Disclaimer: Saban owns the Rangers, but Alyssa and any of her relatives/friends that he didn't make are my personal property and are not to be used anywhere without my permission. The same goes for anything and anyone else in this fic that I made up.
Note: This fic is the first in a series that I call "The Next Leve", and it pulls away from Saban's timeline after "A Reel Fish Story". I believe this would place it approximately in July/August of 1995. Of course, this probably is totally wrong, but this is my timeline and no one else's from now on. I'd like to thank WhiteZeo for beta-reading this for me, you're the best!!

Dangerous Vacation
by: Winterflame

Ernie's Gym and Juice Bar was the coolest place in Angel Grove. Quite literally, in more ways than one. Not only was it the best place to go and meet people, to hang out and practice the martial art of your choice, frequently kids did their homework there {during school days}, clubs held meetings there year-round, and on some occasions it had almost been trashed by the forces of Rita Repulsa or Lord Zedd, whoever was around at the time, in their never-ending quest to take over the planet. That was what made it cool in the social sense; it was a landmark in the town.

It was also the coolest, temperature-wise, in town as the scorching month of July faded into the somewhat cooler month of August. Everyone was enjoying a break from the heat, including the Power Rangers. The six world-defending teenagers sat around the table they'd become accustomed to, trying to decide what to do with their last month of summer vacation.

"We should do something," Rocky DeSantos, Red Ranger, had enjoyed himself as a lifeguard so far, but he wanted to say he did possibly a bit more than hang out at the beach all summer. _And squashing monsters doesn't count._

Kimberly Hart, Pink Ranger, nodded; there were only so many times you could do the same things! "Anyone got any ideas?"

"Actually, I might," Billy Cranston, Blue Ranger, spoke up. He'd gotten much better about advancing his ideas since becoming a Ranger; the Billy of just a couple of years ago wouldn't have said anything. Kim was quite proud of how her best friend had matured. "We can go up to my uncle's cabin for a few weeks; the one in the mountains. He only has a few customers there now, and we'd practically have the place to ourselves."

Tommy Oliver, White Ranger, broke out into a wide grin. "Sounds perfect!" he dropped his voice a little. "And if Zedd causes any problems, Zordon can just give us a beep."

"What's it like up there?" Adam Park, Black Ranger and Billy's best friend, asked quietly. He'd never been to the mountains before, and had no idea of what they could be like. From stories Billy had told him, however, it was a very nice place.

Billy's eyes grew just a touch distant. If he didn't love Angel Grove, and have the responsibilities there that he did, he might have considered moving up there permanently. But he did love it and he did have the responsibilities that he did, so that wasn't really an option. Besides, he loved the technological atmosphere of his lab too much to be away from it for more than a short period of time. "It's beautiful," he said. "Trees, clean air and sunshine, a lake..."

"Sounds like a winner!" Aisha Campbell, Yellow Ranger, agreed enthusiastically, obviously all ready to get up and go running to pack right that moment. "Do you think our parents will let us go, though?" It was already understood and accepted that they'd all go parent-less, like any set of teenagers, any reason to escape the proverbial parental leash was taken.

"They should," Rocky said. "It's just for...how long?"

Everyone looked at everyone else; they had a month to play with, almost to the day, before they had to be back to start getting ready for school. How much of that month did they want to spend away from their homes and families? The answer was practically obvious.

"A month."

* * *

The battle was fierce, with lasers striking everywhere, the scream and pain of falling and fallen warriors all over the battlefield.

The Red Ranger looked around, his sword gripped still in his hand to the point he thought it might have been fused there, trying to locate his friends. So fogged with fatigue was his mind he could no longer remember their names, only their battle-colors. Blue Ranger and Pink Ranger were fighting side by side, her bow and his lance an unstoppable pair. Black Ranger and Yellow Ranger were on opposite sides of the battlefield, both surrounded by the Putties and both completely out of reach...

He started to look for the others, then stopped himself. They were gone. One lost to disease, one gone forever into the dark clutches of Lord Zedd, two lost, no one knew where...The last...He could feel his blood still pulsating with anger at that thought, then calmed himself. He couldn't allow himself to feel pain or treachery now. He had to get them out of there. They were the last, if they fell, the evil lord would triumph everywhere.

"Power Rangers!" he called out sharply, gaining their attention. "We have to regroup!"

"There is no time for that, Red Ranger!" he whirled to see Goldar standing behind him, his sword dripping blood, his mad red eyes glowing the same shade. "It is time, however, for you to die!"

He didn't have a chance to do anything. He was frozen in place, as firmly as if he'd been bound there with chains of steel, as Goldar raised his sword and began to bring it down...

Rocky sat up in his bed, sweat dripping off his forehead, and his hands clutching at the sheets. He knew he'd had just awakened from one of the more hideous nightmares, but even as his eyes opened fully and he looked around the barely-lightening room, what he had dreamed about faded from his memory. He took several long gulps of air, trying to concentrate and clear the nightmare haze from his thoughts.

This wasn't the first time this had happened, either. He'd had two other nightmares like this, and just like now, he couldn't remember what they had been about. All he knew was that they were terrifying enough to wake him up from the soundest of sleeps. And that he could never remember what it was he had dreamed about.

_I wonder if I should talk to any of the others about this?_ he mused for a moment, then shook his head. They were just dreams, annoying ones, but dreams all the same; just probably side effects from fighting for your life on a daily basis. That would sort of freak a person out, he decided. Most sixteen-year-olds were thinking about who they were going to the first dance of the year with, *not* if an intergalactic sorcerer was planning on blowing their face off at his next opportunity.

An insistent beep-beep-beep broke his thoughts from that, and he looked over to see his alarm clock ringing. It was seven a.m., and he was the only person awake in the entire DeSantos household. For a second, he couldn't remember why he'd had it set so early, but then he grinned.

"We're going up to the mountains today!" he muttered, jumping out of bed and feeling the usual flood of adrenaline coursing through his veins. It had been ridiculously easy for them all to get their parents' permission to go; not only did they trust their offspring and Billy's relatives, Rocky had a feeling that one side effect the Power had on parents was to decrease their protectiveness for whichever offspring was a Ranger.

_ Then again, we DO all tend to be the responsible types who wouldn't do anything naughty,_ he chuckled to himself, remembering some of the late-night conversations he, Adam, Tommy, and Billy would get into on those rare occasions when they would all be spending some 'quality time' with just the guys around. A mischievous grin touching his eyes, he headed for the shower, reminding himself that at seven in the morning, even in a house with as many kids as his parents had seen fit to produce, he wasn't going to have any competition for the bathroom facilities.

* * *
The sun was already past the horizon and steadily climbing higher as the six teens gathered together at Billy's house, where they'd unanimously agreed to start this little journey off at.

"How many cars are we taking?" Aisha asked through a stiff yawn. The female ninja wasn't at her best in the early morning, and they could all guess she'd be fast asleep before they'd been on the road for more than half an hour.

"Just mine," Billy said, gesturing to the RadBug. He'd put it through a few modifications since the last time he'd used it, and now it was ready for action of any kind. "It's got room enough for everyone!"

Adam stared at the car, a faint frown creasing his forehead. "Are you certain?" he asked, raising one eyebrow. "It doesn't look quite that roomy to me."

Billy's lips quirked a little, and he smiled. "Trust me, the RadBug's got room enough for everyone, and then some. Come on, let's start packing."

