Disclaimer: They ain't mine, they's Saban's. Fill in the disclaimer
of your choice here. Thanks to Jen Bigley, for allowing me to use Christina
Collins, her character, and for the idea of Zordon being a White Morphing
Master. Also, thanks to her for the character of Katarina Petronov. Parker
O'Neil, Lillian O'Neil, and all other characters that aren't Saban's or
Jen's are mine. Please e-mail me if you want to use them. I am a definite
and unapologetic Sailor Moon fan. If you know anything about Sailor Moon,
you may find that it has influenced my story. I am not making fun of any
of the Senshi. I just like the show. This fanfic has been rated PG by the
Motion Picture Association of America. Some harsh language, some violence,
and a gratuitous shot of Tommy with no shirt. (Yum!)
High school life has a definite rhythm all its own. The days are carefully
measured out into semesters, quarters, weeks and periods. Appearing with
stunning regularity are the dances. You can almost set your watch by them.
Angel Grove high was no different. Like everywhere else, they had a dance
for every major occasion, and a few for no occasion at all. Tonight was
special, though. Tonight was the Valentine's Ball.
It was also a somewhat somber occasion, at least for one group of teens. According to all of the medical tests they had run, it was the last dance that Jason Scott would be strong enough to attend. The next one would be held in late March, and by that time, Jason would be having trouble standing up, let alone dancing. Jason had insisted on attending, and was having the time of his life whirling around the dance floor with his girlfriend, Jamie Zedden. One by one, the Rangers paired off, leaving Tommy, Trini, Kimberly and Billy standing by the punch bowl.
The four watched as their friends circled the floor. Zack had been claimed by Angela almost the minute he had walked in the door, and his friends hadn't seen him for more than two minutes of the whole night. David and Kat were lost in each other, barely noticing anyone else. Rocky was dancing with Katarina, his girlfriend, although she wasn't a student at Angel Grove, and Adam and Tanya seemed attached at the hip. They hadn't been apart for the entire evening. Trey and Chelsea were enjoying themselves as well, dancing close together in the center of the floor.
Trini suddenly turned to Billy. "Well, Billy, do you want to dance?"
He chuckled. "Affirmative," he responded. She smiled at the reminder of when they had been dating, during the time they had been Rangers together. Nothing had come of it, though, and now the two were just good friends. They headed for the dance floor, leaving Tommy and Kimberly alone, each suddenly unable to meet the other's eyes. They had attended so many dances like this one, but all of them as boyfriend and girlfriend. Now that that phase of their lives was behind them, they were unsure how to react in this development. The uncomfortable situation was broken by Skull, who popped up out of nowhere.
"Kimberly, how about a turn around the floor?" he asked, giving her his famous "wounded puppy" look. One look into those soulful blue eyes, and Kimberly melted.
"Sure, Skull. Let's go." The two of them headed out onto the floor, leaving Tommy alone with the punch.
"Looks like it's just you and me," he told the soda-and-fruit-juice concoction, pouring himself another cup.
"Can I have one?" a voice behind him asked. Tommy turned to see a girl in a knee-length black dress holding a paper cup out to him.
"Yeah, sure," he responded, filling the cup. As he handed it back to her, he took a better look. Her hair was sandy brown, and her eyes were an odd tawny gold color. She was rather tall, as well, easily reaching the height of his chin.
"I don't think I've seen you around here before," he told her, extending his hand. "I'm Tommy Oliver. Are you new to the school?"
"Lillian O'Neil," she replied, transferring her cup into her left hand and shaking his. "No, I'm not new here. I've attended Angel Grove High for four years. You've just probably never noticed me. We're not in any of the same classes, and I don't get into the spotlight that much. I've seen you all the time, though."
"Oh. So, why aren't you dancing? Your date stand you up?"
She shook her head, amused. "No, I didn't have a date. I came with some of my friends."
"Where are they?"
"Out dancing, same place yours are, I'd expect."
He looked over at her. "You want to dance?"
"Hmm," she mused, regarding him for a moment. "Sure. I'd love to."
They walked out to the floor just as a slow song came on. Tommy swallowed hard. He hadn't been thinking of a slow dance when he'd asked her. Seeming to sense his discomfort, Lillian looked over at him, challenge and amusement visible in her odd eyes. Tommy smiled, his unease evaporating. It was just a dance, after all, even if it was a slow one. It wasn't like he'd asked her to marry him or anything.
Lillian slipped her arms around Tommy's neck, and he put his around her back. As the two swayed in time to the music, Tommy thought about how good it felt to have someone in his arms. He had missed Kim and Kat, but Lillian didn't feel like simply a substitute for either of them. For the first time since his break-ups, Tommy felt interest in someone again. He already knew that Lillian was far different from either Kat or Kimberly. She seemed darker, older. Something about her drew him in a way neither of his two previous girlfriends had done. Suddenly she looked up at him and smiled mysteriously.
"I hear you're a bit of a Romeo, Tommy. You change girlfriends like most people change socks. Should I be worried?" she asked in her slightly husky voice.
"I don't think so," he replied. "When something interests me, I stick with it for a good long time."
She raised an eyebrow. "Until you get bored with it?"
"Sure. But I don't get bored very easily. I like mysteries and puzzles, and there's almost always something new for me to figure out." At the sight of her one-sided smile, a realization hit Tommy square between the eyes. They were flirting! He hadn't flirted with a woman since the first days of his relationship with Kimberly.
"Well, then, I'll attempt to keep things mysterious. Do you like to hike?"
"I love it. You do a lot of hiking?"
"Yes. I really love photography, especially nature shots. I'm very handy with a camera. Must run in the family."
Tommy's brow furrowed. "O'Neil? Are you related to Parker O'Neil from the Angel Grove Gazette?"
"Yeah. You have something against reporters?"
"No, actually I really admire your brother's work," he told her, his thoughts whirling. Parker O'Neil was one of the best photographers in Angel Grove, known especially for the wonderful shots of the Power Rangers he had taken. Tommy knew the man on a slightly more personal note. O'Neil was the only reporter who didn't pester the Rangers for "a few words" every time he saw them. In fact, he had earned their somewhat grudging respect by saving the lives of a couple of civilians caught in a monster attack, and then staying out of the way while the Rangers defeated it. Afterwards, he had simply snapped a few follow-up shots of the Rangers, and even helped them slip away from the crowd of reporters who inevitably showed up. Tommy had to admit that he liked the man, even if he was a reporter. Parker's shots of the Power Rangers shaped the views that Angel Grove had of the Rangers, and he always portrayed them in a favorable light.
He liked Parker, but was unprepared for finding out that the man had a sister in high school, much less one that Tommy suddenly found himself interested in. He'd just have to be careful, that's all. He'd kept his secrets from even more perceptive people than Parker O'Neil and his sister. It wouldn't be easy, but it could be done.
"I'm glad you like my brother's stuff," Lillian told him, bringing him back to the present. "If you two ever run into each other, he can be insufferable if you don't like what he does."
Just then, the DJ announced the final song of the night, to Tommy's shock. How long had they been dancing, anyway? After the last dance was finished, Tommy and Lillian said their goodbyes and headed back to their respective groups of friends. Both were greeted by knowing grins and an army of questions.
"Guys, it was just a couple dances," Tommy told his friends. "That's all. Come on, let's go. I'll tell you all about her on the way home."
* * *
"Lil, that was TOMMY OLIVER, the handsomest boy in our entire school! He's cute, he's nice, he's smart, he's currently available, and he spent the entire night dancing with you!" Randi gushed, tossing her short red hair. Lillian shook her head, amused at her friend's bubbliness.
"Randi, we're seniors in high school. Next year, we'll all be going our separate ways, off to different colleges. I'm not in the market for a great romance, and I doubt he is either." Still, Lillian had to admit that Tommy had a definite effect on her. He is cute, she thought to herself. When they'd been dancing, she'd been acutely aware of what martial arts had done to and for his body. Hard biceps, flat stomach, nice chest, defined back, and a very tight butt. Mentally she smacked herself in the head. Stop thinking about it! You'll never get to sleep tonight if you keep this up!
"He's so dreamy," Randi went on, unaware of the direction of her friend's thoughts. The two were currently walking down the street that led from the school to their homes. Streetlights gave the whole area a comforting glow, and like most Angel Grove girls, they knew a great deal of self-defense. Lillian also had her black belt in Tiger Kung Fu, so they felt fairly safe walking home by themselves.
