Disclaimer: They're not mine, they're Saban's. I think we
all know what to do here. This Fanfic is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture
Association of America. Some harsh language, a little more violence than
usual. Contains use of Tarot cards. (Yes, I do know how to tell fortunes
with them.) A kunoichi is a female ninja, FYI.
"The Devil," Lillian mused, studying the spread in front of
her. "The dark side of human nature, passing away." Her finger
moved to the next card. "The Tower. The breaking of a current situation,
the old making way for the new." Turning over the next card in the
spread, she stopped.
Tommy raised an eyebrow. "Death? What does that mean?"
She smiled at him. "Not necessarily dying, it's simply a reinforcement of the Tower. A great change is coming." What she didn't mention was the difference in meanings. Death was in the position of what will come, and signified simply a change, an upheaval. The Tower, in the position of what might be, signified breaking out of the old ways, and usually meant a change for the better.
Moving on, the next card she turned over turned out to be two cards. Lillian frowned. She had never dealt out two cards to one position before in all her time practicing with the cards. When she realized what they were, she gasped. "The Lovers and the Two of Cups. Two instances of a relationship renewed or begun. Something very strange is going on here."
Tommy frowned. The two of them were in the youth center, where Lillian had promised to show him her Tarot cards and how she read them. The sample reading she had done, on the situation in general, had begun to spook her, however. Deliberately, to lighten the mood, he shrugged. "What do cups have to do with love?"
"Cups correspond to Hearts in the ordinary deck. In addition, cups represent water, and water represents the emotions. The Two of Cups represents the formation of a bond, usually love."
He nodded thoughtfully. "Does this stuff really work?"
She shrugged. "I've been wrong before, but not as often as I've been right. Now, maybe my clients and I have read into the reading, but it always seems to work."
"I'm sure things will turn out all right," he reassured her. "Come on, we have to meet the others in the park soon. If we don't hurry up, Rocky and Jason will have polished off all of the food!"
Laughing, the two teens packed up the cards and left the juice bar hand in hand, the strange predictions temporarily forgotten.
* * *
In the park, Tommy sat on a blanket and watched his friends laughing and running around like grade-schoolers. Jason, in particular was the most energetic, still exhilarated from his recovery from the Gold Ranger power that had nearly killed him. With a sigh, he thought about the way things had changed since he had become a Power Ranger. The five originals were all ex-Rangers now, and had almost formed their own team, of which Jason was unquestionably in charge. It was a position in which the boy was most comfortable, having been placed there by friends and teachers for most of his life.
The Zeo Ranger team had ten members, and some of the incredible closeness they had felt had been lost. No longer was everyone everyone else's best friend. Now there were tight and loose bonds, even though everyone was still friendly. Christina, Katarina and Jamie were almost inseparable, Adam and Rocky had drawn even closer together, and Trey seemed to spend most of his time with them. The Triforian prince and Rocky had formed an unusually close friendship, for reasons none of the others could fathom. Sighing again, Tommy turned to regard his girlfriend, Lillian. She simply sat, watching the others play and laugh, smiling occasionally, but making no move to join in the celebration. Tommy shook his head. Once again, he was almost forcibly reminded of his days as the Green Ranger. It had been so hard for him to join in the fun, partly from guilt, partly from shyness, and partly from an inner reserve that made it hard for him to relate to other people.
Smiling, he rose to his feet. Crossing to where she sat, he reached down and pulled her up. "Come on," he told her. "We're going to play Frisbee."
Ignoring her laughing protests, he dragged her over to where Jason, Zack, and Tanya were throwing the little plastic disk around. "Mind if we play?" he asked.
Jason shrugged. "Suit yourself, bro," The five teens tossed the Frisbee around for a while, and Lillian gradually lost her reserve, laughing and teasing with the others.
Finally, Jason begged off, pleading exhaustion. Although he had completely recovered from the effects of the Gold Ranger powers, he still tired easily. His stamina improved every day, however, thanks to his determination to get back in shape. Sitting under a tree with a sigh, he closed his eyes and relaxed. When he felt someone sit next to him, he didn't have to open his eyes to know that it was Jamie.
"How you feeling?" she asked off-handedly.
"Good, very good. Except- does if feel like it's going to storm to you?" he asked curiously.
"No," she shook her head, confused. "The sky is clear, the birds are singing, and the pressure is constant. I can't feel any of the oppressive wind that comes with a thunderstorm. Why do you ask?"
"I don't know. Zordon said that the residue of the Gold Power might leave me sensitive to energy currents for a while, and I can't shake the feeling something big is on the horizon."
"You aren't the only one to feel that way. Look," she pointed. Out on the green grass, Rocky, Adam, Kat, and Trey were playing football. Adam seemed distracted, enough so that he bobbled a pass which promptly hit him in the face. Trini, sitting talking to Katarina, kept losing the thread of the conversation. And Christina, who was sitting under a tree talking to Billy, had a faraway look in her eyes, as if she was listening to music that no one else could hear.
"Every Ranger with any psychic ability whatsoever is totally out of their skull this morning. Even I feel it, and I'm barely telepathic. I have no idea how Billy can function like this."
"He has a lot of practice doing two things at once," Jason replied absently. As with all the others, something was buzzing at the back of his mind, and he couldn't seem to hold his concentration. "I hope we find out what's going on soon," he remarked, "or we're all going to be nervous wrecks."
"Hmm," Jamie mused. "I wonder if that's the idea." Her gaze was instantly drawn up to the blue sky.
* * *
Up on the moon, the atmosphere (such as it was) was almost as charged as that of Angel Grove Park. Lord Zedd had been his general fiendish self, striding around his throne room, plotting the demise of the Power Rangers as if he was still lord and master of the moon, and none of the past two years had occurred. Everything seemed almost back to normal.
Except it wasn't. Every so often, he would pause in the middle of one of his rants and put his hand to his forehead, as if he was trying to remember something. Other times, he would begin to flicker between his sorcerous and natural forms, as if he could not decide which to assume. When either of these happened, he would instantly reach out for his staff, and all would be as before.
Finster, watching this, was confused, to say the least. Zedd's behavior was oddly reminiscent of Tommy's while under Rita's spell. Whenever the boy had come close to breaking the mindlock laid upon him, he had felt compelled to touch the Sword of Darkness, which had become the focus for the spell. When the Red Ranger had destroyed it, the results had been similar to removing the keystone of an arch. The spell had collapsed with astounding rapidity.