Kim was the only one who understood what he was talking about as everyone started to bring their bags over to the RadBug. As they started to pack things in, she wasn't surprised to find out there was always enough room for more. "You finally cracked how the inter-dimensional space pockets work, don't you?" she grinned over at Billy.

The Blue Ranger blushed just for a moment, then nodded. He'd been working on just where their morphers and Power Weapons were stored when they weren't using them almost since he'd become a Ranger over a year ago, and he'd finally figured it out. The first thing he'd done was incorporate that into the RadBug; the trunk literally now had space for just about anything short of the city of Angel Grove itself, making it the perfect vehicle to take on trips like this. So far, it was all he had figured out how to do.

"The what?" Rocky looked from one of them to the other, his own frown appearing now. "What are you guys talking about?"

"I'll explain later," Kim grinned, throwing another couple of bags in. "Basically, we can put just about anything in here, and there'll be room for it."

As everyone who was mentally capable of it at that unholy hour digested that information, Billy waved farewell to his dad, who was watching from the porch, and slipped into the driver's seat. This would be the first real road test of his homemade and home-modified vehicle, and he was eager to get started on it. "Is everyone ready to go?" he poked his head out for a moment.

"Ready!" came from Rocky, slipping into the backseat.

"Check!" Aisha was right next to him, squeezing past his nearly six foot frame to take up a few inches of her own space.

"I'm in!" was Adam's remark, taking up more of the backseat and just barely leaving room for Tommy, who squirmed in with a wave as Kim slithered into the seat next to Billy in the front. Some people might not have trusted their girlfriend next to someone as attractive to the girls as Billy had proven himself to be over the past year, but Tommy not only trusted his girlfriend, but he trusted his best friend as well. Besides, as he reminded himself whenever he saw Billy dating anyone, he was and always would be in love with someone else: Trini Kwan.

Billy glanced around, waved once more to his dad, then pulled out of the driveway. "We're on our way!" he declared, heading for the mountains. He could have had them there in under thirty seconds, if he'd wanted to turn on the RadBug's more exotic features, but like their powers and teleporting, he preferred to keep that in reserve for emergency situations. Anyway, it was such a nice day, they all wanted to enjoy it with a leisurely drive.

* * *
True to what they'd thought, Aisha was deep in the arms of slumber before they'd gotten halfway there, with Adam's arms quietly holding her. The dark-eyed Black Ranger glanced with more tenderness than they'd ever seen him show anyone or anything, even other girls he'd dated, at her every now and then. Rocky never breathed a word as he looked over at them every now and then.

_I sort of thought they would get together one day,_ he thought, a faint smile on his lips. _The two of them make a good couple. I just hope they realize it._

He peered out the window as they drove through the gates of the camping area. There were only a few cars there, indicating those few families that were there. Rocky knew that was why they'd been able to get the two cabins they had; but it still cut down on the opportunities for girl-meeting.

_I'm the only one who doesn't have a girlfriend, even a long-distance one_, he thought quietly to himself. Tommy and Kim had each other, Adam and Aisha were still in the first touches of what would eventually become a relationship (he hoped), while Billy was corresponding on a regular basis with the first Yellow Ranger, Trini; and from what he'd seen by accident in one of their letters, there was a bit more than normal friendliness in their missives to each other. Of all the active Rangers, he alone was alone.

He peered through the small window of the RadBug, pushing thoughts of love and romance out of his mind for now. There weren't that many girls he could really relate to, especially not since he'd become a Ranger. Most tended not to understand being called away in the middle of a date to do something he couldn't even tell them about once he got back.

"We're here!" Billy parked in front of a cabin and turned off the car. "Everyone out!"

Aisha opened her eyes, blinked, and looked around. "Already?" she muttered. "I thought we'd just started..."

"Nope, we're here," Rocky giggled, getting out after Tommy and stretching. He spied a couple heading over to them, and from the way Billy's eyes lit up as they got closer, figured they were his uncle and aunt.

"Uncle Jeff! Aunt Sarah!" the Blue Ranger grinned, running over and embracing them. "It's been a long time!"

"Oh, my, you're growing up so big and strong, Billy!" Sarah Cranston looked at her nephew with an approving eye. "Come on, introduce us to your friends!"

Billy smiled as he turned to the others. "You guys already know Kim," he gestured to the tiny Pink Ranger as she pulled things out of the back of the RadBug swiftly and handed them to the appropriate owner. "This is Tommy, Rocky, Adam, and Aisha."

"Nice to meet you all," Jeff Cranston shook hands with the boys and nodded pleasantly to Kim and Aisha. "You're almost the only teenagers we have around here."

"Almost?" Billy pulled out the last bag and tossed it to Rocky. "You didn't say anything about any other kids."

Jeff smiled briefly, and looked around. "There's one other teenager here," he said, gesturing to the various cabins. "Most of the people who visit in August either have grown kids or little children. I haven't caught her name, but I've seen her around. Actually, there she is!"

Rocky turned as Jeff gestured, and his jaw almost dropped to the ground when he saw the girl walking towards them. She was shorter than he was; by about four inches, with a triangular face, short-cut light brown hair, snapping hazel eyes, and a dark tan. Something about the way her muscles moved and flowed told him she was no stranger to the martial arts, either. As she walked, she glanced over to them, and her eyes widened when they met Rocky's. A small smile curved her lips, and she nodded pleasantly at him before going into the cabin next door.

The Red Ranger took in a long gulp of air. _Oh. My. Goodness._

* * *
"Rocky's in love!" Aisha's voice held just the tiniest bit of awe and quite a bit more of teasing. "I saw how you were looking at that girl!"

Adam chuckled briefly. "I've seen you with a lot of girls, Rocko, but I *never* thought I'd see you fall for a girl you don't even know!"

"Come on, guys!" Rocky blushed, putting away his last few things and turning to look at them. "It's crazy! We've never even spoken! How can you say I'm in love?"

The Yellow Ranger smiled. "Because we *know* you, Rocky! We know how you think, and you have *never* looked this happy before. You look like someone turned a light bulb on inside you!"

"Besides, just because you haven't spoken doesn't mean you won't," Adam stated sensibly. "You ought to try at least."

Rocky half-glared at his friend. "Adam, this is summer. We're on vacation, and so is she. There's no way I could be in love with someone I won't even see after this month!"

His head turned at a sudden tap on the door, and he managed to keep himself from jumping to the window to see who it was. He heard Billy going over to it, and reminded himself harshly it was probably just his aunt and uncle. _Who else could it be?_ he told himself very sensibly.

An unfamiliar voice spoke, pitched just loud enough to carry. "I know this is probably kind of strange, but I live in the cabin next door, and you guys are the first people of my own age I've seen in the last couple of months, and I really want to talk to someone who isn't ninety-plus!"

Billy laughed. "Nice to meet you. I'm Billy Cranston, my aunt and uncle own this place," he turned around and raised his voice a little. "Guys, come and meet our temporary next door neighbor!"

Everyone literally converged on the front door, and the young woman there flushed a trifle at the sudden attention. It was obvious she hadn't quite expected all of this. "Ma'am, this is Tommy Oliver, Kim Hart, Aisha Campbell, Adam Park, and Rocky DeSantos."

As Billy named them all, everyone waved, and the girl smiled. "I'm Alyssa Murphy. I'm visiting here with my brother and sister; I'm staying with them for the summer while my parents are on their second honeymoon."