"Randi, come on. He just broke up with Kimberly Hart. He's probably not interested in a relationship right now, and if he is, he's on the rebound. Who wants that?"
"You know what, Lillian? You are too serious and cynical for your own good. If Prince Charming rode up on a white charger to save you from the dragon, you'd ask to see some ID."
Lillian chuckled. "Of course I would. I'd have already killed the dragon."
"Oh, you!" Randi shoved her friend playfully. Suddenly, two streaks of light crossed the dark sky and seconds later a shockwave knocked the two girls to the ground. "What the hell was that!" Randi cried.
"I don't know," Lillian replied, getting slowly to her feet. "Goodness knows where it hit, but I'm willing to bet it left one major crater. We'll probably hear about it on the news tomorrow morning. Come on, Randi, let's go home."
"What if it's the Machine Empire?" Randi asked fearfully, rising as well.
"Then we'll definitely hear about it on the news tomorrow. Come on, Randi." The two girls headed home, Randi looking over her shoulder for Cogs the whole time.
* * *
"Zordon, what was that!" Billy cried. The Rangers and company had teleported to the Power Chamber immediately after feeling the shockwave. Now all of them were standing in front of Zordon's tube, wondering what was going on.
"Rangers, two anomalies were detected entering Earth's atmosphere. The energy signatures detected matched those of Zeo Power." Everyone turned to look at Trey.
"Hey, don't look at me! As far as I know, I'm the only person out there with a Zeo power."
"Indeed," Zordon replied. "I believe that the anomalies we detected were the last two pieces of the Zeo Crystal, and they are currently unclaimed."
"Then let's find them before Mondo does," Billy replied, heading towards a console.
"That will not be necessary, Billy. The crystals are shielding themselves from outside detection. The computers are looking for them now on automatic. There would be nothing gained by your remaining here tonight, especially when you need sleep."
"Mondo won't be sleeping," Billy shot back, not looking up from his work.
"And neither will I. You, however, need to sleep. The crystals are shielding themselves from Mondo as well. It is unlikely that he will find them before morning. Should he do so, I will contact you. In the meantime, go home and rest, or I will have Alpha tranquilize you, and Trini and Kimberly will put you to bed," Zordon threatened.
Billy sighed. He knew they'd do it, too. "All right. Call the minute you find anything," he told Alpha.
"I always do," the little android replied, brandishing a tranquilizer threateningly. Billy took the hint and teleported out, the other Rangers following.
"Alpha," Zordon instructed, "find those crystals. If combined with the right human wielders, they will not only provide us with more Rangers to defend the Earth, they may give us a way to save Jason as well."
* * *
Taking advantage of the confusion the Zeo Crystals' arrival was causing at the Machine Skybase, two streaks of light teleported onto a deserted part of the moon. With a flash, they coalesced into Prince Gasket, older son of King Mondo, and his wife Archerina. "I cannot believe that I, master of the planet Hathor and rightful heir to the Machine Empire, must hide like a common laboring drone from not only Zedd and Rita, but my own father as well!" Gasket fumed. "When I have destroyed the Power Rangers, Father will have to see what a wonderful son I am, and allow me back into his service. Then, I must merely wait for the right time, and the Machine Empire will be mine by right of inheritance!"
"Yes, my darling," Archerina replied, "but the Power Rangers will not be so easily vanquished. Remember what happened last time you underestimated them."
"How could I forget? My diodes still hurt! This time, however, I have a plan which will allow us to destroy those Power pip-squeaks once and for all."
"Oh, do explain it to me, my dear," Archerina begged.
"Now is not the time, my love, but I can tell you that it involves a very special hostage. Go, and prepare a pocket dimension on Earth. I'll be along shortly to make the necessary- alterations." Archerina bowed to her husband and teleported out. Gasket, alone, turned toward the Earth, pointing his sword at the huge blue jewel that hung in the sky. "Soon, Rangers, we will finish what we started. You and I, Tommy, have quite a score to settle."
* * *
Morning came peacefully to Angel Grove, as it usually does. Few of the citizens thought about the shooting stars and explosion of the night before, and those who did simply wrote it off as yet another side-effect of the Power Rangers' never-ending battle against evil. Little fazed Angel Groveites anymore. On the campus of the So-Cal Ballet Academy, Katarina was taking a walk with her closest friend, Christina Collins.
"I still don't know how you do it, Katya," Christina sighed, shaking her head. Her long auburn hair stirred slightly in the breeze. "You dance, you kickbox, you have a boyfriend, and you keep up with your school work! Where do you find the time?"
Katarina laughed, her violet eyes twinkling. "Well, for one thing, I don't practice obsessively, like you do. You, Chris, spend more time in the practice room than any three students I know. Besides, Rocky does help me study. Some of our study dates really are just that. Kickboxing doesn't take up much more time than dancing. I admit I'm on the go a lot, but since I'm usually with my friends, it's really a lot of fun. You should come along with us sometime. You'd probably enjoy yourself."
"Right. Hang out with a bunch of people I don't know, and run myself ragged trying to keep everything straight. No thanks, Katya."
"If you'd cut down on the practicing a little, you'd still be the best in the school, and you'd have more time for yourself. You don't have to kickbox like I do, so that's some free time right there."
Christina's blue eyes sparkled as she prepared to answer her friend, but an odd expression suddenly crossed her face. "That's odd. Do you hear something- humming?"
"Over there, off to the right," Christina pointed. Katarina looked, and saw what appeared to be a small depression scraped into the grass. The two girls ran over to it and found two white crystals nestled in the hole.
"The Zeo Crystals," Katarina breathed, remembering what Zordon had said the night before. "This must have been what streaked across the sky last night," she said aloud.
Christina frowned. "That's impossible. If those things had come through our upper atmosphere without burning up, they should have dug a huge crater and slagged the bottom smooth. Where did all their inertia go?"
"Remind me to introduce you to my friend Billy. I think you two would get along. You sound just like him," Katarina chuckled. Then she gasped. The humming that only Christina had heard before grew louder, now audible to both girls. In addition, the crystals began to glow, one a brilliant silver, the other a blinding white.
"What's happening?" Christina cried, near panic.
"Don't be afraid! It's all right!" Katarina replied, wishing she could tell her friend exactly what was occurring. But promises were promises, and she was constrained by the same oaths which bound the Power Rangers.
Suddenly an irresistible force seemed to take over both girls, compelling them to reach out to the crystals. Katarina grasped the silver one, just as Christina's hand touched the white one. There was a blinding flash of light, and both girls were sent hurtling into unconsciousness.
* * *
"Oh, what hit me?" Christina asked, sitting up.
"A Mack truck?" replied Katarina, doing the same. "That was interesting." She stared down at the crystal in her hands. It pulsed with a warm, non-threatening silver light.
"What was that? A 'Do not touch' sign?" grumbled Christina, looking down at the white crystal she held in her hands.
"Excuse me, ladies," a metallic voice said behind them, "but I believe those crystals belong to King Mondo." Christina and Katarina whirled to see Klank standing behind them, backed up by an army of Cogs.
"You must be Klank," Katarina sneered. "I've heard about you. If you think we're going to give these crystals to you, you are out of your metallic mind." She settled into a fighting stance. Gingerly, Christina did the same. She had no formal martial arts training, but her years of ballet had given her a phenomenal agility, and hanging out with Katarina had taught her a few things about handling herself in a fight. Right now, she just wished she knew what was going on.
"If you insist," Klank sighed. "Cogs, attack!" The Cogs rushed the girls, but before the fight could begin, the crystals flared with a silver-white light, blinding all the participants. When the light faded, Christina and Katarina were clad in white and silver Zeo Ranger uniforms, respectively. White Ranger's helmet bore the symbol of the hexagon, while the shape on Silver Ranger's helmet had seven sides.
"Well, this evens things up a bit, doesn't it?" Silver Ranger chuckled. "Shall we dance?"
The Cogs looked at each other in confusion. Any debate was solved by the other seven Zeo Rangers teleporting in. Klank, realizing that he had lost the crystals and had no chance against nine Zeo Rangers, disappeared as quickly as he had come. Red Ranger turned to the two new members of the team.
"Are you two all right?" he asked worriedly.
"I'm fine, Tommy, but I believe Chris here is a little shaken up and a lot confused," a familiar voice replied from under Silver Ranger's helmet. "Come on, let's go back to the Power Chamber and I'll explain things to everybody." In nine flashes of color, the Rangers teleported out.