A thought suddenly found its way into Finster's head. Rita had stolen the spell from an ancient witch, a man named Arigor. If Finster's memory for galactic history served him correctly, Arigor had once had a protege/heir by the name of Zedd. When Arigor had been defeated by the Ranger team from Gaiala, Zedd had taken over his master's empire. Was it possible that Zedd was a victim of the same spell that had once bound Tommy? It was certainly worth considering. But how to find out the truth? He was no expert in the way the mind functioned.
Finster smiled then. HE was no expert, but he knew of one he could go to, who would believe him and keep their meeting a secret. Grinning to himself, Finster hurried to his lab. He had to prepare a disguise for his trip to Earth, and his appointment with Dr. Lita Kino.
* * *
Lita stared at yet another piece of paperwork and sighed. Some days she wished she had a time machine, just so that she could go back in time, find the rat who decided that important papers should be filled out in triplicate, and make him die a long, slow death. Her hand was beginning to cramp up, but she'd promised herself she'd do ten more papers before going for a run.
A knock at the door pulled her out of her reverie. "Come in," she called, wondering what the Rangers had gotten themselves into this time. It was her "free period" after all, and they were the only ones who dropped in during those hours.
A rather timid looking old man came through the door, looking around himself nervously. "I'm not interrupting a session, am I, Doctor? I know you usually see Tommy Oliver and his friends at this time of day."
Lita's eyes narrowed. Just who was this guy, and how did he know about Tommy? "May I ask the nature of this visit?" she asked frostily.
"Well, Dr. Kino, I'm afraid I rather desperately need your help. I realize that I don't have an appointment, but I believe you will forgive the intrusion when I tell you my story."
Intrigued despite herself, Lita raised an eyebrow. "Do go on."
"My name is Finster. I work for Lord Zedd, making monsters and devices and such." Lita's hand moved towards her communicator and he raised a hand to stop her. "Please, hear me out. I have no intention of harming you. I need your help." Warily, Lita relaxed. She rather doubted that Finster could physically harm her, and she could teleport out before anything he called in could attack her. Besides, she wanted to hear his story.
"I was not always one of Rita's minions, you know. I used to be a craftsman, a creator of creatures for the side of Light. When Rita took over my planet, however, I was given a choice. Turn to her service, or die with my family. I chose to serve her, but my family was killed anyway. That was when I decided to bring her down once and for all. I have sabotaged every one of Rita and Zedd's projects from the beginning, including the spell Rita placed on Tommy. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to weaken it that much. It is a very powerful spell.
"Lord Zedd's recent discovery of the fact that his wife and daughter still live has caused strange changes in his behavior. He has left Rita, returning to his deserted castle. Sometimes, he seems to be a good man, sometimes an evil one. He occasionally has periods when he talks to himself, shouting at a voice that only he can hear. No matter what happens, though, it always goes away when he picks up his staff."
"Hmm," Lita mused. "Sounds a little like schizophrenia to me. Schizophrenia is a state where a person has trouble perceiving the world as it is. They are, to some extent, cut off from the real world. Schizophrenics are prone to hallucinations, both visual and auditory. Sounds like Zedd's having the latter. Perhaps the magic in the staff acts as a drug, allowing better transmission of information between the sensory organs and the brain."
"There's more," Finster replied. "His behavior is oddly consistent with Tommy's during his time as Rita's evil Green Ranger. Not the hallucinations, but his strange dependence on the staff mirrors Tommy's dependence on the Sword of Darkness to keep the spell intact."
"Really?" Lita looked thoughtful. "Behavior shifts are consistent with the breakup of a mental control. Auditory hallucinations aren't, but they might be an externalization of warring personality elements, or perhaps personality vs. spell. If you could bring him in so that I could examine him, I might be able to tell you more." What am I saying? Lita thought frantically. I'm inviting Lord Zedd into my office? Once again, however, her curiosity was stronger than her fear.
"I believe I can handle that, Dr. Kino. Thank you for your time." With a bow, Finster teleported out of her office, leaving Lita to stare at her paperwork in astonishment.
* * *
The next day, at the same time, Lita was more than a little startled to see Finster hustling a rather attractive man in his mid-forties into the office. "This is Zedd?" she asked, surprised. Somehow, although she had known about Zedd's alternate form, she had not pictured him being so handsome.
"Indeed," Finster nodded, gently guiding the man to a seat on the sofa. "I rather think he'll be more comfortable lying down, don't you?" Without waiting for an answer, Finster swung Zedd's feet up onto the couch.
Examining him, Lita raised an eyebrow. "His pupils are dilated and his breathing is accelerated. Did you drug him or something?"
Finster shook his head. "No. He's like this all the time. The only thing I did do was get him away from that staff. I don't like that thing at all."
Zedd's head began to toss from side to side. "No, please! Stop it, go away! I don't want to listen to you anymore! Just leave me alone!"
"Zedd, listen to me. I want to help you."
Blearily, the man on the couch tried to focus on her. "Can you make the voices stop? They won't leave me alone, arguing, always arguing. Please, make them stop!"
Lita looked straight into his eyes. "I can make them stop, but you have to cooperate with me. All right?" He nodded raggedly. "First of all, close your eyes and relax." He did so, and as she began to hypnotize him, she was amazed at how quickly he entered a deep trance.
"Well, now, this is interesting," she mused.
"How so?" asked Finster.
"Well, the only other subject I've ever seen drop into a trance this quickly was Tommy. Deep trance subjects are very rare, and subjects who can descend this quickly are even rarer. There seem to be some astonishing similarities between their cases. Your spell theory is looking better all the time."
Finster snorted. "I always wondered why Lord Zedd seemed to have a soft spot for the Green Ranger. I suppose that in a way, he regarded him as a son."
"Hmm. Zedd, I want you to go back in time, to the first time you ever heard the voices. Where are you?"
When Zedd spoke, his voice held some of the chilling quality that the Green Ranger's voice had held. "I am standing by the side of my master, Arigor. We have just launched an offensive against the people of the planet Friaste. They are a peace-loving people, with no warriors and no Rangers to stand in our way. It will be wholesale slaughter."
"Do you hear the voices?" Lita asked, frowning.
"Yes, one very faint. Is this right? All these people- they'll die, my fault- I- But the second voice appears. This is my destiny. I am to rule. They do not matter. Even so, their dying disturbs me, much to my master's amusement. I leave the observation deck of his ship. In the gym, I won't have to think for a while."
"Zedd, how old are you now?"
"I am roughly 2000 years old."
"In Earth terms, about twenty," Finster translated.
"How long ago was this?" Lita asked him.
"Goodness, a very long time, I should think. Arigor was no more than a legend by the time I was born. Lord Zedd has extended his life a huge amount by means of his magic. I would judge that this memory of his is over twenty millennia old. That's the equivalent of one hundred Earth years, going by the life-spans of Zordon and Trey of Triforia."