"It's nice to meet you," Rocky got the words out without stammering as Alyssa turned her warm eyes on him. "We're up here for a month, getting away from Angel Grove before we have to go back to school."

Alyssa shuddered for a moment. "I *hate* school!" she declared. "I go to a private one in New York, and I'd give just about *anything* not to go there!"

"Let's not talk about school!" Rocky suggested quickly. "We've still got a month before we have to go back, and that's sort of what we were trying to get away from!"

"I understand completely!" Alyssa agreed, following them as they headed into what served as the 'living room' of the cabin. "So, what do you guys do for fun here in California? And is it really true that there are aliens trying to invade here?"

She was kind of surprised by the look they all gave her and each other, as Tommy stifled a sigh. "Very, very true," was all he said though, "Very true indeed."

* * *
Alyssa could feel the subtle tensions she'd been living under the past couple of months fading away in the warm atmosphere that she found herself in. Since coming to live with her brother and sister for the summer, she'd had to deal with people who were at the very least five years older than her, if not more so. She hadn't had a good talk with someone her own age, with any of her own interests since she'd left school.

_Actually, not even then_, she reminded herself. She hadn't had any friends who shared all of her interests, and only three who had shared any of them at all. _And none of them are even going to be there when I get back,_ she kept the bitter tang out of her thoughts by force of will. All three of her friends had moved on, either to other interests or other places. Chrissy was going to be moving to London over the summer, and Geneva was on a trip around the world with her grandmother. The only one of them who had stayed, Lisa, had coolly told them the last day of school that she didn't want to hang around with 'uncool dweebs' like them. All Alyssa would have to hang around and be with in the coming year was her own imagination, and any friends she could scrounge up. Her junior year looked to be *very* boring.

These six, however, were filling in the gaps in her heart she hadn't ever thought could be filled, and it was all she could do not to pull herself away from them. She knew perfectly well she wouldn't see them again once this month was over; she lived in New York and they lived in California. _Doesn't mean I can't have some long-distance friends!_ she thought fiercely. Something Tommy said jarred her out of her contemplations.

"You study karate, Tommy?" she asked, a mischievous glint lighting her eyes suddenly. The tall young man nodded, and she looked him up and down quickly. He had the muscles of a fighter, she noticed, and she recalled now that all of them seemed to be just a bit more aware than most of her classmates were, as if every sense they had was tuned just a tiny bit higher than normal.

"I've been studying since I was about three years old," Tommy continued. "It's sort of popular in Angel Grove, too. That's how I met Kim and Billy, and some other friends of ours, at a martial arts expo there."

Alyssa nodded as she slowly moved to her feet. "I know something about karate," she said. "Want to spar a little?"

"Um, Alyssa, are you sure?" Kim looked at the young girl somewhat warily. "Tommy's a third-degree black belt, you might want to be careful."

Alyssa smiled just a little. "I don't think you'll hurt me, will you?" she asked, looking up at Tommy. "I mean, if you're that good, you should be able to show what you can do without causing any real damage, right?"

"Yeah," Tommy nodded. "But are you sure you want to spar with me?" he'd seen her own muscles, and recognized the way she walked as that of the fighting martial artist, alert and wary, but he had no idea how good she was. He didn't want to accidentally hurt her; and since becoming a Ranger, all of their reflexes and reactions had nearly doubled; it was why they usually only sparred with other Rangers now. No one else could really keep up with them.

"Well, all right," Alyssa smiled, slipping back down. She had no doubts of her abilities, though she was eager to test theirs. A little imp of perversity whispered that it just might be more fun to keep some secrets from them. "But you can *show* me what you can do, at least. That way I'll know for *sure* if I'm in your league or not."

A little harmless ego-stroking never hurt anyone, she thought, her lips twitching just the faintest bit. Rocky almost looked as if he were going to jump up, when Tommy looked over at Adam. "Let's show her what we can do."

A few minutes later, once everyone had pushed back from the center of the room and gave the two warriors some room. Alyssa watched, eyebrows raised and eyes filled with appreciation, as the two of them kicked and punched their way around, demonstrating for her what they could do. She did her best to look suitably impressed, and most certainly did not notice the way Rocky was staring at her all throughout the demonstration. As she leaned back in her chair, she knew this was going to be one interesting month.

* * *
It was a crystal clear morning, a brilliant blue sky arching overhead, with a few puffy white clouds soaring through the sky. Rocky stared out the window, stretching his muscles as he did so, preparing for his morning run. Everyone else was still asleep, except for Tommy, who was a few feet away working out his own sleep-kinks.

"You like her, don't you?" Rocky jerked his head around at the sound of his leader's voice. "Alyssa. You like her."

The Red Ranger shrugged a bit. "She's a nice girl and really good looking. But she lives on the other side of the continent, Tommy. That sort of puts a damper on anything more than being friends."

"True," Tommy admitted. He didn't know what he'd do if he or Kim ever had to move that far away from each other; he hoped their relationship would be able to deal with it. _I'm certain it will_, he thought firmly. _We love each other._ "But you like her anyway, don't you?"

Rocky blushed every bit as red as the T-shirt he was wearing, then glanced out the window as he heard the faint sound of a door opening. He saw Alyssa coming out of the cabin next door, dressed in a white T-shirt and blue cut-offs, stretching. With what might have been a wistful glance around, she started off one of the trails, jogging easily and lightly.

"Go after her," Tommy suggested, touching his friend's shoulder. "It won't hurt to at least give her someone to jog with. She told us she's been jogging and working out alone ever since she got here, remember? She could probably use someone to talk to."

Rocky looked after her, seeing the white flash of Alyssa's shirt vanishing into the trees. "I guess," he felt an unaccustomed sensation of nervousness in his stomach as he watched her, and turned back to Tommy. "Why don't we both go? We both need to run, and I wouldn't want her to think I was trying to take advantage of her or anything!"

The White Ranger could only chuckle at that, and wrote out a quick note for the others, letting them know where the two of them were going. "My pleasure," he grinned. "Let's go."

Together, the two of them slipped out of the house and started off down the pathway Alyssa had been down. They hadn't gone much more than beyond the sight of the cabins when they both stopped, however.

"It would have to do this, wouldn't it?" Rocky half-hissed, staring at the path, or more accurately: the paths. Just where no one could see it from outside the path split into five different offshoots, and finding just which one Alyssa had went down would not be easy. The two Rangers stood for a moment, looking down the paths. Suddenly, following their new acquaintance didn't seem half as attractive. Or even possible.

* * *
Far above the two confused warriors, cold red eyes were having a far, far easier time following Alyssa's progress than Rocky and Tommy could have dreamed of. Lord Zedd, their nemesis and the master of evil, watched the young girl jogging casually through the woods, and beneath his faceplate, a cold smile was forming.

"It is another day in Angel Grove, sire," his chief flunky Goldar declared, bowing. "What shall you do to defeat the Rangers and destroy the world?"

"I'd like to start by getting rid of you, you incompetent buffoon!" Zedd snapped back. He was never quite as evil during the rest of the day as he was when he had first awakened. "But since that's not an option just yet, I've got something for the Putties to do!"