* * *
Once inside the Power Chamber, the Rangers removed their helmets. Billy, watching the scene with interest, almost fainted when the White Ranger took hers off. He had seen Katarina's friend in the viewing globe, but he hadn't noticed that she was beautiful. Her long, narrow face, her dancer's physique, and her height made her appear to him the most beautiful woman on earth. Billy swallowed and quickly tried to regain some professional decorum before anyone saw him.
"Where are we, Katya? And how do you know the Power Rangers?" Christina asked, after examining the Power Chamber with wide eyes.
"Welcome to the Power Chamber," Katarina smiled. "The Blue Ranger, here, is my boyfriend, Rocky De Santos. Red is Tommy Oliver, Green is Adam Park, Yellow is Tanya Sloan, Pink is Kat Hilliard, Gold is Trey, and Purple is Jamie Zedden. Over there are Billy Cranston, Trini Kwan, Zack Taylor, Kimberly Hart, and Jason Scott. They were Power Rangers, but they left for other things."
"Pleased to meet you all," Christina managed.
"Soon after I met Rocky, King Mondo decided to destroy him. He played on Rocky's guilt over the death of his first girlfriend, Jennifer Clarke, by sending an android who looked just like her to gain his trust and destroy him."
"It would have worked, too," Rocky interjected, "except that I didn't fall head over heels for his android. I was already beginning to fall for Katya, who was doing her best to bring me out of my shell. I was only half in love with his 'droid, and he decided things were taking too long. So he had his Cogs kidnap Katya and pretend to kidnap Lisa, so that I'd come to rescue them. I did, and that's when they sprang the trap. They had Lisa attack me, betting that I couldn't fight her. I wouldn't have, either, if Katya hadn't yelled for me. Lisa'd called me by name, so Katya knew who I was. She sounded so scared, that I couldn't let her be hurt. I defeated Lisa, brought Katya here, made her promise not to tell about the Rangers, and we've been together ever since."
"That's some story," Christina managed.
"Yes, it is," Katarina nodded. "By the way, Christina, could you turn around? There's someone we want you to meet." Christina did as she was told, and caught her first sight of the warp tube- and Zordon.
"Welcome, Christina Collins. I am Zordon, mentor to the Power Rangers. I am sure that you are curious as to what has occurred, so please listen to the story I am about to tell you. It is time all of you learned the history of the Zeo Crystal.
"The Morphin Grid is the source of a power that humans call magic, and it underlies all of the universe. It can be tapped by magicians, those with the talent, and is part of the being of almost every race in creation. Those selected to bear, protect, and represent the Power are known as Rangers, sworn to uphold justice and protect the innocent throughout the universe. The Power is a part of all things, save one. Cold iron repels and disrupts the Power, which is why, in Earth legends, cold iron is a barrier to magic.
"All places feel the pull of the Power. Iron is one of the rarest materials in the universe. In a very, very few places, iron is found in large quantities. Those planets grow without magic, forming societies based completely on science and technology. Earth is one of those planets. The people grew to be almost totally divorced from the Power, although not completely. The Power is far too pervasive to be completely removed from a living, organic being. However, humans are remarkably resistant to magic.
"When I chose my Morphin Rangers from among you, I had much trouble finding appropriate candidates. I needed teenagers, because their lives would not be completely disrupted by the power. I needed friends, those who could work well as a team. I needed them close, so that they could come to the command center on their own, should teleportation fail. I needed people of upright character, who would not be corrupted by the power they would hold. Most of all, I needed five humans whose bodies would accept and channel the energy I gave them. I was exceedingly lucky in finding the five of you, who matched all my requirements perfectly.
"When Rita chose her Green Ranger, she needed someone not only magically open enough to wield the Green power, but someone who would not simply shrug off her spell. She chose you, Tommy, for you are not only open to magic, you carry a small portion of magical ability within you. Not enough to make you a mage, but enough to draw whatever danger was in the area down on your head."
Tommy chuckled. "Danger-prone, yeah, I know."
"Rocky, Adam, and Aisha were another lucky find. They had proven their courage in the Cave of Despair, their honesty in keeping your secret, and they happened to be very open to magic, especially you, Adam." Adam blushed. "Katherine, I knew already that you would make a good Ranger because Rita's choice of you as her pawn meant that you were open to the power, and you also had the strength of will to break your own spell. As Tommy can attest, that is very difficult.
"The Morphin Power is magic. I augmented your arsenal with technological weapons, because they would be easier for you to use, but the heart of your powers was still magical. The Zeo Crystal is not. Instead, it is rooted in the intersection of magic and technology, a place where science and magic combine in ways I could not even begin to describe. It contains some magic, but the power therein follows all the rules of science."
"Why? Why would someone make the Zeo Crystal if there were Morphin Rangers all over the place," Adam asked.
"To answer that question, I must travel back many, many millennia, to the time when Lord Zedd had just begun his career of evil. An evil genius, whose name is lost to antiquity, built two robots, which he named Mondo and Machina. They were as twisted as he was, and almost as intelligent. He programmed them to help him rule the cosmos, but somehow they escaped his control and destroyed him. They began building their huge army, intending to replace all organic beings in existence with their Machine Empire. They were constructed almost completely of cold iron and steel, rendering the Rangers helpless against them.
"Wizards and scientists in the M-51 galaxy, before it fell to Master Vile, created a crystal, the Zeo Crystal. Although it was powered by magic, it behaved like science, allowing the wielders of its power to fight the machines. Many, many teams of Zeo Rangers fought the menace of the Machine Empire. Some fell in battle, some simply became too old for the fight and passed the power on. Finally, the Machine Empire retreated and was never heard from again. The crystal was broken up, being deemed to powerful for anyone to possess. The five main colors were kept together, in case the Machine Empire ever rose again, and was given into the care of the Zeo Guardian, a hereditary post which protected the crystal for eons. It was eventually placed on the Moon by Melita, the last Zeo Guardian, who then died of a broken heart. She had no children." The pain in Zordon's voice was so evident that none of the Rangers wanted to ask him about it.
"The Gold crystal was forged into a staff and presented to the Lord of Triforia, to be passed down through his family line. The Purple crystal was given to the Zarakin Wizard Ralthor, who forged it into the handle of a sword. The Silver and White crystals were set adrift in the universe, hidden from all who would seek them. However, the pieces of the Zeo Crystal exert a magnetic effect on each other. As we reassembled the crystal, the pull became stronger and stronger, until the Silver and White crystals were pulled to Earth, and here they are.
"Your Morphin powers assigned you a color based on your personality. The Zeo Crystal is similar, each color representing a different personality type.
"Tommy, as Red, you are a courageous leader, albeit one with a slight temper.
"Trey and Jason, as Gold, you are second-in-commands, skilled both at giving orders and taking them, with less hot-headedness than the Red.
"Adam, as Green, you are the scout of the team, their eyes and ears. You notice things that no one else does.
"Rocky, as Blue, you are the spirit of the team. You keep everyone laughing and ready to fight. Without you, the team might lapse into depression.
"Tanya, Yellow Rangers were often bards or artists. They were always the peacemakers of the team, keeping everyone working together.
"Kat, as Pink, you are the nurturing heart of the team. You are always there for someone who needs your help.
"Jamie, as Purple, you are the most unconventional of the colors. You are always ready to look at things a new way, which is often needed.
"Katarina, you are Silver, the other side of Gold. While Gold reasons through problems, Silver has the intuition to make leaps around them. The two are most efficient when they put their heads together. Very often, the Silver and Gold Rangers were lovers." Everyone laughed as Rocky put a possessive arm around Katarina's shoulders and glared fiercely at Trey.
"Christina, you now have the power of White, the color of the Healer. White Rangers healed the wounds of the other Rangers, both physical and spiritual."
Christina frowned. "Zordon, I only have a little first aid training."
"I was not referring to conventional means. I was referring to your powers of mind."
Christina gasped and went pale. "I never told anyone. How did you-"
"I also have such powers, Christina. The White Zeo and White Morphin Powers are not so different in personality. I was a White Morphin Master, before I was trapped in this time warp, and my abilities allow me to recognize another person who possesses them."
"I can hear people's thoughts," she admitted. "Only when I try to, and I don't try unless I have to, it's just that sometimes I get careless and respond to things people are thinking, not saying. People don't like that."
"I blow up toasters when I get mad," Jamie grinned. "People don't like that either. Don't worry about it. We'll be your friends, no matter what."
"So, you two on the team?" Tommy broke in.
"Yes," Christina smiled.
"You have to ask?" returned Katarina.