Lita swallowed. A life that long, especially one under a spell, would produce countless psychological booby-traps. She would have to be very careful about how she unraveled Zedd's mind.
"Zedd, how did you come to be Arigor's apprentice?"
A puzzled look crossed the man's face. "I can't remember. I have always been his apprentice. It is all I know." The wooden tone in his voice caused Lita and Finster to exchange a look.
"Sounds like a memory block to me. Normally I wouldn't mess with it, seeing as I don't have any idea how adept Arigor was at psychology, but the way he's acting suggests that it's already breaking up. I'm going to take this REAL slowly."
"If it helps," Finster told her, "all the legends say that Arigor was a whiz with magic, but lousy with people. He had no idea what made anybody tick. If he put that block in there, it's held in with spit and chewing gum."
Lita flashed the little man a smile. "Thanks, that does help. Zedd, I want you to run back through your memories slowly, until they stop seeming real. What do you see?"
"I'm coming to on Arigor's ship. I can't remember who I am, or where I've been. Arigor calls me his apprentice."
"All right, now move backwards, slowly. There is a door in the wall across your memory. Open it."
"You have the key. Open it."
An expression of surprise flowed over Zedd's features. "It- it opened! The wall's dissolving!"
"I told you," Finster whispered. "Spit and chewing gum."
Lita smiled, but could not spare any attention. Where are you now, Zedd?"
"The forest of Chalca, on Danata, my homeworld." Amazingly enough, his voice, which had minutes before been old and icy, now sounded like the voice of a very young man.
"Who are you?"
"I am Zedd, prince of the Zarakin, out for a ride with my best friend Kensho. We got separated in the woods. I'm following the tracks of his horse." Zedd frowned. "I can hear voices up ahead, and I go to investigate. It's Kensho, talking to a man in black that I don't know. Kensho says, 'All is ready, Lord Arigor. When the time is right, my troops will be in position to take the capital by force.' The man in black nods.
"'And the prince?' he asks.
"Kensho's laughing. 'Zedd is a trusting fool. He will be easily defeated.'
"I can't believe it! My best friend is working with one of our enemies to overthrow the planet. I have to stop them now. I doubt Kensho meant me to get out of this forest alive, and if I try to warn my parents, I'll never make it. My only hope is to stop them both now. I draw my sword and move towards them.
"They must have heard me, because they both turn. Kensho barely has time to get his sword out of its sheath before I'm there. We fence, but he was never quite as good as I was, and his sword is a Gem Blade, not an Elemental. Kensho's down pretty quickly, not dead but wounded enough that he won't be attacking me again for a while. I turn to the man, sword at the ready. He just laughs and blasts me with energy. It's too much, and I black out.
"When I wake up, I'm tied up on the floor of a VERY unpleasant-looking room, with even more unpleasant diagrams drawn on the floor and some nasty implements of destruction and pain. I'm definitely in a witch's workroom. Arigor comes in, alone. I can guess what happened to Kensho; villains don't like it when their henchman fail them.
"Zarakin warriors have a reputation of being flip in the worst situations, and who am I to break the chain? I look up at Arigor and say, 'Forgive me for not rising, but I'm a little tied up at the moment.' He just chuckles. This is not a good sign.
"'You have quite a sense of humor, young prince, and are obviously a powerful warrior as well. It would appear that that fool Kensho underestimated you gravely. That matter has been rectified. Now, I offer you a choice. You can join my service, or I can dispatch you. What will you choose?'
"I don't even have to think about it. Is that a sign of courage or stupidity? I look him in the eye and tell him 'Go to Hell.' I'm ready to die. My only regret is I won't see my family again.
"He laughs. 'I have changed my mind, young prince. Death is not an option for you. Instead, you will serve me.' He grabs my ankles and drags me out into the center of the diagram. I'm sweating now, and I know this is going to be bad. Evil spells always are. Just before he begins the incantation, I call out to him, anything to stall.
"'Wait,' I say. He turns towards me expectantly. 'Why? Why did Kensho take your service?' If my true self is going to pass into the Long Night, I want to know why my best friend betrayed me.
"Arigor just waves as if it's the most ridiculous question he's been asked. 'I offered him as much treasure as he could loot from the palace, control over a sizable portion of the planet, and he said something about a woman named Faria. Rather greedy young man, I must say.' With that, he goes back to his incantation, leaving my mind to go to Faria. Kensho and I had both been courting her, and she was as sweet and kind as any maiden you might ever meet. I never thought that she treated us at all differently, but Kensho was jealous all the same.
"Arigor's finishing his spell now, and a shadowy cloud is rising out of a brazier. It surrounds me and settles into me. Oh, Goddess! It's cold, like ice! No! No!" Zedd began to thrash on the couch, and Lita reached out to calm him down.
"It's all right, Zedd, it's all right. You're floating in a warm blackness, where nothing can reach you. You will stay there until I snap my fingers, all right?" Zedd nodded, quieting immediately. Lita turned to Finster with a sigh.
"Did that make any sense to you?"
"Oh, yes, very much so. It's actually quite consistent with what is known about Zedd's conversion to darkness. It is rather interesting to see that the Queen's undying faith in her son was justified."
"Well, if Rita stole the spell which made Tommy evil from Arigor, and Arigor made Zedd evil, isn't it possible they used the same spell?" Lita asked.
"Not just possible, but probable. If that's the case, then to break the spell, we must simply destroy the focus."
"The staff. It's obviously the key to his power, and he seems to go deeper under the spell when he holds it."
Finster nodded. "Yes, I believe that you are right. If you would inform the Power Rangers of this, I believe I can retrieve the staff and destroy it, with their help."
"Sounds good. I think I'd like to make sure Zedd stays here until this is all done." Lita turned back to the couch, only to discover Zedd gone. "Nani yo! He was in a deep trance a minute ago. No way he could have teleported himself out of here!"
"Not him," Finster replied grimly. "The staff. It must be feeling threatened if it's expending this much power."
"Threatened! The Sword of Darkness never acted like this, at least, not according to Tommy."
"Oh, it didn't," Finster said calmly. "The Sword of Darkness was active for about three days, tops, woven into the spell after the fact, and greatly sabotaged by yours truly. Zedd's staff was a part of the spell from the very beginning, has been active for almost twenty millennia, and didn't have anyone sabotaging it. It's far more powerful, and has developed low-order sentience. It isn't exactly self-aware, but it has self-preservation capabilities."
"Great," Lita sighed. "A staff that thinks. How hard do you think it will be to destroy?"