Goldar nodded; glad to have the usual morning's abuse done with so swiftly. Some days Zedd berated him until nearly noon before getting down to the serious business of trying his next plot against the Rangers. "What is your command, my lord?" was all he said out loud. That seemed to be all he did these days; just play second fiddle to Zedd. Then again, the sorcerer *was* the leader of the powerful evil empire in the known universe, second to none, and he had little use for a warrior like Goldar.

"Look," Zedd gestured for a moment, and Goldar could see a young woman running through the woods in the mountains above Angel Grove. He knew the Rangers had went there for a vacation before school started up again, and assumed this was someone they had met there; Zedd seldom bothered with people who didn't know the Rangers, since they were the only major threat to his threatened domination of the planet. "Her name is Alyssa Murphy, and the Red Ranger has a crush on her," his voice held nothing but scorn and contempt. Zedd had never known what it was to love someone, though he did possess the emotion of desire, as evinced by his plot to make the Pink Ranger his queen several months prior.

"What do you wish of the Putties, sire?" Goldar asked, though he thought he already knew. It would be a simple task. The clay fighters would go down, attack the girl. The Rangers would teleport in, or just run up if they were close enough, and proceed to kick some serious clay posterior. Then Zedd would do a lot of screaming, make a monster out of something, it would do some damage, possibly send the Rangers packing if it were strong enough, until that little genius of theirs got the chance to build something that would destroy it, and then it would be toast, usually by the MegaZord's sword if not by the device of Billy's making itself.

His thoughts paused for a moment, an idea flickering up in his mind. Billy was *such* a help to the Rangers, always building things, and he was starting to become a fierce fighter as well, quite different from the beginning. He had a great deal more confidence in himself, and that was really beginning to irk Goldar now that he thought about it. _I wonder...the Blue Ranger does such good for Zordon...I wonder what kind of evil he could do for Zedd?_ The thought of capturing, corrupting, and converting Billy to their side was quite entertaining to the evil warrior.

Zedd's entire body, and the Chamber of Command, glowed a fierce scarlet red as he turned to Goldar, interrupting his thoughts, such as they were. "Send the Putties down to capture her, you idiot!" he roared. "And make certain they do it without the Rangers getting in the way! I want to see that girl in front of me as soon as possible, is that understood!?"

Goldar sighed briefly, putting the thought and the half-formed plan to a dark corner of his mind. There it would stay, until he had a chance to complete it and implement it, and maybe, just maybe, he would be able to bring himself up a few notches in his master's eyes. With a roar he dispatched five Putties, more than enough to carry out this mission, and took his usual position beside his master, ready to gloat and terrify the captive once she got there.

There were days when it really paid to be evil.

* * *
Alyssa hummed under her breath as she jogged through the woods, a faint smile twisting her lips as she did so. She had heard the sound of another door shutting behind someone leaving their house, and a quick glance over her shoulder had shown her it was Rocky and Tommy, judging by the red and white shirts they had been wearing respectively.

_I wonder why they always dress in practical monochromes?_ she wondered, leaping lightly over a fallen tree. _Kim's always dressed out in pink, Billy's got more blue in his wardrobe than I've ever seen a human being wear, Aisha looks like the sun in all her yellow, and you'd think Adam was going to a perpetual funeral from all the black he's got!_

Red, yellow, pink, black, blue, and white. They wore those colors constantly. They were from Angel Grove, where the costumed defenders of the city were the Red, Yellow, Pink, Black, Blue, and White Rangers. She frowned for a moment, faltering in her run. They always wore those watches, which were in those exact same color codings.

_Whoa, wait a minute. The Power Rangers wouldn't be caught DEAD on vacation,_ she shook her head, trying to clear it from the obvious early morning fuzz that had filled it. _And especially not up here! It's a nice place, but it's not where world-famous superheroes would go on their days off! Besides, why in the world would teenagers be superheroes? The Rangers are probably adults, with jobs and things. Or independently wealthy, so they can afford those suits and the repairs and things._

Once she'd dealt with that little dilemma, she glanced behind herself, expecting to see Rocky and Tommy there, grinning already in greeting to them. What she actually saw were five Putty Patrollers behind her. She knew what they were; she'd seen them on news reports from Angel Grove, and they weren't supposed to be that difficult to get rid of, but she had never expected to see them standing within two feet of her.

"What do you creeps want?" she growled, backing away after a quick check behind her to make sure it was safe. She had no intentions of winding up like all the chicks in the horror movies she'd seen, who backed away from one menace just to wander straight into the arms of another.

The answer to that seemed fairly obvious, as the gray creatures spread out and surrounded her. "I don't know what you have in mind, but something tells me it isn't good," she half-growled, dropping into a fighting stance and focusing her thoughts on just two things: her opponents and the possibility of more of them coming. Then, she struck out. Hard.

Alyssa had had her reasons for wanting to spar with Tommy, and only one of them had been to see how good he was. Some part of her had wanted him to see how good *she* was, to see if her training was enough to stand up to someone like him. She didn't know him, but the catlike way he moved, the muscles all over him, told her in the plain language of the martial artist that he was good. And as he and Rocky came up through the trees, finally able to figure out which trail she had taken by the sounds and shouts of battle, he saw something that really shocked him.

She was good too. In the center of a ring of Putties, her hair caught in a ponytail, she was swerving, dodging, hitting, and kicking with balance, force, and precision. It had been advertised on the news what the weak points of Zedd's putties were, and it was obvious she'd been paying attention, since a powerful tornado kick landed her right foot directly on the 'Z' spot, causing it to fly apart. She whirled almost automatically and instantly into a spinning crescent kick combined with a punch that blew apart another Putty.

"She's good," Rocky breathed, staring in unabashed awe at her. They'd thought to come help, knowing she'd said she knew a little karate, but not knowing if it would be enough to help her out in this fight.

"Very good," Tommy agreed. The parts of his mind that were devoted to being the leader of the Power Rangers told him rather bluntly that there was obviously some plot of Zedd's going on here, and he was keeping an eye out for any further attacks, as well as an ear open for the beep of their communicator.

Another couple of flips, kicks, and punches had knocked the last three Putties against her apart, and Alyssa came to her feet, facing the two Rangers, her eyes bright and her cheeks flushed with something they knew all too well...The thrill of combat.

"Hey, guys!" she waved them over. "And no, this is not my normal morning workout."

* * *
Tommy turned and looked at the others gathered in the living room. None of them had really thought they would get away with an entire month of freedom from Zedd's attacks, but they'd at least though they wouldn't have to deal with something on the first full day of vacation!

"So, Alyssa took out all the Putties by herself?" Kim still couldn't believe it, even though Tommy had described the fight four times already. Rocky was the only one of the group not there; Tommy had dropped a subtle hint to the Red Ranger that if Zedd was interested in Alyssa, for whatever reason, it might be a good idea if one of them was near her at all times. At the very least they could call for help if something happened to her.

Her boyfriend nodded. "She's good. I'd say at least brown belt, if not over it, and it's Shokotan style," he'd practiced that enough with Jason to know what it was. "What's worrying me more than anything is *why* he would be after her. She's not really connected to any of us, we just met her yesterday. Rocky likes her, I know, but---"

"Maybe that's it," Aisha suggested as her leader's voice trailed off into nothingness. "He knows Rocky likes her, and I think she kind of likes him too, and he's got some sort of weird, twisted plan to use that somehow?"