"White and Silver Rangers, please concentrate on your crystals," Zordon requested. The two girls did so, and the crystals suddenly appeared in their hands, causing the girls to demorph. "Now, please place them in the holder." Katarina and Christina exchanged glances, then did as Zordon asked. The minute the Zeo Crystal was whole, a huge flash of light filled the room and subsided.
"At last, the Zeo Crystals are together," Zordon sighed. "It has been far too long."
"Welcome to the team," Billy told Christina shyly. "I hope you enjoy being here."
"I do too."
Watching the others, Jason suddenly frowned. Zordon had told him once that the crystal had ten powers. If all the shards had been found, what was the tenth? He looked up at Zordon, who shook his head. Jason sighed. He'd find out later, in private.
* * *
Maguire's Leap was the last outpost of vegetation along the old Angel Grove highway. Beyond the bluff, the yellow grass and sagebrush gave way to the true desert that California is really composed of. Even in February, it was warm out here, temperatures in the mid-60's. Sitting under a stunted and rather lonely tree, Lillian O'Neil looked out over the desert, wondering if that band of gray on the horizon was a cloud or a band of Los Angeles smog. A cloud, she decided. They were really too far north to get smog from LA. Shifting position, she sighed. California appealed to her, just like it appealed to the rest of the family. It wasn't that she didn't want to travel, it was just that she didn't want to live anywhere else. That's why she was heading to Crossworld University for college. The town was close enough to home that she could visit, but far enough away that she'd be getting a real "going away experience." Besides, Crossworld U had a great chemistry program, the city had lots of martial arts studios, and for excitement, there was always the VR Troopers.
She grinned to herself. Her friends thought she was crazy, trading in one set of monster-fighting superheroes for another, but she liked danger. She didn't go looking for trouble, but when trouble came, she rather enjoyed handling it. Living in Crossworld promised just the kind of excitement she was looking for.
Suddenly, a bright flash of light caught her eye. Lying in the grass next to her was a strange pendant. A spire of black crystal hung on a black cotton cord, it was not very flashy, and seemed rather inexpensive. Unsure exactly why she was doing so, Lillian picked up the necklace and knotted it around her own neck. It felt right there, as if it had been made for her. That was ridiculous, of course. Sighing, she turned back to her new favorite pastime, daydreaming about Tommy Oliver.
Although she had not wanted to admit it to Randi, he had made an impression on her. He was tall, handsome, and very nice. She'd liked him since the moment she met him, four years. Still, it was silly to fantasize about the two of them. There were only four months left in the school year, plus three months for the summer, and then it was off to college for all of them.
Well, perhaps not all of them. Jason Scott certainly wouldn't be headed to college. She sighed. She had never really known Jason that well, but the few times they'd met, she had liked him well enough. It was hard to believe that he was really dying, but he was. She'd seen him deteriorate over the past four months, even if he had gotten a little better recently. Although he was cheerful, Lillian sometimes thought that she could see a clock ticking over his head. Even so, he hadn't let it stop him from finding someone. It was obvious to most of the school that he and Jamie Zedden were an item. Lillian sighed again. Seven months wasn't so short a time, she decided. People made do with less. Maybe she and Tommy could develop a friendship in that time. A girl could never have enough friends.
Without warning, a flash of pain and nausea ripped through her. They need me, she thought, unsure where the thought was coming from. Staggering to her feet, she managed to straighten up enough to yell, "Zeo Shadow Power!" Ribbons of darkness whirled out of nowhere, flocking to her and encasing her in almost a cocoon of shadow. The cocoon blew apart, and standing where Lillian had been was a Black Zeo Ranger, her helmet a featureless black. Looking at it, you couldn't tell where the helmet ended and the eyeplate began.
"The Youth Center. I have to get down there." She thought about teleporting, but decided against it. Teleporting blind into that situation might be disastrous. She ran for where she had left her motorcycle. No sooner had she climbed onto it than it changed, developing some sort of black armor around the handlebars. "Very cool," she chuckled to herself. No doubt it had weapons on it, too. "Let's roll." Kick-starting the bike, she roared off towards the Youth Center.
* * *
"Tommy, we are getting our butts handed to us out here!" Purple Ranger cried, as yet another of Mondo's Cogs sent her sprawling. A blow from her sword dismantled it.
"No kidding! We can't give up, though. Weapons, everybody! Zeo V Power Sword!" Red Ranger called.
"Zeo IV Power Hatchet!"
"Zeo III Arm Blades!"
"Zeo II Nuchaku!"
"Zeo I Power Shield!"
"Golden Power Staff!"
"Zeo VII Energy Whip!"
"Zeo VI Zeo Saba!"
The weapons appeared in each Ranger's hand, and in White Ranger's grasp appeared a slightly more armored version of Saba, the White Morphin Ranger's trusted companion. Originally, the White Ranger had carried no weapon, using only his or her mental abilities to do battle. Since Christina barely had more than rudimentary control over her powers, though, Zordon decided to give her Saba as a combination weapon and advisor. So far, they had gotten along splendidly.
"All right, people!" Red Ranger called. "Let's kick some butt!"
The Rangers launched themselves at their enemies, but found themselves extremely outnumbered. "Any more bright ideas?" Green Ranger asked.
"Yeah. Divide and conquer. Split up into teams of two and take 'em!"
"But Tommy, there's nine of us!" Blue Ranger yelled.
"I'll take on some by myself. Get going!" The other Rangers scattered, doing as ordered. Red Ranger, fighting by himself, soon realized that he was gravely outnumbered. Still, he fought on, hoping to buy his friends the time they needed to defeat the Cogs and Mondo's newest monster, a T-1000 lookalike called the Morphinator. It was able to assume any shape it wanted, making it a real pain in the butt to fight in groups. You couldn't tell who you were fighting. Worst of all, there seemed to be no way of making it unable to change, as there had been with Zedd's Primator. The battle had not been going well for the Rangers.
Just as a Cog was about to knock Red Ranger to the ground, a loud cry split the air. "Shadow Ribbons- Strike!" Black ribbons of energy lanced through the air, wrapping around a Cog and short-circuiting it. With a flip, Black Ranger leaped off her bike and landed by Red Ranger's side. "Need a hand?" she asked, offering him one.
"Thanks," he replied, taking it and getting to his feet. "Want to give me a hand with clean-up?"
"I'd love to. Shadow Staff!" A long black bo staff appeared in her hand and she twirled it experimentally. "Three-section," she ordered, and amazingly, the staff morphed into three two-foot sections of staff joined by foot-long stretches of chain. Red Ranger's jaw dropped.
The two Rangers threw themselves into the fight, and Black Ranger's three-section staff made quick work of the Cogs. Once the smaller robots were out of the way, the Rangers regrouped. All ten of them turned to face the Morphinator.
"Hmm," Purple Ranger mused. "Do the Terminator 2 people know you stole their gimmick?"
Forming its arms into blades, the robot attacked, slicing effortlessly through the material of the Ranger's suits. It scored several hits on each Ranger, but was obviously targeting Red Ranger.
"Tommy!" Pink Ranger cried, as the leader of the Rangers slumped to the ground, bleeding freely from at least a dozen places.
"Tommy?" Black Ranger echoed. "That does it! Mess with my friends and you're going to get it! Shadow Lance - Freeze!" A bolt of black lightning shot from her hands, piercing the Morphinator's chest and freezing it solid. A hefty kick shattered it into a billion pieces.
"Zordon, this is Green Ranger. Can you teleport all the little pieces of the Morphinator into space before he pulls himself together or something?" Instantly, the shards of freeze-dried robot disappeared. The Rangers then turned to where their leader lay fallen. Black Ranger was kneeling by his side, and White Ranger was examining him dispassionately. Despite the accelerated healing abilities that the Rangers possessed, Red Ranger had lost a great deal of blood before his wounds began to clot. In fact, he was lying in a large pool of the stuff.
"Can you help him?" Black Ranger asked.
"I think so," White Ranger replied, "but I'm going to have to morph him back into civvies before I can heal him."
"We can't do that here," Gold Ranger said practically. "Let's get him back to the Power Chamber." He turned to Black Ranger. "Are you coming?"
"If you'll let me," she replied shyly.
Yellow Ranger chuckled. "Honey, we need all the Rangers we can get." Green and Blue Rangers raised Red Ranger off the ground, gently, so as not to re-open his wounds. The whole group then teleported back to the Power Chamber.
"Ai yi yi!" Alpha cried, seeing the Rangers teleport in. "What happened to Tommy?"