"If Zedd doesn't cooperate, it may be impossible."
"Just wonderful. All right, why don't you go back to the moon and keep an eye on Zedd. I'll call Zordon and tell him what we know. Maybe he has some answers. Barring that, I guess the next move is Zedd's." Finster nodded and teleported out. Getting comfortable in her chair, Lita tapped her communicator. She had a feeling that she was going to be talking for a while.
* * *
In the youth center, Kimberly and Lillian were sitting by and giggling as Zack went through his trademark magic act. Finally, he got to the card tricks, and offered the deck to Kimberly for the "pick a card, any card," segment. She picked the two of hearts, and he went on with the trick. However, when he did the next one, she again picked the two of hearts. Lillian frowned at the deck.
"Zack, can I see those cards?" she asked. He turned the cards towards her so that she could see that they were all different. "Kim, could you pick a card again?' Shrugging, Kimberly reached out and drew a card from the deck. Once again, it was the two of hearts. Kimberly looked up at her two friends in shock.
"What are the odds against that?" Kimberly asked, her eyes wide.
Zack shrugged. "I dunno, but they're high. Lillian, you're the card expert. What does the two of hearts mean?"
"The start of a love affair, the formation of a bond. It corresponds to the two of cups in the Tarot deck, and symbolizes two lovers plighting their troth, or making a promise of betrothal."
Zack raised an eyebrow at Kimberly, who blushed beet red. "I have to go. I have homework to do," she excused herself, leaping up and running out the door.
"Zack, something very strange is going on here. I keep turning up the two of cups in my Tarot readings, and now this. Something really odd is about to happen."
Zack shrugged. "Don't look at me, I'm just the entertainment."
* * *
"That's ridiculous," Kimberly muttered to herself, striding through the park. "I just came off a relationship, and I know better than to start one on the rebound. Of course, Tommy did, and look how his turned out. Still, I seriously doubt that there's a great romance in my future."
A shout interrupted her thoughts. "Hey, Kimberly!" Skull called, running to catch up with her. "Don't you know you shouldn't be in the park alone?" he asked, grinning.
"Are you offering your services as a bodyguard?" she giggled. Skull could always make her feel better, no matter what. He looked good today, she noticed. His loose blue jeans and red shirt hid his skinniness, and he wore a small gold stud in his ear, as opposed to the long, dangling earring he usually wore. To complete the picture, he was not chewing gum, an extremely unusual sight. As always, however, his dark hair was adorably mussed. Good grief, he's CUTE! Kimberly thought to herself, astonished.
"I do have some experience bodyguarding, you know," he told her seriously. "And it really isn't safe for you to walk through the park alone. I'd be happy to escort you, milady." He executed a charming bow, causing Kimberly to dissolve in giggles again.
"Okay, Skull," she laughed. "You've got a deal." They walked on, talking and laughing together, and Kimberly marveled at how comfortable she felt when she was with Skull. The only person I ever felt this way with was Tommy, she thought wistfully. She almost laughed at the image of her dating Skull, and then stopped. That actually wasn't such a horrifying image. Skull was considerate, sweet, and obviously liked her a great deal. He had come a long way from the little punk who had such an atrocious crush on her in the old days.
Kimberly was jerked rudely out of her thoughts when Goldar appeared before them with an army of Tengas. "Hello, humans!" the monkey laughed evilly. "Empress Rita requests the pleasure of your presence!"
"Run, Skull!" Kimberly yelled, dropping into a fighting stance.
"Where to?" the detective asked practically. "We're kind of surrounded!"
"Shit," Kimberly cursed. "Looks like we're going to have to fight." The two teens launched themselves at the Tengas, and Kimberly was surprised to note, out of the corner of her eye, that Skull was actually holding his own. They were gravely outnumbered, however, and the Tengas had soon grabbed them, holding them fast. In a hail of feathers, the entire group disappeared.
* * *
"Kimberly's WHAT?" Tommy cried, slamming his hands down on the console nearest him.
"She and Skull were kidnapped while they were walking through the park. We can no longer locate them on our scanners," Alpha repeated, staying well out of the Red Ranger's reach. He had seen what the young man could do in a rage, and had no desire to be hit with flying debris.
"Why?" Trini asked. "What could Rita possibly want with them?"
"Take a wild guess," Jason replied grimly. "As for Skull, he was probably just in the wrong place at the wrong time. He and Bulk seem to have a gift for that."
"Rangers, I have some other news that you may want to hear," Zordon informed them. "I received a call from Lita this morning. Apparently, Lord Zedd has been having some psychological problems. Finster brought him in and convinced Dr. Kino to examine him. It turns out that Lord Zedd is under an older and much stronger version of the spell that bound Tommy."
"Zedd is under a spell?" Billy asked incredulously.
"Maybe I could break it!" Christina cried. During tests performed by Zordon, it had been discovered that Christina had some anti-spell powers.
"I am afraid not, Christina. The spell on Lord Zedd is far too powerful for you. The witch who cast it, a man named Arigor, was one of the most powerful magicians of his day. Even now, there is no one who rivals his power."
"So what do we do?" Jamie asked practically. "How do we break the spell?"
"As I said, Rangers, the spell on Lord Zedd is a version of the spell on Tommy. That one was held in place by the Sword of Darkness. The spell on Zedd seems to be held in place by his staff."
"But Zordon," Tommy protested. "I broke Zedd's staff once, remember? It didn't seem to make a difference."
"That is true, Tommy. To destroy the spell, you must destroy the staff. I am not sure, but I believe it will take all of you focusing your power upon it to destroy the staff."
"I guess now, all we can do is wait," Adam sighed.
* * *
Kimberly and Skull were dropped rather unceremoniously into a cave-like cell, with rough rock walls and a dirt floor. "Goldar, you big winged monkey! What are you planning to do with us?" Kimberly screamed.
"You'll find out, Miss Kimmie," Goldar laughed. Then he and the Tengas disappeared, leaving Kimberly to bang on the forcefield that kept them in the cell. Sighing, she turned back to Skull, who was examining their surroundings with wry amusement.
"These guys have a thing for caves, don't they?" he grinned at her. "That time that Goldar kidnapped the teen leaders, from that Peace Conference thing, Bulk and I tailed them, and sure enough, they went into a cave."
Kimberly smiled, remembering. Goldar had kidnapped the six teen leaders to make his evil Power Rangers, holding them hostage so that the Rangers would turn over their Power Coins. Thanks to Billy and some chocolate coins, however, they had managed to trick Goldar and rescue the teen leaders.
"Well, I guess we're going to be here a while," she sighed, sitting on the floor and leaning against a wall.