Adam looked pensive. "It could be," he agreed. "Or he could have some purpose we don't know about. Don't forget, he was after me, Aisha, and Rocky for our martial arts skills. He could want her for the same thing if she's as good as you said she is."

He almost wished he hadn't said anything at the sudden flash of fear in Aisha's eyes, and squeezed her hand in comfort. The two of them, and Rocky, still had the occasional nightmare about being chained up in the cave, with the Serpent of Darkness slithering towards them, fangs ready to sink into them. In some of his own dreams, the Rangers didn't make it in there in time, and he was bitten. The feeling of his own *self* being drained away, replaced by the venom of evil, was something he was glad he would never experience in real life. His nightmares were bad enough: literally bad enough to send him screaming into awareness. He thought he'd been having replays of them lately, but whatever was sending him awake at nights lately was something far worse, he was beginning to think. He turned his attention back to the others, knowing he and his friends were going to have to do some talking fairly soon.

"Rocky's with her now, and I think until we find out what Zedd's up to, at least one of us should stay with her at all times," Tommy was saying. "I'll contact Zordon and see if there's anything special we should know about her, or anything Zedd's done in Angel Grove since we left."

The Rangers all nodded; they had a lot to do, and the same thought was going through everyone's mind. _I thought this was supposed to be our vacation!_

* * *
The Chamber of Command was glowing a bright and furious red as Goldar cowered in a corner. Zedd was in full and magnificent form as he stared down at his simpering servant. "Those Putties are worthless!" he raged. "They couldn't even capture a silly human girl!"

"That girl is a warrior, my lord," Goldar said in the most fawning tones he could imagine, hoping if he could bring that to Zedd's attention he would escape at least some of the dark lord's wrath. "She was a match for a mere six Putties."

Zedd glared down at him, then the light faded suddenly as he took his throne again. "She is a warrior, and a good one," he conceded. "It will take more than just a few Putties to bring her here, and that's exactly what you're going to do, Goldar."

The simian frowned for a moment, not understanding his master's thoughts. "Sire?"

"You're going to bring her here, you idiot!" Zedd roared, crimson flashing in his eyes and all around him. "I don't care how good of a fighter she is, she's not a Ranger and she's not a match for you! The next time she's alone, or with just one of those Rangers, take a dozen Putties and don't come back without her! Is that understood?"

Goldar bowed quickly, grasping what he was being told now. Despite the brief flash of an idea earlier, fighting was his forte, not strategy or long-range thinking. "I understand, my lord," he said quickly. "Do you have a preference for her place of imprisonment once I have her?"

"The Dark Dimension," Zedd ordered. "It is inescapable by a human, and the Rangers won't know to look there for her, or think to, since that was Rita's preferred place of imprisonment. Not that I intend to give them the time to search!" he laughed softly as he turned his thoughts inward and his gaze outward, keeping an eye on the Rangers and their friend.

_It would be quite interesting if I could turn her against them. Goldar was right, she is a warrior. But it would cause too many problems at the moment, and she would be no match for the Rangers without powers of her own. And I have none to give her._

His eyes glinted for a moment as he remembered how once there might have been a Ranger of his own, if a bargain hadn't been broken..._No, not broken_, he reminded himself. _That was a clever move on that one's part. And I WILL have my own Ranger one day. I just have to be patient._

Goldar didn't know what his master was thinking as he went to his own chambers to practice his battle-arts. All he knew was if he failed in this, it was almost a guarantee that he was going to suffer almost to the point of death.

_At least I'm too valuable to kill,_ he thought. He hoped. Zedd had been known to replace those who failed too often...Usually violently..._I won't fail!_

* * *
Rocky had dated quite a few girls over the last couple of years since he had started dating in Stone Canyon. He'd even went out with Aisha once or twice, though they had long since come to the decision that they were only good friends. She was going to be quite happy with Adam one day, he knew.

None of the girls he'd ever dated, not even Aisha, quite stirred up the same feelings in him that Alyssa was. They were totally irrational ones, however, since he knew she wasn't going to be around that much longer. At the end of the month, in just two short weeks, he would be back in Angel Grove and she would be back in New York.

Two weeks. It hardly seemed like any time at all since they had met. They were in the perfect middle now, two weeks since their arrival, and another two weeks to go before they had to leave. The Rangers hadn't let Alyssa be alone unless they absolutely had to, and whenever they did, Zordon kept an eye on her from the Command Center, without her knowledge. Even knowing Zedd was after her didn't qualify her to know who the Rangers were.

_Then again, we don't KNOW that he's still after her. We haven't seen any sign of him since that Putty attack, not around here, anyway._ They'd still had to deal with the occasional monster in Angel Grove, but nothing up in the mountains. With no further indications of Zedd's interest, Tommy was thinking seriously about having them stopping their constant watch on her.

"Rocky?" he looked up at the sound of his name to see Alyssa standing in the door of the living room of their cabin. Behind her, he could see Aisha and Kim going into their room, carrying bags. _Trust them to find a shopping center_, he thought, his lips almost twitching. "I was wondering, would you like to go for a walk?" she asked, smiling a little nervously.

He returned the expression, standing up. "Sure! The woods path?"

"Sure," Alyssa nodded, relaxing a little. She had been giving some serious thought to Rocky the past couple of weeks, and wondering just how much she liked him, and if it were too much. She couldn't fall in love, it would be the height of stupidity, since they lived on different coasts. But at least she liked him, she knew that much. _Maybe we can keep in touch_, she thought as the two of them walked outside and to the woods. _That would be nice. I like him. I like all of them. And they certainly do seem to come as a set!_

In the past two weeks, she'd come to know them all fairly well, due to the fact they had barely left her alone since the Putties had attacked. She got the impression they were protecting her, but wasn't certain from what...Or why. _Those things haven't been seen since that one attack. Not that I'm complaining._

She glanced over at Rocky as the two of them walked, and wondered what he was thinking. _Probably not what I am_, she looked briefly at the main cabin, where Mr. and Mrs. Cranston lived. Just outside of it was a large notice board, and her eyes flew to a large notice about the End of Summer Dance being held in two more weeks. She remembered Tommy had told her during one morning jog that he and his friends would be leaving a couple of days after the dance, and she would be leaving the morning after.

_I wonder if Rocky would like to go with me to it_, she thought. She smiled briefly, turning to him. "Rocky," he looked over when she called his name, and her heart almost stopped at how handsome he was. _At least I can have a summer romance, if nothing else!_ she grinned mentally. "I was wondering something."

"What's that?" he'd seen the signs up for the dance, not just outside the main cabin, but in quite a few other places around the region. The others had been urging him to invite Alyssa, and he'd been thinking about it himself. What was wrong with a summer romance, after all? They'd both know it was nothing serious, a little harmless month of dating, no major commitments for either of them.

"You know that dance the Cranstons' are having in a couple of weeks? The end of summer thing?" when he nodded, she continued. "I was wondering, would you like to go to it with me?"

Rocky could not believe his ears! She was actually asking him to go to it with her! Somewhere in the back of his mind was a little voice gibbering with joy that he didn't have to ask her now, but only one word managed to make it's way out from his shock. "Sure!"

Alyssa smiled, then her eyes nearly tripled in size and she backed away. "There's something else I'd like to know!" her voice was panicky even as she spoke, and Rocky had a sense he knew what she was going to say before she did.

"What's that?"

