. Behind him, a tall black form was coalescing into something none of the Rangers could describe.
"Oh my God. It's still here," Billy whispered.
"Come on, Rangers," Jason called. "Let's kick some ass." The Rangers threw themselves into the battle, as if they were fighting one of Zedd's monsters. Meanwhile, Kaylee ran to Tommy's side, helping him to his feet. Once he could stand, she pressed his .45 into his hand.
"Ready?" she grinned at him.
"Most definitely." The two of them slipped the safeties off their guns. "Shit!" Tommy cried. "I can't get a clear shot! The Rangers are in the way." Suddenly an evil-sounding chant drew Tommy's attention. Cassandra had drawn another diagram on the floor and was preparing some sort of spell.
"I don't think so," Tommy hissed. Taking aim, he fired. One steel-jacketed round hit Cassandra right between the eyes. She went down without a sound.
The demon suddenly threw its head back and howled. "Now!" Kaylee yelled. She and Tommy opened fire. Their shots struck the demon in the head. The creature staggered as it absorbed the magic-disrupting metal. Then the other Rangers attacked. One by one, they focused the mystical energies of their spirit weapons on the beast. Suddenly, in a flash of sulfurous light, the creature was gone. There was a moment of silence, and then the cavern began to shake.
"The whole place is coming down!" Tommy called. "Let's get out of here!" The seven teens ran through the corridors, the cavern collapsing behind them. They launched themselves out the doors, just as the entire cave collapsed.
The seven of them watched as the hellish red light inside the mausoleum died out, and the doors swung shut. "What do you want to bet," Jason said finally, breaking the silence, "that if somebody were to pry those doors open, the mausoleum will look exactly as it did before?"
"No bet," Tommy shook his head. "That's why we won't tell anyone but my dad what happened. He'll believe it. To everyone else, this will be just another unsolved murder case." Kimberly stepped up to him, sliding her arms around his waist. He put an arm around her shoulders, and they stood there in silence for a moment.
"It's over, guys," Zack sighed. "Let's go home."
* * *
"It was great seeing you again, Kaylee," Tommy smiled. The seven teens were at Angel Grove International, waiting for Kaylee's plane and saying their goodbyes. Kaylee smiled at him.
"Yeah, although I wish it had been under better circumstances. I just want to say how glad I am that I met you all. It was really great knowing all of you. Especially you, Jason," she grinned. Raising herself up on her toes, she gave Jason a quick kiss, directly on the lips. Then she ran for her gate, leaving him staring after her in astonishment.
"Way to go, Jase!" Zack enthused. "You always were good at getting the girls."
"Shut up, Zack," Jason mumbled.
Tommy grinned to himself. He liked the idea of Kaylee and Jason together. They'd be perfect for each other. Just then Kimberly slipped an arm around Tommy's waist.
"Penny for your thoughts," she smiled.
Tommy looked down at her and grinned. "Oh, I was just thinking how lucky I am to have so many great friends."
"We feel lucky to have you as a friend, too. Come on. Let's go to the juice bar and have a smoothie to celebrate." The Rangers left the airport, together.