"Hmm," Skull replied, banging on the forcefield. "You might be right. I don't see any way of getting out of here. Unless of course, you've got something up your sleeve-" he turned back to her, "Pink Ranger."
Kimberly leaped to her feet. "What? What are you talking about? I'm not the Pink Ranger."
"Not anymore, no. I'd say you probably gave the position to Kat, am I right?" Her jaw dropped, all the answer Skull needed. "Hey, I am a good detective."
"How- how did you know?" Kimberly managed.
"Well, you obviously knew tall, dark, and gruesome out there, and as far as I know, the only people on a first-name basis with those goons are the Power Rangers. Then it hit me. You wear a lot of pink, a weird watch, and when you left, the girl who suddenly started hanging out with all your friends sounded a lot like the new Pink Ranger. Australian accents are not that common in Angel Grove. Then a lot of other things made sense, like how the five of you got out of detention that one time, when those evil Rangers were tearing up the city. You teleported out, didn't you?"
She nodded, still startled by this display of intelligence on Skull's part. He smiled crookedly at her. "I'm not dumb, Kimberly. I just made everyone think I am. It got me more attention that way. The teachers were always oohing and ahhing over you guys. I was never going to be smart enough to get attention that way, so I fell in with the wrong crowd and got attention that way. Not real smart, but I was a little kid. After that, I just sort of got into the habit of being a punk and acting dumb. I'm trying to clean up my act, but it hasn't been real easy."
"Skull, I'm sorry. I've been pretty mean to you over the years, haven't I?"
"Naw! Kim, you've always been great. I've been a complete dork. It was just- I didn't know any other way to get you to notice me. I mean, you were always hanging out with Jason, and Zack, and you had every guy in the school trailing after you. I figured the only way I'd get you to notice me was to be a jerk. Pretty stupid, huh?"
She smiled at him. "Well, I've been kind of stupid, myself. I never noticed what a great guy you are. I just thought you were another one of those guys with a stupid crush on me."
"I was," he grinned. "I don't have a crush on you anymore, though, Kimberly."
"No?" she asked, feeling a little disappointed.
"No," he replied seriously. "I'm in love with you. I think it happened somewhere in ninth grade, which must have been when you became a Power Ranger. You went from being a pretty, sweet, nice girl to being a courageous, beautiful woman. Everyone could see that you'd changed. It was pretty obvious that your biggest worries weren't school and clothes anymore. It was like watching a jeweler cut a diamond. The real value appears. I realized I was in love with you when it didn't bother me that you were with Tommy. I just wanted you to be happy."
Kimberly was speechless. "Skull, I- don't know what to say," she stammered. He held up a hand to quiet her.
"Don't say anything. I don't expect anything. I just- don't think I'm going to get out of this, and I wanted you to know."
"Skull," she stepped forward, trying to organize her thoughts. "I-" Just then, however, Goldar appeared, interrupting her.
"Bad timing," Skull sighed. "All right, what do you want?"
"You two are to come with me," Goldar sneered. "My empress has a little surprise prepared for you."
"I don't like surprises," Skull muttered as the Tengas closed in on them.
"Me either," Kim replied. Reaching out, she took his hand. He was startled for a moment, then squeezed it tightly as they were teleported out of the cell.
* * *
On the moon, Zedd watched the events on Earth, glowing fiendishly. "Hmm," he mused. "So Rita has kidnapped Kimberly, has she? Tommy must be going out of his mind! Let's take advantage of this, shall we? Hmm, something he'd never be able to raise a hand to, but something that could easily defeat him. I have it!" Pointing his staff at the Earth, he sent a bolt of lightning hurtling down towards earth. It struck a photo of Kim that Tommy still kept on his dresser. In a flash, an almost exact duplicate of Kimberly stood in Tommy's room. Almost, because she was dressed in an outfit Kim would never wear. It was black, completely onyx black, and tight to the skin, hinting at what lay beneath without actually revealing anything. On her feet were black boots with thick, high heels, giving her an extra two inches. At her back hung a katana, and a black hood, rather like that of a ninja, was around her neck.
"Lord Zedd, I am ready for your orders," she said, in a voice devoid of emotion.
"Dark Lady, you are to go to the center of town and cause a commotion. When the Power Rangers show up to stop you, destroy them! If you manage to capture the Red Ranger, you may do with him as you wish."
She bowed, her eyes flashing a dark red. "Thank you, my lord." In a flash of black, she disappeared.
* * *
Kim and Skull found themselves in a large chamber, with strange and rather unnerving designs on the floor. At the other end of the room from them stood a large stone altar, with a number of rather nasty-looking implements resting on it, and a large green crystal ball that flashed at irregular intervals. In the center of the design was a post with chains on it. Rita stood to one side, chuckling evilly.
"Welcome, Kimberly. I'm sure you're just dying to know what's going on here, so I'll tell you. This is the same spell I used on your little boyfriend when I made him the Green Ranger, although I've taken a few more precautions. This time, no one will be able to break my spell!"
"Fine, Rita, you've got me. Just let Skull go. He's not part of this."
"Oh, but he is, Kimmie. You see, those are the precautions I was talking about. To cement the spell, I need the blood of a good man, freshly shed. Heart's blood," Rita leered.
Skull swallowed hard. "Ouch," he muttered. "No one's ever accused me of being a bleeding heart before."
Kimberly smiled slightly. Skull's wisecracks were simply his way of dealing with his fear, much like Rocky and Zack. All three made jokes to cover up their fear. "I won't let anything happen to you, Skull," she whispered.
"If you're thinking about morphing, Kimmie, don't bother," Rita smirked. "The crystal on the altar creates a field which keeps you from morphing near it. And don't even think about a last minute rescue. We're in the center of the Labyrinth of Chorida, in a pocket dimension near Earth. No one can teleport in or out."
"Looks like we've got a problem," Skull sighed. "Look, the lady with the bad hair over there obviously believes that you still have some powers. Is she right?"
Kim nodded. "Yes, but I still can't morph with that crystal around."
"Not a problem. Just be ready to fight when I give the word, and be ready to morph when that crystal breaks."
"What?" Kimberly hissed.
Skull flashed her his cutest grin. "Trust me."
Kimberly sighed, but did as he asked.
Skull returned his gaze to Goldar as Rita began preparations for the spell. He didn't have much time to pull this off, because once those Tengas put the chains on Kimberly, any hope for his plan would be lost. Even so, he took the time to tune out all external distractions, focusing directly on Goldar.
The space monkey was larger and stronger that Skull, by a great amount, but Skull had one big advantage. Goldar thought he knew Skull. The time that Goldar and Rito had spent in his garage had given them a false impression. Like everybody else in Angel Grove, Goldar had underestimated Eugene Skullovitch.