"Did you invite *them* on this walk?" her voice was full of panic, and Rocky whirled around, reaching automatically for the Power Coin in his pocket. Remembering that she didn't know stopped him...but seeing Goldar and twenty Putties almost made him start for it again!

"No, I didn't!" he growled. "Alyssa, you'd better get back to the cabins!"

His words were useless, however, as she fell into a fighting stance, her eyes fierce. "Forget it," she literally hissed. "I don't know what these things are up to, but I'm not leaving you alone with them!"

"I didn't come here for *him*, girl!" Goldar roared, waving the Putties to surround Rocky. "I came for *you*! My Lord Zedd desires your presence!"

Rocky used some fairly nasty mental language as he flipped and spun kicked one of the Putties, missing it's 'Z' by a hair's breadth. "Not going to happen!" he shouted. _She's too close, I can't morph or use my communicator! I hope Zordon was watching!_ "Alyssa, get out!"

"I already told you I wasn't!" she was fighting another couple of Putties that had spun off to face against her. The clay creatures weren't smart enough to realize all it took was one really good hit to get rid of them, but they were strong enough to avoid getting hit most of the time. That was what made them so annoying and so hard to deal with.

Goldar patted his sword against his palm for a moment, waiting for the right moment. The Rangers hadn't left the girl alone for the past two weeks, except for those few hours of night when she was with her family. Zedd had considered attacking then, until he had detected Zordon watching out for the girl then. He'd decided to wait a while, for the Rangers to let their guard down. The minute that happened, when she was out with just the Red Ranger, and the others were being kept busy with another pack of Putties, Goldar struck.

Alyssa could feel a thick bolt of fear homing in on her guts. Something beyond strange was going on here, something she couldn't identify. The Putties didn't seem as intent on grabbing her like last time or fighting her as they were on Rocky. They almost seemed to be herding her someplace...

_Wait! That thing I saw, the big thing with the armor and the muscles and the bad attitude...Where is IT!?_ The thought hadn't passed through her mind for more than a second when a harsh, highly muscled arm closed around her neck while a sharp blade was hovering only a bare inch away from her chest.

"Time to go," she heard Goldar growl in her ear, then she felt the most sickening of sensations, as if every molecule she possessed was torn apart and tossed through time and space. The last thing she thought was a wish that Rocky was all right, and a complete sense of confusion as to just why she was being kidnapped.

* * *
Rocky growled something unintelligible moments later as he slammed his fist through the final Putty. He hadn't been able to get through them all to get to Alyssa before Goldar had teleported off with her, and now she was Zedd's prisoner! The very thing they had tried so hard to stop had happened!

"Guys, this is Rocky!" he almost shouted into his communicator once he had caught his breath. "Alyssa and I got jumped by Putties and Goldar, he took her!"

There was a moment's worth of a pause, then Tommy's voice came back. "So that's what was going on. We got jumped by Putties here at the cabin. Almost twenty of them, they were going all out. Looks like that was a distraction to keep us from coming to help you guys," his tone was pure business. "Let's get to the Command Center, we'll start looking for her right away. Whatever Zedd's up to, he's not going to get away with it."

Rocky just nodded, not caring if Tommy could see him or not over the communicator, and hit the button on his communicator. All he could see for a moment was a wash of pure red, then he was standing in the Command Center. I'll never get used to that, he thought briefly, then turned to where the others were just appearing in their own colored columns.

"I'll get started scanning right away," Billy was moving to the computers almost before he was fully materialized into the room. "Did Goldar say anything about why he was taking her, Rocky?"

The Red Ranger shook his head, already pacing nervously as he thought. "All he said was that Zedd wanted her. Not why, and he didn't even attack me at all. Just sent the Putties to keep me out of the way while he took her."

"Zedd has no doubt seen that you are attracted to her, Rocky," Zordon said quietly. "I would not be surprised if he were either planning to use her as a hostage, or possibly place some spell on her to make her serve him."

Rocky bit his lip, trying not to think about the results of that. He peered for a moment over Billy's shoulder, wishing he understood the complex calculations that were going past. The simple mechanics of combat he understood in his bones. The process used to detect a living being was beyond him.

"Ay-yi-yi!" Alpha's strident cry broke into his thoughts as he paced. "Incoming call on the Viewing Globe! It's from Lord Zedd!"

Everyone turned slowly to gaze at the crystalline ball behind them. Something within it flickered for a moment, then the dark lord appeared, glowing faintly blue, and with what had to be a pleased expression on his mostly expressionless masked face. "Hello, there, Rangers!" he called mockingly. "Missing someone? A friend of yours, I believe, Red Ranger?"

"What have you done with her, Zedd?!" Rocky growled, his fists balling up. "Where's Alyssa?"

Zedd chuckled. "She's quite safe. For the moment."

"Get to the point, Zedd," Zordon's voice was almost harsh as he spoke. He didn't like communicating with the enemy in any form, especially over their own communications system. It left a very bad taste in the inter-dimensional being's mouth. "What are you after?"

Their enemy leaned forward, a flash of red showing in his eyes. "It's very simple. You have one hour to surrender, or I will kill the girl. I would demand an immediate surrender, but I like the thought of you squirming around for a while better!" he laughed again. "One hour, Rangers. Or the Red Ranger's girlfriend pays the price!"

With a flicker of red, the Viewing Globe went dark. Rocky leaned back, his hands already balled into fists and his eyes thick with worry. "Can you find her in an hour, Billy?" he asked after several silent moments.

The Blue Ranger took a deep breath of his own, looking over the calculations already done and thinking about what they would have to do. "I don't know," he said finally. "But I'm going to try."

Tommy nodded. "You'd better hurry. An hour isn't much time, and the last thing we want to do is surrender."

Silence descended on the Rangers as Billy and Alpha started working, scanning all of Zedd's known dimensions of imprisonment. Surrendering wasn't an option here.

* * *
Alyssa grunted as she was thrown harshly against a stone wall, and did what she could to roll to her feet. A quick look around showed her the new surroundings she was in weren't exactly pleasant ones. She was in a small barred area of a larger cave, with three Putties standing just outside the cage bars. The thing that had grabbed her stood menacingly over her, red eyes flaming at her.

"Do you look like that at everyone you kidnap, or is it just me?" the words were out of her mouth almost before she realized it, and she groaned mentally. _Looks like my mouth is going to be getting me into more trouble. Oh, well, if I'm already a prisoner, then I should have some sort of fun, at least._

Goldar just grinned back at her. "You'll soon lose that attitude, human!" he threatened. "None of Lord Zedd's prisoners keep such courage for long!"

She casually glanced around, noting that she was the only person there. "I must be in the 'reserved' section, then," she said dryly. "I seem to notice a distinct lack of other prisoners. Of course, they probably all escaped already."

"No one escapes these dungeons!" he declared. "No one gets past me, Goldar!"

"Oh, so that's your name," she noted. "Funny, I was under the impression you just sort of grunted if someone called for your attention."

Goldar hissed, raising his sword for a moment, then lowering it again. He had to remind himself she was, at the moment, a valuable commodity that couldn't be harmed. Alyssa grinned, noticing the movement. "You can't hurt me, can you? Whatever reason your boss wants me for, you can't hurt me because he'd get mad at you!"

She could tell she was right by the way his eyes glowed for a moment, and she smiled. Her smile increased just a bit as she saw something behind him. "So, how long am I going to be here, and just *why* am I here in the first place?" she asked conversationally, once his eyes had stopped flaring at her.