"Mondo's latest goon happened," Gold Ranger replied violently, ripping his helmet off and slamming it down on a console. "Zordon, what is going on here? This is two Rangers in as many monsters to be cut badly. Remember ChopShop? He really did a number on Rocky. Ranger suits are made of UMF, unstable molecular fabric. It's supposed to be completely unrippable, yet two of Mondo's robots have been able to cut through it like it was butter. What happened?"
Zordon sighed. "UMF can only be cut with a monomolecular edge. Mondo had discovered how to equip his monsters with this. Unfortunately, I know of no way to reinforce your suits. I am afraid that you will just have to be even more careful when in battle."
During Zordon's lecture, White Ranger had removed her helmet, and then morphed Red Ranger back into Tommy. Shaking her head, she began to remove his clothes. "Can you help me with this?" she asked Black Ranger. "We can leave his underwear on, but I need to get the rest of it off if I'm going to be able to heal him."
Black Ranger did as Christina asked, grateful that her faceplate was so dark that no one could see her blushing. As they removed Tommy's jeans, Black Ranger started to giggle. She couldn't help it. Of all the types of underwear she had pictured Tommy wearing, boxer shorts with little hearts on them had not topped the list.
Christina's mouth quirked. "Well, now. This is clichˇ." The male Rangers, noticing what had caught the girls' attention, began to snicker. Christina ignored them, placing her hands over each cut in turn. As she did so, a glow appeared and the cut vanished. Finally it was done.
"He'll be out for an hour or so," Christina sighed. "I couldn't replace the lost blood; he'll have to do that on his own. Luckily, accelerated healing should take care of that. Let him sleep 'til he wakes up. I have to go. Billy's helping me with my science homework." Morphing back into herself, she teleported out.
"So are you going to take off your helmet?" Rocky asked. "We've trusted you with our identities, you can trust us with yours."
Sighing, Black Ranger removed her helmet, setting it down on a nearby console. "Hey," Adam frowned. "Aren't you that girl Tommy was dancing with at the Valentine's Ball?"
She nodded. "Lillian O'Neil. I was sitting up by Maguire's Leap this morning when I found a black crystal pendant on the ground. I put it on, and suddenly I knew you needed me. I morphed into the Black Zeo Ranger and came to help you."
"Welcome to the team," Trey told her. "Zordon, I thought all the Zeo Crystals had been found. Where did Lillian's power come from?"
"It is a long story, and I would prefer to only tell it once. When Tommy awakens, summon the rest of the Rangers here, and I will explain."
* * *
Tommy woke up with a headache that practically screamed for Excedrin. Two or three bottles worth. "Either that, or I could just shoot myself," he grumbled, sitting up.
"Feeling better?" a voice behind him asked. He turned to see Lillian sitting on the floor, leaning against a console.
"Lillian? What are you doing here?" he asked, looking around. Then he looked down at himself and blushed a deep scarlet. "And where are my clothes?"
"I'm the Black Zeo Ranger, the one who saved your butt out there today, remember?" She grinned and gestured to the table beside her. "Your clothes are right here. Alpha cleaned the blood off of them, so they should be okay. Hope you like the grunge look."
Sighing, Tommy picked up his jeans, examining the huge slashes in them. Normally, a damaged Ranger suit regenerated itself after a while, so when it morphed back into clothes, they were intact. Unfortunately, this time his suit hadn't had time to fix itself, and his clothes had paid the price. Blushing again, he silently gave thanks that his underwear was intact as he climbed back into his jeans. Unfortunately, his shirt had been slashed two or three times across the chest, rendering it unwearable. Shrugging, he left it on the table. Then he turned and asked Lillian the question that had been bothering him since he woke up.
"Where is everybody?"
"Well, after introductions were made, Trey went off to tell your sister why you were going to be a little late coming home, and everyone else ran off to do their own errands. We're supposed to call when you wake up."
She moved to flick the transmitter on the console, but he stopped her. "Before you call everybody, I was wondering. Would you like to go to dinner and a movie with me tomorrow night? I've been trying to get up the guts to call you for almost a week, ever since the dance."
She flashed him a dazzling smile. "I'd love to. Meet you at the theater at eight?"
He grinned. "Actually, I was hoping you could pick me up. My car's in the shop, and I live too far from the theater to walk."
She chuckled. "Sure, I can pick you up- if you don't mind riding a motorcycle. Where do you live?" He gave her his address, and she promised to pick him up at seven-thirty. Then she moved to the transmitter and called the others.
All the Rangers, including the five ex-Rangers, teleported in, responding to the call. When they had all assembled, Zordon began to speak. "I have told you of the nine main powers of the Zeo Crystal, split into the nine sub-crystals that give you your powers. However, there is a tenth power, a power that arises from the whole Crystal. It is the power of the Zeo Shadow, the Black Zeo Ranger, and is the shadow power contained in the crystal."
"But, Zordon," Tommy asked, coming forward, "if it's the Shadow, why didn't I get that one, instead of the Red power? I mean, I thought my personality was Shadow."
"It is. However, 'Shadow' has different meanings in Morphin and Zeo terminology. The Morphin powers, being of magic, are polarized to dark and light, good and evil. The Shadow is the darkness cast by the light, and walks the line between good and evil. The Zeo Powers, despite the magic that powers them, are scientific in nature. Like all science, they have no good or evil allegiance. They simply are. 'Shadow,' in this case, refers to the method. Black Zeo Rangers are shadows, capable of moving unseen, striking and fading away, without a trace."
"Like ninja," Adam mused.
"Exactly. Black Rangers are usually cool and reserved, loners with few ties, much like the Green Rangers of the Morphin hierarchy."
Tommy turned to Lillian with a grin. "Looks like we have a lot in common. I hope you're more resistant to spells, though." She smiled at him. Everyone else in the Power Chamber could see that the two were becoming closer. Kimberly sighed. Now if only she could find someone to be with.
* * *
After everyone had left, Christina stayed behind. "Zordon, I've been thinking about my healing abilities. You were hoping to use them to help Jason, right?"
"That was originally my intention," the sage admitted, "but now I am afraid it is impossible."
"Why?" Christina asked, puzzled.
"I have calculated the required amount of power needed to heal the immense damage done to Jason's body by the malfunctioning Gold powers, and it is far more than you could possibly supply. Even if you could somehow manage to get it, you would never be able to channel it. The power rush would destroy you." At the sight of her downcast face, Zordon continued. "Do not give up hope. I am still searching for a solution."
"I just hope there is one," Christina replied.
* * *
The next evening, Tommy was nervously waiting for Lillian to come pick him up. His parents had been ecstatic to learn that he had a date, since he had been distant and withdrawn since Jason's illness began. Teddy had been ecstatic as well, but for a different reason. Tommy had told Chelsea and Teddy about the recent events that the Ranger team had been through, and Teddy thought the Black Ranger was cool. Besides, now that Tommy had a girlfriend, the heavy-duty teasing could begin.
When the doorbell rang, Tommy nearly knocked both his parents over running to answer it. Outside, Lillian stood, dressed in black jeans, a blue silk shirt, and a black leather jacket. In her hands, she held a black motorcycle helmet that bore an interesting resemblance to the one she wore as Black Ranger. Tommy raised an eyebrow, and she chuckled. "I've had it for about a year and a half, ever since I turned sixteen and bought myself a motorcycle. Come on, I'm parked right by the curb."
Tommy waved goodbye to his parents and followed her out the door, grabbing his own leather jacket as he did so. When she reached the motorcycle, she lifted the seat up and pulled another helmet out of the compartment beneath. This one was red, a crimson color which showed up well even in the moonlight. Lillian handed it to him and mounted the bike. Tommy pulled the helmet on and settled in behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist.
"You like this arrangement?" she asked, sounding amused.
"Oh, yeah," he grinned. "I should ride motorcycles more often," he responded, squeezing gently. This time, when she chuckled, he could feel her stomach muscles rippling.
"I'll hold you to that," she replied. "Hold on!" She started the bike and roared off into the night.
* * *
After the movie, they went to dinner at Mario's, the best Italian restaurant in Angel Grove. Tommy watched, slightly amazed, as Lillian consumed an order of cannelloni that would have made Rocky pause, and finished it off with a large helping of spumoni. "How do you eat that much?" Tommy asked, fascinated.
"I have a Black Belt in Tiger Kung Fu," she told him, swallowing. "I practice every day, and Tiger is a very energetic, powerful style. It burns a lot of calories."