Since becoming a detective, Skull had finally found something he loved doing, something that he wanted to do for the rest of his life. As a result, he had thrown himself into it wholeheartedly, learning everything he could about the profession. One thing he had learned was, while it wasn't as exciting as TV and books pretended, you still ran a rather high risk of getting punched in the face. That was why he had begun taking self-defense classes. Now, he had a pretty good idea of what he was capable of, and a very good idea of Goldar's abilities. If he hit him hard enough and fast enough, he might be able to take the goon by surprise long enough to get rid of that crystal so Kim could morph. Tensing himself, he whispered to Kim, "Now!" and threw himself at Goldar.
Even as he did so, Kim ripped into the Tengas, knocking them every which way as they attempted to close in on her. Flipping and kicking, she managed to keep the Tengas extremely confused, wishing mightily for her ninja powers as she did so.
Skull, meanwhile, had been lucky enough to take Goldar completely by surprise. A quick spin and a kick to the shins, and Skull had Goldar's sword in his own hands. "Mind if I borrow this, Goldie?" he asked, with a manic grin. Not waiting for an answer, he kicked Goldar in the stomach and headed for the altar.
Rita, realizing his goal, screamed, "He's heading for the crystal! Stop him!" Rito, who up until this moment had been watching from the sidelines, took this moment to become involved. Skull suddenly found a large walking skeleton standing between him and the altar. Rito raised his sword and attacked with a downward cut that Skull just managed to parry. Out of the corner of her eye, Kimberly saw the fight and realized with a shock that Skull obviously knew what he was doing. He handled Goldar's sword like a master.
Finally, with a sweeping side cut, Skull knocked Rito's sword out of his hands, sending the skeleton scrambling away. Leaping up onto the altar, Skull grinned down at his quarry. "FORE!" he yelled, sweeping the sword in a golf club-type arc. The crystal flew across the room and shattered against the wall in a flash of brilliant white light.
Even before the light had faded, Kimberly was springing into action. "Pterodactyl!" she called. Another light flashed, this one a rose pink. When it cleared, Kimberly was dressed in her Pink Morphin Warrior uniform. It was like a pink leotard, with long sleeves and legs. Her feet were encased in pink ankle boots, and there was obviously some extra protection around the chest. In her hand was a small, simple bow of some silvery wood, and a quiver full of silvery arrows was strapped to her back. Set on her chest was a coin bearing the symbol of the Firebird.
"Nice," Skull told her approvingly. "Let's get out of here."
"There's a door that way," she pointed. "If we can get out of the labyrinth, I can get us home."
"Then let's go." They ran for the door, a disarmed Goldar and a horde of Tengas on their heels.
* * *
Tommy was pacing around the Power Chamber, looking for all the world like the panther his Morphin Warrior uniform bore, when the alarm went off. "Damn it! What now?" he cried, stunning his friends with the savage tone in his voice.
"Rangers, observe the viewing globe. Lord Zedd has released the Dark Lady, his newest monster, on Angel Grove. She is in the shopping district creating quite a ruckus."
On the viewing globe, they could see a definitely female figure, dressed in a skin-tight version of a traditional ninja outfit. She wielded a katana like an expert, sending the citizens of Angel Grove running for their lives. "We have to stop her," Adam cried.
"But- what about Kim?" Tommy asked helplessly.
"We'll still be here, man," Jason told him. "If anyone can find her, Billy can."
"I guess so," he sighed. As he looked up, he saw Lillian watching him with unreadable eyes. "Lil, I know how this looks. I'm not in love with Kimberly anymore, but I do still love her, and I always will. I'm just in the habit of protecting her, and I feel responsible for her. Do you understand?"
She smiled. "Yes, Tommy, I understand. Besides, you act like this whenever anyone's in trouble. Given your history with Kim, I shouldn't be so surprised that your reaction is so violent. Those wounds still hurt. Come on, let's go. We need to kick Zedd's monster back to the drawing board."
"Right. It's morphin time!"
In a flash, the ten Zeo Rangers were in the shopping district, facing off with the Dark Lady. "Well, Power Rangers, how nice of you to come. I'll have to find something to keep you busy, won't I? Putties, attack!" A horde of Zedd's Putties materialized out of nowhere.
"What the hell are these things?" Purple Ranger cried.
"They're before your time," Green Ranger responded. "Just hit 'em in the Z!"
"Split up! Teams of four!" Red Ranger yelled. "Rocky, Trey, Chris, Katya, go left! Kat, Tanya, Adam, Jamie, go right! You all take the Putties, and Lil and I will handle the kunoichi here."
"You're welcome to try, Red Ranger," she laughed. Her voice brought him up short. Something was familiar there, but he couldn't put his finger on it. Shaking his head, he threw himself into the battle.
The Rangers fighting the Putties were doing marvelously, but no matter how many Putties they downed, more kept coming. "Man!" Blue Ranger puffed. "Zedd must be throwing his entire Putty army into this! I don't know how long we can keep this up!"
"As long as we have to," White Ranger replied, knocking two Putties into each other. Their Z-spots collided and the two disintegrated.
Meanwhile, Red and Black Rangers were getting beaten badly by the Dark Lady. A side kick knocked Black Ranger into a tree, stunning her. With a foot-sweep, Dark Lady then knocked Red Ranger off of his feet. To his utter astonishment, she came and sat down on his chest, trapping his arms against his sides. Reaching for his helmet, she chuckled throatily. "Let's get a better look at you, shall we, Red Ranger?" Popping the catches, she removed his helmet. Then she reached up and pulled off her own mask, shaking her hair so that it fell loose around her face. "Hello, Tommy."
"Kim?" The look on Tommy's face was totally shocked. "No, you can't be Kim. She's been kidnapped by Rita. Who are you?"
"I can be anything you want me to be," she whispered. "Lord Zedd will allow me to spare your life. Think of it, Tommy. Together, you and I can rule the galaxy. You will be next in line for Zedd's throne. And I will always be at your side. You can't deny you want it, Tommy. The darkness in your soul finds my offer very attractive. Certainly, you can't say that you don't want ME."
"Yes, I can. You're pretty enough, I guess, but it's so cold. You don't have any of the life or warmth that made Kimberly so attractive to me. As for your offer, yeah, it's tempting, but not very. I don't want power, or control, and I certainly don't want to be a ruler. I've got my dark side, but it doesn't tend toward that. I'm happy with what I have, and you can't offer me anything more. Certainly not a pale copy of Kimberly. I don't even have those feelings for her anymore. Why on earth would I have them for you?"