"You are here to insure that the Power Rangers surrender to my master Lord Zedd!" Goldar didn't see why she shouldn't know that. He was tempted to reveal the Rangers' true identities to her, but he still remembered vividly what happened the last time he had set up a situation where someone had discovered the secret identities of the Rangers. _The last thing I think Lord Zedd wants is another Power Ranger!_

Alyssa raised her eyebrows, leaning against the rock wall in a position of apparent relaxation. "And what makes you think they'll surrender just because you have me?"

"Oh, they will!" Goldar laughed, turning slightly to shout out some orders to the Putties. The moment his eyes left Alyssa, she moved like a streak of lightning, throwing herself literally around him and dodging for the door behind him, arms and fists ready to punch out some 'Z' spots and find a way out of this place.

At least that was what she was planning. Goldar's hand closed on the back of her shirt and threw her hard against the wall again. Her head struck something hard and the cell swam before her eyes as she tried to recover.

"You're not doing any escaping here, Human!" there was some sort of strange noise and a golden light, then the sensation of flying back a short distance, and when Alyssa could see things straight again, she found herself chained to the back wall of the cave. "You're going to be here until the Rangers surrender..." he stared directly into her eyes, and she almost upchucked at the stench of his breath. "Then I'll see if I can talk Lord Zedd into letting me have you. After all, once they've surrendered...we won't need a hostage anymore. And I would enjoy teaching you different meanings of the word 'pain'."

* * *
The minutes were literally ticking by, and Rocky was getting more and more nervous with every one of them. _This isn't like fighting a monster, this is someone's LIFE at stake_, he thought, glancing again over Billy's shoulder. _Someone I care about..._

"Any luck yet, Billy?" Tommy asked, almost causing Rocky to jump out of his skin.

"Nothing ye---," Billy's voice trailed off suddenly, and he felt almost like slapping himself. _I should've checked THERE first! It's the most obvious place!_

Rocky looked over at his friend. "Billy? What is it?"

"The Dark Dimension," the Blue Ranger said, setting the controls to scan for it. "I haven't detected anything in any of Zedd's usual prison dimensions, and there was no flicker or anything in the shields around the palace, so he didn't take her there. He could have her someplace new, but I'm going to ----," he smiled suddenly as the results came in. "She's in the Dark Dimension. Readings indicate that Goldar and some Putties are also there, but so's Alyssa. I think I can get a visual on the Viewing Globe."

More tense moments passed, as the end of the hour Zedd had given them drew ever closer. Finally, the Globe flickered for a moment, then cleared to show Alyssa leaning against the all too familiar back wall of the Dark Dimension, her wrists being held apart in chains, and her eyes shut. Three Putties were in front of the cell-area, while Goldar marched outside of it, waving his sword every now and then muttering to himself.

"Let's go get her," Rocky's voice was molten steel. He could see a couple of bruises on Alyssa's cheek, and the thought of what else Goldar might be doing, or have done, to her lit a fire of rage inside the Red Ranger.

"Be careful, Rangers," Zordon advised. "We do not know what Zedd might have planned for you there, nor what he might already have done to your friend. Things are not always what they seem."

"We'll be careful, Zordon," Tommy reassured him as he turned to the team. "Ready guys?" he waited just long enough for the answering nods before crying out the traditional battle cry: "It's morphin' time!"

"White Tiger!"




"Saber-Tooth Tiger!"


The last echo of Rocky's morphin phrase had barely faded before they were in the Dark Dimension, and the first thing they heard, other than Alyssa's startled gasp at seeing the Power Rangers relatively up close and personal, was Goldar's own voice.

"Putties!" at the call, a half dozen more of the clay warriors appeared. "Attack the Rangers!" he ordered, charging directly at them himself, sword upraised.

"Red Ranger!" Tommy snapped out the order even as he snap kicked a Putty Patroller in the stomach, then side kicked another. "You get the girl out of here, we'll take care of these jerks!"

Rocky nodded; he knew better than to use their real names while they were this close to a civilian. Alyssa was staring in awe as he threw a Putty over one shoulder and came right up against Goldar.

"You're going to pay for attempting this, Ranger!" the mutant growled, his sword pointed directly at Rocky's chest. "And then your girlfriend will pay as well!"

"Promises, promises," Rocky kicked Goldar, then caught his breath as Goldar kicked him hard in the ribs in return. "You and Zedd will never get away with kidnapping innocent civilians!"

A blur of white flew across the Dark Dimension, landing itself in between Rocky and Goldar. The Red Ranger looked into the helmet of the White, and Tommy jerked his head over his shoulder to the prison area. "I'll take care of Goldar, getting her out of here is more important than the fight!"

"I'm on it!" Rocky was over by the bars a moment later. "Just a second, ma'am, and you'll be out of there!"

Alyssa was literally staring as he ripped the keys off the wall and unlocked the door. "Whoa," she whispered. "A real Power Ranger?"

"That's me," he smiled under his helmet, coming in and literally slicing the chains off her arms with his Power Sword. "Red Ranger, at your service."

"Oh, my," she could hardly believe her eyes! First kidnapped by the forces of evil, now rescued by the Power Rangers...Rocky and the others are NOT going to believe this!

Rocky tried not to chuckle as he took her arm as gallantly as he could. "It's time to get out of here," he said, looking up to see the Rangers flipping into the cell one at a time. "Everyone ready?"

"Ready!" came from five different Rangers, and one very ready young woman. Goldar, still trying to recover from the last powerful hit Tommy had given him, could just stare in shock and anger as they all teleported out. Once again, the forces of good had triumphed.

* * *
Alyssa and the Rangers arrived almost back at the same site where she had been kidnapped from nearly an hour before. Her pulse was still racing as she stared at her rescuers. "Oh, this is awesome," she breathed, then glanced around, recognizing her surroundings. "Oh, man! Rocky! He was still fighting those things! What if they got him too?"

"They didn't," White Ranger reassured her quickly. "We've already taken care of the Putties he was fighting, and he's waiting back at the cabins for you. We're very sorry this happened, and we don't know why you were the one kidnapped."

Alyssa shrugged. "It doesn't matter, really," she said, surprising the Rangers with her casual attitude. "What matters is that you rescued me before you had to surrender, and that means you can keep on protecting Earth. Once I go back to New York, I doubt this guy Zedd'll ever think about me again," she glanced down the pathway, biting her lip in thought. "And I'd better go find Rocky and let him know I'm all right. Thanks again, Ranger---" as she looked back, having heard a faint sound from behind her, she realized...She was all alone in the clearing.

_They left already. Oh, well, I guess they had to go save the world or whatever it is superheroes do._

With a light heart, she ran towards the cabins, calling for Rocky as loudly as she could. "Alyssa!" she bounded up the steps to the cabin the six teens shared in time to see him open the door and stare at her in shock. "Alyssa, you're all right!"

"Yeah, the Power Rangers rescued me!" she told him eagerly, and was pleased to see him smiling widely in return. "Oh, Rocky, they were awesome. Especially the Red one!"

He raised one eyebrow. "Really? What was he like?"

"Tall, strong, and gallant," she responded swiftly. "He was the one who actually got me out of the cell. The others were keeping the Putty things and that monster, Goldar, out of the way."