"Is that where you learned to use a three-section staff?"
She nodded. "Yeah, and it was the hardest thing I've ever learned. I must have whacked myself in the head three hundred times practicing with that thing. It hurt! I guess it was worth it, though. I bet those Cogs are still running."
Tommy chuckled. "I would be, too. Are you sorry about being a Ranger?"
Lillian sighed, fingering her necklace. "Not really. I'm a little scared, because it's a lot of responsibility, but I think I'm up to it. And I've met all of you, which I never would have done otherwise. Zordon's analysis of my personality was dead on. I really am a loner. Oh, sure, I have a few friends, but nobody really close until now. I've never- dated anyone before you, either."
Tommy's jaw dropped. "You mean, this isn't just our first date, it's your first date ever?"
She nodded, unable to meet his eyes.
She shrugged. "Well, no one ever asked me, and there wasn't anyone I liked well enough to ask. I guess I was scared of rejection. As a result, I kind of have the reputation of being a cold fish. I never really bothered me all that much. People ignored me, I ignored them back. I didn't really need anyone, or so I told myself."
"Weren't you lonely?" Tommy asked softly, remembering his days as the Green Ranger. Even when he hadn't been losing his powers, or under a spell, or bearing the brunt of Rita's latest little trick, there had been an indefinable barrier between him and the other Rangers. It might have been of his own making; it certainly wasn't of theirs. It was certainly there, though, a mental and physical separation, an attitude of "I don't need them, so if I lose them, it won't hurt so much." The only problem was the loneliness. He had been filled with it, utter and consuming. If it hadn't been for Kimberly and Jason,- Tommy shook his head, dispelling his dark thoughts. The important thing was that they had reached him, had broken through his wall, and brought him out. Those days were over now, and even though he had accepted them, he didn't have to dwell on them.
"Yes, I was lonely," Lillian admitted, drawing him back to the conversation. "I just didn't admit it, even to myself. I always told myself that I was happier on my own, where I didn't have to live up to other people's expectations. I said I was just a loner by nature. What I really was- was a coward. I was too afraid to take a risk, for fear of being hurt."
"You're not alone anymore, Lillian," he told her, looking into her eyes. "We're all here for you, especially me. I know what you're feeling. In a way, we're very alike. I'll always be here to listen."
She took his hand and held it for a moment. "Thank you, Tommy. That means a lot to me."
They stared at each other for a second before the silence became uncomfortable. "So why did you buy a motorcycle instead of a car?" he asked curiously.
"One, it was a good deal cheaper. Two, I like motorcycles. They're fast, they're responsive, they're really a lot more fun than cars. I'm an adrenaline junkie. Cars are boring."
"I'm sorry I asked," Tommy chuckled. The two teens then reapplied themselves to their desserts, their conversation turning to other things.
* * *
"Beautiful day for a walk, isn't it?" Jamie asked, looking up at the cloudless blue sky.
"Yes, it is," sighed Jason. "Unfortunately, I'm getting tired. What say we pack it in?"
"Sure thing." The two teens had turned in the direction of Jason's house when a fleet of silver Cogs teleported in, blocking their path.
"Just what we don't need right now," Jason grumped.
"Stay behind me," Jamie snapped, summoning her sword. "Come on, Cogs, let's rock."
The resulting fight was brutal. Jamie was like living lightning, carving through the Cogs as if they were nothing at all. Jason stood well back from the battlefield, urging her on. Suddenly, a metallic arm curled around his shoulders and something sharp and cold was pressed against his throat.
"Drop the sword, girl," Prince Gasket ordered. Jamie whirled to see Jason held hostage by the robot, a sword to his throat.
"Drop Jason," she returned sharply, "or I drop you."
Gasket laughed contemptuously. "You aren't carrying a gun, my dear. Despite your abilities with that weapon, there is no way that you could reach me in time to save your lover here."
Jamie raised an eyebrow, but decided not to debate the details of her love life with Gasket. "If you kill him, there won't be enough of you left to build a toaster, I can promise you that."
Gasket shrugged. "Perhaps I didn't make myself clear. I hate this little Power twerp. He's interfered with far too many of my plans. I would love to see him dead, and would gladly run the very real risk of losing a swordfight to you to carry it off. However, as much as I hate Jason here, I have another agenda. This one requires Jason alive, and you as well. Now, I'll be happy to go with either agenda. I'm very good at planning on the run. You, therefore, have the choice. Do I gut the ex-Ranger, or do you surrender to me and buy the both of you some time?"
Jamie sighed, then dropped the sword into the grass, where it was quickly recovered by some Cogs.
"Excellent!" Gasket chuckled. "Now, if you'll both accompany me, I have some matters to attend to which require your presence." Two Cogs grabbed Jamie's arms roughly, and the whole group disappeared.
* * *
They materialized in a cave that might have been somewhere in Angel Grove. Jason groaned. "Not another pocket dimension. I'm getting so sick of these things that I could just hurl."
Gasket laughed evilly. "Well, look on the bright side, human. You won't be staying that long." Jason and Jamie were shoved into a small, dead-end side passage. Bars of stone slid into place across the opening, sealing them in.
"Not to be clichˇ," Jamie sighed, "but what are you planning on doing to us?"
"I was most upset to hear about Jason's illness. A long and lingering death can be so unpleasant. So I thought to myself, "What would make things better?" In that corner of the cave is an electrical field generator. It creates a field that saps your life energy. I imagine that you, Jason, in your already weakened condition, have an hour at most before you lapse into unconsciousness, and two hours until you die. Your little girlfriend might stay awake almost three hours, but she'll surely die after four. It will be much quicker than your current situation, and just think. You won't even have to watch her die." Laughing maniacally, Gasket teleported out, leaving the two teens to their fate.
Letting out a long, frustrated breath, Jason sank down against the far wall. Almost reluctantly, Jamie joined him. "We'll get out of this, you know," she told him. "The others will save us."
He nodded. "I know. I'm just tired."
She wrapped her arms around his neck and smiled at him. "It'll be all right, Jason. We'll be okay."
* * *
In the Power Chamber, chaos didn't just reign, it poured. An old joke, perhaps, but it was exactly what had popped into Rocky De Santos' mind as he watched his friends attempt to locate Jason and Jamie. Zordon had called and alerted the Rangers to Gasket's attack, but by the time the Rangers had arrived, no one was there. Now, Trini, Billy, Adam, and Alpha were trying to find their missing friends, but to no avail. A psychic scan by Christina had turned up nothing either.
"Ai yi yi, Zordon!" Alpha cried. "I can't get a fix on them. Gasket seems to have blocked off every avenue of tracking!"
"Power Chamber, please respond. I know you're not going to want to talk to me, but this is urgent! Power Chamber, please respond." A strange voice floated through the room, coming from the speakers near the viewing globe. As one, the Rangers turned toward the globe and saw the image of a man, in his mid-forties, with sandy brown hair and hazel eyes.
"Zedd, what do you want?" Zordon asked, startling all the Rangers. They had known that Zedd had a human form, but the knowledge hadn't really sunk in. It was hard for them to equate this rather handsome man with the image of Zedd that they were used to.
"Damn it, Zordon, my daughter is missing! All I want is to get her back! I can't do it alone, and I don't think you can, either. If we pool our resources, though, maybe we can find her. I'm asking for a truce, please. For Jamie's sake."
Something in the man's eyes touched Tommy's spirit. Despite all the hatred he had built up for Zedd over the past few years, Tommy believed him. With all his evil, Zedd obviously cared about his daughter very much. He wouldn't try a double-cross until Jamie was safe. "I say do it," Tommy replied, his voice hard as steel.
"I agree, Tommy. Zedd, stand by for teleportation into the Power Chamber."
A flash of red light, and Lord Zedd in his human form stood before them. "I know we are enemies, Rangers," he said, "but my daughter's life is at stake. I will not put her in jeopardy, no matter what."
Tommy nodded. "Understood. What do you think you can do that we can't?"
Zedd sighed. "First, I can lower your search field somewhat. Gasket has them somewhere in a pocket dimension on Earth."
"How do you know this?" Lillian asked curiously.
"First, they can't be on the moon, or I would know, and more importantly, Mondo would know. You can't hide a Ranger's power from someone like Mondo, and Gasket would be a fool to give away the location of his base. They can't be any farther away, because a long-distance transport would take far too much power. Gasket doesn't have much to spare. That leaves Earth, and the only places on Earth that Gasket can shield are pocket dimensions."
"Anything else?" Billy inquired.