Dark Lady's face became chillingly cold. "I would reconsider, if I were you, Red Ranger," she threatened, pulling a knife from her boot and resting it against his throat. "If you die, who will rescue your precious Kimberly from Rita?"
"My friends," he replied, looking her straight in the eye. "You can kill me, if you want, but it won't change anything. There will still be Power Rangers, and they will still fight Zedd without me."
"But you'll be dead," she reminded him, pressing the knife closer to his throat.
"So what? I came to terms with my own death a long time ago. It doesn't frighten me anymore. Go ahead and kill me. You don't frighten me any more, either."
"Very well." Dark Lady tilted his head back, baring his throat for the killing strike. Before she could send the blade home, though, she was knocked off Tommy by a blast of black energy.
"Didn't anyone ever tell you not to mess with another woman's man?" Black Ranger asked, staggering to her feet. "I'm really going to mess you up. You're going to wish Zedd never even thought you up when I'm done with you."
"Let's take her together," Tommy remarked, putting his helmet back on. "You and me."
"Right." The two Rangers advanced on their target. Although she put up a good fight, Dark Lady was no match for the two incensed Rangers. Very quickly, she was destroyed.
"Tommy, are you okay?" Black Ranger inquired.
"Yeah, I'm fine. I'm just worried about Kim." He stared at the sky. "I hope she's all right, wherever she is."
* * *
At that moment, Kimberly and Skull were hiding behind one of the rock walls of the Labyrinth, taking a much needed breather. They had ditched their pursuers for the time being, but Kimberly still had an arrow nocked on her bow, and Skull held Goldar's sword at the ready.
"Skull, when on earth did you learn to use that thing?" Kimberly asked incredulously, nodding to the sword.
"This? Oh, my uncle is a world-class Olympic fencer. He's been giving me lessons since I was big enough to hold a foil. I thought fencing was really cool, so I started taking lessons in other types of swordplay. I'm at my best with a foil, but I can make shift with most other types of blades."
She shook her head. "Skull, you are just full of surprises." He chuckled in response. They were silent for a while, then Kimberly looked up at him again. "Skull, about what you said in the cell earlier."
He gestured dismissively. "Oh, forget about it, Kim."
"No. I don't want to forget about it, Skull. There's something I need to say to you. You are a wonderful, sweet person, and I've been stupid not to see it before this. I'm still healing from my break-up with Tommy, and I've been really grateful to have your company, I really have. Skull, I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm not in love with you." He looked the other way then, resignation in his eyes. Taking his chin in her hands, she turned his head so that he couldn't look away from her. "I'm not in love with you, Skull, but I think I'm getting there."
He cocked an eyebrow at her. "Yeah?"
"Mm-hmm. I already like you as more than a friend. I would like to see more of you, that's for sure."
"Well, would a date help? You, me, candlelight dinner for two at Chez Paul, a bottle of sparkling cider, it could be magic," he grinned at her.
"Yeah," she replied, smiling back.
"Yes!" Skull cried, pumping one fist. "If we get out of this alive, next Thursday?"
"Sure." Kimberly was suddenly conscious of how close their faces were, and how cute he was, and how unlikely it was that they were going to get out of this. Slowly, their heads moved together, their lips almost touching.
"There they are!" Goldar shouted, breaking the mood.
"VERY bad timing," Skull grumbled, springing to his feet. Kimberly was up almost as quickly, firing arrows at the advancing Tengas, who then scrambled for any available cover.
"I want my sword back, Human," Goldar growled.
"Yeah? Then catch!" Skull cried, hurling the sword at Goldar. The blade flew end over end, tumbling like the world's biggest throwing knife. Goldar was forced to duck as the blade narrowly missed his head and ended up clunking several Tengas, who weren't so lucky.
"I can't believe that worked," Skull gaped in shock. "That's not supposed to be doable."
"You can complain about it later," Kimberly yelled, pulling on his arm. "Come on, the entrance is right out there!"
Snapping out of his daze, Skull followed her out into the sunshine, Rita's army hard on their heels. No sooner had they left the shadows of the Labyrinth, however, then Kimberly grabbed Skull's arm and teleported them both to the Power Chamber, leaving a very frustrated Goldar to curse them both soundly.
* * *
"Tommy!" Billy's voice cried from Red Ranger's communicator. "Kimberly's okay! She and Skull escaped from Rita and they're both here. He knows all about the Rangers, so we have a bit of a problem on our hands."
A crackle of energy behind him made Red Ranger turn slowly. "Um, Billy? It appears that we've got a bit of a problem here, too. Zedd's just showed up, and I don't think he's happy. We'll talk later. Tommy out."
"This is the last time you Power Pests ruin one of my monsters," Zedd bellowed. "This time, I will destroy you myself!"
"This is not good," Red Ranger remarked as the team regrouped behind him.
"Really, Sherlock?" Silver Ranger asked innocently. "What was your first clue?"
"Power Rangers, try to destroy the staff!" called Red Ranger. "Let's go!" The Rangers charged, and the battle was on. Zedd quickly proved that he was a formidable fighter, throwing the Rangers back as quickly as they came at him. Black Ranger attempted to surround him with her Shadow Ribbons, but he simply batted them back at her with his staff. Realizing that they were outmatched, the Rangers called on their Power Weapons. Still, however, Zedd was too strong for them. One by one, he sent them flying back to land in little heaps on the ground.
Moving in close, Purple Ranger tried to hook the staff from his hands with her sword. He swept her off her feet, aiming the staff at her as she lay stunned on the ground. A lethal charge of white energy built up at its tip. Looking up at him, Purple Ranger extended her hand. "Dad," she whispered, "don't."
Zedd's hand began to tremble, and at the last second, he pulled the staff away, sending the charge harmlessly up into the atmosphere.
Red Ranger saw his chance and moved in. The two fought for long minutes, until Red Ranger brought his sword down in a strong slice. Zedd, as Red Ranger had expected, blocked by raising his staff over his head. However, nothing could stop the Zeo V Power Sword, which had been forged from the heart of a falling meteor. It sheared through Zedd's staff like a knife through putty. There was a brilliant flash of light, and the staff was suddenly a snake lying on the ground.
The Rangers had been ready for this, and now Red Ranger slammed his sword onto the almost completed Zeo Blaster. "Zeo Blaster, Fire!" the five main Rangers called, training their beam on the snake.
"Gold Ranger Power!" A beam of light left the Golden Power staff, focusing on the snake.
"Silver Ranger Power!" Silver Ranger had converted her energy whip into a beam weapon, which she now focused on the snake.