She recited what had happened with her kidnapping and rescue over and over again as the two of them sat down in the living room of the cabin. Rocky listened to it eagerly, not one expression on his face showing that he knew anything different than what she was saying. Once her back had been turned, the other five had teleported back to the Command Center. He'd come here and quickly repaired the small damages caused by the Putty fight earlier, and had waited for her to arrive. When the others came, they'd be surprised and shocked to find out what had happened while they were away, and would listen to her recitation of the tale as eagerly as he was now. Knowing that she was safe to tell the tale more than made up for any boredom they might have experienced in listening to it.

* * *
"Goldar!" Zedd's voice thundered throughout the palace. "Get in here, you gold-plated ninny!"

The warrior almost literally slinked into the throne room, and flinched when Zedd roared something unintelligibly vile at him. "You summoned me, sire?"

"Yes, though I don't know why, you unmitigated moron!" the master of evil bellowed. "You can't even keep a stupid human girl captive! I was right on the verge of having the Rangers conquered and defeated when you let them rescue her!"

Goldar winced away as Zedd continued his barrage of abuse, mentally switching his hearing off. It was often the only way he could deal with his master without saying or doing anything that would result in his complete dissolution. When the lord of evil finally wound down, he bowed low and deeply. "I will do better next time, sire!"

"Next time!" Zedd roared. "Next time!? You're lucky I don't turn you into doggie kibble right here and now! But I will give you another chance, Goldar. And you had better use it well!"

Goldar bowed again, almost fleeing from the throne room as Zedd dismissed him. The dark lord sat back down in his throne, putting his chin on his hand. Screaming at Goldar after a failed mission was by now customary. _Have I fallen into a rut? he wondered. I keep trying to destroy the Rangers, and nothing works. What am I doing wrong? I managed to crush the Green Ranger's powers. Or at least completely shatter the bond between Tommy and the Green power. No power can ever be completely destroyed, though never again will HE hold the Green power. All that did was make him the White Ranger, though. Trying to get my own evil warriors resulted just in three new Rangers. This plot didn't even stand a chance of succeeding. I should have known better._

He closed his eyes beneath his faceplate and thought. _If I'd just been able to claim my rightful Ranger Coin when I needed it the most. Ah, well. Regrets solve nothing. I have a problem. Six Power Rangers. I must rid myself of this problem. How?_

Zedd plunged himself deep into thought, exploring various possibilities. He would not rest until he had conquered the Power Rangers and taken total command of the Earth, once and for all.

* * *
The main cabin was splendid, beautiful beyond compare with the decorations that filled it. The last two weeks had passed by in a wonderful dream-haze for Alyssa and the Rangers. Zedd sent the occasional monster, but he didn't seem to be trying quite as hard ever since his failed kidnap attempt. The Rangers didn't know what was going on, but they kept themselves alert anyway. As Adam said, for all they knew it was some form of villainous holiday, and once it was over with, their nemesis would be back, worse than ever before.

Everyone looked happy as they entered the wide room, with those who were couples entering together. Tommy and Kim were the first in, followed closely by Adam and Aisha. Kim had threatened murder to her sister Ranger if she didn't ask Adam to this dance, and Aisha had finally capitulated. To her surprise, he had agreed to go.

Rocky and Alyssa entered hand in hand, both of them feeling a mixed sense of joy and sadness at this event. Though they had had a wonderful month of friendship and touches of romance, spiced with a bit of danger, they knew it was at an end. Alyssa's parents were going to be coming home in a couple of days from their second honeymoon cruise, and she would be going back to their New York home the next morning with her brother and sister-in-law. Rocky still had another couple of days there before he and the others went back to Angel Grove. This would be their last time together, and they both knew it.

"It's all been like a dream," Alyssa whispered as the two of them sat together watching some of the older customers dancing to music they didn't even recognize. "A wonderful dream."

Rocky smiled, squeezing her hand lightly. "I know. It's so hard to believe we'll never see each other again after tonight."

"You don't know that for sure," she pointed out. She knew by now she wasn't in true love with him, but she knew she had gained a true friend, if nothing else. She wasn't so sure of the others; though they had hovered over her somewhat protectively the last month, there had been little of friendship and more of the guardian-angel type to their association with her. As if they were there because she was in danger, not really because they wanted to be friends, though there was some of that in there as well.

_Well, they're from Angel Grove, and those Putty things and Goldar attack there constantly,_ she had reasoned to herself. _They probably felt responsible for them coming up here, even though they shouldn't. I doubt I could explain that to them, though. But at least Rocky LIKES being around me, and isn't afraid to show it._

"True," he agreed. "You've got my phone number and address, and I've got yours," he reminded her. "We can keep in touch, call, write, that sort of thing. Maybe even come visit?"

She leaned back in her chair and nodded. "Maybe next time I come here, I won't get kidnapped by some great evil force?" she chuckled a little. Rocky had never told her anything of how scared he had been before they had located her. He wasn't planning on it, either.

"We can hope not!" more than the usual amount of conviction was in his voice as he answered. She looked curiously at him, just as Billy, who was playing D.J. that night as a favor to his aunt and uncle, put on something much more interesting for the three couples there that night to dance to. Rocky leaped up quickly, with a grateful glance to the Blue Ranger. "Come on, let's dance!"

Alyssa was never one to turn down an offer like that, especially not with a guy she liked the way she liked Rocky, so any thoughts and all conversation was suspended for almost another hour, as song after song was played, and the two of them danced along with Kim and Tommy, Adam and Aisha.

"All right, everyone," Billy cleared his throat a little. "It's getting late, and we've got one last song to play. Enjoy it, everyone. Thanks, Aunt Sarah, Uncle Jeff, for a great month."

His aunt and uncle both smiled as Billy set a deep, romantic song to playing, and sat down to think about Trini and miss her with all his soul. I wish she were here, he thought. _We danced to this the night before she left, at the farewell party for them. Wherever you are, Trini, come home soon. I miss you._

Tommy and Kim danced close together, gazing into each other's eyes with a deep and passionate love. "It's been a heck of a vacation, hasn't it, Kim?" Tommy asked softly.

"That it has," she replied, tightening her grip on his arms. "I think I'm actually looking forward to going back to school!"

Her leader chuckled a little. "I know what you mean. Coming up here was a really good idea. I love the privacy, but we do need to get back."

"We've still got some time up here," she smiled, leaning against him. "Some time together."

They moved closer together, their lips brushing softly in a deep and sensitive kiss. Alyssa glanced over and smiled quietly. _Those two are so much in love it's almost painful to watch. I wish them good luck in the future._

"Alyssa," she looked up when Rocky spoke her name. "I'm really going to miss you. Call me soon, okay?"

"Okay," she smiled. He's such a nice guy...Slowly, she lifted her head a bit more to look deeper into his eyes. Rocky looked back at her, finding it surprisingly easy to gaze into them. He smiled quietly, feeling something stirring in his heart he'd never thought to feel. Maybe it was love. Maybe it wasn't. All he knew was he didn't care. Summer romance or eternal love, it didn't matter. He cared about her more than he did any other female at this particular time and place, and he quietly leaned over to place a soft, tender, nerve-filled kiss on her lips.

Alyssa was surprised, but as their lips met, she felt what he was, that even if they weren't together forever, being together *now* was more important. She began to kiss back, and as they danced and kissed together, they knew that tonight was worth all that had come before, and quite possibly anything that might come after.

The End.