"Yes. I know pocket dimensions, and I could help you search for them. I also have this." Out of a sub-space pocket, he pulled out a sword which bore a great resemblance to Jamie's. "This is the Sword of Fire. In addition to controlling the element of fire and many spells related therein, it has the power to find things that are lost, including people."
"So why couldn't you just use it yourself?" Trini asked suspiciously.
"I'm not a psychic. I don't have the power or the range to penetrate those pocket dimensions mentally."
"But I do," Christina remarked, light dawning in her face.
"No!" Billy exploded. "Truce or not, you can't risk it! We only have his word on what that sword does!"
"Billy, I have to try. If I don't, I'll never know if I could find them or not."
Billy subsided, but not happily.
Inhaling deeply, Christina took the sword's hilt in both her hands. Closing her eyes, she sent her mind ranging out over the dimensions. The magic of the sword seemed to guide her, and very soon, she found what she sought.
"I found them!" she cried, her eyes flying open. "Gasket has them in a pocket dimension whose entrance is in a cave in the Angel Grove hills. Unfortunately, he's put up an anti-teleportation barrier and forceshield around the area. We can't get to them." The Rangers deflated. "There's worse news," she continued. "He's draining their life forces. They both have three hours to live, I'm afraid."
"Both?" Adam frowned. "But Jason has so little life force left. How come they have the same amount of time?"
Christina looked grim. "Jamie is shielding Jason. She's using her own life energy to protect his. As a result, she's being drained faster than he is. She may actually have less time. It's hard for me to tell." At Christina's revelation, Zedd's face went chalky white, and Tommy knew that he hadn't made a mistake in his judgment of the older man.
"If only we could get to them," Tanya sighed.
"I'm working as fast as I can," grumbled Billy, bent over the console once more. Anxiously, the Rangers crossed their fingers and watched their genius friend, each hoping he could pull off a miracle, as he'd done so many times before.
* * *
Jason came awake slowly at first, unwilling to leave his dream of taking Jamie to Prom. Reality was stubborn about inserting itself, however, and he soon became conscious of the hard stone lying beneath him and Jamie lying beside him. With great effort, he turned to her, and was alarmed at what he saw. Jamie's skin, always redhead-fair, was now dead white, and her breathing was shallow. He had to get her out of there before it was too late for both of them. But how? He was too weak to lift a finger, much less break stone bars. If he had his Ranger powers, things might be different, but they were gone.
Suddenly, Jason had an idea. His Morphin powers weren't gone, not completely. Using them, however, would mean breaking the promise he had made to Zordon when his condition had first become known. The Morphin Warrior transformation would speed up the energy drain by a factor of five, due to the larger amount of energy coursing through his system. He might feel good, but he would be dying five times faster than before. Also, the shock of returning to normal would knock him unconscious and might well kill him. Zordon had made Jason promise not to use the powers.
Jason looked down at the girl beside him. Jamie's life is more important than any promise. Zordon will understand. It was the only way.
Focusing his energies, Jason reached down into himself the way Tommy had described, looking for the core of power which still resided within him. Feeling it flood him, he cried out. "Tyrannosaurus!" Scarlet light flashed, and when it cleared, Jason was standing up, feeling completely normal. His Morphin Warrior costume consisted of armor, made of some sort of super-light red alloy, over a darker red tunic and pants. In his hands was an unsheathed broadsword, almost as long as his leg. Set into the center of the chest of his armor was a gold coin with the symbol of the Tyrannosaurus on it. Not much time, he thought to himself. Let's go. Aiming his sword at the bars of his cage, he concentrated, letting the power build within him until he couldn't hold any more and released it. A large fireball erupted from his sword and blew the door to smithereens. Sheathing his sword, he turned back to Jamie and gently picked her up in his arms. Then he dashed down the corridor.
About halfway along, he ran into a troop of Cogs. One just happened to be carrying Jamie's sword. Placing Jamie behind a rock for safekeeping, Jason drew his own blade and attacked. The Cogs were quickly disposed of, and Jason moved on, this time with Jamie and her sword.
He made it out of the cave without further incident, but realized that he wasn't going to be able to go much further. His vision was beginning to blur and his knees were weakening. In his arms, Jamie started to stir, and he put her down.
"Jason?" she asked groggily, coming to full awareness slowly. "Oh, Jason. Oh, no. You didn't use-"
"My Morphin Warrior powers? Jamie, I had to. At least this way, one of us will survive." Jason's face was pale, but he managed to smile at her. "I love you, you know that, right?"
Jamie nodded, not trusting her voice. Instead, she drew him into her arms and kissed him passionately. With another sad smile, Jason morphed back into his normal self and collapsed to the ground. "JASON!" Jamie cried, hunting frantically for a pulse. After a few anxious moments, she found it; thready and irregular, but there.
"Isn't this a touching scene?" Jamie looked up to see Gasket sneering down at her. Slowly, she rose, her sword clenched in one hand.
"Okay, Gasket, I told you earlier. Mess with Jason and you'll be scrap."
Gasket drew his sword. "My dear, I don't think you're quite recovered from the effects of my energy drain yet. I doubt you can keep up with me."
Jamie just set her grip. Gasket was right, of course. Her vision was blurry and her muscles were weak. She probably couldn't defeat him. However, she damn well wasn't going to let him know that. "C'mon, you rustbucket. Let's roll."
* * *
"They're out of the cave!" Billy cried. "Jason's collapsed, Jamie's fighting with Gasket, and that damn field's still up! I can't get us in."
"Maybe you can't get in," Zedd replied, taking his sword back from Christina, "but I can." He disappeared in a flash of red light.
* * *
With a lightning-quick maneuver, Gasket knocked the sword from Jamie's hand. A swift kick dropped her heavily to the ground. "Good-bye, Power Ranger," Gasket laughed, lifting his sword above his head. It streaked down towards her face, and Jamie closed her eyes, not wanting to see.
CLANG! The sound of metal striking on metal caused Jamie's eyes to fly open. Gasket's stroke had been blocked by another sword. Holding it was a tall man with sandy hair. He darted a look back over his shoulder to make sure Jamie was all right, and she gasped.
"Dad?" she whispered.
"Well, well, Zedd," Gasket remarked. "I didn't expect to see you here."
"Obviously. Otherwise you would have made your shield to keep me out, too." The air was filled with the sound of clashing swords as Zedd and Gasket sparred. "You mess with my family, Gasket, and you're going to regret it."
"Ha!" Gasket scoffed. "Do you really think you can beat me? I am Gasket, Prince of the Machine Empire, conqueror of numerous worlds throughout the galaxy. You are no match for my power!"
"Gasket, you talk too much," Zedd replied, hurling a fireball at him. Since he was metal, the fire did no more than give Gasket a few soot stains, but he decided that he had had enough, and teleported out. Concerned, Zedd turned back to his daughter.
"Jamie, are you all right?"
"I'm a little dizzy, but other than that, I'm fine," she lied. Actually, she was exhausted, but she wasn't going to let Zedd know that. "Jason- he's hurt. I don't know what to do." Her voice was close to tears.
Looking down at the fallen teen, Zedd opened his energy senses and couldn't help wincing. The boy's energy patterns were completely disrupted, whirling chaotically. In addition, they were so dim that he could barely "see" them. If something wasn't done soon, Jason would die within the hour.
Good, a voice in the back of his mind whispered. Jason is very important to those Rangers. If he's gone, they will be vulnerable, even if the team is still at full strength.
But Jamie- she'll be devastated, another voice replied. She loves him very much. Besides, you gave the Rangers your word.
Your word! You're a villain who conquered countless star systems. You don't keep you word!
Shut up. Zedd pushed the two voices to the back of his mind, still looking down at Jason. Strange how he had never noticed how young Jason was, how young they all were. He had often called Jason and Tommy "boy," but he'd always thought of them only as Rangers. Now all he saw was a seventeen-year-old boy lying at his feet. "Jamie, help me lift him," he ordered, coming to a decision. "We have to get him back to the Power Chamber. He doesn't have much time left."
Jamie did as she was told, wondering how on Earth Zedd was going to get into the Power Chamber. Her question was answered when she felt all three of them dissolve into their component molecules. When they reformed, the Rangers were staring at them. Gently, Zedd and Jamie laid Jason down on a convenient table.
"He's dying, quickly," Zedd informed them. "If you're going to do something, do it now."
Zordon looked saddened. "I am sorry, Rangers. There is nothing we can do."