"White Ranger Power!" Beams shot out of Zeo Saba's eyes, striking the snake with the others.
"Lightning Sword Strike!" Purple Ranger called. Bolts of lightning left her sword and struck the snake. The influx of power was too much for the snake to withstand, and it vanished in a bright flash.
Zedd had been forced to his knees by the loss of his power, and now, as the Rangers watched, he flickered, assuming his natural form just as a cloud of black mist rose up from him and was blown away by the wind.
"Oh, my God," Zedd choked. "What have I done?"
At a signal from Red Ranger, the team demorphed. Tommy walked over to the kneeling man and put his hand on his shoulder. "What you did, you had no control over. It's in the past. You can't change it; you have to live with it. What's important is what you do now," he said, remembering when he and Jason had played out this little scene, years ago.
"Red Ranger, for what I have done, can you forgive me?" Zedd asked, looking up at Tommy. The pain in his eyes was evident. Tommy smiled at the older man.
"Yes, I can. The others may have more trouble, but I understand. I have no grudge against you."
Accepting Tommy's offered hand, Zedd rose slowly to his feet. "Jamie," he started, crossing to his daughter. "I- know that I haven't been a very good father to you. I missed so much of your childhood, and I am sorrier than you will ever know. I realize that we cannot go back to what has been, but could we- maybe- start again? Could we try to be a family again, a family of some sort?"
Jamie stared at her father for a long moment, then threw her arms around him, bursting into tears as she did so. "I'd like that. Just so long as you leave my boyfriend alone."
Zedd chuckled. "I won't be any more protective than any other father, all right?"
"Deal," she sniffed, wiping her tears away.
"Would your mother- still be interested- in seeing me?" he asked hesitantly.
"She still wears your wedding ring," Jamie smiled. "Other than that, you'll have to ask her yourself."
Still keeping one arm around his daughter, Zedd turned to the rest of the Rangers. "Thank you for helping me."
"Don't mention it," Kat smiled. "It's our job to help people."
"I say we all go back to the Power Chamber," Adam suggested. "We can talk about this better there."
"Right," Tommy nodded. In a rainbow of colored light, Zedd and the Rangers teleported out.
* * *
"Rangers, I am very proud of all of you. You came through this fight with flying colors, especially you, Tommy. Zedd, it is good to have you on the side of the Light once again."
Zedd smiled sadly. "It's good to be back. Listen, all of you. I'm not really Zedd anymore. I've really changed too much to go back to that. I'm just plain old Lawrence Zedden now."
"Mr. Zedden, you know of course, that by giving up your powers, you will now age at an accelerated rate to make up for the time you kept the aging at bay."
Larry nodded. "I know, Zordon. Of course, accelerated for you and me is completely normal for Earth humans. I won't live too much longer than Leslie, and that's the way I like it. Now, my powers are gone, but I'm still a Zarakin, and I still have the Sword of Fire. If you ever need it or me, I'm more than willing to help you."
In a corner, Skull was still reeling from the events and revelations of the past few minutes, but he was absorbing it rather well. "So, what about me?" he asked casually. "Can someone drop me by my house, or am I walking home."
Kimberly grinned. "Skull, you know you can't tell anyone about us being the Power Rangers, right?"
"Of course. I'm a goof, but I'm not stupid. I always thought Bulk's ideas about unmasking the Power Rangers were silly anyway."
"Skull, you showed exemplary courage under fire today," Zordon rumbled. "You were extremely brave and kept your wits about you. We may need your help again. If we ask, will you give it?"
"Of course! In a heartbeat!"
"In that case," Billy grinned, bringing a pair of boxes out from behind a console. "This one's rainbow, this one's purple and white," he informed them, pulling out two communicators. The rainbow one went to Skull, and the purple and white one went to Larry.
"Billy, how did you know?" Christina exclaimed.
"I didn't," Billy shrugged. "It's just that we've given out so many of these things that I decided that I might as well get a jump-start on the next ones."
That brought a laugh from the assembled population. "Typical Billy," Zack chuckled.
"Who's up for a party at the youth center?" Jason asked.
"Yeah!" all the Rangers replied.
"You kids go on," Larry smiled. "I've got some catching up to do." He teleported out, and no one had any doubts as to where he was heading. The Rangers exchanged amused looks and headed for the youth center.
* * *
"You know, that reading I did a few days ago came true," Lillian remarked to Tommy. The two were sitting together at a table in the juice bar, letting the sounds of the patrons wash over them.
"The Devil, evil passing away, The Tower and Death, the old making way for the new. Sounds like what happened with Zedd to me."
"Hmm," Tommy mused. "Okay, and Mr. Zedden's being reunited with his family is a relationship renewed. Where's the other one, though?"
With a small smile, Lillian pointed towards the juice bar, where Kimberly and Skull were talking over a juice shake, their heads close together.
"No way! Kimberly and Skull?"
"Well, it's pretty obvious that there's more to him than we first thought. Taking on Goldar, figuring out that Kim's a Ranger, that's pretty good."
"Yeah, I guess you're right. Who would have thought it would turn out like this?"
"I think they make a very cute couple," Lillian remarked. She then had to duck as Tommy tried to smack her.
* * *
"Pick a card, any card," Zack grinned.
Skull groaned. "Do I have to?"
"You wanted to be part of the group," Kim giggled. "You have to put up with this like the rest of us."
Skull sighed, but did as Zack asked.
"Okay, now don't tell me what it is. Is your card- the two of hearts?"
"As a matter of fact, it is. Kimberly, what's the matter?" Kim had an odd look on her face.
"Zack, let me see that deck," she asked. When Zack was less than forthcoming, she grabbed his wrist and pulled it towards her. He lost his grip on the cards and sprayed them all over the bar. More than half landed face up, allowing Kimberly to see that they were all the two of hearts.
"Zack, you jerk," Kimberly laughed, smacking him playfully.
"Gotcha," Zack managed to gasp, although he was laughing hard enough that tears were welling up in his eyes.
"Did I miss something here?" Skull asked.
"I kept picking the two of hearts this morning, before all this craziness started. Lillian said it symbolized the beginning of a love affair."
"Well, then," Skull smiled, picking up one of the cards and handing it to her. "I guess you could say that our romance was in the cards." He grinned at his own pun, and then hurriedly ducked Kimberly's swat. As the three teens cleaned up the cards spread around the bar, Kimberly marveled at how things had fallen into place for all of them. Maybe there's something to those cards after all, she mused. Just maybe. Destiny was fine, but Kim wasn't going to trust it too far. This time, I know what I'm doing, she thought to herself, looking at Skull. Cards or no cards, We're going to come out on top.