The Rangers looked at Jason, lying still on the table. His breathing was so shallow now that it was almost non-existent, and he was pale as winter clouds.
"Wait, there is something!" Christina cried. "I can heal him. I have the powers."
"Unfortunately, you do not have enough energy to do it," Zordon reminded her.
Jamie frowned. "Energy? We have all the energy we could need! Ten portions of Zeo Power and four links to the Morphin Grid! I can absorb energy from everyone and feed it to Chris. She can use it to heal Jason."
"It is very dangerous, Rangers," Zordon informed them. "If Jamie or Christina loses control of the energy, they and all of you could be destroyed."
"That's a chance we're willing to take, Zordon," Tommy declared. "Jason's risked so much for all of us. We owe him this."
"Very well. Rangers, join hands."
Zedd was forgotten as eight Zeo Rangers and four Morphin Warriors joined hands. "Billy, Tommy, place your hands on Jamie's shoulders. Jamie, place your hands on Christina's shoulders." During tests, it was discovered that Jamie merely had to make contact with a person's energy aura to transfer energy. With humans, this meant that she could absorb through thin layers of fabric, but only if the person was concentrating on allowing her to absorb their energy.
"Let's go," Christina whispered. Closing their eyes, the Rangers opened themselves to the power inside them.
To Jamie, it was almost like riding a bucking bronco, not that she ever had. She had to stay on the flow to keep it running smoothly, and to that end, she hung on for dear life. The power rumbled and tumbled through the link like a living thing. Suddenly, Jamie became aware that she could sense the minds of the other Rangers. Somehow, linking the energy through Christina had linked their minds together. She could feel Rocky's energetic presence, Tommy's solid calm, the clear bright flame that was Billy, and all the others, there in the link.
More power, Christina called mentally. In response, the Rangers began to feed more energy into her, and Jamie began to lose control.
I'm slipping! I can't hold it! she sent frantically. Beneath her, the flow thrashed and twisted, trying to lose her. Somebody help me!
* * *
Zedd watched the link with awe, especially as the Rangers began to glow. Most of the Rangers, glowed in simply one color, the only power they had ever had. Adam and Rocky shone with two different lights, Rocky's red and blue, Adam green and black. Tommy's aura was almost blinding, predominantly green, with large streaks of red and tiny flashes of white playing over it's surface. As he watched, Jamie's purple aura flared up in panic. Dimly he could hear her crying "Somebody help me!" and realized that she must be losing control of the energy. Slipping under Tommy's arm, he placed his own hands on his daughter's shoulders, closer to the neck than where Billy and Tommy's hands rested. Closing his eyes, he surrendered himself to the link.
* * *
Jamie was about to lose herself in the thrashing energy when another pair of hands descended. Suddenly she heard her father's voice in her head. It's all right, Jamie. I've got you. We can control this. Let me help you.
Daddy? she asked, hardly able to believe it. I can't do this! I don't know how!
It's okay, Zedd soothed. Just follow me. With millennia more experience, Zedd was easily able to direct the flow of energy to Christina once more. Will this do, White Ranger?
If Christina was surprised to feel Zedd as part of the mental link, her mental voice didn't show it. Yes, that's perfect. I have his body healed, but his spirit has retreated far into him. If we don't bring him back, he'll be a vegetable and just waste away.
How do we bring him back? Tommy asked.
We have to call to him. He's linked with us, too. He can hear you if you call him mentally.
One by one, the Rangers each sent out a mental call to Jason.
Yo, Jase! Come back to us! You still owe me ten bucks! Zack sent, a wide grin on his mental face.
Come back to us, Jason, we need you, Trini added.
Kimberly was next. Jason, we're all here for you. Come home.
If you don't return, we'll miss you incredibly, Billy informed him. Come back.
Jason Lee Scott, if you die, I'm damn well coming with you! That was unmistakably Jamie.
Come home, Jason, Katarina sent.
Trey's mental touch was stronger than the others. You're the most courageous person I ever met, Jason. Don't give up now.
I never really got a chance to know you, Lillian told him. Come back here so we can correct that.
Man, you still owe me a sparring match! Rocky called. You wouldn't be chickening out on me, would you?
You've got more stories to tell me, pleaded Tanya. If you don't come home, how will I ever hear them?
Adam's mental voice was as quiet as his physical one, but just as strong. Come home, my friend. I'm waiting for you.
Jason, you promised to dance in my next ballet, Kat sent. You don't get off the hook that easy.
Don't give up, Christina sent. We all need you.
You've been so important to me, Tommy sighed. You were really the person who brought me back to the light every time I went astray. Without you, what will I do? Come back to me, Jason. Please.
Then, to everyone's shock, Zedd's voice joined the chorus, unexpectedly warm. Where's the famed "Scott stubbornness," Red Ranger? Didn't you tell Goldar once that you'd live a hundred years if that's what it took to get us off the planet? Surely you're not going to give me the satisfaction of attending your funeral?
Incredibly enough, that was the voice that received a response. Don't bet on it, Chrome Teeth, Jason's voice responded, weak and distant, but undeniably there. Relieved, Christina broke the link and turned back to the Rangers.
"He'll be all right," she told them. Despite her obvious exhaustion, she was positively glowing with happiness. Turning to Zedd, she smiled warmly at him. "Thank you."
"Jason saved Jamie's life. I owed him a debt. That debt is now paid." He turned towards Tommy. "Our truce is ended, Rangers. When I leave here, everything goes back to normal."
Tommy nodded. "Understood." In a flash of red light, Zedd disappeared. Tommy turned to Jamie. "Are you all right?" he asked, concerned.
She nodded. "Nothing about ten hours sleep won't cure. Alpha, drag me out another one of those pallets, would you? I think I'm going to sleep right here."
"Me too," Christina agreed, and promptly collapsed into Billy's arms.
"Better make that three, Alpha," the young scientist yawned. "I don't intend to leave Chris until she wakes up."
"Rangers, the rest of you should go home. I will call you when your friends awaken." Nodding, the Rangers teleported out, except Billy, Christina, and Jamie, who had already fallen fast asleep.
* * *
In his lunar fortress, Zedd sat, staring absently into space- literally. Finster tiptoed around the corridors, having learned not to disturb his master in this mood. Zedd was deep in thought. Why had he helped save the Scott boy? It went contrary to all logic. He should have let the brat die and danced at his funeral. Instead, the Rangers would be as strong as ever. There was no explanation for his actions.
Jamie loves him. If he had died, she would not have been long in following him, a small voice said in the back of his mind.
So? She's a Power Ranger now, a traitor to you. What does it matter if she dies? responded another voice.
She's still my daughter. She always will be.
So bring her back to you. You can do that, you know. After all, it almost worked with Tommy, and you were just reinstating Rita's spell.
She'd hate me. It wouldn't be real.
Who cares? You're a villain, remember?
Am I? I don't think- I can't remember-
A thrumming from his staff broke the half-formed memory before he could get a good look at it. Absently, he reached out and took the staff. Soon, his eyes were glowing the same red as the staff. Things were much clearer now. There would be no more truces with the Rangers. He would destroy them one by one, and if Jamie got in the way, too bad. No more of these weak emotions.
In the back of his mind, a voice was screaming to be heard, but was drowned out by the magic of the staff. Zedd couldn't hear a thing.
* * *
Jason's parents had been overjoyed, of course, to learn that their son was not going to die, and a party had quickly gotten underway at the Scotts'. In the middle of it all, the guest of honor managed to sneak upstairs and slip out his bedroom window. Jamie was already there, sitting on the roof and looking up at the moon. Silently, she moved to make room for him. After a few moments, she spoke.
"So you remember everything?"
"Everything from the moment you all started calling me. I even remember your dad talking to me, strangely enough. That was one of the weirder experiences of my life."
"Oh, come on, Jason, you've seen some pretty weird things."
He chuckled. "True enough. You know, I still have a hard time believing that I have my life back. I mean, I just got adjusted to dying, and now I'm healthy as a horse again."
She rested her head on his shoulder. "I'm glad you're alive, though. I'd really miss you if you were dead."
"Well, that's nice to know. What are you thinking about?"
"Dad. He seemed- different somehow. He really seemed worried about you. Do you suppose that the person I remember wasn't completely destroyed?"
Jason shrugged. "Anything's possible, and love is a very powerful force. It kept me alive today. I don't think it's impossible that the man you remember as your father is still around."
Jamie sighed. "I hope you're right, Jason. I hope you're right." He put his arm around her shoulder and together they watched the sky for a long time.